Waves of wisdom

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I was driving today. Onward toward a job I’m close to ending.  Sighing about the traffic, rubbing my temples, and letting my eyes blur the brake lights. I was thinking how life can be monotonous one moment and then gone the next, like the woman in Virginia with fresh blond roots and a future. As I inched forward on the highway I wondered how I could better cherish these days.

The car in front of me had a bumper sticker that read “WHY CAN’T YOU USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL.” And I thought how insanely helpful this was to point out.  Perhaps we needed more such chastising signs in various places to help us as a society. Grocery stores could post signs that read “Why can’t you eat more (bleeping) spinach” and the hotels could say “Why can’t you use the towel more than one time” and bars could say “Why can’t you see that this guy you’re about to go home with has an overbite, an abundance of back hair, and smells like three-day-old cigs? IT IS A BAD DECISION: CHOOSE NETFLIX INSTEAD.” I feel like we should all be open to such wisdom. Then I passed him without using my turn signal.

I was creating today. Covering a folder with duct-tape flowers and watching my daughter write a heart-shaped note with butterfly words that fluttered atop the page. It feels good after a long day to let your brain make flowers and draft words that sing and have arrows pointing toward polka-dots. Because our lives are created in His image. They are so intricate and elegant.

This morning, some sort of bug the size of a hummingbird flew right at me like a bug demon. It buzzed and screeched like it wanted to nest in my nose hairs. I screamed and jumped, dropping toast jelly-down on the front porch. And I batted at the air for a good five minutes, like “Come back you little coward. I WILL FINISH YOU.” But we all know that’s a lie because if he buzzed around me again I’d just scream and run. I headed inside to get more coffee, because maybe if I was just a bit more jittery it wouldn’t have been such a drastic shock to face such a brisk morning bout of anxiety. And during the duct-tape creation project my son decided the best use of the stuff was to rip it off and cover parts of my body with it, like my mouth and my legs and finally I stopped him so he wouldn’t bind and gag me and then who would make dinner? Who would have to help with bath? Who would. . . wait. Why was this a problem?

I was eating today. Laughing and folding lettuce leaves with my fork. Hoping I wouldn’t be the last one. Picking up the check. Feeling the smooth blue cheese in my mouth.

I was complaining about how folks these days don’t work as hard as they used to, our new generation’s annoying entitlement attitude. I mean, I had to work really hard growing up. The guy I was eating with was like “I know what you mean. When I was in Afghanistan on my second tour the men kept complaining of how f*#king hot it was, like we all weren’t in the same f*#king tank missing our families and watching for terrorists” and I was all “Okay I was going to talk about how I had to decorate all those cakes in high school for the Fall church festival but you win.”

I was praying today. More like hanging my head, since the shame of my foul mouth and my disobedience and my lack of trust hung like skunk stench through the windows. I always reach out to God in the aching times, the times when life pounds down like a hammer. But in the everyday I grow lukewarm, like I don’t need help and don’t need grace and don’t need one single thing but morning coffee. And I feel like God must be shaking his head at me, like a child who never learns.

God, please forgive me when my dependence wanes. When my concentration falls to empty laughter. In the hard times I’m a model citizen, prayerful and obedient. But in the happier times I feel kinda bad for all the Amy Schumer I’m watching.

But I swear I’m grateful.

Grateful for the way leather smells against my nose. Grateful when my son giggles and throws back his beautiful head. Grateful for my girl who said she wanted a clump of hair to fall down because that’s the way she likes it. The cool smooth of ice cream on my tongue. The moment the kids run to me as I see them. Mornings on the front porch before they both rise.

I am so thankful for my life that it chokes me up sometimes, sitting there in traffic or on my daughter’s floor or at a business lunch. Sometimes I think that might be all I can do, just being thankful. Life goes up and down, up and down, crashing and building up again.  In the building up we are again preparing for the falling down. The glorious and guttural, screaming and laughing.

Thank you, Lord, for the strange and beautiful waves.

 

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/8136496@N05/2797812368/in/photolist-5gew9h-dqEfi5-oLqrq1-annN68-prUxkt-85YSK-9p7UgZ-9pnGzJ-bmSa2R-ptimwV-xpjxHU-hniRn2-73vNGR-5Yiy99-xqPCBg-5CxmQg-bia714-8QfRNb-bLtBTr-akfTKx-94jTF2-oLCXbe-9rwouW-e5cnRy-cSaLoq-7HjfgN-6U7CXH-aoeSB6-N7Ewp-9pbfqf-p2Jgo4-pZhcWA-9po4JG-9pbnbj-8mE5ag-79Ashi-gk3w6-6cvZrk-C7zwb-qCSkeP-6afpWn-n7x7H-mfLvU-qpLRZs-5B83cp-bnrfFW-gKAyYK-9pjJA8-413jL-9Ndj98

