October 2013

Halloween Crafts – Twins A and B Style

by Priscilla on October 31, 2013

For the last five years the girls have asked for a Halloween party, and for the last five year my response has always been, When your Dad gets home. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. TIS was what some folks like to call an evil contractor for both the Defense and State Departments. Well, Mr. TIS is home, and it’s time to pay the piper.

<Insert big sigh. >

Last month I dragged out a few Halloween magazines and told the girls to make a list of their ideas and plans.  When they showed me their wish list, it was clear they had mistaken me for someone who can uses scissor. My idea of Halloween crafts is throwing out some orange construction paper and some black crayons and hoping something I draw looks similar to a jack-o-lantern. (It usually doesn’t.) If you don’t believe me check this out…

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What is it?  I’m wondering too.  It was supposed to be three cheery pumpkins for a bean bag toss game, and somehow it turned into bats out of hell.

Apparently, my kids though have not inherited my complete ineptness when it comes to all things Martha Stewart.

My friend, Katie ,shared a picture on Facebook a while back suggesting an easy, healthy Halloween party treat. Simply take Cutie tangerines and draw jack-o-lantern faces on them.  Voila! I tucked that idea away and few days ago remembered it and told the girls they could do some decorating for the party. Experts say it’s important to have kids do things like this so they can learn and grow and expand their minds. That’s great. I make my kids do these things because I don’t want to. Plain and simple.

So I gave them their instructions and while I was in the other room wrestling nine milk jugs into the form of a skeleton, they were drawing their simple jack-o’-lanterns…or so I thought.

Mom! They called to me about an hour later. Come see what we did!

Needing a break from cutting  plastic femurs, I laid down the scissors and went in to see what all the excitement was about.

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At first glance, I didn’t know quite what I was looking at until the girls broke it down for me.

Mom, these two are shopping on Black Friday, Twin B explained. Twin B would think of this scenario.

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Twin A jumped in, And this couple is getting their photo taken, but the guy over there is glaring at them because he likes the gir and is jealousl. That’s the photographer. (I’m a little concerned that Twin A included a love triangle in her creation, but what do I know.)

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That’s a super hero on top of a tall building. Those squares are windows. Twin B went on.

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We decided they should have a costume party too.

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What are these two doing? I asked 

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They are sword fighting, Mom. Twin B looked at me as if this were so obvious.

The big soire is tonight. I have no idea how it will go, but I gotta tell you, for all their television watching as toddlers so I could nap on the sofa, my kids turned out to be pretty darn creative.  (Something that The Common Core doesn’t teach and ISTEPs don’t test.  Sorry, had to get my hatred for bureaucratic education programs in here somewhere. )

Happy Halloween, everyone!

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Prayers Over My Daughters

by Priscilla on October 30, 2013

Dear God,

There are a lot of things written in the Bible about women that don’t always make sense to me. (Like St. Paul telling a gaggle of gals to pipe down.) We humans like to quibble and quarrel over the “role” of women a lot, and the older I grow in You, and more in love I fall with You, I sense you delight in women like nothing else that you created. I could be wrong, but there’s something special about being the last thing You shaped – the exclamation point if You will.  God, You made me curious so I’m curious about all the various women talked about in the Bible. Their stories are there for all of us to acknowledge, learn, examine and debate -the ones with the leading roles, and the ones who played bit parts. They once lived and moved and had their being here on the earth you made for them to  enjoy -the same earth I now share with my daughters. Thank you for these women’s stories, for in them I have formed a prayer- a special gift of blessings over the two beautiful girls you’ve given to me who have changed my life for the better in ways too numerous to count.

 Dear God, may my daughters be as courageous as Vashti who stood firm against her powerful husband refusing to degrade herself only for the pleasure of a roomful of drunken men. She paid a price, but there is nothing about her story that shows weakness.

Dear God, may my daughters display the cunningness of Esther who didn’t jump the the gun, but who waited and watched and laid the perfect trap for the enemy of your people.

Dear God, may my daughters listen and hear and judge with the wisdom bestowed upon your servant Deborah. May they grab the reins when others are too frightened or unwilling. May they lead with dignity and grace, and may their leadership show those around them the path to You. 

Dear God, may my daughters not falter under pressure. May they be like Rahab with the Poker Face – shrewdly able to do the right thing without giving up victims. Lord, there are so many victims in this world. Use my daughters to protect them.

