Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Li'l Drew

This is a nickname I still give my youngest son, though he has grown taller than me and soon will outweigh me! He will probably wind up being taller even than his brother, which is a switch after years of being about a head shorter. He is turning 15 this week. When Austin turned 15, within a few months we got his learner's permit, which he had been eagerly anticipating for about the prior six months. We got his driver's license on his 16th birthday. Andrew's a lot more laid back, and we are not going to hurry in on this one.

He decided that he would be a volunteer at the San Antonio Zoo this summer, in between other activities. Unfortunately, the zoo did not play along with his wishes. They scheduled interviews on two consecutive Saturday afternoons when he was unavailable and had unbreakable commitments elsewhere.

The first weekend, he was on a band trip in Denver, Colorado. The next Saturday, he was one of 14 young men escorting young ladies in the court of a quinceanera, a top-drawer event that was fit for a queen and celebrated the life of a lovely young woman here in town. He and the others on the court had accepted the invitation more than a month earlier and attended several dance classes; they got to show the fruits of their labors when they performed some complicated moves during the choreographed portion of the evening!

It was a party the likes of which my boys won't even see at their wedding reception -- there was a multi-tiered white cake (something like five tiers), a large chocolate cake, two chocolate fountains, an elaborate dinner buffet with many choices, a couple of roving photographers taking pictures of the event and of the participants and their families, many choices of candy and chocolates to take home in goodie bags, and gorgeous Mardi Gras masks and decorations. Then there was a deejay, several on-stage dancers, laser lights, spotlights ... the works.

I learned a couple of new words: "trance" (music) and "Tiesto" (a band). Dwaine was shouting these words I'd never heard of toward me while the music was pounding out full-blast, and all I could say was, "What?" I thought he was yelling, "France! France!" I wanted to say, "Oui, oui! I know the theme is Mardi Gras!"

So anyhow ... Andrew really, really couldn't go interview at the zoo. However, I know there were other parents and kids out there who had rather flimsier excuses. The standard response to all of us potential slackers was, if you are not available on one of these Saturdays, you will not be able to volunteer for the zoo this summer. Period.

I started searching for alternatives to fill the approximately 6 weeks of summertime where Andrew had nothing at all scheduled, since he will not continue in band. (By the way, we expect that Austin will be working, though he hasn't yet been offered a job.) I found some cool-sounding camps involving art and drama, but did not run across any other outdoor volunteer activities (there was always Boy Scout camp, but he had shot down this alternative long ago). Andrew, however, had made up his mind. He was going to be a summer naturalist at the zoo. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. He found it foolish and tiresome that I was trying to distract him with these other camps, which he disdainfully rejected. Nothing else could be up to par with the zoo.

I had to admire his strength of will in latching on to a completely untried experience, though I hated to see him disappointed. Andrew has had a tendency, through the years, to react to any new experience in an Eeyore sort of way -- it won't turn out well, I won't have any fun, and I don't want to do it! So for him to embrace this uncharted territory -- well, it was a great step forward.

I wound up sending one, then two e-mails that were progressively more pleading, verging on begging, to the volunteer coordinator at the zoo. I think in the second one I mentioned that money was no object, I'd pay for him to volunteer, my son's heart was set on volunteering at the zoo or bust ... Perhaps not surprisingly, I got a perky little response to this e-mail. "Sorry we didn't get back to you sooner, could you come in Tuesday afternoon to interview?" Hey, we'd show up at midnight in the deepest woods if that's what was required! We would be there, absolutely! I would leave work at lunchtime, get Andrew out of school early, and he would have an unexcused absence for his last two classes, in order for him to get in at the zoo.

So that's just what we did this afternoon. It was a great, illicit-feeling adventure. Andrew wanted to text his friends and ask them something while we were driving to the zoo, and I said, hey, don't do that -- they are in school! We're the ones playing hooky.

