Saturday, December 26, 2009

In memory of Isaac

Isaac William Gwaltney
Born and reborn December 26, 1987

Visitor From Heaven
Twila Paris

A visitor from Heaven
If only for a while
A gift of love to be returned
We think of you and smile

A visitor from Heaven
Accompanied by grace
Reminding of a better love
And of a better place

With aching hearts and empty arms
We send you with a name
It hurts so much to let you go
But we’re so glad you came
We’re so glad you came

A visitor from Heaven
If only for a day
We thank Him for the time He gave
And now it’s time to say
We trust you to the Father’s love
And to His tender care
Held in the everlasting arms
And we’re so glad you’re there
We’re so glad you’re there

With breaking hearts and open hands
We send you with a name
It hurts so much to let you go
But we’re so glad you came
We’re so glad you came

Saturday, November 28, 2009


"Fear is a kind of parenting fungus: invisible, insidious, perfectly designed to decompose your peace of mind."

Nancy Gibbs
Can These Parents Be Saved?
Time Magazine Nov 30th

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A pointless exercise

I was born 54 years ago
I graduated from high school 37 years ago.
I bought my first car (for $500) 37 years ago.
I was married 34 years ago.
I went to Europe 33 years ago.
I was divorced 30 years ago.
I gave my last horse away to a friend 29 years ago.
I graduated from college 27 years ago.
I moved to NC 27 years ago.
I met Will 26 years ago.
I married Will 25 years ago.
I worked my last day of a full-time job 24 years ago.
I had my first child 24 years ago.
My second child died at birth 21 years ago.
I started homeschooling 19 years ago.
We moved to Alabama 18 years ago.
We returned to NC 13 years ago.
My youngest child was born 12 years ago.
My oldest child graduated from college and was married 1 year ago.
I joined the Catholic Church 3 weeks ago.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Coming "home" to the RCC

This is mostly a reprint of something I posted on my wall on facebook.

I joined the Catholic church in a Rite of Reception yesterday, July 12th. Of course no one thought to bring a camera, so there are no pictures. It's a shame, because I looked good! ;-) (Even though I was nervous!)

Will was my sponsor, which was comforting. Father John loves the anointing oil, so he poured a liberal amount on my head in the shape of a cross, and then rubbed it down my forehead and cheeks. I dripped for several hours until I could shower! It smells wonderful, though, so I didn't mind much looking like a drowned rat.

When I came back down the aisle to Will after taking communion (the new members take first), he was crying. We knelt together and he just held my arm and cried quietly for a while. It was very sweet. ...

The Liturgy of the Eucharist really did take on special meaning for me once I knew I could fully participate. I felt like I was hearing and saying all of it for the first time.

Deciding to join the RCC was a leap of faith, even with all the careful consideration I put into it over the past three years. In the end I had to just step up and do it. In some ways the deciding factor was the structure, freedom within boundaries meant a true freedom for me. I finally realized that I have felt like so much depended on me in the past, and now I don't. I love the Sacraments because they are God's doing. They work because he wills it. Not because of me, or the priest, but because God wills it. I get grace no matter what. I get to stop trying to interpret God or His will. I get to receive and then, hopefully, spread it around. I don't' have to be careful with it. I can love recklessly and let God sort it all out.

The structure of the RCC and of the Mass specifically allows me to not only be free, but to grab on when I don't know what to do or how to feel...which is often. The liturgy lays the path out for me to follow, and again, God's will means the path is right.

I still have many question and confusions about the Church. And I know they are as screwed up as any other church or institution. But to paraphrase one of the disciples, "Where else would I go? You alone can show me the truth."

Thank you to all my friends who have influenced me, supported me, prayed for me, admonished me, challenged me, changed me, argued with me, and loved me. I thank God for you daily.

Edited to Add: Will wants me to make sure everyone knows he cried in a very manly way. ;-)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Marriage, revisited

I recently had a conversation with Julie about marriage. Her question was whether we should reverence long-term marriages. It's a good post and a good conversation. Check it out if you haven't already.

