Friday, March 30, 2012

$2 is too rich for my blood.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks PowerBall blew it by doubling their ticket price.  They made the move because they wanted higher jackpots to set them apart from the other lottery games, but they drove their customers to Mega-Millions, and now it’s Mega-Millions that is all over the media with a half billion dollar jackpot.  Why would you pay $2 to lose at a game that you can lose at for $1?  Whether it costs $1 or $2, I am ambivalent to the lottery.

On the one hand, it is definitely a poor tax in my mind.  People who can least afford to play are the ones who spend the most.  Legislators spend all kinds of time debating our tax code, trying to determine how to fairly distribute the load, and many people argue tirelessly that the burden needs to be lifted off of struggling families, but those same families go out and spend an average of $500 a year on lottery tickets (according to this morning’s news), leading our government to pay for schools and roads by institutionalizing gambling, instead of taxing wealth.

On the other hand, who doesn’t want in?  I’m not spending my dollar because I think I’ll win.  I’m spending it, because if they’re giving away millions of dollars, I at least want my name in the pot.  I’m like my daughter, who puts $1 into the Crane Machine at the arcade every time we go.  We know that we are wasting our money.  We know that we have better chances of contracting Mad Cow Disease from a panda, than actually winning.  But if someone’s going to walk away with a stuffed Scooby Doo the size of a yak, for $1, we want our shot.

If everyone approached the lottery with that mentality, I probably wouldn’t loath it the way I do.  Yes, I buy a ticket now and then.  I will even buy a ticket when the pot is only $20 million.  Maybe I couldn’t pay off my house, send my kids to college, visit the Great Barrier Reef, and help plant a church with that, but…wait…yes, I could do all that with even the smallest jackpot.  So I throw my name in the hat for the price of a pack of gum.  But despite playing, I still loath the way it tempts us.  I hate that people buy lottery tickets instead of milk for their kids.  I despise that it reinforces the American cultural aspiration that we are all going to somehow get rich quick; an aspiration that fuels our drive to climb on each others’ heads to get what we want.  An aspiration that more often than not makes people poor, instead of rich.

Let’s face it.  The house always wins.

you abuse the poor and demand heavy taxes from them. Amos 5:11

Friday, March 23, 2012

The end of a season.

My husband picked up the soundtrack to Message in a Bottle back when we were first married.  The movie was nothing really special, but that CD played in the background through many of our early adventures and travels.  When our new, used minivan brought the luxury and convenience of a 6-CD changer into our lives, he dusted off the old soundtrack and plugged it into the rotation.

The last bleary-eyed new
parents picture.
Listening to these songs again invoked a wave of sentiment I didn’t expect.  Of all the milestones we’ve crossed so far, the one we’re crossing now seems to be the most bittersweet.  Our littlest girl turns one tomorrow and there are no more babies on the horizon for us.  We are beautifully complete as a family.  I am thrilled to be watching my children grow up, arm in arm with my dearest and most beloved best friend (who also looks pretty hot with a little facial hair).  I am excited for this next season of our lives, as our children become independent and our dreams have shifted and formed into our reality.  But I also feel the season of “young married life” slipping away: the falling in love, and getting married season; the getting to know your in-laws, and deciding who sleeps closest to the door season; the who is going to change that stinky diaper season; the what will our children be like season.

Every season of my life has had its high points, I have always found joy in the days as they go by, but this last decade-plus has been a treasure like none before.  I loved every minute, beautiful and ugly.  While childhood, high school, and even college came to an end for me with some relief, our early married life comes to an end with nostalgia and a little bit of longing.  There are many treasured moments still ahead for us, but for the first time in my life, I feel that something is passing away that I will miss and never get back.
Such a grown up girl already!

But, thanks in part to Hootie and the Cranberries, a large collection of photographs, and the best souvenirs ever – three darling little girls and the aforementioned husband – I’ll bid this season farewell knowing that the love and joy it brought can still be savored and recalled – like a sweet love letter, bottled up and waiting to be reread.

