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Social Justice Boot Camp: Intro to Feminism

March 27, 2014

If you look back at the history of this blog, you’d quickly see that I’ve been less-than-committed to posting with any regularity. In fact, I haven’t written a thing (other than short responses on social media) for a year. The writing life is hard, and I’ve taken a few knocks personally over the past two years. As a result, I lost confidence in my voice as a woman and as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Several friends have encouraged me to get back to the things I love and in the last year, God has shown me time and again the calling He has for me to be a witness for mercy, compassion, reconciliation, and justice. Yet the fear was (and is) persistent. Several years ago, when I attended a leadership conference sponsored by Willow Creek church in Chicago, I heard Bill Hybels teach about calling. He described his own passion as the feeling that Popeye used to get watching Brutus bully others. Popeye would hang back, waiting on the situation to resolve, then inevitably, he’d roll up his sleeves and say, “I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” You can guess what happened next:

Popeye-raising-spinachA week or two ago, I reached that point. In honor of Women’s History month, I’ve been sharing facts and bios of overlooked women in history on Facebook. Several friends have remarked to me that they’ve learned a lot, but they want to know more. Specifically, they want to learn about the “F” word: feminism. [Cue Spinach]

For me, this is the perfect on-ramp back into writing. We decided to call it our Social Justice Boot Camp on Feminism. As much as I disdain militarism, I kinda dig it. (What can I say, I contain multitudes of contradictions, y’all.) I hope for you, dear readers, that it will provide you the opportunity to engage with concepts that might be new to you. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at Scripture, history, and current events to articulate my own understanding of feminism. I invite you to join me and interact in the comments. I moderate responses on this blog because that’s just good sense to me, but I will review them as quickly as possible so that you can give and receive feedback if you’d like.

Before we launch into full introductions, however, I would like to start with a few caveats:

  1. I am not the gatekeeper for feminism. As we will discuss later, there are lots of feminisms and historically, certain groups have been excluded from so-called “mainstream” conversations. I want to be as inclusive as possible, but I do have my own perspective. I will do my best to point out sources when my knowledge or viewpoint falls short.
  2. There are a TON of resources on feminism. There are NOT a ton of resources on feminism from a Christian perspective. That’s not to say that there aren’t Christian feminists (whoa, Nelly, there are a jillion). But there will be times when I’m talking about things that maybe only a few other Christians are publicly talking about. And those people and I may disagree. (dum dum DUUUUM) That’s okay. We’re in this together. Feminism, like any other work of justice, can be a lonely place. I want us to do our best to hear from people who don’t necessarily agree with us.
  3. I believe Scripture is inerrant. I do not believe its interpreters are. We will be cautious in how we handle the Bible around here because many of us have experienced firsthand injury from other believers who thought they needed to wield the sword of the Spirit in dangerous ways. I am, frankly, more frightened by this than any of you. I take the Bible very seriously, and I believe my worldview to be based upon its principles. Still, there are times when Scripture flies in the face of “conventional” thought, and when it comes to feminism, you can bet your buttons that the Bible has been used to beat back efforts to disrupt or dismantle patriarchal tradition. So there will be moments of controversy around here.

The closest historical analogy for this that I can think of is the abuse of the book of Philemon where Paul writes,

I appeal to you for      my son Onesimus,who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

For centuries, these words were used to justify slavery. You might wonder, how can that be since it clearly says Paul considers him “a fellow man” and a “brother” or a “son”? The short answer is: people do that. We want the Bible to support our bias or lifestyle or comfort, or we read the text without meditating on it and internalizing it .

I want us to be careful not to read more into the thing than can be textually supported, but I will be bringing contexts like culture and history to bear when we talk about the Bible. I will be judging the characters’ behavior with my modern sensibilities (can’t always help that), but I will be cautious about all of it because the Bible is not a sociological textbook. We learn how to live, but a lot of that is learned through example, metaphor, parable. We can’t always get a straight answer from the Scriptures, but we CAN get to know God and understand who He wants us to be in light of that knowledge. We live in an age where, ironically enough, the orthodoxy squad are just as bad as the feminists sometimes about policing for non-compliance. I’m going to occasionally be non-compliant with the dominant parties in any of the camps. I’m always going to be non-compliant with somebody. That makes me nervous, but I’ll do this scared because that’s the life of faith. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said,

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.

So with those things out of the way, let’s have a quick introduction.

Why do we need to talk about feminism? Because we humans have a fundamental problem. Sin. We sin as individuals, we sin in herds, and quite often, we institutionalize sin. Solomon said, “there’s nothing new under the Sun.” As we look at the narratives in Scripture, we’ll see that for women and other marginalized groups, the song remains the same. Societies have organized themselves differently throughout the ages: dictatorships, oligarchies, monarchies, republics, democracies, etc. but there has been a persistent alienation of certain groups of people. We see them most often referenced in Scripture as “widows, orphans, and strangers/aliens/foreigners/sojourners.” But Jesus included others, too:

[T]he King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Here Jesus identified Himself with the poor, the stranger, the criminal, saying whenever you serve people on the margins of society, you serve Him. Many of us see this and immediately think, “Okay, so Jesus told us to help these people, let’s go do it.” We don’t really look into why Jesus is asking us to do these things. We assume it’s because He’s loving, good, a nice guy. All true. But there’s more to it than that. He tells us to recognize these people and see Him in them because He knows these are the people we ignore. These are the people we exploit. These are the people most vulnerable to our individual and collective pride, cruelty, contempt…sinfulness. I once had a professor tell me that we don’t really have to address poverty completely because Jesus said “the poor will always be with you.” The problem with that thinking (aside from the fact that he was taking that Scripture out of context) is that by saying so, he was interpreting Jesus’ statement in a way that would absolve him of any responsibility. But isn’t that what all of us comfortable people do with marginalized people? We take for granted that the world will be this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When God tells us us to care for widows and orphans, it’s because in every place and time on earth, women and children are dominated, exploited, and abused. That’s not to say that the same doesn’t happen to men and boys. It does. This is where people often get justice wrong. At it’s core, justice work, including feminist work, seeks to reimagine a world in balance and harmony: a world of mutuality and concern for one another. A large part of that reimagining and engaging means pointing out the places where things are wholly out of whack. That’s what God is doing when He tells us to advocate and serve those on the outs. He’s restoring the order that He intended from the beginning. The order that was thrown into a chaotic eat-or-be-eaten paradigm because of our sin.

