Gentle with my daughter, because I remember being introduced to shifting hormones, new ever-fluctuating social rules and those first unsettling twangs of insecurity. I remind her of the Jesus Prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me! - unparalleled in its power to dispel from one’s mind destructive thought patterns. I urge her, for the sake of her own personal peace, to pursue integrity by guarding her tongue and refraining from gossip. I encourage her to stubbornly say “thanks, but no thanks” to invitations to tone down, spruce up, cut down, keep up in order to fit in with the masses. But mostly, I hold her, and empathize, and help her create an outline for her English class.
This too shall pass, my love.
I am here for you always.
An “If” for Girls
-Elizabeth Lincoln Otis
(with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)
But despite how 3-ringish one’s agenda is, when a circus sets itself up in the park across from your yard it seems a crime not to go.
I walked over with my parents, three younger son and daughters, and three nieces. All the children were impressed, with the sequined leotards, moonwalking tigers, juggled beach balls, and vast array of sticky treats, but it was Annie, the almost two-year-old, who made the afternoon magical.
At first she trembled when the Ring Master’s booming voice exploded in the tent: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, AND CHILDREN OF ALL AGES, WELCOME TO THE KELLY MILLER CIRCUS! It was dark and LOUD and hectic, but her cousins were laughing and screaming delightedly. This confused her at first…
…until the clowns made their debut. It was the usual shtick – one clown exaggeratedly pouncing on, tripping, tricking, the other. They used huge stuffed clubs for bonking heads and rear ends. “OH NO!,” Annie yelled. “OH NO, OH NO…BUMP!”
“It’s ok,” we assured her. “They’re just playing. See how silly they are?”
Then it clicked, those clowns were pretending – they were funny, not scary. In fact the whole show was a hoot. She started laughing, almost maniacally, and then we started laughing, and oohing and awing. By viewing the circus from her perspective, it became wondrous.
Indeed, it was two hours of my admittedly over-scheduled time well spent.
“Tell me again about the clowns,” I ask Annie whenever I see her.
Again, her face lights up, and it makes me happy.Read More
The fanciest part of our weekend were watermelon martinis (both kid and adult versions). Troy’s sister, Carrie, came from Chicago bearing fancy recipes with fancy ingredients. Carrie makes everything fancy, and we adore her for it.
“We” (as in my dad and husband) also painted our ceilings. See, a month or so ago, I flooded the upstairs utility sink in the laundry room and water poured down through light fixtures and the smoke alarm, which screamed at me for half an hour, leaving unsightly water stains. That was kind of a miserable day actually, but now it’s over and the ceilings are white again. This week we will start adding COLOR to our walls.
I like greens and blues and sunny tangerine.
My brother and his family were over, of course. They live on the other side of our sub-division and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. His kids and my kids come and go between our house and their house all day, every day. This makes me feel rooted.
We laugh a lot. It’s good for my soul.
And soccer season is back. This year Troy is helping coach. After Liturgy we hurried to Crown Point where the game was taking place. The venue was niiiiice – real astro turf and stadium seating. Once again, we were fancy. Even the rain couldn’t dampen our fanciness. Priscilla’s team tied. She played her heart out.
And now there are uniforms to wash, lunches to pack, school papers to print and sign, baths to be given…and dinner, don’t forget dinner! I know you are busy as well. And maybe a little overwhelmed like I am? Hows about we get a piece of paper and write down the to-dos we’re afraid of forgetting then take on, mentally, physically and emotionally, just one thing at a time, all the while praying for the patience to do so with gratitude. I like imagining we’re tackling this evening together, as a community – finding significance in it. This too makes me feel rooted.
Work hard, love hard, sleep hard. Tomorrow’s a brand new beginning!Read More
Yesterday, I noticed the leaves of one lone branch on one lone tree turning from dark green to yellow green. Summer is definitely winding down around these Indiana parts. You can feel it, and see it in the empty parks and yards filled a week ago with children counting down their last moments of freedom. “Are you ready for this?” we parents asked one another on the first day of school. It was a rhetorical question, of course. We were all very ready, a little beyond ready for some routine in our lives. I had a lovely summer, and now I’m happy to bid it adieu and welcome with open arms the coolness, colorfulness and (hopefully) productiveness of autumn.
Here are some of the images that signal to me we are passing from one season into another:
My brother has broken his pipe back out, giving our porch a Masterpiece Theatre vibe when he comes to visit.
There’s been less air conditioning and more window opening.
The garden looks spent.
It smells like popcorn in the afternoons while homework is being completed. And that little face behind the bowl? It belongs to a brand new 7-year-old.
