I've just been introduced to Tim Hawkins--a Christian comedian. I didn't expect to laugh as much as I did, when I watched this video. He starts out a bit slow, but once he gets into the routine, it's a hoot!
"...the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us."
Well, it finally happened. I knew when I got a dog, I couldn't avoid it forever. Yes, we reenacted the infamous scene from A Christmas Story: the dog ate our dinner. Much like the turkey that the Bumpass hounds consumed, we were having a little rotisserie chicken. Don't know what scene I'm talking about? Well, here ya go.
Warning: language may include such technical non-dictionary terminology as 'sonsabiches.'
It was actually tomorrow's dinner, since, to be completely accurate, the dog ate tonight's dinner leftovers. We had already eaten our meal, which included part of the aforementioned chicken, and I was planning to pack the second half back into the fridge for tomorrow. No such luck. By the time I got to it, there was just a lot of chicken strewn about the floor, and a guilty-as-sin dog trying to wolf as much down as he could.
Look at this guilty culprit. Guess who spent the rest of the evening in the back yard?
Honestly, though, I think I can recover from this. Because after gathering up the scraps, there was at least 1/4 of the bird left on the floor. Not enough for an entire meal, BUT....I think tomorrow's dinner is gonna be OK after all. We all like chicken soup. And what the kids don't know, can't hurt them ;-)
Because goodness knows, there's no money for Chinese food.
It's no secret at this point that it doesn't look like my marriage is going to make it. I say that because my spouse and I have been separated for 7 months, and things haven't gotten any better. By the time we finally separated, things were already bad enough. Unfortunately, in most ways they've only deteriorated more. But I don't take this whole separation/divorce lightly. Divorce is nonexistent in my family of origin. You get married; you stay married. God is bigger than our problems, and He can redeem anything. Right? So for me, separation was an absolute last-resort, when I no longer felt safe--for many reasons. I put it off for as long as I could, and did everything I could to save the marriage.
One of the things I did was go to marriage counseling. A lot of marriage counseling. And marriage courses. And seminars. And retreats. And anything I could get myself or "us" enrolled in that I hoped would save "us." My spouse was usually more than game. We were both pretty miserable, and looking for a "magic bullet."
But in retrospect, I can see one of the reasons why counseling (and most of the other stuff) didn't work for us. Every singledoggone counselor we ever saw wanted to start off by working on "communication." At the outset, that seems very reasonable. But the problem is, honestly, none of them ever seemed to get beyond that. And the fact that (looking back) I have an objection to that is really ironic, because I was a Communications major in college. I love the topic of communication--the psychology, the history, the rhetoric, the everything of communication. But for some reason, the more my spouse and I worked on our communication (painstakingly following multi-step models to guide us, writing things down and reading them out loud, using "key phrases," and every trick in the book) the worse things got for us.
The question is, why?
I believe that the answer is that communication wasn't the real problem. There were underlying issues that were so bad, that there was no good way to communicate about them. Those issues were an elephant in the middle of the room--that we tried to "talk nicely" around. It didn't work. In fact, honing our communication skills just made us better at fighting about the elephant. Better communication didn't make us more peaceful--it made us more articulate fighters!
And none of the counselors we ever saw seemed able to tackle that elephant. And, frankly, that doesn't really leave me with much confidence in the counseling profession; because there are a lot of pretty damn good books out there on communication, but what we needed was someone who was willing to go beyond that.
Have you ever been in marriage counseling? Did the counselor fixate on communication, but without a seeming ability to address underlying issues that fueled the communication?
I'm highly competitive by nature. This has always mocked me in the world of athletics, because I'm terrible at sports. And when I say terrible, I really mean it. I have gross gross motor skills, nonexistent reflexes, and I'm a painfully slow runner. Did I also mention that I'm barely five feet tall? So, I've spent most of my life as a frustrated loser, when it comes to athletic ventures.
On Mother's Day, each year, our kids' track team (coached by men, of course) plays what I consider to be a hilarious practical joke by running a "Mother's Race." This joke is only made funny by the fact that all the (male) coaches think it's "fun" for the Moms, and coordinating this race is their "gift" to us. Hmmmm...let's see...can I think of a worse way to spend Mother's Day, than to squeeze myself into some spandex and get out on a track with a handful of Type-A moms who actually run marathons in their spare time? (I'm not making this up.) Uh.....what happened to bringing Mom breakfast in bed, and giving her flowers and chocolate?
