Sunday, September 30, 2012

lyrics in the night

My husband typed this into our phone while unable to fall asleep one night this week.  His creative juices flow easiest into late hours, but our children like to create in the early hours so it's rare these days to receive a gem like this.  He makes me smile.


a folky song...

i found me the daughter of a reverend
to make for me a biker bride
18 speeders purchased from kmart
and matching helmets keep us looking smart

but now instead of doing skids
we walk about the streets with kids

on our backs,
or on our fronts
riding side by side in pram
holding hands,
running loose
bicycles are not in use

and one day we will ride again
one day we will ride again
baby seats installed with help of friends
borrowed bike pump fill our tires by hand
we will ride again


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

on being awake (there's no going back now)

maybe it's the man overdosing on heroin in our little parking lot at 3pm,
my children and i the first ones on the scene.

maybe it's the young guy in his fancy car, all business suited up pulling over for her,
half a shirt and baggy jeans, invisible shackles and not a hint of 'pretty woman' glamour-
and i'm not trying to judge him but i'm guessing he's the demand and she's the supply.

maybe it's the conflict, inevitable in intimacy, whether friend or lover (or both),
i'm faced again with my selfishness, my desert-heart and lack of everything good
(at least it feels that way sometimes).

maybe it's just my son's voice at 6am, offering a slice of playdough pizza
when all i really want to do is scribble in a notebook, drink my coffee, read blogs on my phone or
climb into bed and go back to sleep.

so very much of me just wants to go back to sleep:

to the comfy pillows of life before, when things made sense and it all equalled out
like my eighth grade algebra and the shiny fairness found in Proverbs, of
True Love Waits and it will be easy, follow God close and you'll be happy, healthy and wise;
the world in black and white and a bit of red, and I didn't know how everyone toils and spins and rages and weeps, i couldn't sense the blood on my own hands, it was all 'us' and 'them'.

i'm not sure what exactly woke me up, it was sometime in 2002 while i studied in the Middle East and it could have been the Kurdish village in northern Sy.ria opening their homes to us wandering off the bus hoping for some breakfast and free arabic lessons, or studying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in cities and refugee camps over tiny tea cups, white beards and so many years of hurt.  it was my first experience in community with people who called me out and challenged my self-preservation, who sang my songs with me and held me as i cried again and again.  (some of these people are still in my life in such foundational ways.)  yes, i think it was 2002, I was nearly twenty and my feet were always dusty.

and since then i've been awake.  there are many, many moments (strung together for months sometimes) where i fight it, staunch in my grogginess, apathetic and refusing to admit the morning light.  but it's too late–my two year old knows its morning; he's woken up the baby.

there's no going back now.

as i embrace consciousness there is much pain and darkness, in myself, my neighbours (my street, our world).  so, so much.  but there is goodness waiting, there is grace.  there is freshly pressed coffee and mama-cuddles, the hope of honest conversations and my own conversion once again.  there is imagination and people power movements, forgiveness and mercy that covers justice.  and on the third morning, there is resurrection no matter how deadly the darkness, no matter how abandoned the people.  there is fish and bread on the beach except i'm not the one cooking breakfast and that's always the surprising gift of Jesus,

even when I, like his best friends in his loneliest moment,

just want to go back to sleep.

i wrote this for SheLoves Magazine's synchroblog on "awake".  what does being awake mean to you? 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

a 'brutiful' day in the neighbourhood

My neighbourhood:  it's where I live, where my husband works, it's where a lot of our friends live.  Some days we don't drive our car at all, we have such close access to people and places that we love.  We've lived here 18 months or so and it's feeling like home.

Glennon Melton, who writes at the brilliantly honest blog Momastery, uses the word 'brutiful' to describe much of life.  Life is beautiful.  And life is brutal.  That's just how it is right now - we can be honest, in the same hours we celebrate and we grieve.

My neighbourhood is brutiful.

The other morning I walked with my two children around these streets.  You know those days where you need to get outside as soon as possible, even before 9 because either the day is so lovely or your children are so snotty-nosed and unhappy?  Yes, both of those, so we went.  And at the very top of the alley near us we found this:

Beautiful, hey?  A little garden hung on a chain link fence next to a deserted old service station.  The soil was moist; someone was caring for the flowers and there were greens growing as well.

