Monday, June 29, 2015

The Cut

I know I've been reposting oldies a lot lately but this is for my friend Evelyn who just got the world's cutest haircut. Evelyn, you look pretty darn cute and I hope you feel like a million bazillion bucks, girl!

From June 2014:

Y'all know I cut my hair, right?

(I cannot show you a picture of myself because I just played "tennis"--otherwise known as chasing balls inside a tennis court--with my son for an hour and it's 85 degrees outside. That should just about sum it up for you.)

The hair I have been growing for a little over nine years. The hair I loved to feel swinging down my back. The hair that I had my perceptions of beauty and glamour and youth all tied up in.

Well, I ran into someone the other day who hadn't seen The Cut yet, and while her first words were "Hey, I like your cut", her next words were a little more troublesome. 

"I don't know why you cut it. You had such a beautiful head of hair."

Had?

"Oh, well," she sighs, tilting her head to look at me. "It will grow back."

Did she think I cut my hair by accident? Or perhaps she thought I regretted The Cut.

Okay, here's the deal. The Cut, to me, was drastic. Like everyone should have practically jumped out of their seat when they saw it. 

However.

Either people are a) basically unobservant or b) they don't care. Because not very many people have noticed. Which is fine. It just surprises me. The fact of the matter is that once again, I think that people are noticing things about me far more than they actually are. I don't mean for that to come across as egocentric. I guess what I mean is that I've, for as long as I can remember, have been very concerned about what other people thought about me--especially how I look. And as it turns out, most people aren't that concerned, nor do they notice or put much thought into my looks.

So I guess I can relax on that front, huh?

When I think of long hair, I think pretty. And I didn't want to be not pretty, so even though I was getting tired of my long hair, I didn't want to cut it off. I think I felt like that if I cut my hair, I'd be cutting off my pretty, with no chance of getting it back. 

But when I got together with Dakota to discuss The Cut, he gently reminded me that I have been allowing other people to define what is pretty for me, and that I should be the one who gets to decide that for myself. "And besides," he said. "You aren't defined by the length of your hair. You aren't defined by your hair at all."

I don't miss all that hair. It was freeing to make the choice to cut it because I was ready. I'm no longer hanging onto some ideal that I've created in my head. And now I know I won't be one of those women who can never change their look or their hair because they are afraid of letting go of what they think defines them.  Jeans sizes, numbers on a scale, the length and color of your hair...those are all just temporary, kind of like visual aides so that people can remember your name, and they get lost the moment you meet someone and that person discovers the person inside. You. Beautiful, radiant, magnificent you.

So go ahead. Be brave. Be daring. 

Be your own kind of beautiful.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Glory Chaser

I was on my home from dropping Jack off at baseball practice tonight when I heard (honestly right now all I can hear in my ear is Silento's "Watch Me" because it is playing on a particular someone's iPod, making it very difficult to concentrate on anything other than the dull, repetitive beat of ooh, watch me, watch me, ooh, watch me, watch me, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh. Plus there is a fruit fly flying around in my face. WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?)--okay, so I heard Bret Michael's newest attempt at a song on the radio, and I was so mad and so offended I immediately came home to make sure I had the correct Bret Michaels. and yeah, it's the same guy who sang eeeevvveerrry rose has it's thooooorrrrrnnn (which I LOVE).  This new song is about what you might expect a country song to be about: hot girls dancing on bars. Of course. Because the only girls that are allowed to dance on bars are undoubtedly the hot ones. Obviously the only girls who should even be allowed in bars are the hot ones. All the other ones should be dismissed, due to their not hotness and all. And clearly all the girls who are lucky enough to be labeled "hot" by Bret Michaels and his stupid friends and all the people who might hear that song and think "yes, I will label this girl hot and this girl not" OR "I will label myself hot and everyone else not" OR "I can't label myself hot because I'm not and now I'm depressed"--all of them--want to get drunk and dance on bars so that old men can do what? Watch and be creepy? Disgusting. (Yes. Bret Michaels is OLD.) Not only is it disgusting but it's demoralizing and sad and degrading. I was so PO'd when I got home that I thought I should write the radio station and tell them what I thought, but then I wondered if what I had to say would even make a difference at all to anybody, and then I thought well if nobody ever speaks up, then this is how we get "Girls on Bars" songs in the first place. But before I google that radio station's manager, I thought I'd come here first. (But maybe I should have written that email before I wrote here...)

I've renewed my obsession with reading (which is maybe why I like writing so much) and am currently on like my fifth or sixth  Mary Kay Andrews book (if language bothers you, then don't bother) about a blogger who gets divorced because her husband cheats and then steals her blog identity. He's a fictional jerk. Anyways, this fictional character named Grace has this wildly successful fictional lifestyle blog, and last night I began thinking to myself now, wouldn't it be nice to have 700,000 followers...or a million...or five million! and then I began comparing my real blog to her fictional one (I promise you I am a fairly normal and rational human) and then suddenly I was an unsuccessful blogger with no friends who will never have a career at anything because she's mediocre at best. (We have a term for this. It's called snowballing--when you let one tiny little thing like a fictional character in a fictional book get under your skin and then suddenly everything has snowballed to horrific proportions. It is also called PMS and is usually accompanied by varying degrees of bad moods and the possibility of sudden tears, along with the alarming tears/very bad mood/manic laughter combo.)

It wasn't until I opened up my pastor's email entitled "Whatever You Do" that I was able to think past what I want (a million followers, please) and take a look at what I do. (What I want and what I do are sometimes two very different things. Never satisfied, this one.) See, blogging was born out of a passion of mine. I wanted readers to relate to me and grow with me, to see that how they look doesn't define who they are. (Which is partly why Bret Michaels song makes me so angry--same reason Beyonce makes me mad--see post below.) But then it became a problem because I expected it to fill my bucket--to make me feel good about myself. But blogging is also a ministry of mine, because through it I can share my faith. And so I'm praying that God will redeem it and use it to bless others. (All twenty of you. Just kidding. There are 22.)

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do
Do it all to the glory of God.
{1 corinthians 10:31}

And through his email it occurred to me that the menial and basic stuff I do--stuff like decorating and hosting and leading bible study and blogging--can bring glory to God. It doesn't have to be big and flashy. It doesn't have to be impressive. It doesn't even have to have a bunch of likes. It just has to bring Him glory.

I have a passion for many things. Top three would have to be decorating, blogging and exercising. (You know what is not a passion? Weeding. Weeding is definitely not a passion of mine.) Some days that changes completely, sometimes it's just in a different order. My pastor said it so eloquently: The beautiful thing about a redeemed passion is those pleasures don't go away. They continue to bring life and health to you, while also bringing glory to God and blessings to others!...It will surprise you how much more fun and fulfilling eating and drinking, or whatever you do, can be.

I've always been a little bit of a glory-chaser. I don't know why. It conflicts with my other personality, the one that is slightly introverted and quiet and reserved. The one that sits in the back and waits to be noticed, wishing for something big and important to sweep her away in it's wave of excitement. I've never been much of a God-chaser, but have always hoped that He would understand my personality dilemma. I really want the glory much more than I want to give it away.

But now I can see that the glory wasn't ever supposed to be mine in the first place. And seven followers or 700,000, the glory always was, always will be, and is right this very minute His. And now it's time to take myself out of the equation and just focus on bringing Him glory. While I'm leading Sunday morning bible study and Friday morning barre, while I'm blogging and while I'm laughing with my husband. And eating and drinking and living. 

Alpha and Omega. Beginning and End. The End.

(Here's a copy-and-paste of Todd's email:
Whatever You Do... 
            
"...whatever you do, do all to the Glory of God."

