TV

(Written for The Open Letter campaign at http://www.laurencasper.com/)

Dear TV executives:

Even though it makes me feel like an old fogey, I feel the need to complain about the state of the entertainment industry these days.  Why do I have 200 cable channels yet cannot find anything remotely worth watching?  Why do 30-minute television shows consist of 20 minutes of actual show and 10 minutes of clever pleas from some corporate entity intent on separating me from my hard-earned money?  And let’s just talk about what those 20 minutes of television might contain these days:  words that used to get my mouth washed out with soap, alternative lifestyles that necessitate discussions with my children that they are not ready to hear, and sexual innuendo/content that would make a sailor blush.  And that’s during what’s supposed to be “family hour”!  Where are the family shows that encourage “good” behavior instead of glorifying “bad” behavior?  Where are the feel-good shows that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  I’m no dummy – I know that the world’s (even one family’s (anybody else miss “The Brady Bunch”?)) problems can’t be solved in 30 minutes (20 if you subtract commercials) but sometimes I like to imagine a world where that’s possible.  So you can keep your “Bachelor” and your “True Blood” and your “Two and a Half Men”.  Until you come up with some programming that is spirit-affirming instead of soul-sucking, you can find me curled up on my couch reading a good book.

Sincerely,

A disgruntled former viewer

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Mama

MomandmeWhen I started thinking about writing a piece on “What Mama Did” several different things ran through my mind. I could write about how she read to me and taught me to read at a young age and developed a lifelong love within me for the written word that continues full force today. I could write about her resilience, about how she just kept moving forward in the wake of a divorce (when I was little) and after the sudden death of my stepfather. I could tell you about her practical approach to life and how she taught me to roll with the punches life throws my way. I could describe her quiet nature and how I wrongly for so many years mistook her quietness for having nothing much to say (I was dead wrong – ever heard the saying “Still waters run deep”? That’s my Mama. She may not say much but those gears are ever turning, believe me.) I could talk about her humble nature and her ability to be content with her lot in life, and how she learned to “make do” with what she had. I could write about how much she loves babies and they love her right back, but in the end I’m choosing to write about how my Mama showed me that you are never too old to do something new, that childlike wonder has no age limit, and that joy is where you find it. (It also has a little to do with babies).

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My Mama was married for 32 years to my stepfather before his untimely death from a heart attack in 2003.  For the entirety of their married life he called the shots in our house and she liked it that way.  She molded her life around his, as she believed a wife is supposed to do.  I am ashamed to admit that as a teenager I thought it was ridiculous thought and in my teenage me-ness, I thought my mother should get all up in his face and demand her own way sometimes.  Of course now I see that her attitude was just another indicator of her servant-heart, and she served not only my stepfather but me and the rest of her family.  Throughout their marriage they traveled a little, always within the US, and mostly to the beach, a place they both loved.

In 2004 my husband and I completed the paperwork to adopt a little girl from China and began the process of waiting for our match.  For months we discussed (OK, argued about) whether or not we should take our two other daughters, ages 16 and almost 4.  I said yes, and he said no, partly due to the expense and partly due to being in a foreign country with unfamiliar food, a language we couldn’t speak, and the need to give our full attention to the new member of our family.  One day I suggested that maybe we could bring my mother along to help out.  His response?  The girls could come if my mother came AND she’d have to pay her own way because we couldn’t afford to do so.  So I asked her, fully expecting her to demur politely, maybe citing the cost and being away from the comforts of home, etc.

She was thrilled!  She was like a little kid on an adventure!  Together we went to get our passports and get fingerprinted and every event was so exciting for her!  And on February 23, 2005, my mother boarded an airplane for the very first time, and her first flight took her to Hong Kong.  The unfamiliar food didn’t throw her at all – if nothing else looked good to her she’d just have rice.  She never complained, even when I got grumpy, which I freely admit I did.  And as joyous as the trip would have been anyway, my joy was multiplied to be able to see my mother drink it all in.  She loved our new daughter, and in fact, loved ALL the babies in our travel group and as is usually the case with my Mama and babies, the feeling was mutual.  When we arrived back in our hometown after an 18 hour flight, jetlagged and exhausted, my Mama turned to me and said, “Where are we going next?  I’ve already got my passport now – let’s use it!”

