Friday, July 29, 2011

Sometimes I have to Work

I wanted to write yesterday, but never had a window. Because I do, sometimes, if I'm lucky, have work to do. I'm a graphic designer, see, though through no machinations of my own - sheerly by the grace of God.

I studied journalism in college, then did a short stint as a reporter, followed by a shorter stint as a typestter... then Macs changed everything. I learned how to use one, and grew with the technology – finally going freelance once I had my kid. I do know my way around a Mac, if I do say so myself. I can make you a magazine, an ad, a newspaper, a logo, a brochure, a business card, a vehicle wrap, a billboard, a menu... For a reasonable fee, and not much aggravation, I can satisfy all your print design needs. I can even have it translated into Spanish.

I am very fast, very easy to get along with, and will give you no attitude or artistic temperament. Because I love what I do... Each piece is like a beautiful puzzle. There is an order to it, and it can look good; I just have to find the David in the block of marble and cut away everything else.

I love working at home... Being able to be there when my son needs me, to exercise during the day, to start dinner, to make and take personal calls, to structure my own time... because when I worked in an office I always just wanted to go home. No matter how great the atmosphere  was, no matter how great the people were – and I've worked with some great people. Smart, strong, hilarious men and women... even a couple of bona fide comedians... I still just did my work with one eye on the clock.

And  I'm so thankful for my clients. I really do love them. They are so kind to me, and show me a great deal of grace. Because of PDFs and email, I haven't met most of them. I have clients in Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland... They are fun to talk to, with their own fascinating stories. My Maryland client writes a children's poetry blog... One woman publishes a holistic health magazine as a means of sharing her Christian witness.

Some of my best clients are a husband and wife team. The wife is sweet – a dynamic salesperson, and very focused and meticulous. The husband is a free-spirited Frenchman who used to be a sound engineer for reeeeeeally famous bands. He's drunk brandy with Keith Moon, discussed song meanings with Pete Townshend and hung out with Bette Midler. I'm not kidding - mention any band and he'll say (in a French accent, of course), "Oh I know them. I worked with them at ... blah blah blah." At first I thought he might be exaggerating, but then he posted the picture (on the right) on Facebook of himself sitting behind Todd Rundgren in a recording studio. He also posted a link to a hilarious video of himself as a teenager dancing in an early French music video... Check it out:,les-filles-d-aujourd-hui,srqu3.html (his daughter's comment: "Dad, don't ever dance like that again.")

Anyway, I didn't write yesterday because I had to work.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mock Me Gently

I am not sure what factors contribute to the formation of a "people pleaser" such as myself – being from a large family? Being a middle child? Being a girl? Being a chubby girl? Being insecure? Fear of making waves? Just being plain hungry for love? All of the above? None of the above? How ever it came to be in me, it's there. I wanted to be popular in school and even now it bothers me - probably more than it should - when I think someone may be angry with me, or not like me.

I was reading in 1 Peter 4 about suffering for your faith, and I have just realized that it is ironic that a person such as myself - a people pleaser to the core - would choose to become a Christian. Because even though there's no actual physical persecution occurring right here and now, Christianity is just a turnoff to a lot of people. One biographer of Bob Dylan had a theory that Bob's Christian phase was designed to alienate people... if that is the case, it worked splendidly. He got a lot of "boooos" during that era... although I have to say that Saved is a fantastic gospel album. 

In the past - and also in the present in some other countries - Christians were/are persecuted... executed, imprisoned, exiled. Here and now, it's a little more subtle... In the movie Bernard and the Genie, the genie, who is 2000 years old and from somewhere in the Middle East, recommends that Bernard, a modern-day London art dealer, slay his enemy. Bernard says something like, "That's not how we do it now - it's more like, we give them a dirty look, or we shun them and maybe get our friends to shun them."

That's the kind of "persecution" Christians face here and now. Here's an example from my own life: I have a friend who throws awesome parties, but never invites me. Eventually a mutual friend told me that she didn't want to offend me with the drinking and carousing that inevitably went on. I felt better, but I also had to hope I don't put off a disapproving, judgmental vibe. 

And there's mockery. People, TV, movies love to mock us! I can't say that some of it isn't deserved. We are pretty funny. And sometimes real harm is done by people who call themselves Christians. I am not denying that. Some horrible things have been done in the name of Christ. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about everyday people who are just trying to love them some Jesus.

So we get shunned and mocked... I'd say we have a pretty good deal compared to Christians in other eras, or places. Freedom of religion is a beautiful thing. A while back, I read a book called "The Mystery of Providence" by John Flavel, a Puritan writer who wrote in the 1600s. At one point he says something like: be thankful you were born here [England] instead of in America, among the savages. As an American, I found this funny... especially since it is a great place to be any religion you want without fear of real, physical persecution.

Still, to someone like me, who really, really cares if people like her, the subtle slights can cause real pain... When I think about it, that just might be an intriguing recommendation for the faith – that a person whose purpose up until now has been to please people, is so sure that Christianity is all true, that she will go against her own natural grain... stepping out into an area that is a little scary, and damned uncomfortable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grace? Check.

