Random Friday

I have little pieces of flotsam and jetsam floating around in my head.  I think you need to share them with me.

Is it just me, or does the word “potluck” make you think of a fortune change when you smoke marijuana?  My church has changed it to “pot blessing”, but I’m not sure that’s better.

Because I am so short, I passed for under 12 for a long, long time.

Zac grew 2 inches in the last 4 months.  Wish it was me.

Ruby’s school is having a Great Pumpkin Run on Monday.  I’m helping out.  Ruby thinks the participants should run with a pumpkin between their legs.

Had a cashier at Walmart call to me.  “Michelle, Michelle!  Michelle!”  I finally turned around, wondering where Michelle was.  She was waving at me.  “Hi”, I waved back, realizing I’d forever solidified Michelle as my real name, but also knowing she was too far away for me to correct.

This past Wednesday was National Greasy Foods Day.  We ate dinner at Jack-in-the-Box.

I was once mistaken for an 8th grader.  I grew my hair out for my wedding. I was 21 years old.  Yet another reason to keep my hair short.

For 5th grade and down, Zac really wanted me in his class as a helper.  Now, he wishes I didn’t know where his school was. I might need to volunteer for the next social.

I finally heard back from the Olympia Orchestra about auditioning.  The man said he “lost your {my} email”.  Which begs the question, how does one lose an email?

Zac’s class did the best in the magazine drive, and I never had to buy a magazine.  Huzzah! The other class that went up against them is serving them milk and cookies for breakfast today.

If dancing leads to babies, then babies lead to…?

I once had an Uncle Mohammed.

Salvador Dali grew his mustache into a curlicue handlebar shape because it resembled butterfly antennae.  He thought it would pick up creative energy.

Ruby managed to force a large jingle bell onto a plastic headband.  She wore the headband to school yesterday.

I almost never put money in street musicians’ cans/jars/instrument cases.  Yes, I *am* a music snob. Nobody can play a good rendition of “Feelings” anymore.

Zac would like a 55″ plasma TV for Christmas. Please let Santa know.


Merits of Old Age

Recently, I attended a baby shower where I was (almost) the oldest woman there.  As I arrived at the restaurant, I looked around the table where the other attendees were happily downing appetizers and making polite conversation.  Everyone was in their 20s or early 30s, by sight, and had long, straight hair.  Enter me, the short, curly-haired hag. I started looking for the hidden cameras.

No, I didn’t totally feel this way, but I did feel like I was in one of those Sesame Street games – “One of these things is not like the other…”  And it gave me pause for a moment.  Then I thought, Oh well.  I’m done having babies, and most people having babies are at least 10 years younger than me. Nobody needs to know that I sometimes get fliers from AARP in the mail. Let’s get this party started!

I started contemplating the good things about getting older.  I would only want to relive my 20s if I could know then what I know now. I am sometimes insecure now but not all the time, like I was in my 20s. I lived under a constant waterfall of condemnation about my choices, ideas and opinions.  Not now.  It’s not all about me, despite shows like MTV’s Real World. I don’t have to be perfect or look perfect.  And who decides what that is, anyway? My self-worth is not based on the opinion of others. When I pray, I trust what I hear.  I don’t second-guess myself nearly as much. If I please God (and Jonathon) and don’t annoy myself, it’s all good.

What’s most memorable about my 20s is that I discovered I have controlling tendencies.  Who, me?!  Just because *I* know what’s best for everyone doesn’t mean I’m right.  It’s okay to let others take the reins sometimes, let others have input.  I don’t have to have all the answers.  Heck, I don’t even know all the right questions.

I’m starting to know myself now and I like me!  That’s a big thing right there.  I would be friends with me.  I might even have my phone number on speed dial. But I wouldn’t date me; too creepy.


I didn’t start reading the Bible until I was 11 or 12.  That’s when I got my first one, when I got saved.  My dad gave me a children’s Bible, a mammoth, illustrated book with forbidding pictures of Old Testament stories like Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, knife poised midair over his trembling son,  and a few New Testament ones I didn’t understand, like the day of Pentecost.  People sorta looked ghostly in that story, with weird white glowing blobs above their heads. These stories piqued my interest in what, to me, despite my years in Episcopal church and Sunday school, was an unknown God.

My first real Bible was black leather with my name engraved on the front:  Susan E. Cheston.  The edges of the pages were lined with gold and a gift from my father.  The wafery, skin-like paper, so thin so that you could actually carry such a weighty book around and not get a hernia, intrigued me. It smelled important.  It was NIV, which was a popular translation in the 80s.  I’ve since heard it referred to as “the truck driver’s Bible.” At that time, I did not know there were dozens of other translations available.

