Sunday, October 26, 2008

Beauty

Walking and bouncing, shhh'ing and rocking.
Crying and praying, mourning ... hoping.
Pacing and cuddling, pacing and cuddling.
Crying.

That was me this afternoon as I tried to quiet Genevieve, keep track of Arden, and deal with the news that Jeanine has leukemia. Pacing helps. Going in circles and circles around the coffee table, always seeing from the corner of my eye the beautiful roses Lizzie sent for Genevieve's birth. Holding the goochy baby and pacing.

They're stunning, these roses. (Pro Flowers has them sent straight from Ecuador, still closed, so that they actually bloom in the vase.) I never used to like roses. It was all the hype that surrounds them. So much commercialism. Being told by an outside source that something is beautiful, and knowing that outside source has selfish and ulterior motives, sours things for me. Like diamonds. But at one point I realized that I hadn't given roses a fair chance.

They're a fist full of soft beauty, with the potential of being actually perfect. When they open as they should, it's layer upon layer of gentle enticement. And yet, usually, the secret middle is still protected. Their petals are as soft as butterfly wings. You can feel them best with your lips, which are more sensitive even than fingertips.

I once said that I would know a man understood me if he brought me tulips in winter. (Remember, I'm from snowy, freezing Chicago.) In college, Lizzie and her transfer friends gave me a pot of tulips. It made me laugh and berate her, "A man, Elizabeth! You are not a man!" She agreed happily that she was not. I still enjoyed them greatly. But I've come to discover there is an unending sort of beauty about a healthy rose that tulips lose pretty quickly. All that is good and gentle and strong and sad lingers with them. They make me want to be a flower. This, in fact, is the eternal "almost", the constant frustration, the thing that pulls you back for third and fourth inhales when you should have already walked away from the bouquet. To watch and observe a deep beauty is actually not enough for our souls, for we were created to embody beauty. I think this is why the scripture gives voice to our longing...

1Jo 3:2 "Beloved, we are God's children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared;
but we know that when he appears we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he is."

We must be like Him, we just must. Such beauty must become part of us, it cannot remain a thing we simply observe.

Jeanine is a beautiful soul. She is the woman I wanted to be when I grew up. She was married out of my parents' home; Elizabeth and I carried her train down the aisle. She taught me kindness - she is kind. She taught me inclusion - she was devoted to all my siblings, to all her classrooms of children. She taught me adventure - she read a chapter of Swiss Family Robinson to us each night on her bed, little Sammy-boy included. She taught me patience - she waited 10 years to say "yes" to the man who had asked for her hand at the age of 18. She taught me purity - her "little sin" was the occasional pack of licorice gum. She was love embodied (or so it seemed to me as a child). I still remember her gentle rebuke as I sat doing my homework at the laminate kitchen table... "Oh, Amy, you can do better than that." I knew she was right. I never tried hard with penmanship, and it shows to this day.

She hasn't seen me married or a mother. I know how proud she was when I published Perpetua. It thrills me to know I gave her that pleasure, that she was able to say to the woman behind the counter at the bookstore, "The author was my student!" Oh, I pray I get to feel her joy when I do marry, when I do mother my children with some of the love she taught me. I've seen that joy in her eyes over my sisters and my friends, other young students of hers.

And so I pray and mourn at the same time. That she should go through such pain! That she should be in such danger! The Lord will keep her, and keep her heart safe.

Elizabeth bought roses for Suzy after little Samuel Eisenhower was born. Three dozen, from the toothless lady on the corner of Blue Ridge and Holmes. Her hand painted sign is permanently nailed to a rusty telephone pole, proclaiming in loud stick letters:

"Bokay. 5$"

Her husband is there sometimes, helping her. Her mind is slowly going. That's all I know about her. Her roses don't last long either. Well, you can imagine, by the time they get through all the channels to her-on the corner of Blue Ridge and Holmes, across from the pet store and just beyond the underpass-they haven't much life left in them. But I am glad for her, that as her mind goes, her work is to handle these reminders of God. As her husband helps her, watches her, keeps her active...she only knows she is selling bouquets that embody someone's joy, someone's baby, someone's anniversary. Or, as she would put it, "bokays".

