Children’s Day

Ruby got to school late.  We had yet another doctor’s appointment to meet with the ENT to decide, yes, she would need an operation to put tubes in her ears.  Met with the surgeon.  He removed a miniscule amount of wax from her ears to confirm the fluid in there.  I had a very distinct deja-vu feeling.  We did this before, right?  At least we didn’t have to endure another hearing test.  And does nobody read the charts?!  I had to recount everything to the nurse.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

Grr!

I wondered that myself.

Today, at Ruby’s school, it was Le Dios de Los Ninos.  Children’s Day.  And I’m sure I butchered that Spanish.  Can’t I just say it in French?!  I suppose that defeats the purpose.  Every April 30, contrary to Wikipedianism, it’s Children’s Day at Evergreen. It has nothing to do with children working long hours getting guaranteed an education.  I thought it was an Hispanic holiday.  Now I’m not so sure.

All day, they celebrated children.  It seems appropriate for an elementary school.  Streamers line the hallways. Parents are allowed to come and go.  I heard rumors of cupcakes and pinatas.  Oh, and outdoor games.

I told Ruby I would drop by in the afternoon.  I went to her classroom where they were starting to work on a craft.  The teacher barely noticed me, frazzled by glitter duty.  The kids sat, talking amongst themselves, at their tables.  They were supposed to write a wish on a cutout of a star or a chili pepper.  Guess whose this is?

When you wish upon a chili...

When you wish upon a chili…

Other kids were writing things like “I want to be a ballerina” or “I want to be a policeman”, phonetically.  The teacher had me work with that boy, a non-native English speaker.  The whole “i” in Spanish sounding like an “e” threw him.  Good thing he read it to me.

“Ruby,” I said to her, “I thought you wanted to be an artist.”

“I do!” she said with a smile.  “I am going to be an artist.”

Then I told her she already was.  She smiled a Cheshire cat smile.

So why wish for it?  Why indeed.  Wish for something more important, like dogs.

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Taking the Bitter With the Sweet

eat me cake

Yesterday, our pastor was preaching out of Revelation 3.  This is the “you’ve left your first love” passage.  The first part of the chapter is about repenting and stirring up the good works that kept us loving Jesus.  He then went on to touch on more points within the book of Revelation.

What I remember, though, is when he got to Revelation 10.  John sees an angel coming down from heaven, nimbused by a rainbow and a cloud.  He planted one foot on the sea and one foot on the land and gave a mighty shout like a lion (Rev. 10:1-3).  Apparently, he had an open scroll in his hand.  The voice from heaven (presumably God) told John to go to the angel and take the scroll.  This, you may recall, is a trippy book, full of visions and symbolism.  Hang with me here.

“Yes, take it and eat it,” he said.  “It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach” (Rev. 10:9).  At this point, I always think of Alice in Wonderland and the cake that said “EAT ME”.  Only this scroll doesn’t cause John to shrink or grow.  The point our pastor made is that we read the Bible and we take it in and it’s sweet to us. We say, Oh wow!  That is good.  Mmm-hmm. I need more self-control in my life.  Yep.  There it is.  But then we walk away and God provides places for us to exercise self-control and grow that fruit and we dodge it. We make excuses.  We fail to make the connection.

Or maybe we read what Jesus says about forgiveness:  “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).  We think, Thank You, Jesus, for forgiving me! Hallelujah! (wave your glory flag here).  And we totally miss the conditional nature of that promise. We recall instead all the other promises about the total expiation of our sins provided by Jesus’ sacrifice.  I had never heard that scripture explained this way before, but it clicked.

Both concepts are are true.  Jesus paid it all.  Ephesians 1:7:  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  Isaiah 1:18:  “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow, Though they are red like crimson, I will make them white as wool.”  Yet, we must do our part.  We slam up against this gem:  “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins, too” (Mark 11:25).  Jesus said that, too.

Forgiveness is not fun.  Sometimes we have to pray to be made willing.  Sometimes, we want to punch people in the stomach first, then forgive them.  Can I get a witness?  Just one teensy gust-busting sock, a sort of “right hand of fellowship”?  No?  All right.  I tried.

This is where we get bogged down.  We would rather mete out justice than let God do it.  See, if we forgive people, we get out of the way.  God can handle the justice part. Deuteronomy 32:35 says ‘I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.’  God said that.  I don’t have to defend myself or make it right.  Forgiving others and staying in right relationship with them is keeping to the good works.  It keeps our love for Jesus and others alive.  In due time He will make it right.  And make *me* right in the process.

