Right now I am on a plane

Right now I am on a plane, headed to the rich crust of scenery that is Northern California, seated next to a handsome middle-aged man who is reading the paper. There is nothing abnormal about a nice-looking man reading the paper on an airplane. But I’m struck by the ring on his left hand, just wrapped around his finger like it’s nothing. He is nonchalantly reading an article about Britain’s gambling problem and there is a large photograph of a woman wearing a leather sport blazer from Saks Fifth Avenue. It is an odd blazer because it looks like it’s a letter jacket from our high school days, but it’s covered in fur and the woman looks like this is all perfectly natural. Like she needs to eat something and if she just casually models this jacket by a famous designer she’ll get thrown a crust of bread, so she does this one last thing to survive.

And now you think I’m just staring at the paper and this man’s ring and the advertisements from Saks Fifth Avenue, which may seem strange because that is what I’m doing, but not all at one time but instead in short little bursts. Because I am stealth like a spy or federal agent or a woman in love.

I am also watching a little girl, no more than 3 years old, a few rows ahead. She’s sitting on her father’s lap facing backward with little round puffy cheeks that make you want to squeeze them or nip at them or plant little wet kisses on them. There is something about children and puppies that makes us want to do this. She’s eating pretzels and looking around the cabin, because children have the unique ability to enjoy the moment, and right then she was likely tasting the salt in her mouth and watching things just for the sheer joy of doing it. She wasn’t at all worried about landing or what is for dinner or whether she needs to wash her hair. I love children for this sense of presence about them.

Sitting in a plane is an exercise in patience for me, since I don’t like to sit for long periods and I always wonder what people are thinking.   All these brains wrapped up in all these bodies with thoughts firing off in all directions. If I could only see the thoughts like lasers shooting from their minds, it would be like a spy novel where the hero navigates the maze of it all while descending down toward the coveted diamond. I could dodge the red lines all the way to the bathroom in front of the aircraft, maybe even doing a flip or turn in the process.  And yet it’s all trapped and locked up inside of people so they just sit and read and watch football games on their laptops like they are empty.

But people are not empty. It’s just that they must sit and wait until the ride is over.   They can’t exactly jump out the window or nuisance everyone by dying so we all just sit and wait, noshing on pretzels and sipping on sparkling water with lime.

I steal glances at this man beside me, casually wearing a band on his finger, and I am still caught up in a haze. The type of haze after surgery when they give you pain medication and it just washes through you and you think life is good again and you have a strong urge for chocolate pudding. Except I’ve not just had surgery which makes all things better because I can walk around and buy books in the airport and stretch my legs without searing pain. I still want chocolate pudding sometimes, even though that’s juvenile.

I may someday grow weary and my mind may drift and I will be demented, confused about lifting a spoon to my mouth. So I try and sear certain things into my mind so I will not forget them. Like the moment my daughter looked at me when she was six months old, in her pink pajamas with rabbits on them, and I thought “my God she’s talking to me without using any words.” I cried and cried and thought I could never be more happy. I sewed that fabric into a quilt and I touch it sometimes, because of the power it holds. And there’s the moment when my son chewed up a little book and his face was beaming with pride, his hair thick and blond and curly. And the day I first met Mark and we ate at ABC Kitchen in New York City, amidst the sparkling candles and love bubbles that form in one’s stomach upon meeting the person they will someday marry.

All of these scenes will likely pass by someday before I die in a montage of life moments, the pink pajamas and the chewed-up book and Mark’s face, lost in space and time, trapped in a brain full of lasers, boucing around.

Today is one of those moments, looking at this man on a plane reading the paper with a wedding ring on, the ring I slid onto his finger less than two days ago, clutching my mother’s antique lace handkerchief covered in snot.  And it is commonplace to see now, as if it were always meant to be there. And maybe it is, this love, this life, this everyday moment. It was meant to be like this, as I will remember it, one of many things sewn upon my heart.

Right now I am on a plane, off to my honeymoon, off to new adventures, off to anywhere, really.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m with him, the man reading the paper with a ring on his finger.  The life I joined.  The life that sits beside me and within me.  I am just sitting here with laser beams bouncing around in my brain, noshing on pretzels and sipping on sparkling water with lime.

Bumper Sticker Brilliance

 

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Yesterday I saw a truck emblazoned with the marker “1794 edition.” Since cars were a twinkle in Mr. Benz’ eyes up until the 1880s, this seemed strange to me. In 1794, Frenchmen were being executed in a large-scale revolution.  There was a whiskey tax revolt in America.  Eli Whitney got a patent on the cotton gin.  What does this have to do with a truck that uses 15 miles per gallon? I read something about the manufacturing plant being on land that dated back a long time. But that’s dumb.  I instead imagine this truck comes with a cotton t-shirt, a glove-box full of Jack Daniels, and maybe the navigation screams at you in French.

And then just today I saw a bumper sticker that read “God, Guns, and Guts” followed by “Make America Free!” and “Let’s fight to preserve all three!”

Finally, something I agree with.  I, for one, love guts.  I think our guts are not as celebrated as they should be.  Did you know the length of the small intestine is about twenty feet long? What breathtaking biology!

I mean, I’m no fool.  I get it that they are trying to find a short word that start with a G. Because duh, God and Guns. What adorable alliteration.  But what about Goats? I like me a good cabrito kabob. Or Grapes? A double whammy because they are used to make wine AND chocolate-covered raisins. And let’s not forget Goop.  Without Gwyneth, how would we even know to flush our vaginas with lavender? WE WOULDN’T EVEN KNOW.

But guts is better.  It really is.

Did you know the GI system is the only organ system that can act independently of the brain? Your gut has its own nervous system. And there is the Vagus Nerve located in your gut that carries information straight to your brain, meaning gut symbols can be taken as emotions, so maybe trusting your gut is a thing? The other day our pediatrician told my kids at their back-to-school checks that while the small intestine gets your food all chopped up and stripped of nutrients, the large intestine steals all the last remaining water, squeezes it tight, and turns your food into poop. Ha ha! Poop! My seven-year old laughed.

