Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Valley of Tears

Okay, I know I said I would blog about the Love Dare, and yes, I am still doing that, but I have to kvetch about something else today. This is open-heart time, so here, watch me spill it.

Some people will surely hate the semantics of this, but I've been trying to be a Christian. I am trying to find a place back to where I can say I trust God and love Him and believe that He loves me. But I do get stuck on what has happened to me in the past. Once bitten, twice shy. Sometimes, I get stuck on what happens to other people, even people I don't actually know. And so this is just what has happened recently.

A person I "know" only in the cyber-sense, whom I will call "Sue", has longed for a daughter for years. She posted last Christmas about her longings for a daughter and how infertility and difficulties with adopting have made this a longing that remains unsatisfied. Just before Christmas this year, however, an opportunity dropped in her lap. It looked like her prayers would be answered with this "Christmas miracle" and she would be able to adopt a baby girl. I hoped along with her. For her dream to come true would vicariously validate my own dreams of having another child. It would be a strong point in God's favor for the ol' "God is Good" column.

So, for a few days, we on the board were hoping along with Sue, waiting to witness a miracle. But when Sue showed up on the board, it was to say how it looked like the adoption was not going to happen. Her pain was palpable.

I completely get how this hurts. Her question is my question. Why does God stir things up, only to disappoint? Why does He seem to start something if it's not going to end well? I ask this all the time. Why do I long for another child? Am I wrong to long for another child, when it would take a miracle for me to have one? Am I wrong to give up hope, on the other hand, and admit that it just isn't in the cards? Is it selfish to want more kids? Or is it faith, the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," in action?

This is why I can't get over the "trust and love" hurdle. Trust and love is natural if the object of your trust and love evidently is trustworthy. When you only get hurt in return, how can trust and love be expected? Honestly, these are times when the Christian walk looks to me like bad advice given to battered women. "Stand by your man! Remember the commitment you made! Deep down, he really loves you!"

I am currently reading The Promise by Father Jonathan Morris. This line jumped right out at me today:

Religious faith is not blind. It is not irrational. It is about trusting and loving someone we have come to know. If you haven't come to know Jesus personally and as a providential God - one who is on our side - it is irrational to put your trust in him.

This is really the crux of the whole thing for me. I did come to know Jesus personally, but it does not look like God is on my side, therefore it is irrational to put my trust in Him. This is not quite how Father Morris meant it, but that is why it is a problem for me. I really, really wanted to see things work out miraculously for Sue on the internet community. It would give me hope.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Love seeks not its own

The third day's dare is related to selfishness. Honestly, I think this one concept could be mined 365 days a year. We all have selfish tendencies. Some, more than others. Even when you complain about how selfish another person seems to be in your eyes, you are ironically demonstrating your own selfishness. If you say, "I don't like that that person doesn't pay better attention to me, what I need and want, isn't interested in me or my kids..," you are actually revealing your own selfishness, the selfishness you are projecting on the other person. It's almost funny.

Today's Dare goes like this:

Whatever you put your time, energy, and money into will become more important to you. It's hard to care for something you are not investing in. Along with restraining from negative comments, buy your spouse something that says, "I was thinking of you today."

I'm one step ahead on today's dare, actually. Yesterday, I was at Costco and I looked for the 17th time at the huge slab of beef tenderloin my husband has wanted me to buy for about 10 months. He had been to a party where they sliced one into steaks and he raved about how good they were. Only, I always balk on it, because that hunk of meat is never less than $60.00. The meat is $16 a pound! When I tell you that my bargain-hunting typical limit to pay for meat is $2 a pound, my dilemma will be revealed. Nevertheless, I caved this time and bought the tenderloin for Kelly, so he would be happy.

In my case, I would say a more relevant dare would be the first part, "...time, energy...". Really, it's not much skin off my nose to buy Kelly something. In most cases, he would rather me not buy something. But my time and energy - now there's a sacrifice that could get my attention. So, I'm tailoring the dare to sacrifice my time and energy this evening.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Love is Kind

Today's Dare:
In addition to saying nothing negative to your spouse again today, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness.

I agree with today's dare, but to be honest, I'm a little stumped on carrying it out. Our marriage doesn't want for kindness. Nothing is really springing to mind that I could do today that would be kind and unexpected. I'm open to continue to look for the opportunity, however.

Yesterday's dare worked out fine. I don't think I said anything negative to my spouse yesterday. Honestly, it is more of a challenge with my kids, because I am with them continuously. I can name many more instances where I had to work for patience in communicating with my kids.

