Monday, August 25, 2014

Our New Neighbor

No, Jerry is not moving.
This is our new neighbor at the cabin.

My husband and I have occasional bouts of overdoing it. We did it this weekend with a capital O for ouch. My muscles are very sore and reminding me that at 5'6" (somewhere over 40. . . ) you can't do it all. It started with the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday afternoon/night. I'm not going to tell you how many pounds of Fresh French Fries were consumed. Friday we were up at 5:00 and drove up north to FINALLY close on our cabin. Sign the papers, eat in small town cafe with good hash browns and get back on the road. We barely made it home in time to pick up the kids and head to the Target Center in Minneapolis with some friends, to see the Katy Perry show. I'm so tickled to tell you that we ate at Hell's Kitchen with my pastor. Wink. She called it pure hell. French fried sweet potatoes this time. Much healthier. Then on to the show. I've been told Katy Perry doesn't call it a concert, she calls it a show. I concur. Not the musical highlight of the year, but so fun, and entertaining, and I do think it was totally worth spending our kids' college fund on the tickets.

Saturday morn? Crack of dawn to clean out the storage unit. Bill and Calvin and I made two trips with the U-haul trailer. We no longer have a storage unit. One small step towards order in the universe. Of course it might be canceled out with the whole cabin thing. . .

There was a piano in the storage unit. Bill and I got the 1906 Kohler and Campbell into the truck, lifting it the 12" up and over. This is not a spinet. This is an upright grand. Yeah. We bought it from a gal at church for $100 and spent $250 getting it moved to the storage unit back in May. A cabin's got to have a piano. Hindsight is 20/20 but those pianos movers seem to make really good use of ramps.

We drove the U-haul trailer behind the jeep up to Nisswa. We slept our first night in the cabin. Sunday, getting it off the truck and into the cabin turned out to be even harder, and Two Kotrbas and a Truck probably should have spent another $250 to have real movers on the other end. It actually took about four Kotrbas to budge it, but it was all worth it, to hear the kids sit down and play in the cabin and hear the music ringing out the open windows through the pines. Probably tells you something that we don't have a boat but we have a piano.

The cabin is old. It was probably built in the 1920's. This is the first change of owner in a very, very long time and so there has been a lot of hoopla. City. County. DNR.  Everybody has something to say. Thank you to Bill's folks for manning the electric and septic and gas and roofing and plumbing and well-digging contractor appointments. All that stuff had to be up to code before we could close. There were a lot of mysteries to say the least. Bill's dad loves a good mystery--thanks, Dad K.

So, the cabin adventure begins. Bill spent much of Sunday afternoon rebuilding the toilet. First things first.

At lunch, we met our new neighbor. Sir Eagle gave us quite the show. Bill was able to get his camera while he ate his fish on the dock. The eagle that is.

If you know me, then you know that at the very least, birds are a reminder from God that everything is good. This was a very big bird, so everything must be very good. God bless you Sir Eagle, and God bless our new Little Pines Lodge, and God bless all the cabin mysteries and the future times we will spend there with family and friends.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mary's Minnesota State Fair Results

Good Hair Day Takes a Third Place

Heaven to Me Takes a Blue Ribbon!  
Fun!  Mary's first time to try entering the state fair education contests. We were inspired by my students Nehemiah and Solomon, who incidentally each got four ribbons this year! They are super into art and it's fun to see all their work and how it grows each year.

Kids enter for the grade they just finished and there are different "lots."  Mary entered three items--"Good Hair Day" in mixed media painting--she got a 3rd place ribbon out of 28 entries. She also entered a print from a project from school which didn't place. Her poem "Heaven to Me" got a blue ribbon in the poems lot. (See April 2014 blog for Good Hair Day and January 2014 for Heaven to Me)

I don't know the grading--why they don't always give a blue ribbon or give a couple red and whites. Guess I'll learn that as we go. How do you judge children's art and literature? I have no idea. I know how to judge children's piano playing--how to discern skill and technique and balance it with musicality and creativity. How does a sloppy expressive performance place against a flawless mechanical one? Neither is complete.