So when you think of things that we need to preserve and keep free, GUTS does come to mind.  We don’t want any restrictions, limitations, or laws negatively affecting this vital part of us.  Keep it free! Let’s fight to preserve it at all costs! When I think of things important to me, naturally my guns are first. And God.  But then? FOR SURE IT’S GUTS.  [I mean maaaaaybe I’d have chosen grapes, depending on the day?]

I think in 1794, they would probably have said the exact same thing.

photo:

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Antique Apathy

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I sat in church and was agitated.  I fiddled with my skirt.  I twirled my ring around in circles.  I looked out the window to the outside world, brimming with birds, the slow wave of oak tree branches, cars parked in the Texas sun.  I longed to be there instead of here.  I waited for the next time we stood up as a congregation, and I whispered to Mark, seated next to me.  Let’s get outta here. It was something about the choir robes, the way the scripture was read, the way everyone seemed so homogenous.  It seemed sterile, as if the very grit of life and reality of our very selves was missing, and I was sinking in a whitewashed hole.

Get me outta here, where I can feel the heat prickle my skin and know that I’m fully alive.

And yet in a sudden departure from routine, we were encouraged to sit instead of stand as we sang that week, much to my disappointment.  It was as if God was giving me the stink eye, which my mother used to do when we were kids and made too much racket during the service.  There was never a prime opportunity to leave, so we stayed.

I was bored.  That’s the simple truth.  I’ve heard these hymns.  I know these prayers, these verses, these sermons.  Even the very parables of Jesus are so familiar I’m like “Yes yes let’s grow seeds in the fertile soil. Excellent reminder.  Also, let’s stop by the grocery store and have roast pork for dinner and I wonder if I can find an antique door for our bathroom at a garage sale.” Perhaps I’m the very epitome of the lesson – the one who lets the worries of this world overtake her, and fails to relish in the delights of being fully loved.  I get it.  But I’m still so seriously bored. And an antique door would be nice. Maybe I’ll paint it white and rub it off to look weathered. And if you haven’t made a pork marinade with strong coffee and molasses, we need to talk.

So one thing about my past you may not know is that I’ve been raised on a steady diet of music.  I’ve taken it seriously.  I trained and practiced.  I went to an excellent college with a music department to be rivaled.  We toured and we sang, we hit overtones with our straight tone and kicked ass with our bellowing vibrato.  Every day at noon for four solid years we’d gather, and work hard, and kick ourselves if we made mistakes. It’s been a passion of mine my entire life. I don’t sing much anymore, but I happen to have one of those voices that sounds, well, choral.  It’s large and operatic, and sometimes even bluesy in the right settings.  So oftentimes in church, people turn around and tell me I have a lovely voice.  I’m always appreciative of these comments.

But that day, I felt terribly guilty.  For after my hardened heart made it an entire hour – which is something I can so naturally flit away at home watching mindless television but then seemed like an entire day’s rationing of time, a woman did just this.  She turned, and told me how beautiful my voice was, and I was racked with guilt.

All I wanted to do was leave this place – this house of God, this place of worship.  I wanted to run free from its oppressive air and seemingly stuffy people.  Did they know the hurt of life? Did this crowd live out a daily walk of love, with their own neighbors, or do they come here to say the right things and check off all the boxes? Is anyone here below the poverty line, or know the sting of being the outcast, with a different skin or language or heritage? I’m clearly very sanctimonious and can appropriately make these judgment calls about other people. I got my priest pin the other day in the mail (Amazon Prime! It’s real gold!).

So after my stinging judgment about my church compatriots, who did nothing to deserve my inner lecture, and my derailing thoughts of antique doors, a woman turned around to say something complimentary about my voice.  It made my heart fall.  Not because I thought her comments were necessarily true – she was like 90 and my voice was undoubtedly flat – but it brought to the forefront the darkness of my own heart.

My, how we as a people still resemble the Israelites, who after leaving the horrific slavery of Egypt wandered about in the desert, not knowing when Moses would return from the mountain, and begged Aaron to give them gods.  Something they could touch and feel and see.  Something that would give them hope again, and inspire something inside them.  Something interesting they could carve out of gold. They were bored, for heavens sakes, and tired of the old familiar lessons.

And yet Moses interceded.  God forgave.  The love between a God and his people was not forever interrupted by their lack of appreciation or hardened hearts.  There is always mercy. There is a constant supply of grace for our restless spirits.  There is an awakening, sometimes in the oddest of ways, to remind us of such.

So today, in the silence of my bedroom, I sang.  An old hymn that I love, that I’ve sung so many times before.  But it brought about new life.  My voice was in no way beautiful.  It squeaked out the tune and my voice cracked, because the tears streamed down.  Because I am not worthy of such benevolent and overwhelming forgiveness. And yet it’s offered, every day, the bread and the wine forever ours for the taking.

I am grateful for this type of love. It is ancient as the hills, and yet as new as the morning.

Be Thou my Vision

(an old Irish hymn from the 6th century, translated to English in 1912)

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

—-

photo credit:

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Summer Camps for Today’s Youth

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Ah, summer.  The time of year when our kids, depleted from an arduous school term, are ready for some relaxation.  After all, school is hard, with all those crust-less sandwiches, pressed smocks, French horn practices, and engaging philosophical discussions.  I get it how students just need a break from it all.

But summer can lead to boredom and melancholy.  Yes, yes, the Museum of Natural History has a mummy exhibit. There are a variety of summer concert series. But where are the camps that teach real-life skills the youth of today need to survive in this world?  After all, I worry.  There’s the numbness of the screen, unknown genders, the man-bun.  So I’ve scoured the interwebs to find more practical options.

