Paradox of Push Back

Today is October 31.  It’s Halloween.  I started my blog last year and this was one of my first posts.  My feelings on the topic remain pretty much the same.

I attended a meeting with the Mason County Shelter yesterday afternoon.  The architect and federal funding group showed up to present the latest progress on the 2 new buildings.  Since all the bids were over budget, we were told, they were summarily rejected.  The concept of value engineering bids did not go over well with either the HTF (state funding) or CDBG (federal funding).  So, back to the drawing board.

As we sat in the Sunday school room/fellowship hall/beige box of one of our local churches, it all seemed a bit surreal.  My boss has been trying to get these new buildings erected since 2008. Many small miracles occurred along the way in order to get the parcel of land purchased and to even get the grant money necessary to put them up.  And now, more delays.  The architect informed us that his team had gone through 11 iterations since 2009 in order to get the budget for the structures down from $2.5 million to $1.7 million.  I’m thinking, What?!  You’ve gone through, line by line, and cut costs 11 times?  When do you push back and say, “That’s it!  Let’s get this puppy built or find another architect.” I don’t know. It’s not my call.

With the wistful rug of Jesus on the wall witnessing our entire meeting, I had to wonder.  When do you say enough is enough?

I had a little moment like that with Zac this morning.  Yesterday, he forgot his lunch. Yesterday afternoon, he returned home and devoured it.  He could have eaten a hot lunch at school but he has a balance on his account.  He didn’t even want to ask if he could have a hot lunch and risk possible embarrassment, so he didn’t eat anything for lunch. Fast forward to today, and as we pulled into the parking lot of his school, I asked if he had his lunch.

“Ah, Jeez!” he exclaimed. He did not have it.

“Well, you keep putting it in the wrong place,” he countered.  “You move it and I can’t find it.”

I patiently explained that I put it by his shoes purposely so he *wouldn’t* forget it.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t see it,” he groused.

Silence.

You have nothing to do today.  You could bring it up to me.”

I laughed. So that’s how you want to play it?

“Zac, I might do that.  But the point is that you forgot it.  You can’t blame it on me. You spent 5 minutes looking for your comb.  If it mattered to you, you would have located it.”

He didn’t like that.

“No, you moved it!  I couldn’t find it. You know I’m not a morning person. It was 7 o’clock in the morning. It’s your fault!”

I had had it.

I ordered him to get out.  I was done.

We rolled up to the dropoff point. He hopped out into the downpour and raced into the school.

Jonathon, merciful man, later brought him his lunch.  He also told me Zac was wearing the shoes which had been right underneath the forgotten lunch.  He had to move them to put the shoes on. Arggh!

We are trying, sometimes successfully, to teach our kids to take responsibility for their actions and to let consequences teach.  Sometimes it takes, sometimes it doesn’t.  But to us, it’s very important they learn this lesson at home when the loss is relatively small than out in the world when it could cost them their house or job.

With the shelter, we will continue on and keep good communication open and believe the best about the people involved in the project.  We have to press on.  The new shelter/office and apartments will be completed sometime if we continue to have faith. It’s a learning curve for all of us.

Most likely, Zac will return home and apologize. Jonathon’s act of kindness, and our unintentional good cop/bad cop style of parenting, smoothed things over a bit. There is a place for that, at times. I will apologize for getting angry. This will open the dialogue about where we should leave his cold lunch in the future so that it is easy to find. In this way, all of us will get to grow up.

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Disks of Doom

I nicknamed them Disks of Doom! Halloween themed.  Get it?!

I love to bake.  But lest you think I am some Northwest-flavored, Martha Stewart-Julia Childs amalgam in the kitchen, think again.  For today, dear readers, I attempted my first biscuits.

I bought the buttermilk.  I dug out a recipe in a cookbook one of my super sister-in-laws gave me.  It looked pretty simple.  Flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, more butter.  I could get used to this!  I omitted the chocolate chips in the recipe because I wanted to make them more versatile.  I quickly realized the sugar and cinnamon were a coating for the top, so I left out those, too.

