Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Selfish, Selfless, Self-Absorbed, Forgetting Yourself

Recently, because I am wont to participate in Facebook joking and teasing, I teased a friend about her status update. I can't remember it exactly but it had something to do with being childlike vs. being childish. I made a joke about farts or something. She challenged me to come up with an example of being childlike. I was stumped. But I didn't let it go. I've been thinking about it ever since.

Since I enjoy referring to my own work, I will say that it made me think about what I wrote about my childhood memories. There was something there that I couldn't articulate that seemed to contain the very essence of being childlike. The Bible encourages us to have a childlike faith. What does this mean? In my most reflective times--doing dishes, giving and taking baths--I've found myself thinking about it.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about the contradiction that is professed by modern culture. We laud people for being heroic. We also tell people that it's important to have "me-time" everyday. While I don't think the two are mutually exclusive, I think it's difficult to strike a constant balance. Perhaps we aren't meant to. Perhaps we're incapable of constant balance. We are not programmable after all. We are human and prone to sloth and pride. We can overdo being heroic and we can overdo our "me time."

It occurred to me, however, that the way to best balance being heroic with taking care of our needs is to forget one's self. We naturally learn how to protect ourself from hurt, embarrassment and discomfort from early on. Think of how it felt the first time you exuberantly waved back to someone across a distance only to realize they were waving to someone behind you. EMBARRASSING!! This might seem pithy, but I feel like it's a good example of how we learn to protect ourselves from early on.

We cannot appear too zealous or excited about things if other people aren't going to return that zeal or excitement. But children can. My little kids retain the ability to be unselfconscious about their interests. They aren't interested in whether or not I share this excitement, they only want me to listen to their descriptions.

It is this kind of zeal that is necessary for conversion--for constant conversion, for I believe it is a dynamic process. We are constantly being called into closer and closer relationship with God. Whether or not we are responding is what furthers or retards that growth. If we are able to forget ourselves and follow that call we will receive faith in kind. We will grow and mature as Christians. But it is not easy to continually grow closer to God. We will have changing appetites. We will want different things than friends and family who aren't in the same process.

Sharing about that growth requires vulnerability. It requires us to overcome the potential feeling of looking behind us and seeing the actual person who was being waved at. Overcoming the rush of embarrassment when others laugh at our lack of self-awareness. Because becoming more and more consumed with God means we become less and less consumed with ourselves. We will be putting many other things before our "me time" and we will want more of what God wants for us.

So when I think of what it might be like to have a childlike faith it is this: being able to go into your world, your vocation, every day with a foolish grin and a quick, responsive wave to every person that crosses your path--be it a wide, public path or a small, private path. It might even be addressing them by name even if they don't know yours. It is this kind of self-forgetfulness that enables us to want the good grace of God for others and to be able to be transmittors of that good grace.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Six Kids, Catholic

So says Jim Gaffigan. In the spirit of the only equality I can provide my children, I decided to move my blog from this address--heavily influenced by the first born's name--and make it an entirely selfish affair over at

Delphi's Tricks: Old and New

I think she is on the verge of learning how to climb out of her crib. This always makes for difficult nap time. One of her other tricks is to get all settled in her bed and then take a giant poop. This was what she was up to today. And now she won't settle back down for a snooze. It's a matter of waiting to see who is more stubborn--her or her mother.

She delights her sisters with a new trick. When someone is mean to her she points her chubby little finger at them and says, "Mean!" Everyone squeals. The problem is that they enjoy it so much that they hit her--though softly--and annoy her to try to get her to pronounce them as such.

She is definitely at that stage where most things she does can be considered cute and her older sisters are enamored with her. She does, however, remind me of that little poem by Longfellow:

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

It's all true except the curl. She can charm us first thing in the morning and then sneak into her sisters' bedroom and wreck all their Legos and Rainbow Loom creations. This is followed by wailing and gnashing of teeth. There are sometimes pronouncements about her existence--whether or not it is desired--and there is always another sister who gets blamed for leaving the door open. It is a vicious cycle.

The thing that I most appreciate about this sibling love, though, is how Delphina can inspire Stella to burst out into proclamations of love and devotion. "Delphi, you are the cutest!" or, "Delphina, I just love you SO MUCH!" I'm sure she will do the same for Dominic. However, it has taken her three siblings to get to the point where she can truly love with selflessness. It is a beautiful thing to witness. I'm especially thankful because sometimes Stella can be on the grumpy side and Delphina has the power to draw her out of her funk. I don't have to bribe her or send her to her room to pout, she need only be disarmed by the mere being of Delphina. By far the best of her tricks.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Afternoon Doldrums

After lots of maritime descriptions, Wikipedia points this out about the doldrums:

The word is derived from dold (an archaic term meaning "stupid") and -rum(s), a noun suffix found in such words as "tantrum".