The zoo holds group interviews with the kids and asks them a number of questions. Most are "what-if" scenarios. What if someone is lost? What if you are lost? What would you do if a child in the tour group wanted to leave to go to the snack bar? And so on. (None about what if a child fell in the bear pit -- I thought that might liven things up a bit, but for some reason they didn't include it.)
The sneakiest question asked each kid why the zoo should hire some other kid in their interview group. Not why should we hire you -- why should we hire that kid over there, who you met about 15 minutes ago? Andrew had only one other kid interviewing with him, someone else with a tale of woe about why they couldn't be there on Saturday. Her name was Jasmine, and she was a black 13-year-old who, her mom told me, wants to be a vet when she grows up.

Andrew was quite concerned that she didn't write very much about him in response to this question. "She was really quiet," he confided to me, "and I don't think she helped me very much." Andrew found several nice things to say about Jasmine: she was smart and mature for her age, knew some good information, and he thought she would be a well-behaved and responsible volunteer.

The zoo had told these kids that the most important part of the job is teamwork, so I figured that the purpose of this question was to see if kids would sound like good team players in the answers they gave. I knew my son would find something truly kind to say, and he was being completely sincere as well. That's who he is, in a nutshell. A kind, sincere young man. 

As a mom, I have to say that he is the best-qualified applicant for the job that I can think of, and certainly the most enthusiastic. He should get it; he has earned the right to volunteer at the zoo. He will find out by e-mail soon. Go, Andrew!

Andrew, in character as the Boy Who Cried Wolf, beside the Old Shepherd, who is being interviewed for live TV coverage of the sensational trial of the Big Bad Wolf. Piggies are in the background.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Orwellian despair

I finished reading "1984" this afternoon, after a long nap. I see why this book has seared itself into the consciousness of millions of readers, even to this day. Orwell's powers of description were amazing. He described the details of feeling hunted by a cruel authoritarian government, even to the point of having to carefully guard every expression and movement; and the extended torture the main character endured in an ultimately successful attempt to brainwash him. There was an article in today's paper that described a certain political lobbying effort as "Orwellian."

Here is a description of this man, Winston, after spending unknown months or years in the torture facility (called the Ministry of Love, ha ha) for his actions opposing the Party. His captor and brutal torturer, for whom he feels a strange bond of affection, tells him that he, Winston, is the last man standing -- the final uncorrupted human soul -- and invites him to look at himself in the mirror. Here is an excerpt:

"a bowed, gray-colored, skeletonlike thing was coming toward him. ... The creature's face seemed to be protruded, because of its bent carriage. A forlorn, jailbird's face with a nobby forehead ... a crooked nose and battered-looking cheekbones above which the eyes were fierce and watchful. ... the truly frightening thing was the emaciation of his body. The barrel of the ribs was as narrow as that of a skeleton; the legs had shrunk so that the knees were thicker than the thighs."

I could go on, but that gives just a flavor of the power of his writing. The amazing thing was that after all this, and after a reprieve, then the worst sort of torture threatened, and a return to society, the main character still went on living. Why live in these circumstances? The Party did destroy his mind, ultimately, and force him to betray the woman he loved.

The author invited me into this dreary world, and I accepted and felt its lingering effects this evening. Can we say that humanity has made much progress away from totalitarianism and in another more positive direction, really? I told Austin that we have the means to end all of humanity's most pressing problems -- poverty, disease, warfare -- and yet those who have the greatest abundance of resources seem to be consumed with getting more and hoarding them. The same old story. You see this, for instance, in the anti-immigration bills that are in vogue throughout the country.

This evening, I was living from Winston's point of view, briefly, because it was so powerful I could not shake it off immediately. I was a wornout husk, useless to everyone, feeling strongly my own sins and inadequacy. Yet I still could go out walking. And on my walk, I still could invite God to be present with me. Seeing our beautiful tall trees waving in the breeze did help. They have survived more than one grim season of heat and drought. So long as there are lovely tall trees, there is hope for the human spirit as well.

Here was a thought I had, trolling up and down the driveway -- maybe I should lay off the wine! I am plenty melodramatic enough without it!

