Normal?

Out of kindness a few people who sometimes comment on my posts ¬†have refrained from actually posting the ones about my near-perfect son¬†and just tell me. Bragging is not flattering, nor is it becoming. I really didn’t think it was bragging… so maybe I am deluded. Anyway, I just had an opportunity to spend a few hours this week with him (even cancelled a retreat) and the scales have fallen from my eyes, so to speak.

He tells me he has book-marked this blog so maybe I’m walking a tightrope here but my balance is pretty good so I’m going for it. He may not read it anyway.

My son has been dating a girl in his new hometown for I guess a couple of years. Her family are crazy about him and he is fitting in with them well. While we visited he listed their many remarkable attributes, among which was that one scary word: normal. Has he said stuff about me I need to live up to? Or live down? Or nothing at all? So where does this leave me? 

Out of the normal.

I am truly happy for him. Really. Sure, for several years after my divorce from his dad I hoped to remarry but as it sank in that it likely was not in my cards I began to rely more and more on good friendships and God. I began to understand the will of God more and to find joy in life, unattached.

But this isn’t about me. Or is it?

There are many things I searingly remember about single-parenthood that I wish I could undo. What parent, single or no, doesn’t have a memory or two like that? But I find, after all my efforts to apologize, sincerely, not just to get in my son’s good graces but because I am truly remorseful, ¬†I am clearly disconnected.

That’s ok. I hope whatever he has found in this family, who truly are good and nice people, is real and permanent for him. What normal¬†parent doesn’t want happiness for their child, whatever their history? I’ve met this girl’s family, and liked them even if we do not have much in common. I truly hope this is something that will endure as long as he and their daughter do. Because for me, I can see a rift. Not unpleasant but certainly a parting of something that I thought would never come undone.

Just goes to show how capricious, unpredictable, and interesting life and relationships can be.

And normal.

The President’s Wife

OK, so this isn’t about Michelle Obama, or any other US president’s wife. And it happened years ago but it’s one of those things you never forget and when you remember it, it seems like it just happened even though it was more than 30 years ago.

When I was married it wasn’t too long before it was blatantly apparent I married the wrong guy. Oh, he was a really nice person and all but we just had nothing in common, least of all love. So I set about pretending I could make it good by emulating stuff my parents (who were a great match) did. Didn’t work, but this is one story that came of my efforts.

Early in their marriage when my brother and I were still pretty small our folks did a lot of traveling. I have more stories about the sitters they left us with but that’s another blog. One of these trips was through Mexico, a place I could only be dragged dead today, where Dad had a great friend and business associate, my mother had a good friend from up north, and they threw in a trip to the Mayan ruins.

My ex-husband and I went in spring, over the equinox which had a significance to the Mayan people. They built their pyramids so that, at exactly noon on that day the shadow of the steep and narrow steps to the top of one of the pyramids at Uxmal took on the form of a snake which was one of the gods they worshipped. As it happened we were at this spot on that day. I noticed one area with a good view of the site was pretty sparse with people so I walked over to it. Can’t remember where my ex-husband was but he was not with me. Suddenly I am surrounded by many short-statured men in drab green uniforms waving their arms with guns in their hands and shouting at me something in Spanish. I speak limited French.

Noticing they were collectively gesturing for me to move in a certain direction, still not understanding what I had done, I complied and edged along the monument against which I had been leaning. I spotted my now very nervous-looking ex-husband and walked over to join him. 

The small group of soldiers disappeared around the side of the monument and momentarily reappeared, escorting a lady I later learned was the wife of the Mexican president who wanted to stand in the same excellent vantage point I had chosen.

We did see the shadow of the snake against the stairs, but I don’t recall much else of that portion of the trip.

There was the most interesting experience where I drank the water in Mexico but again, that is another blog.

 

Dew fall

For some reason a few weeks ago on an early morning run with my dog I was irritated at something. It is hard to remember what it was now, and hard for me to understand how, at that hour of the day before anything has actually happened or even before the first rays of sun that I could have found something that was annoying. Remnants of a dream maybe, or something unresolved– whatever it was I was pushing through our run as though I had to get to something terribly important shortly after which I did not, And to add further irritation Lily was stopping more frequently than usual to sniff at something.

It was on one of these stops that I heard it. First I thought it might be some night creature foraging in its last few moments before dawn, or a deer wandering through the woods but then I realized: it was dew fall.

