Thursday, October 28, 2010

Failure Can Be Fun

"There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by instinct. And you have to be brave." --Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt

There is a creature who resides in my three year old Livie's room. My husband believes he is some incarnation of the Loch Ness Monster. My friend calls him the Turducken. Only I know what he really is, and still see him that way. He's a deformed turtle.

Nessy, as he is now called in our family, is not the offspring of a Turkey and a Duck (thank you very much, friend). His mother is Creativity and his father, Bravado.

You see, Livie's older sister had a big pillow shaped like a sea turtle in her room, made for her by a Hawaiian cousin. Liv was always stealing it, so I thought I would make her one. Can't be that hard, I thought. Big round pillow, add turtle head and flippers. I had the other one to work with as a pattern. And I truly thought mine would be even better because I would use wonderful vintage chenille and batik fabrics. Well, you can see the results: a kind of turkey head and duck tail, and no discernable shell shape. Livie loves him, however, and the colors are nice. So though I don't choose to bring Nessy to boutiques as an example of my fine work, she's a success of sorts.

This is a common tale in our home. I see something homemade by someone else or produced by a factory in China, and I almost always think, "Hey, I could do that!" I'm often wrong. Another fine example is the scarecrow I made with the kids last fall. I was tired of seeing all the cookie cutter scarecrows at craft stores, and thought, Well, farmers used to make theirs, why not me? Well. Mine is probably more authentic looking that the mass-produced one, but it's not really very cute. I used an old floral onesie and some fabric scraps, a handful of hay and some felt. Her hay arms are always falling off. So are her legs. She's rather barrel chested. And the dye of her felt hat ran so she has dye streaks down her face from the rain. My daughters like her, however. So she stays, albeit behind in a back corner next to a broken birdhouse and an old gnome torso that we call No-Leg Gnomen.

There are quilters and crafters who like to do things exactly by the rules, follow the patterns, and buy all the exact materials they see on the sample in the store. I never do that. I like to draw my own things with the help of clip art from google images search. I like to pick out fabrics from all different lines. And I like to move things around and change the sizes. But I throw a lot of stuff out, or at least hide a lot of stuff from my more skilled quilting friends. Gosh, I have fun though.

You have to be brave when you want to be creative. Because inevitably you will fail some of the time. Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity, because it presupposes a "correct" outcome, and that's not actually truly creative, or at least not in the liberating, joyful way that I experience it. It's not that I'm totally pleased when something comes out screwy, when I birth a Turducken when what I wanted was a turtle. But this is how mythical creatures get born! This is how discoveries are made. Great chefs produce a lot of inedible dishes, I'm sure. But sometimes they come up with something grand, like California fusion cuisine, or Reese's peanut butter cups.

I consider this blog as Part II from yesterday, my calling to Halloween creativity. I know that not all people need to create to clear their heads the way that I do; just like some people thrive on running while some people's bodies (mine) are just not made to do that. But a little creativity is good for everyone. I believe it's one of the ways in which we were created in God's image. We invent; we experiment; we create beauty out of the mundane; whimsy out of the scraps of life.

So carve a pumpkin. Pick up a brush. Grow a flower. Decorate a cupcake. Failure can be fun. Failure, in fact, can be its own kind of success.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Halloween

I am a danger to myself and others at this time of year. I walk into Michael's craft store, Target, Dollar Tree, or past the racks of magazines at the grocery store, and I feel myself beginning to get worked into a frenzy. It's craft season! It's Halloween! Preheat the oven! Find my scissors! Where's the construction paper? I'm more excited about the $6 bottle of sprinkles I bought this week than the new purple sweater I got on sale. Yippee!

Do you know how many hours I have spent in the last month on Neither does Hubby, so don't tell him. I just can't get enough of Halloween cupcakes, fall wreaths, jack-o-lanterns, and more. Last year, as I was busily turning pine cones into owl ornaments (Martha used pine-coned shaped boxes, but I use real pinecones from my yard, thank you very much), Sophia asked, "Mom, why do you have to make everything you see?" Oh, if she only knew how many things I want to make and don't.

