Tuesday, December 30, 2008

extremely random movie thoughts, and by the way - Happy New Year!

When I wrote about the Emmys a while back, I was sort of put out with Hollywood because I felt disdained by them - what with having voted conservative, um, ever. That post started quite the little discussion. But one friend didn't comment at all - although she wanted to write something to the effect of, "Ah, Serenity is growing up!" because I was able to see anything other than red carpets and rosiness in my beloved Hollywood. Well, it's been too long since I wrote about Hollywood now, and I don't want anyone to wonder if I've grown up any further - because I haven't - so I thought it was time. Consider this a huge catch-up version of "Movie Reviews From My Cabinet at Home." In this case: A glimpse at some of the movies, new and (80s) classic, I can't get enough of this Christmas vacation holiday. Now remember, we're kids. I mean, um, we have kids. So it's not like any of these were nominated for best picture. They just get us, okay?

First up, Kung Fu Panda. First, I love the Asian themes. Love them. When I watched The Last Samuri I suddenly wanted to clean my house. Just clean it, remove 90 percent of the stuff from it, and hang black-framed pictures of lone white lillies. Besides the Eastern inspiration that makes us want to cleanse our universe/cleanse our souls, Kung Fu Panda is freaking hilarious. We never laughed so hard in our lives - out loud in a movie theater - as we did watching Jack Black as an overweight Kung Fu trainee with a heart of gold. So. Funny. Plus, I now figure there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there's a secret ingredient and those who don't.

Freaky Friday. The Oscars are so pretentious, aren't they? Because if they weren't, they never would have overlooked Jamie Lee Curtis's performance as a teenager trapped in her mother's body in this hilarious version of what was already a pretty great concept. Lindsay Lohan actually does beautifully as her mother as well, but Jamie Lee Curtis slays me. When the teenager-trapped-in-mom's-body tries to read something and has to trombone it, Curtis says "Whoa, she's blind!" in one of the funniest line deliveries ever, and that's just one of the many scenes in this movie that she completely nails. I actually believe there's a teenager in there. Believe it. And this realistic acting makes it all the more poignant when they whip out the schmaltz and actually make me cry. It's a great movie about understanding each other. Period.

The Three Musketeers. I credit this movie for some of my downfall into a total adoration for the art of movie-making. It has everything - romance, great clothes and hair, heroes, sacrifice, brotherhood, and humor. I love the gentle queen who loved the timid king to whom her marriage was arranged. I love how fiercly the musketeers believe in their duty to protect that king. And the line, "Come, Dartagnon, we're saving the king!" was as critical to our family's movie-quoting history as "Goodbye, Boys, have fun storming the castle." Major Nickerson nostalgia in this film, and I'm so glad we own it now.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids. I have no philosophical goodness to bring out from this movie. No one single thing. We own it because I got it for about 4 dollars, and I loved it as a kid. But seriously, when I subjected my children to it the other day, I still sat RIVETED by those four, poor, quarter-inch children trying to cross the massive jungle that used to be simply their back yard. I couldn't wait for the humungous oatmeal cream pie and the part where they sleep in a Lego. It's just good, clean fun.

Ratatouille. If you're sensing a Disney obsession here, that's because I'm in the DVD club. And incidentally, I adore the movie montage before Disney movies now where they play the fantastic score from Kevin Kostner's Robin Hood. It gets my Hollywood eyes all starry. And Ratatouille is just so cute and culinary. It doesn't exactly make me want to be a cook, but it makes me appreciate them very, very much. I'm so glad some people cared to turn our plain animal instict to eat things into an actual art. If there were only people like me in the world, ingredients would never have come together properly. Heck, we probably never would have peeled a banana.

Hancock. We don't own this one, and we've only seen it once - but it was fairly recently. Will Smith is in it, which is a clincher for this fam. And he plays a really arrogant super power whose publicist (Jason Bateman . . . I think I still have a poster of you around here somewhere) convinces him to just look people in the eye now and then and tell them, "Good job." Oh my goodness, do we like to deliver that line around here. Plus, I love the idea of a reluctant superhero and the way he is transformed basically by one man's belief that he can better himself, a little boy's unfettered admiration of him, and the choice to love selflessly.