My dad’s new church referred to the Bible.  We were expected to bring them to church, to read along with the pastor. I used my Bible.  I read it, underlined and highlighted verses, tried to memorize them.  With my deeply ingrained respect for books, it was – and is – very difficult for me to write in books. Besides, with my handwriting, notes can become unintelligible pretty quickly.  I learned some scripture songs and was taught to value its inerrancy. I did what I was told.

I used that Bible even in bible college.  I knew by then there were many other translations, but the one favored by the denomination I landed in, the Assemblies of God, favored the King James Version or KJV.  It is filled with -ths and old timely language, but sometimes beautiful descriptions.  I grew to love it and even learned some passages out of it in that version.

Through it all, the constant was the Bible.  The inerrant, perfect Word of God.  The plumb line for our lives, the last word on everything.  To make decisions, you read the Bible, pray and seek God.  But whatever you hear from God is trumped by what the Bible says.  End of discussion.

What I’m trying to say, and not very well, is that I’ve never felt the Bible was mine.  I don’t mean like I didn’t own a few, cause I did.  I mean like my interaction with the Lord and His written word was my experience.  Not to be unkind, but there was a lot of “this is how you do it” and “you should think this way”.  I find myself at a weird juncture.  I am a grown woman with kids of my own and I want them to have a real, organic experience with God.  Yes, I want them to read the Bible with me.  We do.  Yes, they need to believe in Jesus and the Bible as the last word.  But I need to make a little room for them to come to God on their own.  They need to see the need for Him.  I can point it out and live by example.  We can go to church as a family and serve in the community.  But they have to make that decision. They have to want God and trade their way for His way.

And I think in order for this to happen, I need some more of my own real, honest times with God.  I am stepping back and shedding any religious trappings I may have picked up along the way.  I want to come to Him like a child, open and trusting.  I want to read and fellowship with Jesus. I need to forgive those who have used the Bible against me like a weapon or tool to manipulate me. That was not Jesus. People teach as best they can and didn’t mean any harm. If I have done that to others, I need to ask their forgiveness.  The Bible is a two-edged sword, and two edges can sometimes mean it cuts others and it cuts me.

Compare and Contrast

Anyone remember those essay questions on tests, or maybe in Don Ryall’s English lit classes at Bethany?  “Compare and contrast Hamlet and Petruchio”.  Or perhaps Jo and Amy in Little Women, or any two of a number of fictional literary characters.

But what if it’s happening in real life?  “Compare and contrast yourself and your best girlfriend.  Focus on the body differences.”

At kettlebells last week, I noticed a friend and I were wearing the same kind of workout pants – same color, same style.  We were standing right next to each other so it was hard to miss, what with the big mirror in the front of the class and using my eyes and all.  I pointed it out to her.

“Oh, we are!  But you look better in them”, she immediately capitulated.  I made some crack about something we both  knew:  this particular mirror had a “skinny” side, where you look amazing, and a “fat” side, where you look like you ate a few too many donuts.  It’s still you in the mirror, only enhanced either positively or negatively, sort of a fun house effect. At the time, I couldn’t think of a better way to defuse what could potentially be a negative interaction.

While this experience with the matching workout pants is humorous on the surface, it also made me want to say, “Nooo!”  Why do we do this?

I had lunch the other day with a bunch of ladies. We were goofing off, waiting for our food to arrive, when suddenly it hit again. Jill said that Jane said Jill was skinnier than she was.  These ladies are ones I look up to and I thought, Where does it end?  These are successful, accomplished women with good careers and families and reasonably attractive.  They are champions of physical fitness, strong and healthy. They encourage me to push myself and work out hard. However, when are we enough, what we’ve done, what we look like?

I sat there silently, contemplating.  This is not a legacy I want for Ruby or any of my younger girlfriends. And please don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against people who talk like this; it becomes a habit. I have been that person. I am losing weight because my clothes are getting too tight.  I am eating less because I look better, in my mind, at a certain weight, with a certain amount of toning.  I am not doing it to be better than anyone else. I want to run faster and longer.  In fact, I find competition with anyone other than myself to be destructive.  Comparing yourself to someone else you will always lose.  You either compare your strengths to someone else’s “weaknesses” and end up feeling superior, or you compare your “weaknesses” to someone else’s perceived strengths and end up feeling like a schlub.

