Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dear Younger Me

There is a song entitled "Dear Younger Me." It gets me every time. What would I say to my Younger Me? I think I'd start with "you aren't fat." Because thinking you are fat seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not to mention that I wasted a lot of years believing that was true when it really wasn't and wasting a lot of life when it really was. So I'm fat. There are people our there with real problems. Cancer. Multiple sclerosis. Dairy allergies. Not to put that on the same plane as dread diseases, but... cheese!

Other things: 

  • Do NOT let your husband take the job that pays more, but requires travel. Just don't. 
  • Don't put your kids in school. You will waste a lot of time trying to unteach the idea that knowledge is something given to you (instead of sought), and can only be acquired during school hours (instead of joyously chased every moment of every day). 
  • Don't spend a single moment waiting for others to step up to the plate. Just do it yourself. Fill the gaps without resentment. Whatever that looks like. 
  • Travel more. Letting your passport expire will kill your soul. 

What things would you like to be able to tell your Younger Me?

Hear the song here

Full lyrics:
Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running through my head
I wonder how many different things would be
Dear younger me
Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make ‘cause they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me
If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard
Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me
You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart
A brand new heart
You are free indeed
Every mountain every valley
Through each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be
Dear younger me

"Agnotology" and the Rise of Opinion over Fact

2016 was a tough year for our old friend, Truth. 2017 looks like an equally rocky ride! 

As much as I enjoy Social Media, I'm going to blame it for the train-wreck of Truth. Our interactions in the digital world have somehow led us to believe that opinion is equal in importance to fact (climate change is one example). This phenomenon creates "sides" of arguments that don't exist in reality. We choose a side that comes with a set of arguments that fit our bias instead of really looking at [actual] facts. Then we go on to dismiss those actual facts and the sources for them, as "biased." 

People can't handle the truth! This best evidence of this is the enthusiastic "thanks" you will receive when you send someone a link to Snopes (or other fact-checking site) in response to a post you realize contains bogus information. Nada. You will never be thanked, enthusiastically or otherwise, for pointing out that a fact is twisted or false. I used to send the Snopes link via private messenger out of sincere concern that someone might be embarrassed by their honest mistake and just assumed the person would say, "Oops! I was punked. Thank you so much for telling me!" and withdraw it or issue a retraction. I'd wait. Crickets. Nope. You are much more likely to get the response: "You must be a liberal!" (Because that must be the only reason anyone cares enough to fact-check?) 

And then there is the "alternative fact." Most recently made famous by the American government -- much to my chagrin -- it has really been a "thing" for as long as people have been opinionated. Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, it may not be true, but it makes sense and is something to consider." Huh? If it is not true, I maintained that it should *not* be considered. 

I was delighted to recently find there is actually a word for this: Agnotology. "Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour." (Clearly written by British folk.)  

Click here to read the article:

Let's try harder to keep our facts... well, factual. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Giant Meteor 2016!

Like a lot of people, I'm not feeling very optimistic about the year 2017. Actually, that's probably the understatement of the year. The truth is, I look at the Year 2017 with a sense of impending doom. If I had placed a bumper sticker on my minivan during the recent (un)Presidential election cycle, it would have read read something like the one in this picture:

But see the caption? The downward spiral to utter chaos is not limited to every. single. political institution in America. This sticker was born in the UK. The slippery slope we are on has been mounted worldwide. Scary times.

Ironically, I've also -- at the risk of sounding like Oprah -- been thinking a lot about how I could live my best life, since it is slipping away at an alarming rate.😅 (Does that emoji have a milk moustache?) I'm now claiming Expert status at making New Years Resolutions, since I've been at it for probably 40 out of 51 years. This vast experience has taught me not to quantify my lists, because that's just setting myself up for failure. That's the same reason I don't read self-help books, but I digress. 😄 So here it is, in all its glory. My list of attainable goals for 2017. That is, if a giant meteor doesn't strike first. 

1. Read more actual books.
2. Write more.
3. Walk daily, hike more.
4. Drink more water.
5. Remember more birthdays.
6. Travel more.
7. Be a better friend.
8. Teach more English.
9. Do creative things more often.
10. Organize my house!

In my dreams, I would have included "learn a new language," or "learn to play an instrument," but if I can just toddle down to the mailbox once in a while, I will consider 2017 to have been a major coup!

After all, with this nice mushroom cloud compare it to, how can I go wrong?


Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving with a Side of Bittersweet Pie

I have always adored hosting friends and family for everything.  Truly, it is my favorite thing. I've made a bit of a hobby out of collecting serving dishes, trays, platters, tea pots, cute dippers, special knives for cheese, as well as crystal glasses for every conceivable adult beverage.

