Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It appears I was a little too ambitious to take on blogging every day. Taking a break for the holidays and I'll be back!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lazy

 Too tired to write again. Or rather, I procrastinated until I was too tired. 

More to come later...

Friday, November 20, 2015

A day late for Throwback Thursday

I am tired. I still like blogging every day, just don't have the energy today. Earlier today my friend Nicole was posting baby pictures of her sons and it made me nostalgic. I don't have any real baby pics handy, but look at these pictures. It was a superhero-art project kind of day.



L's cheeks! C's glasses! Goodness, I love these two. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Busy

It was a good thing I had a post scheduled yesterday, because it turned out to be a busy afternoon. I picked up both kids, made dinner, and then suddenly realized L and I needed to leave in 10 minutes for his first basketball practice. There was no time to eat the stew first so I had him take a snack in the car; and, since he is a 4th-grade boy, he had no trouble downing some peanut butter crackers.

Justin got home right before we left. While he got ready for church, C finished her homework, ate dinner (she didn't want the stew and I was not up to putting the parental foot down, but she mentioned a healthy combination of foods she wanted to eat, so whatever) and got ready to go to church with him. I'm glad I have a super-responsible firstborn; it does make life easier.

After L's practice we didn't have time to go to church (besides, I'm sure they would not have appreciated me bringing him in such a sweaty state). He had a coupon for a free small Slurpee from 7-11, so we got that, went home to eat stew, and then I went to Office Depot to print a picture for C's language arts project. Luckily it's only around the corner, because I wasted a trip. I hadn't realized it was a picture of a book cover and therefore subject to copyright restrictions. They had emailed me after I emailed them the picture, but I hadn't checked my email. Lessons learned.

It was my fault anyway, since I had decided not to go to the shop today, which is where we print things. C wasn't upset; she decided to do without it and get the project turned in early. (Her freehand drawings are impressive enough, in her mother's totally unbiased opinion. I'll have to take a picture when she gets it back; it's an ABC book with words describing the book she'd read.) She's had a busy week, with tests and projects plus her regular homework, because the teachers are trying to get everything done before the break. She's looking forward to a well-deserved holiday: a week of relaxing!

I went back to the house and did some reading with L. He is enjoying reading more, and taking on more challenging books. His class has named him "Mr. Vocabulary" because he is so quick to point out words they are learning (the teacher encourages him to do this, and he jumped at the challenge.) He's always loved math the most, so it's cool to see him taking after me in some way.

Justin and C didn't get home till about 9:20 since the choir (they practice on certain Wednesdays) had to learn about the new sound system. I'm sure she enjoyed the extra time to talk to her friends. But neither kid complained about going to bed: an unexpected benefit of sports! L is definitely not used to being that active in the evenings, so he was tired. After Thanksgiving, his team will have two practices a week, and one is on Thursday nights--and C's games are on Thursdays. So: Justin and I will take turns with each kid. His games are on Saturdays, but luckily she only has one more Saturday tournament.

It makes me very thankful that I have a more flexible schedule now. And that's the news from our house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Yellow

Tuesday began with rain (after storming all night), the kind of day on which you'd like to stay in comfy clothes and curl up on the couch. But I had worked from home (and relaxed some, too) the day before, and so I had to get dressed in real-world clothes and drive to work. (I had intended to go to the gym, but a gloomy, rainy day is not a good time to resume a habit I'd just as soon not have to resume. So I did some stretches, took a shower, and called it good.)

I decided to wear my plaid top from this Stitch Fix. I love the fall colors in it, but it's still light enough that I don't get too warm. Today I wore white stretch jeans and brown knee-high boots, because that is a thing that is now done: wearing white pants with "transitional" items is okay for fall. If Audrey from Putting Me Together (my favorite real-world style blog) does it, then it's fine by me.

The outfit needed something, though, so I pulled out a necklace made of wooden yellow beads. I liked the look. The cheerful color was exactly what I needed on a rainy day. See:

Oops, it was crooked.
For some reason I started thinking about the origin of this necklace. I bought it secondhand, from a woman I barely knew. Her daughter joined the Girl Scout troop my daughter had belonged to for several years; this mom and her kids attended meetings for around a year before the family moved away, but our daughters weren't in the same age group. That was one reason we didn't get to know each other.

The other reason is that I didn't like her very much. She wasn't friendly. She spent the whole time thumbing her phone or talking with one other mom. Her name was literally Pollyanna and she was blonde. (I never liked those sappy books or the Hayley Mills movie and I guess she didn't either, because she went by Polly.) If you talked to her for any length of time, she would be sure to mention her master's degree.

Perhaps most telling, I didn't like her because even though she had many children (four? five? See, I can't even keep up with them--how did she?) and a demanding job, she always looked poised and put together. I have fewer children and I never feel polished, at least not like that. She knew what looked good on her, and she wore this color of yellow quite a bit.

I may not have wanted to be friends with her, but when she mentioned to the group that she was selling some clothes before they moved, I said sure, I'd like to look at them. We were about the same size and I knew they'd be good quality (read: originally expensive). She brought a huge pile of clothes to the next meeting and I looked through them, selecting quite a few things because she was selling them so cheap.

"Where are you moving?" I asked, making small talk.

Then she told me they were moving to China to become missionaries. That's why she was selling the clothes--because she couldn't take them all with her.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. That really was the last thing I expected from this sleek, affluent woman with the Louis Vuitton bag (which presumably she was taking with her because she definitely didn't offer to sell it to me).

I thought how brave they were to take such a huge step, with four or five young children in tow (seriously, it is bugging me that I can't remember how many there were. These are the useless details I get fixated on.) They had been preparing for over a year, studying the language. Now the time had come to make the move to a place on the other side of the world.

It was brave, and optimistic. To move to a foreign country and believe that everything would work out and the challenges would be worth it. I didn't know any of this; but I could have, if I had gotten to know her before her last week in the USA.

I've since donated most of the clothes, but this necklace has stayed with me. I wear it when I need to be reminded of sunshine, and that we could all use a little of a Pollyanna perspective.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What to do after the end of the world

I'm writing this on Monday evening. Until now, I've had no trouble thinking of topics to write about. I still have a few ideas, but I'm tired and sad because the world is awful and it took almost no time at all to politicize a tragedy. So the best I can do is share the words of the amazing writer Anne Lamott, which she posted on her Facebook page soon after the news of the attacks on Paris. (This was a time when FB was NOT "of the devil," as I like to joke.) She offers no pat answers but some comfort and hope.

For now, I can hold on to these small glimmers of hope. And I'm making an apple crisp for dessert--
which I almost never do--that we can eat with ice cream because sometimes comfort food is in order.

I wish there was a website we could turn to called, "What it means, What is True, and What to do." Lots of very tense religious people are going to insist that their Scripture answers all these questions.

That's nice.

Lots of them will try to hustle us into joining them in Vengeance World. As that had just been so helpful before, right?

So where do we even begin today? What do we do when it feels like we are all doomed, and the future will only be worse, and we can't remember anything that ever helped us come through? From high school philosophy, I remember that Francis Bacon wrote, "'What is Truth?' asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer." It seemed the ultimate truth, at sixteen years old.

But I think we can do better than that. We have shards of truth, and we can gather them up, bits of broken mosaic tile that shine.

We know that this is a very dangerous place, that we are an extremely vulnerable species, that Cain is still killing Abel.

We know that "Why" is not a useful question; and "Figure it out" is not a good slogan.

We know that the poor, the innocent, babies and the very old, always bear the brunt.