Pray for Arden, as she cries through the transition to being one of two children.
Pray for Dora, as she waits for Sam to return and meet his daughter.
Pray for Jeanine, as she spends the month in the hospital.
Pray for the toothless lady, that she would know the Creator of her bokays.
And pray for me, that the constant tension I feel in desiring all that is beautiful but not yet having and being it, would not tear me apart nor open me to too great a grief.

As Genevieve's middle name so soundly proclaims, JOY is our inheritance because it is His inheritance. (She's been lying on my chest the whole time I've been blogging here. It's hard to feel too much grief when there's a tiny little snuggle-bug cuddling herself into your curves and breathing high and quick like a feather weight.)

Joy, please, dear Jesus. Joy.


Manuals

Until about two months ago I'd never driven a manual car. Well, technically I had. But first I'd spent 45 minutes sitting in the driver's seat next to Sam while he explained in detail (he's an engineer, you know) what exactly was happening to the gears etc. When we finally started going I was thinking so hard about the mechanics of it all, I couldn't figure out the simple actions to go along with it. There were many stalls that afternoon.

This time Deanna taught me. We went zipping around the Baptist church's parking lot, and with her constant encouragement I began to believe I could really do this! Now I'll be able to drive in Africa, or Haiti, or rural America...wherever fate might set me down. (Its one of those odd things that have seriously caused me unconscious worry over the years. What if, in some emergency, I needed to know how to drive a manual, but couldn't?!)

Now, I'm proud to report, I've driven a manual ...

...in the rain
...with a screaming toddler in the backseat
...in the middle of the night, to the hospital, with a laboring woman in the backseat
...home from the hospital, with a 1 day-old newborn in the backseat

(a lot of the life of a car seems to happen in the backseat, I guess)

AND...I find myself aching to get behind that wheel when I feel particularly frustrated or anxious or restless. There's just something about slamming down the clutch, shifting, balancing the energy and force with a gentle synchronized sort of motion... All in all, a great way to vent.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

She's HERE!

Genevieve Joy Peterson finally arrived this morning at about 4 am. I'll write more about it later, but for now (before I fall into my bed) here are a few photos of the little beauty.





Specs:

Born 10.21.08 @ 3:56 AM
9 lb. 3 oz.
22 1/4 inches long

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nothing to Report

Dora is still pregnant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 10 days overdue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the meantime we've been feeding Arden frappuccinos, going shopping, and talking long walks on the beach (it's supposed to help bring on labor). To no avail yet...but you never know...a lot of people are praying.... :)



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Undercover Heaving

Dark clouds scudded over the moon, creating a misty halo that reflected off the wet asphalt and outlined our two darting forms -- I with a long ponytail and bangs repeatedly falling across my eyes, and Dora with the unmistakable curves belonging only to overdue pregnant women.

She ran ahead of me from can to can, checking to see how full the neighbors' garbage receptacles were. I followed behind in the shiny darkness, dragging overweight black bags behind me and tossing them in when she'd found an empty space. No, we weren't disposing of evidence, though it felt like it. And no, we didn't even know what exactly was in the black bags. All we know is that one of our neighbors piled about 12 huge black garbage bags on our front curb about two weeks ago and left them there - just left them - to fend for themselves. But around here, the garbage trucks don't pick up bags, just cans. And so the pile has sat under our palm tree, killing the grass and making us look sort of, well, trashy.

They could have been body parts. Or they could have been donations of clothing left out for the Goodwill truck. Or just plain kitchen garbage. Or... well, they could have contained any number of things. But Dora insisted they contained lawn refuse and laid out her plan to me last week.

"Hey, we're going to wait until dark the night before the garbage is picked up, then stuff as many of those bags in cans as we can find room for. We're going to do this until they're all gone."

