Friday, September 22, 2017

The Tricky Thing About Talking to God

2014.  When will I stop whining about how bad that year was? I guess, when I finally am able to heal that spiritual hole that got left in me, I'll laugh, I'll tell the story like it was nothing.

That year I prayed so much. Hubby and I prayed for justice, for a way out, for people not to win by lying, for financial help, for the baby we'd just had. Mostly, though, I prayed for patience. I prayed for faith, I prayed for peace.

And the answers were pretty dim. Looking at it now, 3 years later, I see. . . we survived it. We got barely what we needed.  The baby was pretty hearty. The financial help came here and there. We sold the house. We got out of what seemed like an insurmountable situation. God gave us new answers, and a new direction.

That faith I wanted, that peace, that patience.  I begged Him to help me, and instead, it felt like we just fell into the mire.  The justice, that never came. The liars, they still made us pay their legal fees when they lost. And the more those things happened, the more I wondered, "is there really someone, or am I grasping at straws?"

And it didn't help when we moved across the country. We had no church, no spiritual support. We were scraping by, and a new set of things I'd hoped I'd never have to deal with arrived.  Slowly my prayers started to constantly contain "if it's your will" as if I was hedging my bets, giving God a way out if there was no answer, or the answer was the one I'd hoped it wouldn't be.

Tonight I heard someone speak about giving God that way out. It does seem strange to believe in something if you can't ask.  Why ask at all?  If I'm going to talk to Him, it's to tell Him that I still believe He's capable of delivering miracles.  It's Biblical--He can be swayed.  We should ask.  We should keep his commandments, and He will keep His promises.

I'm still shaky. After watching a bunch of people who claim to follow Him figuratively go at each other's throats like animals over politics, culture, and what they believe were causes somehow worth abandoning the fruits of the Spirit like they never mattered anyways, I'm more challenged than I was back then.

My favorite thing to read in the Bible is the woman at the well.  Jesus encounters her. He doesn't insult or accuse, but when she lies, he calls her on it. She knows it's not right. And the second he calls her on it, she goes right to one of those questions we ask "religious"  people. She tries to set him up a little.  He doesn't go for that. Then he says to her he's got LIVING WATER. And as I just heard someone say, you have to imagine what it's like to be thirsty.  It's hell.  It feels awful, you feel empty, you feel like you're gonna die.  And water, it only lasts a minute.  You drink, you're thirsty again.  He says that to her.  He says this is different.  He says His water assures you will never go thirsty. EVER.

But I have to keep coming back, don't I? I have to walk up to that well, even if I'm still pretending and lost in my own shit. I have to hear Him say it again.  That day, she prayed for water, essentially.  She spoke to Jesus himself and she expected a little drink.  And He, thinking so much further, had something so much better to offer. 

The tricky thing about talking to God is you have to listen. He answers, he's always answered me.  I just have to listen.

Friday, August 18, 2017


I am in my third year of grad school.  The year hubby and I said we'd finish. I imagine what's next and I feel peaceful, but looking at the road I want to barf.  I am seeing job postings now, starting last week.  They fill up a little spreadsheet I've created.

My weight is astronomically high. I guess that's what stressing all the time and having no personal time whatsoever do to you.  I am working a job where I'm paid to do everything under the sun. I'm good at that. I'm over involved. I have a problem with that. Now their stresses are my stresses and I forget that I am one month away from my recital and French test, oh and teaching.

I have a lot of rough mornings.  I think my diabetes is starting to present complications. How do I even think of that?

I've really been wanting a drink lately.
I have one year to accomplish the following in order:
Pass out of French
Pass music Ed 650
Pass independent study
Pass out of German
Pass written comps
Pass Oral comps
Deliver lecture/recital
finish 70 page dissertation

Also apply for jobs, raise two children, teach classes, work part time job.

Can someone tell me that's possible? It doesn't feel possible.

Monday, July 24, 2017

People Pleasing -the Journey

I won't even comment on how long it's been since I blogged.  A year? Sheesh.  I've been busy.

