Monday, May 29, 2006

My Ishmael

My son is in trouble. He's not a son of my womb, but without a doubt Kenny is a son of my heart. I saw him before I saw his dad thirteen years ago, and I didn't even know Ken had a son. I'd made that long trip home, without my babies, half-out of my mind and starved for love. Kenny told me his dad wasn't home. LOL.

He was a young handsome man, with his dad's dark good looks. Big eyes--all of Ken's babies have big eyes. Ken has tiger eyes though. None of them got those, but they all have startling cow eyes that move you by their sheer depth. I tried to be kind to Kenny, but I was his daddy's strange girlfriend. I don't think he was bowled over by me. He was sixteen back then. Ken had him less than a year. In a very short time he would go away again, amid many sorrows. My own son would be taken from me soon. I would miss them both with a bottomless ache.

I married Ken almost three years later. Kenny was nowhere to be found.

So, I loved this man, Ken. We raised my girl, had a boy and a girl together. One day out of the blue we get a call. It's Kenny, and I see my husbands face shining with love as he talks. I'm so happy I want to jump up and down. Our prodigal on the phone. He asked his dad, "Whatever happened to Claudia?" Ken got to report, "I Married her." I was so moved that he remembered me. He visited us not much later, but beloved, a ghetto life is a hard thing to shake. He went away again. And we grieved him all over.

Everybody gets tired. I don't care how cool the rappers say it is to be "gangsta", our son got tired. Tired of a prodigal's riotous living. We offered him a bit of shelter from the torrential storms in his life. We asked him to come live with us away from the big city. Find his feet. And he did. He got a GED before you knew it, and then this bright, amazing man who had overcome so much went on to college.

But he got tired. It really is possible to get weary doing well, especially when a you're having troubling finding a job, and you miss your kids and girlfriend, and life in Ann Arbor is slow. And even though it's a far cry from the East side of Detroit, living with us had it's own burdens. He grew unhappy. Unhappiness begat despair. We lost him all over again.

Six months and not a word, until a call on Monday saying he's in trouble.

I can't tell you what the trouble is here, but I will say it's something no parent wants for his or her child. We are left devastaed. All of us. We are praying we are momentarily caught in a nightmare from which we will awaken, shaken and grateful it was only a dream, rather than the kind of nightmare that becomes a life.

I read in the novel by Marilynne Robinson, "Gilead," a passage that moved my heart so deeply today. It reads:

"The story of Hagar and Ismael came to mind while I was praying this morning, and I found a great assurance in it. The story says that it is not only the father of a child who cares for its life, who protects is mother, and says that even if the mother can't find a way to provide for it, or herself, provision will be made. At that level it is a story full of comfort. That is how life goes--we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they were born, it seems, for all the help we give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even if that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals is the Lords. I need to bear this in mind."

Dear Lord. Kenny was conceived before Ken had started his senior year in high school. His mother was only 16. We all make mistakes, and some of us make big, epic mistakes because we are young, and dumb, and sinful. There is so much blame to cast. So much bread of sorrow to choke down. And yet, I feel that brush of angels wings, hear their rustlings in the atmosphere. I feel the waters of the God springs mingle with the wind and spray a fine mist on my face. God is here with His magnificent--although I'm clueless in understanding it--provision.

I just know He is.

I am grateful that God is with my son in his wilderness, even though the jackals howl, and our souls cry out.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Pray for us.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

I went to church yesterday, and it was the Sunday of the Samaritan woman. This is a very significant day because it was on this very Sunday one year ago today, that Father Leo gave me the sacrament of Chrismation into the Holy Orthodox church.

I love the Samaritan woman. She was smart, manipulative, had too many men, and was easily slayed by the brown eyed carpenter whose love causes you to run away saying, I've met him! I've met the messiah!" If you are truly blessed, you run and tell everyone, "And he loves me!"

I think about how Jesus asked her to speak to her husband, and she said, "I don't have one." Jesus told her she was right! She had five, and the one she was laying up with like she lived in a flop house (my mother used to say that all the time) wasn't her husband.

