Category: relationships & family

Other people’s children and cheesecake

Other people’s children can be a joy. Sometimes I see a child doing something I used to enjoy doing. Other times (in the classroom), their curiosity and excitement restores my mood, which is often so negatively affected by the jaded adults around me. This Christmas I have noticed yet another joy I find in my friends’ children. That is parents view Christmas differently than the childless. They also have financial worries, and stress related to socializing with relatives. I’m sure some feel anxious hoping their kids will like their presents. But they experience the magic of Christmas because they are always watching and thinking of their children, to whom Christmas has not yet lost an iota of magic, to whom Christmas music is not yet annoying (I love it, but not everyone does!), who are perhaps only beginning to guess the truth about Santa Claus.

Recently at church one of the deacons had everyone partner with a stranger for an exercise. I might add how strange this sort of thing is during Roman Catholic Mass, but I suspect this deacon must have grown up a Baptist or something–I digress. One person was instructed to smile with real affection and love, looking into the other person’s eyes. The second person was to maintain eye contact, but to keep from smiling. It is possible, but not common for a person to be able to do this. “Monkey see, monkey do,” perhaps? The deacon explained that he had done this exercise during a workshop many years ago under the direction of a psychologist who did indeed have some professional term for this phenomenon.

I don’t know about psychology, but I do know that it is hard to look at someone who is experiencing wonder, and not to feel it or be reminded of having felt it before oneself. It is hard to look at someone in tears, suffering grief, without feeling some pain as well. Sometimes it is rather superficial (crying during The Notebook perhaps). Other times it is a great thing that touches the soul of the person who is looking (deciding to give to the homeless, having seen their suffering). There is potential for something even sacred, when both persons involved are touched (this happens, for example, when one has crossed from trying to offer comfort to actually comforting another).

So it appears with parents and children in particular. When I was a child, my mother would say, “When you cry, I cry.” Only many years later did I realize the profundity of her statement. It was not, “You cry, therefore I cry,” implying a cold cause and effect. It was an expression of connection. I experience what you experience because we are connected.

I suppose to be a true and enlightened Christian, that is, when we’re in the new world, in heaven, whathaveyou, we will feel this connection easily and with all of Creation, maybe with God himself. As it is or as we are, it is easier to feel as one with those close to us, and it is easy to wall off others and to refuse to feel with them.

But I am getting far away from what I had wished to write. What I have noted this Christmas is how much people love their children. This is not surprising, and no one questions it, but it is like this: you may have heard a friend talking about how delicious cheesecake is, and believed it, but it is different to watch your friend eating cheesecake–to see the goofy grin that a person gets when they eat something so luscious. You went from knowing they enjoy cheesecake to seeing they enjoy cheesecake. So in some sense, you feel their enjoyment too.

Finally, other people’s children are a joy when they are merciful. Kids are infamous for being too honest. “Mom, why is that lady so fat?” and things like that. For me, it is always a relief joy when I lose control of my skateboard or something in front of a kid–and, of course, it always seems to happen in front of a kid–and they don’t ridicule my old, not-as-coordinated-as-I-should-be arse. In my mind I say, “Thanks, kid! I know you saw that!”

I honestly thought I’d scrapbook


Big Buddha in Kamakurabuddha2

That is a big Buddha

When my better half and I started dating around six years ago, I got it into my head that I’d collect things to scrapbook. I am just now taping stuff into a book. I’m not nearly as crafty as I guess I thought I was.

Anyway, man, it is so nice going through all of this junk. Cards and notes we exchanged. Arguments we got over.

“It was really nice playing Scrabble with you this morning… The shit talking was also prime. Well, mine was anyway. :P” — from a note he wrote me back in the day

I’ve rediscovered notes, photos, business cards from memorable restaurants, foreign customer loyalty cards (there was this bakery in Japan where we spent way too much money on fresh mini chocolate donuts), train maps, and museum brochures.

I have nothing profound or smart or really touching to say. It’s just a really lovely thing, looking back and recalling so many happy experiences with this person. When you’re falling in love, or when you’re becoming best friends, or even when you’re beginning to meld into a single matrimonial entity, do you realize it? I don’t know. But looking back at it is kind of like reading an amazing book for the second time. The first time you read it, you get the story; the second time you read it, you get the details.

Marital bliss

Marital bliss is filing taxes with your best friend.

is sitting near each other reading.

is sharing Chapstick with a kiss.

is praying for him everyday.

is splitting up the chores.

is loving someone who thinks your favorite movies are just “okay.”

is knowing that one person in the world knows better than anyone else how mad you are, and yet loves you still.

is a blessing.

