Saturday, August 30, 2008

my brother-in-law might not like this decision

So, a few posts back I shared that my birthday present was a brand new Cusinart blender/food processor. And yes, I suppose it “says” something about Leon and me that I was so totally jazzed to receive this most excellent culinary gift!

But there was more to my present and it arrived yesterday – my brand new, Brett Favre Jets jersey.

That’s right. I wanted one, and despite my husband’s mockery of mommy’s silly interest in this item, my darling daughter got herself online and ordered one for me!

I’m not a Green Bay fan, even though I lived in the great state of Wisconsin for four years in my early teaching career. And I’ve not been particularly interested in Brett, until recently that is.

When Brett decided he had changed his mind, and wanted to return to the career and game he loved – I decided I liked this guy. People make mistakes and people change their mind – and I rather admire someone who is willing to admit that and - quite realistically – take a risk of having a terrible season and being totally blasted by the sports media.

In some ways, I suppose he has the proverbial “nothing” to lose, and in other ways, he stands to lose a great deal. Interesting.

So, this season, with the exception of the one game where the Jets will play Denver and I am required in the interest of keeping peace in the home to wear my pink (that’s right, pink!) Champ Bailey jersey, I am rooting for Brett Favre. Not necessarily the Jets ;-)

Silly? Maybe. Probably.

But I am sorta excited to see how the story plays out. And I really like this jersey – it matches my hair color and eyes …

Friday, August 29, 2008

my super bowl

Or, why I love politics

Tonight I am camped out on my sofa, with a really superb glass of merlot and my favorite Chinese takeout, waiting to watch the acceptance speech of presidential candidate, Barack Obama. I am exceptionally geared-up for this speech (and if you are stridently opposed to Barack, just let me share my blog! Thanks!)

And – truth be told - I am not ashamed to admit that I am very much excited by the “moment.” After all, I can’t name a time when I have seen 85,000 Americans of all colors and ages gathered and truly excited about being part of our great process. The former American history teacher in me, who always harped on her students to get involved, believe they had a voice, and genuinely encouraged them to “participate! participate! participate!” is pretty jazzed about what’s playing out in Denver tonight.

Yep. That’s right. I am engaged and enthusiastic to see tens of thousands of Americans gathered together to engage in the political process. I am proud to be an American and I refuse to be jaded, cynical, or mean-spirited about it. (I am also fairly bright, and aware of the issues and well-read on both party platforms … so before judging me too harshly or deciding I am some na├»ve, poorly informed voter, think again ;-)

Yes. I love the process, the debates, and the well-mannered challenge. Back in college, I started out as a Poli Sci. major. As a classroom educator, I loved teaching students the finer points of U.S. History and watching them engage in the passion of our history and our politics. I loved teaching anything prior to 1963. Would you like to know why? Because after that time, a deep, jaded, cynical, doubt crept into the American political spirit – and we haven’t shaken it yet. But something is stirring.

I love being an American. And I love the varied depth of our people. Campaigns at the grassroots are powerful, and expansive, and engaging, and – frankly – fun. And in just a few moments, an unlikely candidate will accept the nomination for one of our major political parties riding the wave of grassroots support. It’s remarkable. He is the first African American candidate – and listening to a pair of young black men speak on a street corner in New Orleans two days ago, it struck me that – Republican or Democrat or Independent – I am proud of our people, because it’s about time.

Next week, the energy continues and I will tune in to the events in Minneapolis with as much vim and vigor. These few weeks of politicking are my Super Bowl, you might say. And at the heart of it all, for me, is a profound respect and appreciation for our democratic ideal. How excellent to participate.

A few thoughts ...

“It is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night and a promise that you make to yours, a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west, a promise that led workers to picket lines and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustrations of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead -- people of every creed and color, from every walk of life -- is that, in America, our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back... not with so much work to be done; not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for; not with an economy to fix, and cities to rebuild, and farms to save; not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend.

