Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Snowmiser, Heatmiser and Scrooge

This was originally posted on December 23, 2010

Photo taken by paulabflat
Christmas. It is not about the shopping. It is not about the gifts. It is not about the decorations. I understand the meaning logically and traditionally: God became flesh in the form of Baby Jesus who grew up and died for my mistakes: the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies.  For many, Christmas does not have spiritual significance. It is simply a time of giving, participating in charities or changing the house decorations.  

My early childhood was spent with my Dad in the Air Force.  These Christmases were celebrated in the land of Snowmiser.  

Photo taken by jzlomek
New Mexico; a sprinkling of snow frosted the lawns and the sidewalks were lined with Luminarias.  The simplicity of a brown lunch bag weighted with sand and security for the lit candle placed inside was breathtaking.  My Mom told me it was to remind us of the path Mary and Joseph took to find a place to stay in Bethlehem.   

My Dad was transferred to Utah. We lived near Grandparents. Snow billowed everywhere. Snow people set up residences in their front and back yards where they would live undisturbed until spring.  These Grandparents were affectionate, and honest.  Their home was filled with light, laughter and magic. They were not perfect, but a deep feeling of love flavored the air.  Santa magically brought presents and no matter where we were, he somehow knew where I was. I was never lost to him.  It was my first glimpse of how God saw me.  Santa was the image of a loving heavenly being that somehow knew everything about me and everywhere I was.  He was the image of God was made concrete.

When we transitioned into civilian life and moved to California, the land of Heatmiser.  

The California winters I grew up with were gloomy grey skies that last for days. The air was colder than any Utah blizzard I would walk to school in. That chill settled deep into my bones and wouldn’t go away until the first unforgiving blast of summer sun. 

Photo taken by coopah

These California grandparents were the cranky kind. Their house had no natural light. They spoke to me only when necessary. Christmases in their house matched Mad Hatter’s tea parties. The cherry on top was my parents’ crisis of conscience. They didn't want to lie to us anymore.

There was no Santa.

I had already kind of figured it out at my sage age of 9. None the less, the magic of Christmas was lost for a while. I wondered if God had forgotten me. I knew he was real, but did he care for me? 

Then…My Dad was out of work. My parents sat us down and prepared us for the worst. There would probably be no presents under the tree. 

Christmas morning dawned. I resolved myself to be thankful for anything. The four of us walked the hallway to the Christmas tree. Then the unimaginable…

Photo taken by phaewilk

That morning Santa was real. He gave me a Mandy doll. She was beautiful, perfect and completely unexpected. He was not a jolly, white bearded fat man. He was God. Written on my heart in a tangible way was a reality of the Divine. He cared for me enough to give me something.  I every time I looked at that doll I was reminded that miracles still happen. I knew God was real and from that moment on, I clung to him. He loved me. He saw me wherever I was. He extended to me grace and forgiveness. He was my true Santa. 

Years later, I faced a lean Christmas with my children. We curled up to watch “A Christmas Carol.”  I realized my attitude about Christmas was similar to Scrooge’s.

I had forgotten the miracle. 

I watched Scrooge on his knees begging for another Christmas from the Ghost of Christmas Future and I saw myself. His promises to give the gift of friendship, help where he could, grace and blessings to his fellow man became my own. His promised to keep the Spirit of Christmas all year round did not come natural for him. It would be a deliberate action; fueled by memories of joy from Fezziwig’s counting house; he left behind the sorrows of being left alone at school.
Photo taken by anon

I discovered a box deep within myself filled with sorrows of Christmas past. Like Scrooge, I decided to put away the sorrows and hold tight to Christmas’ spirit of giving. It isn’t the Christmas Pasts that defines Christmas. It is the Christmas Present. These gifts should not be limited to a day, but are to be present in each moment of my life.

A Mother Life

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mommy Nugget: Sweet and Sour

Photo taken by pjhudson
They found my last nerve. After riding it for a week, I was sure the neighbors were going to call the authorities on me. It was a field trip that saved their lives.

