Nothing new under the sun

It’s Mother’s Day, and I’ve spent it in glorious sloth and catching up on some things that need to be caught up on. Someone praised my blogging on Facebook today, and I’m happy for the compliment. But then I find myself with another week coming, and another post, and not such great ideas.

This year’s lilacs

Or rather, I have some excellent ideas. I’d love to tell you about Mother’s Day, lilacs, and how much I love lilacs. Except I did that back in 2009. (Eight years later, the boys still roll down the hills at the Arnold Arboretum during the Lilac Festival.) Also, please note that in that post I whined about how hard it is to come up with things to write about. I also covered lilacs in 2010, 2011, 2012 and probably every year since then. Maybe I should start thinking of these posts as traditions instead of repetitions?

Yesterday at one point I had on my “Mirkwood National Forest” t shirt, had my “Not all who wander are lost” sticker on my laptop (the other laptop has a custom made “Gates of Moria” sticker and was reading Tolkien.

In an attempt to restore and rejuvenate myself, I’ve reread Tolkien for, I dunno. It might be the 40th time. I have my own “Editor’s Cut” of how to read the books if I’m in a hurry. I read them super slowly this time, to notice things that had previously escaped my attention. I did! It’s such a rich text. I love it more each time. This time I pondered a parallel between Theoden of Rohan and Roland of “The Song of Roland”. Both are killed by their own weapons (horse and horn), arguably because such characters couldn’t be bested by a foe and hold to the story. I also saw more clearly than ever some of the Christian allegory Tolkien claimed he was including. There is much of the Christ story in Gandalf’s death, resurrection, transformation & teaching. But I’ve also covered the topic of Tolkien pretty well.

Complaining about being busy is boring. Being busy is also boring.

My life is pretty awesome. The most I have to complain about is too much awesomesauce. There’s chocolate cake to celebrate tonight. And at any moment now I’m going to log off and start playing Civ VI like I intended to three hours ago.

May your remembrances of mothers and mothering bring you joy today. For those of you who do not have your mothers, may you find consolation either in memory, or in the memory of those who have served as loving influences in your life!

Celebrations of a jet-lagged mother

Smiles in sunshine
Smiles in sunshine

I still owe you some summaries of my trip to Europe. It was really a neat experience. Basically, we’d spent about 10 hours in a windowless conference room discussing projects. This does not merit blogging upon, except to touch on the fact I must be doing ok at the new job since they gave me a second high profile, big-deal project to manage. Not code, manage. Since that’s the direction I wanted to go, I’m trying very hard not to go into actual-coding withdrawal. Anyway, after 10 or so hours of complete senescence, we’d rise in order to drive to that night’s restaurant. And then we’d spend three or four hours eating. OH MY GOODNESS. I actually did gain 3 pounds in a week — a combination of lack of activity and 3 to 4 hour French dinners. I had beef, duck, white asparagus & rabbit. Yum!!!
My hotel in Obernai - from the back

On our way home, we flew about 50 miles north of the volcano. I watched the ash plume and the southward streamers heading to disrupt other planes. It was a quite a sight to watch.

When I got home, 100% of the human males were running temperatures. Thane scored triple medication during the week: otic eardrops with antibiotics, oral antibiotics & an antifungal cream for a diaper rash. Poor kid. Grey had gotten sent home with a 101 degree fever, which would’ve been worse if my husband hadn’t come home with a fever feeling terrible. So deeply jetlagged as I was, I was still in the best shape. Yesterday, we mostly vegged. There was lots of tv. And Wii. And computer games. Because really? There are times when it is appropriate to do your best lump-impression, and a rainy, stormy day when the entire family is sick counts as a good lump-day.

But today, against my more realistic expectations, everyone seemed fine. Great even! Amazing the impact that two naps can have on a body. So we went to church. It was a really awesome service. The kids are just an overwhelming force in the sanctuary. We were doing this Genesis creation play we’ve done before. There are about 20 elements of the play that the kids wave over their heads. We ran out.

