Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Subject: Anathema

Snorkel Chute Curbside Mailbox

I received this email this afternoon, and am passing it on to you, lovely readers, minus the gentleman's signature.

I pass it on to you, in part, so that many of you will know you are not alone. And I pass it on, in part, so that I will know I am not alone. These words are the reason I have considered leaving the PC (USA) several times, and they are one of the reasons I stay here, with my feet firmly planted in the ground. These words are the reason I am wary of all PC (USA) affiliation groups with conservative, evangelical, orthodox, or renewal bents.

These words caused me pain on a day when I could ill afford it.

I am closing this post to comments and simply allowing these words to hang in the air.

To the gentleman who wrote them: The peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with you. Now and always. Amen.

The subject line read "Anathema"
You are a disgrace to the faith.  You are an unrepentant sinner in the eyes of God and He does not forgive the unrepentant.  If you are a Presbyterian leave the denomination and take your lack of obedience somewhere else.   It is queers like you who have denigrated this denomination and have said:  "I will rather have half of a dead baby than none of a live and healthy one."

You personally are a disgrace.   And you and your ilk have caused me to be ashamed of my denomination.

With no respect for you,
Retired PC(USA)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Recycled Mantra

I got home late tonight with the children because we had spent the day scrubbing our old apartment from top to bottom. And by "we" I mean that I cleaned for 7 hours while the children wrestled and played and stole cash from my pocket to get sodas from the corner store.

We stopped by the Wawa for a late dinner, and all I could manage to eat was a coke icee and some pepperoni and cubed cheese in a plastic cup. Don't judge me--it's not like you came over and cooked.

When I got home I opened my email and found a message from my old landlord that said, "I noticed this morning that you vacated the apartment, thank you! What will you do next?" I believe this was a very polite way of saying, "Thank God you moved your crap. You *are* going to clean, right?" Or, in other words, "Please don't make more work for me."

This phrase, "Please don't make more work for me," arises during certain times in my life, and this is perhaps my mantra for the next month as I jump back into school, settle the children into their own schools, close out my time as pastor at tiny church, and create a home out of our new apartment.

"Please don't make more work for me," is what I said all day to the children as I cleaned. I didn't mind cleaning while they played. I had put out a pathetic, last minute plea on facebook for someone to take the children while I cleaned, but nobody was able to help. A few people responded with humorous suggestions to make the children clean as well, but we have been moving for two weeks now: packing, cleaning, lifting, going up and down stairs, making changes big and small. The children are tired. I am tired. Scrubbing an apartment thoroughly was not on their can-do list for today. So I was delighted to let them play while I worked.

But the thing that gets under my skin is when I'm buzzing along with my work and somebody makes more work for me. For instance, I announce I am going to mop the bathroom floor and ask if anyone needs to pee. Firm denials from the peanut gallery, but two minutes *after* I mop the floor, before the vinyl has dried, a nameless child skipped into the bathroom to take care of business...leaving muddy footprints along the way. This means mopping the floor again, of course.

Or earlier in the day, when another nameless child got it into his head to use the vacuum crevice tool as a sword to bludgeon his brother with. A) I was too tired to go get a new crevice tool if that one broke. B) I wasn't sure I could get another crevice tool for this vacuum. C) I don't have the money to buy a new vacuum with a crevice tool. D) I absolutely needed a crevice tool as the various crevices of our apartment were filled with that delightful amalgam of tiny legos, beads, food crumbs, kitty litter pebbles, and bits of acorns the children brought home to feed the squirrels on the porch. E) I didn't want to deal with the shrieks of rage from the other brother as he got bludgeoned with the crevice tool.

So I looked straight at that child with all the authority I could muster and said, "Please do not make more work for me." I'd like to say that he stopped in his tracks and put the crevice tool down, but it was actually a several minute long negotiation that resulted in this disgusted exclamation: "Sheesh! You're no fun, Mom."

But I'm in that place right now where all I can think and say is, "Please don't make more work for me." My to-do list is already several pages long, and that's just for tomorrow. When the earthquake rolled through today and the new apartment wobbled like one would expect an old New Jersey building would, I was grateful it wasn't a big earthquake because we would've been squashed as the building fell down on us. But I was also grateful that the earthquake didn't knock any of the books off their shelf, where I had *just* finished unpacking my library. I was indeed grateful for safety. But the fact that the earthquake didn't make more work for me? Golden. Perfect. Most excellent.

I'm finding this carries over to the rest of my life too. And it's not just physical work. I don't have time or internal resources for extra emotional or spiritual work either. I find myself avoiding people that drain me of emotional and spiritual resources--people that I love and care about too! I just don't have it. And I won't have it tomorrow or Thursday either (and especially since Thursday I take the children to the dentist, and *that's* always a kick in the pants).