So where do we find grace and light? If you mean right now, the answer is Nowhere. It's like after a child dies. Grace always does bat last, and the light always overcomes the darkness--always, historically. But not necessarily later the same day, or tomorrow, after lunch. Wendell Berry told me 25 years ago, in Advent, the darkest shortest days of winter, "It gets darker and darker and darker, and then Jesus is born." But it is only November 13! It gets even darker.

What is the answer? Gandhi is almost always the answer. Jesus's love for the poor and refugees is the answer. Adding a bit of light and warmth to these cold dark days doesn't hurt. Candles are beautiful and bring a soup├žon of solace to our souls. People living on the streets could really use your old blankets and jackets.

Grace will always show up in the helpers, as Mr. Rogers' mother used to tell him in times of tragedy. But today, right now, if you have a nice bumper sticker that explains or makes sense of what happens in Paris, it's probably best if you keep that to yourself. It is definitely best that you not share it with me. It will cause me to get a tic in my eye and will guarantee that the next time I see you, I will run for my cute little life. Everyone in his or her right mind will. So how do we even know truth, in the midst of b.s. and lies?

What is true for me is that the shootings at Sandy Hook were the actual end of the world, evil or at least the most extreme mental illness made visible. There were no answers that day, the next day, the day after that. Well, you could go to certain web sites and Twitter posts, and I will not name names, and be told how stupid you were not to see that there was only one appreciate truth. Reload! But again, that was not helpful. What was helpful was that we stuck together in our horror, grief, anxiety and cluelessness. We grieved, we feared, we despaired, and raged, prayed; we reached out for any help at all; and these were appropriate responses. I am going to recommend that we do that today, and tomorrow. Wounds and trauma revealed were healed; eventually. Some of us couldn't eat at all, someone of us binged, some of us couldn't turn off the TV, some of us couldn't turn it on. Those were all appropriate. We felt like shit, and let some time pass, talked and stuck together. And day by day, we came through.

Talking and sticking together was the answer. It honest to God was. We were gentler, more patient and kind with each other. If people are patient and kind, that's a lot. It means something of the spirit is at work. For me, that is grace made visible. It doesn't come immediately, and it doesn't come naturally. What comes naturally is, Shoot the mo-fos. So when we could, after Sandy Hook, we paused, breathed, sighed, gasped at the rising numbers. Nothing changed legally, not one word, but we came through. Hearts were healed, imperfectly. People walked, lived fully, and even danced again, after bad psychic fractures that did not heal quite right, and that still hurt some days.

We will again, but it takes time. I so hate this! Hate this, hate this, hate this, and do not agree to this, but have no alternative, because it is Truth: it will take time. Today, we try to keep the patient comfortable--ourselves, our beloved, the poor.

We're at the beginning of human and personal evolution. Whole parts of the world don't even think women are people.

So after an appropriate time of being stunned, in despair, we show up. Maybe we ask God for help. We do the next right thing. We buy or cook a bunch of food for the local homeless. We return phone calls, library books, smiles. We make eye contact with others, and we go to the market and flirt with old or scary unusual people who seem lonely. This is a blessed sacrament. Tom Weston taught me decades ago that in the face of human tragedy, we go around the neighborhood and pick up litter, even though there will be more tomorrow. It is another blessed sacraments. We take the action and the insight will follow: that we are basically powerless, but we are not helpless.

I have no answers but know one last thing that is true: More will be revealed. And that what is true is that all is change. Things are much wilder, weirder, richer, and more profound than I am comfortable with. The paradox is that in the reality of this, we discover that in the smallest moments of amazement, at our own crabby stamina, at kindness, to lonely people who worry us, and attention, at weeping willow turning from green to gold to red, and amazement, we will be saved.

P.S. The apple crisp was delicious and it made my family happy. And I bought extra nonperishables to donate to the food drive at L's school. And I contacted a friend who's grieving a death and made plans to get together.

One small gesture at a time to combat despair. One candle at a time to light the darkness. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stitch Fix #3 Review

Hey everybody! My third Stitch Fix came on Friday and I am so excited to show you what I got. As one of my friends said when her box came, "It's like Christmas!" And it really is, to have a talented stylist choose items for you...it feels like Santa knew exactly what you wanted. In my case (and I've read others' similar comments), my stylist often chooses pieces I wouldn't have known to choose. So far she's been overwhelmingly right. It reminds me of going to Nordstrom and picking out some items to try on while the saleswoman did the same. I didn't like anything I had picked and liked almost everything she pulled. So you see, sometimes it's best to get professional help!

If you’re not familiar with Stitch Fix, it’s an online styling service for women. (If you are familiar with it, you can skip the next three paragraphs.) You create a FREE online style profile and whenever you are ready, you can schedule your first fix. For a $20 styling fee, you will be matched with a personal stylist who will review your style profile and hand-pick 5 items just for you! The items are shipped to your home so you can try them on with clothes and accessories that you already own so you can decide if they're right for you.

To check out, just log into your Stitch Fix account and leave feedback for each item. Keep the items you love and return everything else in the pre-paid shipping envelope that is included in your fix. The service costs only $20 per fix, which covers shipping, returns and your stylist’s services. If you choose to keep any items from your fix, the $20 cost is automatically deducted from the price of your clothes and if you keep EVERYTHING from your fix, you automatically save 25% on your entire fix. This amazing service is easy, fun, and perfect for busy women who don’t have time to shop.

Stitch Fix allows you to set how often you receive a fix; I've chosen to receive one every other month. However, you can schedule one as often or as seldom as you choose.

This post contains affiliate links, including my referral link to Stitch Fix. I receive a small commission each time someone signs up for Stitch Fix, which I use to offset the costs of my own fixes. If you enjoy the content and are considering signing up for Stitch Fix, I would greatly appreciate it if you sign up using any of the links in this blog post. Thanks! Now that I’ve filled you in on how Stitch Fix works, let’s dive in to this month’s fix!

Obligatory disclaimer: please excuse the limp hair and worn-off makeup. We took these pics right after I woke up from a nap, so I was feeling rested but didn't take into account that I didn't look as polished as I had a few hours earlier when I went to church. Luckily, the clothes were not the problem. But also, as my husband took my picture, I felt super awkward with my "poses."  I would love to have a bigger mirror in my bed/bathroom and also better light for photography. Oh well!

First up were the Yuli Lace Cap Sleeve Blouse ($68) from Pixley and the Jordyn Bootcut Pant ($88) from Liverpool. My awesome stylist Kiersten totally listened to what I asked for and carefully studied the Pinterest board I've shared with her. I had pinned several lace tops and asked for one; the ones I pinned are white or cream (and I still would like one of those) but this black top is super cute. The little cap sleeves are pretty and end at a good place on my arms so they don't look too thick; and the neckline has a small edge of sheer black chiffon which is a cute detail although you can't see it in this picture. I also liked that it zips almost all the way down the back to make it easy to put on, which is a plus since the lace doesn't have any stretch.

One note: the top doesn't have a lining at all so a cami or tank underneath is a must. I used a black one here (I get mine from Old Navy) but Justin mentioned I could probably use white underneath for a different look. I liked using a tank that was slightly longer than the top for some coverage in the back.

Obviously this top will go with all kinds of things, including jeans and heeled boots for a date night, and when it's chilly I will put a jacket on top. It's also going to be great in the spring and summer. Multiple seasons = worth the cost!