We as women are especially horrible at this.  There’s a certain amount of feeling “less than” due to the media’s depiction of perfect bodies, airbrushed beyond recognition.  Starlets live on vegetable soup and sunflower seeds, work out 2-3 hours a day with a personal trainer, avoid carbs like some people avoid public transportation.  But we know, in our hearts, we don’t live there.  In our everyday life, with our friends, family and acquaintances, it’s something else.  We think we’re preferring others over ourselves. And it becomes a habit, a way of talking and being, self-deprecating humor with our butt as the joke.

When we say, “Oh, you look better than I do!”  it means:  You are more worthy of praise than I am.  I’m nothing.  I’m just little ol’ me.  It’s a way of fishing for a compliment, of masking insecurity.  But it’s Biblical, right?  Doesn’t Paul encourage us to prefer others over ourselves, heck, didn’t Jesus tell us to love our neighbors as ourselves?

But what if we don’t love ourselves?  Making harsh comments about your body doesn’t constitute self-love.  It only shows that you’re not happy with what God made, and that sounds like discontent and grumbling. I’m not encouraging laziness and a laissez-faire attitude.  If you want to change how you look, what you weigh and your body fat content, do it!  Do it because you want the best for yourself. I think we need to care for ourselves with love, treat ourselves well with kind words and forgiveness.  Our friends would.  If we really believe that God loves us, and it penetrates to our deepest places, wouldn’t that love permeate all our interactions, especially ones with ourselves and our bodies?

Today, I’m choosing to stand on the skinny side of the mirror.

Little Known Facts

…about me. Fifteen, to be exact.

  1. If I’m not dripping sweat by the end of the workout, I want a do-over.
  2. I can’t watch *any* scary movies.  I get nightmares easily.  I’m such a young, impressionable thing.
  3. I detest lima beans. They don’t think much of me, either.
  4. I feel more pressure to appear smart than funny.
  5. I find as I get older, God is more mysterious, more enigmatic and more wonderful than I would have imagined.
  6. I am terrible at tennis.  Ask Carter.
  7. I love old black and white movies, especially “The Thin Man” series.
  8. Musicals speak to me.
  9. I am no longer a registered Republican.  In fact, I claim no political affiliation.
  10. I like other colors besides red.
  11. I am hugely turned off by hype, dogmatism and smugness – which means, most politicians.
  12. I struggle with feeling passed over or invisible.
  13. I can read a several hundred page book in a single day.
  14. My patron saint is not Betty Boop, despite the striking resemblance.
  15. I believe all of our doing needs to come from our being.

What are some about you?

My Life in Cats

The mother of all cats

The ancient Egyptians worshiped cats, or rather as an intelligence housed in a body, a familiar of sorts. Most notably, the goddess Bastet, who evolved from a lion-goddess to a cat-goddess, protector of the pharaohs. Cats’ inscrutable gaze, wisdom glowing brightly in their eyes, combined with stately poses and gleaming fur all played into this image of feline serenity and omniscience, ferocity under complete control.

Having owned cats for my whole life, I am under no such illusions.

Living with us now are my 15th and 16th cats. Before I was born, my parents had 2 cats, Noopy and Tuffy.  Noopy was very nosy and got into everything.  Tuffy was, well, tough. I didn’t say they were named well.  Since  my parents had a tough time having kids, these 2 felines were their first babies.  My paternal grandmother even stitched chair cushions with their pictures on them. So you can see, the foundation of my life as a cat lover was laid before I was ever born.  But for those who tolerate cats like some of us tolerate broccoli, I will only share the most memorable ones.

The first cat I remember being mine was a kitten we got from the Humane Society.  My mom, single by then, decided we all needed our own.  Okay,maybe Carter and I pressured her a bit.  We each got orange cats.  Mom’s was a tabby blend she named Big Boy for obvious reasons.  Carter’s was more yellow and  a runt.  He got the moniker Tiny.  My cat, fluffy and sweet, Mom named Gandalf.  Gandalf, probably mortified at his name, ran away.  Big Boy and Tiny stayed.  Tiny became huge, and mean.  He liked to stick his claws into you while you minded your own business.  He also took walks with us and sometimes walked us to school. Big Boy liked cantaloupe and peanut butter, but not together.

