Master of the minor victory. Thank you. 

No interesting Memorial Day plans around here.

But I’m having a quite lovely mundane day so far:

  • Listening to “Hamilton” while eating breakfast on our patio. Croissant and coffee, birds and chipmunks. Not bad.
  • Cleaning up the grapefruit juice I spilled all over the patio table because the humidity’s about 110% and my glass was dripping with condensation.
  • Changing the batteries in the water wiggler that lives in our bird bath, keeping evil mosquitos from laying eggs ten feet from our back door.
  • Pulling weeds from the cracks between the paving stones on the patio.
  • Watering all the hanging flower baskets.
  • Cutting off two low-hanging branches on the dear baby tree that was planted in our front easement a couple of years ago.
  • Stocking the Little Free Library with picture books – they’re always the first to go.

The earlier days of the holiday weekend were a little more interesting:


Found on Saturday in a new vintage shop in our historic downtown area. Can’t fault the owner for his/her descriptive powers on this item.


Seen in another downtown antique store this Saturday. This one’s noteworthy because I had this bizarre toy when I was little, and was inexplicably fascinated by it. Wind it up and the puppy goes sideways and down, then returns back up to say “squeak squeak squeak!” Weird.


Taken at the first of two arts houses we visited over the weekend. This one was at the Rio, again in our downtown area. We saw “Love and Friendship,” an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Lady Susan.” Clever and funny – we definitely recommend it.


And at the second art house of the weekend, where we saw “The Man Who Knew Infinity.” Dev Patel was adorable, as always, in this compelling and true story of an Indian maths genius with no formal education who became a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge during World War I. His work is now used to describe the characteristics of black holes. See it if you can.

Enjoy your Monday holiday, everyone!

Risk-taking for the faint of heart

There’s one more story to tell of Things That Happened on My Recent Vacation – and it’s a big one.

Late in the afternoon on my last day in the office before my break, my closest colleague dropped by to firm up some details on a project we were working on together. And then he shared with me an idea that rocked my world.

He’d been turning over in his own mind a proposal the two of us might make that would significantly shift the focus of our current work (children’s ministry and youth ministry), in which we create a department together, supervise a new hire to take on a major portion of the work we do now, and allow us to work together to tackle some much-needed ministry areas in the congregation that have been going wanting for years.

Mind. Blown.

Side note: I’ve been increasingly unhappy and unmotivated in my work, which I’ve been doing for almost 12 years, since January. Some seriously bad decision making and lack of communication on the part of others in the congregation were the catalyst for my discontent, but I’ve since come to realize I’m also just burned out from doing the same work for so long. 

So I started on my week-long vacation with a burning hope of creating something new in my work life. My colleague and I agreed to put some thoughts down on paper and meet again the day I returned to the office, with an eye toward presenting our proposal.

And then…one day into vacation another job opportunity fell into my lap. It sounded like a good fit, and it appealed to me for the pull I was feeling toward social justice work.


Second side note: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a risk-taker. Suddenly there was risk coming at me from all sides, so throughout the week I had to think pretty carefully about how much risk I could live with, without self-destructing. 

Wow. Reeling with confusion (and a heavy dose of excitement) I looked into that second opportunity, while at the same time texting my colleague to let him know. I suggested that he and I should get together earlier – while I was still on vacation, for Pete’s sake! – to nail down our proposal, while at the same time I was gathering more information about the feasibility of the second job.

It all made for an awesome week off, having my dear ones around me to hang out with AND having the burning excitement of new possibilities.

We haven’t reached the end of the story yet. But we’re getting there. It turned out the second opportunity, as interesting as it was, would have cost me too much in loss of salary and benefits. It just wasn’t practical. So my friend and I have presented our proposal, received enough interest to keep moving forward with it, and have another meeting scheduled this coming week, to nail down potential details.

I feel great about creating an advancement opportunity in a job that was, in reality, a dead-end. About the prospect of working closely with an awesome colleague and friend. About working closely with a new hire, whom I’ve already identified and had a conversation with. About new challenges. About the minor risk involved, heavily supported by a trusted co-worker.

Can’t wait to see what happens next…

Another Shenanigans tale.

The biggest event of my staycation a couple of weeks ago was our daughter’s commencement ceremony and the family get-together at our place that afternoon. (For those following along, she’s received three full time teaching offers and will accept one today!)

