Thursday, June 30, 2011
A few little details just weren't coming together.
Like, say, my flight itinerary.
Because my Awesome Brother Who Used A Chunk of His Frequent Flier Miles to Get Me To Paris had been the one to book my tickets, I was a bit limited on where to call and how to clarify some little things. And one little detail that kept concerning me was the very short layover time on the very first leg of my flight. If I were even a few minutes delayed on that first short flight, the rest of my flight schedule over would become a series of missed departures.
I tried making the requisite phone calls on the general airline phone numbers, only to sit on hold for time and time and time, listening to the Muzak butchering of the hit pop songs of my youth.
It makes me feel old, to hear Duran Duran set to orchestra.
Finally, Mike and I were able to find an actual communicating human being at one of the numbers who was likewise concerned about my very short first layover, and, yes, she agreed that it would probably be cutting it too close and that, yes, she would love to change me to an earlier flight but, no, she was so sorry, she wouldn't be able to do it but we could always tromp out to the airport and go to the desk there and see if they could get me an earlier flight.
So 12 hours before I was actually supposed to leave, Mike and I headed for the airport to plead my case with an airline agent.
All to find that the airline desk had closed 3 minutes before we arrived.
We finally found a couple of airline agents hiding out down in baggage claim and began to explain our tale of concern. One of the agents in particular started out hostile and defensive, telling me that there was plenty of time for me to change planes. But then, inexplicably, she softened and became incredibly sweet, going over my itinerary, clucking her tongue at the circuitous route the use of frequent flier miles was taking me on. She told us that if there was a problem with layovers the following day, there was a direct flight that would be much easier from Houston, and if my connecting flight were late getting me to Houston, it would be on the airline to get me most directly to Paris.
She was a jewel, wrapped in a hair shirt of jadedness and bite.
And her information was priceless.
Because come the next morning, after getting up and slapping on a face-full of cosmetics and stuffing more items in my carry-on, I wandered over to the computer, pulled up the airline website and clicked the mouse to check on my flight.
And found that it had been cancelled.
As in, cancelled.
As in, not going.
As in, not even late, not even delayed.
A series of frantic phone calls then ensued. Any of the earlier flights I had tried to book the night before were now completely full. There was not enough time for me to get to Houston to get to Montreal to get to Paris.
My itinerary began to read like fiction.
But because of the previous night's run out to the airport and because of my encounter with the Jaded One, I knew.
I knew there was a way.
It involved throwing everything in the car, kissing the kids fast, and driving with Mike like a wild woman to Houston, 3 and 1/2 hours away.
Where there was a direct flight to Paris waiting for me.
No multiple, frequent flier layovers necessary.
We wheeled into the parking garage, busted through the doors of departures, got my new tickets printed up and took a breath.
And after a teary goodbye on my part to Mike, I shuffled my way through security, found my gate, ate an Auntie Anne's pretzel, checked my passport for the 758th time and boarded my flight to Paris.
But there I was.
And there she was, my precious 1 of 8, my oldest, my first baby. Dark brunette pageboy with a saucy flip, dressed in the requisite French scarf and somber tones, she spotted me coming through arrivals, her green eyes lighting up. She navigated me through the RER rail system, heading us back to Paris. We dropped my bags at her pied-a-terre and headed back to the Metro, exiting a couple of quick stops later at the Arc de Triomphe, emerging from the subterranean tunnels into crisp air to stand at the base of the iconic monument Napoleon commissioned in 1806 in honor of the Battle of Austerlitz. I pulled out my big camera, taking in the stone work, clicking away, trying to remember my French history, trying to attune my ear to the language being spoken around me. 1 of 8 and I then headed toward the stairs of a tunnel that would take us under the traffic to another corner of the Champs Elysees.
And then 1 of 8 yelled at me.
For one of the first times in our mother-daughter relationship, 1 of 8 yelled at me.
For good reason...
And I'll tell you more about that...
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
This was the home of Madame Pompadour. And then Marie Antoinette. And those are two gals with some serious history.
I'm home home.
That seemed like a whirlwind trip. A beautiful, busy, full whirlwind.
And now I'm wrestling that thing called Jet Lag. And Laundry Lag.