It's the same alley where, only two weeks before, I saw a man chasing a woman.  I had been watching them as he yelled at her while standing at a phone booth together and she started to walk away.  He followed her, yelling more, and I was alone, just with my baby on my back out walking on a Sunday afternoon.  No one else was really around, so, when I could see her actually jogging away and him following quickly, I called the police.  She wasn't calling for help, but I just couldn't stand by and not do anything, and within a few minutes I heard police sirens, although I couldn't see the man and woman anymore.  Had he noticed the garden as he chased her?

Yesterday afternoon I saw that same woman, tall, lean and exploited, pacing quickly - I'm pretty sure she was waiting for someone to pick her up, to give her money so he could degrade her body like countless people in her life before.  I smiled at her but she was focused and didn't see me.  At least she is still alive.

My neighbourhood is starting to bloom with these quirky shops - the abandoned buildings wearing ancient 'For Lease' signs in their broken windows are hinting at resurrection.  The newest is a vintage clothing store, really cool and with decent prices - yesterday I was walking with my kids and we stared in the windows (it was closed) and I asked Saf which dresses he liked.  (He liked them all.)  A few strides later and Saf yells 'Harow!!' to a woman who smiles at him and answers with matched enthusiasm.  I ask her how she is, I pretend I don't know she's selling her body, I see our common womanness, our shared intrinsic value.   

Sometimes I can't handle the men driving around in their cars, slowing down until they notice the baby on my back.  They are so predictable, drive to the end of our street slowly, make a U-turn and drive back up.  The demand for prostitution is much greater than the supply around here.  I want to flip them off, I call them a pervert under my breath and then confess that they too are worthy of love and belonging, even they have unsurpassable worth.  I know it's true and barely any of me wants to say it, but I do.  Last night my husband and I were walking with our children past the pub on the corner, the one with a 'waitress' on Friday nights.  It was 5pm, still very much light out and I saw her serving the men who were outside in the back, walking in only tiny black underwear with a tray in her hand.  My heart swung between sadness for her and disgust at the men headed in the door, plain old anger at the whole world - that pub is maxed out on Friday nights, a block from my home.

This is the same neighborhood where my new friend left a bag of fruit for me hanging on her door - she was en route to the Middle East on holiday to visit family there and she hadn't had time to drop it at my house, could I please come pick it up.  In the past couple of weeks I've met two new friends at the park, their own babies in tow, and they both gave me their numbers - house numbers, I was welcome to stop over sometime.  And I have, friendship surprising me around the corner again.

Our next door neighbours greet Safran multiple times a day.  He stands on the stairs yelling 'ALAN!!! ALAN!!!' when the white-haired English man isn't there to tell him G'day and ask if he's been a good boy.  (He has.)  Neville, who claimed he couldn't understand my accent although he listened to American country music on the internet a lot, calls Saf his 'little mate'.  The dogs along our alley don't bark at us, even though they are the very loudest and scariest barking kinds of dogs.  I guess that's how you know you're home.

It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, and it's a brutal day again.  A microcosm of the rest of the world I guess, our few streets and the stories that roam them - structures of life and health inextricably intertwined with structures of injustice and exploitation; people who abuse others to medicate their own pain crossing paths daily with those who give love to neighbours at cost to themselves.  It's too easy to yell 'good guys' and 'bad guys' as my own heart shows me I am not too far off the man searching for sex in the middle of the day -the selfishness, the longing for an easy intimacy, sometimes treating people like they exist only for me, the self-hatred and fear of exposure. 

We all need each other to become what we're meant to be - ubuntu - 'your well-being is extremely connected to my well-being'.  I understand this now, on these streets and I see our stories all tangled up together.   The 2 am pub fights, used condoms in the park grass, the misogyny and beautiful exploited women in transcience, my own resistance to forgiveness towards those I love the most - we suffer here together.  Shop owners giving my children bananas, kindness is exchanged over neighbourly moments, a community of friends sharing the daily joy and pain, flower pots hang lively on fences as the morning sun sings mercy - together we are healed.

My son greets everyone we see - his eyes are clear to the beauty.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see the image of God in us all.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

what i'm doing when i'm not blogging.

Justin Bieber at the 2010 White House Easter E...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In an attempt to break my writers block into a million pieces I thought I would just write about things that are filling my life in the past couple of days.