Then I looked at the recipe again.  Wait, no baking soda or baking powder?  How in the world would they rise?  The picture in the cookbook showed light, flaky biscuits, all golden brown and delectable.  You could practically smell them.  Hmm.  Maybe I didn’t know as much about baking as I thought I did.

I cut the 1/3 cup of butter into the 2 cups of flour.  Just as precaution, I added 3/4 tsp. of baking powder. Couldn’t hurt, right?  I mixed in the 3/4 c. of buttermilk.  Still kind of dry.  Added a bit more buttermilk after I added the rest of a stick of butter.  It’s the secret to life according to Gerard Depardieu:  Butter!

I dumped it out and rolled it on a floured surface. It seemed like something familiar. My sleep-deprived brain, pre-coffee, made no viable connections. I rolled on and cut out the biscuits.  The kids would be down any minute.  Hurry!  I dumped the round forms onto the cookie sheet and shoved them into the oven.  It was out of my hands then.

As I cleaned up and chatted with Ruby, I peeked through the glass oven door.  Nothing.  No rising.  They were getting brown, but staying as flat as a baked pancake.  Why?!

After the allotted time, I pulled them out. They smelled great.  They were delightfully golden.  But flat as a possum on I-5.

I gingerly sliced them and griped about it to Jonathon.  He looked over my shoulder at the recipe.

“Well, Sue”, he said, after I stopped asking questions of him, the biscuit master.  “It looks like a pie crust recipe, not a biscuit recipe.”

Bingo!  That’s exactly what it was, only substituting buttermilk for the ice water used to lubricate the dough.  So, today I served mini buttermilk pie crusts with butter, jelly and peanut butter.  They crunched and flaked in our mouth. Biscuits, for the record, should not crunch. If it walks like a duck…

“Granddad makes light, flaky biscuits – big ones!” exclaimed Ruby, as she chewed her way through my culinary mishap.

Thanks. Something to keep in mind the next time.

Weighty Issues

Jonathon and I discovered a new addiction last night:  My 600 lb. Life.

Yep.  It’s yet another show on the The Learning Channel, created to educate us about the lives of the enormously obese.  Yes, it does pander to the lowest common denominator in the human galaxy of failings: incurable curiosity.  What’s it like to be so large you can’t walk any farther than the bathroom?  Is it true you can’t even drive a car because the steering wheel gets in the way?

I started it.  I was looking for something a little inspirational, turned off by the plethora of Halloween movies making the rounds as that day draws ever closer.  Truth be told, I was flipping between a Jonathan Taylor Thomas Christmas movie (!) and the 600 lb. Life show.  I was hard up, folks.  Just killing time until Zac went to bed, looking forward to a quiet evening with my husband who spent most of the weekend working on an assignment for his doctoral program, a 10-page lit review.

Turns out, the foundation of the show was following 4 people over the course of 7 years, starting in 2004.  Each of these four people – Melissa, Ashley, Henry and Donald –  had gastric bypass surgery from the same doctor.  This is not lap band surgery, where a plastic band constricts the size of your stomach.  That band can be loosened or tightened based on a person’s particular need. This is more drastic.  This is changing the physiology of the stomach.  Wikipedia says:

Gastric bypass procedures (GBP) are any of a group of similar operations that first divides the stomach into a small upper pouch and a much larger lower “remnant” pouch and then re-arranges the small intestine to connect to both. Surgeons have developed several different ways to reconnect the intestine, thus leading to several different GBP names. Any GBP leads to a marked reduction in the functional volume of the stomach, accompanied by an altered physiological and physical response to food.

Each of the four people profiled in the series weighed over 600 lbs. This surgery was a last-ditch effort to save their lives.  When naked, you could see nothing of their genitalia because of the rolls of fat covering their bodies. Not that I was looking, mind you. That fat literally suffocated the life out of their bodies.  It was their predator and their lives were the prey.

