Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Love, Love, Love....Being A Girl.... (HA)

This wasn't a red letter kind of Sunday for me....the ancient song "I LOVE Being A Girl" has me scoffing a bit. Anyone who knows of Eve really couldn't sing that song in good conscience. Anyone who knows of Adam knows that from day one Eve got the blame...."...the woman YOU gave me..." (Even the Creator got the blame there - for creating that woman.) Today has me thinking on 'being a girl' though my mom brought me up with just enough decorum to have me avoid sharing all the details currently moving about in my brain.

Not since Sarah Palin has the issue of women and competence played such a political role as in recent days. With Obama's nomination of one Justice Sonia Sotomayor we girls have the headlines yet again. The nomination had me thinking a number of things -

1) We Michigan residents would have been thrilled to 'donate' Governor Jennifer Granholm...not just to the short list, but to the up for nomination slot. Color me disappointed that she didn't get the nomination just to rid Lansing of her a bit ahead of schedule.

2) White men are really out of luck until they achieve true minority status. REALLY out of luck. Sorry Adam, what goes around and all....

2b) White women married to said white men are equally out of luck by virtue of lacking the forethought necessary to avoid marrying one.

2c) The administration's two most visible white men? Joe Biden. Enough said. And the Press Secretary - the guy who throws temper tantrums, is generally rude, and throws cell phones.

3) Had the aforementioned white man made a comment to the affect of, "My experience as a white male in America has given me more usable experience for judging cases than an Hispanic female sitting on the bench" he would have found himself on the rim of a soda pop can faster than you can say "Anita Hill".

As the mother of a very capable girl I really hope that as she ages she will be held to high standards. Period. Not "high standards for a girl" or "high standards for a white girl". But high standards. Why this is not the wish of all parents - why incredibly accomplished minorities are incapable of standing up and shouting "NO!" when they realize standards are loosened for their benefit completely mystifies me.

As the mother of two very capable (and white) boys I really hope that they will have the courage and determination and strength to be the men we are raising them to be. Men after God's own heart. Men who would never take the easy route, men who will always take the higher road, men who would never stand back and point at someone else and say "The person You placed next to me? It's really all their fault..." And I hope that opportunity will still exist in whatever arena they are called to enter, though I secretly fear such opportunity will be slim.

I don't 'Love, Love, Love Being A Girl'.....but I sure love being a wife and mother and sister....and I sure do expect to be held by the same standards one would have for anyone else...and I sure do hope that in the future America will go back to being a place where standards are standards - for everyone. Period.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In honor of (one) who served

This brought tears to his eyes last night....a very odd sight from a man who does not shed many. In honor of him and the other USAF veterans, members of the greatest generation, who endured some of the greatest atrocities known to man to protect and serve a country they felt was worthy of such protection.

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys,
Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame.
Hey! Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew! (God only knew then!)
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore.
Hey! Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Friday, May 22, 2009

You Can't HANDLE The Truth!

A funny thing happened on my way to my day - an email arrived in my box. I like emails when they're from real people and not simply Amazon.com telling me a new book is available or that pesky Mailer-Daemon guy telling me an email address I used is not valid. This email came from a very real person from whom I have not heard in at least a year, probably longer if my sense of time wasn't forever skewed.

The subject line was a bright indicator that this was no personal note. Yet as is often the case when it comes to messages from those we've lost touch with, I found myself oddly okay with a blanket email. I was prepared to be okay with him asking if I want to take part in a "special business opportunity" (that's Amway-speak for the non-Grand Rapids among us) or an inquiry as to whether I had ever considered switching insurance agents (also plausible since the sender is a chronic job hopper....a harder title to hold onto in this present economy).

What I received was a mix of the two tongue-in-cheek scenarios above filled with all kinds of "opportunity" but reeking a bit of partial truth. It's tough when we can't handle the truth in our own lives - perhaps tougher when we believe others around us couldn't handle our truth either. Truth is a struggle. It often divides more than it unites, and it many times has us criticizing the truth-teller rather than embracing his honesty. People who lose jobs "move on to other opportunities" or "give two week notices" rather than get fired. Couples divorce over "irreconcilable differences". No one really tells it like it is.

There is a scene in the movie A Few Good Men - a scene in a courtroom to be exact - that includes an exchange that goes as follows:

Lt. Jessep (Jack Nicholson): You want answers?
Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I want the truth!
Lt. Jessep: You can't handle the truth!

This exchange popped into my head as I finished the email message I received. Did the sender choose language he knew the recipients could handle or was the sender struggling with his own truth? Did he purposely use ambiguous language in an effort to deceive - further removing himself and the rest of us from truth - or is his own life so bogged down with a false sense of reality that he can no longer identify what is fully true? How much of this is going around! It takes but five minutes of an evening news cast to be bombarded with partial truth (which, let's be frank, has ceased to be truth if it has "partial" in front of it). And how many people have taken on a diagnosis for a loved one rather than confronting their own truth - that they are somehow complicit in leading someone they love down a path of deconstruction?