I Corinthians 10:31 


Soccer is a passion of mine. It has been since age 5. There isn't a time in my life when I haven't either been playing, coaching or both. To this day, I still love the jitters I get before a kickoff, or the exhilaration of making a good pass or goal.

Soccer is a problem of mine. At least soccer used to be a problem for me. I remember wearing the now cliché,  "Soccer is life, the rest are details," shirt proudly around my high school. Soccer became an idol that was nothing short of worship. I thought about it constantly. It was a god.

Soccer is a ministry of mine. In God's grace, He has turned a problem into a ministry to others. He took what was unbalanced and idolatry and turned it into a way to bless others. Whether it's coaching, missions, or making new friends on an adult team, soccer is one way that God has used me to share Christ with others.

Isn't this just like God? When our passions turn into a problem, He can redeem the whole situation and turn it into a blessing to others.

I Corinthians 10:31 says:
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

I've always liked this verse. It tells me that even the menial and basic stuff of life can bring glory to God. Stuff like soccer.

What has God given you a passion for in life? Your family? Your job? Your lawn? Knitting? NASCAR? Books? Carpentry? Camping? Pinterest?

Ask Him how you can use this passion to bring glory to Him. Often we merely look to the temporal pleasures these things bring: relaxation, purpose, fun, love, money, excitement. The beautiful thing about a redeemed passion is those pleasures don't go away. They continue to bring life and health to you, while also bringing glory to God and blessings to others!

Last week I was in the sweet spot of my redeemed passion of soccer. I was on the island of Nkombo in Rwanda playing with some Rwandan friends I have developed over the last 2 years. They were wearing uniforms and some gear donated by many of you and other local organizations. We started the game with a few Christ-centered words and prayer. Competition was tough, but friendly. It was fun.

 

After the game, one of the coaches told me that the league is growing. The other church we planted a few miles away has also started a team. Kids are being mentored and trained not only in the game of soccer, but in their faith. Some have started going to Church of the Holy Spirit - Nkombo Island because of soccer. Wow, God is now using this coach's redeemed passion to reach HIS community.

Find what God has given you a passion for and see how He can use it for His glory. It will surprise you how much more fun and fulfilling eating, drinking, or whatever you do, can be!

Todd+

______________________________________________________________


Thursday, June 25, 2015

rule the world

Enjoy this oldie from April 2014:

I got my Time Magazine (double issue!) this week, informing me that I would behold the world's 100 Most Influential People when I cracked open the pages. Whether I agree with Time Magazine's assessment on who holds these sacred spots, the people covered do hold major influence. People like Janet Yellen ("captain of the U.S. economy"), Aliko Dangote (businessman and activist in Africa), and Jason Collins (NBA player--and first openly gay, still active pro athlete in a major U.S. sports league) all stand out as influential people, people who make changes, people who stand up and stand out.

Guess who was on the front cover?

Beyonce.

The girl who achieved status so much so that she only has to go by her first name.

She stands for girl power, the article says, and independence. Honestly, I don't listen to enough of Beyonce's music to really know if that's true or not, but what I see on stage and hear in the music I am familiar with doesn't match what the article claims. Beyonce uses her body and sex to sell her image and her music, and to me, that's not girl power. Girl Power is equipping younger generations with more than just an image and a body to sell; it's telling our girls that they are more than the sum of their parts. Girl Power is encouraging our daughters to use their minds and their education to get ahead, not their bodies, their beauty, their sex, their hotness, or their mini-skirts. Girl Power is saying I don't have to sing half-naked at the Grammys to get my fame and fortune. Or act like a stripper. Or sing about sex. All the time.

I'm not down on Beyonce so much as I am down on what we hold up and esteem as good and positive and influential. I don't dispute that she is influential. But I do dispute why she is influential.

We--you and me--can be influential, too, you know, even though we aren't married to Jay-Z, we may not know much about business, and we haven't made great advancements in finding a cure for cancer.

It starts at home.

Unless you're a hermit (and I certainly don't begrudge you if you are--sometimes I feel like hiding away myself), you are around other people. And when you are around other people, you have eyes on you. Not always eyes that are judging, but eyes that are watching. I do it. Everybody does. And when you have eyes on you, it's your time to shine. To really prove what you are all about, to show what you're made up. To prove that what you say you believe and stand for and are all about is true.

It's your time to influence the people around you.

You can make the world a better place to live in. In your little part of the world, in your house, in your job, at your school, you have the power to make change.

We can stand up, stand out and make positive changes right where we are, right now.

Will we land on the coveted cover of Time Magazine as one the 100 Most Influential People in the World?

Probably not.

Does it matter that Time may not feature our lives in a 3-paragraph article?

Not in the least.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.
{gandhi}


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Flies in the Kitchen...and Comparison, too

I have a problem and it is called I have fruit flies in my kitchen and also I have no idea how to get rid of them. I mean, those guys are really so annoying.

You know what else is annoying? This crazy world's obsession with--and this is among other disturbing affairs like money, power, drugs, alcohol, guns et.al., and violence--beauty.

When you are lying on your back at the dentist's office, mouth open and light in your eyes, there is little else to do but close your eyes and listen to the adult easy listening radio station playing. (Why do dentist offices always play adult easy listening? Easily identifiable and hummable songs seem to unite people, especially a people who are uneasy at the sound of a dentist's drill.) Anyways, the DJ (you have got to love DJ's who play adult easy listening and are excited about the last song they played) was relaying important and relevant information to the masses, like this story about Kim and the World's Top Five Cities with the Most Attractive Singles. (If you just read that and now you think you need to know what they are so you can a) move there because you are among those most attractive people or b) move there because you need to find an attractive partner, I'm going to tell you that I don't know what else to say to you besides hello, shallow. And also, welcome to the club.) I think Rio de Janeiro and Miami were on the list, leading me to believe that blonde isn't really what men want after all. (I know, like whaaaaaaat? But take some solace in knowing that you can go back to your normal hair color now. Or bite the bullet and go dark.)

If you are a man and you think that this post does not apply to you because obviously you do not dye your hair blonde or dark brown, keep reading. Insecurity does not discriminate.

One of the top five insecurities for a woman is beauty. (Shocker.)

Here is something that women do not need from men: comments. I'll explain.

It's fine if you would like to comment on your partner's appearance. For example: you look cute in that hat! or that dress looks really nice on you.  You look like a fat pig is unacceptable. NEWS FLASH: commenting on other women is not fine. For example: SHE looks like a fat pig or she looks like she could use a cheeseburger. This only emphasizes the fact that you are looking around and noticing other women. We know you do it. We do not need your commentary.

Here is something men do not need from women: comments. I'll explain.

It's fine if you would like to occasionally ask your partner's opinion on your makeup or your hair or your outfit. He probably would not notice or think about it otherwise, unless it was totally hideous, and even then, I've found men to be fairly unobservant. He does not need to be your confidence builder every time you get dressed. Do I look fat in this and does this look okay are prime examples. NEWS FLASH: your man does not need to be asked is she prettier/skinnier/bigger/whatever than me. Ever. It's a recipe for disaster and so don't do it.

It would be easy to say "just be happy with yourself" and then go back to cleaning the kitchen, except that there are fruit flies in the kitchen and going back in there annoys me, so I'm staying away.

See, I have this other problem that has nothing to do with fruit flies or cleaning, and it's called "insecurity". I've met people who hide their insecurities well, and I've met people who don't, but I've never met a person who doesn't deal with some sort of insecurity in their life. I personally don't have a lot of confidence in myself or my abilities, although growth and faith are slowly helping me understand that life isn't about abilities, anyway. And I compare. (We all do it.)

google images

I tend to get stuck on beauty, among other things. I compare a lot. Usually I compare what someone else has to what I do not have. (Like a tan. It's a losing battle.) And in the midst of comparing, my joy goes waaaaaaay down, and my anxiety goes waaaaaay up. See, I don't fit the mold. And I'm only getting older, so the mold is getting further away from me. I could choose to do what Time magazine says we will all do at some point (I'd like to know who this "all" is, honestly) and find a good plastic surgeon who will help me erase time and lines and freckles and imperfections and thin lips and saggy parts, but it all comes with a price. And sometimes the price isn't just in the form of a Benjamin (or two or twenty). It's emotional. Because through all the work and the striving, does perfection ever really come?