Since I was trying on the Jordyn Bootcut Pants anyway, I just put them on with the top, which I think makes it office appropriate (well, maybe not my office, which gets covered in sawdust on a regular basis, but good for a client meeting offsite). I was excited but a little dubious about these pants. I had asked Kiersten for some bootcut jeans or pants to try and she delivered. However, I thought they might be a little too small when I took them out of the box. Luckily, I was wrong! The pants are a lovely dark heather gray and the length was perfect for me (I'm 5'2"). I can wear my black ankle boots (I think the heels are about 2 1/2") or flats, which is fine since I don't wear high heels very much. My favorite thing about these pants is that they don't have a zipper. Instead, they have a wide waistband that holds in anything that needs to be held in but still feels comfortable, a lot like yoga pants (LOVE). The fabric has enough stretch that it hugs my curves, but not in a hootchie mama way. (Do people still say "hootchie mama?")

Here's a picture of the outfit with a waterfall cardigan from my first fix since I'm trying to develop my remixing skills. So far a lot of the pieces Kiersten sends me work with previous items; I feel like she really is keeping the previous fixes in mind as she chooses things for me. Sometimes she even mentions how to add in something from a previous fix, plus I have the picture cards for inspirations. This cardigan is super soft so I loved wearing it with these pants, but I will definitely add color with a top or scarf when I wear this outfit.

The next piece to consider was the Adalia Striped Blanket Scarf by Echo ($38.00). My initial reaction was, "Wow, this is a HUGE scarf," and I am a small person, so I wasn't sure it would work even though I had asked Kiersten for a blanket scarf to try. Plus, the ones I pinned all had color in the plaid, like so:
Then my daughter touched the scarf from the fix and fell in love with its softness, so I had to try it. This is the way the style card suggested to wear it--easy enough. But there are a ton of other ways. The scarf really is soft, but I need more color. I'm also not convinced that I even need a scarf this big. I can get hot really easily now that I'm 40, and I'd hate to pay this much for a scarf that makes me feel smothered. I broke the news to C that she would have to say goodbye to this scarf.
Next I tried on the Moni Geo Print & Camisole Blouse ($58.00) by 41Hawthorne. I had pinned this exact blouse so I was excited to try it. The off-white cami that comes with it is totally separate, which I liked because I have been known to get trapped in a blouse that has an inner attached layer. I really like the cheerful print and especially the bronze metal studs on the front and the sleeves. That's one of my favorite things about Stitch Fix: the pieces have little details that make them more special than you usually see at, say, Target or Old Navy. It's these things--along with the stylist-considered fit for my style and figure--that make me willing to pay more than I normally would.

Once I saw the photos of me in this top, however, I was not as enthusiastic. It doesn't seem to lie right in the front (the other pic was even worse). I'm not trying to pretend I have a perfectly flat stomach, but I swear the lace top didn't make my midsection bulge out like this one did. I didn't see a problem in person, but the camera doesn't lie, right? Plus, I already do have a (solid) orange tunic top. If this one had been more flattering, I'd keep it; but since it isn't, it will go back. 

Finally I saved my potential favorite for last: the Lex Textured Floral Knit Fit & Flare Dress ($74.00) by Brixon Ivy. I had pinned a skirt in the same fabric (which is a maroon and blue print that looks like brocade but is much softer) and Kiersten said she hadn't been able to find the skirt but sent this instead. Honestly, I'm glad she did. A dress is sooooo much easier than separate pieces. No worrying about whether to tuck or not, and how the waistband, etc. fits. The dress is super soft and stretchy in a "fit and flare" style which is super flattering to my slightly pear-shaped figure by balancing out my hips and emphasizing my small waist. When I saw this picture, I said, "Wow, I look very...va-va-va-voom." My husband agrees so that's great.I think Kiersten is right that it will look great during the holidays both for slightly dressy and more casual events (I don't need a fancy dress for holiday parties this year).

I added a black cardigan as the style card suggested which instantly made the dress more casual, especially if I add tights with the ankle boots. I also tried the navy knit blazer from my last fix which looked awesome for a business meeting. I'd probably wear knee-high boots with that. Sorry I don't have any pictures for those last two; my photographer had gone on strike.



 So there you have it! Here is the official tally of Stitch Fix #3:
  •  Yuli Lace Cap Sleeve Blouse ($68) from Pixley - KEEP
  • Jordyn Bootcut Pant ($88) from Liverpool - KEEP
  • Adalia Striped Blanket Scarf by Echo ($38.00) - RETURN KEEP
  • Moni Geo Print & Camisole Blouse ($58.00) by 41Hawthorne -RETURN KEEP
  • Lex Textured Floral Knit Fit & Flare Dress ($74.00) by Brixon Ivy - KEEP
UPDATE: When I did the math, it was more affordable to keep everything with the 25% discount than to send anything back. So my daughter can share the scarf (I like it better as a shawl; it's big enough!) and I will try the blouse again with a more supportive cami. 
Again, if you are interested in trying Stitch Fix, you can sign up and cancel at any time if you decide it's not for you. If you do decide to try it, please consider using the link below to sign up so I can get a small commission.

Alison's Stitch Fix Referral Link

I think I might schedule a fix after Christmas (using Christmas money, woot!) so I can start wearing the items sooner than Jan. 15, so stay tuned!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments here (you can comment anonymously), on Facebook, or send me an email at hairlinefracture at gmail dot com or PM me on FB.

What do you think about the items in this fix? Did I decide correctly what to keep and what to return? 

I tried to link up to Maria's Stitch Fix link-up post where there are several other bloggers sharing what they got in their fixes. I don't know if mine got on the page but regardless, you might enjoy looking at more clothes!


Tournament

Yesterday was my girl's very first tournament as a middle school basketball player. They had three games, two of them back-to-back.

And she and her friends on "B" team rocked it! Tournament champs.

They all played very hard and were a real team. I look forward to seeing them learn more basketball skills as the year goes on, but they already have things that can't be taught: heart and hustle.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

This Post Is Bananas

Hi guys! Today is a busy day--Justin has to work and C has her first-ever basketball tournament, so we will be tied up all day. So I planned ahead to share a recipe. This banana bread is my husband's favorite because it's not dry at all (I hate the word "moist." But it's acceptable (barely) when describing baked goods.

This is actually Emeril Lagasse's recipe. I've never cooked any of his other recipes; I think I got this from a kids' cookbook he did and that I checked out of the library. It did not make me yell "BAM!" but it is delicious and has joined our favorite recipes.

Emeril's Banana Bread
  • Shortening, butter, or cooking spray
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder (I have no idea why this uses both; perhaps they do different things?)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large loaf pan, or two smaller pans, or a muffin tin--whatever you have is fine. Mash the bananas in a small mixing bowl. [I just noticed that the original recipe specifies to peel them first. I guess you do have to state that in a kids' cookbook!]

In a larger bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and sour cream. Stir until smooth.

Add the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, salt, mashed bananas, and nuts and stir to combine.

Add flour and stir till just combined. Do not overmix or your bread will be tough! [I think this was the first recipe that told me this. Light bulb!] Pour batter into pan(s) and bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes for two smaller loaves, 80 minutes for a large one. Remove from oven and let cool. Turn out of pan to finish cooling.

Also, I realized too late that I had accidentally thrown out the pecans I'd been saving when I cleaned out the pantry this week. I substituted chocolate chips, forcing myself to use restraint because my husband doesn't like things that are "too chocolatey." I don't understand that, but whatever. I'll almost certainly like this version better.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: Apparently any chocolate in this recipe is "too chocolatey" for my husband. He was very nice about it, though. C has a mild allergy to bananas so she's out. But the boy loves it so I'll freeze the other loaf (or send it to a teacher; they need strength for this time of year.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

There Is No War on Christmas. I Promise.

Now that I have reassured myself that the fake man buns are not going to become a thing, at least among the 40+ age group in my FB feed, I feel I am ready to move on.