St Ignatius of Loyola
Yesterday I wrote about my struggle with a decision about getting married and my ensuing chat with a statue of St. Peter, and a friend (Hi Shaun!) pointed out that in a movie, there would have been a response - a weeping statue, a pilgrimage... And in case you were wondering how it all turned out, here it is: I didn't get a response of any sort from the statue of Peter.

However, on another day, as I was thumbing through the brochures in the pew pockets, I found a prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola that said this: "Your grace and love are wealth enough for me." When I read this, I thought about the place in 2 Corinthians where Paul tells how he prayed three times for a "thorn in the flesh" to be removed, but instead got this answer from God, "My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

I realized that I was angry with God for not answering me and making it clear to me about what to do. But He didn't HAVE to answer my pleas because His grace is sufficient... and no matter what I chose, I already had all I needed.

I often look back on that time and wonder why that decision was so hard for me. Maybe I considered it "cheating" on God. As a single woman, I guess I sort of felt "married" to God... like a nun, but without the get-up. So getting a real, live flesh-and-blood husband seemed like cheating...? Like telling God He wasn't enough for me. I hope not...!

Our pastor, Jay Thomas, has been speaking on decision-making and he says these are the things to consider: Desire (Check - I REALLY love Tom and I REALLY wanted to marry him), Ability (Check - at 39, I was certainly capable of getting married), and Opportunity (Check - Tom had asked me, and was pretty enthusiastic about it). All this should be in the context of our pursuit of a real friendship with God... and I figured that sitting in a church for an hour every day talking to Him was what that was all about.

In the end, as you know, I took the matrimonial plunge, relying solely on the grace of God to forgive me if I chose wrong and power of God to make it a good marriage despite my weaknesses. It has been a strangely wonderful trip, and I have no regrets. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Where to now, Saint Peter?

Statue of St. Peter in the Basilica of St.
Lawrence in Asheville, circled on the left
When you are 39 years old and trying to decide whether to get married for the very first time, it can be a pretty tough decision. That was my experience anyway. I was living in Asheville at the time, and working downtown, so nearly every day, I would walk over the the Basilica of St. Lawrence – which is gorgeous, by the way ... you should go see it. Once there, I'd sit in the garden, or slide into one of the pews and just pray my head off. Sometimes I would look at the literature they had in the pew pockets, sometimes I'd just stare off into space. Once I found myself talking to the statue  of St. Peter on the left wall by the main altar. It went something like this, "Peter, you knew Jesus - what would He tell me to do?"
I'm not Catholic, but at that moment, I could see why Catholics find it helpful to discuss things with saints. And I've always been a big fan of Peter... It is obvious that Jesus loved him very much, even though the gospels show him to be pretty much a bumbling idiot. He was always spouting out stuff, speaking too soon... And he could never stand by Jesus at crucial moments. 

My friend Grace is a professor, and a truly humble woman. She likes to say that she provides her students with a good model of failure. It sounds funny, but I guess it IS important to learn how to fail. Peter failed spectacularly, but his recoveries were exemplary.

He got the important things right... He recognized Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16:20), and knew that there was no place better to be (John 6:68.) But at other times, he kind of spazzed, and Jesus had to kind of reign him in. Like in Matthew 16, where Peter actually rebukes Jesus and Jesus says, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" Or when he swears he'll never disown Jesus... well, we all know how that turns out. Just a short while later he swears three times that he doesn't know Jesus. 

It was such a cowardly act, but I sometimes wonder if he just swore he didn't know Jesus because he was afraid they would make him leave. I tend to cut some Biblical figures a bit of slack... Like when it says Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night – people say that it was because he was being secretive, but I wonder if he came at night because he couldn't sleep for thinking about Jesus.

Anyway, I was talking about Peter. He is a complex guy – solid enough for Jesus to build His church on, but shaky enough to run away when things got hairy. BUT what he does next is what counts, I think. He didn't let his shame defeat him – when Jesus appeared to them after His death in John 21, Peter jumped into the water to get to him. I guess he knew his Friend well enough to know that He is all about grace. 

Another thing about Peter is that he was a working class guy rather than a scholar, yet he gave stirring speeches that converted thousands, and managed to write two very beautiful letters. How in the world did he do these things? It is my guess that Peter's failures and inadequacies left plenty of room for the Holy Spirit to come in and do what He does best... that which we cannot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Maybe the Devil really does wear Prada

Voldemort's fashionable followers
Last weekend when I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Bill was worried that it would be too scary, so he refused to go. It took him an entire week to work up the nerve to go, and even up to the last minute, while we were watching the previews, he was worried about what gruesome images might be waiting to assault his tender eyes.

I was thrilled to be able to see it again because, as you know, I loved it. On the first viewing, I watched for plot and meaning. During the second viewing, I could not shake this thought: The bad guys sure are a lot better dressed than the good guys. 