I had a few who weren't my husband. Okay, more than a few! I could relate.

One of those men showed up at more door later on the same sunday: him.

I've told you about him. No, not that one. The other one. Not the one of "I loved a boy" fame. The one of "The Naked Pregnant Woman in the Yard" fame. Just showed up without any warning he was coming.

I've seen him over the years. He and I have two children together. I'm not afraid of him anymore. I'd just spoken of him a few nights before, remembering the day I left him. I was pregnant. I was alone. I couldn't take my two babies with me because he'd terrorized me into believing that if I left with them he'd hunt us down and kill us. He'd tried to kill me several times. I didn't want him to hurt the babies. He said if he couldn't find us, he'd kill my mother, or my best friend. I believed him.

I sat at the door, on the steps the day I left, locked inside the house waiting for him to return. I had the single minded goal of staying alive. He'd had the house set up so that I couldn't even get out the door without him. Lord, have mercy. My mother told me to leave, without the kids, before I told her he'd ever raised a hand to me. She knew. Mother's don't tell you to leave your babies if the odds of your survival are good. She said I'd get them back, but he was like the devil. I didn't believe I would. I stayed four years because of that.

When he opened the door that day some twelve years ago I stood and told him I was leaving. He frisked me. All he found in my pocket was my drivers license and social security card. I had no purse. The only money I had was less than twenty dollars I'd rolled up in plastic and inserted in my body like a tampon. He didn't do a cavity search, thank God. He is the type that would have tried if he'd thought I was smart enough to hide something there.

I started my life over with those resources: Dress and sandals I had on. Secret stash of less than a twenty spot. License. Social security card. And unknown to me, the grace of God.

Now, he's sitting on my porch wanting to talk.

I look at him. His hair has gone so gray that it shocks me. Thick, bongo dreadlocks fall carelessly down his back, matted gray and brown ropes. Patches of bald dot the landscape of his head. He is turning into an old man before my eyes. But his body is strong and young. He's still good looking.

He shoos the kids away, and I wonder why he needs to speak so privately. I'm not afraid of him at all.

We sit down, and he asked how I'm doing. I'm tired, but I feel soft and beautiful. I'd worn my hair in long cornrows for the last month, but I'd taken them down, and my own hair, much shorter, is crinkled into soft curls. I'm wearing all my favorite jewelry. I feel pretty as a bud today. He notices.

"I just want to thank you for our children." Those children are almost fifteen and seventeen years old now! A little late, yes? But I just nod. "You know," he says, "You gave me so much."
He had that right. "You were a soldier." Got the war wounds to prove it! "You raised the standard for every woman that came after you." Poor things.

He looked sad and full of regrets. I didn't have any regrets. I loved him with all I had, and lost everything. I came back home on a bus I didn't have the money to buy the ticket for. I borrowed clothes. My mother breasts exploded with milk from missing my nursing child, and I lost the baby I carried. My mother was right. I did get the kids back, only to have him take our boy a year later. I didn't get my son back for ten years. I met an imperfect man who loved me the best way he could, and he gave me three more children and a life with him in which I didn't have to worry about my death every day at his hands. I wrote stuff on the internet that turned into publishing contracts. I made good friends I can be authentic with. I got fat, but I look gooooooood! Jesus loves me.

I asked him how he was, and he told me. I felt so sorry for him. He used to call me twice a year, every year, and tell me I was the love of his life and that he'd never find another woman like me. He'd cry. He'd tell me he was deeply sorry. I told him if he didn't change the way he treats people he'd end up a very lonely old man. And now, he practically is.

My children swirled around me on brand new bikes, running in their new Nike's and K-Swiss. They look good. He never had more children, but wanted to. I'd been to church, celebrated the Eucharist, and celebrated my spiritual annivesary. My happiness wrapped around me like a quilt. God had been good to me. Nobody threw me out of my house naked and pregnant.

I thought about the well I'd met Jesus at twelve years ago when I had to leave him. So thirsty. Living with a man who wasn't my husband. I think of the big swig of life Jesus offered me. Never thirst again, Jesus said.

I took a sip.

