Tuesday, December 15, 2015

God's Fangirl

I'm usually not one to get star-struck. But I might go a little ga-ga over the mega stars, the Harrison Ford-types, if I see them in person. That's until they go on Jimmy Fallon and make fools of themselves. (Yes, you, Mr. Ford. Not the gentleman I was hoping for. But then again, I'm not always a lady.)

My 18-year-old loves "discovering" her celebrities. Sure she fangirls over Justin Timberlake, but she didn't discover him like she did, say, Benedict Cumberbatch. Who was he five years ago when he played Sherlock on BBC's Masterpiece Mystery? Back then, Cumberbatch belonged to nobody but her. Now look at him, he's a thing! And she couldn't be prouder.

Then there are folks who have no interest whatsoever in a person's celeb status because, well, they're married to one. Or their dad or sister or best friend is one. Familiarity ruins things. I guess being famous is all fun and games until people find out you poop.

But there's one celebrity whose biggest fans are those most familiar with him. Why, it's none other than Santa Claus! His little elves go nuts! Especially Buddy the Elf, with his shameless "I know him! I know him!" declaration. Santa must be something else to get such rave reviews from those closest to him.

I surprisingly came to this conclusion while singing Oh Come, All ye Faithful in church last weekend. It was the part, "sing choir of angels, sing in exultation, sing all ye citizens of heaven above," that got me thinking. Which is good because, just moments before, I was trying to decide whether or not I'd be okay if Jeff had hair all over and wore a ponytail like the Harley biker guy sitting in front of us.

My redeeming thought was this: here we have angels. Worshiping God. Major fans of God. Angels who appear before him day and night for all eternity, seeing firsthand his glory and majesty. They ought to know, right? God must be something else if angels choose to praise him endlessly.

Revelation 5:11 talks about the voice of many angels, myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of them, all before the One who sits on the throne. There are tons of them, and they're all smitten with God!

And in the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2, there's an angel - perhaps the Buddy-the-elf of angels - who comes down to tell some shepherds that the savior of the world had just been born in Bethlehem. Then in verses 13 and 14, a whole bunch of angels show up. And they all start praising God together: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased."

Thinking about such things is a good reminder of God's legit-ness. While we piddle about (I'm a great piddler), there's constant praise happening in heaven right now. It's like one of those memes: "The God of the universe is continuously worshiped and adored by the host of heaven, and I'm all, 'Look, I'm making pancakes!'"

So, this Christmas, while piddling with pancakes, take time to get a little star-struck like the shepherds did that history-making, life-changing night long ago when God put on human clothes. And should he one day get an interview on Jimmy Fallon, I promise he won't disappoint.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Just let it happen

How awesome would it be to own a herd of alpacas? Way awesome. Honeeey... I'll be out ba-aacck... checking on the alpacaaas...

And by "out back" I mean sprawling acreage. Rolling hills. White ranch-style fencing. And don't get me started on the house. (Complete with what my magazines call the "mud room" - where I'd keep my houndstooth rubber boots!)

Perhaps what I'm really after is where alpacas live (wealthy alpacas) more than the actual alpaca. After all, aren't they a lot of work? Don't they need more than an occasional checking-on? Pretty sure you can't just set them up on iPads before leaving town. And then there's the alpaca caca...

So maybe they're not my thing. When it comes to alpacas - and all furry friends - maybe brief, snugly, atta-boy and who's-my-good-girl encounters are more my thing.

Take rabbits. I see them all over the place when I go for walks (you know, rabbits). Popping in and out of my town's overly landscaped areas - bushes evenly spaced, red-white-red-white flower beds, short plants in front, tall in back. It's oddly nice and nauseating at the same time.

But where was I...

Rabbits - popping in and out. Sadly more in than out, for they never let you get too close. And oftentimes I tell the person I suckered into walking with me: "If they only knew I wouldn't hurt them. That I would pick them up, pull them close, and give them the massage of their LIFE before safely putting them back down to run off to their little family."

It was my husband who got to hear my latest rabbit rant. (Lucky guy.) And when I finished, a thought came to mind. More like, a thought was spoken over me: "That's exactly what I want to do with you, if you would only let me."

Believe me, it wasn't Jeff trying some sort of mental telepathy. It was God, wanting to remind me of his coziness. His warmth. His protective and relational ways. And to stop being afraid of trusting him. It sure laid to rest my recent all-business approach to him. As if relating to God has become a cold, awkward heavenly transaction.

Isaiah 40:11 says, "...he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart."

Turns out we're the ones, the not-so-furry friends God wants to pick up and hold close, whispering a string of atta-boys and who's-my-good-girls. And unlike me and how I'm only interested in all-things-alpaca except the actual alpaca, God is only interested in all-things-me... all-things-you.



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Here's the thing about long drags...

Just when I thought our home was having a longer than usual wholesome streak - kids making good choices, more please-and-thank-yous going around, nobody's requesting R-rated birthday cakes (read about that one HERE) - I overheard my 12-year-old singing, "I don't smoke, but sometimes I need a long drag."

Not a cute, perky long drag. But a fairly convincing "loooooong draaaaag." Sung with eyes closed, lots of vibrato, and that hand you put up when trying to hit the big notes.

Thanks, Carrie Underwood, sweetheart of America. Until we bought your latest album, "Smoke Break," my daughter thought a long drag was something her brother did with trash cans out to the curb on Mondays.

