Thursday, February 26, 2015

Black Clouds and Pandemics

Being on-call is like a pandemic in our house.  There is a heated moment when you get to the middle or near-end of a strategy game, especially a game we have, which is actually called Pandemic.  In this game, the world is simulated as having a pandemic outbreak of a disease, and the players are the health team trying to stop the pandemic and find cures. 

We don't have an outbreak of disease in our actual household, thank goodness, we have an outbreak of the beeper going off throughout the night when Mike is on-call. Call days are clearly marked on our calendar.  "CALL" is exactly what I write on the top of each day Mike is on call; I dread it, he dreads it.  But it is a day set aside, part of the gig, and patients do not wait until the glossy hours of 9-5 to get sick, so someone has to be available.  We both know this full well, but this does not go without taking a toll on the household.

As a wife, it is almost impossible to relax until the call has been taken, the husband has recovered, and is awake and fully functional after the whiplash of getting back to daytime has worn off, and after the rehashing of the "black cloud." "Black cloud" is a big buzz word.  Apparently, Mike and his friend Brendon have black clouds that hover over their nights where they are on call, and that is where everyone gets really sick, just for them.  These two special doctors who are victimized by the black cloud, and their very gray skies leak right into the household. 

Brendon's wife and I don't believe in the "black cloud;"  even bringing up the "black cloud" in discussion is not helpful.  They are convinced, at least they say, that they are just going back through the last few calls they had, and "are on a bad streak" or "it only happens to them." As the war stories light up over double dates, I figure, at least they each have someone to bond with about this treacherous thing.

I'm not getting into whether a black cloud exists over these doctors or not.  I think many people believe this phenomenon, many who have thought to themselves:
  • I can't do anything right
  • This always happens to me
  • What is wrong with me that this keeps happening?
  • I must be doing something wrong!
  • Why me?
I will offer some plans and play-outs that may relieve these questions:
  • The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Prov 16:9
  • O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
    You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
        you discern my thoughts from afar.
    You search out my path and my lying down
        and are acquainted with all my ways.
    Even before a word is on my tongue,
        behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
    You hem me in, behind and before,
        and lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
        it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6
  •  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
  • 31 For who is God, but the Lord?
        And who is a rock, except our God?—
    32 the God who equipped me with strength
        and made my way blameless.
    33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
        and set me secure on the heights.
    34 He trains my hands for war,
        so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. Psalm 18:31-34
What are your own personal black clouds or household pandemics? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Glorious Gray Hair

There should be a mandate that we speak with people with gray hair frequently, with depth, quality time, and purpose. Of course, I waited until I was 100 miles away from parents and grandparents to ponder what wisdom was said from our family members and friends who have gray hair, and now we are 200 miles away. Please know, I do not intend to say "gray hair" with any kind of degradation, but rather as a compliment, and a position of esteem, knowing that my baselines are: 
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. Prov 16:31  
The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. Prov 20:29

In a culture where we try to cover up the gray hairs by getting our hair dyed, shaving heads,  putting in highlights, and ripping out the darn crooked coarse strands when they pop up during a quarter-life crisis, there has to be something said for the life learned and the wisdom of experience that comes through the grays. We are also in a culture where we prize self-sufficiency and independence, so much that we have allowed our enabled-self to think we have no need for access wisdom or counsel, so why listen to them? We are fine on our own.  I got this.  I have my friends.  I'm good.

I love to glean from those with gray hair and I (generally) treasure their words.  With 5 words they can say what my 30 year old friends say with 100.   With a few words they can silence a negative thought, calm a situation, and perspective comes quickly.  Although they may sleep more, their fewer hours awake are more productive than my "busy" multiplied hours.  They can read through a situation and thin-slice it, maybe because they lived the amount of time of my life two or three times over.  

How can we impress on the next generation the wisdom stored up in these great minds?  Shall we just tuck the minds away in homes or assisted living and have them "taken care of"? I would give up a lot to have our children be around gray haired people with consistency, especially their great grand parents.   I'm sure it would enhance their lives greatly.   

Have you been caught up in yourself and your own age group to a point where you belittle or tune out the older generations? I would encourage you to listen, ask questions, and seek perspective.  

Perhaps it will help you grow a few of your own little gray darlings.  Now, without vanity speaking, is that what you would want?  

I'm pretty sure I do.  Come on little grays, the tweezers are ready.  Is that vanity speaking? ;-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Moon Face

Welcome to my world.  My face has rounded out rather widely over the last week.  I only took one week off of going to the gym, because of a rapid heart rate and palpitations.  Then lovely side effect of the prednisone moon face has appeared. Chipmunk cheeks, oompa loompa, I'm sure you get the picture. 