From the beginning, God spoke to this problem. In ancient Israel, He called the nation to implement a justice system that to us Americans looks downright preferential. Greg Ogden writes in his book, Discipleship Essentials:

…the role of judge and justice in Israel was to actively and redemptively seek to protect the poor from the wiles of the rich and powerful., So strong was the skepticism toward the powerful that the poor in the courts were often viewed collectively as the innocent and righteous.

This idea offends us. God is partial toward the poor? He encouraged them to consider the poor innocent? Yes. God is striking a balance here. Despite what we’ve learned from American iconography, justice is not blind (nor is justice a white lady).

lady-justice-drawing
This is a huge hang-up for a lot of us. We want God on our side. And we can have God on our side, when we get on His side. His side is full of a lot of people that we’d rather not hang out with, but it’s where Jesus Himself went. It feels threatening, though. To call us to identify with the marginalized, to consider them better than us, to look at them and see Jesus seems unfair. I didn’t do anything wrong! I have privileges, but I earned them, or maybe I don’t think I have privileges at all. Life is hard for everybody, right? But God invites us to change our point-of-view. To see things we don’t want to see because then we might have to give up something, or apologize. We might have to upend our lives and swim upstream.

The beautiful part of working for justice is that in upending everything we think we know, we begin to see things set right. Contrary to popular belief, justice is not a zero sum game where if one person benefits, another person loses. What might feel like a loss is but a loss that heals, like the excision of a cancerous tumor that is slowly killing our own soul and taking others down with it. When we work for justice, sharing power or resources or our voice, we see God repay beyond anything we thought we were giving up. Because in God’s kingdom, when justice prevails, everyone wins.

This is especially important to understand as we undertake a conversation about feminism. Many continue to resist feminism because they see it as a war between the sexes. They say women just want to be men or women want to be in charge. Feminism rejects the idea of dominance and rejoices in the full spectrum of gender identity and expression. Feminism doesn’t argue that women should be the priority at the expense of men. It says the marginalized should be a priority because they are unfairly and consistently excluded.

I also want to include a word about those in a position of privilege. We all have some measure of privilege. Very few of us are utterly devoid of some measure position or advantage in society. One of the biggest challenges when working on any issues of justice is that when we finally do see and understand the plight of the oppressed, we are tempted to view the privileged as the enemy. Frankly, the privileged often act like the enemy. As believers, we know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against supernatural forces that separate us from God and one another. So, we have to pull back a little and see the big picture. We keep our eyes on the oppressed, but we also see how injustice afflicts the soul of the oppressor and those complicit in oppression. James Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time about racism:

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain…Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace-not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.

We have to be willing to take off the masks of our privilege and humble ourselves in solidarity with those who are made humble by society. But our God wants freedom for all: the oppressed and the oppressors, the privileged and the marginalized. This can only be achieved when we commit ourselves to seeing the injustices in front of us, eschewing privilege as our birthright or an endgoal. As we begin our conversation here, let’s start asking key questions about how we can better serve one another and how we can open ourselves up to have our ideas challenged, our feelings hurt, and our worldviews transformed for the better.

 

 

A heart full of sorrows and determination -or- all the things I’m not saying on Facebook

December 17, 2012

Last Friday, my first instinct was to run to this blog like it was the Bat Cave. Surely, something must be done. Something must be said! The noise and violence of the Connecticut shooting had gotten too loud for me to take. I wanted to scream above it all. Drown it out. But I didn’t. Instead, I took time to hold my own children, to talk with them about what happened. To weep alone, to pray corporately and in solitude, and to rant at my husband (who already agrees with me and cannot echo back his own thoughts for grief and disbelief at what we all have seen).

Many people did run to their blogs, to the presses. My social feeds and email notifications have exploded with conversations about guns, God, and illness. One post cannot possibly contain those multitudes, but I am compelled to address some of those ideas in one place, my place, at this point.

To start, I have seen many, many people reiterating and defending comments made by Mike Huckabee, etc. that things like this happen because we’ve taken God out of the public square. I find that to be rhetorically ridiculous, given that even at times other than Christmas, He still makes the news constantly as part of political and social conversations. Not only is that a wholly inaccurate assessment of our culture, it’s an entirely bad theology. You cannot “take” God anywhere. He’s not a mouse in your pocket. He’s not a treasure in your heart. He’s the living, holy, omniscient, omnipresent God of all Creation! I think that demands an exclamation point.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139: 7-12

Anyone who needs further Biblical evidence of God’s all-everythingness is invited to consider and meditate upon His response to Job in chapters 38-41 of that book. Godly Job lost everything, even his children, and once he reaches the point of questioning God, “Why? Where ARE you?” he gets a nice long set of questions back that explain exactly where God was.

Now, I know this “kicked God out of public schools” thing has become part of common evangelical discourse, but I just have to say, once and for all, stoppit. Stop it right now. Last spring, when I found myself an aimless stay-at-home mom, I prayed about a new opportunity to head up the PTA at my son’s elementary school. I thought, “I’ll do a little good and bring some Kingdom to my boy’s school.” When I got there, I saw that God was already there. He was in 98% of the teaching staff who renewed their contract at a Title I school instead of bailing for a school with fewer poor children. He was in the Monday afternoon Bible study, 70 kids strong, that happens after school is out. He was in the churches that supply sack lunches for our schoolchildren to take home every weekend because their families are food insecure. He was in the office secretary who, despite her naturally surly personality, loves Jesus and offers my daughter conversation every time we drop in on PTA business. He was in the principal who endures endless bureaucracy and parental inanity and yet still believes in the democratic mission of public education and has confidence in God’s call that she be there to love and serve families. He was in the music teacher whose Newsboys hoodie gave her away as a Jesus freak while she taught all our kids, a whole SCHOOL of children, the dance to Thriller. I was not surprised to see Christ in our school, I was shocked only by my hubris that I would be the one, or one of the few, to bring Him there.

I can confidently say that God was in that Newtown school on Friday. He was weeping. He was whispering in the teacher’s ears and welcoming children home. Stop telling me and the world that we can kick God out of anything. He will not be mocked, especially not in a frikkin’ sound bite that garners favor with the fearful.

