Friday, September 28, 2012

Lights in the Night

So, I've already admitted that I openly cry at church a lot.  I'm going further.
I cry a lot at the strangest places.  Do I cry at weddings?  Well, duh... I have tear ducts.  But I cry at parades, friends.  You get floats and clowns and marching bands down a street, and I'll be on the curb, wiping my cheek with the back of my hand.  I think my eyes leak when I see people coming together.

Tonight in my city, every parking ramp was full at 7:30 tonight.  The streets were clogged by families, couples, groups of happy people who were there to explore ArtPrize.  Willa and I were anxiously driving up and down streets looking for one spot that would hold the tiny Ford Focus.  We ended up across the river, and blocks away from our end destination.  We had to leave Jim and Henry at home because Henry was being a monster, and Jim was taking one for the team.

Willa and I walked down Bridge street, knowing we would be too late to get our own paper lantern to release.  We got to the river and stopped in our tracks, gasping.  It was stunning.  We sat on the lawn and just watched for a while:

And then we got closer.  We came to a tent where they had been passing out lanterns, but it was empty.  Willa's face fell.  We stopped for a quick pep talk, and then went on to soak up the beauty.  We stopped at a clearing at the park, and watched people release theirs.  A mom was holding one, and getting ready to let it go.  I whispered, "would you mind if my daughter just touched it while you let it go?"  She smiled, "we have one for her."
A complete stranger gave Willa an extra lantern she had in her stroller.    Willa's eyes grew wide as the woman lit it for us, and then handed it to me.  I smiled at the woman with tears in my eyes.  She instantly started crying, too.
We were 2 people in a giant crowd.
Willa made a wish and let the lantern go.  We watched it go over the trees that line the river.  We watched it sail over the river.  Up, and up, and up, joining with the others until we couldn't distinguish "ours" anymore.  I think it was more poignant for me, as it was never our lantern to begin with.  We held hands in silence, watching, and feeling the cohesion of the moment.
In all, over 20,000 lanterns were released tonight over the span of 30 minutes.  It was stunning.

The crowd was enormous, and Willa and I walked the grounds of the Ford Museum to allow foot and car traffic to thin out.  We stood at the reflection pool, and she asked me for a penny.  I dug out a penny for her and a quarter for me.  We tossed them in.  I don't know what Willa's second wish was for that night, but I wished that our generous stranger found joy in her act, and that she would find some lovely surprise in people tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday thoughts

What a beautiful day.

We woke up and played, then ate our scrambled eggs, and then went to church. 

Our church has a tradition of moving services from the sanctuary to the chapel for the summer.  First, because the chapel is air conditioned, second because there are less people attending in the summer.  Our ministers take hiatus during the hot months, so they can go in search of what stirs and pokes at their soul.  While they are away, lay people take over services.  I went once, but the low ceiling made me claustrophobic.  Nowadays, the Sinkis take the summer away, too.  We find God in the lakes, in the garden, in our sore muscles after a long and challenging hike...

So, today we were back. We brought the kids to their character school classrooms.  Willa is now old enough that she joins the other grades upstairs.  Henry joined his (mostly boys) class in the 4 year old room.

The service was wonderful. An excerpt of Desmond Tutu's "God is Not a Christian" was one of the readings.  In the middle of the reading, I looked around to see if anyone could see that lightening had just struck me and I was turned inside out.  The reading spoke to me.  In my teens I remember laughing when I thought of a heaven, partitioned off by faith traditions.  It seemed so ridiculous to me.  Today, the thought was deeply profound.  Of course God is not a Christian.  Of course Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam or any other religion) doesn't have sole ownership on virtue.  Or mistakes. I know this.  But someone said it out loud.  In a church.  From a pulpit. Reading the thoughts of a man who wears a white collar around his neck!

Our minister had written her sermon before the world got all crazy again.  Before someone released a video "in the name of Christianity/America" and upset people.  Before those people killed the US ambassador "in the name of Islam."  Before our politicians and pundits and media spun it all until the good guys were obvious.  Before the battleships were deployed, and before we all held our breath and let go a silent, pleading prayer for peace.  But it was timely, and brave, and important.
It was a beautiful service, and we all left with the message that was shared from the same pulpit months ago when Louis Farrakhan visited to speak to our city.  He's a divisive character, and raises eyebrows everywhere, but try this idea of his on and see how it fits.  He suggested that when Christians start acting like Christians, when Muslims start acting like Muslims, and when Hindus start acting like Hindus, we won't have any problems.

That is, when we all start acting like we should according to our own faith, we'll have that beautiful worldwide kumbaya movement.

I've been told that our church, because it doesn't follow specific doctrine, should not be called a church.  But I've never been anywhere else that encouraged and supported and challenged me to be a better citizen.  I've never been in another church that allowed me to see my own inner wisdom and ignorance so clearly.  I've never been anywhere that acknowledges the sacred texts of the Bible, the  Torah, and Dr. Seuss equally.  I find God in the first (and the 81st) ripe tomato in the garden, and my faith is in kindness and compassion.  I am home.  It was good to be home again today.

Service closed with the choir singing of of my favorites.  Here are the lyrics:

This is my song oh God of all the nations
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine
But other lands have sunlight too and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine
This is my song oh God of all the nations
A song of peace for their land and for mine

I know this is getting to be a long entry.  But I'm not done. 
I did, in fact, cry during the hymn.  Because of cold hearts who can't explore and accept people who think or feel differently than them.  Because some believe their faith encourages "being right" over "being good."  Because in other nations there are mothers who are worried about the safety of their children with more reason that I have to worry about the safety of mine.  Because in another city, my sweet, gentle aunt is dying after cancer greedily took over her body.  And her husband, and daughters are preparing to let her go. 

