Monday, November 28, 2011

And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love...

I don't often speak of my faith on this blog.

My relationship with God is very private, very personal. I have struggled with my faith for more than ten years - a struggle that began on a sweltering morning in July of 2001, at the funeral of a friend who died far too young. I can pinpoint the moment that my unquestioning faith left me - it was the moment that his widow, only 27 years old and holding her infant daughter in her arms, read aloud a letter her husband had written her only a few days before, on their wedding anniversary.

At that moment my belief in a just God left me, I think I would almost describe it as a physical loss. Something, some part of me, the part that was able to BELIEVE without question, without pause, the part of my heart that held on to the idea that there was love and reason in the way the universe was ordered - was pulled out of me. I have been trying to find it ever since.

When, only a few months later, we faced the collective nightmare of September 11, followed by the very personal nightmare of my grandfather's death at the end of November 2001...the tiny bits of faith left in my soul were dashed against the rocks of despair.

This is not to say that I no longer believe in God. More to say that God and I are no longer enjoying the cozy relationship we once had. Possibly I am not speaking to him right now. These are my issues, I know, and issues enough to fill a whole book by themselves. They are not the point of this post, though. It's a lot of background to schlepp through, though, but I am getting to my point.

In the last few days on Facebook, there have been a number of people posting this (and I quote, including the obnoxious screamy caplock feature):


Okay, I'm not even going to touch the fact that much of what we celebrate as Christmas has its roots in some very ancient paganism, because that would be sort of like complaining that the Japanese borrowed curry from India and then declaring that it's irrelevant that Japanese curry is superior. (And friends, let me tell you, if you have ever had a bowl of the true perfection that is Japanese curry rice, you will be behind me on this - Indian curries may be delicious, but Japanese curry is a little piece of heaven. And it is no less heavenly just because the original spices came from somewhere else.)

I like Christmas. I like Christmas trees and Christmas presents and Christmas carols and Christmas cookies and Christmas dinner and I love Santa Claus and that unique smell of Christmas morning that is tangerines blended with pine cones and cinnamon.

I love to sit in church on Christmas Eve with the lights turned low, and the candles setting the stained glass windows on fire and the low hum of Silent Night and that feeling, for a brief, fleeting moment, that God and I are maybe, just maybe, on a first name basis again.

So, it's ridiculous and offensive to me that the above rant is making its way around my facebook wall. I'm not offended for the reasons the people posting it imagine I'm offended. I am not offended by Christ.

Christ, and Christmas, are about hope and joy and peace and love.

What Christ and Christmas are categorically NOT about is figuratively smacking your friends and family in the face with a ridiculous holier-than-thou rant about taking Christ out of Christmas.

In fact, I would venture that the above referenced rant goes a long way in taking Christ out of the lives of people who encounter it.

I am the last Christian who should be giving advice on effective evangalizing (see above history vis a vis, me and God) - but I can say with 100% certainty that creating a vortex of douchebaggery is the wrong way to go about it.

I am not ashamed of Christianity (although I will admit that I have, on occasion, considered not calling myself a Christian anymore, and calling myself "follower of a guy who got nailed to a tree for suggesting that we should be nice to eachother" - mostly because of people like the author of that facebook rant, who make me feel quite certain that we have NOT been reading the same sacred texts...but it's a bit longwinded. I'm not sure it would catch on as a religious movement.)

I do say Merry Christmas, but I also say Happy Holidays. And Happy Hannukah. And Happy Diwali. And Happy New Year. I would probably wish a pagan a Blessed Solstice but I don't know any actual pagans, but I certainly wouldn't spit on their holiday. It's not my style.

What are other people celebrating if they aren't celebrating Christ? They are celebrating what humans have needed to celebrate for millenia - they are celebrating the LIGHT that shines in the DARKNESS. The light that calls out from the bleakness of the endless snowy cold and dark, the hope that the sun will return.

And if they are greeting me with hopes that I, too, will find light in the dead of winter - I will accept those cheerful greetings and I will not greet them with the hatred that is embroiled in the sentiment above.

I know I have spoken often about my grandfather, and his music, and the ways in which his music still speaks to me, still reaches out to me, and comforts me when I am sad.

And he used to sing a song called, "They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love" - and I wish that I could bring him back and have him sing for the hateful creature who wrote that rant. But since he's unavailable, and since I cannot pinpoint the hateful creature, I will just leave one of the pertinent verses here, in the hope that it will bring a little bit of light to the darkness.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we'll guard each one's dignity and save each one's pride
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

Have a Blessed Advent.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Turn Me On Like a Light Switch

I debated about sharing this story...but then I told it to Ella at Last, and she threatened to de-friend me if I didn't, "blog the sh*t out of that."


