Childhood Neighborhood

Lancaster Drive. Ahh, such memories. I remember moving in to our new house, sitting on carpet remnants as mom and dad finished supervising renovations so that we could move out of our rental on Devonshire. (Fingers!)

There was an elementary school just down the road where we went to play on the playground, gliding down the hot silver slide in the summertime, watching the cracks in the mud as we crossed the dried puddles back to the shortcut through the woods. We went to the flagpole at the school once a week to pick up the girls in our Scout Troop so we could go back to the house for our Tuesday meeting.

Tadpoles grew in the gutter puddles after heavy rains and I’m pretty sure I collected a few to see how they would grow. I don’t remember them growing.

An ice cream truck blared it’s music down our road and the idiot driving stopped to ask if I wanted any treats, while I covered my ears hoping he would go away and pass me as fast as possible.

I ran away down to the creek once, because I was so angry as only a nine year old can get, but made sure I packed peanut butter cheese crackers and my favorite doll since I was going to be away forever.

Shortly after we moved in, a family bought the house five houses down and diagonally across from us, and we found our friends in the Fishers. There was a girl for my sister to play with, and a boy just my age for me to run around with. Owen was my first crush, and I never quite got over my love of gangly tall boys. (My husband became one after we were married for a year… extra treats.) They had a pool, so we got to swim during the summer. Owen defended us against the boy next door, Randy, who stole our dolls and wouldn’t give them back.

Dad and Granddaddy built a deck up on the ridge behind our house and strung it with happy lights so we could play outside and see across our whole subdivision. They got it done just in time to celebrate Norris and Janet’s sixtieth birthday, when we had all their friends over to wish them well.

I got my first own room in that house, looking out my window at the tree in our front yard, its trunk divided into three main parts as it stood and guarded the hill. I also got my first camera, where I took artistic photos of the macadam driveway and that tree.

I don’t much remember many other folks who lived around us, either in good ways or bad, though our left door neighbor was friendly even though she had two angry German Shepherds. I was deathly afraid of dogs, and so we didn’t go up to her house very often. We even stayed away from her fence. She also was the host of our first experience with a house fire; she tried to run pillows in her dryer, and they caught flame. Her house was ok afterwards, but we could see the flame from the far end of our hallway.  I remember my sister telling me she wanted to stay as far from the flame as possible, so we huddled there until mom came to find us and take us outside, just in case.

It is the house I learned independence in. I hit the beginning stages of puberty there. It is the only house I’ve lived in that my family owned. It is the only house I miss.

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The In Between

I’m having a hard time seeing the image of God in folks these days. Rather. I’m neglecting to look for it. I’m not really seeing many people, actually. I’m seeing tweets and Facebook updates and news headlines and an amalgamation of what serves as entertainment. These snippets of people, either the best of them or the absolute worst of them (and really, it depends who you talk to as to which is which), are not their full embodiment. There is more to the story. There is more to the narrative. There is more to us than our lies or our successes. There is everything in between.

I’m having a hard time finding the in between.

The in between isn’t very exciting. It’s the part that gets left out of the novel. The only time you see a bathroom in a movie is when the heroine is checking her pregnancy test result. There’s no suspense in vacuuming a house. Cleaning up after dinner is boring.

Even the fun stuff is mundane. I love my daughter’s giggles, but I don’t need to tell you each time she does it. I don’t want to tell you about every time my husband and I have a conversation after which one of us needs to apologize for a hasty word. (usually I need to apologize.)

But it is the in between parts that make us human. I’m not seeing many people in their humanity these days. I also do not feel seen in my own humanity. I don’t participate in a community in which I can be wholly myself, and so I feel pieced together. not whole. Scattered among my various support networks, are pieces of me, parts where I celebrate and exult. but not all of me. Not all at once.

And sure, some of this is because I am finding a new reality in staying at home and taking on the mantle of full-time motherhood. Some of it is because I have been working over the last eight years for the church and towards the church and now I’ve reached a place of not yet. Some of it is utter disgust at the current political climate and the ease at which I can say that those who support the candidate I don’t like are wrong on all points. More than a little bit of it is exactly that.

But I’m worried that I am not seeing the whole person behind someone’s statement. A person, with all their history and narrative and emotions and struggles and difficulties cannot be distilled down into a headline or a tweet.

I need reminders to look for the humanity of those around me. I need reminders to look for the image of God. I know it’s there. Sometimes I refuse to see it because it makes my life easier. But easy is not always holy.

Sweet Life

It’s ice cream season again. Yes, I suppose that it could always be season, but once summer hits I always want it just a little bit more than usual. And now, just in time for the heat to hit as hard as possible, Summer is officially here, just in time, as well, for me to hit the full term of my pregnancy and moving day. It’s not a big deal… of course not. I wonder when the energy of nesting will set in, and if I will be able to nest in my new home, or if our daughter will surprise us in the next week.

And soon, we get to meet our daughter, discover her personality, find out her favorite foods and whether she likes ice cream or not. I imagine she will. I wonder what flavor will be her favorite and if, like my own, it will change. That is the cool thing about preferences; they are allowed to change. We are allowed to decide that we like new things. It’s a good reason to keep trying new things and new ways of doing them so that we can see if there is a way that works better for us than the old way of doing it.

I wonder if my daughter will be sweet, like the poem about sugar and spice and everything nice… I hope, more than sweet, that she will be compassionate. I don’t much care if she is polite as long as she cares for those around her, for those who do not have the same privileges as her. She is being born to two employed white parents with a good marriage and a stable home. It will be part of our job as parents to teach her that she is able to do things that other boys and girls her age have a harder time at, because of different circumstances. We will teach her that she should listen before she speaks, not to be sweet, but to learn about the people around her.

