Friday, November 30, 2012

RV Having Fun Yet?

"RV there yet?" my kids wondered last weekend. We didn't even go very far - just two hours or so. Nothing like the massive trip my parents took clear up to New York last month. But 6,000+ miles later, their RV still had enough gumption to take our family of five on our first RV excursion.

Actually, let me back up (which is hard to do when driving a 24-footer), I've been telling people it was my first time in an RV. However, I think I lied. Or forgot. Or just blocked it out of my mind all together. Because there was a time I lived in one for about four months at a KOA campground near Tyler, Texas. I was seven-years-old, and our family needed a temporary place to live while my mom and dad went to a Bible school.

Come to think of it, you know when you check into a hotel, and sometimes you discover not everyone there is vacation-minded? That for some hotel guests, the place is their home? And suddenly kids ride up on bikes to watch you unload your car, and you say to them, "Oh hey, how's it going. Yup, just going to Sea World tomorrow with the fam." And it makes the whole "We're in a hotel on vacation!" excitement diminish because, well, the people in the room next to you aren't going to Sea World tomorrow? And then you feel bad?

Well, it was kind of like that. Only we were the live-in "guests." And I was that kid. RV families would pull in and there I'd be, gap-toothed and wispy-haired. Riding up on my banana-seated bike with tasseled handlebars to watch vacationers hook-up their RV trailers. Make that standing up on my bike. I wanted everyone to see the big comb in my back pocket.

Now ditch the bike, gaping teeth, big comb, and interest in trailer hook-ups (but keep the wispy hair), and fast-forward to last weekend. It might as well have been my first time RVing, for it was my first time taking charge of what we're all going to eat, where to stuff the dirty clothes, and who-gets-which-blanket.

And I wasn't prepared. My coffee mug became a baked bean heater-upper and mixing bowl for eggs and pancake batter. And who knew how much I daily rely on the tip of a steak knife to open everything from a bag of chips to unclogging ketchup bottles. If only I brought one. (Children, do as I say, not as I do.)

And my husband soon learned the benefits of joining Boy Scouts as a young lad. That's had he joined Boy Scouts, our campfire may not have exploded. Oh, thanks to Bear Grylls, he got the fire-likes-oxygen thing down well enough. But where he went wrong (or not wrong - still not sure what happened exactly) was when he placed the firewood on top of a rock and a brick, thinking it'll promote more oxygen and make the fire happy. But it made it too happy.

So as little embers and sparks fell on my family, sending my son running straight into the night, it reminded my nine-year-old daughter of the end of the world. And through tears, she somehow connected explosion and "end of the world" with how we don't have a fire escape plan mapped-out for our real house. (Thank you, third grade, for teaching my daughter how out-of-your-mind scary it is to not have an upstairs window ladder.) So I told her, in the meantime, to just hang and drop.

Ah, but was the whole trip a disaster? Not even! We giggled over a couple games of Balderdash and how our RV was on a constant tilt (though that one was a forced giggle). And we even walked around the site, secretly giving awards to the coziest and most festive Thanksgiving-themed RV set-ups.

And it's true, Romans 12:18 is right-on by saying, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Because when you cram a cranky mom, a frazzled firewood-arranging dad, and three button-pushing kids into an RV for 48 hours, there just has to be a good God-given motto behind answering "Yes!" when asked, "RV having fun yet?"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Neato Bandito

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where the only thing you blurt-out is "neato" - or some such nonsense word - every time you open your mouth? This happens on occasion, especially when I can't think of any other words to say to the "Thanksgiving Blessing" lady in frozen foods.

You see, I decided to go with frozen pearl onions this Thanksgiving. Maybe that's where I went wrong. Last year I made my Nana's creamed onions from scratch scratch - I got fancy and blanched the skins off. Did everything short of growing the onion stalks myself. (They are stalks, right?) But too much hassle this year, so off I went, down the frozen food aisle.

And as my onion hunt began, a lady over by the frozen fish kept eyeing me. The first time I walked by her (yes, there's a second time), she said to me, "Look at you. Good for you. Blessings to you." Good for me? Whatevs. But I'll take it.

However, I made the mistake of walking by her again. (Why can't frozen pearl onions be next to Ben and Jerry's? At least I know my way around ice cream.) And that's when she made a move and put her arm around me, saying, "You sure do light up this place. Can I give you a Thanksgiving blessing?"

And then all of my "neatos" came loose.

