When one has four babies at once, there are certain challenges. Some people were not afraid to point them out to us. When I was still pregnant, a friend of my parents, whom I barely knew, asked, “Are you going to breastfeed?” I said I was. Across the dinner table, he pointed to my breasts, flopping his hand back and forth several times at my chest. Incredulously he asked, “How’re you gonna do that when you only have two of those?”
I think we all probably do it. At least I know that I do, and some of the homeless I’ve seen wandering downtown by Acacia Park. We have pretend conversations with people who aren’t there. I hope I’m discreet enough about it that others don’t notice that I’m doing it. But it is basically working through a problem, practicing the dialogue for what I might say in a given situation. I’ve been told by a counselor that it's a good thing to do. It prepares you for communication. It helps you explore ways to say things, how to respond to a variety of responses, and helps work out the kinks and find the right words. It also can give confidence to say something that is hard to say or going to be received poorly. It’s basically role playing all by yourself. It’s okay to do, as long as you know there isn’t someone else there. If you start hearing answers from your invisible role playing partner, or even seeing him, it’s probably time to visit a specialist.
Kids playing with "hat box,"
L to R, Spencer (pirate hat), Molly (party hat), Pierce (straw hat), Charlie (Robin Hood hat).
On my two previous Mommy Mumdays, I covered the first two of the “Three Rs” of raising kids (and being better grownups too). Numbers One and Two are Responsibility and Respect. As we teach our children to “own” the consequences of their actions (responsibility), plus treat everyone and everything with dignity and care (respect), we also need to do a self check and make sure we’re scoring well with those characteristics ourselves.
Good news came this week. One of our sons got a job in his field of teaching. We’re excited, relieved, delighted, and grateful. Definitely grateful. This coming about serendipitously for the one, after over a year of searching, disheartened, crushed, without success for the other two sons. As I was being grateful, thanking God for the provision, it wasn’t long before I switched into supplication mode, bringing up the fact that the other two could use such provision and how it might look.
Then I realized, wait a minute. I’m squandering a very wonderful moment, a time I should be resting in peace, not picking apart the delivery of it, determining that it’s not quite good enough. Because right at this moment, all four kids are employed. All four. Just like I asked for.
Last weekend, one was hired for the rest of the summer to be the videographer (it’s in his field of marketing) at the youth camp where another works for the summer until he starts his high school teaching job that just materialized this past week. So maybe after this summer gig he’ll be back to sitting daily, applying for jobs that won’t come. But right now, he’s with good friends, both old and new, and doing something he wants to be doing. Our daughter, just back from her fabulous trip to New York, is working at Target, a perfect job for a student who can schedule the work hours around classes. And the third son, who is where is he wants to be, can stay there because he has a job that will pay the rent (mostly). All four, working. All four, doing okay.
I almost missed it because I was too busy worrying about what might come or might not. That maybe it won’t be good enough, maybe it won’t last. But for today, we are in a place to rest. To be thankful, grateful. To not squander the gift.
Two families I know, one a good friend and another a neighbor, both recently lost one of their beloved children. Completely unexpected, not understood. Devastating. These are times of crisis for them. Each of us has times of storms. “For everything there is a season.” Some people say if you aren’t in a crisis right now, you’ve just come out of one or you’re heading into one soon. So in the moments in between, when the wind calms, it is the time to be grateful. We must not let these moments pass unnoticed or diminished. The gratitude we practice now will help get us through when the storm comes.
And we must practice. When the voice whispers that it isn’t quite what was expected, we must practice seeing the provision in it. When the voice wants us to jump past the gift to dwell on the next thing, we must practice going back and resting in the good, the relief, that the moment provides. It takes practice to have gratitude, to not take things for granted, to not let good things slip by unnoticed. It takes practice to accept good things as they come, even if they aren’t exactly what was expected. It takes practice to count our blessings, to notice each of them, and take the time to marvel over them, rest in them, be thankful for them.
I don’t want to miss the calm. I’m going to practice.
How aware are you of accordions? Can you even spell "accordion" without looking? I must admit, they are pretty low on my radar. (And I had to find out how to spell it.) But just this week we happened to see a scene in an episode of “Mad Men” (our newest show obsession) with Joanie playing her accordion. In 1963 (when the episode was set), they were all the rage. Some say Elvis and John Lennon played accordion before beginning the guitar. Nowadays, Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men incorporate them into their acts. I guess it is a good thing they have this month of June set aside for the rest of us to be aware of them so they don’t go unnoticed for too long. Apparently, there is a resurgence under way. There is even a Wikipedia entry called, “List of popular music acts that incorporate the accordion.”
Peace like he couldn’t have imagined. His soul felt at rest, like all was well now. The glow whispered over his skin, soft, radiant. The luminescence had substance—light that wrapped around him, incandescence that carried him along the journey.
(To protect the privacy and/or safety of certain individuals, some names—well actually only one—has been changed in the following.)
I have aviophobia, a fear of flying—the kind that drives me to straighten my closet and vacuum the corners of my silverware drawer before a flight because I’m probably not coming back—so when a daughter of mine who I’ll call, um let’s say Polly, texted me from New York’s JFK airport TSA line to tell me she was coincidentally coming home on the same flight as our church rector, Fr. Jeremiah, I said Phew. That’s a good sign you’ll probably make it home, with him on the flight too.
Did you know that in midday, one can hear slow, relaxed music piped over grocery store speakers to help the retired community feel good about lingering in the aisles, making solid decisions about choosing or passing on the new soup flavor? But at about 5:00 p.m., when rush hour is full on, the music becomes quick and snappy, keeping professionals who just got off work and are looking for a quick solution for supper moving along to help minimize congestion.
On this day in 1964, three civil rights activists--Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner—were in Mississippi to help register black voters during “Freedom Summer.” When they went to investigate the burning of a black church, they were arrested on trumped-up charges, beaten, and released by the police into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, who murdered them. Only under extensive pressure from civil rights proponents was there a grand jury opened and were charges brought. Of eighteen men arrested, only seven were convicted and of those, no one served more than six years. The instigating KKK leader who arranged and oversaw the murders got off because of a hung jury of 11 to 1, with one woman refusing to hand down a guilty verdict because the defendant was a preacher and she could not convict a preacher.
Fast forward 41 years:
On this very same day, June 21, in 2005, the KKK leader was finally found guilty of manslaughter, only after Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter who wrote extensively about the case, found new evidence and new interest in the murders. At the age of 80 the convicted defendant was given 60 years—20 years for each life he helped take. Only weeks after beginning his prison term, he claimed and convinced a judge that he had lost the use of his right hand and was permanently confined to a wheelchair and he was released on bond. But once out, witnesses saw him walking around fine and using his right side without any problem. Finally, in August two years later, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and he returned to prison. The convict appealed for a new trial, and was denied. He also tried to sue the FBI for using an informant and coercing witnesses. The case was dismissed. He continues today, at age 91, to serve in the Mississippi prison system.
The lost lives of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner brought greater national attention to civil rights at a time when we were at a tipping point. Those three men helped make our country become a better nation. In honor of them, their bravery, their tenacity, and their sacrifice, may we continue to remember their examples and treat every single person we see with dignity and respect.
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