Over a decaf cappuccino and pitted prunes…

A couple months ago, I was describing to my good friends this book I am planning to write. Something funny yet serious, a four-part meditation on family, community, food, and justice through the lens of my personal life experience, integrating in my theological and social work training. And of course with copious amounts of funny-children-stories (like that time my children were swinging around bags of chocolate chips at the co-op and one burst and they started eating them off the floor…)

“Of course that will never happen,” I said, “since I can barely put away the laundry, much less commit time to write a book.”

Then Clara and Owen, both skilled bloggers themselves, suggested that I start with a blog, because the back-and-forth feedback can be helpful for keeping you motivated to keep writing.

I’ve been mulling over this. In reality, I want to wake up early and spend an hour writing longhand by candlelight. I spend all day at work in front of the computer, why would I want more screen time? Plus, in general I feel like the internet has changed our lives in ways that are usually not for the better. Do I need to broadcast these thoughts about life to all who might want to see, or would my time be better spent writing musing letters to long-distance friends and having heart-to-hearts over coffee with confidantes nearby?

However, Clara and Owen are right. I won’t be motivated without some sort of writing routine and peer feedback. And Lord knows I will never be able to get my thoughts organized without writing them down first! For those of you who remember back to college vacations, or the summer I was in Kenya, maybe this will bring you back to those novel-like mass emails.

So I have ten minutes left on my internal timer for this first post. My in-laws, who are visiting for the weekend, insisted that they supervise Cyprian’s quiet time while Shane is at work and Rose naps. It took me a long time to fight my guilt enough to get out the door, and I promised myself that I would also do some office work while I’m here, so blog time is limited.

Tomorrow is the third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete Sunday (pink candle!!!). Joy. I’ve been trying to think of having childlike joy, which leads me to think of children on Christmas morning, and then I get a little apprehensive at the thought of Cyprian having opened his gifts on Christmas morning and realizing that no, he did not get the short-sleeve baseball shirt and baseball pants and baseball socks (long long ones, but not over his knees), and baseball hat, and basketball shirt and basketball shorts and basketball hat (and long long basketball socks), and the brown football (somehow better than his blue football?) and black and white soccer ball with black pentagons and oh-don’t-you-already-have-a-black-and-white-soccer-ball and no-mommy-it’s-not-the-right-kind-it-needs-black-and-white-alternating-with-pentagons. Because we have gotten to the age where we understand that we get presents at Christmas and we can ask for them, but we are not yet at an age where we understand that stating the desire does not automatically equate into a present, and for those of you who haven’t spent a lot of time with Cyprian and might think oh, he’ll forget about it, I will just say that his most desired Christmas present is a stomp rocket that he saw when we purchased a birthday present for him three months ago, and he has mentioned it at least once a week since that day. (Spirited child lingo–not stubborn, just persistent!)

So, childlike joy. Sometimes hard to imagine right now with my two kids currently in very emotionally volatile stages of development. (Kind of like my current stage of development…I guess it never ends!)

Two weeks ago, I had two days in which I felt like a veil had been lifted. I was still very stressed, and had a couple of mom-stress-brief-explosions at the kids, but I felt like all of a sudden I was able to be joyful in the midst of it. I have struggled with chronic depression for a long time, and this past year has been particularly difficult as I wrestled with being in a new place with few friends and no job. But our lives are becoming more settled now, and we seem to be moving away from a couple years of transition and imminent crisis to becoming rooted in a place I never thought I’d be.

It’s been easy to see the stress of fall simply freezing into the busy-ness of Advent and feeling that once again I’ve failed at the season. It’s nine days til Christmas and I don’t even have a spiritual focus! I’ve wasted away two beautiful weeks of Advent and only have nine more days to get joyful!

Maybe I will have more days of intense joyful emotion. But I remember that two years ago, the experience of being pregnant during Advent reoriented my idea of joy to equate it with the waiting. It is in not-quite-there-yet-ness that the joy of hope lives. I’m not ready to go further than that right now. I will live there this week.

Black Rook In Rainy Weather, by Sylvia Plath

On the stiff twig up there

Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Lean incandescent

Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then—
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you dare to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.

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