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Sometimes I’m stunned when my daughter says things to me at 2 that I say only in my head, things I’d never speak and even try to keep from appearing. It makes me wonder how they slip through, when she sees them, or if somehow, unknowingly they slipped themselves into my DNA like curls or an occasionally questionable attitude. I look at her in her perfection and wonder how she carries these things of mine, if somehow in me, too, they could be as wonderfully made.

We celebrated Mother’s Day quietly a few weeks ago, because quiet is what any mother of a two-year-old wants (and deserves!) most. [A side note: I’ve recently heard living with a two-year-old compared to having a deranged parrot in your house and to living in a DVD with the director’s commentary turned on. Both are true and funny and make me feel better and understood! And though it sounds like I‘m complaining I really love it, because she is smart and engaged and completely hilarious!]

Back to Mother’s Day: my daughter and I sent ourselves upstairs for the afternoon, allowing my wife some well-deserved rest with the couch and HGTV. As I busied myself with my endless, mildly obsessive list of things to do, I tried to keep her distracted with toys and television, staying in one room long enough to get her occupied and then moving to another to try to get something done. But she’s fast and curious, and I’m ashamed to say how quickly I found myself dodging my child, convinced that her sole purpose was to frustrate my efforts and relegate me to another week of being massively behind (behind what I‘m not sure). After several maneuvers she found me again, and as I tried to move away, she exclaimed at me in her own frustration “I just want to see you!”

I just want to see you.

Those words have so often been kept from my mouth only by my dignity and the knowledge that it’s not something you can yell at strangers, or even less-than-strangers.

I want you to see me, too.

In her raw and determined state, this not-even-three-feet of honesty never considers that she shouldn’t have what she wants, and she chases me down because she wants what I want. And I’m tempted as the words come out of her mouth to say you don’t know, you can’t know now that this is a hard desire, to advise her to trade that chromosome for another that’s more functional (like the ability to add more than single digits) and less inclined towards brooding and heartbreak, both real and self-imposed. You don’t want to spend your life trying to see or hoping to be seen. Except that I know, too, that every once-in-a-while it happens. I get to see. I am seen. And it’s great and strong enough – strong as death – that it eclipses those longing days.

It’s not mine to change what’s knit into her, only to teach and empower her and give her a taste of living it out well, and to hope that she also has enough of her mother that she‘ll pull it off better than I do most of the time. So I gave up my list; we sat together to watch cartoons, and for a little while we both got what we wanted.

An unexpected thing happened in recent weeks. I thought about and planned this blog for so many months, and I never thought I’d be afraid of it, afraid to tell the truth. I never thought I’d spend the first two months after it really started fighting off a heaviness I’ve not seen in years. I never thought I’d talk about that here, because it’s not what I want to say or what I want you to hear. But it’s part of making my way.

It’s the rhythm of blogging that eludes me a little, the balance between honesty and image, especially when I know at this point that almost anyone that reads this knows me already. And it’s probably not just here that it eludes me; it seems like I spend a lot of time negotiating between who I am and who I hope I’m becoming (who I really am!). They’re both very persuasive.

I want to write things that are funny and insightful, hopeful, challenging, and beautiful. I want to capture the extraordinary moments in the process, the every-day amazing that feeds both my delight and desire for what comes next. My heart’s desire: to live. I want to leave out the hard moments (the hard days), concerned they’ll crowd out the others on this screen, and that you’ll wonder too much if I’m ok (I am!).

I have a sweet friend who’s often told me to be raw, to not always insist on being finished and together. I know she’s right. It seems a little to me like asking for the first draft of a poem or a half-cooked meal, but I guess finished products are harder to wait for in people. Postcards from perfect moments are nice for sharing from a distance, but it’s the rambling and sometimes desperate letters that draw us into each other’s lives; they‘re the moments I’m thrilled to share with people I love and that I miss most when they‘re not around. I love to be part of their living, of being rough drafts together. We live life together believing we’re changed together. Your glory-to-glory is mine too; sometimes we hold onto it for each other when it gets slippery and look together for the extraordinary.

