[Obligatory Disclaimer: Yes, I know I haven't written in months. Yes, I know this post isn't particularly funny. But guess what. It's my blog.]
My girlfriends and I got together last night for a Golden Girls party. I know. Don’t even start. I wanted to be Rose, but somehow I got nominated to be Blanche. That’s right, the hussy. If I had really thought about it, I should have been Sophia, the Italian smart aleck. That has nothing to do with this post, but it was amusing. We watched a few episodes, admiring the circa-1987 fashion stylings of four retired ladies in Florida.
Maybe it was the inspiration of Dorothy’s horrifying muumuus, but at some point we decided to switch to Hoarders, Season 1. We all had reasons for wanting to clear out the mess in our houses – babies, moving, divorce, etc. So we were ready for some serious cleaning motivation. We talked about how watching Hoarders makes us simultaneously feel better about our less-than-tidy homes and motivated to remove everything unnecessary in our living spaces.
We watched two episodes, making all the obligatory remarks when someone would pull some rotting foodstuffs out from under a heap of clothing or painstakingly sort through a pile of what was obviously (to everyone except the “hoarder”) garbage. We talked about the psychological and spiritual issues these people must have to live in such filth. One of the interesting things about this disorder (and most disorders like it) is that you can’t go in, remove the person, and clean it up for them because the person isn’t changed. You could leave it spotless, with a place for everything and everything in its place. But if the hoarder doesn’t participate in the process and have a fundamental change in how he or she lives, the house will be back to a disaster within a matter of months. One woman had begun losing people in her life, starting with her dad, and started filling her house to replace the people she’d lost. Eventually the filth was too much for her husband and four kids, and they all left. We watched her daughter cry because of the guilt she felt for leaving her mom and the shame at having lived in such a mess. Such sad stories of broken people.
We talked about the graciousness of the people who were brought in to help. They didn’t stand back and direct their minions or the hoarder’s family members about what to do next. They got right into the filth with shovels, face masks, and gloves, making the occasional graceful exit for fresh air when the smell overtook them. Then right back to it. They were gentle with their correction. When a woman wanted to keep chicken broth that had expired a year or two earlier, the expert said, “I’m going to suggest that you have a blind spot here.” I would have said, “Dude. Throw it out. It’s disgusting.” When a man wanted to keep a stash of 2-liter bottle caps (“They have codes on them that I can use to get more…stuff…”), the expert said, “Okay, is that something that supports your new goals or keeps you stuck in the mess?”
It hit me this morning – all that “stuff” and mess is a vivid picture of sin. If the requirement for salvation is perfection, nobody measures up. You might have a pristine house, but if you are going to live in it, you’re going to cause a mess. The instant you put some food on a plate, you’ve popped the perfection bubble. Someone’s going to have to clean it up.
I take inventory of the idols of my heart, sorting through the piles of what is clearly garbage. “But God, I want to keep that. It has sentimental value.” So does Baby Boy’s first dirty diaper. That doesn’t mean I should keep it. “But God, there’s something I can salvage out of that.” Like the woman who just had to pull a few seeds out of the rotting pumpkin on her living room floor before it was thrown out. “But God, I can fix that and make it useful.” Like the toy car with a missing wheel, the broken chair, and a hundred other things piled up in the yard. It’s…all…just…garbage.
Like the experts, God gently reminds me that I might just have a blind spot regarding an area. That that thing I’m clinging to doesn’t support what He’s called me to do. He gets down in the filth and mess and shows me where I need to change.
I look at someone who clearly has a LOT of unresolved sin. It makes me feel better about my own sin. “Whew, at least I’m not that bad.” I’m sometimes motivated to take inventory of my own sin, but usually it’s just to make sure I don’t end up looking like whoever I’m comparing myself to. Not because it’s disgusting and affects all my relationships.
And the parallel continues in Jesus’ gift of salvation. He comes in to clear out the garbage, taking it on himself. He takes the filthy stinking mess and, in exchange, gives me a new, clean, peaceful dwelling place. Hopefully, I receive and appreciate the gift. Hopefully, as new (and old) “garbage” threatens to reside in my new, clean home, I recognize it for what it is and don’t let it in. But inevitably, I’ll have a “blind spot” or I’ll think I can salvage something useful out of a pile of garbage and let it creep back in. And Jesus will come in again, gently reminding me of where I came from and what he has given me in exchange for the pile of garbage I presented to him.