I say that not to make fun of them or humiliate them.  As I watched I thought, We’re coming in on the middle of a story.  How did they get this heavy? Why isn’t everyone around them this size, 400+ pounds heavier than most?  What makes people eat 10,000 calories a day? They could not control their weight through diet and/or exercise and this operation would save them from an early grave.

I watched the stories of two different gals, Melissa and Ashley.  Melissa got me hooked.  She was honest about her struggle and her marriage.  Her husband, Chris, she discovered, married her because he wanted to take care of her.  For her part, she admitted she didn’t want to be alone.  They created, in essence, an arranged marriage.  Her openness about gastric bypass not being a magic bullet and having to work at eating well and exercising despite having a much smaller place for food was enlightening.

I watched as she recounted her husband’s emotional affairs.  I’m sure he didn’t appreciate airing his dirty laundry on national TV and it seemed to cool his ardor for a while.  She lost her weight.  She got too skinny by year 4 and the doctor told her to put some weight back on! She lost weight too quickly and spent more than 3 months in the hospital. She conceived a child which she promptly lost.  It devastated both of them.  Then, miraculously, she got pregnant again and carried to term.  She had a little girl.  Now, they needed to work on their marriage some more.  Once you have a child, it changes everything and realigns priorities.  She said, “I think my marriage is worth fighting for.” Chris entered therapy. They recommitted to their marriage and moved into a home together.  Ta da!

Now, I know that a TV show isn’t always about happy endings.  But something kept coming up.  Melissa said, and I paraphrase:  “I thought everything would be great once I lost the weight.  My life would be perfect.  But it isn’t true.”  She had to deal with the fact that her husband wanted to be her caretaker and she didn’t need that anymore.  He needed to let her take care of herself and trust she would still come home to him.  She admitted she needed him and appreciated his support through thick – literally – and thin.

The other gal whose story I watched, Ashley, had unique issues.  Her mother made fun of her; it was painful to watch.  Ashley’s sister, Megan, was normal sized and active.  Megan didn’t have a weight problem.  Ashley’s mother didn’t worry about Megan and Ashley felt her personal shame keenly.  Ashley’s  mother nagged, nagged, nagged her about eating and her size, yet wouldn’t change her own eating habits to help her daughter.  Ashley, a twenty-something still living at home, was stuck.  She did her best to get her life moving forward again but only truly succeeded when she moved out. After her dad died of a fast-acting cancer, she and her mother had to confront their contentions head-on.  The root of Ashley’s unhappiness and overeating lies there.

The great mystery of life abides.  Each of these women felt demoralized and hopeless.  Our culture makes it a sin to be fat.  To be a female who doesn’t fit into a size 8 means our youth-oriented, appearance-obsessed culture looks down on you.  You face ridicule, ostracism, and if you’re seriously large, premature death. Though each of them had surgeries to remove excess skin as their weight dropped, it was only a small percentage of their weight loss journey.This struggle with size is something most of us fight.  And don’t we believe the same lie?  “If I could only fit into that dress, I would finally be popular!” Okay, now that we’re….older…the parameters of the lie may have changed, but the lie itself remains. Our size does not dictate our happiness. It’s an inside job and always will be. Take it from the (formerly) 600-lb. women. They discovered that life, no matter if they reached a single-digit size, was worth living.  They inspired me.

Blind Faith

Today, we read Luke 18. I have to say I’m really liking the days when there’s less to read. I can spend more time meditating on the scripture and less time scrambling to make sure I get all the chapters read.

This chapter is mostly about persistence,which I’ve written about, on another occasion, here and here. And possibly other places, but you get the idea.

The first parable in this chapter is about praying and not giving up.  It recounts the tale of a widow who goes to a judges, over and over, day after day, looking for justice from her enemy.  The judge, worn down with her entreaties, gives in. He admits he doesn’t fear God or care about people (Luke 18:4).  He decides to help her because she bugged him so long and he wants her out of his hair.