So we’ll get this out of the way. Not all of my days are perfect, and I occasionally lose sight of their extraordinariness. If I wait to only write on the days that I have everything together, I’ll never do it, and I’m not ready to give it up. And honestly, the writing helps me get it together. Putting it here is about sharing, about knowing there’s someone else making their way to something hard to see, figuring out the way to get there, even on the days that don’t seem particularly funny or insightful. I’m only afraid of hard days if they don’t lead me anywhere, that don’t get me closer. You remind me – the yous I know and don’t know – we have somewhere to go.

I like to get up early in the morning.  I don’t always do it; it’s bizarrely common for my wife (whom I should say, does not enjoy getting up early) and me to begin our day with a two-hour symphony involving five different alarms and carefully calibrated snooze buttons.  In case you’ve never experienced the delicate timing of this, it means an alarm goes off approximately every five and a half minutes for two hours, and somehow we believe that’s more restful than just getting up, or accepting reality and setting  the alarm later – false hope should pay rent at our house.  At least I’m guessing that’s why we play the game.  We believe communication is vital to a good relationship as long as it happens after 9:00 am, so it’s possible that she has an entirely different perspective on the alarms, but I’m not ready to risk our marriage to find out. 

When I do make it up early, it’s great.  I have a job that involves a lot of interaction, an addiction to communication devices, and a two-year-old who believes that a thought doesn’t exist unless she says it out loud repeatedly, so 5-7 am  is the only quiet window in my day.  It gives me some time to read and listen, to focus before the distracting parts of my own brain wake up, and often to decide which of my different lives need most of my attention for the day. 

I have to schedule my work days ahead of time, so they’re the easiest to determine, since they’re not really up for debate.  Dad days require the most intentionality (at least if I’m going to make them good and not fall into the trap of treating them like a burden), because it feels like they have no deadline or due date, except when I look at her and realize that she’s two inches taller than when I last noticed and even I can’t remember when that happened or when she changed from a baby into a person and I’ve been here the whole time.  In those moments the deadline looms large.  The writing days will be patient the longest, but can get really pushy when they’re finally tired of waiting around for creating to become a priority.  There are even pay the bills, do some laundry, pretend you’re a handyman, and go to the grocery store unless you want to starve days (often my wife and I do some advanced musical chairs playing to see who gets stuck with this day).  And there are days when I leave all of them to fight it out among themselves and find my way to the beach, or the mall, or the couch, or even the kitchen, because the quickest way to quiet anything down is to feed it.   

So on the good days, when it’s a little after 5, and I have some coffee and I’ve glanced quickly at my email and Facebook and Twitter and the New York Times and the local paper online (this goes faster than you’d imagine and who knows what could have happened overnight), I can settle in for just a little while.  My dad reads the obituaries in the paper every morning; he says it’s to make sure his name’s not in there.  I think for me too, my days are better when I start out making sure I’m alive.  It’s when I decide which life I’ll live today, which of my selves I’ll be, or at least work towards being.   Maybe one day I’ll get up early and find them all together, getting along, excited for one another, and we’ll all be the same. 

in Him all things hold together

I’m concerned that Google Reader may have preëmptively destroyed my life as a blogger.  Months ago, I started using it to keep up with blogs I’d found that were interesting and inspiring.  Then I found more.  I now routinely have around 40 unread blog posts at any given time, and they all seem to be so fascinating or contain such vital information that to just delete them would seal me in permanent ignorance.  Add that to the 92 emails currently in my inbox unrespnded to, the three versions of to-do lists I carry around in vain hope, and the fact that I’ve slept two-hours later than intended every day this week (I blame the pollen, for everything), and you’ll see the direction things are heading.  Since they’re all just for fun, I won’t even get into detail about the 27 shows waiting on the DVR or the backlog of unread magazines going back to January (ok, January 2009). 