I remember the term "people pleaser" as I was growing up.  It was ascribed to me, and others around me, back then in the 70s and 80s, and I rarely hear it now.  Did it get less popular? Do we still think that? Have I just changed.

I thought of it last night when I noticed my 4 year old son doing something.  He apologizes quickly, and often for things he didn't do.  If I step on a toy, he apologizes.  "Sorry mom."  And it sounds sincere.  Sometimes it's twice, "Sorry, mom, sorry." And sometimes it wasn't his fault.  When I tripped over my own shoe, that I left out, he said, "Sorry, mom, sorry."

My daughter and husband never do this, but my son and I do. And at first I wondered--will he get walked over? I was always worried growing up, from what people said to me, that I'd be taken advantage of.  And there are moments, yes, when I do.

But sometimes, I think his quick apologies are just a reaction of being considerate.  He feels sorry that my foot got hurt, or sorry that the room is a mess, or just generally, what do you say when you feel bad that something went wrong?

And recently I've been working for someone who has a tendency to not want to take blame.  If they ordered the wrong item? It was listed badly in the photo.  If they gave me an impossible task and I made an error, it was my fault.  Every apology is considered--how will people see me if I apologize? Will it weaken my position? Will they think it was all my fault?

With that, I'm starting to think that the whole "people pleasing" is not so bad.  If my son apologizes, it's part of his compassionate makeup.  I can tell already he's the type to charm a room instantly.  My daughter might struggle more--babysitters will speak of his being "sweet" but will note their challenges with her more.  Having a personality which doesn't challenge others is not the be-all-end-all.  I hope like crazy that my daughter challenges people, shakes them up, moves mountains, and gets whatever she needs.  And if my son feels bad when you hurt your foot, even if he wishes he could have helped you, and even if he had nothing to do with it, I hope that stays around too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The World My Kids Get

I have been too busy to blog, and it's likely that I'm too busy now.  My children are both at school, and I have a day at home.  I've done enough of learning the opera.  I always tell my students when they know it well enough that they feel absolutely sick of it, you can set aside the music and take a break.  Of course, I'll be working on it again tonight.

I don't know how to say the next part, except that suddenly I feel the world is sad all over.  I keep hoping my kids get something better than I got, but it seems doubtful.  Raising them in a "survivor" mentality, where they need to get enough skills to be "one of the lucky ones" while the poor get poorer, and violence is so constant and eruptive, and people hate each other just because they have different ideas of the way our country should be run.  . . it's ugly.

Appreciating the cute differences I have with other people has become a bag of what to say and what not to say at Christmas dinner.  My church is splintered, and I find all I want to do is jump from one worship place to another, in hopes that I hear compassion and empathy among those who believe what I do.  If my kids live in the country, I'm afraid they'll get shot at school, or maybe at a friend's house, where the parents thought it was not a big deal to tell me they've got loaded guns in the house.  If they live in the city, it'll be oversexualization, or drugs.

I don't know if I'm sad for them or myself.  Do you start taking anti depressants once you have these thoughts?  They don't make other people sad?  I guess I need to exercise, get some natural endorphins.  The bible says this is supposed to be ugly.  The hope comes after we die.  Here, now, I guess theology tells me it's just gonna get worse.  And sometimes I think maybe bringing kids into it wasn't so kind.

I guess I could have had kids 100 years ago, in an environment where there was no school, or women weren't allowed to speak in public, and maybe they wouldn't have had to worry about guns and drugs, but they might have gotten eaten by a wild animal.  Maybe things aren't worse, just dark.  Sometimes I sing Emily Salier's words to myself "My place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark, and I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark." Sometimes I just pray to take a day at a time, and dive into some housework.

I would love to imagine some utopia coming. I guess I'm just too old for that now.  At least I will get to watch my kids do that "hopeful, youthful" thing where they imagine the world better and try like hell to make that happen.  Thank God for the young.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

It's Hot and the World is Miserable

Good Lord it's awful out there.

