Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My brother David: And the bells started ringing.

My brother David.

I will explain a little about what he was like as a child, because the tedious business of surviving high school, excelling at college, and obtaining gainful employment seems to have somewhat subdued his original creativity and feisty spirit. This will give you a more rounded picture of who he is.

My relationship with him has been evolving since the beginning. We go way back. He's only two years younger than me, so the earliest of my memories has him right there, sidled up next to me. When he was very young, he had white blond hair and a devilish grin. I called him "Daving." My mom tried to correct me countless times, "It's 'David,' Chris. Da-vid." But I clung staunchly to my personalized version...until the day she decided to use some reverse psychology. "Where's Daving, Chris?" "Mom. His name. is Da-VID." And I never went back. Evidently the uttering of the special name by anyone else tainted it and made it unsuitable for myself.

During his white blond days, we attended a wedding and were photographed afterwards. Being the motherly type, I felt it my duty to help him smile correctly for the camera. It turned out something like this:

...Which he claims is the reason why, to this day, he doesn't like getting his picture taken.

Except on special occassions, I guess. Like, uh...Thanksgiving, I think this is. Yeah, yeah, turkey really gets him excited.

...No, not really.

Once we were a little older, Karen and I would build "homes" out of card tables and blankets and set up house inside them. Poor David, "house" was too boring for a rambunctious boy, and he would swoop down with a natural disaster to liven things up a bit: tornadoes, fires, blizzards, earthquakes, and dinosaurs plagued our otherwise peaceful homesteads. We'd rant and rave as he tore and shook apart our homes, but to no avail. The damage would be done and the girly whining would begin. Good times.

Once we got to high school, I adopted a new nickname for him: the Spanish version (of course; I was unconsciously preparing for my role as wife to a Mexican)--Dah-VEED. Yes, I'm wimping out and not going through the trouble of learning how to make an accento. Hey! At least I'm blogging tonight! Watch the criticism or I'll just go to bed.

That's right. Don't push me.

My brother David.

He has a hidden whimsical side that delights in well-made movies, movies full of humor and wit. He sometimes sings his side of the conversation, but somehow I doubt he likes musicals. He makes great jokes about computers and math that nobody in our circle gets. It's hard being brilliant.

He is a man of God. He is conservative, incredibly smart, has a great sense of humor. He is patient and reserved, kind and articulate. He doesn't like small talk, but sometimes indulges me. He has an uncanny ability to make me feel so proud and tender that my heart contracts a little and at times, a tear even squirts out of my eye.

My little brother David. I love that guy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sista Karen: Not Last THIS Time, Sucka

My sister Karen is one of the funniest people alive. She does spot-on impressions, and her stories are not to be rivaled. I just do not hold a candle to her. The title is a tribute to her much-repeated lament when we were growing up: "I'm always last!" Whether it was in reference to the line-up, "And these are my children, Chris, David, and Karen," or the way she somehow managed to always be the last to be informed about Big News, she's always felt a little slighted within our family structure.

But she really shouldn't. Her comedic prowess sets her a step above the rest of us mere mortals.

I may be louder and slightly more animated, David may be taller and very very smart, Dad may be...Dad...(wink)...Mom may be Practically Perfect in Every Way, but you, darling Karen, are a star. You have some tremendous gifts and a beautifully powerful personality.

I admire her extreme loyalty. A loyalty that leads her to defend whatever position I take up, especially if there's someone else opposing me. She would've made an excellent Joan of Arc or some such Lady Knight. She can kick serious butt with her martial arts skills, so I always defer to her when I need someone to punch someone else in the face. Not that I need that frequently. Or ever. Riiiiggghht. I never desire annoying people to get punched in the face. It wouldn't be prudent.

I admire her hidden tenderness. I like watching her with my babies. I always feel like she's silently sympathizing with whichever one is the youngest at the time.

I like the fact that everyone makes a huge deal over her when she wears a dress. Her everyday style could easily be labeled "Cute and Comfy Tough Girl Casual."

I love that she's her own scintillating breed of Animal Whisperer. She's constantly finding/taming/expelling animals wherever she goes. I always call her when I have an animal question, although I could so easily google it instead.

I love her ability to take charge when necessary.

I love that she still gives this look. It's a carry-over from childhood, when she used to glare at anyone who offended her. Sometimes she'd really lay it on by folding her arms, tossing her heavy locks past her shoulder, and heaving her adorable little chin in the air. She'd then heave out a well-orchestrated "HMPH!!"

