Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh, My Heart

Oh internets, I am so sad. A wonderful woman whose kids I used to nanny for lost her battle with cancer today. Her daughters are in high school now and I'm so glad she had the extra years with them that treatment afforded her. But it's so heartbreaking to think of them without her, and their father, losing his best friend. It hurts more now that I know what they're losing. I can see why people would think being alone in the world is a better choice than loving people you might lose. I don't know how I would go on if I didn't believe that the end of this life is not the end, but the beginning of something far greater.


You guys, I had the best Thanksgiving evaar.

The Saturday night before, with the kids, we had a mini rotisserie turkey breast plus other fixin's that I bought from the store instead of cooking. It was simple and last-minute and when we each took a turn saying what we were thankful for Daphne said, "I'm thankful that Jess is part of our family." And then I died of happiness because I so do not deserve everything I've been given.

Sunday the kids went to their mom's for the week.

Wednesday Todd and I cleaned the holy hell out of the apartment and then went out and finally acquired some couches. We have been sitting on the removable minivan seat and our one easy chair up until now. Also lots of pillows and the floor.

By the time T's mom and brother arrived late Thursday afternoon our little place looked homier than ever. It's amazing what a couch, loveseat & coffee table/decrepit antique steamer trunk can do for a living room. We built a fire in the fireplace, I made fried rice with orange chicken (thank you, Trader Joe's) and we spent the evening talking, laughing and watching a perfectly horrendous movie that traumatized every single one of us for life. You don't even want to know what it was, believe me. Then we laughed some more about the movie and how dumb we were to watch it knowing how awful it would be. Then Todd and his mom competed for who could say the most inappropriate thing. Todd won. His mom apologized to me for creating a monster but I told her it is natural for an exceptionally gifted student to surpass even his teacher and when it comes to making inappropriate jokes Todd is unrivaled. That's why I like him so much. I secretly enjoy making angry eyebrows and giving stern disapproving looks while I'm laughing on the inside.

Friday Todd and I (after a sputtering start in which Todd asked if I had started on the turkey and I told him snottily that if he wanted to feed his relatives that was no concern of mine and why didn't he start the turkey) jointly made a delicious Thanksgiving feast consisting of turkey, (awesomely) mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry glop, corn and (wait for it) brussels sprouts. I ate all of it, even the vegetables. Apparently if you drench anything in bacon it tastes at least 20 times better. Then we ate pie, sat around and clutched our stomachs and moaned, watched Harvey, and had jolly adult conversations that we couldn't have had with the kids around. All in all if we had to be apart from the kids on Thanksgiving it was lovely to be able to appreciate it with some grown up time. Of course, T and I never quite managed to get our planned "date night" in but the trade off (couches) was totally worth it.

Saturday night the kids came home and our wee family was reunited.

Saturday we rested and thought about how good life is just now.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 20/21: Drunk History

Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → What historical figure would you like to meet?

= What historical figure would you like to meet on drugs and alcohol?

I like drunk historians. Like these. *warning, vile language and graphic imagery, including drunk puking, is involved, but it's totally worth it.*

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Need to Make Me Some Dayum Friends

I like Modesto. When you say "I'm moving to Modesto" to people in the SF bay area, my home for the last 5 years, they generally wrinkle their noses like something smells funny and roll their eyes in mock horror and sympathy. But then the bay area is really snooty and snobby (not my friends, of course, but the area in general*) and I never really felt like I fit in there anyway, so I don't have a problem admitting that I like Modesto. Even though there are only 23 Starbucks locations and some of the playgrounds have missing equipment and instead of paying immigrants to clean my house I live in the apartment next door to them and send my kids to school with theirs.

*And still I feel the need to point out that I know many, many wonderful people, both with money and without, in the bay area and I'm not talking about any of them. Do you hear me people who read my blog? I swear on all that it holy that I am not talking about you so please stop being offended. There's this.. attitude... of keeping up a certain standard and that's what I'm referring to. I was just as much a slave to it as anyone else when I lived there.

So I like it here, but I'm not sure how to fit in here any better than I did in  San Fransiscan suburbia. When the other moms wear pajamas to the bus stop, the need to keep up a bay area appearance (My version of this consists of putting pants on and occasionally wearing a bra. Also I glance in the mirror to make sure my hair isn't sticking up. This would not actually fly in Palo Alto or Cupertino but it makes me feel really fancy and overly fussy here in Modesto) doesn't exactly aid one in making friends. The other day we were late for the bus and the bus driver scolded me for not being at the bus stop 5 minute early. It was kind of demoralizing, but due to my humiliation I had an entire conversation about bus times with the woman who normally avoids eye contact with me. I was so excited- maybe we can be friends and braid each others hair and have slumber parties!! But today she ignored me again and talked on her phone so she wouldn't have to interact (I am pretty sure that was the reason she was talking on her phone because the world is all about me and surely she cannot have had anything legitimate to talk on the phone about no that would be ridiculous) with me just because I was wearing pants. The fact that the kids were in pajamas and bathrobes apparently did nothing to balance this out.