That said, Thanksgiving has long been one of my two favorite days of the year (the other is our Christian version of Passover).  I host the Thanksgiving dinner at my house annually -- or at least I have for the last ten years, or so, since we've lived in the House on the Hill.  All the local family come, along with whatever random friends and acquaintances they bring.  We've had people from Laos, people from Colombia, along with an interesting array of local yokels, and yesterday, a wonderful gentleman from China. The whole extended family has made a concerted effort to make sure everyone in our circles has a place to go. I try to make it fancy and festive, creating many family traditions, in hope of giving my kids some warm memories -- like using the same recipes and always having some child make a cranberry necklace for the turkey to be displayed in.  After dinner, we hang out together while the tryptophan works its magic, and then play games.  We often play into the wee hours. 

All that said, we are not the family Norman Rockwell would have painted at Thanksgiving!  

Although, who really knows what that poor woman had to go through to get to the point of serving a beautifully roasted turkey in a spanking clean apron to a table full of people dressed to the nines?

Mentally, if not physically, my hair is always standing on end by the time dinner is served.  I can handle the cooking, which I largely do the day before, but I really like to have a clean house by the time guests arrive. And since the normal state of our house is to be covered in dirty socks, Legos, and dog hair, that is no small feat.  It is actually very stressful for a mom with a very busy husband and three boy-children; of which the oldest two actually and literally hide in their room for fear of being put to work.  Although, to be fair, I have to say that my youngest (age 8) just embraces it with a series of cheerful inquiries:  "What next, Captain Mommy?!" 
To me, the process of delousing and expunging has always been well worth it when the first guests arrive and ooh and ahh at my lovely, cat-hair-free tablecloths and settings.  But, as I approach the half-century point, I'm realizing that what makes me happy just doesn't do a thing for all the men-folk around me.  Cranking at one another is not how anyone wants or needs to spend the morning of Thanksgiving.  That time should be preserved for Twilight Zone re-runs on Netflix, or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on HGTV. Why, you ask, did this take me 21+ years of marriage and 18 years of parenting to learn?  Well, I guess I should change my name to the Queen of Denial on the Hill. 

So, with some mixed feelings, I have declared yesterday my last to host Thanksgiving.  At least for a few years.  The next year will bring many transitions for my family, as we shuffle some of the details of our lives in hopes of bringing more simplicity, more sustainability, and more peace.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost/Feast of Weeks

Because every blog about faith should have shiny, happy music in the background, this is my selection for Pentecost.  This YouTube video is perfect for this joyous, completely optimistic day!  

Read on, if you like:

Today is Pentecost.  I know that not every church observes this day, but ours does, and we observe all of the other holy days of Leviticus 23.  This is because of their rich dual meaning, in almost every case pointing to something that happened in the past and something in the future.  As they say, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it!  And I would add the corollary that those who have something to look forward to find it easier to stay on track.  Last, but not least, we observe these holy days because God actually calls them "His Feasts."

Lev 23:2  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 

They are the "Feasts of the Lord," not "Feasts for the Jews alone."  And actually, if you look up the word translated as "Feasts," it looks more like "appointments."  I like that concept.  I feel that I'm accepting an invitation from God when I circle these days on my calendar and make a point to spend that day with the Lord.

Pentecost (actually a Greek word for "fiftieth" used in the New Testament for the observance), was built around the wheat harvest. It was called Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament (Hebrew), based on the instructions for calculating its date (7 weeks + 1 day).  It is also sometimes called "Feast of First Fruits."

Exo 34:22  And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end. 

Specifically, it is counted from the first Sabbath to fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Thus, it is by design 50 days from the first Sabbath that falls after Passover:

Lev 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 
:16  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 

Yes, I know numbers can be boring.  But the fact that it needs calculated at all is really interesting.  Every single other holy day is on a fixed date.  It makes you wonder what you were meant to contemplate in that intervening time between Days of Unleavened Bread, when you are supposed to be putting sin out of your life, and the day God baptized His people with the holy spirit.

The most famous Pentecost, of course, was the one which followed the death and resurrection of Jesus:

Act 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 
:2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 
:3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 
:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

How cool is that?

