Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Trouble with Santa

I never believed in Santa. My sisters and I left cookies and egg nog out on Christmas Eve. We also received gifts under the tree with gift tags that read: 'From Santa.' Yet, I never remember thinking that there was an actual Santa who ate the cookies or left the gifts. I always knew it was my mom and dad. I don't think anyone ever told me Santa wasn't real, but my parents never tried to get us to believe in him. I remember my sisters asking my mom once if Santa was real and she just answered, "What do you think?" In my family, Santa was a fun idea, but not the main focus.

To be clear, I have nothing against the idea of Santa. To me, Santa just stands for the spirit of giving and the enjoyment of giving and receiving gifts. I don't see anything wrong with promoting this spirit. I do, however, have a problem with going out of my way to perpetrate a lie to young, impressionable minds. And therein lies my problem with Santa. Of the very few things on which my husband and I do not agree, Santa is at the top of the list.

In my husband's family, Christmas was all about Santa. All toys received were waiting near the tree on Christmas morning, unwrapped and ready to be played with, as a sign that Santa had just stopped by and left them there to be discovered. Everyone went to great lengths to keep the kids believing as long as possible. My first Christmas with the family, I was warned to not say anything at all about Santa not existing because the nieces still believed. It is not my place to say what other people should or should not tell their children about Santa, but the thought of purposely lying to my own children about this turns my stomach just a little.

So here is my dilemma: What is a confused mom to do? I have never talked about Santa to my kids, but it seems like EVERY PERSON with whom we interact this time of year asks my kids if they are ready for Santa, if they have been good for Santa, what they want from Santa, or any other number of questions involving the jolly old man. On top of that, every TV show the boys watch (with the exception of the amazing and wonderful 'Dinosaur Train') has a Christmas episode seemingly every day about St. Nick. And then, of course, my husband and in-laws constantly talk to the boys about Santa. I don't want to just say to them "Well, Santa isn't real" but I also can't bring myself to tell them he is or talk about him to them at all.

As I've hashed this out in my mind, I think part of the reason I never really "believed" had to do with 'Angel Trees.' You know, the trees with the tags on them with the gender and age of a child in need that people could choose and purchase a gift for. This was a major part of our holiday season growing up. Even the year my dad was unemployed and my parents had to borrow money from my grandparents to make ends meet, we still sponsored an Angel Tree kid (I'm sure they would be horrified to know that I know about the borrowed money, but my parents had apparently never heard the saying "Little pitchers have big ears.") Um... hello? If there really was a Santa, wouldn't he give those kids toys? Why would these kids need us to buy them anything? I love, love, love the tradition of giving to others this way and the 'Angel Tree' is something I've continued with my boys. So... how long before they put all this together?

I just wonder when they find out the truth, if they will question other things we've told them. I don't want to have a conversation where my side sounds something like, "Well, I never believed in Santa, but I let you do it. What? God? Oh yes. God is real. Really. He is." I just don't know. I guess I had always planned to take my mom's approach, but that obviously doesn't work when half the family makes such a big deal of Santa. Luke is already asking how Santa will come down the chimney if there is a fire in the fireplace. He obviously believes.

I guess I just continue focusing on what I feel is important about Christmas -- the joy, the spirit of giving, the time spent together -- and on Jesus, the most important gift of all. And hope that when they realize he's not real, they don't use Santa as a reason to doubt the truth of every other thing we've ever told them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Girl with the Red Pea Coat

"Sometimes it's a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence." -David Byrne

Note: I totally wish I had thought of that quote. What a great thing to say.

People fascinate me. Well... okay. Some people fascinate me. Some people I cannot understand and honestly do not want to, but a lot of people have something really interesting about themselves. The other day I was at Whole Foods to pick up something for lunch. For the record, the Whole Foods near where I work isn't as bad as some Whole Foods in the rest of the country. (There are hippies who work there, but the area is mostly wealthy corporate men and their stay-at-home wives so it doesn't smell and I've never seen anyone there with dreads. Oh, and also, I don't live near where I work.)

Anyway, I was waiting in line at the Whole Foods deli to get something for lunch and the girl in front of me caught my attention. She was petite and thin, with very short dark hair styled in a black, plastic headband. She had about 8 piercings on her ears, skinny jeans, flats, and a pretty red pea coat. I guess I just noticed her because I was standing there waiting, but I don't know. I was strangely drawn to her. She got her food and left and I placed my order.

I had already forgotten about her by the time I got to the checkout. But as I was getting in my car, I looked up and saw her walking by. She had her deli meal in her hands in front of her, and on top, she had balanced a slice of white cake with white icing and a pastel icing flower. Why did she have that cake? Was she taking it to someone else? Was it her birthday and she had no one with whom to celebrate so she was buying it for herself? Was it a reward for some goal she'd achieved? Maybe she just likes cake? I'm guessing I have little in common with this twenty-something, artsy girl with the cake, but I really wanted to know her story. I really like to learn other people's stories.

Sometimes it seems someone has such a similar story as yours that you are bound to be friends. Then, for whatever reason, you just don't click. There are other people who, as much as they seem nothing like you on the surface, you listen to them and find that you have so much more in common that you could have possibly imagined. I guess that is part of why I love the Byrne quote so much. Learning the story of someone else doesn't make you immediate best friends or even mean you will ever talk to them again. Yet, learning their story does add just a little something to your own experience that wasn't there before. So I guess this is just a reminder to myself. I need to not be so busy and focused on my own life that I forget to listen to what other people have to talk about. I might find something fascinating that enriches my life more than I'd ever expected.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Discontent

It seems like forever ago I wrote my post on unraveling and I really felt like that was the beginning of a journey. That I was going to unravel my life until I made sense of a lot of things. Now I just feel like I'm left holding a huge ball of knotted yarn. I'm not sure if this is just part of the process or if I got off track. I'm not sure if it is my own frustrations, insecurities, and doubts that made this happen or if it is a result of being distracted by circumstances, but I don't feel like it's working out the way I'd envisioned.

Earlier this week, I was reading in II Corinthians 5 in The Message and I came across this:

"Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home... The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less."
I started this post last week and decided to leave the first part as it was and just continue on from here. The more I've been thinking about that verse, the more I've come to realize that maybe a knotted ball of yarn is okay. Maybe the problem was that I was striving for contentment, striving to feel good about myself. Maybe I was striving to feel like I was doing enough and meeting expectations. I see now how misguided that is.

I'm not meant to be content. This path isn't about contentment or satisfaction. It's about embracing the discontent. It's about pressing on. It's about continuing to pull the string and welcoming the questions so I can explore them. It's about clutching tight to a "live the questions" mentality. And more than anything, it's about realizing that believing in God's promises as I do means I will never be content with the way I am now. I will never be content with settling for less. And that's the way it's meant to be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Hate Public Restrooms

Having kids who are potty trained is great. No more expensive diapers. No more picking up your totally cute kid and being grossed out because they smell disgusting. Yes, having kids who wear big-kid undies is great. The only time when having potty trained toddlers/pre-schoolers is not great is when you have to go to a public place. Kids always have to pee (i.e. want to check out the bathroom) when they are somewhere that is not home. So, wherever you go in public, you will have to go to the restroom and invariably that restroom will be gross. And you will be the crazy person repeating "Don't touch that. Don't touch anything. Everything has germs. Don't touch that shiny, silver container on the wall. Don't put up the seat, wait for me to do it with a wad of toilet paper. Don't... don't.... don't. DON'T FLUSH THE TOILET WITH YOUR HAND! Seriously? That's why God gave us feet!"

I'm not sure of why most public restrooms have to be so disgusting. I worked for years at a restaurant where the facilities had to be cleaned every shift. Sure, maybe they weren't as clean as your home bathroom after a thorough scrubbing and disinfecting, but they were pretty darn clean. I have only been in maybe one or two other public restrooms that were that clean. Most public restrooms, especially the ones in grocery stores, seem to have been there (without being cleaned) since before the store was even built. Everything is dark and dirty and dingy and looks like the one attempt they have ever made at cleaning it was abandoned half-way through.