Dew drops accumulating so much on the remnants of leaves on the trees that they become heavy to the point that the leaves release each droplet and they patter to the dry, crusty leaves beneath. So I stopped and listened. Time stopped with me. My frustration disappeared. Something I could not control yet so natural as to happen whether or not I wanted it to or even noticed. Something that happened outside my realm of wants, needs, thoughts, hopes, dreams or irritations. And it happened whether or not I was there to share in its perpetual, gentle sound.

The ground, dry and cracked, was even being nourished by something so slight as collected water droplets of dew. Like a blessing, just by hearing I became nourished, too.

 

 

Birthdays

Remember when you were little and your birthday was coming? You suddenly rose to celebrity status. Days leading up to that golden moment everybody wanted to sit next to you, everybody wanted you to sleep over, or come to their house to play, or give you their brownie from lunch. It was like your specialness glow would shine on them. Then the day of your party suddenly you were genuine royalty! Even the family dog revered you as she watched you eat every crumb of that birthday cake, each shiny droplet of ice cream.

So fast forward… birthdays are still important but they begin to be landmarks– ¬†your driver’s license one, then your “legal age” one, then your voting one (or are these the same year now, 21?? I forget). Then 25 is a biggie and then the decade ones.

And then you may even have a family, so now your own little ones’ days are even more special.

But later on you begin to notice you are more the focus of old-age jokes, especially after 30. There is the over-the-hill at 40, the half-life mark at 50, only to degenerate more and more after that until maybe 70. At 70 you begin to be revered again, and if you are lucky to go even beyond this each year begins to be its own landmark again. 75, 76, 79, 80? 83? 87? 90?? Oh, wow…

Now along with the reverence comes those younger faces peering into yours to make sure your eyes have not clouded over with the vagaries of dementia, or senility or some such nonsense. Your age is no longer a benchmark for amazing health and acuity at that age¬†but the possibility of an early onset of something horribly debilitating, at least in “their” minds.

It seems to me that, those of us who were non-conforming individualists all of our lives are likely to be scrutinized more closely now. Especially since we usually marched to the beat of a definitely different drum.

And we still may hear it, however faintly.

Job 12:12; Ephesians 4:23-24

 

They’re so smart, that they aren’t

Have you ever known anyone, even when truth is right in their face, they stubbornly stick to what they believe is the truth? Won’t even consider the plausibility of anything else. Have you ever seen anyone who, because of their own envy, bitterness, fear or whatever refuses to give credibility or even value to a kindness or a good thing said or done because they would have to concede that kindness or goodness to someone else? Or even that it was something they wish they’d done or said but did not because they can’t see past their own self-inflicted limits? ¬†Even though that deed, that kind word, that act was no more than an offering of generosity or hope which requires no pay-back, no applause?

I don’t get it. To me people who are so wrapped up in their own selves, their own (generally) imagined walls they miss everything. They speak of tolerance, they rail against what they think is lack of acceptance yet they cannot see beyond their own intolerance! It doesn’t make any sense.

Reality check?

Take the Values Voter Summit. Several legislators spoke of the integrity of America. The principles and values America was founded upon. Justice, equality, pursuit of happiness, fairness, our freedoms. And yet the Huffington Post said the gathering was pitiable. Worse still the Washington Post avowed those at the summit claimed to “own God”.

Own God?

Were they speaking of the Creator of all mankind, all that is, seen and unseen? The God who loves each individual being on the face of the Earth whether they love, or even believe in, Him or not?

Nobody can own God! What a silly thing to say. I can’t even imagine what prompted anyone to perceive this.

God cannot be bought, sold out, manipulated, coerced, flummoxed, deceived, or fooled.

But those who know Him, His love, grace, peace and truth do know that God owns us in our freely giving our wills to Him. And humbly asking Him to forgive us. His Son Jesus died for us and overcame sin, death and hell for us by rising to life from that horrible crucified death. He owns us in our believing this about Jesus: that, because He died for us, all of us, in the place we deserved to be as the sinners that we are, by His own grace, even the worst of our sins are forgiven. We know and believe this of Him.

So we humbly spit out pride. We seek Him. We find and revel in His grace, forgiveness, and love. We praise Him.

Own God? 

2 Chronicles 7:14

Popular?

Used to be, if a person was known to always tell the truth, be reliable because they did what they said they would do and meant the things they said, they were popular. You could always count on them. But they were too humble to really care they were popular, or too busy, or threw the accolades back onto someone else not to make that person diminish with pride but to encourage them.