How we spend our time

Several years ago, my mother was laid off. She had been expecting it for months, and the prospect had been very stressful. So when it happened, she told me via the telephone. I remember it well. I was an airman, I think, and I was driving to my barracks from the mini-Nex on Coronado. Mother was relieved and happy enough. Of course the apprehension was worse than the reality, but it wasn’t just that. She was also happy because my brother was only a baby then, and she knew that on her death bed someday she would be happier to look back on years spent caring for him, rather than on years spent hustling to keep a job that it turns out she didn’t really need or enjoy. I’ve never forgotten that.

I’ve also never forgotten the final years of my uncle’s life. Uncle Pete was intelligent, often astringent, deeply feeling, proud, and… well, what can I say? Can I sum up a man with a few words? I haven’t even got a photograph of him, though I can remember his face and his clothes and the smell of his house. He was the most skilled musician I’ve ever known, as well as the most passionate about music–and he had the best taste in music. Over the years, I have listened to some things I know he would have scoffed at. After a while the novelty wears away, and I scoff at them too; then I return to the blues and rock ‘n’ roll my uncle taught me.

The entire time I knew Uncle Pete, he wasn’t in the best of health. He was older than my parents. He was a Vietnam veteran (a fact I believe he hated). He had ingested and inhaled plenty of drugs and alcohol. He had had plenty of recreational injuries, too, from motorcycling and things like that. Whatever happened in those last few months, I don’t know precisely, but I won’t even write what details I do know because I must still respect his pride, dignity, and privacy. What I do know is that I had wanted to spend more time with him, had said I would, and had wanted to tell him without prompting that I loved him. He was my uncle, and I do still love him like I love my parents; indeed I could not be who I am if it hadn’t been for him and his damn near incessant criticism! No, he didn’t denigrate anybody (though he did sometimes accuse people of committing, “assholisms”). He criticized poor logic and hypocrisy. He pointed out where my manners needed improvement. He explained things about my parents that were puzzling and troubling to me, and he showed me sympathy. Perhaps most of all, he treated me like he had high expectations for me.

And I truly hope he did. And one of my greatest hopes still is that if he were alive he would be pleased with my progress. Of course if he were alive, probably he would have stopped speaking to me when I joined the military. Or perhaps not. Perhaps he’d have understood better than I did why it was an extremely pragmatic decision.

Regardless, circumstances were such that I did not get to see him as often as I wished to in his final days. I never spontaneously told him I loved him either. This requires explanation. Though I did fear my uncle at times (he was the tallest member of my family and went nowhere without his German Shepherd, which is frightening for a small child), I always loved him. I felt that he doubted this, however. The only time I had ever said, “I love you,” was in response to him saying it to me; and he hinted at least once that he thought I was saying it because I felt obligated to. That was not the case, however, and I don’t recall ever telling someone I loved them without having felt it genuinely, to this day. So when he became gravely ill, I intended to make sure he knew that I really did love him. But I never did! When he died, I felt regret for the first time. I still feel it, of course. But I learned from this, I hope, and anyway, I have never forgotten about it.

So how do we spend our time? What is worth while? Shall I one day look back on how well I asserted myself? Will I be glad that I found a political party I really fit in with? Will identity matter? Will labels, categories, denominations, or titles matter then? I suspect not. I suspect what matters in the end of our lives is what matters at the beginning. Before we are taught to love acclaim and wealth, to be proud and serious and ambitious, we are silly, honest, and innocent little children. We say what we think, and ask for what we want. What matters the very most is Mom and Dad, or perhaps Grandma or someone else; what matters is the human relationships we are part of. Why should the middle of our lives be different? Why should we spend our vigorous and independent days looking for answers to questions that ultimately do not matter? Intellectual and emotional exercise is great, but like physical exercise, must not be taken too far.

We must not define ourselves too narrowly, for three reasons. Firstly, if we define ourselves too narrowly, we limit ourselves on an individual basis. Secondly, if we define ourselves too narrowly, we limit ourselves socially; that is, we miss out on relationships with people who do not define themselves the same way (or whom we misread). Finally, when we spend too much time defining ‘who we really are,’–whether that has to do with sexual preference, movie preference, profession, religion, ethnicity, or favorite sport–we are really wasting time. By all means, seek to know yourself. Seek to understand yourself. Your likes, your dislikes, and the reasons behind them, if there are any. Look humbly at your own best points, and soberly at your worst. But do not be excessive in all of this. You have a son who needs you, or an uncle: spend more of your time with them.

