Monday, March 3, 2014

The Conversation With God I Don't Want To Have

Don't get me wrong. I'm a sinner. I'm human and that's kind of what we do. I make bad decisions on the regular and I don't always behave in a Christ-like way. Sometimes I blatantly ignore that whole WWJD thing and do things my way instead. That's called freewill. God gave us that privilege fully aware that we would screw it up from time to time. And boy do I ever. But, for the most part, I make a conscious effort to be a good person. And, the way I see it, being a good person starts with how I treat others. 

Every now and again a controversial issue will monopolize the news and I am faced with the decision of whether or not I want to address it on my blog. I know that no matter which side I'm on, and how politically correct I try to be, I run the risk of offending someone. As a matter of fact, it's virtually guaranteed. Because I'm not a big fan of conflict, more often than I'd like to admit, I choose to keep my mouth (aka keyboard) shut. 

But then there are the times that something bothers me so deep into my core that I feel like I'm doing myself a disservice by not speaking up. So I'm going to do just that.

There's lots of talk around the globe right now about discrimination. It's an age-old problem, really. For generations people have endured discrimination because of race, color, religion, name it. Most recently the hype is in regards to homosexuality. 

The people supporting this type of discrimination use "religious freedom" as their reasoning. 

Religious freedom? This has consumed my thoughts lately because I cannot wrap my head around it.

It's cowardly.

It's misguided. 

It's bullshit.


I'm a Christian. 

Like many words in the English language, Christian can be used as both a noun and an adjective.

According to Merriam-Webster "Christian" is defined as the following:

Christian    noun

: A person who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ

Christian    adjective

: of or relating to Jesus Christ or the religion based on his teachings

: of, relating to, or being Christians

: treating other people in a kind and generous way

Hmmmm. Perhaps I am missing something, but it appears that if I choose to discriminate against another human being, I am contradicting THE VERY THING I am using as my excuse to do so. 

I feel like simple definitions should be enough to prove my point, but perhaps not. So I'll take it a step further. 

People love to quote the bible to support their stance on this one, so I'll do the same. Let's pretend I'm someone who feels at liberty to pass judgment on others and one day I find myself at heaven's gates. 

God: Well, hello. Welcome to Heaven. 

Me: Hi! I'm sooooo happy to be here! 

God: Well, I've got your file here and you've got a few things to explain before entering paradise. 

Me: Okay.

God: It looks to me like you spent a considerable amount of your time on earth judging others. 

Me: Ummmm....well, only people that I decided weren't living right. But, I decided that because of some things I read in the Bible.

God: Oh? Well, if you're so versed in the Bible, I must ask...did you read the whole thing?

Me: Ummmm...well, for the most part. 

God: Great! Because in that case you know how I feel about judging others. I believe it's Matthew 7:1-5 that says "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." 
Do you remember that part?

Me: Well...

God: Do you know that I love you?

Me: Of course I do!

God: Even though you're a sinner.

Me: Uh-huh. That's why you sent Jesus to die on the cross. 

God: Right. So, you must also know that I love everyone. And you remember that I commanded that you must also love one another, right? 

Me: Well...yes

God: Right. Because you know...the Bible. Which means you know that John 15:12 says, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." 

Me: ...

God: Did you by any chance use your Christianity as a reason to behave the way you have behaved? Remember, I already know the answer so think about that.

Me: Yes

God: Well, that doesn't make very much sense to me.

Me: Why not?

God: Do you love me?

Me: Of course!

God: Well, if that is true, and it is true that you follow the Bible, and your life's intention was to be a Christian, then I would think you would have put some consideration into John 4:20 that says, "If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." 

Me: ...

God: Can you explain yourself? 

Me: I was self-righteous. 

God: And you know how I feel about that, right?

Me: *sigh* I do. Romans 10:3? "For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."

God: Very good! Now you're getting it. It seems to me that all this time you've behaved as if you could do my job better than me. 

Me: NO! 

God: But you knew this was going to happen. It's later in Romans that says, "Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will ALL stand before the judgment seat of God."