I protested, of course. What if, what if... The other option was to put a witty sign on the bags instructing whomever had dumped them on a pregnant woman's lawn to come "get your traish!" This didn't sound like it would endear us to the perpetrators. I boldly declared that I would canvass the neighbors that very day to determine who the culprit was and to demand that they remove their trash. But then I looked out the window at how large of a man Brutus' owner is (that's the crazy dog that's continually trying to jump the fence next to us), and conveniently forgot. Or so I thought. Until...

Several days ago (the trucks come 2x a week) I woke to the news that Dora had heard the trucks in the neighborhood in the early morning, and had run outside in her flimsy white nighty (fully pregnant, mind you) and had stuffed as many of those bags as she could into ours and other cans nearby. There was still a huge pile, though it was significantly smaller than it had been. Shocked and horrified, I waited for the sky to fall. It didn't. So tonight, after the pouring rain had paused and all seemed dark and quiet, I slipped on my flip-flops with her, snuck out onto the puddle-ridden street, and grasped slimy bags filled with who-knows-what. The rain had soaked them so badly I could barely move some, and had to use (instead of the great arm strength we all know I possess) my body weight as a counter balance in order to drag them across driveways, over lawns, and up into garbage cans.

Dora did more than her fair share of this undercover heaving. Several cars passed, blinding us with their twin headlamps, and we attempted to stand up straight and look nonchalant, two women loitering amongst the cans on the side of the road. Yes. You often see women among the cans, don't you? Pretty common sight. No reason to stare, folks, no reason to stare. Just keeeeep drivin. And please don't ask us what we're dragging around the neighborhood, because we don't know.

You'll be happy to know the pile is gone and we're back inside, drinking tea -- Dora, Red Raspberry Leaf to help her go into labor; me, Chamomile to sooth my terribly sore throat. Red Raspberry Leaf indeed! If anything helps her go into labor tonight, it will be the surreptitious heaving of soggy garbage into unsuspecting neighbors' cans. But the pick up is tomorrow, and they'll never even know it happened. If they do happen to notice, the best scripture for them to apply is: "To him who has, even more shall be given."

And the perpetrator's scripture for the day is, from Dora: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (But personally, I hope that no one dumps trash on their lawn, whoever they may be. It will just junk up the 'hood again.)

And for Dora and I, "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." And, if he has dumped his trash on your lawn, clean it up yourself. Burning coals, people! Burning coals!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Little Ammonia

Pat has been keeping me amused, unintentionally, with little glimpses of life in the South. From "southern fried baptist" to the woman she overheard telling people:

"I know what'll get rid of those. A little ammonia, or spic-n-span..."

Pat, a late-comer to the conversation, asked, "What do those get rid of?"

"Demons," the woman replied.

And this from a lady Pat had been pretty sure was a believer. The local newspaper reported, by name, on an "incident" in the hospital, and the business of the man in question has suffered ever since. One of her neighbors is a recluse (she knew he was in bad pain when he came over to her house and asked to be driven to the hospital - kidney stones), another is a Jehovah's Witness (who has made herself scarce since after 15 years of friendliness Pat finally told her point blank that she had to believe Jesus was God or she wouldn't go to heaven. I wonder what would happen if she told her that her handsome son could probably get married pretty fast if he'd just quit the JW's), and a third neighbor is a gay man on the point of death who is unable to get on the transplant lists because the marijuana he smoked his whole life - until last October - is still showing up in his urinalyses. He wandered over one day while Duncan was mowing the lawn and poured out his whole life story to Pat, who wasn't quite sure what to do. She wanted to tell him the gospel, but the man's roommate drives over to the Baptist church every week to play organ for their services, so he's heard enough about it to sour him to the suggestion. Such inoculations seem pretty common in the South.

Hank has started mowing their big lawn with his riding lawnmower (which is great), and parking it in their garage (which isn't great). The cats are given three alternate kinds of food at every feeding, and MoJo would prefer that Duncan fed him ice-cream off the spoon instead of putting it in a bowl. At least MoJo doesn't wake them up in the middle of the night to come downstairs and watch him eat, as Minnie used to do.