I cried and cried - because I was in my church home and this was the emotional parallel of putting on comfy pants.  Jim put his arm around me while I wiped my cheeks.  He's used to this.  Pals, I'm really  comfortable there.

Church was done, and we collected our children.  We stopped for our usual Sunday bagels, and then went to Kids Food Basket to volunteer for an hour.

The rest of the day was spent in the woods with a friend and his two daughters. The sunlight on the meadow with goldenrod in bloom, and the tall dried grasses swaying was amazing.  The laughter of the 4 kids was precious.  The sky was blue.  The song of peace, the prayer for peace continues.

Sinki breakfast, provided by our pet chickens

This morning, I walked from the front door to the coop.  There's a noticeable fall chill in the air in the mornings.  The dogs ran to the backyard to clear it of squirrels for me.  I was greeted with quiet rustling of the hens, and then a few clucks when I opened the coop door.  I smiled as I plucked the egg from their bedding, patted both Alice and Hazel (we don't know who is laying), opened the door to the run, shut the people door, and came back to the house with the egg in the pouch of my Americorps hoodie. 

This was our fourth egg.  Which meant we had enough for scrambled eggs.  Very small eggs means very small portions, but they were so, so good.

This is a salad plate.  Our eggs might be sized small by the USDA, but they'll get bigger as the hens grow.

Jim and I have been joking about the cost of each egg.  I'll tell you: making your own coop is not cheap (or quick).  I think we both agree that the experience of raising day old chicks to laying age has been worth it.  Yesterday Jim was inspired and spent a lot of the day working on finishing up the coop while I tried to will myself away from being sick (allergies, cold?  I don't know.).
I got an update on Penny the rooster yesterday.  He is making a farm family very happy.  They've never had a friendly chicken before, and their little girl loves to spring out of bed in the morning to collect eggs from Penny's friends, and cuddle him.  He's doing a great job as a second rooster, and today he meets 15 new hens that the people are bringing home just for him! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Henry goes to school

Almost exactly 3 years ago I lost my job, and - involuntarily - became a stay at home mom.  Since that day, I have been Henry's sole caregiver during the day. 
Today we shared "the awesome" and, Henry started preschool.
He did a great job getting out of the car, and strutting to the front door.  He bounced up to the classroom door.  When the door opened, 10 new little faces greeted him.  Literally.  They were right on the other side, and all said, "HI!"  That totally overwhelmed Henry who immediately grabbed my hand and hid behind my legs. 
We met his teacher, found his backpack hook, looked at the bathroom, and then it was time.  I got down on his level, and said some words about how I would be thinking about him, and sending him thoughts of bravery and adventure, and that I would be back in a few hours.  He nodded, and we hugged.
I stood up, the (wonderful) teacher took his hand, and led him to the carpet where the kids were getting ready to do some big learning.  He sat on her lap, and looked... a little lost, a little "out of body experience." 
I got in my car and sighed.  My sweet boy.
At the end of the day Willa and I picked him up.  He ran to us - smiling.  He's excited to go back.
His report from the day: "Well... I told those guys on the playground that I was a spy. But they don't know much about spies. I think those guys are younger than me."
It was a very good day.

20 weeks old

I checked on the hens today and was rewarded by this sweet, perfect egg.  It's small, and they'll get bigger as time passes.  I don't know if it was Alice or Hazel, but I'm proud of them.

When they got home from school, Willa wanted to call everyone she knew to share the news.  Henry walked around, cradling the egg and clucking at it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Some first week thoughts from Willa

 "Mommmm.... call my school and tell them I'll be an hour late. I'm too tirrrred to move fast today." Morning 2 was a little rough on Willa. 

Yesterday, she noticed I had made her a little beaded zipper pull for her backpack.  Last year I did the same with a little bead that said "love."  She tried to read the message on this year's bead and cocked her head to the side.  I helped her, "it says 'follow your dreams.'"  She thought for a moment and replied, "mom.... I can't follow my dreams!  I'll be in school."  We had a talk about how school will help her to follow her dreams.  "OH!  I get it now.  So, you don't want me to actually sleep in school, right?"  So literal.

I'm editing to include this from dinner: "mom, do you want to hear something sad?  v____ 's mom is in jail.  He said she's in jail for hiring kids and teaching them to kill people."

Big gulp there.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What a difference a day makes

He did it!

She's proud of him, and he's proud of himself.  Swimmer.

     Yesterday, we spent time with Jim's family in the pool.  The 88 degree pool where time doesn't exist, and in my head it was no longer the day before the first day of school, and the day before the week that all of us have some major change.  This was relaxing and nice.  It was also a huge milestone as Henry jumped off of the diving board.  This is HUGE here!  He's been nervous all summer.  Now that Willa finally tried it in June, he was feeling some pressure.  Yesterday was THE day.  He stood at the end and said, "one, two... world record!" and then jumped.  When he came up grinning and laughing, he spurted, "I'm going to do this EVERY DAY!"
     Today is the first day of first grade for Willa.  We had a very smooth morning.  Everyone was up on time, fed and dressed at the right time.  We were not rushed on the way out the door.  We took some photos, and then got to school.  Because it was raining, all of the classes were lining up in the gym.  The hot, hot, echoey gym.  Some kids were overwhelmed, but Willa hung in there.  I watched her make a new friend who I will call "girl with the red backpack" until I know otherwise.  When it was time, her teacher, Mrs. K. got the kids to stand up, and they filed out.  Willa didn't even look at me as they walked to the hallway.  This kid has got it under control.

Packing up for the day.
Happy first grade girl.
They all lined up in the gym this morning.  Hot, humid chaos.  Willa looks ready to wallop her teacher with the umbrella.  She was not.