Seriously, I am loving blogging every day. I think I am going to try to continue. It's amazing how writing more = more things to write about.

I did want to write about the Starbucks cup "controversy." Yes, I put "controversy" in scare quotes because it really wasn't a controversy until people started reacting to it. And then it became an issue.  I hope you aren't completely sick of hearing about it--I do have a tendency to wait to jump on the bandwagon too late. In this case, earlier this week, I actually shared a thoughtful post by my friend Rocky Rudd and also a picture that stated, "If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, feed the hungry, cloth [sic] the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the stranger and the unwanted child, care for the ill, love your enemies."

I think that all of us, Christian or not, can agree that the best way to celebrate Jesus's birth would be to take care of the people He loves. Which, in case you haven't been paying attention, is everybody.

However, I did notice something after someone I don't know posted on The Demon Facebook that they hadn't seen any posts by Christians actually criticizing the red cup. Lots of posts admonishing other Christians to stop freaking out about the cup, but no actual freaking out.

It turns out that contrary to the "reporting" by the media, "Christians" as a group, or even enough of them to count as a significant minority, weren't up in arms about the cup at all to begin with. As I understand it, one former pastor who now makes videos on YouTube for a living threw a fit about the cup redesign then the media blew it out of proportion, and then we Christians started saying, "Everybody just shut up!"

I admit it. I broke my own rule by not researching the latest "controversy" before jumping in to comment. I've been a longtime user of Snopes.com since the days before social media when the latest urban legends circulated via mass email. (And yes, I have been that annoying person who sent a link to the whole group proving the scare tactics were groundless.) But this time, I think the reason many of us spoke up is that in the past, Christians have overreacted to Christmas marketing by retailers.

Remember the "War on Christmas?" Sheesh. That whole thing made me so mad. Just exactly how is an advertisement that says "Happy Holidays" waging war on Christmas? Whoever came up with that term, I salute you. You have the special gifts of hyperbole and fearmongering. Not sure why the Apostle Paul didn't include those in his list of spiritual gifts.

Look, retail stores have one goal and one goal only: to sell stuff. As a small business owner, I completely get that. You don't have to share our beliefs to become a customer of Village Cupboards. In fact, I'm pretty sure we would build your cabinets if you were a Satanist, as long as you pay on time and in green American dollars. (Although Justin might draw the line at constructing a sacrificial altar to the Evil One. I don't know, I'd have to ask him. We have a two-month waiting list right now, so even Satan would have to wait his turn.)

Wait, I got distracted amusing myself. My point (and I do have one) is that these stores, including Starbucks, are not waging war on anybody. It just makes sense that if there are some people who don't celebrate a holiday with religious connections, that the stores broaden their customer base to include more potential customers.

Besides, Christmas dominates all the other winter holidays already. Why do we have to insist on everyone saying "Merry Christmas?" We already have Christmas stuff appearing in stores the day after Halloween like poor Thanksgiving doesn't exist, like it's the middle child of the holidays (but that's another post for another time.) As talk show host Michael Medved said, it's a moot point:
the "War on Christmas" is over, and Christmas won.  

Let's be gracious about this, guys. I am so tired of people claiming that saying things like "Happy Holidays" or (gasp) "Happy Hanukkah" is persecution of Christians. What? No, it isn't. 

Let me clarify. Persecution is "a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate people based on their membership in a religious, ethnic, social, or racial group" (Dictionary.com). Have any of us been exterminated or subjugated based on our celebration of Christ's birth? Yeah, that's what I thought. Let me remind anyone who "feels persecuted" that no one is stopping you from saying "Merry Christmas." Most people of all faiths (or no faith) are fine with it. Personally, I am happy to take any cheerful holiday greetings because it's so awful when people are grim and horrible about shopping and driving around the holidays. 

Look, I get it, fellow believers in Christ, that it feels uncomfortable that the current culture doesn't subscribe to many of our beliefs. There was a time (now nostalgically known as the "good old days," aka the 1950s) when most of the dominant influences on our culture subscribed to Judeo-Christian values. We had our turn being in charge. Guess what? We still get to believe what we want to, and so does everybody else. That's the beauty of America! I admit to feeling uncomfortable when the smarmy "Christian" guy on the TV show always turns out to be a pervert. Sure, I don't like it when stereotypes are used to define a whole group of people, most of whom are kind and well-meaning, while a few bad apples are making the rest of the group look bad. I imagine a few other ethnic and religious groups have some experience with that kind of unfairness. It won't kill us to deal with some inaccurate portrayals of Christianity. We'll just have to try harder. 

So I was pleased to see that the only Christian response I saw to the red cups was, "So what, it's a cup." Now let's go and do what Jesus would actually do. It's a whole lot easier to click "Share" than to actually get out there and share food, clothes, and friendship with those who need them.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Horror! The Horror!

I was going to blog about the Starbucks fake controversy, but that will have to wait because there is something more urgent that I feel I must address.


Y'all. Y'ALL.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Those are clip-on man buns.

I truly think I may have seen everything. It really feels like this is the End Times, y'all. Jesus just needs to come back and take us out of here. This world, it does not feel like home.

I am grateful that my husband doesn't have enough hair to attach one to his head and my son is too young to care about hair trends.

One of my teacher friends posted this on The Demon Facebook and tagged her college-student son, who apparently has taken great pains to grow a man bun and has succeeded in getting it long enough to put it in a ponytail and tuck the hair under once. His response was: "This angers me."

His mom commented that it was too bad he'd spent so much time and effort growing his hair when he could have just bought one of these, to which he replied, "Not that much effort, but I'll concede plenty of time."

I said, "Every woman ever knows about spending a lot of time on hair." In other words, no sympathy here, dudes with man buns. Why would you WANT to have hair long enough to put in a bun when short is so much easier?

During this conversation I had a revelation.

The man bun is this generation's mullet.

Think about it. A goofy-looking hairstyle that many guys sport, thinking how cool they look, never dreaming that one day it would be out of style and their kids will someday laugh themselves silly over pictures of Dad with a bun.


Also, can we talk about why it's called a "man bun" when a man wears it but on a woman, it's just a bun? There are quite a few things like this: purse = man purse (why not just "bag"?) The worst names are the compound "words" like "mandals" and "manpris." No. They are men's sandals and capris, period.

I don't want to have to say this again in my official capacity as the grammar police.

In other, more happy fashion news, I picked up my new ankle boots yesterday. I think I might have hit the fashion trifecta: stylish, comfortable, and inexpensive. You know that normally you have to pick any two. But these really are comfy and (after my $20-off coupon) only $34.00. There was no shipping charge since I picked them up in the store. I'll let y'all help me decide if they are on-trend:


I like this picture because it was much easier to take than a selfie. The blur of yellow is, of course, my scarf. That's a drop of water on my left foot, not a stain.

And now I will say good night because my daughter had her first basketball scrimmage at 5:00 this evening and we just got home.

Remember: just say no to clip-on man buns.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What Is the Opposite of "On Fleek?'

It's 10:09 p.m. and I'm writing my post for tomorrow because I'm going to be driving all day tomorrow and I want you to have a real post.*

You see what I do for you people? It's like I'm a slave to my art. **

No, seriously, thank you for reading and commenting here and on The Demon Facebook. It's been a lot of fun and (so far) the problem hasn't been finding something to say, it's shutting up. (My husband would probably agree. No, I know he would. Bless his heart.)

Today's post is on The Art of the Selfie. Specifically, that my selfie game is not strong, for in fact I have no selfie game. What can I say, I don't have quite the extra time that the under-twenty-five set does. And not as much interest in my own face.

