Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Power of a Single Word


Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
That man-child who has gone ½ way 'round the world continues to amaze us and make us look like better parents than we've been on our best day. After his recovery from near fatal jet lag, he bounced back to his happy-go-lucky self. He's been walking around and exploring. He's networked with his Aussie church of choice. He has pinned down such level headed things as how much a doctor's visit costs as well as how much his normal asthma meds will set us back if he needs treatment while there. Smart fella, he is.

If that wasn't enough, he has contacted the marketing department of a 75-story skyscraper to work out a business deal. He hopes to take sunrise pictures from an observation deck for their PR campaigns. He hasn't even started the project he's there for and is hustling to seal the deal on a new one.

Where'd he GET all that hustle? Maybe from his Dad who never quits no matter how sick he is or how the monster in the shadows has tried to defeat him? My husband sometimes thinks he has failed as a father. From where I sit tonight, I see his handiwork all over our son's hustle. When our son succeeds, I will see the seeds his dad planted every day he got up and kept going even when the odds said he should just lay down and quit. I hope my husband will allow himself the luxury of seeing that fruit and relishing in it...if only for a moment.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Life goes on for all of us. As our adventure plays out, I am affected by the stories playing out in other lives. One of Son #1's best friends has located his birth parents. It amuses me how my life intersects with those around me. As I wrote about adoption, he got the news that his birth parents married within a year of his birth. They have been married for 28 years. He has 3 younger siblings – one the age of Son #2 with whom he so graciously interacts when he has the chance. He'll be as wonderful a brother as he is a husband, father, and friend.

I've cried all day over their joy. At least...I tell myself it is their joy. It is surely NOT my flipping on the porch light only to realize that Son #1 is not coming home after dark tonight and will not need that light. It's easier that way.

More poignantly, another death has caught me unawares. Yesterday, I had never heard of Sunday Ibok. Long ago and far away, a little boy was too young to be my ring bearer. His sister was my flower girl and is now the mother of my grand-flower-baby. Reyn turns another year older tomorrow and is a grown man now. Sunday was his friend. They were brothers in the Lord.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Reyn called home to say that Sunday had been stricken with a brain aneurysm. The prognosis was grim. His New York City church did what church families do. They joined ranks and began to pray. Some left for TX to be with Sunday's family and to be closer to him while the doctors did what doctors try to do against all odds.

As I have been told, Sunday was a great one for social media. Even as the headache that signaled trouble was a-brew grew worse, Sunday was tweeting. I did ok regarding Sunday Ibok until I heard what his last tweet was. Then, my tears flowed again. You didn't have to meet Sunday to understand the depth of his faith. All you had to do was know the substance of his last tweet. It was one word:

                                                                    Faithful

Tonight, I weep silent tears over another man I never knew. Just a month ago, I grieved the passing of a man my age whose books profoundly influenced my experience as the mother of sons. Now, I grieve the death of a man, young enough to be my son, whose one word impacted me as profoundly as the 4 books written by Bob Schultz.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
His friends will never wonder how he felt about his God. They will only have to look down at their gizmo – be it iPhone, Blackberry, iPad, etc. I can't imagine that a single one will ever delete that word as long as their gizmo lasts.

Tonight, I consider my wrestling match with God. If Sunday Ibok ever had one, the battle was over. His coat of arms told the story of victory in that one last tweet. His tweet will echo far into the future as it bears fruit in the lives of those he loved and who loved him.

My heart has been full to overflowing today. I watched a young man, a father of his own little man, finding his roots. I watched my son take wings and fly. Even as my son embarked on a grand adventure, Sunday made his final flight into the arms of glory. Life moves on and takes us with it to our final end.

I ask myself, when I have said all and written all.....will my last word be as powerful as the last one Sunday uttered via twitter? I hang my head in shame as I consider the wrestling match of my life. If only....and please....let it be. Sunday Ibok, thank you. May your word do for others what it did for me.

1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV)
God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (Bible in Basic English)
Be certain, then, that the Lord your God is God; whose faith and mercy are unchanging, who keeps his word through a thousand generations to those who have love for him and keep his laws;

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yes, She's Mine - Reflections on Adoption


As a follow up to 'A Fraidy Cat Finds Inspiration', my friend, now into her 3rd year as an adoptive mom, has graciously allowed me to share a recent experience with you. These words are hers. I asked if I could share her thoughts with you as a way of allowing you to continue following her journey. With her permission, I have edited her original note for clarity. Hope you enjoy! 
 
In her own words:
Take a peek into the brain of a mom who has adopted African children to complete her all-American, Caucasian family. Beautiful, black children. Dark as the dark continent, mysterious, and lovely children. 
 
Today during our co-op classes, a stranger approached me. She had seen my daughter give me a hug and kiss as I walked by her classroom. "Is she yours?" the stranger asked.