Dear God, may my daughters, like Jael,  seize opportunity to defeat evil.  

Dear God, may my daughters practice the prayerful habits of Hannah, and may they pass those habits onto their children and their children’s children.

Dear God, if my daughters choose to marry, may they be partnered like Priscilla and Aquila, supporting and advancing your work here on earth. And God, may they bless their mother-in-law the way Ruth blessed Naomi.

Dear God, if you bestow upon them the gift of motherhood, may they never claim to have all the answers to all of the questions. May they, like Mary, observe and ponder. 

Dear God, may my daughters be able think quickly on their feet and solve problems as did your servant Miriam. May they always care for the welfare of each other and and each other’s families.

Dear God, may my daughters, like Anna long to see you. May they study the Scriptures with her devotion and love, and may they inherit her faith in our Messiah.

Dear God, when the trials hit them hard, thrashing their souls about like reeds in a hurricane, may my daughters cry out to You, and may You find them as you found your servant Hagar in the wilderness, and may you bless them with all manner of blessing you have for them.

Dear God, when their health fails, and when they have no where else to turn, may they, like the nameless, forgotten, abandoned woman, have the faith to touch your robe, and receive the power You have to heal them.

Dear God, may my daughters not only possess the business acumen of Lydia but also her servant’s heart, looking around them always to see how they can help the church and its people, and not the other way around. 

Dear God, may my daughters learn the delicate balance between the being of Mary and the serving of Martha. 

Dear God, may my daughters be sensitive spiritually to warnings you send as was Pilate’s wife, and may they be brave enough to speak up to what is right no matter the power structures surrounding them.

God, there are many others from Abigail to the Widow of Zarephath.  Women who fill the pages of the book that tells the story of your love for us -a  book I must admit I wrestle with, pray over, cry about and rejoice in. Thank you, God,  for these women and their stories. May my daughters live such lives in You, that if the Bible were still being written today, their names would be recorded as women who bore your image well. May You delight in them and they in You. May their works be as a pleasing fragrance, and may their songs of praises fill your royal kingdom both on earth and in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“You Cannot Separate Life From Work”

by Priscilla on October 23, 2013

Today I am lifting an entire passage from a book I’m reading called Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg and sharing it with you. (Whether you are a person of faith or not, I think you’ll find inspiration and conviction in this story of potter Ange Sabin Peter.)  These days I spend a lot of time with kids – kids in the cafeteria and kids in the pool.  It’s not really what I’d planned on doing at this point in my life especially for close to minimum wage, but here I am, and I am learning. Deep within me I know there’s a reason, and the reason is my writing, and that if I’m going to write for kids or about kids or about parents of kids, I need to spend more time with kids and lots of them. Kids from all walks of life…so I am, and according to the thoughts I’m going to share, that’s a good thing.  I hope, you too, will be inspired. Sometimes we complain about living the  mundane, but there is nothing mundane about living. Nothing. The fact that we arise every day and do life is not mundane. It’s quite miraculous, actually. For in the mundane, if we look close enough, hard enough and long enough there is inspiration.  I’m going to try to remember this today whether I am wiping up spilled apple sauce or trying to teach a young girl to dive off the block  without flopping into the water for the 493rd time.

Consider the experience of Ange Sabin Peter, and accomplished potter who recently served a six month apprenticeship under Masaaki Shibata, a well-known Japanese potter. Before journeying to Japan, Ange imagined herself studying with the aged craftsman, an artist she had long admired. She envisioned herself shaping beautiful pottery on his wheel, his decades of skill sharpening her own expertise. Aware that his apprentices usually served for four years, but impatient about taking too much time away from her work, she hoped a short tutorial would suffice.

At the start of her apprenticeship, Ange knew little or nothing of the ancient Japanese tradition that Masaaki Shibata would have been well aware of – the tradition of becoming an “uchi deshi,” an apprentice to a skilled craftsmen. To learn a craft, a teenage boy would be “adopted” into his master’s household, living as a member of the family during his apprenticeship and participating in every aspect of the life of the home and the shop. He would have much more to learn than just how to throw and glaze pottery and would begin by performing menial tasks including housework, including housework. The boy had to learn to do everything in just the right way. Only after years of apprenticeship would the “uchi deshi” be trusted to throw the pots that the master craftsman would embellish with his designs and sign with his famous hand.