Nine Fun Facts About Full-Time Working Mothers

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  1. We are resourceful. Let’s hear it for Thursday mornings when you realize that you have nothing for the kids’ lunches but almost-turned strawberries and leftover pasta in oversized Tupperware. While those other mommas are lovingly hand-packing turkey roll-ups with love notes, I’m like sweet! We have frozen burritos! WE WILL SURVIVE ANOTHER DAY.
  1. We don’t mind traffic. After all, rush hour is a blessing.  Time alone without children to gather one’s thoughts, be mindful, pray, and listen to music.  That’s what I tell myself, at least. And yet quite honestly I am a liar. It’s a daily exercise in patience while you sit in a sea of taillights, mostly cursing.
  1. We don’t like to repeat ourselves. Can CPS be called for yelling about putting on shoes? I mean hypothetically if there’s a chronic not-putting-on-shoes problem and said yelling can be heard in the general neighborhood at a high volume? Asking for a friend.
  1. We encourage perseverance through life’s many little troubles. My daughter’s like “no one else has to eat cheese sandwiches for lunch.” Like something is wrong with cheese sandwiches. Suck it up, kid. Later in life there’s traffic and leaking oil filters and complex relationships. This is minor.
  1. We cook healthy dinners for our families. Dinner used to be a time where we all gathered around a protein and two vegetables. Now it’s a mad rush to put macaroni and carrots on a plate before 7 pm.  When I actually do cook a real meal, the kids frown. “What? No carrots?”
  1. We recycle. Yesterday one of my children got leftover pork roast, biscuits with jelly, and grapes for lunch. I fail to see the problem.
  1. We encourage ourselves to be our best. Every morning, we stare at that woman in the mirror, the one with dark circles and hair that looks like it was shocked with electrical outlets. One voice inside says “Give in, hon. Just throw on a baggy dress and ponytail it.” But another voice, much more faint, says “Girl, you know you’ll regret that decision by 2 pm. So go ahead and make more coffee, wear those black strappy heels, and curl through the tangles. I taught you better than this.” I hate that voice. I snarl at it as I dab on concealer.
  1. We focus on what’s important. Working full time means sometimes your kids are late to school, you forget things, you push them in front of television shows in order to jump on conference calls, or say things like “mommy is really stressed out today because of an acquisition that almost tanked and millions were at stake so HOW ABOUT WE NOT WHINE ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE ONLY HAVE PEANUT FLAVORED GRANOLA BARS.
  1. We have a thing for pajamas. Sometimes I have dreams of taking my kids to school in pajamas. My stay-at-home mom friends tell me it’s not that glamorous, and if you’re home all day there’s laundry to accomplish, and they dream of going out to fancy lunches. I just keep yelling “PAJAMAS” in the phone until they finally relent and tell me that it’s actually pretty damn awesome.

Basically, working outside the home is hard.  Being a mom is hard.  Put those together and your children will eat lots of carrots.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbh/10218754856/in/photolist-gyZMNy-9QvNRf-6n8DLq-sUCBA-h9n12m-8Aq1yt-87N9tk-7osHn-cRm8U5-aKug2K-7gQ28z-79tRBP-muMbmN-biy8Le-9jXmAt-79xHhN-8CPRdi-8rVAQ1-6ea8Av-de9aCe-a7kvnN-a7hxpk-rGFdbG-rsvURX-7CjSKL-8s34wJ-5b6HGp-61JYN-5ZtZ25-hZfbmj-91zUsq-q9eKwk-5kof6W-7mFcCc-oWpjmC-o7cpK9-8ACA53-bBGoXH-6uo26W-58TnmN-7osrg-dErga1-orF6Cr-fpU6oK-fq9kJh-8tktDc-DQisu-5cxkro-6KWzZJ-cvr5io

Odd and Curious Thoughts [about the New Year]

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  • So the fudge consumption has ended. Also the spiced pecans and pie. My parents brought over a tub of animal crackers big enough to feed the state of Rhode Island, and those dagblasted little animals are the last remaining sugared items in my home. I have half a mind to throw them all out, despite starving people in the world. I can’t in good conscience wear my sweaters in public because they are clinging to my sides. So these little white floured elephants are going to the day care Monday, so I can push more sugar onto the little people.

 

  • My resolution this year is to be more positive. I’m already a fairly rose-colored-glasses girl, but I’m throwing it into hyper-drive and soon I’ll sound like Candide giggling despite my life’s circumstances. If I get cancer or have a horrific accident I plan on just putting on lipstick and bearing through with a grin. Because my life is very, very good, and I’m not planning on sweating any smallish stuff. Which means I probably will get cancer because I’m not great at wearing organic, all-natural deodorant.

 

  • I am starting off more organized. I cleaned out my closets and lined up all my boots, layers upon layers of them. My daughter stayed up late and helped me stuff plastic cleaner’s bags in the tall riding boots so they stood up high and proud on the shelves. I am not certain what prompted me to start this odd habit. “So this is what you do after I go to bed at night,” she says. To an 8-year-old this is truly fascinating stuff. To adults it just sounds weird and neurotic.

 

  • I also organized my shirts by color and texture (silks, knits, starched) and I highly anticipate this will last me at least three weeks before I’m yet again stepping over things and poking myself with hangers. However, this year’s a new start. Miracles can happen. Maybe there’s an organic deodorant that doesn’t actually make you smell like reheated broccoli. Only time will tell.

 

  • I got my septic system pumped out, which was its own adventure. A man with a long pony-tail, teeth that nary a dentist have seen, and tough work boots drove up with a big truck, looked into my various tanks, and said “Oh dear. We don’t usually see sludge in this one.” Whereby I kicked in my newly found optimism and said “Yippee! Good for me that I called you! Can I get you some coffee as you inhale sewage smell on this cold and rainy day and suck the sludge from my tanks? Nopers? Alrighty then. Let me know when you’re done so I can go inside and grieve for you that you have to do this every single day of your life.” Makes my little problems easier to endure. On a high note, there was no need for that man to wear deodorant. Who would notice.

 

  • Speaking of things that smell, our entire family walked around the house wondering what smelled like burned plastic the other day. Was a light so hot it was melting some sort of outer casing? Did a plastic spoon get caught in the bottom of the dishwater and melt to a puddle of carcinogens? It was a mystery that remained unsolved until later when I was putting away the rest of the ham and found a piece of the plastic the ham was wrapped in seared to the side of the meat. We are all so going to die. However, since we didn’t die, and it’s HAM for pete’s sake, I cut up the rest of it and cooked it inside a pot of black-eyed-peas the following day. SO POSITIVE! WINNING!

 

  • I was home for over a week with my children, and it was lovely to spend so much time with them without the distractions and burdens of work. We played legos, had the cousins over whereby there were lots of giggles and dress up, had hot chocolate nights, ate dessert first, prepared nice meals and some not so nice, and spent days in our pajamas. At one point I think I said “why bother getting new clothes on / we didn’t do anything but play board games today / take a bath and put these back on.” It was luxurious. I did so much laundry that I even matched socks and washed sheets.   My children went into my closets like they were a new addition to the home they had never seen. Woooooo. Ahhhhhh. It has a floooooooor. There is no need to be this dramatic. I swear it’s like you’ve never seen color-coordinated silk shirts before.  Geez.

