you say tomato, I say tomato

At a recent church get together, somehow the conversation turned to—I can’t remember what. But I seized the opportunity to drag myself into it.
Once upon a time, I told my politely listening friends, back when I was single and very involved in children’s ministry at my church, I bought a new Sunday dress.
At the time my hair was dark dark brown. I had a bit of a tan and thought a red dress would look nice.
It was a shirt dress. It fit well. It was comfortable. I paid decent money for it.
But I didn’t particularly like it, or feel pretty in it.
The color was a sort of tomato-red as opposed to any other red in the known universe that would have been more flattering.
Maybe that was it.
I wore it. About every third or fourth week.

One Sunday I and my tomato red dress popped into the Sunday school room.
I greeted my littles.
One of my little ones, in the sort of tone one might use facing tuna noodle casserole for the fourth night in a row, greeted me back with, “Oh. You’re wearing that dress again.”
The tomato dress went to the thrift shop the next morning.

I’d like to say the moral of the story is to trust your instincts. Never wear clothing you don’t feel pretty in. Or that makes small children sad.

But my next story demonstrates what makes this post a cautionary tale. Instincts aren’t always reliable.

Years back a church lady, talking about Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha, observed, “Mary might have chosen the better way, but I’d rather be on committees with Martha.”

That stuck with me, especially since I’ve fought a lifelong battle against being the sluggard in Proverbs. The one who’s supposed to go to the ant for instruction on hard work.

My instincts tell me to work harder, do more, serve better. Because no one likes sluggards, and most hard-working women aren’t even that fond of Mary types.
So when we hosted a retired missionary and his wife for dinner, I worked like crazy to make certain the house was clean and cozy, our meal the right balance of nourishing and attractive and tasty, and the beverages stayed filled.

But, meals for guests being what they are, the potatoes didn’t cook as fast as the veggies and the meat looked underdone and the serving platter had water spots and apparently the slotted spoon ran away with the dish.
Once my sweating self got everyone fed it was time to clear away, get the coffee going, provide tea for non-coffee drinkers, cut the dessert and polish more water spots off the forks.
My instincts kept prodding me. “No sluggards allowed. Make the Marthas of the world proud. Keep moving and provide for every possible need of your guests.”

At one point the missionary’s dear wife caught at my arm as I bustled my busy way back into the kitchen for the umpteenth time. “Anita, we’re fine. Just sit down and talk to me!”
But those blasted instincts keep pushing and I chugged to and fro, Martha personified, giving the guests everything but what they wanted.

They left that afternoon and I never made the time to sit and chat, and I never saw that dear woman again. She’s in heaven now, sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary. AND Martha.

I am left with regrets.
And justified suspicion of my instincts. They were right about Tomato Dress. Wrong about the Importance of Being Martha.

I’ll probably never sort them out.
In the meantime I avoid clothing that makes small children sad, work hard at working hard and harder at investing in relationships. When I get it wrong, as I often will, I’ll rest assured that, ultimately, it will come out right in the wash.

(Ephesians 5:26)

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

Foretaste of Glory

This is my youngest son at age 5.
It’s a self portrait.

Here he is last month.

Preparing to be a groom.

We had an adventurous quarter century between these two depictions. There were losses: three grandparents, friendships, soccer/basketball/baseball games galore, hair.

He had challenges along the way, which meant his family did too. For years he chafed against being the youngest, and his family had the rash to prove it. Then there was the very very scary bout with pneumonia, the questioning of his faith, the strain of deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up, which led him from Italy to LA, from Iceland to Chicago to Machu Picchu in search of meaning, identity, and clarity.

