Thursday, January 28, 2010

Moon Ring?

Call me crazy, but do you see the ring around the moon? I don't know how well it shows here. I took this picture tonight. No, I don't mean the circle of light immediately around the moon. I mean the one farther out in a perfect circle. At first I thought it might be clouds, but when do clouds make a perfect circle.

Do the arrows help? Seriously, it was like a large hole in the sky with the moon in the middle.

Call me crazy or maybe I've discovered a moon ring. If anyone knows what this is, please enlighten me!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Little Good News

I'm going to date myself, but back when I was in high school, Anne Murray (a country singer my mom listened to) had a song out about "a little good news." It hypothesized what it would be like to wake up and find that the only thing the papers had to report was good news. It was idyllic.

There are so many things going on around the world with Haiti being at the forefront right now.

Then there is the economy. Are we recovering or not?

And there is politics. Every politician blames his opponent.

I talked to a friend last night. Her mom died in November. While she is managing that, she shared with me that a friend had passed 3 weeks later leaving 19 and 17 year old daughters without extended family. Another one of her friends had a child try to commit suicide over Christmas. Thankfully, she wasn't successful.

I feel weighted down with things. I could add to the list my own bad news items. But, I want to try something different. Let's list a few good news items. I'll start and if you want to participate, leave a little good news (big or small) along with your email address so I can contact you. Sunday, I'll use the random number generator to pick someone to win a $10 gift certificate. It doesn't have to be big -- just something that you feel is good news!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! A Little Good News!

  • I spent a good 15 minutes to half hour laughing today.
  • It's cold outside but I am warm inside.
  • My cats have yet to figure out how to tip the new water bowl system. (Click here)
  • Hadley had her vet check up recently. She is happy and healthy and I'm teaching her to rollover.
  • Everyone was at work today! People have been in and out a lot -- sick, weather, whatever. Today, everyone was there!


Friday, January 22, 2010

New Face, New Phase

Growing up, my grandmother Brooke meant the world to me. When I was about 10, I would go to bed willing myself to wake up early. Then I would sneak down the stairs and sit and read in the green chair outside her room. Eventually, she would look up and see me. The two of us would go into the kitchen and she would begin making breakfast -- which always included my favorite coffee cake. The entire time, I would rattle on and on about things from school, a poem I read, a story I'd written. She would listen and ask questions. I hated it when the others would begin to stir and I would have to share her with them.

Aside from my grandparents, I've never spent much time with older adults. Rather, I've gravitated toward children. My sister and I started a lucrative babysitting business as 6th graders going into 7th. I think we were in such high demand because we actually played with the kids. How did the parents know? Once we got attached to the children, we would show up "off the clock" to seek if we could take them for a walk or play tag or whatever. When we started driving, I think we spent half our money treating kids to ice cream and McDonalds.

Over the years, I've volunteered in numerous ways: nursery, Sunday School, vacation Bible school, as a mentor for a child in a residential treatment center, as a court advocate for children in foster care, . . . . You get the picture. But I've been "between" volunteering for the last year or so. This past fall, someone suggested a nursing home. I was hesitant. They persisted, and last Monday I went to an assisted living center in town. This is somewhat different than a nursing home as the residents are more mobile and such.

Long story short, I've been paired up with one of the residents. (Though, I'm not sure what to call her. Due to HIPPA, I really can't post her name or any identifying information. Maybe I'll just call her Friend for now.) We had a really nice visit -- complete with a competitive came of Scrabble. She beat me, but for most of it we were pretty evenly matched.

So, it is a new face, and a new phase of volunteering for me. I think it will be fun.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

How Rumors Get Started

So, I was playing around on Facebook and such and clicked back to my blog to click on some of the blogs I like to read. I didn't post today, but I noticed that my counter showed a little activity. I clicked to find out where it came from.

Imagine my surprise when I clicked to find out what search engines had led to my site. Apparently, a couple people typed in "Amy Brooke died" or "Did Amy Brooke die?"

It's a little disconcerting to see that statement and that question roaming around blogdom. I tried to follow it a bit, but quickly decided I didn't really want to go where those links appeared to be taking me.

Some legitimate links between me and the idea of death popped up. I wrote an article for InterVarsity's Student Leadership Journal many, many years ago. That popped up. A quote from the a chapter I wrote in the book Faith on the Edge:Daring to Follow Jesus popped up to. And then there was a link to the eulogy I wrote earlier this month.

There is more than one Amy Brooke. I don't know how many of us share the Louise part. Given the vastness of the world, there is probably another.

Still, it took me by surprise and tickled that feeling of mortality. Maybe a degree of that is healthy. It keeps us and our lives in perspective.

But, for the moment, I am alive and well.

Still, it is an odd feeling.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Little White Box

Today, I stumbled on a little white box as I was coming in. It totally took me by surprise because I was not expecting a package. It turned out to be a sweet package from my friend Joy. Interestingly, Joy and I have never met in person. We were both at She Speaks two years ago but never connected. We've chatted on-line some and marveled at the similarities in our lives from both being twins to struggling at times with making friends. We've lamented not being able to go out for tea or hot chocolate. Dear Joy sent me all kinds of treasures -- candles, tea, a Snickers bar that says "Believe," a little notebook, . . . . The best gift of all is being thought of.