I also have a problem with catalogs and magazines. It's called "I'm comparing and I can't stop".

I glanced at the catalog, then back to my own legs, imperfect and flawed. Back and forth. Abs may have been somewhere in the comparison story, too. I may have taken a picture of the catalog and sent it to my friend, and I may have added a text that said something like it's not fair...beautiful people, perfect people...why do they get it all and I got...well, I got me? I knew I shouldn't have even cracked it open, knowing my tendency for comparison and then feeling incredibly inadequate and let down. But the cover said SALE and I thought...what did I think? For someone like me, from the mailbox directly to the recycle bin (not the trash, never to the trash--RRR) should be the path of most of the junk that comes my way. Because when I'm looking at a magazine and comparing, I'm taking my eyes off of Him, which lets all those feeling of inadequacy and flawed come in. I hate those feelings. But we can recognize where our eyes are looking and then make the decision to turn away and back to Him.

To me, it's not enough to just try to convince yourself that you are just as beautiful as the next beautiful woman. Or as smart as the next smart guy. The world has a very cruel way of pointing out inequality and then making sure we know about it. And you just end up comparing yourself over and over again, and it's all in vain. It's not about being able to convince. It's about keeping your eyes locked on Him, knowing that He is enough. Enough for everything. Enough for beauty. Enough for money. Enough for wisdom. Enough for knowledge. Just enough. Because when you recognize that He is your Enough, it doesn't matter how beautiful the woman next door is, or how smart someone else is, or how much money the guy in the next office makes, or how beautiful every single house on Houzz appears. He supplies your confidence. He breaks down your insecurity. He becomes the lens through which you see the world.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, 
Whose confidence is in Him.
{jeremiah 49:31}

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rule

I don't like to think of myself as an aggressive driver. I like to think of myself as a driver who has some sense about herself when she is on the road, and the simple fact of the matter is that sometimes, I feel like the only driver who has any sense about herself when she is on the road. A prime example is Blue Toyota Four-Runner, weaving onto the shoulder (lucky there was one) every 20 feet yesterday. Before we passed, we came up with some theories:

1) she's drunk
2) she's on the phone
3) she's texting

I wish I had gotten a picture of that woman, phone directly in front of her face, texting with one hand while attempting some sort of navigation with the other. Could she even see the road? I was doubtful. It was comforting when she suddenly got behind our car and then onto the interstate. It made me feel good about people and life.

It was because of this (and the MKB realtor that chooses a busy intersection to PARK HIS CAR--but no worries, he must think, because he has his emergency flashers on--in the turn lane so that the ones who are turning must then pull out into traffic to get around him...all so he can put out his "OPEN HOUSE" sign complete with friendly and colorful flags and banners. He apparently does not feel he should be required to park in the nearby parking lot and walk to the corner, no, he must park ON THE ROAD, RIGHT BESIDE HIS DESTINATION and cause much frustration. So. Annoying.)

I am typically a rule-follower. The sign at church says NO COFFEE IN THE SANCTUARY, so I don't take coffee in the sanctuary. When the teacher said NO TALKING IN LINE, I would immediately zip it, lock it, and put it in my pocket. Seriously. Motions and all. It's not that I am always so good, I am just afraid of getting in trouble. I always have been. I don't like being singled out, whether it's on the side of the road while I'm getting a ticket or being asked to take my coffee outside. (Would that even ever happen? I couldn't bear to be the one to find out, I'd be so embarrassed.) I did embrace a short, single-minded stint of "I am so independent I can do whatever I want so who cares and all y'all can just deal" in my youth but quickly recognized it as not me and am currently embracing the real me-- annoying rule follower and all. (I have also not ever been known as a tattletale--see being singled out, above--but will complain when I think things are dangerous. Or super-annoying. Sooooooo, MKB, I'm looking at you.)

Because I had to get it off my chest, I made up a list of Drivers I Dislike. (Because hate is such a strong word, really.)

1) texters
2) left-lane hogs
     a) those who stay in the left lane because they are turning left 20 miles up the road
     b) those who stay in the left lane because they somehow think the left lane is better??
     c) those who stay in the left lane because they are stubborn SOBs and want to control the road
     d) those who stay in the left lane because they are completely and totally clueless. No idea.                      NONE.
3) talkers who can't look out at the road and who can't keep their hands on the wheel. This applies to       cell phone talkers AND talkers who are actually talking to someone in their car.
4) the speeder-upper/slower-downer (I made that up). This is the person who speeds up when you try     to pass then slows down because you won't go 100 MPH just to pass.
5) the "I have no clue what the speed limit is so I'll go 25" driver. This happens when it feels like you are flying past people (and you are also having to drive in the right lane--see #2) so you look down at your speedometer to make sure you aren't breaking the sound barrier only to find out that you are, in fact, going 45 miles per hour, the posted speed limit, and as it happens, 20 MPH faster than every other person on the road.
6) the tailgater, because fast just isn't fast enough (I am a reformed tailgater, actually, so I know that       sometimes it's sheer frustration--see #2c/d--but sometimes it's just being distracted)
7) distracted drivers who are texting and eating while serving milk and cookies to 15 kids in the back     of their minivan. Enough.
8) drivers who cut you off just because their car happens to fit in the tiny space between you and the       car in front of you
9) the "I see you've parked 8 miles away from the store in the back of the parking lot so the space           next to you looks like a good place for me to park, too" parker. Seriously?
10) the "I have no spacial awareness and will park so close to you that now you cannot get into your         car" parker. (I've left notes. They go something like NEXT TIME DON'T PARK SO CLOSE.)
11) update: on my way home from class today I passed by a man in a Jeep and that man was vigorously brushing his teeth. I will now lump all teeth-brushers, shavers, and maker-up putter-oners in one shameful category. Do it at home, mkay?

Am I biased? Obviously. Am I right? Not all the time. Am I mean? Maybe. But I bet you can relate to at least on or two of these, am I right?

Smart driving equals safer driving. Maybe you could argue against that, but I'm not sure how. (I know one person who could easily come up with an argument for that because he is a superb debater. I'm interested to hear your side.)

Rules are everywhere. My daughter says she can't wait to be an adult because adults can make their own rules. (Have you met this thing called government yet?) I happen to be one who feels more comfortable living by rules because it makes my life better.

I think God knew I would need structure and discipline in my life. Enter the Bible, the Ultimate Rulebook. Not to be dreaded, but embraced for safer, more secure living. Better living.

Think about it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

FIRE

It has been a week of accomplishments in the house.

First, and the most exciting, is that Jack has finally figured out the Rubik's Cube mystery.



How apropos that it was in the car, where he first began his Rubik's Cube journey. Now, instead of mumbling about how and why, he is mumbling confidence builders like this is getting easier by the second and I can solve this thing in twenty minutes (now it's 4and once you figure out the puzzle, it's really not that hard. Oh, no? Because I still can't figure it out, and I'm 38. Whatever.

Second, my girl got over her fear of horses and actually got on and rode. Which is quite an accomplishment, considering the last time I took her on a trail ride, two things happened: a) she refused to get on and b) I left her in the barn while I went on the ride. Listen, I can't even let her walk down the street without biting my nails, and here I was like sure, I've never met you before but I'll leave her here with you while I'm out on a horse in the wilderness. 