My brain screamed, “NO!!! I just randomly kiss children that run up to me.”


As if that were not enough, the stranger pressed on: "Is she adopted?" 
 
Again, my brain screamed, “NO!! I am married to a gorgeous, 6'6" black man...why would you ask that? WHAT IF I WAS married to a black man, and you've just insulted our family?” A big smooch to the man who promised to love, honor, and adopt children with me as he's already heard me rant on this one. 
 
We moms in the adopted world have a store of comments that we'd like to use for people like Ms. Stranger. I'm not sure the dads care; they're not as caddy as we moms are, nor as tired. In my arsenal of unspoken ammunition, I've locked and loaded the following: 
 
-Q: Is that your child? A: No! That's not my child! Why is that child kissing me!!! Someone help!

-Q: Is she adopted? A: Yes...she's mine. Wait! Why no! we just had a random black child...genetic thing...wayyy back. Recessive gene.... it happens!

-Q: Is she legally yours? A: Ahh...not going to touch that one. Really?

-Q: Can I touch their hair? A: Can we touch yours?

-Q (directed AT my CHILD) So do you miss your home? A: Seriously, people! Have you ever heard of attachment issues? THIS is now their home.

-Q: So why did their mother have to give them up? A: What's wrong with YOU? Do you not see see their mom standing right here. By the way, I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU, MR. STANDING IN LINE AT SAM'S????

Seriously. We are happy to talk about our adoption. However, it does not define us as a family. We are we. We are everyday trying to be we. NOT a walking 20/20 special. We are one of THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of adopted families. 
 
Don't ask us if it is hard with our kids standing right there. Yes, it's hard. Every day. Parenting is hard for any kids – everyday. Living is hard – everyday. We have Christ. Period. 
 
I'm so glad to tell you how we were led to adopt. How it went. The miracles that happened along the way, but do not, DO NOT, adopt a child if you are not willing to make it a life long commitment. 
 
It is neat. It is, tho', not just about tears at an airport. The child I waited for and thought was the cutest most adorable little guy bit me and kicked me in the stomach three days after he arrived in the USA. That's real life. We are common. We're a normal family that is going through our third year of attachment. We are not uncommon. There are adoptive families everywhere.

I will talk to you about it....but not every time I am getting ready to put a bite of food in my mouth at every function that I'm invited to. I do want to share with you God's immense blessings, but it's been so hard at times that sometimes we need a break from talking adoption. We just want to talk about life as a normal family. We can share God's great blessings on us that have nothing to do with adoption. Our life is more than just adoption issues. You do realize that, right?

Please know that if I don't know you, I won't talk too much. You are asking me very, very private questions. These children don't have much of their own. They have hardly any history, any privacy. I have committed that from here on out, I am going to be firm and forthright for my children. It has taken a while for me to realize that it is ok for me to say, “I'm sorry, but I don't know you. I'm not comfortable giving information about my children to people I don't know.” 
 
It's almost easier to make a funny response to your question than to gently defer your rudeness...especially if my children are standing RIGHT THERE! What if my African children were NOT adopted and heard you question their parentage? Can you imagine the response. “Mommy? Why would that lady think I'm adopted?”

Maybe this sense of decorum boils down to choosing our conversations in a good time and place. Practice decorum, and don't just fly by me, randomly hit the information buzzer, and expect me to spit out an answer. My husband told me that I should pull out my cell and 'take a call' when strangers approach so rudely. 
 
Adoption has become a really neat thing for people. I'm going to be borderline blasphemous here and tell you: it's not for everyone. I homeschool. I love it. It's not for everyone. You can be supportive of homeschooling as a choice, but it doesn't mean you do it, right? Be supportive of adoption, but be careful that you really know what you're getting into before you do it. These children are not puppies you can give back. 
 
The call to Christians is to love orphans and widows. How can you do that? Many ways. The woman who approached me so rudely today finally told me the reason she was asking is that she's thinking of adopting. Then, she started reeling off what sex, age, and sibling preferences she had. It was as if she had her shopping list all ready to go. You see, it has to be a God thing. Wait for him. Don't shop for it. He'll show you if you're meant to adopt. If he doesn't, be glad because you DON'T want to do it if it's not the greatest and BEST thing for your family. 
 

So, yes, “She's mine." And, I know we're like an Oreo family. Three girls. Three boys. Three German white kids. Three Mother Continent African kids. We do stick out, but please, OH PLEASE, let us just be like you – a family. We need that. She's mine. Yes. I'm hers. I labored for each of my children although in different ways. I bled for each of them in different ways. We're trying to knit together. Thank you for your interest ma'am.... and, of course, she's mine. Rrrring!! Ooops Sorry, need to take this call....

(Note: all photos published with the expressed consent of my friend. As you can see, her eldest daughter has a way with a camera lens!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So, This is Growing Up?