God: So???

Me: I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry. 

And that's a conversation I'd just rather not have. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wanna Be Friends?

Making friends is hard. 

Oh, how I long for the days of walking across the playground and up to another child pronouncing, "We're friends now," and skipping off to the swings hand-in-hand. 

I grew up in a small town and, with the exception of the years I spent in college, lived in that same small town until I was 31 years old. Since then I've lived in two different states. Fortunately, I've made friends in both, but it hasn't always been easy. I've had to step out of my comfort zone. I've had to put myself out there. It's hard, you guys. 

When was the last time you heard a man talk about another man as he walked away. "Oh. My. God. Did you seeeee his pants? Way too tight. Hideous." It just doesn't happen. Women, on the other hand, are horrible. I'm sorry ladies, but we are. I don't know how many times I've been in a situation where one woman has had something negative to say about another woman in the room. Whether it's her clothes or her hair or her size, it's always something. It irritates the shit out of me and it makes me want to punch kittens. As I stand there I can't help but think, "Well, hells bells. I wonder what she's going to say about me when I leave?!" And then I consider never walking away ever. Think about that if you're someone who does this. And knock that shit off. Seriously. It's awful and it makes everyone feel bad and you JUST SHOULDN'T DO IT. 

Knowing women are this way makes it hard to be confident (read: ballsy) enough to lend yourself to the vulnerability of meeting new people. However, after all this time of living in a city of strangers, I've learned that it's pretty much a necessity unless I want to live a life of friendless solitude (believe me, there have been times when I've considered that option). 

Yesterday I got a pedicure. Not something I do often, but I'm going to an event next week where I'll be wearing open-toed shoes and it had to happen. Anyway, I'm sitting in the pedicure chair when a woman comes in and sits down in the chair next to me. The employee asks her what kind of pedicure she wants and she answers, "Whichever one takes the longest. I want to be here as many minutes as possible." I kind of laughed to myself and we gave each other the familiar look that says, "I feel ya, sistah." As we sat there, we started visiting. We talked about kids and jobs and husbands and travel and lots of other "small talk" subjects, but it was pleasant. Neither of us had any reason to be anything but ourselves. We'd never met before and would likely never see each other again. It was great because I am a huge fan of bullshit-free zones. When you enter a friendship with me, what you see is what you get. No bullshit allowed. 

We both finished our pedicures at the same time and were standing at the checkout counter still chatting. She started to walk out the door when I stopped her and said, "Wait. I hope this isn't weird, but here's my number. I've learned that sometimes you just have to tell someone that you want to be friends. Call me if you want to go to lunch or something sometime." Surprised, she took the piece of paper and looked at it. Then she looked at me and said, "Thank you. Thank you for this. It's not weird at all. I'd love to go to lunch." 

Whether or not we'll actually go to lunch one day remains to be seen. Maybe. Maybe not. She may never call. But I put myself out there and gave a big fat middle finger to any fear of rejection I had, and it was awesome and refreshing and a little bit liberating.

I don't know why we've made adulthood so hard. Be nice. Be a friend. Revisit the playground sometime. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Twas Grace That Taught...

Yesterday I shared an article (written by someone else) on my Facebook page about Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. If you're just returning from the moon and somehow missed it, what happened was, immediately following the NFC Championship game he gave an on-field interview that quickly escalated to status: infamous. The interview lasted 25 seconds, but whether or not he will ever live it down remains to be seen. 

Shortly after that interview, he went on to give a 12 minute post-game press conference where he conducted himself with an air of formality and respect - even thanking the fans of the 49ers and praising Peyton Manning. Then some hours later he penned an extremely well-written article (I can only hope to EVER write so eloquently), addressing the incident as being "...loud, in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am." In the article he also expressed disappointment at hearing about the Seahawks fans who allegedly threw food at an injured San Francisco player as he was carried off the field saying, "If it's true, it's beyond terrible. That's as low as it gets...all players deserve better than that."