And I mean it. It's 110 outside my window and I have to run an errand at lunch and I'm dreading it. AND, somehow we have come to this point in the changing of the world that has given rise to hatred getting a voice and sheer namecalling, injustice, threats, and actual death. Where's my nice little American bubble? For now at least, it's gone.

Do you know that extreme poverty in the world has drastically decreased? Do you know that for the first time, the US has only 50% of us in the middle class, but that's because a lot more have gotten richer? Isn't that weird? I feel like everything's going to hell in a handbasket, but I listened to a few pieces with real verified statistics on NPR and they don't sound anything like what's being thrown around on facebook. Facebook. The cesspool of fear and anger that is the human brain.

I just go on looking for updates on old friends and funny animal videos and what do I get? Pictures of the unjust, the dead, and more opinions (mostly uneducated guesses of amateurs 'taking a swing' at the world.)

Here's the best thing I saw on FB today (besides a picture of my daughter):
"Do No Violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place" Jeremiah 22:3. "Stop Murdering the Innocent" Jeremiah 22:3

I won't repost it, because even something that calls for protection of the innocent starts an argument these days.

This will be better for my kids, right? I mean, I've never understand why Christians keep having kids. The world's going to get worse and worse until Jesus comes back. So why did I do it?

On that note, my daughter comes home tomorrow night. I want to cry when I think about it. She's been gone for 6 weeks. I remember this from last summer. For the first 4, I miss her a tad. But right now my eyes are welling up with tears and my face feels hot because I made that kid, damnit! And I miss how annoying she is and how funny she is and that she's my baby.

I lost Ginger. And by that I mean my dog died on Sunday. She wasn't a particularly affectionate dog, which made it easier, but there's a big hole left in our family. I don't want another pet. It's a relief to have one for a while. I feel like changing my mind, and going back to the vet and saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say I couldn't afford $4000 and a lifetime of diabetes care." But you can't bring dogs back. So I feel heartbroken too.

I just don't want to hear about innocent....I feel that's too relative of a term. I don't really want anyone to die. Even those ISIS guys, I'd rather just put them in prison. Death is so final. You just can't get anybody back. You can't change their minds. You can't hug them again. You can't introduce them to Jesus.

I'm really looking forward to some cooler times.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Feminist Mama

I am in the midst of planning out a recital for the Spring. It's a solo recital, and that means I can do anything I want. Often I like to support women composers, as I believe I still am one, deep inside. But I wanted to have more freedom to choose among more composers. SO I decided to a theme recital using the words of "powerful women" or "important women of history" or ....I don't know..."cool women".

I told my husband about it last night. I would do a song cycle based on the words of Mary Cassat, and show her paintings, I am thinking maybe a song cycle on Virginia Woolf, on Sor Juana (an educated nun from hundreds of years ago who is often talked about as being the "first feminist"). I looked for Frida Kahlo, for Eleanor Roosevelt, there are so many to choose from, but not that many have song cycles written about them.

I got excited with the idea of this. I thought embodying these women, who wanted to be more than what they were told, or maybe just wanted to be WHAT they knew they were, would be a great way to spend a semester. I was surprised my husband wasn't as excited. He was supportive, but I realized the excitement was mine, and that's ok.

Last year, my daughter and I listened to a few minutes of Obama speaking on the radio. She asked me about presidents, and governors, and what she knew from school. At 6, this is still something she's trying to understand. But then she said, "how come the presidents are never women?" and I was happy and impressed. Not by our country, but by the fact that she was still young enough to not put a face on leadership (not a male face). I bristle a little at someone telling her she's bossy. Will they tell my son the same thing? I may never know...she's more of a natural leader than he is already.

I think about her when I vote. I think about her as I get a doctorate, as my husband and I fall into roles, some natural, some just the blind ones that have been written out for us. Before marriage I spent years fixing things and killing "pests" and programming. I don't mind relying on him for that. For years he packed his own lunch, or didn't and just ate pizza every day, and I take joy in providing that for him.