But goodness and gain clamber up the backs of challenge and loss and wave wildly so that those blessings are where our memories go first.
-His initial but increasingly grateful acknowledgement that God truly never abandoned him during his spiritually dry period.
-The self-recognition that yes, he’s a nifty world traveler, decent actor and poet, and surprisingly gifted house painter. But he’s really really good at teaching. English. To high schoolers. A career that can make strong men shudder and turn pale.
-He’s gained and retained a plethora of friends and mentors from childhood, college, summer jobs, and church family.
-The brothers, whose lives from his toddlerhood till he graduated elementary school he determined to saturate in misery, are now two of the people he’s closest to on earth
-Blessing upon blessing—his brothers chose wisely and well who to marry, and he gained the best sisters along with a bounty of adoring nieces and nephews.

Then, last month, he gained the title ‘husband’ when he married the woman I’ve been praying for, most likely since before she was born.
She is a delight, a perfect and practical foil for his introspective, over-thinking and charismatic personality. She is beautiful. She is wise and hard-working and enjoys being with our noisy crew.
And she loves her Savior even more than she loves my son.

The wedding was a glorious mix of solemn vows and beautiful music and food and wine and family and friends old and new. And praises to God and overflowing celebration.
As one of my dear friends said, “It was a foretaste of glory.”

Indeed. God gives us these little glimpses of what eternity will be like. We experience them at worship, work, fellowship.
Nothing about heaven will be dull.
Instead we’ll get to enjoy the best food, the best drink, the best music, the best people and praises. None of it will end and none of it will get old or stale and not a minute of it will be separate from the Bridegroom.

We’re still basking in the afterglow of Wedding Weekend and now, more than ever, anticipating the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

Wedding photos: azuregphotography

Increase Your Word Power Forthwith

Aren’t words wonderful? Anyone remember “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” from Reader’s Digest? Logophiles like me turned to that section as soon as we finished “Laughter, the Best Medicine.”
Sadly, as new words get added (adulting, teraflop, whataboutism, lame stream and fo’shizzle) others like glabriety (baldness) are scuttled to the wayside.
Let’s skirr (go over rapidly) those ditches and byways for picturesque words that can hold their own with such 21st century delights as “bae” and “upvote.”

THE TUESDAY PRUDE WORD OF THE WEEK
GRABBLE
verb
Origin: Dutch, late 16th century (Dutch and German aren’t the most mellifluous of languages, but they are so dang fun)

  1. Feel or search with the hands; grope about.
  2. Sprawl or tumble on all fours.

CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK
Use grabble in a sentence. Demonstrate physically if you must but be aware that onlookers may assume you are fuzzled.

Lego and the Maniac

A bucket of Legos has been sitting dormant in our basement since the Clinton era. Not totally dormant. Since the bucket is now twice as full as when it got shoved under the basement steps, we assume the pieces get lively around Lego mating season.

Now that our youngest grandchild reached the Age of Reason, (no longer consuming every potential choking hazard), we excavated under the stairs and unearthed the red bin.
But before the grandsons are let loose on the toys their daddies played with, their grandma has work to do.

The sorting of the Legos has begun.

One grandson jump-started the process when he turned the bin upside down to find a particular Lego piece.
And I’ve now spent half an unabridged audiobook and two podcasts sorting the dross from the gold, tiny specialty pieces from the standard Lego bases and blocks, thumbtacks and screws from the $100 Star Wars set.

“Tacks and screws?” The alert reader may ask. Yes. If memory serves me correctly we didn’t give our children sharp objects to play with. Here’s what I think happened, in those long ago clean-this-mess-or-else days. They tended to sweep everything from floor and dressers into the Lego bin. Which accounts for the ancient candy wrappers, pennies, and Mancala stones. And K-nex pieces. Do they even make K-nex any more? I’m a little concerned about the counting bears. We used to have hundreds. Now down to two. Maybe Legos eat them as part of their mating rituals?

And what kind of high-falutin’ set did we buy that has chess pieces?

Also. I wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with the only fighting guy who has all his body parts.

These are the Lego accoutrements.

Tiny coins, chalices, leering heads and weapons.
Do you know that a 2 millimeter drinking stein is as painful to kneel on as a lumpy rock?

This sorting business is the kind of self-appointed task that leads me to reflect on the compulsive desire to do something stupid.

