Tuesday, October 31

Half a Can of Leftover Orange Hairspray

What on earth shall I do with half a can of leftover orange hairspray? And sparkly two-inch false eyelashes? And what about the glitter blood?

Yup, it's that time of year again. Adam decided to go to work in costume this morning, hoping he can win the contest at his office. They have with some pretty nice prizes. He's Burning the Candle at Both Ends. I wrapped his torso in wax paper and sprayed his hair orange. I used gold and red paint on his face and made a construction paper flame to attach at the bottom of his costume.

The reason we have eyelashes and blood is because while I was looking in the halloween make up section for red or orange face paint, the only package I could find was a make-up kit for "Flame Fatal." The glitter blood did make a nice outline accent.

I've gone back and forth with the whole idea of Halloween. When I was a kid, we grew pumpkins in our garden, so the holiday always started off a week or so early as we walked down the road with a wagon full of pumpkins to give away to our neighbors.

We always carved a pumpkin (or two or three) and set it on the front porch with a candle burning in it's mouth. We roasted pumpkin seeds and, until I felt like I was too mature, I used to go trick-or-treating.

But Halloween didn't seem as ghoulish as it does now. I don't remember anybody in our town decorating their yards in fake spiderwebs or coffins full of dismembered body parts. And this was before giant inflatable characters were sold at Wal-Mart.

I guess I simply miss Halloween being about fun and dressing up and candy. Maybe its just that I've grown up now and I see that fun isn't always just fun. People can take fun and make it rude or evil. Sometimes kids will smash jack-o-lanterns or egg houses. And, though it's not as common, there are cults that consider Halloween a high holy day, commemorating it with real blood and death. And those aren't things I want any part of.

The question is: Can I celebrate the fun of Halloween without aligning myself with the more sinister aspects? Just because others choose to celebrate evil on this day, does that take away my opportunity to celebrate good?

No, I've decided it doesn't. There is nothing inherently evil about dressing up in a costume and eating candy. And, while I may not think trick-or-treating is such a hot idea when I don't know most of our neighbors, we do have the option of attending a costume party or our church's fall festival.

We went to that this past Saturday and really enjoyed ourselves. Maybe we can get more into the games and activities when my little ladybug is older. Plus, she'll understand the costume thing more. And stop trying to chew on her antennae.

Besides, I miss the pumpkin seeds. Fresh roasted pumpkin seeds are so much better than the packaged ones, even the yummy ones they sell at Trader Joe's. And maybe one of these days I'll actually make a pumpkin pie starting with real pumpkin.

Hmmmm...Thanksgiving is coming up...

Sunday, October 29

Complaint and a Blessing

I can't figure out how to get this message to the people who really need to read it, so I'll just tell you, my wonderful readers all about it.

First off, let me offer an apology to any of you publishing with the original Blogger (not the new beta one). I have been visiting you and reading your blogs. You've had a lot of interesting things to say. I've tried to comment. And that brings us to the crux of our little problem here.

I don't seem to be able to leave comments on any blogs still running on the original version of Blogger. I can write the comment, sign in under my username, even preview it with my new little photo, but when I click the button to publish, I get this error message: "We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are unable to process your request at this time. Our engineers have been notified of this problem and will work to resolve it." Well, if the engineers have been notified, they sure aren't solving it any too quickly because this has been going on for several days now! Grrrrrr.

And not all of you have e-mail links on your blogs or profile pages, so I have no way to contact you.

Hmmm...or maybe you're just walking the company line, since the reason I can't seem to get in touch with Google is because they don't have appropriate address links posted either.

On a positive note, Adam let me go to bed really early last night (I think it was about 8:00) so with the time change, I woke up at 5:30 and have had several hours of lovely time all to myself. Ahhhh.

Saturday, October 28

The Value of Mountain Dew

In my growing up years, I learned a very poor lesson about my own value. While my parents didn't set out to specifically teach me this, I learned that I was most valuable when I had something to offer. That is, if I could help out in some way or give something of myself or my own, then I had value, but coming to the table empty handed meant I wasn't worth as much. Although formally I was taught that Christ died for us all because He loves us so much, that lesson never really had the chance to sink into my heart, contrary as it was to my daily experience.

As an adult, I have begun to explore what it means to be under grace (Romans 6:14). When God chose to save me, and the rest of the world, it wasn't because we were pretty. Or talented. Or good. Or in any other way accomplished. And that's the whole point. If we could accomplish the means of grace on our own then why did Christ die?