It is sometimes overlooked that the people were actually gathered there to keep the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost when the holy spirit fell upon them.  They weren't just hanging out at the coffee house, playing mini-golf or even attending Sunday School (although it was the first day of the week).  Read the first verse once again:

Act 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 

They were there, specifically observing the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost.  Jesus' followers were in the right place at the right time keeping their appointments with God when God set their church on fire in such a delightful way. So rumors that this was the first Pentecost are somewhat exaggerated.  There had been something in the neighborhood of 1,500 other Pentecosts by this point in time, a point that may be obscured by the switcheroo from the Hebrew to the Greek name for the event.

Just before His ascension, 40 days after his resurrection and 10 days before the coming Feast of Weeks/Pentecost observance, Jesus had actually told His followers to remain in Jerusalem for this special occasion:

Act 1:4  And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 
:5  For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 

It sure pays to be where Jesus tells you to be, especially when He tells you to keep that appointment with God!  I'd have hated to have heard about this event later around the water cooler.  These days, someone would've surely caught it on Instagram, but back then, you'd have just been out of luck.

Fun fact:  3,000 were baptized that day.  Wow!  I'd love to have heard that sermon.

Reaching farther back into the history of Pentecost, a whole lot of people believe that Pentecost is, in fact, the day that God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Most of Judaism, in fact. But there's some controversy about whether all the travel to Sinai from Egypt could have been accomplished within that 50 days from that Sabbath following Passover.  I don't have a position on that.  I suspect it to be so, but I can't prove it and it really doesn't matter to me.

There is so much more to be said about Pentecost.  About how awesome it would be to open your mouth and speak and be understood in the language of all the disparate people around you.  About why the loaves of bread waved by the Priests were leavened. (Because we are yet sinful, but are made holy before the Lord.) What it means that Jesus was the first fruit and what it means that we are meant to follow Him.  But I will end it there, with a very enthusiastic wish for a Happy Pentecost!

1 Cor 15:20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 
:21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 
:22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 
:23  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 

James 1:18  Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Transition to Homeschool Mom of Two... plus One Adult

 For months -- and I'm ashamed to say just how many -- I've been just "getting by," due to the stress and strain of all that goes into getting a homeschooled senior through that last year of high school and into college.  I've become that mother I once looked down on.  You know the one.  The one who is late everywhere, or missing entirely because she forgot the meeting, or didn't hear there was a meeting, or who has to ask three times for the location of said meeting, or who has lost that paper vital to whatever the meeting is about... Yep.  That's me.  Let's not even discuss what That Mom's hair and make-up look like.  It is hard to believe I was once considered a Type A personality and an overachieving marketing manager at the managerial level in a globally significant accounting firm.  I was known for working small miracles, and with partners who were considered hopeless.  My consulting rate (last time I consulted) was $xxx an hour.  But throw three school-aged kids at me and I'm a babbling fool.

In technical terms, what really happened in my brain is that the static of a constant To Do list running through my head finally zapped my Random Access Memory and disabled my Operating System.  True story.

What happened in my heart was that I was so fearful of screwing stuff up that I succumbed to Analysis Paralysis.  Check your Merck Manual.  It's a real thing. What that looks like is a lot of hands waving in the air (and not in praise!), a lot of empty threats about what will happen if this paper doesn't get turned in by such-and-such time or if errant teen doesn't text "safe" or "here" upon arrival, plus a whole lot of repeating myself, a dollop of hair standing on end, and a whole lot of frustration -- on all sides.  In my case, it was exacerbated by the fact that there was really noone else actively involved and I felt like it all fell on me.  I did ask for help sometimes and sometimes, I did receive it. So maybe that feeling wasn't entirely accurate.

How did I arrive at a place so far from my nature?

I can only guess that "fear" is the answer. I hovered, annoyingly and ineffectively.  I nagged.  (Yeah, again, annoyingly and ineffectively.)  I gnashed my teeth.  I lost sleep.  I cried.  I gained weight.  LOTS of weight.  I neglected my other children and my parents.  I didn't garden.  I didn't clean my house.  I didn't do my One Year Bible Readings that I so wanted to do.

I learned to say no.  Which was probably the only positive thing that came out of the entire school year.  And with my newly established identity as "Loser Mom," my nos were very convincing.  (Who wants to put the person who loses everything in charge of anything?  I should have thought of that before.)

 I simply and sincerely felt like I had no time physically, emotionally, and spiritually to do anything until the details of the boy's graduation and pathway to college were established.

Well, now those things are done.  That first boy baby I cuddled in my arms and danced with all night, singing "You're Mommy's Special Baby" to over and over is now a high school graduate, as of June 6, 2014.  He is an 18-year old with a car and a job and an acceptance letter to a great college.  I really haven't fully digested that.

But there are other important things I would like to say about my boy.

