Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Like Nobody Loves Me

Today I found Christmas in an unexpected place, and I need to share it. I found the joy of Christmas on an iTunes play list.

A couple of year's ago I made Jeff a mix CD for some romantic occasion (Valentine's Day? Our anniversary?). I titled it "Little A's Sassy Love Mix." On it is everyone from Mary Chapin Carpenter to the Rolling Stones.

Jeff may have listened to it once or twice, but it is my most listened-to play list in my iTunes library. I love it so much because the songs are just what I want to say to my husband. But at least half of them are lyrics I wish he'd say to me.

I preface what I am about to say by citing my excellent track record of praising my husband via this blog. (Despite that fact that I learned on a John Tesh radio program that bragging on your spouse is in the top-10 most-hated activities on facebook I do lot of it.)

But here's the truth. My husband doesn't love me like I want to be loved.

There's a hole in my heart that he doesn't and cannot fill. Sometimes I smack up against that reality with a mixture of shock and sorrow. The holidays can bring this into sharp relief. Like most women this time of year, I'm working flat out to make magic for the family and I want to feel seen and loved for the heart behind what I'm trying to do. (Whether or not I should be doing this is the subject for another blog.)

Today I walked into my women's Bible study room feeling kind of, well, beaten down and unloved. We finished up a 15-week Bible study by reading aloud with a treasured group of women the beautiful prayer Jesus prays over his disciples at the last supper in the book of John. I left church uplifted, wanting to tune out the whole world and stay in the peace that reading gave me.

I put on my headphones as I walked through Trader Joe's and turned on iTunes. What came up on shuffle? My love mix. And I realized, Jesus was singing to me. He was doing it in Keith Urban's voice, but I heard Jesus.

I want to stand out in the crowd for you, a man among men. 
I want to make your world better than it's ever been. 
And I'm gonna love you like nobody loves you. 
And I'll earn your trust making memories of us.

Tears start coming in TJs. Other shoppers think, Oh no, that housewife has cracked up under holiday stress. She's crying over her spiral sliced ham. But no, I'm crying over the way Jesus has earned my trust.

Memories start coming to me of all the places He has shown up and saved me, spoken to me. In mountain camp chapels and Sunday school circles as a child. In back rows of churches and back seats of cars as a teenager. In the delivery room and hospital waiting rooms and alone in my laundry room crying out for relief. In sunsets and leaves changing and the call of a friend on a day that I really needed it and the Scripture brought to mind that would mean nothing to someone else but meant everything -- everything -- to me on a certain day.

And then He went on...
I'm going to be there for you from now on
This you know somehow
You've been stretched to the limits but it's alright now
And I'm going to love you like nobody loves you...

I hear other words, recorded gospel words.
"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
"My peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

My play list went on. Song after song I'm realizing why I chose them for my husband, what my heart was crying out. I want to be loved like nobody on earth loves me! I want to be loved like nobody on earth can love me. 

I want love that is rescue, passion, security, eternity. I want a hero, a husband, a father, a friend. I want someone to pick me out of the crowd, choose me, see me, love me. Jesus did: He came looking for me.

Sting: I'm going to find you a place to live, give you all I've got to give." 

"I'm going to prepare a place for you  and I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:3

Bruce Springsteen: I'll work for your love, dear. What others may want for free, I'll work for your love.

He worked for me: In the manger, on the mount, on the cross. In His prayers for me in John 17, 2,000 years before I was born. Jesus was a gentleman and gave women value like no one else in His day. They saw in Him someone who wouldn't strip them of their dignity, but clothe them in honor. He earned their trust. He has earned mine.

Now I'm still listening, I'm still crying. I'm in Walgreens buying pillow pets for nieces and nephews. I'm in Gelson's buying bags of dried peas for Christmas Eve soup. And I'm hearing it played out in these secular songs: Jesus, Son of Man, man among men, loving me. And my response...

Bob Marley: In life I know there is lots of grief, but your love is my relief. 

Bonnie Rait:  I was in a daze, moving in the wrong direction 
Feeling that I'd always be the lonely one
Then I saw your face on the edge of my horizon
whispering that I wasn't the only one, the lonely one
When I heard your sweet voice calling, saw your light come shining through
I couldn't stop my heart from turning, turning out my love for you. 

The Bible study I've just finished (well, I've finished Part One, anyway...) is called the Eternal Love Story, written by my dear friend Barb Egbert. On this mid-point celebration day for our small group of women, Jesus made me a mix CD filled with love songs. He loves me like nobody loves me. I'm not ashamed to say I need that kind of love. I'm so grateful I have it from Jesus. 

Because sometimes I go through the days acting like nobody loves me. But the real issue is, nobody loves me like Jesus.

His love frees me up to accept the love from those around me (my wonderful husband included) without demanding that they love me that way, because they can't. C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity “If you find yourself with a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that you were made for another world.” Even the best romance in this world can't compare to the eternal romance of being Jesus' bride.

My prayer for you, reader, whoever you may be, is that Jesus sings His love -- a love that is specific, unconditional and eternally precious -- over you in this next holy week. I'll send you my play list if you need it. But I don't think you will. Keep your ears open, because I know He has a song for you, too.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Table Before Me

For the last month, my dear friend Jennifer has been preparing a talk on the subject of gratitude to deliver to a Celebrate Recovery group at a local church. As she's been researching and processing the concept of gratitude, and asking for input, so have I.

One of the principles she uncovered in her reading and thinking on the subject is that of perspective. We see what we have in perspective. When we see our lives in the context of the bigger picture, we find gratitude  even in difficult circumstances. 

A valuable observation. 

However something has been troubling me about how I hear people express gratitude, or how I observe my own thinking on the subject.

Sometimes perspective becomes comparison. We find thankfulness by looking for ways in which we are better off than so many others in the world, or even than so many others in our own neighborhoods. 

Our thoughts and speech goes something like this. 

The flu season has been rough this year, but at least I'm not struggling with a serious illness like....

I sometimes wish our house was bigger, but so many families our size are living in apartments.

My husband's salary isn't what I want it to be, but at least he's not unemployed.

These are all true statements and do, for the moment, make us feel grateful. 

But the danger is, what if we make a comparison, and we come out on the bottom? There is always someone worse off than me, but there is also always someone better off. 

And in the unstable human heart, comparison quickly turns to competition, and when I come out on the bottom, I sometimes unconsciously seek how to devalue the person who has come out on top. 

She may have lots of money but she probably doesn't have such a great marriage. 