It happens every now and then that I have too much to do and it all has to be done now. And in those times, I find myself saying over and over, "Please don't make more work for me." Because the work I do have is overflowing, and one extra thing will disrupt that flow. I say it to the cosmos and Jesus too: "Please don't make more work for me. No flat tires. No family emergencies. No complications with the children, the church, schoolwork, custody arrangements. Please no broken appliances or anything else that costs money. Everything is running along at break neck speed, and all my focus is on precision and detail, making sure we keep running.

It's like this: I've been carrying loads of cripcrap down stairs to my car for a week now. 32 steps to be exact: 2 sets of 8 steps, then a long flight of 16 steps. 2 more cement steps to the sidewalk, then down off the curb to get to the van. When you're carrying boxes and can't see your feet, you need to knows these things--you gotta count the steps as you go. Otherwise I will trip and fall, breaking everything in the box and my body too, and that will definitely make more work for me.  So when the children come out while I am carrying boxes and counting, and they ask me a question about how many popsicles come in a box, I say to them, "Please don't make more work for me." And then I feel out each of the rest of the steps with my feet carefully, because by now I have disastrously lost count of the steps.

But maybe the biggest culprit is myself, because assuredly the person who makes more unnecessary work for me than anyone else is my own silly self. I forget I am allowed to say no. I forget I am allowed to call in sick. I forget that I can't run forever in this frantically precise mode of existence. I forget I do not have to engage every twitter discussion that catches my attention. So perhaps the biggest lesson of these seasons in my life is a reminder to say to myself often, "Please don't make more work for me."

Thanks, mgmt.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sighing in the Wind

Stacia Napierkowska (1891-1945), silent film star 
I know I'm not alone in being alone tonight, and of course it is my preference for now, so I have little to complain about. But every now and then there is a beautiful evening and I think it would be nice to share it, and I sigh into the wind.

I have been sorting through books and papers in preparation for our across-town move in a few weeks. All sorts of memories surface; some are kept, others shredded. It has been a busy five years since we arrived in New Jersey, but I forget that. I wonder sometimes why I am worn thin, and then I discover scrap pieces of paper that tell me why.

In a box of my children's school papers I found a scrap paper with a few days and times scribbled on it, along with email addresses of my autistic son's first therapists. I started to throw it away--who needs a therapy schedule from six years ago? But then I noticed the initials scribbled next to each time slot and remembered the way we traded off meeting at our home with the therapist and our son. We were trained to be his in-house therapists so that every moment of our family's life would become therapy for him. Our daily schedule to meet with the therapists (who were grad students with grad student schedules):

Monday: 12:30-2:30
Tuesday: 11:00-2:00
Wednesday: 12:30-2:30
Thursday: 11:00-2:00 and 2:00-5:00
Friday 3:00-5:00

The first session was videotaped by the therapist. I held a Thomas the Train toy in my hand, my son's favorite. My job for the next two hours was to hold on to the train and refuse to give it to my three-year-old son unless he said the word "train." For two hours he tantrumed, crawling up my leg to try to reach the train. Screaming, crying, raging, and all I could do was keep my calm and refuse to give him the train unless he said the word. On videotape. After two hours the therapist turned off the camera. She had to go. She would be back the next day. In the meantime, I was not to give my son the train unless he said the word.

Two minutes after she walked out the door, my child glared at me and spat out the word "train." I gave him the toy and then laughed and cried into the night. He only had ten other words, and this was the first word we'd been able to teach him deliberately.

We met with those therapists for several months. At the same time, we both worked full time, selling the house, preparing to move to New Jersey, and trying to parent our oldest child. I don't know how we got through those months, but we did. It was the after time, later that next year and the year after that life fell apart. We can only go so long without sabbath. We can only go so long pushing through life without affection for ourselves.

I didn't learn much from that time, it seems. I am here again sorting through papers, wondering why I am so tired. The disorganized pieces of my life are slowly finding their way into file folders (or the trash can), and I am in awe of all that I have done in five years. There's something very satisfying about that. But I wonder if in this next move I might pick up the habit of stopping more often to rest, instead of sprawling half dead on the road after pushing too hard too long.

Perhaps. But tonight is a beautiful night, cool and breezy. The cicadas and frogs are loud, the cats jumping at every noise. As I thumbed through books to pack into boxes, I found my Zorba the Greek. I flipped through a few favorite passages and found this. Advice first from a holy man to Zorba and then from Zorba to his protogee:

"'...My boy, if a woman calls you to share her bed and you don't go, your soul will be destroyed! That woman will sigh before God on judgment day, and that woman's sigh, whoever you may be and whatever your fine deeds, will cast you into Hell!'"

Zorba sighed.

"If Hell exists," he said, "I shall go to Hell, and that'll be the reason. Not because I've robbed, killed or committed adultery, no! All that's nothing. But I shall go to Hell because one night in Salonica a woman waited for me on her bed and I did not go to her..."

I wonder tonight how many of us are sighing into the wind. Perhaps the time is not right or the situation all wrong, or things to do, or work that must be done. But who is calling with sighs on the wind? Will you go?