Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Top Ten Signs You're a Parent of Little Kids

In the grand tradition of top ten lists, here are ten things that have actually been true of me…and if you have little kids, may be true of you, too.

1. You have ever called another adult a "stinker."

2. Your purse contains 3 pacifiers, 2 plastic dinosaurs, 1 coupon for diapers, and 0 pens.

3. You've resorted to using the blender in the garage because it scares someone too much.

4. You think of clipping your toenails as "doing something for yourself."

5. Amazon suggests you might like a teething giraffe. (They know you so well, don't they?)

6. You have fabulous biceps but a poochy middle.

7. You know that a binky is not a blanket, a sucker is not a lollipop, and a Nuk is not a kind of Eskimo.

8. You've given more than a passing thought to the emotionally complicated relationship between Bob and Wendy on Bob the Builder.

9. You have a mental map of every drive-thru in four cities.

10. You've ever spent hours waiting for the kids to go to bed, and then when they did, you wanted to wake them back up again because you love them that much.

Friday, September 17, 2010

History Lesson

It was my first day at Chandler High School, back in A.D. 1997. I shuffled with the other students in to my after-lunch class, World History with Mr. Lowell-Britt. When everyone had settled, we watched as Mr. L-B wrote in wide white letters on the chalkboard: "Why is Learning History Important?" My first high school writing assignment! I thought. Goody goody gumdrops! (Later that day, I was inducted into National Nerds Society based merely on this thought.) Why is Learning History Important? Hmm…yes, that's a good, juicy question. I'll have to really knock him out of the park with my reasons why.

That night, when I sat down to write Ye Olde 5-Paragraphe Essaye, I found I was stumped. I had the vague notion that learning about history was unequivocally important--everybody knows that--but had serious trouble expressing any concrete reasons for this pillar of truth. I think my completed essay went something like this:

Paragraph 1--Introduction:

There are many different reasons why learning about history is very important.

Paragraph 2:

First of all, history is very important.

Paragraph 3:

Secondly, if you don't learn about history, you're doomed to repeat it. (What exactly did I mean by this? That if I didn't learn about cave drawings, I'd someday wind up in a loincloth scratching at walls?)

Paragraph 4:

Also, learning about history is very, very important.

Paragraph 5--Conclusion:

In conclusion, there are many different reasons why learning about history is very important.

Somehow I don't recall getting an overwhelmingly fantastic grade on this. Oh, well. As they say in French, "C'est la guerre!"

At any rate, the years have gone by and I have accumulated more history of my own…thirteen brutal and bloody war-torn years of it. Whoops! Again, getting historically confused. But with those years of personal history, I have come to embrace ever more the concept that learning about history is important. And now that I'm an adult, I think I can better elucidate the reasons why I believe this to be true. (Don't worry, it doesn't involve loincloths.) Here goes:

1. Your personal history is immeasurably important--to know your identity, even to realize why your family is crazy like they are. Something as simple as knowing your family's health history could save your life. Similarly, to know other people's history is to know who they are and how they got that way.

2. To be an educated member of society. I'll put it plainly: tuh nawt bee dumb.

3. To understand why the world is the way it is, to have at least a smattering of understanding of why people and cultures are unique, why they do what they do, love what they love, hate what they hate. To understand the backstory of a group of people is to understand how to better operate with/among them.

4. When you know something of history, your experience of life is enriched. If you don't know anything about Chinese history, the Great Wall is just a freaking gigantic long wall. If you visit Germany not knowing anything about German history, you're going to be rather confused about how strangely bilateral Berlin seems. (And you'll be totally put to shame by a German 14-year-old who can list every U.S. state.) I promise you your vacations will be much more interesting if you go with an idea of the background of your destination.

As an adult, I don't believe we are doomed to repeat history if we don't learn about it. That sounds more like a rumor some cranky old history teacher made up. But I do believe that even in a perpetually forward-reaching culture, we can still learn a lot by looking back every so often.

And so, in conclusion, there are many different reasons why learning about history is very important.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Forgiveness Equation

Today I was hurt by a friend. Actually, it's been building up for a long time, but today various sins of omission added up to one big, ugly wound. Upon coming home, feeling the emotional damage of this situation, I turned to that source of wisdom and knowledge…Google. (Yeah, I know there's a better Source. Google is just usually more amusing.) I started reading about what makes a bad friend, and man, there are a lot of ways to be a bad friend--which, incidentally, are mostly just ways to be a bad person, like the Gossip, the Fake, the Egotist, etc. After deciding the online quiz "Are You a Bad Friend?" was lame-o and didn't have enough multiple choice options, I came upon a quote from William Blake. It rings truer than most of the fluff on the internet.

"It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend."

It's funny, there are so many verses in Scripture about how to treat your enemies--how to love and forgive them--that I've rarely given thought to how to forgive a friend. Not that I haven't been hurt by friends before. But when I have, I've mostly either swept it under the rug or simply pulled out of the relationship. Confrontation is a dirty word in my vocabulary. (And I feel like I'm about to convince myself that I need to confront this friend about these hurts…which was not supposed to be the point of this post!) So allow me to sweep THAT under the rug for the moment ;) and state the obvious: friends have far greater potential to hurt us than enemies. Friends know us intimately; we trust them. A true enemy is by comparison easy to forgive because we have not opened to them that fragile place within that seeks love and connection, and they have not opened theirs to us. We can justify an enemy's behavior, and justification is like the butler who ushers you in to the forgiveness parlor.

Oh, but a friend! We know they should know better. We know their intentions, their heart. We know when they are acting inexcusably--if there is such a thing as inexcusable to a Christian.

I know I will need grace to figure out how to "ex" (remove) the "cuse" (accusation) from this friend. In my mind, I see a kind of algebraic equation in which I must move around my variables to change my "inculpate" ("in" = assign, "culpa" guilt/blame) to "exculpate" ("ex" = remove "culpa" = guilt/blame).

I think it looks something like this:

In(culp)ate = Ex(culp)ate

In In

That cancels it out, right? ....But I digress. The point is forgiveness, and ultimately, the discomfort of I'd-rather-be-at-the-proctologist-than-this confrontation of a friend. Ugh…wish me courage.