Well actually, my thoughts came loose first, "Okay, I guess a Thanksgiving blessing is fine. But will this take long? Could you make it short, lady? Because, uh... I have a plane to catch, a text to read. I'm running out of juice. I'm tired, hungry, sick. Swine flu. Bird flu. I don't speak English. Don't understand English."

And then out came my string of "neatos." I said "that's neato" and "okay, neato" and "oh wow, neato" and every variation thereof in between all her little bits of advice and blessings and warnings. My best one being: "Omigosh, that's super neato."

Somebody really needed to stop me. But this lady was so intense. One of those "big personality" types.  She left me practically speechless, sending my brain directly to my one default word - a word that never fails to leave me: neato. It's right up there with "thing" - as in, "please get my thing over by the thing."

And after all the well-wishes upon my life, she went on to tell me how I don't need to read any book but the Bible, but then suggested I buy this one book for $10 that talks about how the Bible is the only book I should read. (Hmmm. Sometimes I get confused about what irony means, but this lady cleared things up a bit.)

Which is funny because the Bible is my favorite book of all books. Oh I have my close seconds, but it's my "if-you-were-on-a-deserted-island-and-had-only-one-book" book. That, and chapstick.

So as things were finally wrapping-up between the two of us, I continued to smile and say neato. And just as I was about to formulate in my head that she may be a little nuts - despite her good heart and genuine concern - she beat me to it by saying, "And I'm not nuts like some people out there."

Whew, am I glad I let my words be few yesterday! Who knows the mess I could have made. Ecclesiastes 3:1&7 says, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven... a time to keep silent and a time to speak." And might I add, "A time to say... neato."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Whipped Cream, Please

My husband's sleepwalking adventures aren't what they used to be, for which I am thankful. He used to, quite regularly, join forces with G.I. Joe and rescue me from bad guys. Or he'd get busy turning lights on-and-off around the house. I even caught him in the hallway once, holding our firstborn baby upside down.

But he's been pretty tame lately. However, a few nights ago he sat straight up in bed and said, "There it is! It moved again!" And I'm all, "You're just dreaming." But he didn't believe me. He never believes me. So he continued, "You shh! Now listen... wait for it... (and then I repositioned my arm)... see, it just moved again!" Good grief, he was talking about my arm.

With that being said, I'm glad there are different types of dreams. Like real-life dreams. I wanna be a billionaire kind of dreams. I have them. You have them. And I'd like to say my dreams are always reaching for the stars or consist of goodwill for mankind. But I was reminded, yet again, how often my thoughts drift elsewhere.

It happened during worship in church last weekend. This is nothing new. Whether my singing is interrupted by the realization my thighs are touching in my new jeans - or wondering if the worship team will be passing out free CDs - I'm no stranger to having me-focused thoughts in church settings.

On this day, the worship leader asked everyone, "What dreams do you guys have? What is that one seemingly impossible thing you're believing God for?" And then she challenged each of us to hold out our hand and fill it with our dream. And when we get to the "nothing is impossible with God" part of the song, we open our hands and release that impossible thing.

I thought, "Yes, I'm doing this!" So while people were busy putting their dreams of good health and new jobs and restored relationships into their open hands, I put in my Nobel Peace Prize-winning dream of being a writer for Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer, a witty and quaint newsletter that provides info about the store's seasonal products.*

I'm serious. I think the writers over at corporate could be my best friends. As for the most recent Fearless Flyer - the Thanksgiving edition - it's a work of genius, for the Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls supposedly "cradle butter like none other." And the Cranberry Walnut Bread is "teeth-tuggingly tasty." They also tell me the Pecan Pie Ice Cream is so good it's "ridiculous." And not only that, but the Turkey Pot Pie is "belly-warming and hug-provoking."

Come on now, who uses the word "belly" when trying to sell a food product? Trader Joe's does. And how cool it'd be to one day brainstorm with TJ's best-of-the-best writers on how to whimsically describe their latest "This fruit walks into a bar..." cereal bar flavor - and to just let my words pour from my penny pencil with feverish fluidity.**

That's a good dream to have, right? Sure it's off-the-beaten-path, but why not trust God with it? After all, he does say that in everything, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to him. And since he didn't specify the type of request, Trader Joe's it is.

So this Thanksgiving, as I proudly wear the "More Whipped Cream, Please" sticker I got from a Trader Joe's cashier, my other dream is for everyone to cheesily and unashamedly thank God for all things - and in all things - and to share your dreams with him. (And the more absurd, the better.)

*Not to worry, Alabama friends. My dream for you is to get a Trader Joe's soon.