Still, I persevered. I took these selfies last week, on the day of the OOTD.

Sidebar: I had on a cute outfit today, but I did not take a picture of it because as soon as I got home, I was too hot to wear the whole thing so I took off the hat, the denim jacket, and the ankle boots, leaving only the sleeveless polka-dot dress from this post. But trust me, it was cute until the dang Texas weather spoiled it.

Why did I take these close-up selfies? Well, I suppose I was on a roll, and I had tried something slightly (very slightly) different from my usual makeup routine. So I took these in the car, because there's no natural light in my bathroom.

Here goes. Brace yourself (I know I am).


I like this one the best because of the giant sunglasses covering half of my face.

Hellooo forehead wrinkles.

I cannot even with those eyebrows. Must get to the salon STAT.  At least I remembered to use lip color.


First of all, did you know that the selfie actually ends up the mirror image of what you saw in the (horrible) forward-facing camera? You did? How did I not get the memo on this? (When I mentioned my surprise, my almost-13-year-old reacted with mingled pity and scorn. "Old people!" you could almost hear her thinking.)

Well, how am I supposed to take a cute selfie when I am holding the camera in such a way to create a flattering picture on the other side of my face?

I erased quite a few unflattering side-eye pictures, is what I'm saying. Finally I came up with these three which I didn't hate. I quite like my smile in the last one, although my eyebrows are clearly out of control. [Shudder]

We are not even going to talk about my hair. Why did I think this was a good idea?

This has actually been good for me, to see myself in the cold hard light of day and the horrible forward-facing camera. For example, I didn't think I had wrinkles. I now know better.

Really, it's good for me to see these things. As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living and all that jazz.

[Alison locks self into room with no natural light and curls into fetal position, whispering, "It's okay, you're still young..." over and over again.]

Anyway, when I took these pictures I was going to tell you about my makeup. I no longer think that matters. Fine, I'm wearing an e.l.f. $3.00 peach-colored blush which works as a sort of bronzer for me because I'm so pale. I think I used it as an eyeshadow, too. There. Beauty blogging done.

You know what is also great for your self-esteem? A teenage daughter.

C looked at these selfies on my phone (I didn't show them to her on purpose; I'm not that desperate for attention). Her eyebrows went up and she smiled in a weird way.

"What?" I said. "These are the best ones."

"I like the last one," she said. "The others..." She let the sentence trail off delicately so as not to trample more painfully upon my feelings, but the implication was clear: she would never post selfies like those.

Well, tough, kiddo. Also, you might want to be careful about raising your eyebrows like that. It causes wrinkles in about 25 years.


*"Real" is subject to interpretation and the author cannot be held accountable for failing to meet the reader's expectations. Kthanx.

**See the disclaimer above.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Progress!

Everyone was too polite to comment on my hot mess laundry pile yesterday, or maybe I just posted too late in the evening. I don't know how The Devil Facebook (that's how I'm going to refer to it from now on, or maybe just TDFB for short) configures the posts in everyone's timeline, either.

If you want to feel superior or at least not inferior, you can go look at the picture here.

But this is the same basket (that wasn't even visible in the first picture!)


 Progress, am I right? However, true progress would probably involve not leaving the laundry basket out in the living room all week for all and sundry to see, but let's not get crazy here. It needs to be there for intermittent loads of laundry I occasionally do during the week, usually when C begs me to wash some article of clothing that she HAS to wear before the next laundry day. (As you can see, most of the laundry is done at one time, on the weekend.) L never asks me to do this; he's a 4th-grade boy, he wouldn't care if his clothes ever got washed. I am annoyed that he often puts perfectly clean clothes in the dirty clothes hamper because he doesn't want to fold them, but that's another post. (Spoiler alert: he will soon be doing his own laundry, or at least a good portion of everyone's, depending on how I decide to divide it up.)

I can't believe I am writing about my laundry procedure, but I do like hearing about household systems and how they work (or don't work) for other families, so here goes.

Way back when I was a young SAHM, I did a load of laundry or two a day because we HAD to stay on top of things or the children would have been running around naked. Which they did anyway, because toddlers, but I digress. Once I began working again that was no longer optimal, as I was usually too tired on a weeknight to remember to put the wet clothes into the dryer and you know how that goes. If you are thinking my husband should have helped, let me just say that he is happy to help, he just apparently lacks the ability to remember that a certain task needs to be done. And since I was not able to remember, the laundry had to be done on the weekend, when it was impossible to ignore.

The laundry system in our house has evolved into the following highly functioning, well-oiled machine system that works pretty well as long as we stick to the schedule and don't slack off.

  1. Sometime after breakfast on Saturday morning, I remember it's time to start the laundry.
  2. I sort the laundry in the master bedroom laundry hamper into piles.
  3. I yell at the kids to come sort their laundry. Not yell in a mean way (yet) but because they literally can't hear me since they are plugged into their various devices.
  4. I yell in a mean way for the kids to come sort their laundry.
  5. I start a load that doesn't depend on their clothes, because this is going to take a while.
  6. The kids sort their laundry. Sometimes they do a good job. Other times could be what is optimistically called "a teaching opportunity" but let's be honest, I don't take the opportunity because it's Saturday and I would rather be doing an infinite number of things other than laundry.
  7. Yes, I know I choose to do it this way. Shut up.
  8. As each load is finished, it is placed with tender loving care thrown willy-nilly into the laundry basket. The laundry basket is only for CLEAN clothes. It just is. If you put something in there dirty expecting it to be washed, well, you're just going to be disappointed, that's all.
  9. Yes, I realize that allowing clothes/sheets/towels to be strewn all over the living room floor may render the idea of "clean" negligible. I also accept that we are a wrinkled people. And again I say: unless you are going to come over and do my laundry, shut up.
  10. Laundry day is always Saturday unless there is some compelling reason to move it to Sunday. It must be done by Sunday or the children will have no school uniforms and Justin will have no jeans. (I could get by for a while.) We strive to have the laundry folded by Sunday night. This didn't happen this week, which is why the pile of laundry looks like it was attacked by wolves.
  11.  The worst part about laundry is putting away the clothes. Here's how we do it (not necessarily recommended). Justin and/or I redistribute the clothes to each family member by hurling them in a different corner of the room assigned to each person. 
  12. We call to the kids to start folding. Usually C will start folding and L will flop on the floor next to his pile of clothes (remember I said he throws a lot in the hamper?) and act like we just asked him to climb Mount Everest. 
  13. We all fold our clothes in a peaceful, timely fashion. Or rather, all of us except L fold our clothes while he stares at the TV or dust motes in the light, pesters the dog or his sister, or kicks a soccer ball incessantly against the couch OH MY GOD JUST FOLD YOUR CLOTHES ALREADY.
  14. Finally the clothes are put away! (Except for the pile on the ironing board in our room that I will put up later. Definitely later, almost certainly before the next laundry day.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mount Washmore

Whew, almost missed the deadline again. I felt better today but I was very busy catching up on the things I didn't do yesterday, so a picture will have to do.

This needed to be shown in the extra-large size. I once heard it called "Mount Washmore." This is not even all of it: Mount Washmore grew by about two more loads, plus there was a set of our sheets that was not shown.

It's almost all folded now, except for some of L's clothes because he is as slow. as. molasses. when folding. He seemed shocked when I told him he would have to spend some of his precious time in the morning folding the rest.

