The Bold…The Beast and The Beautiful

I stood for awhile tonight at my bathroom mirror. I actually stood and peered into my own reflection…looked into my own eyes to see what lies behind the flesh and bone. Someone told me recently that my eyes sometimes talk and I wanted to know what they said. They didn’t talk. Maybe I have to be looking at, or thinking of something before my eyes say anything. I actually twisted my face around to see what would happen. Not many wrinkles. No spots…just a couple of left over bug bites from a trip through the swamps of Chincoteague. Does my skin bounce back? Am I getting old? Should I get a face lift?

Ugh…those of you that really know me know that my beauty regime is minimal. Wash my face, brush my teeth…maybe do my hair…why the hell am I staring at myself in the mirror? Am seriously about to let my hair dred again cause I so do not feel like messing with a brush.

Because a face tells many stories. It’s the beast and the beautiful in all of us.

Colin watched me contorting my face in the mirror.
Him: “Mommy…there are 16 lines on your face!”
Me: “Really? Where?”
Him: “Beside your eyes…they’re funny when you laugh.”

Laugh lines. Only sixteen? I did count and he’s right on of course.

Laugh lines…awesome! From here out…every stress will bring on another laugh line. Every down moment will elicit a humorous outlook…every bad thought will cause an equally hilarious thought to cross my mind. I want 72 laugh lines before I’m forty! We’ve got 5 months.

Tomorrow I’ll stake up my lilies so their beauty will show through the scrub.

Tomorrow I will be beautiful despite what the beast inside me tells me I am.

Tomorrow I’ll kiss someone just for the hell of it.

Tomorrow I might dance some more…kitchen parties rock.

Tomorrow I might imagine the future.

Tomorrow I will laugh like crazy at anything I can find.

The beast won’t find me.

It’s all good.

Even when it’s not.

I Wish There Was a Religion that Followed Jesus

My brain freezes when I hear the word “religion”. I hate it.  An immediate psychological wall goes up in my mind when someone wants to talk to me about their religion or asks me about my religious beliefs. This steel door slams shut behind my eyes and I tune them out. Much of the modern world links “religion” to a set of rules and regulations that must be followed in order to stay out of hell or to achieve perfection in the next life. 

We love to label things and those of us who call ourselves Christians are tied inexorably to a religion that reeks of elitism, holier than thou-ness, condemnation for others and unconditional judgment for anyone who doesn’t agree. We follow the rules in the Bible and claim all Scripture to be God breathed and can’t see past that into anyone else’s frame of thought even long enough to listen to them. We stopped talking about Jesus and his teachings and focus on the rules. It is bad to break the rules.

Sadly, followers of Jesus Christ often don’t want the label of Christian anymore because it has turned into a religous belief rather than a faith or way of life. To say you’re a Christian frequently elicits a negative reaction or uncomfortable laughter followed by an equally stupid joke about lightening strikes. My own “non-Christian” friends who know I’m a Christian have voiced their surprise that I don’t make them feel guilty all the time like “other Christians” do.

Sunday News had an interview with a woman named Linda Gort. She is a nurse practitioner here and was the person “in the spotlight” yesterday morning. From my time as a pediatric nurse, I know her reputation as an advocate for women and children. She always had my respect professionally. One of the questions she was asked during her interview was about her faith. She described herself as a “philosophical Buddhist” who isn’t so good at keeping up with meditations, but she’s trying.  Her next sentence hit me really hard and I think she totally nailed how I’ve been feeling about the world’s view of Christians today:

But if there was a religion that followed the teachings of Jesus, I would follow it. I can’t see where people go hungry and churches build new additions.

I think that sums it up perfectly!

Unfortunately much of the world feels the same way.

The Things We Do For Love

Three days from now, my husband will hand over the keys to his office and walk away from a job that he worked hard to get.  He’s resigning as Director of Operations for Lancaster EMS in order to take care of his family. He’s doing it because he loves us.

What a wierd week it will be. Several months ago, we realized that someone needs to be physically present in our home nearly 24/7. Not for our children as much as for Andy’s parents. So, at the beginning of 2008, I severely cut back my hours at my business with the idea of being home.  Since that time, we have struggled with what direction to take. My being home has hurt us financially and I find myself working every single minute that my husband is home in the evenings and on weekends. That leaves little breathing room to hang out as a family.

At the end of June we came to the prayerful decision (at least I prayed quite a bit!) that it would be better for Andy to be home. Financially, we’ll do better if I work full time.  Emotionally, we’ll do better if I work full time. Domestically, we’ll do better if I work full time. Frankly…I should just stay away!! No…just kidding…but….

