Wednesday, June 29, 2016

From zero to fifteen in almost 4 years

Almost four years ago, I wrote an article in a local magazine about whether I should attend church with the kids.  Soon after its publication, I started going to the Disciples of Christ church where they all attended preschool.

Our attendance has been consistently haphazard, but I'm okay with that. There is nothing like attending church two times a week as a kid (and three times a week if there happened to be a Holy Day of Obligation in addition to school mass attendance and regular Sunday attendance) to make you hate the routine rut of regular church attendance.

I was trained to be a Worship & Wonder storyteller, so I volunteer periodically to do that.  And I'm helping lead VBS this week.

At VBS the kids are learning about the beliefs of the DOC denomination, which has actually been very helpful for me personally.  Yesterday was the first time I'd ever seen the baptismal font.

After his group saw the font, G said to me, "I'm not ever going to be baptized.  I don't want to be a different person."  He, obviously, has a very simplified understanding of how baptism "changes" a person.

I very briefly felt concern when he said this, but then I had to remember that I, even after attending this church for almost four years, have yet to officially join.  I haven't made my confession of faith to join the church, and I'm not entirely certain I ever will.

Of course, the main reason for this is because I don't want to feel obligated.  This is all kinds of convoluted psychology, but I want to be at church because I want to be at church....not because I feel like I have to because I will feel guilty or obligated if I'm not.  That is not the spirit in which I want to attend.  

So I haven't joined, but I am involved.  For whatever that's worth.....which I sorta think is something. As much as I love words, I tend to think actions are way more important.

And that thinking is one of the things I really like about this church....that it values thinking about belief.

I always thought belief demanded feeling, and feeling certainty in your feeling.  And that certainty of feeling has never, ever come easily for me, especially as it concerns God or Jesus or religion.  The questioning, the considering, the evaluating....that part is natural for me, so I'm glad to be somewhere that not only allows thinking but encourages it.

Friday, June 24, 2016

My new master bathroom (and here is my catalytic converter for your viewing pleasure)

I had written about our plans to remodel our master bathroom, and it is finished.  It was actually finished in May, but I was still subbing and teaching so was too busy to take photos.  Plus,  I was hoping to purchase some artwork for the walls before I called it really and truly "done."

But then my car needed 2 tires.
And then D's car had $1400 of work done.
And then his battery died and had to be replaced.
And then my car needed $1500 of work done.
And then my car needed a new catalytic converter and O2 sensor (to the tune of $1700).
In a month's time all this went down.

Our auto savings account has been bled dry.  I don't even think there is any marrow there.

Suffice it to say, I am not getting any art or decor for the bathroom or buying much of anything if it isn't food or sunscreen.

Here is what the bathroom looked like BEFORE.

The giganto tub and the little shower have been replaced by this:

 The bench is actually a hamper for soiled towels but has a soft top.

I have a place to store towels rather than walking into my closet.
I do not have a tub that I have to stand in to dust it.

An electric towel warmer. 

The shower feels MUCH bigger just from gaining a few inches here and there. 
The teak bench folds up when we don't need it and down when we do.

A piece of art work will go above the toilet 
once our saving spree to recoup car expenses is over.

I made this using card stock and fabric.  No sewing required.  
Got the fabric on clearance at Hancock.  
I had to purchase two yards.....

So I did this to the chair in the sitting room right outside 
the bathroom where D's closet and mine converge.  

I am very, very happy with how it turned out!  And it sure is a lot more fun to look at and enjoy than D's muffler, all our new fluids and my catalytic converter.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I hate "God is great" and that darn phrase from Sam McBratney's book

It's summer......
I'm bored......
So I have nothing to write about except all these little thoughts swirling in my head.

I often talk to my students about the terms "denotation" and "connotation."

Denotation is the literal meaning of a word.  For example, the denotation of the word blue is the color between violet and green.

Connotation is the idea/feeling/meaning that a word invokes.  The connotation of the word blue is sadness or melancholy.