She seems to have a great marriage, but her kids are really struggling with...

The real perspective, the safest one, the kindest one, the truest one -- and probably the one Jennifer realized and lectured on -- is the true bigger picture. 

I have what I am meant to have. I am grateful to be me. 

You can't really be a Christian without some sense of destiny, the idea that  on a mysterious level, God is in control. Though there is conditionality or cause and effect in the Bible -- blessing follows obedience -- equally true is that some things God determines. 

My life is a gift from the Creator of the heavens. My personality is a gift from Him. My talents and gifts are literally gifts. And my flaws, which are basically the flip side of my gifts, my gifts on steroids, unchecked, overbearing, are also what I am meant to have in one sense. 

So though I try -- work, train, strive, struggle -- to do my best with what I've been given and be creative with my life, which is my right and responsibility as a woman made in the image of my Creator, I have to work with what I've been given. Ah, destiny. I can't be someone I am not.

So the positive side is...I am who I am meant to be. 

Or at least I am the rough version of who I am meant to be. And my life is about moving closer to the perfect version God has held of me in His mind since before I was born, as it says in Psalms 139. 

Our pastor Kenton Beshore gave a sermon on the 23rd Psalm many years ago, and it has been with me ever sense. My favorite portion was from verse 5.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. 
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 

 This is a Psalm of gratitude, Kenton said. God has prepared a table before you, and you should accept it with thanksgiving. If you don't feel thankful, maybe its because you're looking at what someone else has on their table. Eyes on your own table, boys and girls! 

The table is a surprise, perhaps, and it's set in the presence of my enemies; the challenges without and the flaws within me have not been removed as I feast. But I am safe,  to sit down and enjoy what's on the table, because God told me to. 

In the meantime, my head is anointed, a sign of God's favor and a purpose spoken over me, as a king was anointed in ancient times as a way of marking him for his role. And my cup is filled to overflowing. My cup might not be as big as yours is, or it may be bigger. But it's my cup, set  on my table. God is setting one for you too.

As the gratitude season -- brought to us by the Pilgrims and Facebook -- comes to a close and we enter advent, the season of waiting, I'm anticipating what God will lay on my table. I'm praying, as I feast, to get a glimpse of the Big Picture, a true Perspective.  I'm saying grace, asking for the ability to drink up everything He pours in my cup.





Friday, November 15, 2013

The IPhone Has Not Changed My Life

The iPhone has not changed my life yet. Or perhaps I should say it has not changed my marriage. Or even, that no matter how smart the new phone, it has not made me any smarter. 

You be the judge. 

The most anticipated feature of my new phone was the GPS feature. I am hopeless at finding my way places. (For details on this, please see topical section "A Life of Losing" at right.) And not only am I often lost, I hate, hate, hate being lost and experience primal fear and hostility while lost. My beloved husband usually bears the brunt of this, as it is he I used to call to look up directions for me when lost, being GPS-less. Please, technology, rescue me!

Well, this week, I drove to the wilds of residential Orange to purchase a desk for my daughter, found on Craig's List. Jeff, being Jeff, had typed the directions into my phone for me the night before and set up the route, a feature I had not yet learned to use. I made it to the house only having to make one u-turn and this because my six year old daughter was repeating the directions to me from the back seat. Being six, she didn't do it very accurately. 

All was well until I knocked on the door of the rather questionable-looking house until no one opened the door. I texted "Wendy," Craig's List seller, and told her we were out front. The door opens. A man missing most of his teeth answers. "A desk?" he says, puzzled. "Let me go ask my wife." He returns a moment later. "No, I'm sorry, we don't have a desk for sale."

I return to my vehicle, where Wendy has texted to say that she is out front of her house and I am not there. I check my written directions. I check my iPhone. There is a two-digit discrepancy in the address. I text Wendy and tell her what happened. I call my husband and tell him I would like to strangle him with my bare hands. Lovingly. He says it's easy to search for the correct directions. 

I say really? How could it be? You can't even type in the right address. Children in the back seat look worried. I growl at my phone. I can find  directions to the place I am already, from the place I want to be (hardly helpful), but can't figure out how to flip it around. I growl at my phone again. I go back to old ways: I call my husband and have him give me step by step directions to navigate around a street in Old Orange that has been cut up, disjointed and put back together in mystifying ways. 

I arrive on the correct block. Small children, a large black lab and a smiling father approach my car, waving. Hurray! This must be Wendy's husband, come to greet me. I begin to apologize, to explain, to disparage iPhone's non-intuitive system after all, to ask to see the desk. 

"I'm sorry," says the smiling father. "I have no idea who you are." 

I look at his address. It is two numbers off. I get back in my car. I cry. I make a u-turn. I check the address again. I park in front of the correct house (two doors down from smiling father) and see that the family and their dog are still watching me. 

Wendy and her husband come out of their garage. They are so lovely and gracious and well groomed and sympathetic as to the ills of technological navigation, that I want to beg them to take me inside and make me a cup of tea. Or possibly adopt me. Instead, I pay them $35, and allow them to help me load the desk into my trunk, from which I clumsily extract three blankets, a beach umbrella and two dirty folding chairs (humiliation upon humiliation). Wendy's husband assures me the situation is actually funny. I tell him it will be in an hour. 

I drive away, apologizing to my children for losing it (both literally and emotionally) and thanking God that neither of the three strangers houses I just went to housed a serial killer or even a grouch. 

What is the moral of my story? I'm not really sure, friends. I think it's a long way of saying either "Wherever you go there you or" or "A good carpenter never blames her tools." Or her husband. 

In the meantime, the story has in fact become funny to me. And I think I have learned how to use my maps feature correctly. I also learned how to use my voice dial and voice texting function. Did you know your iPhone voice function can correctly spell supercalifragilisticexpialadotious and distinguish between the would and the wood in "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck" tongue twister? I checked. If I ever get lost again, what a comfort this will be. 

Stay tuned for more adventures in technology. You can be sure there'll be plenty.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What I Preach

I don't know if all teachers, speakers, and pastors have the same experience, but I am not allowed to say anything from the stage that I am not asked to live out within a week. 

In October I was hired to address a group of young mothers at a church in Oceanside, in which many of the women are military wives, and have husbands stationed at nearby Camp Pendelton, or currently deployed oversees. Their speaker coordinator asked for my talk "What Can Postpartum Depression Do for You?" my least popular topic. Really, who wants to get a morning off from their kids and listen to a talk on anxiety and depression? But I'll drive to any group that asks me to talk about this, because the statistics on women who suffer from depression in our country are staggering (about one in four with be diagnosed in their lifetime).