In Romans 5:8, Paul puts it this way, "But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him (MSG)." I like the way Eugene Peterson has translated that phrase. Christ loves us, He loves me, because He chooses to do so. God thinks I have worth, just because of who I am, when I am unable to do anything for God.

I was sitting in a Bible study one evening in college, when this point was made by my friend Matt. He was drinking a bottle of Mountain Dew at the time. It had occured to him while he was buying the drink that this bottle of Dew was worth the 99¢ he spent on it. If he hadn't thought it was worth the price, he wouldn't have been willing to pay it. In (almost) the same way, God payed for us with the life of His Son, telling us, "You are worth as much to Me as My own Son."

Now that I am a parent, I can look at my daughter and recognize, at least in part, how God must look at me. There is a lot that my daughter is not able to do on her own yet. She cannot dress herself or make her own lunch or even change her own diaper (though a mother can dream). I don't expect her to be able to do all of these things because, developmentally, she is simply not there yet. I don't love her less because I have to stop whatever I may be doing to go change a messy diaper. I may not be excited about it, but I don't blame her for making a mess in her pants. She simply doesn't have the skills to keep from doing so at this point.

So many times, I get down on myself because I've landed face first in the metaphorical dirt. Again. I wonder at God's ability to have patience with me, one more time, making the same mistakes again. Yet, maybe that shouldn't be so surprising to me. God knows, clearly better than I, what I am capable of doing. He is not shocked that I can't keep my pants clean. He does not have the same unreasonable expectations of me that I seem to have of myself. He knows I'm prone to anger. He knows I get easily frustrated when too many demands are placed on me at once. He's okay with that. I am the only one who thinks I need to be perfect right now.

I've said before that I'm not a happy process girl. I like to see results. I've been trained in sociology and research methods. I like quantitative data. But life is mushy. My ducks refuse to stay in their row, and I exhaust myself lining them up over and over and over. Perhaps it's time just to let them roam the barnyard. I am not perfect. Repeat after me, I am not perfect. I am not supposed to be perfect yet. God isn't done with me yet. When I try to be perfect on my own, I'm just interfering with what He's trying to teach me in my imperfection.

May we all recognize our many blessings today.

Friday, October 27

On-line Billpay

I just finished setting up my checking account to pay bills on line. I don't know why I didn't do this before. Well, kinda. I like writing checks. Ever since I was little. My parents used to graciously allow me to write out their checks once in a while, when I'd gotten old enough to do it properly. I also remember getting a couple of boxes of leftover checks when we'd moved and set up a new account. I got to write out all the checks I wanted.

Thinking back, I've always been kind of a "form" nerd. It gives me great pleasure to fill information into little boxes. I actually enjoy doing my taxes. I know. I should probably be shot at sunrise. But doing all the calculations and finding all the places I can take more money off...it's fun!

When I was a kid, my dad brought home a bunch of extra address cards from his office. They were printed on one side with a form for change of address or something. The other side was blank. He figured I'd like the white side to draw or color or keep notes. And I did. But I also filled out a fair number on the address side, too. I even got out my old manual typewriter (and, yes, it was old even then) to type in names and addresses on some of them.

I will miss writing checks. I guess I haven't given it up entirely. There are a few people I don't have appropriate information to enter them in yet. But, still, this is the end of an era for me. I think of my daughter growing up...she'll never be able to see Adam and me sitting at the kitchen table, carefully recording bills due and checks written in a blue fabric-covered three-ring binder. That's what my parents used. They used to sit down together to pay bills. Maybe they didn't every month, but I remember it that way. Adam and I...I don't think we've ever paid bills together! When we talk about budget stuff, it tends to start fights. Like most couples, I suppose, fighting about money, children, and sex (according to the research, those are the top three fights married couples have), while really fighting over something else entirely.

I remember reading somewhere that the very first "check" was just a handwritten note on an envelope that a man took in to the bank to cash. Can you imagine that today? A lot of places you write checks to don't even deposit them as checks anymore, but EFTs (electronic funds transfers). The history of money is really pretty fascinating. First you traded services, then goods, then certain goods (such as precious metals), then coins were made, then bills, then checks, and debit cards, which are really just numbers stored in a database, anyway. So, now maybe I'm more in touch with the database.

At the very least, I figure I'm saving the family almost $5.50 a month in postage. If look at it yearly, that's more than $65.00 a year. And that's enough for an extra date night. Woohoo!

What do you think, my love? Where shall we go?