If I say "I am blue," I may be Violet Beauregarde or I may be depressed.

I think it is very important to consider not just the definition you find in a dictionary, but the larger perceptive meaning that words suggest to you and others.

Suffice it to say, I have a connotative conundrum with the phrase "God is great," which people use a lot.

Typically, this phrase is used when someone gets good news.  I have yet to see someone say or write "God is great" when they've just been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer (or any cancer).

When what they want to happen happens, God is great.
When what they don't want to happen happens, God will take care of them and has it all under control.
Either way, God apparently has a special place in his pocket

Maybe they are using "great" in the denotative case?  In this case, I wouldn't have a problem.  God is above/beyond the average or normal.  I can get behind that usage.  God is bigger/larger/more profound than our average/normal human understanding (which also leads me to the whole idea that as mere humans we don't have the capacity to understand God in any way, shape or form, but that is another blog post for another day.  Or maybe later....because I am bored.)

But "great" connotatively means "better than good."  If I say I had a great time at dinner, I do not really mean I had a time beyond the normal, even if dinner was beyond my normal dinner.  I mean I had fun, it was good, I enjoyed it.  "Great" is a judgment word.

So if "God is great" it means God is judgmental.  God is picking and choosing who gets blessed and who doesn't.  God deems you to be special and someone else (who did get a positive cancer diagnosis) to not be special.  I know this is not what people intend to mean when they say it, but this is how I (and maybe others) connotatively understand it.  This phrase is like a skin tag in the bra line.  It doesn't cause pain or damage, but dang does it rub the wrong way.

I also have a problem with the general overuse of the phrase.  Like the word "blessed" (which also has that judgment-like meaning attached to it), it has been run into the ever-loving ground.

It is akin to "I love you to the moon and back," a phrase that stems from Guess How Much I Love You? by Sam McBratney.

Ooooo, don't get me started on this one.

It doesn't bother me for its connotative/denotative meanings but for its absolute ruination because everybody on the planet loves everybody else on the planet far beyond the planet.  They love them to the moon.....and back.

And we have to have t-shirts and signs and ornaments and cups and bracelets stating that we love people to the moon and back.

I love the Sam McBratney book, but I daresay he is sick to death of this phrase being used by every human alive to describe how they feel about their loved ones.  Is there no other children's book in the world that has a similar sentiment?

This, THIS, was the book that I adored when my children were small.

It's summer.
I'm bored.
Possibly PMSing....
Just ignore me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guns, radios and Nazis

Yesterday I finished reading All the Light We Cannot See, a novel by Anthony Doerr.  I really enjoyed it, although it did take me awhile to become invested in the story.

I spent some time researching radio confiscation by the Nazis during World War II as a result of this book.  I also spent some time researching Sonderkommandos, which have nothing to do with the novel and everything to do with the film Son of Saul, which I watched a couple weekends ago.  I seem to be a little heavy into Holocaust themes at the moment.

It is pretty typical of me to end up Googling things as a result of my reading or viewing.  I'm often curious as to whether what I've read or viewed is accurate.  Did the Nazis really confiscate people's radios?  Yes, they apparently did.  Did the Sonderkommandos really have to do some of the things they did as suggested in the film?  Yes, they apparently did.

In light of these artistic pieces by Doerr and Laszlo Nemes, the Orlando shooting, Congress' inability to pass any kind of gun control measure and now the sit-in on the House floor,  I have been thinking a lot about the freedom to own radios and guns.

All the Light We Cannot See got me thinking that a government bent on controlling its citizens (or its captives) will take any and all measures to do so.  Something I consider innocuous, a radio, is profoundly dangerous and treacherous to a power-hungry government.  As much as I believe a person should have a radio to gain as much information/knowledge as possible, I also believe an individual should have (if they choose) a gun to protect themselves from whatever they fear, even if I believe that the likelihood (at this time) of the government usurping a whole rash of our personal freedoms is unlikely.

