Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Follow up to The Fingerprint of Talia

She has been accepted as a part of the team at Teen Lifeline. Her joy is complete.

I trust she will be able to forge past her tender heart to make a difference in someone else's. I trust her tender heart will grow stronger but not lose compassion. Or that she will take on the issues of those she wants to help. Really...with all my heart.

She called me while I and my tender heart (meaning my actual heart, not a code for my husband) were in Haiti and left an almost unintelligible giggling message via Voxer. Only saying "I have good news!!!! You'll have to guess what it is."

Then about 10 minutes later "It's about Teen Lifeline."

We guessed.

We were cautiously happy/relieved/sorry we weren't there for this moment/glad she thought to call/worried/thrilled with the person she is.

Now on from here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Haiti's Acting Lessons

Our resort where all the water drinking will take place!
I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.  Oscar Wilde

Through the World Wide Orphanage, the benevolence of a couple of good friends and The Grove Church, my husband and I leave in a few days for Haiti. We're teaching older orphans how to teach theatre and communication skills to their fellow orphans. Isn't that nice?

I don't quite know how we'll manage, well, most of it...there are still arrangements to be made for our kids who will each be in a different place, when I don't work-I don't get paid and we often don't make it month to month as it is, we'll be teaching "communication" in a country whose language we don't speak among some frightening cultural differences, not to mention unspeakable conditions and poverty and pain.

And yet...

We are flying first class. Thanks to my friends from college. Our trip has been underwritten by some friends we made while teaching theatre to their kids a lifetime ago in Rolling Hills, California. We're staying in a "resort" in the mountains. It is apparently beautiful in the mountains where we are mostly sleeping. (Amy Poehler also taught theater for this same organization! (I love Amy Poehler.) (I feel we are in good company.) Family, friends,acquaintances,have all offered help to care for our girls and have showered me with puppet making supplies. It's all working out, because we are sparrows with mustard seed faith...


My husband suggested I not drink a lot of water so I wouldn't have to go the bathroom at all when we aren't at the "resort." Okaaaayyyyy...

I'm fairly certain I'll do something stupid so there is potential for humor, and for unending, eternally heart-breaking moments.

We are leaving our own children to do this.

Animals are treated differently in Haiti. I'm a complete wimpy mess when it comes to animals.


We will be teaching acting. And acting is about trusting your instincts, making choices, listening, truth, putting all of your attention on someone else. Acting happens in plays. We are going to Haiti to play. Playing is good. Playing is what I do best. We made the choice to go to Haiti based on all of the above. We are blessed enough to have choices.

It's highly likely I will want to bring them all home. I will not be able to, due to laws and practicality.

I can hardly believe we have this opportunity.

I feel my heart will finally break beyond repair. It's so close already.

I'm fairly certain I'll have something to say about the discrepancy between life here and life there. In the mean time, I would appreciate any prayers from those of you who pray - mostly for my children to make good choices while we're gone helping other children learn that choices do, in fact, exist.

Smiling cuteness.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Victor Borge, my idol.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Fingerprint of Second Thoughts

"Thank you for not abusing me" she said.

"You're hasn't been easy" I replied.

My daughter, Talia, is training to be a volunteer on Teen Lifeline, the suicide hot line here in Phoenix. We had the above conversation more than once after the session on abuse.

I didn't plan to have children. They just showed up. I thought about having a baby once and then BAM! pregnant. That first one just about killed me too, not all the way to fully dead, but dented into an unrecognizable state.  I have a salvage certificate.

Six months after the first baby was born, in a moment of weakness to many, many, things, I thought about a new baby again, and BAM! same thing. I have not allowed myself to "think" since. 

Talia Hope became the second "thought." Before she was Talia, she was 25,023,800 seconds of panicked thoughts. 24, 419,000 seconds is the length of an average pregnancy. Talia stayed another 7 days to put up shelves, it seems, in the hope of staying.

There are times in my life where I have been closer to God than others. Waiting for my second child to emerge while caring for a seven-month old was a time spent in close proximity; through prayer, pleading and endless bargaining.

At the risk of sounding crazy, when I was about 2 months into the pregnancy, I heard these words in reply to an outcry, "You're having a girl. Her name is Hope."

"I am? Whose hope is she? Mine?"  I replied. "Nice."

Since you can't name a child Hope Burns (for obvious reasons) we named her Talia Hope. Talia is Hebrew/Greek and means "Dew from Heaven." Hope and dew from heaven are maybe too much to expect from a small person, especially since I've only ever hoped to keep my children alive or on good days to walk upright.

