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Saturday, August 25, 2007

She Sang It is Well

I posted earlier this month about my experience as part of the volunteer American flag honor guard for a local fallen soldier. It was something I will never forget. I've been following the news stories lately, feeling a small connection with this young man's mother. We don't frequent the same circles or live in the same neighborhood, we don't attend the same church. We don't share the same battle against cancer, though it has touched people I know and love. But, we both homeschool, lean heavily on our faith, live in the same area, deal with the same traffic, the same gasoline prices, the same economy, and we both have had to release a child as they went to heaven before us.

Yes, when my oldest daughter was four-months-old, we buried her twin sister who was taken from us by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. Considering this, and how it has affected my life for the past twenty years, I've been watching the news, gazing at photos, and thinking about this mother who just buried her twenty-one year old son. She seems to have borne up in front of the media coverage with such grace, such strength. I wonder whether I could have done as well were it my twenty-one year old child who would never again walk through the door of our home.

Now I realize that I don't see what goes on when the news people are gone, and this family are home alone. I'm thankful for them that nobody sees that but the family and God. I'm also thankful that I don't see how they handle their greif surrounded by the walls of their own home. I would balk at the thought of such an intrusion.

So I pray for them, and my heart is a bit saddened, a bit weary, for this family with which I can identify a little bit. And I remember how an inexplicable feeling of peace, and strength would bouy me up when I felt the weakest during the events and weeks following my baby daughter's death. God is faithful, ever-present, and oh, so loving, as we walk through this shadowed valley of loss, greif, and death. I know this to be true.

I read an article in our local paper titled
"Iraq War Victim Is Honored" on the eve of PFC Jaron Holliday's funeral. It was very nicely written, and honored this fallen hero, and his family in a way that made me glad to say I'm from this town. But in reading further, I was taken aback by this one sentence:

"Kelly Holliday, who has been diagnosed with cancer, received a standing ovation after she powerfully and passionately sang the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" for the church."

I wondered, how could this greiving mother find it in herself to sing at her son's funeral. And how in the world could she make it through a song such as this?

Then I realized that she didn't find it in herself. She found strength to sing this very song in the same God I lean heavily upon for the strength I need. The ever-present Help in time of trouble. The One who will never leave me nor forsake me, Who holds me ever in His grip of grace. I am awed and oh, so grateful.

I still don't know whether, in the same circumstances, I could sing "It is Well With My Soul". I hope never to find out. But I have a suspicion that whatever my future holds, that the wellness of my soul has already been provided for, by One who sees farther than I, and knows exactly what I will need.

Hallelujah!

In light of that, for this day, all is well.

The song itself is timeless. The God who inspired it, is still in control, and He remains worthy of my complete trust.




Thursday, August 23, 2007

Making Nice

Well, it' been one heckuva week around my house. I love my teenagers, but golly parenting them can sometimes make you want to yank out your eyebrows, and your fingernails, and your 'it's been too long since I shaved my legs' stubble.

Ewww.


I apologize for that.


In the meantime...

I did want to say thank you to both
Deena at Wholly Devoted and Mrs. Pivec over at Golightly Place for their kindness and generosity in presenting me with this:


If there's anything I strive to be in blogland, it's nice and friendly, and I've found both of these ladies to be just that. I am flattered, and thankful that they thought of me. You can read more about this award here, and I'd like to pass it along to someone who hasn't already recieved it...

So, congratulations
mamaglop, and SimpliciTea. You both deserve this one I enjoy reading your posts, and and thankful for your friendship!


Speaking of thankful...






I'm really thankful that I'm part of a two-parent team. I love my husband, and we've been double-teaming said 'teenagers' and holding everything together. I am so glad he's here to catch me.

I am working on another
8 Random Things About Me Topic post. I hope to have it up tomorrow, as long as I don't find the need to bury a teenager in the back yard and head for the border. (For you government types who are keeping tabs on my blog, that part about buried teenagers was a JOKE! Honest.)

So, have a great Thursday, all, and I'll check in again soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Molly Dooker


Yes, I am left-handed. One in 10, I am an anomaly. I can hear you all nodding your heads in agreement and nudging each other in sudden comprehension. This revelation explains a great deal, does it not?

I am sure I struggled in grade school with those right-handed scissors. I could never seem to slant my paper just so as I wrote my alphabet; and I guess I was always bumping elbows in the cafeteria with lunch buddies who ended up sitting next to me.