And third, I finally finished painting two of the three brass lamps I got at Goodwill. They look pretty good, if I do say so myself. And the fact that I only paid $3 for them makes the deal a whole heck of a lot sweeter.





Today has been a big day.

I definitely see another trail ride in our future. And another brass lamp transformation. And many, many more "do you want to see how fast I can solve this Rubik's cube" situations. Many more. 

A successful day is significant because it has not necessarily been a successful week.

Tuesday night I sat down on the edge of Jack's bed to kiss him goodnight, and noticed that it seemed a little bit squeaky. No big deal. (Biiiiiiiig deal.)

"You better hope that it's the mattress that's squeaky and not the wood because wood catches fire when it rubs together." This from the all-knowing twelve-year-old. There have been several cases when her words absolutely DO NOT HELP. This was one such case.

I tried to reassure Jack that no, his bed would not catch on fire, but I think he was scared to roll over after that. Five minutes after I left, he was calling me back in, a worried look creasing his smooth forehead.

"What's wrong, bud?" I asked. I knew exactly what was wrong.

"FIIIIRRRREEEEE" he wailed, burying his already wet face in his pillow. I guess if I thought it would make a fire every time I rolled over, I'd be upset, too.

I tried again to reassure him, explaining that really, it takes a lot of friction for wood to catch fire all by itself. And oh, by the way, she doesn't always know what she's talking about. And sometimes she tries to scare you just because. So there's that.

I left his room mostly halfway certain I wouldn't hear from him again. I had just turned out my lamp when little footsteps alerted me to their owner's presence, quiet sniffles and hiccups accompanying the commotion just outside my door.

"What's wrong, bud?"

"Robbers and murderers and bad stuff and fiiiirrrreee", he sobbed.

I get it. The world is a scary place. And our realization of just how scary it is only  intensifys as we get older. I've spent many nights drowning in my own fears, not able to go to sleep and worrying about that portion of worries and what-ifs that never come to fruition. But I worry that it might.

We go to sleep worried we won't wake up.
We wake up worried that we didn't sleep.
We worry that someone will discover that lettuce was fattening all along.
{max lucado}

Worry doesn't just box itself and attack one area of life; it spreads like a disease with far-reaching tentacles, until every aspect of life is covered with anxiety and worry, until there isn't one single action to take that doesn't involve worry of some sort.

It is smart to stay clever and alert. It is smart to have an instinctual fear, like knowing that the stove and the sun are both hot and precaution should be taken. But fear based on worry is a paralyzing, take-the-fun-out-of-life type of anxiety that I've often said would keep me locked indoors every day if I would let it. (Except being locked indoors has its own set of what-ifs, so in my less-rational moments I've been known to think it's not even safe anywhere. Leading me to wonder if that is even normal or not.)

Obviously, I could make no promises to Jack, even as upset as he was. The world is as unpredictable as it is scary, and it's not fair. Meaning good people get cancer. And evil abounds. And war happens, and children starve, and injustice is something we see or experience. Our cries of "It's not fair!" seem to bounce off the ceiling as we beg God to intercede, to do something, and then we think He must not care or He must not be strong enough or He must not something. And we worry and doubt and continue the cycle of fear.

I'm with Max. Worry is an option.  An option! Meaning it's not a have-to. It's just that the alternative is so very hard to hold onto. But the way I see it, God has interceded and given us beautiful words of encouragement when we do feel scared.

He knew we would feel that way.

Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be afraid, 
do not be discouraged 
for the Lord will be with you wherever you go.
{joshua 1: 9}

For a long time, I didn't even recognize worry for what it was. I just accepted it as a part of life, one of the pitfalls of adulthood. But when I felt like my fear was suffocating the life out of me, I knew everything needed to change. It's hooks had gone too far, and I needed a lifeline. Which I found in the book of Joshua.

It would be ignorant to think that the nation of Israel had any reason to fear the world less than I do. Different fears, yes, but fears none the less. So when I first read the words be strong and courageous, I felt a deep peace in my soul. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. The Lord will be with you wherever you go. Where. Ever. And I grasped that lifeline with all the strength I had, because I knew that worry and anxiety were going to kill me.

I've looked back since then. I wish I didn't but the tendency is still in me, and I worry about sending my kids to school and driving down I-81 and guns and terrorists and wild animals. (There's a bear in the neighborhood. Enough said.) But now when I start to worry, I am aware of it, and I can stop the cycle before it begins.

The other night when Jack was so upset about all the bad stuff that could happen, I asked him if he was ready to play in the All-Star tourney. (He's crazy about baseball, so he is psyched to be playing in the All-Star tourney.) I didn't ask him to get his mind of off serial killers; I asked him because I wanted him to think about the game that he has yet to play. Could he possibly know the outcome of a game that hasn't happened yet? He can do what he can do: practices and good sleep will go a long way in helping him create a better outcome, but there is no way he can know if his team will win or lose. He cannot control the future.

And neither can I. Neither can you. It's hard but necessary for sanity to accept that the future is definitely out of our control. Good choices usually affect an outcome, but they don't control it.

So I told Jack what I have also needed to tell myself: be strong. Be brave. Be courageous. But on the full armor of God to protect yourself. Because the Lord is with you. WHEREVER you go.

In peace I will lie down and sleep
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.
{psalm 4:8}

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Baltimore

I bought Jack a Rubik's Cube today. We were at Target because last time I was there, the cashier charged me for two purses when I only bought one, and when I got home I ended up with two lampshades but only paid for one. That cashier was verra, verra confused. In the end, I got a free lampshade (Target said not to worry 'bout it, and I said OKAY!) out of the whole deal. Twenty-four dollas and ninety-nine cents in my favor, holla.

Anyways, he bought the Rubik's Cube (who knew it was spelled with a K?) under the assumption that he would go down in the books as the Boy Genius Who Solved the Rubik's Cube in the Car on the Way Home From Target. Boy Wonder has been sorely dissapointed in said Rubik's Cube. (I warned him it was hard, and I've only ever gotten one (!) line of blue or white or whatever, so I don't know if he just didn't take me seriously, OR, maybe the more likely story is he thinks he's smarter than I, the non-Rubik's-Cube-solver. I hate the Rubik's Cube and love the internet for spoiling the fun and showing how to solve it.)

I walked up to his room and found him concentrating, furious with said "game". (Game. Ha and double ha.)



A little bit later I found him slumped in a what I'm figuring to be a Rubik's Cube coma.



Then he called in reinforcements.



"Did you think you'd solve it in a day?" I questioned. A funny look swept across his features as he looked at me. "Well, yeah."

Oh. Duh.

Yesterday, we got back from Baltimore, the city of "good Lord, it issssss HOT here". I got to see my baby sister (!!) while the boys went to the O's/Yankees game (Yankees. Duh.). It was like 92 degrees and we glistened just going from the restaurant to the mall. (That's all we did. Seriously.) I can't imagine how the boys felt.

It's O's versus Yanks--sorry Uncle Nate :)

I made a new friend in Baltimore. Saturday night we took a boat tour of the inner harbor. Did you know that even boat tours have captains? I did not. This particular captain (Jason) was wearing his white captain's uniform with this long-sleeve dri-fit deal underneath, which I could not even imagine, and the only thing we could think is that Jason had too many arm tattoos and that the boat tour people must assume that patrons who choose the habor cruise want a captain sans arm tattoos, and therefore they must be covered. Must! How did I know Jason had sleeves? 'Cause you could see right through the white. Whatever works.

Back to my friend. She sat down next to me, but then I moved because one Jonathan Richardson could not make up his mind as to where on the boat we should sit (inside? outside? a/c? flames of hell? how to choose?), and in the meantime another habitue of boat tours sat in my spot. Friend immediately tried to make conversation. She figured the weather was the best place to start, but girlfriend wasn't so interested in a chatfest and left to go find her family. We discovered where we were was actually the best place to be (!) so I ended up in my original spot. Beside Friend.