Through much doubt, I was "believing" for a pain free natural child birth while waiting for Talia to be done with her shelves. The pain free part didn't happen, which leveled my faith for awhile. When Talia was done with her shelving project, she came hurtling out of the shoot with such a force that she broke her face and her collarbone and arrived the color of soot. Since my husband and I are not that color, it was a little suspicious...But, within 24 hours she was back to resembling us, along with a little bit of Yoda..(She still doesn't like that comparison.) (The resemblance was striking though!)

The moment she was placed on my chest after her shoot hurtling entrance into this world, she cracked me up. She had a remarkable over-bite. ($5,000 later this has been fixed. Thank you Dr. Chamberlain!)  "This is the one that's going to make me laugh" I told my husband through sobs and chuckling. Which has turned out to be true.

My second moment of weakness has become a person who notices "an underlying tone of agony" in humanity and is on a mission to find out why that is. And to make everyone laugh; at her, at themselves, at all the other ridiculousness in this world. It is her sense of curiosity and humor that focuses her listening so intently. Laughter and listening. Good qualities in a hopeful lifesaver.

She won't find out if she "made" the Teen Lifeline team for another 2-3 weeks of training and finals and mock-phone calls that make her alternately break down in sobs and beam with pride. I dearly want her to pass these tests, just as I am deeply afraid that this may have too much tragedy for a tender 16-year-old to take on.

My second thought...noticed her life with us has been free of abuse,  thinks I'm cute, wants me to think this too, and is learning how to offer hope.

It's enough to make me start to "think" again. Because one sarcastic, snarky, overly observant, sweet, clever, sometimes insecure, kind, fingerprint, maybe wasn't enough.

Have you had a second thought that worked out better than you hoped? Has it changed your life? Or someone else's life that you've had the privilege to notice?

If not, here's mine. Maybe mine will help you find yours.

Yoda at 14.
Talia's fingerprint:

* kindness wrapped in sarcasm.
* Compassion covered up in a contrary, perky, shell.(hence the "it wasn't easy" comment above.)
*  is not gentle with herself, but is with everyone else.
* is love. A rescuer of precious creatures. Not the least of which is me.
 * is permanently pink, just because...

Talia, I suspect that God is giggling about His creation of you.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Advice She Will Probably Never Hear

It's almost time. At 7:25 AM Monday, Hannah is a senior in high school. The same Hannah that was born to a freaked out mother who didn't think she could raise a child. 

Oh. My. God.

If she does graduate from high school, does that mean I could raise a child?

There hasn't been enough time to do everything I was supposed to do. I've done too much for her, just as I've done too little.

The doubt that I have not done enough to prepare her for survival is crippling. There isn't enough time left to change what I missed. She is who she is at this point and if she fails it is on my head. Does her father share some responsibility here? Does half the making and raising of a child also count for half of the failure/success ratio? And what is success for a child? Staying alive? Or does it go deeper? Into thriving?Alive at the end of the day has always been my bottom line. May be time to raise that thing.

My heart is absolutely broken that I have only one more year to see her sleepy face in the morning. Only one more year to imagine that our relationship will go on forever. Only one more year to teach her to how to put a glass in the dishwasher and place shoes somewhere other than the center of the family room. Honestly, I have done enough on that end. I don't understand how putting any thing in a different place from where you happen to be standing is still impossible after 17 years of demanding it be so.

How is this child remotely ready to enter the world? The real world. The real, wild, terrifying, beguiling world. The truth is, she's ready and thriving and fabulous. Even though...

She can rarely find something to wear, under or over, clean or gently used, in the one room she has charge of, her bedroom, or as I call it, the apocalyptic glimpse. How will anyone who is not her mother live with her? I vaguely remember my mother saying that same thing when I got married...

I failed her in underwear location. I can rarely find anything I need either.

There are perhaps more important things to be taught.  I wonder if I will ever say or do what is inherently vital. Can she survive on what she's yet to learn in half days of high school, afternoons on the couch and evenings selling clothes at the mall? Well, I survived doing almost exactly that. Just not the survival I envisioned in the childhood days spent daydreaming. Or the life I envisioned for her after she smiled at me for the first time.

If I was really, really brave and probably really, really stupid I would say:

"Beware the world outside of your apocalypse bedroom! Good exists beyond our doorstep, but so much good is missed if you spend too much time trying to find your underwear. You have to appreciate and take care of all that you have been given in order to be happy, and to move toward the life you are dreaming of now. And to stop your mother from aging any faster. 