  • All American Sports Camp. This camp is located in the heart of Texas.  The kids can drink as much soda as they can handle and just leave the cans sitting around (because who really believes in recycling, or self control for that matter). They also learn how to cuss out a referee quietly enough so that later they can deny it.  It’s operated by a fellow named Billy, who was a very solid baseball player inside the Dallas Department of Corrections intermural team. Although girls and boys are both welcome, the ladies get all emotional and weird about the robust evening discussions on how to dump a girl after homecoming. But they will learn to spit, so that’s something.
  • The Dawson Drama Camp for Youth. This camp teaches the essence of vocal projection.  Your teenagers will stand on the side of the street and scream at (1) cars driving slowly, (2) old people who waddle; and (3) small children who make screeching sounds just because they want a stupid toy.  There is also a break-out session on how to respond to cat-calling using Elizabethan English, and this year there’s a special course on combat, perfect for football players that attend that rotten sports camp in Texas. There is an add-on class on fake crying, late-night texting, and properly singing to the radio.  The last night everyone is just left to their own devices around the fire, dancing in the moonlight and howling.
  • The Camp for Future Culinary Stars. This camp is located somewhere in Nebraska nobody bothered to name.  It serves hot dogs that sit lukewarm for three days and roll around on little metal bars.  Attendees are tasked with finding and preparing recipes solely with ingredients found in a Mini-mart. There’s a midnight food run whereby all the food must be purchased with wadded-up dollar bills and loose change. Whatever dish is prepared must be void of any fruits or vegetables, which is cool since Mini-mart only has mandarin oranges in a can.  Campers must hold down the food without vomiting for a minimum of 47 minutes and have to store all the leftovers in a dorm fridge. If your child is gluten free no one gives a rat’s ass because that’s just how things work in Nebraska.
  • Nature Camp. This gem of a camp is in the heart of California.  Amidst the beautiful backdrop of orange trees, your youngster will participate in a ropes course, whereby they will probably fall and no one will catch them because that’s how life is.  Also there are long walks in the afternoon through rigorous terrain so your kid can learn how to properly do the walk of shame at 2 am while stumbling over trash cans.  That takes training.  The food is all organic, although the granola is really just crushed up Ritz crackers and raisins that were in the bottom of someone’s purse but are still completely edible and delicious so quit your whining.  There is also archery for the true adventurers, but instead of arrows campers are just encouraged to hurl insults at each other.
  • The Sunshine/Millie Art Camp. Is your little one interested in art? This camp is not located in one place, really, but loosely meets in downtown Los Angeles and is run by a woman named Sunshine, although sometimes she goes by Millie. You can recognize her by her stunning body art, especially the peacock with a bloody dagger.  Your kid will come home looking like she fell into a tackle box with all those new shiny piercings, causing endless fun at airport metal detectors.  Sometimes Sunshine/Millie doesn’t show up at all due to her meth habit so the kids have a “rock your own art day” completely unsupervised. It’s good to encourage a strong sense of independence.

So this summer, resist the urge to have your youngsters sit around and watch dull television re-runs, or complain that “Lauren got to go to Europe.”  Enroll them in a camp that will really expand their hearts and minds. After all, they already know how to play the French horn.

 

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/rotia/2669964145/in/photolist-54Wgjz-rbV9ik-9PcTXd-2HMQZ-o6Bi1M-oQKCbE-4djKY-MUboR-2TtDXw-h7bSH-vQZkD-VmGuhR-8mxtXR-7wrfMS-cuTLN5-W2AMQw-2HeAMJ-2FDMjK-73dnvb-2HV32b-9Yv68z-cwtrqj-4FerPK-8E5GUE-hZwhg3-qh4Zg5-AXVM7v-VTgVFH-VdrFrc-wPStKX-onZYuF-5iythf-jwWAV-6NdtEE-jwS13-oD9Kny-iyKPjk-TXrukH-FL4BPu-VXdp3b-5zVpCc-TMh1s6-8VTwhp-6R6wgZ-ii64MC-aEefJM-p7HJav-on9yzA-5benUk-6Bmm6i

Martha Stewart’s Guide to Unclogging a Toilet in Six Easy Steps

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(1) Invest in the Proper Infrastructure: The key to success is a properly-designed toilet. I recommend those made by craftsmen in Portugal, where the ceramic is air-dried in the sun and there is a hand-carved seal of approval for quality. They may be more expensive, but my general rule of thumb is to pay five times more for all things.

(2) Buy Better Cleaning Products: A toilet should be cleaned every 6.2 hours, by the hired help of your choice. I only use Martha Stewart Toilet Bowl Cleaner, which is all natural and non-toxic. I know this because my grandson drank some, which made my daughter Alexis freak out and call Poison Control. Their response was, “Haha! That stuff is nothing but distilled water and a few drops of peppermint oil! That kid could drink the whole bottle and be fine!” They sure are a jolly bunch.

(3) Eat More Greens: A clogged a toilet is often diet-related. One’s body cavity residue should be a nice, smooth, sorbet-like consistency. To obtain this result, simply consume six to seven servings of organic kale prepared in a coconut flax backwash mixed with ginger. My hired help often comments on how bright and cheerful my excrement is. They love working for me, and cleaning my ceramic toilet is their favorite job. That’s what they say right before I pay them.

(4) Eliminate all Plungers: If you are using one of those terrible rubber toilet plungers, you should discard it immediately. They are harbingers of bacteria. You should instead purchase a wooden toilet stick made from light Walnut with an attachment that crawls through the pipes, thoroughly cleansing the porcelain. It has little web-like hands made from groupings of crushed diamonds that rotate using small gears. You can special order these from my favorite clock-maker Bernard in Connecticut.

