One feels better than the other

THE MAN WHO HAS MANY ANSWERS

The man who has many answsers

is often found

in the theaters of information

where he offers, graciously,

his deep findings.

While the man who has only questions,

to comfort himself, makes music.

“The Man Who Has Many Answers”, from A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

I am more confident when I have answers.

I feel better when I only have questions. As David Whyte says, poetry is language against which you have no defenses.

And I am ready to make music to comfort myself. It is a good reason to choose music as a vocation.

-Katie

Hemming a curtain

For years I have had a Star-Wars print sheet hanging as a curtain in front of a closet in the boys room. I liked it a lot and assumed they did too. Until Amos came to me this summer and said they needed a new curtain; the old one is babyish. (Babyish? Star Wars? What?!) There was persistence with this message.

I found a curtain on clearance which they found suitable, but it was a foot too long. The boys pointed out I could sew it for them. I suggested maybe one of THEM could sew it, an idea which was met with suspicion.

Rob was the brave one. The process of showing him how to do it was a lot more complicated than I thought. Threading the machine and the bobbin, holding the fabric steady, backstitching, pinning and ironing beforehand – the process has several steps I have done so often I didn’t anticipate what I would need to explain.

Just learning how much pressure to use to operate the foot pedal is a challenge!

We both kept at it and he hemmed the curtain successfully!

And texted his girlfriend. All important things.

-Katie

Throwback Sunday: Nasher art

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These were taken at a long-ago trip to the Nasher Art Museum in downtown Dallas. If I remember correctly, we were there with my brother Chris (beloved brother, uncle, and the original Chris-friend leader). I think at the time he was dating but not married, and since he currently lives in a beautiful home with his marvelous wife and two precocious children, this leads me to believe this trip was A Long Time Ago. I will not pinpoint the time any more exactly than that.

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I do not remember much about this particular day. I imagine it went as most of our trips to museums do: Abbey and Corrie wander, noticing details and coming to internal conclusions that they may or may not share with the rest of us. They externalize what the art creates in them with their own art or writing later. Rob covers ground at top speed, scoping out the whole area in about the time the rest of us have seen the first two exhibits. He ping-pongs around, joining and leaving different family members swiftly, and THEN proceeds to surprise you during the car ride home by describing one part of the exhibit in detail. Amos declares himself bored beyond what a human can reasonably endure, and uses his two successful stratagems; asking what we will eat and asking when we will eat it, until parents decide it is time to go. Helen is there for the fellowship.

The Nasher is one of my favorites because they curate indoor and outdoor display areas equal in size. The space is very open to natural light, with glass walls, high ceilings, and an extremely open blonde wood paneled floor plan.

The exhibits I have seen there are often displayed in ways that expand your perception of the space. Installations are constructed to allow you to approach fairly closely, or sometimes walk through and around. They might loom or lean. Or the color proportions overwhelm you with large geometric shapes, as seen in several of the pictures above.

And the museum is small enough to see all of it in about 1.5 hours! Even if you move slowly! So that works well for us, too.

When COVID restrictions are eased enough that I can start visiting museums again, I am definitely going back there. Maybe this summer.

-Katie

Throwback Saturday: Picnic

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Looking at that two things spring to mind: we have been shopping at Aldi for a long time, and, why are did the kids insist on separating themselves by gender for a picnic? I think this is Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, yea verily back when social distancing was not necessary. *weeping into hands, hoping to return to such times*

-Katie

Throwback Friday: Bits and Ends

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Whenever I look through the recent pictures on the camera there are a charming handful I don’t remember taking. Life is winsomest in the unnoticed corners. That is Smoky, possibly the best cat we ever owned. He came leaping to us out of an empty field beside church on day. I had walked out to the car to get the diaper bag, and there was a kitten! One of the kids just put it in the car to trap it, and 1.5 hours later after the service was over we drove home while the kitten weaved in and out of the kids shoulders all across the back seat of the Suburban. (Man, I miss that Suburban. Miss that cat, too. I swear; the most intelligent animal I’ve ever owned. That cat knew when to stick around and when to make himself scarce. When he died I wrote a memorial on the calendar for him: “Smoky. A Good Cat.” And I rewrite that same epitaph for his death-day on every calendar I buy. Writing that now, I am realizing my action is possibly both faithful and creepy.) IMG_3055