The intention of my Facebook post was not to start a heated debate on whether or not Sherman's behavior was appropriate because clearly it was not. The intention was to say, "Hey! Look at what this guy has done. He beat the odds. According to statistics, because of where he was raised he had a better chance of joining a gang and being involved in drugs than he had of leading a successful life. And not only successful, but a college graduate, a professional football player, and a philanthropist. Yay, him!" 

But, instead, it quickly turned into a character assassination. 

To say he was intense or worked-up would be an understatement. He was loud - VERY loud - and made some undeniably arrogant comments. But he didn't curse and he didn't say anything vulgar and he didn't strut around grabbing his crotch. Not that an absence of those things excuses him for what he did do, but let's consider the crime when delivering the punishment why don't we? 

People left comments on that post suggesting he erased all of the accomplishments he has achieved throughout his life with that one interview, generalizing that he had no brains, no class...practically crucifying him based on those few brief moments. Ouch.

I am not now, nor did I at any point in my post, defend his behavior during that on-field interview. I thought and still think it was obnoxious and unnecessary. But to let that single action define the entirety of his character seems a bit harsh. 

I take pause to think about the hot water I would be in should I have a television crew waiting around to capture my heat-of-the-moment reactions on film for all the world to scrutinize. Yikes. 
Note to self: Don't get famous.

One of the most memorable sermons I ever had the privilege of hearing was about 6 months ago. It was delivered on the topic of grace. 

By definition grace means to forgive, to grant mercy, to give favor or goodwill. 

During that sermon, the pastor discussed how hard a concept grace is for us to truly understand, because to understand it is to be able to not only receive it without burden, but to offer it to others in the same respect. The former we are willing to take hold of; the, not so much. 

I know I have, and will continue to need my fair share of grace throughout this lifetime. Both from God, and from my fellow man. How can I in good conscious accept it from others if I'm not willing to extend it all the same? 

Even when it's to football players who give objectionable, over-the-top  interviews. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If You Give This Girl a Chore...

At the end of the day I am often left wondering, "What did I DO all day?"

I look around and see tasks half done. Baskets of laundry partially folded or put away, a pile of dirt swept into a neat little pile in the kitchen floor but never disposed of, emails written yet never sent. I think to myself, "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?"

Alas. I have finally figured it out.

Adult ADD is real, yo.

A few days ago my husband was packing for a business trip.

"Would you do me a HUGE favor and iron these pants for me? I promised to play catch with the kids before I left and I need to head out in about an hour."

"Sure. No problem."

So I went upstairs to get out the ironing board and bent down to plug in the iron.

When I bent down to plug in the iron, I noticed some shoes on the floor.

So I took them into the closet.

When I took the shoes into the closet, I saw that there was no room on the shoe rack.

So I rearranged the shoes on the shoe rack so they would all fit.

As I was rearranging the shoes on the shoe rack, I noticed all these empty hangers sticking out everywhere among the clothes hanging above me.

So I gathered them up and hung them all together.

When I gathered them up and hung them all together, I saw a plastic dry cleaning bag slung over the rack.

So I grabbed it and took it over to the trash can.

When I carried it over to the trash can I saw that the trash can was full.

So I picked up the trash can and carried it downstairs to empty it.

When I carried the trash can downstairs to empty it, I remembered that I hadn't cleaned up the dishes from lunch.

So I started loading the dishwasher.

When I started loading the dishwasher, I saw my water glass next to the sink and realized I was thirsty.

So I walked over to the refrigerator to fill it.

When I walked over to the refrigerator to fill it, I decided I was hungry, too.

So I looked in the pantry for a snack.

As I was looking in the pantry for a snack, my husband came in from the backyard.

"Okay, gotta go! Did you iron my pants?"

So I went upstairs to get out the ironing board and bent down to plug in the iron.

Through A Child's Eyes

Look at yourself.
The outside.
The inside.
The parent you are. 
The friend, the spouse, the daughter, the son, the sister, the brother.

Do you like what you see?