 

  • I read Nancy Drew books to my daughter until 10 pm and when I was too sleepy she read to me, and we did this for hours during the days and evenings. Then she’d fade away in corners of her room reading some more. School books and mysteries and books on friends and princess diaries. She created Barbie playgrounds and put random things in envelopes and at one point said “I CAN’T POSSIBLY TAKE A BATH I AM WRITING.” So I simply shut her door and nodded my head like “well honey how can you possibly be expected to, naturally not. How silly of me to ask.” And she stared at me like how awesome: I didn’t know that line would get me any traction.

 

  • I am not sure I can survive without these little animal crackers. Have you tried them with spiced tea? Have you tried them with peanut butter? I have nothing in this house, people. GIVE ME THIS.

 

  • I am starting my second novel. This statement itself is totally nonsensical because I have a full time job as an executive and a boyfriend I like to spend time with and two smallish people living inside of my home. But here I went outlining the plot to my sister over the holidays and we are brainstorming about what awful condition one of my characters has and how it wrecks her life and her husband has to hide it to protect her and the family never knew exactly why she died until now. So let’s recap. Over the holidays I organized my shirts by color, ate excessive amounts of sugar, barely got out of pajamas, and made up a world of imaginary people. You can see why I have to be positive because I’m half-mad and if I get locked up at least I’ll have people in my mind to talk to.

 

  • It was a lucky year for me. I met a brilliant, kind, and loving man. We sat at the top of Mount Greylock this Fall and sipped hot cider. We held hands down 5th Avenue heading in the rain toward the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We drank beer at Rumpy’s Tavern in Massachusetts. We strolled down the streets of Boston. We stayed up late in Dallas.  We sat in church and he reached for my hand. And we have talked more hours that I can remember. For Christmas, he made me a wall-sized word search of all the places we’ve been together and it made big fat tears roll down my cheeks. He’s a keeper, this one. For I am indeed the lucky one.

 

I hope ya’ll have a lovely new year, whether it’s eating clean or staying organized or being more positive. We all need each other. I’ll be around, smiling and grinning, traveling somewhere, wearing cancer-laden deodorant, thanking God for my wonderful life, and stuffing my face with sugared giraffes while wearing ill-fitted sweaters.

21 Things I will Teach my Children

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(1) If something makes you laugh, it just does.  You don’t have to know why.  Just stick with what truly makes your gut seize and you’ll be okay.

(2) Please floss.  It’s boring and awful but so are cavities in-between teeth and then you have to endure awful drilling sounds from the dentist chair like nails on chalkboards so PLEASE FOR THE LOVE JUST FLOSS.

(3) P.S. Your mother does not often floss because she wants to pop out her dentures for her grandkids.  See (1) above. Forgive her.

(4) Sometimes your body has a desire to move to the beat of the music.  Feet are notorious culprits. Please do not resist this urge.  It’s a natural and beautiful thing to allow the beat of song to match the beating of your heart.

(5) Cursing can be fun.  Don’t tell anyone I said this.

(6) I know that right now you hate onions and mushrooms and olives.  But someday try them again.

(7) Travel to New York alone.  Pack walking shoes and drink coffee and explore all the nooks and crannies.  It’s okay if you want to take pictures of signs or storefronts or subways. Sit on the second row of a Musical.

(8) Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.  For example, I just tonight looked at your diary and you wrote “sometimes I’m bad at spelling.”  I think this is odd that you can write down anything in the world – made-up worlds about unicorns or glitter hair gel and yet you choose to write down this – but hey.  It’s your diary, kid.

(9) Don’t accept the premise that “it’s just food.” It’s not.  It’s what we put into our precious bodies.  It’s what creates memories.  It’s what makes our eyes roll back and our tongues drip with drool.  Food is energy on all fronts.  Learn to appreciate it.

(10)               Friends are more valuable than jewels.  If I could say it in multiple languages and hang it from banners in the sky, I would.  Because I want you to cherish them.  Love them.  Learn from them.  And keep them.

(11)               True love is elusive.  It’s scarce.  It’s the stuff novels are made of.  But it’s real.  Please don’t give up trying to find it.

(12)               I think by now you should be flossing.

(13)               If you get a poor grade, consider it an opportunity to improve, not a reason to call yourself a failure. I love you regardless of your status in fractions. Someday you’ll be sitting in a boardroom and you will lean to the person to your left, asking “what’s eight times seven again?” I mean hypothetically this might happen. Focus on flossing.

(14)               When you have the opportunity to travel, be on television, or bicycle across America, you should absolutely take it.  Be bold and wild when you are young without doing any drugs of any kind. Do I need to repeat myself.

(15)               Pray this often: “Please Lord, help me maintain a soft heart.  Full of warmth and forgiveness and compassion.”  This helps from building up stones inside that cannot be broken.  Because a hardened heart is a life of misery.

(16)               Don’t waste time on television when there are books.

(17)               Stinky cheese is better with wine.

(18)               If you don’t believe in God, Jesus, the resurrection, or the Holy Spirit, I don’t hate you.  If you don’t want to read Genesis or go to church and want to walk around scowling wearing nothing but black t-shirts, I will still lovingly claim you as my own.   That being said, I’m going to expose you to love as I see it. And I will sit with you in the hard nights when you need me.

(19)               I am your mother.  This means you can always come home.  You can always call.  You can count on me when everyone else fails you.  I am delighted in the mere existence of you.

(20)              Prayer works, even when you can’t see it.  I will sit tonight and pray hard for you.  Because you, my dear and beautiful children, are my fortune.

(21)               Floss.  In case I failed to mention it.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/robboudon/422350861/sizes/m/in/photolist-DjEcp-ANdgH-dYycQ5-9WDCNU-6PAXic-87s9nX-6fsmxJ-5ZXaNH-8gGrhR-8vXGMG-5eXwEr-6aaP9Y-2RZnQZ-e9NiXg-7kRBmJ-71vwmH-5A8r9w-64WiHX-5mXdMw-71ii5e-e9NhKK-8myhAn-6LrPfT-7fDMvk-6YEqFb/

Farewell, Frog

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The other morning, upon running late, shooing children out the door, and wearing a pencil skirt with leopard-print pumps of all things, my son makes a discovery.  A tiny little frog had hopped into the garage – fresh from the rain puddles I suppose, and had found himself juxtaposed between a corner and a large 4-year-old boy with beautiful eyes and a fascination for reptiles. He didn’t have a chance, really.