Courtesy S. Squires
I miss the old, slow paced children's show, Mr. Rogers. I can remember an episode when he mentioned growing up on the outside and growing up on the inside as being 2 different things. He talked about how scary it could be to grow up on the inside. I shoulda listened. The man knew what he was talking about!

As a homeschooling mom, I keep waiting for that magic day when I get my final report card, can take a deep breath and say, “Whew! I GRADUATED!” I always thought when he walked across his 12th grade graduation stage, I'd be dancing a jig saying, “I'm free! I'm free! I did it! I did it!!” WRONG. When I still felt like I needed to see one more milestone to feel ok about our educational choices, I knew I had it bad. I thought once he made A's and B's in his college classes, I could breathe easy and forget about him. Ahhh...Nope. Not then either.

I now know that once you hold that bundle in your arms right after the doctor hands him/her over, you never really get over the moment. If you are anywhere NEAR normal, that kid is gonna haunt you till the day you die! Even if you are 110 and he/she is 90 and not nearly as cute as they were when they were all moist and steamy fresh out of God's oven! You just can't shake 'em. No matter how hard you try.

2008-2009
So, here I am again at the precipice of success/destruction and not sure which way we are headed! He's half way around the world – jet lagged, brain-fried, and a little homesick. He's wondering how he got himself into this adventure, and as he said during out last phone call, wondering who he 'thought he was thinking he could do all this....'

His plane from LAX took off in the wee hours of our morning. After he'd been up for almost 24 hours already, he had a 13 hour flight to go. You can imagine that I tossed and turned more than I slept.

He's flown one other time before...when he went to China 2 years ago. Then, he was with a veteran traveler who hits every continent except Antarctica at least twice a year. One minute I'd think about how thankful I was for that trip and all he learned at Jim's expense. The next minute, I was apoplectic wondering how I got us INTO this mess and if we were going to survive!

After all, I'm the one that gave him the website that put him in touch with the folks who invited him over to work on this project. My husband keeps telling me I had some help from God. I know there is a God, and I'm not him...but I still feel uber-responsible and ultra-uber-afraid.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I have a rich heritage for a poor girl. Some of my earliest memories are of missionaries holding me on their laps just after church services. They'd put on a slide show of their country and people for the parishioners. At home, we'd get treated to the out-takes that didn't make it to the main show. Africa, India, Nepal, and South America became rich memories in the fabric of my life. For a short time...yea...about a nano-second, I flirted with the IDEA of going to Nepal to work. Then, I remembered I was a fraidy cat at heart. I got over the impulse.

As I grew into adulthood, it became my contemporaries who took off for the wild blue yonder. Then, it became the children of my contemporaries who were taking off. So, last night, I thought about all the people who have made up the fabric of my life, all the places they've been, and all the things they've done. I thought about how they put their kids on a plane. Then, they have the audacity to NOT lay awake all night for the next 6 weeks waiting for the kids to come home.

When I grow up, I want to BE like those friends who sleep through the night. I'm sick and tired of this fraidy cat. I thought about how my kid is on the adventure of a life time and how it will grow him up in more ways than I can imagine. Suddenly, it dawned on me...he isn't the only one doing the growing up here. I guess God must think he's pretty sneaky getting a 2 for 1 deal out of this grand little plan of his.

Tonight, I am absolutely scared to death. Growing up on the inside sure is scary. I should know. I'm doing it right now as I type. A couple days ago, I ended my post with this advice:

I don't know what your fraidy cat is, but for today, think about the way you respond to fear by trying to control some circumstance. Give the other folks affected by your fear a little room to breathe. You'll be better, stronger for it...and so will they. Your tiny act of relinquishing control just might lead....to flying!”

A kind reader commented how wise was my advice. Yea...some smarty pants I am...I was able to offer that advice because I'm having to live it right now. I'm not sure who 'they' is but 'they' knew what they were talking about when they said: misery loves company! I didn't wanna be alone in this growing up thing, so I invited you along for the ride. God isn't the only sneaky one around here!

Courtesy B. Creasy
So, friady cat, come back tomorrow. If you're brave enough, share the pain. Invite a friend or 2 to come along! Let's laugh. Let's cry. Let's grow up together. I can't do it without you. I'm too scared.

Romans 15:13 (NLT)
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Gift of Flight

Her face, a map of emotions, revealed the war taking place between her ears. The mental debate was only a skirmish compared with the battle of emotions in her heart. The terrain of winkled brow, wide open eyes, and tightly pursed lips detailed determination, doubt, fear, indecision, and hope. If you looked closely, you could almost see a cannon of the soul loaded with the ammunition of regret. Which answer would result in the report of the cannon? One? Or both?