Who have you thought of today? Can you send them a handwritten note or give them a call? You'll never know what joy you might pass on!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Smarter than a Cat?

I love my cats. I really do. However, they provide all kinds of unique challenges. Mali consistently runs off with all things soft. Katy has a weird (especially for a cat) obsession with water. Light weight bowls of water are batted so they go flying across the floor. Heavier bowls are tipped. Bowls in bases can be popped out! (I am not kidding!) The result is a consistently wet floor and socks.

Today I was in Peoria and went in to Pet Smart. I told one of the people working there my problem. She suggested super glue or one of the heavy water containers. Since I like to be able to clean the bowls, I thought I would pass on the super glue -- for now. I came home with a water fountain thing. (I'm not sure of the technical name.) Now, I have to wait and see how long it takes to have 3 gallons of water on my floor!

Here are the cats checking it out:

Katy (black and white) is usually the water spiller but also a bit more cautious about new things!

Mali wanted to see if she could tip 3 gallons. Thankfully, not yet!

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Thursday, January 7, 2010


There are parts of life that I remember clearly and other, probably the majority, that blend into the background of my life. One that I remember clearly was on January 5, 1992. It was the middle of several hard days. The minister was at the front of the room and he was talking. I don't remember much of what he said, until suddenly he asked, "Would anyone like to say something?"

I panicked and stayed firmly glued to my seat. I shared my disappointment with myself over that situation with someone recently. Her response was reassuring. "Not many 23-year-olds could eulogize a parent." I don't know if that is true, but it was comforting.

Maybe my silence wouldn't have been so discomforting even 18-years later if someone, anyone, had spoken.

My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer my senior year in college. She was sick all that year. Actually, she had been sick months before her diagnosis. But she was stubborn about doctors. I graduated and started on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. My senior year and those first seven months on staff, I did school or work during the week and traveled back to Cincinnati to visit my mom on the weekends.

It was an up and down 18 months or so. She would get really bad and then pull through. A month or two later, the cycle would repeat.

At 23, I had only ever been to one funeral. That had been seven years before. I didn't know what to expect. And I didn't know the word eulogy. Apparently, the minister didn't know that no one had been asked to say a few words. So, no one did.

It makes me sad to think of it now. Everyone should have someone say something.

So, I am doing it 18-years and two days later. In retrospect, it gives me perspective on my mom that I don't believe I would have had then.

My Mom:

I don't know a lot about my mom's growing up. But I do know it was hard. My mom was born in Hazard, KY of Dukes of Hazard fame. She was the youngest child of 17 (10 full and 7 half siblings) all born to James Sparks. My grandfather was not a man of means. He was coal miner while living in Kentucky. At some point, he packed up my grandmother and the children still living at home and moved to Cincinnati where he found work as a night watchman at the Cincinnati Zoo and a taxi cab driver.

So, my mom didn't have a lot of the advantages that I had growing up. But I think that made her approach parenting as an effort to give her girls things that she never had. With such a large family, resources were scarce. Her parents had both been orphaned young -- at around 11, I believe. There was no precedent for education. However, from what I gather, my mom made it through high school.

I say "From what I gather" because she didn't talk about growing up much. With that many siblings, I grew up thinking many of my cousins were aunts and uncles because they were my mom's age or older and had kids that were older than we were. I could tell that life was hard even in watching my grandmother, Sarah Sparks. While my grandmother Brooke was the bake cookies and play checkers grandmother, grandma Sparks was small, shriveled, and looked decades older than she was. My mom talked only once or twice about her father. Once was about how stern he was and if he yelled up the stairs for them to get up and they even heard one footfall on the step, they were out of bed. A second time was just relating that he had died when she was only 18 from Black Lung.

All of that is to say that things were hard for her.

I wonder at times if that lack of education or just not having a lot of attention growing up made my mom so insecure. How do you get individual attention with so many brothers and sisters? I think that insecurity is what made it hard to get to know her and hard for her to know how to express affection.

Recently, I was talking to a mom of two about the snow. She told me how she had abandoned shoveling for sliding through the snow with her girls instead. I remember playing in the snow as a child, but I don't remember my mom ever playing in the snow with us. She is strangely absent from all the play images in my memories. But people who grow up in poverty don't often learn to play.

I wish my mom could have played with us.

She didn't express a lot of affection and it was hard not to hear, "I love you" often, but if you knew how to read her, you could see her care. While we were playing, we would smell brownies baking. We would rush upstairs and she would be sitting at the kitchen counter and tell us the Brownie Fairy had come. We would giggle. Before the brownies had time to cool, she let us have some for a tea party. (If only she had come to the tea party too!).

Baking was a sign of care. She had a little tiny book of cut out cakes. Every year for our birthday, we got to select one (my twin and I each got one though we shared a birthday). She would stay up to all hours to make those cakes. The same was true of Halloween costumes. I don't remember store bought costumes. I remember pioneer and pilgrim and princess and Indian girl costumes sewn just for us.