Friend is originally from Baltimore. Her mom still lives there, and so now Friend comes back--all the way from Texas!--to visit Mom and see the O's play (her fave, although she'll admit she's become a Rangers fan). For Sunday's game she was sitting behind the Yankee's dugout, of all places to be! But she thought best to wear an orange tank-top (can't take that orange blood out of the girl, can you?) with a baseball hat, what with the weather and all. She was visiting Baltimore this particular weekend for a conference, but planned on giving Baltimore a good visit, along with Mom. She loved the TV show Homicide (don't make 'em like they used to, all trash on TV these days) which was filmed in Baltimore. And what do you know, the building was on our tour.  Oh, and her husband just won a new Kindle, but, she wanted to know, did it connect to the internet? Because she just had to throw one away because it's battery didn't hold a charge and besides that, it didn't connect to the internet. We talked about said new Kindle for like five minutes.

Friend was chatty.

After the boat ride, I decided, quite unexpectedly, that it would be a good time to be in a colossally bad mood and also be hateful for a little bit. Sometimes that happens. I led the troops across the inner harbor to Phillips, because I like seafood and everyone else can just DEAL.

"I would not like to sit outside," Jon requested. A simple request. Who wants to sit outside in the 92 degree heat after a non-breezy, scorching boat ride? The answer is no one.

But obviously, this was the wrong thing for him to say. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Did I want to sit outside? No. WE WERE IN AGREEMENT.

I, however, am good at finding Things To Be Frustrated About When There Is Absolutely Nothing To Be Frustrated About. (insert small bow)

I must have given him one of those what-are-you-even-talking-about-are-you-a-moron looks because he was all like "what?" and then I deeply sighed over this grievous infraction.  What infraction? Yes. Exactly.

"I just don't know why you tell me to choose and then get frustrated when I do choose, I mean, if you don't want me to choose then just do it yourself."

Or something along those lines.

He may have been confused. He may have been surprised. But he was definitely frustrated. Which was, obviously. Un. Acceptable.

So we sat in non-companionable silence in Phillips, who, by the way, was having trouble with their air conditioning in the front part of their restaurant. "We can seat you right away!" said the poor hostess with beads of sweat shining on her cute little nose. "Or you can wait for AN HOUR AND A HALF FOR THE AIR CONDITIONING PART OF OUR RESTAURANT."

A no-brainer, of course.

We were seated. Right away. In the 85 degree bar.

I ordered the catch of the day but was too hot to eat (and then it froze in the hotel mini-fridge, so the leftovers weren't even good. Fail.) so I waved my menu across my hot face and glared at all the happy people and wondered what kind of fresh hell is this.

Jon is a lot nicer than lots of guys. I think he also may have been very confused about what exactly had just happened, but in any event, he side-hugged me (as clearly all front hugs were OFF LIMITS) when we got back to the hotel and said he didn't want to be mad at each other.

It was a good rest of the night. (A/C helped clear my head.) Except that the hotel's indoor pool that the kids wanted to swim in was also hot and humid and we wondered if we would ever the whole entire trip stop sweating.

It's going on 9:00 on a beautiful summer night, and as I look around, there really isn't much to be bothered about at all. (Obviously, the whole "I'm enraged over having choices" episode was a fluke.)

A) Jack will definitely not solve the Rubik's Cube tonight. But it's fun and cool that he's trying. Persistence pays off.

B) Friend was chatty but it's interesting to learn things about new people, and you can, if you give them the chance.

C) It was so flipping cold over the winter that I have made a pact with myself to not complain about the summertime heat. As for Jason, he'll just have to deal with dri-fit til he's not a captain anymore.

D) Phillips is good. It's better when you are willing to have a good time with your family and not give indignant scowls to the happy people.

E) Forgiving, crazy love is the best. Hold on to that stuff. It's precious.

Ya'll have a beautifulcrazywonderful summertime night.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Happily Standing In Dog Poo

A blast from the past....enjoy :) PS don't know why it won't show the Pumpkin cupcakes, but I can assure you they were beautiful AND tasty

Had anyone been looking for us this past weekend (which they weren't; the only message we got on our lonely answering machine--who has those anymore? we do--was from a desperate 800-service), we would have been found relaxing our way back to some semblance of sanity in the mountains of North Carolina.

Isn't it funny when you end up with pictures of people you don't know and will never see again?




I just downloaded some pictures from our ancient, but still-functional camera, and labeled the folder "2014", only to discover that the pictures date back to like 2012, in which case I wondered to myself who doesn't take the time to document and save the important picture-taking moments by backing them up on their computer? I guess we don't. Because there were 571 pictures on there, and now they are all dated "2014", which will be confusing when we look back at "2014" and wonder how the kids had several birthdays, Christmases, Easters, a few Mother's Days, a Father's Day, several vacations, and lots of sporting events all in one year. In any event, they are all on my computer and the memory card in the I-won't-ever-die camera (related to the I-will-never-ever-die washer and dryer combo--circa 1999--that remains firmly established in my laundry room, like squatters, edging out the newer competition--with timers and multiple settings and steam cycles!- that I drool over every time I go to Lowes) is cleared out for the next three years of picture taking.

NOT 2014. Nice face.

Jon and I got into an argument over cupcakes while we were in North Carolina. He heaved out a heavy, so-over-it sigh over my insistence that if we're going to buy a dessert--which I don't think we should because haven't you read about how sugar isn't healthy but whatever--can we make sure it's healthy and did you read the ingredients list before you put that in your basket? Leave it to mom to squeeze all the fun and celebration out of a fun and relaxing weekend, passing silent judgement on those who choose to eat sugar


Pumpkin spice cupcakes deserve a bigger-than-usual picture space.

I do it like it's my job. 

We don't argue about much, so cupcakes is at the top of the List of Things We Argue About. Cupcakes and the Great Sprinkler Versus Hand-Watering Debate. I sprinkle. He hand-waters. We both think we are equally as effective. Hence the argument.

So I typed out an enraged text over The Cupcakes, and then we were over it. Texting is a good thing, especially when one is incensed over cupcakes, but one cannot express her frustration over said cupcakes with the kids in the car, because even she knows she sounds the slightest bit unbalanced.

The day before the cupcake debacle, we stopped at a beautiful lake along the parkway and, since we have taken a picture every single year at this exact spot (all now probably labeled "2014"), we stopped again and snapped away. Only this time, I stepped in what I'll call fresh fecal matter from a dog, because my other word for it is rude.
Happily standing in poo and not even knowing it yet!


Only I didn't discover this until I'd already gotten back in the car and tainted the air, plus I crossed my legs and smeared it all over the side of my other shoe.

Awesome.

So I got out of the car with napkins and handy wipes in hand, glaring at all the dog owners walking around. But what can one really do with a handful of napkins and two packs of single-use handy wipes when she's stepped in a pile of dog excrement--in tennis shoes? So all the cracks and crevices, not to mention the mesh side of the other shoe, were contaminated.

I scrubbed and glared and scowled and scrubbed and finally hauled myself down to the edge of the lake, gingerly dipping my shoe into the water and wiggling it around, hoping that the poo would just go away.

And all the while this woman with wild, curly hair was standing just behind me, balancing herself on the rocks at the edge of the lake and shouting to her friend "It's beautiful, just gorgeous! Beautiful. COME LOOK! COME! It's GORGEOUS! Just BEAUTIFUL! and on and on and on she went, while I dug at my stinky shoe with a stick. I glared at her too, because NOTHING ABOUT THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.

 Did you know that most rest stops along the parkway don't have trash cans? 

At least this one didn't. And I am not one to litter.

Did I mention that there were no gloves on hand? 