I can become legalistic and idolatrous, creating systems for organizing my sin and/or making sure it doesn’t get into my house in the first place. But at some point, I will let down my guard or my carefully devised “system” will fail me. Sin will enter in. If there’s not a change in my heart, if I’m not continually grieved for the effects sin has on my relationships with everyone around me and, more importantly, the price Jesus paid for it, I will let it stay. I will start to like it. I will eventually be so attached to it that the Expert has to come in and show me what it really is. He will remind me of who I really am. I am no longer a Sin Hoarder. I am a Daughter of the Living God, clothed in his spotless righteousness.
So there’s this toy car Toddler Boy has been wanting for months. It’s one of the four from the movie Cars that come up alongside Mack and lull him to sleep. He has gotten the other three over the last year or so, but we can never seem to find Boost. He likes to reenact the scene, and when he watches the DVD he pauses the movie at that point and stares longingly at the car. Covet much?
He talks to everyone he sees about it. Literally. If you have exchanged more than 2 words with my son in the last 6 months, he’s mentioned Boost. You may not have been able to decipher it, but I guarantee it’s come up.
We looked in every store that might have toys here. We checked about 5 stores in southern California. Nana has scoured her little town in Texas. I could order it from eBay, but just haven’t gotten around to it.
Every day when Husband leaves for work, Toddler Boy walks out to the driveway with him, hugs him, and shuts his truck door. Then they have the exact same conversation:
Toddler Boy: Daddy, I have to tell you something.
Toddler Boy: We have to go to Texas and find Boost. First we have to go left past Medford, then right to California, then to Texas to find Boost.
Husband: Okay, we’ll do that. But I have to go to work now.
Today we were at the grocery store. I was rummaging through a cart of clearance baby food, not totally paying attention to my surroundings.
Toddler Boy: SANTA!!!
Me: [Oh no.]
An older gentleman with a long white beard was approaching. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident. Second time. In two weeks. Thankfully, the man was amused.
Toddler Boy: SANTA!! SANTA!! Can you find Boost?
“Santa” looks at me, puzzled.
Me: There’s this car he really wants…we can’t find it anywhere. We told him to put it on his Christmas list.
“Santa”: Have you been a good boy?
What a trooper.
Toddler Boy: YES!!
“Santa”: Well, we’ll see what we can do!
He walked away, chuckling. Toddler boy was all atwitter. Rosy cheeks, bright eyes, talking a mile a minute about how Santa said he was going to find Boost for him.
We headed down the baby food/diaper aisle, the one that usually has a section of cheapy plastic toys and school supplies. I was distracted again, seeking out my next coupon bargain.
Toddler Boy: MAMA!!! THERE’S BOOST!!! GO BACK GO BACK GO BACK!!!
Lo and behold, there was Boost in all his lavender glory. We don’t buy toys for the kids unless there’s an occasion, but there was no way we were leaving that store without that car. Fortunately, Toddler Boy happened to have his piggy bank (full of his “moneys”) with him, so I let him get it. He hasn’t put it down since. He brought it home and introduced it to the other three cars, then reenacted the scene from Cars a few hundred times.
A Christmas miracle. In June. At Albertsons.
The bug that had at least one of us knocked out for the past three weeks appears to have left the building. Time to get back in the swing of things.
I was saving this item for a post on the best backhanded compliments I’ve received, but it’s a prerequisite for this story so…
Husband: You have Erma Bombeck Syndrome. EBS. She was hilarious in writing…
[good so far]
Husband: …but then they tried to give her a TV show and she totally tanked in person.
Me: Are you sure that’s what you meant to say?
I’m fully aware that my written blatherings have always been better than my verbal blatherings. (Apparently, Google’s spell check thinks “blathering” is not a noun. Well, Google, you’re not the boss of my blog.) So the conversation Saturday night at dinner really came as no surprise.
We were out celebrating our 13th anniversary (which is actually today).