I’m still learning to adapt to the right-handed world we live in. My right-handed husband and I do not always agree about where things should be stored in the kitchen. I often set the table with the forks on the right side of the plate, without giving it much thought. I even catch myself extending a left-hand for shaking during an introduction. That can have awkward results. But, I do quite well as a grown-up with can openers, cameras, scissors and such. I did notice recently that toilets flush on the left side. I wonder what that means.

I also wonder if maybe my left-handedness is what keeps me from being a great artist. You see, I think I remember all my grade school art teachers being right-handed. So in the confusion of drawing cats with lopsided ears and stringy looking whiskers, twisted-legged dogs, or playground scenes with leaning trees and an egg-shaped sunshine, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that what I saw in my heart did not translate to the Big Chief tablet with my Crayola crayons – evidently I was my instructors were using the wrong hand.

Maybe that’s why I fell in love with words, and ditched the artist dream. I may not be able to sketch a beautiful young woman, and capture the way her hair falls along her cheek, just so, or the way her eyes look as she gazes into the distance dreaming of a beautiful black stallion with a white star on his forehead. But I can line words up on a page, and make you see the way the sunlight through the leaves dapples her green and blue shirt as she settles herself into the fork of her favorite tree, and gets lost in the pages of Charlotte’s Web.

So, give me your keyboards with the numeric keypads on the right. I’ll adapt. Throw a pencil sharpener my way, and I’ll sharpen my lead by twisting the sharpener instead of the pencil. And if you don’t mind the ink smear on my pinky, I’m sure we can work out a really cool left-handed handshake if we put our (right) minds together.

For all my fellow left-handers out there, a belated Happy Left-Hander’s Day. (August 13th).

This post is part of my 8 Random Things About Me response to Lavender Chick’s tag. Be sure and come back for Random Thing Topic #2 later this week.


P.S. TAG, Coffee Mom, You're It! - Share 1 (or 8) random thing(s) about yourself, and turn it (each one) into a blog topic.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tag, I'm It!

A week or so ago, Lavender Chick tagged me for this:

8 Random Facts/Habits.

Here are the Rules:

  1. Post the rules, before you post the facts.
  2. Start with 8 random facts/habits.
  3. People who are tagged need to write their own posts about their own 8 facts and post these rules.
  4. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and let them know they've been tagged.


    PREFACE

    I started blogging on Xanga.com in April of 2005. I loved the community, and was really inspired by
    Bea and Maddie -- gifted writers -- to find my voice and write well. In July of 2006 I caught wind of a Bloggy Tour of Homes hosted by Boomama, and I discovered an even bigger community. I jumped on the Tour Bus, and visited so many homes I think I still see swatches of wallpaper and carpeting when I close my eyes at night.

    Finally, in December of 2006 I posted on Blogger, and I’ve been ‘winning friends and influencing people’ ever since. (Okay, maybe not influencing…but it sounded powerful and important, didn’t it?) I post the same content now on Blogger and on Xanga. I participate in several ‘writing challenge’ blogrings. I choose the prompts that charm me, and thereby hone my craft.

    I kind of have this unwritten rule (unwritten until now, I guess) that when I post something I want it to be an exercise in good writing. You know – good idea…rough draft…editing, editing, editing…read aloud to my daughter for her approval…edit some more…then post.

    So, I always struggle with the “TAG, you’re it” invitations I get from others. Not that I don’t want to play along, but I can’t bring myself to post a bulleted list, or just a photo, or the “someone’s having a contest” type of thing. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a separate blog for the fun stuff, like Deena’s
    playground over at Junk in the Trunk. But I have enough work fun posting on this blog, so I haven’t taken the plunge into another one yet.

    Therefore, it’s taken me a few days to finagle this 8 Random Facts Game into a substantial post that actually shares some interesting things about me, and still requires writing effort of me. I’m not sure it’s coming out as a quality piece of writing, but I’m gonna give it a whirl. So, please don’t let my hang-ups keep you from tagging me. Just know that I probably won’t respond to the challenge immediately, because I have to work at it a while.

    Finally, I give you my answers to the
    8 Random Facts About Me Challenge:

    In the coming days each of the following 8 facts will be topics, and I will make this challenge a sort of serial, 8 part writing exercise. I will not write in order. I’m not disciplined enough for that. So, look for the first installment on one of these topics on Monday.


