Friday, September 30, 2011

Raven Street Notes no. 6

We don't live on Raven Street anymore. But that's okay.  I am going with the Raven-Street-as-metaphor justification for the name of my blog.


I love our new house but tonight I had to get out of it. It is driving me crazy--this bigger, prettier house. The reason is that it's full of painting paraphernalia, a ladder in the living room, plastic sheeting in big bundles here and there. And there's no furniture in the living room, either, btw, just piles of laundry that need to be folded and carted off to various destinations. And also, the children who live in the house have been very, very whiny today.


And also I had to get out of it because I was suffering a bit of PTSD, or post-traumatic-lock-yourself-out-of-the-house-with-your-baby-locked-inside syndrome because guess what I did today?  I locked myself out of the house while my baby was locked inside. Stupid house. Stupid garage door that you lock on the inside of the house and opens for you on your way out and then slams shut (and locked) behind you without any warning, without any, beep beep beep warning, this door will lock upon closing noises or alerts to stop me from so casually waltzing out into the garage to grab a paintbrush to cover up the splotchy areas on Oldest's wall.  Of course, the second it closed, my own internal alarm went off--wasn't that door supposed to be locked?!--because I had locked that door from the inside about an hour earlier. Because I wanted to be safe. Because I didn't want anyone waltzing into the house while I was in the basement painting away and Tiny was in her crib upstairs sleeping.  Isn't that door supposed to be locked? Well--girl genius that I am--my speculations proved true. The door was locked.

How it got unlocked is not a very exciting story, but it did take about 45 minutes, during which I watched Tiny fell asleep in her crib (the upside to not having blinds installed). A neighbor/friend was kind enough to lend me her iphone while she ran errands and while I waited for my dad to drive across town, pick up Mark's key at work, and deliver it to me.  After Tiny fell asleep, I figured I should use the time efficiently.  I sanded paint off an old dresser with my electric sander in the front yard.


Have I mentioned that there are too many projects I am simultaneously attempting to accomplish?

Or that one girl has been very disrespectful this week? That she is child-experimenting-with-sassy-teen? And God grant me the serenity and wisdom to change the things I can. Now. Before it's too late.   Did I also mention that I had to practically manhandle one girl down a flight of stairs due to her paralyzing fear of a spider some two yards away?  Well, I did. I didn't like it much.


Good news. Tomorrow is Saturday. Maybe the spider will get sick of us and leave?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cabinet Files of a 33-Year-Old Female on Raven Street

There is a Hawkeyes v. Cyclones game today.  There’s nobody local I know who hasn’t posted something non-game related on Facebook.  These Saturdays make me feel like a closet freak, me and my closet freak of a family that only notices game happenings because of traffic backups and FB posts from our friends.  I did not wear my black and gold yesterday, like my daughter’s teacher, in preparation for said game.  I did not tailgate. Did not turn on a radio or a television to watch pre-game, during-game, or post-game coverage. The only concern I had was whether I could get across town this morning without getting stuck in a mile-long line of SUVs with Hawkeye flags waving. Other than that, I really don’t care about football.

In my defense, there was nothing in my history to prepare me for a love of football.  As I sorted through the relics of my past (i.e. filing cabinet) yesterday, in preparation of our move, there are clues  that hint at the kind of person I would become. First grade teachers wrote notes; college professors wrote letters of recommendation about me and my creative writing abilities.  Articles I deemed important were tucked away in files for me to find some day, when I really needed them. When I was nineteen, I started saving articles about the work of ministry. I saved essays arguing for a place for women in ministry.  I never wanted to be a pastor, never wanted any sort of leadership role in a church, but the writers or these articles had things to say that were so very important to me that I chewed on them, wrestled with them, brought them up for dinner conversations, and basically hung onto as if these were ideas my upon which my life depended. But I never thought once about, vocationally, being in ministry until I was thirty years old, eleven years later.
There were other telltale signs of the person I was becoming: the standardized test, what a marvelous testament to my utter lack of spatial intelligence, my bumbling mathematical vertigo. Oh, I was great at concepts, the ideas of math.  But ask me to identify a pattern or fit shapes together and my vision grew blurry.  These were standardized test report words that I came to recognize and cherish: Reading. Comprehension. Vocabulary. Usage. Oh, Usage!  How I loved your deftly-turning-of-a-sentence ways.  Spelling.  I was conscientious, my teachers wrote on almost every report card. But I was most conscientious about my spelling list, studying it with exactitude, relishing in my own private pleasure at having remembered to spell a word correctly.  Did other students not study with like eagerness? Did they not relish their spelling successes? If other students made it through high school without having learned basic spelling patterns and rules, I was unaware of this, and indeed, would have been rudely shocked by the news.

