Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I decided to do one of those whattyacallits today, where I say a list that parallels my age about things I've learned. I've never done this before, and I know more things than this. But these are on my heart or mind today.

1. I don't know as much as I think I do. And you know more than I think. 90% of the time, I will benefit from at least honestly hearing your point of view. Worst case scenario, I walk away knowing where you're coming from.

2. That annoying characteristic in you or them usually lies right at the edge of an exposed nerve. Offer grace, the benefit of the doubt, or the kindest correction you can. It's what you would want.

3. If your heartfelt position makes you lose your temper or call names, it's not coming from a crystal clear place. Maybe dial it back and do some self-examination. At least, make yourself wait a day before you respond to that email or comment.

4. You will never regret choosing kindness.

5. You will always regret leaving the cookies at the store.

6. Children love to be respected. Honor them by genuinely listening to their outlandish suggestions about space travel or whatever. Someday they might be pitching crazy ideas to a lot bigger audience.

7. Don't get a cat.

8. Your parents will not live forever. Talk to them now.

9. Try some new stuff. Worst case scenario, you die trying new stuff. That's better than "She died eating Ramen in front of a Seinfeld rerun."

10. Invest in friendships. People are so amazingly lovable.

11. If taking a shower will make you late, don't take a shower. Be on time, stinky.

12. When you are terribly, terribly disappointed in yourself, remember, it will get better. Learn from the mistake and remind yourself you don't have to stay at the low point.

13. If I feel depressed, I try not to wear dark clothes and keep the blinds drawn. Put some light and music in your physical world and it will help a little. Also comb your hair.

14. If you feel depressed, try serving someone else. Find a soup kitchen, chaperone your child's field trip, buy a gift for another person. It's amazing what looking outward can do.

15. Thrift stores have cheap clothes. Buy them, wash them, wear them. Now you have more money.

16. If your goals are making you miserable, rethink your goals. If you still need those goals, rethink your approach.

17. Never assume you know everything about someone. Assume there is GOLD.

18. Thankfulness is a weapon. Use it.

19. People probably already know how you feel about their lifestyle. If they want to change, they know you can help them. It's important they know, in the meantime, that you love them regardless.

20. Off brand cereal is basically the same.

21. Don't be cocky. If you don't like the music, or the movie, or the practice, or the sentiment, that doesn't mean everyone who does is ignorant. It means they like something different than you, and they probably have good reasons.

22. Funny people are not in denial. We just see life through a humorous lens.

23. Sometimes people are dead wrong. "The Eiffel Tower is in Rome," they say, confidently. You don't have to fix that. It's totally okay to just let people be wrong sometimes.

24. It's okay to say no. You can't do everything for everyone, and if you try to, you might hate everyone a little bit. Just say it nicely.

25. Always leave a tip.

26. Love means saying you're sorry. Say it.

27. Study the 5 love languages. There might be more, it might be more complicated, but they're a good start at learning people.

28. If somebody in your life makes you feel bad about yourself, find the nugget of truth in what they say and work on that. If they keep making you feel bad about yourself, maybe hang out with somebody else.

29. Take great comfort in the competence of God. So many things are not our job, they're His. And He's not freaking out at all!

30. Take comfort in the all-knowingness of God. He already knows your pain and your struggle. You can be honest with Him. He's not intimidated by your overwhelming humanity.

31. Sometimes, in the very darkest place, remind yourself, it will not be like this forever. This is a moment, a day, a season. Someday you will laugh again.

32. If you find something you love, and your friends don't get it, don't worry. You can love things by yourself, you're an individual and you might even have great taste.

33. On the other hand, if you "fall in love" with a human being and all your friends and family hate them, listen. You might be totally compromised by pheromones.

34. Don't let shame drive you from church. He came for the sick. Find a church that will help you heal.

35. Don't waste your life being cynical. Find beauty, it's everywhere.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

One of the things about getting married before your growth plates close is, you don't have much grownup training. My parents spent the 2 years before we got married really hammering these messages into the 2 of us a) finish high school b) keep your pants on and c) have a job. We did all of that, more or less, but we never really had time to learn etiquette or whatever and as a result, we only know how to have the Christian equivalent of frat parties. "Let's have this couple over for dinner," he says, and I panic, because a sit-down meal with one other grownup couple is entirely different than queso and Cokes for 30.

Since the remodel, though, our house is so pretty for entertaining, and I have had a couple of ladies' events here. And that is how I almost killed my whole city.