Thursday, October 26

Thursday Thirteen #3

I'm planning to make chili for dinner. I don't really use a recipe, I just have some basics and then I add to that whatever we may have in the house. So, for my 13 this week, I thought I'd share:

Thirteen ingredients to make a yummy chili

1·Ground beef (I use about a pound)
2·Onions (1 large or 2 small)
3·Bell pepper (I use a green one that I can't eat raw)
4·Dark red kidney beans (I cheat, I used the canned kind)
5·Black beans (if I've thought ahead enough to soak some, 1/3 cup dry)
6·Tomatoes (crushed ones out of a can, a big 28 oz one)
7·Chili powder (I don't measured it, just add enough until it smells right)
8·Salt and pepper (to taste, they don't smell as much)
9·Unsweetened cranberry juice (or you could use wine, about 1/4 cup)
10·Cornbread (great use for stale pieces, one under each serving)
11·Sour cream (a dollop atop each serving)
12·Cheese (sprinkle over the sour cream)
13·Chives (sprinkle on top of the cheese)

Check out other "thirteeners" at ThursdayThirteen.com.

Wednesday, October 25

Crying

I used to play this game with myself. I would try to imagine all the bad things that could happen and what I would do in case they did. Once upon a time, I thought it made me feel better. This was back when I still figured I could control the world. Now, I mostly just pretend like I can.

I read a story tonight, well, I skimmed it and looked at the photos. It was about a little boy who had a heart transplant, but he had a bad reaction to the transplanted heart and after several weeks of unexplainable complications, he died. I started to cry.

I realized as I was crying and asking God why He allows such hard and horrible things to happen to such little people...I'm scared. I want to know I can do everything right and put all my ducks in a row and tape my daughter up in bubble wrap and always keep her safe. But I can't do that. No matter what I do, I can't ensure her health and safety every moment. I don't have the power to control her environment to that extent. Though she'd probably enjoy the bubble wrap for a while, pop-pop-popping with every move.

I've read somewhere that becoming a mother is discovering what it is to live with your heart outside of your body. That's a hard thing to do. Especially when my little heart annoys the heck out of me and all I want to do is yell at her. Or maybe bop her on top of her cute blonde head.

Several months after my mom's death, we were cleaning out her closet and sorting through what to save, what to toss, what to donate. I found a letter from me that she'd kept in her jewelery box. It basically told her that I loved her, because I knew I didn't say it enough. I'd written that letter several months before her death, in the midst of some teenage rebellious act or another. When I found it, I started to cry. I cried because it had meant so much to her that she had saved it in a place she'd see it every day. I cried because, what if I hadn't written out my thoughts to her?

Death rarely comes at opportune times. I learned that lesson the hard way. Still, the lessons of caring for others and showing them how much you love them on an ongoing basis...they often get lost in the shuffle of trying to live my life. So I yell at my daughter. I scream at my husband. I wish I could have more time alone just to do what I want, when I want. And then I get scared that something will happen and I will feel horribly guilty for the rest of my life that I could have said something nice, I could have taken the high road, I could have opened my heart a little bigger...but I chose not to.

I've never read the book What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, but I think about the title a lot. If you were raised as a Christian or even just around them, you probably have heard the song "Amazing Grace" hundreds, if not millions of times. It's so familiar it seems to lose all meaning. But, grace is amazing. God chooses to love me ALL THE TIME. Not just when I'm being good. Not just when I'm loving my family well. Not just when I pass out fliers for Him on the street corners (which is a relief, because I've never done that). When I'm at my worst, yelling at my daughter, screaming at my husband, arguing with God that I could really run the world better, plotting revenge against the driver that cut me off, He looks at me and He loves me.

And that makes me cry, too.

Tuesday, October 24

Clothes Make the Mom

Our neighbors are having a tree taken down in their yard today. If I lean my head forward until it's almost touching the monitor, I can watch the workmen outside my window. They are all decked out in hard hats and safety goggles and workboots that probably have steel reinforced toes.

It's got me thinking. I wouldn't want to deal with wearing so much protective gear just to go to work in the morning. My workday keeps me mostly dressed as I am right now--barefoot in sweatpants and a t-shirt. Maybe this is the reason I've never made it past Fly Lady's Beginner BabyStep #2. I just can't seem to get myself "fully dressed to lace-up shoes" when I'm not going to leave the house.

And maybe this is why moms don't get so much respect in our society. We don't have a fabulous uniform. Little boys want to grow up to be firemen and astronauts, little girls want to be princesses and ballerinas (and yes, some little girls want to be firefighters and some little boys want to be ballet dancers). All of these have great uniforms. Every year about this time there are probably millions of kids dressing up as astronauts and princesses, going to parties or trick-or-treating from house to house.