“You cannot separate life from work, ” Shibata told Ange, his new apprentice, one day. “The way you do the most insignificant activity in your daily life will reflect in your work.” Then he sent her to the rice fields to dig for clay instead of inviting her to sit down at his wheel. Her pride chafed at not being asked to demonstrate her own skill. In fact, Shibata did not allow her to throw even one ounce of pottery during her six month stay in Japan.

One day over lunch, Shibata’s wife confided. “When you came to us, you were like a fully grown tree with big branches. We have cut those branches for something new to be able to grow,” but all Ange felt was the cutting. Still, as she toiled at her humble chores, she snatched every chance to watch the master potter at work.

Returning home, she felt deflated and defeated afraid that her six months in Japan had been a total waste. But when she sat down at her wheel, she began to sense a subtle difference. Something had changed. Then, as the kiln door opened on her new work, she marveled at the result. Without knowing it, she had been absorbing a new way of doing things. Her eyes had gained an aesthetic sense for distinguishing excellent work from merely acceptable work.  Thanks to her time with Masaaki Shibata, Ange Peter’s approach to her craft had been transformed. Delightedly she caressed each new vessel, admiring how the influence of her Japanese master had blended beautifully with her own personality to transform each of her new creations. 

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The Day I Discovered Mother’s Guilt

by Priscilla on October 19, 2013

I was in Shipshewana, IN, shopping with friends when peering into a huge freezer my eyes fell upon a bag of frozen berries that took me back almost 35 years to my childhood kitchen table where I sat…or rather was strapped to my seat….with a belt. Yes, you read that correctly – with a belt.  It was all Mom’s fault.

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Growing up, my parents’ land held every kind of berry bush known to man. Blueberry, Blackberry, Red Raspberry, Black Raspberry, and yes, even Gooseberry.  And what do with your eight kids if you have all manner of berries growing on your land?  You put them to work, of course, picking and cleaning and canning and freezing said berries.  Or at least you tried to…until along comes your youngest daughter…who could be quite lazy when she wanted to be…which was pretty much all the time.

I had a college professor once tell our class of future teachers, that there was no such thing as a lazy student. There were only unmotivated learners. I called bull then, and I call bull now. Because I tell you what, when it came to picking the stems off of gooseberries in order for my mom to use them in jam, I was L-A-Z-Y . It had nothing to do with my motivation. It had everything to do with these things:

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Yes, at first glance this is quite a striking free stock photo that I found upon googling free stock photos of gooseberries. But are you noticing something here?  Can you make out how ludicrously minuscule those stems are? To this day I can’t eat gooseberry jelly.  Okay, that’s a bold faced lie. There really isn’t a whole lot out there that I’ll refuse to eat including gooseberry jelly. But I gotta tell you, I’m not a fan.

My mom used to insist we kids do these horrible things called chores in the summer before she’d let us ride out bikes to the neighborhood pool where we’d sunburn our shoulders and noses climbing up the rickety high dive and playing games of pom pom for hours in the dark blue waters of its deep end. Depending on what berry was in season, our chores included picking berries, washing berries, cooking berries, freezing berries, pitting berries, and yes, picking off the teeny tiny stems of berries.

One day Mom sat me down at one end of our huge oak kitchen table and place  a large, wobbly round metal bowl filled with gooseberries, and told me I had to stem them all before I could go anywhere exciting like my friend Sheralyn’s house.  (Sheralyn didn’t have a gajillion other people living in her house like I did so she had all kinds of great stuff I didn’t have including a play room…filled with every single Barbie and Ken doll ever made, and they lived in the Dream House, and drove the Corvette that they pulled around behind their RV. She also didn’t have a mother who picked gooseberries. I loved going to Sheralyn’s every chance I could get.