Even though Voldemort himself is always in some kind of weird kimono type of robe, his followers are always decked out in sleek black designer ensembles. The coat that Narcissa Malfoy wears in the final scenes is gorgeous - a fitted, embroidered Victorian-inspired topcoat. Her son Draco wears a slim designer suit, and while the Bellatrix Lestrange is a evil witch (literally) with hideously decaying teeth, her wardrobe is pure gothic splendor. Snape sweeps around in his black cape with his long back hair, looking like he owns the night. Maybe it's all the black, maybe it's the "steam-punk" look they have going on... I just like it.

The brown, tweedy, ordinary Weasleys
On the other hand, we have the good guys. The kids mostly wear their uniforms and school robes; Harry, Ron and Hermione usually wear jeans and sweaters, Neville is fond of cardigans, and the Weasleys wear brown. Not that there's anything wrong with any of this... it's just plain.... and frumpy... and downright unremarkable.

I guess it could be a matter of money? But if this were so, why does the "Snatcher" look good? I mean, sure he needs a shower, but his clothing is like something Marc Jacobs would put on the runway.

The Snatcher
What does it all mean? Maybe it's just that the costumer put the bad guys in black because that's an easy way to show who's bad. Or maybe it's just that their style resonates with my history as a proto-goth and natural preference for black clothing. Or maybe these particular bad guys care more about how they look? Have more to prove?

Maybe it's to show that the world is saved by extraordinary actions by ordinary looking folks. Here's what Isaiah 53 said about Jesus himself: He had no beauty of majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

What does it say about me that I kept looking at and judging their clothes? I hope it's just that I'm a graphic designer whose mother subscribed to Vogue, and not a superficial mall rat. Although, I will confess that when I started attending my current church 20 years ago, this thought ran through my mind more than once: "These people do NOT know how to dress." I hope the fact that I don't notice what people wear to church anymore shows that I've grown maybe a little bit...?

Fortunately, I had no trouble distinguishing between good and evil in the movie - I wasn't discounting the bad guys just because they were dressed like grandparents. I wasn't tempted to pull for Voldemort's buddies just because they looked like a million bucks. 

Sadly, it's not always that obvious which side to pull for... Real life is much more subtle. I guess if you have trouble figuring it out, it's always good to remember what it says in 1Samuel 16: The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

True confession: I always wanted to be a rock star... someone along the lines of, say, Chrissie Hynde. I know, hilarious, right? You will not find a more unlikely person to be a rock star. Rock stars are so cool – they look cool, they wear great clothes... and people scream for them! I don't look or behave anything like a rock star – chubby, bespectacled, short, nerdy... wait, that's Elton John, right? Unlike Elton, though, I have no talent whatsoever. 

I actually took piano lessons for several years. I spent hours in the basement of our family house pounding out Beatles and EJ songs on our out-of-tune piano. I was never that good, though. Adequate, but not ... gifted or anything. My singing, also, is ... um... well, it sounds okay to me, but ... what's the opposite of "affirmation"? Whatever it is, that's what I have received from other people regarding my singing - all my life. I do LOVE to sing, and am pretty good at picking out harmonies, but ... no one really wants to hear it. Even my child would rather not hear me sing. Ever since he was small he would yell out, "No singing!" whenever I attempted a few bars.

Obviously, serious musicianship is not required for being a rock star, but I also lacked the necessary confidence and determination – not to mention charisma. Back in the eighties in Chapel Hill, lots of my friends actually worked really hard, formed bands, wrote songs, performed live and made records. My own little brother had a band.

And I, being kind of shy, just hovered in the corners looking on. The closest I ever got to being an actual part of that music scene was dating a guy in a band. And I'm not going to lie to you – it was reeeeally cool. I mean, seeing the band live, traveling with them, meeting other bands, being referred to as his girlfriend, wearing the stylin' rock-star girlfriend clothes... that part was awesome. The other parts – dating a person of questionable maturity, an artistic temperament and a fondness for certain substances ... not so awesome. But instructive, nonetheless.

My true role in rock and roll, I have accepted, lies in being a fan. Admiration from afar. Like Penny Lane and William Miller in the fantastic movie "Almost Famous," I'm just there to say, "It's all happening!" And instead of being or marrying a rock star (not that one would have me, of course), I married someone just like me – a fan. And we have a fantastic time following the music... and, as Penny Lane says, if we ever get lonely, we can go to the record store and visit our friends!

I am not sure where I am going with this. I just wanted to confess that I, a frumpy, middle-aged lady, have always wanted to be a rock star... so you could have a good laugh, maybe snort whatever you're drinking through your nose. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sufficient Grace

When I can, I like to start off my day with a little Bible reading. And when I say "a little" I really mean, "a little..." At other times in my life I have had other routines - sometimes as much as 3 hours of what they call "quiet time" each morning... 