Half way through the drive to LA, I tuned into a game they were playing. One of their friends started it. If they waved at a car and the people inside waved back, the car was sweet. If the people in the car did not wave back, it was sour.

As we toured the Queen Mary, I watched those delightful children of mine explore with their friends. I took a step back to observe. They were really good kids: Ase was considerate of others. Zany on the constant look out to make someone laugh. Girly was at my side quietly observing everything. Each had their strengths and somehow I had lost sight of it while doing my job.

The tide needed to change. I mused on the drive home… sweet & sour.

Photo taken by xandert
Photo taken by sssh221
Next day found me digging through the recycling for glass jars. Finally, under the bathroom sink, in a dark corner, the perfect receptacles were found. The local craft supply provided white and red pebbles. I mixed them together in a large glass dish with a glass jar on each side. A family meeting was called and the rules were explained:

Sweet and Sour

Each kindness, word or obedient action receives a red pebble in the jar.

Each unkindness, word or disobedient action receives a white pebble in the other jar.

At the end of the day, the pebbles are counted:

IF there are more red than white, a sweet treat is the reward. A small bucket was filled with bits of paper with fun choices: dessert, extra TV time, an extra story, a game…

IF there were more white than red: NOTHING. Life went on as usual.

Photo taken by southernfried
Over the next few weeks, the mood of our family changed. I was forced to notice when they did ANYTHING right. The kids spoke kindly to each other. They worked together more and argued less. Our whole focus shifted to notice the good in each other instead of the negative. Ase no longer was the control freak. Zany wasn’t the science experiment gone wrong and Girly was not the informant. Harmony was achieved through listening and solving problems instead of interrogation and turf wars.

After a few weeks, the count was shifted to Fridays. The treats became a little sweeter: a movie, playing at the park, a friend over…

The game didn’t last much longer. Our behavior was changed and the pebbles lost their luster. We all liked each other and it became natural to get along. Believe me, conflicts still happened  and rules were still broken, yet they were resolved quickly and without much conflict.

Photo taken by jdurham

My perspective was forever altered. I realized it was possible to like my kids. In spite of the madness it was my point of view that mattered. Whenever I felt the grasp on that perspective slipping, the jars would come out again for only a few weeks to realign us all. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Yes, I Will See Magic Mike

 Originally posted on July 7, 2012

A film inspired by personal experience opened last weekend. After the deluge of posts and comments I hit saturation. On one side of the fence, pictures of dancing naked men sparked a frenzied countdown. On the other, words of religious exhortation and declarations of "purity."

Photo from MovieLine
I am a fan of Channing Tatum. His work as a dancer and actor is admired by all in my house. My boys, who dance, will stop at nothing to watch his artistry and athleticism. Being a fan, I researched his latest film. Read articles and interviews about the inspiration for Magic Mike. In my favorite article, he addresses the dark world of stripping. Similar to Demi Moore's movie Striptease, the window of reality is pealed back to reveal a shadow of what life is like.

In the present society of sexual equality, women expect the same titillating entertainment. Actors like Joey Lawrence sign with Chippendales in Las Vegas for a limited engagement. Girls' night out is more than coffee, cookies and a chick flick. I want to understand what life behind the curtain is like for these men. I did watch "Striptease" for this very reason years ago. Last weekend I was blown away by the athleticism of the pole dancers in "Rock of Ages." 

Photo taken by DaveO
The business of selling one's body is complex. It is dark. The people who choose or fall into this profession often feel trapped in it. Why? Because it isn't a simple job done for a few months to pay the rent until something else comes along. The money is great. The shame is overwhelming. Walking through the grocery store they hear whispers. Men gaze across fast food restaurants and whisper to each other. Christians plug their ears, cover their eyes and run away screaming "purity!" Where would these exotic dancers go if they wanted to leave? Who would interview them? Would the next job they were able to secure pay the rent?

Photo taken by steffenbuus
I am curious about the world Channing Tatum walked away from. I will be watching this film. Why? To enjoy the story telling of Channing, Matt Bomer, Matthew McConaughey and others in the film. I will appreciate their athleticism. I will also step outside of my comfort zone to learn from the social commentary presented. I hope it will open my eyes and ears. I hope it teaches me grace and humility.