I realize this is probably over-sharing, but I have always hated public restrooms. I always 'hover' instead of sitting right on the seat. I turn the faucet with my wrist and I open the door with a paper towel on my way out. Just knowing that so few people wash their hands grosses me out and makes me want to don a hazmat suit just to enter public facilities. Before I had kids I would even 'hold it' until I got home if possible, just to avoid having to risk a public restroom. Sadly that is no longer possible since when a kid says they have to go, you'd better take them or you will likely end up spending your evening wrestling the padding off their car seat so it can be washed and the frame scrubbed down.

I know that I should be glad that we now have indoor plumbing and we don't have to duck into the bushes or use an outhouse, but really? Is it really too much to ask that places with public restrooms invest in someone who actually knows how to clean and the proper cleaning supplies that person needs? Gross. Now I have completely grossed myself out writing about this and I don't want to go anywhere with my kids until they learn to hold it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Tiny House

My parents still live in the same house where I grew up. I went there a couple weeks ago and my dad was showing me that they got new shingles on the roof. I stood near the road and admired the new roof and could not believe how tiny that house looks to me now. Seriously... it is one of those very tiny houses built in the early 1950's for the parents of the baby boom. A kitchen, a bathroom, a family room, two tiny bedrooms, and a one-car garage that was later consumed into the house for a small dining room and extra bath/laundry room. The people who owned it before my parents also divided the family room in half with a hollow wall so there could be an extra bedroom. Just a very few, few very tiny rooms.

I never knew I grew up in a tiny house until I was in high school and visited the palatial houses of friends of friends. These were houses with mud rooms and his-and-hers offices and work-out rooms and dens and studios and craft rooms and at least three guest rooms and rooms that no one ever used yet were still adorned with beautiful matching furniture. It was then I knew that I grew up in a tiny house. But I think that at some level even then, through my well-concealed embarrassment, I knew that growing up in a tiny house with love was better than growing up in any-size house with expectations and family secrets and agendas instead of love.

My parents house is made of brick and has red sidewalks. I'm not sure who thought red sidewalks were a good idea, but that is one of the main things I remember of the exterior of that house. I'm have no idea where it is now, but I can see the photo in my mind. My sister Tiffiny and I are sitting in the grass, both wearing halos made of white clover, and my knees are red. Partly from the scabs and partly from the stain the sidewalk left when I fell on it and caused the scabs. Red sidewalks are a terrible idea, but will always mean childhood and skinned knees in my mind.

Why am I rambling about tiny houses and red sidewalks? I really meant for this post to be about my family. My family can drive me completely crazy, but there is nothing like a good hug from my dad or a long talk with my mom. With Thanksgiving coming up, I've been thinking about the things that make me feel thankful. I think I'm thankful for many of the same things other Americans are thankful for, like freedom and my job and food and a home to live in. But one of the things I'm most thankful for is my family.... certainly Ryan and the boys, but also my sisters and my parents and the love I knew growing up. That is not something everyone had and I am so thankful it is something I experienced when I was younger and still know today. Despite how tiny the house is I grew up in.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Peripheral

Sometimes we just lose things along the way. Maybe more important things take the place of those things. Maybe we block them out. Maybe we are careless and forget. I wish I knew so I could prevent it at will, because it seems like I've somehow lost my ability to write. Okay, I am writing right now. I'm typing and words are forming on the screen, but I don't want to just write. I want to write something good. Something meaningful or witty or amusing or insightful. I've been trying, but it's not happening. Somewhere in all my working like a crazy person to meet deadlines and worrying about sick kids and sadness over co-workers losing their jobs and lots of other things I won't list out here, I lost it. I hope I find it again soon, because this is getting pretty darn frustrating.

On a completely random and unrelated note, it was an amazingly beautiful day today. Sunny and crisp and almost 70 degrees. If I had only one wish (after wishing for a million more wishes, of course) I would wish that all of winter in Ohio would be like today. Except for maybe the week of Christmas, which could be 30 and sunny and snowy. I think many things would be much improved with more days like today between October 1st and springtime. Maybe I could even find some inspiration for writing. *sigh*

So here is one poem I've managed to come up with. I'm not happy with it, but I need to get back to posting some poetry. Here ya go:


My eyes keep shifting.
Not shifty.
Just shifting to
look at something
previously marginalized
but now screaming
for attention.
Something
formerly peripheral.
Now I see it
in focus.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Poor Blog

I now have 21 drafts waiting to be finished and posted. Sure, some of them are just a quote or a partial poem with a few random thoughts, but it's kind of depressing. I sit down and start to write and I just hit a wall. Every time. It's really frustrating so I try not to think about it. But not thinking about it just makes it worse, I think.

I thought about doing another 'Write Every Day' month, but I know with the holidays coming up that is way too much pressure and frustration to heap on myself. I think the pressure of having to post every day was good for me because it forced me to post things I would normally not finish (or post even if I considered it finished). Sometimes I go back and read those things and realize they weren't as terrible as I had originally thought. But since the post-every-day is off the table until January, I'm not sure of what to do to get over the proverbial hump. I need to come up with something. I was doing pretty well there for a while, even if the content of most of my posts was just silly, rambling nonsense intermixed with some poems.

So... okay. I'm going to try to make myself post twice a week until January. That seems reasonable, right? Especially since this is Monday and I only have to come up with one more post for the week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nothing Personal

Once upon a time there was a girl who had a job she kinda liked. Then 9/11 happened and lots of companies panicked and started laying off employees. The girl had a jerk for a boss who liked to make himself seem important. When he heard that a new VP in the company needed an admin, around the same time he heard he would have to let one of his employees go, he called the girl into his office and said, "Listen, here's the thing. There is an opening in another department for an admin. Is that something you've be interested in doing?" When the girl replied "No" the boss said, "Well, you can take the job or I can let one of your co-workers go." So the girl, not wanting anyone she'd been working with for the past two years to be suddenly unemployed, took the job.

That girl was, of course, me. And that admin job was just as awful as I had feared it would be, with one exception. The people in the new department. Sure, like every place of employment, there were the oddballs and the crazy people. But for the most part the new team made me feel welcome by helping me figure out how things worked there and by joking around with me to make things seem less painful. Over the two years I had that job, I had many different bosses, most of whom were terrible. But I really liked the people and came to genuinely appreciate the constant banter. I've moved on to different jobs since then, but getting to know those people remains in my mind as the single bright spot in an otherwise dismal job situation.

Times have changed and the higher level technical support those folks do is being offshored. I know I need to be careful what I say here, so I'll try to be all PC and stuff. I'll just say that in my opinion, these people who have been providing these services for over a decade are more qualified and better suited for these particular jobs than other, newer people regardless of where they live. It is frustrating to say the least.

Friday night I attended a farewell happy hour for the first of these people who had fallen victim to the RIF (reduction-in-force) brigade. This wasn't the first RIF round, but previous rounds had impacted newer people who I didn't know so I wasn't invited to their Farewell parties. "Jeff" was the first of the 'old timers' to go. Jeff is one of those guys who would give you the shirt off his back. Family man. Good friend. Really just an all-around great guy. And now he is unemployed.

The thing is that the representatives of big businesses would say, "It's nothing personal. It's just business." Really? Nothing personal? I'm pretty sure it is personal to the people who are now without jobs. To the guy who has given the majority of his time to the company for over ten years and who has spent the past several of those cleaning up mistakes that were made by off-shore resources. I think that is personal.

I don't really care if someone can pull out a chart or a presentation and run some numbers and say that it makes fiscal sense to reduce the on-shore resources. What about the things you can't put numbers on? What about a workforce who will cover for each other in a heartbeat if one of them has a family emergency and has to leave early? What about the salaried employee who for some crazy reason is still willing to work extra to ensure something is taken care of, simply because they take their work personally and feel it would be a poor reflection on them to leave at the end of their shift without seeing the issue through? What about the experience that comes from being at a company for so long and knowing all the players and which of two people to call who will help you resolve an issue even more quickly? What about someone who is familiar enough with a customer to know if something seems incorrect and knows where to look for the correct information? Those are the numbers I want to see. What is the value of those things?

I know times are difficult now. I know there are sometimes when a business must reduce the number of people on their payroll to keep themselves afloat. What I do not understand is why it seems like that is such an easy decision for some people. It seems they just look at titles and job descriptions and numbers and determine those people are no longer valuable to the company. Do they even look at other ways to save or avoid costs? I have to believe that in many cases there are other options. Options that would allow them to keep valuable employees at the company.

