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My Talking Phone

My phone woke me last night at midnight.  Only it wasn’t ringing.  It talked in a bossy woman’s voice, something about resetting the time.  Earlier in the evening, we’d had a momentary power outage and that provoked the phone.  Sure, I noticed the blinking “CL”–whatever that means–but I didn’t think it would wake me up by speaking in a woman’s voice.  But it did.

I woke with a start and flapped around, slapping all the buttons, poking around at the handset and finally settling back to sleep.  Then it happened again at 3:00 a.m. . . . and I repeated my stellar performance, blindly swinging at the base before flopping back on my pillow.  I spent the rest of the night in anxious suspense, waiting for the phone to demand to be reset.

I read a book (Derailed) the last couple of days.  The story was fast-paced and sleazy, really, but what really bothered me was the author’s frequent use of sentence fragments.  For instance, he’d end a paragraph with something like this:  “Waiting for the train to pull into the station.” 

I find that sort of writing so distracting.  (Because I am such a famous published novelist, I can judge these things.  Ha.)

Anyway, it was a quick read.  I thought I’d improve my mind by reading Henry James’ “Portrait of a Lady,” but now I’m worried a little because the introductory notes are complicated and I feel like I’m a high school sophomore facing required reading.

All the same, I’m going to read on.  But not tonight. 

Tonight, I have muffled the phone–well, pushed a button that made the “CL” stop blinking–and hopefully, we’ll have a silent night.

November 1! Candy wrappers everywhere!

I woke up at 6:30 a.m., annoyed to be awake.  I don’t have to be awake until 7:30 a.m. and yet I opened my eyes and was awake.  So, I did what any self-respecting sloth would do.  I got up, peed, and went back to bed where I fell into a confusing dream and woke up exhausted forty-five minutes later.

I have not adjusted to the time change.

Empty candy wrappers appear on the floor, like magic.  I tend to think it’s better to let the children gorge themselves and then we can be done with it.  I’m going to sort and purge the candy stash tonight when everyone’s gone to bed . . . I can get rid of the sticky, hard candies no one likes and hide some of the chocolates away for Christmas stockings.  (I just read that tip in Rocks in My Dryer.)

I’m minus one extra kid today which makes today seem like a holiday.  No negotiating truces between four-year olds, no insisting that they be nice and stop screaming.  It’s funny how the addition or subtraction of one child can change the dynamic of a group–and it hardly even matters which kid it is.

November 1.  Happy birthday to my long-time friend Lisa, who doesn’t have a blog even though she is one of the most insightful and hilarious women I know.  (I ought to collect her emails into an anthology, publish it and get rich, rich, rich!)  I met Lisa when I was nineteen and in college, though we didn’t become friends right away as we were busy pining over the same boy who ended up being a waste of our time.  (But was so cute.  And tall.  And did I mention he was a drummer?)

Lisa and I were roommates the summer of 1985 when we both worked for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Heritage USA in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Lisa did her best to transform our dorm room (a converted Motel 6, complete with aqua shag carpet) into a cozy place.  Her secret?  Lots of low-wattage lamps.  She has a flair for decorating. 

She has far better hair than I ever will and is willing to devote enough time to making it look perfect.  (I am lazy when it comes to my hair.)  She was the Queen of Hot Rollers back in college.  Such springy, bouncy hair she had!

Lisa is vivacious, energetic, passionate and hard-working.  She has three boys, roughly the age of my own boys, and meets the challenge of parenting with humor and persistence.  She juggles working and parenting and ministering with grace and skill.

One spring night in 1986, we borrowed a car from our friend, Diane, and went out for pizza.  While chatting and picking at the cheese, one of us suggested that we ought to drive to Tulsa from Springfield.  This was a three-hour drive and we had a curfew, yet we proclaimed it a brilliant plan!  We’d surprise the college men we knew who lived in Tulsa once we got there!  What fun, right?  (We didn’t even ask Diane if we could take her car three hours away.)

We arrived late, ten, I suppose, maybe later.  I called my now-husband and announced my arrival.  He told me later that he’d just returned home from a date (with another girl!).  He agreed to meet me at Denny’s.  Then I called Lisa’s now-husband, but not-yet-boyfriend, John, and asked him to meet me at Denny’s to discuss Lisa.  I told him I was very worried about her.  (A bold-faced lie!)