Can't you just imagine a little girl appearing on your doorstep in sweatpants and a long-sleeved T-shirt (possibly stained here and there), with her hair up in a ponytail, holding out her orange plastic pumpkin? "And what are you this year?" you ask politely. She holds her head up proudly and announces, "I'm a stay-at-home mom."

Yeah, I don't see it happening either.

Now maybe if moms got to wear form-fitting leotards and red wristbands as we fought grime and flew in our invisible jets...oh, wait. The position of Wonder Woman has already been taken. Darn. I've always wanted an invisible jet.

I can't help but think of the maxim, "Clothes make the [wo]man." If motherhood came with a dress code of powersuits and high heels, it seems we'd get a little more respect from the world at large. Or at least Corporate America. Of course, my job would be a whole lot harder, chasing after my toddler in heels! How did June Cleaver do it?

But, really, how much is respect like that worth? When it all comes down, I guess it's not such a difficult choice for me. I pick comfort any day over the respect of people who only grant such respect based on what I'm wearing!

And maybe next year it will be my daughter in the sweatpants and ponytail. Watch out for her.

Monday, October 23

What to Write

I find myself wanting to post today, but not being able to decide what to say. Too many idea running through my head with too few words chasing after them, I suppose.

So, instead of having to write for myself today, I thought I'd steal a fun idea from Jennifer at My True Self, and ask Google what I already wrote.

I searched for "Amy wrote" and I've listed the first five that make sense:

1. Amy wrote all about our meetup and there's a photo too!
Cool. I wonder what the photo looks like.

2. Amy wrote two hilarious essays about her childhood.
See, I wrote twice, I shouldn't be expected to write anything more.

3. Amy wrote and directed the feature film.
Clearly I'm too busy to worry about posting today, but I'll be coming soon to a theater near you. Keep an eye out for me!

4. Amy wrote that you recently spent a week away.
Wherever you were, I hope you had fun.

5. Amy wrote: I also received the same letters.
I got letters? Who wrote to me?

Saturday, October 21

Just Cuz

You all need to read the comment my dear sweet hubby left for me yesterday. Isn't he wonderful!! I read things like that and I start to rethink the whole premise of my Thursday 13 this week.

I hereby offer an alternate 13: Things I love about being married

1·I get to live with my best friend.
2·And sometimes, he cooks (Adam's a great chef).
3·I am learning better how God loves me.
4·I have a date on national holidays.
5·When I get sick, somebody else makes me soup.
6·Uhm... intimate relations.
7·Adam does the laundry.
8·I have an in-home tutorial on dying to self.
9·Regular cuddles on the couch, just the two of us.
10·Or just the three of us.
11·I have somebody to dance with at weddings.
12·Once in a while, I get pampered.
13·I finally feel like I'm a part of my family.

Friday, October 20

Dancing with Abandon

My daughter loves to dance. She'll dance to classical, country, pop, advertising jingles, Silly Songs with Larry™. She's even been known to wiggle her little hips to train whistles. It got me thinking.

At what age to we start feeling self-conscious? What sets us off? Do we one day wake up and see people looking at us in a way we never noticed before? And, why is it so hard to go back?

What is that verse about the wisdom of God appearing foolish to men?

In my previous life, before marriage and kids, I was an event planner for a trade associtation. I traveled around the U.S. setting up and helping to run conferences. As part of these events, we would often have a banquet night with dinner, dancing, and an open bar. While my personal convictions don't prohibit me from an occasional drink, I felt it was inappropriate to be drinking while I was technically working. That attitude kept me in the minority, however, especially as the evenings would progress. So, with some regularity I found myself having the opportunity to dance among a large group of people who were as likely as not to remember it in the morning.

How incredibly freeing that was! I learned to rarely worry about missteps and the near constant fear of making a fool of myself. I loved it! And, amazingly enough, I would often get comments the next morning from people who did, in fact, remember and had been impressed with my "skill."

It makes me wonder...could this be what Jesus meant when He said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3, NIV). Do we as a society spend so much time focusing on how we look, how we might appear to others, that we're missing out on the greatness God has stored up for us? Do we distract ourselves (and, worse yet, others) from the blessings of God by our own fear that we will look a little strange?

What is that verse about the wisdom of God appearing foolish to men? In I Corinthians 1:18 Paul writes, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (NIV)

I love to dance. I love the feel of moving in time with the music, the rhythm bouncing up from my soul and cascading out around me. Maybe it's time I learn a lesson from my daughter and rediscover the joy of dancing with abandon. And, maybe, I should look at some of the other areas of my life where I'm concerned about what other people are thinking of me. Maybe God's tying to pour in some grace there too.