I think my fanny rested 30 seconds on the green kitchen table chair for exactly 30 seconds and picked up one gooseberry before I said, I have to use the bathroom, and scampered off into the small blue powder room located off the kitchen.  While in the powder room, I tinkled, washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror for approximately four minutes and 37 seconds, until like The Raven, my mother came tap-tap-tapping on the door demanding I come out, sit down, and stem.  I returned to the table, whining ever step of the way, sat down and stemmed two more gooseberries.  About this time the phone rang. I jumped up, ran to the answer it, discovered it one of the nursing home  alerting my Dad to one of his many patient’s numerous ailments, and ran outside into the woods where my dad was chopping wood to yell, Emergency! Emergency! It must have been a Wednesday afternoon because that was his only half day off, and on his half days off, he spent his time either in his small orchard of apple trees or chopping wood.  If you know my father, you know there wasn’t much in his book that warranted the use of the word Emergency, but I loved to err on the side of the dramatic. I followed him into the barn where he replaced all his wood chopping equipment and up the house….where Mom told me to get back to the table and the gooseberry task.

Stupid gooseberries.

It ended up being an emergency so Dad left while I was looking at the bowl of blasted berries.  The doorbell rang. It turned out to be one of my older sister’s many swim team friends, and she escaped out the front door into a waiting car. I looked out the large front picture window to see the car kick up the dust on the gravel driveway.  This reminded me that at the end of the long driveway was our mailbox, and seeing as no one had bothered to get the mail, I slipped out the front door and walked my slowest walk to and from the mailbox. No mail….I made the walked three more times in the next 15 minutes until Mom noticed I was nowhere in the house, found me mid mailbox trip and marched me back to The Seat of Terror – her arm guiding me the entire time.

My brothers were all off painting houses which is what they did to raise spring break money, (An aside here.  My mom let my brothers and their six closest friends take her Suburban to Florida for spring break only if they promised not to drink.  Seriously, now. Those boys got away with everything.  But I’m not bitter.) when the phone rang again. This time it was another sister needing a ride from softball practice.  Mom hung up the phone, looked at her youngest, then looked at the very full bowl of gooseberries sitting in front of me, and did what any exasperated mother of naughty children does. She left the room for a split second and returned with a belt. Oh, no, not for what you think. That job was reserved only for ping pong paddles. She ordered me to sit down and then proceeded to slip the belt around the front of my waist and through the back spindles of the chair.

That’s right. She belted me to the chair.

She told me she was going to pick up my sister and would be back, and I better be through with at least half of the gooseberries. Then she grabbed her keys and her purse, walked out, and the next thing I heard was the garage door going up and her car starting….and then I heard the car turn off, the door open, the sound of her feet returning back into the house. She reappeared in the kitchen, walked over to my chair and unbelted me.

I can’t leave you like this, she sighed knowing now the only way she was going to have gooseberry jam was if she sat there and stemmed the berries herself. What if there were a fire while I’m gone.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. I learned if I looked hard enough and waited long enough, eventually something called Mother’s Guilt would rescue me one way or another from the mundane chores that filled my childhood days. I also learned that if I ever want to make my mom feel bad even now, all I have to do is mention the time she strapped me to the kitchen chair with Dad’s belt.

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Beauty from Ashes

by Priscilla on October 14, 2013

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness,a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3

Last week I started working at my kids’ school as a lunch room monitor. As some of you know, Mr. TIS has been ever so helpful playing the Lunch Lady Song on his guitar for me, and introducing the girls to the famous video starring Chris Farley. (His chances at camping right now are zil.) I decided to try something a little different.  I decided to dress up a little every day just to set an example to the kids. I don’t mean heels and a pencil skirt. I mean simply adding some jewelry and making sure my hair and makeup are done every single day.I pretty much go without make up now, and my hair? Well, my hair has always done what it darn well pleases. But I have some great besties in my life, and these ladies have always been an example to me to actually do something with myself even if I don’t feel like it…even when I’m opening packages of BBQ sauce for first graders and asking the fourth graders to please keep their noise level to a low, thundering herd rumble.

A while back I read a book whose premise was that God created women to bring beauty into the world.  This author didn’t mean simply physical beauty, but a beauty that comes from a calming, settling presence. Beauty through work. Beauty through art. Beauty through sports. Beauty through stillness. That idea has settled deep into my soul, and I’m trying more to add beautiful touches to every part of my life not only for me, but for my family.

My late friend, Leah, was a big one for adding beauty, and I think the thing I admired most about her is that she worked to bring beauty to areas that no one but her family would see or appreciate. Nooks and crannies around her house and garden held finishing touches. Small pieces of jewelry or great scarves brought her outfits alive. Dishes were served up warm with garnishes lovingly placed just so around their edges. When she died so tragically, her mother courageously returned to the burned out shell that was once her daughter’s beautiful home, and looked for remnants of beauty to save. She found found some pieces of Leah’s jewelry and lovingly cleaned and restored them, then gave them to our friend, Julie, with only this request: Can you make some jewelry pieces out of these?