My take, much distilled, is that marriage shouldn't be reverenced at all, but relationships need to be supported and nurtured. I also pointed out that for whatever reason, people still want/need long-term, committed relationships. We seem to be built that way. Whether it's family, friends, or lovers, we want people who will be in our lives for the long haul, and ending those relationships is extrememly painful.

Last night while I lounged on the bed sporadically reading my book, Iturned on the TV and caught part of a movie titled Shall We Dance? The movie is so-so, but it has an interesting message about marriage, midlife changes, and "finding yourself." (How cliche is that?) The character played by Susan Sarandon hires a private investigator because she thinks her husband is having an affair. The PI asks a rhetorical question at one point- "Why do people still want to get married?" Sarandon's character gives this answer, "People get married to have a witness for their life." She goes on to expand on that thought in a short monologue that I think is full of truth and insight. We live on a crowded planet. Marriage, or any long-term relationship, helps give our life continuity and meaning. Having someone witness our life helps validate it. I know as I get older the people who have known me for 10, 15, or even 20 years hold a special place in my life. They have the back story, they know the score, and they are still there. Witnessing my life, giving it meaning, supporting and loving me. In a society where other long-term relationships are fragile- community, friends, extended family- we want to think someone is committed to being there, not leaving, not moving away, but always there giving continuity to our days. Our lives are like art masterpieces that need viewers to appreciate them. What do they matter if no one is there to share the joy, beauty, and pain? Lovers, friends, families, communities all give our lives that shared meaning.

Why do people still hope and pray marriage works? At least partly because we want someone there to witness our life so we know it matters; that we matter.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

42 hours alone

True confession time. I think I'm turning into a closet introvert. For the past few years my evenings have consisted mainly of me retiring to my room to surf the web, read, or watch TV. Hopefully, by myself. And now I've spent the last 42 hours by myself, mainly in my house, alone, and it's been blissful. Heaven. Like getting into a warm, scented bath on a winter evening, or downing that first drink of something cool and wet after mowing the lawn, or jogging in the heat. For 42 hours no one talked to me, no one needed anything, and no one needed a ride anywhere. No deadlines.

I've watched five movies. I've read for hours. I ate only what and when I wanted. I exercised when I felt like it. I spent over an hour in a book store just browsing. I did laundry and cleaned my bathroom, but I even enjoyed that.

I never thought a weekend to myself as very appealing. I've known people to go on silent retreats and I thought that was cool, but not for me. Maybe it's age. Who knows. But while I love, love, love to spend time with my husband, and I enjoy my children and friends, I find I enjoy myself, too. And I find I really enjoy watching movies alone. And I like to read. And I like to "waste" time doing almost nothing.

I'm looking forward to my week alone with Will in July. That's a different and wonderful kind of alone time, and I treasure it even more than time totally alone. But totally alone has grown in appeal, at least for 42 hours. That's probably just the right amount of time. Or maybe about 42 more would be nice, too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Checking in

I'm mostly posting to keep my blog from being blown away into cyberspace. I need to grab some posts that I like off of here before I let it die it's much overdue death. In the future I may feel a need to write down my thought processes again, but not now. Writing isn't a natural medium for me. If there are thoughts crowding in my head dying to get out, they will simply spew out of my mouth, for better or worse. I talk; I'm a talker. That's what I do.

It's not that I don't think I can write. I do okay, much better than 10, or even 5, years ago. But I'll never be a writer. I have no compulsion to write, no story that is dying to get out, no poem dancing in my head, no pithy sayings ready to edify anyone who stumbles on them.

I don't want to post about the inner workings of my mind. I don't want to lay my mid-life crises open to inspection. No one really needs to hear how I'm handling the approach of another birthday or the disappointment over the choices of one of my children. I don 't want to talk about current events, religion, or politics. I don't know who's right or wrong...or if anyone is.