My son is in 3rd grade. Despite the fact that he goes to a relatively small school, it consists of a considerably diverse (both cultural and religious) student body. Sometimes when I drop him off at school I watch all the children play. This morning I watched. What I witnessed was nothing short of beautiful.

What if...

What if the media never focused on people being skinny or fat or ugly or pretty. What if, instead, you had no reason to believe anything other than YOU are perfect. Your height, your weight, your skin color, your hair color...are all exactly how they are meant to be?

What if you knew you could have different beliefs without being judged? If your religion or political stance or sexual preference were all just part of what made you...YOU...and that was okay?

What if other moms/parents/people were indifferent to whether you had a career or stayed home or breast fed or bottle fed or spanked or didn't spank or fed your family organic or went out to eat 5 nights a week? What if they parented completely different than you...but would be your friend anyway?

What if when making friends, you didn't give a second thought to what kind of clothes you wore or how much money was in your bank account?

These things...they are all true for children.

Until they are taught otherwise, that is.

Children see people for who they are on the inside.

Until we teach them not to.

photo source

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Resolve to Find Joy

It's been quite a few years since I made a New Year's resolution. The times that I did, they were almost always the typical empty promises to lose 10 pounds, exercise more, become a morning person (that one is particularly hilarious), or eat less junk food. I would generally start off with a bang...until the first opportunity arose to send them flying out the window (usually sometime mid-morning on January 2nd), at which time I did exactly that.

2013 was a year of reflection for me. I probably owe a majority of that to my writing as I now spend a lot more time "in my head". 

In response to all I have learned about myself in the last 12 months as a result of my "reflecting", I have decided to bite the proverbial bullet and make a resolution for 2014.

A couple of months ago I came across a silver pendant with an inscription that read, "Find Joy in the Journey". I rarely purchase jewelry of any kind for myself, but I bought it. I wear it on a necklace and it is the first thing I see when I look in the mirror each morning.

This year my resolution is to find joy in my journey. That means different things to different people, but to me it means...

  • I will be content with who I am. Not to be confused with complacent, as there is always room for becoming a better me. But I will work to do just that...become a better ME. I will NOT strive to be someone else.
  • I will stop comparing myself to others. I will not allow someone else's life or achievements to minimize the significance of mine. The only person in control of that is me and, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy". I mustn't steal my own joy. 
  • I will feed the relationships that bring me happiness, and walk away from the ones that don't. 
  • I will remember the serenity prayer and the part about things that are out of my control. And I will let them go.
  • I will stop beating myself up for the times I "fail" at parenting. Some days I will yell and some days I will pack sugar and preservatives in my children's lunches and some days I will let them watch television for 4 hours straight. Some days I'll spend too much time on my phone or my computer. I will take those days for what they are and then I will rejoice in the other days. The ones when I don't do any of those things and instead have a myriad of parenting "wins". The days when I cook homemade meals and play at the park and read bedtime stories. And regardless of which kind of parenting day I have, I know that each night I'll tuck my kids into bed with a kiss and a hug and they will have no question as to how immeasurably they are loved.
  • I will be mindful of my health and my body, but I will stop worrying so much about what society says my "outer self" should look like. I will be okay with the fact that I may no longer wear a size 2 4 6 (You get what I'm saying. P.S. I've never been a size 2.). I will spend more time working toward becoming an extraordinary person in what most would consider an ordinary body rather than the other way around.

This is probably the hardest resolution I've ever made. It is also one that will, no doubt, need to be re-resolved year after year. 

So, friends, whatever your resolution for the next 365 days may (or may not) be, my wish for you is that you will find joy in your journey. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Family Time

How does that saying go? The best laid plans of mice and men often turn to shit in a hurry? Or something like that?

My husband took off Christmas Eve through the rest of last week. I was really excited because convincing that man to take time off work is like pulling teeth. Except less gross. We made no plans but to hang out in our jammies, play with the kids, relax, drink wine, and watch a bunch of episodes of Breaking Bad. A glorious little staycation is what we were looking at.