Thursday, October 19

Thursday Thirteen #2

Thirteen things I miss about being single

1·I never woke up to anybody crying.
2·When I stayed up late, nobody gave me grief about it.
3·I didn't have to stock the fridge with food I can't eat.
4·My car was always waiting for me, whenever I wanted to drive it.
5·I could read whole books uninterrupted (before 10:00 at night).
6·Bathroom visits were also uninterrupted.
7·Diaper changes were an optional part of life.
8·I never had to watch Stargate-SG1, Stargate Atlantis, or FarScape.
9·I wasn't expected to remember where anyone but me had left stuff.
10·The "disposable"part was a much higher percentage of my income.
11·I was blissfully ignorant of men's grooming rituals.
12·I could plan my wedding in detail with my imaginary unlimited budget.
13·My extra pillows never stole the covers.

Check out other "thirteeners" at ThursdayThirteen.com.

Wednesday, October 18

"Wordless"

There's a meme I've seen called "Wordless Wednesday" where you just post photos. I thought I'd add my own version by not really posting today--just having this little filler....

I'm taking a computer fast for the rest of the day.

I have begun to recognize that I spend far too much time on line and not enough in my real life. So I'm taking a day off. I'll be back tomorrow for the Thursday 13.

Have a joyous day!

Tuesday, October 17

Parenting Questions

I got an e-mail from a good friend asking for parenting questions she and her husband can discuss as they look toward starting their family. Hmmm....

My daughter is 20 months old. What have I learned in the past 20 months that would have been useful to discuss beforehand?

Conception. How many children will you have? How many months/years do you plan to have between them? Do you want to try for a specific gender? If so, would you be disappointed if a child was not the gender you were hoping for? Do you want to try for a particular time of year to have the baby? If so, would you be disappointed if the child was born another time?

Finances. How will prenatal visits and birth be paid for? Are you willing to choose a health care provider outside of your insurance plan? What health insurance will you have for the baby? Will you purchase life insurance (for yourselves or the child)? Do you have a will? Would a future change in financial circumstances alter your plans for how many children you will have? When you'll plan to have them?

Pregnancy. How will you choose a health care provider? Who will go to prenatal visits? Do you plan to have "all the usual" tests and scans or will you pick and choose what you are willing to do? Will you find out the sex of the baby before birth? If so, will you share that information with friends and family? All of them or just a select few? Do you plan to name the child before birth? If not, what will you call the baby in utero?

Birth. Do you want to have natural childbirth? If so, would you be willing to consider pain meds? Under what circumstances? What about induction? C-section? Pitocin? Do you want to practice a specific method of childbirth? If you don't get the birth experience you were looking for, will a healthy baby be considered a successful outcome of your birth? Are you planning to birth at home or in the hospital? What do you want available to you during labor (e.g., birthing ball, birthing tub, heating pad, food/water)? Who is invited to the birth? Who will catch the baby? Who will cut the cord? Will cord cutting be delayed or immediate? If immediate, will you bank the cord blood (privately or publicly)?

Health. Will your child be vaccinated? If so, will it be immediate or will you delay vax one or more years? Will you decline any standard newborn procedures? If you have a boy, will he be circumcised? Who will your pediatrician be?

Paraphernalia. Do you plan to wear your baby? If so, in what sort of carrier? What is important to you in a carseat? If you plan to use one, what features do you want in a crib? A cradle? A stroller? A play yard? Will you offer your child a pacifier?

Feeding. Will the baby be breastfed or formula fed? If you are planning to breastfeed, what will you do if there are problems (e.g., low milk supply, prescription medication use)? Do you plan to start solid foods at a particular age or are you planning to wait for developmental cues from the baby? Do you have a plan to watch for food allergies while breastfeeding or introducing solids?

Diapers. Will you use cloth or disposable diapers? Would you consider "elimination communication" (a.k.a. diaperless baby)? What sort of diaper pail/trash bin will you use?

Sleep. Where will the baby sleep? If not in your bed, who will get up overnight? Will you rock your child to sleep or practice the Ferber method (or some other version of "crying it out")?

Scheduling. Are you planning to schedule feedings, naps, etc. or will you follow the baby's lead? If you won't be scheduling from the start, would you want to schedule at a later age/stage of development?

Discipline. What is your philosophy of discipline? How do you enforce boundaries? Do you simply tell a child "no" or do you couch no in positive terms? Do you believe in spanking? If so, under what circumstances?

