December 31, 2012

Home again!

I know I need to upload pics, but thought I'd give an overview without them. Hopefully I'll add pictures in the next couple of days.

Big Bend was beautiful.

Restful. Lovely. Fun. Quiet. (NO lizards. No scorpions. No snakes. Thank goodness for winter! In fact, outside our cabin, we heard no sounds AT. ALL.) I'd found the cabin on line before there were any reviews. Overall, we loved the cabin itself. It was isolated, yet cozy. If Brex cried in the middle of the night, there was no one to hear. He loved to totter around outside the cabin and find the biggest possible rock he could heft.

At night we could put him down in his portable bed in the shared bedroom, shut the door and then sit in the living room next to a gas fire. We'd turn out the lights and eat dinner looking out floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the rising moon. As we watched Orion trail the moon higher in the sky, we'd talk or just look. We let the peace outside saturate us inside.

The first night, Brex woke up scared at 4 AM. I finally got him back to sleep and then went outside to look at the stars. The moon had set so the whole sky blazed with more stars than I've ever seen; I could barely make out the Milky Way because all of them were so bright. Poor Jrex, the moon set later and later each night, so he never got to see the sky without the moon.

The only real downside to that cabin was it took an hour and a half just to get to a trail in Big Bend. On the other hand, it was a lovely drive so we didn't mind too much. The last 20 minutes to the cabin were dirt and gravel roads, so it felt like an adventure each time. If we go again, we'll likely try to leave the dog in a kennel and stay in the lodge (or a cabin) inside the national park.

The two hikes we did were each five miles or less. One was through grassy meadows and down a canyon to a view called "The Window" where you could look down and out across the valley. The second day we did "Lost Mine" which climbed up 1000 feet of switchbacks to a rocky outcropping with beautiful views in all directions.

The third day (Christmas), Brex and I rested and played in the cabin while Jrex did a solo hike for a few hours. Then I made dinner and Jrex gave me a lovely card. That was it for our big Christmas celebration, but for us, it felt just right.

Marfa was a disaster.

Perhaps it was the rave reviews that set us up for disappointment. Perhaps it was the fact that many of the restaurants closed for the holidays. We suspect, however, that it's not a place to be with a toddler. Perhaps when Brex is eight or older it would be worth trying again.

In reality, the only things to do in Marfa are go look at Donald Judd art/installations/architecture, or go out to eat. Yet the only place we ate that had even one high chair was a bar. The only place with a changing table was the gas station (we mostly changed him in the back of the car). Brex woke at 6 AM both mornings we were there. The earliest place we'd found for breakfast said it was open at 8:30. We walked the three blocks in 32-degree weather and got there at 8:30. By 8:45 we gave up and went back to Squeeze (where we'd eaten the day before. So-so food. We'd had no desire to go back). No high chairs. Crowded. Full of people who don't smile at children.

Lunch at the famous Food Shark food truck. Yes, it was the best falafel I've ever had. Yes, the shrimp gumbo was delicious. Waiting in 40-degree weather for 45-minutes AFTER placing the order? Not so much. We tried to go to the famous hipster bookstore while we waited. It looked like they had an amazing selection, but once inside, we could smell what we'd been too numb to notice. No changing table meant we had to walk back to our car to change him, and by then the food was almost ready.

We'd thought to redeem the afternoon by visiting the modern art installations at The Chinati Foundation. Unfortunately the building labeled "Chinati Foundation" in town turned out to be different than the one outside of town which WAS open from 2-4 pm. Sigh. We gave up and tried to get Brex to take a nap. No go. We did to pizza take out from The Pizza Foundation (we had to order the pizza two hours ahead). It's a small town, there aren't that many people that can mob you, could you people figure out some better operation models so that these stupid hoops don't exist!!!??

Our last hope for foodie heaven was a local restaurant that was supposed to open at 8 AM for breakfast. This time we called ahead at 8 AM only to find they opened at 9. Fuggedabatit. We grabbed burritos at the gas station and shook the dust off our feet.