I love all the times we've spent together, just the two of us. There hasn't been nearly enough since I started having kids and she started college. But the comforting thing is that I know she'll always be there. She'll always be my Kare, my hilarious sister, my precious friend.

More than Santa Claus, your sister knows when you've been bad and good. ~Linda Sunshine

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garretty

If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child. ~Linda Sunshine

"Well Karen? Well Chris? Goodnight, I love you, see you in the morning, say goodmorning. You, too. And have sweet dreams. You, too. ...Goodnight. Goodnight."

My Dad: The Executive

My dad has an Executive style personality. (I don't rememer what the official letters are, although I'm sure someone out there knows.) He is smart, loves learning new things, loves teaching. He can be disarmingly goofy. His head is full of knowledge: some that is useful, some that is fanciful. He is well-liked and knows how to keep a conversation going. He loves God and loves him some commentary--again with the useful knowledge thing. He's so confident he seems dauntless.

My dad has worked at an automotive-technology company since he was sprung from college twenty-some-odd years ago. Before that, he went to college at a parent-approved school and majored in Electrical Engineering. He wanted to be a musician, or maybe a computer programmer. His dad didn't agree with those career choices, so he picked something else. My dad was a good son.

He was the oldest of four children. He feels a great deal of responsibility.

My dad is an Eagle Scout. He is the epitome of an upstanding citizen.

When we were young, he took us on fun vacations, on camping trips. He played the guitar in the evenings. He'd hold up a sheet of paper when he kissed my mom so we couldn't see, and to be funny. He's always had a powerful personality and we loved that about him. Strike that; that's a weak thing to say. Let me try again. What I was trying to say: I love him.

When we were younger, he had a hard time being emotionally available to my brother and sister and me. We knew he loved us, but he didn't really say it. Knowing all that I know now, I can't blame him. His father was self-controlled, stoic, with a chest as hard as a rock. Not exactly embraceable and encouraging. How do you walk in those footsteps?

But then, shortly before my first child was born, my grandfather died. And the Inman clan got all crumbly and sort of short-circuited. The strong personality that had dominated for so long was at rest and nobody knew what to do with themselves.

Time passed, patterns shifted. I had three more children, and like the good mother and daughter that I strive to be, I did everything I could to bolster an affectionate relationship between the young ones and my dad. However, my firstborn is similar in personality to my dad, outgoing but a strong leader who doesn't take much time for cuddles. My next child, my precious daughter, is reserved and introverted. For the first 2 1/2 years of his life, my third child, Kellar the Koala, was uncertain about anyone other than me. He's just now starting to let down his guard. Finally I bore Dawson, a child who is outgoing, loving, funny, and unafraid. Finally I've been able to see my dad lovin' on one of my babies. I'm tellin' you, it just doesn't get much better than that.

I loved my grandfather very much, despite his lack of, er, cuddliness. But I didn't know him, I didn't even know if he loved me much. For all the remarkable things Grandpa Glen was, he was not an outstanding example of family love. I do miss him, but I am so proud of the father and grandfather that my dad is becoming as he learns to walk straight ahead, making footprints of his own.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My mom: Full of Dignity

My mom is the prettiest woman this side of the Mississippi, and has been her whole life. She is sweet. She is sassy (although most people don't know it). Chances are, you don't know what she's thinking. She's a thinker, this one.

Momma Jane loves to read, loves to write, has an amazing command of "language, situations and peoples."

She has a superb sense humor and she loves being barefoot. Or rather, her feet just don't like to keep shoes on them for very long. As a child, she was allowed to go barefoot all summer long, except for Sunday mornings. She is smart as a whip(Brief side note: Is a whip actually smart? I think not. So what is she as smart as? Dolphins are supposed to be pretty smart...but "my mom is as smart as a dolphin" doesn't sound very complimentary. I will definitely be giving this some thought.). And classy, caring, godly, patient, stubborn. But if I had to pick one word to describe her, it would be dignified.

Main Entry: dignified
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: honorable


aristocratic, august, courtly, decorous, distinguished, great, highbrow, highfalutin', imperial, imperious, magnificent, noble, refined, regal, reserved, respected, solemn, somber, stately, superior, upright

She's not actually highbrow or highfalutin', but I'm really enjoying imagining the look on her face when she reads those two...so they're staying in. Oh, she's not really solemn or somber either, as you probably deduced from the picture above.