Anyway, a year ago, they kicked the event off by dividing the women up by age. Adding insult to injury, they announced your age to the several-hundred people smart enough to keep their rears in the bleachers. So they all got to find out how old you were before you made a fool of yourself. Awesome. In the interest of time, the only "Mother's Race" was a 100 Metre sprint--not my forte, unless it involves chasing an errant toddler. My valiant efforts that day resulted in nothing more than a pulled muscle and a dismal last-place finish.
Later that same night, my (then) 8-year-old son decided to solve a mystery for us all-- one that we didn't even know existed. "Mom," he said with solemnity, "I know why you lost the race today." [insert awkward silence] "It's because you're so....well....you know...." and then he held up his arms in a circumferential gesture, as if his body had become a blimp. But not with his arms out to the sides. Oh, no: with his arms out in front, mimicking huge, imaginary boobs. And he didn't stop there. He continued, "Because you're so big. Everywhere. And that's why everything jiggles so much and and......everything....while you run," still feigning huge, imaginary boobs--which he was now 'jiggling.' "That's why you lost."
Well, thank you. Thank you for that verdict and visual depiction.
Each time I tried to forget the incident, I couldn't, because that injured quadriceps haunted me for over a month. And each day since then, I vowed never again.
This year's race was yesterday. This year I had only two main goals:
Goal #1--Don't hurt myself. Really.
Goal #2--Try not to come in dead last, trailing far, far behind every other runner. But only if it didn't mean compromising Goal #1.
But then I found out this year they decided to change things up a bit, and instead of only offering the 100 Metre sprint, they were offering a Coed 1-Mile run as well. I've been running as part of a fitness program for several months now, and I'm up to about 3-4 miles. And although I'm still slow, I've got pretty good stamina. And the key word was Coed; that meant my kids' father would run it. Ka-CHING: I had a third goal.
Goal #3--Beat my children's father.
I won't lie. It wasn't going to be easy. The man towers a foot over me, his legs are twice as long as mine, and he has beaucoup spare time to work out at the gym every week. But to make a long story short, against all odds, and certain that I'd never be able to do it, I had my shining moment of glory. I kept a nice, steady pace the whole race, feeling pretty good. Then when I saw my chance, I made my move, and overtook him in the home stretch. At 8m 10s, I beat him by just a few eternal seconds. And for once in my life, the die-hard competitor in me was triumphant.
Yeah. I went all Eric Liddell on his Harold Abrams a**.
Oh, I laughed, and smiled, and said it was "All in the Name of Fun."
Sure. Whatever. 'Cuz if you believe that, then you just keep believing that breakfast in bed, with flowers and chocolate is overrated anyway.
Today someone wrote me a letter. In the fairly recent past, this person (who shall remain nameless) wronged me in a very painful way. And then disappeared. But in a renewal of communication, via a short letter, they made the following statement:
"We all have our faults, but I'm not a bad person."
This got me thinking, a la Pooh Bear.
I guess it made me wonder, "Well, what, exactly, would it take to make someone a bad person?" Or, perhaps the inverse is really more to the point. What does it take to make a good person? Although someone may not exactly be a bad person, does that make them a good person? Our definitions can get muddled, because it's easier to think in negatives. The behavior in question was quite wrong, morally and ethically. In fact, it was really the cherry on top of a mountain of morally bankrupt choices. But rather than look in the mirror and ask, "Am I a good person?" It's easier to slide on by and keep telling one's self, "Well, I'm not exactly a bad person."
I guess I'm just struck today by the fact that there really is a wide gulf between a truly good person, and a truly bad person. There's a big leap between good and bad; a gaping chasm of middle ground.
All this made me ask myself, "In what ways do I do the same thing?" because we all have to decide whether we want to make the leap to being a "good person." It doesn't happen by accident. It's way too easy to fall down the chasm of middle-ness; un-good and un-bad. I see this clearly, among people of all faiths, including people in the Christian church.