Now, can anyone tell me which of these movies I should rush to see (or perhaps away from) currently in theaters? Because I think I want to see them all: Benjamin Button, Marley & Me (I already know - bring a box of Kleenex and try not to have ever actually loved any of your pets), Seven Pounds, Bedtime Stories, Valkyrie. Also, I got a couple months of free Netflix for Christmas, so prepare for another rash of brief, completely unhelpful movie reviews soon. Up first is Hairspray, and I hear Ghost Town is awesome.

photo credit:  basha04 on Flickr

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm thinking a movie on a weekday at nap time . . .

Agent Holly:  You will be happy to hear, in the words of Drew shortly before this picture, "We.  Just got.  A Wii!"

So now when I am overcome with anxiety over whether or not I am any closer to beginning an actual writing career, I'll simply pick up a remote and bowl.  I'm really good at the bowling.  Not so much the tennis.  I end up jabbing at the air in front of me as if trying to poke my little Mii into responding to the ball rather than reacting to it myself.  "What does it say about you, though," I asked Michael, "to be good at bowling on the Wii?"  It doesn't seem like something you could put on a list of assets, talents, or even handy little knacks.  It just is.

I drove to my parents' on Christmas Eve.  The roads were covered in patches with packed snow, and Michael was home sick.  I have never felt so happy and so refreshed by a home-going though.  I needed it desperately that day for some reason.  As I drove there alone, I panicked when I realized that I had not yet read the directions for - nor placed in my vehicle - the car escape tool Dad got me for Christmas.  It cuts your seat-belt and breaks your window and punctures your air bag and all kinds of other important things if you have an accident that leaves you trapped inside the car.  I thought how awful it would be to have a wreck on Christmas Eve on the way to his house and not have the safety tool he had given me.  

Now it is safely placed in the pocket of my driver's side door, and I feel so much more prepared for life.  It's nice to have a little bit of Dad's protection beside me in the car as I drive.  Just like it was so nice on Christmas Eve, when the day kept feeling so decidedly un-Christmassy and the boys kept spilling things and I realized I still hadn't bought enough wrapping paper (Wal-Mart again?!), to know that I was going to Mom's just as soon as my work day was over and that she would rescue Christmas from the moment I walked in the door.  I was wrong though.  It was rescued the moment I saw the lights of the little town where she lives.  

We're headed into the second week of Christmas vacation for the boys.  They look so forward to it.  And then sometimes it disappoints.  They get bored and miss their friends and routine.  Jake likes having them around but finds that they sometimes mess with his universe.  They wake up every day certain something exciting will happen, and their faces droop to find me working (what is this strange part of grown-up life that you work on Christmas vacation?!) But I'm going to try and rescue it for them.  I'm pretty sure I can.  I just hope I have enough tools.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

one more wish for magic

So I guess we'll have a white Christmas this year.  I should have taken a picture right across the street.  Dave's house catches snow like a perfectly frosted gingerbread house.  Only it's a beautiful dark gray instead of brown.  I don't say "Dave's house" as if you know him, but simply because it's a pretty view from my house that I've mentioned on the blog before.  If we ever move, I think I'll remember this house more for that poetic view than anything else.  "Remember how Dave's house looked at Christmas time?"  I'll probably say things like that.  And, remember how Dave actually raked?

Tonight I'll wrap presents with the tiniest bit of anxiety, wondering if and hoping that my children still believe in the magic of Christmas once they've opened the presents tomorrow.  I saw a rerun last night  - a behind-the-scenes look at The Grinch cartoon.  And a man said, "Everyone hates Christmas a little bit.  No one would dare deny that."  Now, if you've been hanging around the last few weeks, you know that I really like this time of year.  I believe in the magic so much that I seriously expect complete strangers to walk up and hand me money.  (They did last year!  Well, it was a diaper coupon, but if diapers are on your grocery list, believe me, that is MONEY, BABY.)  I think the sound of the Salvation Army bell is the loveliest of the season and the Merry Christmas said between us after I've dropped my money in, perfect in sincerity. 