“Can we take him to school?” my son asked.  He was jumping and his eyes were smiling.  But we didn’t have time.  I was in heels.  There has been zero consumption of caffeine.  We have exactly eighteen seconds to get in the car and peel out of the driveway or both kids would be late.  “Please, mom? Can we can we can we?” I looked in his little eyes, those eyelashes batting up and down.

Damnit with the eyelashes.

So back in the house we go, the superman Tupperware shaped for sandwiches being brutally sacrificed for the love of frogs, so I stab air holes in the lid and hobble back out in my heels and ridiculously thin skirt and try to catch the slippery thing.  Finally with the help of a piece of paper and my transferring-frogs-into-tupperware-skillz that I learned in parenting school, I captured him, to the delight of my screeching son, who was happier than I saw him last Christmas morning.  Which means this Christmas I’m just going to fill the house with frogs.  Thanks a lot, gears-gears-gears. You were a waste of $60.

Off to school we go, after rounds of Taylor Swift for my daughter and having to endure the interior light so she can read her book on dogs who talk and save the earth, and I somehow get the children dropped off at their respective places with statements of love and happiness, through the Starbucks line, and I’m happily in rush-hour traffic toward my office.  Fast forward eight lovely hours, whereby I skipped lunch to review contracts and I’m back in my car, which is hot enough to roast marshmallows because it’s Texas and it never freaking gets cold despite it being October. And then I see it.  Right there next to his seat.

Death.  It permeates the Lexus.

The poor thing suffocated.  It had no hope.  We even put a leaf in the little container for it to eat, although let’s be honest small baby-like frogs don’t munch on leaves like potato chips, but to my son every living thing eats leaves so let’s not ruin the whole story over semantics.  I am forced to make a pit stop in suburbia one block away from my son’s preschool and pull over, opening the lid to throw the dead body out on the pavement below.  I can’t exactly explain to him that we simply “forgot the frog” or “it suffocated in the heat, dying a slow miserable death whilst plastered to a converse blue image of a superhero he will never become,” now can I.

I had to bang the Tupperware against my car for him to fall out because his little water-starved body was stuck to the side. I know, I know. It’s horrific.  I crossed myself although I’m not Catholic and said a little prayer as it lay there lifeless on the pavement below, soon to be run over by the wheels of my own car most likely, but what exactly do you do in this situation? Stupid Texas heat. If we lived in Chicago the sweet little frog might be fat and happy munching on that leaf all afternoon.

I hid the Tupperware in the front seat so my kid wouldn’t ask questions.  I said we could have mac-and-cheese for dinner.  I tried all my tactics to keep him upbeat and not be suspicious.  Until he saw it.  The Tupperware lid peering from underneath my blazer.  Oh, friends.  Let the tears roll.

I told him I let it out by his school, so he could frolic and play with his friends since we forgot to take him in, which at first blush may seem a wee bit untruthful but his froggy friends could so totally be frog zombies. He was mostly angry I didn’t let him out at home, so he could find him (until I offered oreos and then would forget), his long-lost friend (that he forgot) and wanted so badly to save (that he just met this morning it’s not like you guys are BFFs, geez.  Plus he’s a frog).

Needless to say it was a big ordeal, only to be healed by a television show and love from his dear mother (who committed frogslaughter and dumped the body).   The most important thing about all this is that I managed to kneel down in a pencil skirt.  If you see any frog remains in front of a brick house I don’t know what you are talking about.

You guys can judge all day, but just wait until this happens to you.  Let’s hope it’s just a beetle, who “overdid it on the leaf eating.”  They are less frightening when dead. Not that I know anything about that.

Let’s all have oreos. K?

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/125791999@N06/14815693604/sizes/m/in/photolist-ozdixb-aEMcB5-8iSSBF-bYL3sS-oeMB1H-frJm9V-afehCU-afbuXR-diibw6-fPkXDZ-e7AHBd-nJEnGP-cuLtuw-fmKcbz-bYdh9h-eYhuLL-a3QXZi-8vQEc6-ar5Pqq-ar5MA3-a7xzoR-gawWdG-cY3ubd-n2RsAZ-n2RzzB-95bS3U-p7uwkv-8NSef1-fhXu9g-o22gME-fJHrBS-9U6BNz-8zbaEB-aGfTcP-it5PQC-9n11Qh-8e8PTF-8sxVNX-8fxwty-bbRNfR-9U6Dw6-9U6CAV-9Nhus2-7GMaLY-jJnqsc-8qF36E-dNU7LR-nHabUq-8A75Dc-afvex1-7PaxWm/

 

Odd and Curious Thoughts of the Week

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(1) So this past weekend, while eating a salad at Maudies, my date and I see a child vomit at the next table over, the parents not at all outraged or disgusted and simply continue to eat while the waitress cleans up said vomit. The parents handed the kid an ipad and a glass of sprite while we sit and try to carry on a normal conversation.  In the midst of this shocking event, our waitress remembers my side of dressing, which consists of a vat of white creamy substance in a large bowl looking exactly like vomit.  I’m totally disgusted with all humanity and I am swearing off ranch dressing forever.

(2)  In other news, we went out for sushi and laughed with new friends.  It turns out eating raw meat is less gross than a vat of vomit dressing.

(3) In his elder years, my dog has managed to overcome his arthritis in the morning long enough to bark for treats and roam the neighborhood at will without a leash, a stern warning, or any time limit on peeing, apparently.  He has a bladder the size of Wisconsin.