Oh, and the tiny, invalid grandmotherly-type who lives nearby is constantly hounded by a large beggar, who comes and pounds on her door until she opens it and gives him money. She's not supposed to be smoking, but she gave him money once to go buy her cigarettes, saying he could keep the change. Of course, he took all the money and didn't come back. That day, at least. He did come back later on, pounding, demanding more... I said she should call the police, but it turns out the police don't like to pick him up, cause then he's in the jail. Oh, but it's a moot point, come to find out. He died a few years back. Some sort of liver disease.

You know the recent spate of southern, small-town fiction inspired by the Mitford series? I guess the original source material is alive and kickin'. News to me. What a Yankee I am!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Enfranchised!

Victory! Well, for me, not necessarily my candidates, but every little step helps. I actually received my absentee ballot in the mail. Strange as it may seem, I wasn't counting on getting it. See, I'm from a city that has been under the strangle-hold of the democratic party for a very, very, very long time. And voting kafuffles go hand-in-hand with that history. Every time I've voted there I've felt the thrill of having wrested something I deserved out of a hand resentful and reluctant to yield it to me.

This reminds me of a story... Once upon a time I went down to the local park department to vote. (Actually, this is a true story. Don't let the fairy-tale beginning throw you off.) It's only 3 blocks from my house, and the voting process is very easy. All you have to do is tell them your name. Thinking back, I realize I've never once shown my ID to prove that I actually am the "Amy Peterson" on the list who resides at --.

Anyway, at the double doors of the building's entrance were several very "beefy" men (read: large, muscular, and unmistakably descended from mafia), there to help people vote, I assume. As I approached the heavy doors they fell over themselves to hoist both wide open, creating a princess-like entrance into the dingy, echoing, CPD halls. All smiles and nods, they were the very picture of eagerness as they pointed me down the left hallway toward the voting room. (There is never a line. Chicago is very efficient when it comes to getting in the vote.)

I happily went through the process of punching my tabs and shoving my ballot down the slot. Somehow or other, when the old ladies at the table had given me the ballot, they also gave me a little receipt that I could carry out with me, showing that I had done my civic duty and voted. Oddly (as I think about it now), this receipt was colored -- one color if you were a registered Dem, and another if you were a Republican. They kept the tear-off part, which I guess was an added safety measure to ensure no one could pretend to be me and vote again.

Clutching my receipt in my hand I sauntered back toward the main doors, happy in the knowledge that there were several large men available to open them. These doors, you see, are huge, metal, fireproof sorts of things. Rather awkward.

I turn the corner to the short foyer hall. I'm on one end; the doors and three men are on the other. I see them. They see me. Their eyes drift down to the receipt in my hand. Their faces harden. Their arms cross. Their backs lean against the walls.

Undisguised hostility oozed toward me and my red receipt. Not a nod. Not a smile. (And I'd been looking rather fetching, as I was in a skirt and on my way to work. It didn't help a bit.)

There was only one way out, so I held my chin high, my eyes down, and walked the gauntlet. (I'd have rather run.) Three slouching guards (each at least twice my bulk, and I'm not a short woman) glared angrily at me on either side; six bulging arms remained stolidly crossed two feet away as I struggled with the heavy 1960's-weight metal doors.

When the door had finally opened and I'd slipped out to the other side, their following anger felt like brick weights pasted to my back. The feeling accompanied me all the way to the car. I shivered some, glad that it was morning and the sky was light, glad my receipt and I hadn't met these public servants in some dark alley.

Chicago's slogan is, "The City that Works", and it really does. I truly admire Mayor Daley's tulips, symbolic of the well-oiled bureaucracy that keeps things moving along and even keeps them looking good as they do. I've actually recommended just such a mafia-inspired governmental structure for poor D.C., which seemed in bad need of help when last I saw it. Chicago may be corrupt, but dog-gone-it, it works. The only thing is, it takes God on your side to get it to work for you.

