Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Other Thing

It was the first Google Image result for "awesome." It felt right.
It usually takes me a long time to write one stinkin' blog post.  I get very frustrated by this; I have limited time to blog as it is, and when I hem and haw over how to write every last sentence, my output shrinks considerably.  BOOOOOOOOOO.

So I'm gonna do something crazy and blog fast.  Fast.  FAST!  About, um...oh yes, the "other thing" I mentioned in another post but never elaborated on.  (Oh yeah ending the sentence in a preposition for the winnnnnn.)

I miss working. I miss teaching.  Some days I really long to get back to it in some sort of capacity.  So, about a month and a half ago, I applied to teach GRE classes at a test prep center in town.  The classes meet at night, which I thought would be perfect since Colin works during the day.  And, judging from the schedule, it looked like I would only have to work a couple nights a week.

At first, I was incredibly excited.  Let me tell you: there are a lot of things I am not good at, like avoiding prepositions at the end of sentences.  But one thing I have always been very good at without much effort (thank you God!) is taking standardized tests.  I freaking love the things.  Go ahead, hate on me!  My social skills could be outperformed by a meerkat, so there's nothing to envy here.

The day after I applied, I received a nice email saying that I qualified to "audition" for the position.  This entailed getting all prettied up at 9 PM on a Monday to teach a GRE-type math problem to an evaluator and several other applicants from around the country via webcam.  And you know what?  I almost dropped out, I was dreading it so much, but I stuck it out and tried it and it was awesome.  I performed well -- Colin was watching from "offstage" and affirmed this, haha!  It just felt badass to teach again.

A week and a half later, I interviewed locally, and I was offered the opportunity to complete a five-session online training within a couple days.  That's when it all went to shizzle.  The training sessions either overlapped with some out-of-town weddings we're attending next month...or with Elise's bedtime.  Yes, at 15 months, she still nurses to sleep every night.

And I'm not giving that up.  Not for a stupid job, anyway.

Truth be told, that wasn't the only issue.  Colin tutors in the evenings, and believe it or not, it makes better financial sense for him to continue doing that than for me to take this job, and we're not in a position to use bad financial sense.  And...I still don't know how I feel about how much these test prep centers charge for their classes.  Especially considering the instructors' pay!  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be hard for me to say I was proud to be an employee there. 

So that's my story.  No job for now.  But even though it didn't work out in the end, I have to admit that it was a shot in the arm to go through the process.  Being a full-time mom is awesome and beautiful and wonderful...but every now and then, it doesn't hurt to be reminded that performing mommy-tasks isn't my only skill.  I hope that I have more opportunities to explore those other skills.  I believe I will in time. :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday: Let's Have a Few Laughs

Thank you as always to Jen for hosting!

1. My daughter is hysterical.  She has recently decided that the best way to enjoy a good nursing session is to be nestled on as many pillows as possible.  We have a lot of pillows in our living room, because I use them as padding for the weird concrete ledge thing we have in front of our (landlord-boarded-up) fireplace.  She stubbornly collects each and every one and hands them off to me so I can arrange them for her.  So this was us this evening:
You can even see my leopard-print Snuggie peeking out at the bottom right! She insists on including it.
I named it her "Nom Nest."

2. In other funny Elise happenings, she adamantly refuses to eat these:
but can't get enough of these:
She has refined palate, so it seems.

3. I don't have a refined palate. I don't really even like those asiago crackers that much.  Sadly, I'm a pretty big fan of:

 

As in, I eat them with lunch almost every day.  Elise has recently noticed this, and has started to plead that I share some with her.  I usually give her a cracker or two and then put them away.  Of course, they aren't the worst food in the world, but we eat lunch at the same time, and I don't want her filling up on Cheez-Its instead of eating her own food.  I have a feeling that I'm going to have to start eating more healthfully to set a better example for her.  But I still don't think it was wrong that we shared a couple doughnut holes earlier this week. ;)

4. A few days ago, I shuffled into the kitchen to get some breakfast and noticed the last of some tasty apple cake I had made a couple days earlier.  Moments later, the cake was gone.  After dinner that evening, Colin mentioned that we could finish the apple cake for dessert.  "Oh, I ate that for breakfast," I said sheepishly.  "ALL of it?" he responded incredulously.

There wasn't that much left.  But yeah.  Probably not a good example to set.  Tee-hee.

5. Although we'd both concede that the quality of the show has declined over the past several seasons, Colin and I are still fans of The Office and we're looking forward to the new season opener.  Um, Weez?  You're a day late and a dollar short.  Haha, I know.  We don't have regular TV; we use Hulu and Netflix.  I think the new episode should be available on Hulu tomorrow.  The tricky part is, I don't want any spoilers about the identity of the new boss.  (It wouldn't be as big a deal as if I learned, say, a Downton Abbey spoiler, or Battlestar Gallactica, of which we just finished watching the first season on Netflix and LOVE, but still.)  I shall have to tread carefully on the Interwebs until we watch it so I can try to still be surprised!