If I could write a story, or describe witty scenes of my life, I might keep going. But honestly, my days are pretty normal and my experiences not all that unique. I laugh and I cry. I fight my personal demons and my own character flaws. I succeed more times than I should, and fail more times than I like. I love my children. I love my husband. I haven't figured out the meaning of life. I haven't figured out how to live life to the fullest yet.

Some days I am who my husband sees me to be: strong, capable, loving, smart, and sexy. Some days I'm the person I dislike the most: paralyzed, petty, selfish, and indulgent. Some days I marvel at my own strength, other days I cringe at my own weakness. I don't expect too many people are very interested in reading about either version. ;-)

So all you writers out there keep clacking away at those keyboards. We need you. Those of us who don't write need to have something to fill our time!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reading romances

I actually slid into reading romance novels by reading a mystery series that had a complex, believable romance intertwined with it. Even though the two main characters get married in the second or third book, the author takes her time exploring this relationship between a Hispanic divorced, former narcotics cop (reformed alcoholic), and a young widow in California over the course of 7 or 8 books. The clash of cultures, backgrounds, and experiences that were frankly more interesting than the actual mysteries. Her books didn't have any sex, just sexual tension, romance, and relationship struggles. (The author is Earlene Fowler and her books are found in the mystery section of the bookstore, not romance).

I was reading Fowler's website when I clicked some links to "romance" authors. Fowler admits her books cross genres, and obviously enjoys both romance and mystery books. I've since come to understand that romance crosses boundaries with mystery and sci-fi/fantasy so deeply that some books are shelved both places in bookstores. BTW- romances are loosely divided into historical, contemporary, paranormal (werewolves, vampires, etc), sci-fi, and suspense/action.

Okay, so that sets up the background. From Fowler's link I found other authors and started checking them out at the library. I started with mysteries. Charlaine Harris has several series, and they vary in their sexual content. The lighter series is the Aurora Teagarden series. A grittier series, with more sex, is the Lily Bard series. Her sexier, much weirder, often humorous series is the Southern Vampire (also called Sookie Stackhouse) series. The HBO show True Blood is based on these books.

From the mysteries with some sexual content, I "graduated" to the romance with a little action/mystery. ;-) The difference is subtle sometimes, but the major component is that the relationship is as important as any other plot line in the book, maybe more so. One of the first authors was Susanne Brockman. She writes a decent suspense/action book filled with hunky ex-Navy SEALS and such. Her plots and characterizations are decent. Her story is as important as the relationship, and she's good with the sexual tension part. Many of her books are about the same group of people, just focusing on different characters. One main character is gay. She has a gay son (she writes about him in a moving prologue), and she does a decent job with that character and his relationship. Two of my favorites are Bodyguard and Flashpoint.

Other decent suspense/romance or mystery/romance authors where the plot is as important as the romance aspect.:
Penny McCall
Susanne Enoch (series starting with Flirting With Danger)
Nora Roberts (She writes all types of romance, and she writes futuristic detective type stories as J. D. Robb. One of my favorites is High Noon- not a western, btw.)
Linda Howard- some are good, some so-so.

I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, and some of the better books of the romance genre are cross-overs in these categories. My favorite author is Linnea Sinclair. She writes strong female characters who aren't dominated by their sexy male counterpoints. She writes good sci-fi plots and has well-visualized universe. Games of Command is probably my favorite, but I've liked all her books.

Other good sci-fi/fantasy authors:
Ann Aguirre
Jeaniene Frost
Eve Kenin
Patricia Brigg (especially her Mercy Thompson series. She is not a romance author, but romance is part of her books. She is probably considered a YA author by some, but one or two of her books get a little racy for young teens.)

Okay, please note: Many of the books I mentioned have fairly graphic sex scenes somewhere in the book. Mostly the characters aren't married when this happens. If you don't like reading about pre-marital sex, these books aren't for you. ;-) If you'd rather no sex, one excellent author of Regency period romances, known for historic accuracy, wonderful dialog, great plots, and detailed characters is Georgette Heyer. Her books are being reprinted and are truly wonderful reads.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Have You Ever....

In the spirit of Random Things and getting to know you better, I'll add this list. Thanks to my friend, Beth.

