White Spaces and Margins Tuesday, Jun 23 2015 

Habit-Quotes

There are a lot of blog posts, discussions, and thoughts floating around on the interwebs recently discussing how to make the most of the margins in life and create white space. The way I would define these is that margins are those bits of time that are unaccounted for throughout the day in 5-30 minute chunks here and there. It could be that 30 minutes of mindless channel surfing before bed or the 5 minutes waiting for the coffee to brew. Whereas I think of margins just naturally occurring in the ebb and flow of the day, white spaces are more intentional. Margins happen. White space is created.

Just like now…

I skipped some lines and create white space to impose a break in the verbiage and give a pause for reflection. That’s what white space does in our lives. It can be literally created empty space on a calendar, but it is also a theoretical or philosophical space in time that is necessary for us to refuel and reflect in order to keep our tanks full and stay healthy as humans. It shifts our focus. It’s a place for quiet. We can choose to fill it or leave it be. Different seasons of life, types of day, and mood may impact how we create our white space and fill our margins.

As human beings we all thrive on and crave routine. I think of myself as a spontaneous and flexible person. I love surprises and am adept at handling unexpected situations. I am also easily bored. Even so…I crave rhythm and routines. There is a comfort in knowing what to expect and what will happen next. There is a joy in planning and thinking forward. There is satisfaction in checking things off the list. There is enough change in life (morning to evening, the seasons, life transitions, aging, moving, etc.) that there is still some comfort in those routines and predictable changes.

I have always been a naturally reflective person, even as a child. I have also had some good daily routines at various times in my life, especially a before bed routine. However, the blessing and curse of being a professor is that my overall daily routine changes pretty often. Not only are no two days within the week the same as far as schedule goes, but there are changes with every semester and then breaks between semesters. Just when I get in the groove of creating white spaces and intentionally using the margins of my day well, then a change in daily routine sets in and I have to do it all over again. I actually like the changing schedules. It keeps me from becoming bored and causes me to constantly be conscious and diligent about how I manage my productive time and my down time.

One of my goals for this year was to start keeping a daily gratitude journal. I started it in January and had been diligent to write in it as part of my nightly before-bed habit all the way through April. Then I went out of town and didn’t immediately unpack it on my return home and the busy end of the semester set in. Along with my daily gratitude reflection, I also started reading (and savoring) one poem a night. I worked my way through four slender volumes of poetry before I ran out of poetry books and neglected to get any new ones from the library. That carefully crafted (and yes, filled, but filled with reflection) white space seemed to melt away.

I just recently had a semester break, then summer semester started again last week. I am slowly recreating some simple routines to help the margins frame my days in better ways, as well as create some white space that is free from demands. I want to re-establish my bedtime habit of writing in my gratitude journal and reading and pondering one poem a day before I start my pre-sleep reading. (I have ALWAYS read for pleasure before bed and no matter how tired I am, I can’t fall asleep with out reading). Being as I am a night-owl and not a lark, the morning routine is always a bit more difficult. I try to have a devotional time (which can take many different forms), eat breakfast, and have coffee in the mornings. The reality is that one 1-2 of those things typically happens. I want my morning margin to be a bit more intentional since I firmly believe Henry Ward Beecher’s statement that “the first hour is the rudder of the day.”  Finally, I want to be intentional in creating and jealous in guarding the white space so that I can be thoughtful, rested, and filled so that I can then love, give, and be.

margines

In the Dungeon Thursday, Jun 4 2015 

I have spent most of the day here:

   
  
No. I wasn’t filming an episode of Hoarders, although it definitely looks like it. This is the dreaded basement. I had it about 65% organized a few years ago (see those boxes on the shelves?), but then a kid moving back and forth from college, the basement being used as a workshop, outgrown clothes that need to be donated to Goodwill, and my fabric stash (quilters got to quilt) have gotten out of control. Not to mention the fact that since our church doesn’t have a building, we get to store quite a bit of church stuff and we had a hot water heater leak that caused us to throw things around to protect them from water damage.