The other night, Husband and I were in the kitchen. We were standing by the stove, hugging.

Lana stuck her head in, looked at us hugging each other and said, "Are you making the sex over there?"

Husband and I both said, "What??"

In point of fact, we were MAKING THE CURRY for the CROCK POT for the next day. NOT making THE SEX.

So she repeated herself, "Are you making the sex?"

For a moment, words failed me, and then I said, "No, making the sex is private. So we are not making the sex in the kitchen."

Quite honestly, the kitchen tiles are extremely hard and cold...I'm fairly confident when I say that those particular kitchen tiles have never seen anyone "making the sex" on them, ever.

So, my nine year old daughter, giggly madly, sweetly says, "I know making the sex is private. In your bedroom. You kiss each other and then you say, "don't you want to go to the zoo, my darling, to see the baby giraffes?" and then you kiss each other some more."

I wish I could tell you that I used this opening to have a frank and honest discussion with her about the birds and the bees.

But instead I laughed until I was shaking and then I laughed some more.

And Husband declared that "going to the Zoo to the see the baby giraffes" was the best euphemism for knocking boots that's he's heard since "fighting crime".

Probably I should have a talk with my daughter this weekend...and then maybe I'll see if Husband wants to go to the zoo to see the baby giraffes... :-)


Thursday, September 29, 2011

All the Other Girls Here are Stars, You are the Northern Lights*

At night, when I am snuggling with my daughter, and singing her a song just before she falls asleep - if Lana has something important to say, that is the time she will say it.

Is this true of most children? I suspect so. It's certainly true of her older brother. Something about the dimness of the room, the closeness of lying together, the lullaby induced sleepiness - it makes important conversations accessible.

The other night, after I sang "You Are My Sunshine" and "K-K-K-Katie", Lana rolled herself into my shoulder and said, "Someday you are going to give me away to another mommy."

"No," I said. "I'm not ever going to give you away to another mommy. Not ever. You are stuck with me kid. Forever."

"My foster mom gave me away to you. So, you are going to give me away to some other mom, I know it. My foster mom keeped me for four years. Now you keeped me for four years. Soon you will give me away, and it will always go on that way."

Sometimes it amazes me, the cogs turning in that complex brain of hers.

"Your foster mom didn't give you to me, exactly," I said. "She kept you and loved you, and she loves you still. She emails us to ask about you. She still loves you. She didn't have any choices, honey. But she loved you and she will keep loving you and wanting you to be happy."

This distracted Lana for a minute, and we talked about what pictures we want to send to her foster mom, and what she might want to say in an email, and would I help her type an email to her foster mom, if she wanted to?

Then abruptly, she hid her face back in my hair and said, "Why did SHE give me away?"

The way she said it, I was pretty sure she wasn't talking about her foster mom anymore.

"Your foster mom?" I ask, preferring the idea of discussing Communist government red-tape over the can of worms I was pretty sure she was opening.

"No. Not my foster mom. My...the other lady. The one who had me in her tummy. Why did SHE give me away?"

"Well...that's a big question. I never talked to her about it. I never talked to her at all. But I know what she told the nannies at the place where she left you."

"What did she tell them?"

And so I told her, the two sentences that are written in her file.

They are not uncommon reasons for giving a child up for adoption, not here in the US, and probably not anywhere in the world.

"Why did she even have me then? Why did she even keep me in her tummy?"

Talk about a kick in the teeth.... I don't think that my daughter understands the concept of abortion, and I'm not sure that was what she was asking. She does understand (because of an event that happened in our family) that some babies die before they are born, but I wasn't sure if that was what she meant.

Sometimes "I don't know" is the only answer we have. And so that's what I said.

"I don't know. But I want to think it was because she loved you so much, but I just don't know. But I know that I am so glad she did, because I love you so much. And your foster mom loved you so much."

"I don't want any other mommies," she said. "Three mommies is enough mommies, okay? No more. No more giving me to any new more new mommies."

"Okay," I said. "It'll be just us three, then, forever."

Then she rolled over, and said, "I am lucky that my Daddy is my only Daddy. He's never going to give me to any other daddies."

I assured her that her Daddy was never going to give her to any other daddies, and I kissed her goodnight, and she fell asleep.