But now, home girl needs to light it up? Hardly. She's 12. For me, it's more about the lingo. I'm not quite ready for her to be up on her smoking slang. Doesn't sound ladylike. Other than that, I suggested she make it an around the house song. Maybe only sing it while organizing washi tape or Pinteresting.

Then I pondered the real meaning of the song. After all, metaphorically speaking, what weary soul doesn't need a long drag every once in awhile? Especially those who, according to Carrie Underwood, are "never taking nothing and doing nothing but giving."

Take me. I recently took a "long drag" at one of those Chinese reflexology massage places with a sign in the window: Walk-ins Welcome. It was 70 minutes of pure long draggishness, which I later celebrated with a cup of dark roast (long drag #2), a Nordstrom Rack walk-thru (long drag #3), and a See's Candies sample (long drag #s 4, 5, and 6).

Although here's the thing about long drags: I can easily line them all up everyday - long drags 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - and will always want 7, 8, 9, 10 to quickly come the next day. There are never enough drags.

But the most lasting, in-it-for-the-long-haul "drag" out there is knowing the creator of everything calls me friend. I know, God and metaphorically (or not) taking long drags don't usually go hand in hand. But there you have it.

Jesus says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."

Ah, isn't rest is the best?

So perhaps the wholesome levels in my home are still running steady. And goodness knows cigarettes are the furthest thing from my daughter's mind. Besides, what could she possibly need a rest from? Driving literally everywhere? Paying bills? That dishwasher that always leaves a residue? Finding where the cat pee odor is coming from? Oh no, it's time I take another long drag. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

In a Galaxy Far Far Away

Based on my current knowledge, if you were to plop me into, say, the 18th century, I wonder if I'd have the presence of mind to tell Ben Franklin, "I'll tell you what, electricity and lightning are indeed connected. So let's lay the kite/key/storm idea to rest. Too risky."

Or what about when Anton van Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope in 1675? Suppose I was able to go back and suggest to him, "According to my calculations, what you see there are germs. And germs can kill people. Now go wash your hands for 30 seconds." Would he have taken me up on it? Or would I have sounded nerdy? Or would the very suggestion have made him fall madly in love with me and whisk me off to his castle

Why, in those days, 2015 Molly would be considered a math and science phenom! Today, not so much. Today, my suggestions are limited to teeth whitening strips and Disneyland on a Tuesday. Anything BUT electricity and germs.

Of course, that's not to say my ears don't perk up at a good origin-of-the-universe chinwag. I find it all fascinating. For example, they say if the balance between gravity and the expansion rate were shifted just a teeny bit, as in one part in one million, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, we'd have no earth or planets or stars... or star wars. And no you and me.

But what I find even more fascinating is the faith some people have that believes the universe happened by chance. That it's all a big cosmic accident. Sure I'm a woman who dabbles in faith, but my faith has never gotten that strong.

Freeman Dyson puts it this way: "As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming."

Something, someone, knew we were coming alright. A great cosmic mind was planning for us. Sure there are many unknowns, but putting a creator at the start of it all - believing we were designed by a designer - I think gives the best account for our mind-blowing complexity.

Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge."
 
And I suppose if I were time-machined back to the day when scientists first began discussing the three basic states of matter, I would have assured them, "What really 'matters' around here is YOU, for each one of you is a masterful work of intelligence." (See what I did there?)   

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rated R Birthday Cake

There were things I misunderstood as a kid. For one, I thought "hospital" was pronounced hossbelow. (Below what? The hoss, of course!) And then I learned how to read. "Ohhh. There's a "'pital.'"

I also thought people who lived in "stair houses" were crazy rich. Then Heather invited me over to her stair house. What was I thinking? Not a single thing fancy. Especially the stair part. And it was all so... so beige. Besides, she tried getting me to watch Poltergeist with her, and I was all, "I'm out."

And now my own kids have some pretty weird ideas. But nothing this mom has to worry about... or should she?

While frosting my daughter's 12th birthday cake last weekend, she stood by my side to monitor the cake's awesome levels. And in her sweet, spunky, I-just-separated-my-sparkly-stickers-from-the-non-sparkly enthusiasm, she said to me, "This cake is gonna be sooo good, it's gonna be Rated R! C'mon Mom, make it super Rated R!"

GASP! I immediately began speaking in sentence fragments: "Uh, honey... where did you... how come... what you mean is... we don't... why would I??"

So once I finally gathered my thoughts, I gave her a PG-rated explanation for her R-rated confusion. And then I saw her logic.

Turns out she thought the higher a movie's rating, the better the movie. Like PG is better than G, PG-13 is better than PG, and so on. Like how chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries and grated Hershey's chocolate bar on top is better than chocolate cake without.

Bless her little pre-teen heart.

And bless my little post-teen heart (super post) for still misunderstanding things. And though I've been chided a time or two by a few folks (that's right, uptight health insurance rep... I will never understand your lame explanation of deductibles), I'm certainly glad I have yet to receive a stern "Have I taught you nothin'?" from heaven, for God's patience, understanding, and love have always flowed like the Magic Shell that went on the ice cream THAT WENT ON the already "R-rated" birthday cake.

And when it comes to birthday cake, I'm certainly glad my daughter didn't ask for an X-rated cake. Or worse, a XXX cake! At least there's that. And I know for sure she never expected anyone to jump out of it.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why I'm Happy

I am happy.