I'll refrain from pretending to know anything more about art than art history 101 and a western  american art appreciation class to fulfill a writing component in grad school--read easy elective. Art, wine, music. . . you like what you like.

I do think it's pretty cool that "Heaven to Me" placed--I was a little concerned that the religious theme might not fly in Minnesota. Yeah for that!  I guess her inclusive words made up for any overt references to Christianity. I'll take it.

Also, at last count, sales of Good Hair Day prints topped $350--all of which Mary donated to Feed My Starving Children.  I guess that qualifies as good art no matter what you like. There are still a few left. . .

So, we are off to the fair this afternoon. It's the great Minnesota get together and this is what we do. My husband will eat one of everything--he was after all raised here. We will spend too much money on pronto pup corn dogs and french fries and pork chops on a stick and the kids will go down the giant slide and Mary will ooh and ahhh over the bunnies and no we will NOT be entering a bunny next year. . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Close to Heaven We Are

August 22, 2009

Iowa 2009  

Five Years Ago. . . 
It's been a great summer. As rare as it happens in my life, it was very balanced. People, piano, plants.

A year ago was the terrible hail storm--and the start of a year of perfect things getting ruined. Things, yes, but still. . . . you know how I feel about beautiful things getting ruined.

The plants came back and the roof got fixed, the decks got repaired and the cat pee smell is mostly gone from the newly finished basement. . . the squirrels are out of the piano room ceiling. I think. I'm not so angry anymore. Time heals all wounds, they say.

Five years ago was the last good week with my dad. What a gift that was. When there is no more chemo and no more nothing, all that's left is to sit out by the fire with the kids and cook a hot dog. When Bill took those photos we didn't know how close to heaven we were.

I think about my Dad almost everyday, but I'm not so angry anymore. Time heals.

It's been a great summer. There's still a little more to come--the fair, a concert and some cabin time. And. . . I hope as Bill takes those late summer pictures--that we remember exactly how close to heaven we are.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Big Enough Grace

Yesterday I had Robin Williams on my mind.

I grew up in the LCMS and I was taught that suicide was the ultimate sin and that children and adults who committed suicide went to hell.

As if. . . there was a sin or mistake so large that God's grace couldn't handle it.

As if. . . God wouldn't have time to implement that grace between the moment of death and arrival at the gates.

Sorry, Pastor B., I love you dearly, but I've outgrown that one.

It's not that I'm personally going to miss Robin Williams, though who doesn't like him?  It's that if someone that talented and full of genius can decide their own life and their own gifts are not worth the pain of staying on here. . . then God help us all the normally gifted people.

That's part of it anyway.

My first awareness of suicide was in the fifth grade in Mrs. Paustian's class. The principal came in to get Anne, whose brother was found. Anne left the room with Mr. Fairweather and Mrs. Paustian put her head down on her desk and wept.

Turns out--as if one loss wasn't enough to warrent that grief, Mrs. Paustian had lost her husband that same way.

That's the other part. Every time someone loses from suicide, mental illness, depression, or addiction--it brings to mind everyone who ever suffered. I can't list on fingers and toes the friends and loved ones who have faced these battles. Even those of us who flirt with seasonal depression get sucked in.

Coincidentally, I'm reading a book called "Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps" by Richard Rohr.  I've come to wonder if we all don't have our own addictions. Mine doesn't happen to be drugs or alcohol. It might be caffeine, sugar, or stuff. It might just be certain ways I think. I think thinking you are above any addictions might actually be a sub-quadrant of addiction in itself. I don't think anyone is immune.

We all have holes. Holes that need filling up. Some fill them up with heroin and some fill them up by reorganizing the sock drawer over and over. Some of us buy a few too many school supplies. . . those brand new pencils are awfully shiny. . .

But the pencils don't last. And the questions remain. Why does God let these things happen?

That's the final part. The hardest part.