Movie Review: Oblivion

oblivion

Last night, we went out with my brother and sister-in-law on a double date.  We had a great time and took in the new Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion.  We have gone to see several movies together over the years. Most of them are action movies or sci fi flicks.  This was kind of both.

Was it any good?  I hear you ask.  Well… read on.  Spoiler alert!  I will be discussing plot points of the movie.  If you don’t wanna know, don’t read this.

The movie starts out with Tom Cruise doing a voice-over as we view  a version of a  wrecked earth.  Aliens attacked the moon, throwing the planet into chaos:  oceans swelled into tsunamis, earthquakes leveled cities, people starved.  They invaded and earthlings fought and won the war, kicking ET’s heinie.  The earth was left in ruins.  Then the government constructed a space station and a new civilization on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, to house the survivors.

And this is where my questions started.  Why Titan?  Isn’t that a bit out-of-the-way? And how did they construct everything and get it out there?   I put it aside.

The voice-over continued to say that the Earth of now was uninhabitable.  And yet Tom Cruise’s character, a drone repair technician, spends ALL of his day flying around, searching out  and repairing downed drones, and walking the surface of the planet.  He needs no protective mask; the air is fine.  He and his wife, Victoria, are there to make sure the oceans get drained completely dry, turning it into potable water for the colonists, and making sure “scabs” (leftover aliens) don’t sabotage their final exit from the decimated orb.  They must protect the “Tet”, the machine changing the water.

But, as in so many movies in the last 15 years, reality is not what it seems.  Tom Cruise has been making his living handily as a “man out of time” character.  Mission Impossible.  Knight and Day. Minority Report.  Vanilla Sky. He plays these roles of a person who either 1) doesn’t know who he really is, or 2) others don’t truly know him, or 3) both.  Frankly, it’s getting tiresome.

He is restless in this job.  It’s a sort of Adam and Eve scenario.  He and Victoria live in a dwelling pitched high in the clouds for safety.  She is mission control and monitors all his communication and movements.  They are the last humans left on Earth, the “mop-up crew”, as he calls it.  He doesn’t want to leave.  He is haunted by very vivid dreams where he is on Earth before the wars, standing atop the Empire State building with an Audrey Hepburn type (not Victoria), looking out over the city.  He knows his memory was “wiped” so he wouldn’t compromise the current mission.  He has questions; his wife Vic doesn’t.  She’s more than ready to go to Titan and get off the dead carcass.

He does his job and manages to elude the watchful eye of his wife, flying to places where the earth has healed itself.  He has a little verdant valley where he’s built a cabin on a lake.  Fresh water and fish survive.  Trees, birds and grasses fill the area, seemingly untouched by all the devastation.  Tom has books, records and even a little windpower.  For him, it’s a little slice of heaven.  Victoria won’t go down to see it; she’s stuck on the regulations forbidding her to do so.  She uses her feminine wiles to great advantage to keep his heart with her.

At about this point, as he struggles with longing for more and dodging wifey, I started thinking, where are we going with this?  This is a long movie to make about a midlife crisis.  And Tom Cruise has aged amazingly well.  He’s 50!  I guess those are thoughts you shouldn’t be having in the middle of a new movie.

I won’t summarize the rest of the movie because it would take too much time. Morgan Freeman’s appearance  is a bright spot, sort of reprising his role as God from the Bruce and Evan Almighty movies.   But aliens aren’t always aliens.  Triangles are bad. Drones look remarkably like round versions of WALL-E.  And sometimes you do have evil twins.  Lots, in fact.

The ending has elements of Armageddon, Deep Impact, Matrix, 2012,  and First Contact  bound up in it, like a smorgasbord of sci-fi end-of-the-world goodness.  It also incorporated Biblical concepts, like the Flood and a certain amount of personal redemption.  The basic messages of the movie seem to be:  Don’t trust the government.  Question reality.  Even after all hope is gone, life renews itself.  We shall overcome.  That part was beautiful.