Halloween is a great time for even the non-crafty to enjoy being creative, because it's almost all about making things for kids, and the kids aren't picky. Jeff and I have actually made it our mission to get our craft-wary friends' hands dirty every year by hosting a pumpkin carving party. And here, reaching the dozens of people who may or may not read this, I hope to inspire you to do one homemade thing this year. Here's a list of options:

1. Host a pumpkin carving party! Put out newspaper, grab some spoons and some old knives and invite your neighbors. Everyone will feel insecure, laugh, and get into it. Give prizes in silly categories like "Most abstract" and "best pumpkin with three eyes." If you want to get the men excited, bring out a power drill and watch the pumpkin pulp fly. Don't cover your backyard with straw, however. We tried it one year and I think there still might be some straw out there somewhere.

2. Let the kids design their own jack-o-lantern. We give Sophia a Sharpie marker and let her go to town. Then Hubby does his best to carve whatever shapes she's drawn. It looked awesome, if slightly abstract, and she was so proud.

3. Make, don't buy, a Halloween costume. The best ones are always silly conglomerations from the dress up box, if you ask me. I hate all the made-in-China superhero stuff. One year, Sophia was a cowgirl wearing my brother's suede vest from the 1970s, a pair of hand-me-down boots, and a Knott's Berry Farm hat. Livie wore a peasant blouse my friend sent me from Ukraine and a pair of outgrown jeans I cut the bottoms off of, and a pirate hat. She was hilarious.

4. Be flexible. I like to buy a big, hot costume for the kids, take their picture in it, and then take it back to Old Navy, because, seriously, the kids always refuse to wear it on Halloween when it's usually 90 degrees here in Southern California. I always have a back up option in the dress up box for those occasions. Last year, Livie wore her Babystyle peacock costume for the whole month of October, and wouldn't put it on on the 31st. Since Sophia was Tinkerbell, I pulled out a pink leotard and wings, and Livie was a pink fairy. It was one of my favorite years.

5. Make caramel apples. They are the easiest thing in the world to do, but possibly the most delicious. The hardest part is unwrapping the caramels, but make the kids help you. They make great teacher gifts for your school Halloween party. There are recipes on-line, and on the caramel package.

6. Make tissue paper ghosts. Ball up a paper towel, wrap it in a Kleenex, tie a string around it, draw on eyes and hang it from the ceiling. Don't hang it from a ceiling fan and try to make it fly though. Trust me.

7. Dress up! One year I was a 1950s housewife with red lipstick, a pink apron and pearls. I've also been a cowgirl and a cat. I went to a Girl Scout Party on Monday as a witch (I was the only mommy dressed up, which was embarrassing, and I got some cat calls from passing cars, but so what?). This year, I have a blond wig and I think I'm going to be Martha Stewart. My wig is pretty ratty so Hubby says I'll look like a Martha who's just been on a weekend bender. With all that gal accomplishes, I wouldn't be surprised if that really is what she does when the season's over.

If you're not interested in creativity, we can still be friends. But if you're just a little intimidated by it, read on tomorrow for why failure can be fun.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Garage Sale Widow

It’s 7:45 on Saturday morning. Do you know where your husband is?

I know where mine is. He’s at a 20-family garage sale. I can picture him. Right now he’s either trolling down some residential cul-de-sac at 5 miles an hour, peering through the windows of our SUV and trying to decide if he sees anything worth stopping for. Or, he’s got his baseball-capped head submerged in a box of records; or he’s sifting through a pile of clothes marked “$1 per item” (lucky me, it’s almost Christmas.)