All of Friday evening, the elephant in the room was who would be next. As I left, several of the other guys made comments that now that I'd come to Jeff's happy hour, I'd have to come to theirs when it was their turn. I tried to stay positive and say that the company would come around and realize that we still need people here to do what they do, but in my heart, I know that probably isn't the case. And I hate it. No one will ever be able to convince me that the numbers companies look at when they make these decisions are always right. No one will ever be able to convince me that anyone should be told "It's just business." I'm sorry. When you're talking about good employees who have given so much to a company, it's personal.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Procrastinators Anonymous

I've been far too serious with my posts of late. I am formulating something on a lighter note, but it's not ready. The other day I was thinking of how terrible I am about putting things off and I remembered something I wrote a long time ago for a class. I really kinda hate rhyming poetry, but sometimes it works. Here is my poem from long ago, with some edits:

I'm part of a special club,
but please don't think I'm proud.
I try and try to be released,
but I do not know how.
I put things off.
I wait and wait.
Nothing gets done.
I'm always late.
Many solemn vows
say I will change my ways.
For now I think I'll postpone
and hope it's just a phase.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Live the Questions

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.
-Rainer Maria Rilke


It seems as though, sometimes, I'm just going along and living my life and not really paying all that much attention to how I feel.... and I suddenly realize that feel like I don't fit in. Anywhere. As though I looked up and either I had changed or everyone/everything else had changed and I wasn't told about it. A lot of the time, I don't feel this way, which is good since I really dislike it. But when I do, I just want to make it stop.

A friend once told me that she always feels like the kid who showed up half-way through the school year at a new school. I think that is a good way to explain this feeling. Even if you are caught up academically, everyone has already reached their quota of friends for the year and there isn't anything you can do to just blend in like you've always been there. You missed out on all those months of whatever happened... so..... yeah. You're the new kid and you don't belong.

I had a paragraph on why I might be feeling this way right now, but it was all conjecture on the perceptions of others. I don't think that is helpful to me right now. I think when I really boil it down, this feeling is because I am suddenly not comfortable in my own skin. I have all these questions and only some answers and I'm afraid if I'm just me and let myself be too comfortable, all of this craziness is just going to come gushing out. That I will start saying all of it out loud and completely freak people out. It seems safer to just make polite conversation. To talk about kids and work and the weather. To keep things more on the surface.

I know there are people with whom I do fit in. Some other kindred spirits who either feel the same way or don't mind being friends with the new kid. But they have their things too. They have to change and question and process and live. There are just those times when it feels like I need to process things in my own mind. And, despite that I know they would listen, I should just keep my insanity to myself. For now, anyway.

I really need to work on being able to deal with these times without it interfering with my self-perception. This awkward, out-of-touch thing originates with me. In me. When I found the quote above, I read it over and over, letting it sink in. I need to live like that. Not ignoring my questions, but not letting them consume me. I need to realize that I may find the answers, in time, through the moving on without them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ink Smears

Ink smears, as thoughts sometimes do. -Emme Woodhull-Bäche

Since my posts have been either heavy or whiny (or both) lately, I thought I'd try something else for a change. My thoughts are random and often smear together (I really love that quote) into something that makes sense only to me, but I guess if you're reading this you know that already and don't mind translating it out for yourself. So here are some ramblings about the crazy weather and a poem I wrote a few weeks back.

Yes, I love summer and hate that it is gone for the year and that soon the stupid Ohio cold will take over for the next six months. But I'm trying to look on the bright side. I do love coming home from work and having a warm fire blazing in the fire place as the boys race up and scream "Mommy's home!" and give me hugs and kisses. I always love that welcome, but something about the warmth of the fire makes it even more welcoming. I do love the holidays. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas and family traditions. I love nights snuggled on the couch watching movies or reading a book and not feeling the least bit guilty that I didn't get outside and do something... since the weather was too terrible to get out in. As much as it pains at me to admit it, there are a few things I.... don't hate about winter. I'm going to try to remember those things in the coming months.

Here is my poem. I was thinking I would have plenty of "Fall" time left to post it, but we kind of went from the coolest Summer on record straight to late fall/early winter. Since we are now in the middle of three semi-fall days, I'll post it now.

I can feel Fall creeping in,
but I still have the window open.
If only shutting it could stave off
the impending autumn.
Sitting here,
listening to the crickets
and frogs
and clinging
to the last
remnants of Summer.
I feel the passage
of time more strongly
as the life that
overflows in Summer
fades and floats away
in the brisk wind.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Finally Remembered

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

- Ephesians 3:14-21


I plan to get back to writing soon. For now, I will post this verse. I remembered it the morning after I wrote the previous post. My mom made my sisters and I memorize it when I was 12 or 13. It is Paul, praying for the Ephesian church. Praying that they would remember their roots. That they would remember God's love. I'm guessing this prayer was fulfilled, since his letter to this church managed to make it into the Bible. It gives me hope. It's easy to forget the importance of hope. It gives me hope that my prayers are not in vain.



Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
- From 1 Corinthians 13:13 in The Message

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Trouble with God (Okay, Me)

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start. Now I'm alert to God's ways; I don't take God for granted. Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I'm watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
- Psalm 18:20-24

There are many things I have prayed for in my lifetime that have not happened. There are many cliche's about why this would be. I'm not going to get into those here, because most of you have probably heard them and I think they are as lame as most people probably do. I am typically not bothered by God not doing what I want. Many times a day my kids ask me for things that I do not give them. This does not make me a bad parent any more than God not doing what I ask makes him bad or uncaring or non-existent.

What does bother me is that I often find myself praying for other people. And other people can do whatever they want. God isn't some big puppeteer in the sky just waiting to make people do something. He is a loving Father who is waiting for people to choose to love him back. I don't force my kids to tell me they love me or to show me affection. I, of course, shower them with love and affection because I love them more than life itself. And that is how God is with us. He tries to show us that he loves us, but he does not force his way into our lives. We choose him or we don't.

So... I'm not sure of why praying for other people is a good idea. I should probably have said this earlier, but I am not a Bible scholar so maybe there is an answer to this of which I am unaware. I will try to find it, but right now this is more of an honest rant from a hurting heart. I know there are many, many times in the Bible where someone prays for the healing of someone else. We have all heard of examples where someone had an ailment and they were prayed for and somehow, unexplainable by science, the ailment disappeared. There are also examples of praying for provision or for guidance or even for someone to be raised from the dead. I am wracking my brain and cannot think of any examples of when someone just prayed for someone else to (paraphrasing the scripture above) place the pieces of their life before God so that he could make them complete again.... and then it happened.

I should probably not even be writing this, but there are a lot of people I am praying for and I am beginning to wonder if this is just an exercise in futility. I'm not saying I am in danger of quitting. I'm just wondering if those specific prayers are the best use of my time. God gave people free will. People can do whatever the hell they want. They can turn their back on everything they know to be right, they can inflict hurt on people without a second thought, they can give in to hate. They can break your heart and there is nothing you can do about it And praying they won't doesn't seem to be all that effective.

I'm not trying to worry anyone. I'm really fine. I guess I'm just having a Doubting Thomas night and it kind of feels good to write about it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The People We Love

"You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you." -Frederick Buechner


I've been thinking a lot about love and the people I love. I've been thinking of how terrible it is to hurt someone you love or to be hurt by someone you love. I think there was a time when I would have said that hurting someone you love is even worse than being hurt by someone you love. But lately I've come to think that worse than either of these is hurting for someone you love.

If you hurt someone you love, you can do everything in your power to make amends, to say you're sorry, and to try to set things right. Yes, it is terrible and you feel awful and you don't have control over if they will really forgive you. But if there is true love there and you are truly sorry and you really do not commit the same offense again, there can be healing. There can be restoration of the relationship. There can be forgiveness, and, after a time, the love will cover the hurt and there will be happiness again.

If someone you love hurts you, it is also terrible and you feel awful and you don't really have control over their choice to make amends or not. You can be devastated and feel that the world will never be the same again. But you do have control over how you handle it. If they are sorry and do whatever they can to make things right, you can draw on the love you have for that person to work toward forgiveness. If they are not sorry, it may take a long time to work through, but you can still learn from it. You can take that experience to become stronger and to be more empathetic of others who have the misfortune of the same experience.