"The evidence is overwhelming that God fully allows and does not stop genocides, the abuse of children, brutal wars, unspeakable human and animal suffering, the imprisonment of the innocent, the sexual enslavement of girls. . . .and the tragic lives of addicts and their codependents. Further, God seems to fully "cause," or at least allow, the natural disasters of drought, flood, . . . mental illness. . . What are we to do with this?"  (Page 120)

Rohr goes on to attempt to explain that the only way through it--is a God who has suffered. That is why "Jesus saves." Jesus suffered. And Jesus loved the people with big holes. Rohr goes as far, I believe, to say that AA is the closest thing we have to a true Christian church, even though most of these meetings are kept in the church basement, far below all the perfect Christians.

This is going on too long. . . mostly because Mary is still sleeping and Calvin is at camp. . . but the biggest question to me is . . how do I fill these holes that come up. What decisions do I make everyday about what to fill up with? Exercise, sleep, music, beauty, sunshine, good foods, doing something for other people. Loving other people. Loving God. I know I'm happiest when I fill up with God's grace.

Little holes might be filled with school supplies, but when the big holes come, the really big holes, God's grace is the only thing big enough. It's a grace big enough for all of us and all our mistakes and all our sins--all the depression and mental illness and addiction is nothing to the grace of God. They are but a live coal in the sea. We just have to keep reminding each other. Over and over and over.

So--to everyone who has lost their beloved and to those filling their holes with the wrong stuff--which is all of us at one time or another--God bless us and keep us and fill us with peace and grace, a grace big enough to fill in even our deepest holes. Over and over and over.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Make New Friends but Keep the Old

I, the introvert, have had a very social summer. I've been chumming with my sister and my mom. . .
then last week was the MacPhail Suzuki Institute and it was super cool to be around piano teacher friends all week.

Casey and Stacey from childhood Eldridge were here in Minnesota this weekend for a girls retreat. We did girl things like exercise class and pedicures. One of those times where you switch from coffee to wine as the day chats away. Well. . . I had coffee.

Mary Ray went to her first weekend away at church camp with Amelia. Two against the world. Funny how one good friend can give you so much courage. Keep you brave.

The letter came in the mail Saturday while she was gone. You know. . . the one about what teacher you get for school. The calls started pouring in. By 5:00 I knew who every nine-year-old girl in Eagan had. I knew the cold hard truth. Still, when she got home Sunday I let Mary make her own discoveries. Call by call I heard the dialog and the silence. I was putting things away when I walked by her room and saw the despair and heard the quiet sobs.

No one.

No friend in the class. She got the teacher she loves--but no friends.

It would have only taken one. One can keep you brave.

Since it had been about an hour since I dropped Casey at the airport I too was feeling a little friendless. I thought of every goodbye and every lost opportunity. Every lonely moment.

And then I told Mary--about how Casey had moved away when I was little and how sad and lonely I was. How no friendship would ever be the same. Sixth grade was a tough time to leave. Jeepers I can still cry over it.

I thought things would never be the same.

Yet. . . here we are, forty years after that first grade bus ride. Things are still the same.

Now I'm thinking about all the friends in between and all the roles our friends play. Faith friends. Piano friends. Garden friends. Love each other's kids friends. Been through one specific crappy time together friends.

Sometimes one friend can keep you brave.

Sometimes one friend shows up when you have no brave left.

Last night we had a bon voyage party for my student Isabella and her folks. Mother Lorie is my friend. A new friend. A stay till the end of every volunteer job friend. An inspire you with her resilience and southern class friend. An always wearing lipstick no matter how crazy things get friend. They are moving to South Africa for awhile and then coming back. I'll miss her at the Deerwood bus stop. I'm sure she will take on the volunteer tasks of wherever she lands. She will get her lipstick through customs with her mother and the dog and Isabella's world and keep her manners along the way. Good manners can go a long way. All the way to South Africa. Grow where you are planted, Lorie. You are so brave.

And Mary will grow where she is planted in the fourth grade class. And just like my mom drove me to Burlington all those years to see Casey, and just like her family paid for plane tickets from Texas summer after summer when they moved even farther--I will do what I need to do to help Mary keep her loyal friends.

Make new friends, and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.
Actually, I think they are all gold. And one at a time they keep us brave.