Some of those comments re: God are an intentional distraction from the very real conversation and reform that needs to happen around our healthcare system and weapons availability. I know some advocates for gun control and mental healthcare have been pitting those priorities against one another, but I’m a girl who wants all of it. We need sensible gun control in this country. MORE guns is a stupid, stupid solution and should not be tolerated at this tragic and important moment. The rest of the world is looking at us like we’re the wild West and I for one don’t want my kids going to any school where a teacher is packing under his/her petticoat. No sir. We don’t make schools less vulnerable by making them more dangerous. We make them less vulnerable by making guns less available. Will it make them unavailable? No. But less available is good. Always.

I know some have said that evil men can do evil with or without guns. Well, let’s have them doing evil without guns for a change. This weekend, a story out of China provided a stark contrast to our own. A man, armed with a knife, injured as many children as were killed in Connecticut. It was horrific. It was evil. It was not fatal. Gun control is for me, a moral priority. Jesus was born into a world of violence. A world that killed children of His day. A world that would one day take His life. He calls us to be people of peace, not people of heat. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a gun. Too many of my brethren are living in fear of government, predators, intruders. Jesus made Himself vulnerable, wrapped Himself in mortal flesh and entrusted Himself to God. He never carried a weapon. When His followers did, He told them “that is enough!” or “put [it] away.” Those messages weren’t advocating conceal and carry, they were calling His disciples to a different way of life. He’s calling us to do the same and influence our violent society for peace.

We also need serious reform for those battling mental illness. A wise friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday:

It sure would be nice if we had a national conversation about access to mental health care for the vast majority of people with mental illnesses who will never shoot anyone.

One blog post in particular by Anarchist Soccer Mom has made some headlines. In it, she openly talks about her struggles and her fear for her son who has yet to be completely and accurately diagnosed. She writes:

 No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”
I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

God can help her. His people can get involved. I think of a new friend who works with patients that struggle with intense illnesses like schizophrenia, etc. He is governed by His trust in God and is committed to seeing His patients through the worst moments of their lives. Another friend wrote this weekend about her brother’s illness and left her readers with a call to engage:

[Most] of us, whether we have an awareness of this or not, are in a position to be very helpful.

First, pray.
Pray for this issue continually.
Pray for the mentally ill in general – that they will know the healing power and peace of Jesus.
Pray for any specific people that you know of who struggle with mental illness.  Pray that they’ll be spared from the worst symptoms of these diseases.
Pray for their families, especially their parents.  Pray for them to be sustained by God’s wisdom and mercy to us all.
Pray for those people who venture into the field of mental health.  Pray that they’ll be granted knowledge of – and the ability to put into place – real solutions that are both effectual and merciful.
Pray for those saints who engage with the mentally ill in their ministries.  Pray that they’ll be rewarded for their great work and that they’ll see results in this world.
Since we are commanded to give thanks for all things, give thanks that you’ve been placed in a world currently dealing with this issue.  And, especially give thanks if you have the privilege of ministering to specific families of mentally ill persons.

Second, minister to anyone you know who struggles with mental illness.
Treat them with kindness.
Be normal.
Laugh.
Hug.
Visit.

Third, minister to the families of the mentally ill.

Do not stigmatize.  Having a mentally ill family member is not an embarrassment.  Are family members with cancer embarrassing?
Do not pretend there isn’t a problem.
Do not pretend you understand the problem.
Do not ever let the sentence, “well, if he was my child, I’d…” come across your lips.  You do not know what you would do.  I grew up with it, and I do not know what I’d do.
Do not attempt to diagnose.

Ask if and how you can help.  One great way is to minister to any siblings.  Grab them for the day.  Any respite is welcome when chaos is a reality.
Food is always a ministry.  Always.  Second only, of course, to laughter.
Follow the lead of the person in your life about how much and when to discuss the problem.  Some folks are very open and benefit from people checking in.  Some are tired and want to talk about the BCS standings.  Provide openings without prying.
Talk to your children about emotional struggles that all people have.  Talk to them about right reactions to their own emotional struggles, and reactions to those folks who they encounter who have much more acute problems.

Fourth, remember.

Always remember that, but for His grace, there go we all.

Honor the truth that sick people can do evil things.  The deeds are no less evil because they are sick, and the people are no less sick because they do evil things.

Remember that the vast majority of those who struggle with mental illness are not on the verge of engaging in destructive behavior.

I’d add that we can also look into ways to educate our public leaders about mental illness and to secure funding for research and long-term solutions that go beyond the incarceration that the Anarchist Soccer Mom fears may be inevitable.

In 1963, when a bomb was launched into an African-American Alabama church killing four little girls attending Sunday school, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a eulogy that is relevant to our situation today. I’m truncating the eulogy because much of it is unique to that event, but as with any sound preaching, the whole of it is wonderful and true:

This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came.

These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows… They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.

And so my friends, they did not die in vain. (Yeah) God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. (Oh yes) And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force (Yeah) that will bring new light to this dark city. (Yeah) The holy Scripture says, “A little child shall lead them.” (Oh yeah)

May I now say a word to you, the members of the bereaved families? It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointment which are floating in your mental skies. But I hope you can find a little consolation from the universality of this experience. Death comes to every individual. There is an amazing democracy about death. It is not aristocracy for some of the people, but a democracy for all of the people. Kings die and beggars die; rich men and poor men die; old people die and young people die. Death comes to the innocent and it comes to the guilty. Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men.

I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.

Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. (Yeah, Yes) Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. (Yeah) And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him (Yeah, Well), and that God is able (Yeah, Yes) to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.

And so today, you do not walk alone. You gave to this world wonderful children. [moans] They didn’t live long lives, but they lived meaningful lives. (Well) Their lives were distressingly small in quantity, but glowingly large in quality. (Yeah) And no greater tribute can be paid to you as parents, and no greater epitaph can come to them as children, than where they died and what they were doing when they died. (Yeah) They did not die in the dives and dens of Birmingham (Yeah, Well), nor did they die discussing and listening to filthy jokes. (Yeah)…(Yes) Shakespeare had Horatio to say some beautiful words as he stood over the dead body of Hamlet. And today, as I stand over the remains of these beautiful, darling girls, I paraphrase the words of Shakespeare: (Yeah, Well): Good night, sweet princesses. Good night, those who symbolize a new day. (Yeah, Yes) And may the flight of angels (That’s right) take thee to thy eternal rest. God bless you.

