Monthly Archives: March 2012

Down syndrome and The Guardian

Thanks to Netflix, I can catch television shows that were on years ago, and that I had no time or interest in watching when they were available as first run shows. I recently started watching The Guardian, which aired around 2001-2004. There are a total of 67 episodes in the series and I’ve been just watching them one after the other.

The main character, Nick Fallin, is a corporate lawyer who is court-assigned 1500 hours of community service serving those who need legal services but cannot affordthem, mostly children, owing to a drug conviction. Nick may be the most emotionally repressed character I have ever seen in a tv show or movie. As a matter of fact, I wonder at how he is even able to have a relationship with a woman with as little as he says or admits to feeling.

His girlfriend, Lulu, gets pregnant. I realize this is a television show and there are writers behind the scenes trying to create something that will keep the ratings high, but I really had a deep appreciation for the episode when Lulu discovers the baby she is carrying will be born with Down syndrome. The season 3, episode 14 is entitled, All is Mended.

One of Nick’s clients in this show is a 23year old man who has Down syndrome, and this is Nick’s opportunity to understand a little more about what Down syndrome means. The young man, Mark, is preparing to audition for a Shakespeare play whose director always employs at least one person with disabilities. Mark prepares this portion of a speech from Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“If we shadows have offended
Think but this
And all is mended”

Nick and his girlfriend take Mark to the audition, but Mark gets stage fright. Nick encourages Mark and walks him to the stage where he goes on and recites the lines.

Nick shows more emotion when around Mark than you ever see in any of the other 55 or so episodes i have seen thus far, and I think that maybe even the writers couldn’t have anticipated what it does to a person who is open to loving someone with Down syndrome. I loved the depiction of Down syndrome in this episode, the reality of the struggle that many go through when they receive a pre-natal diagnosis, and how incredibly powerful it is to come face to face with a beautiful someone born with this condition, as opposed to what’s “in the shadows” when a diagnosis is first given.

Certainly, parenting a child with Down syndrome is not easy, but there is something unique and deeply moving about loving someone like our son Kepler. I’m so glad for this reminder, especially today.

A Whole Lotta Building Going On

I was watching my current netflix tv series, The Guardian, and thinking about today, and what I might write about tonight. Seemed like a very lazy day, with little newsworthy to share.

Then I remembered that my resident farmer, Farmer Greg, decided to build a new chicken coop. Mind you, we only have two chickens, and they have a lovely coop, but FG is ready to expand the herd, so decided to prepare a new home for them. He found the plans here and used Home Depot’s handy online ordering system to rustle up the supplies for the project. Did you know that Home Depot will put the order together and then text you when it’s ready! Technology is a boon to mankind!!

Besides the chicken coop getting started, FG also reinstalled the rain barrel, cut the grass, bought popcorn from like six different stores, and took Kepler to tennis. Between all of us, we managed to grocery shop, play some b-ball (My opponent did NOT let me win, but I won anyway!), shop for spring clothing, lift weights, cook dinner, wash dishes, walk on the treadmill, watch 7 episodes of The Guardian, jump on the trampoline, and run errands. Just a regular Saturday in the lives of Siouxsie’s family, but with the wonderful addition of Valerie being home for Spring Break. She goes back tomorrow, but it has been lovely to have her home.

Kind of a quiet day, but we enjoyed it as a family, and that’s one of the best things there is.

The Hunger Games

Thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and give my two cents worth on the event of the week (in some circles, anyway.)

I guess I’m going to have to admit at some point that I’m not in the major demographic audience for teen fiction, although I actually read a teen novel yesterday. I actually checked out the first Book of the Hunger Games trilogy way back when. I read a little of it, but couldn’t really get into it, so returned it without even getting through half the book. Fat lot of good I’d be at forecasting books that will be made into movies that bring with them crazy anticipation.

As for the concept of books being made into movies, I have almost always preferred the book to the movie. And for some of my favorite books which really sparked my imagination, such as the Chronicles of Narnia, I didn’t even want to see a film version of them. After I saw Dustin Hoffman play Willy Loman in death of a salesman, I couldn’t ever hear the Loman name again without Dustin’s crooked smile coming to mind. I will say that I loved, loved, loved the film version of Les Miserables, even though Liam Neeson will forever be Jean Valjean to me. There is, of course, incredible lasting power in the visual image, and the images of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation in Les Mis were absolutely beautiful to me.