I don't want to fall into that middle place. I want to make the leap. In a way, as a Christian who believes in original sin (hell, as a parent who has seen it first-hand!) I guess I assume we all start out on the "bad" side of the equation, and my life experience seems to bear that out! I just really want to make sure I make the leap, and get over to the other side. (Don't get me wrong, I know I need help, from Christ and others.) But I think all of us can find ourselves slipping into the cleft that whispers, "You know, you're not really all that bad...."
"So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." -Revelation 3:16
It's great, if it's waves of good things: friends having babies, people socializing with you, good communion with God. It's tough, if it's waves of bad things: kids getting sick or injured, me losing my temper, getting in a slump of running late. It's a crap shoot, when it comes to my emotions; they seem come in waves, too. I'll have a good week, where I feel like I "know where I'm going" with life, and then I'll have a really "off" week, where I feel like I'm back at square one again. I guess what I'm trying to describe is really just the "three steps forward and two steps back" concept.
Last month, I felt excited because I turned some corners on keeping my house under control. And when I say "under control" I really mean it. I don't mean some fake, "Oh, I'm so sorry I didn't pick up before you came over. Let me just clear my coffee mug off the otherwise pristine coffee table" overachiever perfectionist nonsense. No, I mean not getting reported to the health department. I've struggled with orderliness my entire life. I'm "one of those people" who (without God's help and the 12 steps) you could see on Hoarders someday. When I was growing up, my parents had to finally make a rule that (get this) I wasn't allowed to sleep on the couch any more. Why? Because my room would get so messy that there was no place for me to sleep. Not even on the bed. And so I'd haul my tookus down to the couch, and sleep there for months on end. That's always kind of been my solution to the paralysis I feel when I have to organize and deal with stuff. Here's me:
So, anyway, house keeping has never been my forte, and I'm constantly looking for signs of improvement on my part. Well, back to my feelings of having "turned a corner." It was all an illusion, because I was about to get hit with a "wave" that I'd already experienced once in my life as a mother, and knew to dread like no other. It is summed up by two words that can (or should) strike terror into the heart of any housewife; two words that shouldn't be naively mistaken as merely "yukky," but must given their full respect like unto a Hiroshima-Nagasaki bomb attack:
The remedy for head lice used to be simple: dump a bunch of chemical poison on your kids' heads, shampoo it out, vacuum a little, wash their bedding, and you're good to go. NOT ANY MORE! The lil' buggers have become resistant to all the poisons, and they are as hard to get rid of as a pack of visiting in-laws. The "new" remedy involves six weeks (SIX WEEKS!) of cleaning, washing, combing, shampooing, oiling, laundry, combing, cleaning, washing, COMBING, nit picking, washing, cleaning, laundry, and....well....you get it. (And don't even get me started on all the "home" and "natural" remedies. We've tried them ALL!)
And, honestly, it's left me feeling a WEE bit exhausted. Each time I think I've gotten rid of the infestation, there's another wave. You can't ask anyone for help. You can't even hire a babysitter to come over! You are a family of lepers, and there's no getting around it. It's been over a month since we discovered the lice, and I think we may *finally* be beating it, but honestly, it may just be the calm before I get hit with yet another wave.
Last night my beloved father told me that after 35+ years of marriage to my spunky and delightful mother (and still being in love!) that rather than tout the wisdom of his choice of my mom as his bride, he has finally concluded that he was incredibly lucky. Married at age 22; he hardly knew what he was doing.
"I've never bought a lottery ticket in my entire life," he said. "But when I look at your mother, I realize I'm so lucky, I should have been a lottery-ticket-buying man. In fact, I'm so struck by how lucky I got, I just might go out and buy my first one tomorrow."
For those of us who don't feel quite so lucky, it's still a relief to hear that all the "rightness" of a match that works and all the "wrongness" of a match that fails might not have been completely within any one person's control, as much as we may be inclined to think. Don't get me wrong, we all make choices. Some of them are good, and some not so good. And we do reap what we sow. But there are factors we can't control, like whether the rain falls on the seeds that we've so carefully planted in the ground. It's easy to take too much credit sometimes; either for things that go incredibly well, or incredibly poorly.
This brings to mind the wisdom of Charlotte, from Pride and Prejudice
"I wish [her] success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.''
Call it luck. Call it chance. Call it God. Call it what you will. But I'm learning that there's more to success or failure than doing everything "right."