Which I don't mind, as I have God.

Gosh, I love that city!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Active Waiting

We're waiting.

Did you know that waiting is an active sort of thing? "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him." Lam 3:25. I mentioned this scripture a few weeks ago, I think. "Qavah", or "wait", involves more than just sitting still. It is an active sort of hope and expectation. That is just what we are trying to practice...

We have bags packed, lists ready, coaching tips tucked away, a mother here, and a place for Arden to go. But it doesn't depend on our readiness. One little unnamed girl, who is probably smiling away inside her safe, warm home, is the variable.

In the meantime, we wait. And try to amuse ourselves. Let's see...

Sam sent me a blouse from Kuala Lumpur. Actually, that's where the box was mailed. The present (so elegantly referred to in his letter as "the shirt-thingy") was probably from Hong Kong. The flash went off in this photo, so it appears brighter than it really is. Very pretty. I wonder if he remembered that I love wearing the old Chinese silk coats my mother inherited.

Let's see...what else are we doing to distract ourselves from the impending labor?

Beaching it, of course!!!



We went with Pat (Dora's mom) to Kailua beach yesterday and I took Deanna's boogie board with us for an inaugural run. Poor Deanna...she got it after a glorious day at Bellows led us to believe that perfection at beaches was to be found easily. Then time after time we would be disappointed...the water was too tame, the water was too rough, the Portuguese Man-o-Wars were out in force, etc. Anyway, she had to give up hope and leave it behind. I tried it out yesterday, only to discover that my timing was off just enough to place me in mortal danger of swallowing the entire Pacific. This is partially due to the fact that I didn't take my contacts out, and really, for the life of me, could not see past the pain once water got in my eyes. Also, big enough waves seem to come in threes. Meaning, if you attempt to catch the first one, only get part way, and end up sitting on the ocean floor trying to clear your eyes enough to see straight...you're just about sure to get pounded by the second one, have your bathing suit twisted completely askew by the third, and experience the not-previously-swallowed part of the Pacific making its way up your nose.

On the plus side, I have a prescription for anyone who thinks they're developing a sinus infection. Go boogie-boarding.

Hmmm...what else?


We were completely distracted last week by having great friends with us... Jon (Sam's Academy buddy) and his bride, Rachelle, stayed on their way from Guam to Norfolk. Poor Jon didn't know what he was getting into, arriving at a house where no man had resided for 4 months. We had a to-do list all ready for him. It involved turning off electrical circuits to repair dangerous wall sockets, tracking down and installing headlight bulbs in the beater, filling up the leaky power-steering fluid, and fixing horrendously annoying pantry doors. (That last one he did of his own accord one morning. I saw him looking at it, testing the door... Little did I ever suspect that one turn of a screwdriver would fix it so perfectly. I, you see, had previously looked at it, tested it, and decided it needed a whole new part and more expertise than I had.) Oh, and tossing Arden high into the air. I thought that was a man sort of job. Jon - how cute is this - turned out to be way more gentle with her than I am. I think it's because he doesn't have kids yet. It takes a while to realize how resilient they are. The problem is, though I have the guts to toss, she can feel on the way down that my arms are not as strong and steady as her daddy's, and she ends up clutching my shirt on the next toss, which, you can imagine, limits the height we can achieve.

We've decided it's awfully fun to take pictures of Dora's belly.



Pat went with us to the Pali Lookout, from which you can see our town, the bay, the base, and Kailua. While I was busy getting artistic...


...someone (Dora?) seems to have retaliated for all the belly-shots, thinking that photos of flying hair were in order. I was shocked. Is my hair really this long? Might be time for a trim.



The first one you see here was nicely posed, although it proved impossible to get Arden to look at the camera. The next two...well... I knew Dora was behind me in the shot, but I didn't know she was cheesing it up!




We went right past the "Road Closed" signs...



