Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Imperfection that is everywhere....

If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it!  A 'perfect' person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection. It becomes sort of obvious once you say it out loud. I would say that the demand for the perfect is the greatest enemy of the good. Perfection is a mathematical or divine concept, goodness is a beautiful human concept that includes us all. 

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, Introduction

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Proud to be a Bad Mom????

A few days ago I was waiting in line at the checkout of the local hobby store. One woman in particular caught my eye. She was dressed classier than the rest of us, having more of what I'd call an 'outfit' on. The rest of us were a bit sluffy in shorts and t-shirts and flip flops. Honestly, she made the rest of us look like we could up our game a bit.

With her was a little boy; I'd say he was about four or five. As I stood there waiting, she finished checking out, and began to walk out of the store. All of a sudden she started talking to the supervisor who was standing there monitoring lanes. She grabbed the little boy's hand, which held two containers of bright pink bubble gum, raised it up into the air, and in an unnaturally loud voice said, "He's trying to steal candy!"

She looked down at the little boy, glanced over at the supervisor, and upped her ante, saying, 'She's going to call the cops on you!'.

The supervisor got a horrified look on her face. The little boy immediately started wailing loudly, holding out his hand, with the two packages of gum now eagerly offered up.

We, the onlookers,  stood there in awkward silence. For a minute everything stopped, nobody spoke.

The mother continued to stand there, glaring at the little boy; the cashier motioned me up, and I checked out my few items. As I tried to walk out of the store, I had to wait for her to move aside, so I could go through the doors leading outside. As I passed her, I couldn't bring myself to look at her, because I knew the daggers my eyes would send. 'Just don't look up Bev. Keep moving."

I hated what I'd seen. I hated being reminded of a few less than stellar times of mothering in my own life. When I mistakenly took all three kids to Walmart to buy school supplies; by the time we'd finished, arguing over crayons and folders and notebooks and such, I stood at the checkout and loudly declared, "I am NEVER taking all three of you shopping again!" It wasn't my best moment.

Another time I was trying to get three kids to go up an escalator, one still had to be held, and the other needed her hand held and was terrified of the moving stairs. The third was free, on her own, so she went ahead and rode up the escalator, to stand there unattended, while I was at the bottom, overwhelmed over a toddler who refused to move. A woman I did not know decided to impart her vast wisdom in child handling, in front of God and everyone, and I recall not taking the advice very graciously.

So I get it. I've been a maternal train wreck in public. I've come home with all four of us crying and worn to a ragged mess. The woman I saw at the hobby store was different. There was no taking the boy aside and talking to him quietly. There was no quietly insisting he return the candy and apologize. There was just an abandoning of him to himself, all five years or so, not showing that anyone was willing to be there for him, no matter what, on his worst day. He clearly had no advocate. There was no regret in her eyes, for how she'd handled the situation, but rather a look of satisfaction that she'd done well.

I wonder if that's what they thought of me that day in Walmart? Or at the bottom of the escalator in Sears, thirty years ago. Or countless other times when I was too hard on our kids, expecting them to be something other than kids. I pray that my kids, looking back on my very worst mothering moments, never felt abandoned by me.

My mother had her first child at the ripe age of 17, and her sixth when she was 24. Six of us in 7 1/2 years, and four of them were hooligan boys.  I only remember once, when she took all six of us shoe shopping. I don't remember who cut up, but she spoke the dreaded words, 'just wait until we get home.' Sure enough, when we walked through the door, she promptly lined us up by age, and the spankings came down the row. It did not matter whether I'd misbehaved. I was guilty by association. It's the only spanking I remember ever getting from her. My mother had less mothering skills than she really needed, mostly because she was a kid herself. But I never ever questioned if she was ultimately on my side. On my worst days I still knew she would go to bat for me. That's what mothers are supposed to do, aren't they?

We go to the  movies a lot, and a few weeks ago I saw the preview for a movie coming out this Friday - Bad Moms. I know there will be plenty who go see it, and think it's hilarious. It just makes me sad.