Like the child who throws a softball at a wasps’ nest. Mid-flight he ponders. Was this a good idea?

Like the suburbanite who rakes leaves while autumn gales blow or snowplows the driveway during a blizzard. In the upper Midwest we commonly refer to these as ‘exercises in futility.’

Like the gambler who puts all his money on the long shot at the track because the horse reminded him of his mother and too late wonders if he should have thought this decision through.

I should realize the the grands probably won’t fully appreciate the effort that went into the Lego Sorting Project. They most certainly won’t maintain the separation of bits from pieces for long.

Shouldn’t the little voice in my head say, ”Don’t you have more productive and slightly less futile tasks to do? Pay the monthly bills, feed your husband, clean the floor around the toilet from the last time the little boys came before they come again?”

Likely, I’ll continue to suppress the voice.

I’ll imagine the excitement I hope to see on my grandson’s faces when they find just the right Lego figure for their current make-believe scenario.

And that possibility will make this lousy idea, exercise in futility, poorly thought-out scheme all worth while.

Flat squirrels

Extensive research on two websites this morning revealed interesting facts about squirrels.
One squirrel year is equal to five human years.
Squirrels in my neck of the woods live about 12 years if there is no outside interference.

The ones around here are mostly gray squirrels so it’s already hard to tell the elderly almost-60-year olds from the sprightly young adults.
But while I used to think roadkill squirrels must be the daredevil youngsters, my nephew introduced me to a saying a few years ago that changed my perspective.

“Auntie,” he said while I hesitated between two doors in a Chicago underground, “just pick one. The world is full of flat squirrels who couldn’t make up their minds.”

Much musing on this led to an understanding. Those dearly-departed rodents couldn’t make up their minds. True, but not because they were feeble-minded.
They didn’t know which was the RIGHT way to go.

It was my lightbulb, sea-change moment.
The behavior of squirrels gave me insight to my deepest self.

I’m not indecisive. Not in the way my nephew thought.
He couldn’t understand that it’s a matter of right or wrong.

Those of us raised on the Ten Commandments, playground rules, and a constant diet of morally upright books in which the heroine had to make the right choice OR ELSE have come to see the world in terms of a binary choice.
Black or white, yes or no, right or wrong.
For some of us, no decision is a small one, no choice unimportant. Which door in the underground? This one? Or that one? Run back to the left side of the road? Or dash to the right?
We hope the pedestrians behind us or the nephew in front of us will be patient while we wait for a revealing of the right door. We hope the oncoming vehicle will slow while we ponder the correct side of the road.

It ain’t easy being us absolute-type people. We spend too much time dithering, praying a neon arrow will point to the right choice, whether it’s a flat of annuals at the greenhouse or a lifetime spouse. One spouse, one flat of petunias, one door is right. Every other one is wrong.
So we vacillate, we waver, we dilly-dally. If we were squirrels, most of us wouldn’t have made it to our twenties.

You probably don’t realize how many of us roam the world. We don protective coloring. (Mostly because we know that it is wrong to inconvenience others with our hesitation.)
We have a modicum of intelligence and know how to function in a prescribed set of circumstances. We’ve established the right way to do things in most instances, weeded out the incorrect people, places and things, and learned to forgive ourselves for buying the absolute wrong color shoes when we were nineteen.

But present us with two unknown doors in a previously unexplored underground, force us to choose this side of the road or that without weighing the relative merits, and you may see us hesitate. Be patient.

Better yet, tell us which door is the right one.

Image by 995645 from Pixabay

Give Civility a Chance

(This is an edited reprint of a post from several years ago—back when I referred to myself in the third person. My youngest son is getting married this week and I’ve done everything in my power to make certain I volunteered for too much. This is a secret weapon for making my family think I’m indispensable. I’ll share more tips in this in a future post.)