And All This Stuff on My Desk Lag.
I'm editing pictures and collecting my thoughts, all with 8 of 8 practically sitting on me head.
He apparently missed me.
And I missed him. And his siblings. And his daddy.
And air conditioning.
God bless the U.S.A.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Wow wow wow.
I went for a run on my last night in Paris at the Tuileries Garden.
On the first bit of mileage, I headed for the Place du Carrousel, leading to the Louvre. I ran through the arch there, onto the grounds of the Louvre and into the inner plaza. Several of the window coverings were still up on the 1st floor galleries and I was able to get a last glimpse of some of my favorite statuary and paintings. I then headed west out of the Louvre and was treated to that amazing site in the photo above.
And you can't tell from that photo, but Tour Effiel is off to the left, bathed in sunset hues.
I'm not bringing much back with me from Paris. I didn't really shop. But I am bringing back and will be sharing with my loved ones what has touched me the most on this trip, the photographs of the sights that have spoken to me, have renewed me, have been shared with 1 of 8.
And topping the page was this run tonight, where I thought about other places I have run and loved, when I thought of my running partner JT and how I wished she could see this with me, how I watched the carousel down one side of the gardens, thinking on how my precious friend DP would love its lines, when my breathing got harder the longer I ran and how with every breath I was breathing in the aroma of crepes. I think that alone could make a runner out of my sister~friend JK.
I have thought of you all, of my gratitude for your friendships and love, of things I've seen here in Paris that have reminded me of you, of the stories I can't wait to tell you.
Running in the Tuileries.
Quite the dream.
Monday, June 27, 2011
So here you go, Love.
Or it could be Vegas. You're just gonna have to trust me...
Now I just have 600+ more to upload and edit. Seriously. Somewhere around 600 photos. Hope you Dear Readers like French stuff. 'Cuz there's gonna be a lot of it over the next few days.
And for those of you who helped me sort out the pros and cons of bringing my big camera with me, thank you thank you thank you. I am so glad I brought it, so thrilled to have used it to see Paris through its lens.
And to be able to share some of that with you.
So here's to hoping the plane ride home tomorrow comes with some wifi. Because uploading a French photographic frenzy is going to take some time...
Sunday, June 26, 2011
There are passages in the Bible that we hear so often, they can lose their punch as we see them in print, hear them intoned, repeat them from memory. I can rattle off the 'Love Chapter' of I Corinthians 13..'Love is patient, love is kind...' I can hear a verse come up during a sermon and mentally rip on through to the end. While familiarity is not a bad thing when it comes to Scripture, I can make it become rote when I stop reflecting, when I don't ask for fresh insight, when I take unconscious pride in my familiarity and neglect the posture of humility in the presence of the inspired word of God.
The first chapter in the book of John had become a passage like that for me. You know, you know, ''in the beginning was the word and the word was with God...blah, blah, blah..."not actually saying 'blah, blah, blah' but paying about as much attention as that verbalization would indicate. But in acknowledging that Scripture is miraculously living and applicable, in that way that Scripture somehow can still speak into our today, this passage now has come to mean so much more.
By the time 4 of 8 was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss, we were already far behind the curve in language development with her. She could make us understand certain needs she had through gestures and repeated little verbal sounds, but this communication system only covered a handful of basic issues. And as we grappled with the challenge of working toward getting appropriate technology and appropriate therapy for her, I discovered a layer to the whole thing that simply bent my brain.
Who was 4 of 8?
She couldn't tell me about herself. What was her favorite color? How did she represent the color red, in her mind? I knew she didn't have a word for the color red. How did she mentally distinguish it from, say, the color blue? How did she organize this information in her mind without the advantage of labels? And how did she think about things? What were the thought processes that fluttered across her mind? If she were sad, how was that represented in her thoughts? And what were her thoughts? How did she 'think' about things without nouns, verbs, adjectives? Who was this child and how would we come to know her if she had no language base from which to describe herself to us?
As we began the therapy process and we worked toward making sound and labels meaningful to 4 of 8, I came across John 1:1-4 again...and was stunned at its profundity. 'In the beginning was the Word'. The simple term, word, carries a much bigger punch in the original Greek. Logos is the Greek term and it carries not only the meaning of a word, but the larger meaning of reason, logic, intelligence, concept. What John is really saying to us is that the presence of language, of Christ as the incarnation of that language, has been a part of creation from the beginning, not only present but the conduit through which all creation emanates.