In a world that has as many problems as we do, and children being our only hope for the future, surely at least our mothers are always for us, standing with  us, even on our worst day? I still have vivid memories of my own mothering days when I fell into bed at night, full of regret for how I'd handled the day. I was never proud I'd failed. Rather, I was usually heartsick, wishing I could go back and get a redo. Generally how I felt was only made worse, when I'd go in to check on them one last time before heading to bed myself. The worst behaved child often seems to grow wings when they sleep.

I definitely didn't go sit and have drinks with girlfriends, bragging over what a rotten failure I was at this mothering business. When did it become funny to be a bad mom? I'm not getting it. Movies like this make me wonder if we are indeed going to hell in a hand basket, laughing all the way. Surely there's an element still out there who sees it as the highest of callings, and when they blow it, it causes some looking deep inside, seeing a need to grow up oneself, rather than fodder for girlfriend's night out.

There's a woman my daughters (and I) follow, who has invested her life in encouraging young mothers to see their time raising their children as a worthy investment of their lives; whether they work inside or outside the home has nothing to do with it. If you're hoping that someday your kids will 'rise up and call you blessed', in spite of all your failings, you might check out Sally's website, and her two books, Mission of Motherhood and Ministry of Motherhood. We can do better than I saw that day at the hobby store; than I did at the checkout of Walmart, or the bottom of the escalator in Sears; and certainly better than some will see in the theater this weekend.

I'm glad I didn't glare at the mother in the hobby store, but if I'd had a copy of Sally's books, I might have tucked it under her windshield wiper. It's not so very long ago I could have used a bigger perspective of mothering myself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Clothing Her Backside with Flowers...

I'm still sewing up a storm, but this may be the last of it. We're waiting on the appraiser to come through, and as soon as he/she does, we'll be gathering boxes and packing tape, and packaging up my sewing machine til at least this fall.

So while I could, I grabbed this beautiful bolt of fabric, washed and dried it, and began sorting through my pattern box.

I've been in the mood to whip up a dress or two and some skirts also, for church, dinners out with friends, or just to clean up my act a bit now and then. (This from a girl who wears yoga pants 6 days a week...) (I do yoga 6 days a week, but not 24/7...)

The very act of sewing makes me feel like a dying breed just waiting for a meteor to hit, and push us into extintion. It also makes me feel thankful. In spite of being less than vogue, sewing allows me to make anything, out of anything; I will likely never run into anyone wearing the same outfit - the odds are surely against it.

When I saw this fabric I loved the splashes of color, and having ecru and black in it, I knew it could be a staple in my wardrobe. I took the fabric to my closet, and waved it up and down the rows of t-shirts, tops and cardigans to see if it would go with anything. If it hadn't, I would have sewn it up into a stand-alone dress.

I was very tempted to sew up a pair of capris! Every time I see a female in flowered capris I smile. There's something so feminine and cheery about a woman willing to clothe her backside with bright flowers;  I immediately envision them wearing bright red lipstick, shopping bags in hand, walking down a street in Paris or New York.

As soon as I spied this Ann Taylor top in the store-front window at a mall several years ago, I knew I'd love it for a long time. It goes with so many things in my closet. What woman doesn't love having her torso covered in roses?

By sewing, rather than buying, a piece of clothing for my wardrobe, I got to decide whether to make a straight-cut or twirly skirt (I went twirly). I shopped my closet for jewelry I already had, and the little cardigan from Target makes it just a bit more finished, especially in winter when my arms are about the same tone as the top.

I actually wear sweaters often, in the summer, here in Texas, because it's so blazing hot the AC's are all set at about 60 to lure people inside malls and stores and restaurants. I often find myself freezing, when I'm inside, so a little cardigan is a good thing to keep on hand.

If I'd sewn it up into a dress, it would have been pretty with the cardigan, but I decided a skirt would be more versatile, as it can be worn this way, or with a simple t-shirt and sandals. If I was in my 20's or 30's even, I'd wear it with a fitted tank. At my age that's not the route for me. Underwires should have reasonable expectations set upon them.