I’m not sure why I was so adamant about keeping the Narnia story alive in my imagination, without being influenced by Hollywood. I just know that I found the written stories to be beautiful and powerful and I didn’t see how a movie could improve on that.

Another subject I have been pondering this week is this fascination I’m seeing with going to midnight showings of these big blockbusters. I admit, I have stood in some very long lines to see my beloved U2 perform. That makes plenty of sense to me. But there hasn’t been a movie, maybe ever, that I’ve been anticipating enough to want to stand in line for hours and stay up half the night to watch. Even when going to the actual theater was a weekly thing for me, I was content to see movies when they had been out for awhile. Maybe these days, going soon after opening is the only way to preserve the newness, the freshness of the movie just come out. I suppose it might be a good thing that these days we can access a hundred reviews of a movie with just a few keystrokes, but maybe a lot of it boils down to personal preference.

I think I’ll give the Hunger Games trilogy another go. I like to be aware of what is current, and it’s nice to have a coherent, intelligent contribution.

I’m glad for people who love these books and are loving the movie and enjoying the anticipation that goes along with it. But I’m not too sure I really understand it. And there you have it. Two whole cents worth.

The timeliness of considering distractions in my life

My friend, Shelly Wildman, has a blog I subscribe to and very much enjoy. Here is her latest post, entitled Digitally Distracted which coincides with an experience and conversation I have been having as a result of being in Wheaton for the last couple of days.

Without admitting the embarrassing number of electronic devices we have between the seven of us, suffice it to say each of is well-endowed with multiple opportunities to plug in any old time we want. I think it’s excessive, myself. I’ve wrestled with the “generation gap” between what my generation thinks about electronics and what my kids’ generation thinks. Clearly, for this younger generation, normal everyday life includes a cellphone, computer, and music generator of some sort at hand, and with more than one item in use. As far as I can tell, they have no idea what it really means to unplug, to be unconnected digitally to their friends and to enjoy the wonders of silence. (No offense intended to my offspring.)

My rationale for being plugged in all the time, at least to my phone, is that I am often apart from one or more of the kids, and the expectation from schools, etc., these days is that parents are accessible. As Greg is on the road so often, i feel it is important to be the available parent. Besides the schools, I think it is important to be accessible to my kids when I am away. There are a select few times when they know they cannot reach me by phone, but those times are few and far between. More than one of my kids has texted me late at night, and at this point, I recognize that I want to be available to opportunities to communicate with them. Having my phone along all the time enhances this communication.

While in Wheaton, though, I found myself in a couple of places where I absolutely did not want to disrupt anyone’s experience, so I turned my phone to silent, which was a drastic step for me. I almost always leave it on vibrate, but in this particular setting, I didn’t even want that noise to occur. During that meeting, I received a phone call from my daughter, 350 miles away, in charge of my young son. While I surreptitiously texted her, she called again. Then she called Greg. This is completely understandable, as she knows that I often miss calls, even though I am trying to be available. She received my text and we were able to work out the problem. But during the time I was texting, I missed what was happening in the meeting. I was digitally distracted.

Normally, I consider myself pretty able to text or talk and do other activities at the same time. I wonder if that is because some of the activities I do are not particularly compelling or meaningful. The meeting I was in was both meaningful and compelling, and it was good to notice how much I missed by attending to something else.

While in chapel at Wheaton yesterday, I again put my phone on silent and just checked it periodically in case one of the kids had texted or called, but I did not text at all during the service. Truthfully, at my own church on any given Sunday, I often use my phone for non-service related activities. Our church auditorium is dark, like a theater, but they condone use of phones and iPads during the service since many people do use their phones to access their electronic Bible or take notes on the service. At our church, sometimes there’s even something worth taking a picture of.

I think what I learned is that I want to be sufficiently engaged where I am so that my phone stays in my purse. I’m recognizing that failing to engage with what I am doing short-changes me and whoever I am with. I do so much waiting every week, at this appointment and that, that my phone is a welcome companion during those times. But, again, for me, it’s time to consider what these digital distractions are taking the place of.

I dare say the example I am setting has been caught by my kids, regardless of whatever I may have taught. Sometimes the prospect of figuring out the path I need to take, as well as figuring out the parenting piece of it, can be a bit daunting. That’s why I love having resources such as Shelly’s blog, which address the parenting piece of it as well.

