Get On This Train (Thoughts on Home and Missing Home)


churches and trains
they all look the same to me now

they shoot you some place

while we ache to come home somehow

(Amsterdam, Gregory Alan Isakov)

* * *

We spent the last 6 days going to, existing in, and returning from Ames, Iowa.  While we were there (in a desperate but well-played attempt to help the kids forget about 4 days strapped in car seats), we hopped a local train ride on a real steam train.  She only went 10 mph but what she lacked in velocity she made up for in duration.  Moses maintains that the 90 minutes asked of his life was about 30 too long, but still, a delightful time was mostly had by all.

I've been thinking about trains ever since. Well, I'll be honest, I'm often thinking about trains because I am the mother of two small boys.  So... I've been thinking about trains more than usual lately, and while we listened to The Weatherman album (cited above) driving through Oklahoma this afternoon, these lines jumped out at me.

And I feel it in my bones, this aching for a coming home.  I confess to have already fallen deeply in love with our new town.  I have let it woo me and romance me and whisper sweet nothings in my ear until I walk around in googly eyed denial of how wrong it's gonna treat me come April when I'm still(!) in my snow boots.  I'll be a fickle lover, I just know it.  But for now the stars, they're in my eyes and I'm a smitten schoolgirl primed and ready for a heartbreak.

But it's not my first.  I have hungrily clung to place before, hoping that it will be home, hoping that it will be forever.  So far nothing has been.  And maybe Ames will be and maybe it won't, but I have a nagging feeling that the "ache to come home somehow" is here to stay.  Because by now I know exactly what it is I'm aching for and I'm not going to find it until to dust I return.

That doesn't mean there isn't beauty in the aching.  And when churches or trains or new houses or new towns shoot me some place other, I stretch my lungs out wide and I breathe in deep and I can smell the fragrance of forever.  The fragrance of what is promised when all is made well.  So I'll ride this wave and I'll giggle like my children do, but I know that when disillusionment and grief hit (and they always, always do), it's the aching come knocking, and it's okay to answer that door too.

*if you read yesterday's post, I did indeed ruin my phone and lost everything on it. I salvaged this one from Instagram, but all the other beautiful train photos are RIP.  I may have cried.*

What I'm Reading - Summer '15


Following up from the spring edition I filled you in on here.  Clicking the image will let you view it on Amazon, and any purchase made will send a few cents my way.

Just Finished Reading 
Love Does by Bob Goff

I wanted to love this one. Wanted to so bad.  {I mean, just look at that cover!  Swoon.}  I'd heard rave reviews and I really can see how it would move people.  Maybe you would like it!  I think his writing style just didn't jive with my reading style.  No hard feelings, Bob, you seem like the BEST kind of person!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

This one was a good read, although pretty painful at times.  It's written from the perspective of a boy with autism and is essentially the tale of the toll his condition takes on his family.  A friend recommended it to me (hey Megan!) because she had seen the play, and it did not disappoint.

(For the two of you who remember the spring edition, I did finish Bread and Wine, which was fun and light.  I have for the time being set aside The Rule of Saint Benedict and Nicholas Nickleby.  I'm a grown up; I don't have to finish books I don't feel like finishing.)

Currently Reading 
Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

You guys, this book is my jam.  I am just loving it, and taking my sweet time about getting through it.  Maybe I just don't want to have to stop reading.  The way the author writes about God, Scripture, the liturgy... just, wow.  It inspires me to think, to write, to meditate, and to not compartmentalize my life.  Norris is the kind of Christian that non-Christians like, and I can't think of a higher compliment than that.

Will be reading
It's So Much Work to be Your Friend by Richard Lavoie

My not-fun-but-necessary book for the summer.  As Alyosha has gotten older, social situations (especially with peers in the mix) have gotten harder for him to navigate, and I want to be able to give him some good solid handrails for entering Kindergarten.

Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren

I have been looking forward to this memoir for months, and it's finally out!  I've never read either of Jillian's published books, but I have been a fan of her blog for a long time.  She is both an adult adoptee and mother of a child adopted from Ethiopia, and this memoir weaves those paths together as she makes sense of her life.  I think it's going to be phenomenal.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

I'm reading this one in conjunction with the Liturgy of Life book study (join us!), and I'm looking forward to it. The premise is discovering the hidden creativity and art within us and applying those gifts to our everyday lives.  Should be good!

* * *

I'd love to hear from you! What's on your summer list? Any recommendations for the rest of us?

An Open Letter to Humans Traveling or Working on Airplanes (from parents of small children)


Dearest fellow airline travelers and esteemed flight attendants,

Yes, here we are, boarding your flight with our small children in tow, their prefrontal cortexes gleefully flashing their bizarre "Under Construction" signs.  Some of you smile and wave, which makes us want to kiss the filthy airbridge you walk on, some of you scowl and turn away, some of you don your poker faces and leave us to guess what that means.  For the sake of human relations, we present to all of you the following manifesto:

We don't want to be here either.  There is no alternate "parenting universe" in which it is enjoyable or desirable to be trapped in a seat half the size of a bathtub with a toddler and a preschooler who are expected to remain on their bottoms for 2 hours and 27 minutes.  You are not the only one who is disappointed that this is happening today. But sometimes, life happens and we find ourselves in unfortunate circumstances despite the fact that we would rather be somewhere far, far away getting cavities filled.

