Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Kind of Normal

Let me give you some examples of what happens when you google images for "normal":

You can thank me for not posting all the venereal disease pictures.  You're welcome.

Our living situation is, by suburban American middle class standards, slightly strange.  I mean, if we were living in a developing nation, the fact that we have three generations living under one roof including extended family members would be completely normal.  Of course, if we were living in a developing nation, it would be strange that we have three bedrooms, indoor plumbing, and a room that solely exists to hold our cars--so strange is relative, I guess.
When I made the decision to come back to OK for a few months, there were several factors:
  1. We were putting our house on the market, and I thought it would be easier to show if there weren’t three people and a dog mucking it up all the time.
  2. We had several events--weddings, fundraising dinners, birthday celebrations, births of children--that I didn’t want to miss, and I didn’t see the point in traveling back and forth several times in a few months.
  3. Due to my husband’s six-month TDY and the stress of our impending (details withheld from us) move, I was going what could accurately be termed “batshit crazy,” and I thought it was best for my sanity and the safety of my children that we be around other people.
So, we packed up most of what we needed (I left all my winter shoes, stupidly thinking we were close enough to summer to need them...oh, how I miss my boots...) and headed west.  We’ve been in OK for a full month now, and I can say wholeheartedly that this was the BESTIDEAEVER.
Our trip coincided with my aunt’s move to OK.  Before I told my parents we were moving in, my parents had gladly welcomed her into their guest bedroom to help her while she transitioned to a new state--you know, to help her get on her feet while she looked for a job and “started over” in a new place.
So, here we are now.  My parents cleaned out closets and shifted furniture.  They made space on the pantry shelves and bought extra laundry detergent.  They are tucked away in the master suite.  Lyn is in the small extra bedroom, and the boys and I (and our three beds) are in the front bedroom.  It’s kind of like living in a sorority house.  Except I can’t really share clothes with anyone else.
Sometimes it feels like this.

Or this.

Or most applicably, like this.
There are, of course, some aches and pains that come with living in a house with six people.  (I know, I know--some of you are like...that’s how many people live in our house...what’s the big deal?  But you have to keep in mind that I am an only child.  The largest number of people I’ve ever lived with is FOUR--and that’s only been since Ben was born 2 1/2 years ago!)  
But I can honestly say the hiccups have been few.  At least for me, I think it helps to have healthy expectations about what it’s like to live in this new kind of normal--I’m probably not going to have as much alone time as I did when I lived in SC.  I have to be okay with sleeping on the couch if I want my own space OR living with the fact that I will end up with one or more children in my bed if I sleep in our bedroom.  I try my best to contribute--cleaning when I can, offering to do someone else’s laundry if I have a small load, and buying groceries often.
The pros of this situation FAR outweigh the cons.  Here are some examples:
  1. When I was in SC, I would put the kids to bed and settle in with DVR’d TV or a good book.  This was great--I had all kinds of me time, something that a lot of moms don’t get.  But now, I have built in babysitters who can sit (or sleep) at the house giving me the option of meeting friends for a late dinner or drinks.  I can catch a Thunder game or play trivia or hang out with a hot chocolate at Barnes and Noble all by myself.  This freedom is something I don’t take for granted because it’s one of those surprising, unexpected gifts that I need to appreciate for this short time.
  2. One of my best friends, Sarah, just gave birth to her third child.  Between us, this makes five kids, and this is the first time that either of us has been able to actually be at the hospital the day of the birth.  It’s a part of our friendship that was missing, and when I walked in and saw her deflating belly and tired eyes, my heart did jumping jacks.  For military families, we miss these moments.  All the time.  We get phone calls, or if we’re really lucky, we might get to Skype.  But most of the time, we miss these moments.  I feel so incredibly blessed.
  3. Will and Ben are starting to get a whole new sense of what family means.  Growing up, I lived in OK, and my extended family lived in MO.  We didn’t live “close” by some standards, but we did A LOT of traveling back and forth.  I really feel like I grew up with my cousins and had good relationships with my aunts and uncles and grandparents because my parents made an effort to be with family as much as possible.  I have tried to do the same, but it’s a lot longer distance from SC to OK/MO, especially when we have been limited by the Air Force on the amount of traveling we could do.  But since we’ve been “home,” we’ve made up for lost time.  Out of curiosity, I had Will draw a picture of our family.  I gave him no instructions beyond: draw a picture of our family.  This is what he came up with:

