Wherever You Are

Dear Birth Mother,

I hope this finds you well.  The weather here is fine.

It’s a beautiful, awful day.

I am thinking of you and the selfless life-changing decision you made.  Of your stated reasons.  And the ones you will never tell.

And what I know is true about us moms.

You are thinking of us today.  Of the promise you trusted in, that someone would love your child with their unique needs.

No matter how fantastic the celebration, you’ll wonder what’s up with us.  I’m getting the recognition for how these guys turned out.

Well.  I need to let you know.

Most days, I am pretty sure that anything good in them is all you.

They are amazing.

They stop people in their tracks.

They move in incredible natural gifts.

They make the issues unavoidable.

Your decision changed your life forever, but if I may say.  It keeps on changing lives. More than I can count. Every day.

Wherever you are, I honor you.

With love.  Fearless.  Like yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Still

“Be still and know that I am God…”

Not really very easy in this age of distraction.

Be still…

Until you can smile at the mess.

Until you can say, “It’s beautiful.”

Until you can say, “I have no need.”

Until your mind is changed.

Until you are okay without the answer.

Until you let go of what you want in favor of what is given.

Until you let someone stronger lift the load, someone wiser solve the problem, someone more loving fill the cup.

Be still…

Be quiet.

Be satisfied.

Know.

And be known.

The dork.  The cowgirl.

The patient.  The impatient.

The loner.  The liar. The lover.

The mind. The body. The soul.

Be still.

Until you know.

 

 

 

 

 

Lust: A Christmas Tutorial

The youth group has a question box.  You can put a question in and the leaders will take a little time on Wednesday evening to answer it.  Several weeks ago, someone asked if the word lust had only to do with sex.  Pretty good question.

Did I forget to mention that only men are allowed to teach mixed groups of people at our church?

Yeah.

So the person, who answered this, answered in the negative; that there is also a lust for power.  His example, people who run for public office.  Regardless of political party.

That was all.

It has troubled me for the entire time, that he didn’t talk about all the other drives of the flesh that we indulge.

I tried to bring the example of the desire to drive the “then-new-to-me” car on the road between Target and an adjoining suburb.  It features tight curves and ever-so-slight banking in a spot or two.  This vehicle is made to handle well and this little spot of perhaps a half mile is a delightful opportunity to sample that.  Really delightful.

Apparently, that was interpreted as me wanting to brag about the car.

I was interrupted and ignored.

There are a number of kinds of lust.  I avoided blogging it because, they’ll all find out soon enough and it was just me taking it personally.

So, in the spirit of taking it personally, I’m blogging it now.  Because I have a bad case.

You see, I have a cookbook collection.  Not like I am trying to build a library that will be donated for public use when I die.  But to use. Each one has a story and a reason.  I have hard and fast rules for selection, that even I don’t know.  I know when I see them.  I experience a kind of feeling of awe sometimes when I find a certain one.

I digress.

For Christmas, I started a little project.  I bought cookbooks for some kids (5) I love.  They are like nieces and nephews. Sort of.  Thing.

There’s the great used book store here, and I got in the cookbook section and found six (6) treasures.  I can’t decide which book to give which kid.  Because I want two (2) of them for myself.

Two.

Two.

 

Want them.

Both.

Want.

A lot.

So I’m sitting here trying to wrap gifts and looking through the books, especially the ones I want, but then I glanced through the one that was most expensive.  Now, I want it, too.

That’s what made me remember.

Lust.

Desire.

Well-engineered cars,

Cookbooks that take my breath away,

Fine leather goods, like handbags, wallets, belts and…

Yesterday, I was doing a little shopping.

I wanted to buy something for someone who reads this blog.  Who I’m responsible for dressing.  The cost was a little ambitious.  I got a little angry.

Because I wanted what I wanted.  And felt it was out of reach.

Non-essential.

There may have been some pouting.  I’m not scared, though.  Santa and I are on shaky terms right now (it’s another post).

Desire.

I’m not as tired as I was and I think I’m going back.

To be excessive in the essentials.

Lavish.

Soliciting for real connection through some other means.

Please.

Any self-respecting first-world woman, knows I’m talking about boots.

Two pair of size ten black leather riding boots.

Mm.

Mm.

Mm.

And I might buy a hot drink (with some kind of froth or something) while I’m out.

What do you say?  Is lust just a sexual term?  What do you hope Santa will slather all over you this Christmas?

 

 

 

Dear Santa, Not that I Need to Tell You Any of This…

Dear Santa:

First, let me say, the coffee mug from last year is still rocking the mornings the dishwasher hasn’t been run.  You know exactly how to bring the trumpet shaped ceramic noise.