6. I am taking an Aqua Zumba class at our local YMCA, and I love it.  It's fun, invigorating, relaxing, and I get out of the house for an hour a week!  I have been athletically UNinclined my whole life, so finding a workout that I can do in public and not feel humiliated about has been awesome.  I'm hoping to try regular Zumba sometime soon, too.

7. I promised laughs, so:
HAPPY WEEKEND!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

9/11 Haters: Save It

I tend to obsess over dates.  I grew up with a mother who is very anniversary-focused, down to the time of day of whatever the event happened to be.  So now I have my own catalog of days etched onto my heart: the day we found out we were expecting Elise, the day Colin and I started dating in high school, even sillier things like the day my first beau broke my heart (in a happy coincidence, Colin proposed exactly six years later, so that date has a much sweeter association now).

But you needn't be a date-lover like me to have felt a certain heaviness two Sundays ago.  I've had moments of sorrowful remembrance over September 11, 2001, countless times since that day, but as a ten-digit human completely steeped in base-ten culture, the fact that a whole wide decade had passed since that dreadful day inspired prayer and reflection in my heart.  Like many others, I posted a #neverforget tweet and updated my FB status: "God bless America, land that I love."  Tiny, tiny gestures, but gestures just the same.  The blog posts and updates that my friends posted in a similar vein lifted my spirits.  Solidarity, patriotism, hope.

What perturbed me were the occasional tweet, status, and article shared which in one way or another sought to demean or trivialize those sentiments.  What about the poor? they complained.  What about all the other sorrows and tragedies that affect people every single day which are simply ignored?  Why don't you care about them?  Who cares about your precious memory of how you were in a high school class learning HTML when you first found out that some terrorists flew an airplane into a building you never saw.  It didn't even affect you personally!  And my favorite, It was all just a conspiracy by our government!  America is the aggressor!  America is evil!  RT @AJEnglish!

I take exception to posts like these.  Yes, there are heinous realities the whole world over.  People die of malnutrition every day.  Water supplies are contaminated.  Impoverished mothers attempt to sustain their children with filthy mud because they have nothing else.  We are called to tend to the poor and sick and needy everywhere, every day.  But these sorrows do not lessen in any way the tragedy of September 11.  America was attacked on her own soil for the first time on almost sixty years.  Victims, many of them heroes, died terrifying deaths.  And we learned just how far the extremist enemies of the free world were willing to go to murder and frighten us.

It's just like when you confide in someone about a worry or problem that you have, and their response is to one-up you with a story about how much worse off they are.  That response is uncharitable, and it is wrong.

And as for the conspiracy theories, or the assertions that America's the real problem -- save 'em.  You have a right to believe that if you wish, but I think it demonstrates absolutely no class or respect for the deceased and their families to implicitly insult them, our military, and the majority of the American citizenry who do not espouse those viewpoints on the ten-year anniversary of the attacks.

I don't think America is perfect.  No place this side of Eden could be.  But I love my country.  So please, all you folks who either don't think September 11 matters or don't think it matters for the reasons I do -- get off your high horse.  If you want to call attention to the plight of the poor, great!  You can do that all the time, even on September 11, without referencing the terrorist attacks at all as they are irrelevant to your cause.  If you believe our government is corrupt, vote and campaign for the challengers in the 2012 elections.  If you believe Americans are evil, take measures to soften our hearts.  But don't demean the well-intended, prayerful reflection on a truly sad day in our history, because if you do, it's obvious that you're not really trying to draw attention to any cause but your own self-importance.

Friday, September 16, 2011

More Thoughts on Thanksgiving

My recent pursuit of gratitude got me thinking about a question that I've pondered on and off for a long time, one that I'd never satisfactorily resolved.  Specifically, why do we thank God for all that is awesome about us, and blame our sinful selves for all the bad we do?

I've wondered about it, but never worried.  I always knew it was right, even if I couldn't say exactly why.  But a few days ago I had an epiphany on the matter.  My mistake in the past was thinking of my transgressions and my good qualities (intelligence, kindness, what-have-you) as being two sides of the same coin, when they are not.  My good qualities, my circumstances, my life, are all gifts.  All that I can do is respond to these gifts.  I can respond with gratitude and exercise virtue, or I can respond with ingratitude and commit sin.  Those responses are the two sides of the same coin.

When I was little, I remember my mom's explanation of the word create to me: it means to make something out of nothing, so only God can do it.  Of course, the word is often used simply as a synonym for produce, or develop, or build, or one of the other many things that people can do, but not out of nothing.  I have used the word myself plenty of times in this way.  Every time I do, I feel myself cringing just a bit, because I know I'm using it wrong.

My recent discovery that everything I do is a response goes hand-in-hand with the whole creation business.  If I can't make something out of nothing, I surely cannot possess a quality of my own volition.  But, just as I can make a beautiful meal out of delicious ingredients, I can cultivate my talents and my plentiful shower of gifts, knowing that even my deliberate decision to accept and foster them is an act of thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thanksgiving

The day started with a scream at 4:56 AM.   The first of many, which persisted intermittently for about forty-five minutes, despite Daddy's gentle assertions that it wasn't time to get up yet, that she should go back to sleep, and that she was fine.  I couldn't sleep during the ensuing half hour of silence, and when the crying started up again at 6:20, I gave up and got up with her.

