Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Joys of Parenting

Certain things are guaranteed to elicit a delightfully embarrassed response from 13-year-old boys. For instance, when George and I kiss and hug, Nick will ask us to stop, which of course makes us kiss and hug more.

He never noticed these lovey acts before. Now, they mean something. And no one wants to think of his or her parents engaging in...something.

Can I just say that embarrassing my son is deeply satisfying? Delightfully satisfying. In a payback, vengeful sort of way. After all, this is the child who gave me stretch marks and took away my intelligence and muscle tone in one, eight-hour labor. A labor that left me scared every time I sneeze, people!

I feel entitled to embarrass him all I want.

So when I said the word tampon in his presence, he said, "Ewwww." And the fun began. At one point, he said, "At least you're not saying the V-word."

And I proceeded to repeat vagina about ten times right at him. Then I threw out some more delightfully anatomical words. "Fallopian tubes, cervix, uuuuuterus!"

That's when George yelled out, "Testicles!"

Nick yelled, "Nooooooo!"

And George and I knew we had won. Oh, yes. We tasted the sweet nectar of victory.

I can't wait for Nick to bring a girlfriend home so I can show her the pictures of Nick wearing a princess dress when he was six. I imagine that will taste of ambrosia and honey. A feast of parental joy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gratitude Journal #177

Today, I am grateful for finishing next week's Exodus devotional--Week 3--ahead of schedule. It's not a race, really, but someone actually requested Week 4 before next Monday so she could take it on vacation with her. I might actually get that far ahead this week! I'm just so grateful some people are enjoying it.

Today, I am grateful for awesome teachers, IEP meetings, and kids who amaze me.

Today, I am grateful for lunch with a friend and bubbling laughter on a rainy, cold day!

Today,  I am grateful for space heaters.

Today, I am grateful for a chance to be with a friend who mourns.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Be Prepared...or Not

I've been doing a lot of thinking about God lately, what with writing a Lenten devotional and all. The devotional's purpose is to help people read their Bible from a personal perspective, because stories of events three thousand years ago really are relevant to our lives today, even if that can be hard to see sometimes.

God works in mysterious ways. He uses a whiny old man named Moses--who, incidentally murdered man in his youth and ran away from the law--to convince Pharaoh to let his people go.

So why not use me, a student in a Bible study who DID NOT READ HER WHOLE ASSIGNMENT but has never committed murder or any other felony, to teach a Bible study class.

Yes. Why not?

These things happen. Another student in the class received a phone call right as class began, requiring the pastor and the student to leave abruptly. I followed them out to the hall because the other student is a friend, I am a Stephen Minister, and it seemed the right thing to do. The news was not good, and the pastor turned to me and said, "I'm going with her. Will you please take the class? The handouts are with my stuff on the table."

I don't say no to the pastor. She's just one of those people you don't say no to. That's like saying no to God, don't you think? Only it's easier to say no to God because He doesn't have kind eyes that beseech you.

Or maybe He does have kind eyes. I don't know. But Pastor does, so I always say yes to her.  

Oh, funny digression. I was sitting through a fascinating class on biblical names. God has this odd habit of changing people's names. Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah, Saul becomes Paul, Simon becomes Peter. We were discussing what would happen if God changed our names. The study leader said she'd argue with God. "Really? You want to change my name? Why would you do that? What purpose will that serve? Is it really necessary?" I laughed and said if God appeared to me and gave me a new name, I'd say, "Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!" Another member of the class added, "And then you'd ask, 'How would you like me to spell that?'" Amen, sister.

So I suppose whether or not God shows up with kind eyes, in a burning bush, or speaking out of a whirlwind asking me to do something, I'm likely to do it. Eventually. Like Moses, I hemmed and hawwed about becoming a liturgist for years (speak in church? me?), but I got there eventually.

There was, however, no delaying this particular Bible study class. People were seated and waiting.

I had to say an opening prayer.

Oh, the agony!

Well, of course it wasn't really agony; I'm just drama queening. But leading prayer still feels awkward to me because I haven't practiced enough. I always worry that I'll leave something out or think too far ahead, lose track of where I am, and misspeak.

But you know what? It doesn't matter what I say, not really. What matters is coming to God in worship and love and community, and saying what's in your heart out loud. What matters is being in Christian community and welcoming God into your midst. God doesn't care if you're awkward and unsure or a tiny bit unprepared.