But when you hurt for someone you love, you have no control. You have nothing but the anguish of their pain, pressing on your chest and welling up in your eyes and souring your stomach. It doesn't matter if it is a unforeseen tragedy or their own toxic choices that have caused their pain. You cannot change it and you cannot make it better and you cannot come up with any words to take it away. You can remind them how much you love them and you can pray for them and try to offer encouraging words, but none of these change their circumstances. It is something they have to work through. Yes. I think hurting for someone you love is worse than hurting someone you love and far worse than being hurt by someone you love.

I'm not sure where this leave us. As the quote at the top pointed out, we have a whole world living inside us. Is it better to limit the number of people you allow into that world in attempt to limit the pain we can feel? I don't think so.... but sometimes it really feels as though that would make life so much less painful.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Terrible Tuesday Week

Today has been a week of Tuesdays. This Tuesday was especially horrible (not that Monday was great either, but Tuesdays and I have a history). I decided to call Tuesdays 'Terrible Tuesday" from now on. Somehow, that backfired on me and I ended up with not just one Terrible Tuesday this week, but an entire week of them.

Work has been completely insane. People disregarding established processes and operational agreements and acting like I'm some kind of magician that can just make something happen if they wish it to be so. I actually love having something urgent to work on and a rock-solid deadline that I must meet, but when people begin messing with said deadline and piling on additional responsibilities, I can feel the stress in my shoulders and in my back between my shoulder blades. I start having trouble functioning. I lose my appetite and have to remind myself to eat something and drink water so I don't end up with the mother of all tension headaches. I feel like I completely lose touch with my family and friends, as work is eating up all of my time and energy.

This week of Terrible Tuesdays has put me into a serious funk. I try to be in a good mood, but I just feel like a crazy person who could, at any moment, lash out at someone who looks at me funny. Nothing especially horrifying has happened, but on top of all the work stuff, our car needs some pricey maintenance, the boys are cranky and whiny from the weather change, all the idiots were out driving this week, I have a big event I'm hosting at my house tomorrow (and my house is a wreck and I'm blogging instead of doing anything about that), and I'm not sleeping well as a result of all the stress plus having a pretty painful tattoo addition healing on my back.

I know I should be thankful for my family and that I am still gainfully employed and I also know that the tattoo thing is entirely my own fault. I've had some good conversations with friends this week, my boss paid me the mother of all complements this week (he said that he has come to value the quality of my writing and that it totally makes up for my lack of technical background), and I love the way my tattoo turned out. But I still just feel just feel all Terrible Tuesday'd out. I'm so over it. I just want to start a new week and I want the boys to be better and I want my back to stop hurting and I want to figure out how to reduce my stress level and I want to get back into my writing. Maybe this is a start.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How do you really feel?

I don't know if I am still (yes, one month later) mentally exhausted from my month of writing or if it is all the other stuff going on, but I have really been neglecting my blog. I suppose that is okay. Maybe I need this time to regroup and think, but it is a little frustrating. Last night I had time to write and I really felt like writing, but nothing started off right. This is all I have. Maybe next month I'll get back into more regular posting. I just want my brian to cooperate.

I don't know how this happened.
Not sure how I'm staring
at this blank page and
have nothing to write.
The words and the
thoughts and the
musings all
caught up somewhere,
uncooperating.
Damn you, Writer's Block.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall, Fall, Go Away

Ah..... Fall. The time of year loved by so many. Sure, it is tempting to love the beautiful Fall colors and the crisp, blue sky. But, if you are a Fall allergy sufferer like I am, you dread when the wonderful heat and humidity of Summertime gives way to the full-blown mold and spore bonanza that is Fall.

I feel terrible. My brain has turned to snot and is slowly leaking down the back of my throat. That is the only explanation I can come up with for what is happening, because I have no other idea of where all this drainage could be coming from. I mean, really. What else is up there in your head other than your brain and a couple of eyeballs? I can still see my eyes where they belong so it can't be those. With a snot-brain, I obviously cannot think clearly. It takes me twice as long to answer a question or do anything that requires mental effort, because snot cannot process thought nearly as well as brain matter.

I've tried taking medication, but everything I've tried so far only partially relieves the symptoms or leaves me incapacitated. Regular sinus meds slow the leaking, but leave me with the sneezing and the itchy face and nose. The allergy meds make it impossible for me to stay awake and provide a strange, blurring, special-effect to all my movements. I'm not sure why it is okay for them to say 'non-drowsy' on the box when whatever is in there are basically NyQuil in pill form. Maybe they just meant they weren't drowsy when they manufactured the product?

In any case, I am longing for the days of summer when I could breathe and function and live un-medicated. I really hate to say it, but I am not even dreading the coming winter with the same intensity I usually do, in hopes that its arrival will be accompanied by relief. I really hate feeling as though I can't even do the things I need to do because I have no brain and my head is going to explode at any minute. I hate that I have not been able to carry on a decent conversation in at least a week and that I am now even more behind on replying to emails and keeping up with friends because of my current condition. I hate that I actually still have work to do tonight, but that I don't know if I will be able to do it because I can't focus on anything for more than 3 minutes at a time.

I suppose I should go make an attempt to finish that work. If this is my final post it is probably because the last of my brain disappeared down the back of my throat and I no longer have the capacity to write. That or I've gone in to hibernation until next Summer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Paralyzed

Stopped at a stop sign
with my blinker flashing left.
Left is quicker,
but Right is better.
Or there is straight.
But I always take that way.
Which way leads to disaster?
Insane how that goes
from a fleeting thought
to
an irrational fear
in zero-point-two seconds.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hair Color and Stuff

Today we were driving to church and Luke started saying things about each of us that match. Mommy and Luke both have blue eyes. Daddy and Mommy both have dark hair. Etc., etc... Then he said, "Me and Owen both have bright hair (By which he meant light hair. He always says 'bright' in place of 'light' when discussing color) and Mommy has dark hair. If Mommy had bright hair, she would be a boy too." Haha... I love kids' logic. So of course I reminded him that Daddy has dark hair too and he is a boy and that things like the color of your eyes or hair don't make you a boy or a girl. And we started talking about other ways we are alike and different.

Of course, I took the opportunity to talk about ways other people are like us or different from us, but how we are all people and God made everyone and loves us all the same. Some of us have light skin and some have dark. Some of us are tall and some are short. He named off some people we know who have darker skin than ours and I responded "Yep. There are lots of ways we are different, but because we are all people, we have a lot of things alike no matter how different we look. We treat everybody the same, right?" He nodded in agreement and then went on talking about something else.

But I actually teared up thinking about our exchange. Something about knowing that I needed to purpose to remind my kids of this over and over, and the thought that there are people out there who tell their kids the opposite, really bothered me. Maybe it's because we just passed the eighth anniversary of 9/11 or maybe it's just because I'm tired and allergy head which makes me more emotional, but I do worry about the world my kids are growing up in. I worry that I am trying so hard to teach them to be accepting and tolerant of differences and to be good members of society and to help others who need help, but that some of those things might get them bullied or ostracized or worse. I worry about all the people they will encounter who do not value any of those things. I hate that the time is coming when they will experience bigotry or prejudice or hate..... directed at them or not.

I guess all I can do is continue to teach them about the importance of acceptance and tolerance and helping when they can. And hope that there are enough other people out there who also value those things so they won't be alone.
One day our descendants will think it incredible
that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.
-Franklin Thomas


Saturday, September 12, 2009

thank you, e.e. cummings

it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
-e.e. cummings

There might be some people out there who are not afraid of or intimidated by anything. Nothing from their past haunts them. Nothing from their present sends chills up their spine. They face the future with complete confidence. I am not one of those people.

Sometimes something reminds me of the me I was when growing up and I get this odd, disoriented feeling. Although I know she is still there somewhere, in many ways, I don't even recognize that nerdy girl with the super long hair and enormous glasses. The girl who had the quilt-print comforter and read 'Christian' romance books. The girl who still believed in fairy-tale love and that everything was black and white and that good people got happy endings. That girl who wanted more than anything to fit in with all the conservative families surrounding her, despite that deep down she knew she never would.

I think that being back at my old church has really shown me something. That I like the person I grew up to be. I know I am not at all perfect and I realize that I still have so much to learn about so many things. But I think that the going away and becoming the me I am today was the best thing I could have done. I used to look at other people who have the life I would have had if I'd stayed and wonder how they could truly be happy. And then I realized that they, if they happened to give me any thought at all, would probably wonder the same about me.