I guess it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.  My friend Meghan asked me how I was feeling as David and I rushed in late for gymnastics class.  "Good! Yup, back to my old self of cramming lots of activities in and being late!"  I'm very grateful I'm able to function and take care of things and then some. Let's hope this continuea as I taper down the prednisone.  I know the moon face is a cosmetic thing, and hopefully temporary, but definitely better than not being able to talk and swallow. I know it would be better to stay off of "white" carbohydrates, and was that a slice of pizza I had today?  Yup. 

Just Begin: Well, back to a good routine this week; This was my second day out of four scheduled at the gym.  Kim, one of my trainers, was excellent in reminding me to look ahead and not back.  This is true.  As over-thinking and moon-facing leads to vanity, hopefully this medicine regimen will lead to continued stable health.   I was able to complete my entire routine, including split squats, single arm bench presses, the right amount of band assisted chin ups, and more.

Hoping to keep this up.  Let's look ahead and stop dwelling on the moon face.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Musical Child's Foundation

David's cello teacher is fantastic.  Barb encompasses many ways I would like to be as a teacher.  One of her best attributes is her ability to analyze how her teaching has worked, how to critically evaluate the results of her method, and how to design and execute a plan to best educate any child as a musician.  Not only that, but she is great with David. He started to read bass clef music today after a few months of flash cards.  Traditional music teachers often argue that Suzuki students cannot read music. Since I started 400+ instrumental music students in this traditional way and I am now intrigued with these different strategies.   

Bottom line without a lot of depth: As parents, we should be playing music for our children all the time.  Classical in the background and Suzuki CDs for their instrument as a habit.  The more they listen, the more they feel and internalize.  Then, whatever level they are playing at, they are able to feel the music and have vision for the end result because they have already internalized it.  Just as we have internalized our native language, we have been hearing it executed accurately since birth, and once we began to talk, we already know what our speaking voice should sound like.  

What do I do in our home?
I usually have WRTI on in the background.  It is a good station because the news comes on every hour, classical music is played 6am-6pm and jazz from 6pm on.  Just as the day's hectic parts wind down to dinner, jazz kicks up the atmosphere to a fun level.  I believe I started this habit when Naomi was a baby.  I doubt that any child with experiences like this will grow to be tone-deaf adults.  David has been listening to the viola Suzuki CD for two years before starting cello (because we listened when Naomi started), and has an incredible sense of pitch and can sing through all of book 1 with silly antics and crazy voices.  Naomi learned to sing in tune within a year of playing viola.

We have a very basic morning routine. Kids: Wake up, get dressed, and play an instrument. Their little brains get moving from the get go and they have ownership over their independence.  The worst is waking up and not knowing what you are supposed to do next, so this just gives a little plan and gets their brains moving.  Not to mention, live music and applause in the morning brightens up the whole house.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Director's Note for a Birthday

When Naomi was born, I was in production of Beauty and the Beast with Marple Newotwn High School.  This was one of my favorite jobs.  I was directing a high school musical and this was my first go at it! When I found out I was pregnant and the show opened a week after my due date, I was even more excited.  Yeah, sounds a bit crazy, but I loved the many aspects of directing a musical and was up for the challenge.  I was fascinated watching the vision of the scenery come to construction, the notes in the score become the characters' thoughts in sound, the lighting and sound cues transform the house into a new world, the moments of "aha!" when students understood their character enough to draw the audience in, and the Disney-cry moments when it really all came together.  We took Naomi to the show when she was a few days old, against medical advice but with plenty of drugs.  I could not tolerate not being there and at least catching a glimpse of what it could all look like.  It was excellent. Standing ovation. Full house. Energy and life. 

My director's note usually gleans from life-truths that are found within the script, and even today we listened to the score of Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Seussical the Musical.  All four of us enjoy singing along.  Mike takes on "If I Can't Love Her" with all heart and I can't help but sing along with Belle in her many glorious moments.  Amazing Mayzie and Amazing Gertrude are completely fun for me to sing, and I love especially "All for You." 