Husband: So, since you have EBS syndrome, I expect something written for our anniversary and my 40th birthday [in a few weeks].
Me: What do you mean, like a card? A blog post? A letter?
Husband: Whatever, just something written.
Me: Um…can I just print out the thing about the homeowner’s association and give you that?
Me: I don’t know if I can just come up with something “on demand” like that.
Husband: Not my problem.
So I went looking for some inspiration. Some of my best material ends up on Skype chat, so I checked out the history of conversations between us. It goes back to January 2008. I cut and pasted it into a word document. It was 145,946 words. That seemed kind of overwhelming to wade through so, as I am wont to do, I gave up on that idea.
Instead, I wracked my “photographic” memory (or is it “racked”? The interweb is unsure…) to come up with some memories of how it all started.
Sunday, December 10, 1995
First date. We went to a Christmas Cantata at his full gospel church in downtown ghetto East Coast City. I lost some of my whiteness after that performance. When he dropped me off…
Me: Well, thanks, that was fun.
Husband-to-be: Yeah, thanks for going with me.
Me: Um, okay, bye.
Me: [Seriously? Is that it?]
Tuesday, December 12, 1995
Frantic call from Husband-to-be, who suddenly realized I was leaving Friday for 6 weeks.
Wednesday, December 13, 1995
Second date. We met downtown at 10pm after his Christmas concert rehearsal, went to a diner, and talked until 2am.
I told my boss I was nervous, and that maybe things were moving too fast. He said, “That’s not what love is about. Love survives because of compatibility between two people, because of the things you share, the fact that he loves the Lord. Those are the things that last.”
December 1995-January 1996
$300 calling card bill
[Companionship] is often called Friendship, and many people, when they speak of their “friends” mean only their companions. But it is not Friendship in the sense I give to the word…Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight which the others do not share and which, ’til that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one…” It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us an amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision — it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude. – CS Lewis, The Joyful Christian
I’m fired up.
I know, homeowner’s associations are supposed to help maintain the beauty (i.e., resale value) of our homes and keep our neighborhood sparkly and welcoming. Blah, blah, blah. But few things irritate me more than when someone tells me how to maintain MY property, especially when the window of acceptability is so narrow and arbitrary.
We don’t have a happy history, the HOA and I. When we first moved here, our development (let’s call it The Projects at Fancy Schmancy) was part of a fancy-schmancy HOA (with fancy-schmancy HOA dues). About a year after we moved in, the homeowners of The Projects valiantly fought to secede from those wretched Fancy Schmancies (in other words, The Projects were a disgrace to the Fancy Schmancies and they kicked us out).
But during the 4 months or so while we were in negotiations, someone decided it would be awesome if we paid HOA dues to both The Projects and the Fancy Schmancies. When I politely declined their request and said I would be happy to pay one or the other, the Fascists, using very small words and talking very slowly, informed me that they basically own my behind and everything associated with me so I better just shut up and pay up. Kind of like how you might explain to a 3-year-old that yes, he is going to bed now, kicking and screaming or not, because you are bigger than he is and can pick him up and put him there yourself.
Next, I decided to put our ginormous rolling recycle bin up against the side of the house in the alley, out of view of 99.9% of my neighbors. Unacceptable.
Then we left the garbage bin at the end of our driveway in the alley for 25 hours after the trash had been picked up. Unacceptable.
We had the exterior of our house repainted the same color. Without first submitting an application to the Architectural Review Committee. [Gasp!!] I know. Totally reckless and an obvious disgrace to the neighborhood. Unacceptable.
We put our house on the market, using the Committee-approved fancy schmancy wooden sign (left over from the days of our indentured servitude to the Fancy Schmancy neighborhood). Then we took it off the market. When we took the sign down, it left a 4 inch x 4 inch patch of dirt in our front yard. Unacceptable. The notice also said we needed to “brown up our lawn”. Oops. I should have kept it for posterity, but I was too mad so I ripped it into tiny pieces and threw it out.
Imagine you just bought a new shirt. You have been eying it for quite a while, so you paid a little more than you normally would. You love your shirt. When you get home, you notice the salesperson has put a little note in the bag.
