Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Camping On Faith

It has been almost six months since our version of reality was shaken with Mike's health scare. We have made adjustments to our lives and for a while he made adjustments to his everyday work. Yet just as he had to climb that first roof trusting that His Will Be Done, so we will embark on our first camping trip - driving on just as much faith.

Our driving regimen has to look a bit like this: Mike's seat stretched out as far back as possible while still being drivable. Our vehicle must stop and pull over every 90 minutes. When the vehicle stops Mike must walk for about 30 minutes.

It may not be a march through the dessert or a journey 'round Jericho, but for this family there will be an awful lot faith being exercised in the cab of our truck this weekend.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Part Deux....or the place where the blogger writes without her edit button

So first off I can't seem to get the paragraphs to show up so if the whole entry looks like one big run-on paragraph it is not my intent - though it may represent quite well the way my brain often works.
As promised, my non-hearsay comments on a recent read. Namely, the soaringly popular (for various reasons) The Shack. I grabbed the book on one of my Barnes & Nobel Mondays. It was paperback, on sale, and with the ever-present Member Card it was far cheaper than the late fees I seem to end up with at the local library. I knew it was "hot" the way Velvet Elvis was "hot" but I was intrigued by something a pastor dared call the next Pilgrim's Progress right on the cover. That's pretty nervy to this Calvinist. The next Pilgrim's Progress had better be pretty darn good, right?

I read a lot. I always have a pile of books in my room. The pile usually includes a true classic, something non-fiction, and something that is current. This does not include the daily dose of Biblical readings and assorted school books. And when I read, I ingest rapidly IF the book is the kind that sucks me in. I read the shack in about a day. The parts that are not causing a stir - the essential plot line leading up the center of the book - are fast reads just because they (gulp) are not good. As Mike said - the writer seems to shout "HEY! Foreshadowing here!" in many areas. The, albeit necessary, story that leads the central subject to the titular shack is drab, boring, to be expected. The fact of the matter is, however, I'm not sure many people are reading the book for this portion.

So first opinion - about half of this book is poorly written.

Next, the motivation behind this book - and I'm going on this limb after reading the author's bio and visiting his website - was to help the readers find God in the midst of mess. The author states on his website that he wrote this as a story for his children. He wanted them to have some easy way to comprehend the Trinity and in so doing, to find the Lord even in the most dreadful of situations. He later states that the mass publishing of the book was an unintended consequence of assorted individuals reading something he wrote for family.

Anyway, all this I write with the purpose of stating: I understood his motivation. What he writes in the integral center of the book does seem to follow with what he states his purpose to be. The book sets up a horrible situation - the kind where many people (including Christians) says "where is God?" He is trying to answer that age old question "Why does God cause/allow pain?" It's certainly not a new topic. The topic itself is not what is causing the controversy and the low rumblings of 'heresy' in much of the Christian community. The heresy? Go back to my first line...I used "understood". Not "understand". For while the set up is all there - and the need to see providence in all occurrences is necessary - what the author finally does is not Biblical. It is not the providence of Scripture, but for those looking to become good Hindus(!) it's right on target.....
SPOILER ALERT - here on in I'm loose and free with details - if you want to read the book first - well don't read anymore....
The shack in question is a literal shack to our character. In fact, it represents the site of the terrible incident that caused him to question God. It is in this shack that he encounters God. Not in the prayerful sense, but quite literally. And here it is - God the Father? A woman. A big, black, jovial woman who loves to cook and keep house. Jesus is present - looking like a carpenter with overalls and a Hebrew-like appearance. Finally, the Spirit? Asian, wispy looking woman. Ethereal in nature, hardest to comprehend.

Now I back track. Heresy #1: God as woman. Our author's response? The character has 'daddy issues'. Our character was beaten by a drunken father throughout his childhood and, therefore, has always struggled with understanding the love of a father - even the Father - and so God determines to appear instead as a woman, named "Papa". Still with me?

Now examine this more closely by looking at two of the names the author uses.

God the Father - "Papa" - has a name: Elousia. Elousia is Greek - it is often used to refer to the Black Madonna. Our author separates this name into "El" for Creator God and "Ousia" being or truly real. Such themes are to be found in goddess worship. In fact, this very theme runs through another popular book which I also digested (but hated) The Secret Life of Bees.