So, a stupid tantrum. I'm familiar. I want to throw a stupid tantrum just about every afternoon. What is it about 3:30-whenever Jamie gets home? Everybody needs something. Baby needs to be held and usually so does the toddler. Especially when she's feeling under the weather, like today. Though at the moment she's taken advantage of her siblings' TV staring to ransack their Legos that they left on the floor--per their usual behavior. They will likely become indignantly annoyed at her later.

I could go interrupt her, she will certainly throw a tantrum. I could go interrupt them, they would also throw a tantrum. I will just let it be. They will have to clean up later.

If I look directly to my right this is what I see:

Not bad.

It's definitely nice out. We just returned from the park. Gianna stubbed her toe--just about split it in half. John was listless and weepy because he's feeling under the weather. We met up with my mother who was having a hard time hearing anything we said. So, it was a frustrating little outing. Delphina enjoyed it, though, as there were many dogs out there enjoying their MLK Jr. Day.

On Good Friday Jesus died at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I find this makes sense. When I think about it in terms of what I'd like to throw a stupid tantrum about it's very sobering. I can manage the same old stuff. It all changes quickly. Babies are different from month to month and big kids' temperaments are changing, too. If I can stay focused on doing all the small stuff with love I will emerge on the other side of six o'clock with more love for everyone, myself included.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Down at the Wood Pile

A blog that I've read for a long time recently linked to an article that stresses the importance of play time for children. I admit that I particularly enjoy such articles because I feel validated. Validated that the lack of extracurricular sports and activities in the lives of my children will benefit them in the long run. When I do really consider the idea, though, that free play is important, what strikes me most is how many memories I have of unstructured play from my own childhood.

We moved from Wisconsin to Arizona when I was six. This gives me a very convenient ability to know just how young I was in certain memories. For instance, my memories of playing in the snow are all from very early childhood. As are my memories of interacting with our wood pile. It had many nooks and crannies that I would use as my kitchen. I would store pine cones and twigs, leaves and various other yard items in those nooks and crannies. I had elaborate plans and conversations with my "family" at that wood pile.

I also spent a fair amount of time making bug hotels. I would arrange twigs and leaves at varying levels--poking holes through the leaves to make different "floors" for all the bugs I found. This was very serious business. It was the kind of thing that I could tell someone I was doing and expect that they would automatically understand. It made so much sense to me.

When we moved out to Arizona my bug play had to take on a different order. We swam a lot. Pools are a kind of graveyard for bugs. I would save bugs--crickets, ants and even bees and wasps--from drowning. I specifically remember using these plastic hair pins that were strewn about at my dad's apartment pool (some random lady's hair accessories, I assume). They had a kind of indent at one end that was perfect for holding a tiny drop of water. This was what I would set beside my bug patients to aid in their recovery--necessary hydration for their poolside triage.

I can only assume that the intensity to which I became involved in this play is why it is so etched in my memory. I cannot say that these things made me a more stable person, a more intelligent person or better adjusted than I would have been had I been playing organized games every Saturday or twice during the week. I just know that the examples I've shared are only a few of the memories of playing that I have. I can also say that when I think about those times there is a feeling of warm safety--if that makes sense--and for me to be able to say that about my otherwise tumultuous childhood in extraordinary.

These memories in particular, of playing and interacting with the natural world, were what I thought of when I read a particular passage in CS Lewis' Surprised by Joy describing some of his childhood mystical experiences. Even thinking of it in those terms, a mystical experience, is perhaps the vocabulary I'm grasping for when I say these memories give me a feeling of "warm safety." He says:

"The first is itself the memory of memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to enormous) comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but of desire for what? Not, certainly, for a biscuit tin filled with moss, nor even (though that came into it) for my own past---and before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing which had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison."

I'm not even sure that what he is describing is the same as what I experienced in my free play. But I have this intense other-worldly understanding associated with the time I spent playing. I was doing nothing important and everything important at the same time. I was forgetting myself and those around me in a way that starts to become embarrassing as you get older. It must be that authenticity that Jesus says is necessary to really approach Him. No one can organize that kind of play. It is entirely different from the sports and art that is led by an adult. Perhaps it was those experiences that prepared me for my future conversion.

I'm not going to grieve the loss of that intense childhood play mind frame. I think it served me--and continues to do so in a latent way. I do know that I am made very happy when I overhear my children engaged in elaborate stories and role-playing within ear shot. Even if it only makes me feel better for not enrolling them in YMCA soccer because the thought of regular practices exhausts me.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rule Number C

I like to take really long breaks in between blogging. I get worn out by writing down things that I think. Actually, I get worn out by thinking that someone is reading them and judging me. So, why not make my blog private? Lacks authenticity and vulnerability, right? Why not just blog and close comments? Again, same thought. But I did mention this to a friend of mine who blogs regularly and gets INTO IT with lots of people about politics, religion, etc. She said, "So, turn your comments off." So simple! I don't have to have those comments open. Or, I could just grow up, get over it, whatever current mantra I'm repeating to my children lately.