And it was good
And it was good

Then after the service I got to chat with a new family who was visiting the church. It warms the cockles of the heart to see the congregation grow and thrive, and to watch those joyful and energetic young faces! I’d also like to say on the record that we don’t pay our preschool Sunday School teachers nearly enough. (Side note: I’ve discovered that our young adults are usually surprised and shocked to learn that the position of Sunday School teacher is an unpaid one.)
Thane and I at the top of the hill
Thane and I at the top of the hill

After service, I figured the kids would start wilting, but they were doing quite well, actually. My heart had been longing to go to the Arnold Arboretum for their annual lilac festival that happens on Sunday of Mother’s day. I had thought yesterday it was out of the question, but at the last minute on a whim (as you could tell by my inappropriate garb) we decided to go. We had a ball. There were the Morris dancers (I love Morris dancers). The sun was bright, but it was cool and windy. There was ice cream. There was wandering. We wandered through scads of fragrant lilacs. Grey rolled down a grassy hill about 10 times. You might hear rumors that I rolled down — in my Sunday dress. Mere rumors, I assure you. I’m far to dignified and well-socialized for such tomfoolery.

Of course, the remainder of the day was dinner and cleaning and grocery shopping and antibiotic dosing, etc. But you know what? I’ll take it. My Grey is so super snuggly and affectionate. I love this age, and I love who he is. He is so loving towards me, and the rest of the family. Today he made up a song about how much he loved Thane. And he gives me such great kisses and hugs — I wish I could bottle them against future adolescent dignity.

And now the Red Sox are actually winning a game against the Yankees (wonder of wonders!) and we have tickets for tomorrow (look for us in the Bleachers) and life is just good.

The ever-fascinating weekend review

One of the challenges of blogging is coming up with new content regularly (my goal is five new posts a week) without falling into a “Then after I ate my Honey-Nut Cheerios, Grey said something funny” detail about what’s been going on. No one wants to read that. And really? I don’t want to write that day in and day out. But mixed in with “I want to write about _____ but it’s a big topic and will take me a while to get right” and suddenly you notice a week has gone by without an update.

As one of my friends sometimes says when we get whiny about such dilemmas, “First world problems.”

Mommy forgot her real camera and had to use her phone
Mommy forgot her real camera and had to use her phone

So here, in concise summary, are the important things about my weekend.

1) It was a bad week in the life of elder statespeoples in my world. My Godfather had a serious heart attack. He deserves a longer post with more explanation. He also deserves a nice long letter from me. (I called him last night, but he’s rather hard of hearing, so while I learned plenty about how HE’S doing, he didn’t learn much about how I’M doing.) He is a very important contributor to me becoming who I am, and I hope that he has several years. Hopefully I’ll manage to write more about this, but in case I don’t, this much is important.

Also, the wife of my growing-up pastor currently has no knee and an infection post surgery. Neither of those things is good or enjoyable. I hope they both get resolved.

2) Saturday was a lazy-day. We had meant to go hiking, but instead we just hung out. In an awesome turn of events, we ended up spending most of the evening with our neighbors, eating their burgers and drinking their beer. It’s really nice to spend time with people you like, while you watch your kids play together. It’s also very interesting to see how your house looks from your neighbors house. In extra-bonusage, one of our neighbors is an architect and he thinks our roof has 3 – 5 years. I’m happy with any amount of time that is not “Dear God you must replace this thing RIGHT NOW!” I think I am glad I am not an architect who always looks at the world and sees it falling down.

3) Mother’s Day festivities fell into two parts. Part the first was my loot. Specifically, I got a digital photo frame. I’m really happy with it. I’ve truly gotten better at taking pictures, but no better at ordering prints or updating my flip book at work. (I think the most recent pictures I have of Grey, he’s about the age Thane is now.) Since so much of my photographia is digital, a digital photo frame looks more likely to get updates. Also, my kids are cute.

Part the second was going to the Lilac Festival at the Arnold Arboretum. Lilacs are my favorite flowers. There were also Morris Dancers there, which flashed me back to Make We Joy — happy memories! I kept expecting to see Danny Spurr pop up. And I drank my fill of fragrant lilac-scents and watched Grey learn the joys of rolling down a grassy hill. On the downside, we needed to bring a hat for Thane and we didn’t, and we needed to get sunscreen on him earlier than we did. He didn’t get burned — at least nothing that was still burned this morning — but he did get more sun that we should have let him get.