Amen

I have a dream.
A dream in which thousands of people from all walks of life, sporting skin tones from freckly pink to glorious midnight, join for the next big March on Washington.
We won’t come together because we agree on everything. As a matter of fact, we agree on very little.
A bevy of priggish types who propound the glories of modesty meet up with the ‘America Gets Nekkid’ folks, who arrive clad only in sturdy walking shoes and an admirable set of goosebumps.
Grammar Anarchists trickle in. Known best by their slogan ‘For all intensive purposes; we could care less’ they champion for, among other linguistic improprieties, a participle’s right to dangle.

Various other assemblages join us, like a small, unnamed but vocal group who hold etiquette responsible for the world’s inequities.

What, in my dream, could bind such a disparate groups? What do they have in common?

A desire for civility.

So we come together, holding firmly to individual convictions, but demonstrating jointly for a fundamental cause.
This is the Civility Rights March.

It has its own platform.

CIVILITY STATEMENT OF RIGHTS
1) We will not mock, scorn, or call those with opposing viewpoints nasty names.
2) Interruptions, speaking out of turn and out-shouting others is not tolerated. We all have a chance to express opinions, but only while holding the Stick of Civility.
3) We do not make our opponent appear foolish, or take remarks out of context.
4) Under no circumstances, no matter how major our differences, do we engage in fisticuffs.
5) We vow to use the proper facilities for dealing with bodily functions, leave said facilities looking better than when we came in, and inform management if facilities require attention.
6) We will not litter.
7) We promise to guard the above rights of civility via the use of civility against any and all who might come and try to undermine the rights of civility.

Demonstrators will come together to actually demonstrate what civility looks like…Ahhhhh. What a dream!

A Grammar Anarchist says: “Ain’t nobody going to tell me apostrophes aren’t for plural nouns.” Instead of mocking the extensive overuse of negatives (“So someone IS going to tell you how to use apostrophes?”) we tell them we are charmed bytheir use of the vernacular ‘ain’t’ and any time the language subversive wants to discuss punctuation more fully we are ready and willing. They thank us and admit to occasional appreciation of subject/verb agreement.

The most rabid of full-body coverage zealots realizes that even anti-clothing extremists get cold. While looking the au natural directly in the eye (and only in the eye) the super-modest type won’t say, “Serves you right.” Instead she offers a blanket for the birthday-suit clad nonconformist to ward off the chill. (“No, I don’t need it back when the temps warm up. Really, you keep it.”) The person in the all-together, recognizing the prudish-types’ sensibilities, willingly covers public seating areas with newspapers or napkins before settling down.

And even though the throw-off-the-yoke-of-etiquette people believe salad greens stuck in the teeth or dangling dried nasal secretions are symbols of liberation, they know they haven’t won over the entire world to their perspective. Therefore, upon seeing a dab of marinara sauce on the chin of a dainty etiquette-lover, our napkin-hater refrains from outward rejoicing and tactfully points it out.

Protests seldom go well. The 60’s antiwar demonstrations always drew a crowd who defended America’s policies. Bitter recriminations erupted from both camps. Those who picket abortion clinics in turn are picketed by their polar opposites and the Occupy Anything people are met by vocally indignant Go Home Now and Get a Job groups.
They all employ their constitutional right to protest. Sadly, many assume this assures the right to scream and belittle and deface what isn’t theirs.

But at our Civility Rights March, any misguided prudes who come planning to humiliate our opposition will find themselves politely shushed. We won’t tolerate name calling, finger pointing, or twisted words.
Disagree with us, or disagree with those we disagree with.
Do so in an uncivil manner and we will inform you how we plan to defend the rights of civility. And then we will courteously point out the little piece of spinach in your teeth.

the stuff dreams are made of

Stuff and I get along well. I welcome stuff to my house, stuff enters, looks around, likes what it sees and stays. And stays and stays and stays and in the meantime I have some new stuff and the old stuff is wearing out its welcome.

Lately I’ve been trying my hand at de-stuffing. I feel moderately inhospitable getting rid of stuff that has made itself at home. But it doesn’t pay rent, doesn’t clean up after itself, and some of it is developing severe personality disorders that are making the possibility of eviction easier.

