Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grandma's Brag Book

Never, ever ask a grandmother to see more pictures of her baby unless you really, really mean it.

I've had several requests lately, so I've spent the morning trying to figure out how to post one of our family albums on here. If you are incredibly bored, feel free to click...but I must warn you they are not photoshopped, re-touched, or edited with a very discerning eye. It's just us, being us.

They are in more or less chronological order, from about early October until now. (And there are way too many.)

Someone let me know if it worked, please!

blessings, kim

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Darkness into Light

It rarely rains in southern California. It’s been predicted all week. Yesterday, finally, the sky was heavy-laden with clouds. It matched my mood. I had been “heading south” for most of the day, each negative thought compounded by the next. My efforts at fighting them off only served to invite even more to jump aboard. Then sick anxiety decided to show up. My heart started tightening like a clenched fist, lifted up in defiance to the sodden sky.

James was infected by his grandmother’s jolly mood, and somberly stared at me with big, brown, questioning eyes. He didn’t buy my half-hearted efforts at being funny as we roamed up and down the unfamiliar grocery store aisles. He laughed, but it was almost as lame as my jokes. He was just trying to be polite. He knew his Mimi wasn’t herself. Kids sense these things. You can’t fake them out, no matter how good an actress you are.

Watching the leaden skies for signs of imminent downpour, I leadenly loaded up the car and the baby. None came. Just an oppressive stillness in the air. Like the dulling limbo we’re living in right now, trapped in a bureaucratic maze of insurance approval.

On the way home, I tried to come up with a Happy Thought. Didn’t work. Then I tried praying again, as I had throughout the day. Most often, it was the prayer from Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. I tried chanting it in my mind, like a Russian monk. Still no peace.

I stared off into space for a minute at a stoplight. When I looked back ahead, I saw an intensely beautiful sight.

The sky was a wonderfully chaotic mix of clouds of all shades and sizes. A huge dark gray one swooped down from the east, fierce in its sudden emergence. It scuttled a stream of smaller bluish-gray ones out to the west. Suddenly, a wide band of blindingly brilliant light came down between and through them, like a shaft descending straight from heaven’s store of luminosity.

It was a startlingly surreal vision. It might have been a scene from one of those good old 1960’s Biblical epics we used to watch in Panoramic vibrancy, wide-eyed in the dark.

Oh, did I mention I’d prayed for some kind of a “sign” earlier in the day?

It never did rain.


"You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light." (2 Samuel 22:29)

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." (Isaiah 42:16)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Time for Tears

It’s weird how little crying I’ve done since all this happened.

I was born super-sensitive and high-strung, and have cried easily and frequently throughout my life. There was a time a few years ago when I simply couldn’t stop crying. One time I cried so hysterically that my kids actually discussed calling 911.

But crying won’t kill you.

Several years ago, my sister, with strange foreshadowing, gave Katherine a picture with a scripture verse on it. It was of a beautiful woman with long blonde hair, weeping. The verse was:

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.*
You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

(*Other translations say “wineskins.")

I must have contributed many magnums to heaven’s wine cellar by now.

I’ve discovered that there are times, though, when you just can’t cry. I have shed strangely few tears since April. (For me, anyway.) Prior to that time, much lesser things have completely done me in. Maybe this is just too big. Much, much, much too big. Maybe I’ve been in a benign type of denial.

I think I realize, subconsciously, that if I let myself really get started, I won’t be able to stop.

When I was home for the holidays, I’d run into someone I hadn’t seen since before April 21. That person, seeing me for the first time, might try to say something comforting, but would start crying before they could get it out. Now, normally, I always cry when other people cry. The faucet immediately turns on full blast. It’s like when someone else is throwing up, I start gagging. (Actually, if I even smell it, I start gagging.) But in these holiday encounters, even though the person was crying on my behalf, I didn’t shed a tear. Not a drop. I could almost feel something inside of my chest turning to steel against the hug.

I wonder if there’s been some kind of internal mechanism operating in survival mode. Maybe there’s a mental gate that slams down when I get too close to the edge of the cliff.

Oh well...enough navel-gazing for now.