I've been through the Disciple course they have in the Methodist Church, had a course in Systematic Theology, done the inductive "Precepts" studies by Kay Arthur, and read classic authors like Therese of Lisieux, St. John of the Cross, C.S. Lews, Madame Guyon, Fenelon, Brother Lawrence...  I took multiple classes with Jim Abrahamson, a guy who can teach and preach the Bible like no one else I've ever heard.

Because when I was single, I had that kind of time – and I think it was the "season" for it. I loved learning and chewing over the passages, and the finer points of doctrine... There's no other way I could have matured and grown as much as I did at that time. But, as with many other things, being a wife and mother has molded my days into something that looks much different now. 

Even so, I try to take about 20 minutes at the beginning of the day to read a chapter of the Bible. I have a notebook beside me and I write stuff down that I am thinking as I read it. These days it's not so much a "quiet time" as a "question time." I can't tell you how many times I've copied down a verse I just read followed by this: "What does that mean?" and "Really?" and "How do I apply this?" 

The text itself is so beautiful, yet so enigmatic. It holds endless fascination for me, but also endless head scratching. Nonetheless, I embrace it. Today in the 4th chapter of James I read, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." Putting myself in front of the Bible every day is my way of being humble before Him, and asking Him to teach me what is true.

James 4 also says: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? ... You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God." So, after reading my chapter, I say prayers for my husband and child. There is not a huge amount of fighting in our home - but there is a normal amount, and I find that It is much easier - and effective - to ask God to enter in and make things good than it is to spin my wheels trying to make things good myself... 

And that's about all I can do right now. It is tempting to worry that I am not doing enough - that I should spend more time, read more, pray more... but I just have to believe that His grace is big enough to cover all that I can't do - which is a lot. (Also from James 4: "But He gives more grace.") I'm trusting that opening my brain to Him on the days that I can is response enough to His invitation to grace: "Come near to God, and He will come near to you."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Living on the Edge

Ever since I can remember having friends, I have noticed that I am always at least a little on the fringe, as far as cliques and groups go. You know that inner circle of popular kids that pops up in every class or workplace no matter how old you are? I'm never in it.

At camp, in school, I talked to the other kids, but I could always kind of tell that my presence was more tolerated than invited. Play dates and parties would happen and I'd hear about it later... My disappointment was my fault - instead of just enjoying the friendships I had, I would try to penetrate the "in" crowd. How dumb was that? 

You'd think that growing up would sort of even things out, but there are still cliques among grownups... At places where I have worked, among the other moms at Bill's school...  It no longer makes me miserable, but because of my past history with this kind of thing, I still find myself feeling a little disappointed. My husband thinks it's hilarious and teases me about it - which is exactly the right thing for him to do. I mean, it IS funny that someone my age would even think about stuff like this. 

I am pretty sure that it's not even intentional - the way cliques are formed and people are marginalized. It may just be a sort of organic thing. I mean, not everyone is going to be liked by everyone. People gravitate towards certain people. I accept now, at nearly 50, that I'm just not that kind of person that is appealing to everyone... I'm more of an acquired taste. I'm always just a bit too weird, too talkative, too nerdy, too Christian, not Christian enough... 

Fortunately for me, I have always had wonderful, very close friends in MY inner circle who actually like me and enjoy my weirdness: My brothers and sisters. I mean they have to accept me, but I will go out on a limb and say that they actually like me... Suzanne, my friend from home and college who still knows how to make me laugh... Lydia, my cousin and college roommate... Alecia, who really put up with a lot from me... Grace, who I met in a self-help group at church - and to whom I am so close that people sometimes suspect we're a couple... and most of all, my awesome husband, Tom, who loves me just as I am... and may be even weirder than me... These are the kinds of friends you keep forever, and I intend to - if they'll have me, that is....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's All I've Got

See this rope? I'm at the end of it. As long I am being frank about my lack of parenting skills, I will say that right now I am being sorely tried. Every time I ask or tell Bill to do something he says something like, "No, I'm not doing that." I'm not ordering him to do anything crazy or difficult... just ordinary stuff... do your reading, set the table... 

At seven years old, he is nearly as tall as me, and pretty dang strong. And, well, it's not like i was ever going to get physical with him. I spanked him once, and felt horrible afterwards. I don't think I did the wrong thing, but it was not something I would like to do again.

And at seven years old, his mind is quick and logical. He has inherited the debating skills of his father, the attorney, and the defensive skills of his mom, the middle of five kids.

So when your kid gets to be so big, so capable of logical argument, no matter how misguided, what is your recourse? "Because I said so"? This should be an extremely useful argument in the parenting arsenal, but... it has never really worked for me. In the end I can never actually make my kid do anything. He just flat out refuses. Taking away privileges is never preventative. Threatening to tell his dad (who is a big 6'2" guy) is slightly more effective... but on the whole, I have not had much success in changing the behavior of this stubborn child.

It doesn't help that in the back of my head, I'm thinking to myself - why do I give him such a hard time? I remember thinking as a kid, "why do my parents give us such a hard time?" We were honor students, active in the church, smart, funny and friendly. We didn't do drugs or get in fights... Yet we could not please them. Is this how I am being?

