Wednesday, February 27, 2019

United Methodist Memories

All my early memories of the United Methodist Church revolve around music.

I'm sitting with the other members of the children's choir, wearing my blue robe, and I'm so excited.  We're about to sing a song called "The Birdies in the Treetops" - and our kind-hearted choir director is letting my best friend do her really awesome "bird call sounds" before we start singing.  I see members of the congregation looking around, confused as to where the tweets and whistles are coming from.  I feel like I'm part of an inside joke, and I'm proud to be standing there next to her.

I'm older now, and I'm squeezed into the pews next to my family.  It's the Christmas Eve candlelight service, and it's my favorite.  We're all holding our candles, and passing the light down the pews. It feels exciting and dangerous to be holding "fire" in church.  Everyone's faces are illuminated in candlelight and we're singing ALL the verses of "Silent Night."   It feels peaceful and safe, and it's the only place I want to be.

Now it's the summer of 1997, and I think I'm the saddest I've ever been inside this church building.  Our pastors are moving away.  They are leaving, and I'm only 13 years old and I don't really understand why this is happening or how church assignments work.  The adult choir is singing:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand...

I feel choked up and heartbroken.


There's no music today, but I still feel heartbroken.  

Yesterday, delegates for the United Methodist Church voted to uphold the church's stance prohibiting LGBTQ+ members from being ordained. They also voted for a plan that does not allow same-sex couples to be married.  I'm not 13 any more... but I still don't understand. 

The church's official website proudly displays the words: "Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors." I don't understand how ANY type of exclusion fits into that mantra.  

This past Christmas was the first year I took my daughter to a candlelight service.  I felt like she was finally old enough to sit still and enjoy the music. I was right. She liked it, and I'd like to take her again.  But she's also an inquisitive child.  

Just this morning, she asked me about Rosa Parks and why she was famous.  As I'm explaining the concept of segregation, she asked me what would have happened if someone with black skin and someone with white skin fell in love.  I explained that at that time, it would have been against the law in some states for that couple to get married and be together.  

She scoffed.  "What?  How can the people in charge tell someone who they can love?!?"

Well... supporters of the UMC's "Traditional Plan"... you want to answer that?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Magic (Sibling) Moments

A few months ago, my daughter was sitting in a plastic toy shopping cart in our living room watching TV. All of a sudden, my son came up behind her and gave her a push.  Miraculously, she didn't fall over or crash into anything.  Instead she started laughing like crazy.  And then my son laughed.

And they kept doing it.  She'd climb inside, he'd push her around the living room, and they would both giggle like hyenas. And it hit me that this was one of those magic moments. This might have been the first time my daughter was actually EXCITED to have a little brother.  This might have been the first time that she was including him and he was actually responding.

And the moment felt bigger somehow because it wasn't something that I constructed.  This wasn't an activity that I took the time to set up, hoping that it would manage to hold their attention.  This wasn't me forcing them to share toys or play in the same area.  This was my two kids, coming up with their own game, and genuinely enjoying each other's company. 

Fast forward to this week.

I asked my daughter if she would play with her brother so I could clean up the kitchen.  She clearly wasn't interested, so I suggested they could play "Roll the Balls Down the Hall." It's a pretty self-explanatory game at our house... which usually morphs into "Throw the Balls at Each Other" within a couple of minutes.  She perked up, and started gathering the balls for the game.

As she's piling balls in the hallway, my son starts lining them up.  When my daughter picks them up and starts rolling them - he screams bloody murder.  When she retrieves them and attempts to help him line them up - he screams bloody murder.

"Ugh!" she sighs dramatically.  "I wish he'd just PLAY!"

Oh, sweetheart.  You and me both.

I had visions of all sorts of "sibling moments" when I was pregnant with your brother.  I could picture future-him bothering you when you had friends over for a sleepover in middle school.  I could imagine you two building Lego castles together or you reading him a book before bedtime.  And I don't know if  the "disconnect" between you two has to do with your age gap... or if it's all just his speech/language disorder.