Becoming who you really are doesn't always mean some life-altering choice or getting away from your roots or trying to be different from your family. Sometimes it does mean one (or all) of those things, but it's the being true to yourself part that gives you the courage to either continue on a path or to choose a new one.

I think what I like about the quote is that it reminds me that even though it may have been little steps I was taking toward becoming a different person from that one in my head in the past, when I look back I can see that it did take some courage to get from there to here. With all the second-guessing and self-doubts that I sometimes let creep in, it's nice to see that I have done something just a little bit courageous.

(Sorry if this post is a little too much "yay me!" but I think I kind of needed it after the week I've had. Revisions may be forthcoming after I re-read it in a day or two.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?

I am exhausted. I am spent. I realized today that your oldest kid starting preschool is the end of your carefree, making-plans-(mostly)-on-the-fly days. It is a transition for your family just like adding another child or one of the parents starting a new job. I thought I had till next week for this, but very last minute Luke had to be switched to a different class and had to start today. During a week when Ryan already had a lot of things planned, so even though I'm not, I kind of feel as though I'm dealing with it all on my own. I wasn't ready and now I feel all off-kilter. I really could have used those extra six days to prepare.

I'm days behind on email replies and responding to Facebook messages. I'm not even certain I remembered to pay all the bills. I just don't feel like doing anything I should be doing. I feel as though I don't have the mental space to focus on those things or, sadly, even other people. My mind is rebelling against the stress of a situation that should not stress me out at all. It's only preschool and it is only two days a week. But I just want to sit on the couch and snuggle with Luke and keep him little for a few more days.

Earlier tonight, I remembered something I wrote a long time ago. I think Luke was about two-and-a-half. Since my brain is on vacation, I'll post this for now. I absolutely cannot believe this was two years ago, because it really feels like yesterday.


"Look at all the birds, Mom!" I look up from filling the dishwasher to see that Luke has stopped riding his stick horse and is staring out the dining room window. I think of how cute his little voice is and, as is typical, when I don't respond immediately he repeats himself.

"Look at all the birds!" This time, he's pointing up out the window. I dry my hands and walk over next to him. Looking to where he is pointing, I see the birds flying overhead. "Look at all the birds, Mom. Where do you think they are going?" It's cute how he makes such an effort to express his two-year-old thoughts in complete sentences. Before I can answer, he says, "They are going to their nests." In his mind, there is nowhere else for them to go. All people and animals he sees going anywhere must be going home.

This is a seemingly endless flock of birds we are watching. He makes a few more comments about the birds, then says, "Let's count them, Mama. 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 9 - 10." He always leaves out 5-6-7-8. "Count them Mama." Of course, there are far too many and they are flying far too fast for me to count them. I get all sappy in my mushy mom brain, thinking how he is like a little bird, for now in my nest, but all too soon he will have to go out on his own. Away from me. I think of how these days of little moments like this are flying by faster than I can keep track of, just like the flock of birds. I wish I had my camcorder so I could capture this, but I know that, first of all, if I move to get it he will get distracted and just want to play with it. Second, I know that even if I did have it, there is really no way to capture exactly what is transpiring.

So I just stand there next to him while he talks about the birds and tries to count them. I glance down at him, standing by the window in his fire truck pajamas, blue eyes bright with wonder, finger pointing out the window. I want to hug him and kiss him and remind him I love him. I close my eyes and try to etch the scene onto my memory.

The flock has finally passed and he goes back to riding his horse. I stand by the window for just another second, thankful that a least for now my little bird is here with me and that I have a couple more years to get used to the idea of him flying on his own.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fracturing

Since rambling about my complete distraction when it comes to my life's purpose isn't getting me anywhere, I'll change the subject. I went to a writing workshop yesterday and we wrote with music playing while looking at pictures. Here is one of the things I wrote. I was going to post a description of the photo, but I think I'll wait a few days.

I was trying to get closer
to the brightest spot.
To where everyone else
was looking.
So brilliant.
So beautiful.
Shards of light
fracturing out from
the blinding center.
No one else wants
to look away.
But my eyes are
pulled to the shadows.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Help and the Crazy Person (me)

Sometimes I have this feeling that I know what I'm doing and where I'm headed in life. That feeling is rare and never lasts long. It's as though I glimpse it and then something happens and I lose focus and I can never piece it back together. Like I wrote it down on a crumpled wad of paper and then opened the paper up, smoothed it out, and try to figure out what it said. I don't know why I feel like this. It should be simple enough. I'm a wife and a mom and a full-time employee and a friend and lots of other things. Shouldn't that be enough?

Well, it's not. It's not enough to just be those things. I want to do something else. I want to know that something I did in my life made a difference for at least a few people, as cliche' as that sounds. This is absolutely not about being famous. I have no desire to have people in my business or to be on television or in the newspaper. It's more about me and the way I feel about myself and my own life.

When I hear about someone with a need, I have an impulse to do something, anything, to help out. For example, this week I heard that the cousin of a friend of a friend was in a terrible car accident. She was badly injured and her husband was killed. Their 2-year-old son was unharmed. Because they were traveling to visit family for an extended time they had all their personal belongings with them. The car went up in flames and they lost all their clothes. I went through all my 2T and 3T clothes bins to see what I could spare for the son, and then when I didn't find a lot there (as those are the sizes Owen is wearing now so I kind of need some of them), I went out sale-and-clearance rack shopping. I'm not saying I'm a great person for doing this. I'm just using this as an example of this issue I have. I don't even know these people and there is nothing at all I can do to ease the pain of what happened. But giving some decent clothes to that little boy was some action I could take that could make the circumstance of losing all their clothes a little more manageable.

The problem is that most people have some kind of need and I certainly can't help every person. And sometimes I question the kind of help I provide, because while it is a loving or kind thing to do, it is also driven in part by impulse and in part by guilt over that person being in such a terrible circumstance while I know my circumstances are not as bad. I envy people who focus on helping the homeless or on feeding the poor or on working with at-risk youth. They have found their niche. Their purpose. They have their way of making a difference right there in front of them all the time. I wish I had that.

On a sort of side note, this compulsion is not about 'saving' anyone. I know that I cannot save people from their circumstances or their choices or their back luck. I am (unfortunately) not a billionaire philanthropist, a psychiatrist, or a magician. It really is just about helping. Doing what is within my means and resources to do. I know that sometimes the best way to help is to just let someone work something out on their own or to step back and let better qualified people assist.

That said, I still wish I had one or two areas on which to focus. Something that was clearly what I was meant to do or meant to help with. Maybe I need someone to help me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blinded

It was completely strange to not have to stay up writing last night. I kept having this nagging feeling that I was forgetting to do something important and then I would remember that I was not forgetting to do something. That I was free from having to write. For as long as I wanted.

But yesterday morning as I was driving to work I was thinking of other things and still my mind drifted to something I should write. Not sure if it works the way I hope it does, but here it is: (This really does happen to me almost every morning, but it's not exactly what I'm talking about here.)

I turn the corner and
the sun glares
off the windshield,
blinding.
I continue driving
though I cannot see the road
or the lines
or the guardrail.
I accelerate toward the
shadow of treeline.
I know it's there.
And I know I can see again
when I get there.

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Things I Now Know

I almost can't believe I made it. I know I missed one day, but I had a good excuse. I was preparing all day for a house full of girlfriends with my sisters and my sister's kids here. And then my sisters and I stayed up till 2AM talking and I was drinking wine and just could not muster the anything to write that night. Still, 30 out of 31 days seems like a huge accomplishment to me, despite that it is nothing in the grand scheme of things. So... what have I learned this month? I had decided to do a what-have-I-learned post based only on my writing, but this has been a really interesting month for me so I'm going to expand that and do a general lessons-learned-in-August-2009 post.

LL1 - I feel cheated out of summer and I hate how much the weather impacts my mood. We had the coolest July on record, followed by an August that, save for about 5 hot and humid days, felt like October. I love, love, love summertime and I have an extreme dislike for being cheated out of it this year. Here's hoping for a great Indian Summer.

