Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This is why we need a savior

I’m becoming aware that, in my advancing age, I am growing less tolerant of people who will not assert themselves and rise above circumstances. I guess I should admit that I never was terribly good at dealing with that type of person anyway. I’ve always been the impatient person who doesn’t understand, the insensitive person who wants to grab folks by shoulders or bootstraps or whatever I can get hold of. I don’t comprehend fear of making plans with others, inactivity in the face of confusion, even hesitation in general.

And I need to. I really need to try. Not only because it would make me a better-rounded and wiser individual, but also because those same people of whom I am intolerant probably find me to be quite abrasive and harsh, too quick to act, not nearly meditative enough. And they’re every bit as right about me as I am about them.

We all fall short. All. We all hurt each other, fail each other, disappoint each other daily. We are most of us doing the best we can, but we are never going to rise regularly to the occasion of being all we should be. It’s just not in our nature; it’s not natural for us to be good. That’s how nature is manifested, right? Something that’s natural is simply being faithful to its true nature. Since our true nature is fallen and sinful, we are doomed never to measure up.

But guess what?! We don’t need to. Isn’t that awesome? Of course we keep trying, we keep asking for help, we keep on striving to be better and stronger and all that. But when we can’t do it (notice I said when, not if), we need only ask for forgiveness and receive it. New mercies every morning. Fresh grace bestowed upon request.

The only requirement is that your request be sincere, from your heart of hearts. And when you truly understand how fallen you are, we are, then how can your request be anything but absolutely sincere? When you get it, it’s easy to be humble and broken and prostrate before your Creator.

Romans 5:11
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:39
Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Happy Easter!

Friday, March 26, 2010

not mine, but worth sharing

OK, people—I dare you to watch this without smiling. I dare you:

And if that doesn't get you, and you love dogs—heck, even if you just love dogs—then go here.

No, I don't know these people. It doesn't matter. This is when I forgive the Internet for all its idiocy, pettiness, mindlessness, and perversion. When I stumble upon these sorts of things, and remember that it is, after all, a powerful tool of genius.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The security corn bag

The past few days have brought some stress and challenges. And some cheap, sweet-smelling security.

Saturday, we celebrated the kid's birthday. He's 5 now. Family filled the house. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely cooperative and wonderful; kids ran and played outside, adults sat on dusty-but-functional lawn chairs, and far too much sugar was consumed with glee.

And then. Just a day later, my kid got sick. One of those horrible, throw-up sicknesses that bring you out of a lovely, dreamy sleep in the wee hours of the morn. You're awakened by a cough, the wet awful cough that precedes the expulsion, and...well, you get the idea. I am really glad he waited until after his birthday. I am so very thankful for the beautiful weather. And yet—we still have a pukey kid on our hands here.

Perhaps I did not mention that last week, whilst I spoke on the phone and multi-tasked by also making dinner—at 10:30 am, mind you, because I work in the afternoons—did I mention that I pulled a muscle in my neck? And that it is still aching? That driving, merging, even turning to talk to someone on my side, all those innocent activities send stabbing pains down the side of my head-stem? Perhaps I forgot to mention that?

Not to complain, mind you—I am really trying to be thankful. The great weather. The happy birthday. The fact that sickness held off and my days of preparation were not in vain. (Those preparations have been in vain, several times in the past. It has been quite sad.)

Anyway. Many years ago, when I had a personal life and spending money and used to visit the Strip District regularly, I purchased a wonderful thing. It was a heating pad of sorts, a simple cloth bag that a woman had hand-sewn and filled with dried corn. Todd and I have lovingly referred to it as the corn bag for all this time. When microwaved to toastiness, it has seen me through sore muscles, cramps, back pains, and the like. It has served both of us well.

So, when my neck continued to ache, I searched far and wide for the corn bag. I knew I would never have thrown it away, yet I couldn't find it. I looked, and looked again. At last, I uncovered the thing in my closet, in a spot I hadn't thought to search. I threw the bag in the microwave (the same microwave which is beginning not to work—did I mention that? not that I'm complaining) and the bag warmed to the perfect temperature.

I went to the microwave, pulled out this little miracle satchel that smelled so richly of popcorn, and took the fabulously aromatic bag of goodness to the living room. I placed it behind my head, leaned my aching neck upon it, breathed in the luxurious smell of warm corn. Ahhhhhhhh.

And my sick son watched. He wanted to know what the bag was. He wanted to feel it, to squish the kernels between his little fingers. Then he wanted to put the thing under his feet, which he told me were cold.

Okay. I am a mom. This is my flu-stricken child, asking for the corn bag. He put it under his little toes and nestled them down into the pleasing warmth. He smiled at me, the first smile I'd seen all day. Then he hugged the bag to his chest.

Today, as I forced myself to dress for work, to leave my little sick boy, I heated the corn bag one last time for his enjoyment. He tucked the fragrant warmth under him as I left for work. I didn't want to go, it's true. But if I must, and I must, then I am happy he has the corn bag to clutch in my absence. His dad will be there to re-heat it as needed.