What happened? Now people say what they think people want to hear, or want them to say to agree with them, whether it is true to them (or true at all) or not. But once the person has compromised him/herself by supporting whatever the cause or individual it was that wanted their support, however false, it or they disappear! So the person who lied, or compromised or however you’d like to think it for whatever or whomever, is there having to deal with what they did to themselves for something they did not even believe in. They have to undo it. Or live with it which means becoming something they aren’t? No. They have to come back to who they really are, if they are lucky and still have sight of it.

Integrity. That was a word that even though it was not often heard it was a coveted word. But it does not apply to a person who lies, or is not known to be true to themselves or anything else.

When did all this start? Why is popularity so important and why has its focus gone to things that are so meaningless? Is it insecurity? But that which is popular- glamour, youth, wealth, celebrity, style -is not permanent! Money comes and goes, youth fades, styles change, glamour, well that’s always been a matter of opinion, and celebrity is so fleeting no one can be assured of it for very long no matter how well they know how to work it. So why are all these things so important?

What about friendships? I mean the real ones that don’t depend on how you look with a certain person or what that person can do for you but someone you care about because of who s/he is?

If you have all you need what more could you possibly want, and why would you want it?

Just be.  Be true.

And be sure it’s you.

Habakkuk 3:17-19; Psalm 46:10

Philanthropy

I am taking an Economics class, online, through a college in Michigan. My dad was an economist and one of the most level-headed, wise and sensible people I have ever known. And very generous of heart. Though I do not pretend to become as he, I am learning something about free markets and why they are better for promoting liberty and prosperity for all people.

For instance, one thing that makes benevolence work is the freedom to give. Or not. Take that away and what happens is someone else gives your money for you. Therein lies a gross imbalance. Say for instance your primary focus (assuming you are a benefactor) in giving is to those who are truly unable to support themselves. I don’t mean here those people that have figured out ways to exploit welfare or other entitlement systems (which are nothing more than holding tanks for our hard-earned tax revenues), but those who have been disabled, or simply fell through a crack somehow and you want to support them. Well, what if some central entity got control of your means of serving these people and decided they wanted to give it to a faction other than those whom you support? You likely would not like it. It happens even now through spending of our tax revenue, revenue from tax on corporate revenue production, etc.

Take corporations. They are not evil in and of themselves, nor are so-called rich people. But find a few who some determine only give a small percentage of their wealth and their perceived selfishness is blanketed to anyone who has money. Is that fair? Where do you think your money comes from if you have a 401K, a savings account or an IRA or any other interest-bearing funds? Those funds are invested in these corporations, bonds or money funds that bring more money and help your retirement funds grow, thereby giving you more money to spend as you choose, if allowed to be productive in a free society.

So liberty, the freedom to give, abundantly, begrudgingly or not at all, the freedom to receive interest from investments, the freedom to spend or to save. The freedom to tell someone else, no, I choose to give to something other than what you wish to use my funds for, the freedom for individual preference. 

In no way do I pretend to be an economist, but I choose liberty.

Matthew 25:15-30

Imaginings

When we are younger, most of us have wild imaginations. If we are fortunate enough to have parents who understand this and care about us, then those alligators under the bed or monsters in the closet are obliterated by the tenderness and assurance of our parents’ protections. If we do not have this… well that’s another blog.

Then we get older. We still have our imaginations (we hope) and, consequently it can run wild to the good or to the frightening. For some reason last night (why does it always happen at night??) mine ran to the fearful. For a time there was utterly not one thing I could do to rein it in. Nothing. It ran like a wildfire, rampant from bad to worse to the unimaginable. When I realized I had no control over this I recited Galations 5:22– “The works of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control.” I was hoping (* praying *) for the last particular fruit.

Now, I am a person who, though I have an unrelenting sweet-tooth, has really begun in the last several years to work hard at eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. I don’t eat fast foods. Ever (well, unless the peach milkshakes are in season at Chick-fil-a, but that was 2 years ago!!). No McDonalds, No Wendy’s No Taco Bell, No Hardee’s (or whatever it calls itself now). Except I do have a friend who likes to meet occasionally to catch up on all our gossip at a Wendy’s or Jersey Mike’s. But it’s not a regular part of my routine I guess I am saying. But I do eat a lot of fruits- I love summers when peaches, plums and pears are in season. And berries- blueberries which I used to really not like, or blackberries, even though you can buy these frozen now too. And I have learned that Brussells sprouts and eggplants are pretty good, if you roast them with a lot of onions, olive oil and garlic. So I am trying to feed my body with healthier foods.

