Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grace in a land of Fear and Fury

I've been thinking a lot lately about what might be wrong with the way we, as citizens of the United States, see the world. I mean, there are plenty of examples of "what not to do" going on right now. Terry Jones' actions set off a new wave of anger and hatred toward Americans. The fear and subsequent bigotry toward those of the Muslim faith show in a million small and large ways, as in the calamity over the Islamic Community Center planned for Manhattan.

Reading yesterday's Pioneer Press Editorial section gave me a moment of pause. I read the submission by Mr. Tom Meek, "What I learned from the Dayton's bombing." Now this was a bombing in the department store Dayton's back in 1970. I wasn't born yet, and don't remember ever learning anything about this or any other types of "homeland terror" during my childhood. Especially here in Minnesota, known as the Nice state (we're just that passionate) it doesn't seem possible that a person could set off a bomb that would surely harm innocent people. I mean, good Minnesotan just don't DO that stuff. And not in a beloved Dayton's store, either. But I digress.

Reading the article brought forth something else to think about, other than, 'Yes, people in Minnesota CAN make that choice.' Mr. Meek's mother was right next to the detonated bomb, and was subsequently severely injured. She never fully recovered, and yet spent the rest of her life working to help the plight of those who set off the bomb. 'What?' Yes, she understood that the people who set off the bomb were doing so in retaliation to circumstances caused by greater forces than mere people. She saw the truth in the frustration and anger behind the creation and use of the bomb. And she knew that she had a choice in how to react to her own, newly altered place in that situation. She showed an amazing sense of grace, and the love of God for herself, her family and those who caused her life to change so drastically.

Places all over the world are dealing with groups of people who are frustrated and angry; generally over many lifetimes of not getting enough of their basic needs met to feel stable. These groups cause chaos and fear through bombs and attacks on innocent people. For many years, many decades really, our nation (and many more) have retaliated by focusing their counterattacks against those who are rising up. But I wonder if it wouldn't be more effective to focus a counterattack against those who are causing the frustration and anger in the first place? I mean, as a mother, I can see a child being naughty/making a poor choice, and I can focus my discipline against that inappropriate act. This may change the situation for a moment or more, but unless I figure out why the child is making this choice (that they surely know will get them into trouble) then I will be forced to repeat the battle again and again and again.

But if I realize that the child is hungry or tired or sick or bored, I can offer new opportunities for the child to meet those needs in a more appropriate manner.

I fully understand that adults who choose terroristic acts are far from those of a child. But are the influences behind terroristic groups that complex? It doesn't seem to be the case in those I've seen so far.

I pray that those who act out in fits of anger and frustration who spread terror and pain are somehow touched with the love of God (under whatever umbrella is available to them) and that their needs are met. And I pray for all those working toward ending those acts of terror, who rely on the direction of those in power far from the areas being attacked. I pray that more people can share in the grace that Mrs. Meek lived. That more people can see the humanity behind the terror; the struggles of all people to have food, shelter, safety, love and dignity.

There is never an acceptable act of terror. There is never an acceptable act that causes pain, harm and death. There is never an acceptable excuse for choosing to commit those acts, but there is always a place for understanding, empathy and sympathy for our fellow human beings, which we all, imperfectly are.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Am I done, yet?

I know I've said it before, but I still feel the same way, so I'll say it again. Being a stay at home mom is really tough. I love spending most of my waking hours (and a few of my non-waking hours) with my children. I mean, I'm a preschool teacher by profession (graduate school really pays off in this area... ha ha ha) so I am totally dedicated to making the most out of childhood. Really. But there's a bit to this vocation that I would like to avoid. Now, as I shower kudos to those wonderful moms who work for pay outside the home, I've gotta give a disclaimer. A "working for pay" mom is also really tough, but in a different way. Let me explain.

As a stay at home mom (which I am 75+% of the time) my day starts either when my little ones wake up or when my alarm goes off. I dress and feed everyone, and make sure our supplies are ready for whatever our day consists of. I shuttle little ones around, shuttle myself & my littlest one on errands, and make sure everyone in the house has the best of whatever they require (budget allowing).