One unexpected gesture as an act of kindness...hmmmm. I will have to let it marinate a little while.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Love is Patient...

I don't watch many movies. I find it difficult to commit two hours of my exceedingly small amount of free time to watching a movie when there are so many books to be read. But I've been meaning to watch the movie "Fireproof" for a long time, and so I put it in my Netflix queue and it finally arrived. So, after it sat on my nightstand for three weeks, I finally decided to watch it and invited Kelly to watch it with me.

It really was time well-spent. While I don't have a troubled marriage, I can see the benefit of The Love Dare, and the spiritual message of the movie did get to me. Wouldn't it be a lovely Christmas gift, to my husband, my children and even to myself, to follow the challenge of The Love Dare?

Day One of the Dare deals with Patience. Here is the Dare: The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often refect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and say nothing negative to your spouse (I'm adding kids) at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It's better to hold your tongue than to say something you'll regret." From The Love Dare, by Alex Kendrick.

I know that true, sustainable patience and love only comes from a deep connection to The Source of Love. I'm not too picky about names, but I call that God.

I had an experience once of profound, unconditional love. It was supernatural; divine. I had been reading a book by Max Lucado, I think it was called Just Like Jesus. There was a part in the book where Lucado talked about challenging yourself to continually place your focus on God, to constantly throughout the day bring your mind back to God. I was intrigued by it, so I tried it. For several days, I constantly brought my mind back to thoughts such as this: "Fill me with the Love of Jesus. Bring me to Your Will."

About a week into this practice, I was to attend an event with some people whom frankly, I didn't much like. They cussed a lot and drank too much and I usually barely tolerated being in their company. Strangely, though, when I met up with these people, I began to think they looked beautiful. I thought, (alias used here) "Sam looks really good tonight. I've never known him to look so nice." or "Look at Sue. She seems very pretty. I never realized she was so pretty." It sounds a little spooky and esoteric, so bear with me, but it dawned on me that I was seeing them as God sees them. Their bad language didn't bother me, their loud laughter didn't grate on me. I just felt unrestrained love towards them.

With such an experience behind me, one wonders why I didn't continue the practice. I'd be well into nirvana by now, I think! This was a while ago, though; before my trial by fire, before I lost what was most precious. I have not been patient or loving much since Lydia died. In the first day of The Love Dare, it says, "Anger is usually caused when the strong desire for something is mixed with disappointment or grief. You don't get what you want and you start heating up inside." Boy, is that ever true. I still have a lot of anger over losing Lydia. And I still have so much confusion over the spiritual meaning of that loss. When I hear people say things like, "God is faithful." or "God answers prayers.", my immediate reaction is to think, "That is not true." How can I feel otherwise? To what else does the evidence point?

I would like to tap again that Divine Love. It is beautiful, so lovely and beautiful to behold. I want that to flow out of myself, but I know it won't unless I reconnect with it's Source. And I am so afraid to trust. It has all come to nothing before, why should it be different now?

But I know I cannot be the wife and mother I want to be without it. I cannot fulfil even Day One of the Dare if I don't attempt to get back there. I will try but I am very uncertain.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Way Boys Play

When it's not feeling hectic and crazy, it is so fun to watch all three of my kids play soccer. This is Mason's first crack at it and he is a natural. 'Bout time all that energy got used to some productive purpose. Today was his second game and he scored four goals. He also put a mean block on the other team's striker just before the boy pegged a goal. Since he is in clinic, his team is co-ed. It really is a remarkable thing to watch the difference in the play of boys and girls.

Collin had a make-up game on Friday night, so we all went. (We've been splitting up on the weekends and I hadn't seen him play yet this season.) He has quite a nice, competitive soccer team. It was great fun to watch, especially since we won. The difference between boys playing and girls playing is very noticeable. The boys are so aggressive, so serious. They mean to make that goal, they are faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive.

I'm not on point of lumping all boys as warriors and all girls as nurturers. I'm sure I can point out a number of cautious, tender boys and a few blazing, blustering girls. And every team has it's variations in players. Still - on the whole, the boys play harder. There's a part of boys in which it is all about the conquest, the win, the beating of the opponent, the victory. Sure, girls like to win, too, but it doesn't have that desperate edge, that necessary quality.

My daughter played today, and they smoked the competition, too. It was a great game. But, there are the differences, all you have to do is look. A girl kicks another girl and looks stricken with remorse. Boys step on the opponent's head and never look back. Mason plowed an opposing player in his game. When he came off the field, he smiled and said, "I think I almost broke his arm!" Because I'm a girl, I was shocked and said, "And you should have said you were sorry, too!" Dad wasn't there, but I think if he had been, there would have been hi-fives involved.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Only Chicken Should Be Fried

Chicken is good fried. I know, I know, in moderation, of course. Don't want the arteries to protest. But chicken is good fried.