As we drove home, we passed Ft. Davis. It looked much less pretentious, but had an historic fort to tour, a walkable 'downtown' area and was a close drive to a mountain top observatory. Our experience in Marfa reconfirmed that as much as we enjoy good food, in the end we like to feel we got a great deal, and nothing in Marfa was cheap, or easy. Next time? Big Bend Lodge with a day or two in Ft. Davis on the way in.

December 21, 2012

We're off to see the lizards!

Well, snakes and scorpions at least. And wild pigs.

It's been a whirlwind, but the car is packed. Jrex is walking around the house checking the effect of our timer-empowered lighting. The mail is stopped and our neighbors will pick up any papers delivered against our will (the local Spanish paper will NOT stop delivering no matter how many times I call. It's free, but non!).

I'm really excited to get somewhere that doesn't have TV, doesn't have internet, barely has cell phone reception, yet still has a warm shower!

Some friends dropped off a baby backpack. As soon as Brex saw it sitting in the kitchen, with no prompting, he ran over and demanded to be lifted into it. I put him in and then kept working on dinner and doing other things. I thought he'd whine to get back out, but he kicked his feet, chewed on the pull strap and looked excited and happy. I think he likes hiking! We'll see if he likes driving, too.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday! I bet it won't be as quiet as ours. (yes!!)

December 18, 2012

Mom reflection

I just wrote this comment on a friends blog. She was reflecting that she knows very few Mother/Daughter relationships that are good. Another person commented and wondered if part of the problem is moms projecting themselves onto their daugthers and not allowing them to be their own person. Here's my response to both of them:


Given the caveat that a mother who has been dead for 15 years colors my view, overall we had a good relationship.

I think the previous commenter has a good point about Moms not letting the child be their own person. My Mom seems to have been very unusual in the degree of autonomy she gave each of us.

For my college graduation my Mom wrote a poem about how I'd been her teacher. That I'd been born with such a distinct personality that she learned from the beginning to let me be the person God designed me to be. She was definitely not perfect and when we shared a house she drove me CRAZY, but she had a lot of wisdom.

She let me express anger. At her. She asked for forgiveness. She viewed our primary relationship as sisters in Christ and therefore (sometimes) made room for me to speak into her life. Even when I was 7-year old who knew it all.

When I fell, she told me I'd be fine (rather than running to comfort me). When I dyed my hair black as a teenager, she said it was striking. She wouldn't let me dress immodestly, but otherwise, was ok letting me express myself through clothing (even a punk rebellion). She told me to trust my intuition. By expressing her real emotions, she showed me how to handle mine.

I think it's possible to have a good mother/daughter relationship, but I think it requires a Mom who isn't threatened by her daughter and who can make a lot of room for God to be the one who is in control.

Do you have a good relationship with your same-gender parent? Why or why not?

[On a different level, it's a relief that I can write a post like that and have it feel good, yet matter-of-fact. I know that a few years ago it would have brought up many overwhelming emotions.]

December 17, 2012

Talking about violence

I'm seeing many friends on FB who are agonizing about how to discuss the tragedy in Newtown with their young children. It made me realize that my parents were given no option to hide such things.

Sure, having no TV meant that we didn't see everything that happened in the world every day. However, they made the choice to raise us in a neighborhood where we were exposed to life's hard truths every day. They didn't get to choose whether or not to discuss personal safety, homelessness, drug use, murder, and death. I have friends who have trouble talking about Easter with their children since it involves talking about Jesus dying on the cross so that Easter could happen. I can't remember a time when I didn't know that Jesus died for me.

When I was four, tragedy came very close. My godfather was involved with Teen Challenge. He was in a park talking with some teenagers. Without provocation or warning, one of the kids hit him in the head with a baseball bat. In trial the kid said he didn't know what came over him. For six months, my godfather was in and out of a coma until he died. I can remember visiting him in the hospital, sitting on his bed. Knowing he was watching me with love as I played in the room.