Let's take score: Of Hanson parents there are two. Of Hanson children there are six! A whole 'nother person has joined the mix since I last visited this my sacred space. (Cheek, with tongue in it, comes to the party.) Latest child, Dominic, spent some time in the NICU. I joked again to my blogging friend (ok, it's Leila) that I should've been blogging all along because NICU baby is blogging fodder!!! Imagine the page views. I jest, I jest. This sixth child has thrown me a curveball of parenting. People say, "Oh, you're a pro at this by now." Which, sure, if everything was always the same. I think I'll start saying to sentient adults who struggle with life, "Oh, you're a pro at this by now, right? After all you're, what? Forty? You've been doing 'life' for FORTY YEARS! You got this!" Or it's like people who say, "Oh, another child. Big woop!" I paraphrase. But someone said something like that when I was expecting my third. I was asked, "Are you excited about this next baby?" And emotionally stunted person interrupted my response to say, "You've already got two, how excited can you be?" Which is like saying. "You've already got a friend, who gives a crap about making another friend?" I mean, what's another soul/personality/person? If that were the case then why do we want to be popular/have lots of friends? Anyway, I spend time thinking about such things. I've also realized that having this public space--really something I started to record life with/for my kids--is a different animal now that those kids can read. And someday they'll want to read...maybe they won't. Now Dominic is crying. Rule Number C: Don't hit people. So says Noni who hits her siblings like it's a saint-making habit.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Six Years After Ovarian Cancer

In some ways my brush with cancer seems so minor. And yet it changed so much about me and about what I really wanted from life. Having been pregnant with my second child when I was diagnosed I would've been at what some people thought an optimal time to become surgically sterile and proceed with life. Once I was faced with the reality that I could choose to never have any more children I knew very much how deeply I wanted to have more children. I wanted to create a community, a family, that was uniquely ours. I knew that I didn't have a moral decision to make: to remove or not to remove all ovaries and prevent any future pregnancies. I chose to proceed on the path that gave me the most peace: keep that left ovary if it was healthy. Be open to having more children. This decision gave me peace. My obstetrician assured me that most people chose the opposite route: remove all diseased and potentially future diseased organs. I will reveal how self-centered I am by saying that I consider this choice almost daily around 3-6pm. This is the time of the day that the stresses of my vocation are the most pronounced. If someone were to observe me unnoticed they would find me sometimes unsuited for this chaotic life. It is also that time of day that I am challenged to do the most Christian thing I can think of doing--to live in the present. God knows our past and future and He tells us to live in the present. And while we plan for things and mourn or celebrate things that have already happened, I feel like there is real fruit that comes from being able to embrace the present, even or especially if it's uncomfortable, and be thankful. Daily around dinner, homework, madness hour I am reminded of this challenge to live in the present. It's all I have with my kids and it's the foundation of what our future will be together. Can I discipline myself to not despair of this time? To pick up whatever shambles we have sometimes hourly made and begin anew? To choose patience and kindness with little people who rarely return it? I could've chosen two children. I could've had relative freedom at dinner time. I chose this. I didn't do it because I am a superior mother or individual, but because six years ago the thought of remaining open to life gave me the peace that transcends understanding. I've had to trust every day since then that God would use this for my good and the good of my husband and children.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dear Hanson kids, I never meant to be away from this space for this long. I really don't have a good excuse. You guys don't take up so much of my time that I can't write. I know I make plenty of time at night for other things like watching Foyle's War and Downton Abbey. The only thing I can attribute it to is fear of man. I had a hard time in 2012. I was very concerned with what other people thought of me. This was a result of some relatively awful words that were spoken about me. About us. I let it bother me too much. I let myself waste time worrying about other people approving of our little (growing) Hanson family. There has been estrangement. It brought with it clarity. I wish I could say that I don't worry one bit about what people think, but it's not true. I still have a soul connected to a very human body that has the burden of this flesh. I worry but I work hard at overcoming those worries. And I do it first for Jesus. Then I do it for your father and then for you. I love people. And I also get annoyed by people. I am loved and I get annoying. This is life. This is why the Lord's prayer is such a good reminder: forgive us and we forgive those who trespass against us. I'm working on it. It's working. But I've wanted to record here in this space all that you mean to me. All that you have brought into my life. All the transformation. During this Lent I have felt more and more that it was necessary to start again. I've been tempted to make this blog private so that I don't incur ANY criticism. But I have been so encouraged by other people and their writing about their lives--their everyday normal lives--that I couldn't bring myself to do it. Not because I have such amazing and profound things to say, but just because after all this time it seems like it's what I'm supposed to do. I have a story to tell. It's your story, too. And I wish I had more of my parents' stories. I wish I had a collective memory of theirs. That is for another time. I am starting anew. And I will laugh at myself if I don't write anything again for months. You are my gifts. My third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh gifts. Immediately following Jesus and your father. Love, Mom