It was pajama day at school.

Normally I make them wear clothes.


I don't want to be a snob. I don't think I'm better than anyone else. But I am shy and awkward and weird in new places & with new people and I am further unsure about my present precarious perch on the societal ladder. I am a stepmother in practice but officially they're just "my boyfriend's kids." I feel the need to casually work the fact that I am not their biological mother- that they have a biological mother and I'm not it- into conversations with teachers, school secretaries, neighbors... everyone, really. Then I feel oddly ashamed of the fact that I'm attending parent-teacher conferences/ talking to teachers about homework/making doctor's appointments for them because who do I think I am. This makes me even more awkward and weird and I usually end up walking away from conversations feeling like I convinced the person I was talking to not to be my friend.

It sucks.

I love my perfect little family. But I need some outside friends. Do you live in Modesto? Do you wanna be my friend? I braid some mean hair.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Da Stomach Monster

At long last, I give you Todd in his internet debut:

See the reasoning behind this madness here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 18: 'Cause I Said So

Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.

Oh yay- controversy!!! Or not. Because I'm not really in the mood to make a bigger deal about this than I feel it ought to be. People who love each other and want to get married should be able to. That's all I got to say about that.

30 Days of Truth, 17: Read to Change

Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

I'm supposed to pick just one? I love to read. Anybody who knows me knows this. I stuck mainly to fiction growing up but at some point when I was in my twenties I discovered that well written non-fiction* can be as gripping as the best novels. I read everything- biography, anthropology, sociology, history, medical narrative, essays, true crime, theology... I especially love books where the author delves into an obscure subject and makes it fascinating to me. Parrot behavior, anyone? The world of orchid enthusiasts? How about the Great Hurricane of 1938?

Entering another world by reading a good book is always wonderful. But I think the greatest thing about being a reader is the opportunity it offers to learn. I've learned as much through reading as I have through living. I've learned a lot more through living because of what I learned from books. I've read many, many books that changed my opinions, or ideals, or the way I see the world, but I think the one I want to write about today is Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey. I mentioned it here with the intention of going on to list other books that had influenced me, but of course I never got around to it (I do that. I'm one of those people who puts things off. I'm pretty sure there's a word for that. I plan to look it up, later.).

Yancey's one of those incredibly rare Christian writers who writes with complete honesty. He disregards the taboos and sacred cows of cultural Christianity to ask the questions one seldom hears in church. I should clarify that Yancey's disregard is never for the people who hold these ideas sacred. He asks uncomfortable questions, but in a gentle respectful manner, with complete honesty regarding his own failings and always holding himself accountable for their answers. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Soul Survivor was an eye-opening read for me. I've found that in my experience, people like MLK jr. and Ghandi are ignored by Christians or, worse held in mild contempt. They didn't fit into the proper mold and therefore had little of value to add to any discussion of theology or life. Yancey takes 13 people who influenced him and explains what it was about the subject's life or actions or beliefs that caught his attention, and allowed him to emerge from a deep-south-fundy upbringing with his faith in God intact.

Read it. It's good.

*Obviously fiction is more enjoyable if it's well-written, but I find that fiction writers can sometimes get away with atrocious writing if their stories are good enough. Witness the many best-selling authors who will never be considered in literature classes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Fail at NanoBloMoPoFo-whatever

I can't even finish the last 30 Day prompt, even though, or perhaps because I've already written several paragraphs. They bore me. I am bored. I do not feel like writing. I have to much to do. November is a bad month for NANOWRIMO. Plus Todd hasn't written anything in days so ppffffttt.

In other exciting news though, today I had 2 cavities filled and then ran out of gas. It was harrowing, but not so much that I couldn't go to the local kids' consignment shop and score some sweet deals on pants for the extra-short people. Now that they have more than 2 pairs that fit I can transition to only doing laundry every other day.*

 Well, bleepity bleep. I just erased three paragraphs and Blogger helpfully immediately automatically saved the post so I can't hit undo. I'm not writing all that again. Didn't I just tell you I don't feel like writing? Geez... Anyway, to sum up we put a lot of gas in the car Saturday night and then the gas gauge was broken but apparently we didn't and it wasn't or something because although we drove the rest of the way home and ran errands for a few days, today when I left the dentist although I should have had at least half a tank I barely managed to coast into a gas station- hoping the problem was fuel related and not something more expensive dire. It took 12 gallons to fill my tank up. I have a 10 gallon tank.