I'm Listening to:

At the moment my husband is sitting on our orangish-red couch ($30 on Gumtree!) playing the guitar and softly singing 'Joy to the World'.  He has a beautiful voice and I imagined every one of my married evenings would be filled with his melodies.  When we were long-distance dating sometimes he'd play songs for me over Skype.  I would cyber-swoon appropriately - lots of romantic emoticons.  The rare evenings we spent together usually involved playing music for and with each other.  He played Sufjan's "The Dress Looks Nice on You" but changed "dress" to "shress" as I almost exclusively wore dresses over jeans at that point in my fashion life.  Sadly our ASBFLDSNNTEO ("actual special best friends living daily and sleeping nightly next to each other") existence has produced only about 2% of the music we imagined.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Children?  Possibly.  And there's some vulnerability about music, especially in the creating, that makes us feel shy of each other - it's one of the remaining frontiers left unexplored for us.  I love when my husband does play to himself in the evening, but I have to pretend that I don't notice or care, or he will stop. :)

What else am I listening to?  We have a playlist on our iPod called "Kids Bop etc" and it's our go-to at the moment.  If my son is ever in a boy band I will completely blame his father.  Saf knows a lot of the words to Justin Beiber's "Baby" and One Direction's "Beautiful".  We're not crazy about the worldview being sung, but the beats are pretty party rockin' and the only place we can handle listening to non-stop proper children's music is in the car.

I'm Doing:

As a kid we'd have semi-formal Olympic competitions in our yard with a few neighbours and somewhere between garbage can+brick stack jumping and 'how many seconds long is your best handstand?' we'd have to also create and perform our best Cheer.  Tonight I wanted to do that again but I could barely recall any of even the most common cheers from Friday night highschool football games.  I tried anyway and Saf was my partner, copying all of my arm, leg and hip movements as if I was gifted and authoritative.  Then we did an impromptu dance routine to my own rendition of "Eye of the Tiger", one of his favorite songs.  Chris laid on the couch smiling and judging us.  Jubee army crawled around trying to ingest paper, as she does.

I went thrift store shopping and grocery shopping ALL BY MYSELF.  It was wonderful and not surprisingly very un-lonely (sorry kids!)  I did spend way too long browsing in the hole-in-the-wall-but-packed-with-designer-labels-for-$8 shop and then had to race through the aisles to grab my groceries but it was totally worth it.  I bought denim shorts, jeans, a pair of shorts for Chris, tights for Jubee (for someday) and a necklace for $24.  And it was all loved by someone already.  That makes me happy and Chris uncomfortable.    

I'm Reading:

Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille.  Whoa.  Blowing my mind.  I picked up a copy in a library bin at the breastfeeding support group (Australian Breastfeeding Association) that I'm apart of.  I'm actually reading it, which says a lot.  Since having children I've only had enough attention span to read blogs - but I'm struggling to put this book down.  I feel many blog posts stirring - if you've read it, what did you think??

I'm Watching:

We had friends over to watch "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" again.  In light of the book I'm reading, which draws parallels between the way we (and our surrounding culture) are parented and our responses to injustice, I have a small stack of questions to ask both Robin Grille and Leymah Gwobee.

Jesus Christ Superstar (film)
Jesus Christ Superstar (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Saturday night we had a couple of friends come over to watch "Jesus Christ Superstar".  Oh my 70's!  I really enjoyed it, especially Jesus' slightly lazy eye and Judas' incredible voice as well as the intense dance moves!  I did fall asleep at the very end, but I didn't want to.  It just happened.  During our intermission for decaf black tea and raspberry-brown sugar muffins we talked about cross-gender friendship, like is depicted between Jesus and Mary.  Dan Brennan's blog on the subject fascinates me. 

We stopped by the beach for twenty minutes today in the early evening.  (Rough life, I know).  We sat on a bench and watched the cold waves crash, the crazy Aussies already in their swimmers (it's barely spring!), surfers and beach roamers - I watched two teenaged lovers make out very passionately.  Chris didn't look, he was too embarrassed for everyone.  That's the difference between me and him.  I almost said something to them as well, except that Chris was right next to me and would have been mortified.  I wanted to say, "don't ruin your life" or something wise like that but I just smiled
as they walked by.  They were oblivious, of course.