He met us there, too.  Surprise!  Surprise!  Lisa and I found our spontaneous appearance in Tulsa hilarious.  The boys?  Not quite so much.  But I did wrangle an agreement out of my now-husband that we’d date that upcoming summer.  (Oh, boy, long story there that I probably never told you and it’s probably too long to go into . . . . but let’s just skip to the summer of 1987 and say we lived happily ever after.  And Lisa and John were married the summer of 1988.)

(And yes, we totally missed our curfew–I think we simply stayed out all night and sneaked back in when the dorm opened at 6:00 a.m.)

Anyway, it’s Lisa’s birthday and I’m thinking about her today.  Her husband took her away to a spa until tomorrow so she can turn forty-five in peace and luxury.

Meanwhile, I’m also thinking about a nap.  These jaunts down memory lane are exhausting. 

Happy Trick-or-Treating

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On Tolerance

So, let’s see.  I mentioned that I wanted to talk about the intolerance of people toward Christians.  This post linking to another post written by a woman who was dismayed (horrified?  discomfited?) to be attending a barbecue with a bunch of Christians (who had the nerve not to serve alcohol) sparked my reaction.  That, and the Joan Rivers “Before Melissa Pulls the Plug” comedy special I paused on while channel-surfing the other night.  (Then again, Joan Rivers says outrageous things about everyone, so how can anyone be offended by that?) 

I understand about being uncomfortable around people who are different than you, so the woman who spent her afternoon at the barbecue feeling out of place gets my sympathy.  After all, I live in one of the states where more people do not attend church than do. 

“The idea that Seattle or this part of the country is a bastion of liberalism and tolerance and open-mindedness is baloney,” Gallant says. “It is just self-absorbed and trendy. These people are, in fact, very intolerant to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They want people of faith out here to be silent about their beliefs.”

The Rev. Bill Keeton, 48, pastor of the tiny, yellow-frame Chapel of Grace in Olympia, dubs secular Washington “downright anti-religious.”

“Charting the Unchurched in America,” (USA Today) says:

The majority of Americans, 81% according to ARIS, still do claim a religion. They represent a counterargument to the theory that the more developed a country — in education, occupations, science and technology — the more its people move away from religion, says Ronald Inglehart, who heads the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

Americans break the mold. Inglehart says, “Even if you look at the easiest measure of religiosity — church attendance — the USA has 30% to 32% per week depending on which poll you look at, but comparably wealthy countries in Northern Europe have 5% to 15%.”

So, eighty-some percent claim a religion (all religions, not just Christianity), but only thirty-some percent go to church.  (Far less than that in my region.)  I’m one of them.

I am accustomed to being mocked on television, on the internet, in print media.  Christians are accused of intolerance (and downright stupidity) by those who refuse to tolerate Christian belief systems.  It’s kind of funny, really, that those who claim to be tolerant of lifestyles and differing beliefs cannot tolerate Christians because of their perceived intolerance.

At least I find it funny.  And offensive on occasion.

However, I try not to take offense at the illogical meanderings of people who don’t realize how intolerant they are.  I assume those people have no idea what they are talking about, since most people are frighteningly ignorant of the overall message of the Bible and what a Christian is really like.  Joan Rivers wouldn’t know a beatitude if it hit her upside the head, after all, so we can overlook her insensitivity to Christians.  (Blessed are the meek.)

I really do believe actions speak louder than words, so I figure I don’t need to defend myself or other Christians.  But every once in awhile, my eyes roll so far back in my head that I have to say something lest my eyeballs get stuck in that position.  That explains this post.  My eyeballs were lodged way up under my eyelids.  This ought to shake them loose.

Some of you mentioned in comments that Christians are also very intolerant of other Christians.  That’s true, I suppose, though I think there’s probably a better word than “intolerance” to describe the differences between various Christian denominations and factions.  Sure, there are vast disagreements between Christian groups, but disagreeing with something doesn’t imply intolerance (“unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs”.) 

(Yes, I quibble about semantics quite often.  So?)  

I have been in Christian circles my whole life–my maternal grandfather was a preacher, my uncles are ministers, my mother met my father at Bible college–I attended church three times a week until adulthood . . . and seven times a week in college (mandatory chapel every weekday and mandatory attendance at church on weekends).  So, I have church-cred

And I’m telling you that the view from here, from the life of a pastor’s wife–who never, ever mentions that fact to strangers lest they suddenly begin to censor themselves and apologize for their language and start to look for an emergency exit–from here, it sure looks like those who champion tolerance can barely tolerate me.

Which, you have to admit, is irony at its finest.