**Yes, I'm getting my "A Christmas Story" on as I prep for the holiday season.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

He Loves Me

My nine-year-old is wise to her mother's ways. She's got me figured out. When I tilt my head, she knows I'm annoyed by the extreme-couponer ahead of us in line. And when I clench my jaw, she knows it's because I just burned my waffle or botched my pedicure.

I don't even realize I'm showing frustration until I feel her little fingers massaging my arm or scratching my back. She's not much for drama - especially momma drama. So she puts it upon herself to settle me down by creating mini spa-like settings wherever we go.

But wait. Although her de-stressing tactics totally work (yes, my daughter is that good), do I really want her to feel responsible for easing me out of my first-world-problem pain? (See First World Problems.) Nice gesture, but shouldn't it be the other way around? Me being the main comforter and all? My love for her taking center-stage?

And speaking of comforting our kids, my aunt and uncle are dealing with bullies at their son's school. When my aunt told me about it, I thought, "I bet she wants to give them a knuckle sandwich, them bullies!" But instead she took the high road, noticing God using the experience to reveal his father's heart toward her. As if he said, "See that? See how passionate you are about keeping your son away from the dark, icky things of this world? That's how I feel about you every second of the day - only times infinity."

So if we as parents, with all of our imperfections, agonize when our kids experience everything from a little splinter to yellow-eyed bullies named Skut Farkus, could it be that God is that much more smitten with us? And even that much more heart-broken when we suffer?

John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

And just ask my nine-year-old massage therapist, I can go from happy to grouchy in the time it takes me to down a bottled water (that's very fast). But not my God. He doesn't have bad days. He doesn't react to me according to my "progress report" with him. He is faithful when I am faithless (2 Timothy 2:13).

So while God is unchanging and locked into his nature, I, on the other hand, am not. That is why when I pray, instead of saying "Dear Lord, I love you," I oftentimes say, "Dear Lord, you love me." Between the two of us, his love is the sustaining love. And with my daughter, I want my love to sustain her, not the other way around. (Oh, but please - keep the "sammage" parlors open, my sweet girl.)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Election

Chicken bowl lunches with my mom are always great. Chicken bowl lunches with my mom and my 10th grader... even better. Sure it was a school day, but I give my kids about two, maybe three "mental health" days per year. (Sometimes I'm cool like that.)

So there we were eating lunch last week, and in walked a handful of high school students. Being the forever-nosy mother, I asked my daughter, "Know any of 'em? What kind of kids are they?" And you know exactly what kind of info I was looking for. Everything from: "Which one thinks you're pretty?" to "That girl really shaved a boy's eyebrow off in math class?"

Yes, I didn't make the whole eyebrow thing up just now. It actually happened on my watch. I once subbed at a high school in a rough area. Bad idea. You send Molly - short, freckly, loves Barry Manilow and kittens, has a lisp ("Come on guy-th, thettle down!") - into a "yo yo, waddup sub" type of classroom, and the razor blades come out every time.

But on this day, the kids having lunch around us were sweet ASB kids, according to my daughter. And I got all excited because I know exactly what those are! That was me in high school. A sweet ASB kid. I was I.O.C. President my Senior year.

Too bad I was horrible at it. For starters, I don't even remember what "I.O.C." stood for. My duties had something to do with making sure the student body communicated with clubs around campus. (I'm guessing the C was for "clubs?") And also something to do with having really great hair and making sure each of my eyelashes were perfectly mascara'd.

Strange that it was an "elected" position. I didn't deserve to win. If I were to go back in time, I'd tell everyone to vote for me, not because I cared about campus clubs meshing together, but because I needed friends (my Junior year stunk) and thought ASB a good place to make them. Student body kids were generally nice and good.

So there ended my career in politics. Just a one-year term for me. But now there's an even bigger election - a huge election - ahead. How easy it is to get carried away with it all. To put all our hope in the outcome, thinking our joy is somehow linked to it.

I recently had the privilege of listening to Nick Vujucic - an armless and legless man - speak on the topic of hope and joy. He said he used to think, "If only I had arms and legs, then I'd... I'd be as happy as, uh... as all of you?" How profound! Puts the whole "all will be great if only so-and-so is President" into perspective.

The only election that ultimately matters is God's electing of me - of you - to be linked to him for eternity. Such freedom! Such peace! That's true joy - a joy that goes deep and is unshakable, through thick and thin, lasting for all time.

But as for my single unsuccessful year in politics, maybe I would have served my school better had the clubs not been so mathematical and athletic. Where was the "I Love Talking, So Let's Talk" club? Well, I kind of talked my way into each club regardless, making the friends I was hoping to make in the first place.