Friday, May 27, 2011

I loved my job at McDonald’s

It offered free uniforms, on-the-job training, and a complimentary pop whenever I wandered in – beat that! They said in my first training session, I guess to help us keep our dignity, that 25% of the adult population had worked for McDonald’s at some point in their lives. Believe it or not, I could see why. Some days I’d like to go back.

During my year and a half at Mickey D’s, when I was outside the restaurant, I was an overachieving high school junior. My days were packed from dawn to dusk with Student Council, S.A.D.D., National Honor Society, Tennis, choir, College Prep classes, and even a social life; yes, it lasted only one year, but I had one in 11th grade. Going to McDonald’s for a three hour shift was better stress relief than stopping for yoga, because it paid. It was wonderful to have a few hours to myself, where I could put on the cruise control and be occupied with busywork.

Unlike outside life, McDonald’s provided clear, streamlined, efficiency. There were simple routines to follow for collecting the food items, making change, even stocking ketchup. There was nothing to second guess, no extra points for creativity. Everything I cooked had a beeper that alerted me when it had reached perfection and no one expected more of me than 30 seconds of my undivided attention to punch in their order accurately. Just by offering a smile or a friendly, clear tone of voice over the drive thru speaker, my shift would be cluttered with compliments from pleased customers.

Most of my life since McDonald’s has required a lot more of me. I have to interact with people who have ambiguous motivations. I have to juggle my personal life with ministry, which can often create very blurred lines. From establishing appropriate clothing each morning based on my kids’ hot or cold tolerances and the forecast, to answering the 10pm call from a nervous grandmother who needs reassurance that her grandchild will enjoy children’s church, life keeps me on my toes. Very rarely do I actually know what someone wants from me, can I give them exactly what they want, or will they commend me for just being kind to them during the exchange. Nor am I always as kind as I was in the drive-thru.

Let’s face it, McDonald’s is a wonderland that does not exist in real life. If only it didn’t make you fat.

We don't want anyone to find fault with our work, and so we try hard not to cause problems. 2 Corinthians 6:3

Friday, May 20, 2011

I am hardheaded

The deck needed to be freshened up. We had a day and a half without rain in the forecast, but we were pretty sure we could get it done in one night. After all, the rails and spindles were still good to go, it just needed freshened up. And it was incredibly beautiful out, so I was really looking forward to working outside after spending so much time indoors with the baby.

My husband agreed to hit the hardware store on the way home from work and pick up some stain. He hates making those kind of choices, so I imagined him trapped in the stain aisle at Menard’s, unable to commit to either tan or brown. I wanted to relieve the pressure, so I encouraged him, “just grab whatever, hun, you can’t make a mistake. We’ll use whatever color you pick.”

Those words came back to haunt us both. The baby had just eaten; we were in our paint clothes; we had an hour before dinner. It was time to hit this job. And the stain color is: REDWOOD. You could have pushed me over with a feather. “Red, hun? You want to stain the deck red? Are we living in a doublewide?” But those words were only in my head, as I stifled my reaction. I am, above all else, a woman of my word. I promised he couldn’t mess it up, so I kept my tone of voice positive as I suggested, “With this color, we’re going to need to hit all the spindles and get out the ladder for the outside of the rails.” We him-hawed for only a moment before setting about the task.

I realized five minutes into the job that I was too casual when I mentioned the extra work it was going to be. As he rolled out the dark red onto the deck boards, it gave him time to reflect. It hit him how awful the deck was going to look, if we didn’t get that glorious red onto every nook and cranny. He began to rant and complain about the color choice, “we’re going to have to stain all the rails and spindles. We’re going to be out here for two days, if we’re going to do this right; what possessed us to be so ambitious in our color choice?” It was like he read the rant right out of my head, but now it was our color choice.

Instead of engaging my husband in an intelligent conversation about what color we really wanted to stain the deck, I had charged forwarded, bullheaded, refusing to acknowledge that I was wrong to say I’d joyfully paint any color he chose. He had made his choice with incomplete information. He didn’t grow up in a trailer park, so he had no inhibitions about redwood; he’d trusted the color sample on the outside of the can, which looked more brown than red. While I’d imagined the long delay caused by a choice between tan or brown, I had not actually said out loud that I was assuming we would be using an earth tone. My reticence made me complicit. I was on the hook, as much as he was.

It was not the enjoyable evening I had hoped for, but we did get the deck stained. We even avoided the ugly argument that could easily have developed from our mutual dissatisfaction with the color choice. I was as determined to stay positive about the job, as I had been about not disparaging the color. Once the whole thing was done, we went inside and I played Sammy Kershaw’s Queen Of My Double Wide Trailer for him. He’d never heard it before. We had a good laugh about our "classy" deck. And, for the record, it actually does look really good.

A bear robbed of her cubs is far less dangerous than a stubborn fool. Proverbs 17:12

Friday, May 13, 2011

My baby’s not cute enough.