...onto the top portion of the Old Pali Highway. I think the mountain up here looks like Scotland. (Thanks, Annie, for passing on the art of self-portraiture.)





Although we'd already turned back uphill, our jaunt was really ended when we found ourselves in an unexpected rain cloud. I grabbed Arden, wrapped my hoodie over her, and ran. At least it ended a little crying fit she had begun over having to hold someone's hand on the walk.



Pitiful, eh? I'll leave you with a happier one. This is titled: Binger on the Beach.



Thus ends my waiting blog. Hopefully, it will not be long before a new one is posted with photos of a wait ended, and a sweet baby girl as Dora's reward. (Ps. 127:3)

I, personally, have also been employing the art of active waiting, but that is an entirely different story, and one for later. Enjoy Jesus, my friends!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

16 years and wise...

Please read my little sister's recent blog post on the question of children's lives. She's sixteen...not only do I want to brag on her, I want you to hear what she has to say.

http://annapeterson.blogspot.com/2008/10/some-issues-are-more-important.html

(Check out her "P.S." follow-up post, too.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Deanna Day

I did crazy things when Deanna was here. She's quite the instigator, and I have the bruises on my legs to prove it. A few days before she jetted off to Amsterdam we went to our favorite beach, Lanikai, where a certain boat is often anchored a little bit off shore. She suggested we swim out and touch it. My careful nature protested that it was too far and too deep. Suddenly, there beside us in the water was the owner, whom we had seen on multiple occasions swimming out to his boat, pushing his little float with fishing tackle ahead of him.


I'm sure he didn't hear our conversation, but he did pause, tread, and invite us for a ride. To be honest, we'd often wished for just such an invitation. Several careful glances at each other were exchanged, and one verbal warning was given -- "As long as you don't kill us," said Deanna. I thought it a good deal, although afterward I realized he never actually agreed to that condition. Swim we did, then, after retrieving our stuff from the beach and plopping it on his floatie. When I knew a ladder was waiting for me at the end, I suddenly lost my fear of going out so far from the shore. (Although I discovered later that clambering into moving boats using tiny little ladders is a good formula for getting pretty bruised up.) These sights greeted us once we were underway...



The little island above is one of two which had been tantalizing us for months. People kayak out there, but not being experienced in such things (or such waters) we'd hesitated to try it ourselves. The islands (the "Mokes") have small beaches and are sanctuaries for sea birds. Once our new friend, Dave, had anchored off shore we jumped into the water again and swam in. I cannot describe the crystal clarity of this water, though you may be able to see a little of it in the photos. The floor is a patterned, light and dark mix of blond sand twining between dark rocks.

Behind us is the island we went to, which is covered with holes in which baby sea birds, all fluffy and weak, are nested. One per hole. They're waiting for a parent to bring food. Dave showed us these, and took us barefooted around the back to the ocean side, where sharp black rocks secreted a little "queen's bath". The process of jumping in, swimming about, and hoisting myself back onto the rocks while avoiding the spiky urchins left a trail of blood running from my knee down my calve, but it was worth the wound. I just wished I'd had my flipflops--those rocks are sharp!


On the way back he dropped us off at his beach house, which had darling stone steps leading up the stone wall which keeps the water away when tide is high. He had to motor off someplace else, so gave us the keys and told us to just drop them over the courtyard wall once we'd left and locked the gate. Nicely toweled off, we left our luxurious afternoon behind and regrouped at Sam's rusted out island beater (the one with the fern growing from the wheel well), ready to "beat" our way back to real life.

It was definitely a treat (even moreso in hindsight, once I knew we'd made it back to the beater alive :). The only unfortunate part of the whole affair is that we owe it to our pretty faces (according to Dave), and Jordan preached a sermon on Sunday about how terrible it is to show preference to people based on things like looks or wealth. On the other hand, Deanna's smiley friendliness and God's desire to show us some of His pretty handiwork were likely the real reason for the afternoon. In which case, I freely accept! :)