After a sleepy forty-five minute nursing session, she slid off the chair to the floor, only to beg to be picked back up.  "Elise, I have work to do in the kitchen. You had forty-five minutes of noms.  It's time to play."  Leaving the room to busy myself usually does the trick -- when she doesn't really need something it's only my idle-looking moments she insists are hers -- but it didn't today.  She angrily followed me into the kitchen, insisting upon her wretched, sorrowful, mommy-less state.  "Do you want some Cheerios?" I tried to lift her into her high chair, but she repeatedly arched her back so violently that I couldn't even sit her down in it.  "Fine then!"  I raised my voice in frustration as I plopped her down on the ground.  "But stop complaining!  There's nothing wrong!" 

Of course, my harsh tone only made her sob the louder, and within seconds Colin swooped in to take over Elise-duty.  I sulked back over the kitchen sink to begin my labors -- the dishwasher broke yesterday, and we've yet to call the landlord to fix it; it had been full, naturally, when I attempted to run it and failed, so last night we washed all the dishes and silverware and this morning I cleaned all the glasses and bowls.  As I worked, I listened to my husband's sweet, soothing narrative.  "There's a picture of Mommy and Daddy.  And there's a picture of Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Elise.  Can we sit on the floor now?  Let's look at these.  Here is a picture of a clown.  Here are some flowers."  I furrowed my brow: what book was he talking about?  Ah, not a book, but the stacking boxes.  One of those has a clown face on it.

I hung my head in guilt and shame.  I felt lousy about losing my temper with my little girl, but most of my ruminations surrounded the irritation and resentment that I was convinced Colin must be feeling toward me.  He isn't one to act out in frustration -- I've known him for ten years and I've never once heard him raise his voice.  Surely, I thought, he's mad at me for behaving so dreadfully, and mad that he has to spend time soothing our daughter instead of getting ready for work.

Then I stopped.  Wait, I thought.  I'd already made one bad decision by letting my temper control me.  There was no need to continue down the same path, attributing feelings to my husband that were in no way accurate, getting myself into such a frenzy over them that I ended up annoyed with him for his (nonexistent) resentment.  I can make a choice, I thought.  I can either continue thinking negatively like this, or I can be grateful.  I can either focus on feelings which history has consistently demonstrated Colin does not foster, or I can focus on how blessed I am to have a husband who is willing to sit with our girl and play with her.  How blessed she is to have a loving and gentle daddy.

After a little while, Elise was calmed down to the point that Colin was able to leave her playing alone in the living room and join me in the kitchen.  "I'm very sorry about what happened," I said.  "I feel terrible about it.  And I feel terrible because I know you're disappointed in me."  He admitted that he didn't think it was good that I'd raised my voice to Elise, but as we embraced and I buried my face in his chest, he said, "You are a wonderful mother."  No resentment.  No irritation.  Just love.

I received a copy of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts as a birthday gift from dear Maren, and she and I are currently reading it with another friend of ours as a book club venture.  The understanding that sin begins with ingratitude made its way into my heart earlier this year; somehow, I never realized the terribly obvious implication that living fully requires gratitude until reading this beautiful and powerful book.  Just last night, I thought to myself, I should do what Ann did -- I should make a list of things I am thankful for, a list of the plentiful graces in my everyday life.  And you know what I felt in my heart?  Resistance.  Resistance at the mere thought of picking up a pen and a piece of paper and even attempting to begin a long list of blessings.  Because I'm no good at thinking of them, because I feel funny writing about green grass and apple cinnamon teddy puffs stuck between my baby's toothy grin, because the devil doesn't want me to do it.

So I started it.  Today.  This morning, after the incident with the screams and the back arching and the tired frustrations.  I wrote about my toast, my tea, and the fact that every single dish in my house is clean, because otherwise there would be dishes in my sink, and I'm hardly going to let that happen when my dish-washing somehow inspires Elise to seek independent play.  I wrote about Colin's gentle voice and Elise's shrieks of delight when she plays with her musical ball-popper.  I could have noticed a thousand other things and written them too, but I'm only on Day One, and my heart is just barely crawling away from the darkness of ingratitude.  But crawling it is.
I did a Google Image search for "gift," and was immediately drawn to this one for some reason.

It is a few minutes past 10 now, and I am tired.  I have been awake for seventeen hours, seventeen hours that began with an angry scream.  But even in that scream, I can find gifts.  My daughter is healthy and robust.  She trusts her parents to take care of her.  Her daddy is willing to be the nighttime comforter when such (thankfully now-rare) difficulties arise so she doesn't have to be crestfallen when I go in there and don't nurse her.  And everyone in our house has excellent hearing, especially Elise -- so just hold that pee till morning, why don't you.