Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wife Swap

I have never been on board with the whole reality TV thing. Even as a teenager, when "Real World" was paving the way for all these crazy shows that would follow, I did not see the thrill. That said, I enjoyed the first couple seasons of "The Apprentice" in '04 and '05, and when I happen to stumble upon it while channel-surfing, I enjoy the occasional episode of "SuperNanny" and am quite intrigued by the show "Wife Swap."

The latter happens to be on in the background right now, and this episode is typical of what I've seen in this show before--they often pair families where one is very family-oriented, and one is more independent. Each wife has to walk in the other's footsteps for a couple days, and then gets to implement her own rules and teach the husband and kids to live as her family lives.

In this episode, there is a family in New York state that loves lumberjacking (all except the oldest son, who is an artist, and is shunned by his more outdoorsy parents and brothers) and a Seattle family in which the dad and grandmother take care of the kids while the wife works full-time and then performs in a burlesque show most nights of the week. Obviously, they pair extremes for the entertainment value, but it is interesting to see how the lumberjack wife spends more time with the kids than they're used to, and they love it. Even the husband decides he needs to confront his wife about spending more time with the family. The burlesque wife gets the boys to put down their axes and actually help around the house, and gets the burly dad to appreciate his artistic son's interests.

I'm intrigued by this show, in many ways, because it addresses issues of what a wife's role is to be. One side (of people on the show and society in general) argues that an active wife and mother with her own interests is of more value to the family because she is fulfilled and happy. On the other hand, people argue that her primary responsibility is to the home, husband, and kids, and that distractions from that are detrimental to her children's well-being.

I am interested in this issue now because, frankly, I never expected to love work. Just a few years ago, I couldn't wait to quit work and be a stay-at-home mom. Now, I absolutely love my job, happily staying late to get things done and checking e-mail from home to stay on top of things. I've also recently been given some additional responsibilities that I'll elaborate on once they've become a regular part of my work, and while these can seem daunting right now, given that they may require me to put even longer hours before my long trek home to Clarksville, I am eager to become to the most indispensible editor I can be. (My JV field hockey coach's words ring in my head: "Ask yourself, 'How can I be indispensible to my team?'")

Since I was a kid, I've dreamed of getting married and having kids (that's what little girls are conditioned to want, right?) and I still deeply desire to become a mother to three or four children. (That's way down from the 6-10 I wanted when I was a kid!) Now that I have a job that I love, and that I could not imagine quitting entirely when I become a mother, I am more seriously thinking about the issues of parenthood and how one balances the various roles of modern womanhood. I wonder, what will I do when I have children, and am trying to work through tele-commuting or whatnot, balancing Matt's days to visit the shut-ins with my time in the office, sharing the at-home duties? Will I feel I am neglecting my kids? Will I feel I've lost a piece of my identity if I work less?

"Balance" is the buzz-word, and what so many seem to strive for. "Trying to have it all," the homemakers call it, pejoritavely. I suppose that's what I will stive for as well (a couple years from now), but despite this goal, I am sure it is much more easily said than done.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

So, I set the stove on fire...

I put the kettle on to make some tea, but turned on the wrong burner. Unfortunately, there was a cutting board sitting on the burner that I accidentally turned on. There were flames, and I freaked out. Everything's fine, though, except that the cutting board looks like this:

Later today, Charlotte got excited about something outside the family room window, and there was a deer right outside the window! We hadn't seen our backyard menagerie very much recently, so that was a cool surprise. The doe saw me (and Charlotte) looking for her, but rather than running off, just stared back through the window at us. It was very cool.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thoughts from a Random Saturday

1. Sugar Free creamer is yucky. Matt accidentally bought it instead of Fat Free creamer. We hate Splenda.

2. I am very hyper today. Matt said something about how my view of little boys seems to come straight out of Tom Sawyer... "Oh golly, here comes a steamboat." I responded to this statement by suddenly staring off into space and saying "steamboat... steamboat... yes!" His mention of the old time riverboat reminded me--almost like how one remembers an obscure element from a dream--of how I'd been meaning to google the various dinner cruises available along the Ohio River, researching possible locations for our 10-year high school reunion.

Matt found this Pavlovian-type response so bizzarre, he got up off the couch (meanwhile, I am giggling hysterically at my own wierdness) and starts hunting around the kitchen, perhaps looking for the nitrous oxide or Boone's Farm I'd presumably been recklessly downing. He finally got to the trash can, peered in, and said, "Ah, yes. Campbell's Tomato with methamphetamine!" More psychotic laughter from me. We're a silly couple.

3. The Bible is transformative even apart from (or prior to) belief in God. I am reading The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs, and it is hilarious, intriguing, and spiritually weighty all at once. Following up his previous bestseller, The Know-It-All, in which Jacobs reads the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica in a year, he then decided to spend a year following the Bible's commandments as closely as possible. Not just the 613, but anything that could be considered an instruction. He found 749. (I'm definitely thinking we need to come up with a gimmick like that to make a bestseller.) I seriously laughed out loud when he described stealthily stoning adulterers and his wife's revenge for his refusal to touch her (or anything she touched) during her period.

