Friday, August 22, 2008

Glimpse of the Past, Glimpse of the Future

So today as we were packing the van for our car trip to Newport, I got a glimpse of the past and a glimpse of the future.

The glimpse of the past came to me in memories of my own family going on car trips - most often it was to our grandparents' house in Bishop, CA....6 hours from home. We had the trip down to a science - stopped at Astro Burger every time for lunch in the middle of the blazing dad would blare his classical music from the rear speakers so as to assure conversation privacy with mom...and I was sure to sleep through at least half the trip. Anyhow, thinking back on my childhood car trips made me appreciate all the details my parents covered so effortlessly - mom would provide snacks (she's more of a grape snacker than a chip or candy snacker - in fact, I can't recall any junk food on trip!), and dad would load the luggage and make sure the car was in good condition.

My family's style of travel was to only knock down 8 hours max in the car - or was that because we never went further than that? We had relatives in the Bay Area, so getting to San Francisco never took longer than 8 hours....and if we were driving any further north, the rest of the miles could be taken after a night's stop with them. I suppose we flew more often than we drove - wonder it seems new to plan car trips with Jon!

My parents are both hyper-planners, so we always had reservations at hotels (AAA approved, of course) and we always knew ahead of time where our stops were going to be. This is a big difference with Jon and I - he'd prefer to drive the 22 hours straight to Newport - and/or just stop along the way when we are worn out....playing Hotel Roulette, no AAA suggestions needed.

Anyhow, the glimpse into the future was thinking of how my children will do vacations with their own children. Will they pack grapes or candy? Will they plan and make reservations or just drive through the night? Will they eat in familiar chain restaurants or greasy local spoons? Will they lose their temper when unexpected and annoying things arise? Will they splurge on books instead of fashion? Will they fly or drive?

It's cool to think of my kids one day orchestrating their family travels. I hope our trip this week gives them ideas to grow on for that "one day" that they are in charge! Praying Jon and I will invest in their "happy childhood memory bank" for the day they reflect back on family travel. Travel, not travail. That is my goal. :)

You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Showers Early, Rain Later

Today's forecast was "showers early, rain later."

My response? HOORAY! Double backflips and high five's all around - this is great news! (albeit redundant and/or confusing...reminds me of how Eskimos supposedly have a jillion words to describe "snow".....Seattle forecasters have a jillion different ways to describe rain!)

Anyhow, my jubilance is a result of a deep character flaw of mine. I would rather sacrifice a day (or two) of rain and chill in the summer so that I don't have to water my plants any more.

By August I am so tired to death of my plants and am ready for them all to just die and be covered with moss again. Here in the Pacific Northwest, most people don't have watering systems (because the Good Lord takes care of that naturally, practically DAILY)....but when the sky is cloudless, one must troop out to the garden with a hose and tenderly saturate the flowers/grass/shrubs/baby trees by hand. QUITE time consuming, and quite annoying on a daily basis. I generally assign the job to my children, but every third day or so it's up to me to go out and do it properly - deeply to the roots, not just getting the leaves wet and calling it good.

As an aside, I am not the cruelest gardener in the NW. A friend of mine deliberately waters her plants lightly so that they keep a shallow root system! Thus, they barely survive on mere drops - thus, her workload is lighter. Cruelty!

In May I am the most enthusiastic of gardeners - excited to get my new plants, hanging baskets and thrilled to see perreniels coming back and setting blooms. In June my garden looks clean and fairly tidy - roses begin to bloom and everything is fresh and colorful. By the end of July, though, I'm starting to assign garden work to my kids - my back is hurting - and weeds are emerging, rose leaves are blackspotting, petunias need deadheading. (thankfully my mom was here in late July - she is a star gardener and is tireless and creative in my yard) Now it is August, and I'm ready for being the lazy gardener more backyard dinners, no more guests to sit on the patio and stare at my blackspot.....ready to just reign everyone in and keep just the house clean and presentable.

So my deep character flaw that this represents is my lack of completion focus. Since childhood, I've been a great project starter but a poor finisher. This is one reason I only had 3 kids, and had them in 3.5 years - I knew I could be really really great at starting a family (seemed to have all the equipment working right, and really adored those early years too!), but I wanted to make sure I didnt' string things out too much and risk doing a really poor job with the last child. I didn't want to be too burned out to read bedtime stories, or to not give adequate time. This character flaw was my parents' main concern (and then sorta mine, too) about homeschooling - would it be a project that got off to an enthusiastic start, but then peter out and my children would be couch surfers and fulltime droolers? (the answer to this burning question is yes: I have relaxed an awful lot in my homeschooling efforts, but fortunately I sowed enough good seeeds at the beginning - the kids are all self-motivated and responsible, and fortunately have their daddy's good mental genes!)