And so, in my hearing impaired child, in the depths of the challenge of language development, I glimpsed the Divine. Language is the base for all we see, all we experience, how we organize our thoughts, how we perceive our experience. Everything created finds its genesis in a word, in the Word. Think on the powerful statements in Genesis, when God said and then He called the systems and creations He was putting in place. They were labeled, identified, conceptualized in the vessel of words. In our human walk, whether our language is English or French or Farsi or American Sign Language, we were uniquely created to frame our lives in the structure of words. Art can evoke emotion, music can swell the heart...and we categorize those experiences, those memories in a filing system of words.
Brain Greene, the Everyman's theoretical physicist, has written extensively on String Theory, the idea that there is a harmonic of wave that holds everything together in the universe, a sound wave of meaning, if you will. The echoes of a spoken creation ring still, the glue of our very atoms. The Word. The building blocks of a universe, the foundation of a planet, the very structure of a soul. How we speak of our lives, how we think on our experiences, how we project our voices into a belief or lack thereof mix the very mortar of the bricks of our journeys. And when I reflect on this, on this incredible gift of language, I think a little more on what I say, how I say it. What am I creating with my words? Am I speaking grace? Am I speaking encouragement? Am I speaking hope? And in the speaking, am I speaking the one thing most important of all?
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I made my flight to Paris and 1 of 8 met me at the airport when I got in. We have made our way back by train and metro to her teeny tiny itty bitty flat and have climbed the 9 (yes, 9) flights of stairs with my luggage.
Let the adventures begin.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
How exactly does a mother of eight pack and prepare to head to Europe?
With utter speed and the confident knowledge that surely, surely they have stores in France in which one can purchase whatever she may have forgotten...
...with the exception of a passport.
(Note to self: remember to take passport.)
I loved all your feedback yesterday on the big camera/point and shoot packing debacle. A verdict will be coming soon.
And speaking of feedback, I had some classic feedback when I picked up the twins from dance class yesterday.
Yes, the twins are taking a dance class together.
I hope the dance teacher and I can still be friends. Because I will tell you that 8 of 8's ah, um, enthusiasm seems to supersede his ability to listen and follow directions. Which is why I put him in dance class. In the hopes that the dance teacher can do something with this enthusiasm/listening ratio issue.
When I picked up the twins yesterday, I asked 8 of 8 if he had fun. "Yes!" he quickly intoned. I then asked if he had been a good listener.
He blinked at me.
I have learned through my years of mothering that this is probably not a good sign.
I'm perceptive like that.
7 of 8 quickly picked up the thread of conversation.
"Mom," she said, in her best "I'm 4 minutes older than 8 of 8" voice, "Mom, he just lost his mind. He was not a good child."
Heady words for a four year old. Descriptive feedback from a preschooler.
She takes her job as 4 Minutes Older Sister very seriously. And that calls for technical language.
As for 8 of 8, he would neither confirm nor deny....
Monday, June 20, 2011
As I dropped hints last week, I'm headed out on an amazing trip.
Drum roll, please.
Yes, I going to....PARIS!
Still having to pinch myself. Yes I am.
1 of 8 has been in Paris for almost a year now. Mike took her over last year to help her get settled and then she came home at Christmas for a quick visit. I had dreamed a little dream that I might get to go see her, but three round trip tickets to Paris in the span of a few months sort of depleted the Fly To Paris Budget Envelope.
As if we even had one.
So I was going about my summer schedule and looking forward to 1 of 8's upcoming return in July.
But that wasn't good enough for one of my brothers. Not good enough at all.
He's the one who travels internationally quite a bit in his career.
He and my sister-in-law had gotten to go see 1 of 8 a few weeks ago. And he decided it was high time for me to get to do so as well.
Yea. I kind of like him.
I think I'll let him off the hook for giving me a Christmas gift this year. And maybe next.
I'm trying to only take a carry-on suitcase. And one computer/purse/make-up bag.