Also I ate a bunch of the kids' Halloween candy after they went to bed in spite of the fact that I've had five cavities filled in the last month and still have to go back for five more. Getting old sucks.

*Oddly enough- because it's me, remember?- I'm not complaining. I've always kinda liked laundry and now that I'm doing a whole bunch of other people's in addition to my own, I kinda like it even more.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In Which Todd Is Left To His Own Devices and Gets into Mischief

So I've been working on a prompt which, frankly, is boring even though I feel that it really shouldn't and I'm just stuck. So today I was staring at the computer screen when I realized, "Hmmmm, I haven't heard Todd for a while. I wonder what he's doing." Our dwelling place is rather cozy for four people and while the kids flit in and out of their room, the living room and outside, Todd and I can generally be found in the living/dining room/kitchen area in the afternoon. It's not often that he disappears for long but I remembered him saying something about taking a shower so I didn't give it too much thought.

Then I got and headed toward the hallway for some reason I forgot before I got halfway to where I was going don't remember now and all of a sudden a strange apparition jumped out at me...

Guess who had found the Halloween face paints in the bathroom and decided to draw an elaborate face on his stomach and chest? Let me tell you, if you've never seen a half-naked man dancing around in his camouflage underwear (I bought them for him, I couldn't help it) with a giant crazy face drawn on his torso  you haven't lived. When I stopped laughing I forced him to let me take a video of The Stomach Monster and then he proceeded to make "stamps" by mashing the flab muscular manliness against closet doors, chest-bump style before I gave him my stern look and ordered him to take a shower. When he got out, there was a Stomach Monster imprint on the shower wall.

Now generally it's when the children are too quiet that one needs to worry, but not me. Noooo, not me. This man will inevitably drive me crazy, but it sure will be a fun ride.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 16: Do Without

Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.

There are plenty of things I could live happily without. There are also plenty of things I'd love to get rid of that I probably couldn't live without. I don't want to live with worry or pain, but I know that I need them to survive. Broccoli, however is one thing I'm fairly sure I could manage without. If the world ran out of broccoli and no more was to be forthcoming, ever; I think I'd be okay with that. Yup, pretty sure. Now pie on the other hand....

------------------ 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Days of NANOSHMOBLO...PO: The Fifteenth. Or Whatever

Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

So yeah, I'm supposed to be doing NANOWRIMO* except without the annoyingly perky email updates this month, in addition to the blogging one, which has an entirely different but still stupid acronym. But I'm still only halfway through the 30 days of truth so I'm going to combine them into one really all-over-the-place mishmash. You know, like usual. 

Todd and I decided to to NNWM* because we both want to practice writing and we both need a kick in the pants. Or a dumb acronym. I dunno. Also it's almost 10 pm and neither of us has been spotted jotting a single word of fiction yet today. So... we'll see how that goes. 

*shortened. I'm so not typing that out every time I refer to it. You know what? Maybe we'll just go with NN, because why make it more complicated than it has to be? 

I'm supposed to be writing about something I tried to live without and can't. There's only one obvious answer to that for me: There was a time when I felt certain that I was not worthy of God's love or attention. I was bitter and angry and hurt by my own perceived failures and experiences with the church and I was ready to take the whole thing and be done with it. God, religion, Christianity, trying to live up to some impossible standard, trying to be someone I wasn't- I tried to turn my back and walk away from all of them, because I was unable to separate them into separate and distinct categories. All of those latter things held me only with chains of guilt, they weren't holding onto me, I was holding onto them. God held me with something much stronger; with the strongest thing that exists. 

I never really knew God until I tried to run away from him. All my life had been spent doing the right things, being the good one, the responsible one. All my life had been spent trying to earn God's approval in the ways I was taught, by the system I grew up in, were the only ways to know God. I was hunched over a tiny airless box that everyone insisted contained God, clutching it and talking to it and berating myself when it did not answer. All the time God was everywhere, all around me, trying to love me in spite of my insistence on telling him he was in the box and my pretense that I was good enough for him to love. Finally I broke. My box shattered and my mask fell off and I found myself running, terrified, in a dark, confusing place.

It was the moment he'd been waiting for. He chased after me. He tackled me as I headed into the darkness and held me while I beat my fists against him and screamed at him, until finally I melted into his embrace, and then he carried me back to safety. And I knew, then, that he'd never loved me because I was good. How could he have? Did I really think I could fool God with a mask of proper behavior?! 

My God told me he loved me in spite of my facade, not because of it. He saw me and not only did he still love me, he always had. He was just waiting for me to let go of the box and listen to him telling me how beloved I was to him. He was willing to run into the darkness after me and bring me back, even though I was the one running away from him. He was not willing to let me be lost. The strongest thing that exists in this world is love. It is stronger than hate or fear, stronger than evil, stronger than death. And I could never live without it.