My mind and my spirit can’t be neglected either, is I guess what my imagination was doing yesterday. Reminding me. When my thoughts seem to take on a life of their own, I need to take them “captive to make (it) obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

I will sleep better.

Tuna

My son is without question, unparalleled for a young man his age, in generosity. I am not saying this because I am his mother and want the reflected accolades, nor because I am very proud of him, which I am. He truly is a very giving person. Let there be contention over who pays what for dinner and he’ll foot the whole bill. And he doesn’t do this to be well-thought of or praised, or just to settle the dust. Well, maybe some of the dust-settling. And he’s not a fool with his money. He is very careful. Just generous.

And it’s not just with his money. He’s generous with his time. He will help anyone with anything if it is in his power or expertise to do so. Last winter he came home for a few days at Christmas and transferred my entire iTunes library to a hard drive so he could install it on my laptop when my pc was dying. It took over 3 hours and he was exhausted from his job and traveling. But he did that because he knew I needed it.

He did not get this from me. We had a few very lean years when he was growing up and I worked sometimes 3, 4 jobs. We had a promise jar we put change in for a future splurge (one year it paid for us to see the Harlem Globetrotters. That was cool). Occasionally I would mix up a batch of tuna for sandwiches or to spread on crackers and store it in the fridge. One afternoon he was unfortunate enough to find this tuna. I do not recall what exactly I said, or the sound level I used, but to this day he will not eat tuna stored in the refrigerator. I feel terrible about this.

And when he moved my iTunes music to my laptop he added a few tracks I did not have before: mostly from film scores, and one that is very special to me. Not just because it is music to one of my favorite movies, Dave Barry’s “Big Trouble”.

It is titled “Ninja Tuna” (c) by Mr. Scruff.

 

 

Snake

I have this neighbor couple, elderly, who don’t speak a whole lot of English. Most foreign families here have that system where their children/grandchildren interpret or converse for them. Well this isn’t so easy when they live some distance from each other and maybe the elderly couple needs something. So my Mrs. neighbor and I have worked out a kind of communication with a few words that she knows and many gestures. Sometimes we look at each other blankly and shake our heads, but we begin again and usually get the point across.

For instance, this afternoon the phone rang and it was she. As I answered I wondered what sumptious delicacy she had for me as usually she calls when she is sharing some of their interesting foods. But no. Her voice was a little on the thin side as she said, “Please, come for garden” (trans.- come out to the backyard fence). This was followed with even thinner voice saying, “Snake”. So I said “Ok”, and went right out the door.

When I was very young, maybe 9 or 10, my mom and her Junior League friends were quite proud of a Nature Museum they’d raised money for and got built at a rather large neighborhood park. Each summer this place which was a combination sort of mini-zoo and exhibit hall with stuffed animals, raptors and other fowl, and a planetarium, would offer astronomy lectures and Saturday morning classes for young people. One of these classes was on snakes. I doubt my mother who was deathly afraid of snakes knew that this would include our being taught how to identify the local snakes, capture and handle the reptiles which I used to great advantage many years later, but I was dropped off at this class on that Saturday morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I have no natural fear of snakes. Respect, yes. Fear, no.

My neighbor was already standing by the fence when I went outside and as I walked over to her she pointed to the ground to the left of where I was. Being barefoot I immediately stopped walking and stood to look for the snake. My neighbor kept repeating, “Big, big,” and I did finally see it. A full 6-feet long, shining black with its head a good 4-5 inches off the ground. A beautiful black snake. So I told her, “Good snake, eat many bad snake, many mice,” and gave a thumbs-up which she may or may not know means ok. She looked doubtful so I repeated my accolade of this creature as it stayed still on my lawn, gleaming in the sun as though listening to somebody actually praising it. I told my neighbor it was ok, I was happy about the snake so, relieved, she said “Bye,” and went back to her house.

I walked over to the snake which eyed me cautiously as it slithered slowly toward a juniper bush, maybe 3 inches of its slender tail exposed which I leaned over and gently touched. With a loud rustle through the leaves it disappeared.

I hope and trust to clear my yard of the hundreds of moles that have aerated it this entire summer.