Friday, September 30, 2011

No Offense, But...


Even though going to and from my son's school every day takes effort, time, and gas, so far I have found it to be a source of pleasure and bonding. Yes, I could carpool with someone else, but since my hindsight as a mother of 20-somethings shows that some of our best talks happened on the road, I consider it an investment in a relationship.

Anyhoo, yesterday I was once again touched and amused by my fourth grader's perspective. He loves school, even though he has been sent to the prinicipal's office a number of times in the first month already. Oy. This Christian school has high standards for conduct and academics, but the teachers and principal have been full of grace, using scripture to counsel the children--and appropriate consequences. For each day they display good behavior all day, they get a stamp. If they don't, they get their stamp taken away.

Me: So how was your day?
Him: Good.
Me: Good?
Him: Yeah, Mom. Every day is good.
Me: Really? Even the days you've gotten in trouble and had your stamp taken away?
Him: Well, yeah. Kinda.

Now, you might find it hard to tell what he meant by that unless you're his mother who knows him very well. The way you know your own child. They can say three simple, vague words, but you know what they mean. My son meant, "Even though I've gotten in trouble, I know the teacher likes me and the principal isn't mean. She encourages me to be more like Jesus." He also means that he loves having a new batch of boys to play football with at recess, and translating Latin paragraphs like it's a secret code. (I've told him that's why I like foreign languages; you're a kind of detective when you decode words that aren't English.)

The other snippet was about math.

Him: Mom? I don't really understand math the way Mrs. Reider teaches.
Me: Oh, really? Singapore Math?
Him: Yeah. I mean, she makes us go through eight steps. I don't need eight steps.
Me: How many do you need?
Him: Just 3. Read the problem. Think about the problem. Do the problem.
Me: (smiling at his succint "guy" way of putting things)
Him: No offense to Mrs. Reider, but I think I can figure out problems faster than she can.
Me: (trying not to giggle) Well, God HAS given you a brain for math, but Mrs. Reider is pretty smart, too. She is teaching other kids how to break math problems down in their head. You think through the problem so fast you don't even realize there are a lot of steps your brain is taking.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Well, for example. What is 20 times 12?
Him: 240.
Me; Right. How'd you figure that out?
Him: 12 times 2 is 24, and then add a zero. Or 20 times 10 is 200, plus 2 more 20's is 40.
Me: (trying to follow his fast-talk) . Right. See, you just figured out the problem in two ways at once and you broke those two down into steps.
Him: Yeah, I guess so. But it wasn't 8 steps.
Me: I bet if you thought about it, you'd find out there are probably steps you don't count. Plus, you work with money a lot, so you're used to thinking in terms of how a hundred is broken down.
Him: Yep. 100 pennies, or 20 nickels, or 10 dimes, or two half-dollars.
Me: See? That was quick!
Him: But I don't like to carry change. I prefer dollars!
Me: Me, too.
Him: Do you have dollar so we can get a sweet tea at McDonald's?
Me: Yes, but I can save a dollar by going home for some.
Him: Okay,

Linking up at Home Sanctuary today. (Get link from sidebar. My linker is being a stinker today.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hodgepodge: Reminiscing, Roller Skating, and RSVP-ing

Linking up today with Joyce for the Wednesday Hodgepodge.
1. It is officially fall here in North America...I realize not everyone who participates in the Hodgepodge lives in North America but if you do, what's your favorite memory of Summer 2011? If you're not in North America, what's your favorite memory of the season just ending on your side of the world?

You'd think it would have to do with a relaxing vacation instead of a jam-packed schedule and house, but honestly, my favorite memory of the summer of 2011 was our Z family reunion. The funniest part ,of course, was the "cake wreck" for Paul's 50th birthday. It was supposed to say, "Happy Birthday, you old buzzard" (since he's a Ravens fan). But the bakery wrote "you old buzzer" and then "corrected" it finally with "you old buzzrad." The laughs in the house were worth more than the price of the cake.
As I sat around watching and listening to this family, I thought how blessed we are. I recalled the days when these kids who are now parents (some of them) with kids in their laps, used to climb into our laps. I still love to be called "Aunt Zo" by the 30-somethings.It's one notch down from the love of being called "Mom."
I longed for Paul's parents to be there and glory in the joy of their offspring, and wondered for a moment if God lets people "look down from heaven" on beautiful times like these. I thanked him for the marital fidelity in this room, despite the hard times. All the brothers have stay married to the same woman (okay, each to his OWN woman, I mean). Paul and I were the last ones married nearly 25 years ago. I saw those 25 pass before me as I glanced around the room. We enjoy each other's company. We feed off each other's humor. We share a common faith. We love the same teams. Most of us love to talk. (I've always said if there are 12 of us in the room, you'd hear 13 conversations.) We share DNA and history and memories and pains and joys and talents . For a brief afternoon that sped by like a shooting star, I sensed a deep and abiding feeling of belonging. Belonging to a wonderful family. Flawed as it is, as crazy and loud and sometimes obnoxious and offensive as we've been with each other, we truly do love each other and love our times together, stuffing our faces with watermelon, cheeseburgers, deviled eggs...and Buzzrad cake.