    1.
    I am the oldest child of three. (Posted October 19.)

    2. I taught myself to read at the age of four. (Posted October 26.)

    3. I am left-handed. (Posted August 20.)

    4. I have horrible penmanship. (Posted October 25.)

    5. I have an irrational love for empty notebooks with lovely fabric or leather covers. (Posted September 26.)

    6. I write part-time for a small publisher in California.

    7. I am addicted to color-coding. (Posted September 25.)

    8. I am a word-hunter. (Posted September 5.)



    I know, I know…but I was never one for following rules. In fact, I’ll probably break another with this
    fine-print disclaimer:

    I reserve the right to alter my list of eight random facts, as inspiration falls upon me.

    So, stay tuned my readers. You’re about to read more about me than you ever wanted to learn!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thank You is Not Enough

We gathered yesterday in the 103 degree heat, and waited. Flags of all sizes in our hands, in the ground in front of us, did not wave in the breeze. There was no breeze. But they boldy proclaimed our love for America, for our freedom, and for a family who was facing the most difficult day we could imagine.





We searched the parking lot for a patch of shade, and waited. The only tree near us was surrounded by young and old. Cold water was something to be thankful for. We wished we'd remembered sunscreen. We chatted about our children, our loved ones, our connectedness with the armed forces, and soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.


And we waited.




Traffic passed. People honked and waved. Truckers gave short blasts on their big horns, and the little ones waved back thier thanks. Occasionally a passerby stopped to ask what was happening. We were solemn, respectful in our response.





Soon, word came that it was time, and we left our shade, and lined the road. Flags in hand, we stood quietly, and stared into the distance. Still waiting.

















In the distance, we saw two police officers on motorcycles followed by about 20 bikers, the Patriot Guard Riders. We stood silently, holding our flags as the hearse, and the family cars drove by. A beautiful young woman leaned out of a window and shouted a tearful "Thank you." Tears streamed down my face.


Next came the soldiers, more family and friends, waving their own flags, shedding their own tears, and saying thank you. More Patriot Guard Riders followed and finally, two more police officers signaled the end of the procession.


For us, the waiting was over. We'd been proud, grateful, to stand in honor of PFC Jaron Holliday, our brother, our son, our soldier. But as we got into our air-conditioned cars and drove away, I couldn't help but think of Jaron's mother, his father, his brothers and sister and friends. They would be waiting much longer than we - to hear his voice, to see his face, to hold him again.


But their waiting will end. This is a promise. There is hope.





Until then, thank you doesn't seem quite enough to offer, but it's all I have to give.


Thank you PFC Jaron Holliday, for giving your life for my freedom.


Thank you Kelly and John Holliday, for raising a son who would take up the cause of freedom, and for paying the ultimate cost -- that you did not choose to pay, but were willing to risk.


Thank you Holliday family. My thoughts linger on you today, and my prayers will follow you in the coming weeks.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Escape


The clock ticks, the oscillating fan buzzes, and the faucet drips.

I should be doing laundry. The overflowing hamper mocks me every time I pass. I should pay the bills on my desk. Piled haphazardly beside my mouse, they remind me that the weeks are slipping by. But on the table in the bedroom, something is calling me to come – to get away – to get lost.

It doesn’t take much for me to slip from this world of junk mail, chores and obligations. A cup of Bavarian Wild Berry tea and a square of Dove dark chocolate can serve quite nicely as a distraction, as can the ‘juke box’ of melodies on my iPod. But my favorite escape route is past the hinged door of a book-cover, through the curtain of stiff, gorgeously textured endpapers, and into the ink-spattered pages of my latest favorite book.

It beckons me, and I surrender. I sink into the comfy chair and lift the tome, relishing its weight in my hand. As I open its cover, I hear a tiny creak. I thumb through the first few pages, while the letters and words dance across the inked page. The boy with the scar on his forehead is in detention again. This makes it very hard to solve the mystery and defeat the bad guys, but I believe he’ll find a way.

The breeze of flapping wings blows against both our faces. The derision in the voice of that slippery professor echoes in my ears. And when the scar begins to ache, I imagine that my forehead tingles a bit, as well.

The pages rustle between my fingers, the ice in my tea clinks against the glass, and a breathy sigh escapes my lips. But I hear only the letters and words – weaving their story, casting their spell. I’ve escaped into another world, and I’m lost between the pages. Meanwhile, the laundry, the bills and the real world wait for my return.

In answer to Koffee Kween's latest writing challenge. Follow her link to read more entries.

Don't miss The Box, Part VI - The Conclusion, on Antique Mommy's site. It's a true masterpiece.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My Son's a Senior

My husband, Larry, has been a really talented photographer since he was about 16. Our closet is overflowing with cameras, camera parts, and photos. Our computer folders are packed with digital photo files of every family event, every vacation, and all of our friends' Christmas and High School Senior Portraits.