You can certainly understand why I have avoided this chore. Every time I go down in the basement I want to throw up my hands in resignation and turn back. The rest of my house does not look like this, I can assure you. I just wanted to post these photos here in the interest of “keeping it real”. Anyway, today I didn’t turn back from the mess. I walked right into the belly of the beast and got to work. I am working under the strategy of keep, donate, recycle, trash. Then, since we are planning to put our house on the market soon, I have to further break the “keep” items into what stays at the house and what will move into a storage unit. I have made some good headway today. I have a huge pile to take to Goodwill tomorrow and as soon as I do that, much more space is clear. I’m not going to wait until I am done, but remove stuff each day so I feel more productive and have more “white space” in the basement. Hopefully, we’ll get a storage unit in a couple of weeks and then some of the bigger furniture items can go too. And…there’s some stuff that needs to be taken to the dump that we’ve been putting off. At any rate, in all of my time working and sorting, here are some things I have realized:

  1. When a minister/theologian and a professor marry, there are books, books, and more books. It doesn’t help that we both enjoy reading for pleasure, as do our boys. We have literally thousands of books. I am pleased to say that they ones in the basement are ALL packed up, as well as Noah’s room. (That just leaves Robert’s study and the living room books to go). 
  2. I have dabbled in creative writing since childhood and Robert is a chronic journaler and doodler. We have lots of journals containing lots of words that we have written. Adam has been drawing since he was 18 months old and took many art classes throughout school. We have multiple sketchpads of his drawings, including anime and manga, skateboard designs, comics, and still lifes.
  3. I am flummoxed wtih what to do with the plethora of random office and school supplies that we have. For example, there’s a stash of file folders, some perfectly good envelopes, legal pads, etc. We don’t need them, but they are in good condition and I hate to throw them away. I hope Goodwill can use them.
  4. I found some old photos of my grandparents and my dad when he was a baby that have been missing since we lived in Texas. We moved out of Texas in 1994 and have lived in 3 states (5 separate moves) since then. So excited to have found these!
  5. A lot of people have given me small gift sets of toiletries, bath stuff, nail stuff, etc. over the years. Apparently I never use this stuff since it has been sitting in various boxes for almost 8 years. Moral of the story–please don’t give me gift sets.
  6. I have a beautiful silver (the real stuff) punch bowl and cups that I have had since my wedding in 1990. It has never been used. I have come to grips with the fact that I will never use it. Now I have to figure out what to do with it. Not Goodwill! It will go to an antique dealer or Ebay or something.
  7. I have quite a bit of large pieces of batting leftover from quilts I have made. I don’t know what to do with it either. I save it for small wallhangings and such, but it just takes up space. It’s cut in weird shapes, mostly L-shapes, so I don’t know that anyone would want it but it seems wasteful to throw it out. I’m thinking I’m going to toss it though.

So many decisions! It has been a mentally exhausting day.

Unlike a hoarder, I have no emotional attachment to the stuff in my basement…except for books and photos/memorabilia. However, I have come a long way with that. It used to be that I would never give up a book. However, now, if it is a book I don’t like or haven’t read and don’t want to, then out it goes. If it is an outdated how-to book, then buh-bye. Bad photos are gone, as is memorabilia such as generic coloring that they boys did, school worksheets, etc. I do save some of their funny writings and drawings, however. Everyone in the family gets one Rubbermaid box and all of their “artifacts” have to fit in that box. For example, I have a lot of trophies from high school, but they are now in the trash. Some of them have a hand broken off or the metal plate that told what the award was for has fallen off. Plus, what 47 year old woman displays her high school trophies? Not this one! When we move, I want the only things we take to be things we love or use. No saving for “what if.” No stuff for “just in case.” We should have 4 boxes of Christmas stuff, 4 boxes of memorabilia, and a couple of boxes of photos that will be gone once I FINALLY get them all into albums. The rest wil be gone or in use. As for books, my goal is to have tons of bookshelves, dare I say a library, so that none of our books are in boxes packed away. Oh! And my wedding dress. I would be fine with getting rid of it. I won’t ever wear it again and we don’t have daughters, but Robert refuses for me to let it go.

I should have some beautiful “after” photos to post in another couple of days. Then once we get a storage unit, I’ll be painting the floor. Stay tuned…

Life as a Lemonade-Maker Monday, May 25 2015 

   

I live life as a lemonade-maker, an optimist, or maybe even a Pollyanna. However, I have enough realism in me that I don’t think I am an unrealistic optimist. I can admit when times are tough. Sometimes there is simply the crap of life and there is no sugar-coating it. We just have to put on our boots and muck right through it. There is not always a silver lining. Life can be hard. Being human can be painful. But as Glennon Doyle Melton says, it can also be “brutiful” (brutishly beaufiful). 

However, this post isn’t about those life-altering, slapped upside the head with pain moments. It is about those little inconveniences; the fly in the ointment, so to speak. Those are the moments in which I squeeze the still green and hard lemons or the overripe, moldy lemons, pour in some sugar, and mix with some water. Today we made lemonade.