(5) Stay at One of Your Other Properties: If all else fails and the above steps don’t work, which is surprising if you’re eating that much kale, it’s time to call your driver and take a trip to another one of your various properties. There is no use living in a house if you have sub-par toilets. You might also reconsider the very purpose of your life.

(6) Last Resort: Call a licensed, professional, organic, all-natural plumber. I’ve heard they are named Bob. At least that’s what is printed upon their shirts. Perhaps you can locate Bob through your various media connections. You shouldn’t be there for this – I recommend leaving town so that you don’t have to know what’s happening inside your home. Perhaps you should do some traveling. I recommend Portugal. They make excellent toilets.

 

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*this is not a real photo of Martha Stewart’s bathroom.  She did not actually write this. It’s satire. If you think she did, you need to move to Portugal.

photo:

(threew’s)..flickr.com/photos/133418222@N05/17783481078/in/photolist-GXMTy-pripqq-t6sZmJ-t6AB4H-dxjy5C-t6sZwo-JHzg8-dDcb2o-to8giK-tnMCqf-G1LGuT-dxjy5N

The house on the hill

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The rain came down, the stream rose, the winds blew, and beat against that house.  Yet it did not fall, for it was founded upon the rock.

Matthew 7:25

I recently moved. It’s closer to my fiancé, his children’s schools, a new life. I wanted a place similar to my old one.  I longed for land and privacy, gardening and chickens.  I’m here right now, writing to you upstairs from my new office.  I’m seeing the trees beat against the wind that rages atop this hill.

“You have an amazing view,” people say.  I nod.  But the breezes blow the deck chairs practically into the pool, and the wind doesn’t match my fire–based personality. “Have patience,” I tell myself.  We will ground this place.  So I drink warm things and cuddle underneath my blankets. I am searching for the perfect picture of a tree and I’m finding cozy small spaces.  But inside it all, I am unsettled.

The first time I saw this house, I was generally disgusted.  It was buried in the middle of overgrown weeds, on the top of a hill, a great divide between two valleys.  It was just an old stone house with an open-air atrium in the middle.  Too much work, too little interest, too much wind. The nice lady who lived here walked me around to show it off, but I thought “no thanks, honey.  I’ll pass.”  I especially loved the carpeted walls, which added that “if lieu of an insane asylum, just head to your living room” touch that we all so desperately need. I showed the real estate agent photos from my phone and we both laughed and laughed.

But here I am looking out from the upstairs window, nonetheless.  Because with a bit of time and reflection, and a healthy respect for the bathroom tub which fits seventeen people (go ahead and shovel me some shit in this life because I’ll just lolly-gag around in this ginormous tub and then bounce against this walled carpet, yo), it seemed to have great potential. It sits on several acres with an amazing view and is in a neighborhood with no homeowner’s association.  This appealed to my anti-seeing-people-all-the-damn-time sentiment. And it was close to Whole Foods. So no fights with folks about the height of fences, turkey chili at the ready.  SOLD. Perhaps it would hold great promise, with the right contractor, designer, and sweat equity.  I’m sure in time I’d come to love it.

Who are we kidding.  I am only one person.  Why do I need such a large tub? But mostly, I’m not a lover of change. Most the time I cling to the old like shoes, despite a busted heel or broken sole.  Because of what they used to be.  Because of the memories they hold.  I cherish the past even when it’s terribly broken. Maybe it’s my own soul that needs repair. What I’m certain of is that this house needs some tenderness.  And I wasn’t sure I was prepared to give it.

In theory, I was on board with this house-buying decision.  I signed all the paperwork and nodded my head and put a for-sale sign in my yard.  I told the children it was for the best and it was good to put the past behind us and got a new mortgage.  It was symbolic – a new future, a new life, a new start.  A marriage and new family loomed ahead, so let’s just go ahead and dive on in. But I was terrified. Also slightly amused at the cartoonish nature of this place.

The day I closed on my (now former) home, I sobbed. I cried out in pain for the ripping again, the tearing of things.  I brought my son home to that house.  I walked around it over and over, circling it in prayer.  I touched every wall for blessing and I baked grease into the kitchen stones and worn down the wood with my pacing.  I woke up in the morning and saw birds dancing and making love. I saw the changing seasons and the dew and the tiny buds of flowers.  This was not just a home, but a part of me that I needed to feel complete, to feel loved, to feel surrounded.  Oak trees in the back yard were bent by the wind just so to form a canopy, and when I walked underneath them I felt held.  And for that time in my life, I needed to be cherished by something. That house held me, and I loved it so.

And then it hit me. Who was I without that place? I began to feel my identity was lost.  When people come to visit me in my new house, I practically grab them the moment they pass through the entrance.  “This isn’t me,” I want to explain.  “I don’t like that wall or that set-up or those cabinets.  I promise this will all be changed. This isn’t my vision. This isn’t my home. I don’t do paneling.”  Hello, insecurity crisis.  Like my worth is placed inside the walls of a white kitchen. No one cares.  It’s me who has placed so much emphasis on a house like an idol.   It’s me who placed all my worth in something that could literally burn to the ground. I put my priorities in the wrong place.

I’ve never really worried much about idols.  The Bible mentions them like they were some threat – a mistake of the Israelites when Moses was gone for a while. But whether it’s golden calves or Baal or other strange looking statues, I’d never for the life of me consider bowing down to any of them. It’s one of those old fashioned notions that’s not practical to today’s lifestyle. “Have no other God before me.”  Check.  Duh.  Obviously.

And yet here I was feeling lost and alone without that old shoe. Like it was what had saved me, those stones my only protection.