This email still has me thinking - how watered down truth has become, how so much has become "relative", how we no longer stand up and beg for the truth - even if the writer/speaker claims we can't handle the truth. I want to write back to my sender and tell him that I would much prefer a truth which took some time to digest than a watered-down version done for our mutual 'benefit'. I want to do so, but if I'm entirely truthful with myself I'm not sure what my reaction would have been to blunt honest truth. This is the sad reality of life: We only pretend to support the failed while secretly wondering what they did wrong.

In a perfect world, more people would recall and live by this quote rather than the false sense of preservation promoted by the idea that listeners can't handle the truth:

"From failure you learn; from success, not so much." - Wilbur, Meet The Robinsons

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Miscellany .... of Gardens & Pruning & Graduating

So many assorted things to get from brain to fingers to "page"...

GRADUATION - it seems forever ago - 20 years for me this year - and yet it doesn't seem long enough that I have friends with graduating children. We went to our first open house last Sunday afternoon and to look at this lovely young woman knowing I can look at her and see her younger self....ah! As I sat there with friends a teacher from my past arrived and we embraced with her reminiscing of my own elementary/junior high schooling for she was a teacher at the same school at the same time. This time of year is thrilling for so many young people and rather a mix for parents. For those of us who sit back and watch - but find ourselves edging ever closer to the moment for our own children - it's a very mish-mash kind of experience.

GARDENS - are my piece of peace and the dirt is giving me a satisfaction that no amount of shopping may do...the feel of the dirt, the idea of growing something from that dirt, the creation of compost (yes, really) from what others deem "garbage". Today brought tomato and pepper plants and transplanting raspberries and just a lot of satisfaction in getting something done.

PRUNING - in the midst of gardening there is the ever-present job of pruning, but lately I am applying this art to other, non-plant, aspects of my life. I said "no" today to something that I actually kind of wanted to say "yes" to....but I knew a "yes" would render my life and the lives of my family members manic. I'm pruning people - not cruelly, but ya know what, one-sided relationships are not relationships at all and if I'm the only one showing real interest - offering support -checking in....well sometimes lives run their course and a good pruning is really just the inevitable.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Honor of Summer Break..Favorite "S" Words...

  • skorts - sort of to shorts what a mullet is to hair....sensible and fun all in one
  • strawberry plants - very hard to kill, very forgiving....great qualities in anyone/thing
  • swine flu - it's no laughing matter but, truly, there has been more good joke material produced because of this "pandemic" than I've heard in a very long time
  • sneakers - going through them because the weather is nice...good sign
  • silly children - silly mostly because their teacher decided break should start NOW
  • stiff drinks - for some it means splurging on regular Coke as opposed to Diet, for others it means their lemonade gets a little 'help' from Mike (of hard lemonade fame)
  • sisters - I've never had biological ones, but I've met some pretty fabulous ones along the way
  • sunshine - occasionally I've been known to relish this
  • showers - often I've been known to relish these
  • smoke - from the fire pit...apart from the smoke smell in hair & clothes, it's a wonderful way to spend an evening
  • Savannah - one of my favorite cities

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Life returned to normal

at 9:34am on Saturday when the head of our home returned home. We have been living with departures and homecomings for what feels like an eternity (in reality it has now been about 4 months). This normalcy feels a bit more permanent in the sense that he has some work to occupy his time.

"Normalcy", however, is most definitely a relative term and one that does, indeed, shift as time marches on. Just as normal once meant a couple we found ourselves in a new state of normal as each child was gifted to our household. It shifted in many ways - both extremely perceptible and seemingly small. I'm thinking this instant of how a grocery tab changes from including diapers and formula to five gallons of a milk a week and at least two jars of peanut butter per month. My how time marches on and normal re-creates itself on a continual basis.

"Normalcy" is also best appreciated by those who have lost it and quite misunderstood by those who continually live within it. We have found this to be the case both first hand amid comments and calls and emails from those who know of our recent adjustments to normalcy but who can't stand how our adjustments have made their lives so very difficult (and, perhaps, abnormal?) We have experienced this in the constant adjustments children have to make each time normal is redefined. There are tears and fears and upset stomachs.