There are a lot of benefits to having a junk-a-holic for a spouse. I have some beautiful vintage pins, a new stainless steel crock pot, a set of Bauer nesting mixing bowls, a vintage metal woodpecker that picks up toothpicks, and an oil painting of a blue robin's egg with a string of pearls. Our home decor is totally Anthropoligie vintage, only it's the real thing, not made in India and about one twelfth the price. I have some wonderful furniture that was incredibly inexpensive and that you won't find in any one else's house because it really is unique. My kids have My Little Pony, Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake dollhouses galore -- for cheap -- which is wonderful because they are the kind of bulky toys that get played with for six months and then take up way too much closet space.

The downsides: well, I'm home alone with the kids this morning, and Hubby left without his cell phone. I don't know when he'll be back. But what I do know is he'll be back with boxes full of stuff, which he'll spend lots of time today cleaning, sorting, gloating over. Our house is not big, but it houses lots of vintage treasures: under the bed, under the dresser, in the laundry room, and often on the kitchen floor. It's annoying, I'll be honest with you. Possibly most annoying, I'm usually allowed to keep his findings mainly when they are not valuable: like the chipped pottery too flawed for the true collector.

But Hubby truly is a champion garage-saler. He has an eye for the things that are actually valuable and turns it into profit on e-bay, Craig's list and at flea markets. Even items he's never heard of -- like the Lawnware plastic pots he bought that turned out to be a cult -item among the RV set -- he somehow can pluck from among the detritus of suburban clutter and see the potential. His endurance is unparalleled; sometimes it's only siren-level whining by both kids and myself that can make him stop.

And, bizzarley, it brings him a lot of joy. So, I support this passion. Look, Lance Armstrong's bride has to put up with a lot to be married to excellence and so do I.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Painful Persistence

Yesterday I spent 20 minutes doing my butt-busting Pilates workout tape for the first time in three months (okay, maybe four). By the time I was on my second session of "fetal thigh" leg lifts, my three year old was saying things like, "Mommy, I need to lay on you." And "Mommy, I don't want to be healthy!" But I persisted and finished the final painful squeeze, while patting my daughter's little blond head, which was laying right where I was supposed to be "supporting my powerhouse" with my right hand.

By two o'clock yesterday afternoon, I was vowing never to exercise again. My legs felt like lead. My glutes were aching. I was not a nice person to be around. I sacked out on the couch at 8:15 last night, and when Hubby woke me to drag me upstairs to bed, I declared "This is why I don't exercise."

"Well," Hubby said, "If if you do it more than once every three months, it won't be so hard."

Ouch. That hurt worse than my sore muscles.

This morning, my six year old had a shoe tying issue. One of my non-successes (doesn't that sound better than "failures"?) as a mother is that I didn't teach her to tie her shoes until first grade. She was struggling with her bunny ear lace loops in today's morning rush out the door, and kicked both her shoes off with a roar of temper.

"Sweetie," I said in my most patient Mother voice, "yesterday you tied your shoes just fine. You just need to be persistent. We can't give up when things get hard. And we can't do only the things that are easy for us."

Oh, crud. This also applies to my work-outs.
I hate it when I teach myself lessons like this. When it comes to exercising, I have the persistence of a sleep-deprived first grader.

I've showered already, so no butt-busting for me today because I don't want to sweat. But tomorrow, I guess I better get out that tape again.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Defending the Paranoid Mom

When I was a brand new mom, I never wanted any one to say about me, "She's such a First-Time Mom."

Y'all know what I'm talking about. The First Time Mom stereotype is an uptight, paranoid germaphobe who won't let strangers hold or even touch her child, follows all her pediatricians rules to the letter, and constantly worries about her child's safety.

When I had Sophia, I didn't think I was that mom, but now I realize that I was. I think back about how I freaked out (internally of course) when my mother-in-law let my breast-fed four month old (who had never had dairy or refined sugar, thank you very much) eat whipped cream off a slice of mud pie at an Islands. Or I remember the typed out list of instructions I had for anyone who wanted to babysit. Or how heartsick and tearful I was for hours after Sophia fell off my bed when she was a baby, despite the fact that the doctor reassured me that she was fine. How crazy I was, right?