I don't hate dogs, but sometimes I might hate dog owners.

As it always does, this particular vacation brought our family closer together, poo and all. We simply enjoyed the company of each other, spending time hiking and playing in the creek outside our cabin and just relaxing.



I took long, relaxing baths. And finished a 375-page novel. (The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee. Read it.)

My kids became best friends again.



We ate cupcakes and played Sorry (and Bingo for prizes!).

Bliss.

I'd happily stand in dog poo with these guys any day of the week.

 The real "2014"

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mistakes Happen

I wish I could control my children. I just do. Life seems safer that way. I wish they would do exactly what I say when I say it. I wish they would heed my warnings and my "I'm more experienced" words with trepidation rather than with attitude. But. Those guys were born with their own personalities and their own brains and their own way of thinking that can be guided, but ultimately they make THEIR OWN CHOICES. 

This gives me cause for great worry and consternation, especially as they get older. Because when they get older, they form a few opinions about life: A) friends are cool and should be listened to and impressed (some adults have not gotten past this stage and still think drunk/rebellious/deranged stories are really cool and impressive to tell. They're not. So don't). B) parents are not cool. C) fun is the most funnest thing ever. D) risky behavior is cool (see A above). E) they don't actually have to do what you say, because you can no longer physically force them into submission.  F) sometimes the behavior is so worth the punishment. G) is it their job to bring the sass back into your life. Maybe they think we were missing this in life and they needed to spice things up a bit. 

My sweet girl made a choice recently that brought out the crazy in me. She has the unique ability to do that to me. Jon has a term for this. It is called "mad woman". I can see where he may have thought this as I tore up the stairs in our house, screaming things like "ARE YOU CRAZY" and "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING". My throat hurt after this incident, due to all the "mad woman" screaming. (I prefer to think of myself as a crying dove. Innocent. Delicate. A flower among thorns.) It was quite the drama. Both A and her friend stood frozen in her room, staring at me with round eyes and gaping mouths. I've known the friend for almost her whole entire 11 years, but I don't think she has ever seen such a display from me, especially when I looked at her and talk/yelled "if you were doing what she"--hand jabbing in the general direction of A--"was doing you are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E". 

Maybe I'm just like my mother
She's never satisfied. 
Why do we scream at each other
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry. 
{prince/strange symbol/the artist formally known as prince, a true musical genuis}

Yes, I actually spelled TROUBLE. It was my nod to country music's realest (word) bad boy (it's the mullet that makes one a real bad boy--business in the front, all about the party in the back. I wonder if he wore white tube socks like one proud, coiffed-and-curled mullet-sporting friend admitted to. With a tux. Oh, yeah.) Travis Tritt. (Of "I smell T-R-O-U-B-L-E" fame. 1990s country music. Impressive musical geniuses.) I don't think she really knew what to think, other than there is a chance Miss Heather has lost her marbles. Who spells TROUBLE to someone who is in trouble? Me. 

I was really worried about what the friends mom was going think about A's behavior. Well, I was worried first about safety and good decision-making, etc., but I was really worried about my friend. She's been my friend for a long, long time, and she's a really good friend, and I didn't want A's stupid choice to make her think twice about letting her daughter spend time at our house. It happens, right? Even if you don't want it to affect the way you think about someone else, it does. And it hurts to imagine anyone thinking now we/they can't hang out because of this. 

I have known loneliness in my life. Middle school was lonely. Adulthood has been lonely. The time surrounding my moms death was lonely. Our last move was lonely. Even when there are lots of people around, even if there are people everywhere, living life without a close inner circle can be incredibly difficult and lonely. But having a tight inner circle is easier said than done, and it takes trust and respect to accept and be accepted as a part of The Circle. I think that's why when there is strife and animosity inside a person's own four walls, it creates a very lonely atmosphere. 

It's hard to make friends. At least it is for me. Sometimes it feels like dating. And most of us are soooo past dating. I went through a time where I felt so sad and so lonely I thought that maybe even the friends I had didn't want be my friend anymore. It felt like everyone else was too busy and too involved and had too many other friends, and I felt seriously sorry for myself. 

*Nobody likes me
Everybody hates me
I guess I'll go eat worms. 
{grandma}

*I'm positive my grandma did not actually make up this song, but she used to sing it to me when I would complain about  being in trouble with my mom or not having anything to do or middle school/high school drama.

Pity party aside, the issue was mostly mine. Some of it was just me being me--I'm not incredibly outgoing and am not necessarily what I'd call a people magnet. (Confession: There have been moments when I wished I was Jen Hatmaker, perceived People Magnet extraordinaire.) I have this habit of being slightly walled-off, meaning I want to be invulnerable to being hurt. This is hard, because it is hard to get to know someone who is not open. It annoys me when people step in their own pile of crap and then complain about it, but this is exactly how I operate. So I guess I annoy my own self. 

Pity parties get old, and after awhile of feeling sorry for myself and half-heartedly trying to figure it out on my own, I started praying. Things happen when you start praying. (Disclaimer: these things may not always be what you anticipate or have planned. You're dealing with God. And they will always be better. Trust. So move over and watch Him work in your life. Your preconceived notions are nothing compared to what He can do.)

Trusting God is not something I'm innately good at. It takes a lot of prayer and wishy-washy behavior before I turn over the keys to Him. And even then I am prone to snatching them back. (I am the first-born. I am controlling. No one ever voted me "Most Fun" or "Most Relaxed" or "Most Anything" in high school.) But I have found the most amazing thing happens when I hand Him the things that I can no longer deal with: I have peace. Peace in my life is something I'd pay a lot of money for. And here it is for free! My problem may not be immediately solved (there's that whole reap/sow nonsense that must be dealt with) but He offers what can't be found anywhere else: peace. Plus lots of other things (see: The Bible for: Things God Offers That The World Cannot. Talk about helpful.)

There is a reason He is known as YAHWEH-SHALOM. "The Lord Our Peace". 

When loneliness threatens to encroach, it's easy to give in. But I have a lot of fight in me, and this is my fight song. I wave my banner high and proclaim The Lord Our Peace is my peace, despite the noise from the world. 

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
And I don't really care 
if nobody else believes
Cause I've still got a lot 
Of fight left in me. 
{fight song, rachel platten}

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gossip Girls

I went looking for the scissors, resulting in a fifteen minute search in various drawers and cabinets, only to remember in the back of my mind seeing them somewhere but nowhere in particular, leading to a distressing two-minute reverie on dementia, Alzheimer's and the trailer to the movie Still Alice, which I cried through. (A was giving me a serious side-eye during that whole drama. It's not even the whole MOVIE, mom, with a you're-so-ridic tone.)

I am still not in love with this new laptop, but only because I am technology-challenged and also stuck in my old ways. So the next fifteen minutes into this two-sentence blog post I spent trying to figure out how to highlight a sentence (or just give me a couple of words, man) so I could give you the link to the movie trailer so you could cry, too. As you can see, I was only successful in highlighting one word. One. But I believed it was time to give up on: See Help Topics on: HOW DO YOU HIGHLIGHT A WORD and move on. (For the love, could someone please teach me how to operate in the 21rst century.)

Last night I had to volunteer in the Baseball Concession Stand, which I avoid at all costs until Jon emails me, which is how we have resorted to communicating, asking me to "please consider volunteering in the concession stand", and I have no other option other than to volunteer in the concession stand. Here's my first observation about a concession stand: I will never, ever eat any food in any concession stand ever again. Unless it's prepackaged. But if you know me, then you know prepackaged isn't high on the list of "Things I Like to Eat". Avoiding food that you don't like is a first-world problem. My kids are good at displaying their first-world problems with statements such as this spaghetti noodle has touched that mushroom and therefore I cannot eat anything on my plate because it has been contaminated and I looked through the entire kitchen AND refrigerator and there is NOTHING TO EAT and I'm starving.