2. Your favorite nut? You know I mean the edible kind, right?

Oh, okay. Glad you clarified. In fact, you inspired me to write a little poem.

I really like pecans. I like them in pie .
I like them in ice cream in late July.
I like them in muffins, in cake, and in rolls,
I like when they fill in the gaps and the holes.
I like pecans alone or mixed in with others,
I'd eat them all day if I had my druthers.

3. What activity puts your sense of balance to the test?

If you mean my physical equilibrium, my answer is "walking down a flight of grey cement stairs that either have no marking on the edge or have eye-popping hazard yellow strips painted on the edge that seem to come in rapid succession compared to my slow descent." I hang on for dear life, regardless.

But if you mean my sense of balance emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and otherwise, the test is any big family event I'm helping to host where the expectations are high, but the energy and resources are low. I have two such events coming soon, the first of which has already involved about 79 emails in 3 days between me and my three sisters as we plan my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party. (Heretofore known as the WAP, okay? Teehee.) We have discussed such seemingly petty things as whether to include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the RSVP card. I said no to the stamp. But my opinion was overruled for a number of reasons. Please don't get me started on the whole RSVP thing.

4. How would you describe your sense of humor?

To quote a line from South Pacific, "I'm as corny as Kansas in August." In fact, when I tell a joke, someone in the house mutters, "Kansas humor."

5. September 28th is National Ask a Stupid Question Day...what's your stupid question?

Oh, boy. I have asked so many stupid questions in the past. I could provide an entire night of material for a Bill Engvall's "Here's Your Sign" routine.

One stupid question I ask a lot is, "Is it raining outside?"

Think about it. Rain falls from the sky, and the sky is outside...

I should simply ask, "Is it raining?"

However, this past month has made me think maybe it's not such a stupid question after all to ask, "Is it raining outside?" I think if you'd asked anyone on East Coast, they might just tell you that it's been raining INSIDE, OUTSIDE, UPSIDEDOWN! This September is the wettest in Maryland records. The upside? Our grass is gloriously green.

6. Roller skates~hula hoop~jump rope...which activity would you most enjoy? Yes, you have to choose.

Scroll back to Answer #3. This girl has trouble walking down steps, and you're telling me I have to choose from among an activity on wheels, a spinning motion, and going airborne with a lead butt? This is not easy. I'll say hula hoop. I can still swing my hips, but sadly it's often accompanied by a chiropractic visit. Once upon a time I enjoyed roller skating and --here's a fun bit of romantic trivia for ya-- my hubby and I first announced our engagement to friends at a roller rink. This classy one, to be exact.

7. What's your most sentimental possession?

My wedding rings.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

How do you feel about party favors? Are they nice mementos? Clutter? Okay if practical or edible? A waste of money for the hosts? Unthinkable not to give to guests?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shiny New Bike Parable: C- in my Gradebook

I read this parable by Mark Driscoll after reading a Haitian missionary's response to it. The missionary's name is Heather and I follow her blog, though I don't know her personally. Her family sees the poverty in Haiti close-up every single day. She was revolted by his post.

I have read the parable now three times. On first reading, I sided with Heather. I agreed that it seems self-indulgent to keep a shiny new bike for oneself when one could give it to a missionary to reach unreached people groups with the gospel.

On second reading, however, I was starting to think, "Driscoll is right. Why can't God's children just enjoy His provisions even if they're brand spanking new, and worship Him with every gift? Why do some of us feel guilty that we have so much? When we give our own kids new gifts, do we hope they feel guilty and give their gifts away? Of course not! We delight in their smiles and gratitude and their enjoyment of said gifts."

On third reading, I could understand why Driscoll used the word "tragically" to begin his summary paragraph. It is indeed tragic to disobey God, no matter what. So you think it's selfish to keep a shiny new bike and therefore you don't keep and use His gift when He has made it clear that's what He wants? Do you know better than God? Driscoll's tangible object of a shiny new bike in the parable could be a symbol for any gift from God--a musical talent, a leadership ability, a knack for building wealth using biblical principles. One can ostensibly "give away" or "sacrifice" any of those in the name of "not wanting to look proud." A skilled Christian musician whose private life of worship demonstrates he or she has the heart of a worshiper should audition for the worship band if the Lord says ,"Now." A leader should not defer to another if God says, "You're the one for the job even though deference might masquerade as humility. Humility does not mean being wishy-washy or letting others bully you." Someone who has the God-given ability to make wealth (by earning, saving, giving, investing, and spending wisely) should not settle for status quo; that's not humility but stupidity. I used to think the ability to make wealth was a matter of good fortune and selfish ambition. I now see it as the gift that it is from God; some use it to bless His kingdom in practical ways that require money. And of course, some people use it selfishly.

Regardless of our justification for sacrificing our gifts, obedience is better in God's eyes. Who else's eyes matter, really?

First Samuel 15:22:

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings
and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

One only needs to read about the building of God's Temple to see that God not only approves of wealth, but commands the use of it for His glory. In the case of the Temple, God did not say "sell all these jewels and use the money on the poor." He did not say, "Make clothing out of the the fine linen instead of making curtains for my house." God did not build that temple of cubic zirconias , Goodwill linens, or Craigslist castoffs. He commanded the use of precious jewels, fine woven linen, and newly carved wood. The accessories of gold were His idea. He did not apologize for building His Temple in a land filled with poverty. He used His wealth to bring glory to Himself ,and that meant using people who might think it a bold, selfish, prideful task to take part in.

