Saturday, February 26, 2011

'I know what my heart is for,' she said

Last winter, my wife was doing a workout video, and firstborn Brielle was joining in the fun.

Observing, Ashlyn asked, "Is there an exercise that makes you stay awake?"

Me: Actually, all kinds of exercise make you feel more awake because they make your heart beat faster and your blood flow all through your body.

Ashlyn:  I know what my heart is for.

Me: You do? What, Ashie?

Ashlyn: To wake me up.


Ashlyn: My heartbeat is like a lightning storm inside my body. Boom, boom, flash, boom!

I love my accidental Haiku poet, and I raise my Thanksgiving glass to her wisdom: To hearts that wake us up. To the inner electrical storms that beat life through arteries to hands and to world. To "boom, boom, flash, boom!"--and to whatever that lightning illuminates in you.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

'I'm the president's boss,' she sang

Last spring, Brielle came to me with sad news....

Brielle: I have sad news. Sidney is sick. And she is the one who always plans our games.

Me: I'm sorry she is sick. I guess you get to take a turn leading the games.

Brielle: Actually, Mia planned the games today.

Me: Brielle, you know what I like about you? You know how to lead AND follow. Like when you're with your sisters, you lead and plan the games. But when you're with your friends, you know how to follow and let them lead them. That is really good, because everyone has to lead sometimes and follow other times. At my work, I lead with my students, but I have to follow other people.

Brielle: Like the principal!

Me: Yep, and lots of other people too. (School counselors have LOTS of bosses.)

Brielle: Who does the principal follow? I know...God!

Me: Yeah, but she has to follow other people too. There is a man who is the boss of all the principals in the whole district. His name is Dr. Delgado.

Brielle: Oh, I thought you were going to say the president. Because he is the principal's boss too.

Me: Hey Brie, even the president has to follow sometimes.

Brielle and Ashlyn: Whoa!

Me: The president has other presidents and kings who are leaders in other countries, and he is not the boss of them. And actually, we are his boss, because we choose which president we want.

Brielle: (to the tune of the Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya-nya song used to flaunt one's invulnerability to another's threat of dominance) I'm the president's bo-oss! I'm the president's bo-oss!

Me: Verdad, niñita.

So here's to democracy, folks. Love our leaders or leave 'em, we are blessed to be bosses of presidents.

Happy Presidents Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"How did the war start?" she asked

We were listening to their favorite Pandora station two nights ago. Based on "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, it plays hours of Disney movie tunes, leading to spontaneous rounds of "Name That Movie." (You should try it sometime.)

Tonight it played "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" from The Sound of Music. (Yes, that was a Disney flick.) Over mac and cheese, edamame, weinies and greens, Ashlyn steered the conversation to the way the Von Trapp family had to run so they didn't have to fight in the army. We talked about how it wasn't just any army, but the Nazi army, the surface of whose evil I only scratched the surface with my description. Still, I think their main beef with Hitler's boys was that the Von Trapp kids would not get to see their Daddy while he was away fighting.

"That's like Ricky's dad," said Ashlyn. And next thing we know, we're talking about a friend whose Daddy is overseas in the U.S. Army.

Cognitive dissonance hung in the room: Nazis bad. Fighting bad. Children missing soldier daddies bad. At time same time, our soldiers good, our friend's daddy good. Fighting good?

And then, the question from Brielle: "Daddy, how did the war start?"

Deep inhalation, a proud thrill at such a big-girl question, and a sigh out. Resignation. This Daddy's answer would be so, so incomplete.

"Wow, that is a long story, girlies." My knowledge of Afghanistan's long history is limited to what I've picked up reading Khaled Hosseini's books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. (Great, sad and beautiful both.) Cursory though that is, it was still too much information.

So, I told them the 9-11 story. World Trade Center. Pentagon. United 93. Al-Qaeda. Their friends, the Taliban.

The horror of it contorted Brielle's face as she listened, especially when she learned that the hijackers did their work as an act of obedience to their idea of God, with a belief that it would take them straight to heaven.

Somewhere in the narrative between September 11 and Afghanistan, Ashlyn realized I was telling too small a story.

"No, Daddy, how did ALL the wars start?" she interrupted.

I told her that the answer was more story than we had time to tell before bedtime.

Which sounded a little better than, "I don't know."

I could have related a story as primal as Lucifer's bid for godhood, or as recent as my last angry outburst at them. Or any story of creatures lusting for dominance that their Creator never gave them. But I didn't.

Whether from ignorance or prudence or cowardice or a desire to hallow a worthy question with a season of silence before daring to answer, I left my inquiring daughters' minds inquiring.

Maybe I missed a teachable moment.