Let’s take solace in the God of all Comfort and let this moment give us the courage to bring His Kingdom of peace and justice to bear on our hurting and hurtful world.

Insert pun about being Left out here

November 3, 2012

A while back, a friend of mine asked me to blog about how American “liberal” politics and “conservative” theology can coexist in my brain and my life. I delayed, and I have since become addicted to a Korean dramedy (now available on Netflix) called Secret Garden:

This has been your daily non-sequitir

I’ve been having that political/theological conversation so much these last few months (gee, wonder WHY) that I felt like I’d said everything I have to say on the topic in my real-life circles of people. Much has been said on the internet about such things, whether you follow the typical sources like Sojourners, Christianity Today, CNN, etc. Again, I felt I had little to add in the way of political commentary.

I could ask questions about why so many of my evangelical brethren are positively hateful toward our sitting President. Or why one of my die-hard Republican friends is currently chum in the water with her pals from Liberty University because she cannot, in conscience, support a Mormon candidate for the highest office in the land. But when I ask such questions, I have no credibility. Instantly. Because I’m a committed Democrat.

Our evangelical community struggles intensely with partisanship.  I’m tempted to blame both parties for that. It might spread the sting around if I could do that. But honestly, I’ve never met a Christian Republican afraid to “come out” about it. In fact, more often that not, people will launch into political conversation with me, having just met me at church or some church-related event, and assume from the get-go that I hate Barack Obama or that I’ll chime in with an anti-liberal rant. It’s awkward because I rarely know when to lift the veil and let them see the Democrat underneath the evangelical exterior.

Not long ago, I attended a get-to-know you breakfast for some women at church. It was one of those events where you don’t really know who is going to show up at the restaurant, but you’re taking the gamble someone you know or want to know better will be there. During the meal, while we were still playing the “do you have kids? how many?” game, the conversation veered toward politics.  I felt safe offering a comment here or there because most of the people in my immediate table area knew I was a Democrat (and loved me in spite of it, hee hee). A woman I’d never met before was railing against the new health care law and I calmly pointed out that not much press had been given to its merits like the elimination of pre-existing conditions (including “diseases” like being the victim of domestic violence or having a c-section. THANKS, insurers.) The woman was getting pretty steamed talking about how the President secretly planned the whole thing through back-room deals (most of it was played out over months, through the papers) and rammed it through Congress (with a solid majority). I added that to many people on the left, myself included, the whole thing was a complicated compromise and a lot of us wanted something closer to a single-payer system. Her reaction was…well…I may as well have declared my allegiance to the Führer/Chairman Mao (wait, you mean they’re not the same thing?!).

Why the President cannot be both a communist AND a socialist. Also, it’s an awesome and often applicable quote.

My new frenemy(?) leaned across the eggs and sausages and ripped into me, “HAVE YOU EVEN READ THE CONSTITUTION?” “Yes.” “The Federalist Papers!” “Why, yes. When I was getting my Master’s in Government at Pat Robertson’s university, we had to read all that stuff.” (For the kids at home, The Federalist Papers, while influential, don’t actually govern anything. Neither does the Declaration of Independence. We will now return to programming.) At this point, I evaded further discussion on the topic (or any topic) and turned back to chat with my smart, lovely, conservative friend who wasn’t going to yell at me over pancakes about such things.

This encounter wasn’t the first and it wasn’t the worst.  In my time as an “out” Democrat in the evangelical church (roughly a decade), I’ve been called a baby-killer (though a third of my life and almost all of my professional life was spent working in the pro-life movement), a socialist (which I probably almost am, at least sorta), a communist, unpatriotic (with more vehemence and vitriol than if I was being branded a heretic), and told all my causes were “just depressing,” among other things. It’s all par for the course.

Recently, I went to a new friend’s house and while we were sipping coffee and talking about what the week ahead was going to be like, she sat back in her chair and asked me why I’m a Democrat. It was a little abrupt and completely unexpected. Like, “explain yourself, readysetgo!” only with genuine curiosity. I was taken back a bit and I stuttered and stammered my way through. “Uh, er, I like poor people and women and helping and education is good, and the environment, plus pharmaceutical company lobbying OY! And guns, and the death penalty is racist and bad bad, YEAH. See?” It was a mess. I told her I really wasn’t making an articulate case because I was utterly surprised at the question. She was apologetic and said, “I would think people ask you this all the time.” I told her, “Noooo? Not really. No one wants to know why.” My friend was sincere, but the truth is, most of the church folks I know don’t even want to know I’m a Democrat at all. It’s like political colorblindness, only in this case, instead of polite lies like “I don’t see race,” people refuse to see my liberalness.

A different friend recently told me, “I just don’t see that when I think about you. I mean, we’re all sisters in Christ, so that doesn’t matter.” But it does matter. Because talking about your views as a Republican is acceptable in all the churchy places. Talking about mine stops conversations cold.  (Whoa. Liberal, okay… Football? Weather? Bible? We all agree, right?)  Also, for what it’s worth, I like my opinions. I like other people’s opinions. I think our opinions should get together and see if they can make baby opinions. Then we can watch them grow up into God-honoring opinions and won’t that be better for AMERICA?

Another friend said (through unsolicited advice), “When you’re in leadership, sometimes you have to give up your right to certain things about yourself. Like if you were a second-amendment nut, as a leader in Christian community, you might let that go so you can be a better servant and avoid offending people.” Except that I know for a fact that several people at our church work for the NRA. We have Republican candidates, members of Congress, Senators, local representatives going to our church. We may have a few Democrats in office who attend, but they are seriously outnumbered and out-talked. The majority always wants the minority to give up their bit so “we can all by happy.” That never, ever works in the long run. It breeds contentment among those who need a little discomfort and resentment among the put-upon.

There’s this sense that you shouldn’t be partisan, but “partisan” doesn’t apply to political conservatives because that’s just “good Biblical values.” I’d like to vote the Bible (whatever that means. Seriously, because I can’t wrap our craptastic electoral options around the whole of that statement). I can’t parse out the “love your neighbors, love the alien, love the jailed, love the sick,” “don’t kill,” “don’t oppress the poor,” from the “knit you together in your mother’s womb” like that. For me, voting is always awful. I identify with Democratic values but I can’t stomach what mainline Democrats do to the right to life for the unborn (or to the elderly or disabled; hello, Massachusetts, looking at your face right now). I can’t handle either party’s commitment to war or capital punishment or their lack of commitment to campaign finance reform. But I would like this country to be a little greener, and a little less mean to those who live hard lives. That sounds sentimental. Probably. Gee, I give a flip. How awful! Blame it on the bleeding heart and whatnot.