Then I came home and de-dandylioned the back lawn. This was an epic task, but needed to be done before the first mowing, which desperately needed to be done.

Here’s a difference between a 2.5 year old and a 3.5 year old. With the 3.5 year old, you really can work in the back yard and tell him to entertain himself while you work, and actually get some work done. This can be accomplished for even 30 minutes! (Astonishment!) I’ll take it.

Thus having informed my readership (er, hi mom!) of the important parts of my weekend, I go to optimize my search query! (I think I need a cape at work. That would definitely improve my code. Maybe with a cool logo….)

Mother’s Day Letter

For Mother’s day, my mom asked for a letter talking about our past year and what was happening in our life. (She wants them going forward too.) Writing this sort of thing can be difficult, but here is my result.

Dear Mom,

So you want a synopsis of my life currently and my past year. There have been years in my life when I could have written a very interesting synopsis, full of fun things I learned and did. I am afraid, however, that 2003-2004 has not been one of those years. You see, A. and I are in the between times. We have left the time of life where every year came with its own markers and built in pieces of conversation. I can’t tell you what classes I took this year and about the fascinating concepts I encountered. I have not yet entered the time of life when every year – or every month for that matter – is full of someone else’s markers. I have no one to report on. The in-between times are pretty good times. We have time and resource to work in our garden or watch a movie or fly to Mexico for a week. They’re just not particularly notable.

That said, it’s not like nothing has happened this past year – it’s simply that my life could be encapsulated in the phrase, “It was nothing to write home about.”

Work has definitely taken the bulk of my time and energy. Isn’t it amazing how that happens? I have been with my company for the longest I’ve ever worked for anyone. Unfortunately, that’s still only a year and a half. I’ve learned a lot in the past year and a half. I’ve learned about my industry and how it operates. I’ve become a deeper programmer with a more accurate and available command of syntax. I’ve learned some new and interesting algorithms and methods of handling data. I’ve also learned a lot about how companies grow and operate. (Snip)

Another really neat thing about work has been my coworkers. Last time I counted, we have 9 first or fluent languages in the office. We speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Russian, Tamil, Teligu, Malarum and Hindi. I have made some really good friends. One Indian woman is a terrific programmer. I am eternally grateful that women’s liberation came to India in time for her to pursue her true gift. She is an astonishingly brilliant programmer, a cheerful personality and a good friend. She is also an “orthodox” Christian – a branch of Christianity in India that traces its heritage back to the apostles. I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that my actions and relationships at work are very real and inter-related with the rest of my life, and that since so much of my time is given over to work, that’s a good thing.

The second biggest commitment in my life is church. My obituary resume (you know how when someone dies the first or second thing that gets mentioned in the newspaper is how they’re a Sunday school teacher?) is pretty extensive. A. and I teach Sunday School at (ugh!) 9:15 on Sunday mornings to 1-8 kids between the ages of 11 – 16. We taught confirmation to the 16 year olds this spring, which was a particularly interesting experience since one of the kids was a very curious and interested agnostic. I co-lead the Cool Comings youth group, which is an evening youth group for the same kids I teach in Sunday School. I’m on the Board of Deacons, which usually involves me feeling guilty, but should involve me participating in the care of the community. I’m on the Christian Education committee, where we constantly wrestle with having many kids and few resources. I lead monthly “Prayer at the Close of Day” prayer services (when I don’t completely forget like I did this week). I frequently play my trumpet in church, and periodically get dragged into singing in the choir. I lead pre-service “praise singing” every Sunday but communion Sundays. We finally finished up the Mission Study Taskforce. I also maintain the website, which probably takes me between 1-4 hours a month once I got it all set up. In a typical month I attend 3 committee meetings, actively participate in 3 church services, lead a youth group event, update the web site, lead a prayer service, and have one miscellaneous activity.