I try to approach the subject with order, humor and a light hand. I have well organized slides, funny stories about breastfeeding on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, and practical tips. 

But it didn't work out that way, on that day. From the moment I began to speak, a woman in the back of the room burst into tears. About 15 minutes in, someone at every table was crying. As I spoke about risk factors and causes of anxiety, I realized that the military wives could probably put a check next to every one on the list. And somehow without making a conscious decision to do so, I set aside my clever outline and instead laid out my raw experience before them: my fear, my pain, my confusion, my brokenness. And eventually, my rescue.

I didn't get to be a wonderful, funny speaker that day; I didn't feel great about my entertainment value or my skills on stage.  But instead I saw that through me, God gave these women an opportunity to share their pain with each other, and shine light on what had been a source of shame for so many of them. In the group I sat with after my talk, the women on either side of me shared that they had both experienced severe PPD, and neither of them had told anyone before but their mothers and husbands. 

I don't know if I got through all my points on "paths to healing" that day, but I did get to the first: Come clean and tell someone what you are going through. And boy, did those brave women take that step. 

I got to my second major point too, and this one I was called on to practice: All of us mothers need to stop trying to do everything alone. We need to accept that each one of us has both physical and emotional limitations, which are unique to us. We are foolish if we aren't willing to ask for help when we have -- or, even better, before we have -- come to the end of our rope. 

I spoke in two different groups that week in October, each over 50 miles from home. I was sick with a nasty cold, but I pushed through with prayer, cold medicine and adrenaline. By the drive home through Camp Pendelton I was both sobbing with sympathy and snuffling with mucus. I had totally lost my voice by dinnertime. 

By the next morning, I had a migraine, so painful it was difficult to stand. Ignoring my own advice, I drove myself to Sophia's soccer game. On the way to the Olivia's game, I almost couldn't drive. I went home instead, crawled (literally) to my bed, and called my neighbor in tears, begging for Excedrin. She offered to go buy some for me (God bless her), but instead I called my mommy. And she came right over. She brought me food, drink, and medicine. She went to Target for me and bought Kleenex, bread, milk and toilet paper (all of which we were out of because I had been too sick and busy to go to the store). 

She patted my hand and sat with me until I went to sleep. I hardly ever let my mom take care of me like this, even though she wants to do it and is excellent at it. In fact, part of why I got PPD six years ago is that I didn't ask her to help me when I had acute bronchitis and a 10 day old child. She respected my boundaries, but at that moment my boundaries were bad. I needed help.

Meanwhile, my husband had the kids with him for Olivia's game, and another game he had to referee. He got them lunch at a drive through. They were tired and bored, but they made it. Mommy couldn't take care of them, but they survived anyway.

Here's what postpartum depression did for me. It stripped me of the illusion that I can make it through motherhood (or life in general) on my own. I can say that now with absolutely no shame. In return, it gave me the comforting knowledge that there are a lot of people in my life willing to stand by me when I can barely stand. I have a lot more of them now than I did five years ago, and most of them are willing to call me when they are sick, desperate, sad, or all three. I'm so grateful! All our children are also reaping the benefit of this village of imperfect moms, a small army of "aunties" and Mrs. So-and-sos that care for and love them. 

Most of all, I'm grateful to be able to share the most precious piece of my story: that when the only prayer I could pray was "Help me!" God did. He comforted me with scripture and His own gentle presence; through my husband and my friends; through medication and therapy. And ultimately, He called me to share the experience with other women. 

So that whether they ever suffer from a clinical mood disorder, or just experience the emotional ups and downs that are part of being human (especially female), they can experience freedom from perfectionism, come out of isolation, and know what it is to love and be loved just as they are. 

Ultimately, this is always the subject on which I "preach." It is for freedom that we have been set free. I'm beyond thankful that there are women willing to listen. God bless you all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Quitting our Cult

From Seinfeld Episode 172 :"The Burning" 
(Elaine enters and has a seat.)

ELAINE: Here's one. I borrowed Puddy's car and all the presets on his radio were Christian rock stations.

GEORGE: I like Christian rock. It's very positive. It's not like those real musicians who think they're so cool and hip.

ELAINE: So, you think that Puddy actually believes in something?

JERRY: It's a used car, he probably never changed the presets.

ELAINE: Yes, he is lazy.

JERRY: Plus he probably doesn't even know how to program the buttons.

ELAINE: Yes, he is dumb.

JERRY: So you prefer dumb and lazy to religious?

ELAINE: Dumb and lazy, I understand.

This summer, Jeff and I went to his 20-year high school reunion, and found ourselves hitting it off with the husband of one his classmates. Somehow, it came out in conversation that Hubby and I do not have smart phones. We have, in fact, phones we got four years ago that were somewhat outdated then. They have never been connected to the internet. They have keypads.

We pulled them from our pockets. People pointed and laughed.

"So," said our new friend, "explain to me why you have these. Get me to join your cult. Pretend you're trying to convert me."

It turned out that this man is a designer of hand-held technology and it is his job to make sure his apps are so good that once you get a taste, you can't live without them. So he respected our position in a weird way; he knows this stuff is addictive. We were also great market research; if he could get us to leave our compound, what a triumph it would be for him and the cause of technology in general.

But this is not flattering. I don't want to be a cult member.

My friend Pom's assessment of us isn't particularly palatable either. Pom says we are hipsters. He knows we don't have wi-fi, a tablet, an i-pod or TIVO (or any other kind of dvr); don't stream Netflix; and we only have one computer: our Sony laptop on which I am currently typing, while it is plugged into the wall. We have records and a turntable. And a VCR. (We also have a DVD player, but not blu-ray yet).

But hipsters are counter-cultural for the sake of being counter cultural. We aren't, as I recently told my friend Jana.

"No, you aren't hipsters," she said. "You're just cheap and lazy."

This, while not very flattering either, is more accurate. Like Elaine in the above dialogue, I would rather be cheap and lazy than a religious fanatic.

The most flattering way to describe our position: We like to live simply and frugally. We don't want to constantly get sucked into a screen when we would rather be present in the moment. We don't feel the need to have the world in the palm of our hand. We can thank (or blame, take your pick) our parents for this. We were raised in low-tech families: the last on the block to get call-waiting, cable television and a VCR. The result is our profound ability to delay gratification where technology is concerned.

But I can see we've gone too far. For one thing, our parents now have iphones.