She came from a time when the promise 'to love, honor, and obey' typified a wedding ceremony. No one dared debate what the term 'submission' meant and to which partner the term applied. If she said yes, she dared tip toe within reach of violating the spirit of that vow. But her heart, oh, her heart was in a pitched battle for the future. Her daughter's future.

Would she forever tether that freer spirit to the earth? Or, would she attempt to set her free? The request was simple: permission to drive to the largest town in the next county over. Couldn't be more than 30 minutes. She might as well have asked, again, to fly to Europe on a class trip so equally improbable was the chance for a positive response.

The daughter watched without breathing. If she made any move at all, it might break the spell. She could see the desire to say yes mingle with the dread of what would be unleashed with that answer. The fragile balance would shift and trip the lever to open the floodgates of change.

The fear of change, or perhaps the inability to control it, left a mark of paralysis on every facet of life it seemed. This one, this girl who rode the tricycle down the main thoroughfare of a fishing village, was aware of the confines of her life. As usual, she was looking for a way out. It started with the symbol of an easy 30 minute car ride.

That bit of independence could fuel a fire for another step and another. The mother was aware. Rogue tricycle riders don't go down easy. She let out a resigned sigh, and said, “What will your daddy say?”

Courtesy Christina Jones Hooker
The chin of the tricycle rider lifted almost imperceptibly. She might as well be throwing her chubby toddler leg over the tricycle seat in an attempt to carry off her caper before the ferry docked again. “He's not here. If he comes home, and I've already done it, what can he say?”

She giggled. She never drank. She never cussed. She never smoked. She never abandoned her manners. That day...that day, she flirted with the spirit of the vow and giggled. “Ok,” she said, “But, don't you DARE have a wreck.”

Time has moved on. I understand more about fraidy cats and their paralysis. I've managed some victories marked by flights to Canada and the Caribbean. I've moved to places where no one, not even the bartender named Sam, knew my name. Despite the energy and effort, the fraidy cat still haunts me. I got it honest. It was handed down before me like a family heirloom. I am hoping the tradition stopped with me.

I've heard it said that women, as they age, become their mothers. Sons #1 & 2 laugh at me now when I pause to count out correct change to help lighten the load of coins I'm lugging around. I have become my mother.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
She's gone 14 months now, but she is here in the events of the week. I remembered her mischievous, nervous giggle. Always so afraid of breaking a rule or violating the spirit of the vow – except on those rare occasions like the day she handed me the keys to the car and set me free to fly...to the next county.

I suppose I have never flown as far or as freely as we both hoped I might. Here I am half a century old and still trying to climb out of my inherited nest of fear and soar with the freedom of eagles. And yet, tonight, I get it. I get that she did all she could, within the confines of her life to free the inner tricycle rider in me. More than that, she taught me how to pass the baton to the next rider in the race.

It's my turn to giggle nervously and hand the keys over. This time, the key is to a piece of luggage. The next county has become the next continent so far away that it is in the next day already. Freedom...the gift that keeps on giving. Look what a simple car ride became 35 years later.......

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Love you long and strong, fellow fraidy cat. I'm writing my way back to God. You are so kind to come along for the journey. I don't know what your fraidy cat is, but for today, think about the way you respond to fear by trying to control some circumstance. Give the other folks affected by your fear a little room to breathe. You'll be better, stronger for it...and so will they. Your tiny act of relinquishing control just might lead....to flying!

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love: true love has no room for fear, because where fear is, there is pain; and he who is not free from fear is not complete in love.

Friday, September 23, 2011

When a Puddle is All That Remains.....

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

I remember what it was like when my little girl eyes were full of wonder at the water pouring in from everywhere. I can hear the slap and chop of waves against the car as the remnants of the storm clutched and clawed threatening to carry us away. That same feeling threatens to sweep me away today even tho' the ocean is hundreds of miles away.

All day, the shadows have loomed with the unspoken threat that they will overwhelm me once I slow down. Shadows build in waves waiting to break when the storm has built to its frenzied height. Doing what I do, I kept doing the next thing. There is always so much to do, isn't there, for you and me?

If we can just keep moving, that 'thing' will not catch up with us. No matter who we are, the fraidy cat keeps us on the run...even if we haven't figured out who/what our fraidy cat is. Then, I guess we run without knowing why we can't slow down?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I realized that the all too familiar uneasiness was overwhelming me. There was simply too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. If I were blissfully unaware, I could blame my jitters on my inability to do all I need to do. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Not today. I can hear the waves echoing with a slap and chop in my innermost soul.

No matter what was pressing in around me crying out to be done, the shadows loomed. And, I knew it. It was there. Waiting. Waiting for me to be still. I couldn't run forever. The shadows were waiting for me no matter how far I ran.