Marital Issues. To what extent will you encourage or limit displays of affection in front of your children? Will you argue with your children present? If so, will you finish the fight/make up in front of them? How familiar are you with each other's moods and behavior when you are exhausted/stressed out/overwhelmed? What is your plan to schedule or continue a regular date night?

Community. Who can you call with questions? In the middle of the night? To help with household chores? When you need a break? What sort of relationship do you want your children to have with your extended family? Your friends? What will they call grandparents? Other adults? Will you schedule regular playdates/playgroup times? Who will be your child's godparents?

Childcare. Who will take care of the baby when you are not there? Will you pay for childcare or arrange swapping with friends/other parents? Will you both be working during the day or will you arrange your schedules to make sure one of you is home? How will you share expectations of routine/philosophy/discipline with other caregivers? What will you do if your expectations are not met?

School. Do you plan to homeschool or will your children attend public or private schools? What will you do to foster your children's faith and religious training?

Unfortunate Circumstances. What would you do in case of miscarriage? Stillbirth? What if your child has a disfiguration or disability? Are you familiar with the symptoms of post-partum depression? Do you have an action plan in case of PPD? Who would take care of the children in case of your untimely demise?

Follow up. At what point will you review your decisions? Which of the above are non-negotiable? How will you deal with family/friends/strangers who disagree with your parenting choices?

Good luck in your discussions! Just as in marriage, much of parenthood is simply on the job training. You can't prepare for all of it. My advice to you is have some firm decisions made, but be aware that your opinions can change as your circumstances do. Keep an open mind to your other options. You have to do what is best for your family.

Oh, and put me on that list for babysitting. We owe you!

Monday, October 16

Thievery

That's what the ESPN commentators called the Bears win over the Arizona Cardinals tonight. They had a point. Chicago was down 0-20 at halftime. They made no offensive touchdowns. They still managed to win the game 24-23. I don't know who was named MVP for the game, but I nominate Brian Urlacher.

I'm a bit of a Bears fan, for anyone who hasn't noticed yet. I lived in Chicago in 1985-86. If you don't follow football, that was the Super Bowl season. The Super Bowl Shuffle. Walter Payton. Jim McMahon. Refrigerator Perry. Mike Ditka. Really, you couldn't get away from it that year.

The next year, and every year since, they haven't been so good. For me, I probably wouldn't have given much notice as the buzz died down and the Bears fell from "miraculous" to merely average. But the year after the Bears won the Super Bowl, my family moved to New York. At times, I felt like I'd been dropped on another planet. I was in junior high, just beginning to strike out on my own (pun totally intended). I wasn't like everyone else, so I did my best to be different on purpose. More so than the year before, I became a Bears fan. It was something I could identify with. I had a group, they all just lived 800 miles away.

So I wore a Bears jersey. Bears earrings. For Spanish class we made piƱatas. Mine was the 'Fridge, wearing his blue jersey #72. The gas station near our house began giving away juice tumblers with a fill up. The first few we got were, of course, the Giants and the Jets. My dad talked to the owner of the station. He got me a whole case of Bears glasses. I still have a couple of them.

I haven't needed my identity as a Bears fan in a while. I've grown and matured and found people who love me for who I am. And I married a man who thinks "football" is played with a round spotted ball. He's not much of an American football fan. We watched a couple of World Cup games though. On Univision. In Spanish. And it was fuzzy. I was not impressed.

Not that I have anything against soccer, as such. I'm just not as familiar with the sport as I am football. And football is easier to find when you don't have cable.

I'm enjoying the opportunity to be a Bears fan again. Not because I need it, but because I want to. And starting the season 6-0 is a pretty good place to be.

Prayer

I'm not sure how prayer works. That's something I probably wouldn't have admitted to a few years ago. I'm a pastor's daughter, after all. I grew up in the Church. Surely I should understand something as simple and integral to the faith as prayer.

But really, I don't get it. I'm not sure how this fits into the whole imagination versus experience means to understanding, since I have certainly experienced prayer, yet still, I don't understand what it is.

If I were a theologian, I would start by citing all the relevant passages in Scripture, quoting extensively from Matthews Commentary or whoever is popular these days, and coming to some conclusion or other about what prayer is, why we are called to pray, what it means that Jesus prayed, and how this all fits into the rest of my life. (Boy, all you English-types must really be cringing by now at that run-on sentence!) But, let's face it. I'm not really that excited by theology. I don't read it for fun. I didn't even go to a Christian college.

Here is what I do know about prayer. It says throughout the Bible that we need to pray. Continually. Boldly. Asking for what we need, that God may grant us the desires of our heart. And it does work. Unfortunately, not always the way I want it to. Prayer isn't some wish list I bring to God as if he were Santa Claus. And, likewise, He doesn't pat me on the head and send me on my way with a candy cane. Prayer changes me. That's the best answer I can come up with. Praying for others makes me more sensitive to them. And, somehow, sometimes it changes the situations, too.