Happy Birthday, my Mary!
What does your end of summer look like?
Come join us over at Amber’s Photo Friday project!
“It seems like just yesterday Mary was six.”
- Benjamin Sabourin
In the mid-eighties, I attended my fair share of birthday parties at Showbiz. Before all the fanciness of rented rooms at childrens museums or movie theatres, and extravagant goodie bags for guests, celebrating one’s birth before the age of thirteen involved smoky arcades with larger than life- size animatronic robot bands and sub-par pizza. What I liked most about Showbiz was Ski-ball, of course –my next favorite game being Whac-a-Mole. The aim of Whac-a-Mole is pretty self-explanatory, but for those of you totally unfamiliar with this retro, pre-Playstation, pastime, it basically involved whacking plastic moles that popped up randomly from various holes as hard as possible with a big padded mallet. The more you hit, the higher your score. And I don’t mean to boast (oh, well maybe I do), but I had pretty quick reflexes back in the day.
Despite my nearsightedness, corrected with scratch resistant lenses encased in comically oversized frames, and scrawny stature, I’d efficiently send those mole popper-uppers straight back down to where they came from by remaining alert and poised for action. If I snoozed, I’d lose out on valuable Showbiz game tickets redeemable for all manner of cheap-o junk, like wax lips, adjustable rings, or neon rubber bracelets. And I sure did love me some neon rubber bracelets, as many as I could shove onto my toothpick of a forearm. I loved them almost as much as friendship pins or Hello Kitty anything.
Now I’ve not played Whac-a-Mole in decades, but I bring it up presently because it’s the most accurate illustration I can think of to describe my historically preferred method for keeping irksome and unflattering self-realizations at bay. When proofs of my imperfection inconveniently reared their far from sightly heads, I kept from dwelling on them by whacking them not with a big padded mallet but rather busyness, entertainment and general distraction techniques such as internet surfing, shopping at Target, and making to-do lists. It’s a lot easier to think of myself maybe not as Mother Theresa or anything but certainly as above average in the principled department when gawking at news stories about serial killers and reality television personalities. By above average, let’s face it, I mean better than others, or more worthy than some of the blessings I’ve received but so often take for granted.
Last week, however, I found myself thirty minutes into a two-and-a-half hour road trip in which everyone along for the ride was tired and therefore unusually quiet. I didn’t have a book with me for some reason and was too zoned out anyway for reading or talking. I just sat there in silence, staring out the window. Before long my mental defenses shut down and the yuckiness I was usually proficient at suppressing took advantage of the opportunity to frolic out in the open all unimpeded. You are stingy with your time and money, it started. When I didn’t defend myself or divert my attention, it continued. And you’re vain; You’re undisciplined; You’re lazy, and whiny when you don’t get your way. Still I stayed put without protesting, so those difficult truths, they started flooding in. My eyes were wet behind my sunglasses. You’re inconsistent as a parent; You are flighty and absentminded; You talk a good game about prayer and fasting but you’re inconsistent with those as well. You love most those who are easiest to love.
My soul ached, as it hasn’t ached maybe ever before, with profound shame. This aching continues to pulsate undeniably and render me tearful at any given moment, not from despair, honest to goodness, but from a poignant comprehension of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness gifted to me via an all out painful assault on my smugness and pride. It is scary and uncomfortable as all get out to submissively absorb without remonstration the ubiquitousness of my sinfulness. It burns to swallow excuses and genuinely apologize when I’m wrong. It stings to be criticized, corrected, disagreed with, misunderstood, disliked, or denied vindication. And yet…and yet… oh the freedom to be found in dying to that “me first, my way, I’m okay” part of myself – the part that muffles what is unfathomably healing about salvation. And by salvation, I absolutely do not mean “a get out of hell free” pass but rather an ongoing chipping away, by way of continuous repentance, of those frustration-inducing vices that make life suck, quite frankly.
“A true Christian is made by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Savior Himself. He deigned to say: not the righteous have I come to call, but sinners to salvation; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety righteous ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He deigned to say to the Pharisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgments a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept an inflicted despair.” - St. Herman of Alaska
Alas my primary aspiration for this fleeting earthly existance is not to be “good,” but thankful -thankful enough to accept willingly as eternally medicinal both the joys and sorrows that rain down upon me; thankful enough to turn the other cheek when necessary and to speak ill of no one; and thankful enough to remain always and forever, from minute to minute, aware and in awe of being loved, warts, sores, diseases and all, by Christ, my Savior.Read More