So, today on Naomi's 7th birthday, I will offer a director's note for a birthday: 

We teach her to find the beauty within herself and her others.  We teach her to work hard and lead her through routines that will set a foundation for her days. We encourage her ideas and creativity and remind her of her beautiful mind.  That she was created with exceptional gifts, unique only to her and to no one else in the universe.  Likewise, each of her friends and her brother, and each of them have gifts unique to themselves.  In light of that, comparing herself to her friends or brother is not necessary or helpful because she was not created or made in light of them, or with them in mind.  She was created uniquely, to fulfill the purposes that God has intended for her life. As she has Psalm 139 memorized, she can glean from the truths that she is fearfully and wonderfully made with a knowledge so high that it is unattainable. 

I would hope that from Mayzie she would learn to follow through on responsibilities and refrain from flaunting her tail.  From Gertrude, that she would be content in the way she was created and from the Cat in the Hat remind herself frequently, how lucky she is.  From Gaston, to turn away from arrogant men and that a hostile person produces strife.  From Lumiere and Cogsworth to be hospitable and timely.  From Mrs. Potts to love even the chips in the ones she cares for.  From Belle that she would not be deceived with appearances and look to the beauty in all those she encounters.  From Jojo, that she would know her dreams and follow them, having confidence in her ideas even when others do not. From Horton, how to protect and nurture, and stand up for what is right.  From the music and scores, how the soul can be touched on earth.  From directors and teachers, that following authority is a good thing.  From singing, that she can be released from earthly stresses.  From singing, that she would commune with God and know that she joins angel voices when she sings, for there is great singing and music in heaven.

Happy Birthday, Nomi!  Break a leg. We love you!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Twenty-Something Dream Jobs

What's your dream job? I have asked this question many times among twenty-somethings, and love the responses.  Sometimes saddened by the lack of response, but when pushed just a tad usually twenty-somethings open up to perfect strangers about what their dream job is better than to their own parents.

We just got home from the American Heart Association Capital Area Heart Ball, raising money for research in heart and stroke care.  We sat around a table with doctors and bankers and enjoyed everyone's company and stories.   My radar went to the sad eyes of the banker parents of their twenty-something year old children, where two out of the four children are heading to California to "find their life." Not bad, just different from the college-job-live track, and it is obviously bothering the parents.  The college-job-live track is a hot topic in our household and breathes insight to flaws in mainstream American education.

But it is just funny to me, because I picked up a book in the library this week, "Should I Do What I Love? (or do what I do-so I can do what I love on the side)".  I haven't read it yet so I cannot defend or deny its integrity, but I was intrigued with the title and outline. I actually grabbed the book so I would know how to respond when the twenty-somethings tell me their dream job, perhaps lend a story or hand them a copy of the book if it turns out to be an inspiring read. To my surprise, chapters named "The Aspiring Gamer" and "The Aspiring Rock Star" hit our home!

One of the bankers said he just met Walter Scheib, executive chef from the Clinton administration.  That he basically worked as a cook and worked his way to executive chef, and Hilary Clinton found him at a resort and was so impressed with his work that she brought him to the white house.  Working your way up to the top on your own, along with the sacrifices held within the work, is a far thought from many American college students.  Sucked into a trap of needing to name and claim a major and get trained does not always come with gold-star job in the end.  So we went in and out of the typical stories of how after two degrees, someone goes to bartender school and makes more money than what the degrees trained for.  Nothing wrong with being a bartender, but you certainly don't need a college degree to do so!

I can say the conversations were very timely, and the best speaker was the heart attack survivor who gave his story after having a VF arrest while jogging with his 7 month old son.  Now his 7 year old son and family have their dad and husband back, and he is counting his days with gratefulness rather than his years in success.

What is your definition of success?  And what is your dream job? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Water Strength Supplied

I washed my face this morning with a warm comfortable stream of water as the bustle of the morning buzzed on, and my phone distracted me with plans of the day and weekend.  It's so good to be back in the swing of life, talking, eating, going out with friends, and managing the household.  Albeit brief so far, I'll take it, this feels like a vacation from Myasthenia Gravis.  Let's hope this continues.
I'm on a medical plan to taper down the prednisone, so tomorrow I will be down to 20 mg daily.  I'm pretty excited about this, and hoping that as the artificial sense of energy I have had from the 40mg and 30 mg dosages will not pull me into lethargy.  I hope many other things, like that talking and swallowing continue to go well and that I can keep up parenting and living well, in whatever form it takes over the next season.  As I focus on each new day, the Myasthenia Gravis I am fighting takes a little more of a back-seat and I get a little more out of my days.  