That same year, our pastor's oldest daughter was hit in the head with a hammer by her ex-boyfriend. She'd gone to him to tell him they couldn't have any further contact. Her sister was my sister's godmother. My pastor and his wife ended up founding Parents of Murdered Children after that. We watched them when they appeared on the Phil Donahue Show.

We attended both funerals, me as a four year old, my brother as a two year old and my baby sister.

While I was sad, I don't remember feeling personally scared or threatened. Why not? I'm trying to figure that out.

I remember knowing the facts about each of them. I don't remember the specific conversations with my parents so I can't remember their exact words. I know from how we handled things in general that they would have shared the facts without embellishment or euphemism, let us ask questions and then after the discussion, we would have prayed. For a child, that's a powerful thing. I totally believed that anything I asked God, he heard me. He might not answer as I liked, but he heard me in love. So I prayed earnestly for the people who'd done the violence, that God would change them. I'm sure my parents prayed for our safety. We prayed for comfort for my godmother and for our pastor's family. As a child, I felt like I was impacting things for good when we prayed. As an adult, I've become more resigned to 'how things are'. I still pray, but it's definitely not with the same undiluted faith I remember having as a little girl (Jesus knew what he was saying when he told the disciples to have faith like a little child).

I wonder if we sometimes protect our children at the risk of disempowering them? As a kid, I knew that Jesus died, but I knew that he rose again and beat death. So I knew that anyone who died knowing him also beat death. Which meant that somehow death wasn't the big, scary end point to be avoided at all costs. I learned very early that it's a doorway.

The fact that it's become a doorway for 26 people who were forced through before their time feels unacceptable. Aside from sending letters to Congressmen and the President, I guess that all I can do is pray. I'm letting my childhood self remind my adult cynic that 'just prayer' is not as small as it feels.

December 13, 2012

I blame it on Jrex

On our honeymoon, Jrex took me on my first 'real' hike. In Tucson, AZ we hiked a couple miles in the desert, up a huge volcanic 'hill' and clambered up the last part using thick cables as hand holds. I'd never done anything that adventurous in my life. (Just ask him about my blood curdling scream when I saw the cables...)

He then also dragged me along on backpacking trips. I whined A LOT. Yet, what I remember from those death marches are the views from the top and the quiet evenings when we'd go lay back under the stars and talk about the day, about our hopes, our fears, and our philosophies.

For Christmas, we're venturing across the state to check out Big Bend National Park. If you've never heard of it, you're not alone! I never heard of it before moving to Texas. Since we're bringing the dog, we can't stay inside the park.

Instead we've rented a solar powered cabin 'just' outside (it'll take 45-minutes to drive from our door to the entrance to the however long to get to a trailhead). It's on 80-acres of it's own land, so we can do a little bit of hiking close to 'home': two rooms, furnished, heated and with a bathroom with a flushing toilet and shower.

Here's the thing (what I blame on Jrex), compared to a 'real' vacation in a hotel with restaurant food, this is 'roughing it'. Yet compared to digging a hole in the ground when I need to use the bathroom, this is luxury! He lowered my need for comfort and raised my adventure capacity. The proof of this is that when I read the cabin information and they mentioned needing to shake out shoes in the morning (to remove any non-poisonous scorpions), I didn't think, "I can't bring my precious child into such conditions!!". Rather I thought, "This will be interesting! Cool."

Sigh. I used to be a nice, corrupted city girl.

In related issues, we're driving 11 hours (not including stops) with a toddler and a dog in the car. Any tips? Must haves? Warnings?

December 5, 2012

How would you complete the sentence

A friend from California had this as his status today:
How would you complete the sentence, "I really have a burden for . . ."?
It really made me think. How would you answer the question?

My first answer was, "My husband", but that didn't seem like the 'right' answer. It's true that I want him to find joy, to find peace, to be restored to a place with God where he knows how to connect and worship again. To be healed from his spiritual PTSD. Yet, that doesn't seem like enough of a vision for how to live my life.