I hope not... I do appreciate what a miracle - what a sweet, smart child - he is... but he really needs to do his homework and learn how to do chores because ... well, that's what people need to do! Right? 

I am just hoping it is just a phase for him. I know he is super tired from going to camp all day, so once he gets some rest, maybe he will be more agreeable? In the meantime, I am just doing my best and smothering it all with love and prayer. That's going to have to be enough, because that's all I've got. 

Monday, July 18, 2011


I have been writing this since yesterday, when I saw the final Harry Potter movie... It has not been easy, because I don't want to sound crazy. But I do want to say what I am thinking about...

The whole time Harry has been fighting "he who must not be named" I can only think of spiritual warfare. I know that there are all kinds of opinions about who the devil is, if he even exists, and what the hell he's doing. I don't have anything new to say, I am sure, but I do think about it from time to time.

If you read the Bible you find that the devil is a fallen angel, responsible for the presence of sin and evil in the world. You also know that he's still hanging around trying to get us to fall. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

Even though the Bible says this, I am not one of those people who sees evil forces lurking around every corner, waiting to suck me in. But it is obvious that there is evil in the world, and it is certainly possible that there is a "personality" behind it.

In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives a pretty good picture of what the work of the devil might look like in a modern person's everyday life. In it a demon advises a younger demon on how to bring down the person he's assigned to. He does this mostly by trying to confuse him, not through trying to make him commit some huge glaring sin. He says that "the safest path to hell is the gradual one."

Who is more devilish that Voldemort, right? All through the books he is there opposing the Harry and his friends, both physically, and by making them doubt themselves and each other. Wearing a piece of LV around his neck in the form of a horcrux, Ron's deepest fears of inadequacy start to bubble up, causing a rift between him and his closest friends. In one movie Luna Lovegood tells Harry that Voldemort wants him to think that he must defeat evil all by himself. 

These are the kinds of ideas that I think the devil trades in. While I don't normally attribute the notions that pop into my head to either God or the devil, I will occasionally have crazy, unfounded thoughts regarding my own adequacy and worth. I really don't need this, so... I'm all for fighting the devil, if there's any chance he is behind it!

And for this battle, the last HP movie reminded me of these things: 

1. We don't have to take on the whole devil and all his evil at one time in a huge battle - Christ (here symbolized by Harry) has done this already. We do conquer little bits of the devil at a time - the horcruxes, if you will. This is our temptations and the choices we make every day. Although some people do fight bigger battles - like the English gentlemen in the movie "Amazing Grace" who worked hard to abolish slavery.

2. We don't have to do it alone. Over and over Harry's friends refuse to let him do anything by himself, choosing to place themselves in danger to aid him. And we also are surrounded by a huge family of like-minded folks that are fighting with us, and also by a "great cloud of witnesses" – those who went before. Sweet!

3. And while sometimes the people who do God's work are prominent (RE: the guys in Amazing Grace), mostly it is regular people wearing cardigans, with bad British teeth. Like Neville. Like you and me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Which I Reflect Further

Just a short one today: I keep thinking about the questions I posed earlier - about how to discipline your children if the law is not any good at being able to change or perfect anything. (See entry July 8) And as I continue to read through Hebrews, it’s still a huge mystery, but ... still maybe a little bit clearer, when I read this passage:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

It doesn’t exactly say this, but what I get from this is... that discipline is not the same as law, but the relationship and interaction that surrounds the law.

The law is a guideline - “here is what it looks like to be good.” Otherwise, how would we know? And every day, we work it out between ourselves and our Father, with a cloak of love and grace covering all. And, I guess, this is what the relationship with our kids should look like.

That is all.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Louie, Louie, Oh No

Last night my husband and I watched an episode of a show on FX called "Louie." It is written by and stars a comedian who calls himself Louis CK, and if you are easily offended or in any way sensitive, I don't recommend this show to you. It is brutally honest and shamelessly vulgar.

The show is part standup comedy, part vignettes of him doing everyday things - dating, hanging out with his friends, taking care of his daughters, of whom he shares custody with this ex-wife. There is something I love about him. He is so painfully truthful that I really can't help but admiring him. I actually imagine his honesty as a model for what I want to do with this blog - but much less blue, of course.

He says things like, "The reason we don't do bad stuff is because we don't want to get caught." Which, if I am completely honest, as he is, I would have to say is true. I mean, sure, I do want to be a good person and to please God, but getting caught and going to jail is a much stronger deterrent to me, for sure. I really wouldn't do well in jail.

The latest season has been mainly about his kids. It is so clear that he loves them more than anything. The show last night was about him looking for an apartment to live in with them, and he looks at a gorgeous house that ends up being 17 million dollars... But he imagines how much they will love living in it, and how much it will "fix" everything and he just can't let go of the idea of buying it - even though all he has is $7000.

But then in his standup, he says that bedtime with his girls is torture - he can't wait for them to go to sleep so he go can eat the ice cream in the freezer. Kids are the best things in the world, but this is exactly how it is, right?