She is an outstanding mother, a precious and skillful grandmother. She cherishes her children. She's probably crying by now.

Everything you read above is stuff I've mulled over for years. I know it like the back of my hand. I've tried numerous times and in a multitude of ways to put into words and actions everything my mom is to me. I never get tired of it and I never feel I've done an adequate job explaining--to myself or to others--how special she is.

One quick illustration and then I'll sum up.

When I was a child, we had red raspberry bushes that lined the back of our yard, on both sides of the fence. Every summer, my mom would patiently, tirelessly pick raspberries for days and weeks on end. She would make pies, freeze them, and make more pies. They were wonderful.

Thing is, raspberry bushes have thorns. And no matter how careful you are, if your hands are in them several times a week for a few hours each time, you're gonna get some scratches. But there was bounty in our backyard, and by gum, it was not gonna be wasted. So every summer, my mom's beautiful hands and arms were covered with an abundance of thin, spidery scratches, such as raspberry bushes give.

But she never complained. And when we moved to a new house, we transplanted many of those bushes, only to watch them wither and die in the unfamiliar soil. So now she makes raspberry pies with frozen berries from the grocery store. And you know what? They taste just as good. It wasn't the berries, it was the love.

To sum up, I will say what I've been saying for years: If I can one day be half the woman that my mother is, I will be happy.

A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future. ~Author Unknown

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Inman Series

This is my family. The Inmans. Or Inmen, if you're feeling cheeky. From the left: Papa Steve, Sista Karen, Bro David, Momma Jane, and Little Ol' Me Chris.

I was feeling a decided lack of Original Bloggy Material tonight, so I polled one of my friends. He brilliantly suggested that I dedicate a few posts to the fascinating members of my family. And they are fascinating.

Well, I'm no fool, so I agreed to give it a go. See what the blank text box had to say to me. And I to it.

We'll open with Momma Jane. She's sweet, she's sassy, she's the most beautiful woman this side of the Mississippi.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Annie Oakley, eat your heart out.

This weekend, I got to shoot a couple of guns. I've never really been interested in guns much, but neither am I against them. I grew up surrounded by people who thought guns were cool, and so if nothing else, it was a normal kind of thing in my world.

My grandfather had an impressive collection of guns. In the last house he built, he installed a secret room accessible through part of the ceiling. He filled it with his arsenal, you know, just in case of attack. Or something. Grandpa Glen was both a man and law unto himself and he didn't often share the inner workings of his mind. I'm sure it would've been fascinating. When I was about 14 or 15, I got to shoot one of his antique rifles. All I came away with was the impression that guns are extremely hard to shoot, and therefore, no further interest in them.

On Monday, in honor of Labor Day (??) or perhaps in honor of a day of fun, my very manly husband and our country-dwelling friend set out to shoot some stuff. Out in the yard. I'm not sure, but I think that makes us rednecks. *Resigned sigh* But again, that doesn't really bother me. I'm used to it. I have a gun rack in my otherwise Country Living-esque bedroom.

What did start to worry me, though, was when it started to get dark and the menfolk still hadn't come in from target practice. Right around the time I couldn't see them, I took it upon myself to go suggest they wrap it up. Yes, I'm the police. I'm all about responsibility, especially to a point. *Cheeky grin* So I went out into the yard and was relieved to see them loading things back up. I didn't want to actually be the one to break up their fun, as I don't particularly care for the labels that some men give women who "try to be in charge." I've come close to kicking my neighbor, as he persists in calling me "Boss" whenever I come to see what Matt's up to at his house.

Once I got closer to the guys however, they immediately asked if I wanted to shoot. I glanced up at the very dusky, darkened sky and said, "Isn't it too late to shoot?" The reply alarmed me a little, "It's never too late to shoot." Um, okay. I told them that if they hurried, I would shoot, but it had to be fast, 'cause I was ostensibly there to break things up and ensure safety. Gun police, that's me.

They sprang into action, throwing safety glasses and ear coverings at me. Within 60 seconds, I was standing with my hands wrapped around a big gun. I think it was some kind of shotgun. I was given strict instructions to press its butt firmly into my shoulder, which at the time, I couldn't possibly see as being important, but I did as I was told. My husband explained where to put my hands and when to pull the trigger. I obeyed and was rewarded with a sound blow to my upper arm. Evidently there's this thing called recoil...that's when the gun tries to attack the person holding it.You have to hold on tight or you might sustain injury. My arm is bruised today.

