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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

They said the F word. I said nothing.

 photo F-word_zpsefef1b15.jpgThere I was, minding my own business, soaking up free WIFI at a McD's, biding time until I had to go pick up my daughter. About 20 minutes and one large iced tea into my solitude, a group of 20-somethings seated themselves two tables over from me. They were loud and they were vulgar.

Every sentence was peppered with the F word and the B word and the S word. I'm not a stranger to those words, but I don't use them often. Or proudly.  But these "kids" were flinging them around without remorse as though they were saying "very" or "heck" or a thousand other more polite and intelligent-sounding words.

I wondered if the young family I'd heard sitting behind me earlier had left the restaurant. I hoped they had. And I sat there wishing these profanity-prone hipsters sitting four feet from me would just shut up and go away. I opened my Facebook page and mused with my fingertips when such vulgarity had become so commonplace, so mainstream.

What I wish I would have done, what I should have done, was stand up, walk over to the table and asked them to not use that language. Not so loudly. Not at all.

But I didn't. I didn't because I feared what they might say, already imagining the red embarrassment climbing up my neck and across my face. I feared what insults they might hurl in my direction. I didn't because I worried that after I'd said my piece, I would feel compelled to pack up and leave and I didn't want to go just yet. I had things to do, time to spend and I had been there first.

I didn't say anything because I allowed the people-pleasing anxiety I carry to take my mind to scenes of them following me to my car, threatening me, hurting me.

I wish I'd said something. It wouldn't have saved a life. It wouldn't have conquered a great injustice. But maybe it would have made this corner of the world for that moment on this night a little nicer place to be.

What would you have done?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I am content

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This past week we've been on Spring Break. Tomorrow the kids go back to school and Mike & I head back to work. And I am content.

It's such a peaceful feeling. I'm really grateful for the time we spent as a family, but even more grateful that I am in the calm, rested place I find myself.

We didn't have an extravagant Spring Break. We visited my father-in-law for a couple of days and visited two college campuses for Annie. We spent one night in a hotel and spent 4 days at home.

There were times that I logged onto Facebook and saw people's vacation photos from tropical locales and felt a twinge of jealousy. But I didn't go there. Instead, I chose to "sit still and allow contentment to come to me." (Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert.)

So what's made me content?
  1. A deck of cards. I bought a deck of cards from the hotel gift shop and since then we've had hours of fun sitting around a table playing Crazy 8s and War. Best $2.97 I ever spent.
  2. Rain. Annie & I got caught in a torrential downpour during one of her college visits. It was wet and inconvenient and memorable. Whether or not she chooses that school, we'll always be able to remember that day we got soaked in St. Louis.
  3. Laundry. Ordinarily laundry would not be a source of contentment. But I spent the past 2 days doing load after load of laundry. The result? We are heading back to reality with clean clothes and matched socks and boy, does that feel good.
  4. Sleep. What a difference being rested makes! While we were on a schedule during the first few days of Spring Break, the past 4 mornings I had nowhere to be, so I slept in until 9:30 or so. Love that little luxury. 
  5. Cooking. I know...who am I and what have I done with Amy? Honestly, because we have been home with no place to be, I've had the time to plan a menu and cook. Nothing fancy, really, although tonight I did make some pretty yummy roast cauliflower. 
  6. Love. I got to spend this week with people I love doing nothing special in particular (ok, the college visits were pretty special), but sharing space and time. Life is good.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

These movies will change your life (or not)

Until five days ago, it had been several months since I'd seen a movie in a theater. But last week I saw two new films. The first one, "God's Not Dead," came highly recommended.

I knew it was in the theaters for a short time. So I picked the kids up from school one day last week and headed to a matinee. I'm not sure what I expected. Annie was convinced I was trying to orchestrate a conversion experience of some sorts. About 10 minutes into the movie, Charlie leaned over and whispered, "Mom, this is going to be one LONG movie." 