Take these dolls.

Please.

The first one belonged to my mother in law. (Both are pushing 90. My mother-in-law is by far the better looking of the two.) Look deep into the doll’s eyes.
I dare you.

I call her “Soulless Lou.”
Actually I call her Soulless Sal but some lovely people I know are named Sally so for purposes of preserving friendships she’ll be Lou. I believe she turned down an opportunity to appear on “The Walking Dead.”

Second is a little lady I refer to as “Scabbers” for obvious reasons.

She is probably about 110. She belonged to an elderly neighbor who had no children and thought I’d like the doll. Scabbers isn’t particularly horrifying until her eyes—which still function—start blinking, and don’t stop.

The last doll is mine. One of the few toys I have from my childhood. She is about 60. Her name used to be Judy but now it is “She-reminds-me-of-the-little-possesed-girl-from-the-Exorcist.”


My kindergarten-aged grandsons slept over last week and refused to go to bed till the doll formerly known as Judy was out of the room.

My de-stuffing has caught on a snag. A doll my parents bought me when I was a toddler. One from my beloved mother-in-law and one from a sweet neighbor who is now in heaven. How can I evict them?

I don’t have an answer yet.
But tell me.
Is it my imagination, or are they suddenly just a little closer to the edge of the sofa than when I first set them down?

Silence is Violence?

You’ve heard it said, Silence is Violence.

SONY DSC

But is it always?

Maybe some voices shout on different battlefields, but now are muffled by the clamors of the current war. Or no one ever paid much attention to their battle cries. It can be hard for some to redirect passion and energy to the conflict now raging as quickly as  signs/memes/chants demand.

-Some call for nursing home reform, as many of our most vulnerable citizens are taken advantage of and abused.
-Some attempt to stem the insatiable appetite of the dark underworld feeding on human trafficking.
-Some rescue women and children from domestic abuse situations and try to keep them safe.
-Some beg the Western world to understand that people groups in eastern Asia are being imprisoned and silenced and are disappearing at an alarming rate.
-Some urge us to be aware that Christians are being slaughtered for their faith in certain areas of Africa and the Middle East.
-Some (too few) decry not only the conditions on Native American reservations, but the reason indigenous peoples are on them in the first place.
-Some attempt to make the U.S. citizenry aware that the government has sold many of our rights to powerful corporations because a well-funded lobbyist carries more weight than Constitutional rights.
-Some demand changes in a system that allows drunk drivers to keep their licenses—until they kill someone.
-Some battle daily for the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, who’ve been tossed aside like human rubbish.

Some—many—of those battling the evils above are happy to join the battle against racism in all its ugly, God-dishonoring manifestations. They just may not want to forget their other wars, and therefore aren’t shouting loudly.

You’ve heard it said, “Stating ‘All Lives Matter’ to the particular life most under threat is an insult.”
Many would agree, because their own threatening situation is taking all their time, energy and grief. All they have to offer at the moment is silence.

-Many desperately search for a runaway teen or elderly, wandering parent.
-Many hold the hand of a loved one poised on the brink of eternity and don’t dare look away lest they miss any precious moment.
-Many do battle with an addiction that threatens to overwhelm them if they relax the fight for even a second.
-Many spend every waking moment trying to prevent the suicide of a friend or family member who has lost the will or ability to struggle with life any more.

Silence isn’t always violence. Let’s not boil the complexities of the “heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”* into three words, and judge others by them.
Systemic racism is real and evil, and if it were the only evil in the world, we could all give it 100% of our attention 100% of the time. But it isn’t the only enemy, and people are battling on so many fronts.

Wars wage everywhere. Let’s fight the fights God set before us, praying for wisdom to turn from those engagements for a time, and join the crusade next to us if our fellow image-bearers appear to be losing their battle. But using three words to produce guilt in those exhausted from their own warfare only adds to an already overwhelming burden.