I'm also 5'10" so nothing off the rack is EVER long enough. In my humble opinion, capris are the greatest invention known to man, having declared that it's chic to have your slacks too short. I've loved them ever since I saw Mary Tyler Moore sporting them, back in the day when she and Dick had separate twin beds. As I remember, hers were pencil thin and barely brushed the top of her ankle.

When I was in my 20's I might have worn skirts a bit shorter, but the decade I'm currently in, not so much. I tend to think it's the one thing women my age do wrong when they're dressing, that might improve their look. Less leg showing. Wear the dress a few inches longer. You don't have to cover up everything, but a little more coverage is generally a good idea. It seems to me thighs are not an area that ages well without an awful lot of maintenance that most of us don't do. (Too tight is the second thing we tend to do wrong - more notable when we're walking away from someone.) Anyway, I automatically add at least an inch to any dress or skirt I cut out, and sometimes several, depending. If it's a fitted skirt, I generally need to add several, as the skirt tends to creep up when you sit down.

There are two more bolts in my fabric closet - a Kermit green and black floral, with a white background, and a turquoise blue with kiwi green on white background paisley.  I have loved paisleys ever since my sister cut my bangs too short the day before pictures in first grade, and plastered my head with a paisley headband that saved my reputation. (Even today no one wears bangs THAT short...) I have a white t-shirt, and this black cardigan I can pair with it. I'm considering a pair of capris. Every woman should have at least one pair of slacks hanging in her closet for those whimsical days.

My mother let me begin sewing on her black Singer, for my Barbie, when I was seven. I think back to her patience when I gobbled up all those bobbin threads, broke needles. When I was in jr. high home ec class we sewed a pair of purple corduroy culottes for pep club. Go Saints! It didn't take me long to realize I could sew pants that would be long enough, finally! My very first purchase, after I moved out on my own at the ripe age of 17, was a brand new Singer sewing machine in a cabinet, with payments of $18 a month. That was back in the day when the Singer store was in the mall - can you imagine? I've been sewing for myself since then, maternity tops for me, shirts and even a blazer for Cub Sweetheart; halloween costumes, dance dresses, nightgowns, superhero capes, Barbie clothes, and baby doll dresses. My mother-in-law was a beautiful seamstress, sewing pretty much her entire wardrobe, back when everyone did. At least I thought they did.

Does anyone else out there still sew clothing? For themselves or others? Actually use paper patterns, insert zippers, buttonholes, etc.? Tell me I'm not alone. If so, is your joy making those pants legs longer or possibly a few inches shorter? Or just maybe, a pair of flowerdy capris that are a bit in your face as you walk away? 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Only the lightbulbs.....

I've just started reading Falling Upward, by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. Just pages in I want to drive to New Mexico and meet him, sit and listen to him, rub up against his robe to absorb some of his goodness by osmosis - SUCH wonderful words!

Within a chapter I'd already begun destroying our library's copy with my pencil underlinings, so I went to the desk and ordered a copy. This is one of those that needs to live on my bookshelves, and quite possibly my nightstand.

For today:
As Desmond Tutu told me on a recent trip to Cape Town, "We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in!"

A little nugget but stuffed to the brim with enough wisdom and thought-provoking goodness to keep one busy for days.

Happy weekend, everyone.

P.S. I actually not only ordered me one, I sent one to a friend. This is that kind of book. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Housewarming Gift to Leave Behind

I'm not sure if most people still do this, but I've always loved the tradition of a housewarming. Getting or giving. Back in the day, people used to bring gifts to welcome others to the neighborhood; sometimes people even threw their own 'housewarming' parties, opening the doors to their friends, or new neighbors.

There's something so nice about someone bringing a gift, to 'warm' your new home, whether it's baked goods, or a doo-dad.

I don't know exactly when we started the tradition, but when we move out of a house, we leave behind a house warming gift for the people who bought our house.