(4) My kids were off visiting grandparents for a solid week so my house has been quiet and I missed their beautiful angelic voices and the singing and yelling and laughing and running.  One night I visited a girlfriend and she was like “OMG I AM SO TIRED OF CHILDREN LET’S LOCK THEM ALL OUTSIDE AND DRINK WINE” and I realized that sometimes a break is lovely. It’s all about perspective.

(5) The kids came back and I was so excited to see them that I made crispy broccoli and tomatoes soaked in balsamic, but then I realized they are children and what the hell was I thinking.

(6) For dessert we had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but mostly it was just me eating it with the occasional droplet of ice cream placed upon their tongues like they had just hatched out of a nest and they needed food as basic fuel to fly. But not too much because it’s Cherry Garcia.   I missed them and all but still.

(7) Went on a fabulous dinner date to Alamo Drafthouse to see Stand By Me with a full menu that matched scenes in the movie complete with beer parings from a pub in Portland, but three beers later I was like seriously folks it’s Tuesday. There is a morning coming.

(8) My children are sleeping in my bed because I can’t stand to be away from them.  I wedge myself in between them and sing spirituals and tell them in the middle of the night they are the joy of my life. My son woke up and said he dreamed he was riding a mud-laden roller-coaster and when he got off he kicked snapping frogs off his toes.  He clarified that although there are snapping turtles in real life, this was just a dream. There are really no snapping frogs.  I thanked him for the clarification; I wasn’t aware.

(9) Basically my life is amazing.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvs/93359712/sizes/m/in/photolist-9fuAd-btgrkH-btgnUn-btgr2Z-btgoUv-btgot2-btgpA8-btgqop-btgpYe-375HNU-n3cfJx-5JFJSC-53Yh2i-5zssWC-5zst2J-5zobyz-Htds7-8hN9M1-5Qw3eF-k1riK-k1rmS-cULPsq-6PTb1g-5NSk3s-aBUPLU-4JKpUM-4Vyjgj-4imkmh-6omdkQ-aBUPUd-aBS4EM-aBS9o8-aBS9TF-aBUPEo-aBS4QP-bx54d7-59zbfZ-aBUQm7-mUBwNz-gG3bZp-6KM5k4-eaFwCz-aBS4nK-aBSa28-kJ1Ew8-6toJLC-PWUXM-82Zr86-d64Tf1-9qTBwJ-6KR6Nq/

A REVOLUTION [of kindness]

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I’m a Texas girl.  I grew up swimming in bluebonnets and sipping sun tea and trying to whistle a tune on a piece of Saint Augustine grass.  I’d sit on the porch and watch the ants race in neat little lines, and life was a string of hot summer days and sweltering nights. We’d go tubing down the Guadalupe and listen to the cicadas screech and rise each morning with the thought that life was good and holy.  Now that I’m all grown up I eat buttered biscuits with blueberry jam and I dig beef that’s charred around the edges. I somehow know words to George Strait songs.  And I still arise every morning with a renewed hope that life is beautiful. And yet I live in a strange world, where people can’t take people anymore.

It is becoming clear to me that this natural optimism is the result of my own rose-colored brain and not really how the world works.  After all – I don’t have cable and I generally avoid all that nasty division.  But there’s an undercurrent sweeping across our great nation like a flood that’s too great to ignore, and it’s making me uncomfortable.  And scared for the generations below us and for the world we live in.  And downright fed up.  We let ourselves get to this point.  We let ourselves be so ugly to each other.  Simply put, we have lost the ability to be kind.

I say we need a REVOLUTION.  

We don’t need a preacher or talk-show host yelling.  We need a true reforming of our human consciousness so that we can actually communicate with each other about gun deaths or homelessness.  Community health, foreign policy, war, and sexual violence. We need to be able to say “I dislike the President because of his position on certain issues” or “I really do like the President because I believe in his position on certain issues” and then we all meet for coffee at Jo’s and think it’s okay that you wear red / I wear blue because we are not all robots for crying out loud.  Jesus said that of all things giddy and awesome, mostly it was about faith and hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.

And love, my friends, is wrapped up in kindness.  But how are we to be kind to each other if it’s not taught? If it is not a value that is held in high regard in our society? How can we expect our children to know how to do it, for crying out loud, when we all act like raging idiots? Because it’s simply not natural to reach out when it’s hard, and love when it’s not easy, and show consideration in all things.  It throws our instincts upon their head. And yet it’s the charge Jesus laid down.  Hence, a revolution.

A sample facebook post, for illustrative purposes only:

We need to arm teachers and get our damn kids out of these broken homes run by ragged moms and gay couples and it’s only by reforming our society and getting Hitler out of office that we can truly see a change in our schools and I say every teacher in America needs a concealed weapon.

Now you have several choices, depending on your beliefs.  You can: (1) Say “Bravo! You should run for Congress!”; (2) unfriend this person immediately; (2) comment on their post with hateful words you’d not say around your own grandmother; (3) or respond with love.  “But why?” you ask.  “Why would I dignify their comment with something loving and kind when I felt it was offensive and hateful?” This is what I’m talking about.  It’s not just saying you’re going to be kind.  It’s not just about reading this blog and moving on about your merry life. It’s actually doing it that matters.  And to join a revolution means taking drastic measures.  That never mean agreeing or capitulating regarding what you believe is wrong.  It just means being warmhearted and considerate and humane.  Always.  Regardless.  Period.

It’s a revolutionary concept to look into the eyes of someone and say simply, “I don’t agree with you.  But I love you. And I respect you as a human being on this earth.” You can’t change people’s minds.  You can’t carry on an intelligent debate with good solid points because most people have grown too divisive to look at both sides.  But you can say to this person, some random bloke from high school that lives in your hometown, that he’s clearly passionate (as we all should be) about protecting our beautiful, troubled, and innocent children.  And as a country we’ve got to figure this thing out.  That’s what we are all after, isn’t it?  And you don’t agree with his position at all, and think his comments about single mothers and a couple’s sexual orientation and the president were confusing to the issue at hand, and you also don’t believe arming teachers is the answer.  But you know what? Despite the vast differences in opinion, you appreciate him sharing his thoughts, and challenge him to think just a little outside his own box to try and find a solution.  We are going to disagree, but maybe we can all find common ground.  We are Americans.  We all want to keep our children safe.