But still, I understood what that guy said.  Because no matter how hard we try to make it about everything except the presents, it still becomes about them a little bit.  And wondering if my kids will still believe the magic after Christmas morning is always a little moment of angst for me.  

But on that note, you should see me the day after Christmas.  Ooh, I love that day.  All the gifts are unwrapped, and we're reveling in them.  My kids were grateful and happy and so full of magic that it's shooting from their fingers and their toes.  I'm looking forward to that.

Next time I write, Serenity Now will probably be dripping with New Yearsy thoughts - all that hope and new beginning stuff.  I'm kind of big on that.  So, consider this my Merry Christmas message.  Here's hoping you've got magic shooting from your fingers and toes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I have the best idea for the next season of Survivor

I went to Wal-Mart on the Saturday before Christmas.

These are the words of an insane person.  Except that I survived it, which makes me a conquerer.  Except I came out limping and crying, which makes me ridiculous.

I went in cheerful.  Just be calm, I told myself.  Just a few gifts to pick up.  You already know what they are.  The crowds are just other people full of Christmas spirit.  The carts are not attacking you.  But.  It.  Wore.  Me.  Down.  

It's my fault really, because I wore ridiculous shoes.  I don't know why I do that.  (Yes I do.  It's the whole life is too short thing.)  And I wasn't prepared for the check-out lanes.  They were almost my undoing.  After picking up my last item and rounding the corner for the check-out lanes, which may as well have been heaven itself, I saw the lines and gasped the dying breath of a mad woman.  I bought Advil, a candy bar, and a Diet Coke while in line.  Plus read an entire magazine, alphabetized the gifts I'd bought, had a long chat with my mother, and flossed.  (Okay, only the mom one is true between Diet Coke and flossing).  When I finally made it through, boosted only slightly by the fact that the check-out woman's day was going to be way worse than mine, I limped and sloshed my way through the filthy slush, threw my stuff into the car, walked the cart about a half-mile back to the cart-retriever place like the marathon runner finishing the final leg, and collapsed behind the wheel, hugging it like it was one of my children.

One crazy thing I noticed over and over, though, in every aisle, three layers deep - was that people were seriously happy.  I didn't run into one single person who wasn't smiling despite the chaos, and I'm pretty sure most of us were smiling because of it.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  I am not casually saving ANY of my shopping until that late next year if I can help it in any way, but still.  Even as we commiserated with each other and rubbed our temples and questioned our intelligence (only our own - no one challenged the intelligence of anyone else), we wished each other Merry Christmas and thoroughly, not-just-because-at-least-it-has-to-beat-this-day, meant it.  This is what I love about humanity.  

(Aside:  I'm putting up another picture from our family photo night, because I really kind of like this one but didn't end up using it.  I like Jake's crooked pose, the way he and Drew have matching gaps, and my poofy hair from having jumped into the chaos.)

But anyway, next year I plan to get all gushy towards humanity on the Saturday before Christmas by sitting in my own home in front of my gorgeous tree and just think about how great humanity can be.  I'll probably even smile at the thought of all those poor suckers discovering humanity the hard way.  

Happy Monday, everyone!  It's a happy one because there are only three more sleeps 'til Christmas.  (Which reminds me, Guy-on-the-phone-with-your-significant-other, you don't know me, but I met you in every other aisle of the toy section about twelve times - each time you were talking on the phone trying to figure what in the world to buy.  Please tell me you found something from that child's list you were talking about.  I was so moved by the fact that you were there, taking those toy aisle laps like a trouper, keeping your infant calm, and especially that you didn't cuss once.  Merry Christmas.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

not always what you picture

We had a little trouble capturing a Christmas card this year.  I wouldn't expect one if I were you.  Doesn't Drew (in the middle) look like he's starting a modeling career though?  Check out that perfect uncaring pout.  And believe me, it's a pose.  He was in a perfectly good mood here.  It was Jake's mood that threw things off, as evidenced in the second picture here in which Michael is holding Jake's teary face toward the camera.  Merry Christmas, indeed.