Here's what we leave for those who are moving in:

We usually leave them a list of the neighbors on each side, a map of the town, and what I call a special plate for their new home. Sometimes when I really have my act together, I have a loaf of banana bread in the freezer that I can put on the plate. Before we load the fridge onto the moving van, that is.

You can find it on Amazon for about $35.00. Every family in our immediate family tree has a version of this, and we all use it for good days, terrible days, birthdays, and anything in between. I think it's the perfect 'welcome to your new home that used to be our home' gift. About the cost of dinner at Applebee's for two, but lasts much longer. I believe I bought ours at a Hallmark store, if you have one of those near you. Some of them come with a pen you can write on the back, to note the special occasion when you used it. 

A new favorite we have for giving to family members who move is this:

It runs a bit more, around $100, but it's so nice to have! Especially if you have multiple family members coming and going, and don't want to give pre-teen and full-teens a key they will likely misplace. It's also a nice way to lock the door behind you, when you're leaving. Generally you can set them with many different combinations, so they're nice for pet sitting, or to give a worker access for a day. We found that setting the combo for a person's birthday ensured that they didn't forget the code, and we didn't come home to unfed cats or unwatered plants. 

Then, this is always, always perfect; you can print a certificate out online, and mail it in a card, and can be used for all sorts of things. When we received this as a gift, we bought a Droll Yankee bird feeder, and it's lasted for years. We recently sent this to a friend who'd just moved, and their new home had a pool. They used it to stock up on pool towels, which you never have enough of. 

I heard, years ago, of a friend deciding set gifts for set occasions. For high school graduations, she gave a certain book. For wedding or baby showers, she had specific gifts she gave. I was so struck by the genius of this - how simple it would be to keep things on hand and be ready, rather than trying to recreate the wheel every time you got an invite. So I expanded it to house warmings. 

Which brings me to this: we're out of the option period - inspection went wonderfully, the roof is in great shape (worth gold in Texas with its hail and sun), and we're officially 'pending'. 

Ordering this plate for the family who'll be moving in here in approximately 35 days. But who's counting?! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Doing the Next Thing While We Wait

We're nearing the end of our option period for selling our house. Feeling terribly blessed because the first people who looked at it made an offer, and we only showed it a handful more times before the contract was signed. The housing market in DFW is very busy right now, with more demand than houses, and low interest rates, so they're going quick. We've had four go under contract in our neighborhood in the past three weeks, and none took longer than two weeks to get a buyer.

The option period - to my way of thinking - is that time when people who have fallen in love with your house meet with people who tell them every single thing wrong with it. And you, the seller, get to wait and see if they are still in love with it after it's all over. Sort of like getting asked to prom, then the last person you dated meets with them to tell them all your bad points, which includes the fact that you can't dance to save your life, and you're waiting to see if they are still going to show up at the door with a wrist corsage.

Not for the faint of heart.

So I took Elizabeth Elliott's advice for what to do when you're going through anything difficult (sounds blasphemous since she was dealing with her husband being murdered by uncivilized natives and I'm just waiting for a house to sell.) (I happen to think Elizabeth was practical enough she'd approve.) Anyway, she said, when wondering what to do with oneself, 'do the next thing' and that's always been good advice. For waiting for the women in our family to make it through transition and give birth; for news to finalize about jobs or medical tests, or so many things in life. Just stay busy - the time will pass faster, or at least feel like it did. Which is why I knit on every single road trip we take. Dishcloths, scarves, socks, it doesn't matter what - just keep your hands busy and the miles will peel by. Everyone should learn to knit when they are about 7 I think, as there are so many times in life when one would benefit from busy hands.

The house is so clean there is nothing to clean, which is definitely not our normal. I also can't make much of a mess. It has to be the kind of mess I can clean up in 10 minutes or less if someone calls and wants to come look at something.

So I cut out a summer dress. I've sewn forever, but when you don't sew much for years, you get rusty. I reacquainted myself with facings and setting in sleeves, gathering waists, putting in buttonholes, and all in all I'm pleased.