Happy because it's September. Happy because that boho flowy blouse look is in. Happy because magazine covers are now touting: "Go Brunette this Fall!" "Five Fab Fall Roadies!" "The Season's Best Pull-apart Breads!" Happy because they say it'll be a wet El Nino year - for reals this time. (Fantastico!)

And...

And happy because Fall TV is almost here, adding purpose and meaning and much-needed structure to my evenings once again.

No more absentmindedly perusing Netflix's "recently added" and "trending now" programming. No more arguing with my husband:

(Me) Come on, Jeff. Stop watching MMA fights. Can't stand them!
(Jeff) But there's nothing else on.
(Me) But they're not appropriate. Looks like REAL fighting!
(Jeff) Because it is. Besides, you already got your Pioneer Woman in.
(Me) Yeah, it's wholesome.
(Jeff) You'll just play Words With Friends no matter what we watch.

Now now, there'll be no more of that. Just fresh new shows for our watching pleasure. It's even in the Bible: "Happy are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching." Luke 12:37

Now there's certainly no denying that God finds me captivating in my dowdy PJs - remote in one hand, mug of cheerios in the other, hair in ratty bun. (Jeff is a lucky man.) But I'm thinking God has another kind of "watching" in mind.

Could it be that he especially likes to find me watching... for him? Watching for him to do super cool things on a Tuesday? Watching for him to reveal his ooh-and-ahh-ness in a sunset? Watching for those in need of a pick-me-up and anticipating that I'll give them one? Watching for him to turn an impossible situation completely around? Watching for him to one day return?

God says this type of "watching," living day to day with this type of giddy expectancy, is what really makes us happy. But I suppose if TV was a thing in Bible times, he would have added The Middle and Blacklist to his list of happiness makers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

ANOTHER Dramatic Monologue?

Certain things in life make me uncomfortable. Like those kiosk sales people at the mall who try to curl my hair or make me sample their gold-infused face cream as I walk by. Or when couples argue in front of me. Or when I don't get a joke, but laugh anyway. I even get uncomfortable when others feel uncomfortable.

And this past weekend, I was reminded AGAIN of yet another thing that makes me uncomfortable: dramatic monologues. I would rather have a 10-foot-tall Frankenstein tap me on the shoulder than have to sit through an overly theatrical demonstration or artsy reading of poetry.

You know, like the finger-snapping beat poets from the 60s. Or some kind of underground slam poetry scene where they all migrate together, monologuing about nature:

"Sky reddens behind fir trees. Larks twitter. Sparrows cheep cheep cheep. Cheep."

Or about super intense stuff:

"Put a dagger through my side - straight through my side - as the rain sweeps her out of my arms."

And if I'm close enough to feel their spit on me, though I may appear poised and attentive, inwardly I'm falling to pieces. So it was a good thing we sat in the way far back when "spoken word artist," Hosanna Poetry (that's what she calls herself), stepped onto the stage at church on Sunday.

I quickly looked over at my husband and opened my eyes real big, as if to say, "Is this chick for real?" But he seemed totally cool with it. He even put on his black turtleneck and grabbed his bongo drums. Or might as well have. And right then, I knew I had to be a big girl and just listen.

And listen.

And before I knew it, my listening turned into crying. Well, Molly-type crying. (I didn't have to leave the room or anything.) Turns out Miss Poetry's monologue wasn't about chirping birds or daggers in sides after all, but an amazing love - God's love.

Yes it was a monologue. YES it was dramatic. But she hooked me in with her talk about pride, and how we've "come too far" to let it get the best of us. She also beautifully described how we are God's vessels, challenging us to not be empty vessels. But rather, vessels of hope and mercy that reach "a thirsty world."

I was wowed.

So maybe I should re-think this whole discomfort thing with dramatic monologues and just stick to the usual scary clown or when someone tries talking to me through the bathroom stall. Besides, God wouldn't send his comforter - "I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you." (John 14:18) - if life didn't get a little uncomfy from time to time.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Best I-love-you-er Around!

I have some pretty fantastic I-love-you-ers in my house. People who respond to my daily "I love you" with a clear and easily-heard "I love you, too."

Except...

Except for a certain 15-year-old boy. Sure he says "I love you" back to me. But it's more of a mumbled "uh muh ew" at best. Sometimes it's just "muh ew." Or just "muh."

Doesn't matter. The sincerity is still (kind of) there. And I actually love the way he says it, for it basically sums up his awkward 15-year-old boyness.

And that's not all. I love watching his monster hands open jars for me. And I love it when he asks questions about politics OR asks what's for dinner OR "Is there dessert?" And I love it when I pick him up from football practice, and I spot him from a distance - standing there.

Just standing there. Ahhh. Watching my kids stand - watching them just be - is a little thing I like to do.

Could it be that God also loves it when I just stand there? In all my awkward 41-year-old ladyness?

Because when you peel back 41 years of accomplishments and dutiful layers, starting with the cardigan that covers my sheer blouse that covers my tank (because the shirt company struck a deal with the cardigan and tank top companies - "They'll buy all three if we make the blouses sheer. Suckers!"), you'll find that I do a lot of standing around, too... among other ordinary, ho-hum things.

Things only a parent might find mesmerizing.

And with God being the ultimate parent who loves his kids before the start of anything obedient or charitable, famous or brilliant (Matthew 3:17), he just has to be glued (just gotta!) to all the stuff we've got going on - both our humany things (standing, sleeping, sandwich-making) AND our mighty feats of amazement and wonder.