For a rabid introvert like me, sitting in a gymnasium full to bursting with families of 100 grads (thank goodness each college in our daughter’s university has its own separate ceremony) is a total nightmare. Surrounded by people – ugh! I felt like I was sitting on a bed of nails while bathing in a pool of rubbing alcohol.

But that nightmare was Cloud Nine compared to the family party later in the day.


I’m not comfortable with a houseful of guests at the best of times. And this was not the best of times. Because this little gathering came with a shitload of family baggage, in the human form of my own personal Wicked Stepmother.

I’ve never been a huge fan of my dad’s wife. But until last fall we put on happy faces and played nice. Right up until she started sending me drunken, hateful phone calls, voicemails, FB messages, and emails (an encore performance of the kind of booze hag scenes she used to put on when I was young and frequently a captive audience). When that stuff went down last fall I drew the line, explained to my dad I refused to let myself in for that kind of crap ever again, and severed ties with her once and for all.

But I knew an event like our daughter’s grad party would be fraught. I wanted my dad to be there – he’s a doting grandfather, and our daughter cares for him. But I absolutely did not want his wife in my home. I quite literally had bad dreams about that eventuality. I knew there was a good chance he’d bring her to the party  – either due to his lifelong genius for absolute denial, and/or due to his slipping memory, and/or due to his choosing to placate his drunken, abusive wife instead of caring about my well-being. (Enable much?)

The Husband gallantly tried to come to my rescue. He volunteered to call my dad, inviting him to the party while making it clear the invitation was for him alone. It was worth a try, and I was thankful he made the call for me.

And then, at the appointed time on the big day, while I happened to be in the front yard, guess who appeared in our driveway? Yup. My dad, with the W.S. in tow.

Furious, hurt, and in minor shock, I made a beeline for the house and dashed upstairs to collect myself for a moment. I did not slam any doors. Didn’t scream in rage. Didn’t even cry – my usual reaction to any event so over-the-top emotional.

Of course, the W.S. behaved herself in front of company. That’s always been the trick up her sleeve. And I was eventually able to come downstairs and be civil. Bottom line, this was our daughter’s celebration and I didn’t want my drama to ruin it for her.

But boy, did my my blood pressure take a beating.

I’ll have to consider serving poisoned apples at our next family gathering.

The unimaginable.

Here I sit on Tuesday evening, relaxing in my lovely bedroom retreat while enjoying the soul-satisfying sound of young voices in the living room. With the Boy home, we’re getting accustomed all over again to having kids in the house at all hours – he’s the social one of our three. He and his next older sister are only a year apart, and since they were both heavily involved in choir and theater in high school, their circle of friends overlapped. What a joy to hear them back together again – not only sharing memories, but discussing where life has taken them since they parted. And I echo the thoughts of Hamilton and Burr as they sing about their children, “You’ll blow us all away.” (See, told you I was obsessed with the musical.)

Listening to them (but NOT listening in, mind you) I’m reminded of one of the significant events that took place during my little vacation from real life last week: The Boy was rear-ended in his 23-year-old Jeep Cherokee a few days before he came home from college. He handled it well, drove away unscathed, and is managing the insurance chaos (it was a three-car smash) on his own. In the excitement Middle’s graduation and Oldest coming home, I didn’t think much about the incident for a bit.

But then The Boy got home and gave us more details of the accident. Like the fact that the driver’s seat was bent forward in the wreck and had to be forcibly pushed back. And the fact that one body shop recommended totalling the Jeep as the safest option. And I started thinking.

And what I thought was, “WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING?!”

Because he’s been driving that 23-year-old Jeep back and forth to college (a three-hour drive) and on various other road trips for three years. Without air bags or any other modern safety features.

How could this fact have escaped me all this time? How could I have gambled so freely with this child I love more than my own life?

In discussing the situation with The Husband, I recalled a family in our close high school community who lost their son in a car wreck a few weeks into our boy’s freshman year in college. How our hearts ached, watching them go through the unimaginable (a line from Hamilton that makes me sob every time).

The Husband pointed out that our young friend was actually driving a late-model car, with all the modern safety fixtures, when he died. In other words, there are no guarantees.

But once that fear had entered my mind, there was no letting it go. Now a large portion of our summer will be spent getting our son into a safer car for his last year of college.

No guarantees. But I will do all I can to push away the unimaginable.