Time changes, though, and there could conceivably come a time when I am happy that I have the right to protect myself from government tyranny.  Of course, I suspect the truth is that an organized government/dictatorship will always have more military firepower than the common man.  That doesn't mean the common man can't subvert the government, but it is unlikely to be because he has a small arsenal in his living room.

Gun control is a complex issue because it is inherently both an individual rights issue and public safety issue and it is very, very difficult to find a way to not infringe on individual rights while also keeping general public health and safety in consideration.  Someone's rights are going to be infringed upon in the effort to make life safer for the vast majority of people.  I think that is just the way it works.

I didn't read any of the legislation Congress rejected (both Dems and Repubs rejected each other's bills so it's not like anyone was taking the high road and coming to any kind of partisan agreement).  Most regular people do not take the time to read bills in their entirety.  As someone suggested to me yesterday, that I hadn't ever considered, it is possible that both bills had a bunch of add-ons that had nothing to do with guns.  How often are there little things in legislation that get it tossed out that the citizens never know about because we don't have the time or take the time to read the legislation.  Of course, as this person suggested, many legislators don't read the legislation.

(And to add to this idea of poorly written legislation, I found this article suggesting that the Second Amendment isn't the grand piece of constitutional clarity some people say it is.)

As a person who likes the idea of some gun control restrictions, like a ban on assault weapons and mega round cartridges, I also have a problem with some restrictions, like those on people labeled as "mentally ill."  Does that mean the person takes medication?  Sees a psychiatrist?  What kind of mental illness are we talking about?  How mentally ill is mentally ill enough to not be able to purchase a gun?  I don't even want to own a gun, but I sure would be ticked if my right to own a gun was denied because some legislator decided I am unfit to own a gun because I'm on Lexapro.

Once again, I feel like I'm sitting somewhere in the middle ground, waiting for someone who is not a politician to join me.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

It's official......I love Girl Scout camp

As a kid, I went to Girl Scout camp once.  I think I spent about 98.3% of my time in the nurse's station.  I had terrible allergies then and, knowing what I know now, I expect I had a considerable amount of anxiety that made me feel sicker than I actually was.   The only good thing to come out of my experience was Camp Chili (one can chili with beans, Fritos corn chips, shredded cheddar cheese=little slice o'heaven).

This summer is N's 5th year doing Girl Scout day camp, and it is also my 5th year of volunteering at camp, although it is my 1st year volunteering at camp all week.  Prior to this summer, I've worked in the kitchen twice, helped with fishing once and hung out for a couple days with a unit of girls.

Both G and M got to go to Girl Scout camp, too, which is a benefit of volunteering.  I get to help with Girl Scouts, and my boys get to experience camping with me nearby in case of emergency (or minor emergency, like "I miss mom.")

I was worried about how they would do, especially G who, as a general rule, avoids the outside and hates any kind of physical activity. He, however, did beautifully.  He caught a fish.  He made friends.  He wants to go back next year.  M had a good time, too, although it wore his little 6-year-old butt out!

N complained on Monday, saying she didn't want to be there and this was her last year of day camp.  By Thursday, though, she said she wants to come back next year when she will be an aide.  She doesn't love the early morning wakeup, but she really enjoys camp.

I am not a camper or a fisher or a creek walker or person who enjoys roughing it (although my personal appearance gives the impression that I do but that is because I am 1. lazy and 2. without shame), but I did love this week of camp.  

I loved it because I learned a lot, as I have every year that I've been.  I loved it because my own kids had fun.  I loved it because I felt a camaraderie with other women who were exposing girls to the outdoors, to being bold in the face of darkness, spiders in latrines and lost underwear.  It forced me to be brave and to try new things because I had 15 little girls watching me and waiting for me to set an example.

It was sometimes hard and sometimes hot and sometimes annoying, but there were also moments of great hilarity, like when our unit leader asked the girls if they knew the song "I've Got Something in My Pocket" (Brownie Smile Song).  One of the girls yelled out, "You mean 'I'm gonna pop some tags.  Only got $20 in my pocket.'"