Julie worked her magic as only she can, and when she presented several of us with  our necklaces, including Leah’s mother, we cried and laughed all over again.

Today, as I dressed for my simple job, I looked for a special piece of jewelry to add some beauty to my pretty plain cafeteria clothes. Looking over my necklaces, I found the perfect one, my Leah necklace, and I worked the toggle around my neck, headed to school and into the very noisy lunch room.

Oh, I like your necklace! Where did you get that necklace? What a pretty necklace. 

I heard these comments over and over as my smile grew wider and wider thinking of Leah’s influence alive and well even now in a school cafeteria. (I also had to giggle a little because seeing Leah with her Dolce and Gabbana blouse that she grabbed for a steal at $4 at Goodwill, her jangly bracelets and her kicky boots, in the middle of a school lunch room is, well, a  ridiculous vision.) I was completely got though when one little girl said specifically, Oh, I like that stone. Where did you get that stone? pointing at the center stone of the necklace – Leah’s stone. Oh, I got it from a friend, I explained. Isn’t it a wonderful gift?

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And it is a wonderful gift. The gift of the memory of a beautiful friend. The gift from a mother who faced her fears and walked into the place her daughter met her tragic end, and dug up and clung to the beautiful things. The gift of a creative soul who took those beautiful things and formed reminders for all of us friends to wear close to our hearts. The gift  of art and love that little girls who like pretty things can admire even while sitting school cafeteria.

The gift that can comes from a Heavenly Father who grieves with us and through us and leads us out from the valleys of the shadows of death into the pulsating sunlight where we can live again and breathe again, and create again.

The gift of beauty that  sometimes can only come from ashes.

 

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Before there were the bra burners….

by Priscilla on October 12, 2013

…there was Helen Free.

Remember Helen Free? She’s the famous lady scientist who sat a few rows behind me when I wrestled my undergarments all through the performance of Miracle on 34th St. last December.

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I got to meet her.  In person. Even a week later writing about it, I’m giddy.

Twins A & B are in fourth grade, and fourth grade in the Hoosier state means Indiana History. I don’t remember much about my fourth grade Indiana History experience except that it came with huge coloring books that, at the end of a long week of teaching 33 students, my teacher, Mrs. Vaughn, would cut herself some slack, pass our those books filled pictures of pioneers chopping down trees and folks creating meth labs in their basement, (Just kidding!  But, hey, it is Indiana.)  and tell us kids to color our hearts out.

My kids’ class is participating in a state wide essay contest, held every year in honor of Statehood Day, and this year’s theme  is Bicentennial Hoosier Heroes. Knowing that folks who judge essay contests probably aren’t always thrilled at having the honor to read 495 essays written at a fourth grade level, and knowing these folks probably have read more than their fare share of pages filled with information about Abe Lincoln and Rupert from Survivor, I told my girls they needed to stand out from the crowd and pick a person not many people know about, but who truly changed the status quo with his or her work.  Twin A chose author and naturalist, Gene Stratton Porter, and Twin B chose my pal Helen Free.

My super smarty brother knows Helen personally as she works as a consultant for his company, and his research is based upon her ground breaking work. He was kind enough to put me in touch with her, and she called me, and we set up a time to have lunch together.

I think I changed my outfit five times before walking out the door last Friday. (Some people get fired up about standing outside the Today Show plaza in hopes of being on TV or getting trashed with Hoda and Kathie Lee, I get a little wild when meeting famous female scientists.)

For two hours, Twins A &B and I sat with Mrs. Free and listened to her talk about her work and her children, and I kept thinking, She paved the way for all of us girls. Helen explained to my girls that she was in college when WW II started, and the young men started leaving to serve in the military. It was then that an astute dorm mother pulled her aside and told her she should consider studying science and math because she was gifted in those areas, and with all the males going off to war, and the country was going to need scientists.  She changed her major from English to science and math…and the rest is history.