LL2 - I have no poker face and should probably work on that. Just today I was in a meeting with several people in a conference room and one person on the phone. The person on the phone was not paying attention and kept interjecting things that didn't apply or asking questions about things that had already been fully explained. I realized half-way through that it was totally obvious to everyone in the meeting that I was half amused, half annoyed at the guy, just by the expressions on my face. I cannot be fake nice or face excited or fake any emotion. There is nothing wrong with being honest, but I should work on not wearing my emotions on my face in such an obvious manner.

LL3 - While writing is pretty much my only 'talent,' forcing myself to do it produces (at best) mixed results. All day I think about what I'm going to write and then I sit down and start writing and often times what shows up on the page is not suitable for posting. Then I get frustrated and post something to fill the spot that may or may not be even worse than what I was originally working on. I have an excess of drafts now that will likely never see the background of my blog. I have many thoughts I have tried to put into words that just seem crazy. I know... it is a little scary that I have things that are even crazier than all the things I've posted this month. I think I'm mostly sane though. For now.

LL4 - While I really want people to read what I write and leave me comments, I am paranoid about putting too much personal information out there. The crazy guy who commented on my post about the creature we had for a short time, still checks that post at least once a day and that really creeps me out. I think it's weird an anonymous person goes around commenting on other people's blogs and then has time to keep going back and checking them every day.

LL5 - Despite that I'm creeped out by trolls, I crave feedback on my work -- on what I can do better, on what is working, on what I should never do again and I wish more people either commented or emailed me about the stuff I write. I try to be all I'm-doing-this-for-my-own-enjoyment, but I guess I really do want to know what people think about the stuff I write. Even if they think it is crap.

LL6 - I think I'm getting better at expressing my thoughts about the things I'm learning. At least in writing. In person is a whole different and scary thing.

I think that is enough for now. I had thought of more earlier in the day, but I didn't have time to write them down and now I've forgotten them. This has been a great exercise for me, but I'm ready for a break. I'm ready for writing from inspiration and not from self-imposed pressure. Thanks to the couple of you who have kept up with my blog this month. I doubt I write tomorrow, but I hope to be back soon with something I'm proud of.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Almost There

Two days left. This has been a really long month for me mentally. The self-imposed pressure of writing every day, combined with an unpaid week off work, the weird weather that made it seem more like fall than summertime (bleh!), and all these questions I'm trying to work through, has left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. I don't necessarily think this is negative, it's just the way I feel. I have more I want to write about my topic from Tuesday, but every time I sit down to write about it, whatever I put on the screen is all jumbled and confusing.

I want to write about religious tradition vs. biblical beliefs, but I still have so much research to do that I don't feel I can even begin to cover the topic. I do know that I am trying to sort out for myself what things I do or believe that are just traditions and then determine if those things are useful or helpful to me.

I want to write more about trust. I am still having trouble with this. I've thought a lot about
Isaiah 55:8 & 9, which reads, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." On one hand, it is reassuring to me, because it's a reminder that I am obviously not the first person to have questions about God and why he does what he does. That God sees the big picture and I can only see what's right in front of me. But it is also disconcerting because that doesn't answer questions to just say, "Well, he's God and we just can't know." I really don't think that's what God was trying to say, but sometimes it feels like it.

I want to write more about how I've often thought of my beliefs. I realized that because of so many negative things I dislike about 'Christianity' and many who profess it, I am moderately ashamed to say I am a Christian. I am not ashamed that I have a relationship with God, it's more some kind of misplaced guilt for being affiliated with a religion that people can so easily distort and have distorted for so many years. This guilt has impacted my life and decisions and opinions regarding church and people who attend church. I realize it is not my fault if other people get it so wrong, but I am having a really difficult time coming up with an acceptable answer, for myself and for others, as to why this happens and what I can do about it.

I want to write more about questions. I keep going back to one of my favorite Rob Bell excerpts:


Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God. Not belligerent, arrogant questions.... but naked, honest, vulnerable, raw questions, arising out of the awe that comes from engaging the living God. This type of questioning frees us. Frees us from having to have it all figured out. Frees us from always having to be right. It allows us to have moments when we come to the end of our ability to comprehend.

To me this is not about giving up and accepting that something doesn't makes sense to me. I truly believe it would be wrong to just resign myself to not understanding. For me, this is about accepting that I may not understand something right now, but that might be that because of where I am right now, I'm not able to comprehend. BUT, if I keep searching and asking and studying and questioning, I will at some point gain at least some level of understanding in answer to my questions. Something to look forward to.

And I want to write about how all of this has me thinking about the difference between knowledge and experience. Sometimes when I think about people who have different beliefs than I have, I catch myself thinking they are somehow so much more intellectual or enlightened. My beliefs can seem old and quaint and outdated. But that is all about knowledge. That is just picking up some books and reading them and saying that one sounds logical and reasonable while the other seems confusing and crazy. If you just think about it on the surface, if there were a perfect person who never made any mistakes or did anything wrong, why would he chose to die for something he didn't do, just to reconcile the rest of humanity to God? BUT, if you've experienced the relationship and the love, the same story is amazing and beautiful.

So... yeah. I still have more I need to explore in these areas and still more topics I simply couldn't form into decent paragraphs today. The knowledge vs. experience thing is really big for me right now. I am struggling with how to talk about it with people who have only the knowledge and not the experience. Not in a 'come over to my side' way. But for me it is like talking to someone about a friend that person has never met. And in some cases it is like me talking to someone about a friend they have never met, who to them seems like my invisible friend. I just want to be ready with an answer... not a canned, 'Christian' answer, but a real and personal answer, should anyone ask questions.


"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." - Hebrews 10:23

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Worm

I was the kind of girl who felt true physical pain when asked to put down a book at the dinner table. I felt ravenous toward toward each book, like a vampire desperate to clamp my fangs into the foreign body until it was drained in its entirety, lifeless on the floor.
I was, in my tastes, completely indiscriminate... It was on the shelf and I could follow at least 35 percent of the action? I gave it a try. - Excerpted from Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick


I read this in Reader's Digest a few weeks ago and it was like Ms. Skurnick was writing about my childhood. I started doing odd jobs for my grandparents when I was 7 or 8 to earn money to save up and spend on books. When I didn't have a new book, I would scour the shelves at our house or my grandparents'house for anything that would hold my interest long enough to get through it. My grandmother had the boxe set of the Little House on the Prairie series, and I read through the all of it three times by the time I was twelve. I had to have something to read. Always.

I have maybe four memories of my childhood from before I could read. My mother, an elementary teacher, taught me to read when I was four. By the time I was seven, I was reading anything I could get my hands on. Despite that they were unbelievably strict and censoring of everything else in my life from music to clothes to friends, my parents paid little attention to what I read. I guess that to them, I reading and learning and that was good. I read the Reader's Digest cover-to-cover every month, some romance novels I found at my grandparents with content much too mature for my age, and anything about Holocaust survivors I could get my hands on.

Reading opened worlds and ideas to me that were not available anywhere else in my life. Reading also gave me something to do that was only mine, that no one really paid attention to, and that allowed me to escape from any number if situations I wanted to avoid. I distinctly remember reading when I was supposed to be cleaning my room, doing schoolwork, or many various other chores. I would sit or stand, poised as though I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, while reading the book in which I was currently engrossed. I had about 85% of my attention on the book, and about 15% keeping guard so that if my mother came by my room I could quickly stash the book and look as though I was toeing the line.

Reading also came in very handy for keeping up with adult conversations that were none of my business. Since many of my mother's friends had kids my sisters' age, much younger than me, I was usually able to get away with hanging out with the adults... Albeit in the corner with my nose buried in a book. I heard all kinds of gossip, as well as concerns about marriages, child-rearing, and life in general. Since I was a very fast reader, I could quickly read to the end of a page and then pause to listen to what was being said before continuing to the next page. The whole 'little pitchers have big ears' saying completely applied to me. I just happened to be a little big-eared pitcher with her nose in a book who appeared to not be paying attention.

I still love to read, but I have so much less time for it now. I have a stack of books by my bed, waiting for me to read them, but after I take care of the boys, tidy up, and then try to write, I am so exhausted I just fall into bed, asleep as my head hits the pillow. But I miss my old friend. When this month is over I intend to take some time to invest in whittling down my book pile, passing time in some other worlds that are only available to me in books.

Something

Oh my goodness. I've worked on two other posts tonight and determined they were not close to being okay to post. I have this poem from a couple weeks ago that I don't think I've posted before. I'm going to post it now because it's all I have. At least it's something.

I need something.
Sleep, for certain,
but also reassurance.
I want to be strong
and self-reliant
and care not.
But...
Oh, how the doubts
creep in and
crowd that out.
I want rest
and words
and confidence.
But I need something.
Else.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Few More Favorite Things

Since I have to post something today and my brain is rebelling against me right now, I'll add some items to my favorite things. I know this is not even close to entertaining or insightful or anything anyone would want to read, but it's all I can muster. Sorry.



Liberté Méditerranée Yogurt - Some crazy guy accosted me when I was buying other yogurt at Whole Foods and told me I had to try this yogurt. Maybe I tried it to appease him (best to avoid pissing off crazy people) and make him go away, but he was right. It may not be low-fat, but it is amazingly delicious. I think the lemon flavor is my favorite. SO good.

Franco Sarto Shoes - Don't bother trying to look them up online because for some reason the ones they list online are mostly ugly. But the ones I have in real life are totally cute AND comfortable... which is difficult for shoes with high heels. Plus I love that they sell them at Famous Footwear so I can usually score a pair, regularly priced at least $80, for around $20 with discounts and coupons.

Half-and-half - In my original favorite things post I talked about coffee, but since I can't really drink coffee without half-and-half, I think it deserves a spot as well. I drink my coffee with only cream, no sugar. Yum. I wish I had some right now.

Facebook - Apparently (according to several articles I've seen lately) Facebook is becoming outdated and for old people, but I really don't care. I hate to talk on the phone, so I love that I can keep up with people and what is going on with them via Facebook. Oh... and I'm old so I guess it's okay.

Homegrown Tomatoes - We planted a tiny garden this year, which included three tomato plants. I love tomatoes anyway, but homegrown tomatoes are about a million times better than the ones you can buy at the store. They are so good and I could eat them every day. Delicious.

Okay. That is enough for now. I'll try for something better tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What to Do?

My mind still has some thoughts swirling around regarding my topic from yesterday, but I need some time to catch them and make them into something concrete. I noticed that it has been over three months since I've written a post obsessing about tattoos. So while I'm still thinking of what to say on other, deeper topics, I will post some randomness about my tattoo obsession.

I've already written about why I like tattoos and what they mean to me so I'm just going to talk about my dilemma. I really want a new tattoo, but I also really want to add on to one I already have. As (good) tattoos are not inexpensive, I have to choose one or the other. The one I want to add to is the one on my shoulder. It is two wild violets and some ivy. Violets mean 'watchfulness' or 'faithfulness' and I got them to represent the boys and how as their mother I am to be watchful of them, not just in making sure they are safe, but also in the example I set for them. The ivy is for Ryan, as it means loyalty or fidelity. I loved my tattoo after I first got it and I still really love it. But when I look at it now it seems too small. Ivy doen't just grow in a little tiny patch all neatly around some flowers. I think it needs more ivy. I want more ivy.


But.... I also want something new. I still really want a foxtail, not exactly like the one in the picture on the left, but similar. It wouldn't be to represent someone else, it would just be for me. I love foxtails because they remind me of summertime in the country. I love summertime and a foxtail seems way less cliche' than getting a sun on my ankle (not that there is anything wrong with that if you have it). However, I am concerned about how it would translate to a tattoo. It would have to be big enough to get enough detail in, but I don't really want it taking up my entire side or side of my back. Decisions, decisons.




AND... I'm still trying to decide if I want something on my upper arm. I love the idea of magnolia branches and blooms, but that is a big decision to get something in a location that can't be so easily covered (in summertime, anyway). I'm not sure if I'm ready for that. Or maybe I am. *sigh*


Anyway, I am getting tattoo'd next month, I just have to decide with what. The ivy is my default, as I am completely certain I want it and I've already talked to my artist about it. I still have a few weeks to decide if I'm going to put that off and go with something new, so I guess we'll see what happens.




I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that
I lived just the length of it.
I want to have lived the width of it as well.

- Diane Ackerman

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Loves Like a Hurricane

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

- I John 1:1

I think I've been trying to not write this post for some time. There are so many things I'm trying to sort out with my own faith and I certainly don't want to come across as though I think I have it figured out. I'm trying to really study and sort out what are things that I do or believe that are actually just a tradition that someone made up and what is the truth that I really believe and want to keep.

The reason I've been avoiding this post is because I really, really dislike when people come across as preachy or trying to 'save' someone and I certainly want to avoid that myself. But I think that by not posting this post, I'm not being entirely honest. I strive to be the kind of person who accepts people how they are and where they are. I don't expect people to change for me or to match up with my beliefs. But I need to allow myself that same freedom. I need to accept that my opinions and beliefs are not any less relevant than any other person's and I shouldn't be hesitant to write about them. By avoiding the subject that is taking up most of my thoughts, I am producing some true crap writing.

I rarely know what to say to people. I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm pretty awkward. Even in normal, social interactions I usually just listen and say as little as possible so I don't say something stupid. It's like when I open my mouth and say something it is just something odd or crazy and people don't 'get it.' When I'm in a situation that would normally be uncomfortable, like offering comfort or advice, I'm even worse. I simply don't know what to say.

So I've been thinking a lot about what to say to people who have been victims of the terrible result of people ascribing to 'religion' and religious tradition. I've heard and read horror stories that have just infuriated me that anyone would treat someone else so inhumanely under the guise that they are doing God's work. I've had to ask myself if I would still believe in God if that had been my experience all my life.

As I was thinking about this the other day and thinking about all my trust issues, I realized that I don't really trust that God can repair that type of damage. I believe that those people out there with the judgement and the abuse and the lies who are pretending they are obeying God have done far too much damage to a lot of people that it is a hopeless situation. Sad to admit, but I'm just being honest.

I know sometimes 'Christians' meet people who have different beliefs from them and tell these people they should just read the Bible or go to church and they would obviously see how wrong they are. I have to say just reading a book or just going to a building is probably not going to change anyone. And this is something I can't stop thinking about. I have people for whom I pray daily, but I don't say much to them about faith one way or another. I don't think there is much I can say to them that will persuade them either way. But if I don't believe anything I can say will make any difference to them and I doubt that God will get through to them, where does that leave my faith?

I was listening to this song (lyrics below) and I had the thought that it isn't about if they just read the Bible or just went to church or just... anything religious. It really is about if they just realized how much God loves them and how broken his heart is over all the terrible things they have experienced or the things that have gone wrong in their lives. And that he is so proud of them for overcoming adversity and for the things they do that contribute to the world in a positive way. And I was wondering why they would believe that and I really don't know. Maybe they never will. Many people who don't believe in God or who believe in something/one other than God are quite well versed, not only in what they believe, but also in what others believe. It wasn't a choice they made on a whim. They know what they believe and why.

I certainly don't pretend to fully understand the mind of God, but I do know that he loves me. There are many things I am still working to understand about God and who he is and why he doesn't prevent certain things or why some things don't work out. But I know that as a parent there is nothing that would ever make me love my kids any less. Even if they ran away from home and told people they didn't have a mother, I would still love them and still want what is best for them and still rejoice in their successes and morn with them in their sorrows. And I know that is how God is with his children.

I have really hesitated to post this, at risk of seeming like the things or people I dislike/disagree with. But I needed to write this out, to wrestle with it, to try to put it into words that I can go back and mull over and revise if necessary. It's just what is on my mind. I'm not sure of where to go with it from here. I guess I need more time to figure out how this all plays into my faith. I can't make people believe that God loves them, but I can pray for them. And I love them. I wonder if that is enough.

How He Loves - John Mark McMillan

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blank People

"We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.” - Fydor Dostoevsky


My favorite movie, About a Boy, uses double voice-over narration with the thoughts of the two main characters. In one of the scenes, the character Will is explaining how he views his life and the lives of others as television shows. In his show, he is the main character and all the people around him are just other actors. He is concerned with what he does and keeping his show interesting. If other people's shows are having trouble, that is no concern of his. (I know that doesn't do it justice and I'd like to watch the scene right now so I could quote it, but Ryan is watching golf and I'm already sitting here at the computer ignoring him. I'd feel rude to monopolize both the computer and the television. Maybe I'll add that in later.)

I don't know about anyone else, but I think that I do kind of see my life that way. Not the not caring about other people and their shows, but the part where I'm the main character of my life and my friends and family are the supporting cast. I'm part of the supporting cast in their lives. Friends of friends are shows I don't watch regularly, but I keep up with their shows because some of my supporting cast are also their supporting cast. Then there are the people in my life who aren't really cast mates, but I watch their shows enough to keep up with the plot because they happen to be filming at the same time as my show. The people I don't know are just extras. Blank people. Girl 2 with ice cream. I don't know anything about them so it's like they are a television show that I don't watch and that none of my cast mates talk about.

I don't know why I was thinking about this today and I don't really know where I'm going with it. Something about the thought made me sad. Obviously it is impossible to know everyone you encounter. No one can watch and know the plot of every show or how well it is doing, but some part of me wishes I could. I think a lot of people are fascinating and think fascinating thoughts and it would be great to get a glimpse of that. But I guess it is a lot easier to not think about those blank people. Do I really want to know how difficult life is for Sad Grocery Cashier or what is going on with Bitter Old Lady in Cafe'? And isn't it a lot easier to be annoyed at Rude Woman in Line or Jerk Number 3 if I don't know that she has just found out her husband is cheating on her or that he just lost his job?

I guess I sometimes feel overwhelmed by keeping up with my own show and worrying about how the shows of my cast mates are are doing that I don't have time to take on any new shows. How sad is it that I don't have time for additional other people? I haven't always been this way, but I feel like I've become hesitant to take on any recurring guest roles or new cast mates. In the past year, I have encountered a few people who I couldn't seem to resist bringing into the case, but not many. There are also a few people I've completely lost track of. I don't like feeling this way. And I kind of don't like that I'm talking about myself or other people as actors in television lives, but this is the closest thing I have to a completed post so I'm going to post it anyway. By my own admission, my ratings are slipping and I need to fire my writer.

What was I thinking?

Right now I'm having trouble remembering why I thought I should write every day this month. I'm pretty discouraged at the moment and I feel like I'm all whiny about it, which I don't like. I have about 8 drafts started and saved. I've looked at all of them and tried to think of how I could finish them to make them into something good to post, but I just don't have it in me right now to do all the work and editing that would require.

I do have some other ideas of things to write about, but they are still only half-formed. I guess for now my goal now should be to come up with at least one decent post in the remaining days of this month. Ah..... goals.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dear Insomnia

Oh my. It is so late (early) and I am so tired, yet wide awake. And I have a headache. And I have to get up in a few hours. Great time to try for a post. This is all I have for now. It's not so great. I probably wouldn't even post it were it not 2:23 AM....

Insomnia, my dear friend.
I cannot sleep because
of all the questions.
I don't know.
I do not know.
I wish I knew.
All true, but I need answers,
not catch phrases.
The wondering and
the thinking and
the worrying get me
nowhere.
I still don't know.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Practice Does Not Make Perfect

I am so not feeling it today. I actually put off this post until it wasn't even today anymore. I am so ready for this month to be over. I know I missed one day, but I've still been doing pretty well to spill something out into this blog text box all the other days. Sure, it may have been something stupid or rework of something old, but at least I took the time to type it out and post it.

Today, I just feel like this whole exercise has been a failure. I don't think my writing is improving. If anything, it is getting worse, diluted by the sheer volume of nonsense I've been producing. Such frustration. I guess since I didn't really have a goal other than 'Write Every Day' I can't really say I'm doing a terrible job. I guess I was just expecting some sort of breakthrough were I would realize a new direction for my writing. And now I feel like it has even less direction than before.

I guess I shouldn't lose all hope. I still have a week left. I guess something great could happen and I could suddenly feel good about my writing. I'm thinking that is not going to happen tonight.

Sitting.
Staring.
Contemplating practice.
Contemplating words.
Contemplating.
Waiting.
Waiting for practice to
make perfect.
Instead, all this practice
led me astray.
My eyes on perfection,
but my efforts
falling so short.
All this practice made
nothing that
resembled perfection.
All this practice made
burnout.
And self-contempt.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pseudo Mommy Blog Post

Before I get started, I'll just tell you that if reading about my mommy-ness will make you queasy, you might want to skip this post. I've been off work this week. Usually when I'm off work that means lots of time together as a family. This week, Ryan has been splitting wood so it has mostly been the boys and me hanging out. We've had a great time. Kids can be so frustrating and challenging and trying and whiny and messy. But also really fun and funny. Yesterday Owen and I were playing a game and he looked at me and said, "Mommy, you're my friend."

There is nothing like being a mother. It can be so embarrassing and rewarding at the same time. We are potty training Owen and he has been doing so great. Dry for two whole days/nights. This afternoon, we were at Target and he started yelling, "I'M PEEING!! I'M PEEING!!" (which for some reason is what he yells when he has to pee, he was not actually peeing). I mean, I was really proud of him for telling us he needed to go even when we were out of the house, but it's so embarrassing to have everyone looking at you and thinking that your kid is actually peeing all over the floor or that you've taught him to announce his bodily functions. Ha.

As I was thinking about this week, I was thinking of what it must be like to be home with your kids all the time. I love when I get to spend more time with them, but I also love that I work and do things on my own. This got me thinking about some things I read shortly after Luke was born. It was actually from a book I purchased as gift for my mom, but after I read it I kept it and got her something else. Two things that have shaped my ideas of motherhood were in this book. Here is the first:

In the end did I find the secret, and it was this: There is no one secret way to be a "good" mother. Each of us has to invent motherhood for herself and invent it over and over and over as we move forward through it. We can find the common threads of motherhood from talking to each other, but everyone is different. Each child is different, and we are different with each child, just as life is different for each child. No one explains how to do it. Each of us must figure it out for ourselves.

- Frances Wells Burck, Mothers Talking


This is so, so true. There are so many different ways to be a good mother and we have to find what works for ourselves and our families. Full-time moms, working moms, etc., etc., we all have to figure it out for ourselves. I'm doing the best I can and I just pray that God will make up for my shortcomings.

But there was another thing in the book I was thinking about. It's one of those things that once I read it I've heard it many, many times in my head. I knew the feeling, but sometimes other people can put feelings into words so much better than I could ever hope to:
"We're taking a survey," she says, half joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?" "It will change your life," I say carefully. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes: That the physical wounds of childbearing heal, but that becoming a mother will leave an emotional wound so raw that she will be forever vulnerable.
I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going to an important business meeting, and she will think about her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her child is all right.
However decisive she may be in the office, she will second guess herself constantly as a mother. She will never feel the same about herself. That her life will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years--not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her children accomplish theirs.
- Dale Hanson Bourke, in Everyday Miracles

Being a mom is only part of who I am, but it really did derail my life. Oh well. I didn't really want my life to be on the rails anyway. Much better to be able to play cowboys and cowgirls or Candy Land or Legos or taking-a-trip-to-the-high-mountains whenever the mood strikes. I will never feel the same about myself as I did before, but I have a whole new purpose and perspective that I like a lot better.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shattered Pieces Scattering

Some rework to fill the space where the post I was working on should be. I'm not sure if I like it more than the original, but at least I tried.

My secret hopes are
reachable while
jealously guarded.
Dreams,
tucked safely in pillowcase corners,
seem alive
and strangely tangible.
I'm terrified
to expose them to
the light of day.
I clinch them more
tightly in my hidden fists,
dreading the shattered pieces
scattering at my feet if I
loosen my grasp and
let you see.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Awesome. Or Something.

This is the worst week ever for writing. No time. No focus. No inspiration. And, it would be great if I could write more stuff about something that some random stranger has a saved blog search for so they will leave me lecturing comments on my posts. That would be great. A girl can dream. (For the record, I do not collect any kind of animal and I have often stopped my car on the road and gotten out to rescue a little shelled creature from certain death, carefully placing it on the other side of the road, in the direction in which it was traveling. Several times I've done this in the rain, on my way to work, while wearing a dress and heels.)

It might take me some time to come up with those kinds of topics. In the meantime I'll post a poem I've been working on for years. I've worked on adding stuff to the first line off and on. This is my most recent revision. Still needs a lot of work, but it's what I have for now.

I say hello
to you and
you say hi and
ask me how I am,
but do you
really care?
I see it there,
behind your eyes.
I make you
ill at ease and
you wish I'd say
I'm fine and just continue
walking.
But sometimes
a kindred spirit
hides in awkward skin.