See, sometimes kids puke for no reason. I have multiple kids and you never know if this is a real thing or what. So my daughter puked and she was kinda droopy for a day or two but everybody else was fine, and so I thought, no need to move the baby shower this weekend, everybody is well again.

The women came in, all of them adult women with earrings and presents and things. My friends decorated and coordinated the food, because, again, unless it's rice and beans for dozens, I freeze up. It was a lovely shower for my friend Marisol, who is adopting a baby in January. (side note: you should go donate something, anything to Mari and Efrain's adoption fund. I'll wait.)

Welcome back! Thanks. Like I was saying, it was great. People ate the snacks, they chatted, I did not discover any horrifying ex-diaper or rotten apple in a trafficked area, etc. We all were grownup ladies and we had a lovely time and then they all went home. Yay me, I thought.

And then the puking started. By me. It wasn't too bad, if you enjoy having your innards ripped out by demons for 12 hours. The MOG held down the fort and tried to offer comfort, because he enjoys comfort when he is ill, but I convinced him that nothing would comfort me more than being left alone to die in a pool of my own body fluids. Then he got sick. And then all of the grownup ladies got sick. And some of my children, and their children, and maybe the Pope.

I stood on the cliff above my city, watching their writhing and wailing, and I knew: I did this.

I was the forerunner, so I warned them. Eventually they started a Facebook group with unflattering pictures of themselves, not in the throes of illness,  necessarily, but soon afterward. Thanksgivings were canceled. Tragedy, chaos and natural remedies abounded. I was awash in guilt, which was a nice change from being awash in puke. It was a strange kind of horrific community building.

Everyone is in recovery now, as far as I can tell. I'm still pretty iffy, but I am determined to carry on. When all this is over, I'm having all you people over for chips and queso.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

i remember
waiting for you
so foreign
so emotional
for my joy
to be their loss

and then they handed
you to me
and i was lost
to loving you

you fill
my days with laughter
you keep
me running, always
you are
my son, forever

Happy Birthday Tristan.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

There is a myth that children move quickly. The reality is, children only move quickly when they don't want you to catch them. The rest of the time they move at a glacial pace, and they slow down even more when there is a line of people waiting on you, waiting on them. None of that is what I am talking about, but no one is paying me to write this blog and I can be all non-sequitur if I feel like it. If any of you want to pay me, I'm listening. 

When I picked up my children from school today, they crawled into the car at a leisurely pace, offering bits of video game trivia and the usual riddles-I'm-not-allowed-to-guess-correctly. And then Brynn handed me an adorable little craft she made. "It's for you!" she said excitedly, "because you're FORTY-ONE!" 

I choked a little. "I'm 41?" I asked, "Do you think I'm 41?" 
"Well," she countered, "aren't you?"
"No! I'm..."
Toby chimes in, "She won't be 41 for a few DAYS, Brynn."
"Will you be 41 on your birthday, Mom?" she asks.
"I'll be 41 in... seven birthdays," I answer, weakly, because that seems very soon. As I go back over the calculations, I realize it is six birthdays. I don't tell them. 

We head down the road toward home. 
"How old are you, Mom?" she asks me, not realizing I am aging as we speak
"I'm 35." 
"35. 35," she counts, gaining speed. "and then you'll be 36, then 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44! Then you will be 44!" 

I'll be in my room, guys. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

(Disclaimer: this is a serious one. I never write things like this based on one thought, and it probably wasn't anything you did that inspired me. It's life, all of us.)

One of my favorite things about having this space to communicate is the fellowship of shared experiences. It took me years of writing down the details of my day before I realized that we all share so much. Like Solomon said, there's nothing new under the sun. I often think Solomon might have been a lot happier if he had limited himself to a reasonable number of wives. Was he asking for trouble? I'll let Lamentations answer that question.

We are the same. We're unique and individual and God's special snowflakes or whatever, but also we are very much the same, despite our cultural differences and languages and ages, we're all so, so human, and we all want to a) be loved and b) be great. And all of us, every one of us, is failing in some way.

And social media is a gift, it's a tool that allows us to see into each other's lives, and to have a glimpse of the sorrows and the joys and even the mundaneness that is part of the story. Sometimes, though, we take a tiny peek into someone else's window to the world and we make a judgment call. I think about this occasionally, when I set goals and fail them in front of the internet, when I go through the small known and unknown hypocrisies that are part of trying to be great and be loved.