I'm Eating: 

Macedonian red capsicum and eggplant relish on crackers.  It's from the little shop up the street and i. can't. get. enough.  I've also had two weekends in a row finding a free-range rottisserre chicken for 1/2 price (don't ask me how long it was sitting there i'm not pregnant so i don't care) and after we devoured the yummy meat (sorry vegetarian friends!!  we are fully back-slidden these days!) I turned the carcass into stock and a very hearty chicken soup ala my dad's recipe.  I'm learning to cook more and more and even enjoying it sometimes.

I'm drinking: 

The most interesting thing I've been drinking lately is saffron coffee in tiny tea cups with my neighbour-friend whose from the Persian Gulf.  We also talked about the oppression of women in her country and mine, misogyny and violence, arranged marriages and advertising.  I love kindred connections between women whose respective media coverage would say it's impossible.  She had me brush up on my Arabic lessons from ten years ago and practice reading like the slowest first grader in the class.  Her 6 year old daughter sat on the floor pointing at pictures for Saf to name.  Jubilee army crawled around trying to ingest paper, as she does.

is this mean?  she liked it (for a few minutes)

first ride in our new (to us) double pram - giggles all the way, although J demanded to be worn on the way home.
The babies are:  sleeping right now.   J has been staying up late this week but tonight she went to sleep soon after her brother.  Last night we only had one wake up between the two of them.  Chris and I were both up at 6:15am with our son because WE FELT RESTED!!!  Usually we have 6-12 wake ups a night although I think Saf is generally waking up less and less.  Maybe.  But whose counting?  (Besides us.)  The good night's sleep was amazing, although we still were late to church and left our house a mess.  mHm.  Obviously sleep deprivation isn't the only thing to blame.  Otherwise the babies are 25 and 8 months this week and just scrumptious.  Saf told me my bobby pins were "buufull" the other day.  All of my mothering is finally paying off:  spontaneous compliments.  

I would love to hear what you've been reading/watching/doing/eating etc - any good blogs I should add to my list?  Any books that you love?  Feel free to leave a comment.  Everyone will be happy then.
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Saturday, September 1, 2012

rashes and electrical fires (still better off than a millionaire)

We had a weird week.  Weeyrd.  It was the week after the four of us had fevers and coughing and let's-just-lay-on-the-couch-wiping-snot-on-mama-all-day kind of feelings the week before.  Lots of tissues, not enough sleep.  We survived, but barely, it seemed.

Then this week all in one day we had bees dropping dead in our house, a strange chemical smell wafting around outside, a power outage that revealed an electrical fire that had been smoldering all day (hence the bees and the smell).  No power for about 24 hours, of course my husband bought a fire extinguisher and MacDonalds for breakfast, and then the electricians worked for a couple of days making everything better.

On top of this my daughter started to develop a rash that quickly became a crazy rash that became a trip to the Emergency Room on the third day because the red patches were developing purple and blueish spots.  "I'm sure you're normally very pretty" the nurse said to her, and I knew it looked bad.  There was a traumatic attempt at taking blood but then a specialist came and said it definitely wasn't meningitis (no need for blood test, we all sighed with relief) just give her steroids and antihistamines.  Within six hours she was all better, although there are some bruisey looking water marks on her chubby little legs.

 The evening we had no power I read some of Brian McClaren's "Naked Spirituality" - he talked about how if there are things in our life that we'd give a million dollars to save, like our vision or hearing, then in having those things now we are better off than millionaires.  I feel grateful for my baby girl's health, that it was just an allergy to medication and nothing more serious, that it wasn't something that threatened her life.

I'm grateful for our little apartment, even though our laundry is down the stairs and outside, even though it leaks when the rains come hard, even though the walls are dingy and the windows are few.  It's our home, us together in there.  I'm so very grateful that the fire didn't do more damage, that it didn't happen at night, that no one was hurt or even scared.

I'm grateful for our friends, our community who had refrigerators to share with us when our power went out, who bought us baby antihistamines, who prayed for my daughter and played with my son and surrounded us and lifted us up with our families a plane ride away.  No matter our income, we will never be poor - the relational riches are vast and secure.

It's Australian Father's Day tomorrow and I'm grateful for the boy I married, 25 months a father but the patience and wisdom run deep like years.  He gives so much to all of us and still lets me have the first sleep-in, still rocks the boy in the night, still wipes the counters while I type.  I think he's handsome every time I see his face.

"I am not going to wear jeans on a Saturday!"

In the small upheaval I got to see what I already have that makes me better off than a millionaire, the treasures I would sell everything for that sleep in my bed even now.