My spiritual guide wants me to journal about passages that deeply affect me, presumably from spiritual books -- though "1984" speaks to me as a deeply spiritual book. The trouble with this assignment is narrowing it down.

Did I mention my boys are turning 15 and 17? Growing up, they are. I think Austin spends more time away from home than here, already.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spiritual direction

I met with a lovely lady this week, a spiritual guide who is Catholic, named Cecelia. I wanted to tell you how it went!

I felt like we clicked right away. Even the drive to her house was almost choreographed -- it's hard to describe. I had the sense of where to go, and which road was hers (trust me, this never happens to directionally-challenged me!).

She opened and closed our session with really heartfelt prayers that spoke to me, and to the God in me, I suppose you'd say. Her opening prayer was about how hard it can be to recognize Jesus even when he is so close, as throughout the resurrection appearances. Her closing prayer brought God so close that I sort of snorted with a nervous, stifled laugh -- talk about embarrassing! She was praying about how I was longing for a more intimate relationship with God. At that moment, I had the strong urge to shout out, "Never mind, God! Just kidding!! I was actually just leaving, you know ... Don't mind me, ha ha ..." You get the idea.

I liked that she does not feel the need to conform to any certain tradition, or practice. She said that she could give me all these reference books on how to pray, or to be in contemplative prayer, but actually I needed to find my own way to do it. The main point being to be completely present to God, and to invite God to dwell with me in that moment, and the next, and so on. She also said that I didn't have to read an entire spiritual book if it didn't all speak to me, that I could pick and choose the parts that worked for me -- now, this is heresy indeed! I always have felt the slavish obligation to read books cover to cover, perhaps in deference to the author. Many times, I've failed to read a whole book, but then the guilt of that experience weighs me down.

She said something else that I think was so wise, and I used this idea in my prior post as well: the mind cannot comprehend times that we are actually in communion with God. So for the mind, it can seem like a blank moment -- it simply does not register. That is why it requires a lot of patience and perseverance to meditate, or to practice contemplative prayer. Yes, this makes sense to me! I am still too much in love with my mind, very attached to it, and it does lead me astray all the time.

I think Cecelia is very similar to me in some of her struggles with her faith walk, but also she will be able to rebuke me and offer guidance with compassion. She already did give some nudges. Lots of food for thought. Cecelia grew up in Mexico City, and she has a warm and generous spirit that reminds me of a couple of other friends who also have close ties to Mexico.

She also mentioned Buddhism several times. If I had any doubts about her, this was the clincher!

So at the end, she said that she wanted us both to pray and reflect on this meeting before scheduling the next (in a month). This is what I am doing, though I feel a conviction that this is the path God has chosen for me. I don't make that statement lightly. I know it is a powerful and fearsome thing to say that God is leading me in this certain direction, and I am reminded that such a statement links me to crazy religious fanatics out there -- the jihadist terrorists, for instance.

So I have to be so careful, making that statement. Yet I feel this clarity, which is a lovely and somewhat rare thing in my life. I think Cecelia has the gift of clarifying God's actions in my life. What a wonderful blessing to be able to do that for someone!

Still, I wait to see what the upcoming days will reveal.

I should add the purpose of having a spiritual guide, as I understand it now. A spiritual guide is someone who will discuss your spiritual concerns with you, and help you make decisions about your spiritual path. This person is a mirror for your spirit and can help reveal the actions of Christ (or the divinity of your choice) in your life. Cecelia says she is unable to discern, on her own, how Christ is active in her life. She requires a spiritual guide to point it out to her.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to save a life

I need to do some edits here because I wrote this one in such a hurry. So if you already read it, you will have to read it again! I should have saved it as a draft ... note to self.