Mothers - not good fried. Yet mothers are so often fried. If you wish to keep from being fried, there is constant pressure, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, to jump into the basin of fat with the other Do-It-All moms and swim around in there until you are so crispy, you go on a bender when you see a lone, wet sock in the middle of the kitchen floor. "WHY can't you people just PUT your THINGS and your deeee-sgusting CLOTHING in the god-forsaken HAMPER!?!" Ahem. Not that I've ever said that.

I think homeschoolers are even more vulnerable than "normal" mothers to feel this pressure to join it all, sign up for it all, host it all, volunteer it all, lead-the-group it all and dash all over the county to try and give the kids "opportunities". Homeschoolers in particular have something to prove: "See? We're so social! We don't lack for friends, fun or fantastic extracurriculars!" I mean, it's awesome that homeschooling has come this far. I am thrilled that we have a thriving, fantastic homeschooling community. There are so many offers for clubs, groups, field trips, park days, hang-out days, trips, classes and tutoring that we could be gone every single day of the week, every time-frame of each day: morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening, all year long. Only that sort of begs the question of when we would actually learn to conjugate French verbs and find the circumference of a circle.

This year, I am a member of three different homeschool support groups...oh, no wait, four, actually, if you count my umbrella group. It is hard - sometimes even painful - to see all these cool things come continuously streaming into my e-mail box, begging me to join, host, participate or attend. I must say NO to most of them. At least, to many of them. It may even be somewhat detrimental to be a member of four groups. Ignorance is bliss, in a way. I have already said "Yes!" to soccer, a full day of Specials classes each Friday, a trip to Ellis Island, hosting monthly support group meetings, aiding at co-op on Friday, a women's retreat at church, twice-monthly Fun With Friends night, thrice-monthly middle-schooler Bible study and I think I gave a firm "Maybe" to apple-picking in late September. I was going to do Hiking in Harper's Ferry, (love it there!) but ironically, the trip was cancelled because none of the homeschoolers could pick a date that didn't have conflicting classes, trips or co-ops. I have said No to: Book Club for my kids, homeschool swimming, pumpkin park day, Not-Back-To-School breakfast, Oriole Park tour, Colonial Williamsburg homeschool days, Codorus State Park programs, drawing with nature program and now a writing group that my daughter would surely adore. And those are just the things I really want to do but can't, not nearly a list of all the opportunities available. I'm trying to get my kids back to piano lessons, but there is not a single minute available when I can do it and so can my piano teacher.

I am also planning my upcoming trip to Disney - a whole 'nother post, there!

People, are you with me? We just have to say No to some of this stuff. Especially if we homeschool. The mere mention of anything *else* that is planned for a Thursday evening is enough to trigger an asthma attack. Please put me in the slow-cooker. I really don't want to be fried.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where were you?

It's the question of the day. Where were you that fateful day, 8 years ago, when those towers fell? When the Pentagon was attacked? When a planeful of heroes went down in that Pennsylvania field?

I watched this morning the re-run of the original newscasts from September 11th. It still makes my heart hurt and fills my face with tears. Those images are seered in my memory. Remember those lost-and-found boards, growing more tattered throughout the week? They break my heart. Wind-whipped flyers, asking out "Have You Seen Me?" into the grey New York sky.

And the good side, too, though it seems hard to say that there could be a good side and almost crass to recall one. The goodwill, the altruistic human love that happened then. We were all in this together. Even Rosie O'Donnell was proud of George W. Bush! Strange, I know.

That day seemed so ordinary. My daughter was 4 and I was taking her to the pediatrician for a check up. When I came out of the appointment, I noticed the staff was acting strangely. Something was certainly going on, but I didn't know what. On my way home from the doctor, I listened to the radio. At just that time, the second tower was collapsing. I felt desperate and sick to hear what was happening. Once I was home, I did what most everyone else did: called my husband, called a few friends and then gawked at the TV for days, sobbed, prayed and despaired.

I wear my flag shirt today. I left the news on, wanting my kids to see the news, wanting them to connect even a little with how it was that day. But I know they do not really get it. You have to live it yourself before you really see.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reality Sucks

Once upon a time, I had "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" listed on my blog as one of my favorite shows. And once upon a time, it was.

When I first stumbled on the show, Kate's hair was all one color and had not yet looked like two different haircuts, depending on whether she was going or coming. She bravely revealed her post-sextuplet belly, something I think we've all secretly wanted to see.