She told us all about raising six kids while working a full time job. She shared with us the names of some her female friends from her days in the lab (Miles Lab, in Elkhart, IN, was ahead of its time in its hiring practices.) She had some funny stories about some of the help they hired to watch their children: Amish young ladies, one of whom put Tide in the dishwasher. She loves to read especially biographies of famous scientists, and she described her trip to the White House with her family, and what it was like meeting the President, whom she said was very kind and articulate. As she shared I thought, This was all before maternity leave. This was before day care. This was before husbands and wives shared housework.  This was all before the feminine went and got all mystique, and it was all before Aretha demanded any R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This woman and all the others like her are the true trail blazers, and yet, my daughters hear so little about them. 

She told us her late husband enjoyed grilling outdoors on the river where they lived for family and friends, and  she liked her meat rare and bloody.  (Twin A said her favorite thing about the whole meeting was how Helen said Bloody. Kind of like how a pirate says Arrrrggg. ) Helen wasn’t kidding either. The chef where we were dining messed up, and  when her burger was delivered to the table medium well…it went back to the kitchen and was replaced with a rare one.

When it was time to go, Helen told Twin B she had something for her. She reached into a bag, pulled out a cloth covered box and gently started to open it to reveal its content.

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I teared up a little looking at this diminutive giant of scientific discovery taking the time to talk to my daughters as if they were fellow lab partners and telling them they could be whatever they wanted with enough hard work and dedication. But she didn’t stop there. She told Twin B she could take the medal home and wear it when she read her essay to the class. Can you imagine? That’s like Meryl Streep sending a child home on the bus with her Oscar!

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Helen isn’t alone. There are thousands of women who allowed girls like me grow up to be mothers like me who teach their daughters that the world is an open book waiting for them to write  their own story be it one of scientific discovery, artistic achievement or familial care…maybe all three! The ladies of the sixties may have burned their bras, but it was the gals of the 40s who worked in the labs and factories creating and making those bras. Then they went home to cook dinner and read bedtime stories to their children all without acting as if they were making history.

Which is exactly what they were doing.

 

 

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Dear God, Forgive Me of My Sh***y Attitude

by Priscilla on October 11, 2013

I know, I know.  My late father wouldn’t like that sh***y up there front and center.  He always told me swear words were a sign of laziness – that there were plenty of other words in the English language that could sum up feelings of frustration and anger better than the Big 7.  But this time I humbly suggest that he is wrong.  This time everything about me was sh***y.  My attitude, my response, my childishness.  Everything. Sh***y. Sh***y.  Sh***y.  (Twin B, when you read this as I know you do, you can’t say this word until you are older and have children and your own blog, and even then it must be rare. Very rare.)

This morning I walked my kids of into school, came back to the car where I park across the street, and I couldn’t get into it. The battery in my remote had died.  Oh, my car has been warning of me that my battery was low for quite some time, but like just like the bathroom scales, I have chosen to ignore its warning.  Until now.  I wrestled the emergency key out of its fob so I could at least get in, but once I was in, I couldn’t start the car because I have one of those fancy ass push button cars that doesn’t have a key….or maybe it does, but I looked all over and went to the manual and couldn’t find out how to do it.

Now, I have to be brutally honest here, and in so doing, I’m going to make myself look even assier than I already feel.  Yes, I did just makes up the word, assier, but even my late father would agree my reaction to all of this was very assy indeed.

This car’s sticker price was 48K when we bought it a few years ago.  No, we didn’t pay sticker price because that’s just stupid, and no, I’m not trying to tell you, Look at me, I have an expensive, push button vehicle.  I’m telling you this because it makes me look like the complete ass I was.  I need you to get the fact here that I behaved like a spoiled child, and I WAS WRONG. The fact is there are a lot of people out there with much more fancy cars than mine, but there are more people out there who would love to have my Middle Class Crisis life in a heartbeat. If the worse thing I had to deal with in a while was a non working car remote, for a nice vehicle, that my hard working husband bought for me so he didn’t have to worry about our safety while he was off globetrotting, then I am doing ok.  This car cost more than most of the houses in the world.  It was parked in a lot where no one was going to touch it. I could walk in safety the 20 minutes home to get another key remote that worked without worrying about gunshots or muggings. In fact, my biggest obstacle facing me on my walk home and back was all the lawn service folks out with their leaf blowers, blowing leaves out of the lawns of the million dollar homes in my neighborhood.  (My home is not a million dollars. Not even close.  My house looks like the carriage house compared to some of these homes, but when I tell you I live in a beautiful, old neighborhood that looks like something out of the movies, I’m not kidding.)