But I DO know that I hope you keep trying.  Because even though those bonding moments are few and far between these days, I have to believe they will happen.  I have to believe that in 10 years, when you're both teenagers, you'll roll your eyes at each other behind my back over some "annoying" thing that I just said. I have to believe that someday, he'll have enough words to be able to offer to beat up that guy who breaks your heart.

No matter what happens, you two are going to have a shared history.  Here's hoping it's full of at least a few "magic moments."

Monday, February 18, 2019

Library Love

A couple weeks ago, my two-year-old poured his juice INSIDE my library book.  I freaked out.

Initially, I was upset because this was a brand new book (just published in early 2019) so the copy I'd borrowed was pretty pristine.  According to the book jacket, it also cost $27.  Ugh.

I have never defaced library material in my life.  In fact, I'm the kind of person that unfolds the dog-ears other people have put into the books I borrow.  I don't even let my son check books OUT at the library because I know what kind of damage he does to his books at home.  If he had wrecked a children's book, maybe I wouldn't be so embarrassed.  But seriously, how often is juice spilled into an adult non-fiction book?

Later, when I'd calmed down, I attempted to process my overreaction.  I've come to the conclusion that it has nothing to do with the book or with the likely fine I'm facing. It has to do with my feelings about the library in general.  You see, the library is one of my favorite places in the world.

I have vivid memories of happily going down the stairs to the children's area of my hometown library.  First, I'd get one of the "paint stirrer shelf markers" from the desk, and then I'd head over to the shelf with all the Roger Hargreaves's "Mr. Men" and "Little Miss" books.  If I found one I hadn't read, or one worthy of reading again, I'd mark my place in the shelf and settle into one of the bean bags on the floor. Not that I didn't check them out and bring them home, but there was something about reading IN the library that felt extra special.

I have clear memories of Mrs. Harding, the first elementary school Librarian I had, reading us stories when our class would visit the library.  Not only did her voice bring the books to life, she had toys and puppets that went along with the story.  Her "Clifford the Big Red Dog" stuffed animal was my favorite.

Due to participating in "National History Day" projects in middle school (and completely exhausting *all* the research materials available in my hometown), I also visited multiple public libraries in the surrounding area when I was a kid.  Bless my Grandma Betty who drove me to a couple of other counties and got a library card in HER name so we could check things out.     

The high school library was the place that Grandma Betty worked when I was a little girl.  That library was the place that I "pretended" to do research with my Model U.N. friends.  That library was the home of the little stage where the speech and drama kids got together to goof off and rehearse the upcoming play.  All happy memories.

After an unpleasant first semester of college working in food service, I was lucky enough to land a job working part time in the Business Library.  I kept that job until I graduated. My last semester there, the Head Librarian asked me if I'd consider getting a degree in Library Science because he wanted to write me a glowing recommendation.  At the time I felt like I was *beyond* ready to be done with school, so I turned him down.  Wish I could go back.

A decade later I was working in a public library in Illinois doing marketing and public relations full time.  That little girl who skipped down the stairs to grab a shelf marker couldn't believe that a grown up version of herself was going to the library every day and getting PAID for it.  It felt like magic.

Maybe that's it right there.  My son intentionally poured juice on my magic.  The magic that books give me to "go" somewhere when I have to stay where I am. The magic that books give me to simultaneously lose AND find myself while reading them.  The magic that sometimes happens when you read the words of someone else and realize that you're not alone.

Hmm.  Maybe I didn't overreact after all.   Keep your juice away from my magic, kid. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Sick Days of Old

We're two weeks into February, and someone in my family has been sick since February 1st.  First my daughter, then my daughter AND my son, then my son AND me, and now just my husband. (I think.  I still have a sore throat, but I'm choosing to ignore it.) 

We've had fevers, we've had some pukes.  We've had stuffy noses and we've had runny noses. We've had Vicks VapoRub slathered on our chests and the bottom of our feet.  We've taken children's Tylenol, children's ibuprofen, and entirely too much DayQuil and NyQuil.

