Monday, October 26, 2009

Thirteen Years

Athlete - Black Swan Song on MUZU.

Today is the 13th anniversary of my brother Jackson's death. I wrote about it here last year, and included a video with photos from his life. There's also a bit of his story here. I'd love for you to go see these links and help me remember him today. When my friends and family remember him with me, it soothes my soul and helps me feel close to him again.

The video above is the music video for the song "Black Swan Song" by Athlete. Please watch it. (You'll have to pause the music on my blog sidebar first.) I saw it on Randall's blog, and had to share it today because it reminds me so much of Jackson. There's the obvious connection because there is a soldier in the video and my brother was a soldier also. But when I heard these specific lyrics, tears flowed down my face:
"Though many battles I have won
I lost too many friends I could count on
And I know they'll be the first to welcome me
When I parachute into eternity"

My dad told me once that when Jackson was sick and death looked like a real possibility for him, he talked to Dad about his fears of dying. I am not sure of the exact details of the conversation since it was between the two of them, but I do know Dad reassured Jackson by reminding him of the first time he ever jumped out of a plane when he was a soldier. He pointed out that jumping was incredibly scary because he had never done it before and didn't know what to expect. But Jackson conquered it and went on to complete many more parachute jumps. Dad told Jackson that death is like that. It's scary because you haven't done it before, but you have to jump with faith and know that you will come through it all okay.

When I heard those song lyrics, I thought of Jackson parachuting into eternity and being welcome into Jesus' open arms. And, one day, the same will happen for me. My heart jumps at the thought of a reunion party. How bittersweet.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Family Fort

Thursday was an early release day for our elementary school. When Katie got home, I promised her we would build a fort while Jackson napped.

I cleared all the crafts off our dining room table/craft room table, and put a king size sheet on the table. I found some battery-operated lighted stars, and put those in our fort too. Then we scurried underneath and cuddled.

It was a perfect way to spend a cold, rainy day. We ate mini ice cream cones, then curled up and Katie read me two chapters from her book. This is the first book she's ever read that has no pictures in it - even The Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones have pictures. The words in this book were pretty hard, but she worked her way through it. I was so proud of her!

When Jackson woke from his nap, the three of us climbed under the table to play. That's where Dan found us when he got home from work. Before he even took his shoes off, he got under the table with us. Imagine all four of us, crowded under the table.

I have no memories of my parents making forts with me, much less laying under the dining table with me and my brother and sister. I don't recall them cranking up the music and dancing around the living room. But these are things Dan and I do with our children. I hope it's one of the things they remember about their childhoods, and I hope it makes them smile.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What I've Learned From Leaves

I have been driving around town the last few days, stunned into awe by the beautiful sights of the leaves changing colors. This one is in our neighbors' front yard:

I asked Katie and her friends to collect leaves yesterday (on one of the rare days lately when it isn't raining in the St. Louis area) and then I dipped them in paraffin wax. I read about it here in FamilyFun magazine, and was excited to try it. I'm hoping the wax will help extend the leaves' life and that I can display them in our house. I haven't figured out what to do with them yet, besides just stare at their beauty.

That's when I realized a leaf by itself can be pretty and colorful. A small masterpiece. However, the leaf's full beauty isn't realized unless it is on a tree with the depth and support of other leaves surrounding it. That's when it becomes breathtaking.

That's the way it is for us, too. You can be pretty and nice on your own, maybe even beautiful. But your true purpose and joy shines when you reflect the beauty of your Maker, and those who surround you and lift you up.

Sometimes I don't feel so beautiful on my own, but my Loves and the Light within make me pretty spectacular.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Macro Monday

This was from our apple picking trip a few weeks ago. Ladybugs must really like apples, because they were all over the orchard.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Need. To. Blog.

I have nothing really to write about. But also, so much to say. I feel like I need to catch y'all up on my life, but there are so many details that I can't pick just one. So I'm just going to write and see what comes out. Feel free to move on to something else if this bores you to tears.

Looked at some old videos tonight. Heard my mom's voice again. Then my dad's. And then my grandmother's. The only voice missing was my brother's.

I've been thinking about all four of them the last few days, listening to music that reminds me of them, wondering how happy they are in heaven. It all got me thinking about a project I want to work on to honor my brother's memory. There are at least 15 kids (that I know of) who were named after him. I'd like to figure out a way to tie those boys together and help them learn more about their namesake, so I'm working on contacting those families and piecing something together.

While looking at those old videos tonight, I came across one of Katie when she was about two and a half. Let's see if I can get it to upload here. (You'll have to pause the music on my blog sidebar to hear this.)

Oh, dear God, can time have passed that quickly? That child is absolutely adorable. There is NO way she is the same sassy pants that lives with us now. Right? Uh... wrong. She's still pretty darn adorable (see the photo below), although she is wiser and knows how to turn it off and on. Ha. (And if THAT sense of payback doesn't make my parents happy in heaven, I don't know what will!)

I never mentioned that I took Katie to the City Museum again while she was on cycle break from school. Oh, boy. It was so much fun. We played with clay and cut snowflakes and climbed and drove a bus off the side of the building and jumped through fountains and dove in ball pits and took more than 300 photos. It. Was. Awesome. I just went and looked through all of the photos so I could decide which ones to share with you here. Turns out I can't decide. And since I don't want to write a separate post solely on the City Museum again, I'll pick just this one. It is a perfect representation of our day.