It's an engineering challenge, I tell ya.
And here's my latest packing quandry~~do I take my big ol' Canon 40d camera? Or do I just pack my little Sony? Which is a great little point and shoot. And for whom I have posted about the techniques for getting great shots. But when faced with going to France, I struggle to decide if it will be adequate...
Do you feel my pain?
Would you pack a big ol' SLR for an overseas trip? Tell me. Please. I need to know these things if I'm going to make my packing goals...
Or would you toss that little point-and-shoot in a bag and call it a day?
Sunday, June 19, 2011
What we say about them.
There are good ones, bad ones, absent ones, dedicated ones. And their imprint can last our whole lives, whether positive or negative.
Our American culture makes a lot of noise about our founding fathers, the men who shaped and honed the vision of this country. But we tend to not see 'founding fathers' as a phenomenon that should continue to develop into this day and time. Founding fathers who are still about laying vision and principle into the future of families.
I'm not talking about constitutions or governments. But about character and integrity and hope.
I'm so blessed to have men who embrace their roles as founding fathers for their families, men who have delved deep and followed God and fought their flesh and held tight to the Spirit. Men who have not been perfect but who have understood legacy. Men who have not been content just to be called 'father' but who have earned the name 'daddy'.
I bless you today. And I humbly ask your blessing in return.
Because your words carry so much.
And if I could ask one thing more...
Could you speak blessing over those who have not known the influence and heart of a man who has walked as a family founding father? Could you pray peace and speak fruit and call for a new generation in their lives? May our blessings abound and spill over.
Friday, June 17, 2011
But I'm in that weird mommy zone when your kids' ages span a couple of decades.
I'm getting to go have some amazing mother-daughter time with my oldest (hint hint as to my destination....)
But I have a couple of four year olds at home who are not going to be thrilled with my focus on their oldest sister.
Because it means I'll be leaving them in the capable care of others for a few days.
But they're not going to like it too much.
Particularly that little guy up there. My 8 of 8.
He's my own personal stalker right now, in the best way. He creeps down to our bed every pre-dawn, snuggling in next to me, stroking my hair, putting his nose right up next to mine.
He hangs on my leg most of the day and wants to be right next to me as I work.
Except when he's obsessing over a video game. Then I take a back seat.
But for the most part, he's my little shadow.
And he has a little phrase that melts me. Every hour or so, he'll put his hands up and say, "Hode to me."
Hode. Long o.
Hode to me, meaning 'hold me'.
I love his preschool poetry. There's just something about the placement of that preposition 'to', that it's not enough to hold him, but that he wants all of me to hold on to him.
So I'm heading off to be a good mom to my oldest. At what will be the upset of my youngest.
Ah, the constant balancing of holding eight.
Hode to me.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
He'll be spending the summer with us, working with a precious friend of ours.
Oh, and I guess that means he'll get to see 1 of 8 a bit more once she arrives home from Paris in a couple of weeks.
But I'm sure his first priority is keeping 1 of 8's brothers enthralled with his XBox skills.
The Amazing Nick drove. Drove all the way from his home on the Pacific coast to the middle of the great state of Texas.
And as it his signature style, he regaled us last night with the insights and philosophies he gained whilst on this road trip.
Nick says these are his four top favorite things about El Paso, where he got to spend a lot of time because El Paso chose to close the interstate yesterday. For a long time.
"1. They have a billboard there telling me that the end of the world is coming. With a date on it from last month.
2. They call their cops Constables. And they ride around in Constable cars. And that's just cute.
3. Their McDonalds have WiFi. And Redboxes in the McDonalds. Which is the height of laziness, to get your fried food and then sit in McDonalds and watch a Redbox movie on your laptop. And I like it.
4. They close I-10. For no reason. And they don't explain themselves."It's going to be a fun summer. Funny Summer.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
And I also wanted to include the link for Amy Lynn Andrews' ebook, Tell Your Time, a resource I referred to several times throughout my talk. And let me just apologize right now for calling Amy 'Amy Lynn Anderson' a couple of times...I blame the Benadryl I was on...and my own personal ditziness. Andrews. Andrews. Andrews.