Know how you feel about important stuff - and little stuff - and what is the bottom line for you - and then be strong enough to say it out loud to anyone. Even boys.

As beautiful and as useful as it is, you cannot get by on your smile. 

Drive carefully (never go onto a freeway or drive faster than 25, or 10 if children are present). 

Work harder than you play. 

Pray more than you idly wish. Then listen for the answers. Say the name of Jesus only in love.

Leave your world (room) better than you found it.

Keep saying "Goodness gracious" when you're surprised.

Invest in something with your money that brings more money back. And invest money in your training of whatever career you finally land on. But, try not to get so caught up in just making rent that you ignore your dreams. I did this and still regret it, and my mother warned me about it too. 

If I had any money left - I would invest it all in you and your sister. I think you two are the best things that ever happened to me. Well, and your Dad. He's very cool.

Healthy competition is good. Set a goal and think about it fervently, because Talia is right on your heels and she has something to prove.

If you get to play Cinderella at Disneyland, cherish every moment. This has been your dream ever since the first boy you loved didn't slide a glass slipper on your foot. I think you were three years old.

I hope you don't grow up and move away. 

I hope you do grow up and move away and talk fondly of your apocalyptic bedroom and the childhood you survived."

7:25 Monday will be the beginning of life moving on for me and the beginning of the end of childhood for her.

But, beginnings are always exciting. And some things remain the same...I am still that freaked out mother who didn't think she could raise a child.And just look at her. She's thriving.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

One Thing

One thing. Done right. And it wasn't even on my to-do list. I hope this isn't the only thing.

The moment when you realize that maybe, you said one thing right. And it came back. And helped.

A conversation between me and my 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:

Me:        I 'm debilitatingly* over-whelmed. (*not a word, but just so perfect)

My 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:      Why?

Me:       Four regular jobs,  two acting jobs with insane amounts of memorization,  two summer camp performances to: direct, choreograph and show up for, recital that I have to dance in, piano/voice recital that I have to play the piano in and pray any of the kids show up and make a good showing. You. I should be there/here for you. Oh, and Dad and Talia probably need something that I'm not remembering. And occasionally, I think it's only right that I do the dishes/laundry/sweep the floor/feed you and the dog and the cat, especially the dog and the cat because I really don't know how they are still alive with only you and Talia looking after them.

My, now 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:      Do what you always tell me...just take one thing at a time.

Me:      I say that to you? That's really good advice!

My, now 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:     Yes, it is.

Well, there you go.

I took the advice.

It worked.

One good thing I said came back to be the one good thing I needed to hear.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sit, Mom, Sit.: Well-Intentioned Poster Child

Sit, Mom, Sit.: Well-Intentioned Poster Child: A circa 1880's poster with a picture of a can-can dancer in the midst of a high kick hung above my white-canopied bed, on the green ch...

Well-Intentioned Poster Child

A circa 1880's poster with a picture of a can-can dancer in the midst of a high kick hung above my white-canopied bed, on the green checked wallpapered walls of my girlhood bedroom. Every night, in the hours spent dreaming, these words hung over my head:

Come See
Karen Suzanne
Can-Can Dancer Extraordinaire
She Dances, Recites Poetry, Tells Jokes
She does it all!
Bucket O'Blood Saloon
Virginia City, Nevada

I'm Karen Suzanne. I basically became a can-can dancer, an actress, and a writer of poetry and slightly amusing anecdotes.

On the walls of Palmer Chinchen's childhood house in Africa was a tapestry of the last supper.

Palmer became a pastor.

My husband's boyhood bedroom walls were covered in all things Star Wars.

While my husband resembles Mark Hammil, remains jealous of Harrison Ford, and still gets a little disoriented when you mention Carrie Fisher and gold bikini in the same sentence, that's where the imprint ends. He does kind of look like Mark Hammil though...

In my oldest daughter Hannah’s room hangs a painting of stripes in various lengths and colors with the words "Be Original" along the bottom, a poster of 12 distinctly different cupcakes, a few monkey posters and an autographed poster of the Rockettes. Oh, on the wall opposite her bed, so the last view she sees at night and the first thing she sees in the morning is a mural I painted on her wall of a castle high in a cloud with the words Once Upon A Time...

Hannah wants to be Cinderella. She is hoping to attend Chapman University when she graduates, partly because it's a 10 minute train ride to Disneyland. Where she could get a job as Cinderella. (Ultimately, she wants to be an occupational therapist…and a Rockette.)