I believe in just laws, but I think more often than not, justice has a high price tag in America: for the poor, for people of color. Reading and praying over the two major parties’ platforms, I don’t see the Republicans trying to do anything about those problems (evicting people from America is not helpful). Voting on abortion alone has elected many a Republican, even given them majorities at times, and abortion is still available on demand in America (and that demand is made higher when we pass immoral budgets that neglect the poor at best or, at their worst, punish working women and mothers). Our churches have been sold a bill of goods on that, and I wish people would start to see it. I’m not happy with Democrats, but evangelicals are frequently too happy with Republicans. But maybe all this talk of unhappiness is depressing my readers…

Know who else had some constant sorrows? Jesus. Isaiah 53:3 and Luke 19:41-43, peeps.

I have friends who will hear out my rants and affirm me. Some affirm me just by listening and tolerating it (especially if they whole-heartedly disagree). Some affirm by respectfully arguing back (those are the BEST). Some affirm by agreeing (also BEST) and being thankful that they are introverted and feel no need to tell the world where they stand, Amen (cheaters). These friends keep me going, because honestly, I live in fear that every new relationship, every new Bible study, every new opportunity for me to become a visible or authoritative figure/teacher/leader in our church will be met with an “Oh, we judged too quickly. She snuck in under the radar.” Or, “we knew she thought that stuff, but we didn’t know she was going to talk about it. A lot. Ugh!!”

I expressed to a few people that I’m close to that after much contemplation and prayer, I decided to vote for the President’s re-election. I’m not stoked enough about it to work a phone bank, and I don’t know if I could ever be comfortable giving money to a pro-choice campaign. I’ve worked too long against abortion to do that (though in the past I might have been willing). Thankfully, there are pro-life Democrats to support, who promote a whole-life or a “consistent life” perspective. But right now, I’ve examined my conscience, and as 1 John 3:21 says, ” Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God…” (ESV) I feel okay about voting this way. I have friends who don’t feel okay about it or who can’t bring themselves to choose either candidate and are exercising other options like not voting or voting third party.  I’d never encourage them to violate their consciences, but I might ask why, so I can be sure I’m keeping my own conscience as informed as possible.

As much as I’ve said here about being an out and outspoken Democrat, that tale is only partly true. You see, I’ve been clear about my beliefs to people I know well. I told breakfast lady that morning in part because I wasn’t sure if she’d ever MET a Democrat and thought we all had horns or tails or something.  I didn’t expect her eggs to scramble right before my eyes. But usually, this is third date information. Once you know me and like me enough to give me your number or prayer request or choose to friend me on Facebook (where I keep everything on the record and unfiltered for my own accountability), then you get the full scoop (and can defriend or filter at will). But if you’re waving me into the church parking lot, or signing up for a Bible study I’m leading, I won’t tell you. Certainly not. Once I do, you might know and bring on the hate, or worse, keep it inside and filter everything I say, teach, or do through the “Well, she would say that, she’s one of those liberals” lens. And while I have good reason to be cautious and reluctant, I’ve learned recently that all that hesitation is plain old fear. And when I’m scared, I become a very judgmental person. I decide who gets to know what based on what I think they will do with the information. That’s my right to self-preservation, you see. So I can become the very person I’m afraid of, if that’s what it takes to be secure.

But I have a Preserver. I have a Defender and I have security knowing that whatever doubts other people have about my salvation, my faith, yea, even my sanity, it doesn’t matter if I’m standing open-handed and open-armed before God.  I don’t have to be afraid of people (this is not, note to self, license to be a total ass). I also have friends scared to say what they think in their churches or mine because they don’t want to receive the blows. On the B side, I have acquaintances who go around telling people they can’t believe evangelicals would ever be Democrats. I can’t afford to hide out in selfishness nor for safety’s sake.

So, after a little consult from partisan and non-partisan friends alike, I launched a minivan campaign. I told these trusted counselors I got a prObama bumper sticker in the mail (for free, no money exchanged hands) and I was scared to put it on the car. My husband threatened to march out and do it himself. (He’s a newer devotee so his zeal has yet to be beaten out of him.) My friends were all supportive, collectively chanting “Do it, do it!” in my head. I think some of them were looking at it like a social experiment, waiting on the Republican T-Rex at our church to take down my minivan like it was a tethered goat.

Well, I’m a sucker for a dare (emphasis on the “sucker”), so I did it:

EEKS! A mom with an opinion (and the minivan equivalent of Malt-O-Meal cereal). Look out!

So far, no bruhahas in the parking lot. I was encouraged when I pulled up last week and saw another Obama sticker in the sea of Romneys, even if it was parked in the ambiguous territory between our church and a nearby business. “Maybe that car goes to our church, too!” I thought, proving all the conservatives right about the failure of public schools because cars themselves do not go to church. At least not on Sundays when the people go.

After Tuesday, I’ll remove this sticker-on-magnet and replace it with my pro-life Democrats sticker. I want to let this election go, but keep the pressure on a little for our church, me included, to make room for people who have different opinions. I want us to not live in fear of each other, and to not instantly judge one another. If that means I’m the goat, then I’ll be the goat for now, because one day, I’m going to be a sheep:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46, NIV)**

**A friend once jokingly tried to tell me once that the parable above illustrated why those on the left were going to Hell. Jokingly. It’s funny because it’s mean to Democrats. Ha ha. I responded that if you’re facing Jesus, then His left is your right and vice versa. My response was ineffective and unfunny because 1) I was playing the same meanness game my friend was and, again, only funny if you’re a liberal loser, and, 2) no one gets that whole stage right/stage left thing, even actors. Sometimes my jokes get too elaborate and I lose people. Then I try to explain it and it just gets embarrassing, but I still believe in it, so I save it and put it on a blog because I have that kind of love/hate relationship with myself.

Blue Like Jazz the DVD

August 23, 2012

Man, I know I promise to write y’all, but this is just embarrassing.

I call this “Blue Like Jazz: The DVD” because mamas who love movies have to live at the Redbox. Seriously, I may actually own the thing outright if we rent “The Muppet Movie” one. more. time. Redbox should adopt a layaway policy. Maybe I’ll submit that next time they text me a free code.