What on earth is he reading after school that looks like it has a table of contents?IMG_3045

Why is she reading before school instead of fixing breakfast?IMG_3062

Oh, good, finally some folks who know to feed themselves before we rush off and start the day!IMG_3063

Methinks a career in the WNBA is unlikely. Veterinary medicine in cramped conditions may still be a possibility. – Katie

Throwback Thursday: Music recitals

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I have, over the years, forced various children to take various music lessons. This has included recitals at different times.

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Various children have also protested vociferously that this has been USELESS! Who cares about music! When will I use this stuff anyway! It is ridiculous! And practicing is loathsome!

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I swear to you that I cried with parental joy at every one of these occasions. Yes, that was me, the ridiculous mother blubbering away to the squawky clarinet and squeaky violin.

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I think it HAS been helpful to them. Music is a secret weapon against ignorance, fear, hate, and spite. Playing in an ensemble helps you join your breathing, actions, and intentions to those of all the other people in the group. It is hard to see people as an ‘other’ or an enemy when you depend on them to make art. Music binds us together.

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I am proud of all these kids, and all this music, and all those long-ago recitals.

-Katie

Super Bowl

At Amos’ insistence, we are Patrick Mahomes fans here. So, clearly, the Super Bowl was a travesty. (Why can’t Tom Brady just retire, already? I mean, for heaven’s sake, he’s MY age! One foot in the grave! Probably has an AARP card coming in the mail soon!)

There were some painful moments.

Helen chose to keep her emotional equilibrium by ignoring the whole thing.

Corrie used the time to clean the hedgehog cage.

Bessel, in fine hedgehog fashion, responds to all caretaking with hissing and bursts of annoyed energy.

Even when you are lovey with a hedgehog, they seem mostly indifferent.

Or, it could be that the hissing is actually affectionate, I just don’t know how to interpret it well.

So. Bad, but we made the best of it. What are you gonna do.

-Katie

Things keeping us going, February edition

I think the hardest months are February and August. They always feel arduous. And oddly enough, February also has the distinction of being the month in which James and I have started or finished almost every adult job we have had. February is a month of beginnings and endings. 

So this month, let me tell you what is keeping us going. 

James

1 Coffee with sweetened condensed milk

2 Leaning into love with the people around me

3 The book: “Pappyland” by Wright Thompson

Katie

1 Coco almonds, dates, spicy turmeric almonds and dried bananas. This month I am doing contract work accompanying band kids at different public high schools who learn and play a solo. A school district will pay different pianists to come in and give each child two rehearsals and a performance opportunity. In order to get the rehearsals in, you have to schedule different days to be at a school for a morning or afternoon and just practice with a bunch of kids in a row. It’s good work, but it takes a lot of time and you spend more than you want to driving between schools. More time in the car, less time for meals, and voila! Dried fruit and nuts in the car will keep you going! 

2 My black boots from Land’s End. I bought these 9 years ago on sale with a Christmas gift card that a student gave me (for $60! $60 for leather boots!). I wear them three or four times a week. They are warm and comfortable and I can walk and walk in them without my feet hurting. 

3 Mary Oliver poetry. James has been reading a Mary Oliver poem out loud almost every night before we go to bed. I’ll just admit it – sometimes I fall asleep mid-poem, but most nights it puts a peaceful moment at the end of the day. 

Mindful, by Mary Oliver

Every day

I see or I hear 

something 

that more or less 

kills me 

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

of light. 

It is what I was born for – 

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world – 

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

in acclamation. 

Nor I am talking 

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant – 

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations. 

Oh, good scholar, 

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these – 

the untrimmable light

of the world, 

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made 

out of grass?