God the Spirit - "Sarayu" - an ancient river in India. Part of the worship of the goddess Kali in India. In Hindu/Indian lore Christ made a trip to India and became the husband of Kali. This can be confirmed by even a superficial study of Hinduism. This marriage is confirmed in a passage directly from the book (for I couldn't paraphrase this if I wanted to). This is the Father speaking of the Spirit (or Elousia of Sarayu):

"...you do understand, she continued, unless I had an object to love -- or more accurately, a someone to love -- if I did not have such a relationship within myself, that I would not be capable of love at all? You would have a god you could not love" (103)

Within all of this is Jesus....
Heresy #2: Jesus as FULLY human when incarnate. FULLY - i.e. the author states that while on the earth Jesus never called upon His Deity. His miracles were completely human in nature. It's just that he was, how would the New Agers say it?, more fully actualized. He was a perfect human and, if we could all tap into this, we too could walk on water (as, incidentally, the main character does).

Yet beyond New Age we have, again, the Hindu tradition. This tradition keeps Jesus in check by allowing for Him making mistakes. Our author even has him dropping a bowl and making a mess in the shack.

Heresy #3: This one only needs a direct book quote: "I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose punish it; its my joy to cure it." (120)

The unfortunate part here? Those not well read - or more importantly, those not sitting under the Word on a regular basis. Those not being fed from a pulpit? Well - they'll hear this and wholeheartedly agree. "Hey - that's right, I'm feeling pretty punished when I get caught (insert sin)." They will completely look over the fact that calling on the Lord is not there. That belief in Jesus is not stated as a requisite. This is deceptive.....at best.

I'm not going to go on....there is much that can be read about this online, in publications, heard from others who (hopefully) have read the book for themselves. And why read it? I believe in a word: preparedness. You may be called upon to debate this very book. The moment you answer the question "Did you read it?" with "No, but...." you have just lost your credibility. I think this book is the tip of an iceberg and I think a Christian needs to read this to be prepared for even worse pop-culture pseudo-religious literature to come.

And as a complete side note - to all of you Christian music lovers? You know who gave this one a resounding thumbs up - said it changed his faith? Michael W. Smith. There are issues brewing out there people - you better know what you believe AND parents you better make sure your children know what they believe. And why it is never to be compromised - even when packaged in a slick book with 'happy feeling' ideas and the praise of people you thought shared your faith.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

As Promised.....

heresy: (n) adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma. Dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, practice.
hearsay: (n) rumor
It seems that it is very easy to turn hearsay into heresy. We like to talk. Many of us leaning to the right actually enjoy a good fight. If not a fight, we unfortunately take some sick pleasure in having the hairs on the back of our neck bristle. A bit of physical penance? Perhaps. Laziness? Quite often.
Today I'm applying this to books. One in particular, but with a preface.
When my eldest son attended traditional Christian school the fight began over the Harry Pottery books by JK Rowling. Arguments abounded on both sides as to why or why not these books should be present in our school's library. The left leaning folks will sight the fear of book burning (though they won't actually use that term). They also sight personal liberty - the liberty of parents to choose what their children will read. The right leaning folks will sight a general fear of the occult, concerns over a character's moral fiber, and what the presence of such a thing indicates.
I have absolutely no problem with either side of this argument. That's right - no problem with either side. I DO have a BIG problem with either side arguing their position without actually reading the book(s) in question. Books are not like porn. I don't need to view porn to know it is inherently opposed to my moral sensibilities. I know it is in complete and utter disparity with my faith. Books are different. They are masses of words not easily digested. They require some time, a bit of work, they require first hand knowledge. In the case of Ms. Rowling and Mr. Potter, too many parents on both sides had never actually read the books. Too many sighted faulty logic for both sides. Too many left sided parents used liberty in a laughable context, too many right sided parents were not about to toss out MacBeth - a classic wrought with the occult.
A long introduction to indicate heresy vs. hearsay. When it comes to a book it is HEARSAY until you read it. Then you may begin to discuss HERESY. No matter how many articles are read, not matter how many other people you respect read a book - hearsay before heresy until you do the "leg work".
The post is dragging on now...it will have a part II to follow....that part will be on my thoughts on The Shack.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

my girlfriend

When baby number three arrived he was to be named Douglas Robert. My certainty in this was such that when the ultrasound tech pointed out the 'girl parts' I guffawed. So certain was I.