01. Start your own blog -- Yes
02. Sleep under the stars -- Yes
03. Play in a band -- No
04. Visit Hawaii -- Yes, but I was young
05. Watch a meteor shower -- Yes
06. Give more than you can afford to charity -- No
07. Go to Disneyworld -- No, but I went to Disneyland as a child.
08. Climb a mountain -- No
09. Hold a praying mantis -- Yes
10. Sing a solo -- No
11. Bungee jump -- No
12. Visit Paris -- No
13. Watch a lightning storm at sea -- Yes
14. Teach yourself an art technique -- Yes
15. Adopt a child -- No
16. Eat sushi -- Yes, well I tried. Ick.
17. Walk to the top of the Statue of Liberty -- No
18. Grow your own vegetables -- Yes
19. See the Mona Lisa in France -- No
20. Sleep on an overnight train -- Yes
21. Have a pillow fight -- Yes
22. Hitch hike -- NO
23. Look at the rings of Saturn through a telescope -- Yes
24. Build a snow fort -- Yes
25. Hold a lamb -- Yes
26. Climb to the top of a lighthouse -- Yes
27. Run a Marathon -- No
28. Ride in a gondola in Venice -- No
29. See a total eclipse -- Yes
30. Watch a sunrise or sunset -- Yes
31. Hit a home run -- No
32. Go on a cruise -- Yes
33. See Niagara Falls in person -- No
34. Visit the birthplace of your ancestors -- Yes- it helps when some are Native Americans.
35. Visit an Amish community -- Yes
36. Teach yourself a new language -- No, I tried and failed.
37. Have enough money to be truly satisfied -- Yes
38. See the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person -- No
39. Go rock climbing -- Not formally. I've climbed rocks.
40. See Michelangelo's David -- No
41. Sing karaoke in public -- No
42. See Old Faithful geyser erupt in person -- No
43. Buy a stranger a meal at a restaurant -- Yes
44. Visit Africa -- No
45. Walk on a beach by moonlight -- Yes
46. Ride in a helicopter -- Yes
47. Have your portrait painted -- No
48. Go deep sea fishing -- Hmmm...I don't really know. I've been fishing in a boat off the Bahamas. Is that "deep sea"?
49. See the Sistine Chapel in person -- No
50. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris -- No
51. Go scuba diving or snorkeling -- Yes
52. Kiss in the rain -- Yes
53. Play in the mud -- Yes
54. Watch a movie at a drive-in theater -- Yes
55. Be in a movie -- No
56. Visit the Great Wall of China -- No
57. Start a business -- No
58. Take a martial arts class -- Yes
59. Visit Russia -- No
60. Serve meals at a soup kitchen -- No
61. Sell Girl Scout cookies -- No
62. Go whale watching -- No
63. Get or send flowers for no reason -- Yes
64. Donate blood, platelets or plasma -- Yes to all three.
65. Go sky diving -- No
66. Visit a Nazi Concentration Camp -- No.
67. Adopt a pet from a rescue shelter -- Yes
68. Pilot an airplane -- No
69. Save a favorite childhood toy -- Yes- not a toy, but a iron statue of a horse I got when I was 7.
70. Visit the Lincoln Memorial -- Yes
71. Eat Caviar -- Yes, ick.
72. Make a quilt -- No
73. Stand in Times Square -- Yes
74. Tour the Everglades -- No
75. Visit the Viet Nam Memorial -- No
76. See the Changing of the Guard in London -- No
77. Drive a race car -- No
78. Ride on a speeding motorcycle -- Yes
79. See the Grand Canyon in person -- No
80. Publish a book -- No
81. Visit the Vatican -- No
82. Buy a brand new car -- Yes
83. Walk in Jerusalem -- No
84. Have your picture in the newspaper -- Yes
85. Read the entire Bible -- No
86. Visit the White House -- No
87. Kill and prepare an animal for eating -- No
88. Hike the Appalachian Trail -- Yes, a part of it.
89. Save someone's life -- No
90. Sit on a jury -- No, I was called for jury duty but never sat on a jury
91. Meet someone famous -- Yes, I think so.
92. Join a book club --Yes
93. Own an iPod -- Yes
94. Have a Facebook page -- Yes
95. See the Alamo in person -- Yes
96. Swim in the Great Salt Lake -- No
97. Cross country snow ski -- No
98. Hold a snake -- Yes
99. See Van Gogh's Starry Night in person -- No
100. Read an entire book in one day -- Yes, many times.