It's true that even in the early shows, she was snarky at Jon on a regular basis, but since I am a closet sarcastic myself, I didn't hold it against her. Some people have said she is amazingly Obsessive-Compulsive, but this also tended to encourage me. "If Kate can clean up around 8 little kids and not go completely bonkers, surely I can manage."

A few seasons ago, though, the show definitely lost it's appeal. It was like the wealth and fame when straight to Kate's frosted head. Suddenly, the children were always outfitted in gorgeous, matching clothes as they were flown all over the country gratis. It went from being an interesting show about the realities of raising so many toddlers and kids to Lifestyles of the Well-Endorsed. The Kids fly to Utah. The Kids go to New York. Perhaps on my part, envy was involved, but I just lost interest. When it was Jon Gets Hair Transplants and Jon Gets a Personal Trainer, I was pretty much done. Once in a while, I would wander over to TLC to watch old tapings, but pretty much done.

Now this. Ugh! What a disaster! Like so many, I tuned it to the season premier, mostly because I haven't read the tabloids. I wanted to hear from their own mouths what the status of the family had become. Only I left with more questions then I started. Could they possibly be more vague? I have no idea whether Kate does think Jon cheated or if she believes him, but is unhappy in the marriage anyway. Upon seeing snippets of previous season finales, it was obvious that Jon was done with the show, but Kate was totally blind to it. This is where I think they went far wrong. She seems to have been so caught up in the show and the book deals and the speaking engagements, she wasn't looking at her own family crumbling.

What makes me mad is to hear her whine about how it's so hard, and she's doing it all for the kids, and she's so annoyed with the paparazzi. All for the kids? That is a total crock! Kids do not need to be on a famous tv show! They need a mother and father together and paying attention to them. And the paparazzi? You invited tv crews into your lives to document your children's potty training, nap schedules, discipline issues and temper tantrums! And now you're mad that long lenses poke through the woods while you do your kids' birthday party? I mean, I'm sure it's annoying and I personally would loathe it, but that is what you sign up for when you say, "Yes! I want to show the world what it is like to live in my shoes!" When everyone now wants to see inside your shoes, how can you complain?

In the season premier, she must have said 27 times, "I'm doing this by myself." Well, buck up, honey. This is the reality for zillions of mothers who do not have nannies and helpers and book deals. I know of a homeschooling mother of six whose husband is in Iraq! She does it all by herself while her husband is in continuous imminent danger. Really. It's hard to feel sorry for Kate.

The ratings may have been sky-high for the season premier, but I am certain the show will bomb from here on out. How can it do otherwise? I don't want to watch the family who just had their vow renewal in Hawaii last year now fall apart. I don't want to peer in on scenes like the little girl hugging her dad tightly and saying, "I don't want you to go away again, Daddy." And this is The Learning Channel, people! What is there to learn in that?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

For Lydia

Do they have birthday parties in Heaven?
For the little ones, at least?
So you don't miss your six-year Princess party
dressed in Barbie pink with a purple tiara?
Who is invited, I wonder?
Other children, who never knew earth?
Other littles who left here too early,
their shattered mothers left wondering?
Do you run through the spring fields in Heaven?
Chase butterflies with silk and gold nets?
Are there dandelions to blow in a wish,
fluffy heads riding the breeze?
Is there summertime in Heaven?
Catching fireflies and sipping sweet tea?
Are there porch swings where one day I'll rock you,
as I should have already so often?
How old will you be when I see you?
Or is there even such a thing as age?
Are you a peach-faced little girl now?
Or forever a baby, a little whisper?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Twilight Zone

I almost bought it a few months ago, fresh from hearing a friend gush about the book series beginning with the book Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I was at Borders and had the hardback in my hand, it's spooky monochrome cover calling to me. I knew this series had a huge following, enough to warrant a movie version. As it happened, I decided then that I just didn't quite want to fork the money over for it at the time.

But as I was in Costco Sunday, eyeing that inviting bibliophile's paradise, the bargain book table, I spied a copy of Twilight for just $6.89. I decided to see what all the commotion was about. I bought my copy and envisioned myself being drawn into a fantasy tale that some have called, "The Next Harry Potter!"

Well, at the risk of offending droves of pre-teen girls, Pu-lease! The book is lousy! I barely liked any of it.


For starters, the first-person point-of-view was not effective. I felt like I was trapped in this silly girl's myopic brain for three days. There was no opportunity to appreciate other characters, or to really even care about them.