We have been planning a roadtrip to Alabama for several weeks now. In recent years, we have gotten in the habit of renting a van for long roadtrips. Robert and I have both been out of town and renting a cars a lot these past few weeks, with Robert renting a car once a week for the past 6 weeks. Therefore, when he was returning a car a couple of weeks ago he made a one week reservation starting today. He made this reservation in person for May 25, face to face with a car rental agent. 

Fast forward to this weekend. Robert picked Adam up from college on Friday and we moved him back into the house with all of his stuff. Saturday was a day filled with laundry, grocery shopping, errand running, graduation parties, etc. Robert usually just touches up and reviews his sermon on Saturday. However, this Saturday he wrote it because it had been such a frenetic week. We all fell into bed exhausted, only to get up Sunday and have another crazy day of church, graduation, cleaning, more errands, more laundry, and packing. We set the alarm to get up early so that we could finish up the last minute packing of toiletries, snacks, and electronics; take the dogs to the kennel for boarding; clean the litterbox; and all of the other details. Robert and the boys left at about 7:30 to drop off the dogs, pick up Noah’s girlfriend who is going with us, and pick up the rental. I stayed at home to pack and pick up. Imagine my surprise when I get a call from Robert stating that he is at the car rental place…and IT IS CLOSED.

He called the main car rental number while I started calling other car rental places in town, as well as out of town at the airport. They were all closed…on a holiday…on which people travel a lot. Meanwhile, the woman at the car rental hotline assured him that yes we did have a rental reserved for today, but also yes, they were all closed. She wondered how this happened, yet it did. There was some small validation in realizing that we didn’t imagine our car rental, but that it did actually exist. Nevertheless, we have no rental car. Our van has too many miles to be trusted for a 1000+ mile road trip, plus the a/c doesn’t work. This is not particularly terrible in Wisconsin, but it can be lethal in Alabama. Our other two cars are too small for 5 people and luggage.

So the sucky part? We leave a day later, which means one less day that we get to spend with Robert’s parents which is the main objective of our trip. It also mean that plans in general are disrupted. We are paying for an extra day at the kennel that we don’t need, but since the dogs were already there we decided it would be less traumatic to leave them there rather than bring them home and take them back tomorrow. However, we all immediately started making lemonade. I quit my frantic rushing around. I poured the coffee I was making into my cup and saucer instead of my travel mug, sat down to eat some breakfast, and enjoyed the quiet of the morning while rubbing the fat, fluffy belly of a sweet kitty girl.  (She was lying on some gifts I had just wrapped and put into a bag to take with us).  
 
Noah got in from Project Graduation (big, free grad party at his school) at 5 am, so he was ecstactic at the opportunity to get some sleep. He went back to bed and is still asleep 4 hours later. Adam went on a 5 mile run. Robert went back to bed as well. I caught up on ironing and am now taking a few minutes to watch Portlandia and blog…because I have the time. There is a nap in my future today. We now have a day at home to rest together, to spend time with each other that’s not in a car, and to take care of a few other things that got lost in the madness. We get to eat the fresh fruit and veggies that we didn’t have time to eat before we left and would be spoiled when we return.

So while we are bummed about not getting to Alabama in the wee hours of the morning, we are very grateful for this day of rest.

  

What About the Girls? Friday, May 22 2015 

 