Happy birthday to my baby girl.

Everything on earth has its own time and its own season. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, March 16, 2012

We're tablet addicts.

It was too late to head out.  My husband had a horrible day at work and was just too exhausted to load up the car and drive the first few hours of our Spring Break road trip.  Rather than push it, and potentially get the trip off to a horrible start, we decided to get a quick dinner and get everyone to bed early.  Then we could take off first thing, well rested, as the sun came up.  Or, as I like to call it – because it amuses and motivates the kids – the Butt-Crack of Dawn.

My husband’s day really didn’t improve when the IHOP waitress dumped an entire large soda on the baby and me, then cried while she served us the rest of our meal.  At least it wasn’t coffee, but it seemed ironic that we actually hadn’t ordered a pop.

By the time the kids were all in bed, we were exhausted, but still a little wound up from the day’s aggravations, so we got our tablets out to unwind for a few minutes before trying to go to sleep.  Suddenly my husband says, with alarm, “Do you know how late it is?”  No, I didn’t know.  I was just using up the last of my 150 moves on Tripletown and assumed it was getting close to 9:30.   “It’s 11 o’clock!  We better get to bed!”  Our oldest daughter had already set her alarm for twenty minutes before Dawn’s Butt would be Cracking, so there was no revising our departure.

The question we had to ponder was, where did two hours go?  What makes the whole thing even more pathetic is that we don’t even have wifi at our house – we were playing with the off-line features available on our tablets!  Lord help us when we stop at a McDonald’s with free wifi.  We may never actually arrive at our destination on this road trip.

If we had not wasted all this time, we could already have been there and back twice." Genesis 43:10

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lent is my New Year's

I don’t make resolutions, because I find it pointless.  More than that, I get a little annoyed with everyone else’s resolutions, because they inconvenience the good habits of others.  For those disciplined health nuts who hit the gym every morning, every day of the year, it seems unfair that the first week of January they suddenly have to wait in line for a treadmill, knowing that the row of unseasoned novices, smelling of fresh spandex, and struggling to figure out the settings on the machines, aren’t really serious about this new lifestyle.  By mid-February, they will return to their morning Starbucks ritual and everyone else can get back to their own routine, without having to trip over the uncommitted.

So, rather than get in the way of people who really do want to better themselves, I skip the whole shenanigans and wait until I’m truly inspired to do something different.  Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I have often found that inspiration in Lent.  The whole concept of giving something up or taking on something new, in solidarity with Christ and his suffering, burdens me, and commits me spiritually in a way that 1/1/whatever never could.

Making changes in my life for Lent has both those spiritual connotations, and also some practical ones.  Lent is for six weeks.  It is the perfect trial period for life improvement.  You can commit to almost anything for six weeks; it’s a very do-able length of time.  You won’t have to feel like a failure at the end, if you don’t keep it up, because it was only a six week commitment to begin with.  But it is also a long enough time to know by the end whether your changes bring the kind of joy and benefit that makes them worth continuing.  Many valuable life improvements have sprung from the brief six week commitment of Lent.

One year, we gave up coffee creamer.  We lost 5 pounds each.  While we went back to drinking creamer, we do not consume nearly the quantities we did before.  Another year, we gave up TV.  That was hard!  We tried to tape all our shows so we could catch up after Lent, but it really never happened.  It helped us realize how much time TV was consuming, and how unimportant the missed episodes were to our enjoyment of later shows.  We developed a family mantra of, “We will never lament that we missed a TV show because we were out living our real lives.”  We went back to TV, but we also disarmed it from having so much power over us.

This year, we decided to start walking 3-4 times a week.  We mapped out the neighborhood and our walks range from .7-1.5 miles.  We’re slowly working in some running, too, but not pressuring ourselves with it.  Mostly, it’s just about keeping our commitment, to get out there and be in creation while moving our bodies.  I’ve been impressed that so far, we’re actually sticking to it, and I’m noticing some improvement to my stamina and muscle tone.  Who knows, maybe this will be one of those Lenten rituals that actually lasts past Easter?