Andy is much more disciplined about the domestic chores. I’d rather play with the kids, surf the web and hang out by the pool than do laundry, clean, cook and grocery shop. I hate it. He likes it. In fact, in anticipation of next week at home, he already went out and bought more cleaning supplies!

Anyway, I would just like to say kudos to the man who would put up with me for nearly fifteen years and be willing to put aside his career to do the right thing by his parents and his children.  I know that for some people, this is a departure from what God intended when he created man as head of household, but for us it’s the right and sane thing to do.

Thanks, Babe!

Growing Old Gracefully….

or fighting it every step of the way. I don’t know which is worse.  There is something to be said for surrounding yourself with friends while you are young so that you are not completely alone and lost when the time comes for you to need help.

Andy’s mom stopped driving about a month ago. Not because she wanted to, but because we asked her to. Or rather, her three children sat her down and said they didn’t think she was safe. She promised not to drive until she was evaluated. In her mind, she was going to prove to us that we are all nuts and she is perfectly fine! Never mind that her husband is scared when she’s driving or that multiple scrapes and scratches on the car predict otherwise.

She took an off-road evaluation first.  Testing of her memory, reaction time and other motor skills. According to her, she did fine “except that I was kind of slow getting my foot from the accelerator to the brake.”  And “it’s a good thing she asked me those questions to test my memory as quickly as she did, or I wouldn’t have remembered.” A rational person would find that a little scary. She thought it quite normal.

Five days ago she took an on-road evaluation with a driving instructor who does these evaluations full time. The guy has extremely gray hair; I guess I would too if I had his job. Super patient man! Mom thought she had passed this one too. “I only went in the wrong lane in the parking lot, so I think I did fine.”  The instructor warned me at the end of the test that he wasn’t going to pass her. I didn’t tell her that. Her doctor gets to do that one! Which he did yesterday.

It’s like watching a little kid slowly have all his toys taken from him. It’s pitiful and sad and what makes it worse is that they both fight each of these stages as though they can hold back time and all the lousiness of getting old will go away. If they don’t deal with it, it simply won’t cause a problem! And they are alone. They have not developed a group of friends to rely on in their life, so now they are extremely lost. There is no one to ask for help; their church least of all. Sunday mornings they have a ride to services, but that’s about it.  The real stinker is that even if they had someone to lean on, they wouldn’t. They just refuse to let on that there is a problem. They’ll get good at riding the public bus paid for by lottery tickets, I guess.

I just hope that when I’m there, I’ll be gracious enough to let others help me. I won’t run from reality or stop others from caring. I won’t be so proud and pigheaded or passive aggressive. I won’t live in denial or pretend there’s no pain. I’ll lean on my God instead of myself and I’ll manage somehow to grow through that stage with grace.

And when they come for my keys, they can have them. I’ll just buy me a pink stretch limo with a wine bar and leather and a really cute chauffer to drive me around! Life’s too much fun to stand by and watch.

 

 

Eat, Pray, Love

I just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love.  The story of her year long adventure through Italy, India and Bali.

I wish I had her time, patience, energy, money and scrap paper on which to write this epic journey.  I found myself jealous of her at every turn; she’s my age, dammit….why can’t I go to Bali????

But I think she has it backwards.

My book would be Pray, Love, Eat.

Prayer first. My life would be  nothing without the Divine communication I have with my God and the daily and hourly talks we have. Prayer must come first.  I cannot imagine my life or my existence without the Holy Divine, the Mysterious Spirit or the manifestation of Christ in my life. Prayer first.

Love next.  Without prayer, my love for my life, my family, my children and my husband would not exist.  Let’s get real…my love life with my husband would not exist.  Contraray to Gilbert’s experience, I make love to a man that I’ve been married to for 15 years.  I didn’t go to Bali to meet him (although Bali is an amazing place, my experiences in Penang being close to it).  My love for him and the physical we share gets deeper by the year.

Sex, (yes, people, Mennonite women have sex and like it) would not be the experience that it is.  My husband is the one ONE I have devoted my heart to and the only one to whom I’ll ever give my heart, soul and body.  The communion of two committed people has no comparison.  It might not happen as often as he’d like (I’m a sleepy chick most times) but it’s all very, very good when it does….and the prayer is part of it. God placed us together without question.

Then, the Eat part.