Why I don’t identify as a “military wife.” (Part 2)

I definitely got carried away yesterday, writing nearly 1,500 words. To summarize those ideas, I don’t identify as a military wife partly because I have found it very unpleasant to socialize with 9/10 other military wives I’ve met, and also because I still identify more as a military service member than a military family member.

Another big reason I don’t call myself a Navy wife is because I think men and women are equal. I think my accomplishments and daily duties are just as important and interesting as my husband’s. I’ve met many people since leaving active duty who find out that I’m both a veteran and a spouse of a military member, and do you know what they ask? They don’t ask what I did in the Navy, or for how long, or why I left. They don’t ask what I do now, or if they do, they stop paying attention when I say, “I study,” and couldn’t care less about what I study—and I study physics, so since when is that boring to talk about?

What people ask is what my husband does. Where is he stationed? Is he on deployment? What’s his rank? Is he going to retire? Thank him for his service. Is it because I’m a woman that my service doesn’t matter? I think.

I love my husband, and of course I am proud of him. He’s not an American hero. I know his job way, way better than most women know their husband’s jobs. I’m proud of him mostly because I know he could get away with doing way less work with way lower quality—but because he’s just that kind of person that doesn’t half-ass, gun-deck, or jury-rig (unless ordered to, which does happen sometimes). I’m also proud of him because he gets shit done. He doesn’t like the military, but he has yet to do something to purposely get kicked out. He doesn’t just sit around waiting for his contract to be up. He doesn’t refuse to get qualifications occupy leadership roles because, “I’m getting out anyway,”—which civilians may not know is actually a pretty common thing to happen among enlisted people who realize they don’t want to do twenty years. In short, I love my husband, and I’m proud of his work because in it he shows his integrity as a man. Also, I’m proud of it because it’s how he shows his patience as well; it takes a patient person to deal with some of the inept superiors he has had.

But my husband’s hard work, integrity, promotions—I should mention that he’s probably going to have to try not to get promoted next time up, if he truly doesn’t want to become a First Class—are not my own. My military service record speaks for itself. My grades speak for me. The way I handle myself speaks for me. Being married to a great person doesn’t make me a great person. When I call my husband “my better half,” I really mean it.

So when I say I’m not a Navy wife, it’s partly because I have my own accomplishments to be proud of—but it’s also because it’s not my business to take credit for my husband’s accomplishments. We are married, and we are one in important ways, but not in every way.

I think that’s all I need to write on this topic for a while. I do have strong feelings about it, and there are many misconceptions that civilians have of military people (some of which are definitely perpetuated by military people, such as the lie that we are not paid well). I wish people did not ask questions like they do… or I wish they would put more thought into those questions. I hope in my lifetime I will see women get paid the same as men for the same work, whether in the military or outside of it, and also receive the same respect. I also wish people would get over the military worship in this country, because we’re not all heroes, we’re not all saints, and most of us joined for economic reasons, not “to fight for your freedom.”

(The economic inequality that leads to more poor people going to war and dying versus rich ones is another topic entirely.)

Anyway, I feel a little better writing down some of my thoughts.

The people you meet.

As much as I sometimes hate Facebook, I do think it can be illuminating. Yesterday was the second of December, and when I saw the date, I thought, What’s today? I know there’s something on this date…

It’s the birthday of someone I used to call a friend. This girl had grown up in the same neighborhood as me, and while our home environments weren’t the same, we did both witness some types of abuse–and when I say “some types,” it’s because I don’t like to talk about some things. My friend, on the other hand, was never particularly reserved on the topic of her terrible “father.” Now that we no longer speak, and only now that I have realized that what I grew up with was not normal, I wonder if she ever even knew what I was dealing with. Sometimes people become so obsessed with their own suffering that they end up venting about it to someone who is also suffering in a tremendous way, but handling it more gracefully. I don’t mean to emphasize my suffering at all, but I know this is true because it happened to me.

When I was on the ship, I found out I’d be going TAD, Navy speak for, “working in another shop for a while.” Some of my friends already knew the man I’d be working with in the other shop. They told me he was a really cool guy, but they felt so bad for him because he had a toddler son who had been born with a heart defect. I told myself I had better not gripe and complain and get wicked pissed about Navy BS with this guy. The truth is, however, that in a year or so working with that man–someone I highly respect, and still keep in touch with on Facebook–of course I did gripe and complain and get wicked pissed about Navy BS.