What feminism is to me is continuing, daily, to challenge what women can't do. There are still crazy ideas out there...women can't make sushi because their hands are too warm? women can't be on boards because their decisions may be erratic? or maybe because the face they picture themselves on a board is a male face? We area society in which women do EVERYTHING. We have come so far from the days when Sor Juana just wanted to be educated and Mary Cassat just wanted to paint. We have come so far from the days when Dorothy Parker was labeled a communist (or have we?)

Sometimes, I think for men who have women for bosses, who have successful wives, they don't see that there still exists these barriers, keeping women from their dreams. But I've seen them, first hand. Men and women are different, and that's fantastic, but so many of the differences we give them are imaginary. They are tales told from generations on down. We forgive men and women differently, we pay them differently, we reward them differently, and we decide who they are going to be.

And when I look at my daughter and son, I don't want to think for one moment that he'll have a better chance at his dreams than she will.

So I am proud to use this oddly demonized word "feminist." It's ok to me. It actually enables me in some way to see that racially, as a white person, I probably believe things that are untrue about non-whites. That we are in a constant changing world when it comes to ideas about each other. That it's ok to say we make errors and find ways to fix them. It's actually glorious. It's truly American to me and..

It's what I believe Jesus would do.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fish Hooks

There is a wonderful line in the play Marvin's Room that has fish hooks in's a woman talking about her feelings for her son (I think) and she says that her feelings for him are like fish hooks. She can't take out one at a time without all of them coming right out of the box.

This is so incredibly true about family. It is striking how I simply cannot compartmentalize or divide or bring some to the forefront and hope that the bad ones won't smack me in the face or cut my fingers.

Six years ago, which is a long time, I tried to make the right decision with my sister, and I knew then that she would not forgive, though she might set it aside and act normal again after a few years. She never forgave me for telling mom she was pregnant, though mom did ask. She never forgave me for stepping in when her daughter told me she was being abused (the second time in a year). She doesn't forgive, she simply alters the relationship, and over time, it appears to be something ok.

I don't see her much, though that's not my doing. I don't really want to, as my biggest hook with her is still fear. What will she call me, what will she say about my husband? What deep dark part of my insecurity will she sense and slice open?

I saw her daughter too. I saw the daughter I was willing to put ahead of myself because I needed to do the right thing to help her. I knew the backlash would be long and painful, and I still came between them to try to help when it got out of control. They seem fine. They're not, but that's their "thing". After all, it's mother and daughter. I remembered this morning our old neighbor; a woman half-conscious with drug use and bad decisions with men dominating her life path. Her daughter begged me, "please, I don't want them to take me away from her again." Because moms are still moms, even while they're kicking you out or much, much worse.

So I saw my dad too. He looks so sick. He didn't seem interested in talking to me. Was he distracted by wanting a drink? Or is he in so much pain with what he's done to himself physically that he can't enjoy a talk? I don't know. He's kind of a shell, and they're shells, and then all my fishhooks, which I hadn't cared about because they were tucked away in an awesome little mental cigarbox, were cutting holes in my skin.

Mom decided to pull at her "i'll never be grateful enough" thing and get angry at me in this house. IN THIS HOUSE, where I am hurting. She means more than I do so often in our conversations, and somehow I feel horribly guilty for saying that, because time here means forgetting who I am.

The 90 minute drive home was like crossing an imaginary moat, where on the other side it's just me and my family and love and hugs and forgiveness. But I dragged with me hooks, and all day yesterday I fought wanting sugar, I fought my husband. I fought and fought, and then I grabbed him in the store and I cried and I said, "i don't know what I feel. It's not any of this I'm saying. It's not how fat I am, it's not that we don't have enough veggies in the house. It's just pain. Pain, pain. A few days and it'll be gone, and I'll be me. And I'll get my tooth pulled and see my dotor, and still not eat sugar. I'll sing a little, and get a few paychecks, and slowly pull those hooks out of my skin.