These are lessons, of course, that will happen in a few years. For now, I need to learn some of these things myself, about what my privilege looks like and how I can be in conversation with those who have lived with different experiences and realities than my own. I continue to learn about how I experience the world differently. I hope to learn enough that I can help my daughter learn as well. And perhaps we will be able to sweeten the lives of others and even share some ice cream together.

A Little Bit Better

It is beginning. The healing. I can feel it a little more now than I could yesterday. Today I didn’t crash into oblivion after lunch. Today it doesn’t feel like I am trying to hack out my lungs every few minutes. Today it doesn’t quite feel like I’m breathing through a soaking wet towel any more.

Today I feel a little better.

I’m not well yet. I still get a little light headed when I stand up or move too fast. I still need to take my antibiotic and fun cough suppressant. I still need to make sure that I have a way to take care of a runny nose and anything that might get produced during one of my hacking sprees.

But I can tell that I am healing.

It is slow, this healing thing. It has made me be patient. Patient in ways I really didn’t have a care to be. I haven’t been able to take my walks like I want to, and so my step totals for the week are going to be abysmal. My energy is not where it should be. I wouldn’t want to try to preach again tomorrow. I won’t be running anytime soon.

I am looking forward to feeling better tomorrow.

Until this morning, I wasn’t sure that I was getting better. I couldn’t have told you whether or not I was going to have to call the doctor for a better solution to being so terribly out of breath. I didn’t know if my crazy strong antibiotics were having an effect on the infection still wriggling away in my lungs, taking up residence and stealing my power from within me. It still seemed to me that I was just as unwell as when I initially went to the doctor.

Today I am just enough better that I can continue to wait and see. I’ll still take it a little easier than normal. I am still waiting for my reserves to build back up and return. I need to be ready for whatever life will throw at me next.

Whatever it is, I think I will be ready. I will be just that little bit stronger. I will be prepared to face the next curve solidly on my feet. Just make sure that it waits a couple more days. I’m not at full strength quite yet.

Scarves, Skirts, and Shoes

Jerusalem teaching steps
Jerusalem Teaching Steps (photo by John Bryant)

I am not a person of high fashion. I never said I was, I never try to be, I never imagine that I shall be. I have my own fashion. But isn’t that what we all say, hipster millennial digital native generation that we are? We all claim to be unique… just as everyone else claims. Still, I have my own preferences for clothing, which tend to lead towards comfort and functionality at the cost of the cutting edge of… anything else really.

I learned about a year ago that my preference towards comfort in my clothes partly has to do with a hypersensitivity of my skin: I feel every single texture of every single stitch I wear, especially if one is out of place. It was odd, and then amazingly right, that a doctor asked me about my feeling about socks as a child. The verdict: utter animosity.

I still don’t like socks—though I’ve gotten to work around it in the wintertime by collecting soft knee socks—I wear my sandals at any chance I get. Not just any sandals, mind you, but my high tech, low profile, webbing strapped hiking sandals. Y’all, I love these shoes. They carry me well. They support my feet, knees, and hips through days of standing or hiking.

They are also a convenient way of identifying other kindred spirits. I look at shoes and see who is wearing what. And when I see someone I don’t know wearing these specific shoes, I can begin a conversation with them about what is on their feet. My shoes both connect me, and set me apart, partly because of the heavy price tag for these specific shoes.

I’ve worn these shoes in the blistering heat and when snow was still on the ground. They’ve carried me through deserts and rain forests, sometimes in the same week. These days, I don’t always wear them to preach, but sometimes I go with it anyway, if I am feeling rebellious or tired. They are part of my identity, however skewed that may be. They go with my favorite skirt, a hiking skirt that was designed by a fellow former Peace Corps Volunteer. And a scarf usually completes my outfit (with the necessary shirt of whatever sort).

An aside on scarves: I hate turtlenecks. I always feel like they are choking me, and I cannot stand that constant, or occasional pressure on my neck. It’s one of the reasons that I hesitate getting a clergy shirt—I am not sure that I want to get a hard band of plastic to sit against the most sensitive part of my neck. I fear I would be distracted and unable to do the work of ministry. Part of my sensitivity with my neck became more concrete when I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition, and my thyroid began to swell… and I couldn’t stand to have anything, or anyone, touch my neck.

Here is where it gets a little more odd. Though I hate turtlenecks with a vengeance, and have this utter sensitivity about what touches my neck, I’ve become deeply enamored with scarves. I’ve been wearing them as an integral part of my wardrobe going on ten years now.

Whatever it is about scarves, usually the wide and soft wrap style, I love to wear them. Perhaps it is the amount of control I have on where it goes and how I wear it. I have different scarves for each of the seasons: winter, fall, spring and summer. I now have too many to count, but I never turn one down.

I suspect that I like to wear them because they are a part of the protection that I put on when I go out. If the temperature is just a little too cool in an air-conditioned building, the scarf goes on tighter. Or it loosely drapes somewhere. Or it gets stuffed in my purse and pulled out at the next time I need it. I need one when I am driving to protect my neck from being rubbed raw by the seatbelt, and to keep my neck warm when the AC is on full blast. My scarves protect me, add modesty to my neckline, and help add a layer to my style.

My style may not ever be featured on the runway, and I may get flack from my family who doesn’t quite understand why I like to wear what I do, but it’s my style and I like it.