By Friday morning I started to get restless. I refused to spend the next 3 days with each of us face down in our respective iWhatevers. We live practically in the dead center of California, which means we are 90 miles from the ocean, and 90 miles from the mountains. I wasn't in the mood for skiing so I suggested we head the other direction and take in the salty sea air. I made the executive decision that we would get up early Saturday morning, drive over to Monterey, spend the day riding bikes along the Monterey Coastal Trail, and have a nice dinner. I even made reservations for us to spend the night so we wouldn't be faced with an exhausting late-night drive home after our family day of fun. Everyone was on board and excited.

Saturday morning I bolted out of bed. What time was it? It was too bright outside. We overslept. I shoved husband out of bed then ran to each of the kids' rooms to wake them up. "Everyone up! Family day of fun! We're late! We need to get a move on!"

Everyone, save myself, was moving at a snail's pace. Very out of character for me, I might add. Somehow we still managed to get out the door only half an hour later than planned, which was nothing short of a miracle. We promised the kids we would stop at our favorite breakfast place in town, so that was our first stop.

Our plan was to eat a big breakfast and have an afternoon snack so we wouldn't have to get off the trail to have lunch. The waitress brought our food to the table and we each dug in. Well, all of us except the 8 year-old. Apparently he had been served a heaping plate of poison disguised as sausage and biscuits. At least that's what you would assume given his reaction. He is currently going through a phase not unlike the kid brother in the movie "Christmas Story". Except instead of taking the perky "Show mommy how the piggies eat!" approach, I tend to go with more of a "eat it or starve" mean frowny face strategy.

So there we sit, 3 empty plates, one untouched. Husband goes bananas regarding the 8 year-old, who is sitting next to me.

"Why aren't you MAKING him eat?"

"Excuuuuse me?? Am I supposed to SHOVE it down his throat? I told him he was going to be really hungry if he didn't eat because it was going to be a long time until lunch. That's about all I can do."


"Are you kidding me? We ARE going! This is our family day of fun, dammit! Everyone shut up and get in the car."

So we pile out of the restaurant and back into the car. No one speaks for at least  an hour.

We arrive at our destination and get everything unloaded. We hit the trail. Five minutes into the bike ride I realize I am missing my watch.


"Jesus. Seriously? You lost your watch? Stay here with the kids. I'll go back."

Husband goes back to look for my watch while the kids and I waited. Fortunately he found it and quickly returned. Crisis averted.

Things smoothed out. We had a nice bike ride, we took a walk along the wharf, stopped at a little eatery for a snack and a couple of beers, and I even got a picture or two that were good enough for Facebook documentation of our "perfect" family day of fun. Which is all that really matters, right? (That's called sarcasm.) 

I booked a mid-priced hotel. Nothing fancy, yet nice enough that I wasn't too concerned that we might be murdered in our sleep. Besides the usual ridiculous complaints about water pressure or the front desk not answering the phone halfway through the first ring, it got mostly decent reviews. I do find it weird, though, that no one mentioned the place was constructed of cardboard.

Husband and I were awoken pre-light by the sounds of the people across the hall getting ready for the day. I feel certain that they either set up camp right outside our door, or were actually using the hair dryer in OUR bathroom. A child screamed bloody murder for no less than 10 minutes. He was never reprimanded or taken elsewhere, so I can only assume they were in the hallway removing each of his appendages with a butter knife. I guess I'll never know because I was too tired to get up and check.

Husband turned to me and asked, "Is there an obnoxious family standing right next to our bed? I can't see them but they HAVE to be there. Wait. Are they IN the bed with us?"

I was taught not to curse violently at children or strangers, which was the only thing keeping me from sticking my head out the door and shouting, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?" And that would have been the clean version.

We were awake much earlier than planned, so we decided to just get up and head home. We got donuts and coffee on the way out of town. The kids fell back asleep and husband and I got to talk for quite a while without being interrupted. We even pulled over at a winery and did a little wine tasting at 10 in the morning. Well, not the kids. Obviously.

Perfect little family day of fun, if I do say so myself.