God did not tell Solomon to give his bike away. God has plenty of bikes, but expects our obedience if He says "worship me with the bike I've given you." Sometimes that means "give away your possessions." Sometimes that means do the harder thing and keep that shiny new bike. Believe me, it IS harder for some people, truly it is, to keep nice things. Or to receive anything--help when they're sick, money when they're near bankruptcy, or tutoring when they don't understand a subject in school. Pride can keep us from receiving more often than from giving.

Granted, I am not endorsing materialism, and I think herein lies the problem with how I first read Driscoll's parable. (Perhaps other readers got tripped up as well, especially if they only read the parable once. ) I couldn't quite tell if Driscoll is trying to help Christians learn to really appreciate what our heavenly Father has given us and worship Him with those gifts, or if, on a deeper (and supposedly hidden) level, he is showing us how to justify our consumerism.

The parable's meaning is simply unclear. Perhaps I'm obtuse . Perhaps I should read it a fourth time, put in on the proverbial back burner and come back in a week or two to analyze it.

But for now, the grade I give this parable of Driscoll's is a C-. Here's why:

1. Good writing should not have to be read more than once for clarity. A good sentence, a good paragraph, a good story or parable, should be clear on the first read. A parable, by nature, should be simple enough for a child to understand. If many fellow Christians and even non-Christians are offended by your message, it isn't necessarily the wrong message. Jesus called Himself the Rock of Offense. If , however, a reasonably intelligent adult is confused by your message, you have more work to do. Your theology, your writing, or both, need to be revised.

2. The dialogue of the Father does not sound like the gentle heavenly Father of the Bible. The tone sounds impatient and abrupt.

3. The Father does not take the son in his arms and commend him for his generosity or humility, for his tender, compassionate heart (albeit shrouded in guilt) to give away things as nice as what as he's received. Instead the Father jumps to his point: obey and worship Me.

4. The Father also puts the onus on the boy to ask for a bike for the missionary, when clearly the boy sees "an answer to prayer" at his fingertips. It would be a big "duh" for a kid to ask for a bike when he's just been handed one. Don't scold a kid for thinking like a kid.

For those four main reasons, I give Driscoll's parable a C-. It's decent writing mechanically , but not excellent in every way. It has a message, but I am unclear about the author's intent. But most of all, it didn't stir me to think of God as a generous provider, but rather as a demanding father who gives gifts accompanied by a stern lecture and a guilt trip. "If you had asked, I would have..." So the boy is left thinking, "Then it's my fault missionaries don't have bikes." No wonder he can't enjoy the shiny new bike; he hasn't prayed enough! There are still poor missionaries without bikes around the world! A better approach would be, "Son, I want you to have a this shiny new bike. I also hear a missionary in Guatemala asking me for a bike. Ask me now to provide one for him, too, and I will. That will bless all of us!"

Then let the son smile, give his dad a tight hug, and ride off on his shiny new bike, with the wind whistling in his ears, while he thinks what an awesome and generous dad he has who never runs out of good gifts and never tires of being asked to give to others also. Let the Father stand there relishing the joy of having a son who gives and takes with exuberant love, not guilt.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Think It's Menopause

I'm "only" 46, which is on the young side of the average age for menopause. (Research of the formal and informal types I've done suggest the "normal" age is 51.) I don't know for sure what I'm going through, but this I do know. I am crying way too often. I have fits of anger. Little things get blown out of proportion easily in my head, and I'm just not in a slump or a funk or having a bad few weeks.

I can't say I've had "hot flashes" as described online where I feel a sudden outbreak of sweat. I am not throwing everything off at night, nor am I covering up per usual. I am always generally warmer these days than ever before. Wearing a hoodie has only appealed to me once thus far, and it was a cold, rainy, windy night. I'm in flip-flops and capris and short sleeves most every day, regardless what the thermometer says.

But mostly I think I'm in menopause because I just can't get a grip. I am too emotional. Come on, people, here's what made me cry today: I heard a woman (the announcer on a local Christian radio station) recalling a fall memory. The memory was a beautiful sky-blue autumn day when her mom took the day off work and let Tracie stay home from school just to spend time with her.

I was driving when I heard this. The tears came like rain down my face. And then when she said, "It was right before my parents divorced, and I think my mom was trying to comfort me and prepare me, though she didn't mention the divorce." I was just about bawling.