Also took Katie to a nearby pumpkin patch before her break ended. The best part of the visit was this corn box (like a sandbox). I personally could have stayed there all day just playing with corn. It was like a meditation garden.

Two other recent outings with Katie: apple picking and a day camp (both with her Girl Scout troop). I've had lots of one-on-one time with her, which has been great.

Jackson and I have gotten back into our groove now that Katie is back in school. It started out a little rough, though. He got strep last week and it passed on to Dan, but we are all fine now. I've never had strep (that I can remember), and neither have my kids, so this was a new experience for me. I think Jackson also had an ear infection, but the antibiotics seem to have cleared everything up. He's back to being his squirrelly, wily self.

Grandma is taking Katie to see the movie Where the Wild Things Are tomorrow. I'm a bit nervous for her, because I think it might be a little on the dark and scary side. She gets scared when she watches Scooby Doo sometimes. I made both her and Grandma promise that if she gets scared, they will leave the movie. (I don't want to deal with nightmares.)

I'm working on some craft ideas right now, and experimenting to come up with some good Christmas presents. My brain is kind of scattered as I feel my creative side try to tug the rest of me over to full-time crafting.

So... enough rambling for now. I'll end with a photo we took on Wednesday as we were all snuggling in the LoveSac. Yes, I know it's a little blurry. But when you're operating with a remote control and trying to get all four of us smiling at once, this is the best you get. You should have seen the ones from when Dan had the remote and decided to make goofy faces behind our backs.

Have a good weekend.

And to my sister... happy birthday! I am so glad you are in my life. I wish I could be there to celebrate with you. Maybe we'd even go skydiving again. This photo always makes me smile, because you look so great and so happy. I love you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Good Writing: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Wow. Oh, wow! Thursday night, I finished a book that I love love LOVE. And then? On Friday night I got to hear the author speak at Windsor Crossing and then we met him! ! ! ! (I want to add about 20 exclamation points there.)

You have to understand that for me (an aspiring writer), that was pretty awesome. I was totally geeking out. He even autographed my book. (I wish you could see my geeky face as I type that.)

So, let me back up. The book is called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It was written by Donald Miller, who also wrote Blue Like Jazz. (I read Jazz first, back in September. There will be a movie about it too.) I liked Jazz a lot, but Million Miles completely blew me away. Maybe for the sole reason that I am an aspiring writer and Miller talks a lot about the elements of story and how to write a better story.

But, honestly, I would love this book even if I hated writing. Because Miller calls us all into the bigger picture, and compels each of us to write a better story for our lives. In the Author's Note section before the book even starts, he writes, "The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won't make a life meaningful either." The rest of the book spells out that premise with inspiring stories, tasks that he takes on himself (a hike on the Inca trail, a cross-country bike ride), and amazingly ALIVE people that Miller meets.

In the book and in his lecture on Friday night, Miller says that you can't have a meaningful story without conflict. He said, "If you see conflict, dive into it. It might create tragedy and it might create beauty, but it always ends in meaning."

Through his idea that you can write a better story for your life, Miller also touches on topics that I am so hungry for: consumerism, parenting, and even a bit about obeying God and letting Him be the writer of your life. "I believe there is a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness."

I love this part too, on page 58:
"...the realization that I was alive would startle me, as though it had come up from behind and slammed two books together. We get robbed of the glory of life because we aren't capable of remembering how we got here. When you are born, you wake slowly to everything. Your brain doesn't stop growing until you turn twenty-six, so from birth to twenty-six, God is slowly turning the lights on, and you're groggy and pointing at things saying circle and blue and car and then sex and job and health care. The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn't that big of a deal, that life isn't staggering. What I'm saying is I think life is staggering and we're just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given - it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral."

Does that resonate with anyone else out there? How can you not feel compelled to get off your tookus and START LIVING after reading that? Life IS a big deal. And sometimes it hurts and has conflict and "might create tragedy but it always ends in meaning."

Miller also writes about a man he met by chance named Bob Goff. Bob's family starts a tradition in their neighborhood with a New Year's Day parade. The catch is that no one is allowed to sit and watch the parade. You have to jump in and participate. (This Bob Goff guy totally inspires me too.) I love that analogy for our lives: stop sitting and watching and jump in and LIVE.

I can't say enough great things about this book. Please PLEASE go buy a copy and read it for yourself. It is inspiring, uplifting, and some truly good writing. Trust me, y'all!

P.S. Wanna read another take on the book? Go here to see what Anne Jackson has to say. Now you have two good opinions telling you to go read it. So GO!!!

Book photo found here.

Makeup Fun

Katie has a friend named Anna who she met last year when they were in the same Kindergarten class. This year, they are in the same class again and Anna joined our Daisy Girl Scout troop. Since we're on cycle break from school (our district is year-round), Katie invited Anna over to play this past Thursday. It was a cold, rainy day. Jackson was also feeling sick with a runny nose and cough, so it was nice to have the girls entertain each other. I even decided to take Jackson to the doctor, so (with Anna's family's permission) I took all three kids with me.

I digress.

My whole point of posting is because I want to share these photos with you.

I took the kids to Walgreen's and picked out some cheap makeup for the girls to use. They were beyond thrilled, and did each other's makeup while Jackson napped. I expected there to be clumps and blobs of random colors all over their faces, but they didn't do too badly. I mean, it isn't runway ready and it's a little heavy in spots, but it's not the worst I've ever seen.

I can't believe how sassy and old my little girl looks in makeup. Thank God we have a little more time before she hits the age when she'll be wearing it on a daily basis!


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