Thursday, June 28, 2012

Margin and the Great Cosmic Fight

“I know you put in a very solid 40 hours and that you do good work, however, some of your colleagues who work more are starting to talk.” This is a paraphrase of what someone heard this week at their review. On their behalf I threw a fit that went something like this:

“So, let me get this straight, you are salaried for 40 hours of work per week, right?”

“Yes” said the beleaguered soul.

“And you do a good, solid job for every one of those 40 hours, correct?”

“Yes” This was all they could fit in between my swift flowing histrionics.

“But you were told that your good work for the 40 hours you are paid for is not enough, now you need to volunteer another 10-15 hours per week, am I understanding this?”

“Pretty much”

“And you are supposed to do this because your colleagues have chosen to work 50-60 hour work weeks for no additional pay or recognition?”


At this point I mustered all my indignation and said the first thing that came to my mind.


Not very profound I know. You would think that someone who can use histrionics in a sentence could come up with some stunning verbal riposte, but in the face of such blatant abuse all I could come up with was…NO.

No to the loss of personal margins in our lives.

No to the assumption that it is okay to tell your employees to volunteer their time for the “good of the company”.

No to so many meetings that one full work day is spent meeting about the work you are supposed to be actually doing.

What has happened to us?

It used to be that the chief complaint of the societal masses was that husbands came home, grabbed a beer and sat in front of the tube all night.  Now, we are lucky to see each other in passing during the week and maybe catch a glimpse on the weekends between catch up projects.

I want my margins back. 

I want my friends back.  I want to stop being held captive to the tyranny of the urgent. I want to sit down. I want to rest.

There is a scene in the old John Travolta movie Phenomenon, where his mind has gotten so out of control that he can no longer sleep, stop or relax. He is sitting on his front porch when a tree catches his attention.  Really catches his attention. He is absorbed by the breeze rustling through the leaves, the sunlight playing in the branches like little children playing hide and seek, the gentle sway and the seemingly eternal sureness of the craggy monolith.  A breath catches him unaware and his body and mind finally relax. That scene fills me with jealousy every time I see it. When was the last time I had the margin to sit and become absorbed in a tree. So long ago that I think the oak in my front yard was an acorn. 

What does it take to stop this nonsense? Two of my girlfriends are being held hostage at this very moment. One to a never-ending perpetual round of soccer games and the other to the gestapo-like drum steps of marching band. Sigh, I once knew them well... I keep expecting to be hit by a brick coming over the "wall" with a note saying "help me, I am being held captive..." quickly written on a dirty soccer sock or a sweat stained piece of wool. 

Two of my other friends insist that they are only allowed one day off a week. When pushed for a reason why, they can only say it is what is expected in their profession. By whom? Who is this tyrannical beast that decides certain professions are without the basic luxury of a 5 day work week. It certainly isn't in their letters of hire - I know, I wrote them. 

Is it possible that we are holding ourselves prisoner? 

Could we be under some collective borg-like assumption that there is some kind of galactic recompense waiting for us if we sacrifice ourselves on the alter of "too busy hustling to breathe"? 

I feel like I might be unleashing some cosmic unholy terror that will descend upon me like the succubus in a Discovery Channel special and siphon out my marrow, but I am compelled to say it - NO, PEOPLE- THERE IS NO REWARD FOR LETTING LIFE SUCK YOU DRY!

You get nothing for losing touch with your inner life, your children, that guy sleeping beside you and your relationship with God, NOTHING! And worse, you face a vast future of loneliness and isolation. 

Demand your life back! Rise up and say enough! Take back your right to sit and lose yourself in the wonder of a tree for no other reason then the fact that it is there. Come out of the collective stupor and grab as many tired others as you can on your way out the door!

The reward is out there, but it comes in the form of peace. It comes in transcendent moments when you know the lightness of freedom. When you have "chosen wisely" and have gained the power of the almighty NO. 

Wishing you days of utter guilt-free repose and the reward of a quiet and peaceful life.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I know that in the span of eternity, our life is as short as a fireflys light, but to me each minute is worthy of an eternity.

When we are little we are immortal. We know this. It is what splits the veil between this life and possibility. It is what causes us to leap off the back of the tallest chair in the house, wearing our magic cape and knowing beyond shadow of doubt that we can fly. It is what gives us the strength to launch our bike off the homemade ramp, knowing that we will ride the wind all the way across the stream, landing safely on the other side. It is the solid conviction that we will never die that allows us to leap off the garage clutching the umbrella with the absolute certainty that we will float to the ground.