I think this will be cute with some gold strappy sandals and some kind of necklace. I'm not a big jewelry person, but I think there's something in my closet that will be just the right thing. Cub Sweetheart may be needing to think of somewhere to take me to wear this. I'm thinking this would be cute with white canvas tennis shoes and no jewelry too,  just to wear around the house. I'd cut the next one out a little less full, but overall I'm pleased. My daughter gave me the valuable tip, years ago, that wearing dresses and skirts is a lot cooler in Texas than any kind of shorts out there. She's right, so I've cut out another, a different pattern. You can't have too many cotton dresses when you've got another solid month of 100 degree days ahead of you.

We also checked out seasons four and five of Call the Midwife from the library, and God bless CS - all that groaning of childbirth and he hangs in there! Tuesdays and Wednesdays we are watching America's Got Talent, except for the acts where people put drills up their noses - I use that time to clean the kitchen, or go switch the laundry. Just not my cup of tea. CS stays in the room for those acts, generally remarking, 'did you see that? That was amazing!' which somehow summarizes the difference between males and females. Oddly enough, this year Simon Cowell is actually nice. I keep waiting for him to turn into a grouchy curmudgeon but so far so good. Maybe being a father has changed him?

I've also been cooking more, now that the house can actually smell like we live in it. I've followed Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer for years and she had a great recipe for homemade sloppy joes, (they had a chopped up fennel bulb in them, the first I've ever bought!), peach salad and a salad with green beans and feta cheese - all of which got rave reviews from CS. I'll never buy manwich again - her recipe was soooo good!

Reading has been a good past time too - I just finished Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, recommended by Susan Branch on her blog. It took a bit to get into, the middle was fun, and then I was disappointed by the ending. Maybe it was just me. Susan recommends everything Pym has written, so I'll likely try another of  hers. Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer said she was reading a book called Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr and I found that at our library, so that's what I started last night. It's about the second half of life (not based on years of living) and how our failures make way for growth in our lives. I may have to buy my own copy, as the urge to underline is mighty with this one. (Expect quotes in the near future.)

We're in the pool every single day while we still own it; in spite of temperatures hovering around boiling, about 4:30 in the afternoon the 17 year old live oak in the back yard shades the entire pool and makes for a perfect time of floating around on noodles then sitting poolside with something pretty to drink and something crunchy to nibble on.

So that's what we're up to while we're waiting. We know this is a bit of a nail-biting time but as soon as the realtor calls and tells us it's all a go, it'll be busy with no looking back. No floating around on noodles in the back yard, no sewing summer dresses, no watching TV, and likely very little cooking.

Then we'll just keep on doing the next thing, one box at a time. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

BFG - a truly beautiful movie

From when we first saw the previews, we'd planned to take our two Texas Littles to see this movie, but their parents got to it first.

Oh bother, that meant we'd have to walk in by ourselves, childless. Running late, we barely made it to our seats before the movie started, so the house lights were already down when we walked in. I'm not sure if there were any other senior discounters in there or not.

From the minute the movie started, I was completely transfixed. It was one of those movies that I held my breath the entire time, just for the beauty of the lines, the story, the filming - everything about it was sooooo wonderful. I tend to be sappy, but this movie brought tears to my eyes just because it was such a rarity in today's children's movies.

We took our Littles to see Secret Life of Pets last week, and we had a rollicking good time with them. Secret Life of Pets was cute, clever, funny but also had some stuff in it I wasn't crazy about. But it could not hold a candle to this beautiful movie. They are not even in the same league. One was a children's movie, typical of what is turned out, and hyped up for months ahead, on a regular basis. One was a treasure.

It was one of those rare movies that you could take someone from about 5 up to 99 to, and they'd have a wonderful time. Younger than 5, it might be too scary, and even at 5 they might want to snuggle in (the big giants are BIG!) It was entertaining, heart warming, funny, and made me want to run home and get a copy of the book.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I'll be asking Santa to bring me a copy of it, so I can watch it again. And again. And again. Go see it as fast as you can, whether you can find any little people to take with you or not.

This one didn't even need popcorn. That's saying something.