Toxic

toxic

I got off the phone with someone today who had a toxic relationship of more than 50 years healed in one afternoon.  I marveled at the beauty of the timing and the gift of grace, however long in the coming.  It floored the person and brought her great joy, all at once.  And it got me thinking…

We started out well, my college best friend and I.  We were  music majors together, taking the same classes.  In a Bible college founded to churn out missionaries, evangelists and pastors, we were part of a unique breed.  She was pursuing a teaching credential in music and I was only getting a performance degree (less credits).  She was highly competitive (pot, meet kettle) and wanted to be the best in Music Theory, Musicianship (well…until senior year and it was just her and I in the class…then we both tried to get Norm to tell us stories), Form and Analysis, Composition, and on and on.  We pushed each other to do better.  She was a voice major and I was a flute major.

We had a lot in common.  We were both on the quiet side.  Our parents were divorced.  We were both the oldest.  She was funny.  She used to do crazy things like buying Swiss cheese and putting M&Ms in the holes.  She wore pajama bottoms to the store before it was fashionable. We struggled with our different college crushes, her most serious one unrequited, despite mixed signals from the  guy. She put my organizational gifts to shame, however.

Some nights when we roomed together, I would find her organizing her desk in the middle of the night.

“Deb”, I’d croak murkily from my squeaky, plastic green bed.  “What are you doing?”

She’d turn and smile sheepishly.

“Getting a jump on tomorrow,” she’d reply.

Immediately I felt like a lunk.  Was *I* ready for tomorrow?  What if Jesus came back?  Nah.  Still waiting on the Antichrist.  I’d roll over and go back to sleep.

Granted, in this instance I was at fault.  She was so great to talk to!  I could dump all my problems on her.  Even when she became an RA she was there for me.  Her sturdy shoulders and kind demeanor kept me afloat.  I had no idea how much crap she was stuffing down, her parents’ horrible divorce just prior to her freshman year of college, her tragic breakup with her high school sweetheart, and as the oldest in her family, trying to keep her siblings from drifting away.

As a firstborn myself, I should have seen the signs.  But I was too self-absorbed.  All I could see were my own petty problems.  Well, some not so petty, but to me they were all larger than life.  Drama queen!

So it all blew up.  I was dumping on her about something really awful that happened back home regarding my sister and she yelled at me.  Me!  Her best friend!  We had done our junior recital together, flute and voice, some songs together but most separately, as a rehearsal for our senior one the next year.  She accused me of only thinking about myself.  She ripped me a new one, to use the vernacular.

And she was right.

At the time, though, all I could see was how much she hurt me.  I hurried back to my dorm, crying, to good ol’ Room 295 in Harp Hall.  The room where spiders flourished.  Eventually, I saw her point of view and I told her I was sorry. Alas, it did not truly  take.  Somehow, lasting damage, like holes in a ship’s hull, were starting to tank the relationship.

Fast forward to our senior year.  Sticking to our original agreement, we practiced our songs together and apart.  We roomed together the first half of the year.  We had a great time, sharing secrets in the dark.  Then she…moved out.  I was heartbroken.  She wanted to live off campus with some other girls and experience “real life”.  At the time, I remember thinking they were a bad influence and nothing good could come of it.

Truth be told, our friendship was over long before that.  I just didn’t know it.

We drove into San Francisco early that spring and shopped at the Jessica McClintock outlet for our dresses.  I found a two-piece black velvet number with long sleeves, a floor-length skirt and glitter all over it.  My first foray into glamour!  She found a demure beige damask ensemble that complimented her peaches and cream complexion perfectly.

Senior recital day came.  I was required to perform an hour of music.  I was in a cold sweat.  My program was all timed.  Not to be outdone, Deb did an hour as well.  I would ike to apologize to all those who attended.  It was a looong night.  But we knew if we performed poorly, we wouldn’t graduate.  We had talked about going out afterwards to Baker’s Square in San Jose to celebrate this huge achievement. I couldn’t wait to rehash it all with her.

In the end, she went out with her mom.  I got it.  She and her mom had been estranged, off and on, for years.  It was important.  My mom and I went out, too, as she sang on one of my songs.  Maybe there were other people with us; I don’t remember.  I only remember the aching hole in my heart.  I saw Deb there, with her mom.  When she saw me, she ignored me.

And it never changed.

Oh, she got married the next year.  Excitedly, she called and asked me to play flute for her wedding.  Sure!  I was glad to see her again.  I spent the night at her apartment and, sweetly, it was like old times.   We chattered away, filling each other in on our lives.  I prepared a couple of pieces, along with a pianist friend of ours.  One good thing about having musicians as friends:  someone will always be able to perform for your wedding!  I played poorly, full of fresh emotion.  She needed me and she remembered me for such a time as this.  And then it was over.