And as I type this, forever thankful for things in our lives which have returned to the old normal:
  • blood clots have been cleared and a robust husband is returned to health
  • the rumbling of a diesel truck engine can be heard in the morning
  • a whirring lawn tractor that makes its rounds faithfully
  • the once partially empty church pew that has been refilled yet again

While normal will be new for a great many both now and in the future, and while we all will deal with others who don't or won't or can't understand, perhaps Erma Bombeck stating that "normal is just a setting on the dryer" is the best way to deal with the changes. With a great deal of tongue-in-cheek humor, a proper measure courage, and an even better portion of faith....thereby rendering even a dryer that breaks part of a new normal - embraced with some difficulty but met assured that a broken dryer simply represents a new challenge.

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything You gave me'.

~Erma Bombeck

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lazy blogger...

I'm just going to continue to steal from those far more succinct than I and today with a far more romantic bent than I...not to argue just how Calvinist the author was not, but rather just to enjoy beautiful words joined beautifully together. Who knows the author without doing a Google search - that is the real test....

"Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future. "
"The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
"Faith is a passionate intuition."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are we still free to combat errors?

Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
—Thomas Jefferson: Inaugural Address

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Five years & many lifetimes ago...

Five years ago today my mom was promoted to glory. It was a sunny day - a Monday. The evening before I spent in church and came home with something stirring in my being. I had grown accustomed to mom being here - she had moved in when Hospice entered our life. In the room most would call the "master suite" sat a large hospital bed and an oxygen machine. In this bed lay a frail shell of a woman - not the robust, laughing woman with the veiny hands and bumpy thumb nail.

She was exceedingly thin by Sunday - she hadn't spoken in anything but gibberish for at least a couple of weeks. The jaundice had given her the false 'tan' it shares with its victims but the yellow of her eyes gave away the fact that the 'tan' was by no means healthy. She was now rarely soiled, the catheter bag mostly empty, and the conversations I shared with her completely one-sided and now completely a mystery to all but myself.

Sunday night I had a stirring and I simply announced to Mike that I had to sit with her. I remember reading through Job that night. I remember finally, fully saying "good-bye" and I remember finally being able to truly pray that the Lord would give her what was left of her heart's desire and take her from me and unto Him.

The nurse called to providentially see about an off scheduled visit...mom had been on Hospice almost 9 months by now - inordinately long - and her nurse had grown (too) attached. Her breathing was rare and the nurse asked if I wanted to take a quick break while she changed the sheets. I had barely walked down the hall when, upon moving the sheet, my mother took her last breath. The nurse simply stated "she's gone".

And she was.

This woman who had moved from mother to best friend to grandmother with the ease one would have reserved for a woman who had experienced this transition in her own mother - though mine had not - eased into Heaven leaving skeletal remains but so many marks and finger prints on so much of my life that I still find myself waiting for her to return. Someone so large, it still feels, could not truly have taken permanent leave from my earthly life.

25For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.26And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,27whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
- Job 19 (ESV)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blessed are those in limbo....

From a young age I can recall truly enjoying the Beatitudes in scripture. Of course when I was quite young I was aware that each Gospel contained different accounts of Jesus' walk on earth yet certain portions seemed similar enough to a young reader so as to just be a repeat performance. As an adult, however, I confess to having a greater affinity for the record in Matthew as opposed to the record of Luke. (Assuming, of course, that I really have to choose...which I do not)

Matthew's listing as a part of the Sermon on the Mount is a succinct list of "Blessed are..." and a blessing received. Luke's listing is a list of blessings upon the poor and woes upon the less than poor. In fact, a cursory internet search will render many left-leaning organizations and websites looking to Luke's listing as a rather Socialist manifesto. True.

Anyway, as I muddle through a year of limbo - limbo rather than change at this point - I find myself again drawn to the Beatitudes as a recollection of the blessedness to be found in circumstances which the world may judge to be less than advantageous. The world sees curse - the world often finds God only to blame Him - or the world uses these situations to continue their quest to disprove the Creator. Yet in a sea of Beatitudes each situation is coming from the hand of the speaker on the mount.

Whether the version is found in Luke 6:20-28 (KJV):

20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
23Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
26Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
27But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Or listed in the manner that the younger version of my self enjoyed from Matthew 5:2-11 (ESV):
2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

My young Latin scholars have left me searching for Latin roots whenever possible and imagine my full circle moment when I read that 'beatus' is Latin for "blessed" or "happy". In the midst of my limbo it is comforting to receive these moments of "happy" knowing that the end result - the second part of each line in the Matthew version - is something so wonderful received from His hand. And while the ultimate reward in heaven is supreme, the bits and pieces received here on earth to get us through our own limbos are momentary snippets of these future gifts.

This week I found myself blessed in my limbo via children whose wonderful insights are often far deeper than I give them credit for; via a group of women with whom I experienced some of the best bouts of laughter; via the peace He knows I receive from working in His earth; via the gift of friendship new and old. So blessed am I....quite simply because I am His and He is mine and because of this I have the gift of seeing His hand in so many ways, in so many circumstances.