This weekend, there was a horrible storm. It woke me up with a vision of demons, and I prayed for hours upon hours.  I begged God to bless this home, and to place upon this hilltop a beacon of light to others, a place where people can come home to instead of fall back upon.   This home may be on a solid rock, and the wind may blow, but it will not falter.  Because it’s not the home that creates blessings, it’s the Father who blesses.  Let this home be a haven and a light, based on a firm foundation. I wrestled with God about this for a while as the wind howled.  And then ceased.  I got up and went about my day, drinking coffee and sitting wedged inside my small front porch, looking at the rising sun.  I sang at church with all my heart.  I practically attacked my pastor and blubbered something about my house having a good spirit.  He was like “okay crazy lady.  Go on now and eat some more donuts.” Luckily, if his predictions are true about the crazy, I have padded walls so I’m totally covered.

And then I came home to this house on a hill. God bless this home, founded on a rock, wild and windy.  We named it “Hilltop,” because for some reason it needed to be named. Soon I’ll put a little iron sign in the yard stating such. Of course I will, because that’s the crap that I do. God also bless Mark, since he’ll be putting up with me.

What is founded upon rock will stand.  We will stand, and will keep on standing. For it’s in God we place our trust, not a pile of stones.  So let the wind rage.  This light will still forever burn.

Odd and curious thoughts (about moving)

 

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  • We are moving into a new house. This should be an opportunity to purge and go through things and start anew. One in this situation might say lovely things like “ah what nice closets!” or “my, this place is spacious!”  My new house, however, has shag carpet, a sunken living room, and smells slightly like cat urine.  There is no talking.  Only quiet weeping and the unpacking of books.
  • I’ve decided the cedar wall paneling in the bedroom is really just ship-lap that Joanna Gaines uses in her hit show “Fixer Upper.” It’s just that the boards are angled and facing the wrong direction and not painted white and gross. Basically the same thing.
  • The best thing about moving is getting to eat pizza and eat on paper plates. But you do that for two days, which leads to a solid week, and you start to feel bloated.  Then you don’t fit into your jeans and you haven’t unpacked the loose ones yet.  But don’t worry, because if you are depressed it matches the living room that’s two feet lower than all the other rooms so you are really never alone.  We are all sad here.
  • I will say that the new dishwasher works. My last dishwasher thought washing dishes was optional, maybe it would happen on Tuesday and if the spray head wasn’t tired.  I’d give it little inspirational talks, like “You can do it this time! I pre-rinsed the muffin tins!”  She’d groan at me and a random mug would still have coffee stains just for spite.  I felt that was highly disrespectful and this time around I’m not being such a pansy to the dishwasher and showing it who’s boss from the get-go.  You have one job, appliance.  I’m not even going to name you.
  • I’m getting advice from a decorator, since we are doing a large-scale home remodel. She ends up drawing me pictures and floor plans which I change and say things like “well I don’t much like this.”  Then I went and bought a chandelier that was so large it didn’t even fit in my SUV and her comment was “Oh dear” followed by some really nasty language that frankly, I don’t appreciate.  What does she know.  Except for design and style and interior expertise and color and whatnot.  WHO ASKED HER.  I did.  It was me. This is complicated.
  •  I hired a really good moving company who looked at the contents of my previous house and said it would easily fit within two trucks.  What they did not realize is that the contents of my closets were just like Mary Poppins purse where things just kept coming out one after another. Pole lamp with tassels.  Cupcake travel holders.  Party napkins.  Silver chargers. The pole lamp was from Mary Poppins.  The rest was mine, Tetris style, packed in tight.  It didn’t fit in two trucks.  They worked until 10 pm.  They almost broke their backs.  I gave them all fat tips and scolded each one of them, telling them to get nice-paying air conditioned desk jobs.  The one with all the tattoos just glared at me but said thank you and yes ma’am.  Do they not have mothers? Should I be like a foster mom for mover employees?
  • The previous owners tried to remodel the kitchen before they moved but we were like “no seriously please stop.” Like for real put down the tiles and lay down the hammer, because you’re making things worse.  The vent hood hangs directly over the stove-top on the island at eye level, so every time I cook anything I give myself forehead lacerations when I bang my head on it.  Every time.  Because I’m not four feet ten inches, as it turns out.  Also you can’t open any of the kitchen drawers because they ordered the wrong fronts so you have to sort-of pry them open with your fingernails.  Unless you have talons, you aren’t getting any silverware my friend.
  •    The first weekend in the new house, we let my future stepson invite some friends over.  One girl whom shall never be allowed to marry anyone in my family or friends of family and basically needs to move let the chickens out and our chickens ran all over our 2.5 acres in a state of panic.  One ran into the neighbor’s yard so the introduction to the neighbors was “hey there you don’t know me but I have this box in my hand and is it cool if I just catch this rogue fowl in your back yard and slam it down into this cardboard box super quick? If it helps it’s free range and organic! Sorry I’m in sweat pants!” Remind me to join the neighborhood email. They are going to LOVE ME.
  •   One room, which I shall assume they used as a dining room, is raised six inches off the ground and is covered in parquet flooring.  Why?  Did they need to peer down upon others at dinner? It looks like a stage instead of a room.  I may put spotlights on it and leave it alone. Why in heavens name they needed so many levels in this house is beyond me.  It’s like they are intentionally sticking it to the handicapped.  Don’t get me started on the staircase.  It has three landings.  Need I say more.
  • The home was built in the early 80’s encircling an old oak tree. So naturally it made sense to create an open-air atrium to show off the tree. The tree died.  The atrium remained.  You literally have to walk all the way around the donut hole in the middle of our house that is open to nothing if you want to get water in the middle of the night. I now refuse to eat donuts in protest. If I hear anyone else say “you should leave it! It’s cute!” you can eat my construction dust. Who I am kidding I still eat donuts.

We are all so excited about moving.  I’m sure you can tell. My daughter says “moving’s not so bad except that our house is ugly. When can we move back into our old one.”  It’s going really well indeed.