I don’t think it’s really right to even anonymously write on a public forum about the things this man told me about his life. But I can say that many things he told me shocked me and still weigh on my heart–and not a thing did he say seeking pity or feeling sorry for himself. The wrong things that happened to him are not lost on him, but he does his best, enjoys life and family and friends, and gives thanks. He never talked about his problems with the sick sort of pride that sometimes people do, as though they think they’re better than you for having been victimized or screwed over somehow. That is one man I’m glad I met.

Back to my friend whose birthday was yesterday. We met in middle school because we rode the same bus, but we were not friends. We didn’t like each other, but we did get teased by the same boys. To be honest, I can’t remember how we really became friends, but we did, especially in high school. The two of us would often sit on the bus together. Almost every lunch period, she and I and another friend or sometimes more, would sit outside and eat. Three of us would sometimes go out on “photography days,” and just find some secluded or abandoned spot to shoot. We’d go to a stream or a large cemetery or a botanical garden. We had some really great times that I truly miss.

Both of us had been in a program to graduate high school in three years, but both of us decided only weeks before graduation that we wanted to stay in school for the fourth year after all. We had to appeal to the school board or something like that, but stay we did; and it was during that year that we grew apart. There’s no need to detail it. We were both teenaged girls, and we both did and said stupid things, and had generally shitty attitudes. Both of us. I went away to the Navy, and I don’t know what she did for a while… I just remembered that even though she was a great student, she delayed going to college. I had a bad feeling that she would quickly end up a young single mom with no car and no time for an education, just like a lot of girls in our old neighborhood.

Anyway, she didn’t end up that way. We eventually reconnected, and she graduated college. Now she works, is married, has a bunch of cats, and lives in Canada. Sounds like a good turn out to me. We met the one time I went back to Florida on leave, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. Her then boyfriend was there, who I didn’t know at all. A mutual acquaintance was there… who… I have had good times with, but find to be unappealingly dramatic (at least back then). I also was smoking cigarettes at the time, and when I look back on it, I can’t imagine the three of them wanted to be in the car with my stench, although nobody said anything. (I didn’t realize at the time that cigarettes stink. I grew up with people who smoked inside, and people told me it stank, but to me, it was normal. I began to smoke, and it was nothing to me. Only when I quit smoking did I begin to find the odor as disgusting as most people do.)

Over the years, we exchanged some cards and photos, talked online a few times, and planned to see each other again, whenever work made it reasonable for one of us (or one couple of us) to be in the other one’s area.

But it all disintegrated over time, and on Facebook. We never said, “Goodbye.” We never said, “Buzz off.” We never said anything. She unfriended me I don’t know when, and I only realized it because one day I think there was something in the news I expected her to post about, but I didn’t see any post. I was a little sad because I still remember the fun we had, and you don’t meet someone with a lot of the same passions as you everyday. But I was also okay with it. I had considered unfriending her myself, but it had seemed petty, and I didn’t want to burn a bridge or act hastily. Facebook makes it so easy to throw a friendship in the trash, it seems like.

It’s sad to lose a friend, but it happens. Sometimes people or circumstances change. I’ve seen friends who were in love with people before, and weeks or months or years later, couldn’t see anything in that person to love. I can still see a lot to love in my old friend, but I can see some things that very much annoyed me that I do not miss. Maybe she feels that way about me. Maybe she just thinks I’m 100% asshole. Maybe she hasn’t thought a moment about me since she clicked, “Unfriend.”

The people you meet. That’s what the second of December was about. Friendship, I guess. And Facebook aside, because it really isn’t the same as “real life,” though it is certainly real, I wonder how things are going for the woman, in terms of friends. She lives in a foreign country now, and as long as I was in touch with her, she never mentioned a Canadian friend. I know she has many friends in Florida and probably elsewhere, but… I also know from experience and observation how those long-distance relationships go. Even when you vow to stay the best of friends, keep in touch via telephone or letters or email, and promise to see each other as often as possible…

How do I describe it? Life happens. Even when you speak with someone everyday–someone back home, when you’re living overseas–they’re not telling you everything. You’re not telling them everything. You’re not seeing the same programs on television, being appealed to by the same advertizements on the street, or even seeing the same fashion trends in magazines. Distance doesn’t just kill relationships. I’m not saying that. My husband and I have had to spend months thousands of miles apart, and it has worked so far. My best friend and I only see each other every few years, and there have been a couple of times where we went months without saying much to each other. I don’t know if a lot of people realize it when they leave town and make all the promises of loyalty, but even when and if you do see your old friend or loved one again, even if you spoke with them everyday you were away, it won’t be the same. It might not be like meeting a stranger–but sometimes it is.