As I start to get more of life back, I need to be careful not to hunger for more activities and projects.  Am I living less of a life because I set out in September with a completely different trajectory than I am executing now?  Absolutely not.  Did I live less of a life in December and January when I could barely talk and swallow, just trying to exist and understand how to treat the disease properly, with glimmers of hope to get better? Am I living more now that I am accomplishing more? Absolutely not.

The days of not talking meant more listening, more contemplating, more bonding with family and friends who came along side of me.  More connections made and a growing awareness of who prays and the Lord who sustains.  It is a first hand account of 2 Corinthians 12:10, For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

After I washed my face this morning, the water was shut off.  I immediately thought our pipes froze since we are in the heat of an arctic air mass hovering over our area.   Thank goodness we know our neighbors well, because within 20 minutes I was able to find out that a water-main break effected our neighborhood.  Our master plumber came arrived within 10 minutes to check on the scene and our fantastic cleaning crew was here and joyfully made due without water.  I used a few buckets to scoop up some snow to use for cleaning and went on with the days plans. 

By this evening, the water is brown.  It is working but it is brown.  High pressure and brown.  Habitually, I spin on the faucet, fully expectant of fresh clean water to flow, but as I turn on my faucets and have activities flowing through our calendar and social outings peppering our days, I pray my contentment exist as I am ready for action, not necessarily in action. 

Let's not settle for high-pressure-brown-water days as a surrogate for the fantastic learning and strength that comes in times of weakness.    

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ornate Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

The amount of adjectives accompanying my raspberry dark chocolate bar is astounding. Organic, fair traded, sustainably sourced, supports the protection of endangered species, non-GMO, and a few other engaging descriptions. I'm glad I left the wrapper downstairs to limit my eating to a fraction of the perfectly-made thing, and limit my thinking as to how righteous I am to buy such a perfectly-cultivated strip of decadence. As the three squares rest along my wine glass, I grab the computer and hear my dear little David.  Okay, this will have to wait, he is sick and I need to tend to him. 

The illusion and delusion that I am doing something perfectly or righteously gets me every time. I know a bit of scripture and a bit of doctrine, a bit of common sense and a bit of wisdom, and am content to pray within my days and moments to learn more in due time. I'm deceived into seeing perfection by looking at wrappers and descriptions, status posts and pins, and usually fascinated with the ability to scroll on, and on, and on. 

I really like having all of this information at my thumb-tips but try to limit it at the same time because I become disengaged from the people around me once I get really sucked in.  My own mother asked me a question three times, and I was so engrossed in an unrelated status update from a group on Facebook, that I ignored her! Ugh! How could I be so engrossed in a little piece of technology showing me what perfect strangers are up to and ignore my own mother?

And yet, I continue.  My eyes glue to the screens, wanting more and fascinated with more icons and pics and wonderful ideas.  Inspirational writings from really great people right within my access.  I could not possibly be lonely with all this information.  How could I possibly be less than perfect with all of this information?

Naomi asked at breakfast the other day, in a rather upset voice, "Why does the sun keep moving!?"  Breakfast was taking so long, that the beams of sun followed her a quarter ways around the table, and the sun was in her eyes, so she kept moving around the table. "Maybe the sun keeps moving because the world revolves around it, and it doesn't revolve around you," I replied. Just the words I needed for myself.  Maybe I'm less than perfect because the world does not revolve around me. Aha!

As we press on with excellence, "Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you." Prov 4:25 Let's glance to the left and right and glean encouragement and inspiration, but press on looking directly forward.  Ideally, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:2

Kids get sick and we have to put off the wine and fine chocolate.  And although our wrappers are screaming perfection, within the imperfect execution of our tending to our families, our faith is being authored and perfected.  I'm glad the sun keeps moving under His jurisdiction. 

Must be part of His perfect plan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Just Begin

Today I bought a dress for our black tie event this weekend and buzzed around town shopping.  This week feels like a true doctor's wife week.  Mike had a media interview today and was quoted for an international press release, has community teaching tomorrow, a farewell party for colleague and fundraiser this weekend.  I'm going through lists of outfits and social graces necessary for both of us to attend everything with excellence and intentionally prioritize our precious family time in between. The mornings of bustling for an hour before school never lend themselves to visions that I would be sitting around a table the said evening, smiling like life is always a black-tie affair.

So, this happened last Friday:  The kids and I both work up late, I ended up losing my cool in a far-less-than-beautiful way, and Mike walked in from the gym around 6:40am to an awesome family explosion.  Great.  Have a great day and go stick your tools in some hearts without worrying about my emotional antics, sweetie!  I'm fine!  Really.  Totally.  Grrr.