I have learned in life never to be terribly certain of much beyond my God.

Madeline Paula looks nothing like a Douglas Robert.

Yet she loves her Daddy (as she should). She has been his daughter from day one. The instant he walked through the door from work she would whine until he took her in his arms. She whined terribly unless he was present. Even as she has grown and matured (i.e. the whining has stopped), having two older brothers has inevitably rendered her a tom-boy. Or perhaps more of a Laura Ingalls-esque 1800s farm girl. Either way, she has always been the one to embrace being dirty, playing sports, and wearing jeans.

This particular weekend represents the official beginning of autumn. Not because the calendar says so, but because the Cadets say so. It is camping time - sleeping in a tent, eating food from an open fire, and doing things with pocket knives that no woman fully understands. This weekend means, as well, that my daughter is 'stuck' with mom. There is no bending of rules where Cadets is concerned - NO GIRLS ALLOWED.

Yet in recent months, imagine my joy at finding a new girlfriend. She is funny, has a well-controlled but healthy interest in clothes, she ponders the reasons behind high heels, has determined to be a "cooker" or perhaps "hair person" in her adulthood, and suddenly never wants to leave.......ME! My girlfriend is my daughter. She has reached that point in her girlhood where what mom does is interesting - worth emulating (in her eyes - certainly not in mine). She longs for a Grandma who is here, new pink purses, and friends who want to play Polly Pocket.

To be sure, this new girlfriend of mine will never turn down a competitive game of basketball. She will always embrace camping and brothers. But the Lord has seen fit to give me a girlfriend who also happens to be my daughter. For that I am eternally grateful.

We will now commence to start cooker-ing....for that's what we girlfriends do when our men-folk are off living in the wilderness.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Here's What You Need To Read

The Shack.
Find it. Splurge and buy it. Borrow a copy.

A post will follow later....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

At 21....

In 1975 Janis Ian had a song which resonated with young girls in this country. It began with a stark commentary on what it is to be a teenage girl:

I learned the truth at 17...that love was meant for beauty queens and high school girls with clear skinned smiles who married young and then retired...

1975 translated well in the 1980s and I can venture to guess that it somehow holds true in 2008. Though cliche', it generally holds true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. As I'm surrounded by young people on the cusp of 'legality' - turning 21 - I've done too much thinking lately about what I wish I had known then.

1) Life is finite. It seems that no matter how Christian the upbringing, mortality was fairly far from my mind at 21. I wish I had made decisions at 21 based upon the fact that there may not be a 22.

2) Here's a news flash.....you are now legal to drink alcohol. For the rest of your life. There is no necessity in spending 21 in a drunken stupor. Furthermore, those people you know (even now as an adult) who LOVE to talk about their wonderful experiences with alcohol and wine generally need lives....alcohol should be treated as fine food - savored - not as some giddy way to spend an evening.

3) People will now remember you. In your teens you were still changing. Even your appearance changed from teen years to twenties. Now you may gain more weight, lose some hair, dye your hair, but for the most part whatever you do will stick with you. Do something stupid now and in ten years you'll be known as "....hey, are you that girl who did that stupid thing that one night with that one guy...."

4) Arrogance is no longer chalked up to adolescent chutzpah. Now it's just arrogance. You are now on the bottom rung of adulthood. Your job? Someone else has a better one. Your extra-curricular achievements? Someone has already achieved it. Your boyfriend? Someone has a better looking (and more committed) husband. Your social life? There's nothing new under the sun - we've all done what you're doing. Pride goes before a fall. The falls are a lot more messy now. The recovery period is often a lot longer.

5) Your parents have aged right along with you. While their days were determined before their birth, just as yours were, there is a greater chance that they will die before you will. You have a chance now to have the joy of an adult relationship with your parents. You can learn things from them you never learned as a child. Don't waste your time where they are concerned.

6) Age doesn't matter (much) anymore. It's time to branch out from your age-centric social circles. Some of your best friends could be older than you. Friendship now is deeper than history. It is shared experience, learning from someone who has 'been there, done that', it transcends age.

7) God is your constant. All the above matters. But all the above simply leads to the fact that your one constant at 17 and at 21 and going forward is God. Period.

This is what I wish I knew - and embraced - at 21.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Storing up treasures in pockets...