I am still now. Reality settles in around my shoulders like a prickly cape of sandspurs. Their hooked barbs make the cape wrap more snugly around me. The more I shrug and squirm to escape, the more entrapped I become. Resistance if futile sometimes. Like tonight.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The steady hum of busy people waxes and wanes. Crescendos rise as newcomers burst through the door. Their excitement doesn't resonate with me. Rather, it reminds me of what I'm trying to forget. 

The loneliness is back and, with it, my anger for all that has been taken from us. I'm trying to forget that we will never be all that we could have been. There is a pain deeper than anything I can imagine which has overshadowed every day we've lived. I cannot forget our reality no matter how hard I try. I'm wondering if and when the thief will answer for the thievery. From where I sit tonight, it looks like never.

I look back at how hard we've fought and how much we've over come. Some would call it a miracle. I call it doing the next thing because there is nothing else to do. I am broken that the battle has been ours alone to fight. Many times I wonder what it would be like if others decided to enter into the battle with us rather than denying the reality of our pain. Because denying isn't enough, they add ostracism to our pain.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
In an odd juxtaposition, the truth made us free but isolated us in our freedom. It was the loneliest choice we ever made...the one to walk away instead of going back to play the games people play. Maybe it would have been easier to keep on playing those games played when the truth is too painful to acknowledge. I guess I'll never know.

I see the toll on other lives. Even the ones who cling to denial are marked by the truth we have acknowledged. The sins of the past echo into the present destroying happiness and fulfillment and doing it with abandon. Destruction goes on unabated. The pain of that destruction reaches out from the shadows to claw and clutch at at me tonight...trying to drag me under.

And yet, I remember the storm. Daddy kept walking and waving us on. Mamma kept following every moment thinking the car engine would cough and die never to be revived. Even the 2 of us, too young to know how close we were to destruction, knew we would slip away if the engine died. We prayed baby prayers while pur parents prayed the ones parents pray when they know destruction is at hand.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
So, tonight, I decide, again, to keep walking through the storm that threatens to overwhelm. It would be so easy to walk away....to reach for an easier life. To turn off the engine and be swept away by the storm. Walk away from all this pain. Yet, I remember. I remember the day when all that remained of the storm was a puddle. A puddle not even big enough for toddlers to splash.

I see that puddle and remember the storm. I keep moving and waiting for the storm in my soul to subside again. I hope for the day when all that remains of the storm is a puddle. A puddle not even big enough to splash. 

Nahum 1:3 (Bible in Basic English)
The Lord is slow to get angry and great in power, and will not let the sinner go without punishment: the way of the Lord is in the wind and the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Point of No Return – Pt. 2

Mad Penguin Creative

She had carried the memory for so many years. It had seemed too preposterous to believe. There were times she dismissed it as the faulty wiring of childhood. Time had re-engineered reality as age and experience left their mark.

The end was coming. The older girl was now older than the mother had been when the water came rushing in. In fact, the girl was now almost old enough to have been her mother's mother on that almost forgotten day. She could see it on the faces of the medical staff even tho' they put on the positive attitudes required of those who work with long term acute ICU patients. The end was near. It was.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The respirator had taken her voice weeks ago, but not her spirit. She had laughed soundlessly and made jokes with visitors and staff through mime-like motions. As the end grew nearer, visitors left her room with tears glistening in their eyes or illuminating their cheeks. “How can she be so dead when she looks so alive,” they would finally say in the hours before the machine breathed her last breaths.

Night came and the pace of the day began to slow. But for the ever present alarms signaling someone in distress, the white noise of the respirator would have almost seemed comforting. More often than not, hers were the alarms that were sounding. So much to be said or left unsaid. Which was it to be? The end was near. It was.

Mamma...do you remember a time...there had been a storm. We rushed back because we'd left Brother with the neighbors. I keep remembering....but surely...surely my memory is not right.”

She looks at me straight on as if to say, “Go on...” and raises her shoulders and eyebrows in question.

2009
We are in a place near Rodanthe (made famous now by Nicholas Spark's book, Night's in Rodanthe)...or maybe Salvo. Too far to get back to the ferry station. The water came up from the sea, and we were caught in an over-wash...do you remember?”

Her eyes grew wide and her pupils wider still. Was it the dim evening light, or was it the memory rushing over her as well? She nodded a slow, determined, “Yes....” and motioned with her hand that the girl should go on.

I remember we were crying, and you were too. Daddy took his shoes off and got out of the car. He said it was so he could feel for the pavement and keep us out of the sand.” She nods in affirmation and the girl continues. “We were praying.....all 3 of us even tho' she and I were so little...we prayed too. Daddy was walking and motioning you where to go. The water was up to his thighs?” The girl wrinkles her forehead in doubt and looks up with cloudy questions in her eyes. “How could that be? Surely the engine would have flooded out...? Can I be remembering right? There was nothing but water everywhere on all 4 sides. We should have been washed out to sea?”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The mother nods again. The memories do not fail. “Are you sure? The water was really up to his thighs, and yet the car kept moving?” She nods. “How far?” Mile maybe. Maybe 2. She mouths wordlessly. The girl slumps under the enormity of what she has remembered.