You can accuse me of a lot things–setting back the feminist movement, for instance, by ironing my husband’s pants–but please don’t accuse me of intolerance or assume that because I’m a Christian I’m a party-pooper.  (I’m a party-pooper because I’m an introvert, which has nothing to do with my religion.) 

The tolerant among us should have no problem with my assertion that I am right because doesn’t tolerance demand that you tolerate me, even if you disagree with me?  Otherwise, that makes you intolerant, huh? 

I could go in circles forever, pointing out that people who cry “intolerant!” and point an accusing finger are intolerant of the intolerant . . . but it’s boring me.  So it must be boring you. 

The end.

The Photo Shoot

Saturday morning found me heading north on I-5 by 8:30 a.m.  I needed to be in Ballard by 10:00 a.m.  According to Mapquest, the journey would take an hour and twelve minutes and I did not want to be late. 

Traffic through Seattle was light, despite the pockets of fog which obscured the city skyline.  I concentrated on staying in the correct lane, which is tricky with all the sudden “Exit Only” signs as you hurtle along the freeway. 

I found the house (“last of three mid-century brick homes on the right”) easily, but since it was only 9:30 a.m., I retraced my route and stopped at a Fred Meyer where I bought a People magazine and gum.  By the time I returned to the house, it was 9:59 a.m. 

I walked up the steps and knocked on the door.  Actually, Kathryn may have opened it before I knocked, come to think of it.  Both she and Tara welcomed me as if I were a friend, not simply the subject of the photo shoot they’d been hired to do.  They both had shoulder length brown hair, teeth that would make any dentist proud and wide-open smiles.

I felt at ease, which surprised me.  I kept waiting to feel nerves, to blurt out something stupid, to develop a facial tic.  But I didn’t.  Kathryn suggested we first look at the clothing she bought and so I followed her down a short hallway to a bedroom.  The bed had an array of blue tops and two pairs of pants, one gray with pin-striping and one khaki.  She draped two shirts over the pants and asked me to try them on.  “They want to show off your figure,” she said.  

I joked that I’d brought industrial strength undergarments, so she laughed.  It was a good thing I’d brought them, let’s just say.

So, we decided on an outfit.  (Rather, they decided.  I just followed their suggestions.) 

Then, Tara began her magic.  We sat facing each other while she smeared and dabbed and painted on my face.  I couldn’t help but notice her toothpaste-commercial perfect teeth.  She wore little make-up, if any, but had a dazzling smile and a zest for her job. 

And so we made small-talk for an hour and a half while she concealed and enhanced and made me look natural. 

Tara mentioned she was 44 years old, though I never would have guessed that from looking at her.  She told me that she’d worked in road construction and as a model earlier in her life.  Kathryn chatted, too, while she set up lights and a backdrop and checked settings on her camera.  She occasionally disappeared into the kitchen to fuss over her elderly, immobile dog.

I am sure I was just a job to them, but I savored the chance to glimpse into these lives so different from mine, and yet parallel in some ways.  (We live in the same area.  We are similar ages.  We’ve found work we’re passionate about.  We are all mothers.) 

The worst part, of course, was standing in front of the camera, trying to look natural, happy and photogenic.  Kathryn would crack a joke or I’d relay a story or Tara would grin her perfect smile and I’ve laugh and the camera would click.  Then, “okay, relax left leg . . . chin forward and down . . . can you clasp your hands behind your back?”  Or they’d both rush at me to smooth my hair or fiddle with my pant legs or pull up my sleeves ever so slightly. 

Oh!  And the funny this is that I didn’t wear my newly purchased mid-rise, boot-cut, lighter-washed jeans or my new boots . . . because they were brown.  I wore Kathryn’s black boots which happened to be my size.

So, I tried to grin.  Kathryn stood on a little stool, so I told her about having my son stand on a ladder to take a picture of me from above so I’d look thinner.  (She wore a wide black belt with a sturdy silver buckle around her size-8 jeans and a black shirt.  Bare feet.  I doubt she’s ever insisted someone stand on a ladder to take a picture of her so she looks thinner!)

I stood in her living room, a clutter-free, bright, cheery room with a giant photographer’s light on my right and a fill-light reflector (I think that’s what it’s called) on my left.  Pinkish rug under my feet, faintly Asian themed.  Luminous wood floors, not a hint of dust anywhere.

Our lives intersected in those three hours and then, she was done.  I changed back into my baggy black shirt and lavender sweater and Gap jeans and thanked them.  As we said good-bye, Tara said, “You are so pretty,” which I took with a grain of salt since she’d told me earlier about seeing beauty in whatever is before her.  (Which is a lovely way to view the world, I have to say.)