As he got out the paper and markers, he said, “I’m going to draw a picture of our family at Halloween because I like holidays!”
The first thing I want to note is that Scott is still in the picture.  It sounds stupid, but I worried that he might forget Daddy.  This is one of those irrational fear things--that my children are going to forget their father because we never see him.  But, look!  There he is--front and center.  Dressed like the Hulk.
I am to his left--the one with the starred crown, dressed as Wonder Woman.  Will is to the left of that, dressed like Spiderman.  Ben is under us dressed as Mickey Mouse.
Now, I should say that the very first person he drew is the little pink figure to the right of our immediate family.  That’s Emma, my cousin Misty’s daughter, and she is pink and has a crown because as Will said, “My cuz LOVES Pinkalicious.”  My boys and Emma have only hung out a handful of times in their short lives, but this just proves how superduperawesome it is to have cousins.
Will also included my mom and dad in the far bottom right corner (I don’t know why they are so tiny!) dressed as a “boxing man” and “Mimi in her school suit.”  My uncle, Doug, is the one above my parents.  He was a late addition when Will realized he had forgotten to add “Captain America.”
On the far left, we have my cousins Drew, Hailey, and Claire (whom my boys ADORE in the way you do when you have totallyawesomeandcool older cousins) who are obviously dressed like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and “girls in their swimsuits because they like to go to the beach.”
Last, he drew my aunts, Lisa and Lyn, and my cousin, Misty at the top left all in matching outfits.  When I asked him what their Halloween costumes were, he said, “They’re ballerinas.”  Naturally.
I told Will I was going to write a story about our family, and when he got home from school, he asked if he could read the story.  When I showed him this blog post, he said I got all the parts of the story right except I needed to add that “Hulk was carrying an invisible radio.”  So, that, I guess, is our story for now.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that there is nothing strange about this.  This is good.  Really, really good.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's in the Bible (Part 7)

***Disclaimer: If you want to get all you can out of this post, set aside some time.  There are some real gems.

Happy Easter, friends.  We started the day off by oversleeping and missing church.  So, we watched cartoons and ate Skittles and Reese’s peanut butter eggs for breakfast, which was certainly a spiritual experience of the highest order.
Part of me feels like I should write something about Easter, but let me give you a little insight into my psyche.  I believe he is risen EVERY day, and I believe in celebrating by living out Christ’s teachings EVERY day.  I understand the general population’s need to gather in a building, and that’s fine and all, but I just don’t get much from it.  Plus, I really hate arguing with my kids about wearing nice clothes when I don’t like getting dressed up for church either.
There’s a book called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas that I read a few years ago (and then taught a class on later at a big Presbyterian conference) that really helped me understand why people have different ways of worshipping.  The book essentially outlines nine different pathways of worship.  Some people are “traditionalists,” for example--and these are the people who really LOVE getting up and fighting with their kids about putting on fancy dresses and clip-on ties so they can sit in the pews of a pretty building and sing the songs of their childhood during a service that revolves around words like “Eucharist” and “liturgy.”  One of my best friends, Leigh, has taught me to appreciate these people a lot more because she is one, and she’s still really, really cool.
I am not a traditionalist.  So, when I joke about not wanting to go to a church building to worship God, it’s not because I’m sacrilegious.  I just don’t find a deep connection with God in the traditional way.  In fact, when I sit in a building with stained-glass windows, I miss the sermon because I’m looking for patterns in the colors.  When we sing hymns from a hymnal, I get tired by the third verse and start sing “Watermelon cantaloupe watermelon cantaloupe...”
That’s not to say that my traditionalist friends don’t have a genuine spiritual experience in these types of services because (despite what my evangelical upbringing taught me), I’ve learned that God is present in the services of traditional denominations, and it’s not fair to assume that Presbyterians and Methodists and Episcopalians and Catholics are missing the point because they don’t speak in tongues or dance in the aisles.  There’s room at the table for all of us, friends.
(If you're interested in taking a little quiz to see what kind of pathway you're on, go HERE.)