For another, my phone drops calls constantly, and can't read group texts, and generally doesn't function as I try to communicate with other people who have moved to the 21st century.

The no-smart-phone thing has become a very extreme position. And extreme position doesn't flow with my values after all. Though I value my health, I eat moderation. I drink moderation. I watch television...but I limit what and how much I watch.

I don't want to defy my values and become one of those mothers who never looks up during lunch with her kids because busy she's posting on facebook that she's having lunch with her kids. But nor do I want to teach my daughters that the only way to keep from abusing something is to stay away from it altogether.

It's what the apostle Paul in the New Testament called living in the world, but not being of the world; being able to stick to your convictions without needing to isolate yourself from everyone who thinks differently from you. That is the difference between legalism and freedom. The difference between having convictions of faith and joining a cult.

This summer, I took my kids on a 1500 mile road trip by myself this summer and Olivia got really sick, vomiting and with a 104 fever. As I was driving around a strange city looking for a Rite Aid in the dusk, I felt very afraid. What if I got lost, or needed a hospital? It suddenly seemed ridiculous to be so ill-equipped. Was I so afraid of abusing a smart phone that I would put myself in danger instead? Like someone who chose the inefficiency of a horse and buggy because they feared the danger of car accidents? It reminded me of the time a decade ago that I was lost in a seedy part of Santa Ana and searching frantically under my car seat for change so I could call someone for directions from a sticky pay phone. That weekend, I bought my first cell phone.

And this weekend, we're getting our iphones. We have already made a trip to the Verizon store, where a nice salesman laughed riotously when he saw our phones, but tried hard to speak kindly while delivering the bad news that they were worth zilch in recycle credit (no kidding). He also assured us that unlimited data wasn't necessarily as we wouldn't even know how to use it at first.

So watch me, friends, as I take a step into the 21st century, about 13 years late. I appreciate your patience with me. I also have appreciated your laughter every time I've pulled my little turquoise phone from my purse.

An in the future, here's what I would appreciate. If you see me at lunch with my kids playing with my phone instead of them, pull up this blog on your phone, smack me on the back of the head, and hand it to me. I promise to thank you for it. Face to face.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Adventures in Skinny Jeans

When I am shopping with my mother, she often says she doesn't know what style of clothes she should wear because she's still attracted to the clothes and sizes she wore in her late teens and early twenties. She doesn't know how to shop for the current trends or her current body (which, frankly, sickeningly, isn't that different than it was in her early 20s, though she doesn't believe me when I tell her this).

When I was in my late teens and early twenties and started having this conversation with Mom, and I didn't get it. Now, at 36, I am starting to. 

I can still technically fit into the clothes at Forever 21 and the juniors section in Target, and I can also still pull off  a lot of it. There is one trend, however, that has thwarted me to date: the skinny jean. 

I know that these pants are billed as "universally flattering." But you look around, friends. You know it's not true. There is no cut of jeans that looks good on everyone. And I do not think these look very good on me. Especially in the trendy bright colors. I don't like to draw attention to my bottom half as a general rule.  Or more specifically, the top half of my bottom half. From the knee down, I'm fine.

 Jeff and I have both been struggling with the new narrow pant. This summer, we bought him a blazer at H&M (he tried it on, it looked awesome). And then without trying them on, I talked him into the matching skinny trouser. 

At home, he tried them on. They looked awesome. But he could not bend his knees -- like, at all. And his calves, still pretty darn muscular from decades of soccer playing, were pulling out the side stitches. 

We were in stitches. We imagined out a conversation with his then-engaged sister about how he got a great new suit for her wedding, but he was sorry, he would not be able to sit down for the ceremony. 

A week later, we were once again in stitches -- actually, laughter turned to tears -- as Jeff had to rescue me from my boyfriend-cut skinny leg cropped jeans. I had rolled the hem up one roll too many, and tried to hitch it up over my calf to put lotion on, and then I couldn't get them back down. In fact, they stuck on my calves halfway down like a tourniquet, even with the lotion. 

"Stop flexing!" my husband yelled as he tried to pull them down for me. "I'm not flexing!" I yelled back. "But I have been working out!" More giggles (cause my calves are extremely small and I never work them out), howls of pain, and then I went out for a girls night feeling sweaty, sore, and not particularly trendy. 

And yet, despite all these obstacles, last week I bought two pairs of Rock Star denim from Old Navy, where all skinny jeans were only $19. How could I resist? I checked with all the sales girls to make sure I wasn't too old to wear these. I got one indigo pair, one navy. Then I realized that indigo and navy are pretty much exactly the same. My sister in law came over wearing green skinny pants. I noticed a mom at school in red ones, another in robin-egg blue. 

So I returned the navy ones and got teal instead, checking again with the sales girls to make sure I wasn't too old. I discovered that in bright colors it's best to go a size up, because if something is going to be buckling across your back thighs, it should be doing it in a subtle color. I came home and wore them immediately before I had a chance to lose my nerve. 

(If my mom is reading this right now, she's probably cracking up and feeling great, since she credits me with a lot more certainty and self-confidence than I actually have and likes to see me be taken down a notch. In a loving way, of course.)

Jeff liked my bright, tight new jeans. But when I joyfully told him about the "one size up" discovery, he rather unsupportively said, "You bought a pair that is tighter than these?" 

Dang it. Back to Old Navy for me. Apparently I'm going a size up in all colors. But I'm doing the exchange at another location so they don't put a picture of me up in the staff room of the Irvine location: "Warning: this Woman too Old and Indecisive for Trendy Denim. Do not help her. She will just bring her pants back."  

Tune in next soon for more misadventures. My next fashion goal: learn to braid my own hair. I started today. It's not going well. But this wonky braid on my crown does take the focus of my thighs.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blessed Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The place on earth where I am happiest is a shallow stretch of the Big Sur river adjacent to river site 127. I lie in my inflatable boat in 12 inches of slowly-flowing water, a damp paperback in my hand, a cold drink tucked against one corner of the boat. The sycamores and redwoods are my walls and archways. The water on the stones is my music. The blue sky is my roof. 

On our annual late-summer camping trip, I make it a point to get into my boat and find a sunny spot on the river as soon as we have camp set up. Sometimes the kids play around me. Sometimes they take off with their daddy for the rapids up the gorge, and float past me, bound for adventures downstream. 

