Monthly Archives: May 2006

Postcard

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Greetings from Potty Training Town! Wish you were here!

No. Really. I wish you were here instead of me, perched in suspense on the edge of the bathtub, coaxing a three year old boy into sitting still on the toilet and waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the magical tinkling sound of pee hitting the water. Pretty soon he’s going to catch on to the fact that a sticker’s just not worth a week long camp out in the bathroom.

And I have a lot of other stuff to do.

Redneck Teddy

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I attended a good friend’s bridal shower this weekend. It was pleasingly familiar: light, fluffy cake served on stacks of clear plates, pink punch in a glass bowl, elegantly wrapped packages concealing all the Pyrex and pillows, finery and furbelows an about-to-be-married couple could want to launch a brand new household. As we sat around in a circle, asking Jenny probing questions about Carl and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over each successive vase and towel, I was reminded sharply of my own wedding showers, and the excitement of that magical twilight hour between singleness and marriage.

I had three bridal showers. Excessive, I know, but there it is. One was thrown by the lovely ladies of my church family in Arkansas, where I lived at the time. Another was hosted by friends and family back in my hometown of Snellville, Georgia (town motto: “Where Everybody’s Somebody”.) It was a couples shower, where Paul proved his manly mettle by showing an unprecedented amount of interest in things like silver candlesticks and non-stick frying pans. His performance was impeccable, and made up for the infuriating noncommittal shrug he gave me every time I asked him for his opinion while we were registering for said items. It took him a while to get into the whole gift registry thing. He plodded up and down the bed and bath aisles at my side, scanned whatever I told him to with the bar code gun, and only perked up when we got to the hardware department, where he gleefully registered for a Craftsman cordless drill and a barbecue set. That must have set the wheels turning, though. By the time we left the store, our registry was filled with unique wedding gift ideas, including athletic socks, a video camera, and matched sleeping bags. The highlight of the second shower, for Paul, was the unwrapping of a big black tool box filled with nails, a hammer, screwdrivers, wood glue, and a staple gun. (God bless the thoughtful soul who brought that!) I think he was just happy to have something to carry out to the car that wasn’t covered in flowered tissue paper.

My favorite shower, though, was the third, a girls-only event arranged by a handful of close college friends and held in the second floor common room of my dorm. You see, Paul and I met and married while attending Harding University, a Christian college in Searcy, Arkansas, and some of the school’s most unique and beloved traditions revolved around engagements and marriage. For example, when a couple got engaged, they often kept it a secret for a day or two until the girl’s social club (something like a sorority) could arrange a Ring Ceremony. That night, all the girls would gather around the Lily Pool, trying to deduce who the new fiancée could be. Encircling the pool, they would sing songs while a lit taper candle with the engagement ring on it was passed around and admired. The second time around the circle, as it passed by the girl whose engagement was being announced, she would take it and blow the candle out, a revelation usually followed by a big cheer and an official re-telling of the proposal story.

My third bridal shower was the embodiment of another Harding tradition, the Lingerie Shower. Knowing that all the couple’s domestic needs were being met by hometown family and friends, college buddies took this opportunity to make sure that the new bride and groom were supplied with everything they needed to enjoy marital bliss in…errr…other spheres. Maybe you can imagine the giggling and blushing as the guest of honor unwrapped each carefully selected gift, holding it aloft to a chorus of laughter or admiration. Some gifts were beautifully sweet: an ivory satin nightgown, a lacy chemise, a collection of bubble baths. Some gifts were so unusual as to require explanation, an endeavor that always brought down the house. A few gifts were there just for laughs, like the infamous Redneck Teddy that kept showing up at party after party, emerging from a beautiful gift bag or a fancy, wrapped box to elicit a hearty round of jeers and guffaws. (It’s hard to do justice to the Redneck Teddy in words, but essentially, it’s a man’s white t-shirt that has been…um…altered with scissors and a Sharpie.)

What I remember most about lingerie showers, though, and mine especially, is the sense of wonder and mystery we all felt as we peered ahead into an unknown world of sweetness and intimacy soon to be entered by one of our own. Alive with curiosity, we speculated, we asked questions, and we shared guesses. As conversation buzzed around the room, the few married girls among us usually sat back with quiet, enigmatic smiles playing across their faces, offering little information, but fueling the fire of conjecture all the same. I think we understood, even then, underneath all the laughter and joking, that some momentous threshold was about to be crossed, and we gave it due ceremony.

It’s been over ten years since the day I unwrapped the Redneck Teddy at my own shower. Ten years of stumbling—and flying. Ten years of education. Ten years of exploration. Being married is not unlike unwrapping a gift, actually. As time goes by, more and more of the person you love is revealed; each successive tear of the paper is accompanied by the thrill of discovery and the hope for more.

Ten years multiplies the joy in more ways than one. Just as some emotions are too piercing to be put into words, some mysteries, like two people becoming one, are too deep to be expounded.

Sometimes the best you can do is an enigmatic smile.