Last Sunday, everyone came to the apartment in LA for lunch after church. This has become a weekly tradition. I usually hate to cook, but for some reason I really pull out all the stops for Sunday lunch. It’s the closest thing we have to being home out here. Everyone stays all day, and then sometimes it turns into supper. Jay says it’s my “Nenie” thing. My grandmother Nenie was a fantastic southern cook; I am barely a decent mushroom-soup-can cook...but it’s more about the spirit of the thing. Last week we had about 10 people and 3 babies crammed into this miniscule place. In addition to the immediate family, we had Jay’s cousin Johnny, whom I’ve adopted, and two couples who are among Katherine and Jay’s very closest friends. The two mothers, Anna and Abby, were pregnant when Katherine’s AVM rupture occurred, so those babies incubated at UCLA. They were there practically every day of their inter-uterine lives, at least until we moved to Casa Colina. Anna and her husband Andy took care of James for us for a couple of months.

Anyway, it was a happy, sweet afternoon with very well-loved ones. Katherine was parked in her corner of the shabby shabby-chic couch I got off Craig’s List, watching as we ate baked salmon and goat cheese omelettes and drank peach tea and mimosas. We’ve almost gotten over our guilt about indulging ourselves in front of her by now. Just a quick twinge now and then. She watched as we passed around the little babies and took cute we rescued James from perilous perches and picked him up from the mothers discreetly retired to the tiny bedroom to nurse.

That night, Katherine and I were alone with James in the apartment for a while. As I desultorily cleaned, she read on the couch. When I asked her what she was reading, she held up “The Purpose-Driven Life.” “Katherine, haven’t you read that before?” I asked. She nodded yes. “Why are you reading it again?” A few seconds went by. Then big crocodile tears started streaming down her cheeks. “Because I need a purpose.” I didn’t say anything, I just sat down and held her. “How many mothers can’t go to their baby when he cries? That’s what mothers DO.” I nodded on her shoulder. I knew she was deeply touched by the mother-baby interactions she had just witnessed with her friends. “Those babies are close to the age James was when this happened to you. Is that sad for you?” Fresh tears streamed down, and Katherine’s tiny shoulders shook with pain. “I don't know how much longer I can take this. How many mothers can’t pick their baby up when he’s hurt? Do you know how that FEELS?”


Suddenly, I felt that steel bar start turning into rubber.

My baby and I just sat on that sofa and wept.

I have a feeling the dam’s about to break.

It’s time.


“...a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance..." (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

“This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” (II Kings 20:5)

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I hate changes—
like when God rearranges
my tidy little blocks
and ungently rocks
my world apart.
But then I start
to see a new design-
a better one than mine-
emerge from all the mess,
and must sheepishly confess
I don’t know it all.

Though I weep and fall,
shaken to the core,
I get up off the floor
and place my trembling hand
in His to stand.

Cringing, stumbling,
crying, mumbling,
limping, bleeding,
empty, needing...

Love drags me, blindly,
to the Promised land.


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

May the new year be full of the gifts of change for us all.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Yellow Ribbons of Love

Unfortunately, James already seems to be developing an addictive personality. For those who’re out of the baby scene, some woman is laughing all the way to the bank because of her creation of “Baby Einstein.” We refer to it as Baby Crack because it is so highly addicting to the under-two set. It’s kind of like Sesame Street used to be, only even more low-tech and geared towards 9-month-olds. Whenever anyone in that demographic is feeling a little tense, anxious, jittery, or exhibiting any other symptoms of withdrawal, you can just pop one in and soon all’s well. Your little loved one is in the Zone as he watches grownup hands demonstrate how to play with baby toys, splashes of pretty colors flashing by, and extremely simplistic hand puppets doing quirky things accompanied by the music and poetry of the Great Masters. (I have to admit that they do learn a lot from it, whatever my disparagements may be.)

Anyway, anyway, anyway...James was really cranky the week before we left Pomona. He had a bad cold and didn’t feel well, so he got coddled with a lot of Crack. As he was watching Baby Van Gogh for the third time one day, he had a Helen Keller moment. “YEAH-YOA!” he yelled, as he bolted off his rocking horse. Spontaneous eruptions of “Yeah-yoa! Yeah-yoa! Yeah-yoaaaaa!!!” continued for the remainder of that week. We could be discussing doggies or fire trucks, but his invariable response was a loud “Yeah-yoa!” with a meaning look in his eyes.