It hit me again, today, that my loved ones are not immortal. Particularly not my dad, who has been having ongoing health problems this year. We can't tell if this is terminal, or serious, or something he will overcome. He has been having a low appetite since February or so, and the GI tests and blood tests have been stacking up with no conclusive results. Now he's going high-tech and will swallow what he calls a submarine (or maybe that's what it is called!) -- a little pill-shaped camera that clicks pictures of the digestive tract as it goes down. I asked him whether the doctor had instructed him to return it at the end for the next patient!

I was trying to explain my concern to my sister, who sees dad even less often than I do. It's sometimes the hardest thing in the world to help someone who is the closest to you. How do I help my dad? I feel conflicting urges to lecture him, to give advice, to give him an ultimatum -- shape up or die! He seems to be declining and becoming more noticeably frail. Is this by choice? Can we do something to buck him up, turn him around? It's hard to let go of the feeling that my sister and I have high stakes in the matter of my dad's health. We could turn it all around ourselves, if we had enough willpower.

My sister thinks that dad is deeply unhappy and that he's letting go of his grip on life; that he doesn't have much to live for. That his wife is inadequate, and he has no friends, no joie de vivre, and so on. So, this means we should let him go?? Or what?

She and I are experiencing, in our own different ways, a common delusion. We rely so much on our minds being rational, but the mind goes completely haywire when considering the idea of death. It is a fact so far outside our normal experience that it is beyond the grasp of the rational mind. The death of someone is inconceivable, in our Earthbound existence. You can ponder our mutable natures, meditate about death, and someone can live to be any age -- 100, you name it -- and it is still a terrible shock when they die. It's a shockwave too great for the mind to comprehend. You have to leave the mind behind and see mortality in a completely different way to be able to come to any peace about it.

I remember the feelings when my mom died. Her being in the ICU 9 days, on a ventilator, at death's door, did not prepare us at all. We just figured she was going through a rough patch. Then there was all the second-guessing after she died. What if we had noticed sooner how sick she was and made her go to the doctor? She had been going frequently and then was allowed to wait for a longer time, and it was fatal. What if we had forced her to quit smoking years ago, or made her get out of the garage where she liked to sit, where the smoke got so thick it would immediately choke me when entering?

So I feel, once again, this now-familiar sense of helplessness, seeing my parent struggle. If he would just get up and move around more, and eat better, and have a more positive outlook ... try volunteering ... make some friends. See some funny movies! He likes to laugh. Dad is a funny man, with a good sense of humor. Where did that go?
I have so many suggestions, and I could get really obnoxious about trotting them all out! I just may feel compelled to do that. But part of me does see that Dad mainly needs his daughters to love him, and listen, and be there. Just show up, and be present. Wow, that's difficult enough right there. How to be present with someone who doesn't really want other people getting too close, with someone who has not been vulnerable or open to others for many years. He has tucked his gifts way deep inside him by now. It's hard to see them anymore.

Questions keep echoing and will not stop: Why? Why is grace available to me, but not to him? How can I give him what I have found? Why can't I? My impatient ego wants to know all these things.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Now for something completely different

I got to be "teacher for a day" at Floresville High School after asking if any English teachers wanted help with their students writing college admission essays. Mrs. Haag (Austin's current freshman comp teacher) took me up on the offer! I spent time with juniors in five of her class periods today as they drafted essays for college, and next Monday I am supposed to help them with editing.

It gives me hope to see the level of dedication of a number of the public school teachers right here in Floresville. They have a lot to deal with -- lots of federal and state mandate hurdles and a huge variety of students, some with really challenging home environments -- and still, a number of teachers manage to shine and influence many, many children anyway.

There is a lot to criticize about public education, and it's a wonder that highly qualified people would even choose teaching as a vocation, but they still do. God bless them!

I'm still sorting out how and where I can serve on a long-term basis. I have a large commitment right now at church that doesn't seem like it will be winding down real soon. I really long to be on the front lines somewhere, making an impact with a truly at-risk population. It could be at prison, with the homeless, with at-risk kids, or with people in hospice care. Where the rubber truly hits the road, in other words. I need to be patient and wait for the right time and opportunity to present itself.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some thoughts on politics, religion...