Music to Perspire By

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It’s been two weeks, and I’m still going strong on my brand-new, extra fun dancing (read: flailing, wiggling, kicking, flapping) workout program.

Caleb is my usual dance partner and seems to enjoy it, mostly, although every so often I’ll notice he has stopped dancing and look up to catch an expression on his face that clearly says, “I know I’m only three, but if you ever do that move you just did in front of my friends, I’ll die.”

Fortunately for the world and my kids, my spastic gyrations are rarely seen outside of the confines of my own living room. (Okay, I admit that the bounce in my step gets a little pronounced when “Hey Ya!” by Outkast rotates into play. I’m sorry, but you can’t not move when that song comes on.)

For those of you who might want to take your own groove thing out of storage and dust it off, I thought I’d post a song list of the fun and the funky that’s currently cycling through my dance mix:

1. Hey Ya! Outkast
2. I Like the Way Bodyrockers
3. Starry Eyed Surprise Oakenfold
4. One Girl Revolution (Battle Mix) Superchick
5. The Rockafeller Skank (short edit) Fatboy Slim
6. I’m a Believer Smash Mouth
7. Diverse City TobyMac
8. Tubthumping Chumbawamba
9. The Slam (d Dubb Remix) TobyMac
10. Underdog Audio Adrenaline
11. The Devil is Bad W’s
12. Girlfriend Matthew Sweet
13. Bowling Ball Superchick
14. My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend Relient K
15. Catch-A-Fire (White Rabbit Mix) TobyMac
16. Ill-M-I TobyMac
17. I Like to Move It (Jen’s O. Radio Edit) Bang Gang
18. Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet Relient K

So did I miss out on the Best Dance Song Ever? Tell me about it! I’m always looking for new jewels to add to my iTunes library.

*Shake it like a Polaroid picture…*

Lessons from Mom

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I know that my Mother’s Day tribute is two days too late for Mother’s Day. But one of the things I’ve learned from my mom is that it’s never too late to do something special for someone. Sending birthday and Christmas presents late is practically a tradition on my mom’s side of the family and has become a running family joke, a “genetic anomaly” that we all laugh about when the Christmas card shows up in April and you can’t remember whether the birthday gift you just received is late for last year’s birthday or early for the next one. As long as it’s from the heart, the timing won’t matter to Mom.

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My mom is an amazing woman. I hear her voice in my head and feel the gentle guidance of her hundreds of motherly proverbs nudging me along, influencing how I mother my own kids. Even though she can still drive me crazy in that way only mothers and daughters know, I am thankful daily for the blessing she is and the gifts she has given me.

Though I could probably make a list ten pages long of things my mom has said, I want to share here some of the lessons I’ve learned just by watching the way she lives, because I’ve come to understand that those are the most precious legacy of all.

My mother has taught me that:

Housework can wait. I don’t remember, growing up, if our house was always clean. I never put on white gloves and checked for dust, or inventoried the linen closet to make sure everything was neatly put away and accounted for. What I do remember is making cookies in the kitchen with Mom, flour on the floor, eggs accidentally cracked before they reached the bowl, doughy fingerprints on every surface. I remember her reading aloud to us (long after we could read for ourselves) while I leaned against her, closed my eyes, and let the words paint pictures in my head. My Side of the Mountain was one of my favorites, and gave birth to a fantasy I held on to long afterwards, of getting away into the wild world and “living off the land” like Henry David Thoreau. I remember her teaching us the multiplication tables with homemade flash cards, harnessing the power of competition to spur us on as we strove to win the last Popsicle in math fact speed rounds. I don’t remember if the house was spotless, but I do remember knowing that I was important to my mother. I hope my children will always know how important they are to me.

The best gift you can give is yourself. My mom has worked hard all her life. It was her goal to be a stay-at-home mom when we were growing up, and she and my dad toiled to make that a reality. From selling handmade crafts at craft shows to driving a paper route to running a home day care, my mom did everything possible to make sure she was there for us in those early years. Later, when we were older and stretched finances dictated her entry into the work force, she still labored to stay present and tuned in. She always knew what was going on in our lives, and made the extra effort to stay connected to us, to know our thoughts and our feelings about things. I still remember mom waiting up for me when I went out on dates—not just to make sure I got home okay (although that was part of it), but to spend time talking with me during the only quiet part of the day. We shared deep conversations and unraveled many of the universe’s mysteries at one o’clock in the morning. Her efforts to truly stay in touch have made a world of difference, not only in my development, but in the home I’m trying to create for my children, too. I hope that whether I’m working or not, I will always do what it takes to be there for my family.

It’s never too late to accomplish your dreams. My parents were married while still in college, and, like many young women, my mom threw herself into marriage and family life and didn’t complete her degree. After raising a family and spending years in management positions for the food service industry, she made a leap of faith. With my father’s wonderful support and three children cheering her on, she went back to school and earned first her B.A. in psychology and then a Master’s degree in counseling. I was in college myself when she enrolled in classes, and seeing her make sacrifices and embrace challenges to reach out for her goals had a profound impact on me. I hope that I will never be afraid to make changes and step out of my comfort zone to realize the purposes that God puts in front of me.