I had no idea what he was talking about. But when we got back to Athens, I found out.

James had evidently received some kind of prophetic word.

“Yellow” is the color of hope.


My friend (and across-the-street neighbor) Betty Perno had her own “aha!” moment while in the shower one day. She was thinking about Katherine's trip home for Christmas, and how she could welcome her back. We live on a pretty little street named ‘Two Oaks’ after the massive, ancient trees that stand sentinel on either side of the road. Suddenly, the words of that song about the “old oak tree” came into her head.

The difference between Betty and me is that she acted on the inspiration. She called a few other neighbors to get the word out. Then she called the headmaster of Katherine’s alma mater. A friend who is a former mayor sent out emails to the Chamber of Commerce. Yellow (Yeah-yoa!) ribbons would be tied around trees to welcome Katherine back to her hometown and remind her that she has not been forgotten.

My middle child let the surprise slip out. I thought it was an incredible idea. But by the evening of December 23, I saw only two ribbons as I drove through the neighborhood. “Everyone’s too busy with Christmas,” I thought sympathetically. (Sometimes ‘just one more thing’ can drive you over the edge at Christmastime.)

But when I made a Walmart run on Christmas Eve, there were yellow ribbons all over the place, mingling with red Christmas bows. They were on mailboxes, sign posts, and random trees throughout the neighborhood. There were signs at the entrance and in people’s yards welcoming Katherine home. Katherine’s brave (or crazy?) life-long friend, Sally, even talked her brother and father into helping her put a banner up on the interstate from Atlanta!

Although there was a little miscommunication about the time, a wonderful group of neighbors still braved the cold drizzle to wait at the neighborhood's entrance for Katherine’s arrival. She cried when she saw what love inspired them to do.

I really love my town sometimes.

In this past (mostly-dreary/drizzly) week, we’ve discovered yellow ribbons all over Athens, scattered like bright Easter eggs throughout the city. We’ve found them everywhere from quaint, old neighborhoods, to banks and businesses and churches, to the school Katherine attended for 14 years. It’s like getting little hugs every time you turn around...symbols of caring that whisper, “You are not alone.”

Emory nerd that I am, I had to investigate the symbolism and origin of the yellow ribbon thing.

There is not one definitive consensus on it's symbolic value. In the early 20th Century, it was associated with awaiting the return of a loved one, usually a soldier off at war. In the 70’s, a story of a prisoner seeking confirmation of his welcome home upon release became the ubiquitous song. In the 80’s, it became a symbol of support for the hostages in Iran.

I think all of these manifestations....soldier, prisoner, hostage...are appropriate in Katherine’s case.

She is in a war, fighting vicious battles for liberation every day. She is a prisoner of her own broken body. She is held hostage by her physical limitations. But the ribbons sprinkled through her native town like beautiful, big, yellow petals tell her that she isn’t fighting alone. The Resistance is with her, doing battle behind the scenes on her behalf with the power of their love and prayers.

The encyclopedia goes on to tell me that the 20th Century usages of the yellow ribbon symbol may have evolved from earlier traditions: “The song/poem "She wore a yellow ribbon" has appeared in various forms for at least four centuries. It is based upon the same general theme. A woman of destiny is under some sort of test or trial as she waits for her beloved to return. Will she be true to him? This seems to be the lingering question and the basis for a great unfolding drama.” (Wikipedia)


The answer is YES.

Katherine, a woman of extraordinary destiny, is staying true to her Beloved through the terrible, torturing tests and trials.

There is, at least, no 'lingering question' about that.

Those yellow ribbons of love and hope testify that we are all waiting with her until those trials are over.

Thank you.


An afterthought:

It dawns on me that a hostage is usually freed by the payment of a ransom...and that one has already been paid.

Freedom is coming, as surely as the sun.

“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.” (Ps. 55:17-18)

“...and the ransomed of the LORD will return.

They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Is. 35:10)