Well, actually, no. I think early motherhood paranoia is actually quite sane. Even more, I think God intentionally designed new moms to be like that. All the anxiety we feel about our baby's safety and the weight we give to each of their "firsts" (first solid food, first high-risk allergy food, first time in a high chair, first time facing forward in the baby carrier), have a real function: ultimately, they really do keep our children safer.

Two recent experiences I've had brought this to the forefront of mind, even though my youngest is now three.

The first was traveling with my friend and her seven-month-old baby and her little bumble bear of a toddler boy. A huge percentage of her life is about keeping those kids safe: not just from bashing their heads onto rocks or running into the street (both of which are very likely realities for her son if she doesn't watch him constantly, especially in unfamiliar surroundings). But also keeping baby from ingesting kung-pao chicken off her dinner plate or upturning an entire tray of water glasses that a waitress thoughtlessly set right in front of the high chair.

The second experience was listening to our speaker at MOPS this Friday, who is a professional baby proofer. She did a great job informing us of unthought-of dangers without alarming us. Listening, part of me wanted to say, okay, are we maybe worrying a little too much about household safety? But then I remembered the time Livie opened a bottle of children's ibuprofen she reached at the way back of the bathroom counter where I thought it was safe, and drank it. I also thought of Sophia bashing her head on a flower pot when I was standing right next to her in my backyard; she got eight stitches in the E.R. The fact is, even when we are watching the kids all the time, they can still get hurt, so doesn't it make sense to do our very best to protect them?

So back to that First Time Mom stereotype. I think the reason so many new mommies get a bad rap, or face judgement for following their pediatrician's rules to the letter, is because, basically, it's inconvenient for the people around them. As soon as you're out of the baby stage yourself, having to go back to thinking about the complex and time-consuming needs of someone else's child can even be downright annoying. But that doesn't mean that the mom who has found freedom in her children's older age is a more relaxed mother or a wiser woman; she's just in a different stage.

The worried First Time Mom is not unique to my generation either, even though we are bombarded by over 10,000 books from conflicting experts, so perhaps it's a little more complicated for us. I was recently reading Anne's House of Dreams for the thousandth time (if you're a mom, especially of girls, go out right now and buy the entire Anne of Green Gables series, I beg you), and I came across this passage:

Anne walked down to the Point...leaving Little Jem for the first time. It was quite a tragedy. Suppose he cried? Suppose Susan did not know just exactly what to do for him? Susan was calm and serene.
"I have had as much experience with him as you, Mrs. Doctor, dear, have I not?"
"Yes, with him, but not with other babies..."
"Oh well, if Little Jem cries, I will just clap a hot water bag on his little stomach," said Susan.
"Not too hot, you know," said Anne anxiously. Oh, was it really wise to go?

I'm so amused by this -- not just because they thought the remedy for a crying child might be a hot water bottle -- but because this book was written before World War I. Moms don't change. And neither do kids. They come out of us delicate, vulnerable and without sense. And though we might worry a little too much about some things that don't really matter, overall, I'm grateful for the paranoia that comes with young motherhood. And I am going to give all the new moms around me a break: washing my hands, clearing my floors of choking hazaards, respecting their dietary laws, and keeping my judgments to a minimum. Won't you join me?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Swan Song -- A Story of Motherly Devotion

You hear mothers say they would jump in front of speeding trains for their children, but would they jump in front of a hissing swan?

Three-year-old Livie is prone to profound attachments to soft objects. Her dirty little scrap of a blanket (Night-Night), is getting carried around a little less, but she has transferred her affections to a number of stuffed animals. The prime object of her affection at the moment is Sleepy Dog, which is actually a lavender scented eye pillow in the shape of a curled up puppy with his eyes closed. She found it in a toy bin at T.J. Max last Christmas.