Why do Christian films have to be so bad? The acting was ok. The script was mostly heavy-handed and predictable. The bad guys were almost unbelievably jerkish. One thing that really bothered me about "God's Not Dead" was the negatively stereotypical portrayal of Muslims (controlling and violent) and Asians (defiant of God and singularly focused on success).

Annie said "That movie needed a comic relief." And she was right. Maybe that's what "God's Not Dead" needed -- to not take itself so seriously.  "Mom's Night Out," another Christian film I've had the chance to preview, got its point across without smacking the viewer upside the head with the Bible. 

Would I see "God's Not Dead" again? Probably not. Am I glad we went to see it? Yes. There was one particularly moving scene when a woman with dementia had a haunting moment of clarity. That scene was one of the things we talked about in the car on the way home. After I acknowledged the film's drawbacks, I asked the kids what they thought about the messages in the film. We talked about the old woman's assertion that sometimes the devil lulls us with an easy life so that we don't feel a need to turn toward God. Even the next morning on the way to school, Robbie brought up the movie and we had another discussion about things we had see on the screen. 

Did "God's Not Dead" change my life? No. But it might change yours. I've talked to several people who felt very moved by it. Maybe you will be one of them. 

The second movie I saw this week was "Farmland." This is a documentary, set to make an appearance in a limited number of theaters in May. The movie profiled six young farmers and spoke of their commitment to their family farms, their industry and to bringing food to America. It answered questions about corporation farming, pesticide use, organic farming and animal cruelty and raised questions about public policy and the future of agriculture in America.

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Watching "Farmland" made me want to hug a farmer. Honestly. It also made me think about where our food comes from and where it will come from in the future. The average age of today's farmer is mid-60s. So who is going to run these farms and grow our food when those farmers retire or pass away?

"Farmland" also gave me an appreciation for the amount of work and faith that goes into farming. The planting, the watering, the tending, the praying for good weather, the harvesting. It negates the image of farmers as country bumpkins and showcases how intelligent -- book smart and field smart -- these people are.

I have to admit to having a long-held crush on farmers and the lives they lead, so maybe it was easy for me to find myself enamored of this film. That's a possibility. Did "Farmland" change my life? Hmmm...I'm not sure exactly, although it did make me think differently about where our food comes from and how that might (or might not) change in the future. Will it change yours? Maybe. Visit the Farmland website to watch the trailer (not shareable here) to see for yourself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How did the adulteress get in here?

The scene: A desperately-needs-to-be-cleaned-out Toyota minivan

The characters: An 11-year old boy in the backseat. A 40-something Mom driving.

The boy: "Mom, what is The Adulteress about?"

The Mom: "What did you say?"

The boy: "The Adulteress. What's it about?"

The Mom -- mentally canceling cable television, wondering what bad Lifetime movie he'd been watching, making note to check the older kids' Google histories and otherwise getting worked up that an 11-year old would be asking about a trollop: "Adulteress? Where did you learn that word?!"

The boy: "My Picture Bible."

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Silence, please.

I'm going on a silent retreat this weekend. I did the same thing last year and found it to be a transformative experience. Going in, I was afraid. Not so much of being silent, but of what I was going to hear in that silence. And this is what I heard:

While I won't be talking, I will be praying. If there is something I can about for you, leave a message in the comments or e-mail me at 4thFrog70 (at) gmail (dot) com. 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Soccer field jitters

 photo 455aa1e2-5453-4a9f-a206-4709722ed49f_zps4239bf14.jpgRobbie had his first soccer practice of the season this week. He had to go straight from after care at school to practice because both Mike and I got hung up at work, which meant he didn't have a soccer ball or cleats with him, neither of which seemed to bother him.

We arrived at the field and I walked him over to the team. The coach knew him from last season when Robbie and his son had been on the same team. I turned to walk away from the field and was kind of surprised to feel my stomach sinking a little bit to leave him there. It's not like I was going far away -- just to the parking lot, only for 60 minutes. But I found myself feeling a little anxious for him and oddly as though I'd left a little piece of my heart out there on the soccer field.