Eventually...miraculously, the water level dropped from his thighs to his knees and then to his calves. He had gotten out before the water reached the floorboard of the car and had gotten in again after it receded below that level.

She cannot remember how long the crying lasted. What she does remember is getting to the village and finding little to no damage. She remembers staring in wonder at one lone mud puddle. If one had not known, one would have concluded that the area had just been through a mild rain shower. The boy was there. He came running out. Again, they were 5.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Looking at a map now, it takes her breath away. The road between Rodanthe and Salvo is bordered by almost invisible strips of sand. No wonder the water had come rushing in so quickly.

She thinks of her life and the storms that have threatened her foundation. She thinks of the times life could have washed her away. There have been days when the choice was plain: keep moving forward because there is no way back and help is in sight. There have been days when the choice was not so clearly defined. Cling to faith or walk away because her good God seemed to have no need for her nor did he even seem interested in her pain. And yet, when it was all said and done, she realized she had long since passed the point of no return.

She would cling to that faith when no one understood the nature of her battle. She would cling when clinging made no sense in her relativistic and humanistic culture. She would cling and keep moving forward. Eventually, she would, again, emerge on dry land with only a puddle to remind her of the battle to survive.

Hebrews 10:36 (English Standard Version)
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Point of No Return

Point of No Return

The little girls on the backseat played and giggled and climbed around like monkeys. Back in the day, seatbelts and car seats might as well have been some sci-fi oddities. They played on unaware that danger was as close as the brake pedal or an incoming vehicle. It is a wonder they lived to tell the stories.

The storm had come and gone. Communications with the island dropped out as was expected. Unlike most storms, something had been different about this one. The adults had decided it was time to go.

Doubt lingered as to whether the decision would be foolhardy in the end. Enough doubt that the brother had been left behind with neighbors to ride out the storm. No use him missing any school should the storm fizzle before it arrived.

If it came on in, he was with 'the natives' – descendents of original inhabitants who had formed the first Coast Guarders. Their own family members now stood duty in the face of the coming storm. They'd ridden them all out. He'd be safe riding this one out with them as well.

Of course, that was how it seemed before the storm and before all communications died away. The storm was gone but not the post storm chop nor the gray skies. More talk laced with doubt. Time to go? Too early? What if the road was washed out along the way? Would they even be allowed back yet?

Apprehension filled the car as hurriedly as the evacuation gear was reloaded for the return trip. To go or to stay. The boy was there. What had become of him and the natives he was with? They were safely tucked away on the sound side. Even if the island had over-washed, the house was way up on stilts and not ocean-front. Would the ferry even be there, and if it was, would they agree to take the family of 4 back to be a family of 5 again? What would the find when they got back?

The girls played on vaguely aware of the tension. In later years, the older one would remember it most when Hurricane Hugo hit her coastal waters. She had not expected her Walmart, 4 hours inland, to be inundated with evacuees, but they were everywhere. A frantic, frenzied hum filled the air as nervous tension seeped from the evacuees and swamped the hometown crowd. Everyone was nervous no matter where they were from.

A child stepped out of sight. The mother could have reached out and grabbed her but did not know. She began to scream the long stretched out scream of a mother whose nerves had been stretched too far. The child took one step into line of sight. The mother nearly collapsed. Her words filled the air in sharp staccato. The child crumpled in confusion under the weight of her mother's scolding. Kids will be kids even after a Cat 5 has wrecked havoc on their lives.

The older one, now an adult, turned and stared in wonder. She recognized the tension. Storms do that to people. The tension in the mother's voice took her back to the car of her own childhood. She remembered the water.

Unlike most trips, the ferry station was mostly deserted. No one wanted to go back yet. Knit brows and earnest conversation ensued. The only one to take the 1st ferry onto the island had been the mailman. He was in a big sturdy truck with no preschoolers in tow.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The boy. The boy was still there. They decided to see what the mailman had to report. If he gave the all clear, the ferry would take the family across. The air lightened when the mailman debarked the ferry and said water had only been up to his hubcaps. Even the car could handle water up to the bottom of the mail truck's hubcaps.

The car pulled on to the ferry, and the play began again. On usual trips, there'd be other ferries to wave at or stale bread to throw off to the trailing gulls. Even the gulls had not returned. She can't remember the docking of the ferry or the first few miles of the trip on the island side. Nothing except the gray skies and open sandy expanse punctuated by the area of low scrub evergreens and blackberry thickets.