Granted, I have some huge things going on in my life. My parents' 50th wedding celebration on October 29th is weighing heavily on me logistically (prepping for house guests, making visual displays), etc. My son is getting married in March and we're in charge of the rehearsal dinner in NJ, which means finding time to go up and scout things out. I hardly see my older kids anymore. One is student teaching and comes home wiped out and is fighting disillusionment. My youngest has been in the principal's office four times in two weeks in his "adjustment period" to a new school. That makes me feel like a four-fold failure. I am volunteering as an art teacher in his school, but spend more like 3 hours out of class prepping for every 45 minutes in it on a super-tight budget. My husband and I seem like strangers to each other. Our church is in the process of selecting a new senior pastor, and some precious people have left in the midst. Nothing new. It happens, but it hurts. I just feel like there are way too many life transitions at once right now and I don't want to heap more stuff on the shepherds and caregivers in my life. And on top of that, my boy says, "I wish I had a real brother. A brother my age to play with." Sorry, son. I'm pretty sure I can't make that happen unless we adopt, and I am pretty sure that's a big fat "no way, Jose''" now and forever. Amen. Ten years ago I was up for it.

Yesterday in the car my little guy made me cry, too, but it was because of one of those sweet-but-haunting comments kids say when you least expect it. (By way of background, My mom had had tear duct surgery the day before. It's a precursor to corneal transplant surgery in the future, she hopes. Everything went well, and she is glad she had it done even though today her face is so swollen and bruised she can't get her glasses on. But Daddy said to her, "You look as pretty as the day I married you." Naturally I teared up at that!)

Joel loves his grandparents and I think he is more affected by their declining health than he lets on. The way they walk, their old age that shows in their faces and their voices. The steady stream of doctor appointments they talk about. I've been thinking that sort of thing goes "in one ear and out the other" for my fourth grader. You know, "old people stuff" that has no staying power in a squirmy kid's world? Not so. I think it's all burrowing deep into his little heart.

So he says to me in the car, "Mom, I had a dream about Ima." (That's what the kids call my mother.)
"You did?" I ask. "What did you dream?"
And he says joyfully, "I dreamed that she was fine. She could see clearly!" His voice rises with a sing-songy delight. "She didn't have a foot problem. She was running! And she looked young."

And so my menopausal mind rushes to the conclusion: That sounds like she's in heaven. Is this a prophetic dream? Is my mom going to die in order to see clearly and walk well?

I asked, "What about Pappaw? Was he in the dream?"

He said in a dropped voice, "Yeah. But he still looked old."

I was glad Joel couldn't see my face. Tears were just running down my face. They are running down my face now as I write this. See what I mean? These blog posts are more "down" than "up" lately, aren't they? In the past I have been able to see the sunny side, to be flexible when things aren't ideal or even to my liking, to want to give my whole self into new adventures. Now I am skeptical, critical, reserved, fatigued. What is wrong with me?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hodgepodge : Let's C

Many of Joyce's Hodgepodge questions this week contain the letter "C," which I'm not sure was planned, but my eyes zoomed in on them like a kid watching "The Electric Company." Who remembers that show? Each episode was brought to you by a different letter. Anyway, let's "C" her questions and my answers about chili, colors, crafts, and a cliche' or two.

1. Do you like chili? Red or white? Beans or no beans? Spice or no spice? Toppings?

Love chili. I prefer it thick and red, with beans and lot of finely ground beef, quite spicy, topped with shredded cheddar and chopped onions, served over spaghetti. Once upon I time I loved white chicken chili, but I made it so often I burned out my family and myself. Don'tcha hate when that happens?

2. Red~Orange~Gold...your favorite fall color?

Gold. Perhaps it's my Jewish heritage showing. Gold bling on trees just wows me like fine gold on fingers and around the neck:) Bring it on! (This photo was taken last fall from an upstairs window looking out into our woods.) I sometimes think I'll inhale the smell of leaves so deeply and fill my eyes to the dripping point that it literally kills me. And I'm not talking allergies. I'm talking pure pleasure of an inimitable kind.

3. Who did you idolize when you were growing up?

(Whom?) My daddy. I called him "Jesus with skin on." He was always patient, gentle, kind, smart, able to fix anything, affirming. He told us regularly how proud he was of us girls (he had no sons) and how beautiful we were, and smart. Daddy was never too busy to stop and help us. The only way I made it through high school algebra and physics was because I had him for a tutor. And here's a little claim to fame: my dad tutored the late, great basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain in college algebra at KU. (My dad was an engineering student who, to this day, never misses a Jayhawks game on TV.) He also invented a chemical warfare device to protect our soldiers. My dad could (can) sing beautifully and express himself poetically and is a talented artist. I love to watch him draw muscle cars! But the most amazing thing about my dad is that, in my entire life, I have NEVER heard him speak a harsh word to, or about, my mother. He loves her in a way I have not seen another man love his wife.

4. When was the last time you did something 'arts and craftsy'? Share, please.

Well, considering I'm an art teacher, I get a weekly dose of

"arts and craftsy." Last week was our first class and we decorated our portfolios, and made name labels for our sketchbooks using manila paper and 6B pencils. This coming week we're starting to exploring my favorite topic, the color wheel, using acrylic paints. Woo-hoo! On a personal level, I'm still trying to get around to making basement curtains for the sliding glass door in our sort-of Ravens den/man cave/family hang-out of a basement.

5. What's a place that makes you really nervous?

The passenger's seat when my husband is driving.

6. Horse back riding...yay or nay (neigh?)

In my youth, big yay. Currently? Big neigh. Although I admit, I do fantasize about getting back in the saddle someday, riding through Estes Park with my friend Barb on one of our future vacations together. (My husband took one trotting lap around the pasture on our old horse named Brandy, and that was enough for him. Can you say, "city slicker"?) The greatest adventures and thrills in my life (before marriage and motherhood) all took place on the backs of horses.