Come on, ladies…are you not hungry at all?  After sex I’m almost always hungry! Gilbert’s book did more for my hunger than anything. Eating Pizza, spaghetti, rotini and drinking a great bottle of Merlot at the same time is my idea of a complete evening!  Eating my way through Italy is a fantasty I’ll entertain for many years!  The first part of her book made me want to run away and just CHOW!!!

All that to say, Gilbert’s book is fantastic.  Her frank and humble admissions of vulnerability were refreshing. Not often does a woman my age admit that perfection is not in her repertoire.  I want everyone I know to read this book.  I can’t say I’d subscribe to her theology or lifestyle, but I do think that her independance and desire for truth are admirable.

I’m jealous she ate her way through Italy.

I wish I had the stamina and persistance to get up at dawn and pray through a yoga session. Her persistance in finding a higher power and spiritual grounding should be applauded.

I am not at all envious of her love though.  I have an amazingly committed man who for 15 years has put up with my crap and dealt with my foibles.  He’s watched me be pregnant, give birth and drool on my pillow. He’s watched me succeed and fail. He’s seen me sober and drunk. He’s fluctuated thirty pounds with me and moved house seven times.  I’ve had three babies and he still thinks I’m hot. He knows when my “time of the month” is approaching and he’s figured out how to make me smile.  He puts gas in my car and makes coffee at six.  He’s cut his ponytail and trimmed his beard, but he’s still the man I love. 

Eat Pray Love!  ????

No way!!!

Love, Love and Love.

The rest comes along as a side effect.

There’s A Fine Line Between Motherhood and Insanity…

…and I’m straddling it.

Working mothers vs. stay-at-home mothers has been an ongoing battle for many women. Hackles get raised, claws come up and tears pour. I don’t believe there is a mother alive who is not a “working mother.” Let’s get over the labels first.

My deepest desire is to be able to stay home with my children, raise them and spend all the time with them I can.

My other deepest desire is to own my own business, profit my family financially and have the independance that comes with being my own boss.

Right now, I am torn between those two things on a daily basis and, quite frankly, have been on this line for nearly 12 years.

There is no perfect model. The ultra-conservative religious (I did not say Christian) mother would say that I am not being the best I can be for my children by going to work outside the walls of my home.  She would say that my husband is letting us down by not being able to financially support the family on his own. She would say my children will be depressed, rebellious and needy.

The ultra-energetic liberal woman would say I should care for my own internal diva before becoming a slave to my family.  She would say that my husband and I are equal partners in this world, but because I pushed out babies, I should get some greater time off for myself. She would say that if I don’t do this, I will become depressed, rebellious, fornicatious and needy.

Neither of them are right and I’ve decided that I’m sick of the argument.

My internal diva is alive and well. My drive, passion and business acumen are steadily improving and my personal and family financial goals are in front of me. (Yes, this does include charity and giving because I do have a wide world view too). My children often don’t have me at the dinner table during a busy week at work, my son’s baseball games are not always attended by his mother and I do pay for daycare.

My internal mother is also alive and well. I love to cook dinner and spend time with my family. I would die without it. Over everything, I protect my family time fiercely and I don’t care who knows it. My children love me and although they miss me sometimes, they’ll be just fine. They are learning how to hang out with their dad in a way some kids never do.

So, I’m done with this argument among women.

We’re all in this together and without cooperation, support and understanding, we’ll kill each other with our judgments and that is not something I want my children to learn.

I Wanna Talk to Your Face!

    

He stood at the side of the pool dripping wet. With his little orange and blue swim suit, orange and blue life vest and a great big smile on his face, my youngest son wanted my attention! I had obviously been ignoring his constant “mommy” “Mommy” “MOMMY!” since it is a mantra I have tuned out effectively.  So, he changed it up and instead said, “I wanna talk to your face!” He reached down to where I was in the pool, put his little hands on my cheeks, brought his lips close to mine and then…gave me the biggest raspberry he could! That got my attention and I was his.

How often do we stroll through our day talking with people and not really listening to them? The constant whining and complaining all around us gets so droll and I, for one, tune it out. But, maybe they need someone to hear them for awhile. Even the petty, irritating stuff. Instead, we’re too busy holding our end of the conversation that we can’t wait for them to quit talking so we can start in.  Especially children.

I think God does that sometimes too. He wants to talk to our face. Look us in the eye. Get square with us and plant a big fat raspberry so we’ll pay attention. What does it take for us to live beyond ourselves a little and pay attention to someone else or listen more closely to what God has to say? I’ll bet that each day has a few raspberries in store if we’re willing to notice.

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