Secondly, the book is essentially, a romance novel. Now, I realize I should have known this. I hate that genre. I was banking on the fantasy element, but really, it has all the sappy crap I hate in romance novels. The mercurial moods, the silly he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not shifting that doesn't do a thing for me. Also, if I had to read one more description about how carved-out-of-marble, Adonis-like, impossibly gorgeously, dazzlingly, breathtakingly, sparkly, beautiful Edward was, I was clearly going to chuck the book in the fireplace.

Also - setting. Okay, I know it was important that they were in this awful, rainy town, but how many times can I really read about yet another version of rain? Now it's a mist, now it's a drizzle, now a downpour, now a wet snow, merely overcast today, but back to a drizzle the next day. Seriously, every time Bella looked out the window, I was inwardly pleading, "Don't say it! I don't want to know!"

The climax of the book felt so manufactured. It's not enough that Bella's supposedly in constant peril because she's in love with a vampire and she's fraternizing with his family of vampires, but what do we need to bring the story to it's climax? ANOTHER VAMPIRE! Only this one isn't civilized; he actually does what vampires do; he hunts her. And then, the vampire family does just what you would expect a family of vampires to do for the human girlfriend they met only once - they fly and drive all over the west to protect her. HUH?! Yeah, that would happen.

God, please let Rowling write us another series. Desperation is the only thing that could drive someone to hope Twilight is "the Next Harry Potter!" It was only slightly better than the paperbacks in the supermarket next to The Enquirer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Socialism Doesn't Work

Socialism is a buzz-word now, especially among conservatives. I am against socialism. I am Libertarian, which means I believe in personal liberty and free markets. Personal liberty and socialism are antithetical to one another.

I'm sure you've heard about the lady who had the octuplets, in addition to her current six children. You have learned that they were all conceived via IVF and that the mother is without a life partner, living with her bankrupt parents. Here's what I think is interesting: It's not the first time we've heard of extraordinary multiples. There were the septuplets, of course, and the Dilleys with their sextuplets and now the blossoming of tv shows like John and Kate Plus 8, with their twins and sextuplets. Any of these multiple births seem pretty crazy, but none have attracted vitriol the way the octuplets have. Why? Because this woman intentionally brought these babies into the world without the ability to raise them on her own dime. She was on public assistence already, to say nothing of the expenses of raising the octuplets as well.

This is what is inherantly wrong with the socialist model. You wouldn't see the same level of anger about the octuplets if the woman were very wealthy. For point of fact, how about Angelina Jolie, whom the octuplet mom admires? Sure, people think she's a little nuts to give birth to and adopt many children in rapid succession, but nobody gives a hoot what the tab is going to be. Why? Because Jolie is not paying for her children through your money and mine.

See, socialism only works if everybody does their life equally. If they work equally and consume equally. The moment anyone seems to be getting an unfair piece of the pie, socialism generates animosity. Someone who has ten children is using far more resources than someone who only has one, so the person who only has one feels that they are getting cheated.

This attitude is also visible regarding the recent bail-outs. Before the bail-outs, nobody cared if a few CEO's flew all over the country in Leer jets. But once government money was in the mix, once you and I became unwitting supporters, suddenly it mattered a lot! Because we wonder why they can't just fly coach like everybody else and save a few hundred grand of OUR money. If they are in such dire straights, we rightly ask, why should they go to a spa in Vegas for a lavish party? But if the company was left to stand or fail on its own merits, the CEOs would have to either decide for themselves to fly coach or drive or else watch the company crash and burn on their expense accounts.

What I love about teaching history to my kids is all the great stuff I learn along the way. Take Captain John Smith, for example. Captain John Smith was such a strong leader was because he rejected the socialist systems that the first settlers had put in place. They were trying to create a "commonwealth". Everyone would raise the crops and then everyone would use the resources. Nobody owned their own personal land; it was all owned in common. (Actually, it was own by the natives, but that is another soap box.) John Smith rightly saw the trouble with the system. If the land wasn't their own and if they could just get food from the common store anyway, nobody particularly cared if the lot they tended grew well or not. I love this quote from my kids' History book "A History of Us: BK 2", where John Smith says,

"When our people were fed out of the common store, and laboured jointly together, glad was he who could slip from his labour, or slumber over his tasks, he care not how; nay, the most honest among them would hardly take so much true paines in a week, as now for themselves they will do in a day."

That, my friends, is the secret of capitalism. People take pains if they will directly benefit; they take naps when it doesn't matter how hard or little they work. Once people had the freedom to work towards ownership of their own personal plot of land, they put in the work necessary to make it prosper.