You can order the book. Click here to visit Amy Lynn Andrews.. The proceeds from orders from the Octamom site will go the Women's Ministry.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Somewhere that requires a passport.
Which I haven't had updated in a long, long time.
I needed to get a new passport. And quickly. We were in Oklahoma visiting family as all of my trip plans began to gel, so I made the executive decision to run a few miles up the road to a post office with a passport agent in a town I assumed would not be too busy.
And they weren't too busy.
But they weren't all into my need for an expedited passport. Or my decision to use a hand-carry service to move things along.
Or my passport picture, for that matter.
My little passport errand turned into quite an adventure in Will Roger's ol' stompin' grounds. And I had new passport pictures made. And I still used a passport expedite service that the postal office slammed on but who got me my passport in three days.
I've already been having adventures.
Before I even begin my adventures.
Wanna guess where I'm going? I'll give you a hint.
It's not Claremore, Oklahoma.
I've already spent plenty of time there this year.
At the post office.
Monday, June 13, 2011
There are those things in my life that I love at the beginning.
The first adrenaline of cleaning out a closet.
The heady resolutions to eat healthier.
The new hobby, replete with all the accouterments and trappings.
The blistering romance of a fresh decorating project.
New beginnings, fresh starts, early days.
But, unfortunately, that anticipative rush ultimately ends. And I'm left with a half-emptied disheveled closet, a pantry full of odd organics, a hobby neglected and a decorating palate straddling Early Marriage Rattan and Last House's Monster Sectional.
So here's why I respect running.
It's the exact opposite.
It starts miserable. And then builds to deep love.
Right now, I'm still back at miserable.
After breaking my foot a couple of months ago schlepping a suitcase full of research material and ultimately dropping it onto the arch of my foot, I had to take a break from running. My running schedule was already much abbreviated from last fall's half-marathon training.
That fractured metatarsal brought it to a standstill.
I started running again a couple of weeks ago. And it's miserable.
Really miserable. It's shocking to realize how quickly all that training can make an exit.
My amazing sister~neighbor/running partner JT and I have been working a new training schedule, loading up kids in jogging strollers and running timed splits and hills and distance. And I have been whining.
After a particular unlovely run last week, I turned to JT and asked, "Do we even LIKE running?"
But I already knew the answer.
I love it. I love it because of its innate purity. To be a runner means I have to run. Consistently. I can't have a fling with it. I have to make a commitment. And running won't let me get away with a passing fascination to be replaced by the next shiny thing. It has to be a long romance.
Or nothing at all.
I'm ready to get to back to the place where I love running, where I feel strong and empowered, relaxed and endorphin-charged.
As opposed to sticky, gasping, nauseous.
But for now, I can love hating it, love hating what it requires, love hating how it makes me realize that I had to fight for my training and my goals.
And I'm admiring again the life lesson of enduring the formidable to find the reward.
Even when it makes me a little queasy.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
It's called Operation Pray Me Home and it connects members of our church with a specialized unit of the US Army who go into particularly difficult areas of the Middle East. They are a unit who goes in first into sensitive areas to help obtain intelligence and to engage the enemy to make it safer for further troops to then be able to go into the area as well.
This unit is literally first in the line of fire.
Each member of this unit is being 'adopted' by families at church. At a ceremony next weekend, each soldier will meet the family that will be praying for them, watching over their loved ones, praying them home. And the family will receive the dog tags of that soldier to wear and hold that soldier close in their hearts.
Today, the commander of the unit came to our Sunday service so that we could pray over he and his wife as he prepares to deploy later this month. Our elders and pastor surrounded them, praying for protection, praying for his family.
He stood, strong and stoic, humble and heroic.
Our pastor asked how long he and his wife would be apart because of this deployment.
For one year, he will not see his family.
To sacrifice safety. To bring us safety. To sacrifice security. To give us greater security.
And his wife will be without him, sacrificing a precious year. A year without her mate. A year without the father of her children. All in an effort to secure the freedoms of ravaged regions and to protect our nation.
As I watched the two of them, I had to reflect of the Christ light I was seeing.
How Jesus left for deployment a couple thousand years ago. How the Bride was left behind. Not forgotten but much cherished.
I realize theologically the work of the cross secured our salvation, brought us peace with God. I realize Christ completed all He was to do for us.