 

 

 

Back from the Shenanigans

Actually our Shenanigans ended last week when our darling Oldest flew back to Baltimore. But the week she was home was so full it will take several posts to cover it all – because some pretty big stuff went down.

So, for today, here are a few highlights:


A perfect example of Oldest’s sense of humor. This was her idea of an appetizer one night while the edible portions of the asparagus were cooking on the grill.


Our Summa Cum Laude grad, with University honors. In her first week after graduation she had two interviews and one job offer, with two more interviews already scheduled for this coming week. We couldn’t be prouder!


A last-day lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant.


The Boy, home for the summer, helped me figure out how to display this ink drawing my mom brought me from her recent trip to Ireland. It has the honor of being the first thing I’ve hung on the walls in our freshly redcorated bedroom.

And…not pictured is the fact that we’ve all joined the fanatic fan-dom of the cultural phenomenon that is “Hamilton.” There hasn’t been any other music in the house for the last week, and we ALWAYS have music playing – even if no one else is in the room where it happens.

Those are the simple, happy things that happened over the last couple of weeks. Up next – the bigger, more complicated stuff.

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now…” (Thanks, Lin Manuel.)

Dreams coming true.

This week one of those times in a mom’s life when you just sit back and watch in amazement.

I spent last evening reading our son’s pre-teaching final project, outlining his philosophy, sample lesson plans, and overall outline for what he would do with his first full year of teaching secondary vocal music education.

And then I had the pleasure of reading our Middle daughter’s final senior project: her professional website. This project, too, includes philosophy as a teacher of English literature and writing, as well as samples of her work, her students’ work, her resume, and reference letters.

Look out, world. Because here we have two perfect examples of what education can be. Not just youthful idealism, mind you, but two excellent minds; two driven young adults who will use their academic brilliance and social conscience to create positive change.

Wow.

Tomorrow their older sister flies in, taking a week off from her doctoral work on the east coast. By this weekend, when all three are together to celebrate Middle’s graduation, the collective brilliance under this roof will be mind-blowing.

All our children are fulfilling their dreams. Observing that phenomenon makes me in expressibly proud.

But what I’ll love most is just having all three of them around me. The singing, the playing, the joking, the intense conversations, the inside-the-family references.

That’s my dream, just about to come true.

Excerpts from a slightly odd Mother’s Day.

I’m sort of getting a rain check on Mother’s Day this year; Oldest arrives in two days for a week-long visit, The Boy comes home for the summer on Friday evening.

So the actual holiday was a bit of a non-event, but still not bad. Here are some of the interesting out-takes:

“If you love your Mommy, stand up!” (Preschool Sunday School teacher leading our youngest class in singing during worship). “I do!” (Enthusiastic and very dear preschool boy, jumping up and raising his hand in the middle of the song – not actually part of the rehearsed song, but he melted every heart in the room.)

“Can I help smash up boxes?” One of the 26 5th and 6th graders who worked like crazy this morning to pack 250 lunches for clients of a local service agency. These kids were so into what they were doing, and so proud to see the culmination of a full year of work – advertising, educating, and raising money for these lunches – I wanted to hug each and every one of them.

“I don’t like Brussels sprouts OR wax beans.” (My mother-in-law’s comment to the server at her retirement home today, where we were “enjoying” a Mother’s Day lunch. Not that she was complaining, she explained. Just wanted everyone to know she didn’t like any of the vegetable choices. Cue eye-roll.)

“I think I got all of the zucchini out of my shoe.” – The Husband, after an incident involving Crocs and grilled veg.

The evening ended with Mexican food for dinner, a variety of my favorite chocolates from The Husband, and a heartwarming and attractive hand-made card/photo album from our Middle.


A slightly odd day, but on the whole quite lovely. Hoping your Mother’s Day was a special one.

Just give me a useable panty liner, please.

As if nature hadn’t doled out enough crap for one woman to handle (51 years old, too late in life for a baby, still having periods with accompanying migraines and cramps, AND full-blown premenopausal symptoms), the sanitary napkin industry seems to be conspiring against me, as well.


