Sunday, November 30, 2008

advent: we will have hope

This marks the first week of advent. Sunday was the first Sunday of the season, so you aren't too far behind if you've missed it.

We greatly appreciate the season of advent each year as it helps us focus on the reason we have something to celebrate this time of year. By the time Christmas comes, I feel as though I have been waiting for it a long time and am ready to burst. Though, to be honest, Christmas always feels like a let-down after Advent because I'm not at some great party where we all sing songs and dance because Jesus came to earth. No, more likely than not, I'm looking for so-and-so's present and eating food I didn't even have the joy of making. (Pat and I are strange people who actually LIKE the idea of hosting large meals, except for the dishes.) Advent, however, is more what I want out of Christmas...just lacking in full-out celebration.

I love advent because of its paradoxical nature: we look both backward and forward at the comings of Christ. Both comings give us reason to hope and reason for great longing. We see so much wrong in the world and ourselves that the "then and not yet" of Christ fills us with a yearning akin to that of lovers apart. On the one hand, it is wonderful to have as your own a person so worth missing. On the other hand, to know the thing that you miss is more difficult perhaps than not knowing what you were missing to begin with. At this time every year, we take the chance to fully miss Jesus not being here while being entirely grateful that he came in the first place and looking forward to seeing him again.

This year I am in charge of the advent proceedings at our little church. After doing a bit more research online, (if you'd like to see what I saw, go here for a bit of history and here to see a newer take on the church tradition.) I decided to write responsive readings for our youth to lead after an adult shares what that week's theme and character mean in his or her own life. The character for this week was the prophets (we read Isaiah) and the theme was hope. The couple who shared their thoughts are our friends who were able to adopt a little girl this year. They had felt for years that God wanted them to adopt a little girl through no conventional means and they spoke about how being given a promise by God can make you feel crazy and going for years without seeing the promise fulfilled makes you feel even crazier for believing it in the first place, bringing up all kinds of questions about the Promise Maker and the believer alike. However, seeing one of God's promises fulfilled is an unbelievable gift -- much better than you would have dreamed based on the words of the promise alone. God gave us the promise of His Son to the prophets long ago and when we look at the world, we can still have hope because of those same promises. And we know from particular instances (such as theirs) that the way God keeps His promises doesn't tend to look the way we would imagine it to, but is instead a better fit than we could've imagined. If I am ever able to get a copy of what they wrote to share, I will happily share it with you, as it's better written than I can do justice. However, I will share what I wrote on the subject and invite you to read along with our congregation in the coming weeks of Advent.

God has given light to the world.
We will have hope.
We live in a world full of darkness.
We will have hope.
When we see problems we can't solve.
We will have hope.
When we see a problem solved.
We will have hope.
When we don't understand why.
We will have hope.
When the bad guy wins.
We will have hope.
Because the bad guy will not win in the end.
We will have hope.
When our friend has failed us again.
We will have hope.
When we have failed again.
We will have hope.
When we see the evil in the news.
We will have hope.
When we see the evil in our hearts.
We will have hope.
Even though the world is broken.
We will have hope.
We know someone who can save the world.
We will have hope.
We know someone who has saved us.
We will have hope.
We know someone who will keep saving us.
We will have hope.
Because we are broken.
We will have hope.
Our Savior has promised to come again.
We will have hope.
Advent happens more than once.
We will have hope.
Like the prophets, we look forward to His coming!
We will have hope.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ybba Raed,

So my mom tells me I need to be a writer. She is going around showing people my latest blog entry about selling Myrtle (I'm coping, thanks...) and gathering their responses to bolster her position. She then tells me one more reason that I need to be a writer: because so-and-so said so, too.

I was telling this to my English teacher friend today and she said her friend's blog was picked up by a magazine. They now pay him to write the blog he had been writing anyway as his job. Lucky guy. I laughed that someone would only pay me to run 25% of my blog; as cute as Israel is, I doubt the picture posts are of much interest to people who don't know us. Barring the unlikely good fortune of having someone just decide that they want to pay me to write this blog, (and by all means, let me know if you're interested!) I would probably have to do free-lance writing for...someone...or just decide, "Hey, I'm going to write a book!" and wait to see who would publish it. How does one become a (paid) writer? Hmm....

Here is the real snag, though: I don't know what to write about. I pretty much only write when something bad happens to me or when I'm dealing with a weighty issue, so I am nearly completely at the mercy of my life's experiences to come up with material. Supposing I had the good luck of continued misfortune or difficulty, I could write my life as a series of unfortunate events. ...Wait. Already done.

The mere mention of writing as my job gives me a block. Maybe I am a literary hypochondriac who is just always afraid she will get writer's block and, therefore, has it. Or perhaps I am just not the sort of person gifted to think through practical problems. I can only state problems more precisely. That's helpful for as far as it goes, which isn't very far. That said, here is the problem: I don't have any clue who to ask to pay me for my work and even if I knew some options, I wouldn't know what genre of writing to pursue: comedy? tragedy? arm-chair philosophy? poetry? I suppose if one of you wanted me to write about your life, I could start there. (That is, unless some great and horrible thing happened to me tomorrow, giving me a lifetime of material.) Or I could just keep writing about my life as it happens on this blog for the time being.