Next they handed me a smaller gun, some kind of pistol. This one was fun. After I got used to holding on tightly so it didn't flip back into my face, that is. I started doing something with my wrists that gave me some small illusion of control, which was comforting. And fun.

I came away enthralled and ready for my next opportunity to shoot, preferably at a time when the sun was up and I got to do it for more than 5 minutes.

Then last night, my darling husband wrote a post about me shooting guns. No, I will not give you a link to it, because I'm hoping that no one else finds it. Let's suffice it to say that my face stayed red all evening and that I evidently am a Gun Diva in disguise. I'm feeling some major conflict. I'm not sure what to do about shooting again. I like shooting quite.a.lot. but the thoughts that will be running through my head might disable my ability to keep the gun from recoiling into my body. And my face might be red. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with being a Gun Diva.

Just keeping you on your toes.

"When I'm with a pistol I sparkle like a crystal, yes I shine like the morning sun." --Annie Oakley

We have women in the military, but they don't put us in the front lines. They don't know if we can fight, if we can kill. I think we can. All the general has to do is walk over to the women and say, "You see the enemy over there? They say you look fat in those uniforms."
--Elayne Boosler

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I want to be a Woman of Faith

If you asked me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves

I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and
I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight

Deliver Your people from satan’s hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory

(Casting Crowns, In Me, Lifesong)

Three years ago, I was recovering from giving birth to Kellar. He was only a couple of weeks or months old and I started wrestling with some feelings. I don't remember if these feelings were brought on by this song, but these lyrics certainly express the outcome of my wrestlings.

Let's go back, shall we?

I do remember that Kellar was just a wee thing, and I started feeling like God was gently pressing a question upon my heart: "What would you do if I asked you to...?" At first, I tried to clarify the question: If you asked me to do what, God? If you asked me to sing for you? Keep leading the bible study? Stop leading the Bible study? Move? Have more children? Be a missionary?

I became convinced that it must be the worst, albeit, most exciting possibility: be a missionary. I say worst because the idea of leaving my family, my mother in particular, my friends, my safe home, my familiar city...and going somewhere new and remote and friendless was terrifying to me. What if I became a missionary and missed my brother or sister's wedding? Or their children being born one day? What if I left and couldn't handle missing my mom so sorely? WHAT IF I COULDN'T GET THE GOOD KIND OF MILK?! (Shaking off the hysteria.) Ahem. All of these questions were relentless and scary. But the questions didn't cease.

I finally realized that God wasn't going to clarify His question for me yet. That the real question was "Would you do whatever I asked you to do...for My sake?" Whoa there. And I thought it was scary before.

Would I be willing to agree now, as a young mother and shaky but dedicated Christian, to do whatever God asked of me down the road. Would I sign over my plans and dreams and move when He told me where to go?

My mom's council was wise and characteristic of her: Pray. If it doesn't seem clear, pray some more. So I did.

And like I said before, I wrestled, because I didn't like the implications this conversation with God held. I picked my scariest possibilitiy, to use for mere example. I implored God, "What if I miss David's wedding?? Karen's children being born?? What if I really really really miss my mom and cry 'cause I can't handle being there without her?" (I never went away to college; it doesn't show much, does it?) But God didn't tell me how He would address those possibilities, He just kept asking if I'd agree no matter what. (No, not with a voice in my head. A pressing on my heart. Let's not get carried away.)

So finally I caved. With tears and choked voice I told Him that I would go where He wanted me to go and do whatever He wanted me to do. But that He needed to understand my limitations, my issues. And that I would agree, but that these issues would be paramount and deeply effect my attitude when the time came that He called. And that I would need His strength and provision to take me where my issues forbade me to go.

Three years have passed, and so far I've received no clear call to change my immediate circumstances. I've agreed to cut back on being on stage during worship time, continued and changed my Bible study leading, gained new friends, shed others, agreed to try homeschooling our children. I've started gaining confidence and drive and peace. I've started really loving people. And I've started writing again.

I asked my mom awhile back if I should try to be a writer. And her council was wise and characteristic of her: you are a writer. Making money doesn't really make it much better, but don't tell the professional authors that. Keep writing and use your craft to bring glory to God. Enjoy it for what it is.

So I have. Oh, the practice and enjoyment I've earned.