 

Painting: St. Francis Contemplating a Skull
Francisco de Zurbarán, Spanish, 1598–1664
Date: c.1635

* Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Act III Scene 1

SONY DSC

Ditching 2020

IMG_5079

Take a peek at that top shelf, if you don’t mind. Everything on it was given to me in the 1980’s. (Well, to my husband too, but he doesn’t remember who gave them. I DO.)

 

That title? It’s another of my attempts to click-bait you, and if you just read this sentence, it worked.
No, I’m not ditching 2020 because of  impeachment hearings and weird weather and a contentious political race and quarantines and tanking economy and 24 hour news forecasting millions of deaths.

Although now that I list them out, I see those are all excellent reasons to MoveOnfrom2020.org (wouldn’t that be a great site?)

I myself was a clickbait victim when I spent way too much of my precious time—that could have been dedicated to staring into my refrigerator—and hit “next” after “next” on a link called “Don’t make these decorating mistakes or you will be the laughing stock of the universe.” Or something like that.

I don’t remember all the mistakes it said I shouldn’t make, but one slide demanded I get rid of anything that even whispered of the 80’s. Teal green and country blue and stenciled hearts and beribboned geese? Dump ‘em all or become the human version of the crappy virus we all want to avoid.

So what did I do?
Went downstairs and gathered up all my wedding and shower gifts from the 80’s.
And proudly displayed them in my kitchen.

Feel free to put a mask on and spray me with disinfectant next time you see me. I’ll understand, but my outdated 1980’s decorations will stay.

Because I am tired of 2020 bossing me around.

 

IMG_5080

WELCOME TO THE 80’S!!!!!

Wednesday at the Tuesday Prude: Grandma Bodies

 

grandmother-4576437_1920I want to talk about the war on women. Women of a certain age. Women of a certain age’s bodies, to be specific.

The Super Bowl halftime show got me thinking about this socially-acceptable war. Incidentally, I’m not here to complain about the—um—energetic gyrations of the dancers. Or the mouthwatering sum of money the women performers must have paid for their wedgie-generating outfits that I could fold up and fit in an Altoids tin.

 
Here’s my main issue with that performance. One of the lead women performers is 50. FIFTY. She is old enough to qualify for an AARP card, people! Before she knows it she’ll be looking up directions to the Social Security office. She is half a century old.

 
Bully for her. My problem comes with the adulation thrown at her half-century feet, the cries of “Women of a certain age can look that good!” and “She’s in better shape than women in their teens!” and “Why can’t all AARP card-carrying women dance on a pole?”

 
Will it never end? How old do I have to be before I can say “I WANT TO LOOK MY AGE!”

 
The pressure to be buff and fit and fabulous and unwrinkled and alluring and slinky should be in my past, shouldn’t it? I look at photos of my grandmothers when they were in their fifties and sixties. Gray hair, support hose, Dr. Scholls footwear, work-reddened hands. They didn’t have time to worry about how their backside would look in high-cut garments. (Which existed in those days. They were undies whose elastic had given out.)

Scan 200490000
It’s not that my grandmas didn’t care what they looked like. They wanted to look their best. Which, as their bodies aged and settled and became cushioned, meant being neat and clean. They had a few “good” dresses and necklaces and brooches for Sunday and weddings. Work dresses and aprons for almost everything else. Their primary attire was their labor and their love.

 
At what age do I get to decide what looks “good for my age?” How many fitness classes and wrinkle creams and plastic surgeries do I need so people admire my advanced state of preservation? When can I make peace with gravity? Stop insisting that the miles and years don’t exist and haven’t taken their toll?

 
I’m plenty vain. I don’t want to be dowdy. I wouldn’t mind if occasionally someone underestimated my age. But not to the extent that I want to be mistaken for my grandchildren’s mother.

 
It’s time to fight back against this war on grandma bodies. I’m going to look the best I can, take care of myself, and be at peace with my grandma shape. Wear the miles with pride. Clothe myself with labor and love. Which are guaranteed to never give me a wedgie.

2020-02-16 15.12.28