Life, no filter

I bought face serum the other day.  It was expensive, but isn’t it worth looking radiant and beautiful? Those actual thoughts ran through me.  A woman who clearly knows her worth is not in material beauty.  A woman who has almost died and who has come back from darkness and who has been held up by the strong merciful hand of God.  I was like Hells Bells this is on sale I’m stocking up, baby.  I’m 41 with a gimp eye and a midsection that has just given up and has settled for elastic.  Who am I kidding?

Nothing is evil about beauty products.  What is evil is the allure of beauty as the solution to insecurity and fear.  Of thinking Chanel earrings will make your life better or your wedding day more special.  It’s misaligning beauty with power.  Replacing God with photographs of peonies and perfect family portraits.  SIDE NOTE I JUST BOUGHT VINTAGE CHANEL EARRINGS.  I’m no poster child. Also I said hells bells, in case you thought I wouldn’t be embarrassing if you talked to me at a dinner party.

But I am concerned about the image of beauty as being the standard to which we all strive to achieve.  Not in prisons, or school yards, or with our teenagers.  With us.  With me.  Christian circles seem to have it all figured out, with our collective blond hair and blue eyes and jewelry that benefits African villages.  Look at us! Look how hard we are trying and how God loves us!  Let’s all drive around in our large luxury cars and buy overpriced coffee! Always justifications, always reasons.  Always some excuse to cut in front, show more, be more, pray out loud, use volunteering and good works as a measure of our own worth.

We are failing.  We are not showing the sacrificial love of Christ.  We are just showcasing our edited selves in an effort to prove something against our raging insecurities.  And what we are doing by that is white-washing the Gospel with filters to make sure our own wrinkles don’t show.  We are building walls around faith so that others don’t want to come in. That’s the devil’s work.

Let’s take off the filters. We can only start with ourselves.

I am currently re-reading the Old Testament.  I don’t enjoy it, truth be told. I skim and I groan like a petulant child reading about Levitical law and rules and sacrifices and descriptions. WHO CARES WHAT COLOR THE TASSLES ARE ON THE STUPID GARMETS LET’S MOVE ON ALREADY.  It’s like reading someone’s grocery list. Salt, blue soap, little carrots, beef, that pork Susan likes.  I don’t even know Susan.  I like to write out psalms on the blackboard in our kitchen.  David is a creative type that I can really rally around. But ask me to read Numbers and I feel like a kid who has to scrub the bathroom floor.

Why is it so hard?  Because it’s not pretty.  It’s not interesting.  It’s not as powerful as sermons and parables that Jesus so lovingly unpacks for the seemingly dim-witted disciples like an after-school special.  You don’t see this stuff written on barn wood and put up in living rooms.  What it does instead is create more questions and raises up what seems like unmerciful and unjust punishments and creates some sort of foreign world where various rams are slaughtered and blood is sprinkled.  Every time I read the Old Testament I keep thinking of dead animals and people just gleefully flinging them around in order to spill blood.

But it forces me to think, and attempt to understand, and read interpretations and commentaries and try to put my head around a different era and the lessons God is trying to teach within it.  It shows me how important Jesus is as the ultimate sacrifice, and how the blood shed for us is so powerful. Wisdom is truly beautiful, and something to be desired. The more I seek it the more I realize how elegant it is to be in communion with God.  To try and listen to knowledge in these seemingly arcane lessons.  Often times I’m thinking of what to cook for dinner and how much laundry is left. I skim and skim.  But I pray that I can focus.  I attempt to see the symbolism and foreshadowing.  Lord knows I’m not perfect but he knows how words hit me where it hurts.

I run in a great many circles.  Many are religious. I see wonderful women writing so many pretty books.  But they are also getting head shots and having their makeup done and worrying a bit too much about the size of their jeans and less about the state of their heart. And as their audience grows, they grow more worried about numbers and followers.  This is a slippery slope to pride.  I know this intimately well because I am one of these women.  I am one who filters and purifies and puts on a new face.  I cover up the imperfections and broadcast to the world that I am STRONG and CONFIDENT and MAKING IT.  I give speeches about God and yet I can’t seem to get out of the house without under-eye concealer.

But as Adam and Eve could not hide, neither can we.  No matter what our Instagram feed looks like.  No matter how much Estee Lauder creams we buy.  We cannot hide because our skin is only a flimsy film covering up our raging, beating heart.

Do you know that moment when your child throws a huge fit, the kind that results in name calling and throwing and rage-filled eyes? You do not see them and wonder how their hair got so greasy or why they are getting plump around the middle.  You don’t worry about their acne or think they need to buy better shoes.  You don’t notice any of this.  You look directly inside of them and cry out: My daughter.  My son.  My love, come back to me.  And then you easily forgive and hold and shush and understand, because your love for them is so vast.  If we can see a glimpse of this, how much more does God love?

Let us strip the filters for once. Let’s just sit in the back of the room listening.  Praise the good we see in others without raising ourselves up.  Let’s try to focus more on the inside of our hearts than the state of our skin.

Face cream isn’t evil.  But it’s not what makes us.  It’s not what defines us.  We aren’t receiving God’s blessing just because we have money or things. What we look like and what we own is so temporary and fragile.  The kind of love that seeps from the spirit is the kind that lasts.  It’s the beauty that radiates.  It’s the joy that endures. Hells bells.

Let’s be that kind of beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The meaning of motherhood

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You are a mother, and that means something.

But it’s best, child, not to know all the gory details.  So you hide in the closet and pull at your own hair. Because it hurts and sometimes pain is the only thing that reaches deep down inside. You cry so much your eyes are encased with dark circles.  My god look at you.  You lost ten pounds but not the good kind where you look toned and tanned but the droopy, caved out hollow look. You put on makeup because you want to paint some color back into these worn-out cheeks.  You best take a shower and get up from that fetal position because time waits for no one. Is anyone feeling sorry for you? There is no one here to listen.

Because you are a mother, and that means something.