Welcome to the world of Fancy Brand shirts! We’re so happy you’ve decided to join our family. We certainly hope you enjoy your new shirt. In order to make sure everyone else enjoys seeing your Fancy Brand shirt and wearing their Fancy Brand shirts, and to maintain the integrity of Fancy Brand, we have a few rules you must follow:
- Your Fancy Brand shirt must be dry cleaned and ironed each time you wear it. If it is not dry cleaned within 24 hours of last wearing, you will be fined.
- You may not wear any accessories with your Fancy Brand shirt unless you submit an application to the Fancy Brand Accessorizing Committee. Your request will either be denied or approved within 7 business days, so plan ahead!
- You may not repair your Fancy Brand shirt unless and until you submit an application to the Fancy Brand Repair Committee. Your request will either be denied or approved within 7 days, so plan ahead!
- You may only wear your Fancy Brand shirt with pants or skirts specifically listed in the Fancy Brand Covenants, Codes and Restrictions document that you signed with the other 14,000 pieces of paper you signed upon purchase. Don’t act like you don’t remember.
- If your Fancy Brand shirt is torn, stained, or otherwise damaged in any way, regardless of location, you will be fined.
- If you leave anything in the pocket of your Fancy Brand shirt for more than 24 hours, you will be fined.
Please keep in mind that, in signing your credit card receipt, you have agreed to give away all rights to your Fancy Brand shirt and with it, your behind. If you fail to comply with any of the Fancy Brand shirt guidelines listed above (or any of the guidelines listed in the 7,000 page Fancy Brand Shirt Full Guidelines document, located at http://www.fancybrandshirts.com/FBSFG), we will 1) warn you, 2) fine you, 3) fine you more, and 4) put a lien on your shirt so that you can’t ever sell it. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Enjoy your shirt, and welcome to Fancy Brand!
Husband was leaving for work after lunch today. Toddler Boy and I walked out with him to the garage. My car is parked on the driveway behind our alley-entrance garage.
Husband: What’s that yellow note on your car?
Me: [Rage building] I don’t know. But I’m probably about to have a meltdown.
You might be wondering what my offense was.
Car up on blocks? Never.
Oil leaking onto the driveway? Nah.
Flat tires? No.
Loud music blaring from my super-dope gangsta bass speakers? Nope.
Car blocking traffic? Niet.
Car caked in mud? Niner. Wait, that’s not right. No.
Car alarm going off? Not even close.
My car was parked behind my garage, 6 inches off the side of the driveway so Husband had enough room to pull his car out of the garage.
Aren’t you glad I spent the afternoon writing that instead of cleaning my house (or moving my car)?
Update: I feel better now.
Update #2: Thank you, Lord, that I have a house and a husband with a job to go back to at lunch. And a yard that I get in trouble for not having brown enough. And a driveway to park almost all the way on. Amen.
My parents were music majors. My mom taught piano for years, and my dad is a professional musician in an orchestra. Yes, that’s his job. Yes, he gets paid.
So, naturally, my two sisters and I were expected to have some musical abilities.
I started on piano and cello when I was four. I don’t remember much about that. When I was eight, they switched me to violin so that Older Sister and I wouldn’t be competitive with each other. That’s what we like to call “wishful thinking”.
Every week, Mom would drive me downtown for a private violin lesson with Mr. Sammy Piazza. That poor, poor man. He never knew what was about to hit him. Over and over again, every week, for five years. Right between the eardrums.
I was terrible and I hated it. If you’re terrible but you love it, you’re happy. Blissfully, ignorantly happy. If you’re talented but you hate it, you’re miserable but the people listening are probably happy. If you suck and you hate it, nobody wins.
Around my 13th birthday, Mom had another engagement and Dad had to take me to my violin lesson. Let’s just say we had a pretty serious “Come to Jesus” meeting in the elevator after that hour. He was horrified that his offspring could produce something that close to cat screeching after five years of private lessons. For me, though, it was the magical day that was the beginning of the end. It probably took a day or two for Dad’s ears to stop bleeding, but I don’t think there was any permanent damage.
Shortly after that blessed day, we moved to a horse ranch. My violin was sold to someone who could give it the life it deserved, and I got a 17-hand Thoroughbred named Woody. And there was, at last, harmony in the land.