My oldest daughter's favorite Christmas present of all time was a Canon AE70 SLR camera just like the one her Dad had in high school, and I recently saved my pennies to buy a Kodak EasyShare Z710. I'ts not a top of the line camera, but for my budget, it does a really great job!

I'm learning -- slowly.

So this weekend, we spent all day Saturday taking pictures of my son. He'll graduate High School next Spring.

Larry's film is waiting to be developed, but with my new digital EasyShare, I can go from camera to blog in about an hour.

Like I said. I'm learning -- slowly.

So, here are the best of the pictures I took this weekend. I hope you enjoy.






I'll go back to WRITING soon, I promise. I've got some ideas in the works, but nothing's ready. Wonderful Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, August 6, 2007

We Found Nemo, Dory, and Some New Friends








Yeah, we're Pixar fans, and we love the whole Nemo / Dory dynamic, in fact, we hope to visit P. Sherman's 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney on our dream vacation around the world in say, 15 years or so. In the meantime we've gotta settle for the Oklahoma Aquarium.



We've been meaning to visit the aquarium for a couple of years now, but never seemed to find the time, until this weekend, when I found out that my Xanga/Starbucks/Homeschool Mom buddy SimpliciTea was on her way into town! They've been doing a summer unit study on the ocean, and were planning a field trip!




Tea's xanga blog has been such a fun read for me over the past several months. Shes a stay-at-home and homeschool mom of four who loves to read, write, teach and cuddle her babies, and drink plenty of tea and Starbucks coffee! When I found out she was coming to town, I sweet-talked my husband, Larry, into a meet and greet.



She and I ironed out the details online, and exchanged cell phone numbers with great anticipation. After Larry and I arrived at the aquarium, and purchased our tickets, we made a right at the info booth, and I called Tea on the cell phone. I told her we'd finally made it, and as she began to explain where they were, I looked up, and there was this adorable little family walking toward us, and the mom was talking on the cell phone --- to me! There they were. I hung up without saying goodbye, so I could say hello in person. No rudeness intended.




We hugged hello, made introductions all around, and then headed to the gift shop for a chat while the kids tried to convince dad to buy out the store. After a few minutes of souvenir euphoria, we made our way to the cafe, and sat down for a chat. Larry and Mr. Tea happily discussed MY new digital camera. (I have to remind my photographer husband, who is camera CRAZY, that this one is mine, and the big, shiny black one with all the expensive attachments and stuff is HIS.)

I was completely charmed by Tea's little ones.



"E" was quite grown up. She was articulate and friendly and cute as a bug's ear. After a while she invited me to join her in a tour of the room with all the fishing gear. She took me by the hand, and led me away from mom, so we could enjoy a few moments of conversation on our own. We oohed and aahed and wondered aloud what kind of fish would want to eat a lure that looked like a duck, or a snake, or a really ugly, leggy, spotted frog. I found out about some of her favorite books, and suggested a few of my own.


"N" reminded me of Spencer Breslin. He was all boy, very logical and persuasive, and extremely excited about his new magnetic fishing toy. He told us about feeding the turtles and the stingrays, and his eyes grew big as saucers when he related his experience in the shark tunnel.





Little "K" took immediately to Larry. She let him hold her for a few minutes, but there was too much to see - and she wanted to travel. So, occasionally they would leave the cafe for a quick tour around the lobby, her little fingers wrapped tightly around one of his. He was in little girl heaven!






Just before we parted company, the kids offered to escort us to the stingray tank. We had a great time watching them swim up and over and around each other in a strange game of stingray bumper cars.




All in all, it was a too short visit, but we hugged our goodbyes and agreed to meet again soon -- maybe at the zoo.

So, if you're ever in the Tulsa area, and you want to check out the Oklahoma Aquarium - I can show you all the best ocean beauty they have to offer. I'd love to meet you in person!

And if you don't know my friend, Tea, head on over to her place and tell her I said hello!




"This is the Ocean silly, we're not the only two in here." -- Dory



P.S. Here's a special hello wave to "E", "N" and "K". I enjoyed meeting you!

ALSO, The Box continues over at Antique Mommy's place. Part IV today, and Part V (the conclusion) on Wednesday. Don't miss it!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Rhythm of Parenting Teenagers

Cups




This is how it goes:


Clap, clap. Tap, tap, tap.
Clap, grasp, move.
Clap, grasp, twist-tap, down.
Twist-grasp, slap, pass.