Last week, you could have found me in my boat in the late afternoon, drifting slowly; no need to tie my boat to a tree as in year's former, because the drought has lowered the water level. Late in the day, sunshine is scarce on the river, so I cherish the moments when I drift into a warm place, and hope I stick. One afternoon, after feeling a bit shivery as I floated through the shadows, I ran aground in just such a place. I took care to hold very still so as not to dislodge myself. I was happy, but a precarious kind of happiness, knowing all the time that one false move could send me downriver.

Five minutes into this delicate bliss, my band of merry boaters came loudly toward me: Jeff, our two girls, and our 10-year old friend Oceana. Oce was ahead of the others.

"Don't touch me!" I called out. "Nobody come near me! I am finally in the perfect sunny spot and I don't want to move." Oce looked at my curiously. Then came Sophia, my eldest. "Don't touch me! Don't dislodge me," I screeched as she held out her hands to me. Again, a curious look, slightly wounded. Down went the rest of the family. Peace was again restored to the river. 

About 15 minutes later, the sun shifted and I began to shiver. So I lifted my head to get up and realized something. I was totally and completely wedged in my spot. On the downriver side of my raft, I has hemmed in by a rock and two big logs, forming a triangle-shaped dam. No matter how I had wiggled, no matter which of the kids had bumped into me, I wasn't going anywhere. No wonder the kids were looking at me funny.

Had I ever so much as lifted my head out of the bottom of the boat, I would have seen this, and felt secure. And I would have received the disruption of my family with open arms.

What a fascinating metaphor. How often do I become reactive and irrational because I let fear or insecurity rule over me?

* My husband makes a thoughtless remark (simply because he's distracted, trying to be funny, or just being, well, male), and I allow myself to question his affection and devotion. 

* A friend fails to return a phone call and I imagine ill will on her behalf and fear the loss of the friendship.

* A week of high demands from my kids and I begin to imagine myself a slave, a drudge, a woman with no sense of self, no life of her own. The classic martyr. 

* A flash of doubt runs through my mind and I fear the loss of my faith, and disqualification from my life work and ministry. 

Were I to lift my head in any of these situations -- look at my Father, see the Big Picture of my life -- I would see that I am wedged tightly in a dam of goodness. It is built of solid stones and strong timbers. 

My husband chose me and will keep his vows.  I have solid friendships with safe women, not perfect, but built on the wise principles of the Bible, the best relationship manual there is. I am a competent, not perfect, mother, and my life is full and rich with mission and purpose both in the walls of my house and outside of them. And running under all of it is the strength of the faith handed to me by generations, which I've embraced since I was a little child. And under that, the love of God, which was mine before I breathed my first breath. He has promised nothing will shake it. He is the Rock I am blessed to be standing on, hemmed in by His love, goodness, and wisdom. 

How much less reactive, how much kinder and happier I would be if I remembered how secure I truly am, and stopped treating small disruptions like earthquakes. This morning, I am tired. We are home from vacation and there is no more river to lie in. My girls had a sleepover last night during which the favored game was Musical Beds. There will be a lot of demands today, probably tears, definitely reactivity. I hope I manage it well.

So I lift my head today and look up. I say "Thank you, Father, for making me secure. Hem me in on all sides."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bridal Joy

Hubby's sister is getting married tomorrow, and our family is pretty overjoyed about it. Even my nine year old cries happy tears when she encounters pictures of her aunt and almost-uncle together, or when she hears a romantic song that makes us think of them. It's pretty funny from a girl who still thinks boyfriends are yucky (thank you, Jesus). 

My sis-in-law is the last one in her immediate family to get married, and we have all prayed for her to find a special man who will cherish her. I personally am so proud of all she has accomplished as a single woman -- leading small groups at our church, developing solid friendships with other women of integrity, putting herself through culinary school, having a successful career both as a pastry chef and now in design. I went from my father's house to my husband's like a girl from the 1950s and have never supported myself that way. I think we are most proud of her for holding out for the right one. But woven in my joy and pride for who she is and what she means to our family as sister, friend and amazing Auntie, I have felt her pain: she wanted a companion to share her life with, and she wanted to become a mother. 

And so, we are very excited, and caught up in the romance of love fulfilled. The struggle of the search for love makes finding it all the sweeter. When she walks down the aisle to Van Morrison's "Someone Like You" (I've been waiting...for someone like you...) we will probably all bawl like babies.

I have felt a particularly sweetness over the last few weeks as I've watched the bride and groom laugh, plan and celebrate together. Because they are celebrating what I have had for 14 years (or 18 if you count when I first met my husband). I only had to wait until I was 21 to meet the love of my life, and marry him. We have traveled together and bought a house. We have two gorgeous, healthy children. And we are fulfilling our vows, as life fulfills it's promise to give us both sides of them (plenty and want, joy and sorrow, health and sickness). 

It's so, so easy to take it all for granted. The romance in our marriage sometimes feels as faded as the sage green in our Ralph Lauren towels that we got for wedding gifts. (Side note, I would like to get married again just for loot. I really need new flatware. All my spoons have been eaten up by the garbage disposal and Crate and Barrel has discontinued them so I can't get more.)

But imagining what it would have been like without Jeff for the last 15 years is, well, unimaginable. I was spared so much struggle and heartache by being with my man of integrity early in my life, growing up with him, really. I am truly, still crazy about the man I married. I think it might even be safe to say that he adores me, too. I can't imagine a life I would rather have had. So though we may not make the other guests weep with joy when they see us cheek to cheek on the dance floor tomorrow, I just might weep with joy for myself. 

So congratulations to the bride and groom. We're crazy happy for you, and thank you for reminding us how happy we are, too. May God bless all your years ahead, with peace, joy, babies, and the ability to be grateful for it all.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adventures in the Mid-30s

Last month I celebrated my 36th birthday by being stung by a jellyfish and capsizing with my 9 year old daughter in an ocean kayak. 

It was a great day. 

Hubby and I took the kids for a five-day-long beach vacation in north San Diego, and we had big plans. We packed two surf boards, two kayaks, three boogie boards, four bicycles, my brand new black and hot pink wetsuit, half a bottle of gin and some limes. We chose hotel for it's location on what and Sunset magazine  extolled as a great beach for beginner surfers. We called it Anderson Family Surf Safari.

We knew going in that the beach was famous for sting rays, so we taught the girls to do the Sting-ray Shuffle (dragging your feet in the sand thereby gently disturbing the rays rather than surprising them and incurring their wrath). We did not count on jellyfish. 