When I was 7 years old we took our first trip to Florida. I don't remember much of it - must to my father's dismay - I don't remember the first plane ride or the hotel. I do remember the idea of there being a Magic Kingdom somewhere in the area and in this Kingdom, if I had the right tickets, I had unlimited access to Mickey Mouse and all his friends.

The morning of my first glimpse at this magical land began with breakfast at the Howard Johnson's restaurant. Ancient person that I am, Howard Johnson was a more than passable place to lay one's head and the restaurant was quite good. To my utter happiness, it even had a counter. Sitting at a counter to eat, you see, was about as exciting as riding my banana seat bike to the library.

I don't remember breakfast. I probably asked my mom to see if she could cajole someone into making me a cheeseburger. Eggs were not edible in my young gastronomical experience. I have no idea if a cheeseburger came my way and I really don't remember much of the first trip to the Magic Kingdom. Here's what I do vividly recall:

I had white pants with a plaid shirt. I loved those pants because they were full of pockets. Just above the 1970s style flared legs were pockets in the knee.

I remember the chairs that spun half way. They had backs and were padded nicely. I was tall enough to almost reach the floor but my arm's reach was not deep enough to get at everything on the counter.

I recall the odd interest I had in the packages of jelly. Perhaps Smucker's - I'm not sure the brand mattered. I guess I didn't get out much, because these packages of jelly were really special in my mind. They represented part of the magic in this kingdom. Only in Orlando, Florida did they have jelly this special in these kind of packets.

I don't believe I even ate jelly that morning. Perhaps because it was special, perhaps because it didn't go well with the cheeseburger I received. Yet in spite of not eating it, I wanted it. I wanted this special food in its own little self-contained packet. I may never see it again.....and I had POCKETS! I slipped a packet of jelly in each of my spiffy knee pockets. They were my first souvenirs.

Then I knelt on the seat to reach for something on the counter.

The white pants didn't make it to the Magic Kingdom. Grape jelly co-mingled with white cotton were not a look my mother embraced. I know my pants had to be changed. I don't remember anything after this. I don't remember the new pants, I barely remember my first trip to this Magic Kingdom. Yet I still remember the jelly in my knee pockets.

This has become an illustration in our house. Why storing up treasures here on earth never really matters - never really lasts - and never gets anyone into the "Magic Kingdom".

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

...one of my top ten things

I love when one of my children announces that something is "on of my top ten things..." Even the average math student would deduce quickly in our home that "top ten" is more like "top 237", but the enthusiasm behind the remark is catching!

To that end, my top ten things:

  1. My yellow chair. It sits in the corner. It's just soft enough without being the kind of chair some of us may sink in and be unable to come out of. I usually make it to the chair by 3pm - sometimes earlier. It's where I take my 'recess'.
  2. Thick hair. Females will understand always finding flaws in their physical beings. We have flaws - our flaws have flaws - we have fat in our big toes that doesn't belong there and hips that don't behave. But I like thick hair. I like that I have thick hair. I have never complained about my thick hair and I don't plan on doing so. (I may complain that I don't know what to DO with my hair, but never the hair itself.) I like thick hair.
  3. Tea. I drink 6-8 cups of tea a day. It's habitual. In fact, maybe I don't like it as much as it's habit - like coffee and Marlboros for some. Doesn't matter. It's in my top ten.
  4. Sharpie markers. LOVE THEM. And every time I'm content with them they come out with a new version. Thick original is so nice and clear. The click tops are handy. The NEW version can be used on regular paper.
  5. Dogs. Top ten most definitely. And I'll call them 'things' to make them fit my list. I need a responsive animal that does it's business outdoors.
  6. Dreary days. This almost makes me the perfect Michigan resident. I love dreary days - preferably with rain or snow storms. I prefer my dreariness with cold weather and often with the smell of burning leaves.
  7. Layers! Layer cakes are okay but I'm thinking of the clothing variety. (And perhaps because I think layer cakes are okay, clothing layers are a welcome way of dressing.) I love sweatshirts and shirts under them; sweaters and shirts. In the 80s I loved layered socks.
  8. Word games. Scrabble, Boggle, sitting in a waiting room and seeing how many words I can make out of the word "orthodontist". I make up word games when I can't find one to play. With that comes the joy of a crossword puzzle. Words - I love words....to get paid to work with words would be a dream job. Authors have the best jobs in the world. (And therefore I went into a career dealing with.....numbers.)
  9. Instrumental music. When I was young I'd lay in bed, gradually drifting off into a play-induced sleep. As I did my drifting, the sound of music would drift up through the floor boards. Occasionally my drifting would be punctuated by the canons of the 1812 Overture - sometimes it was the beat of Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass. Sometimes I could identify my Verdi from my Bach as opposed to my Beethoven. More often than not it would simply lull me to sleep for I knew the music started because my dad had settled in downstairs with his reel-to-reel tape deck...there he would sit for about an hour just listening to music. And so I love the music more than the words.
  10. Books. Sure, they're filled with words like my word games, but I love books in a different way. They deserve a category all to themselves. I love NEW books - the unbroken spines, the fresh pages, the ideas and stories and rhymes (their own type of word game). I love the freedom a book gives - freedom to let a mind wander and drift and learn. I like that the freedom is individual and personal - in a book I can hide some of my brain - the brain that often has no 'edit button' is most free when I'm in a book. I love to keep them beautiful, I love to mark them up. I love book stores and antique stores filled with first editions. I love the art in the very old children's Golden Books and I enjoy the idea that books can often be so subversive their very burning has been suggested.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Of Pine Sol & Romans 8