I’ve been noticing a new crop of ponytailed cuties all over the place this spring. I am a huge fan of ponytails on little girls and I have to admit, I am insanely jealous. My 1 month old was born with a decent head of hair, but now that her head is growing so fast, she’s become the victim of a rapidly receding hairline. Unlike the men I know who suffer from the same malady, she doesn’t even have the comb-over option available to her. I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands, so I did what any good mother would do. I took her in and got her hair extensions.

If you check out the before and after shots, you’ll have to agree with me that the hairdresser did a fantastic job of providing her with the length and fullness she lacked. She won’t have to hang her head in shame on our next trip to the playground, and I think we now have a decent shot at monetizing parenthood. I’m forwarding head shots to several talent scouts this morning. I have noticed that she struggles to hold her hair-burdened head upright, and I think, technically, her ponytails actually qualify as a strangulation hazard; but it will all be worth it when I see the other moms look down into their strollers with disgust and try to shield their hideously bald babies from view as they slink home in shame.

OK, so I didn’t actually get hair extensions for my newborn. And I think it’s indescribably repugnant that a mother has allegedly administered Botox to her eight year old, whether the child requested it or not. What I do admit to, however, is having some of my own value wrapped up in the beauty and brilliance of my daughters. While I think a certain degree of identification with our kids is normal – we do invest a substantial portion of our time and treasure into producing and nurturing them – I’m always walking that line between helping them be their best and pressuring their lives to be expression of my own ambitions.

I hope my oldest daughter will get a chance to dance on Pointe before she retires from ballet; I wish my middle daughter would stand up to her bossy friend that fibs; and I fluff my baby’s wacky hair before we go out or have guests. Let’s face it, though, if they don’t want to dance, really love their bullish friends, or their hair all falls out, I will have to let it go. My kids’ are beautifully and wonderfully made by God, head to toe and inside out. On their best days, I love to consider that I may have had a hand in their outstanding qualities and accomplishments. But living vicariously through them does intolerable things. It undermines their ability seek out the pursuits that are truly right for them. It suggests that what God made is somehow not good enough for me.

When I hear about show-biz kids divorcing their parents, or teenagers getting implants, I know those urges can get out of control. I pray my daughters grow up feeling healthy and beautiful, confident and self-assured. I pray I make the right choices to support them and help them be and feel successful. I pray I maintain a sense of awe and gratitude for the gift of who they are, rather than pushing them to become what I dreamed of for myself.

Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD. Psalm 127:3

Friday, May 6, 2011

My knees are against me

My husband and I have started feeling our age in the last couple of years. When we got a church softball league going last summer, and found ourselves playing teams of twenty-somethings, it was sad how much more nimble they were, and how much more accident prone we were. They celebrated afterward with cold beer in the parking lot. We had to buy beers from the snack bar; the ice from our coolers was for medicinal needs. My brother-in-law is a physical therapist and about ten years younger than us. We were so grateful he joined the team; he handled both the triage and Center Field.

In the latest chapter of my failed athleticism, my husband suggested to me this morning that I should bail on a short, 1 mile, Fun Run I signed up to do next weekend. It’s the ultimate insult to consider myself inadequate to complete 1 stinking mile. My six year old could probably run a mile – in high heels and a party dress.

The doctor cleared me for exercise last week, and, while I have managed to drop the baby-weight, the scale really doesn’t tell the whole story; there is plenty of soft on me. I thought, perhaps, this should be my summer to really pursue a higher degree of fitness. I printed out a 22 week workout plan that is supposed to take you from couch potato to Sprint Tri-athlete. We decided that the swimming part was going to be too complicated for now, childcare wise, but my husband agreed to join me in the biking and running. I even went and purchased shoes that are actually designed for running; they're so uncool looking, I wouldn’t wear them to Walmart. Well, OK, maybe Walmart, but not Target.

We stepped up the workouts last night, and started to jog 2/3 of the time, and walk the other 1/3. I knew it was doing me good, when I started having to push myself to get through the last couple intervals. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and thought, “Oh, yeah, I can do this thing!” Celebrate with me – my half mile split was under ten minutes! I can hear the roar of your chuckles already, but if I can finish the run in less than half an hour next weekend, I get a medal!  And I won’t get run over by the serious runners when they start their race. By the way, if 1 mile is a “fun” run, why would you run further? Is a 2 mile run a “funner” run? A marathon must be hilarious.

I woke up this morning with a pain in my right knee. I looked it up online and have self-diagnose Iliotibial Band Syndrome. It says the first recourse to heal it, is to rest your knee. What? I decide to get out and exercise, and the moment I start feeling some sense of accomplishment, my knee decides it needs rest? This hardly seems fair. Even worse, my husband took my knee’s side in the matter. I feel so betrayed and old.

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way. Isaiah 35:3