I've been meeting with two other women specifically to pray for one another for three and a half years now. We had a fourth member of our group for part of that time, but she moved out of state and driving three hours to join us once a week became somewhat inconvenient.

These women have become sisters to me in a way I've never really had sisters. The sisters I have in my family are both significantly older than I, and always a few stages ahead of me in life. We stay close through phone calls and e-mails and seeing one another occasionally, but we don't have a relationship where we talk regularly about what has gone well in our week and what has gone poorly. How we have failed and how we have succeeded. What is coming up that scares us, excites us, causes us to wonder. Our prayer group has an ongoing intimacy and vulnerability that is hard to find in this individualistic society.

Thank you. I know I don't say this enough. Thanks to my prayer partners, my sisters who stand with me and love me, even when I'm not being very lovable. Keep praying for me. Unfortunately, I continue to need it.

Or maybe it's more fortuitous than I realize. Maybe that's what keeps us bound together in community, knowing that we truly do need one another. And maybe that's why God wants us to keep praying, even though He already knows what we need.

Sunday, October 15

Weddings and Marriage

Yesterday we attended the wedding of some very good friends. It was beautiful, as weddings tend to be. The joy of finally arriving at this moment was evident in the faces of the bride and groom.

Weddings are tricky things. Everyone is looking and acting their best, families that have been torn apart by divorce and deception strive hard to be civil for the sake of the happy couple. Now, I have heard about weddings that have included drunken brawls, shouting matches, and even gunplay, but none of those has been a part of my own experience. Overall, I have seen everyone try to make nice and not cause a fuss in order to keep the highlight of the day the bride and groom just beginning their lives together.

It takes a lot of hard work to put a wedding together. My groom and I had a very simple wedding, but it was still a wedding. Weddings require hundreds, even thousands, of minor details to be considered, disagreed about, and resolved into a plan of action which then must be accomplished. And most details are minor. Even what many would consider the major ones, such as The Dress, the reception hall, and the bridesmaids, are truly minor in the light of having already chosen to spend your life with someone else.

The single most time consuming aspect of our own wedding was revising the wedding liturgy. At the time, I had an urgent need to make this wedding truly ours, and not be just like everyone else. My now-husband and I spent long hours over several days piecing together bits of liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer: the 1979 edition, the 1928 edition, and even a couple of editions from the 17th century I'd found on the internet. We also added our own vows and ring ceremony, as well as the declaration of intent (the "I do" part). It seemed right to us that the focus of our attention be on what we were really agreeing to do in this new thing called marriage. If we'd spent all of our time worrying about the style of the bridesmaids' dresses or what color petals the flowergirls would be dropping on the floor, how would we have known what to do once the wedding was over and the marriage began?

Now, those of you who are already married, may be laughing in anticipation of what I'll be saying next. Here it is: marriage really isn't a union you can prepare for. It's all about on-the-job training. In my opinion, that's the whole point of making the commitment up front. You don't know what you're getting into, whether it's the morning after or ten years down the road. People change and they stay the same. Often, it seems the things we want to change stay the same and the things we wish would stay the same change. But therein lies the beauty of the commitment. It says, "I don't yet know all of who you are or who you will become. I choose to love you for who you are now, all of you that I know and even the bits of you I may not be aware of yet, and I choose to continue loving you even when you may not be the same person you are today."

What good is love if it is not stronger than all the waiverings of human emotion?

And now, I have a confession to make. This has been a difficult morning for me, trying to review the wedding we attended yesterday and remember our own day, because one month ago today, my father and stepmother announced their separation. This morning, I got an e-mail from my stepmom. I honestly wasn't sure I wanted to read it at first. A part of me is very angry at them for not loving one another better. It scares me as I look toward my future, for I have been known to be selfish and demanding. Just ask my husband! I wonder in fear if that will eventually wear down the love we have for each other.

I guess my motto for marriage is something along the lines of "Never give up." Never give up hope. Never give up trying. Never give up pursuing one another's best interest. Never give up praying with one another and for one another.

Never forget what you promised each other that day in church.

I will be your lover, your best friend, the mother of your children, your comrade in adventure, your comfort in illness, your companion in sorrow and joy. I vow to be your wife, to the full extent of myself, and, by the grace of God, remain faithful to you, until death us do part.

