Thursday, February 25, 2010

If I Tweeted

I tried to take up Twitter last summer, and really did not enjoy it. I tried to like it and tried to make the most of it for a while, but eventually I just gave it up. I tweet for the magazine I edit at work, but I literally have to set reminders for myself to do it. The main issue, I think, is just that I don’t have much interesting to say that wouldn’t be better said as a Facebook status.

All that said, I occasionally have more interesting days that might be vaguely entertaining as tweets, if I wanted to bother investing more time in that medium. Which I don’t. Yesterday was one of those days, though, since I was on a whirlwind 18-hour business trip, and covering 1000 miles and three states (four if you count one that I flew over but didn’t set foot in) provides a little bit more amusement than the average day.

So here’s what my day would have looked like if I tweeted it (that is, if you could tweet from planes and while driving):

4:00am My alarm is going off. Ugh. I have to be at the airport before I’m usually even out of bed.

5:40 Made it through security within an hour of the time I left home. Impressive, given that I live 60 miles from the airport.

6:30 A flight to Denver is boarding right near me. The line looks like an REI ad.

7:00 A woman ahead of me is ticked about having her purse searched at the gate. "I don't care about rights! I want the people who need checking to be checked!"

8:10 Nice flight. When the heavy clouds break, I can see frosty corn fields in IN or IL!

8:35 I love seeing cities from above when taking off or landing. Chicago has miles and miles of houses with long, skinny yards separated by fences, with detached garages at the back of each lot.

8:45 Enterprise car rental is giving me the Southerner-driving-in-snow upgrade. This thing is a tank!!

9:10 You'd think with all these toll booths, Indiana could afford to fix its potholes.

9:20 Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana--that's the town that knew me when!

9:30 45 mph speed limit on an interstate? Are you kidding me? I am unaccustomed to such plodding. (see 5:40)

9:40 I'm starting to get really bored.

9:50 Just saw a sign for 184 miles to Toledo, OH, and entertained myself for a good 30 seconds prounouncing Toledo the American way and the Spanish way, noting the difference in tongue and teeth placement.

10:20 There's a semi in front of me with a long bumper sticker saying "GOD GUTS GUNS [American flag image] NO LIBERALS." I best be going then...

10:50--no, 11:50 EST. Arrived at destination--with 40 minutes to spare!

3:45 Successful lunch meeting. Mission accomplished!

3:15 (Central again now) Ok--the tank seemed unnecessary before, but now with lake effect snow starting to stick, I do in fact feel safer!

4:30 Filling up the rental car near Midway. South side boy in hoopty car hitting on me. Hard to resist.

6:00 Burrito in the crowded Midway food court. Older man asks to share my table and we have a great conversation. Jewish bank consultant with a Catholic wife, tears up when he talks about his "saintly" Catholic mother-in-law.

7:15 Angry family at the gate missed their flight to Orlando and it was somehow Southwest's fault. Father uses his 4-year old son as a guilt trip: "Kyle, come here. [picks him up so is at eye level with airline employee] We're not going to Disney World tomorrow."

8:10 De-icing the wings, then we're on our way!

9:13 Is there anything more beautiful than a million lights glittering on the horizon?

10:30 Oh yeah--there she is, sleeping soundly. Mommy's home.

(now aren't you glad I don't tweet every day?)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Project Life (Feb.15-21)

It started to feel like spring this week a) because Lent began this week, which means Easter is not too far away!, b) because the days are getting longer, such that it's not totally dark by the time I get home in the evenings, and c) while the week began with snow, it ended with 65-degree weather!

Monday 2/15: This is Kate's newest face. She furrows her brow in mock-irritation, and then when we imitate her, she laughs. It's cute. Tuesday 2/16: Mardi Gras!...ahem...I mean "Shrove Tuesday." Honestly, we had never heard of Shrove Tuesday until we came to Bethlehem. Every year on the night before Ash Wednesday, they have their Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. Now, Methodists like to eat, and they like to do things that they've done forever, so I figured it was just a tradition that got started somehow and they've kept it up. But apparently, according to Wikipedia, Shrove Tuesday is the bonafide Protestant (well, Anglican, at least) version of Mardi Gras. Rather than engaging in drunken revelry those hedonistic Catholics (just kidding--I so wish I was one) the good, sober Protestants "shrive"--that is, obtain atonement for sins--and indulge in the most wild and crazy food their somber, hymn-singing minds can concoct--pancakes! Woo hoo!