Next is the story of the Pharisee, praying and praising himself that he’s not an adulterer, cheater or a sinner “like everyone else” (Luke 18:11).  He reminds God of his obedience.  The tax collector merely beats his breast and pleads with God for mercy.  Jesus tells his disciples the tax collector, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God:  “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). That particular story didn’t necessarily reflect persistence, but it did show the Pharisees’ general viewpoint of themselves versus the rest of the Jewish community and the world.

After that is the story of Jesus blessing the little children.  The parents brought them to Jesus.  The disciples, concerned with Jesus’ greater mission and perhaps his endurance, scold them. Jesus gives the disciples what for.  “Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” (Luke 18:16-17).

And what are kids known for?  Stubbornly, persistently asking for what they want, believing they will get it. They trust.

I’m skipping over the story of the rich man who asks Jesus about inheriting eternal life, and Jesus predicting his death, in the interest of time.  More on those later.

I only summarize these stories because they build up to the last one, Jesus healing a blind beggar.  We pick up the narrative again in verse 35.  Jesus is approaching Jericho and encounters a blind beggar, panhandling by the side of the road. The man heard a crowd going past and asked what was happening. The people told him – Jesus the Nazarene was going by.  The blind man, seizing an opportunity, calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Why did he choose that particular phrase – son of David?  He recognized Jesus’ lineage, traced through his father, Joseph. Did he perhaps recognize that the Messiah would come from David’s line?  And what of this mercy?

The people in front of him yelled, “Be quiet!” The audacity of the blind man, calling out to Jesus! As if!

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Undeterred by the crowds’ jeering and anger, he pressed on.  After all, what did he have to lose?

Jesus heard him (v. 40) and ordered that the man be brought to him.  “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“Lord”, he said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus answered.

“All right, receive your sight!  Your faith has healed you” (v.42)

The Bible says instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God.  And all who saw it praised God, too (v.43).

In this one man, we see a childlike quality.  He heard it was Jesus and his heart leapt within him. Jesus could offer healing!  He wouldn’t have to beg anymore, be looked down on by everyone.  He called louder and kept hoping.  He was not deterred by the hordes of people telling him to be quiet. I admire his chutzpah.  If Jesus was the Messiah, he wouldn’t turn his back on a blind man.  He planned to wear Jesus and his followers down, if need be, in order to be seen to.  He asked.  He sought.  He knocked!

He received what he wanted.  And, he increased the faith of others, too.  Maybe he didn’t need his physical eyesight to “see” what was right in front of him. His heart was open for a miracle; he humbled himself to receive it, willing to do whatever Jesus asked. His faith gave him spiritual sight.

Join the Circus

We hit up the pet store today.  Not because we were looking for a new pet, but because it’s one of Ruby’s favorite things to do. Used to be one of Zac’s things, too, before he got too old for such pastimes.

I picked her up after school (early release because of conferences). We braved the drizzle and trekked over to the house of expectant pets.  We ogled the bunnies, or rabbits if you prefer, first.  They skittered around in their metal tub, all fuzzy brown and gray fur.  One snoozed with its eyes open, peeking from the doorway of  its hot pink castle.

Next to that was a small schnauzer of some kind.  He or she was all alone in his tub.  He looked up hopefully from his nest of shredded paper, black and white face hopeful.  He was no bigger than a minute.  I felt for him, lonely and wanting a home.  But I knew Jonathon would probably divorce me if I returned with another pet.

We moved past the parakeets and lovebirds, all like misplaced rays of a pastel sunrise.  We stopped again at the kittens.  I’ll give Ruby one thing:  she’s consistently drawn to mammals.  The two kittens slept stacked on top of each other, a picture of fuzzy contentment.  An orange tabby, probably 10 weeks old was under a tiny black kitten, probably 6 weeks old.  Truly, the black kitten looked too young to be away from its mama.  Or possibly the black kitten was a runt.  I have a special place in my heart for runts.  It opened its eyes and mewed piteously, almost like a peeping bird.  We took turns admiring the kittens, their eyes never leaving our wiggling fingers petting them through the wire cage.

