Friday, July 29, 2011

I felt weak and girlie

We recently rented A League of their Own to watch with the family.  It was an instant hit with our daughters.  I love that movie, because it illustrates with great humor and accuracy what women can achieve in male dominated fields, without sacrificing what makes them uniquely feminine.  Of course, the most memorable line of the whole movie is when Tom Hank’s character coaches with the same harsh language he would use on anyone who missed the cutoff on a key play, and his distraught player breaks into tears.  Everyone now knows, “There’s no CRYING in BASEBALL!”

Whatever it is, baseball, medicine, politics, or ministry, it can be tough to go against the grain.  Growing up, I believed I could be anything I wanted to be, from a firefighter to an astronaut, from a teacher to a lawyer.  I knew talent and education could limit me, and my height (and lack of coordination) might keep me from professional gymnastics, but I never thought of my gender as being a limiting factor.  Despite the optimistic naiveté of my childhood, I learned long before I pursued this calling that being a woman in a male dominated field would have challenges.  From having to explain repeatedly that you are the minister, not the minister’s wife, to the discomfort of professional meetings where you are the only female in the room, many circumstances and many individuals will force your awareness that you made an unconventional career choice.  Beyond that, it can be downright hurtful when members of your own congregation profess their view that the Bible clearly forbids women to be ministers, or confide to your husband they have to close their eyes to be able to take in a sermon when a woman preaches.

Those obstacles are frustrating, and thrust upon me.  But what bothers me the most is when I become the cause of my own insecurity.  Generally, it is in those times when church life gets a little too political, or when interpersonal dynamics get a little heated.  I am pretty sure that I deal with conflict in a very different way than a man would.  I seem to have two modes: passion or emotion.  Neither comes across to others (especially men) as rational.  When I’m passionate, it seems to scare people.  When I’m emotional, I feel like I’m feeding all the prejudices against women.

I had one of those experiences this week, where someone interfered with my ability to do my job because of their prejudices.  I couldn’t invoke the passionate response, because it wasn’t something I really even cared about.  But it made me mad, and I took it harder and more emotionally than I needed to.  Having to work that hard to control my emotions made me feel weak and girlie.  I could hear Tom Hanks in my head, saying intensely, “There’s no CRYING in MINISTRY!”  I did hold it together, only a couple people got a glimpse of my frustration, and I did not cry; but I felt intensely silly, and girlie, and like I was letting all my fellow women ministers down.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.  I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. Romans 16:1-2

Friday, July 22, 2011

I hoard Oreos.

It’s not just Oreos, either.  Sometimes I sneak ice cream into the freezer and stash it behind the asparagus.  If there are any Zingers to be had, they are most certainly on the top shelf of the pantry, often in a sack to mask them.  Behind the pretzels and tortilla chips – that’s where to look for the Cheddar Cheese Chex-Mix.

It seems utterly ridiculous, considering how much more easily my kids could metabolize all that junk than I can, but the good stuff doesn’t come out until after they are tucked snug in their beds.  During the day, when they want something tasty, I steer them to bananas, fruit snacks, and whole grain crackers.  I try to model good habits by eating granola and yogurt myself, at breakfast and snack times.  Then 9 o’clock hits, and I can be found building an architectural wonder out of peanut butter cup ice cream and hot fudge, or teasing my palate with different combinations of wine, cheese, and snack mixes.

I suppose a little moderation would mean sharing a reasonable portion of these goodies, on occasion, with the whole family.  But it works out much better for me, when the kids just never know that stuff is in the house.  When they do get wise to the box of donuts I have hidden in the fridge, I have to deal with, “Mom, can we have a donut?” in fifteen minute intervals, all day long (whether or not they’ve already had one).  Then I feel driven to consume the whole dozen by midnight, just so I won’t have to answer their endless inquiries the next day.
I have a snack habit.  I hoard to support it.  Sometimes I skip supper, just to free up some extra room for snacks.

John told them, "If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn't have any. If you have food, share it with someone else." Luke 3:11

Friday, July 15, 2011

My daughter might have been eaten by pandas.

I love how whenever a child ends up in a mishap and the parent finds themself answering to a news reporter, whether the child was lost at the mall, fell into a pool, or was kidnapped by genetically modified panda bears, the answer is always the same, “You just can’t take your eyes off of them for even a minute.”  That poor parent is then flooded with shadenfreud, as the sea of solemn faces and words of comfort and pity only weakly mask the whispered “tsk-tsks” of the gleefully self-righteous parents around them – all of whom know better than to take their eyes off their  children.

So I’ll just get it out right now – I currently have, and frequently take, my eyes off my children.  Sometimes I need to shower, sometimes to cook dinner; every now and then I’m totally negligent and hide in my room doing nothing while my children fend for themselves.  They’ve generally come through these episodes without event, but there was that one time…

My middle daughter was all of one year old and had moved more quickly than we realized from barely walking to climbing.  My older daughter was a dutiful big sister: ever ready to tattle.  My husband and I had taken our eyes off both of them, trusting Caillou to keep them entranced so we could complete our daily grooming.  Our tooth-brushing was interrupted when we received word from our scout that the toddler was “eating all the vitamins!”  We looked down at her with skepticism, knowing that the vitamins were kept on the top shelf of the upper cabinets and they were sealed with a “childproof” cap.  Without much urgency, I headed to the living room to discover my toddler in the middle of a scattered pile of Flintstones, consuming them as quickly as her fine motor skills allowed (which fortunately, wasn’t very quickly, her gross motor skills being far more advanced than her fine ones).  Sounding the alarm with my husband, I gathered her up while he began collecting the vitamins.  I was stunned, as I went into the kitchen, to see the wake of her efforts.  A chair had been dragged from the table and pushed up against the cupboard.  The upper cabinets were flung wide open, and the contents of the uppermost shelf were upended.  It had never, ever crossed my mind that my small daughter was capable of such a feat.  I would have thought she’d need a nap, just after dragging that heavy chair across the kitchen.  Who would guess she would still have the muster to climb up on the counter, get the cupboard doors open, find the vitamins, and overcome the childproof cap!  Let alone get safely back to the ground to take her snack in to munch on while she watched TV.