I can get kind of upset about things not turning out as I'd like them to.  But, I don't know, this year I just love these pictures.  And not like you love those blooper pictures that you try for - you know, "Now everyone look silly!"  No, these are seriously unfortunate pictures.  Not a one of them turned out pretty.  And I didn't care.  I was really tired that night.  But I find that today - when I'll probably choose the least appalling one and upload it to Walgreens - I still don't care.  

What I care about is how much we laugh together, whether or not we're understanding each other and focusing on the same important things in life, whether or not the kids feel loved.  You can't put that stuff in a Christmas picture.

So I gave up early on the picture-taking that night.  Between each shot, I swear, they were rolling around on the floor wrestling - arms and legs flailing, Jake getting cheered up by not being forced to perform for Pete's sake!  And then I would just click the timer on the camera and yell okay and they'd plop themselves into some sort of seated position while I squeezed into the mayhem.  After a few shots, I just got tired of stopping the fun.  

Christmas won't be perfect for any of us this year probably.  We'll cut corners and hang fewer lights and buy smaller presents.  With the chaotic pace of life, sometimes Christmas isn't as poetic as we want it to be.  The night I put up the nativity I found that with three small boys it's not as easy to capture the solemnity of the moment as we always did with Mom.  I ended up getting the box down and yelling to various rooms, "Everybody get in here!  Linus is telling the Christmas story, and we're all going to sit here and watch it!"  So they did.  And then they snatched at the shepherd and wise men and baby Jesus and plopped them on the shelf with excitement nowhere near solemnity.

And last night I had it in mind to watch It's a Wonderful Life.  I was determined it was the only way I could go to bed happy.  But we all went to the Y instead.  I took a yoga class, John had basketball practice, Jake found that heaven is a rec center play room.  We were there way too late to watch a movie afterwards.  And an evening at the Y is such a different picture than an evening in front of Jimmy Stewart with chocolate and angels getting their wings and such.  I mean we ended the night playing Ms. Pacman and Galaga for goodness sake.  

You just can't decide ahead of time what life is supposed to look like - even Christmas - and only be happy with that.  It's like our Christmas card I guess.  I'd rather live a great picture than take one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I went to school today and stumbled into a Christmas concert

If you stay around the school building in the morning, and it's the kind of weather when you have your windows rolled down, you hear the most adorable sound.  Over the loud speakers come these two little voices saying, "Good morning!"  Then they say their names and ask us to please join them in saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the Tiger Pledge.  The Tiger Pledge is a little vow to show respect and responsibility and best effort and all those good things.  I love hearing those little voices in the morning.

Well, last Friday should have been Drew's turn, but I got him to school late.  Today we were a little late again.  (I think Jared did it today, Sara!)  So I'm not sure but what he has missed his chance for good.  But anyway, I went inside to check with his teacher on something else and all the kids were streaming to the gym for a high school band concert.  So I was surprisingly serenaded with O Holy Night and a comical version of Twas the Night Before Christmas while Drew sat happily beside me and Jake chewed on a giant wad of bubble gum and grinned at Aunt Eva Jean who sat beside us.  It was a pretty decent start to any Monday, you gotta admit.

On the way home from a ball game last night (who knew third grade basketball could be so fun?) we stopped at a gas station where I plopped some Rolos on the counter.

"Chocolate fix?" the clerk asked me.

"Yep."  And it was.  A thoroughly emotional choice as I wasn't even hungry.

"Whatever it takes," he said kindly.

And I thought, whatever it takes indeed.  

See, I didn't have any trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  I've felt thoroughly magic clear to my toes since November 1.  Surprisingly, though, my budget wasn't feeling quite as Christmasy as me and hasn't been giving as generously as I would have liked.  It's like the economy is going under or something, although I'm sure that's not true.  So although it's been Christmas for weeks around here, December 25th has managed to plummet towards me like a giant snowball under which I feel I will soon be flattened.   I have way too much shopping left to do considering it is December 15th.  