MomandmeChina

Since then Mama and I have traveled a good bit together, never as far as China, but twice to Disney World, where she again demonstrated that childlike wonder is not just reserved for children.  She has many, many mementos from our adventures together that serve as tangible reminders that there is fun out there to be had and you are never, NEVER too old to be a kid at heart.

(I confess – I started writing this piece before this morning because I saw Lisa Jo’s comment that we would get a chance to post about our own Mamas today, so I probably took more than 5 minutes and I did a little bit of editing, but it’s mostly raw.)

Beloved

It’s that time again:  Five Minute Friday!  Want to play?  Go to http://www.lisajobaker.com for all the details. 

Here we go!

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Some days I forget how beloved my children are, or should be.  Covered in my love, showered in it, surrounded by it, but man, some days are just HARD.  How do you love the unlovable, as in behavior?  (she asks, as her unattended children bicker in the next room)

And yet, towering above the annoyance and aggravation, there it is:  the unconditional, forever-and-always love of a mother standing guard.  It reminds me that these children are answers to prayer, that just like Hannah, I prayed for each one and the Lord granted them to me.  That reminder helps the love flow more freely.

Beloved reminds me of the book “The Velveteen Rabbit”.  When you are beloved, you are real to those who love you and though the edges may get shabby, the ones who love you, to whom you are beloved, they don’t notice it very much.  

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” – Margery Williams

You are beloved by the Father and so am I.  He doesn’t mind if we lose little pieces or our fur gets rubbed off.  He sees us as we really are, and to Him we are His Beloved.

STOP

Coffee

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Dear Coffee,

I’d just like to say I appreciate how you’ve been with me for nearly my whole life.  From a little girl of two drinking “brown” coffee (mostly milk and sugar with a drop of actual coffee) with breakfast, to a seasoned adult who knows how to tell the good bean from the bad, you’ve been there.  I beg your forgiveness for the years I rejected you as a young adult.  My only excuse was the ignorance of youth. Your aroma speaks home and welcome to me and promises good things to come.

You’ve consoled me in bad times and made my celebrations of good times even better.  You make time with friends special.  And on top of all that, you put a little pep my my step! Please don’t ever leave me.

With much love,

Kim

Bare

 It’s Five Minute Friday!  My favorite day of the week!  Want to play?  Click here:  www.lisajobaker.com.

GO!

“Bare” is such a scary word.  Nothing to hide the unsavory parts of you, nothing to keep you safe and protected.  Just you, open and vulnerable.  We cover our bodies with layers of clothing and our hearts with walls in an attempt to keep others from seeing the parts we want to be kept private.

God sees us as we are and there is nothing we can use to hide ourselves, unsavory parts or not, from His eye.  But here on Earth, who sees us bare, emotionally speaking?

I’ve been laid bare in a cold and brightly lit room in an outpatient surgery suite as I waited for the surgery that would empty my womb of a pregnancy already ended by nature.

I’ve been laid bare in a doctor’s office when I was told that there was hope for a baby one day, despite the infertility that haunted my days. 

I’ve been laid bare in my own living room as a husband told me he didn’t love me anymore and wanted out of our marriage. 

I’ve been laid bare in a totally different way in the meeting room of a hotel in China when I held my daughter for the first time, and twice before that in hospital delivery rooms as I experienced the miracle of life for two more daughters.

And I’ve been blessed to have a handful of friends over the years with whom I can bare my heart without fear of being hurt, and that’s huge for me.  I have a real fear of being “pitiful” and that causes me to cover up so thoroughly that sometimes even *I* can’t find what’s underneath.  Thank God for those friends who love me, warts and all!

Bare.  Naked.  Unadorned. Vulnerable.

STOP! 

Miss-Understood

question

Of all the phone calls I have ever received from a school on behalf of any of my three daughters (and there have been plenty), this was one I never saw coming.  I was sitting at my desk at work when my cell phone rang, and the caller ID panel showed a number I recognized as belonging to one of the girls’ schools. (I can’t remember which number belongs with which school.  If that makes me a bad mother, so be it.)  It was the guidance counselor from K’s school, where she is in 6th grade.  The conversation went something like this:

Guidance Counselor:  Hi, Mrs. A___.  I just had K in my office and I wanted to touch base with you to see if I could offer her any further counseling.  Is everything going OK at home?  I understand that today is the anniversary of her brother’s death from leukemia.