All in all, I have to say that meeting both Kathryn, the photographer, and Tara, the make-up artist, was a great pleasure and I’m not just saying that because I told them I write a blog and they may someday find this.  Honestly, spending a Saturday morning with strangers in a Ballard brick home was fun.  Who’d have guessed?

(She showed me one picture in her digital camera and I felt revolted, but perhaps they’ll Photoshop me and I’ll be unrecognizable and as pretty as Tara said.  And I will tell you where you can see those pictures, too, at a later date.  I promise.)

Preparing To Be Shot

I am going to talk about the topics I touched on last night . . . but not tonight.

Earlier tonight, I went shopping for jeans, a blue shirt and boots–with a heel!–to wear with the jeans.  This shopping excursion went against everything I stand for.  For one, I started at Nordstroms where I actually accepted the salesgirl’s offer of help.  I told her what I needed and she helped me pick out six pairs of jeans to try on.  (Normally, I shop the clearance rack at Marshall’s.)

I’m just glad that the jeans that looked the best weren’t the ones that cost $158!  I settled on a baby blue cable-knit sweater after trying on a dozen shirts in various shades of blue.  I purchased clothing at full-price.  (Ack!)

Then, I went to Macy’s where I ignored my instincts to pick comfortable shoes, flat shoes, shoes with rubber soles . . . and bought a pair of boots, kind of like these.  I bought them specifically to go with the long jeans.  (At least they were twenty bucks off.)

Why?  Good question.  On Saturday, I have a photo shoot (with a “blue color palette.”)  That’s why I was desperate to get my hair cut and highlighted . . . I will be posing for pictures.  This freaks me out, especially in light of this post by Quinn Cummings who recently endured a photo shoot.  I have actively avoided cameras for the past fifteen years, but I am willingly driving to Seattle and wearing heels on boots to have my picture taken.

Clearly, I’ve lost my mind.

Also, I’ve lost 48.4 pounds as of today. 

When you have nothing to say, pass the microphone to someone else.

It’s 11 p.m. and the reason I haven’t written anything yet today is that I really have nothing to write about.  No wasps have stung.  I haven’t solved the puzzle of “fling, flang, flung.”  And for that matter, why can’t we say, “The wasp stang me?”  Huh?  Tell me that!

By the way, I wonder what the difference is between a wasp and a yellow jacket?  The television news just reported that a swarm of yellow jackets stung a bunch of high school seniors who were posing for a class picture today.  A student unwittingly stepped on a nest.  Perhaps we have yellow jackets in our yard, not wasps.

Now, if you are looking for something more interesting to read by someone who is way smarter than me and about ten times more adventurous, you ought to go check out Stacy’s blog, Smoov.  She also takes amazing pictures, works full-time, attends school (perpetually), and has a genius pre-teen girl and darling twin boys.  Go and read her blog . . . but don’t forget to come back. 

By then, maybe I’ll actually discuss something of substance, like the intolerance of non-Christians towards Christians I keep noticing or my recent realization that I mistrust most people or the fact that these days, if you are a virgin (or were a virgin when you married) you are considered to be some sort of freak. 

Meanwhile, go visit Stacy and tell her I sent you.  (She’s one of the original women who started blogging with me three years ago.)   Stacy rocks. 

Untitled Just Because

Today the half-day of school was canceled because the power was out at the school.  However, we had power here at home.  So, all my boys had the day off and they spent their free time bickering, arguing and annoying one another and thus, annoying me.

I made the 13-year old twins watch “Schoolhouse Rock” on DVD as their “school” for the day.  And later, they chose to watch a Disney movie, “Robin Hood,” for awhile.  My daughter spent most of her time this morning outside, chasing and running and pretending.  Despite the fifty-something degree temperatures, she refused to wear even a jacket.  This child does not get cold.

I spent my day pondering the absence of the word “flang” in the English language.  If you have “sing, sang, sung,” why don’t you have “fling, flang, flung”?  I cannot let this conundrum go.

Stream of Consciousness, Mom-Style

I should say something.  Or answer some of the 151 email in my box.  (Is “email” the plural of “email”?  Or would it be “emails”?  Stuff to ponder.) 

Or I could work on one of the Bible-time costumes I’m in charge of creating for the Saturday night extravaganza.  I came up with something unbelievably creative to wear–you’ll just have to wait so it doesn’t spoil the surprise–and also, my husband will be wearing something spiffy, but I have to create both of them.  (Get to, have to, what’s the difference?)