By now, everyone is probably talked out about the Duggar situation. (In case you live under a rock, I am referring to the 19 Kids and Counting family in which the oldest son, Josh, has admitted to molesting 5 girls as a teenager with 4 of them being his sisters). I am not going to blog about whether or not I think the show should still be on the air (I don't), what I think about Josh (not much), about how this poor, pitiful, Christian family under attack from Satan (umm…no; sin that is a felony must be reported), or anything along those lines. No, I want to talk about what I haven't seen much about in all of the news reports and blogs I have read on this issue today. I want to talk about the girls–the sisters, the daughters that were violated by Josh.
Most of the news reports I have read, as well as Josh's confession, talked about “inappropriate touching.” That's akin to calling strangling a “firm neck grasp.” I have read the 33 page police report and Josh touched the breasts and genitals of all five of his victims…when most of them were sleeping. That is not inappropriate touching. That is molestation. That is violation. That is a crime. We must call it what it is. I don't know Arkansas law and I didn't read any details beyond touching, but one of the report said that at least some of the molestations were felonies.
I have read that poor Josh was just a young teenager. I read about “you know developing boys and their hormones.” I read about how sexual exploration is just a normal part of growing up. Let's think about this for a moment. Preschoolers telling one another “You show me yours and I'll show you mine” is normal sexual curiousity. A 14 year old male (a MAN according to many cultures) who goes into his sister's rooms at night, in secret, while they are asleep, is a guy who knows that what he is doing is wrong and certainly not consensual. No matter how you spin that, it is NOT okay and it is NOT normal. It would be disturbing and illegal with anyone, but the fact that these girls are his sisters actually makes it worse. Josh was plenty old enough to know what he was doing was wrong. And yes, teenagers and their hormones is a real thing, but there are other things that teenagers have done to deal with that since the beginning of time that doesn't involve violating another person against her will.
I have also read much talk about how the aftermath has and will affect Josh. WHAT ABOUT THE GIRLS? How does it feel to have to live in the same house with your abuser…especially even once your parents, your protectors, know about it. How does it feel to sit at the breakfast table across from the brother than violated you the night before? How does it feel to have someone do something so personal to you without your consent and while you were sleeping…at your most vulnerable? How does it feel to be lack in sex education and have limited exposure to the outside world, so that you must wonder–as the victim–if what happened was your fault and was part of normal development? How do you feel when your parents, who couldn't protect you before, bring your abuser back into your house after “treatment”? Were you terrified to go to sleep at night? Did you try to make sure that a sister was with you at all times so he couldn't corner you and grope you?
There have been plenty of reports of Josh's “treatment” which consisted of helping a family friend do some remodeling. There have been blithe reports of counseling for Josh and the girls, but no details. If it was a pastor or yet another family friend with no training in counseling sexual predators and victims of sexual abuse, then I highly doubt it was good or sufficient. I think of the two daughters who have recently been married taking this sexual guilt and confusion into their marriages. Have they dealt with their demons or do they just acquiesce to their husbands regardless of the fear, guilt, or other conflicting emotions that victims of sexual crimes often feel, because they have been raised to think that is what good wives do? They all need intense counseling. And I feel so bad for Josh's wife, Anna. She admitted that he confessed to her before they were married. Well, great. At least she knew. However, when you come from an insular homeschooling courting culture AND your courtship is shown on national TV, how do you decide that you don't want to marry this guy and break things off? Plus courting is basically arranged marriage and the Bill Gothard homeschool culture is very patriarchal and doesn't often give women much of a voice or a choice, so Anna may have felt very stuck once she did know Josh's story.
I could go on and on about the fact that because the girls were all in an insular homeschool and church environment (i.e., no homeschool co-op, little interactions with others outside of church and home), who could they tell about the abuse? Also, all of their values, beliefs, and life experiences occurred within their home bubble. They were on a short tether. In addition to have few other trusted adults that they could talk to, how were they to know that this was not normal behavior? In the police report, all of the teenagers and older children were quizzed on male/female anatomy before describing what happened. They all referred to breasts as breasts, but called a vagina a “private.” The younger victim called both a penis and a vagina a “pee pee holder.” What did these children even know about their own bodies? It is SO important to teach children the correct anatomical terms for their body parts. There is no shame in the word vagina. It's just the name of a part, the same as an ear, or a belly button, or a foot. They were all so lacking in basic knowledge about their bodies, that I also suspect that they knew very little of sex.
It's just a sad situation all around, but I sure hope that the girls demand and get the counseling that they need and the validation that they deserve. And I hope that they can move forward and heal.
 

 

Daily Beauty and Small Joys Saturday, Apr 18 2015 

 
 

I thought I was becoming a minimalist, but alas I have realized that I am not. If I had to put a label on my evolving attitide about consumption of good and my relationship with “stuff” I would call myself a “simplist.” Since simplist isn’t a real word (to my knowledge), for me it means conscientious consumption without excess, but with regard for beauty. Basically this quote sums it up for me.

 

 

Over the past 2-3 years, I have been intrigued by the concept of minimalism. I joined a couple of Facebook groups related to minimalism and added some minimalist blogs to my rss feed. I have since deleted the Facebook groups because a lot of the people on those were a bit over-zealous. They would post comments about stressing out because they hadn’t purged anything that day or they were stripping their walls bare as a means of getting rid of more stuff. People would proudly post photos of their bedrooms that consisted of nothing but a mattress and bedcoverings on the floor, bare walls, and a few items of clothing in a closet. No dresser, no bedside table, etc. While I am not a fan of clutter, I have also realized that bare walls and minimal furniture do not make me feel cozy or welcomed. I also like things that are beautiful and that bring me joy. I don’t want things that I keep out of guilt or obligation or just because I have always had them. Being intentional is key.