With every change we make, with every habit we start or break, there is some internal switch that seems to flip – or not flip – in us that determines our outcome.  New Year’s never really flipped that switch for me, but, and I know I may sound a little hokey here, Jesus does.  Whether it’s that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13),” or “Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11), Lent is a season, where my meager sacrifices and gifts take on a much more meaningful and deeper symbolism than they deserve.  What’s a day without meat, or a cup of coffee without creamer, compared to the unthinkable suffering Jesus endured?  If he did that, the least I can do is commit for six short weeks.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11

Friday, March 2, 2012

Less than heroic.

Last weekend was a blast, starting right from Friday morning.  I pulled my sewing machine out of mothballs and discovered that I can still pull off a fairly professional-looking hemstitch.  I love the satisfaction of a good sewing project, and it was a bonus that I got to help out a friend.  Then, a rarity since the baby was born, my husband and I got to enjoy, childfree, a fantastic, seafood dinner that felt like anything but fasting.  I savored every bite of Volcano Roll and Whiskey-glazed Char – and every moment of uninterrupted conversation. 

Finally, to top it all off, a friend and I spent Saturday evening at Super Prom!  It was a charity event where costumes were optional, but of course we had to go in costume!  Since we share the same name, we decided to go as Super Emily-s.  The fun started when we hit the costume shop and found coordinating red and blue wigs, silver dresses, and crazy red fishnets.  We planned and plotted for weeks: scoping out the Dollar Tree for masks, coordinating our make-up, cutting out our hero emblems.  The kids were fascinated by all my preparations Saturday evening and got a kick out of the big photo session before we left for dinner and the Prom.  We were already having so much fun; we even admitted to each other that we both initially put our “E”s on our dresses backward, not realizing we were looking in the mirror. Ha!

It has been a long time since I danced for five hours straight, but, minus bathroom breaks, we were non-stop partiers until the band sent us home at 2AM.  2AM!  I got photographed with my hero, Kermit.  Emily got photographed with her hero, Rocky Balboa.  We worked together to fight off the advances of Kung Fu Panda.  And we even got a decent picture of Hoochie-Wonder Woman to share with our husbands later.

It was such a hilariously fun and memorable weekend, I wouldn’t change a thing.  But if you’re going to dance, you have to pay the fiddler; I guess that means more than the $20 cover charge for the party.

I’m not sure why 8-10 hours, over the course of three days, put my family into such discord, but by Sunday evening, I had three kids, including the 10 and 7 year old, trying to squeeze into my seat with me.  And then even the dog got into it when she, not once but twice, tried to prevent me from picking up the baby by racing between us and marking a circle around me.  Nothing says “I missed you” quite like a perimeter of urine.

Monday morning, our middle girl had an exhausting appointment with a specialist that raised as many questions as answers about her chronic stomach aches, it’s always stressful at my husband’s work this time of year, and by midweek I felt paralyzed by everyone’s competing needs.  Hero to Zero in three short days.

When my husband called at lunch time, I was near tears, trying to figure out what to feed the baby.  I had run out of all the foods she eats reliably, and she now refuses to ingest anything puréed or that she can’t feed herself.  Even admitting my frustration felt like another failure, knowing my poor husband was busy and stressed out with work already. 

But he was the real hero this week.  Instead of cutting me off and reminding me that he had no possible means to help, and I was ridiculous for dumping my load on him when he was already enormously strained, he heard me out and then gently reassured me that nothing was as bad as it felt right then.  Hearing his reassurance was just what I needed to finish out the day – and the week.  I still haven’t been to the grocery store, the dog is in the kennel at this very moment, the baby is declining her raviolis by tossing them on the floor, and I’m still in my pajamas at nearly noon.  But it’s all good.  I don’t have to be a hero.  I just have to love them.  And I do.

 When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. 1 Samuel 17:51