Dad’s second wife agreed they could have a cat.  She, however, was no rescue cat person.  We had silk drapes and brocade couches.  Only a purebred cat would do.  They purchased an Abyssinian.  The cat was all muscle and sinew, tawny like the savannah his ancestors roamed.  He was beautiful and wild, golden eyes never still.  Dad named him Wellington, after a British general in the Napoleonic wars.  Wellington liked his new environment so much, he explored all of it.  He could jump from the floor to the top of the fridge.  He hid in cabinets.  He, after closely observing us, learned to pee in the toilet. The bad part is that he also climbed the drapes like a wild monkey, giving them fringe the manufacturer never intended.  Stepmother exiled him.

Once we started living with Dad out in Clackamas, we wanted cats there, too.  We lived out in the country in a rural subdivision.  Our yards all backed onto a “green”, which wound around into a small woods with a creek and a pond.  For my 11th birthday, I got a an all black kitten.  I named him Bubba.  Lest you think me racist, the expression going around my grade school at the time was, “What do you say, Bubba Jay?” Yeah.  I didn’t get it either.

Bubba was very affectionate.  He would sort of trot after you, rubbing his short black fur all over you, purring loudly.  Then, if you didn’t pet him fast enough, he’d bite you.  Just little nips at first.  Then the pouting would start.  He also would talk to you, little “Ows” escaping his body like puffs of exclamation. Bubba lasted a long time, all the way to when my Dad & Patty moved to Shelton. He lost an eye along the way but was as sweet as ever.  He was also only an outdoor cat by then. We never knew when he died.  He just left one day and never returned.

Teddy found us.  Dad rescued him from the side of the road.  A lanky tabby cat, he fit right in with the great outdoors.  He hunted a lot, birds, rodents, bugs; nothing escaped his tong-like grasp.  He was very fast, too.  Once he caught and killed a jack-rabbit.

Patty brought her own cat when she married Dad.  Tigger, a female patches Calico cat, lived indoors only. She had the master bedroom as her sole domain but also roamed the rest of the house.  Tigger did not appreciate being relocated yet adored being queen of the manor.  The other cats were shunted outside.  She often deigned to remind us to pick up our rooms by peeing on whatever items of clothing one left on the floor, thereby earning her the nickname Weemaster.  Once she even peed on Jonathon’s Ambassador blazer.  But that’s another story.

Crystal belonged to our neighbors across the street.  Crystal was a tabby with a pushed in face, like she had Persian roots.  Crystal belonged to a boy who liked to use her as a basketball.  Crystal decided she’d had enough and showed up in our backyard one day, eating food with our cats.  She never left.  We talked to her owners who didn’t mind losing her.  Of indeterminate age, she ruled the outdoor cats.  She popped other cats on the nose when they got out of line, sort of like a granny cat. Her favorite thing to do was get into a box, sit down and squish out the sides.  She also chirped when you pet her.  She became my cat, over time, and when Jonathon and I married, she was our first pet.  During the Clinton administration, I used to ask her what she thought of our president. She always had a ready answer.When we relocated to a nicer duplex which clearly stipulated no pets, she moved to a friend of mine.  She died of a tumor soon after.

It was several years before we got another cat.  Jonathon wanted to wait until he was done with his teaching credential and got his first job.  I reluctantly agreed.  There was a certain freedom in being able to take off and leave whenever you wanted and not have to find someone to feed your cat or scoop the litter box.

Enter Rita.  Rita we picked up in Coquille.  We lived in Reedsport at the time. I was home, no job, no transportation, living in a new town hundreds of miles from home.  I was lonely.  We found an ad for free kittens, finally found Coquille and looked the litter over.  There were a couple of black ones, and Rita, a tortoiseshell calico.  I loved her.  She was feisty and tiny.  She had just a bit of orange showing at that time but it sealed the deal.  We took her home.

We got to spend a lot of time together.  Our duplex in Reedsport was upstairs from our landlord.  It had pink carpet, high beamed sort of Scandinavian ceilings, and a wood stove.  Oh, and 80s floral drapes.  She loved them all.  Well, not the wood stove.  She hopped on that once and was off it , climbing the walls, very quickly.  She walked the wood beams near the ceiling.  She climbed the drapes only a couple of times before I stopped her and she scratched her claws and raced around on the pink carpet.