That’s hard. Because it’s not often met with open arms. It’s often met with some snide response or more of the same.  Or you’re labeled something and called something and all that kindness for nothing. And you want to say “what a putz, man.  I was being so nice.”

Do it anyway. Keep doing it when your face is slapped. Keep doing it when it’s not met with welcomed smiles.  Because it’s not about getting positive feedback. It’s about challenging the established norms that we should yell at each other.  And hide behind an internet screen so we can be nasty.  It’s about putting kindness front and center, as in “I will not respond with hate because I love you as a brother or sister and I will be here, regardless.  I’m not going to unfriend you. You are worthy of respect and although we have vast differences I’ll continue to treat you as I would want to be treated.”

Are you with me? Can we just make small changes in our immediate world, and try to react to hate with love? We cannot put combination locks on every gun in this country.  We cannot ban television or transform people’s minds overnight. But we can be KIND.  It starts here.  Now.  With you, and me, and your Aunt Gracie in Wisconsin.

Soon it will catch on like wildfire, and we will all learn to be respectful, and we’ll try and teach our kids to do the same, and maybe – just maybe – there will be hope for our future generations. And they won’t kill each other in schools anymore but will go back to playing in the sandbox.  There will be less bullying and more kindness shown to the aching. And our beautiful children will sit around on boring summer days watching ants crawl in straight little lines and hum country songs. This is our goal – that we go back to a simpler and more loving place.

We simply don’t have the luxury to ignore Jesus anymore.   

 

Photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gypsydawg/14082144970/sizes/m/in/photolist-nsoF5W-gkyY8-4RaUZX-9XPWfA-7ygm9J-7ycGh4-fArKBp-88bb2r-bZaxNu-arQSus-6UjmQ9-anYDcU-5CVmoy-bA4X6s-bZCcuE-ehof5d-NRTYA-dtZi75-9NZDG3-7yguLs-7ycyEF-7ygzEh-7ygpJy-7ycAxt-7ycB8a-7yfCpS-6U4eRj-cuXBJm-6TTD46-cr25YW-6ERGDD-angBQP-5UBGQi-csPMmm-cv1kby-4xeJep-n3ngdM-jjsQ3c-7ycw1t-7ycvgx-cKDCs1-nwAmY8-euu8DT-5udFwy-5PD5Qz-axh3Mu-9NdC3y-76f3b4-dpNqBQ-asEkJJ-aFQYBX/

The Hot Chocolate Hike

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Texas weather has been a bit schizophrenic lately. One day we have an actual dusting of snow on the driveway that doesn’t immediately melt upon ground impact and Austin closes the schools for an entire day.  There’s a rush on grocery stores and folks bite their lips wondering if they have enough heat to make it through until the weekend.  But by Saturday everyone’s stripping off their hoodies because it’s 75 degrees up in here, ya’ll. Cedar pollen flies through the air like a wildfire haze and everyone I know has a Rudolph nose and sounds like Lauren Bacall with a smoker’s cough.  “It’s just allergies,” they mutter as they set their used snot rag on your coffee table.  Yeah, okay.  Pick that up.

So when the weather warms up for a short reprieve I try to get the kids outside to do fun things together.  Like the other day when we went hiking.  I bundled the kids up into their best REI gear and decided we’d have a hot chocolate hike, which sounded exciting at the time, so I packed a large bag of pretzels and cheese and salami and fruit and a thermos full of thick hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Going anywhere with a three-year-old can present some significant challenges.  Like “I’m tired” or “carry me” or the favorite “I’m scared of the bears.”  Bears? Where are bears? There are no freaking bears.  Keep walking, kiddo.  Then my seven-year-old pipes up with “look the clouds/they are so magnificent in the sky” and skips along collecting items for her nature collection in total bliss until at some point she feels  something strangely wet and drippy on her neck, to which I respond “it’s sweat: you’ll totally survive.”

Finally about half a mile in, the children are panicked that they won’t ever again see modern civilization and I think it might be time for a hot chocolate pick-me-up, so I veer off the trail like ten measly feet and sit down upon the ground spreading out the trail-food bounty.  My daughter just stands in the same spot and points to the sign, which reads “Stay on Trail” and looks at me as if I’d decided to rob Target.  “But mom,” she cries in horror.  She points again to said sign as if I were a terrorist.

I convince my daughter we won’t get shot and confirm to my son the bears are hibernating and yell at them both to sit down and gather for snacks.  See, guys? Isn’t the landscape beautiful?  Do you see that cloud that looks like an alligator? A line of horses trot by which brings a look of sheer panic on my daughter’s face like they might be the regal trail-enforcement brigade and we have gone rogue.  I’ve had just about enough. This is supposed to be a fun family outing so EVERYONE ACT LIKE THIS IS AWESOME.  But my daughter is scowling and my son is so excited about the chocolate that he grabs a cup and begins to guzzle it like it’s Gatorade.  It’s been in a thermos, which means it will stay at exactly 900 degrees until I retire, unlike my crappy travel mugs that can’t keep coffee warm from the house to the car.

Commence the screaming. I leap up thinking there might be a snake or a venomous spider but realize he’s poured hot chocolate down his pant leg and man that must hurt. But he’ll be okay because he’s a tough little dude and all I can see is a slight reddish area on his calf. So I think he’s just being dramatic as he hobbles alongside of me back to the car.  My daughter is now breathing a huge sigh of relief that we’re back on trail and in the legal clear and I hear lots of statements like “will we ever drink water again” and “please hold my sweatshirt because it’s so hot I’m melting.” We’re a very dramatic lot.

Back at the car I remove my son’s socks.  To my horror I realize he has a third degree burn on his foot that’s all blistered up, which has rubbed against his shoes for half a mile. This makes me want to cry and curse the fact that I didn’t immediately call for a medical helicopter to transport him to our vehicle and I feel so terrible I just sit there holding compresses of water soaked towels around his injury and shushing him.  I hate you, stupid thermos.