1.  When he bumps into me in town, he immediately comes and hugs me, no matter who is watching.
2.  Part of his college decision was based around his desire not to be too far from his grandparents, as they enter their 80s in the next few months and he doesn't want to miss important time with them and he feels he can be useful to them.
3.  He thinks his slightly younger brother walks on water.  He honestly thinks he is just such a good person, and he goes to bat for him every chance he gets -- even on dumb things, like his desire to avoid a haircut. ;-)
4.  He would walk barefoot across fire to help a friend.  Seriously.
5.  He insists that we ask the blessing at meals, even if I forget.
6.  He still comes and sits on my lap sometimes.  Not because he needs it, but because he knows that is who I am and that I need it.

Probably, I could've come up with a good solid ten, but those are the things that were in the forefront of my battered and bruised heart.  Or maybe I should say "battered and bruised pride," because Pride, regrettably, often dictates what I do.  I say pride because I hate that I didn't perform on a higher plane this year.  I really do.  But parenting, thankfully, is not the same as other careers.  As a mom looking at the end of an 18-year job contract, these outcomes are pretty doggone terrific, in spite of myself.  I raised an individual who will make choices for himself.  I will not love all of those choices, but I will love the heart that made them.  For it is truly a thing of beauty.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From the Archives at at Chronicles of a Family at Home - Jun. 11, 2007: Tuesday Travel Memories - Santorini, Greece

My vote for the "Place I Traveled that was Hardest to Leave" is the Greek island of Santorini.  [Click here to play the Greek National Anthem while you're reading this -- you need to get in the spirit of things!]

I will have to say that all of Greece is utterly breathtaking, but Santorini was absolute perfection.  We went there after spending about 10 days touring in and around Athensand we really meant to use the ferry system and travel to several other islands, as well.  Every day that we were there, we dutifully packed up our bags to leave, checked out of the hotel, ate breakfast, and then re-checked in.  It wasn't a fancy hotel back then.  It wasn't the cleanest hotel.  It didn't even have a great view.  But it was perfect for us.  Sure, it is the tourist's duty to see as much as possible, right?  But why shuffle on to another island when we had already found "the bomb" as they say.  There simply was no room for improvement. 

The year was 1994.  Our everyday lives back in Pasadena, California, were filled with long commutes (mine to the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the King to Disney inBurbank), stressful jobs, and no kids.  Our careers, along with the King's pursuit of his Master's degree consumed every molecule of our energy.  By the time we reached Santorini, we had unwound significantly already.  Something about the sun in Greece, or the unbelievable gem-colored blue of the sea that is so different than what you find in the Caribbean, yet every bit as gorgeous.  And the light colored building materials or whitewash that reflect all that fabulous white and blue (Greece's national colors).  Okay, and maybe it was a little about them serving oenos at every single meal save breakfast.  The coffee they served at breakfast was equally yummy, I must say. 

But in October, Santorini is truly hotter than the mythical fires of Hades.  Our solution?  Obviously, you spend the heat of the day flying around the island on your rented motorcycle to stay cool.  If you jump off the motorcycle, make sure you're just about to get in the water.  And things are so laid back there; the only thing we *ever* needed to be on time for was the sunset over the caldera.  This is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful sunset anywhere in the world.  You see, Santorini is essentially one side of the rim of a huge volcano that is mostly underwater.  It is like the tip of an iceberg, only you are sitting on one side of the volcano and looking out over a bay that is the inside of the volcano -- at the much shorter rim on the other side.  The town of Fira is actually built down the side of that rim, but the main street runs right along the top of the "ridge".  And the sunset just fills the sky. 

Something happened to me during my stay in Santorini/Greece.  Having experienced an incomparable joie de vivre there, after my return to reality (if you can call Los Angeles "reality) I never again could care about my career to the degree that I once had.  Sure, I hung in there another year and a half, but I didn't lie awake at night stressing about that job.  My fingers had touched the brass ring of happiness and I never wanted to be that far from it again.  I kept my Greek music CDs handy in the event I needed a refresher course!  And of course, I never take off this big honking gold ring I bought in the Plaka while there.  When I look at it, I'm transported to a world of bright blue doors, spontaneous dance, and endless bartering sessions.

To sum it up, Santorini has a beautiful black sand beach, a regular beach, a rocky beach (all with clothing more or less optional), boat rides to hike around inside a smaller, active volcano, a dream-like "traditional" town called Oia, fresh roasted pistachio venders, and a dry climate that promises good hair days for the duration of your stay.  Can it get any better than that?