On the Children

Many thoughts these days about family and kids leaving the nest.  I am down to one, the last of four, living at home.  It’s freeing in many ways, but with unexpected emotions zinging around.  I could not be prouder of them.  They survived their upbringing.  They have taken life on and made it their own.  There is always the tinge of knowing I didn’t do enough, made too many mistakes, that it is too late to fix anything.    I happened upon this poem.  It helps.

On the Children 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

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Ode to Broken Commitments

I came across this blog post on good ol’ Facebook and it stopped me in my tracks.  So many of my own experiences and those I grew up around are piercingly described here, as is the truth their effect on young lives.  Please take a few minutes to follow the link below and read.

http://stuffapostolicslike.blogspot.com/2015/08/285-nayc2015-ode-to-broken-commitments.html

Yes To Hope

Yesterday while driving around town I spotted a sign outside a business that said, “There is no hope in logic.”

This sentence jumped into my brain and ran around in circles. What the heck does that even mean?  I wondered.  In the interest of full disclosure, this business’ sign often has clearly christian perspective.  But this I pondered.

The belief that there is no hope in logic is a perspective I find remarkably sad and, let me just say it, wrong.  Logic gives us a path to follow, clear actions to take. Logic gives us power and direction.  When we can see connections between our own actions and their effects or, on a larger scale, between public policies and statistics, then we can make positive changes.  Changes can be made immediately and with intent, no waiting.  The ability to make changes gives us every reason to hope for a better future whether we are talking about our own life or the future of our country or our planet. Reliance on hope, also known as wishing, gives us an excuse to sit back and let things happen.

Life can be overwhelming at times, with stresses and worries that are difficult to shoulder.  Sometimes there is no fix.  It is necessary to take the time to listen to the still, small voice, to let go of the things that are out of our control.  It is also necessary to get up again, put one foot in front of the other, do the work before us according to the logic of our abilities and priorities.  It is possible that is where true hope lies, in our own efforts to make things better and in knowing we have worked hard and done all we can do.  Then sit back, have a beer and hope for the best.

There is no hope without logic.

 

But I WANT It…

As a child raised in the extreme isolationism and clamped-down atmosphere of the United Pentecostal Church, I had a deep, insatiable desire for worldly things.  The state of females’ appearance was rigidly controlled:  dress length to the knees (even for children), no pants or jeans, no sleeveless shirts, uncut hair (not even trimmed), no make-up or jewelry and I lusted for it all.  My most prized possession as a little kid was a big fat gold ring with rhinestones that I was allowed to wear only when playing “house” in the basement.  Once, some poor soul got saved and turned over her entire collection of costume jewelry to my dad; three boxes full.  I was momentarily ecstatic, envisioning hours of fabulous dress-up play.  My sisters and I got to keep the empty boxes.  I have no idea where the jewelry went; probably into the garbage.  Oh, that just made me feel a little bit sick to my stomach.

As I grew towards adolescence, my cravings grew: a plastic Oreo cookie necklace with a bite taken out of it on a leather cord, a Donnie and Marie Osmond lunchbox.  I didn’t know who they were, but it sure looked cool.  The short flippy haircut of a girl at the mall, a Barry Manilow poster.  I had a plan, though.   When I was old enough, maybe 18, I intended to backslide temporarily.  I was going to have permanent eyeliner put on (it hadn’t been invented yet, I think I fantasized it).  I was also going to get my hair cut, all very quickly and then come back to church.  I would take a chance that the rapture wouldn’t happen and I could slide back in fast enough.  All that straggly hair would be gone, at least for a while and I wouldn’t be able to take the make-up off.  Even after my hair grew back out, it would still have that cool, straight edge across the bottom and the Farrah bangs would last for a little while.

This was my nefarious plan to look hot and still go to heaven.  I had it all worked out.

Marriage Equality

While most folks are breathing a sigh of relief at the better-late-than-never decision of SCOTUS regarding marriage equality, the reaction of some reminds me like a punch in the gut of what it really means to be fundamentalist christian. I am reminded why I fled so many years ago, to escape the suffocating judgement and infuriating self-righteousness.