And there’s dinner, always dinner.  All the time these kids want to eat and there’s dishes and clothes on the floor and they hate asparagus.  Why do you kids need to eat so damn much? When we were little, you’d say, asparagus was a delicacy at Christmas.  Grandmother would pull it out of a can and serve it like gold yet here you are complaining about it when it’s freshly steamed with sea salt.  You have no idea how good you have it.  But they have no frame of reference so they look at you like you are speaking Italian and you let them eat macaroni because whatever.  You will not submit to the Zanax prescription hanging on your refrigerator door or drink too much wine.  You are better than this.  Pull your shit together, woman. If anything, do it for them.  They are becoming your singular focus these days, the reason you get up and keep on drinking coffee.

Because you are a mother, and that means something.

So you walk in and you get that job because you gotta work to pay for that school they are used to and clothes and legal bills and this mortgage that you need to refinance along with the lawn that needs to be mowed every two weeks.  Stupid weeds.  They cost $100 to handle. And when you get the job you cry in your car and ask God if you really have the strength to do all of these things.  He says yes and you just nod and haul your tear-streaked face back home through the traffic and through the recycled NPR stories and through the sinus headache. And then you see your kids and you just can’t wait to smell their hair and touch their faces and put them in your massive and empty bed to cuddle together because if you hold them really tight they won’t disappear.

You are their mother.  That’s what you tell yourself at night as the tears well up.

And it turns out all this pain permeates like clouds in the air so your kids grow sad and you think to yourself I’ve ruined them so you work so hard to create a happy home and do all the amazing things that mothers do to make children happy like ice cream nights and sand castles and building forts out of blankets.  You begin to wear makeup and start to puff your cheeks like a fish and make up stories about women in New Jersey who yell at imaginary taxi drivers. And they start to crack a smile so you breathe a little like Mary Tyler Moore thank you Jesus we’re going to make it after all.  And instead of macaroni you start to cook pork roast because you want to eat whatever the hell you want who cares that it’s only Tuesday you run this home.

You are a mother.  And by God that means something.

You start to move on and find a place again in life.  A wonderful unique place that you didn’t know was even there, that fits like a little glove over your fingers.   And this new place has new people and you end up with a partner who thinks you don’t even need under eye concealer because your eyes are more beautiful than diamonds and your heart is what he’s after and you ride this happy little train with your hair blowing out of the side window.

But you turn around and your kids are not having it because what is this life you are contemplating. There is a NOT APPROVED stamp. Not having any part in it. Sorry, return this life thanks but no thanks.  We want the old one, the one we thought was normal until it wasn’t, where they were the center of the universe and Daddy sometimes came home for dinner after work.  Because in the memory of a child things are always beautiful and sweet, as they should be. But oh my loves, there is no going back.  The old life is over can’t you see? Can’t you see how it’s fading away?

I am your mother, the one who loves you.  Doesn’t that mean something?

So you put a jacket on that strong back of yours and let them pounce upon it, attack it, claw at it.  You turn around and let them.  You watch in horror as they rip up the love notes and sabotage all you’ve build up inside this neat-fitted glove. But it’s a phase and it will pass and soon enough they will see you had to move on, because of your sanity and because of your dignity and because of that Zanax prescription you managed to fight off out of sheer will. Well you may deserve another chance at love but what you actually get is another fight about bedtime and getting out the door in the morning and there’s a spider in the bath and suddenly we’re back in pull-ups again. They cling and cry and cling and cry and you are a ping pong ball just being bounced around between emotions. They physically insert themselves in between you and the new life thinking they can be a human shield warding off the new. Yes I know you hate me but you have to take a shower and wash your hair and brush your teeth.

Because you remain a mother, and that means something.

And there are expectations, for special breakfasts and funny faces and singing random instructions and chess games, proving to them you’re still you, you’ve still got it, you’re not abandoning them, you’re rock of all things in this shifting sand.  Even when they glare and yell and cling and cry.  You just bounce back up. But who are we kidding you’re not God so you drag around sometimes and yell and feel guilty about the yelling. There’s school projects and homework and dinner and trying to get them to school on time and movie nights.  And then you get sick but mom can’t get sick so you push through and still do all the things but sometimes they eat Granola bars instead. And you get better but they don’t notice because they are children, just glad to have you back making French toast because granola bars get old, everyone knows this.

Sometimes you sit on a girlfriend’s couch and drink wine until all the words fall out until you apologize for always talking about your life and never theirs and you are filled with guilt for being so selfish.  They tell you it’s fine and they love you but you never quite believe them. Why or how is that possible after so much of your bitching. Your kid then says they don’t want a therapist because they’re fine and it’s you that’s the problem.

It’s hard being a mother.

You sit down one day and realize that you are a hair’s breath from giving up because your back is getting bruised and bloody from taking it all the time. But you don’t have the luxury of giving up so you stand up and shuffle down the hallway like an old lady with arthritis.  But seriously your muscles hurt. You listen to some jazz because that seems to loosen things up and you drink hot tea with lemon. And when your kid forgets their school project you drive it back up to the school.  They know this about you, because you’re YOU and this is what you are around for.

And at the end of every day you still look at them and your heart melts, the smell of their hair and the way it feels when they curl up to you at night when you read to them.  They are you, from you, born on earth a part of you.  Someday they will look back and think my mom made a decent dish of mashed potatoes and sometimes laughed and gave us gifts on Wednesdays.  And they will have odd memories of all this mixed together in a blender, some good and some sad and some flat-out weird. And they will know you’re always there and never left and sometimes had a droopy eye.  But if they wanted to talk you did and if they wanted to sing you did and if they wanted to take a long walk that was just fine too.

Because you were their mother, and that meant everything.

 

photo:

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10 Ways to Infuse your Life with Humor

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Me and Beyonce in Vegas. Remember that, B? SUPER FUN.