Good night, my lovelies.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Painful

Not much to blog today. I have been feeling the effects of allergies for a few days, but today I was felled by a sinus headache during church. It didn't help that at the contemporary service worship set is performed with low overhead lights and flashing spotlights and music that somehow seemed much louder than usual to my throbbing head. I went out to take a Sudafed and Advil but still couldn't keep my eyes open during the sermon, so during the baptism service Justin asked me if I wanted to go to the car and lie down with my eyes closed. I did.

For some reason, food seems to activate medicine somehow. Or maybe it just "helps your feelings" as we say in our family until the medicine actually kicks in. Either way, some Raising Cane's chicken fingers and a real Coke helped immensely. I soon became comatose took a nap and after I woke up and Justin brought L back from his standing invitation to play at his school friend's house, I felt well enough to read 20 minutes of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda with L, supervise him writing a review for Biblionasium (which is a cool site for kids like Goodreads; it's so good for him to write reviews that go beyond a summary. The modern-day book report!) and cast an eye over the activities on Khan Academy he is zipping through. His teacher says he should move on to 5th grade activities soon. It really does seem incredibly easy for him.

Okay, that's all for tonight. Hoping for a better day with no headaches tomorrow.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Booties Are For Babies

Nobody asked what kind of booties ankle boots I was buying, which, psssh, it's almost like y'all have lives or something, gaaahh. I ended up not buying either of the two pairs I was looking at because when I logged onto dsw.com, I saw these cuties on the front page of the boot section for 49.95 plus I had a 20.00 off of 49.00 coupon and the ship-to-store option made the shipping free.
Aren't they cute? They have a lower heel than I've been looking at, but really I don't have any longer pants that will rule these out. They are supposed to fit true to size and be really comfortable, and there were enough reviews to make that sound legit. I hate it when there are 7,286 reviews and the average is 3.2 stars out of a possible 5, which turns out to mean that half of the reviewers gave it 1 star and wish they could give it 0, want it to die in a fire, and I especially enjoy when they want it to be way better than anyone has a right to expect at that price point. "It can't raise the dead like I thought it would!" 

And then, lest you feel confident about passing it up, there are the gushing 5-star reviews that read like the item cures cancer and walks on water and also, the reviewer is the designer's mother or perhaps is being paid by someone. So that makes you unsure. How can the same item inspire such abject hatred and transcendent adoration?

It's a mystery. I just wrote the previous sentences and realized it sounds like I'm talking about a religious belief system. In a way, I suppose I guess I am: the modern religion of Materialism.

Ooooooh, Deep Thoughts with Hairline Fracture.

So I guess I did my duty by sacrificing at the Temple of Online Shopping (motto: Free Shipping Both Ways) and for now I give them 5 stars. (That also really bugs me: people who write a review without reading the book, or wearing the piece, or whatever. Usually they blame the manufacturer for the retailer's mistake instead of contacting customer service, meanwhile skewing the ratings average. Those kinds of people are too stupid to merit my consideration of their rating. It annoys me. If I ever write a book, I shouldn't ever check its reviews on Amazon, is what I'm saying.)

The shoes are in stock at a local store 30 minutes away (we measure distance in minutes if not hours here in Texas, and the speed is assumed to be "like a bat outta hell") so I could theoretically pick up these beauties in 4 hours, but I'm not feeling so great again so it will be at least tomorrow afternoon if not Monday. My husband is once again tyrannically insisting that I get dressed in actual clothes and leave the house to do something unenjoyable like eat a delicious dinner

I'm thinking I need more ice cream as an incentive. It's a good thing shoes always fit 'cause my pants may not after this weekend.

Friday, November 6, 2015

OOTD: Not to Be Confused With an Alien Species

So after a waste of an hour at the car dealership in which my car refused to exhibit the symptoms it had been doing when I drive it, I finally headed to work and had lunch with my husband, picked up our new clothes embroidered with the company logo (exciting!), and then came back to the shop to spend some important blogging time before heading out to the bank and to pick up the kids. Except people kept giving me other things to do, like, you know, actual work. I know, right?

Life is so different A.T. (After Teaching), I'm telling you. Last year, I couldn't blog at all because I was so stressed. My one-sentence journal for one day read, "Two kids broke a desk today by sitting on it. This is my life now."

I don't miss that life at all. Blogging every day. That's my life now. How ya like me now, hooligans?

Anywho (and don't you hate people who say that, unless YOU, faithful reader, say that, in which case, I love you, but cut that mess out), I have some important info to share with you.

[Pause for me to picture y'all perched breathlessly on the edge of your seats. Don't disillusion me. This is my Purpose in Life now, remember?] 

This is my OOTD. 
 What is an OOTD, you ask? Yes, it does sound like a gentle species in Doctor Who, but this is not to be confused with the Ood. 

Dear merciful TARDIS, I hope no one confuses me with an Ood (shudder). Although their jackets are kind of snazzy. 

ANYWHO, one's OOTD stands for Outfit Of The Day, a term quite commonly used by fashion bloggers. Y'all were so kind on FB yesterday about my sloppy outfit (although the hat did add a layer of panache) that I  thought I'd show you an outfit where I was trying to follow the supreme guidance of Pinterest and wear the uniform of my species, the suburban mom. 

Unfortunately, that means I took a crappy picture in low light, but I was running late so I had to go with what I had. I'm really quite proud of copying creating a fashion-forward fall look all on my own! And note that none of this was Stitch Fix. 

The navy and white checked shirt is from the Ralph Lauren factory outlet summer sale and I snatched it up the minute I saw it. I love gingham. It's a little narrow at the bottom so I left the bottom button unbuttoned. It's a S and fits me perfectly in the shoulders and arms so no worries.

The olive green quilted vest is from Old Navy, a M so it would zip if necessary. Again, snatched it up when I first saw it instead of waiting for it to go on sale like a dummy because I knew (again from Pinterest, my fashion oracle) that vests like this are very "on-trend" and can be much more expensive. This is my replacement for the military jackets I'd been pinning for my Stitch Fix stylist, which I only wanted for looks and not because anyone NEEDS an actual JACKET around here. (Glares angrily at the weather report) Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Moving on! The jeans are Levi's Denizen from Target. They are probably the most comfortable jeans I have ever owned, and they cost $27.00. How about that, Nordstrom premium denim that doesn't even fit me anymore but that at least I wore enough to (sort of) justify the $100+ price tag? I need to get a boot-cut version of these jeans. These are perfect for rolling up. I'm wearing the "Curvy Skinny" fit and this completely eliminated the horrid gap in the waistband that so many of us pear-shaped ladies dread. Also also also, the "Denizens" have so much stretch that they don't gap at the knees or stretch out at the waist after more than one wearing. I normally wear a size 6-8 and I'm wearing a 6 in these. I'm 5'2" and they fit me fine even without rolling them up. If you are tall, I don't know what to tell you. Be glad for me, because usually everything is too long for me.

But of course I am currently rolling all my jeans up. Because Pinterest told me to. And although I don't have the right ankle boots (I refuse to call them "booties" no matter what everyone else does), I plan to order some tomorrow. If you comment here or on FB that you want me to, tomorrow I'll show you the options I'm considering. I mean, I'm 90% decided, so unless you agree with me, it probably won't do any good, but you can try to change my mind.

After all, Pinterest changes my mind all the time.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Human Reset; Creative Process; Blue Bell; Basketball

WARNING: Unlike yesterday, this post will not be deep, religious, emotional, or anything except random ramblings. So if that's not your thing, come back tomorrow. Apparently when I blog every day, I'm full of surprises. Who knew?

(I bet today's post totally gets more comments--at least on Facebook--than this one. That's okay. Sometimes it's hard to know what to say when someone gets really up close and personal with the Bible.)