She carries it around all day, demonstrating that he likes to be cradled in her arms, not held by his head "because dat will choke him, Mommy." He is a frail little puppy, always needing nursing, and much love and kisses.

Yesterday, we were at the Santa Barbara zoo, gazing into the murky water of a swan's pond, the very first animal exhibit as you walk in the gate. Suddenly, Hubby says, "Hey, where is Sleepy Dog?"

Panicked looks pass between my Beloved and I, and then we locate Sleepy Dog, who has slipped over the bridge and is slowly sinking, as it's mysterious herbal stuffing begins to be water logged with truly disgusting water. Split-second hesitation in which life -- and particularly our two-hour drive home -- without this fetish object flashes before my eyes, and I am heaving myself over the fence, breaking a number of zoo rules. If this had been the leopard's cage, or even the giraffe's, no way. But it was only a swan. (By the way, I didn't ask my husband to do it, not because I question his bravery, but because he is a much more strict rule follower than I.)

I retrieved S.D. and was about to rejoice in my successful rescue when the swan started coming at me, hissing. If it had been one of the Canadian geese at our local park, I would have aimed a swift kick at it, but as I was violating zoo policy and invading his space, I just shrieked and vaulted over the fence, scratching my knees and bruising my dignity at the same time.

My accompanying mommy friend laughed loudly, but not as loudly as Hubby, who was himself attacked by swans on the Seine in France seven years ago, and who has been razzed about it ever since. We even have a vintage pottery swan collection to commemorate that scary and humiliating event. Now it has even more meaning. Swans mate for life, as do we, and this is just one more common experience that bonds us.

In the kiddie train ride only minutes after my rescue mission, the train conductor announced that these rare black-necked swans are one of the most aggressive species of swans in the world. Ha ha! Another feather in my SuperMom cap. What I won't do for the welfare of my children!

In truth, the sacrifice I made today was much more taxing than braving the cage of a territorial birds. I spent the morning removing Sleepy Dog's contents -- which turned out to be flax seed and lavender saturated with water laced with swan feces -- washing him, and purchasing new flax. Tomorrow, I get to sew up some new Sleepy Dog innards. All in a day's work for SuperMom.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Own Personal Pensieve

Any Harry Potter fans out there? In the books, Professor Dumbledore has a fabulous magical device called a pensieve. When he finds that his brain gets overloaded with thoughts and memories, he takes his wand to his temple and draws out the thought in a silvery strand, then deposits it in a stone basin that keeps the memory preserved and leaves his mind less burdened.

This blog is my pensieve, my way to take all my thoughts about life and mothering and my laundry room and friendship and homeowners associations, and wrap them up into a nice manageable and somewhat lasting little cyber-package. Or, perhaps a better analogy, if you'll forgive this little nod to my title, these are my little scraps of soul that I cut up and piece together into something that comforts me.

Recently, my husband says things to me in the car and I realize I haven't heard the first few sentences he says because I am blogging in my brain. (This is not unlike what happens in reverse when he is listening to ESPN radio; ironically, for me ESPN radio is perfect white noise to me, and gives me lots of room to think of things to say). Once an idea takes hold in my brain that I might want to write about, the only way for me to get it to stop circulating is to get it down on the screen, and I'm a little distracted until that happens. So thanks to any of you who have been reading this and making me feel that this therapeutic exercise I do for myself might be amusing or helpful to someone else.

I'm off for a long weekend with my family, a dear friend, and her family. I get some of my best ideas on road trips, especially when I they involve ocean views, pumpkin picking, long walks, and wine tasting, as this one does. Where will my thoughts go without a keyboard at my fingertips? Well some of them I'll tell to hubby, who will listen as long as there isn't any sports on the radio. The rest will swirl around until I make it back to my laptop. I'll miss you, Blog, my own personal pensieve. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Victory in the Laundry Room

I have met the enemy, and she is me.