You know one of the things I miss most about childhood? The "sick days" of old. 

Now I'll give my husband some credit, he did make a medicine run (that included some caffeine to help me stay awake to parent) after work one day.  But his job includes crazy overnight hours that have him sleeping most of the day and working most of the night.  So I've been mostly solo for these recent "sickness adventures."  

I just miss being able to lie on the couch, cover up with a blanket and doze in front of the television.  (When I inadvertently tried that last week, my son woke me up by sneezing in my face. Ugh.) 

For me, sick days growing up always equaled 7-Up, Townhouse Crackers, and Dimetapp.  I still like two of those three things; I can't really stomach anything grape-flavored anymore.  I guess I just miss being a kid and having someone else take care of me.  No matter how crappy I felt, being wrapped up in a blanket on the living room couch in front of the TV felt like a safe place.  No matter what else was happening in the world.

Case in point, I have a very vivid memory of being home sick from school on April 19, 1995.  How on Earth can I remember that?  Because it was the day of the Oklahoma City bombing.   I can remember my Dad encouraging me to watch TV with him in the middle of my "medicine head fog" because he said this was big news that was going to be talked about for a long time.  Of course, he was right.  Now, at only 11 years old, I had no idea what was happening.  But it felt important, and I felt important to be watching it.

I wonder what sort of "sick day" memories my kids are going to have.  

My daughter seems to like Ginger Ale and Club Crackers better than 7-Up and Townhouse, so maybe those will be part of her future "sick day nostalgia."  When he's older, I plan to remind my son how hard he laughed whenever I would blow my nose... and how he would try to grab my handkerchief and emulate the silly foghorn-like sound.  

And while I hope they each have their own pleasant "sick day memories" - fingers crossed we can take a break from making any new ones for a while.  

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Swerve

I recently finished Michelle Obama's memoir "Becoming." My favorite parts of her book had absolutely nothing to do with politics.  What I loved was getting a "behind the scenes" look at a few moments of her life.  I cried when she wrote about losing her best friend to cancer at age 26.  I chuckled as she recounted the tale of Malia's prom date coming to pick her up at the White House, or the time she tried to go outside without getting permission from the Secret Service first and had agents chasing her down the hall. 

My biggest takeaway?  The fact that she credits Barack with teaching her how to "swerve."

I wish I was better at swerving.

Like Michelle Obama, I would describe myself as a "box checker." 

✔ Get good grades.
✔ Go to college... keep getting good grades.
✔ Graduate, get a job.
✔ Get married.
✔ Have a baby... have another one.

There has been very little risk-taking in my life.  Very little swerving.  In fact, swerving makes me want to vomit.

If you asked my husband about his dreams, he would either tell you they involve opening a food truck/restaurant or buying a semi-truck and starting his own company.  And as much as I love him, both of those dreams make me want to puke.  Don't most restaurants fail in the first year? And I think I read somewhere that a commercial truck can easily consume more than $70,000 of diesel fuel a YEAR.  Between that and equipment maintenance - how long would it take to actually start *making* money?

See... NO risk-taking bones in my body.  That being said, there have been some "swerves" in my life that I didn't see coming.

If you had told 16-year-old me that I was going to be the first one in my group of friends to get married and have a baby, I would have laughed in your face.  If you had told me that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom TWO separate times, I would have been shocked. (The first time was only for a few months, this time... well... we're roughly on day 1197.)  "High school senior" me thought she was going to go to journalism school, become a reporter, and work for the Chicago Tribune.  That didn't happen.

I'd be lying if I said all these swerves have been met with graceful acceptance.  But I try to keep telling myself that just because the plans change, it doesn't mean that life is flying off the rails.

And while it's probably pretty unlikely that it will lead to you spending 8 years living in the White House, maybe if you allow yourself to lean into the "swerve"... you'll be lucky enough to have an amazing experience that "box-checking you" couldn't even imagine. At least that's what I keep telling myself.