 "There, but for the grace of God..." John Bradford

Afterword:  I did see the movie and it was exactly what I expected: seedy, and tragic. I admire anyone who chooses the uncut path.

A Mother Life

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Frog's Official Shotgun Rules

Driving with three kids was always an adventure. The front passenger seat was a coveted spot. Often some kind of war was declared between siblings in order to be my Navigator on trips. True to my ESFJ personality type, I "Mary Poppins" this job into a game. At first we tried Rochambeau aka: Rock, Paper, Scissors. However, three siblings and their Pentagon level strategies quickly proved the tactic ineffective. 

In a desperate attempt to keep Ase, Zany and Girly from de-evolving into some form of a Lord Of The Flies civilization, I scoured the interwebs for help. I came across a College Game of Shotgun. I modified it from a Drinking Game, to a Family Friendly version.
Printed it out.

Put it in a protective sleeve and placed it in the front seat.

There it lived until the last kid was an adult. 

I am happy to report, the wars stopped. Whenever a kerfuffle began, I handed them the Rules and Regulations and walked away.  Any and all disagreements were resolved by themselves. Yes, sometimes it was a bit noisy in the parking lot, but they were working on the life skill of negotiation. Rarely did their tempers flare. They found their own resolutions. My attitude improved. Road trips became fun once more.

So, Darling weary parent. Take these Rules and Regulations. Edit them and make them your own. Let me now how it works for you. Have hope. You all will survive another day.

Official Shotgun Rules and Regulations

1. The term "Shotgun" refers to the front passenger seat of an automobile.

2. "Calling Shotgun" is the act of claiming the position of Shotgun for one's self.

3. Driver is The Supreme Being and shall be treated as such at all times in the car.

4. Being as how everyone is created equal, men have the same right as women to the front seat of the car.

5. The first to be picked up is given automatic shotgun, until any shotgun laws are violated or until next destination.

6. Anyone calling shotgun must have their shoes on. Barefooted shotgun calling is strictly forbidden and an automatic Sandwich sitter (the uncomfortable middle of the back seat.) 

7. The Shot gunner must be in clear sight of the car, and shotgun can be called regardless of whether the driver is in sight of the car.

8. Shotgun cannot be called whilst inside a building. The only exception is a car park, the car must be within sight.-refer to rule 7.

 9. When simultaneous shotguns are called, one throw of rock, paper, scissors decides the Shotgun rider.

10. If driver wants to mix things up Driver can call “RELOAD.”  This means that all previous calls of shotgun are void. The first person to call SHOTGUN gets the seat. A Shotgun only has 2 barrels so RELOAD can only be called once.

11. Shotgunner can be tested. The challenger must call: “CHALLENGE.” The Shotgunner must respond with "ACCEPT." 
The Challenger and the Shotgunner must stand on one foot. 
The driver shouts “GO.”
The two contestants are to hop on one foot around the car. If a person touches both feet to the ground or switches feet during the race, they are immediately disqualified. The first one to touch the shotgun door first receives the Shotgunner title until the next destination.

12. Once shotgun has been called, the contest for the back left and back right can be called. The last seat left is the middle seat or “sandwich.” This seat can also be used for demotion to a Shotgun rider with a poor attitude.
Shotguner Responsibilities:

1. Once the journey is underway, the driver is the obvious controller of the tunes. However if the driver feels the road full concentration, duty is passed to the Shotgunner. However, putting on crap tunes or other malicious music will result in demotion to sandwich seat.

2. Shotgunner is responsible for navigation and map reading. 

3. Shotgunner is responsible for reading and typing any cell phone texts for the driver.

4. When a car is going through a fast food drive-thru Shotgunner must hold all of the food items/drinks, no matter how hot or cold, until the vehicle is safely out of the drive-thru path. Then they must distribute the items to their owners.

5. The Shotgunner assumes responsibility for all gates opening, toll ticket, change for toll finding and question asking. He/she is the co-pilot and therefore the enforcer of behavior in the vehicle and exacter of slaps/punches/water spraying/bag throwing at the passengers in the back.