I think I love it because he is not saying this stuff like, "Look how bad I am! Haaahaaaahaaaa!" (That was a maniacal evil laugh.) It's purely confessional. He is so self-deprecating, so aware of his own failures, the frustration of being human. He is so true to himself, that I actually find him attractive, which is a little bit funny, as he is no Johnny Depp.

Occasionally Louis probes deeper: Last season they had an episode where it flashed back to his childhood in Catholic school. The principal and teachers wanted to impress on the children just how brutal the crucifixion had been so they could comprehend what Christ had done for them. It was much too harsh for the kids, but it actually had the desired effect on young Louie... In the middle of the night he broke into the school and pulled the crucifix down and was trying to pull out the nails. The poor kid was sobbing and saying over and over, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

It was so gripping - sad and sweet - and the show ended with his mother tranferring him out of the Catholic school and telling him "You didn't do anything, don't worry about it." Of course, as a Christian, I would have to say that this is not entirely accurate... but on the other hand, what that child needed was grace. And that's what his mother was trying to communicate to him - sheer grace. And as a Christian, I have to point out the irony... To take him AWAY from the church when he was looking for grace? Maybe it was an indictment of the church and the school, not of the actual Source of grace?

It kind of reminds me of an anecdote I heard about WC Fields: During his last weeks, a friend stopped by his hospital room for a visit and caught him reading the Bible. When asked why, Fields replied, "I'm checking for loopholes." I wonder if he ever figured out that Christ IS the loophole?

Anyway, I love Louie... and I'm rooting for him. I hope he finds the grace he is looking for.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Walk This Way

Am I already burnt out? Maybe. I've bored you with my thoughts on Facebook, my fading memory, my crazy mind, music, literature, parenting, and now with this boring recap. As I sit here on the almost cool summer morning, I am wondering if that's all I have. 

And if it truly IS all I have, how much space can I fill talking about writer's block? While I'm thinking about it, I'm going to get up and walk a mile. 'Cos that's what I do. When I need to think, or when I get stuck, walking jiggles my brain around so that I can grab hold of my ideas. 

See that? While I was just walking that mile, I had the idea to write about exercise - because I have plenty of thoughts about that.

I grew up a fairly sedentary child, preferring books and movies to running and playing. It didn't help that I was hopeless at sports. And we know what lazing around leads to, right? A lazy, chubby kid.

Later, in my twenties, I became quite the aerobics enthusiast. Okay, I was an addict. Coupled with a wicked eating disorder, I had a fervor for exercise that was rivaled only by... well, my wicked eating disorder. I rotated my whole life around the class schedule at the gym, and if I couldn't go to the gym, I walked a loooooong way or did a video at home.

Someday I'll give my theories about dieting and eating and all, but suffice it to say, I gradually recovered from the horror of the eating disorder - through lots of therapy, love, prayer and, I don't mind telling you, actual miraculous healing. But for a long time, I was still very rigid about my fitness routines. And I always had a routine. Sometimes it involved a gym membership; sometimes it was just me and my videos at home.

And I do love videos, though now they come as DVD's, of course. I faithfully did STEP aerobics, weight lifting, circuit training, yoga, pilates. you name it. I grew to love the women who yelled out the instructions: sweet Kathy Smith, the bouncy Gin Miller, Cathe Friedrich, choreographer of the most grueling workouts I know... even the fem bots who narrate the FIRM workouts.

For some reason after getting married - I think it was just having to order my life around another's, I started to let things slide... I did my best to fit in exercise, but if I didn't manage it, I truly didn't care. I maintained my tough aerobics and weightlifting schedule - but only insofar as it was convenient for me and my husband. In fact, I'd have to say that my husband is more disciplined about his routine than I am.

I kept it up even during pregnancy. I'm pretty sure that's one reason I had such an uneventful time. But... then came baby... which, as you know, changes EVERYTHING. At first it was truly difficult to fit exercise in at all - between changings and feedings and crying and all the other stuff you have to do as a new mom. It took a while, but I finally shoehorned a few workouts in - often with my toddler climbing on me as I attempted a downward dog, or getting under my feet on my STEP.

My current work-at-home status makes it completely easy to get it in... I'm home all day by myself - who's to stop me? My routine involves mostly just walking. I work for a while, walk a mile, work for a while, walk a mile. Sometimes outdoors, sometimes with a Leslie Sansone DVD.  I try for 5 miles a day, 5 days a week. I don't always make it - last week I only walked 3 days, and not for the whole 5 miles. But I honestly don't care. 

Walking helps my body stay alive, keeps my brain oiled, and keeps me warm in our freakishly cold house... I also like stretching. I've always been limber - and I sort of feel that as long as I can still put my leg behind my head, I'll never be old. 

If you know me, you know that I am not skinny. But I am also not huge... and truthfully, being this way is much more fun - much less stressful. My friend Grace recently said, "If I walked five miles a day, I would eat whatever I wanted." And my response was, "Exactly."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Um... What?