In my first 45 minutes of attempting to surf the foam of what turned out to be slightly rougher waves than we planned on, a purple striped jellyfish drifted between my legs and gave me a sting the size of a human hand on the back of both my delicate little knees. I leaped from the water and did the Jelly-fish Trot up the long beach, past my watching daughters who thought perhaps Mommy had lost her marbles, to the lifeguard tower. Three unconcerned first aide professionals said, "You'll be fine. Get back in the water. Salt is the best thing." 

When you've just been stung by an ocean animal you didn't even see, the last thing you want to do is get back in the ocean. But I obeyed, and it did help. 

Concealing the sting from my five year old, we took a break for lunch. 

Two hours later, we were back at it. My husband spend 30 minutes inflating our kayaks, and then ended up standing on the shore with our wailing five year old, who was not going over the waves in that bendy boat for anything. Smart girl. Meanwhile I pushed my precious eldest out through the surf, losing my cover-up, hat and snorkel mask from the front of the kayak in the third wave. But we made it out past the breakers and paddled around for about five minutes, then decided to rejoin the other half of our family.

Again, third time's the charm: in the third wave back we flipped over, resurfaced, scrambled for the remaining objects of clothing that were floating away from us, and made it back to the sand. 

After that, we took a break for gin and tonics with lime. 

What a great birthday! Even if I was taking Advil the next day for muscle aches. I may be slipping down the slope toward 40, people, but I am going down kicking. Any woman who tells me they don't see each decade birthday as a kind of watershed is either lying or has yet to turn 30. I know, because I used to say I didn't care about getting older until I turned 30. Maybe ocean kayaking and taking up surfing smacks a little of desperation -- and I did, literally get smacked around on my birthday -- but I'll take desperation over passivity any day. 

Truthfully, I am really digging 36. This year, both my kids are going into full-day school, giving me a little more time for self discovery, and possibly even keeping a cleaner house. By the time I'm 46, one will be in college, and the other 16. I could start a whole new career in 10 years, and still have decades to do it. Meanwhile, I have a decade to dream up what that will be. I am so, so blessed. Also, my husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary just before my  birthday. I look back and feel grateful to have spent my youth with a man I love so much. 

Jeff and I are now dreaming up next year's vacation, this time without the kids, in honor of our 15th anniversary. I told him I don't want to just go sit on a beach somewhere; let's have another adventure. I'm thinking maybe cycling in the wine country. To date I have not proved highly skilled on a bicycle, but what the heck. I'll bring the Advil.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Be Good

Around the time I hit adolescence, my mom developed the practice of following me to the front door whenever I was leaving the house and calling after me, "Be good!" If I was departing on a date, she sometimes went so far as to follow me and the teenage boy I was with to the front gate and shouting, "Be good!" as we  got into the car.

What she meant by this you can imagine. Don't drive too fast. Don't see a forbidden rated R movie. Don't make out in the back seat of the car. (Well, two out of three isn't bad, Mama.) I thought - and continue to believe - that it was pretty funny. But I also think it influenced me, that last desperate attempt my mom made to remind me who I was, what I knew was right and what was expected of me.

I find myself doing something similar now that I'm a mom. When I drop the kids off at a friend's house, or camp, or school, my version is, "Have fun and be good!" Or sometimes, "Learn something, have fun, remember your manners and be good!"

My girls, ages five and 9, already think it's funny when I do this, and not just because I often do it in E.T.'s voice with my finger outstretched. "Beeee goooood."

I want my girls to exhibit goodness: be kind, loving, honest, compassionate, just, generous. My instructions to them are always along these lines, and my prayers.

I find my prayers are also full of this odd request of God: I also say to God often, "Be good."

This sounds pretty ridiculous when I write it in black and white, but I'm concerned about God's goodness. Fundamental to my faith as a Christ-follower is that there is an almighty God who created the universe and told us about Himself through prophets who recorded what they heard. One of the main things God says about Himself that is that He is good. His goodness is His very nature, and also the way He acts: he does good. He is just, hating evil and righting wrongs. But also, abounding in love, compassionate, slow to anger, merciful. 

But I wonder about all these things. Or perhaps more accurate and honest is that I doubt God's goodness. Because this world stinks in a lot of ways. God is good. The state of the world is not. The Bible's more eloquent way of saying this is that the world is fallen, broken and groaning as a woman in childbirth until the time when God puts all things to right again.So I dialogue with God about what He is up to, and why.

It turns out I am not alone in feeling this way. It's recorded in the book of Genesis that Abraham asked God the same thing. God was about to exercise judgement on a city, and Abraham was afraid God might go overboard, judging people who didn't deserve it. Abraham asked him, "Can the Lord of Heaven do wrong?" God promises to save the city if there is even one righteous man in it, reminding Abraham that He is just.

Moses has the same kinds of conversations with God, reminding Him of His promises to Israel. So does David in the Psalms, urging God to defend His people, protect the righteous, right wrongs, show all the world who He is. In other words, David tells God to be who He says He is.

I'm grateful that these conversations with God have been recorded for me, giving me permission to talk to my Father this way. I beg God to be not only just but merciful. I remind God that He calls himself a father to the fatherless, defender of orphans and widows. That He is not willing for anyone to perish, but all to be saved. He is a God so big that the sun and moon obey him, and yet so devoted to His creation that He sees every sparrow and knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.

But of course, He doesn't need to be reminded. I do. I need to feel in my heart and believe in my head that God can be trusted with the universe, because I certainly can't make sense of it. One of my friends posted this scripture on facebook today:

Just as you don’t know the way of the wind
or how bones grow in a pregnant woman’s womb,
so you don’t know the work of God,
the maker of everything.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 

My understanding of how God's goodness is being played out in the universe is so limited, and won't be expanded much in the foreseeable future. So these conversations I'm having with are just about increasing my trust in God by giving Him the opportunity to reassure me. I may have quoted this passage in a blog before because I love it so much, but in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie, Laura marvels at her blind sister Mary's confidence in the goodness of God. Her faith transcends circumstances and gives her real peace.

Everyone knows that God is good. But it seemed to Laura then that Mary must be sure of it in some special way. 
"You're sure, aren't you?" Laura said. 
"Yes, I am sure of it now all the time," Mary answered. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

God, grant me that certainty. Be good.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What I Failed to Accomplish This Year

Well, my children have four days left in the school year, and I'm sure they have learned a lot. But when it comes to their mother, I can't say that she is really better off as a mother of elementary school students than she was in September. You may consider this entry as the follow up to one I wrote in September which began...

I flunked Kindergarten the first time so they are making me repeat it. 

In it I detailed the ways in which I failed to be a responsible parent of a kindergartener the first time. I don't think I substantially improved. And yet I feel totally at peace with myself in this regard. 