This week, I asked Will if he knew what Easter meant.  He does, after all, attend a Methodist preschool and the week’s theme had been “Easter Holy Week” (as opposed to Insect Week, Dinosaur Week, and Sports Week the preceding weeks).  He told me, “Jesus died, and then he had an Easter egg hunt and came to life again.”
In his book Love Wins, Rob Bell says, “Jesus teaches again and again that the gospel is about a death that leads to life.  It’s a pattern, a truth, a reality that comes from losing your life, and then finding it.”  (You can read some more of my thoughts about this book HERE and then what Rob Bell said about all the criticism HERE.)  And that’s what Easter is about--this universal truth that everything must die for new life to begin.  It’s why we pet baby chicks and bunnies.  It’s why we spend our spring Saturday mornings cleaning out the closets and weeding the flower beds--out with the old, in with the new.  With blossoming tulips and green grass, we find life.
So whether Easter means a day to celebrate the resurrection of your Savior or the day before Walgreen’s puts all their chocolate on the 50% off shelf, let’s all celebrate--with chocolate and baked hams (please tell me you recognize the irony of an Easter ham) and egg hunts and family time.
If you’re like me, you’ll spend your evening in a food coma, while the kids bounce off the walls from their sugar highs, and you’ll sit down at the computer to waste some time.  Let me give you a few things to waste your time.  Think of these as my Easter gifts to you:

I don't know how I missed this when millions of other people were watching it, but this is for all those people who only go to church on Easter and Christmas.  It's all connected you know.  (Thanks, Lacy!)
I have this really great friend, Natalie, who is the ultimate webgemfinder, and every now and then I run across something that I think she might not have seen yet but would enjoy.  I just wasted hours laughing at this. If you love Demetri Martin, you'll be happy.  Here's an example of what you'll find:
Check out this blog about vintage ads--so freaking funny!  I am slightly obsessed with the quirks of the advertising world, thanks to overdosing on back episodes of Mad Men.  Here's an example of what you'll find:
And last, I am perpetually baffled and fascinated by the hipster community, and any time I can read something that makes fun of hipsters, I'm in.  Check out this relatively new blog.  Here's a great excerpt:

"Your dad rode the subway before you did and he has the tokens to prove it. He’s seen it all, fists fights, rats, homeless men named Harry serenading women passengers with his smoke weathered voice and more than a few transsexuals...Your dad was underground before you were, literally."

Happy, happy Easter to everyone.  I'm going to go eat some more candy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Anatomy of a Four-Way Stop Sign

Charleston, SC is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Truly.  For six years, we’ve called Charleston home, and now that we know we are moving to WA (collective hooray!), I’ve started feeling sentimental for the beaches and rivers and winding, tree-lined two-lane highways.  I’ll miss the tree frogs and lizards that found a home in our screened-in porch.  I’ll miss the Eastern gray squirrels with their funny little tails and scampery chit-chat.  I’ll miss the weather.  The glorious ten months of 80s and sunshine.
What I will not miss, however, is the traffic.
With multiple waterways and an old city plan comes the headache of limited highways and a virtual maze of side streets and poorly designed routes that lead to hours of sitting in traffic no matter where you’re going.  I’ve heard that WA traffic is similar--that commuting takes time, and the city planning is not great.  I don’t know because I’ve never been there, but I can’t imagine it being worse than Charleston (fingers crossed).
Every time I come home to OK, I become even more aware of these traffic issues because they just don’t exist here.  Oklahoma City, and the surrounding areas are set up on a mile-by-mile cardinal direction grid for the most part.  As long as you memorize the north-south streets and the west-east streets, you can get around pretty easily.  On top of the fact that everything is directionally easy to follow, you can criss-cross OKC easily on the MANY highways, making for easy commuting for long distances.  I love this about my hometown.  
HOWEVER, and that is a big HOWEVER, there is one thing about OKC traffic that drives me insane.  Absolutely bonkers--like you may find me wandering around the streets bald and pantsless with a sign reading “THE END IS NEAR!” soon because I have run out of hair to pull out and have soiled myself.
The four-way stop.  