I love Neville from the Harry Potter books - he's a sweet kid who's afraid of Snape and his own grandmother, but he's not afraid to stand up to his friends... In the first book, he has what they called a remembrall. It is supposed to turn red to tell him that he forgot something. The wizard equivalent to a string around the finger, I guess. Well, if that were a real thing and if I had one it would be red ALL the time... because odds are, I've forgotten something at any given time. Usually more than one thing!

I really don't mind getting older - I mean, the body things I can tolerate - the grey hair, the aches and pains... But what age is doing to my mind is something completely different.

Last Saturday, Tom and Bill had a hair cut appointment at 1:00. The problem was, I put 1:30 on my calender. I'm not sure quite how that happened, but I can't say I'm surprised. That kind of crap happens all the time to me. I was just sorry that it impacted the hairdresser that time. She was cool about it, though - to my relief. I would guess it's because she's not any younger than me and occasionally experiences that same kind of brain fart. And if we're calling them brain farts, then I'd have to describe my brain as downright flatulent. 

It's pretty bad on a daily basis, and whenever we travel, I forget at least one fairly important item: pharmaceuticals, phone charging cord, deodorant... I've forgotten elements of Bill's lunch, items he was supposed to bring to school and once, to pick him up on an early dismissal day. 

I blame it on age. And on just the sheer volume of stuff I am responsible for remembering. When I was single, it was not so hard keeping up with myself and my own stuff. Then I got married and suddenly had a bit more responsibility ... then came the kid, my own business, and BOOM! The scope of my mental duties exploded! AND just as I was entering my 40s! On top of all the stuff I have to do, I am also trying to make time and space for a few things I WANT to do... like read a book or watch a movie. One mental obstacle I encountered to writing this blog, is this thought: "You already have enough to keep up with; and if you write a blog everyone will know for sure that you are just sitting around wasting time..."

So what would be the equivalent of BEANO for this flatulent brain of mine? Lists? Organization? Believe me, I am trying it all. I am not, by nature, an organized person, so it's been really hard to herd these crazy ducks into any kind of row. I make a list every day, plan menus every week, write myself notes, send myself emails, put bills in a tickler file, set alarms on iCal... But somehow the cracks for things to slip through are still more like canyons... 

If any of the people who are not reading this have any advice for corralling this life of mine, I am open to change. That is, if a person CAN become organized this late in life... I have profound admiration for anyone who keeps their life straight. My guess is, though, that if you are spending time to read this blog, you might not be one of them... unless, of course, you put it on your list...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Facebook Stew

Let's talk about facebook. I'm pretty sure I don't have anything original to say about it, but it is a tangible part of my life, so I do feel inclined to comment. I've been faithfully updating my status, posting and tagging photos, commenting and liking for quite some time now - maybe two and a half years? I've been with facebook through thick and thin - through a couple of redesigns... I've accumulated more than 600 friends from all walks of life, from all parts of the world. Since I work at home by myself all day long, the folks on FB have become my coworkers, sort of - my watercooler. 

I love finding people I knew from my home town, from college, from the groovy 80s in Chapel Hill, from previous jobs... It is so great to find out what they are doing - how they "turned out" - to see photos of their spouses and kids, to see what they do for a living, what kind of music they like, how they spend their time and how they feel about things.

I love getting to know people better that I just sort of know now. I recently friended the wife of a first cousin. I've met her a few times, but she lives a ways away, so I don't really know her. I find that I "like" nearly everything she says! She posts inspiring Bible verses, and I love hearing about her son, the baseball player for the Tampa Yankees. Benji, a girl I barely knew in high school, is also a graphic designer and so exuberant and very sweet - I am sorry she's in Mexico and we can't have coffee sometimes.

And I love "meeting" people from far away - like Brian, the artist from California who throws out great questions that start great conversations. And there's Daigan, the Buddhist monk... and Rich the professional comic book artist... and Bill from DC - attorney by day/guitarist by night.

I have FB friends that are very conservative - Tony the biker posts quotes from Ayn Rand, and very liberal - Kit in New Zealand posts links to every liberal and feminist cause that crosses her path. Some are Christians - conservative, liberal and nominal... some  are completely secular, some are wild pagans! 

I know that some folks block posts from people that post political or religious stuff that bugs them, but it's fascinating to see what everyone is talking about and what the different views are. I mean, I know how I feel and why, so I think it's only fair to hear the other side. I have to say, the other side still mystifies me. Even though I read it, i still think, "What? How could they really think such a crazy thing?" But at least I gave them a chance, right?

If FB has a downside for me it's the "junior high" factor. Even though I'm a grownup, it still hurts my feelings when someone refuses to friend me or unfriends me. I wish I could say I don't care, but... well, I'd be lying! It's like I am still in the 8th grade! Not my favorite grade.