We think that it is time that robs us of our ability to know these magical things of immortality. It is not time, it is loss. I lost a friend today. Each time this has happened in my lifetime I have felt a little more of that innocent immortality leave me. It is almost as if our lives shed layers of the sempiternal like a flower losing its petals to the wind, one by one.

The first one you truly remember is a shock. It is an unforgettable moment where your heart demands the impossibility of the news because you just saw them. As if your very seeing is somehow a talisman against loss. This is where the stripping begins. One layer of immortal certainty is ripped away. The services of memory do nothing to ease your conviction that it cant be happening - yet somehow it is. Each one becomes more painful than the last because each one strips off a layer that is closer and closer to the deepest part of our heart, the place where we secretly hold onto that last shred of childhood magic. It is here that the tiny beating kernel of our very essence holds the last guileless giggle of innocence.

I guess this means that today I became an adult.

I don't want to be an adult. I want my friend back.

His name was Bill. We called him our Elder Statesman, our Mr. President (he was our church council president 22 times over his years at the church). I thought of him as a rock. He was unassailable in my view, he spoke with absolute conviction and when he spoke people listened. He was an island of certainty when times were uncertain. He was my friend.

As a Christian I know I am supposed to take great comfort in the fact that my friend is no longer in pain, is standing in the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and is finally, totally, completely happy. Selfishly, all I can think about is that I want him here. I want him and his wonderful wife Jeanette to walk in on Sunday morning and be as I see them, always together. I will not get my wish and I want to stomp my feet and cry like a child, but I can't because I have no childhood left. Now I know the terrible cost of gravity, the brittleness of life, the reality that the wind cannot blow me to safety, and the brevity of the firefly.

Tomorrow I will mourn his passing, but tonight I will stare out the window with my adult eyes and wonder why it has to be this way.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Ode to Marriage and a Baby Rant

An Ode to Marriage and a Baby Rant

On March 1st I will have been married for one and a half years. Me, married. Wow. There are days I can hardly believe it and I feel like singing the Barbara Streisand song, “I Finally Found Someone” … the only difference is I know that a random “finding” is not what happened. It is a gift, given to me by the hand of a loving Father.

Now, for the snippy part. For all of you who have cursed my marriage with your own disenchantment, with phrases such as:

“Oh sure, your kissing and cuddling now, but just give it a few years.”

“Its all down hill from here.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t want to sit that close in a few years.”

Or my favorite, “Yeah, well just wait till the love dies and you’re stuck with each other.”

To you I say, “No thank you, you can keep your kind words and I’ll just wait and see how this turns out without your bitter vitriol.”

Now I understand that getting married at 44 is a little different than getting married at 24. Since at 24 you’re basically still a half baked potato with no idea who you really are and what kind of person you should marry, but let me give you a reminder message:

Being single sucked.

Oh I know
I can hear the gasps from all of you whose fondest wish is to be single again. Let me give you a refresher course on the vaunted singleness that you miss so much.

Excuse: You get to decide what to do with all your time. No one else has a right to dictate your time.

Reminder: Yes, all your time is yours. Every. Single. Minute. This is especially true on your way home from work while you are talking to one of your girlfriends, you know, the one who is never available to do anything with you because her family takes most of her time. No harm, no foul, her family should take up her time. However, there is nothing more alone feeling than having your friend drive up into her driveway and say “hi there buddy, how was school!” with an aside to you that she has to go now because she is home. So are you, but it’s just you and all your precious free time. Now, lest I sound too pathetic, I enjoyed an enormously busy and full single life, but that didn’t mean that all that free time you so envy did not weigh heavy on my spirit.

Excuse: Nobody gets to tell you what to do with your money.

Reminder: Yup, its all you, all the time. Every single decision is yours, every single financial emergency, and every single financial mistake, every single bill, every single decision, every single worry about being laid off, every single budget or math error - all yours. Yippee! I would have given a kidney to have someone there to help with those decisions. I occasionally had enough money to buy something I wanted. You could have had it back for the price of some sound financial advice I didn’t have to pay for.

Excuse: I never get to do what I want to do.

Reminder: Oh waah! I won’t call you a big baby, but I’ll think it. Try to remember all those times that plans fell through because your married friends had things come up at the last minute. Try to remember all the dinners and movies you had alone because no one was available to join you. Try to remember that financially you were so limited that you couldn’t entertain if you wanted to.

For the ladies. Let me remind you how wholly wicked singleness is during PMS. Never have I felt so alone and pathetic as when I would lie awake at 1am and long for someone to touch.  Sucky, sucky, sucky.