In the interest of full disclosure, I just made a small edit to this post even though it has been out in the blogosphere a few days.

What's the third item on the list of topics never to discuss in polite company? Oh yeah, sex. Well, since this is a family site, you're out of luck on that one. (But see comments on politics, where sex is referred to indirectly, anyhow. Nothing gets a bunch of politicians more worked up than sex!)

So here I go, wading into subject matter where angels fear to tread. I will try to tread lightly, if that's possible.

Today's San Antonio Express-News had a brief recap of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "emergency" priorities for this legislative session. Let's just review, if you are a fellow Texan. If not, read it and gape:

* Mandatory sonograms for women considering an abortion
* Voter ID (to check people's IDs prior to allowing them to vote)
* Eminent domain reform (so the government can't confiscate your land)
* A resolution calling for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution (that's U.S.)
* Ending sanctuary cities (requiring law enforcement to check immigration status of those detained for any reason)
* "Loser pay" tort reform to discourage lawsuits where the plaintiff feels less than certain of victory

This, in a state that has a looming $27-billion (more or less) budget deficit over the next two years, and where every state service, including public education, is being drastically cut.

Who keeps re-electing this man?

With regard to mandatory sonograms ... doesn't that fly in the face of the conservatives' "big-government" lament, that big government is mandating more and more and squeezing out every citizen's right to privacy?

Abortions don't just happen randomly. You can predict which populations are most in need of pregnancy prevention and beef up services to offer multiple, inexpensive, and accessible birth control options. I agree that abortions are a tragedy and should be considered only as a last resort. But they pale in comparison to the loss of full-grown human life from wars and violence, and the loss of quality of life due to poverty, drug abuse, etc.

Every time an abortion is considered, two lives hang in the balance, not just one. I think conservatives have forgotten about preserving the life that is already here (the mother) in favor of keeping the new life that is completely dependent on her for its very existence. Having a baby can be devastating to a young, poor, unwed or drug-addicted mother, and it permanently changes her life's trajectory. As for the baby -- these infants would have a rough childhood. Does it mean they don't deserve to be born? No, but it means they really never should have been conceived.

So how does the state of Texas do in offering birth control to at-risk populations, like teenagers? Below is a website (not vetted by me as far as complete factual accuracy) that discusses it in more detail, and here is an excerpt:
"Texas has one of the most restrictive policies in the United States regarding minors' ability to obtain birth control, while having one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation ..."

So drive on, guvnah!

On to religion, another great conversation-starter to keep in mind at the next cocktail party! Now that I have read a second religious (actually more spiritual) book by Roland Merullo, and reflected on the two I've read -- "Golfing with God" and "Breakfast with Buddha" -- I must comment, in a deeply compassionate way of course, that his vision of the pearly gates smacks of white privilege. I should have had a hint that this would be the case from the title of book #1 and the fact that he was trying to wed the great white sport of golf with heaven! (Might I interject here a little side note-- thank God for Tiger Woods, and I miss him so. Talk about a tragic fall from grace.)

The author, in his self-deprecating way, did poke fun at himself throughout his golfing book, by the way, where the main character was accused of being racist not once, but many times, and had to defend himself! There were a number of dark Middle-Eastern types who were doing the accusing -- Jesus, Mary the mother of God, Moses, Mohammed, etc. (His response: I'm not a racist -- at least, I don't consider myself to be -- what are you talking about?)

According to his vision (which I love, by the way, being a white privileged American myself), if you are given a cozy life and great wealth, it is so that you can sit back and enjoy the bountiful gifts that God has showered on you. Don't be concerned about all those other people out there, mired in poverty, wars, sickness and famine. They may get a break in some future life, too! Even Jesus says this: they will get their eternal reward for their suffering. This is your time to enjoy this wonderful life. It's a gift, no strings attached. No major sacrifices of any kind required. A free pass.