Way back then, her young mind had noted that area of brush as a magical wonderland. It maybe even looked like the kind of place Jesus had lived when he was a pre-schooler. Maybe. It tantalized with the promise of deep dish blackberry pies. Somehow, it always made her feel sad and alone too even tho' she knew it was one of the last placemarkers before they got close enough to the village to say they were home.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The voices became more urgent. The incessant play grew quieter and quieted all together. The girls stood on the back seat and leaned with chins perched over the tops of the front seat. Even now, her little girl heart begins to beat a low, hammering thud as the memory returns.

Water. Everywhere ahead there was nothing but water. No scrub or sandy dunes. There were no houses on this stretch before either. Now, water was coming in from the sea. The ocean and sound had united. The mailman had said the coast was clear. He had come and gone in low tide. The tide had turned. The parents were talking in quiet tones, but the car allowed no privacy.

What can we do? The ferry will have turned back by now. No one will be at the station. It's just us.”

The older one turned and looked behind them. As far as she could see, all that she could see was water. 

                                    Psalm 107: 23-25
Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business in the great waters; They see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For at his word comes up the storm-wind, lifting high the waves.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roots and Wings


Yea, you can imagine I'm thinking a lot about those 2 subjects this week. I'm gonna try not to drive you nuts about it tho', I promise. Mostly because I am sick in love with your blog visits. So, I don't want to do anything to mess up the momentum we've got going on here! (Not that I'm addicted to you...or that I have the Betty Ford Clinic on speed dial or anything.) I am aware that some self-restraint will be needed so that I am not the sound of screeching chalk in your virtual ear! Give me some slack tho', ya hear?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I think a lot about how the world changed during my grandparents' lives. That leads to thinking about how change ramped up exponentially since I was born. I'm amazed that some of my friends, parents of friends of Son #2, weren't even born when some of my pivotal life moments occurred! They routinely make me feel older than my stated age!

My younger friends hardly remember a world without computers. I saw my first computer in 1976. That bane of my existence took up an entire room. It was a BIG room too! I was tortured almost to death by a computer programming class and the foreign language involved called 'Fortran'.

Communication with the beast involved typing holes into punch cards. We'd take a stack of a bazillion cards to the computer room, hand it off to some grad assistant who only spoke Geek, and wait. The machines would run my cards, spit them out along with a print out, and then sit there and hum delightedly while I disintegrated into a pool of hysteria.

Why the hysteria,” you ask?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Because...that print out would say, “error in line 2” which meant I had to go back to the data processing room and arm wrestle someone for a terminal. Then, I had to figure out what was wrong with card #2, fix it, and take the entire stack of a bazillion cards back to the same Geek for another run thru. IF...and that was a HUGE qualifier...I fixed card#2 correctly, the next print out would say, “error in line 15” and so on and on and on and on. They tell you how smart computers are. Ha! If they were that smart, I think that one could have Id'd errors in 2-3 lines at a time vs 1, don't you?

Now, if I'dda believed in Providence way back then, I might have realized that God was putting me in a place where I could learn to speak Geek. After all, he has me spending more than half my life living with 3 of them. Maybe I should have used my time more wisely in that computer lab? All I knew was I was being driven MAD, and those guys were rolling their eyes by my 33rd trip through! I began to loathe those smarty pants grad assistants as much as I did that blasted machine.

Mad Penguin Creative
Today, Son #1 began full tilt preps for his Australian adventure. First on his list was to procure a 'smart phone' that would allow him to call home. He sat with my Dad and showed him all the neat things that little palm-sized gizmo can do. I felt like I had been plopped down in an episode of the Jetsons looking right at Rosie the Robot's picture phone!

When I was his age, a room-sized computer was my foe. In the world of his early 20's, a computer driven phone – smaller than his hand – will flatten this fraidy cat world and facilitate communication with those of us at home. It almost makes me fall in love with computers. But, I still hold a grudge.

In my youthful world, the declaration that I'd like to take a class trip to Europe was met with a laugh and a snort. The underlying tone implied that I was taking leave of my senses to consider the idea much less voice it. In a world like that, you learn to fear the unknown vs looking at the possibilities as adventures waiting to be conquered.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I think I sorta get why it was easier to respond that way. Any other response would have set me free to fly. Think about it. Do baby birds ever come back to the nest of their birth once they take that first successful flight? Tonight, I'm thinking it was just easier to clip my wings than face my flight into the unknown. Looking back, what I see is that I've spent most of my adult years trying to undo the clipping.

And so tonight, it is my hand that is twitching above the wing-clippers. I am the one who wants to do something to stop this crazy train I set in motion. And yet, I know that it was my job to give him roots so that he could fly. This is one of the days I prayed for, planned for, worked toward, and anticipated rejoicing over. So, I take a deep breath and try to make it deep enough that it sucks back the tears that are threatening to fall.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
It's time for me to graduate. And, like graduation days everywhere, there is a time for rejoicing and dismay, anticipation and trepidation, laughter and  tears. Ready or not....here we go! 