It's not me. But it's a heavy, warm thing to hold close when he needs that comfort. A worthy investment, if you ask me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

To flee or not to flee (a.k.a. hormone-induced melancholia)

Every now and then, a holding pattern becomes a rut, and you stop churning for long enough to realize that a lot of the things that drew you to something are just not there anymore. Maybe it's a workplace, or a relationship, or a hobby that's lost its shine. You realize you've changed, thus you've grown apart from whatever it may be, and you begin to wonder whether keeping that thing is worth it anymore.

My husband and I are in that sort of holding pattern rut. It's been almost a year now since our lives got tossed on their small, smarting ears, and we've been treading water and trying different strokes and occasionally resorting to the dead man's float, and we find ourselves talking about chucking it all and just leaving. Going to the country. Hanging up the citified, suburban lifestyle for the other. It's not as if we ever entirely bought into that picture. We don't have a mini-van, we live in a house that's under 1000 square feet, we don't have tickets to the theater or the the professional sports teams venues.

When I ran to the spice store recently to get pepper (yes, pepper,) I realized it was the first time I'd been to the Strip District in months. The very place I swore I'd visit frequently. I live 10 minutes from it, and I never go there. How often does one need good curry? And even my beloved PennMac—I bought some dried tortellini at ALDI a few days ago, and I felt just a twinge of guilt. I know, it's cheaper at PennMac, but this bag was right there and I was in a hurry and God knows when I'll get down to Penn Avenue again...

It's not just food. When did I last attend a concert? The symphony on my last big, awful birthday was lovely, but it was the first time in a long time, and I'd likely have nixed the spending of that major coin if it hadn't been a happy surprise that was sprung upon me. Even free concerts go unattended by us because, honestly, I have a kid now and I don't have free babysitters living next door. All those fun city activities, art festivals, outdoor movies, rails-to-trails hikes—all of them go largely unexplored by me, by my family. And if having a kid didn't kill the ability to do this stuff easily and without planning, throw in a job and you'll understand my situation. We're living by the city, close to the city, enjoying the nearness of the city...but not really benefiting from the city. Our church remains my only regularly visited bastion of "city." It's a slice of real, varied life in every way, and that I do enjoy. Most of the time. But it stands pretty much alone in the ongoing-city-exposure category.

Seriously, if ever we were to drop the ball and sell it all, this is the time. There's no great, full-time job with incredible benefits for either of us to walk away from. We're not taking advantage of urban proximity anyway. Why not vacate? Our house is so small, affordable, and convenient to town, in a pretty good school district, that I suspect it would go without much trouble. I really do. We've made it more cute and more modern, and maybe I'm fooling myself, but I truly believe we'd sell pretty easily in the right season.

Yet. There are two of us to consider, and even if we're both on board with the departure, we're prone to wonder: do we have what it takes? Leaving it all behind means more work, a different kind of work. We don't enjoy hard work now; what will change? I love manageable amounts of weeding and cleaning and the like, but a little goes a long way. My husband? The same. I don't feel confident we'd succeed at any of our country notions. The alpaca farm? Mucking out stables, cleaning hooves, feeding and watering twice daily in cold months. The lettuce and herbs farm? Ceaseless garden chores, paperwork in order to sell legally, inspections in order to be classified as organic. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is simple anymore.

And, just as getting married complicated major decisions, made them suddenly complex and sticky, having a child has made decisions exponentially more difficult. What is best for my little boy? If I move to a tiny town, buy a dilapidated farm (the only kind we'd be able to swing), and raise free-range chickens who lay free-range eggs, then must I home-school? Cyber school? Will my only child despise the isolation? Will he become a loner, an awkward kid who can't face a roomful of strangers without shortness of breath? Or would it be the best gift we could give him?

Is it more important that we keep the proximity to population so that someday, when we hopefully have a more predictable and more comfortable lifestyle, we'll be able to soak up all that our fair city has to offer? Or will we likely spend our days endlessly running from pointless practice to pointless practice, wondering why we never see the neighbors or family, trying desperately to make sense and meaning out of the whirlwind of stupid busy-ness? Is it worth it to offer my little boy diversity that he rarely tastes? Is it worth the taxes, the traffic, the pollution? Will we look back someday and wonder why we stuck around and spent our lives with all these folks breathing down our necks? Or will my sweet kid change the world because he saw much, and learned much, and understood much about the world through the eyes of a place that he couldn't conquer and master with ease?

I honestly don't know what's best. I know in my heart that this is the time to cut and run. And I also know that, as sung so wisely by Neil Young, there comes a time when a person must decide whether he's "old enough to repaint" or "young enough to sell." I'm not sure which one fits me, or us, best. But I feel increasingly certain that, pretty soon, the decision will be made for us.

Friday, March 5, 2010

a feeble attempt

OK, I know I've been an absentee bloglord lately. I actually have been puzzling a story-line over and over in my head. Here's a taste. And if you hate it, and it falls flat, I hope you'll tell me—thus pointing me in the direction of nonfiction forever. Perhaps that's where I belong. I tried writing this in a bit of a countrified dialect, but it just didn't fit. I have no idea if this style succeeds at all or fails miserably. Please, dear reader (all 2 of you), be brutally honest. I need honesty. Honestly.