Psalm 139:2-3 says, "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways."

And I must say, in a world where our value is based upon what we do, it sure is nice to get a clear and easily-heard "I love you" from heaven, even when there's not much "doing" going on. And even when the only thing God gets in return is a mumbled "uh muh ew" - or just "muh."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mmmm, Yummy

Every family has a smart one, a funny one, and a vulgar one. A tall one, a bearded one, and an extra-moley one.

Every family also has a bite-taker. And in my family, that person is me.

Not in a vampy way, of course. I'm talking food. Especially at restaurants. Especially at Cheesecake Factory - home of the "Gone with the Wind" sized menus - where my indecisiveness and love for variety collide. Where I annoy my family by eyeballing their plates and hinting for bites, "Ah man, I should've gotten that!" (If only there was a Glamburger/Herb-Crusted Salmon/Thai Lettuce Wrap/Godiva Cheesecake combo plate.)

Sneaking bites at home is easier. I don't ask, I just do. "Would you like a bowl of cereal, dear?" It's purely selfish. I gotta have my bite! But don't get me wrong, I love my cinnamon raisin Ezekiel toast each morning. It just needs a follow-up bite of cereal. Like a mini dessert for breakfast. Besides, why on earth would I want to eat an entire bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios? Well maybe I could think of one or two or a MILLION reasons why.

But sometimes I'll taste something and no bueno! Take cantaloupe and green olives, I've established long ago they're not for me. And it's a done deal. But some foods I'll "repeat try," like curry. I'm waiting for me to like it one day. Hasn't happened yet.

You see, tasting food - liking certain foods - is a very personal thing. You don't know until you try it.

That's how it is with God.

Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good."

Until you try him, until you taste him - for yourself - you won't know what he's like. Everything about God, all his sweetness and all his "built-up sugar" (as my husband says of our kids when kissing their necks), will be unknown to the one who doesn't first taste - trust - that he really is good.

And I've heard it said that "faith is the soul's taste." Oh, how I love a good food/God analogy! Now if only spiritual bite-taking was as easy as cereal bite-taking...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

20 Years of El Jefe

So much for the "17 Years of El Jefe" I posted three years ago. We're now at the 20-year mark. And I feel I need to revamp my list, capping it off at a solid, even number.

Here goes! In no special order, 20 reasons why I'm glad I married Mr. Jeffrey Eugene:

Reason #1:  Insanely talented. I get such a kick out of telling people what he does. You guys, he's a toy designer. Who does that? My husband.

Reason #2:  Knows how to rescue me from poisonous snakes, runaway trains, and G.I. Joe fantasies, for he's had plenty of practice while sleepwalking.

Reason #3:  Way cute. In fact, I've been told he's crazy cute. Ever hear of Joe Manganiello? I got me one. See?


Reason #4:  Funny, witty, clever, quick, slightly irreverent, and wry.

Reason #5:  From-here-to-Alabama-and-backingly adventurous. Dude's got it in him to take on some pretty big moves and changes. What's next, big guy?

Reason #6:  Boy, WHAT a dad. I mean, someone's gotta head-up the science projects around here - or anything requiring a tri-fold poster board - because it ain't gonna be me. No sir. You can find me baking cakes and french braiding hair.

Reason #7:  Loves Mount Hermon near Santa Cruz as much as I do. He even proposed right there in the redwoods 22 years ago. It's our forever vacation home.

Reason #8:  A God thing. If Jeff and I weren't on the same faith page, our heads would probably fall off. God is the whole reason we exist, the whole reason we're even doing all of this. "For in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 12:28)

Reason #9: Brought out the closet rocker in me. It began with huge, floor-standing speakers back in 1995. Throw in 20 years of advancing technology and a few Stryper concerts, and boom! I now like electric guitar solos and the cowbell. 

Reason #10:  A Do-It-Yourself-er. Dry wall, tile, and cabinet installer. Furniture, bike, and toy put-together-er. Why, you just watch - he's going to build me a log cabin one day.

Reason #11:  A man's man. He just knows things. Scruffy. Rough around the edges, yet enjoys a good Little House on the Prairie episode. Hairy and strong, yet snuggles with kittens. Likes to hike and likes to eat.

Reason #12:  Likes to eat.

Reason #13:  Dependable. On-time and efficient. When he says 2.3 minutes, he really means 1.8 minutes.

Reason #14:  Jumbo-size, post-labor, feminine protection pads have never scared or embarrassed him. And he holds barf bowls. He takes care of me in every circumstance.

Reason #15:  Gives me wings so I can soar to tops of mountains with the mighty and valiant eagle... or something like that. In other words, he doesn't squash (or is it squelch? squish? scrunch?) my dreams. 

Reason #16:  A great companion. Perhaps my favorite part of being married. What would Masterpiece Theater, blue cheese salad wedges, and waiting (wishing, praying, pleading "please God, do something exciting with our weather!") for a good thunderstorm be like without him?

Reason #17: Doesn't snore. Or nothing that a good shove won't stop.

Reason #18: He once told me that I wasn't lazy. And ever since, I hold my head higher. Like I'm in on a neat little secret about myself - "If I'm anything, it's NOT lazy, people!" (Some compliments just stick!)