Talia, my youngest daughter has the word hope in various sizes, shapes and forms all over her room. Her middle name is Hope. Hanging directly above her head board is a mirror that is surrounded with pictures of her friends, the little pictures that you take in photo booths. Not one of them is serious.

Talia wants to be a neuro-biologist and a photographer, but after she is married and has 3 kids. It’s not incredibly likely that one of the kids will be serious.

On the top of the mirror in their bathroom is a quote by Ghandi "Be the change you want to see in the world." I'm not sure they've ever seen it. They're teenage girls... their focus is on who is staring back at them. As it should be at this point. But, I have hope that one day they will look up.

When I was preparing their nursery, I agonized over paint swatch colors for weeks. I asked anyone who seemed to have a reasonable handle on humanity what color meant in the years spent forming an individual. I sincerely wanted a color that would be both soothing and stimulating and would help guarantee the inhabitant of the room acceptance into Julliard. The last person I asked for input replied "I think you're asking too much of a color."

I settled on a kind of blue/gray with a classic Winnie the Pooh wallpaper border. Pretty much the room became the hundred acre woods of Christopher Robin's (and my) imagination. So far, my girls alternately resemble Tigger and Eeyore with the occasional Rabbit thrown in during finals.

It seems to be critical what we hang on the walls of our homes, what we surround our children with during times of innocence and rest. I'm pretty sure my parents just thought that can-can dancer poster was funny. I loved it. For about 12 years it hung right over my head every night as I drifted to sleep. If my parents had hung a tapestry of the last supper over my head would I be closer to God? A pastor?

Can these seemingly innocent acts form the course of our destiny?

If Palmer had had a can-can dancer poster in his home growing up would he be throwing in a high kick every once in a while?

If my husband hadn't seen Star Wars...well, I don't have a comparison here...

It's too soon to know the lives my children will lead. I hope Hannah is original and sweet and creative and delighted with small creatures, just like Cinderella. She actually is already. I hope the best things happen to her before midnight. I hope Talia never loses her hope to be - my hope, the hope of her generation. She has the capability. And the humor.

I guess as parents we are just doing whatever we can to not only keep our children alive, but guide them into the lives we hope they will lead. And maybe all the kids have to do is survive through our preconceived notions as to what will make a difference beyond survival.

Just to be clear, Julliard is off the table.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sit, Mom, Sit.: Money To Go

Sit, Mom, Sit.: Money To Go: This is not an accurate depiction.... It seems to me that if you have money, there aren't any inconveniences or problems to overcome...

Money To Go

Stock pic,  not an accurate depiction....

It seems to me that if you have money, there aren't any inconveniences or problems to overcome.

Plumbing emergency? Call now. Fix now. Do not wait and cause more damage trying to save on the cost. 

Drive one-day-old-brand-new-uninsured-car-you-never-in-a-million-years thought you could afford into the garage door while garage door is still opening? Buy new garage door next morning, fix car at the same time - do not fall apart, throw things, scream obscenities into the night and lay sleepless wondering how to pay for - anything ever again.

Sustain concussion while working coupled with stomach/intestinal virus? Go to the emergency room immediately, no waiting for a week trying to self-diagnose to see if it's worth a trip to the emergency room on Memorial Day weekend. AND! Frank, the ultra-sound tech would not keep asking you if you we're retired or if your 20 year marriage was your second marriage, because a face-lift would have already occurred at this humiliating life moment.

Throw back out trying to empty a kiddie pool? Just stop and hire someone else to do it.  Or better yet, have a built-in pool already. With a pool cleaner.

There is no need to nag/threaten/bribe teenage children to study for finals in the hope of one day getting a scholarship so that college is even a remote possibility. No. All you have to do is feed them and let them do as they will. You can pay for college. Even if it's community college.

Husband leaving at 3 AM to drive to California with 80 high school seniors for the class trip leaving spewing/injured wife at home to deal with teenagers, car, garage door and plumbing? Well, that just wouldn’t happen to begin with…if enough money were to be had elsewhere.

Money solves everything.

Money is the root of all evil.

Money is elusive. Even if you work to earn it.

That's it.

A quandary.

And this was just Memorial Day weekend at our home.

Money cannot buy the gratitude that said home, car, family, were not lost in a tornado. No, that just comes from being a human being -  even a human being living with the suburban blues.

We are grateful for our home - so we can run our car into it - and our children out of it.

(not really on the last one) (well, the last two)