(1) Watch comedians live. It’s endearing to see someone be bold and share personal information about their toenails and ex-boyfriends in a way that makes you laugh.  I am always and exceedingly proud of people for getting up there.  I’m a wonderful audience member because I’ll always smile and laugh and I never give haughty looks unless the comedy turns ugly and hateful.  Because I’m forgiving of bad jokes and nervous energy and uncomfortable silence and forgotten bits. I’m like the mother at a basketball game who’s cheering and pumping her fist and saying “WRONG WAY, DEE DEE!” and after we all go out to celebrate with ice cream.  I’m the queen of supportive. Unless it gets flat-out mean.   I am not forgiving of hate speech disguised as comedy.

(2) Look at everyday things in a different way.  Today, I told myself I had to find something humorous on a road sign.  Because road signs are so naturally interesting.  Well LO AND BEHOLD there was a sign posted about not texting and driving, and the picture of the phone was an old blackberry with an antenna.  And I thought how funny that we are supposed to take the state seriously if they still believe we are talking on phones with antennas. I remember when people would slam that antenna down after a frustrating call, like “TAKE THAT, AOL CUSTOMER SERVICE.”  Those phones didn’t even have texting capabilities.  There were only three cell towers in America and women were still wearing shoulder pads.  Look around you.  Is there something about your house, your car, your hair, the way your dog pees?  Surely there is something routine that you can look at differently and find the humor in.

(3) Imagine pain itself, or a painful experience, as something you can put in a box. Then create funny or ironic or sarcastic things to say about this painful thing.  Name it.  Maybe your pain is Myrtle or Hairy.  Then say all the funny or sarcastic things to its face and realize that suddenly, you have power over it. This thing doesn’t rule you.  It’s in a box for heaven’s sakes.  It has an unfortunate name that rhymes with turtle.  Who can take that seriously?

(4) Read funny things. I can’t highlight this enough.  Don’t try to imitate these people, or wish you were like these people, or try to copycat these people.  That’s creepy and covetous and is a trail to nowhere.  Just enjoy reading their funny words.  Applaud their talent, and encourage them.  Buy their stuff and go to their shows or readings and seek out words that make you laugh.  David Sedaris, Anne Lamott, and Dave Barry got me through many hard days. Put these words in your life because it reminds you how to take life less seriously.

(5) Encourage and solicit friendships that truly make you laugh. I know this sounds obvious, or mean, like you need to weed out Stacey because all she does is talk about her work drama and she’s a drag. I mean who cares about the fact that she got scolded by her mid-level manager in the accounting firm. But it’s true. Funny friends are important. (And don’t actually unfriend Stacey, poor thing.  Just take her out drinking. She’s under a lot of stress).  If you have friends who make you laugh, you should schedule time with them.  It’s like a kale smoothie – being with friends who uplift you and make you smile is good for your body and doesn’t make you want to vomit.

(6) Turn anger into humor. This world is filled with a lot of things that make me angry. For example: Trump’s limited vocabulary, bad drivers, our lack of compassion as a nation for those unlike us, pushy girl scouts, crappy coffee, people who misrepresent faith as being an elite club only for the good people, Trump’s lips, when neighbors drive fast down my little country road, and when my car smells like rotten milk.  Okay maybe I’m overreacting about the Girl Scouts.  However, we must turn these things that infuriate us into something that makes us laugh. Why? Not because we are minimizing them, but because we have to find a way to cope with them. Humor is the only way I’ve found to deal with anger in a way that doesn’t lead to alcoholism or jail time.  Let’s hear it.  What makes you angry, and how can you make that funny?

(7) Only watch good-quality television. I realize this may sound like an oxymoron, but there is so much smart television out there right now.  Don’t let yourself fall for some cheap laugh-track crap that just fills your mind with junk.  Search out shows that play on words, use physical humor, have underlying themes that resonate, and fill your mind with joy.  That being said, if some stupid show makes you exceedingly happy, resulting in you humming all afternoon and baking scones, FINE.  Ignore this advice completely and keep watching.  Because what the hell do I know.

(8) Don’t attack people personally for their belief systems. Make fun of things, general issues, yourself (always fair game), Vanilla Ice, long catholic weddings, and any of the Kardashians. But don’t make it personal. We need to see humor as a connector amongst us.  It’s a great unifier between the redneck cowboy with the elitist city dweller. Let’s use it for good, not evil.

(9) Allow yourself to be serious. People who try to be funny all the time are annoying at worst, creepy at best.  You have to learn the ying and the yang, become familiar with the serious and the frivolous, so allow yourself to feel all the emotions of life.  The funniest people I know aren’t always wise-cracking.  They are introspective, creative, ambitious, invested in their communities, and wise.  There is a scene in Steel Magnolias where Sally Fields is crying after the death of her daughter, and when I say crying I mean sobbing because HELLO SALLY FIELDS I LOVE YOU and she says “I just want to hit someone! Something! Anything!” And then her dear friend Olympia Dukakis throws Shirley MacLaine in her face and says “HIT HER!”  And in the midst of great sadness and seriousness and tears streaming down Sally’s face, what do you see? Humor. And it’s brilliant.

(10) Spent time around children. They are truly wonderful little people without all the cynicism and baggage of adults.  If you don’t have children, you should borrow some.  Pay close attention to how they look at life, the questions they ask, and write down the funny things they say.  They will always put you in a better mood, unless they are three or ten or going through puberty.  Then you should avoid them at all costs, run quickly the other way, pretend you don’t know them, say you are just the pizza delivery person, and revert back to some other advice above.

Most of all, allow yourself to laugh.  Find joy in all things.  Proverbs says that a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. 17:22 So go forth and make it a priority to infuse laughter and humor into your routines.  You owe it to yourself.  You owe it to humanity.  You owe your friend money and your mother a return telephone call too, but who’s counting.