Wouldn't it be great if we could learn to love each other, to celebrate each other, to take our shared brokenness and offer grace. What if we saw each others failures and offered a hand? What if we gave the benefit of the doubt? You and I, we're the same. We want the same things. Even when our day-to-day or political or religious goals are worlds apart, we are both so human. I choose to believe that none of you are monsters or robots, just humans, striving for better humanity.

So if someone posts a picture of a cake, maybe they aren't bragging. Maybe they just tried really hard to make a cake. Tell them good job, or, if it's me, tell me good effort and I bet it tastes great. Someone posts a selfie, maybe they are lonely and reaching for community, or maybe they are having a good hair day, so, TELL THEM. We are all finding ways to touch each other, to find that shared thread that makes us not alone. It's not our job to police motives, just give grace and recognize we all need each other.

And if we fall, when we fall, maybe TwitYourFace is not the place to address it. Let's take Matthew 18 face to face.

Maybe in this new world, this technological age, it's less important that everyone do it right and more important that we love each other. Grace.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We go to the airport sometimes, because my husband is always running off. He says he goes places to preach and sing, but I've always suspected he has a second family, with a chunky wife who really keeps a clean and quiet house. Every time he comes home, he is so surprised to find that a) I am so thin b) our children are so, so loud and c) no, I did not notice that sandwich under the couch. d) seriously, I never saw it. None of this is the point, try to pay attention. The point is I frequently drive to the airport.

Typically, when I have a plan, it's an overeager plan that makes me arrive somewhere a half-hour early and then my kids have to say "Is that daddy?" to every bald African-American man that walks by for a long, long time. Do they think their dad is black? I don't know, because I don't see any way to have that conversation without giving them Loud Conversational Ammo.

This time, I was all casual, like, I'm a grown woman who drives to the airport all the time and besides, I have a GPS, so I only gave myself 45 minutes. "FORTY-FIVE minutes??" you say, "I can make it to the airport in TEN minutes," and to that I say, "Shut it, Richy." I was making good time, too, barreling down 71 North at 45 miles an hour, because that's a freeway speed limit, when I got a text from the man himself. He evidently was tracking my progress via GPS, as he is prone to do when he's being a super-creeper. "At your current rate," it read, "you will be 20 minutes early FYI".

I'm a grown woman, I thought, and I know how to get to the airport, thank you very much, and maybe I would have texted that except I was driving and also everyone was trying to kill me with their cars and also my children were trying to kill me via sonic energy. I'm a grown woman, I thought, with 20 minutes to kill and I should swing by Starbucks and get a hot chocolate. So I mapped to a nearby Starbucks and then I drove there, except it got really confusing and then it didn't have a drive-thru so I was about to map back to the airport when I got a text from the Head Creeper, who had landed 20 minutes early. Because of course he did.

I fired up the ol GPS, which had died unexpectedly. (Isn't that the way of death?) and I drove off into the scary dark night. "THIS IS NOT THE WAY I REMEMBER AND I FEEL WIERD IN MY FACE AND I'M HUNGRY AND HE IS LOOOOOKING AT ME AND IS THAT DADDY AND DID YOU SEE THAT DOG? THAT DOG THAT DOG THAT DOG? MOM ? MOM? MOM? MOM?"

"Listen, guys," I said, clutching the steering wheel to try to gain some feeling of control, "I really don't want to yell at you. But Mommy is kind of lost and the GPS is sliding around and I DADGUMMIT..." as the GPS slid under the console. "Mommy is kind of stressed. I AM REALLY STRESSED and your best bet for not getting yelled at is to"

There was a moment of silence as they processed.

"Knock knock..."

I wandered like the Israelites, y'all. I drove all over the place trying to find the freeway, but it had been taken away as a punishment for my very dark thoughts. All the while, the GPS would start up for a moment, give one direction, like "Veer left in 2 miles" and then it would die again and I would think dark thoughts and then it would say, "prepare to make a u-" and then it would die again and everybody would say, "Did you hear that? Did you hear that? A U-what? What does it mean? Are we in another state? Is that daddy? What did the ocean say to the shore?"

"Mom? What did the ocean say to the... never mind."

We made it. 30 minutes late and some change, due to parking at the wrong part of the terminal, because of course I did. I collapsed in the passenger seat and tried to go to a happy place, which ended up being McDonald's, after a lot of strong marital discussion. "Why didn't you just use your phone GPS?" you ask, and to that, I say.... oh, yeah.

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