All this to say that no, I still do not know exactly what God is preparing me for. But this morning, I thought about one more intricacy that has kept me wondering as I move on down the path of life, "Why has God allowed me to have so many children at such a young age, and in so little time?" Matt and I planned on waiting several years before trying for children, and I knew next to nothing when we started. Each time we found out we were having another, I kept wondering if I'd be ready for it. But at this point, I've started realizing what having children can do to you, if you're willing for them to mold you: they can firm up your squishy, selfish, wimpy parts and soften up your tough, rigid, protective parts. My kids have made me sweeter, stronger, gentler, more patient, more lavish, more modest, more content, more determined, more creative, more motivated, more protective, more loyal, more capable, a better speaker, a better listener, a better musician, a better wife, a better friend, and yes, a better Christian.

Perhaps many would argue that children are not means to an end, that children are precious gifts in and of themselves...and with these wannabe antagonists I would agree. But looking back on the me of 6 years ago, I am quite sure that God has a double entendre in these fabulous kids. He's been getting me in shape. And it doesn't really matter for what. He and I have already had that conversation and the answer is "yes."

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music the words make. ~Truman Capote, McCall's, November 1967

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Playground for Big Kids

"Yes we are [friends] and I do like to pass the day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I wouldn't mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the paper while you read the front. We are friends and I would miss you, do miss you and think of you very often. I don't want to lose this happy space where I have found someone who is smart and easy and doesn't bother to check her diary when we arrange to meet."

So I've been feeling particularly happy recently. It's been transforming my mind, my actions, my decisions, and my life in general. It's kind of like living with the Party Version of myself. My rigidness is melting away, like crayons left in the glovebox too long.

It's a wonderful, freeing feeling. Like being transported back to high school, just without the insecurity, the drama, and with much, MUCH cooler friends. (Whew, is anyone else feeling overwhelmed by all the analogies??)

Tonight I played at the park with friends and family. Usually I'm just a spectator, but tonight, in response to Kellar's pleading, I agreed to go down the twirly slide with him. I've been trying to play a little more, now that Dawson isn't so tiny and helpless. After the twirly slide, Nadia begged me to go down one with her. I convinced her to go for the bumpy slide instead, as my uber long legs get bent into uncomfortable positions when I go on the twirly slide. (Is that non-fun of me, or WHAT?) I love the bumpy slide, though. It usually flings me off at the end of it, so that I fly, legs straight and poised, to land like an Olympic gymnast in the shifting stones. But tonight, it was not to be. Luckily Nadia has a pretty good sense of humor, because when we sat down on the slide, we scooted off into the drop zone...and sat there. I wiggled, I wriggled, I screeched forward about 4 inches. We sat there. We giggled. After all, we're girls, and girls giggle. Plus, Edie was behind us and I knew that in a moment, she'd be facing the same problems.

Anyway, we finally all scooched off the slide, giggling the whole way. It wasn't a marathon play session, as it was late and the mosquitoes were making mince meat of our small ones. The thing I felt I'd achieved was a carefree spirit. I'd played around, exchanged witty zingers, pushed my friends, and basically been silly. It was GREAT. Seriously, who knew that adults could have this much fun and still be considered responsible?

And one of the best parts about this big happy friendship is that it's upped my confidence in who I am. Largely diminished are former feelings of needing to act a certain way to please others. Until recently, I had no idea that I went so far out of my way to do certain things just because "that's what you're supposed to do." I feel less encumbered and less stressed. I feel like I can finally be myself, not just with these close friends, but with lots of people. And this is coming from someone who has always striven to be authentic.

Well, as I'm in a quote-y mood, y'all get to read some other people's words now. And as I'm feeling and confident and happy, I must say, I feel darn good about this decision. I hope you feel as at peace about it as I do:

"Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heart-ache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, to discover what is already there." ~Henry Miller, Sexus

The best way to gain self-confidence is to do what you are afraid to do.

My heart filled with love, flowing over with joy, my own little drum that I like to march by! ~Gunda Fijnje-Nolan

I feel my body, my mind, weighted down - all is heavy - but my blood, my inner fire, my passion, the little unburdened kid in me, patiently wait to burst free. -Drew Sirtors

**My grandfather has been sending me chunks of scripture in The Message translation. I liked this one particularly for the fresh and happy words it uses, and partially for the funny imagery of heaving bulls onto altars. With it, I bid you a fond goodnight. Ciao ciao, brown cow!

Psalm 51:7-19, The Message

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice.

18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem's broken-down walls.
Then you'll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!