So, that's why we eat pancakes and don't call it Mardi Gras... but we still decorate with masks and beads. Go figure.
Wednesday 2/17: Ash Wednesday. My favorite liturgical holiday. Matt finds extra significance in the day now that we have Kate (he blogged about that here) and I took some cute shots of them cuddling after the service that evening.
Thursday 2/18: I took Kate down to stay with Granna and Opa for the day, and on the way, Kate threw up the entire can of pears she'd had for breakfast. All over her brand new outfit. I hadn't thought to pack a spare outfit in the diaper bag (until literally minutes before "the event," but even then, I thought "eh, she'll be fine") so I called Granna and Opa and asked if they could run by Target and find her something to change into. Turns out, they had bought this cute Butler dress for her (to give her at a later date) so she got to wear that. Won't it be perfect for March Madness?!
Friday 2/19: Kate has outgrown some of her first pairs of shoes. I thought they seemed tight when I put the navy ones on her that morning, and then she seemed to stumble more than usual during the day. It was time to put them (and the same-size, same-brand brown squirrel/acorn ones) away. I was sad, and apparently Kate was too, since later that night, she dug them out of the box I'd put them in and wanted to play with them!

Saturday 2/20: We gave Kate her backyard swing for Christmas rather than saving it for her birthday because I was eager to use it, and last January had several 65-degree days. This year, it has snowed more than anytime this decade, and we've only been able to swing twice so far! Saturday, however, was gorgeous, and we went outside two different times to swing and play ball. It was so fun! (We also went to a 50th anniversary party for a couple in our congregation--pics of Kate's party ensemble coming on Wordless Wednesday!)
Sunday 2/21: Kate slept in this morning, while Matt and I were up at the crack of dawn! I woke at 5:30, when Kate started making noise, and while she went back to sleep, I could not! So, I got up at 6 when Matt did (to finish working on his sermon, which subsequently wouldn't print, so he relied on the Spirit, and man did the Spirit show up!) Kate slept in until 8:15, and might have slept longer, if I hadn't woken her up by taking this picture!
Coming this week: trips!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Flower-Eater

There was a boy I went to school with in seventh grade. Let's call him Robert Brown. He apparently "liked" me. (I put "liked" in quotes because it's the same adolescent emotion that leads to the "going out" where you don't actually go anywhere.) I did not like Robert. He was weird. I was a big dork, so only weird boys liked me, and dorky as I was, I was still glad there were a few kids lower on the coolness-ladder than me.

On Valentine's Day 1994, when some club sold carnations to be delivered to people during class, I was mortified when an even weirder boy that rode my bus sent me one and it was delivered to me in the middle of sixth period social studies. I was so embarrassed, shunning the carnation, that Robert offered to eat the flower for me. And he did.

Weeks later, a rumor started that Robert and I were "going out." Again, I was mortified. I may have had frizzy permed hair, acne, and no sense of style--but I had standards! How could anyone think I would go out with him?! The crazy flower-eater with huge lips?! It sounds silly, but if you know any middle schoolers, or have any recollection of being one yourself--you know how earth-shattering such a social situation can be when you are that self-conscious and have no idea who you are.

Like any seventh-grade girl in that situation, I thought my life was over. I hid in a deserted hallway during lunch while my best friend consoled me and hypothesized that maybe Robert himself had started the rumor, since everyone knew he liked me.

Robert peeked down the hallway and asked if I was okay. I gave him a dirty look and went back to my pity party. My friend left me alone for a while, and when she came back, she told me that Robert was going around to our classmates, personally informing them that the rumor wasn't true. "Isn't that sweet?" she said. "Hrmph," I replied, still angry and embarrassed, and only slightly relieved that my horrific ordeal was over.