What else was in that cabinet? Well, there were crises of health and family that would send aftershocks on into my future. There were notes and handouts from teachers of various creative writing and literature classes.  And what I discovered in my excavation was that my sentimental attachment to these notes and handouts were directly tied to my degree of affection for/respect of whoever taught the class. It was easy for me to toss hundreds of pages of notes I copied down from the teachers who droned on, utterly passionless or--worse--utterly narcissistic.  But the teachers who lit fire under me, whether they were teaching on Ghandi or Moby Dick or Marcel Duchamp, are those whose teachings I can never toss out—because those were the  teachers who helped me come alive, who helped me define the scope of me by the way they listened to and answered my tentative voice.   And beyond any transmission of information,  I am most grateful for their teaching me how to think, inquire, and question—creatively—with courage, respect, and a little bit of moxie.  And thank God, because thinking and questions are what helps us figure out Who We Want to Be and how to navigates the earthquakes and aftershocks in our lives.
At the ripe age of seven, I knew  I wanted to be an author of a book.   At the ripe age of thirty, I knew I was pastoral.  Never once did I want to grow up to be a thinker (and the filing cabinet didn’t suggest it, in so many words), but now (I think:) the idea is golden.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Leaving Things Behind

I’ve spent more of my life in this one city than anywhere else.  And I’ve lived ten years in this house in this one city. I like the city’s smells and sounds. I like its festivals. I love its health food co-op and its hippies.  I like that I had all three of the children here in this city, that I gave birth to one right inside this house, in this living room I sit in right now.   This week, as the big girls said goodbye to their school (they’re starting a new one Tuesday), one girl wailed aloud, “My whole life is over.  How could you do this to me?” and “I will do everything I can to prevent us from moving.” 

It is true, in a sense, that her whole life is over.  Her entire life, its set of parameters since the day of her birth, will be shifting. It will be the end. Of that life on Raven Street, the only life she has ever known.

We talk about how home is really where her family is. That it’s the people that make the memories in a place that then seem to imbue the place with certain sentimental properties.  But this girl doesn’t believe me. The love is in this house, she is sure. In the scuffed wood floors and small bedroom she shares with her sister. It’s in the dark cork and the hollow bedroom doors, which she says she loves and are so much better than the doors in the new house.   Outside and to the west of our backyard there is a Jungle and a Sledding Hill, which translates to a narrow avenue between fences overgrown with mulberry trees, and a steep slope in a neighbor’s backyard.  Our new neighborhood has no Jungle. No Sledding Hill. 

Like the girls, I love the trees on the east side of Iowa City. I also hate them.  I hate that these trees’ roots twist and tangle inside the ground, invading concrete slabs and water lines, causing foundational cracking and drainage mishaps.  I love them because they shade our home, they provide ample fallen branches for the girls to play with, and when I walk these neighborhood streets I can hide inside a tunnel of maples and evergreen, hidden from the view of drivers on the street.  In this new place we are going, I’m not sure there are even trees, let alone leaves. And if there are, there might be only a handful to spread across a whole neighborhood. We might rake up a thimbleful each fall. Where we are going is a new place, relatively speaking.  It is a suburb of this city we live in (if our city is large enough to have suburbs?).  Or maybe you’d call where we’re going a bedroom community.  This new place is one of the fastest growing towns in Iowa. Some periodical somewhere recently put it in the top 100 best small towns in the country to live in, and people put this news on Facebook to authenticate their choice of residence. It really is a lovely place. Without trees.  And it has an Aquatic Center a few minutes from our house, with Water Slides and Zero-Depth Entry.  This is like a goldmine for a mother of a toddler and two big girls.  And so is the bigger house and more bathrooms and space not to trip on each other and every toddler toy we own. And, most alluring, so many of the people we know are in this place. Our church is five minutes away. And down the street from our new home live three families we affectionately refer to as friends.
Still, I will cry someday because I miss living in the house on Raven Street. I won’t do it today, or even next week, most likely.  But soon, I will think about how Grandpa’s house is no longer three minutes from our own, that the girls cannot run out with their sleds and find a hill so quickly, that the hippies and the coop and the festivals and the poetry readings and the Indian restaurant and our favorite Chinese take-out are so very much farther away.  I will cry in the wintertime when I cannot look out of our large picture window to the fresh tire tracks in the street (because we will have no such window in our new living room). And I will cry when the girls cry at the slowness of making new friends, of missing their old school so very much.   

In spite of the losses, we feel this is Right, yet in such an abstract way that we cannot possibly justify our decision logically to these girls. But because it’s Right, we know that staying here would be Wrong.  And since moving is the  Right Thing, we know that Everything Will Turn Out Okay.  More Than Okay--it will be Good. 

So, it is true, Girl. Our entire lives are changing. And we are doing everything we can to prevent them from staying the exact same.