7. What is your favorite cliche?

"Favorite cliche" is an oxymoron. I can't stand cliches. I avoid them like the plague and don't touch them with a ten-foot pole. If you want to be on the cutting edge of communication, you gotta bring your A-game and fly away from cliches like a bat out of $%#*, unless it tickles your fancy to use phrases that are a dime a dozen.

Okay, enough is enough. At the end of the day, my favorite cliche has to do with the beginning of the day: "Wake up and smell the coffee!"

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I took my boy to the doctor today for a physical. When the lady peeked down his pants , Joel exclaimed, "Ew! I hope you get paid a lot for that!"

Monday, September 19, 2011

This 'n That

More things are swirling around in my heart and mind than I have time to blog about. They don't need separate posts, anyway. Some would say they need don't any posts, they just need to be dealt with. "Why talk when you can work?" he says. But I say, "I work better when I talk or after I talk. " Plus, I'm old enough to know some things ain't gonna change, like my need for expressing myself in words.

All that to say, here is the confetti of thoughts and happenings in my bit 'o real estate of mind and Maryland.

  • Yesterday we finally got together with my parents. They only live 15 miles away but we haven't seen each other since May. It was a combined birthday lunch for me and my baby sister, and an opportunity for us to see their friends from far east Russia. The best part was being hugged by Valeria (who is my age) and hearing her say ,"You are so beautiful, my dear." I told her to stick around because I hadn't heard that in years. Unfortunately, they have to fly back today. My mom gave me a pair of pretty earrings and a sweet card. No one had a camera along, so no pictures.
  • Speaking of birthdays, Paul has a brand new grand-nephew, Peyton Scott, born September 15th, exactly one year to the day from his next-older cousin, Brooks Elijah. Both were born to brothers, and both were named for sports heroes. And both were born on my baby sister's birthday. Oddly enough, my older sister has a son born October 2nd, almost 15 years ago, on the very day ( a few hours apart) from one of HIS cousins on his dad's side (ie. two kids born the same day to brothers). Is this crazy coincidence or do you know of cousins with identical birthdays?

  • Our plans for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary are coming along. My sister Jill is the party-planner extraordinaire (she does it in her job all the time), so she is official project manager. My job is coordinating the pictures and video presentations. My sister Rachel is doing vases and table settings. My sister Andrea claims no creative talent and is working 60+ hours a week at her job, but she has the gift of agreeability, which works great with the take-charge folks among us. I just wish I had the "umph" for this event, or any event. I just don't. Nothing excites me any more. Nothing makes me really want to get involved with it, except art class. I am not dealing very well with things going on in and around me right now.
  • The youngest child has ended up in the principal's office four times in the first two weeks of school. Twice for tossing things around that should have been held onto. Once for disruptive talking in music class. (He "comes by it honest, " as they say.) And once for a pseudo-expletive. Sometimes I want to laugh, and other times I am on the brink of tears. The thing that made me nearly laugh was when the principal told me of the time when the teacher put Joel between two girls (to help with self-control) and he blurted out, "Oh, crap." When asked if he was allowed to say that at home, he said, "Yeah. Everyone at home says it." It's true! I didn't get on his case for that, but told him he best ought to wean it out of his vocabulary so that it doesn't get him trouble at school. So I suppose I ought to wean it out of mine also. Needless to say, we've had many conversations about, and prayers for God's help with, self-control, obedience, love, and other virtues that he and I both need to grow in. We have been giving him consequences as well. Someone has found out that there are a million little dust particles per square inch in the crevices of dining room chairs when Mom doles out "punishments."
  • Friends of ours had to put their 12-year-old Labrador retriever to sleep yesterday. I cried. It made me really miss Molly and feel the pain all over again. I still miss her, and still have faith that Reilly will one day be calm enough to be a therapy dog. For now his rambanctious atheticism is therapy for a nine-year-old boy after a stressful day at school. The dog doesn't mind the motor-mouth and he THRIVES on having Joel toss things around! (One morning before breakfast Joel said, "Mom, I haven't bonded with Reilly yet." I said, "What do you mean? You've been bonding since February." He said, "No, I mean this morning. Can I let him out of his crate to bond with him?") Those two are members of a mutual admiration society.
  • Sarah and Steve visited a different church yesterday. I inquired how they liked it, and they said it was very friendly welcoming. "You can't sneak out if you wanted," was how they put it. I asked about the music, and Steve said it was cheesy and started laughing. Sarah, too. I mean, shoulder-shaking snorts. The song contains a line about people suffering with private pain. Both of them just LOST it. There they were, visitors on the front pew, starting to giggle about the cheesiness, but the clincher was the image of people with "private pain." Oh, my children. Is this how you were raised??? I'm so glad I wasn't there. I'd have been doubling over.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hodgepodge: Flu, Fashion, and Fall

Wow, it's Wednesday again already. How'd that happen? Time for my favorite meme, the

Hodgepodge hosted by Joyce. Why not link up and let us know YOUR answers to these thought-provoking questions?