Rita loved to play hide and seek with toys.  She loved walnuts, just batting them around.  She would routinely lose them in the couch cushions and mew piteously for me to dig them out.  We played chase the ball or ribbon all around the house. When Jonathon brought me roses, she thought they were catnip and delicately scalloped the edges of the petals with her razor-sharp teeth.  She burrowed under the covers of our bed and napped. When I practiced my flute, she rolled around on the music, biting the instrument and the paper, all the while purring loudly. Once I realized she was gettting no bigger and I let her outside, she climbed on the roof.  That was at our second rental in Reedsport, a house built int he late 1920s.  It had a steep roofline.  She went up there to catch a bird and got stuck.  She would not come down for yogurt or tuna.  I had to put on my fleece pullover, a fuchsia number I later would name “the magic sweater”.  Cats are color blind, but she knew that sweater and would come to me whenever I wore it. She caught and killed rodents, leaving them on the front step.  Sometimes all that would remain was the spleen or liver, a bitsy offering of sorts. Rita relocated with us 3 times and survived the birth of our children, though she didn’t have much use for them. She was my first baby and she could never understand why I would replace her with “them”. Ruby could not say “Rita” so she was “Pita”.  Actually, all furry animals were “Pita” for at least a year. Zac was heartbroken when we put her to sleep.  She had renal failure.  He wondered if she went to heaven.  Oh, I do hope so.  I really do.

Enter Rex and Chloe.  Rex was another Craigslist find.  He still lives with us, his  sleek royal blackness and golden eyes making him the most handsome cat we’ve ever owned.  He didn’t reach full maturity until he was 2 years old.  Every meow with a hint of a whine, and there are a lot of them, he appears to have American Bombay in him. He is now about 20 lbs, all muscle yet dainty paws, a dense heat-seeking anvil.  Chloe was given to us by a  local bank teller whose cat had unwanted kittens.  Chloe was a bit of a thing, longhaired and also black.  Chloe is boneless and very relaxed, the original jello cat.  She’s allowed herself to be carried, lower body dangling.  She’s ridden in Ruby’s stroller. She sleeps in Ruby’s room when Ruby’s sad or scared.

To this day, I’m not really sure if I’ve owned these cats or if they’ve owned me.  They lived in my home and will live in my heart. I am…a cat lover.  But not a crazy cat lady. Yet.

New Generation

I read a Facebook post link to a blog an old friend of mine posted the other day.  It was a profanity-laced rant by Generation X, a reply  how to the latest report said the economy was going to tank even further and Generation X would not be as well off as their parents. You can read it here. Fair warning:  the language is rough.

I am part of Generation X.

This blog basically said:  Stuff it.  We don’t want to hear any more about it.  We’re tired of being sandwiched between two more vocal generations – Baby Boomers and Generation Y.  Weary and in debt, we just want to smoke a joint and/or have a beer and to be left alone.

Being raised in a rather protective Christian home and being an incredibly nerdy kid with no social life and an over-active conscience, I have participated in neither of these activities, enjoyable though they may be.  I found this rant off-putting.

I was born in 1970 in a middle-class family.  I got a good education from my public school, took some college credit classes there and got into a small, private college.  I don’t blame anyone for my choices or the consequences of majoring in music when I could (and possibly should) have done something that would create more net worth in my future.

As a general rule, I don’t like the whole “Generation” thing.  “The Greatest Generation”  had some jerks in it.  “Baby Boomers” are not all self-serving, Botoxed twits.  Generation Y are not all whiners and slackers.  Generation X, though perhaps weary of propaganda and hype of any sort, suspicious of do-gooders, contributes to society and cares about others.

Wikipedia defines Generation X, or Gen X as we’re affectionately called, as the post WWII baby boomer generation. The birth dates encompass anywhere from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Named by Magnum photographer Robert Capa, influenced by the onslaught of punkers and rockers in the British subculture, he saw us facing an uncertain, possibly hostile future. Our generation saw the end of the Cold War, 1973 oil crisis, Berlin’s wall fall, rise of the personal computer and the internet, introduction of AIDS and essentially a picture of the world that made it seem smaller and less friendly. Gen X is well acquainted with change and considers it the norm rather than the exception. Marked by cynicism and skepticism, we tend to ignore our leaders instead of replace or reform them.

Some of this resonates with me. Yet there comes a point when this generalizing about generations starts to feel like a horoscope.  “Today you will get in a conflict with Aries, but resolution will come through a close friend.  Watch out for Sagittarius!  All is not as it seems. Romance blossoms later in the month.”


What if the prejudice went so far as to exclude you from getting a job.  “Uh, I’m sorry, but I deduce you are Generation X.  Your kind are a bit cynical and sarcastic and dont’ do well with authority.  We’ve found a Generation Y person who fits in better.  They’re hipper and their whining is humorous.” Jonathon says this amounts to nothing but class warfare.

I don’t know about that. I just know I don’t like being put in a box. Perhaps that’s part of my generation, too.