I suppose that one day in the not too distant future, she is going to figure out that somewhere, out there, someplace on the other side of the planet, is a man who donated half her DNA, who has no clue, that this beautiful, starry-eyed, fabulous, stunning creature exists. And I'm not sure how to tell her, that even though she only has one Daddy...biology dictates that she has another father.


* Josh Ritter, Kathleen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As the fire of memory burns me, the grace of your love returns me, to this most traveled of highways*

Grief is exhausting. And surprising. And really f**king frustrating.

It can leave you alone for months, buried deep beneath the day to worry about what to cook for dinner and did you pay the gas bill and what movie should you watch for family movie night, and what filings are due when for which cases.

And then, one day, when you least expect it, she shows up and bitch-slaps you across the face and kicks you in the teeth and leaves you curled up in a ball crying so hard you are gasping for the air to fill your lungs with everything you've lost. (I totally stole that last line from Snow Patrol, but it's an apt description.)

More than a year has passed since J~ left us. Fourteen months have gone by, and most days in the past few months have been mostly fine.

And then last Monday (14 months to the day since he shuffled off in that early morning thunderstorm) - I find myself enraged. Enraged with the universe, enraged with the other people he left behind, enraged with him for being dead and not being f**king HERE where I NEED him. Where I MISS him.

And for the last eight days, I am floundering, once again, in this foul soup of grief and loss and anger and mourning. And insomnia.

I need to remember that this sadness, this anger, this monstrous grief - this is not what J~ wants for me. I need to remind myself that he always walked with the sun on his face and treated everyone with grace. I need to remind myself he loved me like his own daughter, and he had hopes and dreams and expectations for me...that I let him down when I give in to the despair.

It's not easy, though. It's not easy to remember those things when grief is all up in your grill, screaming like the wicked banshee she is.

Sorry to be morose. It's just something I have to get out of my head before the grief drives me crazy.


* John Hiatt, Come Home to You

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

People Are Raising Their Expectations, Go On and Feed Them*

If you've been watching the evenings, the photos and stories coming from the famine stricken Somalia, and the relief camps in Kenya, are probably reducing you to tears of hopelessness. (Well, that's what they are doing to me, anyway.)

I sent an email to my aunt and uncle in Tanzania, where they have been working for Southern Baptist Missions for the past 15 years. (Not all in Tanzania, but in Uganda, and Lesotho as well.) My uncle is a doctor specializing in AIDS treatment and prevention. But he's there, he's boots on the ground, so to speak. And he knows about Africa and corruption and what's working and what's not working.

So I asked him, point blank, "I can't see this news footage without crying. What can I do, who can I give money to and know it will go to help these starving people?"

His response was immediate and decisive - Doctors Without Borders. (He is not working for DWB, by the way.) Here's a link if you are so inclined to donate: Doctors Without Borders. You can click on the "Donate" tab at the top.

(This post is not sponsored by Doctors Without Borders and I am not affiliated in any way with them. I just could not watch the news one more day without doing something. This isn't much, but it's what I have.)


* Shakira, This Time For Africa, which is, admittedly, about Soccer and not Famine, but I defy you to not want to dance to this song

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making Kafta in the Rain

This past weekend we went "camping" with my entire family.

I say "camping" because the event took place at an alleged "campground" in Indiana, which is really more like a "parking lot for RVs and campers." (Question - are all campgrounds like this anymore? I do not remember campgrounds looking like this when I was a child. I mostly remember...trees, and streams and fairly large spaces between sites. Was I imagining this? Am I just seeing things differently as an adult?)

Were it not for the fact that our four campsites sat directly on a little lake, (and they were amoung the only 12 such sites in the vast RV park) - it would have been...really ugly.

On the upside was the fact that all five of my siblings, all of their spouses, all of their children, and my mother and step-dad were all in attendance. This was the first time since my brother's wedding in December of 2008 that all 28 of us had been in the same place at the same time. (Yes, there are 28 people in my immediate family. Fourteen adults and fourteen children. On four campsites. In an RV park.)

It was 97 degrees most of the weekend. And humid. (In an RV park. With twenty-eight people. Come on, you are totally jealous now, aren't you?)

Between us we had two large campers, three tents, one "rustic cabin" courtesy of the alleged campground, and three dogs. One of which is cross between a Great Dane and an Irish Wolfhound. Which means, for all practical purposes, that she is rather more the size of a horse than a dog.

On Friday night, there were a few moments of utter bucolic bliss, as I watched my son and my niece floating together in the lake, sharing an inner tube and laughing, while my daughter and another niece ran off together, hand-in-hand, towards the playground, giggling. (It was actually a really nice playground.)