1. What do you do at the first sign of a cold? Will you get a flu shot this year?

I usually don't realize I have a cold till it's full-blown. And then I whine and moan like I'm going go give birth to a pod of whales. I drink tea with honey, and invest in Puffs Plus with Lotion to really baby my nose like my mom used to. I always find myself mumbling "I want my mommy" when I'm sick, but I can't remember the last time I actually called her to baby me. I am 40-some-odd (er, some even) years old, after all. And really, if I had a cold, it would not be loving to call my aging mother to expose herself to me.

Will I will get the flu shot? I'm 99.4 % sure I would not. I had one in the hiney when I was in second grade, and that was not my choice. I had far less padding to absorb the sting back then, but I would rather take my chances at getting the flu naturally than offer up my flesh and blood willingly to this vaccine. Seems a lot of people have come down with flu within a week of getting the shot, so what good is that? Or maybe they got it from being in a doctor's waiting room crowded contageous-but-asymptomatic worried folks? They probably paid for something they could've gotten free by just shaking hands with a stranger and talking about the weather before the nurse called their names.

2. What advice can you give about how to conquer fear?

I need to advise myself of this on a regular basis: "Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world." And "nothing can separate you from the love of God" (Rom 8:38-39). And simply when I have no ready scripture and am practically seized by fear, I call on Jesus. I just say, "Help me, Jesus, help me!' Every time He helps me. Every single time. He is faithful! If there's one thing I've come to "know that I know," it's that Jesus' Name is powerful. You don't have to diddly squat about how to conquer fear except one name: Jesus. Repeat it over and over when Satan taunts and tempts you, when you are gripped with anxiety, when demons harass you and torment you. Don't worry that you're weak. You ARE weak but HE is STRONG.

3. Share two good things about your life right now.

1. I am teaching art again, which I love.
2. I think I might actually be able to wear contact lenses again, which I've not tried in 20 years. Back in the day, my lenses were hard and didn't fit my astigmatic eyes well. Plus I had 3 kids under 4 and was dealing with pee, poop, breastmilk, messes, sibling rivalry, and incessant laundry. I barely had time to cough, let alone put in contacts or keep my eyes moist. I had to visit the eye doctor today; my glasses broke yesterday and I "fixed" them with Krazy Glue, but in so doing, got a glob of it on the right lens. Nothing could unstick the glue...nothing! And the glasses broke again this morning. I mean they are "dead in the water" broken. So I got an eye appointment and have been wearing trial lenses today. So far, so good. Tomorrow I hunt for a pair cheaper than I found today.

4. A hot fall fashion trend in 2011 is a return to sixties style...tunics with pants, shift dresses, pencil skirts, cinched waists, bold prints, high necklines and short lengths to name a few. How does this fashion trend fit with your wardrobe and personal sense of style?

Well, tunics look great on girls over 5'6" whose food doesn't stick to their derrieres. For me a tunic would look like a tarp over a 5'3" heap of pregnant marshmallows with curly hair. Ew, hair in your marshmallows?That's about as appealing as seeing a woman who is shaped like an electric pencil sharpener trying to wear a pencil skirt. Cinched waist ? Still trying to cinch it, which is NOT a cinch at all. Bold mean like huge orchids? I'm not a fan of big blooms on the backsides, which inevitably is where those florals tend to land on me. I might as well wear two signs back there: "Kick me, I'm fluffy." Oh, but, big prints are tres adorable on petite misses. (The only part of "petite" I qualify for is the "short" part of it.) High necklines? I don't have a neck, nor do I like to cover what stump of a thing I have that connects my head and shoulders unless I'm freezing. I like V-necks and open collars on myself. Short length skirts? If I had the legs of my younger days or thinner days, I would probably wear my skirts and shorts above the knee a couple inches.

5. Were you involved in scouting as a kid? How about as an adult?

I was a Campfire Girl for a few weeks. Too much powder-room politics to stick with it. I was into the uniform and don't remember a single campfire. Scouting as an adult? Not since I was scouting for a husband! I have issues with bugs, rain, sleeping in a confined space, and having no easy access to a real toilet when nature calls. At my age, it often calls when only nocturnal nasties are up and about. No thanks.

6. Apple, pear, plum, pumpkin...your favorite fall flavor?

I thought you were going to say, "Apple, pear, plum, pumpkin...which shape are you?"

Well, I would say my favorite year-round flavor. is apple, but in the fall gotta have me some pumpkin pie, pumpkin butter, pumpkin fluff. Love pumpkin scented candles ,too. I once heard that there was a study done which concluded that pumpkin-scented candles are the favorite with men. I thought that was odd, but hey--my man is one of those who likes the scent--and he doesn't like very many.

7. What characteristics do you think are essential in a good teacher?

Love. If he or she is loving, the kids feel it and it "covers a multitude of sins" (both the teacher's and the students' sins!) . I think also patience, understanding, courage, and
a sense of humor go a long way. If you can't laugh, you might as well go home and suck lemons. Enthusiasm is a must, too. I used to attend a school where, every year, the principal would tell the students at Day 1 opening assembly, "Your teachers have zip, zap, and enthusiasm!" I liked that. Of course, some of them had mosquitoes in their underwear, too, and were just plain cranky. But I digress.