Yeah, just a bit too easy and convenient for me to swallow. I must cling to being obsessively guilt-ridden! Feeling guilty, but not knowing which way to turn or how to act on it. (Enter, stage right, the mysterious, and preferably all-knowing, spiritual guide.)

Did I mention that I miss seeing Tiger Woods? He and I used to have a date (via TV) every Saturday. I'd be doing laundry, housework, all that drudgery, but I could always pause to watch that gorgeous swing and marvel at the sheer brilliance of the man, and I would be transported to a whole different place. Alas, those days are gone. What will I do without him? How I long to see that red shirt again. (Below is the only picture I was able to copy here.)
Tiger Woods' official website

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The terror arises

Written when the Internet was down ... 

Something in me went off when I starting thinking about seeing a spiritual guide. All the implications of this act were profound … that I might be held accountable for my spiritual life thus far. Or, I might find out I was being too hard on myself. 

I had a fit of inner terror, and everything went cloudy and confused in my mind. This is how it happens, sometimes. The glass is clear and so I see clearly … and then something happens to stir up all the sediment, all that garbage I thought I had left behind. Something inside me was feeling shaken up and threatened, all right. Unfortunately, I was also blogging at the time, so I’m not especially pleased with that post.

What was it that was thrashing around in such pain and confusion? My ego! Ha! I caught it in the very act of trying to sabotage my spiritual goals.

In a way, I hope many of my thoughts are wrong. For example, I hope to find that living is simpler than my mind would have me believe. That it does not require nearly as much analysis.
Maybe the answer does lie within, not without, and I need to slow down and turn off all the distractions to find what I’ve been seeking.

This is a paradox because I think we are called to help one another, to look outward, to be of service to OTHERS in this world. But all this spiritual work, it seems, must be done in an inward way. It often seems to me to be such a selfish pursuit. Like all this Enneagram stuff, searching for your “Type” – isn’t this just the epitomy of the “Me” generation? Maybe it’s just for the spiritual laggards that all this soul-searching is required. For those of us who just don’t get it, and still don’t, and still don’t! Let's see, how many thousands of lives does it take to get it right, exactly? To make real spiritual progress? (Sorry, there I go sounding all Buddhist again. But I definitely am going to need another chance, many others.)

If I can get the camera to download recent pictures, I will post some here. Nothing else technological seems to want to work for me lately -- not the VCR at children's Sunday school, and now my iPod is acting up. I have Easter pictures and it would probably be good to post a few before Memorial Day, and then we have approximately 100 pictures of Austin in his white prom tux, escorting his girlfriend (?) Katie, and Zeke, the dynamic trio of church youth group/praise band fame. Austin had a full day that started with the SAT, inadvertently scheduled the same day as prom. It ended at 1:20 and he dashed down to Floresville to don his tux and get on with his day.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

Picture alert ... I'm going to go back the last several posts and add pictures so I don't overwhelm you all at once. I am starting with the most recent event here, prom night last night.
Austin, looking a little shaggy, with Katie (inside the Floresville Methodist Church) prior to prom night

Austin, Katie, and Zeke in the church sanctuary prior to leaving for the afternoon's and evening's events
Austin is positively glowing! (a la Casper the friendly ghost) It was warm out but not as hot as it is today.

Friday, May 6, 2011


First, for some pictures of the boys "in character" from a play they were recently in at church: "Big Bad." Andrew is wearing his trademark sneer as The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and you can guess who Austin is. Grandpa and Grandma Han are blissfully unaware that they are about to be savagely attacked! 

 Here is Andrew in character as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" with the Old Shepherd, being interviewed prior to the courtroom drama (the Big Bad Wolf is put on trial for the many atrocities he has committed).

 Here's Austin as the shadowy wolf, during his monologue, where he explains the long and complicated journey to his present life of crime. Did you know that at one time, he had sworn to be a lifelong vegan? In the background can be seen the plaintiffs in the case, including the three little pigs. (There's just a touch of Little Red Riding Hood's cape, directly behind the Wolf, sitting beside her grandma.)