On Saturday, most of the family spent the morning and early afternoon floating in the lake, supported by a variety of vinyl blow up toys. (Rings, rowboats, rafts, etc.) The lake water was really warm, and there was a lot of seaweed, but it was nice to be swimming and chatting and drinking adult beverages and watching the kids play in the water.

On Saturday began to rain. And it rained some more. And it kept raining. And almost immediately upon the rain beginning, the power went out, so that the two campers and the "rustic cabin" became hot boxes of humidity.

And in the midst of the rain, my mother and my husband and my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law were trying to make dinner, huddled under the awning of my sister's camper.

They were making kafta.

Okay, okay, I know, you are thinking, "who in their right mind makes kafta on a camping trip?" To which I say, OBVIOUSLY NONE OF US ARE IN OUR RIGHT MINDS. We were camping with twenty-eight people and three dogs in an alleged campground in the middle of Indiana on one of the hottest weekends of the year with two normal sized dogs and a horse-sized dog. We were not in right minds.

Anyway, under the awning of my sister's camper, there was smashing of garlic (lots and lots and lot of garlic) and mincing of mint, and then the forming of twenty pounds of ground beef and lamb and garlic and mint and onion meat sticks. (Rather like a meat ball, but longer and log-shaped.) My mother was also slicing an eggplant and zuchini and tearing up two heads of cauliflower, and rolling them in garlic and olive oil and some kind of spice packet she found at the Middle Eastern market (incidentally, a Middle Eastern market is a "suq". This is an EXCELLENT Scrabble word if you ever need it. It can also be spelled "souk", which also doesn't suck as a Scrabble word.)

And the rain kept coming down, and the electricity stayed off, and the guys tried to light a fire in the fire pit in the rain, and finally the rain let up enough so that we could grill the meat and the vegetables.

And everything was really, really delicious.

But I couldn't help thinking that it would have still been delicious if we had been, you know, inside. In a kitchen. With electricity and running water.

I mean, let's face it, making kafta, or anything, really, outside, in the rain, at an alleged campground, is pretty inconvenient.

My siblings want to plan this all-family getaway again, possibly at the same campground, for next year.

And as much as I want to spend the weekend together somewhere...I really wish we could find someplace less...crowded with RVs. And more cabin but less "rustic".

Anybody know of any nice cabins for rent in a pretty place that sleeps 28 people and is within a few hours drive of Lake Erie?

Yeah...probably not.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I'm trying to write a real post, truly I am, but here are some things on my mind:

1. Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Strawberries. This is all M's fault, because she introduced me to them when we were visiting her in Oregon, and WOW are they good. I've been on a quest to get a hold of them for days, and snapped some up when we were in Ann Arbor on Sunday. They are addicting. Like, crack or heroin, but full of fiber and antioxidants, and you probably won't want to knock over a liquor store to get them. (Okay, you might think about it, but you probably wouldn't actually do it.)

2. My son is such an old soul - recently, in the back of my car, Gabriel and Lana were trying to decide what music they wanted to hear - the conversation went like this:
Lana: Mom, please play Katy Perry!!!
Gabe: Mom, no Katy Perry, please!!!
Lana: He never wants Katy Perry!
Gabe: Because I don't LIKE Katy Perry.
Lana (exasperated): What DO you like, then???
Gabe (matter of factly): Classic Mo-Town. And Michael Jackson.
I swear he is the oldest 11 year old boy there ever was.

3. My daughter CRACKS me up, regularly. The other day I overheard this:
Lana (to Gabriel): If you don't stop that I'm going to scream bloody murder.
(a pause, during which, presumably, Gabriel kept doing whatever it was)
(I can't decide if she was being intentionally hilarious or not.)

4. The television show Medium has me completely and utterly hooked. I have been watching an episode nearly every day on Netflix streaming. It's a compulsion, and my husband cringes every time I turn it on, because he hates Patricia Arquette for reasons he has not articulated. I hate having a tv obsession I cannot suck him in to.

5. I just finished the fifth book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, which was released last month and called, "Sisterhood Everlasting." HOLY MOLY I cried. I mean, serious, serious tears. I still love the series...but, wow, that book made me cry.

6. I am utterly obsessed with a new feature at our public library called Overdrive. This allows me to put audiobooks from the library website onto my Zune in a very easy interface. I cannot tell you how much more pleasant my communte to and from work has become when I know I have a good audiobook to keep me company. It's also really wonderful at night - I can listen to a book and not need to have a light on to read. Our library is starting to get more and more titles, it's a wonderful service!

Free Hit Counter
Get a Free Hit Counter