When we get home, I have a wretched sneezing attack and I have to breathe into a wet rag just to get control of the cedar pollen.  I lay next to my son as he naps holding ice packs on his burn and think to myself how much more fun the day would have been if we just hauled our little selves to the movie theatre and ate popcorn with wild abandon.

And yet despite the dangers, hot chocolate risks, red nose of doom, and peril of going off-trail, I’m determined to get them outside as much as possible.  Nature is good for their skin and their soul and their curiosity and their placement on this earth, so when the weather lifts we’re trekking it to Enchanted Rock, whereby we shall all brave a large barren hill and I shall bring cold water and fruit roll-ups and allergy medicine for all. And we will like it.  Because there will always be movies to see, but they don’t present any real memories to build a life on.  But touching the sky with your hands, feeling the dust under your feet, and getting scalding burns from Williams-Sonoma peppermint hot chocolate – well, isn’t that what makes life worth living, after all?

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hills_alive/4803463651/sizes/m/in/photolist-8jt1oP-7vDBEk-bkEY4A-8HzXBK-dTpSnY-7FZ87U-b6P1px-4HQ2aA-4HQ26d-4HQ2ej-4HKLmH-4HKLbe-4HKLgP-4HKLsZ-4HKLL2-bW35PP-yEzN9-6kv14a-eNJAMS-5RqgrZ-5zZed9-5wqqau-7noLMY-6iudKg-82outQ-8UTd2c-nNJYK-nNJs4-nNHDN-dU5QYm-4dQkCz-nNNGz-nNN9s-7zs8Hw-95Jw2d-NL77Z-NL8Fa-NKsBC-dJiPrm-b8heCn-4kNHeB-gH2oUV-7uiJak-5TZQuV-8kwvAt-iBhBht-ak5CYZ-aGfZdv-egT72u-c7Vq7-4rjPMB/

Blogging the Bible: David & Goliath

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Caravaggio, my favorite painter of all time, painting David and Goliath

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I think everyone knows this story – there’s this big mean giant that keeps taunting everyone, and the Israelites are afraid of him, but young handsome David rolls his eyes like “seriously ya’ll – he’s only like six feet tall, so quit shivering in your sandals like total weasels and buck up already.” He casually walks over to the front of the line, picks up some shiny stones, pulls out his little deerskin slingshot, and hits the giant with a pebble square between the eyes. The giant falls down, David chops his head off like “that’s how I roll, folks,” and there’s probably a Jaz-Z song playing in the background.  David walks in slow-motion up to the commander, and at the end of the day he’s writing folk songs on the hillside and later becomes king.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.  And honestly, that’s not super practical for my day-to-day life.  But now that I read it with new eyes, more emerges.

So the story begins with the Philistines on one hill and the Israelites on the other with a valley between them, gathering for war.  I suppose in those days, war was a more civil affair, with no fear of chemical weapons or hidden warfare or land mines that blow shrapnel into your armpits and eye sockets, and they all just charged at each other like buffalo.  And Goliath stood out in line and taunted the men of Israel for forty days, which seems a little excessive if you ask me, like “yes yes, we know you’re a bad-ass.  Please stop it already with all that narcissistic bravado.”

But one day when David, a mere shepherd, was bringing food to his brothers, he overheard a discussion about Goliath and asked who this fellow was that kept causing all the fuss.  He was told by the men that whoever killed this man would have all sorts of cool things like money and the king’s daughter and an exemption from taxes.  Don’t get me started how kings are always passing their daughters off like trophies.

So David was pumped, because who wouldn’t want money and a fair maiden and no taxes?  Now I see how he’s able to play the guitar in the meadow.  So David went to the king and indicated that if he can fight off bears and lions while tending sheep, this arrogant prick was not going to be a problem.  He shrugs off armor – what good is that anyway? – and goes straight up to Goliath and his shield bearer.  I really want to explore more about this poor little shield bearer – did he have to lug that heavy thing out there every single day for forty days? If the fighting got super icky did he just hide underneath it like a turtle? Doesn’t that seem a little wimpy for Goliath to need a caddy?  These things are not explained.  Figures.

But here’s where I really spent some mental energy – David said some pretty strong words to this Philistine.  He stated: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

After reading that, things shifted.  I didn’t just see David as some punk teenager killing a giant with a slingshot.  He might have had the body of a child, but he had a brave heart that belonged solely to God, with a confidence that the killing of this man was a mere afterthought.  It was as if he was setting one foot atop the water and knew that it would hold his weight.  David was making a statement that the things of this world – swords and spears and harsh words and burdens and death and cancer and all other worldly things – are nothing compared to the strength our Lord Almighty provides.

God’s name would not be defiled, and the battle, my friends, had already been won.

Jesus commanded that “if you have faith and do not doubt. . . if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.  Matthew 21:22. But rarely is such belief displayed. David believed so assuredly that with the power of God he could defeat this man that the entire Israelite army feared, and only with a stone. There was no quiver of fear from the depths of his heart, and no arrogance in his claims.  This was not about David himself, or winning money, or being tax free.  Only arrows of truth were proclaimed, and it was to be.  God had won this fight.  David was only His servant pushing that message through the air with string.

I’m bowing down today at this assurance.  That I will not be shaken.  That when the taunting begins, and a giant is yet again in front of me, I will fear no evil.  For God is with me, His rod and His staff –  they comfort me.  And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  David wrote that, in Psalm 23, because he had a personal relationship with the Father. He knew that there was nothing bigger, and no giant greater, and all those gathered will know that it’s not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, but by grace, and mercy, and love deeper than any man.

Sometimes the battles we face are not on a hillside, but in the relentless grinding of the day.  The taunting of one who hates us.  The anger at one who is shamed.  We sigh deep at the reality of cells eating at our breast tissue, or weep at the coffin of a small child that was ripped from our arms.  We keep wiping away tears in the carpool line because ENOUGH, Lord.  It’s too much, and too heavy to bear, and we don’t have any reserves left to fight.  And sometimes, we just want to lay down our weapons and curl up in a corner, unable to keep rising, and keep smiling, and keep moving.  There is only so much we can take, and we are bending under the weight of it.

