Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Daniel

I belong to a women’s Bible/ study group that meets on Tuesday afternoons. Unofficially, our group is called Companions in Christ because that was the title of the first book we studied when the group formed three years ago. During its first two years, the group’s members ebbed and flowed a little. We now consist of five loyal companions who have been together, faithfully meeting, for nearly a year. During that time we have shared births and birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, illness and injuries, sadness and sorrows, joys and triumphs. We have grown to be a close-knit group that celebrates our diversity of spirit and comes together hand-in-hand to walk this journey as followers of Christ.

One thing that we all have in common is that we are mothers. With the exception of one, all of our children are college aged and beyond. All of us have raised daughters. I am the only one who does not have a son. Of the four who do have male offspring, three have sons named Daniel. I’m not sure what that really means, but it is certainly an interesting statistic.

At the end of each of our gatherings, and often woven through the discussions of our study, we share the incidents of our daily lives and our prayer concerns with one another. Yesterday I shared an experience that I had on Monday.

A representative group from Resounding Harmony sang for the “Service of Remembrance” at Children’s Medical Center here in Dallas. This service is an opportunity for the hospital staff - doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists - to grieve the loss of those children who have died in the past year. This year there were 212 little ones remembered.

Prayers were offered by the pastoral care team, poems were written and read by nurses, and amidst almost total silence, with the exception of a sniffle here and there, the name of each child flashed in a soft white script against a solid black screen. The sadness of this seemingly endless list of lost little ones was broken by quotes and pictures of flowers that were bursting forth with life.

Resounding Harmony sang three selections - “Through the Eyes of a Child”, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, and “This is Why We Sing.” During our warm-up Russ Rieger, our director, warned us to look at him rather than those who had come to grieve because this was an incredibly emotional experience and it is very difficult to sing while crying. We all had our eyes fixated on Russ but it didn’t help much.

They lyrics of the songs become so much deeper when sung in this context. Glancing out at a sea of people who gave their all to save the lives of so many children who ultimately succumbed to death and singing the words, “Can you still see the world for all the good it has to give?” or “If I’m laden at all, I’m laden with sadness because all the world isn’t filled with the gladness of love.” will move almost anyone to tears. The pain and sorrow in that room yesterday were eased slightly in the lyrics of our last piece, a piece that aptly states the mission of Resounding Harmony, not only in the context of the Children’s Medical Center Remembrance service bur in each note we sing. “This is why we sing . . .soothe a soul, mend a heart, bring together lives that have been torn apart . . .this is why we sing, why we lift our voice, why we come together as one in harmony.” I pray that we were a part of soothing some souls on Monday.

Because the theme of the service had been seeds and flowers and life and growth, we were all asked to take with us a sachet of wildflower seeds. Each had the name of one of the 212 children on it. In planting those seeds, the memory of the child lives on. I took my seeds with me yesterday to show my companions at book study. On the attached tag it said, “Remember Daniel.” One of the group members quickly exclaimed, “You too have a Daniel!” . . .Why yes I do.

I do have a Daniel. I have never seen him or heard him or touched him. I have never fed him or calmed him or laughed with him. But I will hold him. I will forever hold him in my heart and in my prayers. When my seeds sprout and bloom I will imagine him as a boy alive, happy and carefree.

I will remember "My Daniel".

Monday, May 23, 2011

What I Want To Do On My Summer Vacation

I am beginning my second week “off.” As each semester comes to a close, I find myself making mental lists of all the things I want to do during my break. This process helps distract me from the mountain of tasks that emerge in the final weeks of the semester - final exams that need to be written, final exams that need to be graded, grades that need to be calculated, and spending time with those students who want to know if they can make up all of the homework that they didn’t have time to complete during the course of the semester but are confident that they have the means to finish it all in final fourteen hours of the semester.

Somehow I got it all done. Last week I found myself at home during the day with an opportunity to revisit my list of things I wanted to do on my break.

First on the list was to sleep later than the normal 6am school alarm time. This was a nice thought, but a little unrealistic. Though my brain may not be, my body is still on “school time.” I was wide awake at six o’clock - before the alarm clock even reared its ugly buzzer. I was awake, hungry, and in need of coffee. The dogs were also wide awake, hungry, and in need of going outside. Weber was awake, hungry and in need of going to school. Poor guy! So much for sleeping in. The consolation was that at least I did not have to be awake and dressed. I managed a second cup of coffee while still in my pajamas before heading for the shower. That made it feel like a break. I suspect that my internal clock will reset itself to the summer schedule about the time I begin teaching summer session in a few weeks.