Reason #19: We have 20 YEARS of the same memories. Memories I have with no one else. "Hey, babe, remember our screenprinting business and delivering t-shirts to the softball moms (who were hot for you) in that old beat-up Ranchero we bought for $500 from that girl who worked at Albertsons?" Yep!

AND as always, the last reason... Reason #20:  His thighs are bigger than mine.
  
Now everybody knows that for every 20 positive things, there's an equal amount of why-God-whys and please-make-it-stops. But still, I like being married. So thankful God thought me a good candidate for it. My life - the good and the bad - will not go unnoticed because Jeff is there to notice it, and vice versa.

Friday, June 5, 2015

10 Things That Make it a Good Morning

You know you're having a good morning when:

1. Before your feet even hit the ground, you decide to give yourself permission to check the break room at work for donuts.

2. There's an unopened bag of Starbucks' Italian Roast and you're SO GLAD your coffee-making preference is still a 12-cupper coffee pot.

3. While the coffee maker drips-drips, you read through an adult sibling texting thread that began after you went to bed: "Describe your last fart using a movie title." (Gone With the Wind, Pitch Perfect, Fast and Furious, Death Becomes Her, etc.)

4. The Today Show's Savannah Guthrie is looking perfectly normal-sized. Like she ate a burger and her husband's fries the night before - and maybe a piece of cinnamon toast.

5. Your 5th grader forgets it's violin day at school, freeing you from giving the "sometimes we all have to do things we don't like" speech for the 47th time. (She loathes the violin. Told me recently that she "fake plays." And that the class recital should be called a "drama performance" because she's acting, not playing.)

6. The sunbeams that shine through the cracks on the fence outside your kitchen window around 6:45 each morning are particularly sunbeamy and cheery.

7. Instead of applying mascara at your least favorite intersection using your "car" mascara (longest light ever - made me cry once, okay twice), you miraculously have time to use your "upstairs bathroom" mascara. (Not to be confused with your "mirror by front door" mascara.)

8. You realize you're not needed anywhere that night. No previously-made commitments. And you vow to keep it that way.

9. The Jesus-loves-you-shirt-wearing man is looking extra convincing as he points directly to you, then to the heart on his shirt, then back to you.

(*A quick time-out for the "Jesus Loves You" man: a short little man who walks around town, enthusiastically telling every person, car, and dog within a square mile of my kids' high school - and its bad boy Taco Bell hangout - that Jesus loves them. Although I'm still undecided on his exact level of crazy - [Like crazy-about-Jesus crazy? Or I-am-Jesus crazy?] - his declaration of God's love for mankind makes me happy. For it's not done in a religious way. And not in the usual way we find ourselves interpreting "Jesus loves you." Which sometimes is "because he has to" or a detached "if I had a dime..." sort of way. But more like it's the first time ever hearing it, first time sinking in.*)

10. And finally, you know it's a good morning when you're told that Jesus loves you!


Thursday, April 30, 2015

1984 - Best Year Ever?

While I fantasize about living amidst a pastoral setting in 19th century England, my husband has 1984 on the brain.

Not sure why 1984, but I have a hunch it has something to do with Bruce Springsteen, G.I. Joe, and the summer Olympics, held in our very own backyard that year. And throughout our nearly-20-years of wedded bliss, I don't think a week has passed without some form of “1984 was the best year EVER!” rising up from the depths of his soul.

Honestly, I think he's overreacting. After all, they didn't have Groupon back then. A website where, with just one click, you could buy a hands-on falconry experience or a killer deal on laser hair removal. (What's a website? What's a "click?" And
lasers, like in Tron?)

I also don't remember having the option to "add avocado" when I was 11 years old. And what was flavored coffee creamer, let alone salted caramel anything? And who ever heard of an artisanal donut?

Come to think of it, who got pedicures back then? Who used SPF 50? Who ran 5ks? And who were "hipsters," sturdy babies who sat perfectly-perched on their mother's hip?

And where was a Pei Wei or a Panera Bread or a Pieology when you needed one? It was either McDonald's or Olive Garden. None of this hybrid restaurant business – not a "sit down" establishment, but not fast food either.

And 1984 never advertised food as being locally sourced or grass fed or all-natural. All natural meant you didn't wear makeup that day. (Or shave your legs. Excuse me, laser beam your legs.)

But still, according to my Jeffrey Eugene, life was better back then. Better toys, better music, better movies, better character sheet sets. And in my opinion, better after-school television programming. 

(**Let's talk Little House on the Prairie for just a sec. Nothing compares. Now if we could somehow bottle the wisdom from that show and add a teaspoon of it to each day, this world would be a better place.**)

However, Ecclesiastes 7:10 says it's smart to not always pine for the "good old days," for in doing so there’s a tendency to not appreciate the day God has given us right now. Only my problem isn’t so much pining after my own good ol’ days, but other people’s. Thus my pastoral setting in 19th century England fantasy. (I see you Colin Firth.)

Anyway.

So sure, reminiscing is fun. But today is fun, too! And right about now I'm thinking I should just leave El Jefe alone to add to his Star Wars Greedo collection. But here's one thing I know for sure: boys were cuter 20+ years ago. (Says the woman who snatched-up the cutest one.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Prayer: Rest for the Spiritually Immature

Letting go is hard. First you send your kids to kindergarten. Then you send them to get the mail down the street. (Mailboxes are down the street in my neighborhood. It's weird.)