Fast forward seven years or so, to a summer in college. While home, I visited a college worship service at a large church, and who did I see playing bass in the praise band... but Robert Brown.

I suppose the story should go that he had turned out really hot and I had really missed out. Not quite, though we had both become slightly less awkward-looking over time. More importantly, we'd both gained a better sense of self. He didn't go around eating flowers (as far as I could tell) and I didn't go around thinking my life was over whenever there was boy-drama (oh wait, yes I did) and time had brought us both to a place where we sought our worth and meaning in God.

At the end of worship, I walked up to the stage, where he was taking apart microphones and things. I introduced myself and reminded him that we went to middle school together.

"Oh yeah! Hey! How's it going?" he said with a big smile.

"You probably don't remember," I said. "but you once did something really nice for me, and I just want to say thanks."

He smiled, looking a little confused but really touched. He didn't ask me what the thing was, and he didn't seem to remember. He just bobbed his head and said "well, thanks. That really makes my day."

Sometimes I feel like I haven't made much progress since those middle school days. I still feel unbearably awkward half the time, uncharitably comforting myself with the thought that at least a few people out there are weirder than I am. But I am thankful for that summer Sunday morning when there was gratitude and reconciliation between two weirdos--one of whom looked beyond himself for the sake of someone else, and one who still struggles to do the same.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blood and Dust

I gave blood today for the first time since before becoming pregnant with Kate. My father and his mother are/were big blood donors, and after 9/11, I overcame my fear and became a donor myself. My iron is sometimes too low and I get deferred, and I almost always get warm and lightheaded and have to lay back and put my feet up. And I hate squeezing the stress ball every ten seconds, because it makes the skin on my arm tug uncomfortably around the needle. But still, it's an important thing to do, if you can, so I do.

Giving blood is a sacramental act, in a way--the shedding of one's blood for the benefit of others, to save others' lives. Since it happened to be Ash Wednesday, I was determined to see the theological significance linking this act and the act of receiving a cross of ashes on my head this evening.

The imparting of blood... the imposition of ashes...

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return..."

I always love Ash Wednesday, and find such meaning in that reminder of our own impermanence. Coupled with the themes of penitence and self-sacrifice, the imposition of ashes reminds me of our seeming insignificance before God. And yet, as the psalmist says "what is man that you are mindful of him?" In a great, big universe, we seem very small, and yet God loves and cares for us.

I am dust, and yet I gave part of my body away today. I am theoretically nothing, and yet I am something to whomever receives that life-saving fluid. I am broken and flawed, and yet God says I have something to give. This paradox embodies the lesson I take from today:

that my body--my life--is worth nothing unless I give it away.

Here are links to my other posts on self-denial, if Ash Wednesday puts you in a beautifully-melancholy mood, as it does me:
Worlds Apart from December 2007
Dust from last Ash Wednesday, itself a reprint from July 2006 and (according to Google Analytics) one of the most-read posts in The Parsonage Family history.

Wordless Wednesday -- Tissue Box Bongos

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Project Life (Valentine's Week)

I like holidays. Even little ones. I make homemade decorations and festive meals and wear clothes in the holiday's "official" colors.

So, this was Valentine's Week in our house. I wore red and pink (as did Kate) and made valentines by hand and used my new Photoshop skills to make a fun digital valentine. So sue me :0)