Or the day after sleepover when one of the aides and I ate our lunches off of plastic bags because we either didn't have (me) or didn't feel like retrieving (her) mess kits.  It isn't funny to write it here, but we thought it was hilarious that we were so tired we were reduced to eating off of bags.

It was a great experience with my kids and one I hope to repeat again next summer!

                         This is my group creek walking today.  I'm in front with the purple shirt.  

And here is N with her friends doing the canoe tip-test

Performing flag ceremony

and having fun doing the Teams Course.

And then the boys....who got to roast marshmallows

and use knives

and catch fish

and make friends

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

This summer I am not culturing my children

Isn't that what you do to oysters?  You culture them?
I'm not sure what that involves....
Let me google it.

Hmmmm...the simplest method involves oyster spat (whatever THAT is).

Ok, I'm neither culturing oysters nor my children this summer.

Our city has a free cultural program that we've done the past two years, and I'm not doing it again for a variety of reasons.

First, we've done most of the things on the list in years' past, and I have no desire to do them again.

Second, I think I just don't care anymore.

This is the summer I don't particularly care whether my children learn a darn thing.  My goal is to have them read every night before bed.  Boom!  Summer plans in a nutshell.

I don't feel like thinking or instigating or devising.  I don't feel like being a concierge of their lives, as I have done for the past however many years.

So far this summer, I've stolen two ideas from friends based on what they've done with their kids....both of which have been outside activities.  I did take my kids to a local fossil bed without stealing that idea from anyone.  We've gone to the zoo where we happened upon a neat bird show (which I hadn't planned for them to see).

N is doing a field hockey camp this week (2 hours a day).

Next week we're doing Girl Scout camp (including the boys, and they are gonna love it even if it kills them).

We're heading up to Michigan this summer, too, to hike and explore and be off the grid.

There is something really glorious about not giving much of a $hit anymore.  And, of course, it's not that I don't give a $hit about my kids, but I don't care to worry about these weeks of summer and whether we are "making the most of them" and "savoring them" and all those inspirational notions of what summer could be or should be.

My kids are spending about 7 hours a day on their Kindles or Touches.  Provided they don't lose the ability to form complete sentences or have brain goo coming out their ears, I think I've reached a point where I think that is probably just fine.  

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Being a bad-a$$ versus just playing around

The other day, D and I took a bike ride through a local park system while the kids were at friends' houses.  While biking, I was thinking about my general fitness level, which isn't fantastic but isn't terrible either.  My motto is "do something rather than nothing," which I think is a good one considering as a person ages she is usually unable to be a fitness queen.

This led me to think about people who are or try to be fitness "bad-asses."  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it is not something I care to do or aspire to be.  I personally think that sucks a lot of the fun out of exercising.  It takes a lot of work to be a bad-a$$.

I then tangent-hopped to my own non-athletic children, especially G who is, of the three, the least physically coordinated.

We encourage our kids to get outside and play in whatever form that takes.  Usually it is frisbee throwing and play-set swinging and, occasionally, it is baseball throwing and hitting with a bat.  We don't focus on correct form much because for G just agreeing to go outside and do anything physical is a huge success.  If we spend too much time and energy correcting him on form, he will become frustrated and stop playing since he doesn't really enjoy doing physical stuff to begin with.

I began to wonder about how kids played baseball or other games when kids used to just go outside and play without parents coaching and instigating the game and schedule.  I guess I thought about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when Neeley plays baseball with his friends.  Parents were busy working and didn't interfere with how or why or when kids played their pickup games.  Did the kids play with correct form?  Did they hit the ball in exactly the way a professional would?  I doubt it.  They played.  They had fun.

Of course, I'm not suggesting there is no value in learning correct form, but for kids who don't enjoy sports and whose parents are happy for them just to go outside and do something physical, focusing on the form isn't a priority.  Playing on a team isn't a priority.  Winning isn't a priority.  Just doing something rather than nothing is what it's all about.