I hope you enjoyed the low-fat, high-fiber, refreshments we provided.  They are approved by the American Heart Association. Please let Mrs. Claus know we appreciate her kind note and will be serving those again this year.

We are looking forward to hiding in the drapes and watching you lay a finger aside of your nose.

Just to streamline your preparations and help you stay out of the mug aisle at Wal-Mart, I thought I’d give you a few ideas.

1) Santa, let’s just dispense with the formalities and get down to business on this, shall we?  I don’t just want, I need a new camera.  Three years into my brave attempts at blogging, the camera that started out as merely adequate, has gone downhill.  It really seems to want to retire.  The daggeurrotype produced a clearer image.  It served me well throughout several births, but is now less current and capable than phones I see in the hands of 10 year-olds.

Pony. Up.

pcmprd187800050016_sc.jpg Front Detail

 

2) Since we are on the topic of outdated technology.  Let’s talk about phones.  I am carrying this:

LG COSMOS

It is a good serviceable device and should offer clear talk and utilitarian texting well into the next decade.   But please. If I am on the good list, do something…  I know the girls would like to carry this phone, so do it for them.

3)  Dishes.  You saw it last year under your organic field greens with balsamic vinaigrette.  Chipped and cracked.  I’ve shopped and shown Mickey what I want for everyday use.  Yet, I went to the store’s website to check for specials and found this.

 

Mikasa® Threads Modern Dinnerware

Mikasa Threads @ Bed, Bath, & Beyond 

 

Yes, that’s right.  Our wedding china pattern hasn’t been discontinued.  That’s where you come in.  The everyday dishes are a given, so to speak.  Given, meaning, “He’s givin’ ’em to me or I’m givin’ ’em to myself.”  But to have the china completed would be really, really nice.  So I’ll have at least something for the girls to fight over who has to take it when I die.

4)  While we are making me happy with what I see under the tree, let’s talk about the man I send off to work everyday.  Looking like a scarecrow.  You know what we are dealing with here.  He hates to shop.  He went from one workplace where the boss wanted everyone to “Dress for Success”  like it was 1984 to another where the hipsters set the dress code.  He feels a little like Urkel in a One Direction video.

What would make me happy is for you to just take care of this.  From the skin out.  Thanks in advance.

5)  The girls.  Ditto.  Not because of the workplace.  They need jeans. Because they’ve worn out the ones they currently wear.  WORN THEM OUT.  That doesn’t even speak to accessories, anything for a dressy event or shoes.  Oh my Santa, SHOES!  All that heroic nonsense about the thrift store aside; I am too exhausted to even start the process. You see them when they’re sleeping.  You know when they’re awake.  Blech.

Get to work old ma-….

Sorry.

Now I’m so glad you know I have PMS and I didn’t really mean that.

6) The boy.  Rock. His. World.  This kid would seriously fade away into Angry Birds and never be seen again.  He has a magnificent wardrobe courtesy of all our friends and fellow church members cleaning out their boys closets when he came.  Like he cares.  He needs stuff to play with outside and inside.  He’s a bit like an only child in that he and his sisters just aren’t entertained by the same stuff.  he bravely tries to join in and knows all the lyrics to all their cds.  That’s not good for anyone.  He needs more than the light sabre and the trampoline.

7) Howsabouta nice stockade fence around the backyard.  So we and our next door neighbors can enjoy our yards at the same time without looking at each other.  Remember what they say.  Good fences make good neighbors. I’m sure the feeling is mutual when I say, they would be a lot better looking from the other side of a privacy fence.  The *ahem* ‘cyclone fence’ that came with the house is an embarrassment.  I’d just like to wake up on Christmas morning and look out the window and not see the alley.

8) The peace on earth thing.  Peace has so many different meanings.  Practically one for every living person.  Let’s talk about that mom whose child is on the battlefield.  In a foreign country or an urban back alley or a cancer ward or a rebellious season.  Bring that momma peace.  For that Man who’s imprisoned by the pressure.  To conquer.  Work. Marriage. Fatherhood.  House.  Car. TV.  Money.  Give. Him. Peace.

Bring them peace.  And the earth will follow.

9) Underwear and socks.  Seriously.  We all need them.

10) An orange and some nuts and a peppermint stick in my stocking.  To remind me of the olden days.  And those who wished before me.  You know who they are.

Bonus: It would cost you nothing to send some Facebook likes for the blog.  Or some comments.  Or some reason to keep persevering with this.  Since the muse has apparently moved to one of Money Magazine’s Best Cities to live in.

Thank you, Santa for reading my letter.  And being magical.  And letting me on the good list.

Maggie S.

This letter, while genuinely heartfelt and sincere, is also linked with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.

Mama's Losin' It

 

 

 

When It’s Legit. Holiday Stress.