But not today.

My husband’s making dinner tonight and furthermore, he bought a blender so he could make the boys milkshakes for dessert.  When he slid the box onto the kitchen counter, I flung open (fling?  flang?  flung?) the cupboard door and said, “But we have an awesome blender, right there!”  An Oster, for the record, a shiny silver one.  He said, “The boys said ours doesn’t work and I said, “It does work!  It works perfectly!”  And he said, “Dear, don’t spoil our fun,” and “The kids are only home for a few short years,” and I shut up.

Now, we own two blenders.  Too bad we don’t drink Margaritas. 

Um, so, earlier today, just after I finished posting on my other blog, my daughter began banging on the patio door, hysterical and screaming.  I jumped to the door in one giant leap and opened it . . . she was yelling about her friend who had a bee in his shoe and he ambled and sobbed, apparently incoherent with terror. 

“Is it still in there?” I asked.

He shook his head, clutched a rock and drooled as he cried louder.  I sat him on the stair, intending to take off his shoes to check for a sting and found two wasps clinging to the crotch of his pants.  I swept them off and yanked him away from the stairs because another wasp dive-bombed us.  My daughter, meanwhile, is unharmed, yet is shrieking with sympathy terror.  The boy continued to scream.

I shoved my daughter inside, then pulled the boy in and closed the door.  I said again, “Is the bee in your shoe?”  And he said, “No!” but pointed to his waist.  I said, “Did it sting you there?” and he nodded and a bit of drool dripped down.  I pulled the waistband down for a good look and there was a live wasp, crawling out of his pants.

I screamed, my daughter screamed louder, the boy cried out in greater fear.  I opened the door and dragged him out, closing my daughter inside.  I pulled his clothes off, leaving only his Spiderman underpants.  Then back inside the house.

I was examining the place where he was stung and asked him if his mouth itched.  (He’s a very allergic kid and I was afraid he’d have a bad reaction.)  The phone rang, so I answered and with racing heart, began telling my husband what had happened.  We were still all breathless from the excitement.

And then I felt a sting on the top of my foot.  I said, “I just got stung!”  I knew immediately, even though I had never before been stung in my 41 years on this earth.  I was wearing black, wool, plush scuff-type slippers, so I began to smash my right foot on top of my left foot to kill the wasp which had to be inside my slipper.  Then I opened the door, kicked my slippers outside and peeled off my sock.

Ouch!  That hurt!  A wasp must have burrowed into my slipper while I was outside flicking other wasps off the boy.

When I took him to the kitchen to get a band-aid (a cure-all for every sort of injury if you are four years old), I found Solarcaine, so sprayed a little on my foot to see whether it would numb the pain.  It helped a bit, so I prepared to spray the boy’s stung spot and my daughter burst into fresh, loud sobs–“DON’T SPRAY HIM!  DON’T SPRAY HIM!”  She thought it would hurt.

The boy began to cry afresh, too.

But I sprayed him.  He assured her it didn’t hurt.

(I just heard a neighbor say to my boys, “Are you going to come to my birthday party?”  My boy says, “When?” and the neighbor says, “Today!” and something about Chuck-E-Cheese’s.  Uh, hello?  No advanced warning?  No.  I don’t think so.)

My foot still hurts.  Perhaps I ought to start drinking Margaritas.

A Movie Review

Dear Lady in the Front Row with the Baby,

Don’t feel bad about your baby who cried three times during the 123 minute showing of Marie Antoinette.  I felt like crying, too, because that was the most boring movie of all time. 

Signed,

Annoyed in the back row

 *  *  *

Dear Lady to the Right Who Made So Much Noise Snacking That I Thought Perhaps You Didn’t Realize You Were at a Movie and Not At Home,

You are an idiot.  I would have told you so, too, had I not feared that you perhaps carry a concealed weapon.  But, honestly, you inconsiderate lout, why must you rattle your candy and fondle the wrapper louder than an attacking rattlesnake?  Are you hearing impaired?  Or just stupid?

Sincerely,

Miss Manners

*  *  *

Dear Sofia Coppola,

I hate, hate, hate the soundtrack for your dull movie, Marie Antoinette.  Perhaps I am not your demographic, but that does not matter to me.  I hate it.  Your movie’s costumes, however, were pretty, but satin alone does not an interesting movie make.  I want my money back.

From,

The 41-year old Housewife in the Suburbs

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