Excuse:  Things are so boring.  It was so much more exciting when I was dating.

Reminder: Oh yeah, because going out and meeting some stranger at Caribou was soooo fun. Spending hours shopping (which I hate anyway), make-up, hair, all for a total stranger. Perking up like a puppy every time the coffee shop door opened, trying to decide whether to buy something before he gets there and then trying to be entertaining to a stranger. When you do decide to date each other, then comes the inevitable conversation about sex. Remember that fun one?

Me: “No I’m not going to sleep with you, I’m waiting until I get married.”
Him: in stunned amazement “What?!”
Me: “No seriously.”
Him: “Well we have to at least sleep in the same bed together, how will we know if we are compatible sleepers?”
Me: “What?!”

This was an actual conversation during my supper fun dating seasons. The next guy couldn’t figure out why I stopped him every time he tried to grope me. “No seriously, my breasts are off limits. (As he reached for me again) Am I stuttering here?”

And remember the will he/won’t he call thing when you finally think maybe? Agony.

Dating is neither for the faint of heart, nor the sane.

Let me tell you what my life is like now:

I have never in my life felt greater love than from my husband. I even understand the love of my Jesus better because my husband loves me so well.

We share in this messy, awful, wonderful, blissful life. The hard stuff is no longer mine alone and the joys are doubled because they are shared.

Sitting together in silence doing our separate things is one of the sweetest ways of being loved. Just being together.

Every single day there is someone waiting for me at the end. That alone is worth any imagined loss of singlehood.

I thought I was busy as a single, but I have never been busier in my whole life, but the difference is that we are together and the busyness is shared. We are also there to say when enough is enough.

When I lie awake at 1am, I put my hand on his arm and magically a place on his shoulder appears for me.

I can no longer walk without his hand in mine. I have lost the ability to open my own doors. I do not miss these capabilities in the slightest.

Our life together is not perfect, there are many challenges, but we look them dead in the eye and we do it together.

We go “fox hunting” often. The little foxes that spoil the vine are not allowed to run rampant through the vineyard of our marriage.

But most importantly:

“I love you” has become the melody of my days and the symphony of my nights.

And really, what more is there to say than that? 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In Response to the Cat's Diary

I have but a moment before one of them comes back. They seem to be everywhere and they know all. The only reason I have this brief moment is because I fed them early and they are deep in the bowels of their bowls. It all began so innocently. It was merely a trip to the Humane Society on a lovely fall day. I blithely looked in the windows of the various rooms never knowing that it would spell my doom.  There were hundreds of them. If I had known what I know now, I would have expired on the spot. But no, my blissful ignorance blinded me to the obvious. Those poor, poor people working at the society thought they were the captors, when really they were merely the pawns of the evil horde.  Alas, I can’t help them. I only have enough strength left for one more attempt. I was a fool that day. What I thought was instant love between me and the fluffy one was instead a diabolical plot to force me to bring her home. We were not in what used to be MY home for more than three minutes before the truth began to slowly seep into my reality.

It began oh so innocently, a mew, a purr and suddenly I was in PetSmart buying a fancy new automatic waterdish. Who needs an automatic waterdish?! The next day was worse. I found myself convinced that moist food was the only way to go. My precious needed soft food, preferably warmed for exactly 15 seconds in the microwave with a soup├žon of paprika. Paprika?? What was happening here! I tried to resist this silliness, but I was tormented by a fluffy tail in my face every time I began to fall asleep. After two sleepless nights, I caved. I caved like a wet tissue in a sneezing fit.  It was over for me. I admitted defeat. I was now the captive human of a 2 pound Persian and her toy mouse.

I began to plan my escape. Instead, I found myself back at the Humane Society because her majesty needed a consort. Not that she could do anything with him, as they were both it-ed, but it was a fabulous ploy to bind me to them even further. What one of them couldn’t accomplish, surely the two of them could. And they did. Boy did they. I found myself catering to their every whim. They cried I came running. They wanted to sleep on my pillow, I slept at the bottom of the bed. They wanted a cat tree, I emptied my savings account to give them the world covered in tan carpet and sisal rope.

It is now day number 412 of my captivity, I am now owned by five of them. They see my every move. They haunt my steps. My sleep is only at their will and my days are run by their feeding schedule. I am lost. Send help. Send. The. Dog…

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Tale of Three Church Signs - A very naughty post

A Tale of Three Church Signs
Attend if you will to my tale. In the small humble neighborhood of Blaine, there live three churches of distinct variety. I have not visited any of them, nor do I comment on their denominational affiliation. However, the approach of each church to the Lord and Savior is writ large upon their church signs. It is this part of the tale on which I do make so bold as to comment, yea verily and remark I will.