Jacobs, who is of Jewish descent but raised in a non-religious family, seeks out the advice of rabbis, pastors, and various biblical literalists to guide him on this journey. He consults with a hip, young rabbi, a retired Lutheran pastor, an Amish innkeeper, an expert in deciphering unkosher mixed fabrics (complete with microscope for examining the fibers), and the resident astrophysicist at the Kentucky Creation Museum. One evangelical Christian told him his endeavor was foolish because you cannot understand the Bible apart from belief in the divinity of Christ. (I guarantee this same person has given a Bible or a scripture-laden tract to a non-believer at some point, however, so he/she definitely has not thought through that argument totally.)

In any case, it is fascinating and beautiful to see how Jacobs is being transformed over the course of his year, finding tranquility in practices like wearing all white, keeping a tight rein on his tongue (to avoid gossip, lying, and negative talk), and writing the Ten Commandments on his doorframes. He becomes a more ethically-minded person, giving to the poor and respecting the elderly. He prays regularly, even though he is not sure there is a God to pray to, but seems to find himself more and more open to that possibility. I'm about five months of the way through, and I'm eager to see how his spirituality develops further.

4. I'm going to be a millionaire. Not really, but this morning I came up with an idea for a household item that should be patented. Seriously, a good one. We're going to work on a prototype.

5. It's gut-check time. Or, rather, soul-check time. While I was reading a more lighthearted account of biblical living, Matt was reading What Would Jesus Deconstruct?, part of the Church and Postmodern Culture series. He read this passage aloud to me: "Were Jesus to return in the flesh, he would be executed again. Not by the world, but by the church. Or left by the chruch to die in the cold, or to be shot down in the nightmare violence of America's urban warfare, because Christians support right-wing extremists who are opposed to gun control, or excluded as an illegal immigrant."

Disagree with the politics implicit in that statement all you want, but combining that image of Jesus-in-disguise with Jacobs' efforts to cultivate biblical generosity of spirit left me quite convicted. I was reminded of my latent prejudices against certain types of people, and began to connect the warnings of Matthew 25 with not just the poor and imprisoned, but with people I tend to look down upon. What if Jesus were to return as one of these people that I write off? I need to work extra hard at seeing Christ in them. Lord, help me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Christmas Pics, part two

Christmas morning, my parents, Matt, and I opened our gifts to one another. Matt got a sweater, a coat, pj pants, books, and a cool DVD Jeopardy game (that is apparently not compatible with our TV and DVD player, but we're hanging onto it until the HD switch thing, and maybe it will work on our new TV). Mom, as you can see, loved the workout outfit and hand weights I got her. And, Charlotte, being the spoiled kitty that she is, got lots and lots of toys, including this fishy on a pole.My parents left midday, and Matt and I headed down to Brentwood to spend the evening with his parents, brother, and sister-in-law. Here I am showing off the beautiful pendant Matt gave me: After the traditional potato soup dinner, we had the traditional Santa cutout cookies Andrew and Alexis make (Andrew is very protective of the cookies, so we were only each allowed one :0), and then opened gifts. It's kind of a running joke that Debbie just LOVES dishes. She has at least 12 sets of dishes in various designs and styles (she does use them all, though, so dining at the Kelleys is always a treat for the eyes as well as the tastebuds). Anyway, she got some serving pieces for a newly acquired set...
Then Alexis and Andrew opened the Christmas dishes we gave them...
And then I received a set of four botanical salad plates (in the hatbox--I hadn't opened them yet in this shot), so all the Kelley women got dishes, and I am now a true Kelley! I also got some great books, clothes, wine accessories, and other neat things.

So, we had a very nice Christmas, and hope you did too. Happy New Year!

Christmas Pictures, part one

Charlotte has really enjoyed the tree--sitting under it, chewing on it, pawing at it, but (luckily for us) most of the time not trying to climb it. She's removed ornaments occasionally, and laid them in doorways and hallways, where we'll see them...just so we know what she's capable of.

Matt was really excited when I brought up the idea of hosting Christmas Eve and him smoking the turkey on the grill. He really owned that task, and we and our nine guests really enjoyed that lovingly flavored and basted bird.
Meanwhile, I played Martha Stewart, setting a lovely table (above) with cranberry and evergreen arrangements, and even folding napkins into floral shapes (below).
The Kelley siblings...
The Kelley men...
And the whole Keyser-Miller-Kelley gang!
We're so lucky that both Alexis and I are only children, so we can all come together rather than making complicated holiday plans with multiple children's/parents' houses and such. And, since Matt will always have to work Christmas Eve, we get to stay home for Christmas night, then make our visits on Christmas Day, as we did last year to my parents' and this year down to Brentwood to hang out with Matt's family more.
The pics from Christmas Day are on Matt's computer (his new toy--a Mac!) So, I'll need to move over there to upload the photos of our fun Christmas morning with my parents (our houseguests for the holiday) and Christmas evening at the Kelleys' house. Feliz Navidad!


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