He just cares that you show up with a willing, grateful heart.

I showed up. So did the others in the class. We prayed for our friend who left with the pastor, and for a few others who are hurting, and we prayed for God to be with us as we studied his Word. Between all of us and the pastor's handout, we had a good class, a class in which everyone participated and contributed so much we ran long. I learned a lot. I hope the rest of the class did, too.

But next time our class meets, you can bet your sweet patootie I'll have done all the reading. Every last word of it.

Just in case.

And just in case you're also the praying kind, please lift up my friend Jamie and her family as they mourn the loss of Jamie's mother on Tuesday, and my friend Margery and her family as they mourn the loss of Marg's sister on Wednesday.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gratitude Journal #176

Today, I am grateful to be married to a photographer. George takes the most amazing pictures to document our lives. Recently, he took the following photos that document some of the beautiful, the funny, the sweet, and the amazing things going on in our lives.

Sunsets in God's watercolors

Moments of calm relaxation



The Joint is Snowy

The following photos are from Saturday's Special Olympics bowling tournament. Jack came home about a month ago saying he wanted to bowl. Say what? He'd never been bowling, and he's the last kid in the world to want to go to a loud, crowded place voluntarily. Yet that's exactly what he did, from his very first practice to the tournament on Saturday. So today, I am grateful for Special Olympics, for bowling, for my son, and for the pictures that document a whole morning of triumph!


How totally cool is that?!?!?

And best of all, Jack has introduced us to a fun family activity all four of us can enjoy together.

What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lenten Devotional

If you are interested in doing something a bit more spiritual for Lent, perhaps you might enjoy diving into your Bible for a study of Exodus. If so, please visit my other blog, Transforming Common Days.

Each weekday during Lent, starting Monday, February 18, I will post our study from First United Methodist Church of Springboro on that blog. You are invited to share your thoughts in the comments there.

I would love it if you would join us!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why I Slice Pears before Eating Them, and Other Vulgar Nonsense

Readers of my stamping blog already know about my pear issues. Pears are such a common image for rubber stamping, just as they are in still-life art, and I either giggle or roll my eyes every time I see one. Occasionally, my online stamping friends send me links to pear stamps--or even send actual pear stamps via the United States Postal Service--because they know I will laugh. 

I love these people. They get me.

For those of you scratching your heads in puzzlement, allow me to explain. Pears, in the world of literary symbolism, refer to penises, and that's what I think of when I see pears.

I'm an English major. Phallic symbols abound in our world, and we English majors are quite matter-of-fact in searching for them in literature and, well, anywhere else we can find them. They are just so interesting.

I first became aware of the whole pear = phallus thing when reading Geoffrey Chaucer's "Merchant's Tale" in college. In medieval literature, pears symbolize phalluses (their provocative shape resembles the whole, um, apparatus of twig and berries), but pears also represent the forbidden fruit of the garden of Eden. In modern times, we tend to associate apples with the Fall, but the Bible doesn't actually specify the type of fruit, and back in medieval times, apples were innocent. It was pears you had to look out for.

When George joined the Air Force, I found a whole new source of phallic symbols and indeed a whole rich world of sexual innuendo. Bombs and missiles are obviously phallic, the way they penetrate their targets and explode, but so are airplanes. George refused to accept that in flying in the B-52 bomber, he was, symbolically at least, flying in a giant penis. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, he would say.

But all the aviators who fly the planes subconsciously know. Oh, yes. They know. Their unofficial nicknames for planes give it away. The B-52, officially nicknamed the Stratofortress, is most often referred to as the BUFF, which stands for Big Ugly Fat and I'll leave the last F up to your imagination. Oh, yeah, that doesn't conjure up a connection with phalluses. The B-1 Lancer is called the Bone, ostensibly because B-1 spelled out is bone.

See what I mean? Those cigars are something else entirely.

Now, one thing I've noticed over the years is that we women who are also English majors find the whole phallic symbol thing amusing and somewhat silly. Men who are English majors take the whole subject far more seriously. For instance, on the way back from a Modern Language Association conference, half of the twelve or so people in the van were taking the same poetry class, so we decided to take turns reading our next assignment aloud and discuss the poems on the long ride home. I read Walt Whitman's poem "To a Locomotive in Winter" and completely, utterly lost it halfway through, probably around "now swift, now slack," laughing uncontrollably with the rest of the women in the van.

