Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More Owen posts coming soon.

Guess who's almost 1!?  Guess who already had a 'sneak peak' party?  Guess what celebrity photog showed up and took shots of the festivities?  

Guess who'll get to see them right here on this blog?

(That's the answer to the last one.  Unless you're Describe or Owen)


Somewhere in 17th century France there lived a military officer s'appela Martinet (Jean bien sur).   His particular claim to fame was the ability to turn a raw recruit into a lean, mean, killing machine.  The man was such a harsh disciplinarian, in fact, that his name will forever carry a slight negative connotation.   

He had a reason for his strict methods though.  Apparently, back in the day, the gun wasn't quite the laser guided, GPS programable, extremely lethal weapon it is today.  When you shot your musket you couldn't be sure if you'd hit the deer in front of you or the tree right next to you.  Multiply that by a thousand or so and you can imagine the chaos of the battlefield.  With men running wherever they pleased you might end up killing more people in your own company than the enemy - not a good strategy if you want to win.

So this guy came up with an idea.  All the French soldiers would line up, shoulder to shoulder, marching together in a steady rhythm.  When they were close enough to the enemy lines they would fire - but only upon command and everyone together.  With everyone even together in a line they were protected from their neighbor's erratic aim.  And with  all the bullets shot out together like a curtain it didn't matter where exactly they went - the enemy was doomed based on the sheer number hurtling at them at once.

But you have to think about this - the straight line of soldiers was a pretty easy target for the other side.  I imagine it takes serious guts to stare a bullet in the face without flinching.  To accomplish, and maintain, that level order required extreme discipline so that the men would be able reject their natural fight or flight instinct and work as a single unit.  Essentially they were trained to the point where they lost concern for their individual lives (to some extent at least) in favor of the company as a unit.  

Jon has an old Navy saying he's 'fond' of: 

The true meaning of discipline is not punishment.  It's that men would learn to work together to achieve a common goal.
(The recruits would repeat this in unison as they completed push-ups.)  

But it really is true.  France became one of the mightiest armies on the continent because of Martinet's techniques.  The whole succeeded though the individual might perish.   

There is something so powerful about people working together toward a common goal.  The Bible mentions this is the story of the tower of Babel.  God recognized the singularity of purpose among the people and He, Himself, had to disrupt their plans.  

Thank God His plans don't include any fighting like the French.  I really could not handle that.  But the Bible does describe His promises for when His people work as one - the nations will say "show us your ways".  Incredibly that means there ARE answers to the craziness of this world.  There is a better way that IS something people globally can learn from.  It's not just fairy dust and good feeling either - but real solutions to real leadership, economic, social problems.   

Men are working together to achieve a common goal.  Life without all the messed-up-ness.

There are just waaaay fewer push-up involved.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I have plenty of gaps in my brain - spots where the axons and dendrites sticking out from my poor tired neurons are slightly withered and curled, too worn out to hoist those electrical impulses across the micron or two that separates them.  So they keep memories, and other useful bit of information hoarded up.  Why those neurons are tired is beyond me.  It's highly doubtful that my life has been so exciting up to this point that some down time is necessary.  Although it could have been.

I just can't remember.

Every now and then I'll catch a fleeting glimpse into the past.  Oh, I DID go roller skating!  It was for Britney's 12th birthday.  I wore those awesome turquoise AND pink socks - layered (because that was cool, uh huh.)  We ate her cake in the smelly banquet room with the one-piece plastic chairs and the full window so you could see the disco ball flashing during the slow songs.  

That did happen, right?

Anyway, I've come to terms with the fact that much of what I experience on a day to day basis will be lost.  If I'm lucky some of it will get mashed together into 'group' memories.  Composites of life.  Like the time I was driving home after a rough day in third grade and all I could think about was the quickly approaching college application essay deadline and my loose baby tooth that I was dreading having to pull. 

Everyone has had those memories, right?

I journal as much as a I can but even then I'm only scratching the surface of all those sweet moments with Owen, the meaningful talks with Jon, the laughs with Gina and our friends, the words of encouragement that help so much from family.  

But it's not like this is a new problem.  Or one unique to me.

The night before our wedding Jon and I were surrounded by friends and family - eat
ing and laughing at a little Italian restaurant in Harrisonburg, VA.  Despite the stress of the preceding weeks we were getting ready to be ushered into a new realm of life bundled up with the love and support of so many close people.   It was a special moment and I whispered in Jon's ear that we should take a moment, absorb this, remember this, wrap it up and tuck it away.  We sat close together,  singles for the last time, watching the scene around us.

I don't remember everything from that night.  A few minutes later Jon's groomsmen picked him up and carried him out of the room without saying goodbye (but I'm over it, really) and the moment was swept away as I went back to my half-unpacked apartment alone.   But there is a sense of that night that I still carry with me.