And so, finally I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps Christmas is, like, too commercial or if perhaps the stores prey on our holiday spirit to get us to buy more, or if maybe - and this is a shot in the dark here - maybe there is a little something going on with the economy.  And all this threatens - like the giant snowball itself - to undo all of the happiness that Charlie Brown and Michael W. Smith have thus far established.  

So I say, whatever it takes.  I sit in the quiet at night in front of my lighted tree.  I listen to Christmas music nonstop from a variety of sources so you don't get - you know - "Jingle Bells backwards!" (Name that movie).  And I eat Rolos when I don't really need them.

An old friend of mine had an awesome Facebook status recently, "I'm glad the King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger, in all our trials born to be our friend."  That was all it took that moment.  And I was so thankful for it.  I refuse to let Christmas bowl me over.  It's way too easy to pause and finally get it.  You just gotta find what it takes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

if the Lord tarries

Mom knows a preacher who says that phrase, "If the Lord tarries," when he makes announcements and such.  You know, the meeting is tonight . . . if the Lord tarries.  

It has been a long time, don't you think?  Two thousand years ago - give or take - I know his disciples never would have guessed it would be this long.  It leaves a lot of room for doubt.  I like what Den said in the comments Wednesday, that Jesus left his legacy to people who had consistently failed him.  And sometimes that feels even more true than others.  Here we are, so many years later, trying to figure out just what he meant by coming at all - just what he was trying to say and to show us.  

"If the Lord tarries," seems to come from someone who really wishes that he wouldn't.  I heard a preacher speak on that once, that we should wish for Jesus' return more than we wished for anything.  I went to lunch that Sunday distraught.  I knew I didn't wish for that.  I wished for marriage and children and meeting new people and discovering new things.  I didn't want him to come and interrupt all that cool stuff life had to offer.  That's the famous day in our family history when I opened my fortune cookie after lunch, and it was blank.  (Was it blank, Mom, or completely empty?  I can never remember.)  Either way, it was eerie.  

Now I'm on the other side of some of the coolness and find that life has hardship too that would be nice to escape.  After 9/11 when my cousin was in a church in Pakistan that was bombed, I was thinking, "This might be a good time, Lord."  It seemed the world was falling apart.  But then, yet again, it didn't.  It didn't actually fall apart, and he didn't feel the need to swoop in and rescue us.  We keep stumbling about trying to figure out life and love (smile) and faith, and then we die and another generation is born to - it sometimes seems - start the learning process all over again.

It's bright and sunny here today, especially reflecting off the little patches of snow.  And something like the return of Jesus on clouds of glory always seems more possible on days like this.  But I find that despite everything in life - or actually, because of it - I still don't mind that he tarries (as perhaps a proper Christian should).  I really like the learning process of life.  It's so stressful in seasons but so rewarding when you come through them with something new discovered.

There were several good comments yesterday and Wednesday.  As Tracy H. pointed out (you can find her on the blog roll at Strengthened by Words), there is a lot of mystery and balance to our faith.  We struggle to find it between grace and works, love and justice, humility and understanding.  I'm not even sure there is perfect balance between them, or if perhaps we make up the balance by our differences.  Which is both trying - and oddly freeing, if you let it be.

This is one of my favorite movie quotes.  I'm convinced there's truth in it.

"If there's any kind of God, it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me, but just this little space in between.  If there's any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.  I know it's almost impossible to succeed.  But who cares really?  The answer must be in the attempt." 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the greatest of these

I heard the best phrase earlier this year.  A guest speaker at my sister's church was talking about that famous evangelical phrase, "Love the sinner, hate the sin."  The speaker went on to congratulate Christians everywhere, himself included, because we are so good at that phrase.  Especially the second part.  We're so good at the second part, in fact, that we really don't get around to the first.

His suggestion was to give up the hate.  Just try it.  For like a month or something.  "Love irresponsibly," he said.