We strolled back to the fish and amphibians and puppies.  Hey, I don’t organize the store.  The puppies recently moved behind a sliding glass door, again within those huge metal tubs.  Several small puppies filled each of the four tubs – chihuahuas, terriers, dachshunds and greyhounds.  They all slept save the terriers.  Again, those brown eyes with invisible eyebrows lifted with longing eyed me.  “Looking for me?” I couldn’t watch for long, my heart starting to soften again.

The fish held Ruby’s interest briefly, their exotic colors iridescent as they swished around.  The tortoises and lizards we watched a  little longer.  Why is that lizard in the corner, Mommy?  He’s in a timeout, I replied.  Bad lizard! No tarantulas this time, thank goodness.  Lots of rats, however.

Ruby particularly wanted to adopt a newborn rat or mouse, all pink skin, hairless and defenseless. Wouldn’t Rex and Chloe, our ever-hungry kitties love that. Mommy said no way.  Bad Mommy!

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the aquarium filled with small brown domestic mice.  A small group in the back corner slept in a haphazard pile. Towards the middle of the cage stood a purple exercise wheel.  The mice jumped on that.  They spun it, they climbed on top of it and slipped off when it spun. They quickly got up and jumped on again, cramming into the wire structure.  Ruby laughed and laughed.  It was like a mouse circus.  Then suddenly, all the mice left the wheel.  One lone mouse jumped on it.  He ran around inside the wheel, all the way around, faster and faster.  He could not get it to move.  His weight alone, all 2 ounces of it, was too light.  He needed a buddy. Another mouse jumped into the wheel.  They ran together in tandem, stride for stride.  The wheel turned, creaking its rhythmic protest .  Then the other mice piled on.

Some things can only be accomplished with the help of others.  Those things are also more fun when done with others.  It’s okay to need others.  In fact, it’s important to admit it.  None of those mice were fat because they enjoyed the wheel and shared the load of spinning it. Okay, possibly because they didn’t quite get enough to eat, but that’s another issue. They liked the wheel, the  joy of exertion needed to twirl it and understood in their vermin brains that teamwork got it done.

It’s not good for us to be alone.  We all need to be “adopted” somewhere, be a part of something else.  We just might find out it can be fun, too. Take a group exercise class.  Check out a church. Volunteer somewhere.  You  could be a part of something wonderful.

The Importance of Pants

(You want to know where her shirt is?  I dunno. It’s not me, FYI.)

Yesterday, I discovered something.  Pants matter.  Pants are important.

Oho, I know this! you say, being a regular pants-wearer yourself. No, you really don’t.

I packed the special pants for the marathon.  Yep.  I pulled on my black stretchy pants and they seemed fine.  They *were* fine.  Jonathon liked them.  I even wore them forwards. I purchased them specifically for the marathon:  compression pants.  They’re supposed to keep your legs from getting tired as quickly since your muscles don’t get jostled around as much.  I was stoked about that.  I felt like maybe, just maybe, I could fly. I would be Supergirl! Or Superwoman, if that floats your boat.

And I did, for about 12-13 miles.  I cruised along, enjoying the scene. But then the wheels fell off, as you well know.

Turns out I didn’t wear the right pants.  I have 3 (three) pairs of black athletic pants.  Some are shorter, one is longer.  The longest pair has no pocket.  Which totally explains why I couldn’t find a back pocket on the durned pants marathon morning.  It wasn’t there.  Never was!

I put on the real pants yesterday before I went running.  These had ribbing on them, going around the leg.  These felt…different.  Wait a minute!  These are the pants I should’ve worn on October 7!  Not those other poser pants. They’re good and all, but not magical.

Gah.

So now you know.  It was all the fault of the pants. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.