Another item on my summer to-do list was to spend some lazy afternoons on the couch reading. My intended reading material includes magazines and a novel that I downloaded to my iPad - nothing cerebral at all. In fact, I have not even looked at the last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education! I have run into a slight glitch with the reading on the couch part of my plan. Sadly, I have discovered that we really don’t have a couch. What I thought to be a couch is apparently a rather expensive dog bed. Every time I grab my magazine and head for what I thought was our couch, I discover that that space is occupied by our canine housemates. Did you know that a ninety pound black lab can take up an entire sofa? I now know what the dogs do all day while we are at school. They spend the day sleeping on the couch and apparently they too are still on a school schedule. If I want to read I’ll have to find myself a comfy spot outside under a tree in the backyard. There is something way wrong with this scenario!

During this first week off I also wanted to wash things that don’t get washed regularly like curtains and bathroom rugs. Though first, I did our regular laundry. Well, almost. The last load was in the washer and the washer decided that it didn’t really like me being home because it had to work too hard; so, it went on strike. Actually it outright quit. After consultation with the higher-ups (the Sears repairman) we concluded that it was best to permanently terminate the current washing machine and replace with a new one. As i write this, the curtains and the bath rugs have not been washed, that last load of laundry begun several days ago is still resting soggily in a laundry basket and I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of our new washing machine. By the way, buying a new washing machine was quite an experience, an experience that deserves its own post. So, stay tuned!

Also on my list is to knit. I have not really done that either - a few rows but nothing measurable, literally. I am teaching a class and need to finish the sleeves of a sweater. Hopefully that will happen this week. Somehow it is hard to muster the enthusiasm to knit a wool sweater when it is 90 degrees outside with a 110% humidity! Oh well, this is one of those have to, not want to things. Working on the sweater is this week’s sole project - once we get the washing machine and I rewash the soggy load from last week. Hopefully I can convince the dogs to give me a corner of the couch so that I can knit. If not, there is still that shade tree in the backyard.

Seven days into my summer break I don’t seem to be doing very well with my vacation wish list. And I have not even thought about the things I have to do

  • Memorize an hour and a half of music for a concert in two weeks
  • Finish a commission composition
  • Write my syllabi for my summer school classes
  • Make travel arrangements for Offspring No. 1’s college graduation

This is beginning to sound not much like a break!

I’m off to work.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

At least this mama gets to lay down while she's fixing dinner!
I took this photo back in October at the Texas State Fair. I have been waiting to find the perfect occasion to post it! Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day Card

For the past several weeks, the newspaper has been filled with articles and ads about how to celebrate Mother's Day - advertisers confident that they are selling "the perfect gift" that every mother wants and needs, deals on meals for those that want to keep mom out of the kitchen on her special day, and for the traditionalists, everyone from the city's finest florists to the local grocery stores all have a beautiful selections of flowers guaranteed to make every mom smile.

For me, Mother's Day is a non-celebration. I can't bring myself to call it a holiday. My mother died in 2006 so I no longer find myself in the card section of the store trying to find THE card, you know the one with that perfect sentiment. My kids are at the age where mom is more of a nuisance than something to be celebrated. (Why do I have to buy a card or a gift for someone who, despite the fact that I am eighteen or twenty-one, still nags me about studying for tests, cleaning up after myself, and taking my future seriously?)

Kids tend to forget that moms once were kids and had these very same feelings. So, I am willing to pull up my Big Mama panties and trust that they will realize someday that despite all my nagging and other faults, which they can enumerate on demand, there is no one on this planet who loves them more than I do.

I find myself this year wishing that I could send a Mother's Day card to a special woman whom I have never met, my husband's mother. Though she passed away long before he and I married almost a year ago, she has had a huge influence on my life. She raised her son to be a loving and responsible husband. She taught him the value of family. And, in her unique way, instilled in him a steadfast faith.

In many ways I feel like I know her very well. I have heard wonderful stories about her, seen pictures of her from when she was a child, read letters that she and Weber exchanged with one another during his one visit to summer camp and when he was away at college, and i live in the house that for many years she made home.

Though we are remodeling the house and now making it our home, she is still very much here with us - in her paintings that hang on the wall, the side table that sat by her chair, and the tin measuring cup that I used last night to pour rice. But most importantly, she is here in her son - in that sparkle in his eye when he talks of her tenacity, the tears of joy when he speaks of her love, and in the spirit with which he embraces life.

If I could send a card, I would have a tough time finding just the right one on the store racks. A generic Hallmark poem will not suffice here.

I wish I could say "thank you" to you face to face. I wish that I could look you in the eye and promise you that I will love your boy as much as you do. Since I can't, I will trust that you feel my love for you as we feel your continued love here with us.

Happy Mother's Day.

Is it OK to call you Mom?