But in general, facebook has been a great friend to me. I've been through births and deaths, love and loss with some of these people. I am so proud to be part of their lives and call them friends. All thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, who, if the movie is accurate, is a complete jerk. *Like*

Monday, July 11, 2011

Insane in the Membrane

So, I saw the "Tree of Life" movie with my husband yesterday, and ...  well, it was very... interesting. If you go to the movies expecting a clear story, resolution and easily interpreted theme, I would probably recommend a different film for you. It was a disjointed collage of nature footage - the cosmos, volcanoes, cells, dinosaurs - interspersed with the story of a family of three boys growing up in the sixties with their strict father and dreamy mother, and whispered prayers. I won't review it here, as others are way more qualified than I am to do this, but I will say I am surprised that some viewers have so disliked it. 

It was sad and beautiful and sweet and plaintive... and it reminded me of nothing so much as my own mind - a crazy mixture of what's happening now, memories, prayers, joys, complaints... If you have been reading my writing, you know how convoluted my mind can be, and let me tell you - what I post is the organized, edited version.

Were I to actually write out what my mind is doing, it would look more like this:
"I don't know how good this blog post is going to be - good thing people probably won't read it. But what if they did? I hope they like it - or at least don't hate it. I wish I could figure out how to wrap text around the photo. Wow it's getting cloudy out. I hope it rains - our yard is crispy. The crepe myrtle tree looks good, though. I love crepe myrtle trees. The white ones especially. I can't believe I get to have one in my yard.

Dag, I've got a headache. What's up with that? I wonder if we have any advil? I'll get some when I get bread today. Can't have tomato sandwiches without bread. Summer tomatoes are soooo good. The tomatoes my dad grew were the best - the cucumbers too. Can't say I miss the squash overmuch though. I hated working in that garden... My dad was great, but he could be demanding. That's a really good song. Wonder why Bryan Ferry sings that way - it's kind of weird. I can't believe Jerry Hall left him for Mick Jagger. Ew. Wonder what Tom's doing right now... Two hours until I go get Bill... I hope he's not too grouchy after a day at camp. God, please help me be patient with him. I'm so tired... I'll be so glad to see him... Ewww... I really need a shower!"

I could go on forever. And believe me, in my mind, I do. Maybe when people went in to the movie "Tree of Life" they wanted just a story, and just weren't prepared to be inside someone's head. Or maybe they just didn't want to be inside such a sad person's head?! Maybe they would have preferred to be in ... well, I can't think of anyone who is always ONLY happy. I mean, unless I am mistaken, we're all pretty messy inside. Thank God for the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies, then, right?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Glad Tidings

True confession: I love Nat Stine. He is the "Worship and Music Minister" at my church, and I love him. Not in any romantic or adulterous kind of way. And not in a creepy, stalky way, although maybe he'd beg to differ... I just like what he does on Sunday mornings - the songs he chooses, his arrangements, the laid-back way he is. 

I went to church this morning thinking, "I'm going to write about Nat today," and in between songs, he actually went into sort of an explanation of his method of choosing diverse kinds of music because God's people are a diverse group. On any given Sunday, we might hear any combination of the following: hymns, contemporary Christian music, gospel music, secular music, choral music, classical music, songs in different languages... I probably left some things out, but that's how diverse it is - I just can't name them all.

Sometimes we have a choir, sometimes a band. Sometimes we have a local musician or band like Thad Cockrell or Roman Candle. Sometimes it's folky and acoustic, sometimes rockin'. The arrangements are always good - good harmonies, good instrumental blends. And best of all, for me, is that no matter what kind of music is being played, it NEVER sounds nerdy.

Because that has always been my beef about what they call contemporary Christian music. It just sounds flat-out nerdy. I admit that I never listen to it, so maybe it's changed since the 1980s when I first gave it a shot... but back then, it was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I appreciate the sentiments, the theology and all... some of the songs are actually wonderful. But the arrangements just made me shut down. I am not sure why... lack of powerful drumming? too overproduced? just that it seemed to be an imitation of something, not the real thing? 

I get a much better buzz off other kinds of music... I've been know to do the praise hands thing at a Husker Dü show or Bruce Springsteen concert (much to the embarrassment of my husband), or driving down the road listening to Soul Asylum or Van Morrison. Not because I'm worshipping Bob Mould, Bruce, Van or Dave Pirner... but because sometimes it just feels like God is right there with me when I am hearing this fantastic music. Did you know that if you listen to Van Morrison's Moondance album from beginning to end, you get a great Christian story? From the baptism at the beginning (It Stoned Me) to the apocalypse at the end (Glad Tidings).

I'm really not trying to make myself sound cool. Anyone that knew me in high school - or knows me know - knows that I am about as nerdy as they come. And I love churchy stuff and all that - even though i'm not precisely cut out of that mold. I'm more of a very lumpy drop cookie.

But I digress. I was talking about Nat. I really don't know him all that well - he's a lot younger than me, and has a fascination with Boston sports teams that I don't get. Nonetheless, he and his friends make music at church that I can get on board with... and today he said spoke a true word: even though I'm on board with it, the music at church is not really FOR me - it's for all of us, and look how crazy different we are!