Monday 2/8: This is our mantle. I made the heart garland a couple years ago. Sometimes it hangs over our bed, and sometimes on the mantle. The mantle (and house in general) looked so bare after I took down Kate's b-day party decorations, the den needed a little something. Tuesday 2/9: We had our third snow of the year, and as usual, I was obsessive about figuring out the road conditions. This was about 6:50 in the morning. Matt was outside taking pictures of the snow and brushing off the DirecTV dish with a broom (so that I could watch the local news reports) when I trudged out in a sweatshirt and boots over my paisley pajamas to check the street's ice-to-snow ratio.
Wednesday 2/10: Kate has been fussy a lot lately because of her molars coming in. She didn't want to go to bed, but just sat and cuddled with me for a while. She doesn't often sit still, so it was a precious moment. After ten minutes or so, when I said "Are you ready to get in bed?" and gestured to her crib, she sat straight up on my lap, and when I sat her down in her crib, she laid right down and went to sleep.
Thursday 2/11: I took a three-hour Photoshop class through a local community education program. I took some design classes a couple years ago, and learned Illustrator and InDesign pretty well, but I'd only dabbled in Photoshop, and really wanted to learn. It was a great class!
At left, I turned an ordinary day on Lake Geneva into a gorgeous afternoon in Cozumel! At right, I made some improvements on an awkward family shot from Kate's birthday. I know this isn't "Highlights for Children," but can you spot the five changes? :0)
Friday 2/12: Kate had a little Valentine party at school. She brought home a lot of loot! (Well, the polka-dotted bag was from Granna and Opa, but still...) She loves playing with paper, so greeting cards and valentines were right up her alley.
Saturday 2/13: Matt and I went out for a Valentine's date at a Japanese hibachi restaurant, but the only pic was a bad one from my cell. During the day, though, we just hung out at home with Kate. (All Saturdays are special because of that!) Here, Kate is sitting on her stool that Popi made her, playing with her block-box (she likes to take the lid off and put it back on, over and over), and making a funny face.
Sunday 2/14: After church, I made grilled cheese sandwiches cut into heart shapes. I was super-proud of my Martha Stewartiness, but I think this is about where my cheeseballsiness hits its limit.
Fortunately, it was the last day of V-week, and I don't go near as crazy for St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Free Books!!

My husband Matt is giving away a copy of Matthew Paul Turner's new book Hear No Evil on his blog, The Truth as Best I Know It.

If you're not familiar with MPT, he is the author of many engaging church-and-culture books, and husband of awesome scrapbooker/PR-guru/mommy-blogger Jessica Turner, of The Mom Creative. (Yes, they are another Nashville-based Jessica & Matthew pair with an adorable toddler, a house full of scrapbooks, regular books, and snarky humor.)

MPT is a terrific writer with a fascinating religious journey from his fundamentalist Baptist childhood (so strict and averse to pop culture that he had to cover his ears when a popular song came on over the loudspeaker at Sea World) to his career in the Contemporary Christian Music industry and beyond. Hear No Evil is the musical side of that journey--a mini memoir in song. As Matt said, it's sort of "the literary version of a concept album," with stories from the intersections of faith and music throughout his life.
The book is laugh-out-loud funny in parts, and also quite touching in others. It brought back great memories of listening to Amy Grant and Sandi Patti tapes in the car with my mom as a kid. (The book actually made me feel like less of a dork for still liking those albums! I just wish I still had a tape player to play them in!)

Anyway, go leave a comment (or multiple comments for multiple chances) on Matt's blog, or (since it's only $10-11) buy it yourself from Cokesbury or Amazon.

Also, if you're the gadgety sort and have a Kindle, Change the World (Mike Slaughter's new book on positioning your church for social action) is free on Kindle this week!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Handmade Valentines

I thought Kate would be in kindergarten before I was doing craft projects for her school, but I ended up making eleven valentines for the one year olds' valentine exchange. My goodness.

Yes, it seems silly, but it seemed sillier to spend $5 on a box of Dora the Explorer valentines when I could just make some with craft supplies I already had. But, being me, I couldn't just fold a piece of paper in half, write "Happy Valentine's Day" and be done with it, so I thought I'd share the cute and creative--yet easy--valentines I made.

Start by making a template with a rectantular piece of paper or cardstock. Fold it in half and cut a half-heart shape in the side, so that when you unfold it, you have a rectangle with two half-heart "ears." Cut out as many of these as you need in a fun, valentine-y paper. On each one, cut a notch along each side, as if you were going to cut the half-hearts off, but only go halfway. On one side, start at the top; on the other, start at the bottom. (as indicated below)
Bring the half-hearts together and slide the notches together to form one heart.
Flatten and crease the edges so that the heart is centered on top. (Or, if you were doing a longer rectangle, it could be off-center. That might look cool. Mine were square when finished, though.)
I knocked these out in less than an hour, and I think they're super-cute!