As to the first church, it might be said that they are of the kind that makes the dew of the lemon seem overly sweet. Written each week on their sign is their loving message to the community at large, its basic portent is thus - you are going to hell. A lovely sentiment; made especially ironic by the fact that the church’s name is Blessed Hope. I’m uncertain which part contains the hope, the assurance of your hellbound state or the fact that you will soon pass this sign at 40 miles per hour which means you will only be able to absorb half your daily allotment of condemnation. To a fellow Christian, it is like one of those horrific car accidents that your brain absolutely compels you to look at. By the end of the week, be assured that you will know the full context of the scorching coals of judgment being heaped upon you. One must be careful not to be sipping a libation when passing said bastion of hope, as one might accidently inhale the contents while gasping at the audacious use of scripture. For example, the warm and caring message to us all for Christmas was not the sweetness of the Virgin Birth, nor the beauty of the heavenly host’s singing a message of love, it was instead a miniature diatribe about how the glorious heavenly Father knows his own. The subtext was obvious. Those of you who aren’t among the chosen known, should sniff the air carefully, for that IS brimstone you are smelling.

The second tale is the one that pains me most. A bright spark has gone from the Christian lexicon. Where once the sign was clothed in clever pithy sayings that would cause even the hardest of atheistic souls to squeak out a laugh; alas, now it has de-evolved into the kind of trite tripe that we Christians are so delightfully known for. This particular sign is just down the road from the Domain of Hope and the juxtaposition of the two never ceases to amaze. All of the aforementioned signs and even the last of them, are of the laborious plastic letter-by-letter affairs that some poor soul has to change and figure out how to make an M into that ever-present extra E. Even after the fall of man, oops, I mean signage, the messages were at least happy…ish.

The favorite epigrammatic offering came late in the summer and was of such an unexpected ilk, that this writer nearly drove off the road. After a delightful season of witticisms and drollery, the sign simply said “Sign Broke…Come In for Message”. Brilliant! Many a time I almost called to tell this church what a light they were. For truly, what can be more liberating, more community building or more loving than the apt application of humor. For one shining, even sparkling moment, we band of merry Christians were not the doltish, lugubrious lot that we are so oft portrayed. Instead we were transcendent and even winsome. Then came the end…sigh. Overnight, like the fading of Brigadoon (obscure musical reference), the wit disappeared. The galaxy lost a shining presence and alas, we Christians became, once again, culturally moronic. The sign the very next week said, “What’s the best vitamin for Christians? B1” I hesitate to tell some of the later offerings, lest some convert to Buddhism out of shame – the Buddhist’s temple being right across the street and easily within reach of the distraught.

After the tales of the first two, one might be hesitant to approach the third, for fear that one might completely loose heart. Fear not faithful one, there is hope. In all of my wanderings, there is one sign that has set itself so completely above the others, that my pen fails to find a reference pristine enough to grace them. Their name is Kingswood Church. Without fail this sign contains nothing but blessing and the sweetest morsels of thanksgiving and praise. So far I have seen every church in the neighborhood graced with the following “God Bless (insert name) Church” and the delightful “Come on in, we know you’re curious.”   Oh I am.

When they are not busy blessing their “competition”, their sign proclaims the frequent meals and groceries that they give out to anyone in need in the community. If you know the church world, wishing God’s best on another church, especially one in the same denomination, is tantamount to the Green Bay Packers praying for the Vikings before the big game. A simple tale, but one that leaves a pleasant taste.

In the vein of Aesop’s, what lessons do we take with us from these three signs? Perhaps just this, even as there are many types of people in this world, there are just as many varieties within each category of people.  There are great doctors, there are terrible doctors, there are noble drive-thru people and there are the ones that can’t be bothered to look at you. Thus it is with Christians. We come in all manner of clothing. There is the Blessed Hope kind who wear undergarments so tight that their righteousness squeals every time they move. There is the second kind whose underwear went from Victoria’s Secret to red flannels. Then there is the third kind at Kingswood who don’t worry if you have holes in your underwear when the ambulance comes. They know that it is really not about underwear at all, but instead is about genuinely loving a Savior with arms wide open, stretched out to receive. It’s more important to them to make sure that you know that your life matters. Your life matters not only to the one who created you, but your life matters to them. They may be rich people, they may be poor people, they may be white, brown, purple or blue, but whatever kind of people they are, they know how to love and surely, that sign, points to God more than any other. Period. End of story.