From where I sit now in the drop down desk in my sunny yellow kitchen, I can see the okra yellow reading log, on which I am supposed to date and chronicle every 20-minute reading period I do daily with Olivia, my kindergartner. It is June 14th. And it is still blank. I came up with a good system of keeping it on the fridge, down low where Olivia could reach it, and I didn't lose one the whole year. However, neither did I ever have one completed until the night before it was due; in fact, I falsified a lot of them by looking at the books on Olivia's shelf for ideas of book titles. I did read to her, as much as she wanted. But not 20 minutes a day. (I have a theory that forcing kids to be read to when they do not want to be read to and are creatively playing in their rooms makes them less likely to love books, not more likely.) And though Liv can reach her log, she didn't write on it once. 

I never established a regular homework routine. And yet we did turn in her homework on time all but twice. 

I never did start the habit of making the kids lunches the night before school, nor did I learn to enjoy preparing them in the morning. But I did write a catchy little song that goes "I hatey the lunchy but I make it, I make it," which I sing several mornings a week. 

I didn't clean out the kids backpacks regularly. But I did train them (finally! in May!) to empty their lunch boxes and put them away every day. Almost. 

I didn't always remember to pack Olivia her water bottle. And yet she has not suffered from dehydration once. 

I sent Sophia to school a couple of times to buy her lunch and she didn't have money in her cafeteria account. But they let her eat anyway, and I paid it back fairly quickly.  

I volunteered the classroom once a week. Kind of. I missed a whole month due to illness. I had to cancel several to go to doctor's appointments or speak at MOPS groups, and a few times I forgot to call ahead. But the reading groups seemed to continue and the teachers still smile at me and apparently don't think I'm the worst parent in the world. 

All these things I have flubbed, failed at, and faked my way through and the glorious fact is that the world did not come to an end. My children are still alive and learning things. In fact, what both my girls' teachers tell me is that they are happy, confident, well-liked children; Olivia's teacher told me her love of learning has exploded this spring, despite not getting 20 minutes a day of reading (the teachers do not know this; again, I lied on the reading log). 

It's wonderfully freeing to know that all the things I wish I was doing better are not actually essential to being a pretty good mom. And I'm not sure, but I think this attitude is good for my kids to observe. 

Back when Sophia was in preschool, I forgot to show up to a kindergarten readiness assembly until it was almost over. I came flying through the door and the preschool director spotted me, sensed my distress and put her arm around me. "It's okay to make mistakes," she said. I was 30 years old and don't think anyone had ever said that to me; or perhaps I just never heard it. But I remember thinking "I'm glad my little girl goes to school here." And it was kind of a turning point for me. If I'm not trying to be the perfect mom, my kids are free from needing to be perfect too. 

Not that I'm perfect at not trying to be perfect. I'm my own harshest critic in other ways, as just about every mother in the world is, or in my world at least. 

But I've come a long way in my quest toward imperfectionism. I'm getting better at not always needing to get better.

Next year, I will have a first grader and a fourth grader. No more early childhood parenting for me. Homework is about to get crazy in fourth grade I hear. I may need to establish more routines. Perhaps next year I'll be more organized. 

Or perhaps I won't. I'm looking forward to seeing how I do.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Model is Dying for a Cake Pop and Our Feet Are Killng Us

This is me on Tuesday night, in the hills above Las Vegas, Nevada

See how I look carefree and put together?

I'm not.

Twenty minutes before this picture was taken I was skittering through an outdoor mall in 94-degree heat and four-and-a-half inch heels looking for a pair of earrings. Toes screaming, praying that I don't sweat on my dress. The chunky silver earrings I had sought and purchased 10 days earlier had been left on my dresser in California. In the first store I entered, the saleswoman said, "I sense a woman on a mission." In the second store, I found a knockoff of the California earrings for half the price.

An hour before this photo was taken, I was telling my poor husband -- who had traveled by airplane with me that morning to Nevada in order to attend a posh, fashion-themed fundraiser in a house he helped design -- that he had to go without me. Because my silk dress (pictured) had a do-not-iron label but was hopelessly wrinkled. So I ironed it anyway, through a pillowcase. And scorched the bodice. Eventually, in despair, I tied the bow up higher and got in the car. 

Three hours before this, I was in the hotel salon, asking them to fix the nail on my middle finger that had chipped. 

Six hours before this I was watching my open cosmetics case go down the conveyor belt in airport security and marveling at how many products I had packed to make my face and hair look good. And thinking about how my husband had packed just his razor and a bottle of Lubriderm lotion. 

Twenty-eight hours before this I was having my nails professionally painted. 

Three days before this I was making myself the fabric clutch you see under my left arm, because if you can't buy designer, but can make boho-chic, well, go for it. 

Ten days before this I was buying this dress in the sixth store I had been tried dresses on in (it's from Anthropologie, by the way, on sale). 

All this work and worry for this moment of walking into a party on my husband's arm and feeling that I could pass for fashionable. 

It was a spectacular party, for a beautiful crowd of forward-thinking, fashion forward, big-hearted philanthropists, raising money to help hungry children in their county.  But I'm honest: it's an intimidating crowd for a mostly stay-at-home mom who generally feels dressed up if she has white jeans and a new pair of flip flops on. Hence all the careful preparation on my part. 

There was not a woman in the room who did not look stunning, and not just the models posed around the gorgeous house. But I saw the guests a little differently than I expected to. I sensed -- or perhaps only imagined -- vulnerability behind all that gorgeousness, especially in the women my age or younger. A rigidity of posture to ensure their dress draped right, their plunging neckline didn't plunge too far. The cautiousness of their steps in their high heels that were surely killing them. Maybe they hadn't been desperately searching the jewelry rotunda an hour earlier like I had, but not one of them had arrived there without a lot of effort. 

And I felt, as I stood there, that my husband had been right (as usual). I had been kind of worked up over nothing. I wasn't really any different than anyone else in the room. Even the  models, who were, after all, just women who make it their business to look amazing, and work really hard at it. Two of whom were posed on a chaise in the "dessert lounge" with sweets in their hands, for the benefit of guests who might could sit and pretend to be models themselves. See me at right. 

One of them said they liked my dress. The other asked me to taste the cake pop perched in a mini martini glass of chocolate mouse in my hand, because she couldn't eat hers until she was off duty. "Tell me how it is," she said. "I like to bake those, but I don't like the ones at Starbucks."