I spend a good chunk of my day cleaning up the house. I come from a long line of tidy but not super organized houses, and my own home reflects that. A few years ago, I attended a baby shower at a cousin's home, and I honestly didn't believe that the family actually LIVED there, because there wasn't ONE thing out of place. No stack of mail, errant laundry basket, no pile of chewed up dog toys. The house looked staged. It was lovely, but without the slight mess of living, it didn't feel very homey. And I know this was just my weirdness. (Yes, I am weird).

I've found "" which has helped me tremendously in organizing how I spend my cleaning time each day. She's great at making the most awful tasks a little bit more fun. But I am never finished.

My husband is a finisher. He glorifies in starting and finishing a project. He does a wonderful job, and doesn't start on something until he has the time and focus to complete it. (This wonderful quality does have some sour points, but we'll focus on the positive today.) My day, in contrast, never has a beginning or an end. I will clean the bathroom today, and tomorrow, and every day there after for eternity. I will wash a load or two of clothes today, and no matter how quickly I fold, sort and store them, I will have more laundry to wash tomorrow. I will always have dishes to wash; children to supervise, play with and discipline; checkbook registers to balance & budgets to tinker with. And THIS is what is making me crazy today.

I understand that I am feeling this way right now because I have recently finished working my "big summer" hours teaching kids about science & engineering. Work is such a fun and rewarding experience - and I LOVE starting a week and finishing the week and having something new to look forward to. (This is the point where I share how I am a little bit jealous of my mom friends who find wonderful people to care for their little people while they spend their days working on things they actually finish, alongside lots of other grown ups.)

Right now, I have my mom's groups to attend, odd get togethers and book clubs, and always the husband & my date nights. But I will never finish everything I have set before me in my house. My children will be grown and gone and I will still be planning meals and gathering foods and cleaning up my own mess along with someone else's.

So now I take a deep breath, and dive back into the ocean of activities that I can choose from today. The first one of those being "change a poopy diaper." Yes, being a mom DOES make me feel like a glamorous rock star.

some quotes i thought fit my mood today: taken from which is an awesome place to find cool & interesting quotes...

There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.
Henry Ford (I guess he never had the "joy" of keeping his house clean.)

Ya gots to work with what you gots to work with.
Stevie Wonder

Weather forecast for tonight: dark.
George Carlin

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Buddha (I try my best NOT to concentrate on the present moment when I scrub around the toilet, thank you.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pregnant? Seriously??!!?

So I'm wondering, when did it become acceptable to ask a woman if she is pregnant? I mean, I was ALWAYS taught, by experience and by mentors, that you NEVER ask any woman "Oh, are you expecting?" or "So when is your baby due?" unless she has said directly, while rubbing her extended belly, "Ooh, this baby is really moving around in there." or some such statement.

I've never been very thin. And I've never been very fat. Just a jolly middle ground. Then I had two gigantic babies. Delivered by cesarean. The second cesarean surgery done by a much more friendly surgeon than my first, but I'll take competent over friendly any day. Then my second child was a much lighter eater than my first, and I actually gained weight while nursing. So what was once my small buddha belly has become a hodge podge of scars and fat.

My summers are also my most hectic, crazed season of life - squeezing in travel, work, get togethers, fairs, concerts, date nights and anything else that might come up in this warm weather season. So my drive to go get some exercise completely dissolves. But while I was at the doctor recently, I found I had only gained 4 pounds. That would've felt like a triumph after this summer's antics, but I've had three random people ask me if I am in fact pregnant. I mean, I'm 38, completely satisfied with the two beautiful people who call me Mom, and have struggled through years of fertility treatments. If I ever was pregnant by normal means, I would take out a frigin billboard announcing it - and would be wearing a button or t-shirt at all times proclaiming our surprise and joy.

But it is nice to know that random strangers are helpful enough to point out the fact that I do not carry my extra weight in my butt. I do not carry my extra weight in my thighs. But I do carry all that lovely squishy fat in my belly.

I will always take the high road and gracefully smile and say, "No, I'm not pregnant" and then have daydreams about punching the commentor in the face. But please remember, unless the woman is screaming in pain that her water just broke and she needs an ambulance ride to the hospital to deliver her baby, don't ask. Wonder all you want, but don't ask. Seriously.