After all that lovely, well-intended, self-effort the other day about looking towards the positive, I began to realize I’m going around like a Xanax ad.

The anxiety is just present.

But let’s review. Shall we?

2011 — Christmas was provided by angels. While we feared the firm was going under*. January 3, we found out a  merger had been in the works for months.

2010 — My total expenditure for gifts for the kids was a hundred dollars.  Yes, your memory serves.  We’d just welcomed a new person into the family.  We were dealing with the standard emotional upheaval AND what was beginning to be a real material need on the part of the girls.  January that year was the year of the two weeks with a “broken” furnace.  Which just needed the re-set button hit, but no one we called was willing to tell us that without a service call and we couldn’t pay for a service call.  That was also the year I shopped ALDI, to the tune of $100 something and didn’t get in a grocery in any appreciable way until the income tax return came.

2009 — The first year of reduced salary.  Still believing, next month we’ll go back on full.  In view of the “temporary” nature of the thing, we thought we’d just charge it.

2008 — Mickey’s mom died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

2007 — Christmas holiday went fine.  In January, my grandfather died within minutes of the pastor emeritus of our church.  They were also born within days of each other.

2006 — Christmas holiday went fine; in January, my cousin died of an overdose.  On my birthday.

2005 — My Grandmother (Dad’s mom) and my Great Grandmother (Mom’s Grandmother) died within the same 24 hour period.  In the week of Christmas.  That was the same year we traveled to see Mickey’s mom, at his stepdad’s request, because he felt she was extremely ill and he needed her kids to see and know what was up.  He’d told the doc she was taking too much medicine, and she asked him, “Between the two of us, which one’s a physician?”

I could go on, but I’m already back to Kansas City.  Or I could start at the other end of my life and work forward.

This December has already got enough trouble of its own…

Minor crap.

Mickey got hit in the blue car.  He’s fine, but it’s a mess.  So we’re on one car.

One of the girls is pleasantly standing in my face with no intention of doing what she’s told.

The other one threw down over decorating the tree.  Ultimately, they apologize, but I’m not Caillou’s mother.  It’s not okay.

I’ve slacked on Li’l Dude’s speech interventions.  Now.  I gotta hustle up or the speech therapist I met with will retire and we’ll have to re-evaluate with someone who didn’t do the initial evaluation.

Financially, I don’t have peace.  I don’t feel like the events of the last several years are any excuse.  I should have tried harder.  Worked to teach the children more about how to be better than our circumstances.  “Attacked the fear and let it become my claim to fame.”**  Now it seems like a big pile.

No pony.

And last but not least.

A man has begun behaving inappropriately toward me.  I’ve kept Mickey apprised of the situation. Now, he’s gone so far as to act like this in front of Mickey and others. I’m insulted.  This person thinks I’m so morally low that I’d entertain that kind of attention from a man who isn’t my husband. Or that I have so little going for me that I’d think it was just dandy for someone to pay attention to me at all.  He also has so little respect for Mickey. It’s a slap in the face.

Happy Freaking Holidays.

Holiday stress is supposed to be that you don’t think you are having as good a time as everyone else. You aren’t loving the parties and the busyness and the meeeeeeaning.  It’s supposed to be that you put too much on the credit card and are dreading the bill coming in the mail.  It’s supposed to be that your family is going to have the same old miserable time. It’s supposed to be that the kids want ham, but Grandad wants turkey.  At least, your weird aunt just wants her Camels that brought the Wise Men and O Holy Night Train.

Or that there are fewer hours of daylight.

I’m calling bullroar.

At least in my own case.  This is a time of year crammed with memories I didn’t ask for and have no control over.

I am deciding that I will reach past the anxiety for the truth.  No one  ever said the holidays had to go off like a rehearsed performance.  What if we carry on with the act of celebration objectively?  Singing the truth over the noise of anxiety and the cultural pressure for the holiday to look like a photo in a magazine.

Months ago, I got a strong impression that God said, “Abide.  Obey.  Lay down your life.”

I think His birthday is a great time to meditate on that.  His banquet is set out.

I just have to figure out how to get to the table.  And sit down.

Clearly knows how Christmas fun is done.

 

 

*2011 was the first year since 2006 they didn’t let people go between Thanksgiving and New Year’s; once firing a single mom in the week after Christmas.  We don’t know if they did it before that.

**I don’t know who said this originally, but I heard it from a MK director who disappeared the next week and was thought to have gone to South America to elude the authorities. So take it with a grain of salt.

 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Banana Bread

We go to church with an actual green grocer.

Our sons are good buddies.

My husband is an apple man.  He’s mostly against food that comes from plants, and once forbade me to ever let his mother know he ate peas.  He is, however; a connoisseur of fine apples.