So we lay in a ditch with a dusty throat, shivering in fear, unable to croak out even a prayer, and see a child walk by.  Just a boy who watches sheep.  And he says with all assurances that we are more than this.  That God’s name will be praised in all things.  That the Lord will deliver those who are faithful.  And we are paralyzed as we watch him defeat a giant, and use his own sword to sever his head, and we are in awe of such courage.  It’s then that we swallow hard, walk over to David, and fall at his feet as king.

Thank you, child, for reminding me that I am protected.  That when I wander, even though I am one of ninety-nine billion, God will not leave me to my own devices.  He will search, and ache, and reach to the depths of the earth to find me.  Who is the greatest in heaven?  Jesus placed a child among them, and preached about the lost, and the found, and the faces of the obedient, and the lowly.  And in the dust and the bloody chest of a fallen giant, I see the greatest among me is not me, but He.  I see that this child has believed, and accepted that the battle has been won, and I surrender.

Thank you, oh God, for this victory. 

 

photo:

(three w’s)then: flickr.com/photos/ergsap/9633080076/sizes/m/in/photolist-fFf46w-fEXtHt-fEXtHZ-7K5Ub9-532XUQ-69N7De-8SikSL-bpdJED-8teVbd-6qidN1-6Qk1K8-6Qk1UX-Mh25N-6Qk24n-6Qp7Q5-5i6BER-BwEYH-fgLmmb-6mnXxg-8piu6J-8tPR7F-g1Xxj-b663Rr-4DVv3y-6Qk1En-kSF8j-9unWjj-N3juc-5yvQ6U-6Qk2nv-sxX1G-5HtV7G-a9NCgb-6Qp6Qo-dX9jfB-6Qp8bG-5JHbBC-7YKJS4-azcujL-bFAMgZ-5PvKMp-8xoWUe-dDqZW-6Qk1kn-4MiyPD-2BBeQE-62dUqo-5nWy8Z-hr5UZ-bFqZoB-51LZBc/

A Manifesto (on building warriors)

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Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.

R.A. Torrey

We are responsible for raising warriors.  Those who can rise up and resist the lust of conformity and the whispering embrace of standing invisible behind a man or a crowd or a belief system that wanes.  We are nothing if we cannot propagate a generation of thinkers, insisting that our children use persuasion instead of force, logic instead of emotion, and truth at all times over the callous laziness of a lie.

If you want power in this life you can either earn it or steal it, fear it or abuse it.  And most people can’t even handle it because the allure of one’s ego dislodges the root and all that’s left is withering leaves.  Ayn Rand said that “the argument from intimidation is a confession of intellectual impotence,” so let’s all quit claiming others are evil, heartless, dishonest, or ignorant just to avoid the research, debate, and collegial sparring.  We could bemoan the fact that we live in a fallen world or we could just lace up our damn sneakers.  Our minds and souls are a thin veil between human and ape, so let’s not waste the opportunity to sharpen our own ax.

I grow tired of Jesus portrayed as a long-haired hippie who went around singing lullabies, gathering children, and saying “make love not war.”  Jesus was the definition of power, and had not only the ability to speak truth, but be truth, who faced the devil and the desert.  He never backed down.  Moses didn’t lead an entire people out of Egypt by taking exit polls and Abraham didn’t just sit around wondering what Fox News had to say about a particular subject.

We must raise up our children to be resilient, like the skin of a tomato that withstands heat from the sun until it’s finally plucked from the vine, with tough skins and fruit dripping with sweet.  We must insist upon obedience to the Lord at all costs, for it sharpens the mind and allows us to rely not on our own understanding.

Those that hold power hold influence, and without strong arms and tough skins we cannot withstand the prison of this long-suffering life filled with decay and cells that eat at the fiber of our souls.

Oh my children, pure as honeycomb plucked from the field.  You are so joyful and full of hope, and I pray that you remain always optimistic.  But mark my words in blood that we are at war.  A war of a thousand pricks that sting but do not rip, because our defenses are growing weaker.  We are not building up an army of strength, but of men who capitulate, and sit in air conditioning, and shrug their shoulders at truth.  And how can a woman know the value of a scar if she does not set foot in the ring?

But beware, for true power does not bully or goad.  Our design should not be to win arguments, but hearts.  “[W]hen we observe how ineffective our debates are, it would be far better to listen to Scripture, and lament how ineffective our debaters are. This is a pursuit that must be encouraged, honored, and praised, and we must provide the requisite training for those who are called to it.” – Doug Wilson.

The masses point and shout and tell us we are weak alone, and only through union are we secure. But that is a lie that cannot hold you.  One man can do great things, through Christ alone who strengthens.  So lace up those sneakers, fit the buttonholes with cufflinks, strap on your police badge or white coat or hard hat, and start fighting.  Get in that ring, my sons and daughters, and don’t be afraid to train hard.

It’s hard because it’s worth it, and because God insists upon it, and because the wounds leave behind scars that become the very the armor you wear proudly and graciously, standing before the throne of victory.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertlylebolton/7841705134/sizes/m/in/photolist-cWWMJE-46Gjib-f8Y5D-4k3Xq7-7woFfe-3nFov2-dBRQTX-3ad8ET-7SJpXf-9MYspp-9MYq5i-9N2fzG-9N2dRs-9MYr2r-9MYrSH-9MYsS4-62w2QS-9Qqdxk-9QqfuM-9Qqet4-9Qqe1a-9QqedP-9Qqeir-9QqfgM-9N17vC-9N2cYw-9N2dAY-9MYtJD-9MYuQX-pcrqm-9Qt28Y-9Qqu1X-9Qt5m5-9Qt319-9Qt45S-9Qt2eU-9Qtizu-9Qt2u3-9QqthX-9Qti4q-9Qqcmr-9Qt3M7-9Qt5K9-9Qt1kf-9Qt23b-9Qt551-9Qqusz-9Qt3Xm-9Qt5e9-9Qt2AY-9QqfnV/