But what would you have told them?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

'My laughing is my prayer,' she said

 Getting ready for bed is anything but silent, except for Ashlyn, who usually knocks out to the lullaby of Brielle's expressed irritation that Melía is being so hyper (hyperactivity noise eclipsed only by that of Brielle's expressed irritation).

But this night, Ashlyn had the giggles. And we were trying to pray.

When it came her turn to say words to the Almighty, she laughed instead, and said, "Amen."

"My laughing is my prayer," she observed.

Indeed. And maybe a better one than most.

As Meister Eckhart, 14th-century German mystic and theologian, said, "God created out of the laughter of the Trinity."

Of the truth of this proposition, Ashlyn is awfully good evidence.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

'Pretty much just talking,' she said

Brielle wanted to read her Bible tonight. Cool.

Being who she is, she wanted to start right--from Genesis 1:1. So we read the story of Creation--at least the first story, the one about the six days. God says, "Let there be light...and it happened. And it was good." Day 2, God pronounces that there should be air to separate waters below from waters above (and thankfully she didn't ask what that means). It happens again, and it's good again. Day 3, God speaks and dry land, plants, trees and their respective yummy fruits all happen, all good. Day 4, and God talks a moon, a sun and the rest of the stars into existing. Day 5, God's mouth opens again, and now we've got seas and skies teeming with life, blessed with the command to reproduce. Day 6, a few more words from God, and the land is full of creatures wild, tame and creepy-crawly.

And then He makes human beings.

He can quit while He's ahead and save Himself eons of headaches. But never one to leave well enough alone, He goes ahead and makes us anyway. But not just any way--in His image, after His likeness. Brielle and I took a few stabs at what that might mean before getting to Day 7, when God creates...


It's my favorite anticlimax. After lighting a universe, molding a planet, populating its liquid, solid and gaseous spaces, and topping it off by fearfully and wonderfully making two mini-Me's, God's grand finale is stillness. Silence. Rest. Pretty much the kind of day He might have had before all the creating began, except with more company.

It's holy. It's good. Very good.

"Do you think God was tired after all that work, Bubby Brie?" I asked.

"Um, 'all that work' was pretty much just talking," my firstborn replied, patient with my denseness yet figuring I should have known better. "And I don't get tired from talking unless I talk and talk for like a whole day without stopping."

I don't think she would get tired of talking even in that case, truth be told.

And God probably didn't either. But the reminder that a work so humongous can happen with such relative ease when Creator God speaks is Sabbath-rest to this tired, laboring Daddy soul.

Friday, March 12, 2010

'God knows a lot of stuff, but...' she said

Elbow-to-elbow in the Sentra today, questions floated forward, a merciful diversion to savor before the inevitable backseat brawl.

"Daddy, do animals go to heaven?" asked Ashyln.

"I don't know, Ashie. A lot of people think so. The Bible doesn't talk about that at all." My real hunch is that whatever is on the other side will bear little resemblance to what we know here. I suspect that we will live as we never imagined possible, more ourselves and less all about ourselves than ever. And in the midst of that mind-blowing aliveness, the presence or absence of pets will be the least of our worries, if we have any worries at all.

"Hannah's daddy says no," Melía offered. More chutzpah than I've got, that Hannah's daddy, I thought, wondering if my waffling over the pet cemetery question was more about tact or timidity.

"But he doesn't know," said Brielle. She attacked the unsubstantiated rumor as eagerly as I slap scary chain emails with Snopes-linked replies-to-all.

"God knows," Ashlyn said.

"That's right, Ashie-lu," said I.

"God knows a lot of stuff, but he doesn't want to put it all in the Bible."

No joke, Ashie.

Somewhere in late childhood I came to realize that God was bigger than my little brand of Christianity, that all that could be said of the Divine was far more than any single denomination could articulate. Sometime later it became clear that God was bigger than Christianity itself. How could anyone see a Gandhi or a Dalai Lama and say such a soul was godless? Even more recent has been my acceptance that not even a tome as remarkable as the Bible can be the final word on a Being who ignites and inhabits universes.

OK, so maybe I'm a little bit slow.

Certainly, much slower than Ashie.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"How many days...?" she asked

After weeks of asking, "How many days till Christmas?" and cheering at decibel levels inversely proportional to my answer, my children finally got to enjoy the coveted day.

Halfway through her dissemination of stocking goodies throughout the living room, Ashlyn had already posed the logical next question: "Daddy, how many days till Easter?"

So much for kids being all about the now.

I didn't know the answer at the time, but now I do. Curiously, on Christmas Day this year, it was an even one hundred. And in case your kid asks you the same thing, here's your answer:

Happy holidays! And happy waiting till the next one.