My kids have been playing for at least ten years. Hours of practice, laughing and do-overs finally became a rhythmic source of fun and entertainment for them and others. I've seen them request empty cups at restaurants, and then draw a crowd with their mad cups skills.


The game, and it's rhythms have been broken down, analyzed, and taught to any unsuspecting friends, cousins, aunts or uncles who may have come along. This summer they took it on the road - to the family reunion - and video-taped it for posterity.


Lately, parenting them has been a lot like the cup game.


Sometimes I feel like the hands -- Clap, clap. Tap, tap, tap... Counting out the rhythm. Focused and determined to get this right -- maintain the flow.


Catch, release. Pray, pray, pray. Laugh, cry, pray.


Sometimes I feel like the cup --- tapped, twisted, turned upside-down, passed to the next person... I get dizzy just thinking about it.


Where are the instructions for this elaborate dance? We've been deliberate about teaching these dear ones the life skills and faith they will need as adults. We've relaxed our hold on them, but not our hearts, and let them make choices on their own. Then watched, broken hearted, when their choices backfired and brought them pain. We've cheered and encouraged when the choices were good, and showed maturity, and we've rushed in, to catch them -- scold them -- give them consequences, when it seems they've lost their minds way.


Catch, release. Pray, pray, pray. Laugh, cry, pray.


The goal is that someday soon, they'll be ready when they launch out on their own. The hardest part is realizing that we can't control their choices, or protect them from the consequences. It's scary in a world full of broken hearts, pre-marital sex, greed, addiction and tragedy. There is no immunization to protect them. They must choose -- and we must let them, providing a safe place to fall, and try again.


Some days I am surprised to find that my battered, broken heart still beats with this rhythm.


Catch, release. Pray, pray, pray. Laugh, cry, pray.


It's the rhythm of parenting teenagers.



P.S. Check out The Box, Part III over at Antique Mommy's place. It's amazing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What the Tea Leaves Told Me

It’s been documented, my romance with tea. I spent the afternoon at Starbucks the other day and grabbed up the cutest cup and saucer from their clearance shelf. I’ve been using it each evening as I relax with a cup of tea and a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate.

I love the feel of a warm ceramic cup in my hand – the way it slows me down, and keeps me in the moment. Today, I shared the love with a couple of girlfriends. My niece, my daughter, Jericho, and I took a break from housework, computer work, and watching “Hannah Montana” on television to have a summer tea party.


I recently found four new tea flavors at the grocery store, and I couldn’t wait to try the White Tea with Island Mango and Peach. The label says it’s made with real orange leaves and lemongrass. I sampled the Vanilla Caramel Truffle and the Red Tea with Harvest Strawberry and Passion Fruit Flavors earlier this week – Yum! I just love that pyramid tea bag. It’s the cutest thing!




I bought these perfect little tea-for-one sets online a few months ago. I knew they’d be a hit with my seven year old niece. She loves everything pink-and-purple-and-flowery. We searched the cupboards for something simple and yummy to pair with our tea, and, since I’ve limited the sweets around here the cupboard’s best offering was graham crackers.




So, we heated the water, gathered the milk and honey, and relaxed for a few minutes. I learned recently that milk in your tea counteracts the good of the antioxidants, so I skipped it. But my niece enjoyed pouring a little milk into her tea…a little more…then a bit more. “The milk comes up all around the outside edge, and in the middle it looks like a flower. I didn’t even have to stir it,” she marveled.









We read a few pages of Cornelia Funke’s delightful book, “Inkheart", then discussed our favorite characters. Mine is Mo. He really ‘gets it’ where books are concerned!






Sometimes I forget to slow down in the summertime. I stay pretty busy with mildly important stuff, and just don’t take the time. For my kids, it’s a true break from the stress and responsibility of school and life. I just don’t enjoy summer like I used to. But, I’m glad I took a few minutes out of my day today, to discuss tea leaves, hot water, and what that stuff is that settles in the bottom of my cup with my girls.







It was just a few minutes, twenty or thirty, but it was a welcome break in this busy summer afternoon. When I finish a good cup, I’m always reminded of a coffee commercial from my childhood. In this case, Lipton White Tea with Island Mango and Peach is ‘good to the last drop’.







Anyone read tea leaves? I don’t really believe in it, but if mine had a message today, it would be to spend a little time over tea with friends!






P.S. Go check out the perfect cliffhanger
The Box, Part II on Antique Mommy's blog.
I can't wait for Friday!

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