I store it along with the sense I kept from the first moment we found out we were pregnant, the moment I knew I was in labor, the moment I met Owen.  Those treasures are still there.  Details are lost, but the flavor and spirit of the moment, the unspoken transactions, the sound of my heart exploding in my chest, the feeling of anticipation, the nervous excitement, those things are still there - easy to conjure up and roll around in my hands a bit to re-experience.

This year one of the goals highest up on my list is to continue and expand this commitment to LIVE IN THE MOMENT.  To be present, to be aware. To ponder things in my heart more.  

One day I'll relive my life.  I picture it being on a huge, drive-in movie screen.  With popcorn.  There will be a lot of laughing, a lot of crying, a ton of "I totally forgot about that!" moments.

It will be wonderful.  And scary.  

For now though I'm content to live with dark spaces, blank film mixed in with memories.  I know I'm saving the best bits.  And I can rest easy knowing that, even if I don't remember it, I made the most of all the moments in between. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I've been thinking about this for awhile - and maybe using this week's word is a tiny bit of a stretch - but I might as well take the opportunity.  It's just a reminder anyway - not a sermon or anything.  Some people don't realize that the diamonds you buy, stick in your engagement ring, in your ears, around your neck, in your grill, whatever, can include a microscopic laser-engraved number, guaranteeing the ethical discovery, recovery, and cut/polish of your sparkly gem.

Some people don't realize what the alternative to all that ethical-ness is.

Here is where I have to admit that I don't really grasp the fullness of what happens in the diamond mining industry.  I did get to see a corner of that world a few times though.  And it bugs me sometimes how I get so comfortable in MY realm that I lose awareness of OUR realm.  The real one that includes the real world and the real people doing real backbreaking, sweat pouring, hard, hard work so I can have little luxuries like a diamond on my finger that is supposed to represent eternal love and commitment.  (Even though most of the world manages the same love and commitment without a shiny stone.) 
But I did say this wasn't a sermon.  And it's not a rant against diamonds.  I have one.  It's a beautiful antique ring Jon and I found in this small jewelry store in Ephrata.   Inside is an inscription that says R.L.H. to A.E.N. 4/22/32.  I love imagining the couple that it represents - the romance they had.  I wonder how they were affected by the then coming war.  In my mind it was a strong and full love and Jon and I have only picked up where they left off.    

Back to diamonds.  I've been to mines in Ghana where some of these tiny stones are dug out of the mud.   Nothing can help me take you there in person but let me try to describe what I see -what you would see if you were there.  

You drive for several miles along a mud track through short palm forests and empty fields.  Occasionally you see a farmer attacking the brush with a machete, in a fight to clear a small patch of land but otherwise there's not much around.  Nothing to indicate that you are close to a rich diamond pocket.

The only identifying feature when you reach the pits are rows of thatch stalls along a wide path.  They're mostly empty now as the miners are at work but at lunch time they'll be filled with smoke, cooking food and hungry men and women.  As you walk past, the path narrows and starts to follow a small, shallow stream.  

Off the path, up away from the stream, is another gathering of wooden shelters.  

Under sit a team of women hard at work.  They balance shallow pans of dark stones, garnet, the size of pin heads.  With black combs they card through the stones, searching with sharp eyes for any speck of diamond that the other miners missed.  Whenever they find one they pop it in a tiny vial, no more than half an ounce, filled with water.

Farther down the path you begin to see people milling about.  A steep climb brings you to the mouth of the pit which opens surprisingly fast in front of you.  

About four stories deep and as big as a city block, the dirt walls just drop off from where you stand.  Straight down. Probably 100 people (or more) swarm all over the pit.  Everyone is moving.  Digging, filling, carrying huge shallow bowls filled with rocks and dirt up, up, up the steep ledges to the top.   

A couple hundred feet away is another massive hole.  Half of this one is filled with water.  The mini-pond is lined with upside down metal drums.  

Men wash through the gravel and mud, slowly sifting the rubble down to the finer stones.  

These are then inspected for the clear, jagged, rough diamonds.   Once it has been sifted and searched several times the dregs are given to the women under the wooden shelters to sift a final time - they cannot afford to miss a single diamond - even tiny shards are kept.

We talked with the owner of the land.  He explains that the men and women work in multi-person teams, often by family or village.  Each team is assigned a plot within the pit.  There is no guarantee that they will find anything other than dirt and rocks in their area but assuming they do find a diamond they will sell it to the land owner for a tiny fee.  The equivalent of a few dollars.  He sells it to a merchant, who sells it to a larger diamond merchant, who sells it to yet another merchant or, if he's big enough, to the government.  