I’d love to tell you that I’m going to get on top of all this soon (I tell myself this about everyday), but all these get worked into the edges of my life around my family and work and Church and friends (all my first things – without them I’d have nothing to write about).  Those edges get pretty thin, and honestly, since it’s almost beach season, are about to get thinner.  I completely believe that letting me live near the beach is a main way I’m kept sane and balanced, and I feel it’s my responsibility to fully take advantage of that as much as possible.  And I’m not taking my laptop out there.  I can’t be that guy.  Maybe just my phone…

All that said, I am working on some new posts and hope to have them up very soon.  Thanks to all of you who checked this out over the last few weeks.  That so many of you would take time from the edges of your life to share a little of mine is a mind-blowing compliment.  You’ll never know how much it means to me (or how many times a day I check WordPress to see if anyone’s reading!).  Be full and loved today!

PS – clearly I’m obsessed with using parenthesis.  I don’t know when this happened, but I love them.

I’m planning  to start blogging next year. I’ve been rolling around ideas, figuring out how to get started, and getting ready for the right moment. Looking back at this last year, my track record for actually following through and getting things done isn’t so great, so if I want a real chance at this happening I better get a head start.

At lunch on Christmas day, after watching it rain all morning, my brother said it was a fitting end to the year.  He may be right.  It’s been hard.  I think it’s the kind of hard that leaves you with some hope that things will get better, that you’re growing up, learning not to be afraid of hard days, being made ready for what’s ahead.  It’s good hard, hopeful hard, but still hard.  It’s been really good, too, which is easy to forget. 

It’s been an exceptional year, and as such, it brought heartbreak and healing, blindness and new vision, captivity and freedom.  I’ve seen dreams come true and seen people fight to even imagine a dream. I’ve watched people struggle, wrestle to believe, to see, to find a way through new land.  They are people I love.  A lot.  I’ve helped them some, and sometimes made it worse.  I’ve learned that some things are too big for my to-do list, and just need time.  And prayer.  And that the real joy may not be in resolve, but in looking and waiting for resolution together. 

I’ve watched the annual dance with illness and death, the limitations of our physical selves. I’ve had days that seemed like they’d stop or last forever, and I’ve wanted them to do both.  I’ve done all of it while watching my daughter go from one to two, unstopped, unmoved, unconcerned.  She’s often my liturgy of the hours, keeping me going, refusing me the indulgence of considering, of stopping, or of becoming too absorbed in myself.   

I’ve realized that loving people is dangerous, really loving them is potentially devastating.  It’s also worth it, because when it works, and even when it doesn’t, it’s still better than being alone.  Even the hope that it will work makes it worth the risk.  Love really does cover a multitude of sins.  It really is patient, kind, and all those things.  It has little choice but to be.  It must be true that faith, hope, and love are all that remain, because when things get rocky or cloudy or impossible, they’re all you have.

My wife and I have walked through foggy streets in London and a thousand times through our hallways , and  in both I’m awed by how much we’ve seen together, how much we have to do, and how exciting it all is. 

I can’t remember reading a single book, except for Goodnight Moon and Dont Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. That bothers me a little, but I know it’s partly because whenever I try, one walks up to me, takes it from my hand, tells me I’m “all done” and to “play”.  She’s usually right and it’s hard to resist.

I’ve taken a great technological leap forward, gaining a Blackberry, an iPod, and a DVR; I’ve discovered Twitter and blogs.  All of that may have contributed to my book problem slightly.

I’ve been to the Caribbean.  I’ve seen U2 in concert.  I’ve discovered that I really love to cook.  I’ve acquired some great shoes.  I’ve let my hair grow out.  I may cut it off again soon. 

I’ve realized, again, how much I need Jesus, that it makes no sense for Him to call me a friend, that He could do better, but I’m not going to tell Him that.  I’m going to get away with it as long as He’ll let me. 

I’ve found some voice and a few more words, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with them.

It may be a bad idea to make the first post this much about myself.  I don’t really know how this works or what’s expected. I also don’t know who will read it to care.  Regardless, we’ll let this be our introduction.  As we see where we go from here, this is where we’re starting.  We’ve not yet seen what we will become.

Tomorrow we’ll start a new year, and I’ll be 32.