So how is she doing? I don’t know. Will she come to understand some of the things I’ve seen and been through? Granted, she’s a civilian artist, while I was a Sailor and sometimes just a civilian traveler. I don’t know. Part of the reason I think of it is that here I am in San Diego. I used to have many friends here, some I thought I’d have forever. Most are gone. Some are very different. I am very different. Some are very busy. I am very busy. Time and chemistry are also necessary to make new friends, and maybe luck… The story is the same in my home city in Florida. Who would I return to? My mother, yes, but even she is completely different: taking medications, married to my stepfather, raising a little boy, living in a house I’ve only spent about three weeks of my entire life in. I don’t have a great sense of “home” there, and I most of my friends are gone.

You can’t hold onto people. At least I can’t. Maybe if I didn’t travel. Maybe if I didn’t join the Navy. Maybe if I hadn’t left home. But in this world, even if I hadn’t left, I’d probably have been left behind. My best friend, for instance, she’s no longer where we grew up. She lives in Tennessee, of all places. Even when you know you can’t maintain a friendship because of practical reasons if nothing else, it is still sad when they end. Still, you never know what the people you meet will teach you. You never know how long it will last. You never know they’re a rabid Republican until you add them on Facebook (joking). You never know where you’ll be next year, let alone them.

Please don’t apologize

Recently a very close friend called me after several months of very, very little contact. Even though I keep this blog pretty anonymous, I’m still not going to go into the details of why my friend sort of disappeared for a while. The thing is, when she did call me and explain everything that had been happening — and let me be clear, she was and is going through some very serious grief and hardship — she apologized for being out of touch. You’re apologizing to me for not making sure I know every little detail of your life? I’m not entitled to that. You’re entitled to your privacy. You deserve to have some time to deal with things on your own. How can you apologize to anybody when you’re the one who should be receiving apologies?

Then the other day I got a call from the St. Joseph the Worker group at my church. I signed up with them a few weeks ago. The mission is to pretty much be there to provide help when it’s needed. If someone needs a ride to the doctor, or maybe an elderly person really needs some strong young people to move something heavy for them, etc., they can call SJW, and the group calls someone who’s already registered to help with “odd jobs.” When you sign up, you tell them what you can do, and what days you’re usually available. If you’re not available when they call, it’s okay, and they just go to the next person on the list. It’s really awesome in my opinion.

So anyway, I got a call from SJW asking me if I could drive a lady downtown for a medical procedure next Friday. I was happy to say yes because… honestly, I need to be needed. I’m a Christian. It’s my job to fulfill needs. The hardest part is figuring out who needs me to do what. I love it when I’m asked to do something specific, and when I know I’ll actually be helping someone. So I got in touch with the lady, but she said she might not need me, but then again she might, so she’s wondering if I could keep Friday morning open. Basically she’s having some pain that she’ll receive treatment for on Monday, but she’s not sure if the treatment will be effective. So I’m thinking, “I’ll just drive you either way.” I don’t know… The SJW people told me that this woman has been helping other people for years. Now she seems shy about receiving help unless she really, really needs it.

There’s plenty of talk about how people are very self-entitled nowadays. There are plenty of stories about people who just take and take and take, and can hardly be bothered to say, “Thanks.” But there are still some amazing people out there who even when they are suffering, think about others. Even when they’re in need, they don’t want to inconvenience someone else. Even when they took only what they needed (in my friend’s case, time), they feel like they took more than they should have. What if we were all like that? It’s very humbling.

Little kids

Even though I’m a rebellious Catholic in that I do not have kids, and I do not plan to have kids at least until I graduate college, I actually generally like them. That makes sense when you consider I generally like adults. And that’s the thing, kids and adults aren’t really different entities!

I’m always thoughtful about how I talk to or treat little kids because I remember being one. I remember adults who talked to me like I was just another human being versus those who did talk to me like I was an outer space alien. I remember very early in my life having feelings that I could not articulate, because although I could feel, I could not yet communicate with words (or even think in words). I vividly remember this.