It is impossible for me to comprehend the mental gymnastics required to put oneself in a positon of authority over other humans simply because one has swallowed a “belief” about who they are. There is a lot of talk about god’s wrath and judgement day, akin to a mother telling a misbehaving child “just wait until your father gets home.” Covert fundamentalists aren’t much better, with their judgement–lite attitude of love the sinner, hate the sin. It is still a position of false superiority; willful ignorance of what it means to be gay. If you are not gay, you do not understand and have no right to impose your conjured criteria on anyone. When belief and dogma come before the rights and well-being of actual people, there is no love involved. Judgement and love, like oil and water, cannot exist in the same space. Remember the story of Ruby Bridges, the little girl that federal marshals escorted into her newly integrated elementary school in New Orleans? The furious, slathering white horde screamed at her as she walked their gauntlet. Fundamentalists are the new face of that hateful crowd. They are threatened and angry and they have lost this fight just like the racists lost that one. There is no judgement day coming for gay people. It already came and they are free.

Fathers’ Day

I am contemplating fathers on this quiet afternoon.

My own, with his smarts, drive and ambition, had very little time for hanging out.  Moments alone with him were precious and few, treasured.  He had the ability to impart gentle wisdom and great affection and had a fun, silly streak.  On the rare occasion he stepped foot in a grocery store, you wanted to be there because Cocoa Puffs.  It’s always nice when a parent has a secret sweet tooth.  Christmas excited him as much as me.  One year we made a manger scene in our basement with my baby doll as Jesus.  It was magical.  When he was happy, it was contagious.  I remember being referred to as “Daddy’s Girl” more than once, and I did relish his attention.  And I will never forget the day he told me I didn’t have to take piano lessons anymore or eat tomatoes.  He may as well have been wearing a cape.  And the day he dropped what he was doing to take me to the hospital and save my life, no questions asked.

If my father-in-law were still alive, he would be my ex-father-in-law now.  He was a quiet guy, deep, brilliant, funny, completely focused on doing his own thing.  He showed me science and sparked an interest in the natural world that has never left.  He showed interest in who I am and we had many conversations.  In-law relationships are never uncomplicated and ours was no exception, but I still feel his loss.  I am sorry that he is not around to be a grandfather to my kids, who adored him.  He took them fishing, taught them to shoot BB guns and bows and arrows.  I am grateful for the time we had with him.

My kids’ dad loves them with all his heart.  He has been there for them every single day of their lives.   Their ability to think deeply, dissect a plot line and make connections that are not obvious is all him.  By the time they were halfway through elementary school, they could predict the end of any film, 15 minutes in.  His superior culinary skills have gotten me out of kitchen duty a million times, a gift for which I am truly grateful even if it means they look askance at my meals.  And they have his social ease, charm and humor.  For all of our shortcomings, we made some spectacular humans.

Now, I observe my partner’s relationship with his own children and his growing relationship with mine.  His kids are confident young adults who have never had to wonder if they will be able to afford food or college, have never been expected to shoulder their parents’ emotional struggles as my own have had to do.  If it is true that hurt people hurt people, then encouraged people encourage people.  They just know how. I sat on the sidelines recently while he and my son took shots on goal with the soccer ball, and he simultaneously instructed, teased and encouraged in the most fascinating way.  I had never witnessed such a thing before and was overwhelmed. It is a powerful thing to see a man engaged with a child that way.   My kids get to see their mother happy and secure.  They get to see how it can be.

The influence of any man who is part of a child’s life cannot be overestimated.  They are a bridge to the world, an example of how to be in it, a protector, a teacher, a safety net.  You don’t have to be perfect, but present and engaged.  It matters so much.

Addendum to My Crazy Vasectomy Story

Here it is…

Life After 40

tubestiedWhen I wrote my post called My Crazy Vasectomy Story at the beginning of this year, I never imagined I’d have something interesting to add to it. But I do.

My doctor who performed the procedure way back in 1998 was great. In fact, I wish all doctors had the bedside manners and pleasant disposition that he demonstrated.

james-brownI hadn’t seen him since. Until today. I setup an appointment to see him regarding a urology related matter and during my visit, I asked him if he remembers the male nurse who looked like famed soul singer, James Brown. “Of course!”, he said. “Thomas still works here in a department upstairs. I’ve always enjoyed joking with him.”

“Well let me share one of the crazy things that happened after I got home from my procedure back in 1998…”, and I then proceeded to share the short version of my story

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