I woke up with sinus pressure in my head and a scratchy throat. By the time I dropped both kids off at school--a circuitous route that makes me feel like an Uber driver--and plopped down on the couch, I realized my throat actually hurt and I was achy and tired all over. Getting off the couch was not going to happen that day...or at least only for small intervals, such as going to the bathroom or fetching something to eat. My body said, "We are certainly not going to drive for 45 minutes to an office to sit in a less-comfortable position, when there is nothing urgent to accomplish there."

I've always believed I should listen to my body, so I called my boss husband and told him I wasn't coming in. He made the appropriate sympathetic noises and told me to rest.

I read blogs for about an hour (I'm behind on my blog reading since I took a week off for anxiety, and doesn't it make me seem like such a nerd that I feel like I'm "getting behind" on entertainment. I think of it as "Internet homework" and a full DVR makes me feel the same way). Then I realized my head was hurting worse, but I couldn't take a nap because I felt too gross. I decided to take a shower because my mother always said when I felt yucky, "Take a shower and eat something." She still says that, and I've found that (along with taking a nap and medicine if necessary) it's the human equivalent to turning your electric device off and on again. Solves at least 75% of my problems (it would be 95% except I sometimes can't sleep).

Anyway, I told you yesterday that I sang in the shower and got the idea for yesterday's post, yada yada yada. Actually, it was not like an idea just peacefully came into my brain and I though, "Huh, yeah, that's interesting. Maybe I'll write about that," and I continued with my shower like a normal person. 

Yeah, no. (No one ever said I was normal, anyway.) It felt like the top of my head opened up and something outside me downloaded into my brain almost faster than I could keep up with. Notice I said it felt like that--I am not actually delusional enough to believe that my ideas came Directly From God. But it felt like it was not coming from me at all, which I hear is very common among creative types. You'll be feeling uninspired, do your daily word count, then stomp off moodily to do something else (like take a shower) and WHOOP, there it is. I believe Anne Lamott said it was incredibly similar to amoebic dysentery. It really felt that urgent that I get to a computer. In this case I was speaking the words out loud, which made me glad I was alone. I was just talking, saying all these things I'd never thought of before, with tears leaking out of my eyes because once I get emotional I can't stop crying, and then I stopped talking and said, "Oh God, oh God, please don't let me forget this, don't let me forget this." And I rushed through the rest of my shower and barely dried off so I could run to the computer and I didn't forget it and the rest came out easily as well, which is hardly ever the case with writing, in my experience (unless it's not any good, and/or you're plagiarizing.)

Maybe it was also like giving birth. Or there was this episode of "Dr. Who..." 

You know what, I'm going to stop with these weird metaphors. (You're welcome.) It was just really interesting to see my creative process working again. Anne Lamott also says that the muse doesn't show up unless YOU show up every day whether you feel inspired or not. This hasn't happened in YEARS, probably because I've never committed fully to writing every day. Oh, I've made promises to myself, but somehow making a promise to other people who claim to enjoy reading my words is quite different. Maybe I'll keep blogging every day for forever and ever.

MUAHAHAHAHA!

Okay, I feel better now. Quite possibly because I have again tasted manna from heaven, aka the nectar of the gods, aka Blue Bell ice cream. If you've never tasted it because you don't live close enough to Brenham, Texas, then I'm sorry and I hope you get to try it someday, sooner rather than later. Why did I say "again?" Well, everybody down here knows that Blue Bell voluntarily shut down its plants after an outbreak of listeria hospitalized 12 people and 4 of those died. It was a very sad and scary time. It seemed that the "little creamery in Brenham" would go out of business and then, judging from the ravings in my Facebook feed, life would not be worth living.

Well, Blue Bell arrived back in North Texas on Nov. 2 and FB was full of 1) Halloween candy and 2) Blue Bell cartons with the familiar gold rim. I didn't go to the store because 1) I had already done my grocery shopping the night before and I don't go to the store any more than I am forced to; and 2) I prefer to wait until a craze quietens down--one might almost say the trend becomes passe`--before reluctantly getting on the bandwagon 3) There was still Halloween candy in the house. 

Which is why when the only thing that sounded good with my sore throat was ice cream, I called my darling husband and asked him to stop by CVS for some Sudafed. "Oh, and if they have some Blue Bell, you could get some of that," I said nonchalantly, pretending my mouth wasn't full of saliva.

He's been married to me for 18 1/2 years, so this is not his first rodeo, honey. This is what he came home with:

Ohhhhhh yeaaaahhhh. Note that two of the flavors are chocolate.

Finally (because it is now three hours since I started this post and was interrupted and am now remembering that I woke up at 4 a.m. because my throat hurt), C had some exciting news today. After four days of tryouts, she made the basketball team!!! Well, one of them. We don't know if she's on the A, B, or C team, but it really doesn't matter. 85 girls tried out and only 30 made it. I am so proud of her and excited to cheer her on in her first middle school sport (cross country doesn't really count since she never got to run in a meet). 

L starts on a select (as opposed to recreational) team next week. More thoughts on that later. At first I thought I would get a T-shirt with her school name on it, but maybe I'll get one that says "Basketball Mom" and cover all my bases.

Although if I keep eating all this Blue Bell, I'm gonna need a larger size.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Prodigal Father and the Elder Brother

While browsing on FB, I came across the video below and had this to say about it:


 

I seriously have tears in my eyes and my goosebumps have goosebumps after listening to one of my favorite singers (Dan Dean of Phillips, Craig & Dean) sing one of my favorite songs ("When God Ran," originally by Benny Hester). It perfectly encapsulates the story of the Prodigal Son as related by my pastor, Tommy Brandon, last Sunday at Calvary Church of South Fort Worth. 

Oh, God's amazing grace! I am just now beginning to truly understand it. To anyone wondering if you have gone too far to come back to God, please watch this video and know that there is no place too far for His grace to reach you. All you have to do is turn your heart toward home, and your Heavenly Father will run to meet you on that road.

Then a little later I began singing the song again (in the shower, and I'm sorry if that's TMI, but on this here Hairline Fracture blog, we tells it like it is) and crying a little, and then a lot. And I asked myself, "Why am I feeling this song so deeply? I know it's because I'm on a journey of experiencing God's grace at a deeper level than ever before, but...I'm not the Prodigal Son. Or the Prodigal Daughter." 

To give you some context, I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was sitting on my mother's lap at about five years old. I did feel a deep conviction and began to cry as the altar song was being sung, and my mom asked me if I wanted her to pray with me, and I did. And from that day until this, I have never intentionally walked away from God. 

I don't think that makes me better than anyone else. I know that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, NKJV). I believe that I am just as much of a sinner as the worst murderer on the face of the earth. And yet...on some level, I have never truly identified with the stories of the Prodigal Son, the lost sheep, or the lost coin, because I never truly felt lost. I never left.

And then it hit me. I never left.

So in this story, that makes me...the elder brother?

That doesn't make sense, I thought. When I hear the song, I'm imagining myself as the Prodigal, seeing the Father run to me, feeling Him pull me into His arms, holding my head to His chest, lifting my face, wiping the tears from my eyes, and most of all, hearing Him say, "Child, do you know I still love you?" The elder brother didn't experience any of that, so why was it speaking so powerfully to me in a way that goes beyond mere emotional empathy?

Here is how Jesus says the elder brother reacted when he heard the news that his younger brother had returned after wasting his inheritance and then how his father had responded:

 28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’" (Luke 15:28-30, NLT).

All of my life I have heard that Jesus was condemning the reaction of the elder brother who was so mean-spirited that he refused to be glad that his own brother had come home alive. The elder brother represents the believers like me, like the ninety and nine sheep, who had never left, while of course God is the Father who runs to welcome home the lost sinner who has wasted all the precious gifts he was given, but who is far more precious in his father's eyes than the inheritance he lost. 