I kept having flash-forwards to late nights in 2017 when I'm losing sleep putting the finishing touches on a diarama of an early Cherokee village or making ladybug costumes for the class play. I'm sure one day I will regret making myself known as the "crafty mom" of the classroom, but for now, it's just another joy of mommyhood.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday: Grocery List Tip

I'm going to take a break from Wordless Wednesday this week (last week was a doozy, if you missed it) and participate instead in Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by We Are THAT Family, blog of writer Kristen Welch. I've been wanting to share this tip for a while anyway. It is such a simple idea that makes trips to the grocery or Target easier by enabling you to cross things off your list once you've gotten them--without needing to fumble with a pen or pencil.

Step 1: write out your shopping list as you normally would (though using lined paper helps). Step 2: Use scissors to snip the edges of the paper along each line approximately a half inch in, creating little tabs along the edge of the paper, corresponding to each item on your list. Step 3: As you shop, fold the tab next to each item over as you add it to your cart. You can easily identify what you've gotten and what you still need to get!
Maybe your memory is so good you never get to the checkout lane only to realize you've forgotten something. Or maybe you have no trouble keeping track of a writing implement as you sail through the aisles. But especially when you're pushing a full cart, with kids in tow, trying to see what coupons you have, picking up sippys that have been tossed to the ground, trying to keep the baby from grabbing and eating the shopping list... as Forrest Gump says, "it's one less thing."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I would have called this post "Miscellanea," but in honor of the WhoDat nation, I thought I'd go Nawlins-style. (Lagniappe means "extras"--look for it above the list of apps and sides next time you go to a Cajun restaurant.)

A few thoughts this week:
  • Kate is growing in her language skills right now. At the 12-month mark, she really was only saying "baba" and "mama" and they were only loosely connected to "bottle" and "mommy." Now, when we ask her "Where's your sippy cup?" or "Where's Daddy/Mommy?" she can retrieve or point appropriately.
  • Actually, "Dada" may be coming along better than "Mama" at this point, even though she had the "ma" sound down first. She will actually say "Da?" when looking for Matt. It's really sweet. She'll also give hugs to either of us (sometimes) when we ask.
  • We didn't really attempt the sign-language thing at all her first year, but recently, I've been doing a few basic ones for her (more, please, snack, cup, eat, and "all done!") and she will imitate some of them, with a possible connection to the meaning. I do think she knows "all done" now, as it's the most consistent one I've worked on (and the most fun to do!) At the end of mealtime, I do the sign--both arms raised in an "I surrender!" pose--then when she imitates it, I take away her tray. This morning, when I asked "Are you all done?" without doing the sign for her, she did it herself, so I think we're getting there!
  • In non-Kate news, I began my day by prying a tiny shard of glass out of my big toe. That was not fun, and is kind of disconcerting with a toddler running about.
  • I am also shocked at the snow we're getting this year. Last year, the dusting we got while I was giving birth was the most we got all year, but this year, we've had three "sticking" snows already--the more recent two of several inches accumulation!
  • Today is this third snow to which I'm referring, and while it's beautful, I hate the whole "should I drive in it?" question. It seems silly to worry about three silly inches of snow, when part of the nation functions fine with a foot! But, we don't get the plowing and salting that Yankee states do, and the popular refrain that "Southerners don't know how to drive in snow" seems to give everyone an excuse to stay off the roads. Oy! Could the fourth and fifth snows this year please come on weekends, when I don't HAVE to go anywhere?
  • I've written before about Mike Slaughter's new book Change the World. The book trailer was posted to Facebook last week. I love it. Very powerful.
  • I've been listening to Jennifer Knapp's album Kansas for the last several days. I always tend to play the same CD (no, I don't have an iPod or much of an interest in getting one) over and over before switching to another, but I've really been in a rut with this one. I can't find words for what's going on in my spiritual life right now, but somehow this album gives voice to what I'm not sure how to express. Her voice has a strange, Alanis Morrisette sort of quality, like a middle eastern mourning wail.
  • Tonight when Matt goes to Roundtable Pulpit, I'm watching My Sister's Keeper. After renting the book through Bookswim, I put the movie at the top of our Netflix queue. Matt refuses to watch it with me, but I'm quite looking forward to it!