And if they've succeeded at those, you send them into the kitchen to refill your coffee. "Not too much creamer!" But they always add too much.

Then, before you know it, you're sending your 16-year-old to the store to get cream cheese because, well, your cake needs cream cheese frosting. And as you hand her your debit card, you whisper the pin number even though you're in the privacy of your own home. And then she says, "You know mom, you really should change that pin number - it's lame," and you say, "Well that's my business. Now drive safely. Precious cargo! Oh, and treat yourself to a mascara!"

And, of course, you pray for her safety. After all, should something horrible happen... heaven forbid... all because you wanted (desperately had to have!) cream cheese?

Then, snap! They're getting on planes to go to places like New York City. Without you. And you pray some more. Maybe even read some scripture about God's protection. You might even alternate scripture with ice cream. Or in one hand you've got the Bible App open on your phone, and in the other hand you have a spoon - and it's stirring brownie batter.

Then there's that friend. That friend whose kid also went to New York City. And you come to find out that she didn't JUST pray (as if God thinks people are "just" praying when they - out of all the choices this world has to offer - choose HIM to discuss matters with), this girl prayed and (AND) fasted.

Yes, I'm talking about MY friend. (Though we all have one.) She prayed on top of fasting. Fasted on top of praying. Whichever came first, my initial thought wasn't: "Amen, sister!" It was more like: "Gosh I'm pathetic." And then when I found out her praying and fasting happened during Holy week, my next thought was more of the same. Only this time around, for no particular reason, I gave it a robotic sound: "I. Am. Pathetic." (Whose personal thoughts have robot accents, anyway?)

Now, of course, in NO way am I knocking fasting. Fasting is awesome. It helps people zero in on their relationship with God during a time of need or grief or worship. You could fast anything - food, TV, Stick Hero. (Try it. So fun.) But in this case it's food.

So what's the problem? Well, because in all my spiritual immaturity and in all my, let's face it, yes-I-watched-the-entire-performance-of-Madonna-on-Jimmy-Fallon (twice) ways, I see myself getting more excited about the few pounds I might lose rather than closeness I might gain with God.

(See? Pathetic. But don't get judgy. Remember: they say when you point a finger at someone, three are pointed right back at you.)

Oh, but alas! Just when I feel like ditching prayer all together, I read something that draws me back to the one I was tempted to run from. Something fabulously true about prayer, both the fasting and non-fasting kind:

"This is the deep mystery of prayer, that we can just pour out the fullness of our heart... and know that he hears, he loves, he understands, he receives; and he separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant, and wrong, and presents the rest, with the incense of the great High Priest, before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted, and answered in Jesus' name." A.B. Simpson

And I can breathe again. PRAY again. After all, I have a feeling sending my child to NYC is just the beginning of the many letting-go's up ahead. Sniff, sniff.




Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Besides Cake, What Gets Kids to Listen?


When I sub, it doesn't matter how amazing a teacher's "positive reinforcement" system is, I dread classroom management. That is, keeping a roomful of kids under control. (It also doesn't matter how much I've prepared the night before, I still scramble around each morning like a meth addict trying to find my keys. But that's for another day.)

Let me clarify: I love a well-managed classroom as much as the next person. I just hate being the person responsible for the well-managing. I'm horrible at it. I teeter on condescension and sass the second a student resists my authority. I imagine myself one day declaring, "It really is true: I AM a lovely person, but you... you all make me hideous!"

However, there are days - dreamy days - when young minds are ready for me, ready for my genius. Days when third graders honestly need help carrying-the-one. And days when 11th graders raise hands to ask, "What does it mean to empathize with someone?" or "What does it mean to do something 'in solidarity?'"

Give me a thousand days like that, and I'll be set! You could also give me a cake mix, and I'll whip up something so spectacular, peoples' heads fall off. Or give me a poorly-worded sentence, and I'll reword it just for fun. Or forget about things I like, give me a jar of black widow spiders. I won't complain!

But don't give me, the sub with a lisp and sensible shoes, a classroom of 36 ninth graders and a vague lesson plan that says, "Have kids work silently in groups of three. They know what to do."

Oh, mwah-ha-ha-haaa, they know what to do alright. Little Johnny will write "weed" on the board and call me something I cannot repeat before running out the door. And Katie, Kayla, Keely, and Kylie will face-time strange men they meet online during class. Make that try face-timing strange men. I'm quick to put my stink on that type of funny business - my condescending, sassy, hideous stink. 

Anyway.

Speaking of cake - (Did your cake senses go off several sentences ago?) - I had the privilege of watching a teacher effectively herd three fifth grade classrooms toward plated and waiting cake slices. It was an end-of-day celebration of sorts, and clearly this wasn't her first round-up at the cake rodeo. Or something like that.

Not only was she NOT grinding her teeth, she seemed to actually like the kids - especially her own 5th grade class. And her wrangling "method" involved kindness and math, for she said, "Hello, friends. If your student number is a prime number - remember, a prime number can only be divided evenly by one and itself - you may quietly stand up and walk to the cake tables."

My go-to would've been: "Stand up if you like hot dogs!" But this teacher made lining up for cake educational. And she was kind. Other than that (and completely off topic), her delivery was a tad robotic and she needed a little color. Perhaps some tinted lip gloss? Just an observation.

But I suppose if I were to ask, "How'd you get the kids to obey?" She'd say what I've heard other full-time teachers say before: "When you know the kids - when they are your own - you're invested in them, and they know it. So they listen."