"All things work together for good to them that love God." - Romans 8:28

I miss my mom.

If my children were writing this I'd have them go back and expand on that topic sentence. I want two points, three paragraphs, intro, conclusion. Homeschooling has created a grammar monster in this house and she's more often than not Machiavellian in her instruction.

But I miss my mom. My mom would not have used the term "Machiavellian". My mom would have said "It's okay, Ethan, you just tell me what you mean and then we can go walk outside and pick flowers." My mom was grandma-y that way. My mom went to school dinners and never actually ate - she watched Ethan and his friends and siblings of friends so the moms could sit and eat. My mom didn't know the names of philosophers and very few theologians, but she knew and loved her Lord. My mom was faith-filled like that.

I still work at trying to be like her. I use lemon scented Pledge and Pine Sol because of her. And (confession time) I listen to elevator muzak because of her. I try to capture the feeling of her with smells and sounds. It makes me wonder what my children will use to capture me....

I'm sure they will search for muzak. And Pine Sol (I love that stuff!). Madeline will probably wear velour pants because I live in them at home. None of the kids will have complicated hair - I don't "do" hair. They will cry in church - I cry in church - they probably won't make it through '...and when at last my race is run the Savior's work in me is done...' I hope they will marvel at the "bliss of this glorious thought"....and I hope they get that straight-arched back when they sing about our church's one foundation. They'll read books through in one sitting when they're truly good and cook without recipes. They will claim their Eastern European heritage in a sea of Dutchness. I hope they love dogs. Be ambivalent toward cats. Secretly want to save the whales.

And I hope they will be able to know what mom's favorites were where it concerns her Lord. My mom loved the song "I Sought The Lord"...it was the only real musical request she made of her funeral. And she quoted Romans 8:28 in just about anything - her writing, little signs stuck to the fridge, little note cards she'd send to other people. One of the things I treasure is a note she wrote to a girlfriend's mom which was kindly given back to me. There's the verse - right on the front of the card. It was "her verse". When I miss her, as I still do - greatly, I cling to those words and remind myself that "ALL things work together for good...." ALL things.

Today I miss my mom. For no special reason. It's just Tuesday. My children are growing, our schoolwork is all over the table, there's a few dirty dishes that should be put away & my dad just left to take our car to the garage. It's not a special day - but I miss her because it's just any day. Today I will pour extra Pine Sol in the toilets & re-read Romans 8.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No Homeschooling T Shirts....yet

Once in a while I still get the quizzical looks from (mostly) senior citizens when I'm out and about with a school aged child during "school hours". I am going to immediately back pedal and add that we do not spend our "school hours" bargain hunting at Target or with me getting my hair done as the kids do math workbooks at a salon. If I could walk around with a T Shirt that answered everything...sort of like "I'm With Stupid" or "Red Sox" or even "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" perhaps I'd never get a look again - or I'd get a look, just not the same kind.