So that's the "extra" stuff in my life right now that didn't make it into Project Life or another post.

What's going on with you these days?

Project Life (Feb.1-Feb.7)

After two very wordy posts (one with an unusual amount of soul-baring for this blog), it's time for more cute baby pics with this week's Project Life!

Actually, Kate wasn't feeling very cute this week (though she still was, of course :0) She had a fever off and on the entire week! It started Sunday, the day after her party, and then it bobbled along all week. It would break and stay 99 or below for most of a day, then go back up to 101 or 102--very frustrating.

Monday 2/1: Day care rules say that a child has to stay home until she's been fever-free for 24 hours, so she would have had to stay home Monday even if the fever had gone away overnight. But it didn't. She was kind of cranky, but still active enough to climb into her wagon all by herself! She can raise her leg over the 10-12 inch high rim of the wagon to climb in--pretty impressive for someone who's only 29 inches tall!

Tuesday 2/2: What with the snow and up-in-the-air plans over Kate's b-day weekend, I totally forgot one element of the celebration I'd planned. So, Matt and I just did it on our own tonight. In honor of Kate's birthday, we assembled birthing kits for UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. The birthing kits contain supplies to help women in developing countries give birth more safely. UMCOR is in desperate need of health kits for Haiti now (instructions here). We had already purchased the supplies for the birthing kits, but I'm sure there are some pregnant women in Haiti without a hospital to give birth in now.

Wednesday 2/3: Granna babysat tonight while Mommy and Daddy both did a little to help make the world a better place. I helped sort cans at Second Harvest (thank you to my friend Paula who read my lament about not getting off my butt and serving more and invited me to join her!) while Matt joined the counter-protest at Austin Peay State University. Judy Shepard (Matthew Shepard's mother) was there speaking about hate-crimes legislation and rumor had it that Fred Phelps and his crew (the hate group that pickets at soldiers' funerals) would be there, so over 1000 students, clergy, and others went out to support Judy and promote acceptance of all people.
Thursday 2/4: I went to visit baby Emery (and her parents, but we all know who the star of the show is now!) She's so tiny--still a half pound lighter at 10 days old than Kate was at birth!
Friday 2/5: I didn't go to the Blissdom blogger's conference, but I did meet up with a sweet new blog friend there for lunch. I get over to the Opryland Hotel just once or twice a year, and it always brings back great memories of Matt and my first date (at the hotel's Italian restaurant) and our first wedding anniversary (when we returned to the scene of the crime). If you've never been there, it's amazing--a huge hotel and convention center with indoor gardens, restaurants of every variety--you can definitely get lost in there!
Saturday 2/6: After a year of exclusive pumping and bottle-feeding, I boiled everything to sterilize it before putting it away until the next baby!
Sunday 2/7: Super Bowl Sunday! I don't really care about (or even "get") football, but I do like big events and creative commercials, so I made some chicken corn chowder and a platter full of snacks, and we gathered 'round the tube to watch the big game. Matt's a Colts fan (having gone to school in Indy) and I'm a Saints fan (having relatives in New Orleans with connections to the Saints--my Granny had WhoDat fleur-de-lis earrings, I fondly recall...)
Matt and I love rooting against one another in big sporting events. We're a Yankees/BoSox mixed-marriage, and enjoy any excuse to be sassy with each other. We have lots of fun :0)
Enjoy other people's Project Life posts here:

Monday, February 08, 2010

No ID, No Beer

My worst job ever was probably the summer in college I worked at a kennel, where people left their dogs and cats when they went on vacation. I mopped out dog pens with bleach and cleaned litter boxes, and eventually got fired because I wouldn't follow a direction of the boss that I really felt cheated the customer and was bad for the animals. I once got bitten by a cat so hard that it punctured the skin on both sides of my hand and made my hand swell up like a latex-glove balloon.

Still, this is not my best "cocktail party story" regarding part-time jobs.