We have corresponded over the years, haphazardly.  I have apologized as many ways as I know how.  But it can never be recovered, what we had.  Eventually, I had to let it go. I had to forgive myself.  I couldn’t believe it was finished. How could something so great go so horribly wrong?!  I beat myself up for years over it.  I kept rehashing it.  What could I have done differently?  If only I’d said this instead of that.  If only I hadn’t been so selfish!  God knows I’ve tried everything I know how to make it better.

Sometimes, you can’t.  The friendship turned toxic.  I could not heal it.  For whatever reason, God didn’t make a way to reunite us. She’s been married now, almost as long as I have, with two boys I have never met.  I hope she’s getting to do all the things she wanted to.  I still miss her sometimes.  I wish her well and I hope to see her in heaven.  Unless the Lord intervenes, it’s the best I can do.

Perception

Recently, Beyonce has been in the news.  Shocker!  Not because of her antics or anything.  Well, maybe a little.  She has banned photographers from attending her concerts while she’s on her Mrs. Carter tour.  Beyonce hired one approved company to take her pictures, thank you; no one else need apply.  She doesn’t want any “unflattering” images of herself on public display.  She has asked certain websites to “respectfully” remove the offensive poses.

beyonce ugly face

I get that.  What girl wants ugly pictures of themselves posted up everywhere?  I hate how I photograph.  There have only been around 6 pictures taken of me my entire life that are tolerable.  Most of those are from babyhood to little girl, with a few from our wedding.  I find as women, we are exceptionally hard on our appearance.  Of course, if you looked like a troll doll during puberty, your self-criticism may be justified.

Jonathon and I talked  about Beyonce’s decision at length last night.  I found it fascinating.  So many of the comments exclaim over her vanity. They slam her for wanting to look good all the time.  She comes across as exceptionally insecure, despite being a glamorous megastar. I mean, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world!  Can you stand a little negative press?  Can you laugh at yourself and lighten up?  Maybe the real issue is that you make these ridiculous faces.  If they weren’t there, nobody would be able to capture them, right?

Jonathon believes if paparazzi and others are profiting from her images, she should control those images.  She’s the commodity and she can choose how she’s marketed.  If not for her, no profit.  I agree in part.  But once you become a “commodity”, all bets are off.  Your life outside your house – and sometimes even inside – is no longer your own.  Privacy is coveted, yet not guaranteed.

Besides, everyone has a camera on their phone.  Banning professional photographers from your venue will not keep others from recording and posting videos and snapshots of your performance.  It’s human nature, now.  And too tempting not to, in light of Beyonce’s ban.

I think the real issue is perception.  Beyonce is beautiful and wants to be perceived that way by the general public.  We all want to be perceived in the best possible light, thought of in the most flattering terms, given a boatload of grace.  I find that we can’t choose how others think of us. Circumstances conspire against us. People will believe what they want to.  See, they have their own biases.  We don’t even get to defend ourselves to rectify an incorrect conclusion because most of the time we don’t even know what folks think.  All we can do is hope that over time the truth – our true colors of our words and actions – will be revealed.

beyonce pretty

Blue Skies

blue sky

I am imbibing  my second iced coffee of 2013.  Yay!   I opened both doors downstairs and  windows upstairs.  It’s *that* nice outside.  “Let the sun-shine in, let the sun-shine in…”.  From “Hair”.  Anyone recognize it?  No?  Eh.  Not the best musical and certainly one of the most offensive as far as song content goes.  Incidentally, my hair resembles driftwood today.  Highlighted driftwood, but still.  Sigh.

It is so very wonderful to have clear skies.  I feel a little crazy…

I am not a huge fan of REO Speedwagon.  In fact, their use of dipthongs and hard “r” sounds make me a little ill.  At least they can make fun of themselves.  Lord knows I do.  Incidentally, did the lead singer get a crick in his neck from having to stretch *up* to sing into the mic?  Just curious.

Maybe this song will be more to your liking.  This is one of my favorite movie scenes.

I never wanted to be a ballerina as a kid but this movie made me reconsider.

Why does sunshine make everything better?  Is it just the chemical boost of Vitamin D?  Is it that it’s golden, a coveted color, and it means we’ll see at least some blue sky, blue being a color most people find soothing and inviting?  How many songs have the words “blue skies” in them?  I can think of at least three right now.