These things feed me differently, spiritually. I think that the work I do with the kids is some of the most fulfilling stuff I’ve done since college. Teaching Sunday School has actually been intellectually challenging for me – which means that our curriculum is atrocious, but I’ve definitely enjoyed it. For example, I’ve done all the lessons in the curriculum that I think are worth doing, so I’m hoping to have the time and energy to do a two part class on the history of Jerusalem – the first section being on Jerusalem in the Bible, and the second on Jerusalem since then. I think that understanding how the history they’ve been working on still affects us today is a very important and key lesson. And I find it interesting.

I am very, very, very fortunate in that A. is my complete partner in all these activities. He is a serving Elder and leads up the finance committee. He is with me every Sunday morning, and often there if I have to miss. He’s the one who gets me up on in time for Sunday school, and he makes a long commute up on Fridays for Cool Comings. When we host coffee hour, he’s in the kitchen washing the cups, and when I am practicing after church, he’s talking to the kids in our youth group. I don’t think enough about how lucky I am that he also has such an active life of faith and service.

The third of my big commitments is sort of the flip side of our church commitment. Every Monday night, we play a role-playing game. We have been doing so for four years together, and A. played for the year we were engaged. We’ve been playing with the same group of people for the last 2.5 years… it’s A. (our usual game master, although he takes breaks), M. a composer who loves meat and reminds me strongly of a cat, E. who stitches (makes costumes) for the local theaters, is trying to gain admission to Harvard Divinity School, and is a dear friend (and M’s girlfriend), and D. who was a fellow trumpeter from Conn and serves as the battle sink of our group. They are an appreciative audience for dinners, so most of the time they get pretty good ones. After eating dinner together so long, we’ve started to feel a bit like family. They are people I can just talk to. We have been playing the same game and characters for nearly the entire time we’ve been together. I play a cleric named Terwilliger Bunswon who serves the god of Prophecy and has quite a lot of swagger. The session before last we finished our first quest. It was a strange feeling to finish what we started in 2002, and see it all come full circle. There’s a sense of loss that comes from not playing a character I’ve played for so long. Fortunately, I think that we will resume that game after a summer’s break of space adventures. Right now we’re playing a scary horror game, which is delightfully creepy.

As if playing once a week every single week isn’t enough, A. also plays every Friday night with another set of friends, and is currently also in a Wednesday night group with a bunch of other people from church. Amazingly enough, there are quite a few other gamers in church. A.’s background in Dungeons and Dragons was one of the ways we really earned credibility with some of the kids in our youth group. Life has strange twists.

Other than those things, I manage to listen to or watch nearly every Red Sox game played. A. and I have been much better about exercising in the past year, and while I haven’t lost a single pound, I can now do 4 pull-ups. (Right now the very concept of moving my legs makes them hurt. We went jogging yesterday and ouch! I haven’t done that in a while!) I periodically waste time playing computer games. I’ve been enjoying my hobby of rubber stamping. (Although I discovered tonight that I have absolutely NO mother’s day appropriate rubber stamps! Sheesh!) I’m hoping I’ll have the time and energy to finish what I started in the garden this year. Your mom gets the full details, but so far we’ve planted: lilacs, pansies, raspberries, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, yellow squash, cucumbers, zucchini and parsley. I donate blood as often as I’m eligible, and platelets about once a month.

A. and I moved houses this year, which was a good choice. We took a vacation to Mexico, which was lovely. We have gotten to spend time with our friends, although not enough. We are quietly preparing ourselves for the possibility that this will be the last year it is easy to do the things we always wanted to do. That’s not for sure – God often has strange plans. But I want to enter this autumn with few regrets for my young life. (Well, other than that I didn’t do something wildly adventurous. If I knew which wildly adventurous thing it was that I was mourning not having done, though, I’d probably up and do it.)

A. and I are very, very happy together. He is my best friend, without a doubt. I love him far more now than I did when I married him. I can spend every hour for a week together with him, and not be tired of his company. But we can also spend a few days apart and not fall to pieces. He is the best husband I could possibly imagine.

And that, in a nutshell, is our life right now. It’s a good life. It’s probably not quite as interesting as I’d imagined my life would be, but I’m only 25. There’s a lot of living left to do.