How much do I love that phrase?  Very.  I keep trying to think of ways to apply it.  It's a tough one for Christians, because - well - besides the fact that it sounds like a slogan for teen pregnancy - it also flies right in the face of our fear that we could actually love someone right into hell.  Do you know this about us, Person we judge?  We're afraid that if we don't condemn you now, we condemn you forever.  And as for our own self-righteousness - and, Lordy, do we have some - it's not only that we think we can earn our way to heaven (although, I'm afraid that's in there), it's also that we have believed our own purity is the best way to reflect Him.  First Corinthians 13, aside.  ("If I speak God's word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing.")

I like the phrase love irresponsibly because it made me question that fear I used to have.  It made me wonder, if I believe I could love someone into hell, did I really understand what Love is?

I don't have this problem, for instance, with my children.  They can lie right to my face, the little devils, and moments later I want to wrap them in my arms and hold them 'til they smell like my shampoo.  I adore them.  I actually have total responsibility for their health, their understanding of right and wrong, and their happiness.  Actual responsibility.  It's in the contract you sign right next to their birth certificate.  I solemnly swear to feed them broccoli, hold their hand to cross the street, and apologize profusely if they point out obesity in the grocery store.  And yet I love them first and foremost without any thought for that other stuff.  It's why I give them cookies at bedtime and let them play football in the yard just five more minutes before they start their homework and strap 'em into mud boots and swimming trunks so they can treat the puddles like they were meant to be treated.

You know, Mom and Dad always used to teach people that disciplining your children is a greater love than spoiling them because it requires a greater denial of self (not to mention the fact that it shows a much greater love for the whole of society upon whom you'll eventually inflict your children).  That is certainly true.  But it's not the willing-to-discipline love that will motivate me when they make decisions I would not have made for them.  It's the cookies-at-bedtime love.  

I don't know, I just think this is the kind of love that would be worth considering with other humans on the planet as well.  I don't know for sure what it looks like.  But I'm pretty sure I've decided it's the way to be.  

And now I've put it out there.  I've taken another guy's words, packed it with my own emotions and agendas and put it out there for the world.  So go ahead, lay it on me.  What do you think about it?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

traditions are like the rules of Calvin-ball, you add new ones any time you want

My mom is really good at new traditions.  When I moved out, she debated over whether or not to send me with the long, narrow stocking that matched my siblings', which she'd hung every year for Christmas.  She ended up getting me a new one instead to take with me.  She's had to change a lot of traditions over the years.  And I never knew her to do it with very much sadness.  She's the one, you know, who keeps foolishly promising me that every stage of life is as wonderful as the next despite my determination to be blue at the thought that my poor children are growing so quickly.

This is a picture of a tradition she started several years ago.  One white gift bag for every family of my siblings and I for each day of December.  Our kids all have various methods for deciding who gets to open the package every day.  Mine have an elaborate process - one picks out the proper date and unties the ribbon, the other takes out the tissue paper for the big reveal.  The next day they switch.  Jake is - you know - also there.  

So today's ornament is from one of the packages.  It's the Grinch.  We also have an older Grinch ornament, so I gave them both some billing.

New and old.  I like life to be plenty stuffed with both.

Monday, December 8, 2008

if you think it's too early for Christmas, you better turn your head

We slayed a tree this weekend, shook its loose needles with a rumbling tractor, pulled it through some netting, and strapped it to the back of our truck.  

As we drove there, I was thinking about traditions and the fact that I've never really thought we had many.  There are lots of things we usually do but not many that we always do.  I think I was over-defining the term.  Because even though we will probably move to artificial at some point in the future, and even though last year we  waited too long and had to retrieve an already-slain tree from the ditch (i.e., the grocery store), Fouch's Christmas Tree Farm is definitely a family tradition.

 In my later high school years, Mom always had a beautiful department-store kind of tree, everything matching.  She put all our old homemade ornaments elsewhere and made the house look like Better Homes and Gardens.  Felic and I loved those trees.  We didn't have much love lost over the popsicle sticks from our elementary days.