Even as an adult, I experience something similar. I don’t mean feeling things I can’t express, but I mean being talked to like I’m a puppy by someone who is older than I am. I generally respect people older than me, try to learn from them, and want to hear their stories and advice (unless it marriage advice from an old person who’s had three failed marriages already, or something like that). But even though I am happy to give that respect simply based on a person’s age, I am not as willing to accept disrespect, dismissiveness, or plain ole rudeness from a person just because he or she is older than I am. This is part of the reason I left the last volunteer gig I had going; the two elderly people in charge wouldn’t even hear me out on how to spin an egg — and that may sound strange, and it was, but it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, kids will surprise you. The expressions they pick up, the tones of voice, the young age by which they’ve already mastered sarcasm! I grant that I do not take much joy in my neighbors’ children randomly, loudly screaming, squealing, and/or screeching outside my window when I am practicing physics or watching TV, but it doesn’t make me mad. I sometimes wonder why they’re so loud. I sometimes wonder why their parents let them be SO LOUD. I sometimes think in a general way about the whole idea of “outside voices” and “inside voices.” But at the end of it all, even when a kid is being kind of annoying, I usually feel for them, and appreciate where they’re coming from. It’s not any easier being a kid than an adult; only the nature of the challenges themselves changes. Mostly, kids make me happy, because they have a way of finding happiness in a situation. I just find it kind of contagious.

I don’t have kids, but I do interact with them now and then. Everyone I’m close to pretty much has kids, and sometimes one will come talk to me when I’m shooting hoops. Just a little while ago, a little girl came to my door hustling cookies for a school fundraiser (and yes, I shelled out $17 for a giant box of cookies I’m going to have to take to school to get rid of). It was funny. Little kids aren’t usually the most organized of humans…

But what I found most joyful was the little girl’s sales tactic–because she didn’t have one. She came up to the door and asked if I’d like some cookies.

“Are they Girl Scout cookies?”
“No, they’re for a fundraiser.”
“Well, do you have a picture or something to show me what kind of cookies you have?”

The girl hands me her brochure, which has notes on the front of it, “Please ignore my notes.”

“Three pounds is a ton of cookies! Do you have smaller ones?” I asked, and she hesitated.
“Well, if you’re not sure. Could you come back tomorrow?” I then asked, and she hesitated again.
“… It’s due October 1st,” she looked at the notes on her little brochure, pointing out, “and these are the addresses I need to visit still.”

“Okay, I guess I’ll get just one box. I’ll have to share with other people.”

I asked the little girl some other questions as I wrote my check and all. I asked her the best cookies (since I really don’t intend to eat many of them), what the fundraiser was for, and so on.

“So when will my cookies get here?” I asked.
“Well, the order is due October first, so it’ll be in October. It takes a long time because that’s a LOT of cookies.”
“No kidding! I’m going to have to take just this one box I’m getting to school with me!”

She looked surprised, and asked, “You go to school?”
“Yeah, I go to college.”
She looked surprised still, so I added, “Why? Do I look too old?”
“No, you look too young.”
“Well, thanks.”

She dropped my check, and I told her she should be careful with it, to which she replied, “I have to wait ’til the people go in to put the money away.”

That made me laugh a little, so I told her I’d leave her to it then, and to have a good day.

I just found the whole thing funny in a happy sort of way, because kids aren’t sleazy about selling stuff, you know? They don’t have tactics (at least until some adult teaches them some). They just know they have something to “sell,” and they have to ask people to buy it. I’m sure some kids find it awkward, but it seems like a lot of them just take the whole task pretty matter-of-factly. I wish I could remember how I felt about it when I was a little kid selling Girl Scout cookies… although I never did do it door-to-door.

Anyway, the other day I was at the dentist’s office, and overheard another little kid with a fundraiser. He was talking to his mom, and he said, “I don’t know how to do it.”
“Do what?”
“Sell stuff.”
“Oh. I’ll show you later.”

I won’t write out the whole conversation, but the best part was when the mom was looking at the fundraiser catalog of things for sale (because the boy had another catalog of rewards for selling lots of stuff). The boy asked with a decidedly adult tone of voice, “You’re actually going to buy something from in there?” The mom noticed the tone of voice just like I did, and said, “Yeah, why not?” The boy said he didn’t think she’d like the stuff, and Mom said, “Sure I like some of it. Don’t you?”

It’s so interesting to see things like fundraisers from the perspective of an adult/buyer, not a kid/seller. It’s so weird and interesting.

I don’t know that I have a real point, but I guess I just derive joy from these sorts of things. I take Jesus pretty seriously when he says that we should have faith like children. I know they can be little bastards just like anyone else, and they have their bad moods, temper tantrums, etc. Sometimes they’re messy. Parents are always cleaning vomit or poop or snot, and most of the ones I know are always catching colds too. I know, I’m not trying to idealize the whole thing. But I do think children tend to have much less guile than adults, and we tall people have much to learn from them.