I am glad that I have an appreciation for music, and they say musical instruction has some positive effects on early development, so there’s that. But my parents were clearly more tenacious and determined than I will ever hope to be. Although Younger Sister was not really subjected to the same musical curriculum. My memory of this might be skewed, but I’m pretty sure she was allowed to play whatever instrument de jour she felt like. Or not. Whatever.
Naturally, I married an Eastman-educated professional musician. Much of our early courtship was over the phone. I clearly remember him asking, “Are you a singer? Your voice is amazing.”
He’s spent the last 14 years begging me not to sing. Ever.
Even though I am incapable of producing anything that could be described as “music”, my critical evaluation skills are about 95% spot on. Just to make sure, I occasionally double-check with Husband when we’re watching American Idol.
“She sucks, right?”
“Whew. I’ve still got it.”
…or…More adventures in Pottyland
Last week I went to a brunch with ladies from church and their kids. On the way there, Toddler Boy said he had to go to the bathroom. I told him he could go when we got there. Upon arriving, I promptly forgot and we all sent our kids out to the yard to play so we could converse with actual adults.
At one point Toddler Boy ran in yelling that his 3-year-old friend was “having trouble with the man”. His mom rushed outside, thinking he was being coerced into some evil pedophile’s car. No, a 5-year-old boy was just causing some minor havoc. Crisis averted.
It hit me about an hour after we left.
“Did you go potty at the house earlier?”
“Yeah, Mama, I just went outside in the yard.”
Then later, the mom of the 5-year-old who was causing havoc said her kid pooped outside. Nothing validates the awesomeness of my parenting skillz so much as when somebody else’s kid does something worse.
When I’m more sleep deprived than usual, I have nearly zero tolerance for 3-year-old Toddler Boy’s current phase (please, dear God, let it be a phase) of Stage 4 OCD. I don’t know if there are really stages of OCD but if there are, Stage 4 is the worst. Here’s how the last 12 hours or so have gone:
9:00 PM: Put Toddler Boy to bed.
9:10 PM: Put Toddler Boy to bed again.
9:20 PM: Put Toddler Boy to bed again.
9:30 PM: Toddler Boy finally asleep.
9:31 PM: Baby Boy wakes up. Feed Baby Boy.
9:45 PM: Put Baby Boy back to bed. Sit down to read email, check computer, see if anyone is reading my blog.
10:30 PM: Decide I should probably go to bed just in case, by some miracle, Baby Boy sleeps for more than 2 hours. Get ready for bed.
10:45 PM: Head hits pillow.
10:46 PM: Baby Boy wakes up. Decide I’m going to follow advice of friends, family, and pediatricians and let him cry. Turn off monitor in master bedroom, go sit in living room to watch TV and wait for him to stop screaming.
11:30 PM: Give up. Afraid screams will wake up Toddler Boy (Baby Boy’s, not mine). Feed Baby Boy. Go back to bed.
1:31 AM: Baby Boy wakes up. Feed him. Decide it’s too much effort to go back downstairs to master bedroom. Fall asleep in guest bed next to Baby Boy’s cradle.
3:27 AM: See 1:31 AM.
5:46 AM: See 1:31 AM.
6:15 AM: Husband comes up to tell me he’s going for a bike ride before everyone gets up. Go back to sleep.
6:25 AM: Baby Boy wakes up, apparently for good. Feed him. Take him downstairs, put him in the jumper, and try to sleep on the couch.
6:48 AM: Baby Boy crying. Diaper blow out up the back, but don’t realize this until I lay him on the bed to change him. Run out of baby wipes. Race to kitchen for more wipes, hoping he won’t fall off bed and/or spread more blowout all over bedspread. Change Baby Boy. Clean baby poop off bedspread.
7:02 AM: Toddler Boy wakes up.
So when Toddler Boy grabs the loaf of bread I finally made after putting it off for about 6 months and starts digging into the middle of it, I react less than calmly. I make him some toast, put fake butter on it and fold it in half, knowing that won’t fly but, because I’m a masochist, decide that he’s about to learn some life lessons.
“NO! I want jelly!!!”