Blue skies make us feel like everything is alright.  Sure, we have problems.  Yet give us a beautiful day and all those difficulties seem to fade into the background for a time.  We anticipate summer, and shorts and adventures and fun times ahead.  We start to dream a little.  It seems anything is possible while the sun smiles down on us.  We feel buoyant and optimistic.

I realize how fleeting this sunny weather is.  So, for today, despite a series of emotionally draining experiences, I am grateful. I am looking up, literally and figuratively.

Chasing Tail

Squirrel!

Squirrel!

 

I have to say I didn’t expect it.

Rex, our large male cat, is a hunter, as many of you know.  These balmy, spring days have been ideal for him.  A true sun-worshiper, he spends all day out of doors, only nipping in for a quick bite.  Then he’s back out to bask in the golden rays.  This is probably why he is covered with glitter lately.  Ruby spilled some “pixtie dust” in the driveway, left over from a fairy birthday party on Saturday.  He routinely lolls and rolls around on the driveway.

Rex, in his illustrious career as a predator, has caught moles, rats, mice, voles (I think), lizards, snakes and creepy-crawling things.  He likes that crunch!  He doesn’t do so well with things in trees, as he is rather hefty.  Hard to sneak up on a light,  feathered one when you’re a lumbering mass yourself.

But he always coveted the squirrels. They are at the top of the prey food chain, it appears.  He would trot up the hillside, stalking them.  They would taunt him:  “Chee-chee!  chee!”  was their little haughty jibe delivered from their high perches fringing our property.

No more.

Today, I watched him slink up the hillside, all shiny strength and stealth.  I thought, Here we go again!

Then he came down with something large and gray in his mouth.

It was a squirrel.  A big one.  Probably one he’d been drooling over for months, possibly years.  “Taunt me, will ya?  I’ll get you, my pretty!”

He carried it carefully down the hillside.  Ruby and I looked on in awe.  We couldn’t believe it.  We’ve watched him with mice and such, but nothing so big.

He wouldn’t put it down.  Or couldn’t.  In fact, he didn’t seem to know what to do with it.  It’s as if he wasn’t sure what the protocol was.  Do I eat it?  Do I dance for joy?  Do I let – God forbid – Chloe have a nibble?

And so, in the end, he dropped it in the side yard.  It is – was –  a full grown male.  It is very, very dead.  Mercifully, he did not try to bring it in the house.

Now, right about now, you might feel sorry for the squirrel.  I like to watch them.  Their energetic scurryings are delightful.  I feel for the mammals.  But once you’ve had one gnaw into your house and make a nest for herself and her newborn babies, you kinda lose any love for them.  Besides, they’re good eating.

It made me think.  Some of the things we’ve wanted so much in this life, we’ve gotten.  We chased after them, hard.  And we got them!  Yay!  Now what?  They aren’t worth much, in the end.  I remember as a freshman in high school wanting very much to be in Wind Ensemble, the elite band. I wanted to be part of the best.  Problem is, there were too many flutes.  We had to audition.

I remember lurking outside the bandroom door and seeing that list on yellow legal paper and…I had not made it.  I was devastated.  But if we were going by chairs, why did Misty get in?  She sat below me in chair rank.  So, I questioned it.  My band director, a kind-hearted sort, gave in to my protests.  I was in.  Misty initially said she didn’t want to be in W.E. anyway because she would have to change up her entire school schedule…then she changed her mind.  Our director let several of us in, just to be fair.  It was a hollow victory.  I made the most of it over time, but I wasn’t sure how to feel at first.

I figured out I had to decide I belonged.  I worked hard.  I practiced a lot.  This band was all about expression AND accuracy.  I learned piccolo.  I traveled for festivals.  I marched wearing our lovely red, black and white polyester uniforms with girdle-like elastic on the shirtwaist. That’s what held the uniform pants up.  The red feather in our caps was the coolest part of that outfit.  Now you know. I played for pep band.  And little by little, I *did* belong.  I proved myself.  It was worth it, after all.

Rex is not going to do anything else with the squirrel.  It lies bereft in the changing light of the yard, rigor mortise setting in on this trophy.  Tonight I will move it to the trash.  Rex fulfilled a feline fantasy today.  I wonder what will be next?

What are you chasing after?  Will it be worth it once you catch it?