Got it. Kind of like with my own kids. I really love my own kids. And because they know I love them, they listen more-ish. (That's a big "ish," especially when they're age two, three, or 15. Throw in 18, too.) 

And it's like that with God. Only the "kid" is me, and I am his own. John 10:27 says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me." Or more personally-put: "My Molly listens to my voice; I know her and she follows me."

I must say, nothing speaks louder than being called "My Molly" by the Creator of the universe. And to also be known by him, hideousness and all? I'm all ears, God!

So it makes sense in the classroom, too. The key to effective "well-managing" is knowing and loving your kids and calling them your own. But, to be honest, if there were any little Mollies in that 5th grade class, the second motivator behind quietly getting in line would undeniably be... the promise of cake.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Now THAT'S a Mistaken Celebrity Sighting

You're at a Starbucks you never go to, and the barista says, "Hey gurrl, meeting the whole gang today?" But you have no idea what he's talking about. Never seen him or "the gang" before in your life.

Or you're in line at the grocery store, and the cashier asks you, "How's your mom?" Uh, do you know my mom?

And in both cases, you find yourself saying, "No gang today, just me." Or, "My mom's doing great! Thanks for asking." It's just sometimes easier to let these things slide.

Recently, a gal at church mistook me for the worship leader: "Oh, look who we have here... it's our worship leader!"

And as much as I wanted to say, "YES. I am her. The one who sings real smooth and raspy and wears the prettiest necklaces and always says the nicest prayers, etc, etc..." I just couldn't, because impersonating a worship leader has to be in the Bible somewhere, and I'm sure it didn't end well.

So instead, I assured her I've never before led people in song. And then I thought - just thought - to myself, "But can the worship leader do THIS?!?" And by "this" I mean a very impressive karate kick to the air followed by 12 cartwheels. (Who's the worship leader now? She still is.)

But, being a worship leader... what a nice thing to imagine. Wait. Not a nice thing to imagine, because one of my top three nightmares is singing in public. The other two are huge waves and forgetting to attend a class I registered for in college. (When does that dream stop recurring?)

At any rate, I'm not the only one who's been mistaken for someone else. Steven Colbert for the Full House dad. Elijah Wood for the Harry Potter guy. And... Jesus for the gardener.

As the story goes in John 20, Mary Magdalene made her way to Jesus' tomb early that first Easter morning. And as predicted, she couldn't find him inside the tomb - just a couple of angels were seated where his body had been.

She then turned herself around, all tears and snot bubbles, and sees this guy, a guy she thought was the gardener. But when he said her name - "Mary" - she instantly recognized the comforting voice with its loving tone as one belonging to her Savior.

(Why the gardener? Was it his leaf blower? Straw hat and SPF 50 shirt? Did old-timey Jerusalem have an overly-landscaped look about it, like south Orange County?) 

Really? Mistaking Jesus for the gardener? But let's go easy on Mary. She may not have been too far off. After all (get ready for some serious Spurgeon bits), it's been said, "We are not going against the harmonies of nature when we are 'supposing him to be the gardener.' Do we not all need watering and tending by his constant gracious care? "

And more specifically to my own slow-to-catch-on plight, Spurgeon has also said, "You may be a slow-growing shrub by nature... (but) be this your joy, you are in the garden of the Lord, and 'supposing him to be the gardener,' he will make the best of you. You cannot be in better hands."

So, whether you're at the coffee shop or grocery store - mistaking people left and right like a little kid grabbing the hand of the wrong mom - take heart, you cannot have grabbed a better hand than when you're in the garden of the Lord, for he will make the best of you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

But I Like Facebook...


Say a much-needed "Farewell!" to that WAY overdone Frozen theme, and say "Hello!" to Malcom Cutler! No, Malcom Tutler! I mean, Malcom Butler from the New England Patriots!

Sorry for the confusion, it's just my sister and I had no clue who he was when we saw him parading around Disneyland last week. But we're a couple of smart girls! So naturally we caught on to his celeb status and began taking pics and videos with our phones.

Then, without the tiniest bit of reservation (that came later), we posted our 10-second videos on Facebook. And why shouldn't we? Butler's kind of a big deal right now. And our carefree selves couldn't help but post on FB, sit back, and wait for the "likes" to roll in!

But here's the thing: we are women. And if I know women, feelings of carefree-ness rarely stay at carefree. Shame somehow sneaks in. I say this because our "we just saw a famous football player" bubble burst the moment my sister realized she had broken a rule - a women's Bible study "group challenge" of sorts - to stay off Facebook all last week. And she broke it only one day in.

You know, it's like how everyone is eating cleaner and going greener and cutting out excess in our modern day lives. All trending and buzzwordy topics for sure, topics we squeeze into our Bible studies.

Not to sound super glass-half-empty, but seems to me women are already given enough opportunities to fail at. But still, churchy gals are going crazy over this stuff. (Gosh, what a dutiful, efficient, and disciplined bunch we are. And pooped.)

So, was it good that my sister at least tried the no FB thing? Yes! And God only knows how obsessed we've become with social media, among other things, and could benefit from scaling back, way-back-of-the-station-wagon back.

But, why the shame? Why the funk? Three reasons:

1. Going a week without her sister Molly's posts would be absolutely unbearable.

2. The "cool girl" group at Bible study might be disappointed by her lack of follow through. (And they'd find out how? Mmm hmm.)