Back to the title of this blog: Austin just read this book, the George Orwell classic, and said it messed with his mind! He was especially impressed by the way they tortured the main character into completely reversing his thoughts and his entire values system, 180 degrees, and him unaware of it.

It really scared my son, I think. But I said that I believe the human spirit is stronger than that. This book was a work of fiction. We musn't let reality imitate it too closely.

How does it feel to be at rest, spiritually speaking?

I have this feeling that if (or when) I become more at ease in terms of my spiritual side, I will need this outlet less. I wonder what the next phase may bring?

I am going to meet with a spiritual "friend" in a couple of weeks to sort out some old conflicts. I think I may find that I am called to love this life I have been given, rather than a fantasy life that I like to imagine as someone -- anyone -- other than a rich American with this spiritually stultifying lifestyle. By the way, I think the proper term for this person who may help me is spiritual adviser, except I bristle at any hint of authority or someone else having the upper hand over my spiritual journey. But this lady is not like that at all, I can tell.

Who knows what will happen? I would like to be able to fully embrace something that life has carried to me, sometime in my life. I do love my husband and children so, but they prevent me from running off and joining the Peace Corps, or whatever. The ties that bind, and gag? Was that Erma Bombeck's description for family?

Do you ever get the feeling, at a random moment in your day, that you have been dropped into this life from very far away? I feel that at times. I blink a little, look around and survey where I am and what I'm doing, feel how this particular moment feels, and sigh with relish at what a lovely life this is, after all. I have to remember what a gift this life has been. It's the grand prize! Want to trade with me?

In Enneagram terms, I came to realize that I am a Type 4. I had forgotten! This is the "Romantic," also called "Individualist." The person who may wear their heart on their sleeve, who feels like something is always missing from their life (ow, that one was dead on), who feels everything oh so deeply. And, I might add, who simply adores great poetry and literature! And seems to live for rapture and heartache, and wishes to feel it all as deeply as possible. I was so much a Type 4 when I was a teenager (but then, aren't they all) and a young adult. Oh, and Type 4's hate to be put in a box or made to feel that they are less than completely special and unique.

At first I was fitting myself in as the Type 5 (an aspect of my personality that I have worked hard to cultivate in recent years). This is the "Observer" who loves to analyze everything and cultivate knowledge without getting too personally involved, and who is very possessive of their time and their pet projects. But it didn't completely add up.

Also in a flight from my essential four-ness, I have been strongly drawn to Buddhism. Take a deep breath and then as you breathe slowly out, repeat after me: OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHMMMMMMM (low and continuous, calming chant) -- until you use all the breath up. Do this several times in a row. I feel better already! All that emotional energy has a place where it can finally settle. By the way, if you're not ready for Buddhism, try yoga. Same concept.

I'm also meeting with the lovely Enneagram retreat leader, who announces to everyone that she is happy to get together one on one to help people who need guidance finding their Enneagram type. And she really is! I planned the meeting with her before having my little revelation about my core type, which I haven't mentioned to her just yet. I don't want her to feel any less needed. I still desperately need help, believe me.

These spiritual get-togethers are converging in May, a lovely month overall this year, though much too dry and barren here in South Texas. My soul longs for the sound of rain. It bothers me more, every year of these frequent droughts. I don't think I could bear to live in a place any more arid.

So here's a question I have been toying with. Do you think I need to take on fasting sometime as a spiritual discipline? I've been hearing from Carol at Sardines and reading about fasting. Is there a message here for me, or not so much? You see, I have issues with food. Specifically, with being a little obsessed with food and frequent snacking. And my next meal, where and when and what.

Or am I just flitting around without a specific purpose, just needing to try it all out? (That would be a Type 7.) You see, I'm like that with the personality types, as well. I took the online Riso-Hudson Enneagram test and scored almost evenly on, I believe, five of the nine Enneagram types: 4, 5, 9, 6, and 1 -- and notice that doesn't even include Type 7. But I have tried them all on for size, that's for sure. It gets a little tiring after a while.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why I said "no thanks" to having kids

I was reminded today why I decided a long, long time ago that I would never, ever have children. Too much responsibility!