"Please have fun," I thought. "Please make a friend. Please come running to the sideline after practice sweaty-headed and dirty and smiling." And then I began to think about what I would say in case he didn't have fun or make a friend or come off the field smiling. "It's only the first practice. Next time you'll know someone." 

I watched practice from my car and realized that the uneasiness -- all 2 minutes of it -- was all on me. Robbie didn't have one bit of hesitation. He kicked and ran and participated in the drills. I was happy that he was wearing his favorite neon green hoodie, so I could easily pick him out from the crowd of boys.  

How did this happen to me, this anxiety over leaving my 11-year-old at a soccer field while I sat 100 yards away? I never had those fears for Charlie. Maybe that's because when it comes to sports, Charlie has never known a stranger. If there is a ball involved, he is your friend and is game for whatever game you've got. I don't think I've felt that way about Annie. She can be shy when she first meets someone, but she is such a confident spirit that any shyness melts away easily. So why do I fuss about Robbie?

He is my baby. I swore I would never treat my third child any different than I treated the other two. But I do. Not only is he my baby, but he's my spectrum kid. My pervasive-development-disorder-not-otherwise-specified boy. So that means in some instances, he needs kid gloves. But as I sat there watching his neon green hood bobbing up and down the field, I realized this kid has changed. Right under my nervous and watchful eye. He has grown and matured. While I was sitting there praying he would make a friend, he was out there praying he would make a goal.

I guess its time I start letting go a little. Loosening the reins and watching where he will go. And I realize (and my older two will be oh so happy to hear it) that he's also grown up enough to be held to a higher standard. To be expected to pull his weight more than we've required of him in the past. 

I can't promise not to get nervous or overprotective again where Robbie is concerned. But at least maybe not on the soccer field.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Still an Irish Wannabe

If this post looks familiar to you, then you've been hanging around here for a long time! It's a timely re-post from several years ago.

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It's St. Patrick's Day again and here I am, a melting pot American, longing for a fiercely loyal heritage. I've always been a bit jealous of friends who wear their lineage like a badge -- who celebrate St. Patrick's Day or Cinqo de Mayo or Oktoberfest as part of their connection to the motherland.

Of all of the ethnicities I wish I could be, Irish is the one I most pine after. Maybe it's the adorable brogue or the stiff-skirted dancers or the stew. Maybe it's just that St. Patrick's Day is such a fun celebration, made more festive, I think, by the fact that it often accompanies the coming of spring when people are looking for a reason to come out of hibernation and be social again.

I wear green on St. Patrick's Day. I try to cook something festive -- for the past several years we've had green pancakes for breakfast. When the kids were little, we always went to the St. Patrick's Day parade. And I love to listen to all the naughty tricks the leprechaun pulled at school.

But I don't pretend that I am Irish. I didn't name my kids Killian and Seamus and Colleen. I wouldn't feel right about hanging out at the Golden Ace where the real Irishmen in town go on St. Patrick's Day.

In the vernacular of Harry Potter, I suppose I would be considered a "mudblood" with a mix of Swiss and German in my heritage. At least I've got the good chocolates on my side.

I can pretend to be Irish a little by marriage. Though my father-in-law's family is from England, my mother-in-law was Irish. Her mother was a Dunnivan who married a Donovan. Mike's grandfather once enraged an army official who asked him what his wife's maiden name was.

"Dunnivan," he said, his voice thick with a Boston accent.

"No," said the official, "What was her last name before she married you?"

"Dunnivan," the young Mr. Donovan replied.

"Not her name now. Before you got married, she was Miss...what?"

The way the story goes, it was quite the Abbott and Costello moment that almost landed him in some hot military water for insubordination. Dunnivan. Donovan. Potato (Irish, of course). Potahto. Whatever it is, Erin go bragh!