I have cleared a lot of things out of my kitchen. I got rid of many cake pans, muffin tins, and small single-use appliances. I donated extra cups and glasses. In preparing to hopefully move this summer, I am going room by room and donating things that we don’t use or don’t particularly like–even if they are in perfect condition, even if they have been a gift. Table linens, towels, knick-knacks, etc. have all gone, but there is still plenty of stuff to go through and get rid of. When we move I don’t want one single thing to enter our house if it isn’t immediately useful and/or it doesn’t bring us joy.

 

And speaking of joy, I like to be cognizant and appreciative of small glimpses of beauty. A few weeks ago I was at an out of town, two day meeting where the coffee was abundant. The first day the meeting started in the afternoon and I got some coffee in the mugs that were provided. The next morning we had breakfast and drank coffee out of coffee cups on saucers. After breakfast we moved to the conference room and they had mugs, but many people just brought their breakfast coffee cups along. Even though the coffee cups and mugs were both plain white, I realized that drinking out of a cup and saucer was one of those small joys. It just felt more elegant and indulgent, almost like it made the coffee even taste better. Drinking coffee was an occasion, not just routine.

 

 

I had recently received some windfall money from my insurance company’s wellness benefit and I decided to get some beautiful coffee cups and saucers. Now here’s the thing I wrestle with…I didn’t NEED these cups. I have a lot of coffee mugs, travel mugs, and a whole set of fine china cups and saucers. I didn’t impulse buy my coffee cups. I slept on it for several days, but I decided to go ahead and get them. However, my new motto is that when something comes in then something else goes out, so mugs are going out. But I do enjoy the daily beauty and small joy of my floral (and dishwasher safe!) cups and saucers. I enjoy the fact that in the set of four, there are four unique colors and patterns. Every time I drink my coffee out of them I smile and take note of this bit of beauty to start my day. I don’t just hurriedly drink slam back some coffee to get my morning started. I pause. I sit at the table. I sip, while I read my morning devotional. And it is a lovely bit of conscious beauty in the morning.

 

 

 

Braingasm and Other Tales of the Genetic Lottery? Sunday, Mar 8 2015 

 

 

About a year ago, my brother and I were talking on the phone and he asked me if I had heard a particular episode of This American Life. It was this one called Act Two: A Tribe Called Rest. Still to this day, I have no idea why he asked me about this (I need to remember to ask him). I hadn’t listened to it yet at that point, but as he told me about the topic of “Act Two” of the podcast, I was thinking “No way! This has a name? There are other people?”

So what was the podcast about? ASMR.

I had never heard of ASMR, but it stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and the link takes you to the website mentioned in podcast. That’s a fancy name, but what does it mean? Sometimes it’s called a “braingasm” which sounds sexual, but it is not a sexual feeling at all. It is a pleasurable feeling, but it is like your brain and neck feel tingly and you feel utterly relaxed and calm. In the podcast the speaker describes it like “starbursts in my head that sparkle down to my nape; like this warm, glittering water rushing under my skull.” For me, that’s a pretty spot-on description.

I’m not sure who actually came up with the term ASMR and it is important to note that it is not a term really used by the medical or psychological community, but it is a good explanation of what it is. As soon as I knew that the sensation I had spontaneously and serendipitously experienced since early elementary age had a name, I asked family and some friends if they had it too. Like the woman in the podcast I had never, ever mentioned it to anyone–not because I was embarrassed, but because I had the sense that not many people felt this way since no one had ever talked about it and I didn’t know how to describe it or when/how it happened. That’s why you’ll often see ASMR referred to as “that unnamed feeling” or “the good feeling that no one can explain.” Anyway, I don’t know if my brother had a sixth sense or something and that’s why he told me about this podcast, but I told him that I had felt that way since I was a kid. Turns out, he had too. We quizzed our parents and other sister and they all thought we were lunatics. I asked my husband and sons, and NOPE they had no idea what I was talking about. I asked a few people I work with and they didn’t know what I was talking about either, except…we all have this person in IT we like to talk to because she is so patient and has a relaxing tone of voice. Everyone at work jokes about how calm we feel after talking to this person on the phone, so I used that experience to give some sort of insight into a little bit of what ASMR feels like.