But I digress…

We have this way in Beckydom of deciding what’s Christian and what’s not. Often it’s a determination made by art’s “family-friendliness.” We say this is faith-based and that over there is secular. For example, once in a rental car, I had the pleasure of hearing Chris Tomlin cover U2′s “Where the Streets Have no Name.” Before I’m flogged for implying U2 isn’t a Christian band, I’ll say THEY ARE. THEY ARE. But I’ve never before heard any of their music, that song included, on Christian radio until Tomlin consecrated it with his worship-leader vocals. It’s a song about Heaven by Christians and yet in one case it’s Christian enough and in another it’s not. I was at a concert once where I heard Jars of Clay do an unplugged version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” so…

Okay, that was just mean.  My apologies.

I thought about all this the other day when I rented the Miller movie. I had a friend recommend “Blue Like Jazz” after he saw it in the theater and he mentioned it on Facebook with this description: “might be uncomfortable for typical ‘Christian movie’ watchers.”

Now I read the book. Liked it. Made me feel a little less alone as a Not Becky, but it wasn’t as life-changing for me as it was for some of my younger Christian hipster friends. I had no idea how they were going to make it into a movie. I could barely remember the narrative parts of the book and even what I remembered didn’t seem to fit the standard movie formula.

There’s rain, but no singing. No kissing, either. But plenty of side hugs.

I really liked the film. Sure, there was a lot of drinking, swearing, and running around with pagan sinners, but that’s college for everyone, right? No? It was still definitely a Christian movie. And I like that Miller and friends were allowed to go there (independent fundraising as indicated by the crazy double-columned credits at the end. You gave a small amount, you got producer credit. Probably my favorite part of the movie.)

Without spoiling the whole bit, I’ll say the one issue I had with it is that despite it’s wrestling with an honest-to-goodness crisis of theology and, more to it, ecclesiology, the resolution of the crisis was unsatisfying. The book seemed to focus on what Miller had gotten wrong about people in general, and evangelism in particular. That Christianity was more than cleaning up your act and breaking the news to people that they were hell-bound (perhaps considering getting far enough out of your social circle to even just do that).

The movie, probably for the purpose of turning it into an about-face personal narrative, makes it a little more about Miller’s desire to fit into a secular crowd. While that conflict was a big part of the book, it wasn’t the whole lot of it. In the end, the main character almost apologizes for everything that made him interesting for the bulk of the movie.

What I liked about Jazz the book, and Miller’s talks of “story” and faith when I’ve seen him in person, is that he often challenges that arbitrarily drawn line between sacred and secular. That was part of the movie, and I’m sure that’s what my friend was alluding to in his review. But rather than pressing the wider audience to consider if their Gospel would be open to, say, tear-soaked midnight heart-to-hearts with a lesbian in their dorm room, the film ends just where the book got good: with Miller confessing his sins to people used to hearing Christians condemn theirs. That may have been the point, for all of us to go and do likewise. It doesn’t matter Miller’s instincts in that scene “worked” as a soul-winning tactic. What matters is he was honest. Perhaps that’s the challenge he hoped to leave us with in the end. I just wish he could have found a way to preserve the weight of the book’s subcultural critique. Limitations of the form, I guess.

Regardless of any lukewarm feelings I have on that subject, I’d recommend it and I hope they make more like it. As projects of this nature get more democratically-funded and less studio-controlled, I think there is hope we might see more films that are less “family-friendly” and a bit more varied in their address of the Christian experience.

Speaking of confessions and forgiveness, I really am sorry about that Miley Cyrus prank.  Link of contrition:

Placeholder/Update/Re-Entry

June 27, 2012

::crickets chirping::

Rather than launch into an exhaustive apology for lack of posting since, errrr, APRIL, I’ll just say, I have a doctor’s note and expect to be excused.  When we last saw our hero, she was still reeling a little from the news that she would have to have her hip replaced at 33 and 3/4.  Zoinks!

We’re going to fast forward a little and skip all of the grueling medical details (you can easily get the worst of it by Googling “Percocet side effects”).  And lucky for you, I posted all my whiny “Physical therapy is hard” updates on Facebook. Though, I will share with you one of the best parts of my experience (and by best I mean annoying, frustrating, hot, tight, and itchy):

I am officially the largest Ooompa Loompa ever.

I’ve been sitting in tall chairs and watching lots of TV (highly recommend USA’s White Collar and Aaron Sorkin’s latest is just meh but I’m hopeful).  Despite the fact that the pain meds have prompted almost daily weepy spells, I’ve been in good spirits.  God is faithful even when the circumstances of life bust my butt. This week, I was reminded by the great Oswald Chambers that sorrow and suffering are helpful teachers.  As someone who has been struggling with feeling “benched” for this season of my family’s life, even my life, these words were a healing salve, offering purpose to my pains (emphasis mine):

Sorrow removes a great deal of a person’s shallowness, but it does not always make that person better. Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be this way is immaterial. The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.

It’s only been three weeks since the surgery, but I feel like I’m coming a little out of the fog.  This week, I was liberated from the compression stockings shown above.  I’ve been answering emails, writing for other people, and venturing out into public where I get to drive those motor carts through the store. Things are getting better.

I even have a shabby to chic before and after picture:

Before

After

My orthopedist told me that he had to install the smallest parts he had ever used because I have such small bones. *hotness*  I’m actually a little upset about that because looking at the size of my thigh, I was hoping that femur accounted for more than 15%, but we’ll tackle that situation once I’m able to cross my legs again without dislocating something.

The point is, I’m healing pretty well and hopefully I’ll be back on the blog soon.  I’ve really missed you all and I know I owe you an adventurous tale about how I became PTA President.  Something to look forward to while you wait.  With that, I leave you with a picture of the awesome get-well mug my dad gave me.

Now I just need a Lasso of Truth to go with this.

Hip to be Square**

April 13, 2012

As any of you started following me during last month’s re-organization challenge now know, I frequently bite off more than I can chew.  The last two weeks have been no exception to that.  For one, I went from considering volunteering to be PTA committee chair next year to committing to serve as President of the whole organization.  WHAT.  I’m sure much comedy will ensue from that appointment.  It’s pretty hilarious to think about it even now, but we’ll save all the fun for that once I’m actually elected.

This week, I discovered I need major orthopedic surgery.  And soon. So, ya know, busy as usual.