What about you? Do you have anyone who is dependent on you? What do you think about being unavailable to them at times?

Human Dignity, Personal Dignity

Being here at Wheaton again has been such a breath of fresh air. It’s a beautiful spring day, with a slight breeze, sunshine, the bluest sky, and the trees are in bloom. Coupled with the beautiful campus, I’m having a much more refreshing time than I might have anticipated.

We drove up on Tuesday and since Valerie didn’t have anything scheduled until Wednesday, I got the bright idea to check out the calendar of events, just in case there was a play being performed. Although there was not, I did read about a lecture by Dr. Gilbert Mielaender, of whom I had heard, but about whom I knew nothing else. (I am sitting in the Wheaton College English Department lobby, so I am trying to be extra careful about grammar and punctuation.)

Greg was excited to hear about the lecture, because he is very familiar with Dr. Meilaender, through the Mars Hill Audio Journal, a monthly interview series dealing with matters of culture and faith. Dr. Mielaender has been interviewed multiple times by Mars Hill founder, Ken Myers.

Valerie expressed interest in attending, and I was personally excited because the topic was “The Dignity of the Human Person.” Having read stories over the years about how and who human dignity is and is not afforded to, I had a deep thirst to hear such a brilliant Christian thinker discuss the issue.

After references and/or quotes to or by the likes of Kant, Hobbes, Chesterton, Kirkegaard, Aristotle and others, I felt my brain come alive with my long-dormant joy of learning, of being stretched in my thinking, of wrestling with deep and important issues of life.

I came away from the lecture with a deeper understanding of human dignity and personal dignity, which are rather two aspects of a larger unity.

Here’s what I got out of it: there are of course distinctions among humans when it comes to abilities, or how fully a human is flourishing. To the extent that someone has a greater ability to flourish, and is doing so, that person has a greater amount of human dignity. But, personal dignity is afforded to every human, regardless of abilities, or even possibility of accomplishment. Every person is afforded personal dignity by virtue of the fact that each of us is equidistant to God. Dr. John Crosby said something along the lines of this: our innate unrepeatability brings about a kind of equality among all persons. You can read more about that here.

The most immediate application I see for this is in regard to children perhaps like our son, Kepler.

There are those thinkers, notably Peter Singer, and others who are probably firmly ensconced in their insulated ivory tower, who believe that some people are not worth keeping alive. There’s never been the slightest question in my mind that every person deserves to live, regardless of their abilities. Dr. Meilaender’s “ethical Christian reflection” (to quote a comment made by Dr. Roger Lundin today) put this huge concept into beautiful words of life, humbly connecting many great think thinkers throughout the ages, with grace and humor.

We each have personal dignity because we each stand in relationship to our Creator. This thought will inform my responses now to things I read about the concept of dignity and the worth of different types of human beings, or individuals. And I am so looking forward to investigating the many books and authors he mentioned in his lecture. I may not be able to fully understand Camus, but I can certainly digest the portion shared last night which speaks to this issue.

As we return to Concinnati tomorrow, I will be on the lookout for other opportunities to participate in this type of ethical Christian reflection.

On a College Visit!

And not just any old college, either! Greg and I have brought Valerie to visit our alma mater, Wheaton College. Such a beautiful campus and so many great memories of our time here. There’s something so sweet about rounding the corner and seeing the big Wheaton College sign on front campus.

Since the majority of Valerie’s scheduled events occur tomorrow, we checked the event calendar for tonight and discovered that Gilbert Mielander was speaking tonight, in a free lecture on campus. I didn’t exactly know who he was, but I had heard his name. His topic: The Dgnity of the Human Person. I will let the meat of that lecture stew overnight and blog about it tomorrow.

Valerie loves this campus so far. She’s going to visit classes tomorrow, experience Chapel, have a campus tour and spend the night in a dorm.

She will find out the outcome of her application in early April. If accepted, she will transfer here as a sophomore this fall. We are praying toward that end.

The Hand Surgery That Wasn’t

Today was the day I was going to have the cyst removed from my finger. But I didn’t. All I can say is I had a dream about the surgery that left me so troubled that I decided to listen to what my gut was telling me, which was, Today’s not the day for this. Don’t know why, but I know I’m glad I didn’t have the procedure done.