Me:  (stunned speechless, which doesn’t happen very often)  Ummm….

GC:  Her teacher sent her to see me because apparently K was feeling pretty sad about the anniversary and everything…

Me:  (putting on my cool, calm and collected Mama voice)  Thank you so much for calling.  There must be some misunderstanding though.  K has two sisters and has never had a brother, unless I’m blocking it from my memory for some reason.  Occasionally she gets things mixed up in her head – books, news items, other kids’ stories – and maybe the teacher didn’t understand what she meant, or maybe K wasn’t clear…

GC:  (now she’s the one confused) Well, I just wanted to find out if I needed to do any further grief counseling with K, or if I could help you in any other way.

Me:  (ready to get to the bottom of this) Is she there with you now?  Can I speak to her?

GC:  No, I sent her on back to class.  She seemed to be fine.

Me:  Oh, she’s fine right now.  She may need to speak to you once I get finished with her though!

I was a little sad to learn in one short phone call that I had a son but had never met him because he passed away last year.  The counselor did provide me enough details to let me know that he was 16 when he died and a student at the local high school.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that I was ready to drive straight to the school and pull my child out of class to find out what in the world she was thinking when she was marched off to the counselor’s office.  I’m ashamed to admit that my first instinct was to assume she was fibbing for attention.  I was a little embarrassed, to put it mildly, and that embarrassment made me angry.  I resisted the temptation to add to the image the counselor must already have of our family by charging into the school like my hair was on fire, but boy, was I going to be ready for my girl when she got home from school.

After school, little sister needed to be dropped off at gymnastics practice, so I took K to the local buy-a-tub-of-yogurt-and-add-toppings-that-totally-negate-any-nutritional-value establishment planning to have a civil conversation about the incident.  I wasn’t going to yell or accuse.  I was going to gently probe to see if there was some rational explanation for my child telling a bold-faced lie to the teacher AND the guidance counselor.  So naturally I couldn’t hold it in until we actually got to where we were going.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  So did anything interesting happen at school today?

K:  No, just a normal day.

Me:  Really?  Because something interesting happened to me at work.  I got this strange phone call from the school counselor telling me that you were all sad about your brother, who had died of leukemia.

K:  Ooooooh.  That.

Me:  Yeah.  Want to tell me what that was all about?

And she proceeded to tell me a story that almost (almost!) made me get over the embarrassment.  It turns out that K has a friend in another class who was upset on the playground because of HER brother’s death, which happened about a year ago, and was due to leukemia.  K was feeling pretty sad for her friend and when the teacher got concerned and asked her why, her explanation was misunderstood, and it all went downhill from there.  Maybe it isn’t all that common for an 11-12 year old to identify that strongly with a friend’s grief, but isn’t that what the Bible tells us we should do:  Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn?  And my softhearted girl is so very good at that kind of sympathy.

Now, she didn’t get off scot-free.  We did discuss that there were ample chances to straighten out the misunderstanding but she didn’t do so because she was (surprise, surprise) embarrassed!

This is not the first and surely won’t be the last time this child is misunderstood.  But maybe we’ve both learned a little bit about getting the facts straight before the situation gets out of hand.

Afraid

I’ve heard that there are 365 verses in the Bible where God said, “Do not fear.”  Now, I’ve never sat down and counted them for myself but it would be just like my God to do such a thing – one “Do not fear” for every day in the year.  Some enterprising person should create a calendar with a verse reference for each day so when (not if) the fear creeps in on any given day, you’d have a weapon to use to beat it back.

To me, the word “afraid” implies a dread of something unpleasant, unexpected, unwanted, or unplanned-for, or some combination of all of them.  I’ve been afraid, but I don’t live in fear.  Afraid is a place I visit (reluctantly) and move past, not a destination.  I believe when God tells us we should not be afraid He’s saying one of two things:  1) The thing you are afraid of is not real and/or won’t happen; or 2) Yes, the thing you fear is real but I will be with you all the way.

I was afraid when my husband walked away from our marriage back in 1990 because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me and our young daughter.  But true to His word God was with me all the way.  Did that mean I was never afraid?  No, but I learned that my fear doesn’t change my circumstances and God can be trusted.  He’s got my back and that gives me the courage to face the fear and keep on walking past it.

Now it’s your turn.  Let’s see what you’ve got!