25 Random Things About Me

This was suppose to go on Facebook, but there are too many teens who check out my page. So I'm putting this here.

1. My parent and siblings thought I should never have children because I wouldn't be a good mom. They thought I should have a career and animals.
2. It took me many years to believe what they said wasn't true.
3. It took me a few more years to realize they really didn't mean it to be unkind. But it showed me the power of words in a person's life. Be careful what you tell a child they can or cannot do. They believe you.
4. It was after my divorce at 24 that I realized what I wanted was a husband, home, and family.
5. I spent 4 years working with race horses and living on racetacks up and down the east coast, from 20-24. I was alternately an exercise rider and a groom.
6. Horses are my first love. I haven't really been around them in years, but I know exactly how they feel, small, and sound. They will always be the most beautiful things on earth to me.
7. I gave up horses to be a wife and mother. I don't regret it, but I miss it. I believe life is about choices and that "having it all" is a myth that breeds discontent and heartache.
8. This past year I've started reading romance novels for fun. I'm not into the historic bodice-rippers, but I like the contemporary romantic suspense or sci-fi novels. Even the risque ones.
9. I'm an extrovert. I get energy from being around people. But I'm more likely to want to be home these days than out and about. Maybe it's because I've got enough people around me here that I don't need to venture far from home for company.
10. Fridays after I teach at Providence are my favorite times of the week. I don't have any commitments and no deadlines. I get into pj's and curl up with a good book or a movie. Bliss.
11. I went skinny dipping in the ocean off the NJ shore long years ago. That was during my racetrack years.
12. I'm not really fond of ice cream. Homemade is good, store-bought I can pass on.
13. I can't pass on homemade cookies (although I almost never eat packaged ones). I'll eat my weight in just about any homemade cookie. Hense the reason I don't make cookies.
14. I don't really know what I believe anymore, but I'm less worried about it than when I thought I knew. I've stopped trying to pin God down. I can recite the Nicene creed and believe it. I just don't sweat the details anymore.
15. I'm still not 100% sure about what to about church. I like the Catholic Mass, but shy away from the commitment of joining. I'm not much into obligations right now.
16. I've never been skiing, or ice skating.
17. I wear earrings every day. I rarely wear any other jewelry except my wedding rings. I feel really naked without earrings.
18. When I'm feeling stressed or depressed, I can read an entire average-length book in a day or less. One month last summer I read close to 50 books.
19. I don't really mind clutter in my house. I mind that other people might mind my clutter.
20. I don't like day-to-day meal making, but look forward to the day I have time to make fun and interesting dishes. I like cooking with Will.
21. I'm scared of getting Alzheimer's, like my mother.
22. I lived in Japan for a year when I was young. I've rarely worn shoes in the house since. It's just never felt right.
23. I took 4 years of French in high school and another two semesters in college. I had a decent grasp of the language. At 19 I gave up a chance to go to Paris for a month to live with a family and speak only French. I gave it up 'cause my boyfriend was angry I was going. Not THAT, I regret to this day. That was the guy I married and divorced.
24. I am a master procrastinator. I'm doing that now, writing this and not grading papers due tomorrow.
25. For two hours every Friday I have a room full of teens for Biology. I like these kids. And for two hours I try to accept them unconditionally. I don't think about what I know of them outside of class, if they are "nice" or not, wild or not. I try to treat them with respect and love. To help them feel valued. I hope I succeed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Congratulations to us! 25 Years and still loving it.

To my dearest husband, Will: You are my heart.

Every year really is better than the last. Thank you.