America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

blenders and boxes

I have been lax in my posting - participating as a respondent for the 2008 LCMS Theological Convocation here in STL, which has been a singularly draining experience that is eating loads of hours and grey matter, let me tell you! Today, I provided my response to the group - it went well. Maybe, if I get brave, I will post it here.

For now, just a brief update - even though there is so much I could share: birthdays, and being asked to be Godparents for our dear friends who are (at long last and as an answer to years of prayers) adopting a sweet baby, and time home single-mommying Syd while Leon was away at a DCE leadership event, Syd's first tooth, and first days at her new caregivers, a new grad class for Gret ... all kinds of things happening that are (in my estimation any way) blog-worthy.

But - it's enough to share a few photos and share a great joy: My birthday gift from Leon meant a Cuisinart blender/food processor for me and a box for Miss Sydney ... ah, it's the little things in life!

+Onward and Upward!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"and the whole world smiles with you."

I recently read an article that suggested a pretty obvious tactic to allow a person to encounter more joy in life: engage in extroverted engagement with the people you meet in the chance encounters of routine living. You know, smile at the green grocer, or help an old lady across the street, that sort of thing.

The expert (at least I assume he was such …) cited research to suggest that people experience massive mood “upswings” when they take time to simply engage in pleasant (dare I say, simply polite?) exchange with others.

How very American to make something that’s really about others to be all about self …

But the author discussed how making the choice to be happy and to smile, speak a kind word (not just brush past the Cub scout selling entertainment books in the strip mall parking lot, but actually stop and say hello and ask him about his troop) makes a difference for you. And, as we all know, certainly for the other.

In a keynote address I recently heard, Thom Schultz discussed the Gospel truth that the only thing that really moves people, breaks down barriers, and heals all hurts is unconditional love.

Now, do I love the green grocer, the old lady at the curb, the cub scout?

I guess I should, eh? Love my neighbor and all that … but I am telling you, taking the time to do this changes people. It changes you! It leaves you with this sort of weightless happiness in your chest, and the sense that the world is perhaps not as awful as some would have us worry.

What makes me sad in this, is that lately – the encouragement to do good to others, love my neighbor, and live as a Good Samaritan has come largely from secular sources. Unfortunately, right now (particularly in the LCMS) there seems to be a predominance of sneery, sarcastic, jaded attitude that is sort of tiring me out!

While I love the new U.S. Cellular ad, for example, it makes me sad that the world is being uplifted with the message of “We believe” in … what? CELL phone coverage? Really? Mobile phone coverage? That is the force that changes the world?

Huh. Interesting.

The Christian church has much to say about the "let’s all be nice and feel good about ourselves" mantra. Again, it’s so American to make something that is actually about the other, and more than that about our God, to become all about the “me.” The truth is, there is something in a smile. There is something in the smile of a Christian. Something in the kind word. The helpful tip. The welcoming attitude. The unexpected gentleness. And it’s a great deal more lasting than “more bars in more places." (I'm mixing my brands, but you get the gist.)

So: if you haven’t been particularly thoughtful to a stranger, if extroverted exuberance is just “not your style”, if you feel more caustic than called – take up the challenge to try out a different tactic this week.

Because there is Something in a smile that can change the world – and beautifully, it’s absolutely not about us!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

+ so glad +

You have to read the previous post and the comments from women so dear to totally appreciate this post ;) So please, dear reader, take a moment to do so ...

What awesome, amazing women God has put into my life. Wow. I am so humbled by your thoughts and moved by your encouragement ... In truth, we need to share, and be honest, and speak our words of doubt AND share our words of affirmation to one another.

There is a scene in Desperate Housewives, and while, OKAY, I am NOT addicted to Sydney's A.D.D. medication, this scene with career Mom Lynette sharing her struggles has always stuck with me ...

"we need to tell each other this (meaning our struggles) stuff" ... And indeed, we do.