One amazing chocolate mousse martini and one mini key lime meringue later (and okay, also a pb&j cheesecake square and a strawberry shortcake shot (held below, which is why I look so happy), I was standing in the valet line watching as one woman after another started taking off their shoes and sighing. Including me. Suddenly, I was just one of the girls. 

And I recalled, standing there in the dessert dark, a story my best friend from college once told me. She was going to a wedding, where she would see friends she hadn't been with in a while. She was a new mother, and so of course dealing with new-mother body issues. So she searched for weeks for the right dress to wear, obsessed about it even; and eventually spent a little more money than she should have. And then she got to the wedding and it began to rain. Hard. Every single guest was given a black trash bag to pull over their head and wear like a poncho. She felt like she was being divinely punished for her vanity. 

For my part, I think God was maybe being funny rather than punitive, if the rain had anything to do with my friend at all. There's certainly a lesson there, not to place too much stock in what we wear or how we look, because, as the Good Book says, beauty is fleeting. Dresses scorch. Earrings get left behind. And as far as competing with other women, it's much more fun to stand at the party and realize we're all on the same team.  The girl you think looks great next to you might have been hysterical over her hair only 15 minutes earlier. The model might be dying for a cake pop. All our feet are killing us. 

And me, well, I'm wearing my only slightly-damaged dress to a summer wedding. 

I might even look carefree and put together in it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Universe Demands a Co-Pay

I am not a superstitious person, but a part of me believes that the only way to get well from a long virus is to pay a $40 co-pay so the doctor can tell you there's nothing seriously wrong with you.

I caught a cold on Good Friday (March 29th?) and on April 6th I began to think I should be checked out. I debated internally, processed externally with my BFF, and annoyed my husband with the back and forth over it. It's not just that I can think of lots of things I would rather do with $40 and two hours than go to the doctor. It's that being told there's nothing wrong with me or there's nothing they can do makes me feel like a loser.

Since Monday I felt like I might die or never breathe through my nose again, on Tuesday, yesterday, I went to the nurse practitioner. And was told, of course, that I was in a gray area. No pneumonia or bronchitis, not even yet a sinus infection. I went to Mother's Market and bought the suggested homeopathic sinus medicine and a booger-busting juice made with carrots, ginger and cayenne pepper (afterwards, I felt that I could not only breath through my nose, but also through my eyeballs).

I, then, of course, began to feel better. This morning, I feel even better. Why is this? Is it psychological, knowing that I am not dying and I have a prescription of for an antibiotic in my purse just in case? Is it the sinus remedy? Was I just about to get better anyway?

Or was it, perhaps, that the virus gods demand the $40 sacrifice?

When Sophia was a toddler, she fell and hit her chin on a wooden pier pylon on Christmas Eve, and had a piece of wood embedded in her chin. At Easter, it was still in there. The pediatrician ($40 later) gave me a referral to the dermatologist, which I held on to for two more months (a "specialist" was $75!). Finally I took her in, preparing both of us for a possible extraction with stitches. Doctor said that eventually, the wood would work itself out of her skin. The NEXT DAY, it came out. The gods wanted $75 that time. Seriously, what is that about?

One of my dear friends and I spend probably an inordinate amount of time on the phone trying to decide what is wrong (physically) with our children or ourselves, and whether it is worth the (a) money, (b) time, and (c) exposure to other illnesses to go to the doctor's office. These conversations usually take place on Day 8 of the illness (the time when as a mom, you are basically just really sick of being sick or having your kids be sick).

It's an identity issue for us: Am I a Paranoid/Impatient/Irrational Mom if I go to the doctor? Am I a Bad/Lax/Careless/Cheap Mom if I don't? All my control issues bubble up to the surface. Many of my irrational fears. With every cough-induced sleepless night, my rational mind gets foggier, aided by full doses of NyQuil.

It's gotten to the point that I think perhaps what we really need is a psychologist. But that's like $150 an hour, and what does it say about me if I need that? I'll agonize about it for a few days and let you know.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Brought the Awesome

What is it with me and bringing party snacks to school?

I woke at 6 a.m. and remembered that I was signed up to bring 12 bags of popped popcorn to Olivia's "Spring Party" for kindergarten. (Side note: American five and six year olds have more fun than any other people on earth. Today will be the first of three Easter Egg hunts that my child will partake in over the next three days. And I won't let her eat half the candy or keep half the toys. Mean mommy.)

On cupboard inspection, I find I do not have any popcorn in the house. Nor do I have coffee. I drink tea (yuck), then  I decide to take the girls out for bagels on the way to school and buy bagged popcorn at the grocery store. Problem: the grocery store does not carry individually bagged popcorn. In fact, our local Ralphs doesn't carry any kind of popped popcorn at all, so my idea of frantically bagging it in the car with the sandwich baggies  I brought with me wouldn't work either.

So, with exactly 18 minutes until the start of school, I buy bagels, hand them to kids in back seat, drive very quickly (but safely) home, leave kids in car port with radio on (quickly detach house keys from car keys to do so) and microwave popcorn. Guess on cooking time because have somehow bought popcorn with instructions only in Spanish on the bag. Have forgotten all Spanish from college minor because too early and too tired.

Text pastor/boss while waiting; load dishes in dishwasher. Microwave beeps two minutes later; throw second bag in microwave. Shove steaming popcorn into plastic bags. Bags get slightly softer but don't actually melt. Remember to wash hands half way through (please don't tell room mom or other parents). One kid comes in from the car to go to the bathroom. Second kid comes in from the car and says first kid said she would be back in 30 seconds but she has now counted to 39, where is big sister? Microwave beeps again. Though second bag cooked exact same amount of time as first,  half is burnt. Stuff last four bags with least scorched pieces of popcorn.

Come out to car and both kids are not in seat belts. Yell at kids. Drive very fast (still safely) to school and show up just in time with the scent of scorched popcorn and desperation wafting from unwashed hair. Another mom tells me I smell good. Love her. Exhale.

Meanwhile, in the kindergarten line, other kids are hopping around Olivia. What did you bring Olivia? What did you bring? Is it Easter eggs? No, it's popcorn. Popcorn? Hurray! Hurray! Popcorn! Hurray for Olivia.

Uh, hurray for mommy. But whatever, they are happy.

On my much slower walk back to the car, I am almost run over by a junior higher on a skateboard. On his shirt is printed, "I brought the awesome. What did you bring?"

Well, buddy, I brought the half-scorched popcorn in half-melted baggies. And I feel pretty awesome too.

Off to get a cup of coffee.