I told Dwaine when we were dating that I did not want children. This was one of the very few things that I had completely figured out about my life. I guess he was nuts enough about me that he agreed, and we got married. So. That lasted about seven years. Then, the grand adventure of parenthood began.

Parenting, like life, is always in a state of flux. You can never rest on your laurels. Now, we face the scariest thing of all. My children are growing up, first of all; and secondly, they seem to be becoming a lot like me and Dwaine. As in a LOT. What happened to teenage rebellion and separating from parents?

Austin has a lot of anger, and passion (as well as many stellar qualities). He alternates between sounding ultra-conservative to being a flaming independent who gets extremely indignant if anyone says they hate our president. Don't tie him down to one point of view, or one decision about anything. (These are my traits, not necessarily the better ones either.)

Side note: Around these parts, these days, there's a lot of hatred of our president going around. Certain kids apparently talk about how they'd like to see him dead, in fact. Austin says (echoing me) that it comes straight from their parents. This does not surprise me, but it is sad. I remember my own defective moments when our president was George W. Bush and I was ranting about him. Although, of course, I never wanted to see him harmed. I've participated in the ugliness of condemning my political opposites, and the hateful thoughts and speech, and I must remember how it feels to be on the receiving end of it.

And then today, Austin was looking at the fruits of the accumulated work that he and his brother have done around the yard. There is a large ring of logs and an enormous pile of brush near the burn pile that can't be burned because of this drought, and Austin was talking about his vision of cleaning up the place even more. Just like his dad. He is ultra-responsible and a hard worker. (He looks like me, by the way.)

Andrew -- how do I say this kindly? is a smart space cadet. Mentally, he's me, completely. He may do brilliant things, or he may just keep on being an eccentric dreamer. He's sincere, and completely gullible, and a beautiful kind person. Work, he can take or leave, but he will do it because he has realized it earns him brownie points with his dad. As Austin says, Dad never gets mad when you've spent the day working with him! Not about anything. Andrew may not always see eye-to-eye with his dad, but he looks a lot like him, down to his wiry frame. (I speak of Dwaine as he was up till he met and married me, ha ha.)

I didn't really want these little (now big) people to be made in my image, which is so imperfect. It's just too much responsibility. It will be painful to watch them make my mistakes, and see them mirror their parents' greatest shortcomings as well as our strengths. Why can't we just give them all the good, and get rid of all the bad?

The biggest risk of all in having kids is knowing that they will experience pain, and suffering, and that they are always at risk of having something bad happen to them. It's such a high-stakes gamble to have kids. But it's like marriage -- you don't realize what a huge leap you are taking until it's all over and done with and too late. Once you have kids, you can't undo things like you can with a marriage, either. If you could send them back, I'm sure there are many people who would!

But you know that I can't imagine life without these precious additions, who have so greatly enhanced  every experience we've shared together. For me it would be spiritual poverty, indeed, to never have had children.

Now for some late-breaking Easter pictures (now that I spent this entire blog ragging on my kids)! Here's a picture of Dwaine's sister and her family. Becky is seated to the right with the flaming orange hair, and her two daughters (between her and Andrew) and grandkids and son-in-law to be, our kids' cousins and second cousins, are gathered round. My dad and Han came over but stayed inside. Austin's wearing his lucky Irish shirt.

 Here is an action shot during the egg hunt for the youngest four kids (including ours; I asked if they wanted to go hunt eggs and they both said yes).

You can see our front-yard garden and all the potted plants, including some vegetables in buckets, that Dwaine has so carefully tended. They need frequent watering as the days heat up and the drought continues, but they look beautiful.

Another shot of the egg hunt. Andrew, background, is looking for any stragglers. Austin went for the hardboiled eggs and left the plastic eggs with candy for the little ones.

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