Life is hard sometimes. Marriage can be really hard. But I believe in a big God. One Who is bigger than all of my problems and fears. One Who is big enough I can yell at Him and He's not offended. One Who loves me, just for who I am and not anything I've done or not done for Him. I wish I could love my husband like that all the time. Since I can't, I have to trust that God can make up for the deficiencies we have in our love for each other. I hope I can learn better to accept His love in those times when it's my husband who is being selfish and cranky.

In the end, love is a choice. We choose to love each other for better or worse every day. That is the commitment we've made. It's not that I have once chosen to love you, but that I have decided I will continually make the choice to love you. And, I trust that you will continue to choose to love me, selfishness notwithstanding, because you have committed to do so.

Friday, October 13

Unfinished Business

Being all excited about starting this blog, I e-mailed the URL to my husband and waited (im)patiently for his comments. He thought it was good, but the first entry sounded unfinished. That got me to thinking about how blogs work. In my mind, they're pretty well always unfinished by their very nature.

I should probably note, here, I'm not a happy-process girl. I know women are supposed to be more process oriented, while men focus more on the bottom line, but that just isn't me. I always hated it in math class when we had to show our work. My thought was, if I could get the right answer without having to go through all the steps we were taught, why did I have to write them down.

Unfortunately, I'm beginning to realize that God is like my math teachers. While the ultimate answer in our lives is important, it's just as important how we've gotten there. Sigh. I can't seem to get away from this process business. And I'm a parent--can't get much more process than that!

So, my love, in answer to your concern about the first post cutting out in the middle:

This isn't even the middle yet. I'm still just at the beginning and looking to see what's out there.

(I love you!)

Thursday, October 12

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I've done this week (annotated)


1·I made pasta with Blackberry Sage tea.
It was yummy!! I also added basil, oregano, and chicken bouillon to the water.

2·I washed oatmeal out of my daughter's hair.
The peanut butter last week came out more easily.

3·I programmed the total registration cost to calculate automatically.
It's only cool if you're somebody who plays with javascript, but check it out.

4·I watched While You Were Sleeping on video.
Again. And again. And again.

5·I started a blog.
No further comment necessary. (But you notice how I added one anyway?)

6·I saw the first snow of the season.
This morning. It was really cool, but then it all melted by about noon.

7·I took the air conditioner out of the window.
Because my daughter kept pulling the diaper out from underneath it. She's almost 2. That's enough explanation, isn't it?

8·I e-mailed an old friend from college.
Who I found because he had a blog!

9·I went to a musical version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
It was a kids' production and very well done.

10·I met a new puppy.
My friend's neighbors were in their yard with him. We got to go nose to nose, and he licked my daughter's hand.

11·I made up another verse to "Baa Baa Black Sheep".
Pah pah pink sheep have you any wool, no sir no sir no bags full, none for the master, none for the dame, I was just sheared by the boy down the lane...

12·I saw the Bears win their 5th in a row.
5-0! Woo-hoo.

13·I wrote down 13 things I did this week!
Okay, so this one is kind of a cop out, but it's getting late and I'm tired. Besides, Frasier's on.

Check out other "thirteeners" at ThursdayThirteen.com.

Wednesday, October 11

Welcome!

Thank you for taking the time to come by and see what this is all about. I have been toying with the idea of blogging for a few weeks now. I even almost signed up last week, but I couldn't decide what to call my blog. The name came to me last night, in a moment of inspiration amidst a fight with my husband.

It turns out, we look at the world differently (and it's taken only 2½ years of marriage to figure that one out). He listens to people and tries to understand what they've been through by imagining himself in their shoes. I listen and try to understand by finding common themes in my own experiences.

I'd like to think I have a pretty good imagination. The problem is, just because I can imagine something, doesn't mean I understand it. Like...take divorce, for instance. I have a number of friends who have been divorced. And, I can imagine what it would be like to sit in a stuffy conference room with my lawyer on one side and my husband's lawyer on the other, listening to them argue about our (meager) possessions and how we agree to custody arrangements. I can even imagine being so angry at him that I would want to hurt him by taking away what he holds dear (heck, we've been married 2½ years--I've had my moments). But that doesn't make me feel as though I have understood what it is like to actually be in that room, dividing up the remnants of a life together.

The things I understand are the things that have happened to me. If I can relate your experience to my own, it makes sense in my head. If you tell me your father died when you were 12, I can say, "I think I understand." My father did not die when I was 12. In fact, he's alive and well now. But when I was 16, my mother died. I know what it's like to be in that place of just tasting independence and beginning to rebel, when suddenly you no longer have someone to fight with. That's what I know. That's what I understand.