Around the time I was penning my last post, I started struggling to walk.  At first, I just thought it was a flare or the old leg “actin’ up” as we say down South.  I’ve had problems with my hips before (almost any person with rheumatoid arthritis has).  But this pain was worse. It didn’t come and go like usual. Heat, ice, rest, exertion, nothing was getting rid of it.  This pain was here to stay.  I saw several doctors and after a week of searching for answers (or relief, sweet Lord, RELIEF) I hobbled into a hip specialist’s office. He took a few x-rays and told me the scary news that I would need a total hip replacement in my right hip. Total total.  While I know well that many people with RA (especially people like me who have had it for 30+ years) have major joints replaced, I’ve lived long in denial that it would happen to me anytime soon. I had a plastic joint installed in my little finger when I was a senior in high school, so I’d decided that would do for a few decades (because stuff like that is up to me, HUBRIS!).  A bone spur here, a little something there, I could handle.  I just didn’t think that at age 33, mothering three kids, I was going to have to handle this.  But I am.

And before you give me the “at least you HAVE a leg to complain about!” speech, I know many people have lived through worse.  I’ve lived through worse (I think).  And I hate it when we all start making ourselves feel better about our situation by going, “well I don’t have it as bad as that sad sack,” but there is a need for perspective.  It probably won’t take more than a few months to recover, and in the span of 30 years with a good hip, that seems like small payment.  Still, it kinda puts a big old wrinkle in, well, everything.

For instance, it’s already completely altered my conversations.  I’m inundating my husband with what-if scenarios and “we have to figure this all out right now before you finish making those tacos!” talks.  I’m occasionally salting conversations with my kids with phrases like, “remember how Mommy used crutches last year after her foot surgery?” Because, yeah, last year I did that and I had a different surgery, same foot, the year before.  Come to think of it, every year for the last three years I’ve had something surgically altered or enhanced and it’s been on the right foot, or now, right leg.  It seems as if we’re stuck in some kind of medical malady loop.  Like a musculoskeletal version of Groundhog Day without the “I Got You, Babe” refrain (thank the good Lord).

Geez, I think that this blog has quickly gone from what I intended it to be (a silly/thoughtful Christian mommy blog) to an infirmity blog. Hooray! Because people love those. Nobody can turn down a good infirmity story.  People just love to hear about your tests.  And they love to see all of the photographs taken during the process like this one:

Yo, Shakira, my hips don't lie either. They tell the brutal truth. Like a slam book.

A friend of mine who had been through the drama of the tiny finger joint installation when I was in high school said, “Oh you’ll have more plastic in your body.”  It will actually be mostly metal, so I’m thinking less like Barbie more like Terminator.

I'm also coming to terms with the fact that Arnold is featured prominently on this blog, even though I'm totally team Shriver.

I learned some lessons from that surgery I had last year.  I went to buy some hand weights today to work on upper body/arm strength over the next month or so (I’m coming for you, infernal crutches!).  I’ve gotten better about letting others take care of me and take the load around the house.  What I will probably never get over (withstanding some miraculous transformation of character) is worrying that I’m causing them all too much trouble or that I’m ruining my children with some future “that was the time of year Mama always took to her bed” memoir.  A friend encouraged me that this is how good young adult literature is born.  I take heart in that since I’ll throw over anything I’m reading that’s scholarly or grown-up for a good YA trilogy (which usually comes in fours, weird.  Still working on the math there.).

I’ll be on my butt for quite a while. According to the internet, this is where I’m headed:

I exaggerate not when I say it's as if a sketch artist was recreating my grandma's spot in her nursing home. Minus the large-print address book, which I probably won't need since I rarely keep up with correspondence anymore.

It’s entirely possible that Pinterest will explode because of all the traffic I’ll be bringing it.  Look out single girls planning imaginary weddings! ‘Cause nothing spawns an overwhelming stint of wishful thinking like being stuck upstairs by your bedroom window while all the other moms spend their summer outside playing in the sprinkler.  Mothers don’t do that where you live?  That’s a horrible neighborhood.  You should move.  We have a detachable shower head, so I’ll make do, I suppose.  And I’ll have a bunch of torturous physical therapy to do.  Maybe someone will buy me this for recovery:

My kind of "walker"

One thing I might do, and this is still a might, is actually chronicle some of this “journey” (doesn’t that sound inspiring?  All the infirmity blogs are supposed sound like this, I think).  I’ve been digging on the web for over a week trying to find someone like me who’s been through this and I’ve come up with many blogs by active people talking about their parents’ hip surgery.  Not helpful for my situation.  I also found one relatively young woman who blogged about hip replacement (still 15 years or so my senior), but I really want to know its possible to go through this as a family and be okay.  Alright, I know I can trust God for that, but let’s see YOU do it.  I want to but it’s not that easy. This is one of those situations where Contemporary Christian music can make you feel better (because it’s encouraging to hear God is with you) yet worse (because as I just said, it’s not that easy, and it sounds easy when it’s put to POP MUSIC).

If I’m honest, what I really want to know as a person about to undergo this (you know, besides the whole future) is:  how much does it hurt? I’ve had surgeries before and I know the fun and the blissful sleep of the good medicines.  I’m used to hurt, even surgical pain, but this is the biggest joint you can have installed and it seems like that would smart…a lot.  So I might come back every now and them and tell y’all how much it hurts. Not in some graphic “here’s a photo of the blood-crusted scarrrrr!” kind of way, and not on some stupid completely subjective scale.

Again I defer to the much funnier (and more profane if you like that sort of thing) blog, Hyperbole and a Half.

My chronicle of chronic illness probably won’t consume this space, because after all, I still have mouthy opinions about almost everything else and those can be even funnier (at least to me) when I’m on pain meds.  For those of you who just pop by to hear me go off about the latest Kirk Cameron project, I’ll try to be here with that still, but you might have to put up with Sickly Becky for a while.  Alas, that’s just the broken, beat-up package that fun comes in sometimes.

It seems one lesson I’m always re-learning (Inspirational Infirmity Blog points for “lessons!”) is that my disease really is a part of my story.  It makes me the resilient and compassionate person I am.  It also makes me the neurotic and snide…well, you can get that last bit on ABC this season.  Point is, it’s an ongoing thing for me and it’s natural that I would talk about it and identify with it, so I should just let go of that and stop trying to pretend (like I always do, mostly for the sake of healthy people who don’t get it) that it’s not a big deal.  I’m a Christian mommy blogger with an infirmity.  It’s going to come up. And that’s okay…

Senator Al Franken FTW, ladies and gentlemen.