I don't have a good slogan yet. Even if I did, it probably wouldn't matter. And this is in an area where homeschooling is rather prevalent. At the very least, it's an area where homeschooling has a great support system. We have a 'building', an orchestra, a drama club, a marching band, sports teams, library, book store. It's a great area to choose this option. I can only imagine the 'looks' that occur in less than supportive recesses of this country (world).

I've never been commando about our choice. It's always been just that: choice. We began as Christian school parents - through second grade for our eldest. It just wasn't a good fit. While our local homeschooling community is flourishing, we could not find a parochial school that offered what we needed - that emphasized what we wanted. And we approached this all as consumers. This is what parents are. Consumers. Whether it is parochial schools funded by our tuition or public schools funded by our tax dollars, why should we as consumers choose an option that is not all we desire?

So we ended up in homeschooling - where we could create something that worked. In all of my complaining in life - and I'm positive I do my fair share, even when I don't realize I'm doing it - I do not complain about homeschooling. Oh I may be tired from time to time. And the children sometimes need something I haven't determined. But I do not complain about homeschooling as an idea or as a service. Because it is essentially our creation, it is what we want it to be. It is filled with what we want it to be filled with.

Notably: Scripture memorizing, Latin learning, Math-at-a-student's-own-pace, thorough English grammar, lots of reading quality books ('quality' in our house includes some that may have been burned in previous decades), Science gallore for the budding scientist, Art gallore for the unfrustrated artist, Violins, Piano, Karate & Baseball.

This is our school. I don't have a slogan. It doesn't have a logo. It answers to the Highest Authority - not to the quizzical looks, but to the ever present eye of the Giver of these gifts.

But someday I'll have a T Shirt with a slogan.....someday....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Self-Esteem and the Somersault Assumption

After many months of requests - veiled in the midst of history classes and Olympic viewing - we have been tuckered out and have joined the ranks of karate-going parents. All three kids wanted to give it a try and all two parents were rather non-plussed by the whole concept. Don't get me wrong, if a class could truly incorporate housework and karate ala The Karate Kid I would have pushed for this long ago. Nothing like a little 'wax on/wax off' to encourage moms in promoting karate classes!

Two hours of learning stretching and chopping and kicking culminated in tumbling. I am still floored (minimal pun intended) at the tumbling portions of this athletic enterprise. Somersaults and flips and free-falling (that would be onto the floor from standing). About as close to gymnastics that my children have ventured.

Ethan in his adolescent body complete with new and growing muscles excelled at this tumbling rotation. He flipped freely with very little trepidation. Bully for him! Madeline - more padded but also more athletic - did her best gymnast interpretation all the while wondering when she could go back to kicking. She will be tumbling all week in our living room - I will be cringing during this same week.

Then we have Ben. Ben is the opposite of petite after all. He is 'husky' where Gap is concerned when buying jeans - but, hey, so is his mom. It's tough getting that husky body into any more of a "tuck", nevermind the "roll" that is to follow said "tuck". No somersaults were produced, though some tears were squeezed out.

Somersaults, to this ignorant mother, had always seemed like riding a bike, hopping on one foot, tying a shoe....something that just 'happen'. I didn't teach somersaulting because I just assumed that they happen. Kind of like breathing and sleeping and dust bunny formation. Bad mommy! For Benjamin algebra and philosophizing and, yes, eating just 'happen'. Flexibility not so much.

For the week we will spend our time away from studies in intensive gymnastics. Alright - no - not 'intensive'. We'll work on somersaults. Period. And in so doing we will work on some self-esteem issues which have reared their ugly head. And this mommy will work on removing more assumptions from her life. And maybe she'll even do some somersaults of her own. Stranger things have happened

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Memories come but once a year....

Henry John served his country proudly during World War II. He was not the round-in-the-middle senior citizen with the used Cadillac that he is now. He wasn't "judgemental" or "conservative" or "closed-minded"...he was someone's son. He was scrawny with legs that remain skinny thanks to a childhood marked by illnesses we are now vaccinated for. His family was large - 8 children - with a father who tried to work hard while fighting demons that perhaps they would have prescribed something for in our generation. His mother is the one the children remember with fondness and from whom the Dutch language was imparted.