I thirsted again, many times, but that wasn't Jesus' fault, it was mine for not diving right in and not only drinking my fill, but swimming in that clear, refreshing, river of life. But Jesus promised something to us ragamuffins. He said if we hunger and thirst for righteousness we'd be filled. So I go back to the well. Often. Jesus is still there. He still doesn't have a bucket. He asks me to partake of Him.

Never thirst again.

I go, mouth wide, trying to drink Him in. I can still only take Him in small doses. But I try.

God knows I try.

And He fills.


Friday, May 12, 2006

A Literary Mother's Day

Today I got a wonderful homemade Mother's Day card from my one of my baby girls, Nia Grace. Nia is nine years old.

Now this child never ceases to surprise me. She truly amazes me with her insight. She's an interesting child. She wouldn't speak a word until she was three years and then she spoke immediately in complete, deep and profound sentences.

She grew me a flower for mother's day this year--a scarlet dianthus. It came in its own little gift bag with tissue and everything. It's so beautiful. She had a lovely, handwritten and marker decorated note attached to to it. I wanted to savor it and read it in bed in on Mother's Day, but I couldn't resist reading it. Like all things Nia, it had a few surprises I didn't anticipate in a Mother's Day note.

Nia wrote in her own, loopy scrawl. I'll use her creative spelling:

Dear Mom,

What do you want to do for Mother's Day? I hope the people at nave press like your memrour. If we can't do anything for mothers day lets go for a walk if the weathers okay. When I went to the pond it was cold and raining! I love you. Your the best mom in the universe.


I have seven kids. I've gotten a lot of homemade cards in my day, but "I hope the people at NavPress like your memoir" is a new one on me!

Did you hear that, Terry?
Watch out, Don! I may have a new literary agent coming.

Have a great Mom day, ya'll.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Finishing a book is MURDER!

You've probably wondered what I've been up to in these weeks. Take heart, friends. All is well in raggedy-land. I've been scrambling to meet the deadline for my second book, Death, Deceit, and Some Smooth Jazz. The work is hard, and I don't have a lot of time left for blogging, or much of anything else. Forgive me for my absence. Know that I think of our meeting here often. I really do love you, reader, and when I'm away I miss you.

Besides furiously writing, I did, in a moment of compulsive self-absorbtion, google myself trying to see if any other stores had picked up my book. Some had! Yay! But I was delighted to stumble upon my first review--at least it's the first that I'm aware of. I'd like to share it with you:

Burney, Claudia Mair
Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man Claudia Mair Burney NavPress, Jul 2006, $12.99 ISBN: 1576839788
Forensic psychologist Amanda Brown just turned forty, but the single woman wants a baby and knows her time is running out because she suffers from endometriosis. Her medical examiner sister Carly buys her a sexy outfit and takes her to dinner, but Amanda and Carly have to leave as Carly is called to a crime scene.

There she meets Lieutenant Jazz Brown whom she thinks is a fine man, but concentrates on the homicides. She has been to this house before to investigate a cult leaders and his followers on behalf of a member’s father. That man and another are among the dead. Jazz and Amanda hit it off, but he tells her they cannot have a relationship even as they need to team up to solve the case. The victims apparently took communion with poisoned bread and wine. One member of the cult Susan goes to Amanda’s church where counseling to aid to people who suffered at the hands of a cult is offered. When Susan leaves, Amanda risks her life to find her, unaware that her decision will lead her to face and defeat evil in its most primal form.

Jazz and Amanda are terrific protagonists trying to live their lives in accordance with God’s commandments. Both have relationship issues as Amanda was once an abuse victim who lost her baby due to that and Jazz’s wife dumped him without warning. Claudia Mair Burney provides a good murder mystery wrapped like a moebius string in and out of a quirky relationship drama.

Harriet Klausner

Rejoice with me! Ms. Klausner is one of Amazon's top book reviewers. She has a lot of clout! A review from her can make or break a book. I'm thrilled she liked it, and hope there are other kind souls who enjoy it as well.

Two weeks 'til deadline. Pray for me.
Now go! Pre-order it on Amazon! (please) :O)