Or how about I do an entry on here that is a reverse-advice column? How about you give me advice on what to write -- a writing assignment! For instance, my English-teaching friend suggested I write an article on when and for what reasons it is and is not appropriate to pass another car on the right-hand side. Maybe I'll use your idea or maybe (gasp, if you know me well...) I won't have anything to say about it. Maybe someone else will have some thoughts on the matter or maybe you'll decide to take up writing about it on your own. Maybe it will give me some good practice writing and some direction on what (if anything) to do next. That's what I'll do: write a reverse-advice column. ...Wait. Already done.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

the car, the companion, and the chrysalis

Given that my treasure lies in heaven, I have a hard time explaining to anyone (even myself) my strange attachment to certain fixtures in my life. Take, for instance, my old, sheet-covered couch. I will not get rid of it. I suppose I could find another couch that comfortably seats 4 and fits under my windowsill, but it would have no personality and I wouldn't like it. It did not come from the beloved old intern house, where it made its way from the porch to the living room to my very heart. So there is my couch. I will refurbish the whole thing (pricey, I know) before I will kick it to the curb.

But today I sold one of my beloved possessions. Pat and I agreed at some point that it was the best thing to do, both for us and for the person who bought it, but somehow I don't really remember why. I know I decided to do it (finally) in order to make dealing with its parting easier, since I know the day will come sometime. I went forward with the deal in many ways just to know I could do it.

So, today, Myrtle is no longer part of the McCrory family. (Really, she had no last name, but if she did, she would've had to have married into "McCrory.") Myrtle and I have an 11-year history of adventure together. As with many of the best relationships in my life, I didn't really like Myrtle at first. She was neither trendy nor old-school cool; she was a little frumpy and I felt a little frumpy by association. But we went together most everywhere because she was, after all, my first car: a teal-ish green used 1993 corolla with rounded features. She carried me and my best friend on after-school adventures and wasn't hurt at all by the couple of minor run-ins she had with my friends' cars. She hid me when I was late for work and changed into my work clothes on my way down the road. She waited for me to take her to college the second semester of freshman year and she didn't mind the small tear I gave her door when packing my dorm refrigerator. Myrtle moved with me to Michigan that difficult summer and loved that the speed limit was faster up there just as much as I did. She was not afraid when we were lost all alone in a bad part of Chicago on a road trip. She snuck with a small group of my friends to the rock quarry to swim at night. Do not be fooled by appearances; Myrtle was tough.

She was a bit sentimental, though, and proudly wore the good-luck mouse given to me by my friend from Russia. She gently carried Katya (our cat) to my appartment for her first night's stay and Sophie (our dog) back to our house after driving to get her from New Castle. She was soft enough to listen when I cried by myself while driving the roads around Muncie after seemingly losing my future husband. Myrtle heard some of our worst fights before we were married and took my side without saying anything. (I know this because she opened her door for Pat and then took me home every time.) She later proudly drove away, decorated with paint and tin cans on our wedding day.

In latter years, though, she also wore several scars made by people who didn't care about her. I'll admit she was starting to take on somewhat of a victim's attitude as people bumped her in parking lots, bashed her on a snowy night before driving away, and carved a word that I later turned into "Pluck" on her driver's side door. She didn't really say anything about it, but I could tell she struggled with a lack of self-worth as she stopped hiding her age, letting her paint peel and her ceiling material sag. She was starting to let herself go. She was still my first choice for bringing home our new little baby boy and I think we were both glad she made it to see that milestone in our transportation needs. I was willing to stick with her, even when someone stole her ability to play music on our rides together. But when she could no longer clear her back windsheild when it became clouded with cataracts in the wintertime, we both knew she couldn't carry the car seat any longer and her time with us was coming to a close.

So today she became the companion of a 20 year old guy who will hopefully be able to restore to her some of her youthful vigor and bring out that tough side of her. Even though I know she'll have many more adventures in her life with him than she will with me, I felt sad to bid her a fond farewell. I put Armor-all on her interior again and Pat vacuumed her out. I emptied her glove box of the souvenirs we collected (whether we meant to or not) over the years. I took the high school parking passes she used to wear on her rear-view mirror, but she kept the scratch over the passenger side door from moving day. I left her with the door handle broken by someone in need of a ride in hopes someone will be able to reattach it, though I could not.

I know its really silly, but I didn't watch as she drove off. I've had a good deal of fun personifying her over the years and it's funny to think of her as a cranky old lady who cared for you when you were younger. I guess I figured I would drive her until she died. I mean, after all, we came this far. Selling her at this point feels a little like sending her to the nursing home -- not nearly the way you would like to leave someone, even if they've become cranky or feel a little sorry for themselves most of the time. So I didn't watch as she left for what would probably be the final chapter in her mechanical life.