"Ma, you should write a book. You should write this all down."

My girl tells me this at least once a month. She thinks people would like to read the story of my common little life. I don't know if they would or not. Honestly, I'm not even sure I'd like to read it—and I know and love the protagonist. I do have some stories to tell, I guess. But I'm not convinced of their value; they're not so different from anyone else's stories, really. Maybe she's biased; I am her mother, after all.

But she insists: "People would read it. They'd like you. You'd be the character they could root for." Perhaps that's true. I surely know about being the underdog, and people are suckers for the underdog. They like to root for the loser, and I've worn that hat a time or two.

My name is Delma, but I'm Del to anyone who knows me. I've been married twice, widowed twice, a mother once and a fool many times. But I'm learning. I just happen to be a slow learner.

When I was a girl, my mother called me her wild child and I was so proud to wear that name. I thought a label like that made me cool; I didn't know I'd end up being a mockery of myself before I turned 25. I didn't know I'd be kicked by life until I needed a saint to make me feel alive again. I only knew, back in the day, that I was young, and pretty, and that I could dance. I could walk into a bar and know just which boy there I wanted to kiss that night. And I'd kiss him, too. There were only a few that got away from me before I let them go, and I like to think they regretted it or were already attached to someone special.

Now, of course, none of that matters to me. If I never kiss anybody again, it's all right by me. And I never did care too much for the other, the part that followed the kissing. But I'll save that for another chapter.

So, my girl tells me to write all this down. She is convinced I'll forget, because she forgets things already and, as she so sweetly reminds me, God knows I am older than she is by a few years. I tell her, "Thea, you forget everything because you never knew it in the first place. You have your cell phone and misspelled words in it and email and calculators, and all your technologies have stunted your brain." She never wants to hear that, of course. She thinks she's all that, just like I did when I was her age. I let her go. She'll come to her senses eventually. All those little toys aren't enough in the end; there's no substitute for having a soul and some peace and love to fill it with.

I named her Althea after my husband's grandmother. I never cared for the name, but it was the thing to do, name your child after a grandma, and my own mother bore the name Mildred—and I just couldn't burden a child with a name that has the word dread in it. So Althea it was. Part of the choice was a last effort, too—one final step in my attempt to please her dad and mold him into a decent man. Like I said before, I'm a slow learner. But I never said I was a genius.

Thea's still a young girl, though, in many ways. She moved out and she works full-time; she studied to be a veterinary tech, and now she gives puppies and kittens their shots and helps the vet spay and neuter at the clinics. She's making money and paying her own bills, so she figures she's unofficial MENSA these days. I just let her think it. She's liable to get knocked flat too, someday, if she hasn't been already. She'd never tell me if she had; she's too proud. We love each other but it's not like that, we're not one of those mother/daughter best friends stories. I never had intentions of making my daughter into a best friend. I can make my own friends.

And I don't choose to do that, these days. I was always a loner, first because I had no choice and then because I did. Now I have the Lord in my heart and that's plenty of company for me. Oh, and I have memories of my Willam.

I guess I should start at the beginning, though. Which means starting with the other one, Delbert. Don't ever marry a man who shares your name. It just doesn't bode well for the two of you.

How to explain Delbert? Well, now, he was good-looking and he had nice lips and he kissed just right, not too much pressure but no slobber. Sadly, it became evident immediately after marriage that his kissing was the best thing about him. We made a handsome couple around town, we both knew a lot of people, we both liked to dance and to have fun. He was always pushing me to "take off that damned dress, Delma, my God you are a prudish sorta girl" but I held tight to that dress. It was all I had. I knew Del had been all around town with every other girl who'd grace his arm prettily and let him have his way. But I figured I was the one who'd stick. I wasn't about to play that dress card when I knew it was the only thing that made me special.

My mother tried to help me see the truth. She listed all the girls Delbert had courted and left, and after he'd come calling a few times and she knew he wasn't going anywhere quickly, then she pulled out the really scary, awful story about another young lady who'd left town for exactly 7 months and then come home a strangely empty woman. She even told me who it was: that pale, thin blonde who worked at Murphy's in town, Lita. I said that my Del hadn't had a thing to do with her. I said that was a lie spread by the girls Del didn't care to date.

I found out later that my mother's scary story was all true. That bastard husband of mine had gotten poor Lita pregnant and flatly denied the whole thing; she'd been shipped off to Philadelphia to have the baby at her aunt's house and then was forced to give the little boy up. Lord knows where he is today. She thought of looking for him but was afraid he'd hate her, afraid she'd find out his being adopted had ruined his life. The fear that she'd locate him at last in jail was too much to face. I found all this out because Lita ended up being my best friend. She got me through some tough times, helped me find work, even babysat Thea in a pinch.

Anyway. I married Delbert and my mama cried. The day of the wedding, she stood there and cried. Between that and Del sharing my name, we were pretty much doomed from the start.


So. Do you care at all about Del and Del? Is this a believable voice? Or does it ring untrue? Let me have it. I can take it. Remember, I named this venture "Melmoirs" for a reason: I know that I have plenty of weak spots in my fiction writing.