This set of battles would take him from ramshackle living to camps to training schools - I can only venture to guess what our government's agents thought when they visited Henry's home to clear him for some top secret...no, really, "top secret"....duty. What they must have thought of the children left behind and the world-weary mother and bellowing father. The battles were fought in lands were rice is corn. He saw a famous flag raised on a mountain, he woke to find someone sleeping next to him had been killed stealthily in the middle of the night. He flew and listened and spoke and learned. His mind was not closed - it was opened - as were his eyes. He has never forgotten.

I am far younger - a sort of after thought in his life - I have never seen the kind of war he has. I have witnessed different enemies coming from different geographical locations. But never first hand. I have witnessed my battles from a couch, holding a baby just three days short of her first birthday and wondered if this was "it". My frame of reference is reflected in small faces and in that instant of wondering if the pantry is full enough, if there is enough cash in the house, and whether there is enough gas in our tanks. "Just in case."

But I forget.

Once a year I remember. And perhaps vaguely. And often after I am reminded.

I have lost in these years. My mother has gone Home. Friends have moved on. My husband has become ill. My children have grown. These things I remember. I remember certain funeral lines - the sound of a pregnant woman moaning a cry at my sight - because I know walk the earth as the example of one whose parent is gone.

But I forget.

In three days she will be eight. I wish I could remember what it was like to hold her as an infant. Even in the midst of terror, the calm that is a baby in my arms.

But I have forgotten......and I did forget......until I remembered.

Henry has never forgotten. He will go to his grave with many memories. Those too gruesome - too mind and life altering to repeat. He will leave this earth someday and go Home. Those left here may remember him as close-minded. As judgemental. They won't understand. They only remember once a year. Once a year they remember that sense of fear and awe and shock. Once a year they remember what it was to have a life turned upside down - to move from their figurative shack where only one language was spoken to a literal battle field.

But then we forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Feminism in Polar Bear Clothing?

We spend many evenings in our home tucked in the nether-regions of Kentwood discussing the forthcoming election. This is not unusual - I am married to a political science/econ buff who studied this stuff for fun. Mike chose his course of study based upon his interest (yikes!) rather than what he wanted to be when he grew up. It is probably one of the sanest things an undergrad can do.

But I digress.....

Politics do not make for restless nights of sleeplessness, but rather they tend to bring us mentally together. The occasional verbal sparring is to be expected and kind of (eagerly) anticipated in our household. Mike knows I love asking the pointed questions and I know he loves answering them. It's a match made in Fox News heaven.

Enter Sarah Palin. This political year's "It Girl". We have embraced Sarah. We want to coffee with her. We want to shop with her. We want to hunt with her. And the "we" means myself and whichever girlfriends care to join us. (And, incidentally, we are proud of ourselves for having 'clipped our hair' for years and for wearing our dark librarian-style glasses before Palin.)

But I like those pointed questions. The ones that 'hang out there'. Unfortunately, they often are asked and the recipients infer that I am asking with a bias. I truly - more often than not - am not asking with anything other than a (relatively) deep thinker's curiousity. My most recent question - Would those for whom feminism is a scary, ill-conceived notion have been as supportive of a liberal/Democrat woman hoisted to this same position, on the counter party's ticket? Would we suddenly find ourselves questioning her priorities - her "place"?

I asked the question at a dinner party. (I'm bold (crazy) that way.) With people who probably don't know me well enough to know whether or not I'm truly asking openly or asking with a pre-conceived answer. I asked in a room of of fellow believers, all married, who are walking different paths. I asked in a room with a childless working woman, a homeschooling woman expecting another child, and a married with teens professional woman. The question was answered for the most part with strong "absolutely not" and "I would hope not" and "I don't believe so". It was dropped but it may have hung in the air a bit longer - like a smoke ring that just wouldn't leave the no-smoking section of a restaurant.

I ask because I'm not convinced. I'm not convinced that such a high percentage of the religious right would support the other party's female...not based solely on issues but based on a perceived abdication of her God-ordained womanly roles. Roles that, in their very loose and free interpretations, include not working outside the home when children are being raised. I'm not convinced that a woman in my particular demographic would be whole-heartedly free of Palin-problems where her home life decisions are concerned. I'm just not convinced.

Of course a question doesn't imply an answer - nor should the recipients of such a question infer a bias. My mom worked once I entered high school. I worked after the birth of my first child until the birth of my second. My husband's mother worked out of the necessity of widow-hood. Yet, should a listener want to ask me this question and receive my honest answer?

It happens to be I don't think so BUT I don't know.