6. The privilege of Shotgun does not include the right to correct the driver on their navigation skills or driving ability. If Shotgunner does this, they forfeit their position and are demoted to the sandwich seat.

7. Shotgunner must provide sufficient legroom to the person behind, but only to the point where the shotgunner is still comfortable.

 8. If someone asks "What is shotgun?" The Shotgunner must hand these written rules to them. They must read them and be prepared for a test once the destination is reached.

9. Couple's Rights Act: If the driver is the boyfriend/girlfriend of a passenger in the car, the partner has first choice to any seat in the car. Uncontested. 

10. The Pirate Rule - If One of the potential occupants of the vehicle is dressed (convincingly) as a pirate then they are given automatic shotgun. In the occurrence of more than one pirate then a sword fight shall determine the successful shot gunner.

*Driver/Owner of the car signature(s) to prove that they enforce these rules and must be followed or walk!

This was posted on July 17, 2013 with A Mother Life's Humpday Hookup.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Walk with Dogs- Virtuous Sleep

I am reluctant to fall asleep at night. Cultural Christianity teaches Proverbs 31 as a Godly Woman litmus test.  According to King Lemuel’s Mother, a wife of noble character never sleeps. As a result, we women show up to church or Bible Study with perfect hair, make-up flawless, wearing fashionable yet modest clothes. A smile on our face and a twinkle in our eye we project flawless contentment.

We. Are. All. Liars.

Photo taken by loneangel
The Virtuous Woman starts out the day with the best of intentions. Shegets up while it is still dark for a Quiet Time of scripture and prayer. Family stirs and breakfast is cooked with a smile as ordered in Proverbs 31:15. She begins checking off the Virtuous Woman boxes.

The business of the day: house, work, kids, husband’s needs, community. The sun sets with the dawn of reality.  Over a sink full of dinner dishes, she pants with exhaustion.
Toys and clutter fill the living room. Laundry covers the bed, overwhelmed she musters her last bit of strength. In a sweet siren voice she sounds the call for bedtime.  

Kids’ shenanigans are the final strike. Pushed beyond her limit, her image of perfection slips away and she turns into a drill sergeant harpy. 

There is no fun in Mudville.

With the kids are tucked in she turns on her overdrive. The day is not over until she falls asleep. There is still time to complete the missed household chores while husband sleeps. When he wakes up, he will be amazed. She will hear the praises of her husband just like Proverbs 31 says. Dinner dishes neatly placed in the dishwasher. A whirlwind pick up in the living room. Fueled by a feeling of victory she walks through the bedroom door to attack the laundry monster. 

Photo taken by Alvimann

Husband is laying in repose upon the laundry. The dulcet sounds of a show waft from the laptop.

Does she wake him? Does she ask him for help?


A deep sense of failure, with a chaser of shame, sets in as each piece of laundry is brought into submission, Husband’s comfy bed shifts. He awakens. Unaware of her Virtuous Woman burden, he turns off the computer.

“That can be finished tomorrow. Come to bed.” He moves to push the rest of the laundry onto the floor.

That wife looks into the eyes of her lover.

Her defeated reply, “You go ahead. I’ll be there as soon as I finish this.”

Proverbs 31 has been twisted into a burden of legalism. Within this Cultural Christianity application there is no room for grace, love or laughter. God does give us tasks to keep us occupied; but they are never to become a litmus test of worth. Ecclesiastes tells us that we are to eat, drink and enjoy the good that results from those tasks; it is a gift from God. Part of that good is rest and sleep. The Psalmist says that unless God is our center focus, we get up early and put off going to bed in vain, for God “provides for his beloved, even when they sleep.”  
Photo taken by hotblack
When I trust in divine rest, my soul is renewed. I am no longer weary; God clothes me with strength and dignity. I am able to be patient in the face of a determined child. My arms are strengthened for the day's tasks. I have energy to serve my won family along with attending Divine Appointments that interrupt my plans. I am able to laugh at the days to come.