Take a look:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Letting go.

I have always been a little bit weird about my need to control things. Of course, up until recently, I would not have really admitted to that. But, in truth, I have always clung fairly fiercely to "the known" elements in my life.

That's not to say I have shunned the unknown; in fact sort of the opposite is true. I've taken some pretty risky, stupid, brilliant, insipid, random, and all-together inspired choices over the last years. I won't go into those here, or anywhere frankly, (what did my good friend, Florian recently call all of this cyber-relating ... a Soul Striptease ... Yeah, well - not for this girl!) but I've always taken my risks while keeping the known firmly in view; easily within reach. Diving into the deep end with the side of the pool close at hand and a big pair of floaties on my arms. I'm smart, if nothing else, about the long term.

Sydney's introduction into my life has me reshaping all sorts of preconceived ideas about life, self, success, and identity. And control. I am daily recognizing my absolute lack of any real control and it's all a bit unnerving.

It's sort of painfully obvious and therefore embarrassing (but hopefully none too surprising) to admit that it has taken a 6-month old Baby Girl to start ridding me of pretty deep seated selfishness, pride, and ego ... but it's true. Even typing that onto the screen has left me staring for a moment at a blinking cursor.

(I mean, do I really want to say this out loud? Hopefully, I am not alone.)

I am constantly processing, analyzing, reflecting on, and redefining conclusions about myself, which is –admittedly – a pretty self-involved thing to be doing. In the midst of all of this, however, the clarity of my own lack of control, and the life's work I seem to have made out of my prolonged, stupid, selfish pursuit of control, has been as brilliant as lightening.

One of the big pieces that constantly comes into view is the daily process of letting go.

Being a mom, and uniquely being a working mom, brings with it a daily surrender of self. Now, I can just picture stay-at-home, single career moms sort of considering that remark as the penultimate justification for my decision to leave Sydney every day for 9 hours. ... And maybe that's part of it. But I have to speak from my perspective ... it’s all I know.

In all truth, being a working mom means - if you are doing it "right" (and what is that, anyway?) - pretty much zero time for self. ... And most days that's okay. But some days, it's hard. And it's upsetting. And you want to be selfish and claim time for yourself; just an hour or maybe just 10 minutes. Or you want to point the finger at your spouse and tell him to make more money. Or you are ticked because you can’t shake the worry of guilt because you like your job, and the personal opportunity it offers for connecting you to some lingering remnant of “who you used to be.” Or you find yourself irritated because no one seems to notice how hard you are working each and every day to be 100% top-notch at the office and at home ... and just how mind-numbingly, bone tired you are at the end of another day of all of striving.

And at the heart of it, you know all of your annoyances are really borne, not out of the reality of your situation, but out of your sinful, insane self. The finger points right at you - you can't blame anyone at all ..

Over these last 6 months, I have never been far from the reality that surrender is what is required to be – at least marginally – “good” at parenting. I think about it all of the time. And achieving sort of a zen-contentment with it all is my daily supplication. As a mom. As a Christian. As a centered, in-tune person ... It is absolutely not "about me." It's not entirely about Sydney, either - trust me, the last thing I want is to raise her coddled and spoiled. It's all about choices, God-blessed and directed daily living. Choices to let go, to give up your sense of self to be a better mom, wife, and - frankly - just a better YOU.

There's balance that must be struck ... in control because you grasp with total clarity your absolute lack of it. Filled with a defined purpose and identity, while surrendering your own right to claim any such thing. Learning to give and give and give, without expecting one iota of return, and realizing that claiming that attitude yields MORE in return than you could have ever manipulated on your own.

Letting go to find more than you ever could have contrived to create.

So, that's what I am working on ... while I work at the office, while I work at home, while I love my Church through my vocation, while I love my husband and daughter more than I can say ... Trying to control my ability to let it go ...

We'll see how it all works out.