My mom wanted so much more for us. Even though she didn't have a higher education, she instilled in us how important it was. Honestly, I didn't know that college was optional until I was in high school. And then, it had been ingrained in me that I was going.

I think my mom would be proud. All three of her girls not only went to undergrad but went on to get master level degrees.

My feelings for my mom are complex. There are disappointments and hurts, but then I also miss her at times too. I missed having someone help me figure out how to get a start in life. My mom wasn't that open to questions, but I miss the idea of having a mom to go to to ask things even if it is something like what "folding" in a recipe means.

My mom pretty much refused to talk about her illness. In fact, I remember her kicking a social worker out of her hospital room when she stopped by to say she was available to talk to my mom or anyone in the family. I know it would have been scary, but I so wish she could have talked to us about her illness. In not talking about it, though we theoretically had the chance, we never got to tell her what she meant to us and she never got to tell us what we meant to her. We never got to say a heartfelt goodbye.

This eulogy is 18-years and 2 days past when that minister naively asked, "Would anyone like to say something?" Yes, I would. I miss you mom. I'm sorry that I didn't love you better in the end, that I let my fear and your fear get in the way of really loving you well. I do love you. I hope you might be just a bit proud of me.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Do You Understand the Price?

With more bone searing cold and snow predicted, I decided to repair a hole in my thickest gloves this morning before going to work. As I did, I had to chuckle about my pets. You see, they are in cahoots with one another. Katy routinely knocks things off the counter and kitchen table (where she is not allowed) and dresser. She has taken to getting on top of the refrigerator and knocking down magnets and pictures as well. Mali loves all things soft. She steals socks and dish towels and pajama bottoms and stows them in a nest under the bed. Hadley firmly believes that anything the cats have knocked to the floor is for her. So, last night she retrieved my missing glove from under the bed. I would have thanked her, but in seconds she had a hole in the palm.

I got Hadley the beginning of March 2009. To be honest, at times I've wondered if I had added up the cost if I would have gotten a puppy. Between the vet, the leashes, the kennel, and the dog food, she has been an expense. Add to that the cords she has chewed, the blanket she put a hole in, all the plastic items that she crunches before I can retrieve them, my gloves, and (the one that made me the most angry) the piece of wall paper border chewed directly off the wall!

I'm not big on Christmas music, but this year I found a couple of songs I really enjoyed. One was Joseph's Lullaby by Mercy Me. It goes:

Go to sleep my son
This manger for your bed
You have a long road before you
Rest your little head

Can you feel the weight of your glory?
Do you understand the price?
Does the Father guard your heart for now
So you can sleep tonight?

Go to sleep my son
Go and chase your dreams
This world can wait for one more moment
Go and sleep in peace

I believe the glory of heaven
Is lying in my arms tonight
Lord, I ask that he for just this moment
Simply be my child

Go to sleep my son
Baby close your eyes
Soon enough you'll save the day
But for now dear child of mine
Oh, my Jesus, sleep tight.

It's a pale, pale, almost translucent comparison, but I think that even if I had known the cost, I would have gotten Hadley. She greets me enthusiastically. Her tail is always wagging. She follows me devotedly. She has brought me laughter with her antics. Just like Katy and Mali, she is a snuggle bug. (I've begun to wonder if I would know how to sleep without one or two or three furry friends on top of me.) She has been a bright spot in many dreary days.

But there is a cost. There is a cost in finances. There is a cost in time. There is a cost for my heart.

Can you feel the weight of your glory? Do you understand the price? Two questions from that song for an infant Jesus. I cannot fathom what Jesus knew or didn't know as an infant. I do not know when the awareness of who He was dawned on Him or if it was always present. Was it in the temple as a boy of 12? Was it many years before when Joseph took him out to see the night sky? Was it when studying with other boys his age and realizing that He understood the Father in such vastly different ways?

One of my plans for the New Year is reading Grace Notes by Philip Yancey. There is a selected reading from his works for each day of the year. I'm only six days in, but I find myself wanting to read ahead.

One selection brushed on answering those questions. Can you feel the weight of your glory? Do you understand the price? Yancey wrote in the selection entitled "Rosetta Stone,"

Because of Jesus we need never question God's desire for intimacy. Does God really want close contact with us? Jesus gave up Heaven for it. In person he reestablished the original link between God and human beings, between seen and unseen worlds.

Yes, Jesus understood the price -- giving up the glory of heaven even for just a time, creator choosing to become created, knowing that every step, from being carried in Mary's arms to toddling around the house to walking into the Jordan, every step took Him closer to the cross. And He came anyway.

He came because you and I are worth the price. He came because He could not -- no would not -- fathom not knowing us and being known by us.

Do you understand the price for knowing God?

My story about the cost of Hadley is not even the hint of a shadow of the price that Jesus paid for us because He so desired intimacy with us. I know that. But I can only hope that when I whisper thank you or go to Him in prayer or respond to a prompting or lose myself in worship that I give Him some portion of the joy that I feel when Hadley and Katy and Mali draw close.