Of course I intended to have a tree like that when I had my own home too.  So, what was I to do with all the Hallmark cartoon-like figurines that Michael brought to the party from his childhood?  I'm ashamed to say I put those ornaments on kind of reluctantly the first year. Then I tied wraphia bows around the edges and red balls to tie it all together, and it was absolutely gorgeous.  I remember feeling a little smug towards all those Caution Signs that marriage demands compromise.  If this is compromise, I thought, I'm going to be happy for EVER.

Now I love the unveiling of our Hallmark ornaments every year.  The kids get a new one each year from Grandma Bohon, and it's my favorite part of the tree.  I took some pictures and plan to put a new one up every day or so on the blog.  I know you won't really care, but I'm loving my tree - this year with a blue and silver theme - so much that I felt the blog needed some holiday spirit as well.

The first one up today?  Two little chipmunks in an acorn swing.  It says "Our First Christmas Together".  Can't you just see the happy compromise?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

why I blog at all

I've been wanting to do a post like this for a while, ever since a friend raised the question of my intent here, wondering if I expect input or perhaps don't enjoy it, whether I'm entertaining you or just perhaps myself.  Another friend thinking of starting a blog herself also asked me why I do it, and thinking about all the reasons why was just too fun.  So I thought I'd write them out here and see what other bloggers would add.  

Earlier this week, Drew turned around at the table where he was doing homework and said, "Hey, Mo-om.  Guess what one of my spelling words is this week?  WRITER!"  You can't imagine how it thrilled me to know that he had any comprehension at all that I would care about that.  He must actually consider me one of those, despite the fact that he's 7, so he doesn't exactly browse the blogging community, and there isn't a single book in Barnes and Noble with my name on it.  

And that is the first reason I blog.  Because I wanted to write.  A good friend said of me when I was in high school that I wrote well but hadn't yet found my voice.  "How the heck do you find that?" I asked my mom.  And she said, "You find it in your grocery list.  And all kinds of other common things you can write every day.  Keep doing them, and eventually you find your voice."  I thought a blog would be even better than a grocery list. 

Also, I wanted to write for people.  When I was just writing for myself, it was too easy to skip it.  I heard on the radio the other day, "We judge ourselves by what we are capable of, but others judge us by what we have already done."  Another thing my mom always said was to "discipline your art".  Too many people out there "should" or "would" or "probably could", and not enough do.  You have to put some work into it if you want to produce anything of worth.  I thought having readers would be a good way to make myself keep writing, even when it seemed easier to quit.

Blogging is hugely, hugely, ginormously self-indulgent.  I'm well aware of that.  The other day Drew was telling John about a girl he likes.  The only thing I know of her is that she has freckles.  And this is what he said, "I hope I recognize her my whole life."  Having a blog gives me permission to write down things like that.  And you kind people read it.  Me?  Self-indulged.

But my hope, and another reason I keep doing it, is that it will also entertain or move you.  That at some point at least someone will say, "I totally get that."  A part of me has this crazy need to find the common denominators in humanity.  I want to discover and record the way I feel about things with the delusion that at least some of them will make all of humanity nod its head, "Ah, yes.  We totally get it too."  There have to be some things like that.  The thrill and the ache of being a parent, the need for love, dreaming big.  I keep writing and writing and writing - just hoping something I say will get that big universal nod.  Indulge much?  Yes, I already told you that.  But if I get a nod here and there, then I figure I have given as well as received.

So that's why I  blog.  I started it for me.  I keep it up for you . . . and me.

How about the rest of you bloggers?  Or maybe those of you considering it.  What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the gap ad you've been waiting for

So I've had a little trouble capturing the gap.  Here's Jake getting a hair cut last night.  He sat perfectly still, but do you really think I feel like grinning now, Mom?

Then I tried again tonight.  Say cheese, Jake!  Mom, are you kidding me with this?

But anyway, we got it eventually.  