Deuteronomy 4:9 (Bible in Basic English)

Only take care, and keep watch on your soul, for fear that the things which your eyes have seen go from your memory and from your heart all the days of your life; but let the knowledge of them be given to your children and to your children's children;

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thelma and Louise Go Riding - on Tricycles

Courtesy  Mad Penguin Creative

The breeze lifted the curtain. Images and impressions filled my senses. First would come a dull roar followed by a sense of movement. I'd feel my body begin to sway back and forth ever so slightly even as I fought the urge to jerk forward and backward. Acclimating to the balancing act, I became aware of an arc of light swinging and swaying around me. The light seemed yellow...like one of those tinted bulbs folks on the coast use to illuminate their way without inviting bugs to the party. I'd look up, and there it would be, the yellow light bulb, bare of a shade, swinging above me. Faces looked back at me in the dim, swaying light. Everyone wore a dull, stunned expression. I try to make out where I am before the memory slips away. I am defeated.

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Over the years, I tried to convince myself that the memory was only a dream or maybe a clip from some long forgotten movie. I didn't feel particularly haunted or concerned. So, if it was a dream, it surely wasn't a nightmare. I could never anticipate when the multiple sensations would erupt. Over time, I dismissed them as my overly active writer's imagination begging me to tell a story. One day, I'd have to sit down and figure out the story I was supposed to tell.

I guess you could call it serendipity that my brother was around one day when the roaring in my head began again. He saw me slip away, I guess, because he asked what was on my mind. Hesitantly, I began to describe the sights, sounds, and proprioceptive input crowding my brain. I heard him chuckle. He's 7 years older than me, so my vague impressions are clearly defined memories for him. His reaction startled me because it meant my descriptions resonated with him as well. I caught my breath.

What?” I asked. “Do you know what it is? Do I really remember something like that? Is it real, or did I just make it up?” The words spilled out so quickly that my tongue was almost tied.

Oh yea,” he says, “It was while we lived on the Outer Banks. I can't believe you remember. You were so little. They were evacuating us. One of the few times it happened. There had been a storm. The island had been cut in half. We were in a military transport vehicle of some sort. You've described it exactly.”

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Oh,” I say, and I think about those days of long ago. There was no bridge to the mainland. Ferry boats were the only access. There were no streetlights. Nights were so dark that, in the absence of moon or stars, you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. The sound side harbor was directly across from our front door. I could see the Atlantic Ocean from my 2nd floor bedroom window. On a good day, I could see the Hatteras Island lighthouse. The famous barber pole-stripped one. The wind always blew, and the fish always smelled. The sound of the waves was so ever present that you didn't hear them anymore. It was a magical place.

All those years ago, the land was mostly wilderness beach. It was a place where 2 tiny girls, 4 and 2, could ride tricycles down the main thoroughfare of the island village. We'd expected to keep that jaunt a secret since no traffic ever came by. The fishing boats had not yet come in for the day. The coast was clear...no pun intended. Sometimes I crack me up...just in case you wondered.

2007
The way I sized it up, what mamma didn't know wouldn't hurt us. Given the slow time of day at the harbor when we launched our caper, we shoulda been A-OK. I hadn't heard of Thelma and Louise, but I think I might be pretty sure where that writer got his inspiration. Our plans were foiled when we looked up to see a traffic jam trailing along behind us. We probably created the first and only traffic jam in the village before the bridge made travel to and from the mainland easily accessible.

Imagine my surprise when a peek over my shoulder alerted me to 3 cars and a DUMP TRUCK shadowing us at a safe distance. The dump truck driver is seared in my memory even now maybe 50 years later. He's hysterical and not in a bad way. I can almost hear his waterfall-like laughter spilling over the cars between us and onto me. Yea. Good times. Good times. I was the queen of my world.

Inspiration for Thelma and Louse, doncha think? .
At least, they were good times until I realized that the dump truck was hiding one more vehicle. My dad's. The ferry had docked. He was home from a business meeting. His car was was creeping along in my impromptu parade – bringing up the rear. I'd like to think the dump truck driver pleaded our case as 'innocent on account of being too cute to be in trouble'. Whatever he pled, it didn't work. We were toast.

The scene fades out at that point. I think I coulda used one of those military vehicles to transport my hide outta there right about then. I blame it all on my baby sister. She should have known better than to let me go first down the village street. Anyone knows the leader always gets the blame. So, if you are the oldest and the leader of a traffic jam in a world where no such event ever occurred before, you are bound to attract some negative parental attention.

I think about that little girl tonight..the brave one who thought it was a great idea to ride a tricycle down what would have been Main St. if there had been such. How did she get to be such a fraidy cat? Can she get in touch with her inner tricycle rider again? And, if she does, what kind of force will she be to reckon with? What kind of force indeed?