But instead of being thankful for all these horrible problems, I did what I normally do.  I texted my husband, who was out on a sales call just trying to make some money to support his family, and said something like, My morning is shot to hell!  Because, let’s face it, nothing says, I love you. Thanks for all your hard work, like a bitchy text from a spoiled wife.

I was still spewing by the time I got home, exchanged keys and headed out the door, but something changed on the walk back.  God got into my brain and wasn’t going to leave until my attitude readjusted itself in a big way. God reminded me that I’d just taught my 3rd and 4th grade Sunday school class the biggest Hallelujah Psalm of them all, Psalm 150, and right now I was pretty much the biggest middle class, middle aged, fancy car driving hypocrite on the planet at this moment in time.

…and I had to get all kinds of humble and say out loud, Dear God, please forgive my of my sh***y attitude.

…and then the mind transformation started.

  • Thank you that I live in a safe neighborhood where I can walk to and from school safely.
  • Thank you for not just one but two reliable vehicles, God, and I pray for those folks out there who get to work in all kinds of other modes of transportation today through some very scary neighborhoods. Places like some parts of Chicago and LA…and Syria and Iraq. Bless all the policemen, firemen and soldiers who work so hard to keep our homes safe, and especially bless their families who never know when they may receive that dreaded call. Draw close to those families who are missing their hero even now.
  • Thank you for the beauty of nature -your free gift to us simply because you love us and want us to enjoy beautiful things as much as you do.
  • Thank you that I am mobile.  I know some of my friends fighting cancer right now would kill to have the energy to walk two miles.
  • Thank you that we live in a country with good health care that my friends fighting cancer can partake of.
  • Thank you that even though my grandmother whom I never got to meet, died from cancer when my dad was 18, he persevered and created a much different life for me than what he had growing up.
  • Thank you that my children don’t have cancer, and please bestow all manners of your blessings to those parents who sit helplessly watching their sweet children suffer wherever they are in the world.
  • Thank you that my children are at a great school, and that since the time they were three, they have always had wonderful nurturing teachers who have all been so selfless and inspiring. God there are some teachers out there in some really rough areas loving on some really hurt kids. Give them everything they need mentally to make it through today.
  • Thank you just for being.  The Great I Am.

And then a camp song from childhood popped into my head.  A simple phrase repeated over and over. Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise Him in the morning. Praise Him in the noon time. Praise Him. Praise Him. Praise Him ’til the sun goes down.

By the time I returned to the car, opened it, turned it on and headed home, my mind was in a completely different spot.

I know this problem seems so asinine because it was.  Believe me, I’ve had much bigger ones….ones I don’t think I can ever get onto paper because they are simply too hard to talk about even now, but God proved himself then when I didn’t think I could go on, and He proved  himself when I acted like the bratty Israelites who would forget all of God’s loving watch care over them and started groaning and griping about the 4000 BC equivalent to fancy cars with remotes that didn’t work.

I’m so thankful God is patient. He needed a double dose of it when dealing with this spoiled child this morning.

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So I said…..(Part II)

by Priscilla on October 2, 2013

…and then they climbed into the pool.

You have to remember here that I’m pretty much the 8&U coach which, for you non swimmers, is equivalent to aqua playground supervisor. My job really is to teach these kids the following: how to dive off the block without doing a Superman leap, how to walk from the flipper bin to the pool without falling all over themselves when they are wearing fins, how to keep the pull buoy from flying out your legs 85 times in a 25 meter swim, and how to fix your own goggles. (That last one is paramount not for swimming but for my sanity.) This may not seem like much, but throw in the facts that most of the kids are bobbing underwater 50% of the time I’m giving instructions, forcing me to repeat myself four times every new drill, and that their hearing is impeded by the lycra swim cap covering their ears so even if they were listening, I sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to them, and you can see how I might be harried when I go from coaching just my lovely 8&Unders to coaching the whole team.

If you were a parent sitting on the bleachers watching/listening to the practice you would have heard something like this:

Okay, older kids your warm up is 200 swim, kick, pull, swim.  Remember I know all the tricks because when I was your age I did all the tricks.  Don’t stop at six lengths instead of  eight. Don’t pull under your kick board with your arms. No breast stroke kick.  Don’t pull on the lane lines.