Here’s what I’m able to find in the “feminine products” aisle of my favorite stores:

  • Wings. Wings, wings, wings. Most designers of pantyliners believe that what women want most is little flaps of sweat-inducing plastic lined with sticky strips popping out of their underwear all day long. I despise those wings. My nether regions are not attempting to fly anywhere. I’d much prefer a product that is permanently grounded.
  • Maxi Plus Overnight. Mattress in your undies, anyone? That’s a great feeling.
  • Thin liners. Yeah, might as well put a dryer sheet in your pants. You’ll get just about the same amount of absorbency.
  • Super-wides. Compare these beauties to those two-lane trucks that have to be escorted down the highway and you’ve got a pretty good idea of how great these panty liners are. They’re what I currently have at home. The genius inventor of this particular style thought it would be a good idea to place the sticky bit around the very perimeter of the liner, so that it has no chance of touching any part of the crotch of my underwear. Sticks great to my thighs, though. If you listen carefully you’ll near my shriek of pain any time I drop trou to take a pee.
  • Cheap-os. The ones I had before the killer super-wides had the endearing habit of ripping open as I innocently went through my day, so that any time I went for a pee I’d discover a little trail of puffy, white cotton up the back of my pants.

If I were a conspiracy theorist I’d be certain the sanitary napkin industry was run by old, white, Republican men. You know the ones – those guys who don’t want women to have access to women’s health care, who would like nothing more than to live in our vaginas, “the better to patrol them, my dear.” Who else would have such contempt for women as to create these instruments of torture?

Yeah, I know there are alternatives.

  • Earth-friendly, reusable liners. I’m sorry. Just too much for me. Like I need more laundry in my life.
  • The menstrual cup. Yes, it is what you’re picturing. I used a diaphragm for years and that was gross enough. I simply can’t go there.
  • Tampons. Due to some sort of surgical weirdness, I seem to have come out of the C-section required to deliver our Oldest with an internal staple in a rather unusual place, rendering tampons extremely uncomfortable.

And so, I am at the mercy of Kotex,  Always, Carefree, and company. In a never-ending search for a small, absorbent, yet not offensive, pad to stick to my undies.

Geez, is it too much to ask?

Ethics 2016: When is it okay to pass judgment based on political views?

ethics

I’m being confronted with what is, to me, a serious ethical dilemma.

What do I do when I discover that a person who does work or might want to work within the volunteer programs I manage actually supports Donald Trump for president?

The above sentence sounds like a lead in to a joke. I wish it were.

In the most recent case of my experience, one of the women who teaches Sunday School within my ministry area posted a pro-Trump article. I can’t even be hopeful that it was just a slip of a finger on a keyboard, because she’s posted some pretty out-there stuff in the past.

Up until now I’ve felt that I can’t police the personal beliefs of my volunteers. I have 25 people working with children in my department every week (and each volunteer slot is double-staffed, making a total of 50 volunteers to monitor); even if I wanted to keep my thumb on what and how they teach, it would be an impossible task. I do my best to make sure they’re on the same page with the theology we want to teach, that they frame their lessons in a way that ONLY offers a message of grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love. Once they’re in the classrooms doing their thing, it’s out of my hands.

We don’t have any kind of litmus test in our congregation for who’s allowed to work with kids (beyond our very carefully followed child protection policy). The stance of our denomination is that we have collective statements about our theological beliefs, but we do NOT tell individuals what they must believe, how they must think about certain issues, or how they should vote.

But this Trump thing is a whole new ball game.

I do not believe it’s possible to make a case that an adult who supports this man has good judgment. In fact, I believe that supporting Trump denotes a severe lack of critical thought, a severe lack of concern for those who don’t look exactly like us – in short, being a Trump supporter indicates a severe character flaw.

This is not hyperbole. It’s truly what I believe.

TRUMP_16_Make_America_Great_Again_sticker

I heard an author in a radio interview this morning make an excellent point: What is really meant by this slogan is “Make America White Again.” That is what Trump’s followers actually want. It’s a truth that makes me physically ill.

In this particular case, this teacher is done with her teaching for the year. I don’t think she’ll be returning next year; after doing this work for twelve years I can tell when a volunteer is on his/her way out.

But I can see the possibility of having to make some pretty serious and difficult decisions in the new program year that will start in the fall, which is traditionally when we sign up a lot of new volunteers.

I take my responsibility to our children very seriously. I’m not 100% certain that it’s ethical to create my own litmus test for the people who work within the programs I oversee.

But I know I cannot live with myself if I allow a Donald Trump supporter to have access to children in my care.