Abbey

1. The documentary “Crip Camp” on Netflix (absolutely amazing, you should all watch it)

2. Releasing myself from the UTA Honors College and it’s ridiculous requirements

3. Trying different spice/herb combinations on roasted vegetables

Robby (who refused to answer my question this month and so I am making an outside-observer list)

1. Switching jobs from Whataburger to AutoZone

2. Spending time getting to know my girlfriend’s family 

3. ramen noodles

Corrie

1. embroidering tiny pictures

2. ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ on Netflix

3. Harry Styles

Amos

1 Roastomona tea, my fav

2 Madden 21

3 Basketball on the driveway on our home hoop

Helen

1 School. My friends there, and music, and getting to learn. 

2 Mochi, my fluffball

this is a yawn, not a cat scream. Do not be alarmed.

3 Playdough

-Katie

Change worth celebrating

I am going to post about three different things here. These are not connected; it is a mash-up.

  1. Images from our most recent family trip to the Texas Discovery Gardens in early January. (I love that place!)
  2. A poem by Christian Wiman
  3. Ideas about change

All My Friends Are Finding New Beliefs, by Christian Wiman

All my friends are finding new beliefs.
This one converts to Catholicism and this one to trees.
In a highly literary and hitherto religiously-indifferent Jew
God whomps on like a genetic generator.
Paleo, Keto, Zone, South Beach, Bourbon.
Exercise regimens so extreme she merges with machine.
One man marries a woman twenty years younger
and twice in one brunch uses the word verdant;
another’s brick-fisted belligerence gentles
into dementia, and one, after a decade of finical feints and teases
like a sandpiper at the edge of the sea,
decides to die.
Priesthoods and beasthoods, sombers and glees,
high-styled renunciations and avocations of dirt,
sobrieties, satieties, pilgrimages to the very bowels of  being …
All my friends are finding new beliefs
and I am finding it harder and harder to keep track
of the new gods and the new loves,
and the old gods and the old loves,
and the days have daggers, and the mirrors motives,
and the planet’s turning faster and faster in the blackness,
and my nights, and my doubts, and my friends,
my beautiful, credible friends.

I am a type A person, an introvert, an artist, a musician, a church-worker. For most of my life, I have experienced change as difficult. And everything changes, right? That is as true as anything I know.

My husband has changed since we married. Specifically, his beliefs have changed, partly due to his life experiences. I was taught in my upbringing that it was important for husbands and wives to have the same beliefs. I was told that for a woman, the best path for positive outcomes was to do what your parents taught and helped you to do, and then to give your husband a similar kind of respect and, yes, obedience.

Whether or not I did this well or consistantly, it has been a factor in my thinking and acting for many years of my life. I thought a person’s beliefs were the most important thing about them, and that it was of primary importance for married couples to have the same beliefs.

This has changed about me.

I no longer think that a person’s beliefs are the most important thing about them. There are ways that my husband’s beliefs have changed, and ways that my beliefs have changed, and those ways are not the same.

And I find I love him no less. But differently. In fact, there are ways in which I feel like we have been set free by letting go of the obligation to have the same beliefs. Currently, I work at a church and James does not attend church. At his job, James supports dying people and their families with interfaith spiritual care and practices. I work at a church where specific doctrine informs almost all of their practices. Our kids are becoming old enough to make their own choices with regard to work, religion, education, relationships, and beliefs. James and I occasionally give them different advice. And then BOTH of us work hard to step back and let those choices belong to them.

Christian Wiman ends his poem by describing his friends as beautiful. They possess, and are worthy of possessing, intrinsic beauty. And his friends are credible. Believable. Their beliefs are valid, and worth possessing, and worth celebrating. Those friends are worth more to him than the sum of their ideologies.

This has changed about me: I BELIEVE THAT NOW. A person is worth more than their beliefs. I do not have to share beliefs with a person to love them. I do not need to value a religious system more highly than an individual human. I choose to find value in people rather than their ideologies. I believe people are good. People are worth loving.

I am choosing to let go of the security of a belief system for the sake of openness to a broader range and understanding of what it means to be human.

My thinking of late has lead to a decision to change jobs as well. I have given notice at the church where I currently work, and I start a new position on February 21. I have appreciated being at my current place, and I look forward to new possibilities at the new position.

Everything changes.

These days that is a comfort to me. My life is fuller and richer with these changes. (Even though I STILL find change difficult!)

Thank you for being a part of all this with me.

-Katie