The only way past pain is through it. Like most families, mine has endured its share of rocky shoals and stormy seas. Long before I was married, I watched my parents pilot their ship through both calm waters and mountainous waves that threatened to capsize everything. Through it all, their commitment to stay the course never wavered, and I rested in that certainty. I’ve seen my mom face down the pain in her life. Many people run from pain, sweep it under the rug, or try to drown it in some other distraction, but I watched her feel it, accept it, work through it, and move beyond it. Now, through her counseling practice, God is even using her pain to help others. No one gets through life unscathed, and her example was a profound one for me when my own ship threatened to capsize. I hope I will never fear what the future brings, but trust that God will give me the strength to face whatever comes.

These are just a few of the many things I’ve learned, and am learning, by watching my mom. There’s so much more I could say, so many more lessons she is teaching me—about the struggle of letting go, the freedom of taking one day at a time, the power of forgiveness, and the joy of serving others. Even though we live thousands of miles apart, she still has her finger on the pulse of my life, and I know that she keeps me in constant thought and prayer. There is a warmth in knowing that, a sweetness that never really leaves you, wherever you go.

My mother is a complex and ever-changing woman. I know that I’ll be sitting at her feet and learning from her for the rest of my life.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

I Like to Move It, Move It

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To quote Chicken Little, “Today is a new day.”

Specifically, today is the first day in a long time that I will both exercise and like it.

Today I will not beat myself up every time I open my wallet and see my unused gym membership card staring up at me with its smug little silhouette of a 105 pound aerobics instructor standing next to a stationary bicycle. Today I will not wince as I channel-surf past 49 cable TV channels all showing some combination of fitness products and programs with names like “Thirty Days to Thin” and “Yoga Booty Ballet”. Today I will dig out my hated and binding sports bra and burn it in a ceremonial fire of liberation! (Which I will light in the grill only after moving it at least ten feet away from the back door, as per the fire safety flyer we received from the landlord this week. I just wanted to add that; you never know who is reading your blog.)

Yes, exercise and I have a rocky relationship, but it hasn’t always been that way.

There was a time, in the beginning, when it was so easy. Exercise wasn’t something I scheduled into my day between running errands and making dinner. Exercise was my day, and it happened almost by accident—as I ran to make it to class on time, or spent long Saturdays swimming at the lake, or played Ultimate Frisbee with my friends on the campus front lawn.

Even after college was over, exercise followed me effortlessly into my newly grown up life. Paul and I didn’t own a car for over a year after we got married. My parents gifted us with the same shiny yellow twin Schwinns that they had ridden in college, and we went everywhere on them—to work, to the movies, to visit friends. If we had been able to figure out how to balance a laundry basket on the handlebars, we might never have bought our first clunking, wheezing, gas-guzzling heap of a car. For several years, it seemed that exercise was simply built in to everything that I did, and I rarely thought about it.

Now, two kids and two cars and a decade of procrastination later, exercise ranks right up there with thumbscrews and the rack as I contemplate ways to spend my time.

What happened? Why is my gym membership card collecting lint in the back of my wallet? Why am I using my Winsor Pilates DVD as a coaster? Why do I groan inwardly, tormented by constant, buzzing guilt that prods at me every time I drive by a toned and virtuous jogger, but isn’t strong enough to get me to the gym for a 6 a.m. workout?

I’ll tell you why: because purposeful exercise, in my experience, is boring. B-O-R-I-N-G!!! A forty minute session on the stair climber while watching closed-captioned news reports by Brit Hume does wonders for my thighs, but shoots my brain full of Novocain, leaving me to wonder if my little white gym towel is meant to mop up the sweat or the drool. And half an hour into my Pilates workout, I’ve stopped concentrating on tensing my “core” to ponder meatier matters, like what to make the kids for lunch and how many mysterious chin hairs it takes to warrant a full-on chin waxing. Exercise—at least the kind I’ve been trying to force myself into—is just not fun.

Enter Kirstie Alley.

I’m not joking. I saw her on Oprah, showing off her 65 pound weight loss and promising to reveal her “exciting new exercise routine”! It turns out Kirstie is as bored as I am with conventional exercise programs. What’s her new secret? She dances. That’s it! She dances, and she has fun doing it.

I remember fun. I’m ready to have a some more. After all, I have an iPod, and hours of funky dance music all queued up and ready to go. I have a living room that’s just spacious enough to allow me to swing my head and arms around without getting a concussion. I have two awesome exercise buddies who will be only too glad to wiggle and giggle alongside Mom as she introduces them to Tubthumping and Smash Mouth and headbanging to eighties hair band hits.

I am going to start today.

Thank you, Kirstie Alley.

*addendum: I’ve tried it, and I love it! But after a few hours of enthusiastic dancing, I must admit that burning my sports bra was a bit precipitous.

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Thank you to Jules, who sent me the following link for my dance education (and your amusement):

Evolution of Dance

And let’s not forget our old friend, The Daily Dancer, making dance accessible to the jammy wearing, mop-wielding masses.