Did you ever ask someone a question, and the amount of delay in which they respond to you is evidence that the response had to weave itself through thick matter to get out of their mouth to your ears? This is how that Friday went, like sticking your hand deep in a jumbled bag of knickknacks just to pull out out some prized diamond at the bottom.  That's the illusion I had of going from Friday morning at 6:40 to Friday evening at 6:40.  Feeling like: there is no way on God's green earth that I would look - or feel- put-together sitting around a table with his colleagues and their spouses.   Well, it happened.  We entered the cocktail hour around 6:40 that evening, looking dapper and sipping our drinks. All smiles around the table and, really, good company with some totally normal people.

So my advice to myself was to "just begin." There was a blank canvas in front of me, or a jumbled purse, and I should just begin. Forget any condemnation of not planning or mapping out the most efficient route for errands, that will come. But rather than overthinking anything: Get hair done. Get outfits purchased and pressed.  Do makeup.  Sit and take some time to breathe. Pray for Mike and the end of his day, his final patient interactions before the weekend, for healing for his patients. Put the babysitter in charge of dinner and give her full reign to put a movie on and make it a fun night for the kids, it is Friday after all!  I hug and kiss the kiddies, smooch them with lip gloss, find my good purse, forget wallet, and go!   Resisting facebook on the way to the event.  Take time to connect with him.  The double week is over.  The call weekend is over. This kicks off our four day weekend.  Just begin.

And we began.  We had a chilly and heartwarming ride over to the country club in the '99 Honda Accord.  We connected with parents in our kid's piano studio and families that live right near us.  Finally, the night was a diamond in the sludge of our busy schedules and a time to really connect with others.  The wives did not talk about glamour, vacations, and shopping, we talked about the disgusting finds in the back of our mini-vans.  I still think that the plastic snake tongue in the seat-belt buckle takes the cake, credit to our mini-van! I guess we talked about vacations a little bit, but not to an obsessive level that one may think.  :-) As we all departed ways, we all got home and paid our babysitters and headed back into casual life: real life, all with blank canvases ahead of us.

Where will you begin? 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Phileo: A Love that Doesn't Melt

I walked along our 14˚F fluffy snowy driveway amidst the scent of skunk and through the damp garage into our warm home.  I closed the garage door and could tell that Mike's game was not going well.  I would normally approach Mike's weekly Dominion match with hesitation, nervous if he was upset about the outcome or not, but this time I was just interested in the game.  "Hey sweets, how's the game going? Can I pour you a drink?" I asked.  The poor thing did not sound good, but was not unraveled.   For the first time in a while I was inspired to care about the game just because he cared about it. Perhaps some of my notes from the women's meeting tonight helped.  A lot.

This evening, our senior pastor's wife, Beth, gave a wonderful outline and teaching.  It was not a tip sheet on how to be a better wife or how-to book on marriage, but a reflective and factual account of what loving our husbands means.  I love Carolyn Mahaney's book, Feminine Appeal, and you may know my obsession with Musical Theater, so I will begin with one of Beth's examples of from Carolyn's book, reflecting on a definition of love from Fiddler on the Roof.

This definition of love is more of what we do, rather than this definition of the love, in the context of loving our neighbor, our closest being spouse.  Although touching and memorable, this is not the love as described in Titus 2:1-5, referencing the love a wife would have for her husband and it is not the love described in our call to "love your neighbor as yourself," from Luke 10:27.  The love in these verses is from the Greek, Phileo, is defined as: warm, tender, compassionate, heartfelt affection as for a dear friend; enjoyment, being fond of someone

There is plenty of challenge right in there.  It is easy to sit back and see all the ways you serve your spouse or neighbor, and point at those acts as versions of love.  And they are versions of love, acts of kindness and wonderful ways to serve!  But the love that comes from deep within the heart is a deep felt fondness, that cannot begin with our actions.  It comes from a current good-standing relationship with the God of the universe, knowing that first I was loved, when I was an enemy of God.   And now, out of my gratitude of being rescued from my own defiance, I am able to have an outpouring of love that is tender, compassionate, and heartfelt without being fake.  

The snow will eventually melt off of our driveway and the garage will warm with new birdseed and garden supplies come spring.  Eventually my good deeds of servitude to my husband will fail as I may be too tired to accomplish.  One day I will not have strength to make Mike his favorite breakfast sandwich or coffee, but when my strength fails in frail moments of health or old age, I will pray that I continue to desire to cultivate the Phileo love.  And ask God for the desire to continue to grow.