We are not the horrible people responsible for the downfall of humanity that you imagine us to be.  We are actually decent parents, at least as decent as they come, which is debatable anyway.  We are doing the best we can under pretty stressful circumstances.  Some of us have kids with special needs, and often you can't tell by looking. Some of us have babies with colic, and there's really (really!) nothing we can do about the crying.  Most of us have children who have missed a nap, and we're praying to the sleepytime gods that they will crash before their ears start popping.

We need to be cut a little slack.  If our toddler is walking up and down the aisle because the alternative is screaming his lungs out and he accidentally (or not so accidentally) brushes up against you, you probably are not going to contract Scarlett Fever.  You don't have to smile, but maybe you also don't have to shoot daggers into our chests through your fiery red eyes?  Just maybe.  And flight attendants, we understand that you have safety rules to enforce.  But if you could do so without also communicating that you wish our children had never been born, that would really be appreciated etiquette.

Believe it or not, our children belong to you too.  We're assuming that you are in favor of society living on.  These short little crazies are how that's going to happen.  Everything that you value, everything that you hope for the future: they are the ones who will be carrying those torches.  Not only were you once just like them, but they are also intricately woven together with you, frankly whether you like it or not.  We all belong to each other, and we have to believe it if we don't want civilization going down the crapper.  You don't have to be "a kid person" but please check the grudge in your heart and remind yourself that these are real human beings too, and believe with us that they're going to make the world a better place.

Sincerely yours,

Parents Eagerly Anticipating A Glass of Wine

McKinney, TX and the Myth of "Earning" Respect


The very idea of recapping this event for you before I begin what I have to say is exhausting.  I've decided instead to include some video footage of the event, as well as some links that describe what happened.  So if you don't know what #McKinney is all about, start here.  Otherwise scroll down.

* * *

I currently live in North Texas, about 45 minutes from McKinney, which does not bestow upon me magical unicorn authority to speak on the details of this particular event (a fact which, judging from social media, not everyone concurs on).  However, it does cause everything to hit just a bit closer to home.  A home which, incidentally, includes a beloved black son.  So yes, I'm more emotionally invested in this case than the average white American.  BUT I SHOULDN'T BE MORE TROUBLED BY IT.

If I am a white American watching these videos and reading these accounts, and I am not deeply shaken and concerned for the state of my country, there is something very, very wrong.

I am appalled by comments made in my Facebook feed pointing out everything these teenagers did that was "wrong" or "disrespectful".  Can I just be the one to state the obvious here?  They are teenagers.  With still-developing prefrontal cortexes.  In a state of extreme stress, fear, confusion, and chaos.  Teenagers do stupid things and act in stupid ways, and that's why they have parents to ground them for a week and why the natural consequences that come from bad choices are an excellent part of the universe.  (In case this is unclear, having a gun pulled on you is NOT a natural consequence for lingering near your friends to make sure they're going to be okay.)

Let me ask you, white reader.  When you were a teenager, were you ever once pinned to the ground on your swimsuit-clad stomach with an armed police officer's knee in your back while you ate grass and cried for your mama?

No?  Me neither.  Because unless you'd posed a violent threat to another human being, this would be wildly inappropriate and unjust.  AND IT IS.

There were adult chaperones at this party.  They were not sought out.  Minors were.  We thought we'd come so far.  But we keep finding out it's been a lie, a mirage.  Just under the surface, there is still a rumbling.

We have work to do, my fellow Americans.  And it doesn't start with a Facebook rant or this silly blog post.  It starts with practicing the recognition of the God-given dignity in every human being in little ways, in little moments, throughout our day.  This goes deeper than race, even.  It sinks past that and goes into every single one of our prejudices, every single way that we see people for less than they are, every single time we let thoughts go through our minds without catching them and telling them to get the hell out.  

It's about the big fat bold faced lie that "you have to earn respect".  No I don't.  No you don't.  No we don't.  No they don't.  Every single human being deserves to be treated with a base level of respect, even when circumstances are necessarily tough.  Because each one of us has a piece of the Divine within us.  And what's more, if you claim to be a Christian, to disrespect that is to disrespect the Incarnated Christ Himself.

EDITED TO ADD: The backstory of what this police officer had endured earlier that day on duty is addressed here.  We simply must change a policing system that dehumanizes cops.

*I wrote more about the topic of the current race relations in America here.  It is not something I feel particularly drawn towards writing on, but I refuse to look back on my life and regret being silent in the face of injustice.*


Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)