That would probably be the stint I did later in college as an undercover alcohol buyer with the local police department.

I was just a few months away from turning twenty-one, so I was a perfect candidate for the job--looking old enough, but still underage. I rode around in an undercover car with two cops, stopping at various gas stations, grocery stores, liquour stores, etc. My job was simple: attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage in order to see if the clerk would allow me to purchase the item. Often, they did.

If they asked for ID, I was to show it to them. Because cameras are on the clerk and can see whether or not they check the ID, sometimes the clerk will check the ID, but sell the item anyway. (As anyone who's ever seen a robbery surveillance tape knows--the camera can't see detail like the birthdate on the ID, just the action of the clerk looking at it.)

I was to take note of any signage in the store warning underage customers that ID would be checked, or displaying the youngest birthdate required to legally purchase cigarettes or alcohol. At one store, there was a sign on the cooler that said "No ID, No Beer." So I bought wine instead.

Sometimes, a young clerk (especially a male one) would check my ID, but then give me a nudge-nudge-wink-wink sort of look and proceed with the checkout. If he said "You're not 21," I would smile coyly and say "well, almost..." and sometimes that would work.

If the clerk did sell the beer or wine to me, the officers I was riding with would go back later and give the manager a warning, making them attend an alcohol awareness seminar. About a month later, we went back, and if the store sold to me again, the clerk actually got taken to the station (not arrested, but just written up or something). I feel like such a square even admitting this, having a) made life more frustrating--though safer--for teenagers and college students in that town, and b) having gotten an old man carted off to the police station.

I also got a girl not much older than myself carted off from her post at Kmart's aisle 5, and I felt so bad. She gave me the nudge-nudge-wink-wink look, and I thought to myself "oh, you don't want to do that..." But she did. It's interesting, this strange form of generosity the clerks sometimes felt, wanting to be kind or cool, even when they have nothing to gain and a lot (a part-time job, at least) to lose.

One such act of (very determined) generosity will always stand out in my mind. I carried my six-pack up to the young female clerk at a gas station mini-mart. She asked to see my ID. I handed it to her, and she looked at it quizzically.

"Why does it say 'Under 21' on the side?"
"Well, I'm from Kentucky. That's how they make them there."

She proceeded to type my birthdate into the register (one of the few equipped with that function at that time, it seems). The machine beeped at her, so she took a closer look at my ID.

"Huh. It says I can't sell this to you."
"Hmm. That's weird," I replied.
"Let me try again."

The machine beeped at her a second time.

"Huh. You were born in 1981?"
"Yep--July 4."
"And it's 2002 now?"
"Yep." (April something, but I didn't bring that to her attention.)

She stood there puzzled for a minute, silently checking and rechecking her calculations. 2002 minus 1981 was 21, right?

"That's weird," she said. "I'll just override it."

"Cool. Thanks."

Who says kids can't do math anymore?

Friday, February 05, 2010

On Theodicy and Prayer

I’ve always kind of prided myself on not having major “theodicy issues.” (Theodicy = the theology of how bad things can happen if God is all-good and all-powerful.) My faith has never been rattled by news of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or life-threatening illnesses. Bad things just happen, I believe, because that’s the way the world works. It doesn’t mean that God made those things happen or that the people affected by such tragedies deserve them in any way. Bad things happen, in some cases, because of sinful actions (terrorism, murder, rape, etc.) and in the case of natural disasters, because of complex weather and geological systems. That reality has never threatened my image of God or my confidence in God’s power or goodness.

Admittedly, I have never been too closely affected by tragedy. I have never lost my home to a tornado or fire, I have never suffered a major illness or injury, and most of the relatives I’ve lost have been elderly. Still, I would like to think that if such a tragedy were to befall me or my immediate family, my faith would be strong enough to sustain it. I would like to think I would sense God mourning with me and see the power of godly love in family and friends who would be there to support us.

I’ve mentioned before the extreme fear I feel of something happening to Kate. That fear (in itself something I am wrestling with, pondering especially the phrase “perfect love casts out fear,” from I John) has caused me to reflect more deeply on my theodicy, particularly as it pertains to prayer. I pray countless times a day for Kate’s health and safety, and at the same time worry that if, God forbid, something were to happen to my precious child, the many prayers I have prayed would themselves challenge my faith.