I thought about it, read the other comments and realized that there's still the same core concern in me.

I wrote this:

Being a shelter for kids who doubt they are loved. Having a home that can be a place of healing and restoration.

I don't know what that looks like or the timing for it, but that's still really deep in my heart. Another blog friend has been posting about her relationship with a boy from her street who's in the foster care system. That's one way this could happen, just loving the kids around me here in the neighborhood.

On a more intense level, we could even become foster parents. There are many, many wonderful foster parents, and there are some who are terrible. I know enough from my work in a residential treatment center to know it won't be easy.

I also know enough that I'd never want a foster kid that's older or bigger than my biological children. Kids that have no record of sexual abuse can start  manifesting signs as they get into a 'safe' environment. That acting out can't be allowed to impact my kid for the rest of his life. If he's older, then he will have words to tell me about it, the ability to walk away and the wisdom to be part of creating a loving environment for the kid.

The other way I can see this happening is as he gets older and becomes friends with other kids. With one in four girls and one in six boys dealing with sexual abuse, the odds are high that he'll have friends who need to hang out here and experience a different model for what love looks like.

Our house in Baltimore functioned like a mini-retreat for many people. I'd love to have that here. Until we know more folk in the Dallas area, that's less likely. In Baltimore, friends could drive to our house from many other areas. Driving to Texas? Only if you're crazy! It's a big country down here.

How would you complete the sentence, "I really have a burden for..."?

December 1, 2012

Since I'm a bear of little brain...

I can't figure out how to write the deep stuff, so here are the latest tid bits.

I finally understand my sister. Before having a kid, I didn't get her relentless need to go watch TV shows after the kids went to bed. Now, after putting Brex to bed, I barely want to talk to Jrex. Many nights I go to bed early just to read something mindless. I'm now forcing myself to read something that involves my emotions (G-dog and the Homeboys) and it's good, but it just makes me tired. I totally understand the need to just shut down for a while.

Brex is walking with confidence now. He's started to carry things (and look at us to make sure we're noticing his prowess). Just two days ago, he started to walk with his hands clasped behind his back. Jrex's Dad used to walk that way (he's NOT the guy in the photo), so it's really cute to see it.
Old Asian Man Walking

I think I've found a church. When Dad was here we visited City Church International. It's an urban church that has a heart for the city. They also really invest in each other and seem to have a vibrant, diverse community. Each Sunday service also starts with a segment of worship songs. That time helps me still myself long enough to hear God speaking. When that's not part of a church service, I feel inundated with words without getting time to let things hit on a  personal level. I went to the membership class today and will go to the next class next week. It's taken a year and a half here in the buckle of the Bible Belt to find a church. I wanted some liturgy. Creaking pews a bonus, but with vibrant worship. An urban focus. A respect for the mind while feeding the spirit. Not divided along racial or economic lines. Being able to raise my hands and dance a bit. Solid small groups. Picky, picky, huh?

We're beginning the round of Christmas parties tonight. First we join a Korean prof who's invited all the Korean faculty in the Oncology department with their families to come for dinner. It starts at 6:30 so we can only stay until 8 before Brex starts to get manic (his sign that he needs to go to sleep). The we drop him off at home, the babysitter comes over and we run out the door to another event. Good times!

Of course, just because it's December doesn't mean it feels like it. We've invited friends over for dinner on the deck tomorrow night. Because it is STILL warm enough to sit outside at night without a jacket. I'm certainly not whining, but I do like at least a LITTLE winter...

I made an Advent calendar! One of my friends here was looking for ways to make the Christmas season more meaningful for her son. I mentioned the Advent calendar my Mom made and she loved the idea. We spent last Saturday from 10 AM to 6:30 PM juggling Brex and making Advent symbols. Pics to come.

 What are some of your favorite Advent, Christmas or Hanukkah traditions?