Friends, I have just emerged victorious from a four-day battle with my laundry room, also known as Command Central: the room where all our household, craft, and sewing supplies are kept. This is where things I still need to return to Target go to die. It is the home of tangled thread, dust bunnies, and mismatched socks. Here, items that no one uses but we can't decide whether we should sell, donate or pass on to our nieces, sit under piles of party napkins (usually crumpled and too small in number to be of any use at a party).

I wish I could blame someone else for this. True, I have a lot to manage as Mommy. But it's mostly because I have over-developed creative urges that this room gets so out of control. Occasionally, I have to turn my kitchen into a one-woman sweat shop for three or four days because the only way to clean up is to finish several projects that are strewn about.

Here's something I know about myself: if it's at all difficult to put something away, I shan't put it away. But finally, I have come up with some good systems that will hopefully change the entire way my life functions. Ha ha.

New items of note:
* Wall mounted thread holders with all the threads color coded. I have sixteen spools that could be considered in the white and beige spectrum; it's like the paint counter in Lowe's!

* New bulletin board that actually accepts pushpins into its cork (last one I had for five years was defective) holds emergency numbers, party invitations, business cards from favorite fabric shops, and encouraging greeting cards from friends. (Actually, the one in the center I gave to my husband. It says: "I can stay calm in a crisis because I'm usually the cause.")

*Boxes of fabric (14!) organized by color are now in full view from my usual position at the stove/kitchen sink, so I can be inspired while I do uninspiring things like scrubbing last night's baking pans.

*Children's crafts are now at their eye-level, except for the paint and play dough which I don't want them to get to without me.

* All static guard, sunscreen, and stain remover that passed its expiration date two years ago has been discarded.

* One shelf has been designated "Empty Space" for the rotation of current projects (This should last about 48 hours).

So, for now, I am celebrating a small housewifely victory. Tomorrow, perhaps I will clean out the pantry.

Monday, October 4, 2010

HGTV: Blessing or Curse?

I have the most basic of basic cable. Major networks, TBS, PBS. So when I'm in a hotel room or at a friend's house with cable, I can be a little obsessive, watching all the fascinating reality shows I can't get at home. "Say Yes to the Dress" on TLC is my absolute favorite, much to Hubby's horror and disbelief. I just love watching all those diva brides try on gowns.

But HGTV is my real downfall, especially any kind of organizing or home makeover show. Last week I was watching my friend's kids for her, and her mysterious and giant TV switched on HGTV of it's own accord. I'm totally serious. I don't know how it happened and could never make it happen again if I tried.

So, I spent 30 minutes with one eye on the kids and one on "Dear Genevieve," a show where families write in with a design dilemma and the miraculous Genevieve and her team solve all their problems and make them cry with joy. In this episode, the family-to-be-blessed included a mom and her little girl who loved to scrapbook, but couldn't get inspired because the workspace they shared with her husband was hopelessly cluttered and ill equipped.

Dear Genevieve swept in, built storage units and an l-shaped desk, and made all her scrapbooking supplies organized and beautiful. I was totally inspired.

In my little house, I have a laundry room off my kitchen without which I could not get by with my 1100 square feet. The little space is my Command Central, where I keep all our household supplies and paper products, plus the kids' crafting supplies, my small appliances, and 14 plastic bins of fabric. It's a constant challenge keeping it organized.

But Genevieve made me realize I could also make it pretty. Saturday I embarked on a total reorganization, switching all the fabric from the hidden side behind the door to the exposed side, and all the ugly supplies to the unseen side. Half way through, sweltering under the heat lamp mounted in the ceiling by our home's previous owner, I almost gave up. Having to do six loads of laundry in there in the last 48 hours hasn't helped.

So far, it still looks pretty bad. Apparently, I need Genevieve. I bought a bulletin board and a new thread holder, and had grand plans for wall mounting wonderful housewifely tools and supplies. But when I took down a poster that had been hanging on the main wall, I realized it was still patched and unpainted from six years back when we moved in.