I was late to my shift because two of my people had to be at two different fields at the same time. People should know just to start the show without me. Which he did. This also means that I had to learn the job on the fly, which is a sin to hungry hotdog-with-chili eaters (don't read the label!!!!!!, my friend said to me. I should have listened to my friend). Conversation was limited to I have a daughter playing softball and how do you use the cash register and let's wrap these hotdogs in a bun in some aluminum foil and we end up wasting a lot of food and sorry, we're all out of toilet paper (Bad news for the ladies room. FYI: BYOTP, mkay? Better safe than sorry.) and then it got really interesting somewhere around what team are you from because my answer wasn't just the Pirates, it was so what gossip do you know about the Pirates? 

I'm positive there are lots of "thou shalts" about listening to gossip, and probably lots more about jumping all the way in the pool named DIRTY LAUNDRY. As in, you shouldn't do it. My mom was always of the "don't believe it, don't listen to it, don't do it" mindset, until something really juicy came up, and then the non-gossiper herself was hooked. I have never been one to deny my tendency toward inclining mine innocent ear toward scandal and intrigue. But when he answered my question with actual gossip, I was a little bit surprised. Well, the coach...he started, and that's all I needed to hear for him to have my full attention. I listened for a few minutes about the team and the coach before he was off on another topic, but I got my earful.

Maybe I should have mentioned that THE COACH IS ALSO MY HUSBAND.

Awkward.

I figure one of two things: either he wanted me to repeat what he was saying so it would get back to Jon, or he really wasn't being very careful. In any event, a) what he was saying wasn't even accurate and b) obviously I'm going to tell. There is some gossip you don't repeat, but even the person being gossiped about deserves to know what is being said behind their back.

Jon and I have been together long enough to have a secret language, which is really fun when you're around other people. We can finish each other's sentences, and ask half-questions. "Does he/she even know?" is a question we ask a lot, and it can be about anybody. This is a question that should be asked about someone who obviously HAS NO CLUE. And the answer is always "he has no freaking idea", basically implying that person who doesn't know is acting like (careful, I didn't say he or she is) a complete moron. I can say that because we are all guilty of it at some point in our short blips on earth. (Related: when you are acting like a moron and someone else calls you out, it is a good idea to look inward.)

Will the whole thing blow over, or will it blow up, and if it does, whose face will it blow up in?

I guess only time will tell. But for now, I'm reminded that idle talk can hurt, whether it's intended to or not. Sometimes it's fun to be the first to know, or to be in the know, and maybe that's just how people are. (A has ears that can hear a gossipy word from eighty miles away, making it very difficult to tell a story about her. DID YOU SAY MY NAME, I KNOW I HEARD MY NAME, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING ABOUT ME, I WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU ARE SAYING while she is practically sitting in your lap is her modus operandi. J, on the other hand, is completely oblivious. She also stands over my shoulder LIKE SHE IS DOING RIGHT NOW and tries to read.)

My mother always told me be careful of who you love
and be careful of what you do because the lie becomes the truth.
{if you don't know that song, I honestly don't know what to even tell you}

My mom also always told me to be careful of what you say...it may come back and bite you in the rear one day.

Gossip is the Devil's radio.
{george harrison}

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Haters Can Hate On

So far today I have found two--TWO--alive, unidentified bugs in my home. They have been captured in plastic bags and await a slow suffocation (which reminds me of that Kevin Spacey movie where he videoed his colleague committing suicide to see if he would be put on trial for murder, which he was--what was that movie?? I googled kevin spacey movies. Not helpful. He's been in a lot.) and a final analysis by Diane, bug expert. I have had two cups of coffee, spent a total of two hours plus a few minutes for miscellaneous stops in the car driving my boy to baseball camp, another forty-five minutes making fun of ugly skirts with my girl at JCP, another half-hour playing a home-made game with the boy, and now I'm sitting here staring at a laptop screen, albeit a new one, wondering where my day went. I suppose when you write it down, one starts to realize just how much time one wastes. Or doesn't waste, depends on how you look at it. Playing a game with your child shouldn't feel like a waste of time, but when the chore chart hasn't been heeded and the checks haven't been made on the list, I go into Management Mode, where I bark orders and go from one task to the next. Management Mode does not go over well with my people, but what kind of world would we live in if this girl did not bark orders? A messy one. Not to mention chaotic. #unacceptable

We got a new laptop. Our old one would turn on. Sometimes it would humble itself and type. It's maturity (only in age, not in attitude) no longer allowed us to hear music or videos, although sometimes it would succumb and play them. (A video with no words is not worth watching.) I was really pushing for an Apple, because then my whole life could sync and I would feel good about things. I guess I should have known I would pay for such a convenience as just being able to say "Siri, sync up my life" and having it done. It turns out all Apple products are expensive, yet they are still made in China by people who hate their jobs so much the employers put bars on the windows to keep them from jumping out. (Do I know this to be fact? No.) So it costs $42.38 to make an Apple laptop and $1200 to buy one. (What do I know? Nothing. I just assume all sorts of things based on what I hear, and I'm not even that great of a listener.) Because of this, we decided to forgo convenience and give HP our hard-earned dollars. (Their computers are made in factories without bars on the windows. Because they have no windows. See above disclaimer.) I am already not in love with said HP/windows combo, and internet explorer is no Safari. (I pulled up explorer, and got an error message. This does not give me much confidence for the future of our blessed union.)

As for setting up, the twenty minutes it took to do it was waaaaaaay too long if you ask me. And then this:


And this:



And this:

And this: (randomly on my camera roll, but now we know where my phone has been...)


 
 
I, by the way, hate, hate, HATE pictures of myself, especially on days where I tried the "beach wave" do, which never turns out on my head like it does on Pinterest. Who has time for an hours-long hair session when everything else is staring at you, including two unpleasant and loathsome bugs, waiting for you to bark your orders so you can get on with your day? I'm still staring at that picture. As Kramer would say, "look away, I'm hideous". At least my face doesn't look like an old catcher's mitt.
 
 
Summer. The time when your son wants to play video games and your daughter keeps calling your cell phone from the house phone because she is bored and wants you to entertain her. And since I wouldn't answer, she answered her own call. And then there is listening to said conversation between the girl and herself, house phone on one ear and cell on the other.
 
Sometimes I think we all could use a little more structure and a little less down time. Which is why I signed her up for the upcoming softball tourney, even though she has told me repeatedly she didn't want to play, and had mistakenly assumed we would be out of town during the actual games, providing her an out. And I said not so fast my friend, you are play-ing. To which she had an all-out meltdown, threw her sandwich on the ground, (I throw it on the ground...thank you, Adam Sandburg, for creating many "throw it on the ground" references for me, although your ending is disturbing and and also really creepy, Ryan Reynolds, or no Ryan Reynolds--if you watch, don't say I didn't warn you.) yelled "WHO DID THIS????" and started screaming at the top of her lungs. Ear piercing shrieking that is not for the faint of heart. Cut scene to her brother, who, for lack of better reaction, began his own meltdown, pointing at his sister and yelling "HER! HER!", which I am assuming means "everything is her fault" or "I'm upset because of her" or some other type of "HER" accusation. "PULL. YOURSELVES. TOGETHER." may have been said at some point. Cut scene to screaming and running up steps, slamming a door. Big sighs and looking around at the kitchen walls for an answer to the question where did I go wrong. Then. An intercom call from the upstairs phone to the kitchen phone, and The Shrieker informing me that "dad would like to speak to you". Oh, really.
 
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, girlfriend called her dad to tattle on me, as she did not see my reaction befitting the circumstances. Poor dad. He's been called more for domestic disputes this week than he has in the past twelve years.
 