The government sells the diamonds in bulk packages to companies who then send them to be polished (enter the lapidary).  In all likelihood they make it to De Beers where a huge markup is assigned (but I'm not going to go into my thoughts on the artificially inflated prices here).  Then a love struck young man, with no knowledge of this path, and probably no general diamond knowledge either, gets a hasty lesson in cut, color, clarity, and "princess" vs "marquise", spends two months salary on the brilliant sparkle, and places it on his beloved's finger in a joyful, teary moment.

Which is FINE.  But the truth is that the worker who first uncovered that dirty little gem gets nothing.  A few cents, a few dollars at most.  Finding a diamond doesn't set him for life.  Finding a hundred diamonds doesn't set him for life.  

Conflict could easily turn a situation like the one I described into a full scale factory operation -  pumping money into war and destruction.  Despite the safeguards in place to minimize the sale of conflict diamonds, thousands still slip though the cracks annually. 

Again: if you want a diamond - buy one.  Nothing is wrong with that.  Buy a few.  I'm a big fan of the triple stone rings.  So pretty.  Or the channel set bands.  I was born with the eye of a magpie - trust me - I understand shiny things.  

But - why not do a little research, find out how to get a diamond that isn't tied to exploitation and conflict?  Spend an extra hundred dollars or so - the diamond is forever anyway, right? - and buy one with the laser engraved serial number.  Buy a diamond second hand and have it reset or a locate a vintage ring.  Or, if you're inclined, maybe rethink your gemstone needs altogether.  There are alternatives and a beautiful band can be just as meaningful - regardless of what the billboards tell you.   

My conclusion was to be more conscious - in every area of life - of how my actions and choices really represent one piece of a long chain of events.  I have a choice to support certain actions and discourage others.  

And you do too.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


This is where I write an essay about dailyness.  Except that I have no essay in my head that is willing to come forth and be put on paper.  It might be something about the blog being public - and, in theory, accessible by the world.  My words have stage fright - rooted in a historical distaste for writing (my own writing that words have no problem with other people's writing).  

Oh essay.  Why do you insist on holing up in some deep brain crevasse,  just beyond the reach of logical, flowing thought?  I feel like I have to come up there with some nice treat to gently lure you from your hiding spot.  Come here little writing's ok.  Look!  A cookie!  

I guess that's why I started this challenge as a New Year's resolution.  One essay a week.  Based on a random word from the dictionary.  No cookie reward built in but maybe I can work something out.  Blogging makes it more accessible to Jon, my motivation, and adds that slight edge of peer accountability, even if imagined.  

And weekly is manageable, right?  I would love to make it a daily challenge but figured I start with something that might actually happen.  Plus, a true daily is a long shot.  I highly doubt blogging would ever fall in the true daily category.  Even with cookies.  

After all, the list of things that I do daily, sans fail, is pretty short.  Let's call it manageable.  Kiss Owen, eat, pray, sleep, (I wish I could say kiss Jon but there is that occasional day when, unfortunately, I don't remember him leaving before I wake up and he's back after midnight) feed Owen, brush AND floss (I loooove flossing), change a diaper or twelve.  See, short and manageable.  I will definitely do those things and so I can feel like I accomplished my necessary tasks every day.  Essay writing will, more than likely, never be considered an essential daily function and so will never appear on this list.

Then there is the "daily minus the occasional" which includes the above mentioned kiss of Jon, reading the Bible, washing dishes (occasionally the dish fairy gets to them before I do), checking email...this one goes on a little longer.  There is potential for essay writing to fall here.  If I get paid.

The "slightly more than weekly" category is where I do things like shower, leave the house, respond to emails, etc.  Lots of room to fit things in here.  Even more room in all categories below, the weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, yearly etc.

A place for everything and it's all about priorities.  Which are currently getting a bit of a shakeup.  A new decade makeover.  An ordained adjustment.  The result of which will be a new and improved me.  With less writing shyness.  

So look for blogging to be at least weekly.  Although if you're more interested in Owen than in my random word essay - feel free to skip.  Owen posts should be bi-weekly at least.  He's my big daily right now.

Oh, look.  Week 1 is already done!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

11 Happy Months

The New Year also marked 11 months of life with Owen.  I don't think I got fireworks for my 11 month birthday - lucky boy.

And now the countdown begins until the 1 year mark.  Oh, time!

A year ago Jon and I were part giddy, part super serious about the impending expansion of life.  In the midst of great joy and excitement there was serious thought and LOTS of serious prayer...

For depth of spirit in our still unnamed baby
For grace during the intimidating transition
For patience and WISDOM
For motherhood and fatherhood
For growth - whatever that meant - surrounded by peace

And daily, hourly even, I hear my spirit search for more of these same things.

And daily, even hourly, I realize what a gift stewarding this life is.

Happy 11 months Owen.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Our Dance

2009's clutter

Christmas toys

New Years Dance

Forever Love