In short, I caught a break.  I had taken my eyes off her.  She could have fallen down a well, been stolen by aliens, or run away with gypsies.  One of my friends recently mentioned her desire to wrap her toddler in bubble wrap.  This confession is my commiseration with the frustration she feels, trying to keep a boisterous, curious child safe, without surrendering to a lifestyle of fear.  Unfortunately, kids do get hurt sometimes, and sometimes it is because their parents are negligently inattentive.  But I’m not going to tsk at that poor parent whose child has been hurt or lost, because it happens incredibly fast, and there is no human way to avoid, now and then, taking our eyes off our beloved children.  It doesn’t mean we’re stupid, or that we don’t love our kids.  Sometimes our kids have to share our attention with life's other necessities, and in those moments, we have to rely on the benevolence of a greater power.

Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. 1 Peter 5:2a

Friday, July 8, 2011

I’m hiding laundry in my trunk.

In the fabulous juggling act of life, I’ve been dropping a few balls lately.  To say that I’ve let the summer get away from me is an understatement.  Somehow my return to work after maternity leave converged with personal and family obligations, both planned and surprise, in a way that has left me with more on my plate than I can swallow; at least not in one sitting!  Added to that, I can be pretty negligent to my obligations this time of year anyway, because summer is the season I suck the marrow from, in order to survive the dark days of winter ahead.

The laundry thing started out innocently enough.  The house is listed, so we’re trying to keep the place spotless.  I think keeping dirty underwear out of site helps create a positive vibe for buyers.  Nothing says “utopia” like an empty laundry room, right?  So when we got back from my grandma’s service (just three, short weeks ago, mind you), I brought in each of the girls bags in succession to wash their clothes and put everything away.  Then I fell behind and my big duffle, a combined mess of my own and the baby’s clothes, was still riding around in the back of the minivan when we packed up again for a 4th of July weekend in Wisconsin.  We had a blast!  Unfortunately, in the days since our return, I have been too preoccupied with my kids and preparing for our summer program at church to empty the trunk and get our laundry done, so our fresh crop of dirties is languishing in the trunk on top of my previous duffle.

There have been a few awkward moments, since this whole laundry hiding thing began.  Every time they load groceries into my car, I feel an obligation to explain to the cart-boy why they are having to pile my purchases on top of our suitcases.  I don’t, but I feel like I should.  I have the same feeling when there’s a sudden chill at a ballgame and the girls dig through my bag and come back to the bleachers in an assortment of my dirty clothes.  Then there’s the odor.  Maybe it was a bathing suit?  Perhaps a towel?  Something back there got wet, and there’s nothing more refreshing on a day of 92 degrees and 89%  humidity than a wave of hot, musty stench rolling out to meet you when you slide open the door of your car.

I'm hauling more than kids back there!
So, I’ve still got two days of packed activity to live through, but I’ve requested a do-nothing day this weekend and I’m a hankering to remedy my laundry folly.  We’ll see how far I get before something more pressing distracts me – like making faces at the baby, eating Hawaiian Shaved Ice with the big girls, a showing, or Mr. Popper’s Penguins at the Drive-In.  I’m sure it will work out.  If not, pack extra underwear, girls, because it may be winter before we get caught up!

After Moses went down the mountain, he gave orders for the people to wash their clothes and make themselves acceptable to worship God. Exodus 19:14

Friday, July 1, 2011

I offended the new girl.

As I mentioned in a blog entry last summer, I don’t have much to contribute to the church softball team; with a new baby, I’m worth even less this year.  What I can contribute, however, is robust enthusiasm and lighthearted joshing.Since our church plays in Coed D-league, it seems like a basic assumption that we are in it more for fun than with trophy aspirations.  There are enough players with experience to keep us following the rules, and to bring innings to a close, eventually, but many players, like I was, are softball novices with more willingness than finesse.  We try to take our limitations in stride and feel free to laugh at ourselves and each other.

I guess it’s part of the hazard of coed softball that reproduction caused a major turnover of female players (I’m not the only gestational casualty this year), so there were a few offseason recruits being introduced before the game.  One gal and I exchanged names, and she seemed friendly.  Trying to offer a little small talk, I clarified with her whether she used any of the shortened forms of her name, and she said she didn’t.  I joked that it’s always good to make sure what a person’s name is before I start cheering or jeering them when they are at bat – because I did plan to be a loud fan.   She looked at me a little coldly and asserted that hopefully she wouldn’t be so bad that I would need to jeer her.  I immediately wanted to eat my words; I truly didn’t mean to suggest, without even having seen her play, that she stunk!  I had honestly meant only to include her in the goofy camaraderie that the girls on the team all shared.

Well, before the end of the game, I doubly needed to eat my words.  She was really good!  The team is really lucky to have her.  She was catching flies, turning double plays, and hitting runners in.  There were no jeers to make – she rocked it.  I’m going to have to find a way to break the ice again, because I completely blew it for round 1.

If you have good sense, it will show when you speak. But if you are stupid, you will be beaten with a stick. Proverbs 10:13