It’s not like anyone else would really notice it, or if they did, that they’d care. It’s not green, or hairy, or shaped like a troll. It’s not painful. It’s not going to get worse. There’s just something about the fact that it is THERE that troubles me. It CAN cause some deforming of the nail. I just find it interesting that for almost everything medical, I take a big time “wait and see” attitude. Most things resolve with time, it seems. And yet, I was ready to jump right into a surgery less than a week after this was diagnosed, and I just think that is interesting.

What I wonder is whether the idea of doing something to resolve A problem with my hand was bringing me relief from the ongoing tension I experience about the fact that I seem to be developing some arthritis in my hands, and a couple of other hand issues. I know that when I heard there was such a thing as a hand specialist I was Amazed and Excited. I didn’t know such a specialty existed. I made the appt and planned to bring up the other hand issues during the appointment. Instead, I came away only with information on what the surgery would entail, including the possible side effects, which included numbness and stiffness in the finger.

I have a sense of something I need to do nutritionally, which may not affect the cyst, but very well may impact the health of my joints. Time again practice asking my good questions. What result do I want with my health? What am I willing to do to make that happen. The answers to these questions will require me to step up and engage and really show up. That can be very challenging for me since my story is that I have a lot of stress in my life, and that nutritional “thing” will require me to handle the stress in some other way.

Just another reminder that this life is a journey, and that it is filled with opportunities. This is an opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.

Crossroads church, 3 years later

Three years ago, I visited crossroads church after an invitation (or invite, or “ask” in cooler parlance) from my personal trainer at the time. He invited me before he violated the terms of his drug arrest parole, and completely disappeared from the scene. He was at my first service (“at service” was how he said it, dropping that pesky article) and introduced me to the friends he was with. It was nice to be known by someone in such a huge group of people. I was swooning at the music from the get-go, struck by the hipness of everyone on stage and I seem to remember that the talk (no messages or sermons here!) was filled with humor, transparency and even some Scripture!. A few weeks later Greg and I attended our first Super Bowl of Preaching service. I joyously cheered at the amazing creativity, and marveled that Moeller High School’s marching band swarmed in at halftime and put on a “dope” show.

In a couple of months, i was chomping at the bit to become one of the “thousands of volunteers who keep this place going.” Four months in, I began to volunteer at the Info Center. And soon enough I was attending a service on both Saturday AND Sunday, volunteering on Saturday, attending the service on Sat and then going a second time on Sun, amazed every week at all i was getting out of the service, the message. Soon I was creating a custom message guide for my family, complete with personalized application questions, after each Saturday service so they could use it on Sunday morning. I was SOLD on the Crossroads brand!

One could imagine that I might hearken back to my teen years and remember what effect it had on me to change churches in my junior year of high school to a church all the way across town. Being across town made getting there a time and traffic nightmare. Being new to the youth group brought about the challenge of breaking into a new scene at a point where I was getting close to being finished being in a youth group. For the first time in my life, but unfortunately not the last, I was faced with the challenge of assimilating into an established group. After about a year, I was off to college, as were the other kids my age, and the tenuous connections I had made were weakened by distance and infrequent visits to church on rare weekend visits home.

And yet I blithely put my own kids into the same position. My life as a teen had basically operated around a nucleus of the local church, and so I was motivated to try to become a part of the new, already established group. My own kids, however, had grown up in a different church environment, and so the chances were almost none to none that they would assimilate into the giant youth group called Crossroads Student Movement. They preferred the “mainstage” service anyway.

I felt so sure that the huge “congregation” (not a word I ever heard at Crossroads) was manageable if I just kept on the prescribed path for getting “connected.” (a word I have heard quite often at Crossroads) Along came the first “all-church journey” and I said YES! What a great idea to get everyone in a group for six weeks, all going on a carefully and creatively crafted path together. Didn’t hesitate for a second to join a group and participate to the best of my ability. I was excited to be a part of the some 50,000 people all doing the same study! Wow! How ecumenical and inclusive and stuff!

We loved our group. 4 married couples, and the occasional single lady who came a few times. At that point, nothing bothered me! It was all good! At the last of the six group meetings, Greg and I expressed how much we had loved the group and let them know that we would love to continue, that we needed this type of connection with people in the busyness of our deep-in-the-midst-of-parenting stage of life. I was pretty surprised when the rest of the group demurred, asking for some time to recover from the 6-week group before we had to meet again. Needless to say, the group did not continue. We met for dinner a couple of times in late spring and early summer, and I realized that without the structure of the group process, we didn’t have quite as much in common as I had first imagined.