By voicing the deep desires and fears of my heart, I put God in charge of the outcome. And I wonder, am I prepared for the theological consequences of that risk? I have never prayed for anything so fervently and I have never prayed such a specific prayer. Certainly, I pray for people facing disease and disaster. I pray for starving people in Africa and for people endangered by war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I have never prayed for a specific Tanzanian child not to die and then he did. I have never prayed for the safety of a specific Afghan family only to hear they became “collateral damage.” I never prayed specifically for a hurricane not to destroy my aunt and uncle’s house—therefore, when it did, I could have doubted God’s goodness or power, but I could not accuse God of specifically ignoring my prayer.

Therefore, prayer carries great risk and I have begun to wonder about the purpose of prayer and its implications for God’s goodness or power. If I pray for Kate’s safety and Kate remains safe, I thank God. But if I pray for Kate’s safety and something happens to her, my long-held theodicy says God is not to blame. That paradox implies that good things are from God and bad things are not. Okay, fine, but that idea is complicated by the fact that a bad thing (e.g. car accident) not happening is a good thing, and a good thing (e.g. healing) not happening is a bad thing. Credit and blame are not so easily ascribed.

This issue has troubled me for almost a year now. As a person of faith, I feel like I'm not supposed to admit this, but over the past year, I have dealt with what I describe as an "almost debilitating" fear of something happening to Kate--no, of Kate dying--I shy away from those words like they're a jinx, but that is such an ever-present fear of mine. I feel like it shouldn't be, and I look at women who have lost or almost lost babies and wonder how they claim to trust "whatever God chooses" for their child. I don't know how they do it, living day to day with the reality of a life-threatening condition.

Maybe I do lack faith, but I do worry that my child will die. Literally every time I walk into her nursery in the night, I worry she's not breathing. Every time she has a fever (as she has off and on for six days straight now) I worry she has an illness that will kill her. I know how lucky we are--that she is a healthy child overall, that we live in a part of the world where malaria and contaminated water are not constant health threats--but I still worry. While some people of faith avoid using the word "lucky," and prefer the word "blessed," I have trouble saying that we are "blessed" to have a healthy child or to live where we do. Blessing implies that God chose good things for us while not choosing such good things for others.

I still pray for Kate. I can't not pray for her. I love God and sincerely believe he is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful--and so I naturally speak to him and cry out the deepest desires of my heart. But I love Kate too, and this motherly love has opened a new dimension--a new, deeply-penetrating question in my faith that I do not understand, and hope never to have to face.

What do you think? How does prayer affect your understanding of God?

I'm going to Blissdom!!

Just kidding.

I'm not actually attending the conference,* but I am having lunch at the Opryland Hotel today with a new friend who will be there. And while I didn't want to shell out the big bucks to go myself, I really do hope I'll have some sort of blog-celebrity sighting while I'm there.

(You hear me, super-cool blog-celebrities? Don't hang out in the sessions or parties you paid to attend--mill around by the coffee shops and restaurants instead!)

In the last year, as my own blogging has gone from about 2 posts a month to 20 and my readership has grown (from "very small" to "small"--you want a ballpark figure? Definitely smaller than a ballpark.) I have added more and more blogs to my reader. Most are mommy blogs, others are publishing blogs, churchy blogs, religion & politics blogs, and scrapbooker blogs.

Maybe it's a poor substitute for a tight-knit Sunday school class or a play group of other toddler-moms, but I really do love the connections the blog world offers, and would love tohang out with some of my favorite bloggers in person. Then again, I would probably sound like a crazy stalker-person, or feel so socially awkward and uncomfortable that I would just hide in my room!

What about you? How long have you been blogging or reading blogs? Have you ever attended a blogging conference or met up in person with people you met through blogs?

*This is the Blissdom women's blogging conference to which I am referring, though the TEA Party convention is meeting at the Opryland Hotel at the same time. I wonder if I'll spot any celebrities from that.


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