3. Upon remembering the times when the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE has spoken directly to her heart (the loveliest part of a woman) - moments that left her giddy and awestruck and in total anticipation of what he's going to do next - a girl can get seriously bummed when her "spiritual goals" are confined to Facebook, of all things.

So anti-climactic. So safe. So dutiful.

Author Beth Moore asks, "What are you bursting to do when your heart is filled with divine affection?"

And Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."

So whatever it is God is personally putting on YOUR heart to do - or not do - let it flow, let it flow, don't hold it back anymore... Oh. Excuse me. Darn Frozen. Someone please make it stop. It's everywhere. Still. It's been over a year now. All done.

Monday, January 5, 2015

10 Things Only a Group Exercise Instructor Understands


Working 22 years as a group exercise instructor has not only given me free gym memberships and paid workouts, but a greater understanding as to why Richard Simmons is, well... Richard Simmons.

We're unique! No two are alike! And whether we progressively refer to ourselves as "life coaches who engage people in conversations about their fitness journey, leading them into action," or date ourselves with a simple "aerobics instructor," I'd like to think we have a lot in common. (Or after you read this, perhaps less in common?)

Here goes:

1. We aren't always getting all up in your grill.
Translation: Most instructors don't walk around, screaming in people's faces. We usually stay within 12 feet of the stereo and politely encourage students from there. But believe you me, it's taken many years to confidently say, "My name is Molly, and I'm a shy fitness instructor." Used to think I had to be more pizazzy and in-your-face. Now I just own it. I'm all, "Okay you guys, now let's do plyo push-ups!! Or... you could do them the regular way. On your knees even. Everyone having a nice time?"

2. We are stereo equipment miracle workers.
Just give us a fresh battery and five minutes, and we'll get this baby to work. Gym after gym, class after class, wire salad after wire salad of tangled microphone chords, and stereo button displays that appear more difficult to operate than a jet plane's instrument panel... and 97.36% of the time (lesser odds with the microphone - hate those things), we're in business! Sometimes it's just a matter of pushing buttons until music comes out. Although unexplainable, it's always magical.

3. We can't hear you when you talk to us.
What? You want me to explain the combo again? Think my top is cute? Trying to tell me a dryer sheet is hanging out of my compression (spandex) leggings? I can't (*raspberry*) understand (*raspberry*) your accent. I'm just going to have to wait to be horrified until I discover my wardrobe malfunction on my own.

4. Speaking of hearing, we can't hear. Period.
Crazy-loud "pump up the jam, pump it up while your feet are stompin', and the jam is pumpin'" music, combined with the occasional screech of a hot mic, may or may not have affected our hearing over the years. We instructors can be stubborn with this one. Besides, who's to say it's the music's fault? I don't know. I can't hear them. 

5. And speaking of wardrobe malfunctions, they do happen.
Not only dryer sheets falling out of clothes, but other things - two different shoes on, inside out pants, and yes, panties on shoes. I was driving to the gym a couple weeks ago and felt something around my ankle. I looked down. Lo and behold, underwear was wrapped around my shoe. I must have "looped it" while making a mad dash to get out the door on time. Thankfully, I discovered it in time to de-panty before class.

6. Oh yes, mad-dashing it to the gym. 
Is there such a thing as a Sunday stroll to the gym? Never heard of it. So we need plenty of grace with this one. Because when there's an EXACT start time - 4:30, 8:15, 5:45 - and you have kids to get to school OR just had a big fight with the hubs or wifey OR the dog got out and you had to herd him back into the house like a cow, getting to the gym on time can be a son-of-a-britch. So please, replace those email complaints to corporate with patience and understanding. And a smile.

7. Knowing how to pronounce quinoa doesn't mean we always eat it.
Just because we are "fitness professionals," we are not (all) food cops. I don't know how many times I've caught someone being "bad" and listened to them explain themselves - "Uh, it's my... birthday?" And I don't know how many times I've gone to bed on a belly full of ham and pineapple pizza and hot fudge brownie sundaes, realizing, "Oh no. I do believe I have to teach exercises in front of 50 people, eight hours from now. Poop." It's not pretty.
  
8. We love compliments!!
You like - you LOVE - our classes? Tell us! It is soooo encouraging. There have been times I've  walked out of class and thought, "I was lame today. I'm never coming back." And then I fantasize about the day I'm done teaching for good, a day I'm content to walk three miles a day with Betty and Myrtle. But that only lasts about 30 seconds before I start getting excited for my next class!

9. Some people dream in English, others dream in Spanish. We dream in choreography.
Whether it's an interesting transition from one-legged squats into plank jacks OR the most elaborate step routine involving a step with 28 risers and a monkey named Mr. Burpee, we'll dream about it. But then again, some of the stuff I've dreamt-up has been pretty good, stuff I've written down on my nightstand in the dark - in big messy letters - in hopes of deciphering by morning. Minus Mr. Burpee, of course.

10. We are the ones with the microphone. Darn.
Oh, how easy it is to complain, to vent, to act frustrated, to trip over words, to say inappropriate things in front of our classes. To roll our eyes at the more "challenging" students. And I've said and done it all. Because words have the power to build up or tear down, I want to use them well. Proverbs 16:24 says, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." See that? "Health to the body." And that's why we do what we do.

Wishing you a fit and fabulous 2015!