So...Here is my Middle photograph. I don't have a Before shot. But I will supply the After. This blog is my way of holding myself accountable to finishing this. Tomorrow, I get out the paint can. (I wish Hubby would let me paint an accent wall in there, but he doesn't let me use anything but white paint. Wise Hubby.)

Meanwhile, any craft supply sorting tips or family organizing secrets you might have, let me know. My friends and regular blog readers know I am always losing things. Perhaps this room is the problem. Genevieve's double-time montage on TV really didn't help.

Off I go to change Command Central and possibly also my life.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In Defense of Martha

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

41"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed.f]">[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." ~Matthew 10:38-42

Martha has gotten a bad rap over the last 2,000 years. Christian women are often exhorted to be Mary's and not Martha's. As I recently blogged, I myself have used this expression when training small group leaders for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). By this I meant for them to focus on relationships with the women they were serving, rather than getting bogged down in the details of decorating their tables, or bringing seasonal party favors, or baking homemade birthday cupcakes for every gal at their table.

I also recently blogged about my tendency to take on too much at the expense of my sanity and my family's peace. Again, I related to Martha, painting her as a kind of Biblical Martha Stewart (yes, I see the ironic name sameness) who was busy making place cards and being cranky while the much more spiritual Mary was sitting adoringly at Jesus' feet.

But really, it's unfair to poor Martha to make her the symbol for all cranky and over-committed women over the last 20 centuries. Martha was a good woman, and an industrious one. Scripture suggests that she fiscally supported Jesus and his disciples from her own earnings. And what does it say in the first line of this passage? Martha opened her home to him. She was a generous hostess, probably a good cook, and a smart woman. She used her giftedness to serve the Teacher she believed in and loved.

Churches can't get by without Marthas. Moms with new babies don't get fed without Martha's, who are experts at setting up meal plans and enlisting volunteers to drop off food. Martha's organize bake sales and rummage sales, host Christmas parties, and always have a crowd at their house on Thanksgiving. PTAs can't run without Marthas. Neither can Girl Scout troops, the Red Cross, Assistance Leagues, or any fundraisers for good causes that you can imagine. Mary's are good at compassion and at praying for vision, an invaluable and beautiful gift; but it's often Martha's recruit the teams that make those visions a reality.

However, what keeps Martha from being a role model in this passage, as I see it, is not that she's working while Mary is sitting, it's that she's become resentful. And I believe this is a profound enough truth that God chose to include it in Scripture. It's when we women work to the point of exhaustion and drive ourselves to bitterness that we lose our way. As it says in verse 39, Martha was distracted by all the preparations. It's not that she didn't know how valuable Jesus was, it's that she allowed herself to get sidetracked, she made too much of the details, and eventually, she got ticked at her sister who was just hanging out on the floor.

I was recently at a gathering of MOPS leadership, happily working away in the kitchen getting dessert ready, when my dear serving partner came up to me and affectionately, jestingly said, "In the story of Mary and Martha, you know which one you are, right?"

Yes, ma'am I do. And honestly I'm completely okay with it. I like to do. I love to serve. I like to make lists and shop and plan and make things with my hands. It's when I'm cooking a three course meal for a house full of people that I'm the happiest (as long as I don't run out of a key ingredient and my daughters aren't fighting at my feet). I know God wants to use this desire in me to bless the people in my life.

Years back, in a church kitchen prepping appetizers for a friends' wedding, the dear, tired, stressed-out Mother of the Bride turned to me, chef's knife in hand and said, "You know that Martha and Mary story? I think that's the only time our Lord got it wrong."

I don't think Jesus got it wrong. I think he loved Martha dearly. And I think, instead, that this passage has just been oversimplified until we interpret it to say "Work bad, sitting at Jesus feet good." The world needs both Martha and Mary, or at least the characteristics they've come to represent: the industrious hard working woman, and the teachable, relational woman. Personally, what I hope is to be a little bit of both.