This would be a good place to tell you something really sweet my now-4th-grader said about his 2nd grade teacher.

Me: "Mrs. L really loved three things, but I can only remember two. She loved reading and doing crafts with the class. What was the third thing she loved? "
Him: She loved us.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Our new next-door neighbors are so nice! They go to our church and have three young girls. Two of them have been in my Sunday school class. Joel would, of course, prefer they were boys, but today the girls were helping him catch a frog in the yard, tossing the football, and playing with Reilly, so I think he is excusing their gender. I am thanking God for this young couple and their kids. The dad even said he could use a tutor for them, so I piped up that I could tutor them. I would love to earn some much-needed tuition money for January without having to drive at all!

Monday, September 12, 2011

'Twas a Mostly Lovely Birthday

Houston, we have a problem. I need my eyes checked. If I can't tell the picture is blurry until I upload it??? It's a sign of age, I guess. And aging is what I've been doing a lot of lately.

My kids made my actual birthday lovely. My kids and their significant others, shall we say. Now that my future daughter-in-law has snuggled deep into our hearts, she has inherited the "woman's job" of picking out presents for "both of them" Lucky Ben. :) Dee chose a lovely purse for me. Have I ever mentioned my love of accessories, namely bling and bags? And shoes.
This bag was well-timed; my old one is about to break at the handle, which I'm sure has more to do with the 22 pounds of crap inside it than any manufacturing defect. It was perfect a year ago when Barb gave it to me. The chiropractor always tells me my right shoulder hangs lower than my left; he said a woman's average purse weight is five pounds. "All you really need is a wallet, keys, and phone, right?" To which I've said, "You've clearly never been a woman." And besides, if we downsize our purses, we might put him out of business.

Dee also asked what kind of cake I wanted and she'd make it. I said it sounds silly, but I wanted cupcakes made from plain yellow boxed mix and canned chocolate frosting. I had even bought the stuff the night before, hoping someone would ask. Thanks, Dee! She and Joel made about 20 cupcakes and I ended up having at least five myself. But that's okay. It's my party and I'll gorge if I want to, gorge if I want to. (Too bad gorging doesn't lead to being gorgeous.)

Anyway, the other lovely gifts: a string hung on the wall with about 15 penants hanging from it that read "Happy Birthday, " a bouquet from Steve, a bouquet from Sarah, a bag of lotion and spray and a sign from Ambrey that reads: Laundry Room: Not Responsible for Lost Socks." I told her I'd love a second sign: "But I'll Take Credit for Matched Ones, Thank You." Not that I make that happen more often than a US president gets elected.

Sarah touched my heart with her card (accompanied by a gift card for a manicure. LOVE that!)
It really feels good when your student-teacher-daughter thanks you for all the years of homeschooling and that she plans to recycle some of your teaching methods. And she thanks you specifically for many "little things" that make her life easier in college: switching her laundry over, making dinner, proofreading her papers. That was really sweet. So much nicer than "Thanks for everything you do." I'd rather be told three things I do specifically that they appreciate than hear "thanks for everything"-- because it takes love and effort to do those things and love and effort to write down some of them in a thank-you card.

My hubby is not the gift-thinker-upper-finder-wrapper kind of guy. But he IS generous. After all these years, he at least knows to ask me ahead of time, "What do you want for your birthday?" and I answer, "A massage. A professional massage." And that's what I go out and get for myself when I am all in knots like I was last week. So tight the therapist suggested (more than half-way through) "just an upper-body massage" because "we're running out of time." I felt a new knot in my stomach and wanted to say, "What? How much time do we have? Oh, please do my legs and feet, too!" But like an idiot I said, "Okay." What was I thinking? I was paying for this but letting the therapist dictate what to do? Just when I think I'm all grown up and capable of calling the shots, I let myself get disappointed.

I got many well-wishes on Facebook and some nice cards. I got a GREAT scrapbook from Barb that she made. That meant so much to me that someone would put that much effort into expressing love. When someone says, "You're worth it," by spending a lot of time and energy and thought to make you feel loved, you usually feel loved.

Then certain people forget your birthday who ought to remember it. That hurts.

I know I'm hard to please. I know I have great expectations that are easily dashed. Over the past few years, I've gotten better about it, I think. Maybe not. When will my birthday stop being a big deal to me? When it stops, does that mean I've finally grown up and matured in a fine adult?

Friday, September 09, 2011

Crushing Sadness

I wish I could talk about it, but I can't. Let's just say I'm grieving but no one has died. I'm grieving the loss of something I wish I had , a few somethings actually. All I feel is a crushing sadness, like a slab of cement sitting on my chest. Will it ever lift? Will I rise again? Will I experience what some other people take for granted, in a good way? How long, O Lord? How long? Can I please get a picture of my life without this pain? This grief? I can't remember the last time I felt really happy, really light, really free.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hodgepodge ABC: Advice, Blog, Combustion

Well, I meant to go back and edit this before publishing, but I hit "schedule" for 4-something-a.m. so that early birds on the East Coast could read it at 7-something. But I went to bed at 10-something with my last thought being, "Oh, well. I'm too tired to get back on and fix it. Probably haven't forgotten anything too important for it. Hope it makes sense and doesn't offend or embarrass me."