I first noticed this weird tingly feeling when I was in elementary school and was playing board games. I remember loving to play Monopoly just because of (in retrospect) ASMR. I distinctly remember asking friends if we could play board games with no talking. The sounds of the dice rolling, cards or fake money being shuffled, and the sound of the pawn being moved around the board all gave me the weird, relaxed, tingly feeling. I also got it at the library back in the day when books were stamped instead of scanned. The flipping of the pages, removing and stamping of the cards, etc. were triggers too. So far, in real life, my brother is the only other person I know with ASMR. He has one other person besides me that he knows who experiences it. This “condition” (feeling, state, whatever) just become known in the past few years, so not much research has been done to date, but there is report of a study using fMRI to study it at Dartmouth. I hope it is studied because I would like to know the neurological, psychological, genetic, endocrinological, etc. underpinnings of it. Also, if we knew more about ASMR, it could possibly be used to help people with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, etc. Seriously, it is a feeling that everyone should be able to experience.

The This American Life podcast mentions triggers and YouTube videos and my brother and I have talked about those as well. The YouTube videos feel rather “pornish” to us, even though they are nothing like porn and there is nothing sexual about it. I think it is more the thought of going to intentionally trigger an ASMR that seems creepy, rather than how they just spontaneously happen. Also, the common triggers on YouTube seem to be whispering, role play (again, not sexual, but a little weird in my opinion), and scratching or tapping noises. Those things don’t trigger mine. Most of my ASMR triggers are auditory such as the previously mentioned sounds of a library or board games, as well as things like cutting fabric. Also, visual triggers include things like seeing someone complete a detailed task with precision can occasionally trigger the sensation–like an artist or craftman. I remember when I was in college that a friend of mine told me that when she got stressed, that watching Bob Ross on PBS relaxed her. Bob Ross is a huge ASMR trigger for many, including me. Between the way he talks and the noises of his brushes on canvas, he’s like the poster child for ASMR.

I hope the ASMR hasn’t freaked anyone out, but if you experience this sensation too, please comment because I’d love to know. I think ASMR is like a secret society and we won a genetic lottery that enables us to feel these endorphin-like sensations that most people don’t experience. And speaking of genetic lotteries, I also saw this New York Times article today about The Feel-Good Gene. This article states,

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a genetic variation in the brain makes some people inherently less anxious, and more able to forget fearful and unpleasant experiences. This lucky genetic mutation produces higher levels of anandamide — the so-called bliss molecule and our own natural marijuana — in our brains.

Only about 20% of adult Americans have this genetic mutation. I have never had genetic testing, but I suspect that I might be one of them because I am a recovered worrier and really and truly rarely, if ever, worry significantly about things. I also am an eternal optimist. Apparently this could be because my brain is making its own neural marijuana. Who knew? At any rate, it’s a pretty interesting read.

Did I really win the ASMR and anandamide genetic lottery? I don’t know. I just know that both things ring true for me. I also know that I have some odd genetic mutations. I registered several years ago to be a bone marrow donor. I was one of a handful of possible matches for someone, so they did some additional testing of my DNA sample. After that, I got a letter from “Be the Match” stating that I had some very rare and unusual HLA markers that meant I would likely never be a match for anyone.

Who knows what’s in my complicated genetic make-up?

 

 

How Married People Text: Terrell Edition Saturday, Mar 7 2015 

A few months ago this video about “How Married People Text” appeared on various social media and I found it pretty humorous.

I decided then to blog about our own version of Married People Texting, but the app I use for blogging wouldn’t let me embed video on my iPad and I was not motivated enough to go to the desktop and do it. I was just putzing around now and found a way around it through a different app, so here we go. I decided to share screen  shots of some of our mundane and humorous texting conversations.

First, a fairly business like text in which I am asking about the appropriate attire for an event we were going to.

 

Robert’s random commentary on an Amish hipster while at a coffee shop. We both love to people watch. I think we could have our own reality show with our ongoing commentary in an airport.

 

Another people-watching commentary from me on a plane, referencing a movie character and someone we both know in real life.

When I worked in Baton Rouge, the outpatient therapy clinic was also where labwork and mammograms were done. The mammography techs taught me how to tell if someone has had a boob job or not. It’s one of my secret skills. (Robert excels at identifying toupees). That’s the skill I am referencing in this text.

 

And finally, anyone who knows Robert well knows that if you ever ask him if he needs anything, the response will always be “background dancers.” One day I really am going to get him some background dancers. He wouldn’t know what to do with them.

A lazy blog post, allowing my handful of readers to become voyeurs into our secret world of married texts.

…At least the ones that I will let you see.