As such, we are by Pratt’s Market, often.  Imagine my delight then, when I was stumped on teacher gifts that wouldn’t break the bank, when I stopped by and Perry reminded me to get some free, too-ripe-to-sell bananas.

Oh yeah.

Because I have this:

The original recipe for my mother’s third husband’s mother’s banana bread with broiled pecan topping. (Think Praline.)

 The recipe made exactly the number of mini-loaves we needed.

The mini-loaves baked for about 10 minutes less than the whole pan would’ve.

And came out looking a lot like: I’ll-Be-Making-This-Again-Soon.

Hazel Kendrick’s Banana Bread

1/2 c. shortening

1 1/2 c. sugar                                             2 eggs, beaten

1 c. mashed bananas (3)                         4 T. sour milk

1 t. vanilla                                                   1 t. (scant) baking soda

1/2 c. nuts

Put in 2 quart dish.  Bake at 325 degrees; 45 minutes.  Top with the following and broil until bubbly:

10 T. brown sugar                                    6 T. butter

4 T. evaporated milk                               chopped nuts

Let cool before eating.  Seriously.  Be patient.  Don’t burn your mouth.

Note: In place of sour milk, you can use nearly any liquid.  Hazel said she’d used orange juice.  I used heavy cream. I listed ‘nuts’ for nostalgia’s sake.  Mom wouldn’t have used anything but pecans and would’ve specified other nuts.  Same for Hazel.  Mom’s mom would’ve put black walnuts in it and told you it tasted the same, like she did with those nasty cookies she made Butch.

Mmm.  Mmm.  Mmm.

What are you giving teachers this year?  And what is your favorite “heirloom” recipe?

In other news, yes, I have asked Santa for a camera.  He told me I’d shoot my eye out and placed his boot on my face and shoved.

 

 

Not Feelin’ It

For today’s performance, the role of the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come will be play by a Discouraged Mother.

I’m not feeling the holiday. After lots of big words and big plans and big urging to others last month,(To which I am not even going to link, in my shame) I don’t feel like Christmas. Decorating, baking, dressing, partying, worshipping, shopping, wrapping, hiding, traditioning– none of it.

There is a reason.

For several consecutive weeks, I have shuttled people to various activities, set aside my own agenda. GOT. @#$%. DONE.  For other people.

Not me. Not Mickey(okay, a little). Or the boy(we just enjoy our roles as sub-ordinates).

There is only one answer left.

They, in turn, have attended rehearsals, concerts, parties, plays, home tours, ultimate frisbee get-togethers, visits in others’ homes. Thank God, I have someone to enjoy life for me, so I can spend my time gassing up the car and buying foods they are interested in. (Not foods they find boring. Yes, you heard me.  Boring.). It’s important that I make it happen for them without regard for the running of a househole and continued access to hot and cold running water indoors or lights & heat.

There is an alternative.  I can have all the household help I can stand to delegate to if I am willing to be talked to like something they scraped off the bottom of their shoes.  I can have excellent scores on schoolwork if I drive them like a balking team of oxen–constantly alert and steering every second to prevent a stampede.

It would be handy and convenient to blame Facebo*k.  But.  Like alcohol, it doesn’t create problems.  It magnifies them.

It is proving precious difficult to get excited about the first Christmas at full salary in the last four years.

It’s not my deep concern about their character.  I wish it were.

It’s just freaking pragmatism.  I just don’t warm to the idea of spending my holiday time, money and imagination on people who clearly feel they are above me.  Just as the clerk at gas station doesn’t buy me a gift that represents an appreciable percentage of her household income, you and I wouldn’t send expensive personal gifts to say, I don’t know…Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.  Not only do they not need what we can afford, they might think we were weird and put us on a security watch list.

It gets worse.  They are delightful to others.  On a regular basis, teachers and people they volunteer with give me all manner of glowing feedback about how responsible, respectful and reliable they are.  And how good looking.

Really?  Really.  REALLY!?!

So?  It’s personal?

I actually don’t think so.  I’m pretty sure it’s a phase.  Perhaps one designed by God himself to make sure a mom was ready to let her chicks leave the nest.  If that’s the case, it’s working well, per design. The timing is unfortunate.

I’ve drafted a letter to Santa. He sees them when they are sleeping and awake, knows when they’re bad or good.

He. Knows.

He’s cleared me to stick with the bag of crew socks &  10-pack of Juicy Fruit, their father received when he was 15; and the Forever in Blue Jeans Cologne & $5 bill I received when I was 15.

Hmmm.  Fifteen.

Yep, totally a phase.

How do you stir up your holiday spirit when it’s low?

Sneaking a merry-go-round break with Bro.

 

 

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