The rain in its due season (you know God planned today's rain showers as a sign of mercy to me and my garden) is characteristic of Him and His grace toward me. Just when you think I am wearing down in life, and have come to the end of my motivation and efforts, He is ready to step in and recharge me - redirect - and cover my flaws with His perfect power. I think He does this so HE gets the glory and not myself. For example, for anyone who meets my children and enjoys them, or admires their accomplishments....I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that those things are there because of God....not me. I was used in the process, but as a faulty tool. Yes, homeschooling is an amazing lifestyle, and the best choice for our family, but for me to collect credit would be unthinkable. God's rain of mercy and grace upon our children came in due season - showers early (light and spotty rain, for you non NWesterners) when I still had motivation and enthusiasm....and rain late (heavy, constant) when I was at the end of myself.

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it;
I, the LORD, have created it.

Isaiah 45:8

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baby's First Bar Mitzvah

Well, my mom can finally write in my baby book that I got to attend a Bar Mitzvah! Finally!

We took the whole family, even though the girls don't know Sam much. I recognized this as a unique cultural opportunity, so we slapped on the sundresses and sandals, ties and belts, and off we went.

Katie will one day blog about her own strong opinions regarding the occasion. :) Suffice to say for now she'd like to marry a Messianic Jew, but she is sensitive to any smack of idol worship, even if it is the Torah that people are focusing on.

A few things I really liked:
  • the strong family presence in the ceremony - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (and parents, of course). I am curious whether or not family is present as much in every day Temple life - in contrast, sometimes I feel like at our church I have no clue who the students' parents are.....I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of them are just dropped off. Anyhow, I really really liked seeing family.
  • I liked the charge to the young man/woman to revere the Torah's teachings and to make it a priority to study it throughout their life on a daily basis. The Torah was definitely the star of the show - wow! I loved that. It showed such respect. Sometimes I think in NW3 we are almost apologetic about the amount of scripture we ask our kids to study at the midweek - like "oops - here is a portion - eeek - it's almost 10 verses...SORRY!" And at Temple yesterday there was pretty much nonstop readings and prayers from scripture - no apologies.
  • I also liked the ceremony. It recognizes a new phase in life - that of being old enough to be responsible and mature and growing in one's faith. Granted, not every 13 year old would be ready for such a charge - but if not at 13, then when? Americans extend youth beyond what it really should be - some 20-somethings could use a little "charge" to get them going! LOL. I think ceremonies help by giving life a little shape - some stepping stones, so to speak.
Mazel Tov!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reaction to John Edwards

Last week the news of John Edwards' infidelity broke in the mainstream media.

Audible gasps emanated from American women, and even a few male eyebrows raised. To think of a man cheating on a wife with incurable cancer! The disdain was palpable in the press, at the water cooler, and at the family dinner table.

It did get me thinking about the degree to which we can tolerate infidelity. John Edwards' perhaps couldn't have easily gotten away with this even ten years ago - at that point, he and his wife had suffered through the death of their oldest son, Wade, and were planning Part Two of their family with the births of Emma and Jack. But rewind back perhaps 2o years when he was "just" married with 2 children - had he been unfaithful then, would our collective response be different?

Thirty years with a spouse....4 children...a bleak outlook regarding her cancer...yes, the disdain for his unfaithfulness is warranted. But I would like to purpose that our reaction to infidelity should be the same if he were "just" married, even without children or cancer in the picture. Bearing children or cancer cells does not make you any more valuable as a human being - Elizabeth should elicit the same honor and respect from her husband no matter her medical condition. And we as a culture should treat each marital affair - whether in the news or in our neighborhood - with the same amount of shock and awe as we did last week when Edwards was exposed.

Another thought that has been percolating in regards to this story: what I call "The Canonization of Cancer." We see it here with the Edwards. Again, if we rewound the tape 20 years ago and he had cheated on her precancer, would we have been as disturbed by this story? (It's somewhat unfortunate to use Elizabeth as our example here because I truly do admire her in so many ways!) Let's imagine she is an amazing and yet flawed woman (like so many of us are!). Let's even go as far to say she is 75% amazing and 25% flawed, just for the purpose of this exercise. So - with a cancer diagnosis, does her 25% flaw either disappear or become instantly forgiven and erased from memory?

My point here is that I also think our culture canonizes, or creates saints, out of cancer victims. While I believe the hardship of cancer certainly hones and refines and develops character, I find it interesting to consider that America considers it is a "free pass" of sorts. No longer are you accountable for past actions and behavior - instead you are seen through lenses of compassion and grace. No longer will we tolerate your spouse cheating on you. Almost overnight you are raised to a new level of human value. At this level you deserve fidelity, honesty, forgiveness, kindness and respect.

My point here is that we should challenge ourselves to consider all humans with such value. Would we treat our spouse differently if we had a medical report in our hand? If the biopsy comes back negative, do we not forgive as readily? If the biopsy is positive, do we then end our philandering? Or at the least do we curtail our selfishness? For our friends - do we communicate more gracefully, love more generously, only when they are diagnosed?

How much would a cancer diagnosis change our ministry, relationships...our personality and perspective?

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
~Psalm 90:12