Jesus With Skin On Thursday, Feb 19 2015 

There's an old story about a little boy who was scared and needed “Jesus with skin on.” (from this blog post)

Late one stormy night a small voice was heard from the bedroom across the hall. “Mommy, I’m scared!” Mom responds sympathetically “Honey, don’t be afraid, I’m right across the hall.” After a short time, with thunder snapping in the distance, the little voice says again, “I’m still scared!” Mom replies, “You don’t need to be afraid. Close your eyes and pray. And remember that Jesus is always with you.” The next time the pause is longer … but the voice returns along with a little child standing next to her bed, “Mommy, can I get in bed with you and Daddy?” As Mom is just about to lose her patience, her little boy catches her eyes and says, “Mommy, I know that Jesus is always with me, but right now I need Jesus with skin on.”

 

Yesterday, I posted about how much Jesus sustains me. Today it's all about the people in our lives—our community. First off, the hardest thing for me to deal with right now is that my husband is in Alabama and I am here. We're a team. We are literally and metaphorically one flesh. He is my co-parent, helpmate, partner in crime, and my other (best) half. He is my top tier burden-bearer and I am his. I am having to help bear the burden from afar. I am needed in Wisconsin right now. I have two sons who need my attention and a household to keep running. Robert needs to be in Alabama right now to help make hard decisions and provide and receive emotional support with his family. However, I want nothing more than to be able to hug him and hold on so tightly. We need to weep together. We need physically cry on one another's shoulder. For today, the meager substitute was that he cried in Walmart on his cell phone, while I weeped at my desk on my phone. It isn't enough. This experience has made me realize in gratitude the depth of our love and support and for that I am thankful.

It has been a tearful day today. I am an easy crier anyway. I cry when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am moved by a beautiful piece of music, when I see a glorious sunrise, when I laugh too hard. It doesn't take much to get my waterworks going. Although sadness precipiated a lot of my crying, much of the catalyst for my tears has been kindness. It started on Monday with my colleagues. Monday afternoon I had a rental car reserved and was schedule to drive 5.5 hours to the Cities for the night. On Tuesday morning I was suppoed to do a morning extern visit in Minneapolis, then drive 2.5 hours to Chippewa Falls for an afternoon extern observation. I was still planning on going even though Robert was en route to Mobile and Noah was not feeling so great. A colleague encouraged me to cancel and reschedule and then the travel office helped me cancel the car and hotel…so I cried from the kindness. I went to another colleague's office after I got bad news and started to ask if I should teach that day and promptly burst into tears. She told me to cancel my class. I protested with “Yes, I'm crying, but what else can I do? Sit in my office? Go home and do nothing?” I felt very helpless, but I couldn't get a grip and was afraid I would freak out the students. I canceled one class and then the chair of my department got another colleague to cover my afternoon class. Four colleagues stepped up and helped me through the day.

Today, I have been overwhelmed with private messages, texts, and phone calls from friends near and far and from all seasons of life. From Eric, who is taking care of set-up and technology for church on Sunday, to high school friends covering us in prayer. When Robert and I were talking on the phone earlier today we both began to cry in thinking about how many friends we have who show up in the hard times. They ask the right questions, they admit when they don't know what to say, they offer help, and they pray. Robert made the statement that if we needed immediate help for some unknown big emergency that we could be confident that iF we left our housekey in the mailbox and made a few calls, someone would swoop in and care for our animals, our house, etc. at a moment's notice. Man! We are blessed!

We all need community. We are meant to live in social groups and bear each other's burdens, as well as share in one another's joys. We are grateful for our church community, our neighbors, my work colleagues, Robert's pastoral groups, and so, so many people from high school, college, seminary, and our lives in Missouri, Louisiana, and here in Wisconsin, as well as friendships that formed online. I am grateful that both of my boys have girlfriends with whom they can have deep conversations, as well as a community of guys (Los Hombres, as I call them) that they can talk with too. Even though our faith is THE thing, having friends who can be Jesus with skin on is so crucial as well. I am so humbled by our community and the love that they extend to us.

 

Emily Dickinson was right.

 

There was a wonderful photo from Brandon's world tour when he aimed his Humans of New York camera on global subjects. Because of copyright, I won't copy his picture here, but please click the link through and see this beautiful photo. I remembered it from this summer because it so echoed the importance and beauty of community. It's a photo of three women and a girl sitting together on a bench with this caption, “We told her to sit with us so we could share her sadness.” (Dohuk, Iraq). That's what it is about. Being present. Sitting and sharing in sadness. Being a witness to the pain. Nothing necessarily needs to be said or done, but the ministry of presence is enough.