Four stop signs strategically placed to control the flow of traffic throughout the day and night.  This doesn’t seem like something that would cause problems, but somehow, grasping the concept of stopping at a four-way intersection is beyond the brain capabilities of a large portion of the OKC population.
So, in an effort to make OKC a better place to live, let me offer this advice, actual laws, and generally accepted principles related to the four-way stop.  You can thank me later.  Think of it as a public service announcement for the betterment of our society at large.
I have drawn a diagram of a four-way stop because I think the people who will benefit from this best are the type of people who are better with pictures than words.  I actually made diagrams on the computer, but when I copied and pasted, my computer fratched, and it was just faster for me to take pictures of hand-drawn diagrams than to figure out how to fix it.  That's how dedicated I am to getting this information to the public.
Okay, now that we have a visual representation, let’s start with the general rules of a four-way stop.
  1. Drivers A and C are like partners.  They go at the same time.  Drivers B and D are also partners.
  2. The partners take turns.  A&C proceed first.  B&D proceed next.  They continue to take turns as long as there are cars coming from all four directions.
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in.  This may seem like a simple enough concept, but just as I would say in my classroom as a teacher, “There are no stupid questions!”  (I would be rolling my eyes on the inside at the kid who asked the stupid question, but whatever.)
Okay, here is where it gets tricky.  What if someone doesn’t want to drive in a straight line?  What if Driver A, for instance wants to turn right?
Now, I know this might be confusing for some of you because the arrow is actually pointing left, but you have to remember that Driver A is driving south on this map.  If this concept is too difficult for you to grasp, you should probably stop reading now and get off the freaking road.
So, Driver A wants to turn right, but Driver C is going straight.  THERE IS NO CONFLICT HERE.  Everyone can still move at the same time.  A turns right.  C goes straight.  They have taken their turn, and now B&D can proceed.
But, here’s where it gets really tricky.  What if A wants to turn left?  Across C’s straightaway!  
Here’s a little mantra I’ve come up with to help you remember what to do in this situation if you happen to be Driver A: Not going straight, I have to wait.  Not going straight, I have to wait.  Not going straight, I have to wait.
You let the straightaway driver go first, and then proceed with your left turn.  No one gets hurt.  No one has to honk.  No one needs to wave anyone else through.  No one has to start and stop four times while Drivers B&D yell angrily and flip birds in every direction.
Following this tricky maneuver, Drivers B&D can then proceed in regular order, following the aforementioned rules if in fact one of them has to turn left as well.  One important note: if both partner cars are turning left, we have NO CONFLICT, people!  They can go at the same time.  
One last rule, and this one is graduate level for some people, so pay attention.
Sometimes, Driver A and Driver B arrive at an empty four-way stop at the same time, at which time both drivers start and stop, inching forward and looking at each other with doe-eyed idiocy, motioning back and forth like the guys from the Roxbury skit on SNL--like “You go? Oh, I’ll go! Oh, you?  Okay, me!  Oh, you!  Yeah, you go.  Oh, you want me to go?”  This goes on until someone finally stops being an idiot and proceeds.
This does not have to happen, people.  There is a rule: whoever arrives on the right side goes first.  In this instance, Driver A is to the right of Driver B.  If you don’t know which is your right or left hand, get off the road.
Here’s a little quiz.  Which driver in these scenarios would go first?

Here’s your answer key: B, D, and trick question!  In diagram three, they go at the same time!  If you got any of these questions wrong, get off the road.
Now, here are some general principles or suggestions that aren’t necessarily written into the laws of the land but could be helpful.
  1. Four-way stops were never intended to be the place where you stop to text someone back because you are trying to be a safe driver.  If your text can’t wait, pull over at a gas station.  While you are busy texting at a four-way stop, you are, as Smokey would say “f*ckin' up the rotation.”
  2. If you wave someone through the intersection because you are being polite, you will still be ticketed in the event of an accident.  Because you are an idiot.  A polite idiot, but still an idiot.
  3. The aforementioned traffic laws still apply to you, even if you look like: 
I call this look "Oklahoma Blonde."  It's popular with the moms at my kids' preschool.  This would be the primary offender in most four-way drama.
If this is you, you should also know that four-way intersections are not a prime spot for picking up chicks by screaming out your window at them.
If this is you, I don't need you and your Hummer drifting straight through intersections and crushing me and my children while we're just trying to drive across town for a Jamba Juice.
If you have any questions regarding any of the above information, you should probably ask someone else.  I can’t help you.  Happy driving! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