So we're watching the ol' claymation Santa movie as I write this.  I get a little edgy about Santa every year.  I love it, and we do it, but I struggle with the fear that my kids will eventually think of it simply as a big lie we told them throughout their childhood.  I'm well aware that most kids just sort of grow up out of it, play along for several years, and never get all that traumatized by it.  But we're talking about my children here.  I've told you about Drew, right?  The dramatic one with all the sensitivity and crazy clever questions and, again, drama.  There's no way that dude's easing out of the Santa phase without some sort of a scene.

But here's my hope - that at some point in their youth, even if they realize the absurdity of some of the details they may have been believing, they will also realize that if Christmas promises anything, it promises magic.  I'm not being all ethereal and poetic here.  I just mean the whispering of secrets, the fact that at least someone during this season will surprise you.  They'll have a gift more perfect than you had imagined or be someone you didn't even know was thinking of you.  You're sure to feel a rush of joy every time you drop a coin in the salvation army bucket or give a coat to the coat drive.  There might be carolers outside your door.  Seriously, a crowd of people standing in your lawn serenading you.  Any season that encourages that is seriously magic.  

There was a group of them at HyVee tonight.  That's what put me in this magic frame of mind.  If you read the blog very much, you may know that I have a completely irrational abhorrance for grocery shopping.  Bumping into the sound of carolers at the West end of every aisle really brightened the entire experience though.  That and having all three rambunctious boys with me.  You just can't take yourself too seriously with three boys bouncing around you wheeling their kid size carts like they're in a go-kart race.

So that's what I hope.  That the belief in Santa will turn into a belief in the magic and the thrill of giving it as much as receiving.  My favorite part of the Christmas story is how common it is - a poor man, a plain girl, a manger, regular old shepherds, animals.  But then there were angels.  Actual angels, visible and audible and filling the sky and telling the shepherds to go join the tableau that now sits on our mantles every year.  You know what that was?  It was magic.  And I look for it every year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

on church going and communion

It's hard to find a church.  The church we've been to the last several Sundays has a few things I really love, and it has things we're unsure about.  Michael and I don't even agree on some things.  It's easier not to go at all.  

But still, yesterday I got up compelled to go again.  I want to go somewhere so much.  At this church it's the music and communion that keep me coming back.  The music is contemporary like I'm used to.  I love hymns.  Love them.  But there's something about the kick of the bass drum and hum of the electric guitar.  My previous pastor said you will tend to always find God best in the way that you first met him.  Maybe that's why I like the style of music we had in my church as a girl.

But the other thing that keeps me going back - is the communion.  I first really learned to appreciate communion at a big church in another town.  I knew almost no one there, and it moved me immeasurably to watch so many faces stream towards the cup, dip their bread in it, and be told it was the body and blood of Christ broken and shed for them.  At the church we've visited lately, they do communion every single Sunday.  So no matter what you think of the sermon or the electric guitar or the announcements in the bulletin, you get that moment where you center on what it is we all believe.  They don't even do the beautiful communal cup with actual wine.  It's regular old grape juice in a plastic cup, and you drink it with a cracker the size of a Tic Tac.  You do it in your own seat at your own pace, reflecting on the sacrifice you believe was made for you for as long or as little as you need before you partake.  I miss the streaming of people to the front.  But yesterday, after I had taken it, I looked up and watched as people throughout the room took their bread and ate it and then raised the cup to their lips.  One here, one there, two or three at a time.

It's my favorite part.  I think somehow despite all our differences about church, all our various reasons for why people should go to church at all and what a church should do and preach and be, in that moment I get why we go.  I get why we want to be somewhere together celebrating what we believe.  I used to have much fancier reasons to give.  And I think for some churches that moment of clarity comes through other means than communion.  But for me, for now, that's when it comes.  I like how the taste lingers afterwards.  Sometimes I think it's a crazy tale on which we're hanging all our hopes.  It's a little bit Hollywood to think one man paid a price for us all that secured our place with God in some sort of paradise for all eternity.  But I believe it.  And I like being surrounded by other people believing it too and drinking that juice and eating that tiny cracker with the reverence only that belief could produce.