Be honest. Laugh heartily. Tell cheesy jokes. Eat animal crackers. Take naps. Let your jaw drop when you see that awesome exotic animal at the zoo. Ask why the sky is blue. Be curious. Try to make things fun. Make games out of whatever you’re doing. Race your friends up the stairs or across the parking lot. Say simple prayers. Watch G-rated movies. Wear tennis shoes with all your outfits — jeans, dresses, and everything! Embrace glitter. Get dirty. Trust the people who love you. Do somersaults.

The list goes on and on! I think there is so much wisdom in all of those things. How do we forget some of the simplest wonders and joys of life? How do you quit looking for ways to make things fun? Where do we learn to become so damned serious and worried? Maybe the purpose of having children isn’t so much to perpetuate the human race, as some say, as to stay human oneself.

I’ll ponder it for the next few years though!

EDIT: Eventually the cookies were delivered. They weren’t cookies. It was a big tub of cookie dough. It made delicious cookies, but K. and I had to toss is because the richness just destroyed our stomachs. I’ll have to say no next time.

Jesus Christ Superstar

About eight years ago, my uncle died, but he still influences my life. Still I recall moments with him, and I recall the kinship I felt then. Even though as I have grown I have become aware of some of our differences, most notably that I am still a terrible and hopeless musician, while he was a genius, still I feel that we understood each other in a unique way.

Nothing can recall my memories of him like certain songs. Of course that is because he spent so many hours trying to instruct me in music. One instruction I received was to watch his VHS of Jesus Christ Superstar, and to write a critique of it. I never wrote the critique, and it took me a long time to even watch the VHS — which I remember I lent to someone else later on, who never returned it to me. I don’t think I was a Christian yet, or if I was, I was very new. Still, the movie’s story awed me, and so did the soundtrack. My favorite song was and is, “The Last Supper.”

I remember one evening in my uncle’s living room, him telling me to put a CD on. I think he told me to choose whatever I liked. I chose the second disc of the JCS soundtrack, the first song of which is, of course, “The Last Supper.” It is so sweet and so dark at the same time. It seems ironic, but I don’t think there is anything evil or even really irreverent in it. I cannot remember my uncle’s exact words, but I think he held my hand for a moment, and was deeply moved by the song. As a musician, I am sure he could name all the little aspects of the music that make it so wonderful — syncopation or counterpoint or what I don’t know. But music was so incredibly important and moving to him, and anyway, we both loved that song, and it was as though he thanked me for choosing it, almost thanked me for loving it too.

I am sad that I cannot remember everything, sad that things did not go as I would have had them go right before he died. Sad that he never really seemed happy as long as I knew him. But even all of this taught me about love. Love can be as simple as sharing a little music that stirs your soul — because maybe it will stir someone else’s. Love is learning to say, “I love you,” which is exactly what I learned when my uncle died. I had resolved to say this to him before he died (he was like my third parent), but I did not have the chance. Ever since, I have regretted it, and ever since, I have tried to be more affectionate to my friends and family; cliche as it may be, you never know when your last chance will be to let them know how you feel.

So there is a little sweetness to this song, and a little darkness. But it does talk about Christ, and… ultimately, Christ makes everything alright again. He cried in agony, did he not? But now sits at the right hand of the Father. He descended to hell, did he not? But rose again, and is Lord of the living and the dead. And he is light, “and in him is no darkness at all.”


This morning, I did not wake as early as I like to, and when I did wake, I was somewhat upset with my husband, and therefore not highly motivated to actually get out of bed. Wonderful and under-appreciated man that he is, K. showered and made a very good breakfast. By the time I finished showering, he was telling me to get downstairs before the food got cold. He’d forgotten to bring out some turkey bacon (when we have bacon, we cook a whole pack on one day, then have it in the refrigerator for the next however many days). I thought he did it on purpose because I’d said yesterday that we’d been eating too much meat lately. No, he just forgot, the plus side of that being, perhaps, that his ridiculous infatuation with bacon may be waning. I never realized until Facebook how intensely people feel about bacon, but that’s a different subject.