3 Awesome Things You Should Know About of Musical Nature

Do you ever love something so much that you’re like “EVERYONE I KNOW SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS!”  And then you spend more time with that thing--it might be Danish blue cheese or Where the Wild Things Are (the book or the movie, either one) or a really comfortable dress (with pockets, of course!)--and you’re like “EVERYONE I KNOW MUST KNOW ABOUT THIS!”
Well, I do that frequently.  And the next step for me is naturally “I SHOULD BLOG ABOUT THIS!”  And then I start to question whether I should blog about it because I think “Does anyone really care about this?  Does anyone really want to read this?”
But then sometimes, I get to a point where I’m like “I’ve passed the point of needing to blog about this because SURELY everyone I know already knows about this.  I mean, how could everyone NOT know about this?  Its level of awesomeness dictates that OBVIOUSLY everyone already knows about this.”
But then I think “No.  On the off chance that even one of my friends missed this awesome thing, I must blog about this.  It could be the friend who has been out of the country for a month, or the one going through a bad break-up who is staying in bed all day, or the one covered in baby food and dirty diapers--maybe just maybe that friend somehow missed out on this awesome thing.”
So, that said.  Here are some thoughts about 3 awesome things of the musical nature you should know about if in fact you are one of those friends.

My friends from Seattle, Sarah and Kris, told me about this band a few months ago, and then in one of those fateful twists, they played in Charleston one night when my dad was visiting.  So, with a free babysitter and burstingattheseamstogotoaliveshow excitement, I rushed down to the Music Farm to hear them live.  They did NOT disappoint.  They weren’t even the opening band, and I still almost cried from the goodness.  Their entire (self-titled) album is the kind you can put on repeat whether you’re in the bathtub or in the car.  Don’t try to write with it on in the background, though, or you might find yourself throwing off the covers and jumping on the bed or doing one of those flailingdruggedouthippie dances through the house instead of pouring your heart out on the page.  Just a warning from personal experience.
Meet the band.
Meet Charity.
Meet Josiah.
Meet Jon.
And there were these pictures, too:

If you google the band name, you will find all sorts of buzz, but here are a couple of my favorite things I've found:

Here's the "Lost in My Mind" official video:

And here's a recording from SXSW this year:

I don’t even know how I originally heard about The Civil Wars, but it took them so long to put out an album that I almost died from anticipation.  Their song “Poison and Wine” put them on the map months before they released Barton Hollow, and it’s so good that if they had pulled some kind of musical Harper Lee, and it was the first and last song they ever released, I’d still be happy.  There’s something about this music that is so gut-wrenchingly melancholy that you’d have to be a complete robot to not feel something when listening to it.  Even in the more happy hopeful tracks like “I’ve Got This Friend” and “To Whom It May Concern” which both revolve around longing for love, the hope is weighed down by sadness.  I can’t explain it really.  I mean, that’s my job as a writer, right?  To put it into words.  But I can’t.  Just listen, and tell me you don’t turn into some mushy emo version of yourself.

And here's what made them famous:

Okay, so I got a text from Derrick a month or so ago that said, “You should check out Company of Thieves.  I think you would dig them.”  Or something like that.  I can’t remember his exact words, but I can assure you that the text was short and grammatically correct.  I jumped on Itunes and bought the album, telling him he owed me $8 if it sucked.  I haven’t always been a fan of bands with female leads--I know, I know--how anti-feminist of me to have dreams of being a rock star while harboring secret feelings of ick! when listening to female singers.  HOWEVER, I can say confidently that I feel like I should now pay Derrick $8 for turning me on to them.  I am hopinghopinghoping I can figure out a way to get up to Tulsa on May 1st for their show (and possibly a jam sesh with D so as to kickstart our rockstardom).  

Genevieve Schatz delivers much more powerful vocals than her little body would lead you to believe possible.  And Derrick was right about another thing--they won me over with their videos.  Totally.

Enjoy a little "Oscar Wilde":

And then there's this (my personal favorite off the album, Ordinary Riches), which is just really, really, really fantastic:

Here's to super duper aural entertainment for all of us!