 

 

 

 

When Hope Is All You Have Wednesday, Feb 18 2015 

It's been a really hard past few days. Prior to this past weekend, I had been dealing with low morale at work and disgust, fear, and sadness associated with the current budget cuts to the UW System. However, that is mere minutiae now. I am not going into detail or any specifics on my blog, because it is not my story to tell. I will only say this… Robert left Monday to drive to Alabama to be with his family because his dad has some sudden, serious health problems. Robert, and his brother driving from Colorado, both hit the ice that covered the Kentucky/Tennessee areas and had slow, treacherous driving. Additionally, Noah has been sick and we haven't yet figured out the culprit, so we were at the doctor for almost two hours today and are waiting on lab work results. With him, I am not concerned about anything serious, but several niggling problems that we need to figure out. And Adam's girlfriend's dad is also dealing with some serious health problems too. Our hearts are heavy. It's so much pain and it's all happening at once. Part of me wants to pull the cover over my head and ignore the world. The other part of me is rolling up my sleeves and doing what needs to be done, which means going to work, two trips to Walgreens in one day, and lots of phone calls and texting to get news and keep everyone in the loop.

I have two blogs that I write in semi-regularly; this one more than the other. My other blog is from my perspective as a pastor's wife and this one is more just a random assortment of things. As I prepared to write this post, I debated about which blog to put this on. I decided to keep it on this one, since it really has nothing to do with me being married to a pastor and everything to do with my real, regular life as a mom, wife, human, female, person. My faith is part of my identity. In addition to those other roles, I am also a Christian and it has nothing to do with my husband's occupation. So this post goes here.

As we slog through the tough days ahead, my faith is not only a comfort, but a necessity. When bad news sucker punches me in the gut, I don't know what I would do without the hope, comfort, peace that indeed passes all human understanding, and even contentment that comes. I have posted before that I am not a good apologist. I am not particularly eloquent at defending my belief in Jesus with theological and philosophical arguments. I certainly can't prove Jesus to you–that's the essence of faith.

Believing without seeing.

Having trust in what I cannot define.

What I do know is my journey with Jesus, how faith in Him has sustained me before, and how I am confident that I can trust Him again as we walk through this valley. I honestly don't know how I could do the hard, painful stuff of life without that hope and assurance and I grieve for those who don't experience that peace. I have already shed many tears the past few days and I know more tears and heartache are to come. I know I will feel helpless to alleviate the pain of those I love most. But I know that we will be sustained. Even as my heart breaks, I can still experience a peace and deep, abiding joy knowing that we don't walk alone. I know that I cling to a God who knows suffering, loss, heartache, and grief. It seems especially timely as we enter the season of Lent today.

 

It is Well with My Soul has been my favorite hymn for longer than I can remember. I have been clinging to the words of it throughout the day over the past few days.

When peace like a river, attendeth my ways

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Aside from the comfort of those words, the story behing this hymn is incredible. Horatio Spafford, an American attorney, wrote the hymn in 1873 after a horrendous family tragedy. He and his family had a trip planned to England. He had some work commitments and sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him on a ship. Another ship crashed into the ship with his family. His wife survived and sent the telegram “saved alone” to him. Their four daughters, ages 2-11 years died in the shipwreck. Horatio immediately got on another ship to meet his wife in England. As he crossed over the location of the wreck in which his four daughters perished, he penned It is Well. That a man who has just lost four young daughers in one horrific accident can write the words “It is well with my soul.” To some those might seem like callous words or a phrase written in denial. However, as I sang this hymn yesterday with tears streaming down my cheeks, I understand that it is entirely possible to confront the pain head-on and still rest in the hope and comfort of Christ. I am not well, but “it,” the whole big picture, the hope, the faithfulness, that is what is well. A God who sustains–it is well. A Jesus who knows suffering–it is well. A Spirit who brings comfort–it is well. The faithful prayers of dear friends and family–it is well.

It is well.

It is well

with my soul.

 

 

Art Matters Thursday, Jan 8 2015 

quote-1

 

If you ever thought art, writing, satire, music, drama, and the study and pursuit of the humanities were frivolous and inconsequential, take a look at these cartoons in response to the Paris terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office. Here are just a couple, but please check out the link above. They are all wonderful and terrible and thought-provoking.

cartoon 1 cartoon 2

 

 

Art is either plagiarism or revolution. Paul Gauguin

Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in. Amy Lowell

The aim of art if to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. Aristotle

To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts–such it the duty of the artist. Schumann

All art requires courage. Anne Tucker

school art

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