“Jelly is too messy right now.”
“No. Just eat it.”
I put it on a plate and set it on the counter.
“No. Go sit in your chair and eat it.”
“Mama, I want a big plate.”
“Mom?” I hate it when he calls me “mom” and not “mama” for some reason. Probably because it means he’s growing up.
“I don’t want water. I want juice.”
“That is juice. Look, it’s purple.” Actually, it’s like 10% grape juice, 85% water and 5% toddler backwash. Because even though I bought that juice for $0.04 after sales and coupons, I’m still too cheap to give him full-strength juice. I mean…because I don’t want him to have all that sugar, even though it was originally 100% juice. That’s what I meant to say. Also, the longer I can stretch it out, the longer I can go without having to expend the effort to make more.
Toddler Boy finally eats toast and drinks “juice”.
“Mama, can I have some Cheerios?”
I give him a bowl of dry Cheerios. He hasn’t figured out yet that cereal is usually eaten with milk. I don’t plan on telling him anytime soon.
He comes over and puts his cereal on the table by my chair and climbs up with me.
“Mama, can you get my Cheerios?” The bowl is literally 6 inches away from him.
“No, you get it.”
“MMMMMAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! I CAN’T REACH IT!!!”
“Yes you can.”
He gets the bowl and eats the Cheerios. Then he goes and finds a box full of small toy animals. Like 200 of them.
“Mama, can you open this for me?”
I open it (good move, Mom). He dumps animals on floor. He finds one he wants to play with and walks away.
The dogs are standing at the door to go out. I ask him to let the dogs out. He does it while singing “WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? WHO? WHO? WHO?” at the top of his lungs.
I crack up and all is forgiven.
We interrupt this diatribe of pathetic excuses for my total lack of housekeeping skills for a few thoughts on texting.
I’m not a huge fan of texting because I’m kind of a grammar/spelling Nazi (I know, hard to believe after reading this stream-of-consciousness drivel) and I die a little bit inside every time I have to type “u” instead of “you” because there aren’t enough characters left to get my point across. But I hate it way less than actually talking on the phone so I’ve learned to cope.
Also, my phone is one of the old school ones where you have to push the 7 four times to get a freaking “s”. You’d think they would have made it easier to get to a popular letter like “s”. You only have to push the 5 once to get to “j”, which is like the 4th-least used letter in the English alphabet according to Scrabble points.
I have a friend who is a big texter with a sweet pull-out keyboard phone and we’ve been texting a lot lately. She’s always been kind of technology-phobic so it’s kind of funny that she’s a texter. But she has some kind of texting superpower where she can ask 47 questions in a single text message and it takes me like 47 text messages to answer her. For example (we’re doing some running together; also, I was telling her about Hulu because she keeps getting computer viruses from trying to watch TV online (or something, I’m not really sure)):
“how are u? have u done anything since run? how do i train? what do I eat? also what music do u listen 2 4 wking out?what’s that site 4 TV so I won’t get a virus?”
(Okay, that might have been split over two texts, but still.)
Me: “Wrote u back on facebook. My phone is too slow for long texts! Plus I only have 20 left until 4/23.”
Friend who will remain nameless just in case she thinks I’m making fun of her, which I’m totally not, because I love her like a sister and we already laughed about it together on the phone and I just think it’s flipping hysterical: “I totally understand cuz I was down 2 30 left til the 14th! I have 750txts only. How many do u have?”
Did she really want me to use one of my few remaining texts to tell her how many texts I have? She’s awesome.
I went ahead and changed my plan to 1000 texts/month. I’ll let you know how it works out.
There’s always a better time to do stuff. Like all day today I’ve been thinking, “I’ll do the dishes as soon as the kids are down for their nap.” But now the kids are down for their nap and I’m thinking, “I’ll do that after the kids wake up. I don’t want to waste prime both-kids-napping time on doing the dishes.” But then after the kids wake up, one of them will need me for something like food and I’ll be busy dealing with that and won’t ever get to the dishes. Which is probably why my house is in a perpetual state of disarray and I feel like the biggest slacker of all time.
Are you tired of the “reasons I can’t get anything done” posts yet? I’ll try and think of something totally different next time. Or not.