Circumstances as they are, sometimes it's easy to look around and think other people must have it better or easier or something. In fact, the older of my two just walked in, presumably to get my ear before her brother could, to explain "mom, he kicked me so I accidently pushed him down". Accidently. More slamming doors, stomping feet, glares and angry words. Me yelling "doors OPEN!!" due to our house "open door policy". This against the back-drop of "STOP. NO YOU STOP. YOU STOP. NO YOU. STOP. YOU STOP. NO YOU STOP." But if this is the worst thing that happens, it is still a pretty good day, right? Right?
 
I'm off to bark orders and whip this place into shape. Haters can hate, but we keep on keeping on. Over and out, yall.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Arguments and Aprons

Friday, although it dawned cloudy and gray,  actually turned out to be rain-less and partly sunny, which I'm not sure anyone was expecting. (This is precisely why I do not watch the weather, because it rarely turns out like they say it will. "Just don't look," I tell my husband, lover of the hour-by-hour forecast. "Then everything is a surprise!" Sidebar: I love how we use the pronoun "they" for the common community, and therefore can blame any mistakes or air any grievances with this common society of "theys" without actually having to call anybody out by name or position. So then "look what they've done, they've paved this street all wrong" or "they promised me biscuits with my fried chicken and they didn't put the biscuits in the box" becomes a very neutral statement and no one individual has to take the blame. Until you're Sepp Blatter. Then they becomes he and everybody is in a lot of trouble.)

The whole point of talking about the day's weather was to tell you that I spent some time at the pool, although no one will ever be able to tell from the new freckles I'm sporting, as they all just start to blend together. Not enough to make a pseudo-tan, though, because that would be asking too much.

Because it is now officially summer break, I allowed myself to sleep in Friday, even though that choice made for a somewhat harried morning trying to get three children (my two plus a friend) who did not want to spend their morning watching a room full of ladies stretch and sweat and bend in ways that look uncomfortable--and admittedly slightly awkward--up and going.

Wednesday was a bad day. It didn't start off as bad, really, but it ended on such a negative note that I got up on Thursday morning with caustic bitterness still in my mouth.

Fighting--or maybe I should say arguing, since fighting sounds violent and uncontrollable--is not something I do well. I veer somewhere toward passive-aggressive, then ditch myself right around the "Danger, 5 miles ahead" sign with lashing out and defensiveness. It is like second nature to me to build walls in an attempt at self-protection, but defensiveness usually doesn't bend with forgiveness and grace and ultimately walls a person in rather than offering protection. In my imaginations, I am a brilliant and technical raconteur, but in reality I have not chosen the right equipment to argue with, making my arguments uncertain and somewhat immature. (Part of the problem is memory, which is key in an argument, am I right?)

No one wants to be caught in an argument with a rabid twelve-year-old, yet this is the position I found myself in on Wednesday afternoon, which will forever be stamped in my memory under the term RUINOUS, not only because it ruined my day but because I was accused of ruining said 12YO's entire life. Which is pretty heavy stuff, being accusing of ruining a person's whole entire life. Not to mention all their friendships, which was thrown in after you are ruining my life for effect and good measure.

Let me just say that there are things that ruin lives, and my refusal to tolerate sassy backtalk and rude behavior isn't ruining any lives over here, but to some, this dictatorial aspect of our relationship was me just being difficult, leading to an impressive, if not insulting and uncivil, slew of backtalk coming from my daughter's mouth.

The problem is a) I don't always know exactly how to deal with this and b) I don't always know exactly how to deal with this. (Pop her in the mouth, I've been told, it'll work wonders. I have not tried this method so I cannot tell you with certainty it will actually work wonders.) Husbands, when your wife calls you in the middle of the afternoon in tears because she is at her wits end and has just sent your only daughter outside in the drizzly rain to hopefully walk off whatever demon has gotten into her, you know it is NOT. GOOD. (Maybe you want to come home right away. Maybe you don't want to come home at all.)

Which is precisely what I did, sending her out in the rain to walk it off, with the directive that she not return for at least thirty minutes, but only after she spent some time cleaning the windows, vacuuming the floors, scrubbing the baseboards, and wiping up the kitchen floors. Hands and knees only. Because, here's the truth: I did NOT know what to do when the unacceptable behavior just kept coming and coming. Like a volcano. Slowly erupting, spewing toxic ash into the already tense air.

It was only by the grace of God did I recall a story I had heard about a woman (could it have been Billy Graham's mother???) who used to pull her apron up over her head so she could pray. I imagine she used this technique when she, like me, was completely just D-O-N-E. I don't typically wear an apron, but I was willing to try sans anything to pull over my head, because it was either that or completely lose it, but I lived with a woman who could completely lose it, and it was scary and unpredictable. So there I was, Wednesday afternoon, walking around the house, refuting the last verbal attack, and mumbling to myself. Or to God, as it were, but it totally looked like I was talking to myself. (Kind of like those people you pull up next to at a red light and it looks like they're talking to themselves, when, silly you, they're really just talking on their phone through their car.)

Anyways, when a parent is at a loss, asking God to fill in is exactly what we need to do, because it is then that we go from trying to figure it all out on our own to relying on His strength and wisdom.

I think I was expecting some sort of revelation, some sort of groveling at my feet, an intense apology, a "I feel so bad I will never, ever, ever act like this again"...something.

I'm just going to say it. It didn't happen.

BUT. Just because God doesn't make expectations happen exactly as we have planned doesn't mean that He is not working. "If you want to see God laugh, tell Him your plan," I once heard.

There are many things I feel ill-equipped for. Writing this blog is one of them. Being a good leader is another. (I'm an excellent follower, though. The crowd likes me.) And being a good parent? Knowing that the heavy weight of parenting falls on my shoulders sometimes makes me want to go hide, because truly--I don't know what I'm doing. 

All the parenting advice I've heard lately swirled through my head in short aphorisms, the truth of the words offering both comfort from their wisdom and alarm from their warnings : what you allow you teach. Life isn't fair. Show them, don't just tell them. It takes a village to raise a child. A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.

If you've never been hated by your child, 
you have never been a parent. 
{bette davis}

But it wasn't until this morning, when on the short drive home from church A asked me to switch CDs (yes, my car still has a CD player in it!) and I put in a Priscilla Shirer devotional CD (so I could show her that her whims and desires shouldn't and will not be met precisely as she demands) that I realized an important reality: my children, as frustrating as they are sometimes, have been entrusted to me. Me. Not someone else. Me. And since they have been entrusted to me, I have a responsibility to raise them in the best way I know how, which is not the easiest or the most stress-free. I am not ill-equipped, but I have been looking inward instead of upward, and for me, inward is simply not enough. I need more than what my limited knowledge and narrow band of skills can bring to the table.

I need God.

When we look at circumstances from our own vantage point, they often seem too big, too overwhelming, and way too vast for us to even wrap our minds around how we will overcome. But when we look to God, the vantage point is totally different. It's not that I couldn't do something and now I can, but rather I recognize that "with God all things are possible" (matthew 19:26). And suddenly my posture changes from one of defeat to one of victory as I yield my strong will and my plans and my desires to Him.

We all have plans for our kids, I think. Whether we want them to get perfect SAT scores or get into the best schools, become the most popular kid in school or athlete of the year, marry their soulmate or give us grandchildren, we all have an idea of how we think their lives should turn out, don't we? And sometimes I operate from this "I think you should _______" point-of-view, which is faulty at best, because my vantage point is so limited.

I am thankful that He offers a life boat because otherwise I would be drowning. It doesn't always come in the form I expected, but He always shows up. And on those rough days when I feel like waving my white flag, and the future feels uncertain and maybe even a little bit bleak, I know He is standing right beside me, giving me the strength and wisdom I need to get through every day.