Although still technically a Crossroads attendee, I no longer volunteer. I am no longer so enamored with the edgy, with-it people and processes. I think there is a wonderful depth to Brian, the senior pastor, and Chuck, the associate pastor, or co-pastor, or whatever he is called. I know there are loving, caring people in this church who genuinely want to see people grow, and especially see children really embrace The idea of following Jesus. There is clearly a clarity in the stated purpose of the church, from its facility usage, to decisions about who is allowed to give out information, to choices about exact wording and gestures to use to be as welcoming as possible, kind of like I think Walt Disney World employees might do it. Yep. All that’s true. And this isn’t about whether or not some place is perfect, because no place is or can be or ever will be.

Maybe it’s partly knowing I will never be a part of the Inner Circle, that my station in life and age and background and needs maybe really aren’t the kind of station, background and needs that get the attention and focus of the big-picture planners.

Maybe it’s partly understanding that the emphasis on getting everyone engaged in the “all-church journey” precludes really focusing much on getting people connected to other Christians in a small group setting. The people onstage all seem to be connected in small groups, and I am happy for them, but they must know something I don’t know. Maybe with such a large staff, it is fairly easy to do life together. Such a cool place to work. Such outside-the-box thinking. Obviously really creative people at the heart of this thing, people who know how to get things done.

Maybe it’s partly that their focus on not being religious has left an empty space where religion used to be in me, and that I’m finding some new, very alive things to fill that space. Getting rid of the false guilt, leaving behind the drive to always be focused on what I “should” do, and shifting my focus from behavior to character and joy — these things have been part of my experience at Crossroads, but I wonder if the powers that be would be happy those things are gone and sad that I haven’t found the non-religious aspect of Christianity to be fulfilling.

Just recently, I visited my main childhood church for a 50th anniversary celebration. Little has changed there. They preach sermons based on Scripture. They are not trying to be emergent or seeker-friendly, although they are certainly not trying to be seeker-unfriendly. They serve Communion exactly the way they did 40 years ago when I was there. And they seem to still have the type of community I remember being a part of. It’s a smaller church, so those types of relationships become more possible, at least for me. I was not part of the decision to leave that church — we kids just got in the car and rode to where our parents took us for church. I wonder what it is like to be a part of a place that seems to be more “religious.” I don’t want the religious piece, but it would be nice to share regular times with people through the focal point of church. I think.

I’m still at Crossroads because my two youngest kids are finding community and connection there. As long as they are growing, we want to provide that opportunity. But this strikes me as a great opportunity to ask myself some good questions right about now. I acknowledge that we will probably always be a very small fish in an extremely large pond as long as we are there. I don’t need to be a big fish. I’d just like to be a fish that swims well with others, that enjoys the wonders of the ocean together, that has occasional adventures like jumping UP! out of the water and then back in. Not sure I see that ever happening where we are. Sure, it can be complicated to sort through the issues and possibilities, but I feel more prepared than ever to see this as an opportunity and a gift, and to believe that figuring out the WHAT and the WHY of that what, will make the HOW clear and possible.

Random thoughts

I haven’t watched any college basketball this month. I think it’s cool that there are people who have the time to do so, especially with a completed bracket!

I spent the evening at the Cincinnati Waldorf School Gala, of which my beautiful sister, Mindy, was the co-chair. I was there as a volunteer and observer. My volunteer duties were slight; I enjoyed my observations. Seems the school has some pretty special things going on. They are lucky to have Mindy.

When Kepler and I go to library twice a week, he checks out five DVDs and ten books. He doesn’t usually watch all of the DVDs, but I enjoy checking out many books and movies in order to do what I can to boost my branch’s circulation.

My hand surgery is scheduled for Monday morning to remove that mucinous cyst. I wonder what it will be like to have limited use of that finger for a couple of weeks.

I know this post is less meaty than usual. I have a goal to blog on a daily basis, so some days are going to be great blogging days, and others might not be. I can tell you that blogging before the clock strikes twelve is not a surefire path to brilliance. But I am doing what I can at the moment. Hang In there. I know there will be improvements very soon!