The men, however, were bemused. Yes, the locomotive is a phallic symbol (Walt was fond of those in general) but really? Laughter?

Well, yes. Laughter. The laughter of teenage girls looking at their very first Playgirl magazine.

Sunday, I read a passage on Heather Armstrong's blog that explains the different responses of men and women on this particular topic, and I want to share her words with you. You will find her entire post HERE, and it's worth clicking to if only for the gorgeous picture from Arches National Park that has quite obvious stone phalluses in the distance.  Women will giggle, and men will think, "Why is that funny?"

But here's what Heather says:

"...[A]s we entered Arches Dane [a friend] said that every time he visits the park with his mom she can’t stop giggling at how many of the rock formations look like penises, and he said it like that behavior was somehow lame and immature, or something. And I was like, listen. We don’t have that body part. We are not sensitized to seeing that shape just dangling there every day. Seeing something that looks like that shooting up out of the ground? You better believe we are going to laugh at that."

Thank you, Heather. I no longer feel lame and immature.

I'm just not sensitized.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gratitude Journal #175

Today, I am grateful for sunshine and blue sky.

Today, I am grateful for plumbers.

Today, I am grateful for a full tank of gas.

Today, I am grateful for my readers, who always come through when I most need them!

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Words, Words, Words of Love

This morning, while driving Jack to school, I heard NPR's StoryCorps piece and wanted to share it here. You will need tissues.




A Life Love

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Laugh 'til You Cry

Today, a friend on Facebook shared a link to an article titled What to Do When Books Make You Cry on Public Transportation. I'll wait while you go read it.

Doh, dee, doh....

Oh, you're back. Wasn't that funny? Can you relate?

Of course, I've never lived anywhere that had good public transportation, so I can't say I've ever bawled on the bus or teared up on a train, but I cried in a cafe once.

It was sooo embarrassing.

You see, I was reading Bridget Jones's Diary in a coffee shop in Rapid City, South Dakota. I'd gone there to escape from my two very small children, who were at daycare for a few hours. I dropped them off for a half day, once every two weeks, just to have a little alone time.

Usually, I spent my free hours at Borders, but that day, I'd decided to try out a cute little coffee shop in the (vain) hope I could feel like I was still a smart, cool, intelligent English graduate student reading and sipping black coffee instead of what I really was...a spit-up stained, over-tired mom with bags under her eyes and a wicked C-section scar who gave up Shakespeare and Milton and Joyce for Bridget Jones's Diary.

Ah,the early years of motherhood, when just getting a shower every day feels like triumph!

Anyway. If you've read Bridget Jones's Diary or seen the movie, you know that it's funny. Really funny. In my sleep-deprived state, however, it took on epic proportions of funny. I started laughing so hard my face screwed up in a grimace and tears began pouring out my eyes. My shoulders shook as if I were gasping pathetically over some tragedy. As if that weren't bad enough, I had a hard time breathing, so I audibly sobbed a few times, and may or may not have blown a snot bubble out my nose.

I was helpless. Utterly, completely helpless.

And yes, there were other people in the coffee shop, witnesses to my tragically uncool loss of self-control. Oh, pity the people. They couldn't help but notice the sad, strange little woman sobbing, alone, at the table in the middle of the cafe. In an effort to signal that I really was fine, I held up the book in front of my face, a shield so they would know that I was just helpless with laughter.

Instead, I'm sure they thought, "What is wrong with her? Why is she crying at Bridget Jones's Diary? How utterly pathetic!"

But hey, it was the closest thing to an abdominal workout I got that whole year of my life, so really, it was worth it.

What is your crying-in-public story? Please share!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gratitude Journal #173

Today, I am grateful for yesterday's opportunity to be liturgist and read the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Today, I am grateful for steak tacos and homemade guacamole. Thanks, George.

Today, I am grateful for last Friday's lunch with friends. What a lovely time!

Today, I am grateful for bookstores that sell coffee, thus combining two of my favorite things.

Today, I am grateful for indoor heating. Wow, it's cold outside!

Today, I am grateful for this picture because it makes me laugh out loud and also think about curiosity and bravery and the faith that there is something worth sniffing out on the other side. Plus, there are some really cool textures and lines going on here.

What are you grateful for today?