Sure enough, I left off the title and my link to Joyce. Sorry, Joyce! The good hostess didn't rag her guest for the oversight.

Here's a batch of questions this week. I'm not feeling too wordy ,if you can believe that. Nor creative. Oh, well, it's a rainy Wednesday and I'm allowed a quiet day, right. Some would even welcome that from me.

1. What is one piece of advice you would give a 'just turning' 21- year old adult?

Tear up all those credit card solicitations. Don't even open them. Okay, just one...the one with the lowest rate and best other terms. Pay it off completely the first month. If there's ever a month you don't pay it back, put the card in a bucket of water and stick it in the freezer. Do not thaw it until you've paid off the bill in full. You don't have to have everything your parents have right now.

2. Besides cooler weather (or warmer weather, depending on your hemisphere) what is one thing you are looking forward to this fall?

I'm looking forward to getting to know all the kids in my son's new school where I get to teach art one hour a week. And, here goes two things, I'm looking forward to finding out what it feels like to have an empty nest six hours a day, five days a week. A couple months ago, I would not have used the words "looking forward" and "empty nest" in the same sentence, and I realize it's still not an empty-empty nest, but it's never been just me at home all day since mid-March of 1988.

3. What sound lulls you to sleep?

Rain. It's been a sleepy few weeks here on the east coast.

4. September is National Preparedness Month...does your family have an emergency 'kit' and/or disaster plan in place?

After Irene, we are better prepared than before, at least mentally. But no, we don't have an official emergency "kit" or D-plan in place.

5. How has your blog changed since you started blogging? Or has it?

I think it has changed. To name a few things: 1) I try to keep it more upbeat rather than share negative feelings too often. I have negative feelings often, but I don't think it's wise to divulge them publicly very often. I hope I do it often enough that I'm not perceived as Pollyanna, because I am definitely not a cockeyed optimist. When other bloggers keep it neutral or upbeat all the time, I don't feel like I can relate, so their blogs are one-dimensional. I like an occasionally rant or "this is how it really is" post. 2) I started out with readers mostly from my church and it felt like a tight-knit "family" . The family is bigger now, which is fine, but I feel like I've lost that sense of "up-close" community with people in my real life. 3) I get more comments from people I don't know in real life than people I do. 4) I try not to "preach" on my blog anymore. There was a time I thought every post should be "spiritual" with a specific "audience" in mind. If I feel like writing something "spiritual," I do, but I also talk about plenty of trivia and mundane things.

6. What's something you've recently learned to do on the computer?

Nothing. But can I brag that I taught myself how to set the alarm on my cell phone? Yay me. I have it set for an hour ahead of my massage appointment (my birthday treat!!!). But, if it fails, or if I fail to hear it, you can bet that my neck, shoulders, and back will remind me.

7. Is a picture worth a thousand words? Elaborate.

I'm going to do a separate post with pictures and post if I figure out how to get a picture off my camera phone. If I do, I will have just answered #6 affirmatively. I hope to keep it to under a thousand words, but I make no promises. After all, I can put the "labor" in "elaborate" like nobody's business.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

My sister in Texas is getting nervous about the fires. They are coming closer, and now they are close to Victoria where my cousin and his family live. It's two hours from where my sister lives. Everything is so hot and dry there that things are spontaneously combusting. Please pray for Texas!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Seven Snippets

Just a few odds 'n ends to blog about today.

1. I borrowed this cartoon from another blog. It made me honk like a goose.

2. Not sure why Blogger isn't making this picture "large" when I ask, but you can upsize it several times by hitting "Control +++". Joel drew it two days ago. Reilly was holding a tennis ball in his mouth while he posed. He inherited artistic talent from his dad and his dad's mom, whose birthday it would have been the very day Joel drew it. She would have been so pleased to see this drawing. It would have been a birthday gift to her, I'm sure.

3. Still looking for a job. My hubby semi-chuckles at my criteria: 1) something creative 2)working with people I like 3) no math involved 4) not standing on a hard floor more than an hour 5) not more than 2 days a week 6) no weekends 7) no dress code or uniform 8) between 10 a.m. and 2 pm 9) benefits 10) within 10 miles of home 11) something I like.
He said, "It's a job, Zo. You don't have to like it." Really? I guess I don't really want a job-job, more like pay-me-to-have-fun.

4. I placed the art class order last night. Getting paid by the hour to do THAT would be fun! It took 4 hours to decide on 12 items. Isn't it always harder to work with a skeleton budget?

5. My daughter finished her first week of student teaching today. It started two days late because Hurricane Irene took out power to many schools in the area.

6. Will I able to start and finish some curtains I'm making for the basement by September 4th? Ben is having a Fantasy Football Draft Party here that night. The curtains will be a nod to the Ravens. Can you guess the four colors I plan to use?

7. My daughter has lost 18 pounds in 5 weeks. It took me 5 MONTHS to do that on Weight Watchers. I want to blame it on being twice her age. But really it's the ice cream instead of spinach smoothies. So proud of her. When she puts her mind to something, ain't no stopping her.