Anyway, we had made a plan to go to the Poway Farmers Market. There are farmers markets all around San Diego, but they can be more trouble than they’re worth. The one in La Mesa was small, with vendors selling a lot of packaged junk. The one in Hillcrest is pretty good, but always extremely crowded — plus we don’t live that close to Hillcrest anymore, so I wouldn’t want to drive all the way there unless I had plans to do something else in the area. So we tried out Poway. It was good to get out. I had been sure to try to do extra studying on Friday so that I would feel freer to spend at least half of Saturday with K. Much of the produce was overpriced, but we bought some primo tomatoes at least. The drive was also sort of fun, although I as the time goes by, I am growing more and more annoyed with GM. I drive a Chevy Cobalt, and it has taken a very long time to get my replacement ignition switch. Actually, it’s supposed to finally be installed next Saturday… but I find the whole situation a little unbelievable. My ignition switch has yet to ‘turn off’ while I’m driving, and I pray that it never does that; but more than a few times it has become stuck when I try to turn the car off myself. It will get to the point that the engine is off, of course, but not to the point that allows you to take the key out. Obviously it is faulty, but there is nothing I can do about it besides pray. Only seven more days (then I’ll await the next recall).

I didn’t spend as much time studying as perhaps I should have, but I am not stressing. My mind has been on other things. Largely it has been on my marriage. Sometimes I am unsatisfied with certain things my husband does or doesn’t do, and other times I am wondering what he feels about what I do or don’t do. I think it is in 1 Corinthians that St. Paul talked about marriage a little, saying that married people think of worldly things, how to please their spouses. This is truer than I could’ve known back when I was single (and assumed I would be for life). Strangely, I find marriage to bring about a lot more introspection than I’d have guessed as well. Doubly strangely, I do mean that marriage does this — not just ‘living together.’ I did not expect any difference when K. and I got married, and indeed, there hasn’t been any drastic change at all. But it does affect one’s mindset. No matter how permanent a relationship may seem, no matter how permanent people may assert that it will be, it really does become more so in marriage.

Anyway, the introspection. The guessing. The asking. The always-considering-someone-else-as-much-as-you-consider-yourself-because-really-you-are-one-now. It is just interesting because I didn’t think it would be this way.

Also today, I have thought a little bit about giving. Since registering with a new parish, I received the little welcome packet today. One of the items enclosed was a little pamphlet on giving. I haven’t read it yet, but there was a large heading called, “Giving of your talents,” or something along those lines. In the parish ministries booklet, there was also something called “St. Joseph the Worker,” a group described (rather vaguely, I might add) as connecting people in the parish who have a temporary need, with other people in the parish who could provide for that need. It seemed to allude to skills, but it just left me wondering. I have discussed this with Christian friends before, in terms of calling. Not everyone receives some sort of clear calling to become a priest or a doctor or a lawyer or a missionary or a fashion designer or a gourmet burger master… or anything. We are called to follow Christ, to serve others, to love, but we are not necessarily all told the best way how. Or maybe we are, I don’t know. I know there are many Christians who believe in these very individualistic things, like God having made one specific man who is meant for one specific woman. To me, it is all a Christian version of destiny, and I’m not sure I believe in it. It seems to me there are many contingencies in life, regarding relationships, careers, and everything. I don’t doubt God does some directing, but… it is hard for me to believe that God has a specific occupation for me. I suppose he probably has specific things in mind that he wants me to do in this life. Probably he has put me in the right place at the right time for someone. He is a miracle worker. But I don’t know why — based on what I have observed and also based on Scripture — I should think he has already figured out that I should be a teacher or an accountant or a Naval officer. If there are some Scriptures to suggest that, hopefully they will be pointed out to me by someone. But based on my own silly, human logic, it also seems that if he wanted me to be a teacher, accountant, etc., perhaps he would make that clearer? Perhaps he would indeed provide me with alternative choices… but maybe not quite so infinitely many as I have?

Of course, for all I know, I am walking exactly the career path that God has planned for me, but I just don’t know it; and if I were attempting something else, I don’t know, anthropology, maybe he would be surer to tell me I’m on the wrong road than he seems to be to tell me I’m on the right one. This is all hypothetical, of course, and I hope none of this seems irreverent to God.

A calling. A talent. So many people are so convinced that we all have some calling, and we all have some talent. But me? If I have a specific calling, I have not heard it quite yet — although I thought several years ago I had a calling, and I think it would be worth while to think more about it now. As for a talent, I do have an unsurpassed ability to get wicked pissed about nothing at all. Fortunately, it is like a flare, and usually goes quickly. Anyway, it isn’t a virtue! It’s terrible. A talent! I have no talents. I have some basic skills, but that is all. Maybe a natural proclivity toward learning some things… a larger vocabulary than most people I know… but that is no talent. I am more inclined to believe in luck than in talent, sometimes. But I don’t know. Only some things I have been pondering a little.

I like this letter by Sal Khan though. I am growing to think of intelligence less as something innate, and more the way he encourages us to. Maybe I will grow a talent someday — and then I can offer it to the parish.