When I've told friends that I sold my first car today, they say, "Yeah. That was a sad thing to do." Perhaps it's a kind of sad thing to most people because it's saying goodbye to a space in which their life has taken place. It's like moving out of your first house. Your family is too big and the house is too small and many days you've hated the cramped quarters and cursed the plumbing, but you also remember the craziness with fondness and are hesitant to leave the landscape of years of your memories. As you close the door behind you, you know you are closing the door on a chapter of your life -- one you won't have the key to open ever again.

Sometimes objects become a sort of chrysalis from which you have to emerge once you've grown so much, so, like the caterpillar in Israel's book, today I nibbled a hole in the cocoon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bobby and Daddy

At 14 months old, Israel is trying to say nearly everything. Here is a sampling of some of the words he says the most. ("Please," along with "more" and "eat" are currently signed and can get him many of the things he wants without the need for a tantrum, which is wonderful.) I've been upgraded from "Bubba" to "Bobby" in recent days, which is nice. Israel also understands all kinds of things and can do lots of the things you ask him to do. I'm amazed by this daily. I know this is about the age when nearly all kids seem to make some developmental leap, but it's still amazing when your own child starts communicating with you. (For a good, though redundant, book on the subject, check out Baby Signs by Acredolo and Goodwin. I just realized I sound like one the redundant lines from that book. )

Israel has also become quite the dancer, having learned a spin move to add to his bouncing, clapping, and head-banging. I have yet to be able to catch him in the act on video, though. Rest assured we'll share it with you as soon as I catch it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fastest growing McCrory

This afternoon, Pat and I went to our ultrasound appointment for Peanut. We thought you might want to share in the experience.

Peanut was pretty subdued during the ultrasound. (This was a great shift from my regular check-up earlier this week when we couldn't hear the heartbeat because Peanut kept kicking the monitor...probably due to my rare glass of Coke prior to my appointment. Add that to the list of things not to do again.) We were quickly able to get a face shot or two. Here they are.
Of course, Peanut looks like an alien. But there are two eyes and a nose (which looked like Pat's as we saw the image twist and turn and could get a better idea of the 3-D image) and a mouth (which yawned for us), and that 's all good. We saw a backbone and a beating heart and a diaphragm which was fully formed (which I know to count as a huge blessing, since my friend's baby died earlier this year do to complications involving a not-fully-formed diaphragm) and a brain. We saw arms (up by the face in the picture to the lower left) and fingers in a fist (pointed out in the picture to the lower right).
Peanut was all curled up tight for the photo session, as is evidenced in these last two shots. The first here is the profile picture, but the umbilical cord is up by the nose and makes it hard to distinguish the actual face. (The top of the head is on the left and the sticking-up spot is the nose and mouth and umbilical cord.) We decided to find out if Peanut is a boy or a girl. But Peanut was not very cooperative. The tech tried to nudge the legs apart, but they were crossed most of the time, either at the ankles (as in the picture on the right) or at the knees. Peanut also had a hand stuck down there for much of the time when we actually thought we could get a peek. But after some finagling around, a bathroom break, and a few extra minutes of effort on the tech's part, Peanut gave up the secret.
Peanut is a girl! (I'm not posting a picture of that evidence online.)

Before anyone goes out and buys a bunch of pink ruffles, if Peanut becomes a girly-girl, it will not be from our encouragement. And she will be sharing a room with Israel, so we don't need pink for the room. We don't think Israel would appreciate it. (Ahh...the joys of getting all gender-neutral items for your first child!) That said, we did go out and buy a girl's set of onesies to celebrate. Besides, Israel and Peanut will have birthdays opposite each other on the calendar, so only spring and fall clothes will overlap in purpose for them.

We are excited to be having a girl. I know we would be excited to be having a boy for different reasons, but we are actually pretty pumped to be having a girl. We hope Israel likes her. We already do!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The bathtub, the backyard, and beyond

We have been having a great time with Israel lately. He is quite the toddler now and is learning to do all kinds of things. A couple weekends ago, we enjoyed the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens with Grandpa Mike and Grandma Alice. It was a cold day, but Israel didn't seem to mind and I loved seeing his little face peeking out at me all day from under his hat.

At the zoo

with Grandma Alice in the gardens

at the petting zoo

He has been learning all kinds of things lately. He can now give real kisses and will clean up his own toys if he hears you sing the "Clean Up" song. (I was SO impressed and surprised by that one this week!) He likes to brush his own hair and his own teeth and still goes to the potty sometimes (though not when he's sleeping, which is a drag most mornings). He says "mama" now, but after all I've done, he really calls me "Bubba," while "daddy" gets a clear, "Da-da!" He loves trying to repeat whatever you tell him to and babbles to himself constantly. He can communicate when he's "done" eating, when he wants you to turn on the record player (that's right...RECORD player...) which he loves to clap and dance to, and likes to pick out books to read, demonstrating a preference for certain books one day and other books the next. He is fascinated with putting objects inside things and taking them back out and likes playing games mimicking up and down movement. He giggles about things like discovering he can squirt water out of this bath toys and chasing the dog around the house (and he also giggles about seemingly nothing at all). He's a fun little guy who is ALWAYS on the go these days. Here are a couple of examples: