Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One of Those Days

I feel I can share this because, well, lets face it.  I was probably out of the running for "Mother of the Year" back in January. 

I overslept this morning.  I use my iPod as my alarm clock, but somehow the volume was turned all the way down and I didn't wake up until four minutes before we were supposed to be outside waiting for the bus to take Luke to school.  Of course, had it been the weekend, at least one of the boys would have already woken me up hours ago.  Panic.  For about half  a second, I considered grabbing Luke out of bed, throwing clothes on him, and dragging him outside, but I quickly realized what a complete disaster that would be.  He does not wake up well, nor does he do well with being that rushed.  We probably both would have been in tears by the time we got outside and we STILL might have missed the bus.

Fine.  Plan B.  Mondays are my turn to get both boys to school.  I usually get up, work out, shower, wake up the boys, get them ready, get Luke on the bus, sign on to my laptop, work from 8-8:30, leave to take Owen to preschool, come home, and work the rest of the day.  Now I had to rush around, get the boys ready, load them both in the car, and set off for Luke's school, which is the complete opposite direction of Owen's school.  Good times.

Of course, since the morning was now complete chaos, all bets were off.  Luke was crying because because I told him if he wasn't going to eat his breakfast right away he needed to get dressed first.  But that isn't his routine.  Owen was crying because he didn't want to leave early.  I refrained from crying, but I really kind of wanted to.  I mean, I didn't even have time to make coffee.

It was pouring down rain and we got stuck behind the same really super-slow driver in a Suburban going and coming.  Thankfully Luke didn't freak out about having to jump out of the car and go in to school by himself, so at least we didn't hold up the drop-off lane.  When we finally made it to Owen's school, I realized I couldn't remember the security code to get in the door.  Argh!  It's not like I am trying to pretend that I have it all together, but I hate being that mom who seems to never have it together.  Thank God some other mother walked in right ahead of me.  Some other mother who knew the code.  Whatever.

With both boys safely at school, I finally got back home to continue working.  Then I saw on my calendar I soon had a conference call with one of the most unpleasant people I've ever had to work with.  You know, the kind of person who thinks he can do everyone else's job better than they can and tells you that repeatedly when you're just trying to get some information from him.  Of course I would have a meeting with him.  It was just that kind of day.

It's actually been that kind of week.  Clearly I began writing this on Monday, but just now got around to finishing and posting it.  Can it be Friday?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Big Bad Wolf

When I was really little, the thing I was most scared of in the world was the Big Bad Wolf.  I don't remember when I first started being scared of it, but to me the Big Bad Wolf was horrifying.  He was the terror hiding under my bed, he was what was waiting in the shadows ready to pounce, and he was the in the nightmares that would leave me awake and shaking in the middle of the night.  I could not stand the stories of Little Red Riding Hood or The Three Little Pigs. 

If the lights were off in my room and I needed to get out of bed, I would sit on the edge (feet up, of course) for a long time, trying to decide if it was worth the risk.  I just knew that as soon as my foot hit the floor, the Big Bad Wolf would reach his hunormous* paw out to grab me and pull me under the bed, never to be seen or heard from again.  If I really absolutely had to get out of bed, I would jump out as far away from the side of the bed as I could, and race out of the room. 

One of the main problems was, that if I was getting up in the middle of the night, it was probably to go to the bathroom.  The 1950's house I grew up in still had the original tile half-way up the bathroom wall.  Along the way, someone had decided to paint that tile several times.  Most of the tile was painted white, but along the floor was a spot where someone had dropped something heavy (a paint bucket, perhaps?) and put a large chip in the white paint.  Of course, the chip revealed a layer underneath that had been painted black.  And it was in the shape of a wolf.

Thinking back on it, it all seems so silly.  To be terrified there was a wolf under my bed and to let my imagination run wild that he could hide in a chipped tile on the wall and would somehow come to life and get me if I didn't watch the chip the entire time I was in the bathroom alone.  Thankfully I've outgrown all that and realize now that The Big Bad Wolf is a fictional character.

Although, to claim that I've completely gotten over absurd fears would be a lie.  There are still some things that scare the bejesus out of me.  Of course, I try to act like a normal, rational adult, but sometimes and in some situations I just want to freak out.  I guess in a way I am still scared of the Big Bad Wolf, only now he has taken on a the form of bad things I fear could happen or risks I'm scared to take.  Maybe I will never really be grown up. 

Oh well.  At least I can get up in the middle of the night without racing away from the bed.

*Hunormous is a word my 4-year-old uses all the time to describe something that is huge and enormous.  I love it so much I cannot bear to tell him it is not a real word.  Maybe someday it will be.  Didn't they just add "ginormous" to the dictionary?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Tomorrow

Can you believe it's been ten years?  I guess now I understand what people mean when they say, "It seems like it was yesterday."  I know time has passed, but the memories really are that clear.

I remember that it was a busy day at work and I had arrived early.  I was the lead on a project that did computer installs for U.S. Senators' State offices.  I remember hearing my co-worker hang up his phone and laugh incredulously, saying "That was my mother-in-law.  Some whack-job just crashed a plane into one of the Twin Towers in New York. What an idiot."  I tried to get on the New York Times website, but it wouldn't load.  A few minutes later I got an email notice form, saying that a plane had crashed into one of the towers and their website was overloaded.  They would send email updates to their subscribers until they resolved the website issues.

Then came the second email.  Another plane, this clearly wasn't an accident.  Ryan and I had been married three months at that point and he was working nights so he was still asleep.  I called and called and called the house, wishing he would hear the phone downstairs.  I just wanted to hear his voice.

I started calling all my sites, all my technicians.  None of us really knew what was going on, so we just started cancelling everything for the day.  I remember I started saying "Take care" at the end of each phone conversation, something I'd never done before.  I managed to get through to my tech support guy in D.C.  They were evacuating.  I told him to email me when he got home safely.

Ryan finally called me back.  I'm pretty sure I just said "Oh my God.  Turn on the TV."

Once all my sites were cancelled, there really wasn't anything to do other than talk to co-workers and answer the phones when they rang.  We heard that someone in the lobby had a TV and my friend Denna and I went to check it out.  One of the maintenance guys had one of those small radio/TV combos and had rigged it up on some boxes.  About twenty of us stood around the tiny screen and saw the replays of the towers collapsing, hands clapped over our mouths, some of us choking back tears.  I mean, what the hell?

Denna and I went to a late lunch in a usually bustling cafe.  There were only a few people there.  They had the music off and the televisions sets tuned to NBC and turned up. We sat watching and shaking our heads.

I remember thinking what a gorgeous day it was.  Sunny and warm and not a cloud in the sky.  It seemed wrong that something so horrifying could happen at all, let alone on such a beautiful day.  I don't have any deep insight to share.  We can all watch the news and the television specials and hear the stories of tragedy and heroism from that day.  I think I just wanted to write it down, rehash where I was and what I was doing.

Not that I'll ever forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Guilt is All Mine, Folks

I realized after re-reading my last post that I left something out.  Or maybe I didn't leave it out, I just simplified it to the point that it may have misrepresented something.  See, while my parents were crazy-strict when I was growing up, I've come to realize that they were actually strict about most of the right things. 

I wasn't allowed to go to parties.  I wasn't allowed to go out with a guy unless he called my dad first and asked for permission to take me out.  I had a curfew, strictly enforced.  I was still required to attend family functions and things for my sisters.  I had to dress modestly and I wasn't allowed to have my own car.  I had to go to church and to youth group and, up until I was seventeen and started taking classes at the local community college, I still had to go to homeschooling events.  I also had to help out around the house and make dinner a couple times a week.

But there were a lot of things they weren't that strict about.  My parents let me work and they bought an old beater car I was allowed to use as long as they knew where I was going and who I was with.  I was still allowed to go on dates, as long as it was with a guy who asked my dad and as long as I was home on time.   And not having my own car allowed me to have my own money to do stuff with my friends, as well as save for a trip I took to Spain after I graduated.  I never look back and wish I'd been a partier or dressed like a slut or skipped out on time with my family or been saddled with a car payment at sixteen.

My parents were strict, but not in a bad or over-the-top way, despite how I might have felt about it growing up.  And, while they did raise us in a very conservative environment, I've realized over the past few years that they were just doing what they thought was best at the time.  I never remember either of my parents telling me that I had to believe a certain way to gain their approval or to be a real Christian.  Most of the attitudes and beliefs I talked about walking away from in my previous post were more from the environment and the groups and the church than they were directly from my parents.  I think I used to think of my parents as much more conservative than they actually are, just based on the groups we associated with during those years. 

I wrote a post about my mother's example a long time ago (that you can read here), which I was thinking about after spending time with my parents over the holiday weekend.  Both of my parents have always set a good example of how to treat others and be responsible and work hard and they are the most generous people I know.  So, while I have to acknowledge and discard some of the baggage I have from my formative years, I have to thank my parents for being the kind of people who would never make me feel guilty for doing so.  The guilt is all mine, folks.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Guilt. And Green Day. And Guilt.

I remember when I was growing up and the only music my sisters and I were allowed to listen to was Christian music. I was reminded of this when a friend sent me a link to this article. It is a great article and worth the read, but this post isn't exactly about Christian music. It's more about growing up in a conservative, right-wing (which I hilariously just typo'd as "fright-wing"), Focus-on-the-Family environment. And Green Day. Yes, the band.

Throughout my adolescence, I thought my parents were ridiculously strict. They home schooled us and had a lot of rules. All of our activities centered around our church or our homeschooling group. All the people I hung out with were kids from one or both of those groups. And I knew, not even so much from my parents saying it specifically to me, that being a good Christian meant that you were a pro-life Republican who wanted the Ten Commandments, teacher-led prayer, and the Creation story back in public schools. Despite that most of us didn't attend those schools. Good Christians went to youth group or Bible study in-between Sundays and avoided anything "secular," from magazines to music to cartoons.

Somehow, though, around the year I turned sixteen, my parents lightened up.... just a little bit. I wasn't banned from "secular" magazines and music completely. Part of that was probably my parents' good sense in realizing that telling me I couldn't do or see or have any of those things was probably just going to make me want them even more. And, I think at least a little of it was their own naiveté at not realizing just what I was being exposed to. I mean, have you ever perused a copy of SEVENTEEN magazine?

Anyway, that year also happened to be the year that Green Day released their hit single "When I Come Around." I remember sitting my by radio, blank tape in the tape recorder, waiting for it to play as the number one song on the Top 8 at 8 so I could record it and listen to it over and over. Now, I don't think that if my mom had realized that Billie Joe was saying anything about being a "user," she would not have let me listen to it. But she either didn't realize or decided to overlook it.

My favorite part of the song goes:

So go do what you like
Make sure you do it wise
You may find out that your self-doubt means nothing
was ever there

You can't go forcing something if it's just
not right

Now, I realize the song isn't really talking about theology, but humor me. Looking back on it, I have to wonder, was this song the start to the proverbial slippery slope that led me from the way I was raised, to the centrist (okay, borderline Liberal) I am today? Someone who thinks that there are some situations in which I know I couldn't look a woman in the eye and tell her an abortion is not an option for her? Someone who believes that those in the LGBT community are people created by the same God who created me and who should have the same rights as everyone else? Someone who finds the right-wing more than a little scary and who believes we should respect the beliefs of others? I mean, as long as they aren't hurting anyone, shouldn't everyone be given the same freedom of belief that I enjoy and shouldn't they be able to live without having my beliefs jammed constantly down their throats?

I'm not saying that I have it all figured out in everything I think or believe. I'm still learning. I'm still questioning and searching. But I am saying that what I think and believe now is a lot different than it was when I was fifteen. And I also, sometimes, feel guilty about that. Being raised in a culture where a lot of the things I believe now were seen a "wrong" and "un-Christian" is sometimes very conflicting for me. Even when I've looked in the Bible and prayed about something and determined that what I believe about it now is much closer to the things Jesus taught than were the things I was raised thinking, I still have this lingering feeling of guilt for turning my back on what I was taught was "right" for what I was taught was "wrong."

But, in the words of the oh-so-wise Billie Joe, "You can't go forcing something if it's just not right."

I know this post is already really long and I don't know if anyone is still reading it, but all of this has been on my mind so much lately because I don't want my kids to grow up with this kind of baggage around their faith. Certainly, I want them to know what the Bible says and how Jesus said we should treat others. And I do believe there is real wisdom in the Bible that can help them as they grow up and have to make more and more decisions for themselves. But I also don't want them to get to a point where they feel that all I've done is tell them what to think. Nor do I want for them to have to deal with so much guilt when they try to work out for themselves what they believe. Truth is truth, whether it comes from the Bible or a Green Day song. There is no need to feel guilty about recognizing that.