Coach Priscilla, what do you mean you know the tricks?  Do you mean you cheated?

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.  Now swim.

Coach Priscilla, can I use the bathroom?

No, I know that trick too.  Practice just started; you are trying to get out of the warm up. 

Older swimmers start swimming.  They really are good kids. I have no complaints.

Okay 8 and Unders , you are doing a 50 each of swim, kick, pull swim.

Coach Priscilla what’s a 50? Is that one length or two?

Coach Priscilla can we wear flippers the whole time?

Coach Priscilla my swim camp came off. Can you put it back on?

Coach Priscilla, I can’t see out my goggles.

Coach Priscilla, my cousins are spending the night tomorrow.  We are going to make cookies and then watch a movie.

Coach Priscilla, can I use the bathroom?

Coach Priscilla, I am hungry. Lunch at school wasn’t very good today so I didn’t eat it,  and my mom forgot to give me a snack before we came.

A 50 is two lengths. No, no flippers for this. Here’s a trick spit in the lenses.  That sounds exciting. Aren’t cousins the best?!   Yes, you can. ( I never mess around with 8&Under bladders.) I’m sorry to hear that. Always eat your lunch not matter what it is, because food gives you energy, and you need lots and lots of energy to swim.

Okay, older kids – We are going to add some new breast stroke drills tonight, but first we are going to review the kicking drills. So, we are doing 3 sets of 50s for each kicking drill.  Any questions? 

No, they don’t have questions because they are older kids, and really the only thing I have to worry about older kids is form and trying to  cheat on the amount of swimming they’ve actually done.

Yellow group (our name for the 8& U group), you remember the name of that new stroke we are learning called breast stroke?  Do you remember how to do your legs for that? Chrissy, can you stop spinning around under water to listen to what I have to say? David, put your hand down. I know you are going to ask to go first, and you don’t even know what the next drill is. Ryan, please don’t go under the lane into the big kids’ group. Samantha, please pull your bathing suit up. (We happened to have a few wardrobe malfunctions that evening.) Okay, now remember the first drill we learned…

“Coach Priscilla, this is Bob,” a lifeguard interrupted, “Can his daughters try out for swim team tonight?”

Bob tells me his daughters have taken lessons for a while and they are ready for the next level and want to see if they’d like swim team.

Of course, Bob wants to know this, and he wants to know it in the middle of the one practice where I am running the show. This is not Bob’s fault at all, and I was in no way put out, but I was in the middle of trying to keep little children’s bodies’ covered while trying to explain the fundamentals of breast stroke while trying to make sure older kids were in fact doing all of their drills correctly, and now I had to throw some new swimmers in the mix.

Sure, I said with my biggest “I’ve got this all under control smile,” I’d love to see them swim, shall we do it now?

Yellow group, you can play Marco Polo for five minutes!

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Bob’s daughters swam down and back showing me that yes indeed they could do freestyle and backstroke without stopping every three yards (Hey, I’m not picky!), and I sat with Bob and explained the swim team philosophy and procedures while young swimmers played their favorite water game and older swimmers did I have no idea what.  I just knew they weren’t drowning, and that’s all that mattered. I outfitted the newest members of our rag tag group in fins and pull buoys just like all the others. Thankfully they were not experiencing wardrobe malfunctions or leaky goggles, and eventually, I got the yellow group starting their 25 meter breast stroke kick drill.

Things hummed along fine until I introduced the whole team to a new breast stroke pull drill, and all I can say is within 30 seconds, I was ready to throw myself at the mercy of Poseidon.

Coach Priscilla like this?

Coach Priscilla like this?

Coach Priscilla like this?

Coach Priscilla I need to go the bathroom?

Coach Priscilla will you by cookie dough for our school fundraiser?

Coach Priscilla like this?

Coach Priscilla is it four kicks to one pull or one kick to four pulls?

Coach Priscilla can we play Marco Polo?

Coach Priscilla like this?

Coach Priscilla my goggles are at the bottom of the pool.

Coach Priscilla are we going to practice relays tonight? That was fun last night.

Coach Priscilla, my gerbil got out of its cage, and we think the cat ate it.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

I wonder what Michael Phelps 8&Under coach was like?

 

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