**I couldn’t think of a decent title this week, so I went with a pun using the worst Huey Lewis and The News song ever recorded.  If you try to write a comment defending them on this, you may be reported for internet crimes.  Just sayin’.

Project Simplify Gone Awry: Week 4, The Finish Line (or the Swedish line)

March 31, 2012

Another crazy week, another late entry.

I dedicated this week to catching up and finishing well.  Or more like: errrr, well…finishing.  Going into the week I still had that closet to tackle and I was hoping to accomplish a couple other things: 1) read something 2) clean out a few drawers in a few places.

Muahaha! Remember ME?!!! (You can't hear, but I'm screaming on the inside)

We had an off week with Batman.  After two weeks of telling people what an awesome sleeper he was, we got our comeuppance.  Early on in the week, he woke up around midnight (or 3:00 am) and just started hollerin’.  Our Kindergartner ended up in our bed almost every night.  Which is bittersweet : sweet because when he sleeps I can still see my first baby in his expressions and bitter because a five-year-old’s knee really smarts when it hits your boob.

Somewhere around Wednesday, our big boy asked when Batman was going home.  :/ The honeymoon had ended, and he wanted a full night’s sleep.  I can’t blame him. Thursday night was the worst.  It had the hubs and I recalling the big boy’s epic three AM yell-a-thon in our old apartment when he was a baby. An angry upstairs neighbor came banging on the door breathing threats and speaking on behalf of the whole building (don’t know if there was a meeting and he was the assigned delegate or if he just presumed this authority.  Didn’t really matter because it scared the crap out of us and did the job either way!).

At this point, it’s hard to tell what the sleep-buster might be.  Batman had a birth family visit this week, so it could be separation anxiety.  It could be that he missed a few morning naps because of our regularly scheduled programming, and that got him off.  He’s going to walk any day, so it could be a developmental thing.  He’s been hungrier lately, so maybe we should up his volume or add a feeding before bed.  Our Kindergartner could be talking in his sleep and waking him up.  He’s been in a pack-and-play for a while, perhaps a crib would fix this. I HAVE NO IDEA.

The challenge of this situation is to keep pressing buttons until something works, but only press a button or two at a time so we can isolate the determining variable.  (We should collect and save all this info for future science fair projects.)  Thankfully, the kids have spring break this week, so we can do a little experimenting without it affecting their schooling.  For now, we’re all (with the exception of my daughter who could sleep through a tornado) walking around like zombies.  So what do you do with a sleep-deprived family?  You take them all to Ikea!

Trusting in the meatball to keep our family together.

It was a successful trip (and by successful I mean every one of the three children whined and complained throughout).  We got our daughter a new bed in the hopes that moving Batman into what was her crib-made-toddler bed-made-back-into-crib we could get everybody into a more permanent sleeping situation.

In preparation for this round of musical beds, I cleaned out the closet and put everyone’s clothes where they should go.  We turned the Kindergartner’s bed around to expose the drawers we’d been hiding underneath since we moved into our house four years ago.  The boy was two when he got that bed and immediately deduced that he fit perfectly inside an empty drawer and could close it from inside.  In keeping with my motherhood motto: “Our family will not be on the news for crap like that,” we turned the bed so the drawers would be inaccessible against the wall.  Now that everyone is more mature (we hope), I felt safe to put all Batman’s clothes in those two drawers so he could, ya know, have his stuff in his room.

Batman's drawers. I wonder what kind of weirdos will come to the blog with those search terms...

With those clothes gone, I was able to sort through the rest of that mess in my girl’s closet.  I boxed some of it up for consigning in the fall and then another lot of it went into a bin for a yard sale we’ll have some day.  I managed to read something this week, thanks in part to the peer pressure I’ve been experiencing from friends on GoodReads, and I got through the better part of Tsh’s Organized Simplicity.  Somewhere in the middle, she suggests combing the house for a yard sale and setting a date for that sucker.  I say in all seriousness that her common sense advice there is exactly what I needed to hear.  All this stuff I’m complaining about all the time could be GONE.  And we might make $5 doing it.  Hallelujah!

Just look at all the space! You could even change a baby in there! Not our baby, he's enormous and changing him is like rodeo-wrestling a terrified/pissed-off calf, but somebody else's baby, sure!

I even marked the consignment box and wrote “Fall” on it so I would have the hope that it, too, would leave my frikkin’ house one day.  Glorious cleaning!  I hate it with an undying malice, but I love the results (even if it’s just one piece of one room)!  I was in a state of hyper-exhausted euphoria after that and decided to go after a drawer or two while my girl was at preschool and Batman took a nap.

If you haven't read this blog, read it right after you finish reading mine. It's waaaay better.

I decided my next victim, I mean uhhh, project, yeah PROJECT, would be the drawers in my bedroom.  Not the clothes drawers, those I shove underwear, etc. in and shut really fast so none of the socks can escape.  I went for the nightstand drawers and the drawers of my grandmother’s writing desk:

Hair things, nail polish, and Bible verses. It's as if Samson and Delilah share a nightstand. #Biblehumor #whyamIusinghashtagsonablog

Aren't you impressed with my reading selections and new found neatness? I'm so hip.

This drawer is the dumping ground of my reading/writing conveyor: all the journals I’ve written in (for about 3 pages) and all the books I’ve read halfway in the last year (because they got bumped for books I placed ON TOP of the nightstand). This is also where I keep my mega-hot wrist and hand splints.  You know you want one.  Know what *I* want?  A wrist splint that looks like Wonder Woman’s arm cuffs.  That would be awesome.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is no match for Diana Prince.

I’m not disclosing the contents of my writing desk because I’m only halfway through that project and, to be honest, it’s probably going to get backburnered because of this whole “We have to build a bed from scratch” thing on tap today.  Don’t you just love Ikea?  They lure you in with cheap prices and Swedish meatball deliciousness and then you go home with three boxes full o’bed that you have to put together with stick-figured pictographs as your guide. *sigh*

I’m just thrilled I made it through this whole month of simplification/complication.  It’s probably going to be a contested one, but for now I’ll take the win.

Happy April, y’all!

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