I have heard it pointed out that because "prodigal" means "spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant," the story should really be called "The Prodigal Father." What earthly father would be so extravagant as to welcome that idiotic boy home without at least mentioning what he'd done?

"So...what'd you bring back?...Nothing? What, I'm sorry--I thought you actually said you brought home NOTHING out of the HALF of everything I own..." [Closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose.] "Okay. Okay. I'm going to need a minute. Okay, I've already ordered the fatted calf and told everybody we're celebrating, so I'm going to have to go through with that. But TOMORROW, buster, you and I are going to have a SERIOUS talk about how you can work off this debt!"

No WONDER I have trouble understanding the heart of my Father in Heaven--I get annoyed when my 12-year-old doesn't bring home change from the $20 I gave her to hang out at the mall for a couple of hours! In my own nature, I am so stingy, so close-fisted...and not just about money.

Left to my own nature, I am the elder brother.

Because--and this is a thing I don't think I have ever heard anyone say before--I think the elder brother's reaction is actually pretty relatable to most of us, if we think about it. Most of us are a lot more like him than we're like the younger wastrel. We've completed whatever schooling was available to us, gotten legitimate jobs and worked hard at them, tried to treat others right and be friendly and tip well and just generally be Good People.

Until that pesky younger brother shows back up and our Father goes all out CRYING for joy and falling on that STUPID IDIOT'S neck and throwing a huge PARTY for him. When all the time we were RIGHT HERE providing unpaid labor and not saying a WORD even when that JERK basically said he wanted Dad to be DEAD so he could go ahead and take his inheritance...and Dad GAVE it to him! Oh no, we kept our mouths shut like good little boys and girls and let him go, thinking, "Goodbye and good riddance." But now that he's back with nothing but the filthy rags he's wearing and smelling like PIGS, Dad's all, "Oh, hooray, Elder, your brother's back, let's waste some MORE money on him!" It just proves what I KNEW all along: DAD'S ALWAYS LOVED HIM MORE.

(It's possible that the elder brother in my imagination uses a lot of EMPHASIS when he's MAD, kind of like [ahem] someone else I know.)

This is the truth that hit me like a ton of bricks: the elder brother was actually not mad as much about the money, as he was jealous for the father's love.

He thought that his father's generosity toward his brother meant that his father loved his brother more. But as Jesus said, nothing could be farther from the truth! Unlike the teachings I've always heard, the father doesn't condemn his elder son; he begs him to understand. He tries to affirm his son and reassure him that the father's love has always been his.


31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.'" (Luke 15:31, NLT).

How would this story have been different if the elder brother had admitted to himself that the real problem was that he hadn't left his father's home in body...but he had never believed he deserved to live there?

He had stayed in the fields and worked, believing way down deep inside that he HAD to work to earn his father's love...but his eyes had followed his younger brother as he went on his merry way, and possibly he'd had the thought flash through his mind, "Now Dad will HAVE to see that I'm better than him. He'll HAVE to love me more."

And when his father ran toward his prodigal younger brother, it exploded that sordid little belief, and he felt angry and hopeless and unloved. 

When the truth was that if the elder brother had ever asked, the prodigal father would certainly have given him anything he wanted to throw a party. 

But he never asked. He assumed that if the father loved him, he'd just provide things like he had for the spoiled baby of the family. Except...that isn't accurate either. The younger brother asked, so the father gave him what he asked for. The father gave, grieving all the time that the younger son valued his money more than his relationship with his father. 

Whereas the elder brother had the chance to experience the depth of the father's unconditional love every single day...but he didn't believe it was his, and so he worked and slaved and stewed and felt unworthy and unloved. He never asked.

What if, I asked myself, just what if the elder brother had fallen into his father's arms and sobbed out all his insecurities and fears? What if he'd let his father hold his head to his chest, let his father lift his head, let his father wipe the tears from his eyes, let himself hear, "Son, do you know I've always loved you?"

Why then, I realized, it would probably feel a lot like I was feeling at this very moment.


“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:7-11, NKJV)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Timehopping


Yesterday, Bibliomama made a statement that resonated with me.

"With so much of parenting, when you lose something you almost always get something equally (but differently) awesome in return."

I found this extremely encouraging. And when I thought more about it, I found it to be true of my experience as well. Sure, I miss (some of) those baby, toddler, and preschool days. 

I started looking at the oldest posts on this blog and became verklempt. Talk among yourselves. (Sorry if you're too young to get that. Look it up on YouTube.)

I mean, who wouldn't miss this?

Or this?
And here is a post that made me tear up, from November 2007 :

We’re in the middle of a language explosion around here. Mr. Blue’s vocabulary is expanding--seemingly like the universe, at an ever-increasing rate. At night Justin and I recount the things the words he’s spoken for the first time: “He said ‘medicine,’ didn’t he?” “Well, actually it was more like ‘medsih,’ but yeah.” He says simple sentences now, like “I walk stairs,” or “Mamaw go bye-bye.” With each addition to his vocabulary, my heart swells with pride, like he’s the first kid who ever learned to talk. Now the words are coming out so fast, I find myself thinking, “When did he learn to say that?”
 
Like every kid, though, he has his own unique names for some things. He calls his toothbrush his “Nemo,” even though he has no idea that’s what the decorative fish on it is named. The blanket he sleeps with is, inexplicably, an “otay.” Anything heart-shaped is a “vah-vah,” and until this week he called a light that can be switched on a “dawdaw.” Monday night Justin told me Mr. Blue said “light” instead, as he turned off the one in his room. (It seems so strange that we can pin down the exact day he started calling it a light.) I felt the pang that I’m already familiar with from Miss Pink’s toddler years. You know they have to learn the real word, but the nonsense one is so cute, you hate to see it go. 


Mostly, though, I’m happy to be able to communicate with him the way I communicate best—with words. Of course I loved my children's first few months, but sometimes it was frustrating that the screaming bundle couldn’t just tell me what she or he wanted (and I’d have to haul my shirt up and see if that was it. Again.) Plus, I like newborns best when they aren’t doing anything; if they’re calm and still, it’s a good thing. Any communication from a tiny infant is an urgent call to action. Now Mr. Blue can run around pointing at things, identifying them, and having a conversation with me. “Oh! Pane! [pointing at sky]. Bird. Fower. Want swing, Mama. Where juice? Tank oo. Oh, poopy” (not always accurate, but still helpful). 


Then I chase him down (not an easy task), hold him tight, and whisper, “Stay like this. Stay just like this, and don’t ever change.”

Pease?

WEEP. Of course he didn't obey; no child except Peter Pan ever has. But now we have such fun conversations. Here's one we had this week:

L: Tuesday night is my least favorite night of the week.

Me: Oh, really? Why's that?

L: Well, Monday is Monday Night Football, and Wednesday night is church, so that's good. And then there's Thursday Night Football, I get to stay up later on Friday night, and there's more football on Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday night is the only night when nothing really happens.

Me: What a tragedy.

And I also find my daughter incredibly amusing. Tonight when we were watching "The Voice" she declared, "He killed it! It's so dead, it's already decaying!"

I remember when I was pregnant with C, Justin and I would talk about what his or her (we didn't find out the sex in advance) personality was going to be like. We were sure this baby would come into the world with some traits hardwired into the system. Sure enough, both kids brought their own personalities into the world, and although they have changed somewhat as they grew, I loved them then, and as they get older, I keep falling in love all over again with the people they are becoming.