But the image of this army groom and his bride today still struck a deep chord. He is leaving to do such important work. And that leaving in and of itself is a tremendous sacrifice. And his wife is also giving something so important in being separated by an ocean from her husband. Her care and raising of their family, her strength and character is so important in this time as it represents all her husband is fighting for.
We as the Bride of the Captain of a Heavenly army do wrestle with our Groom being away on assignment. He is always in our hearts but we long for the day we are reunited. And I have to believe He longs for that day too, when He comes to reclaim His Bride. The sacrifice and the struggle are long.
And the reward will be so sweet.
May the God of heaven protect and encircle the brave men and women of this special unit of Fort Hood. May their reward be sweet.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
For all the magic that surrounds our friends' AT and JT's little boy adopted from Ethiopia, there is something that is quite a stand-out.
The kid is a fish. Loves it. Swim. Swim. Swim.
So, of course, it was important to develop a competitive sport out of this love.
We proudly introduce JTT B-Ball.
And there's even accommodation for a two-pointer...
It's that happy laughing squeal that makes it for me.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
No wonder that event of welcoming her first grandchild may have come with some angst.
My mom was in a new season. She had finally gotten all of us out of the house and successfully ensconced in college and grad school and marriages and careers. She was back in the work-a-day world and able to drink a Diet Dr. Pepper without one of her offspring coming to take a sip out of her glass.
We used to drive her crazy with that. Always wanting a sip of whatever she was quaffing. It always seemed to taste better than your standard Diet Dr. Pepper.
So here she was, new season, new career, new freedoms.
And then I went and awakened that sleeping giant in her called Mother Instinct.
Or Grandmother Instinct, as it were.
She bonded with 1 of 8. Deeply. Purely.
And all the elements of her new season, while interesting and stimulating and fun, took a pale backseat to cementing a relationship with 1 of 8.
And then 2 of 8. And then 3 of 8. And so forth. And so on.
My mom is now a grandmother to 15 grandchildren.
(Not to be competitive, my Dear Brothers. But, ah, I'm outpacing you. Just sayin'.)
And part of what is so beautiful to me is how each grandchild brings out a new aspect of that Grandmother Instinct. Each grandchild has their special place in her heart and unique relationship.
But then, of course, my mom at this point is a pro.
A professional grandmother.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
For those of you who are regular readers, you're most likely aware that Mike and I have two children with special needs. 4 of 8 is hearing impaired due to a sensorineural loss call Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct and 7 of 8 experienced an ischemic neonatal stroke at birth and has been in physical and occupational therapy for the last three years.
I've spent a lot of time over the past decade in waiting rooms, therapy meetings, and doctor visits. From early on in this journey, I have always been so struck with the beauty of parents who advocate and coach and fight for their kids. And I've also been appalled at the financial challenges parents of kids with special needs face. Even with good insurance, by the time co-pays and deductibles have been met and medical devices and medications have been purchased, any discretionary income is usually shot. There are many, many parents out there who make 'too much' to qualify for certain medical relief programs, but use every drop of income to meet the needs of their kids. There is no room left over in the budget for their children to explore the arts, for mom and dad to have a date night or for any specialized tutoring.
It's bothered me.
It's bothered me for a long time.
And I dreamed of being able to do something about it, bringing opportunities in the arts for these kids and some 'me' time for these amazing moms and dads.
That dream is starting to come true.
Through the generosity of donors, we've launched the non-profit Legacy of Hope Austin, an organization dedicated to serving families with special needs in the greater Austin, Texas area.
I'm still having to pinch myself.
We are presently offering three programs, 2dance2dream, a dance program specifically designed for children with special needs, 2night2dream, a respite care program so that mom and dad can have some time out, and 2learn2dream, a tutoring program for children with learning differences. I'd love for you to visit the website and learn more about our organization. (Click here to learn more!)
And please, please, if you or someone you know in this region could benefit from these programs, please send them our way!
I'm still dreaming. I would love to be able to offer these programs across our state...and then our southwest region...and then from coast to coast. And I'd love to add a couple more programs to what we presently offer. I'm still dreaming.
And I hope this will allow other families with special needs to dream a little too.