Faith

Beginning Bunny Buddhism

I don't patronize bunny rabbits.

I don’t patronize bunny rabbits.

Late last week, my sister introduced me to a book I knew was a game changer. The minute I saw it I knew I needed a copy for myself because it fits right in there with two things that appeal to me…working towards my zen and coveting fuzzy things. (Yes. I know to be truly zen I would have to not covet things, even soft, fuzzy things, but this is why I said I am working towards my zen. I am not there yet, people.) The book is Bunny Buddhism by Krista Lester. It is an adorable tome filled with wisdom about life and illustrations of darling bunnies on the path to bunniness. As soon as I got the name of the book, I was one-clicking my way through Amazon to get it here as fast as humanly possible. (Yes. I know instant gratification also goes against my path to zen, but I can only make this journey one step at a time.) Today the book arrived, and I devoured 186 pages of bunny thoughtfulness, carefully marking statements that resonated with me. Fifty some Post-It tabs later, I realized I have a lot more travel ahead on the road to zen than I originally thought.

Last week, a fellow blogger (and all around kind gal) commented that she missed my blog postings. She told me she was planning to write every day in April. I was tempted to join her on her journey, but ultimately decided that after all this time off I’d gotten too lazy to commit to a whole month. That seemed like an awful lot of work. Then Bunny Buddhism arrived in my mailbox, and with it came my inspiration. And so for the next couple weeks, or until I am plumb bored with cute, fuzzy things or deep, life-changing wisdom, I am going to pick a thought from the book and blog a bit about it.

Today’s Bunny Buddhism mediation is this:

Even a reliable bunny misses a hop sometimes; then the important thing becomes simply to return to hopping.

That is what I am doing right now. I am returning to hopping by blogging again. Once I was a reliable writer, composing something every day for a full year, but I lost my way. I decided other things in my life were more pressing. I reasoned that because writing is not a paying gig for me, I had best focus on my primary job as wildlife manager (aka “mom to two sons”). I thought maybe all the time off blogging would give me more time to focus on writing a book. It didn’t. I found other ways to occupy my time when I put writing on the back burner. I rewatched all the seasons and every single episode of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and LOST. I read way too many articles about our food system that scared the bejeezus out of me. I spent appalling amounts of time on Facebook. And through it all, the only thing I learned is that I am a first-class escape artist. But at the end of the day, no matter what I do or don’t do, the one thing I can’t avoid is the knowledge that I am a writer. I may not be a world-class writer or a published writer or even (gasp) a working writer, but I am a writer. It is what I do. Writing is as much a part of me as my blue-hazel eyes, my constellations of moles, and my stubby fingernails. Denying it doesn’t make it less true. It only takes me further away from my true self.

My writing is not unlike my path to zen. I have a great deal to learn and a lot of room to grow. But I can’t make any progress by freaking out and freezing up when I miss a blog. Life will continue whether I write or not, but every day I skip writing I miss an opportunity to be my most authentic, wonderful, flawed, and yet-somehow-still-perfect self. And so I begin again. They say a journey of a thousand hops begins with a single hop, right?

The Three Meanest Words In The English Language

One crazy family is enough.

For a few years now, there’s been a television show on NBC called Parenthood. I rarely watch network television, mostly because our evenings are filled with homework and getting the boys ready for school the next day and family time. What little time is left at the end of the night is primarily devoted to my trying to scheme up an idea to write about in this blog. My sisters have been talking to me about the show for years and telling me I should watch it. Frankly, though, it looked a wee bit too sappy for me so I have taken a pass on it without a second thought. A couple weeks ago when I finally told my mom we were having Luke evaluated for possible learning disabilities, she suggested Parenthood to me too. I started wondering if there was some sort of reward from NBC for people who bring new viewers to the show. But, Mom told me that the show might validate some of what I go through with my boys because a couple on the show has a child with differences. She thought I might be able to relate to it. So, I caved and started watching it via Netflix.

Well, it turns out that my mom and sisters were right. It’s a really good show. And, yes, watching Kristina and Adam negotiate the waters of Asperger’s Syndrome with their son Max does seem a wee bit familiar. It’s nice to be able to identify with a parenting experience similar to mine rather than watching a parenting experience I wish I had. The episode I watched today, though, hit a little too close to home. The teenage daughter buys a sexy black lace bra from Victoria’s Secret. The parents are not too happy about it because they realize what it means about the escapades of their fifteen year old daughter and the boy she has been seeing. As the mother leaves the daughter behind to go on a business trip, she whispers the three meanest words in the English language to her. She says, “I trust you.”

Oh, how I hate that phrase. That phrase is a lie. If you trust someone, you don’t tell them that you trust them. You simply do. If you tell someone you trust them, what you’re really saying is something like “I want to trust you so if you go behind my back you won’t be able to withstand the crippling guilt of having disappointed me after I put my faith in you in this very obvious way.” The implication is that whatever it is you were thinking you were going to do in some way goes against some underlying compact and will destroy the very fabric of our relationship. Those three words completely remove the fun from whatever it is you wanted to do. I hate that.

My husband has said these words to me on more than one occasion. Oddly enough it’s always been under the same circumstance. I’ve wanted something expensive and threatened to buy it against his wishes and better judgment. Then, he utters those three words and renders me powerless.

“I think I’m going to go ahead and book us that trip to Costa Rica,” I say. “The one I told you about.”

“I told you we really can’t afford to do that right now,” he replies.

“I know. But, we’ve only got one life, and it’s such a fabulous deal on a trip I really want to take. We can find a way to make it work,” I plead.

At this point, he’s running through for me the long, boring, laundry list of items we honestly *need* to spend our money on, stuff like carpet cleaning, a new water heater, and a stack of bills. Meanwhile, I’m rolling my eyes at him and singing “lalalalalala” with my fingers in my ears (in my head, anyway).

“You can’t stop me, you know. If I buy the trip, you’ll go and have a great time,” I say.

“But, you won’t buy the trip,” he replies. “You know how I feel about it. And, I trust you.” And, with that, the trip slips through my fingers. We won’t be going to Costa Rica, at least not this time.

I began watching Parenthood because I was looking to make a connection that would make me feel better about my life. As it turns out, though, the similarities between that show and my real life have become a bit too surreal for me. It’s as if the writers and Ron Howard have been stalking my life for material. And, let’s face it, there really is no escape from reality in television if the television you’re watching is mirroring your life. Perhaps it’s time to switch to The Walking Dead. I bet there’s nothing in that show that will reek of the too familiar. At least, not until the predicted Zombie Apocalypse occurs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Comes Down To One Thing — Sugar Worship

Just before trick-or-treating

Unlike Valentine’s Day, which I can’t stand, I love Halloween. It’s not that I enjoy the ghouls, ghosts, goblins, and gore. I simply relish the opportunity to dress up and the excuse to buy and consume tons of candy without guilt. In preparation for this perfectly mild Halloween evening, I purchased five large bags of sugary candy to share with kids. I put on my cat ears and drew on some whiskers and went out with the kids to trick-or-treat on a couple streets while hubby took the first shift of candy distribution. There’s s something about going through this ritual with my boys the way my parents went through it with me that makes me feel good. Halloween is a family night in our house. It’s the only holiday when we don’t have to share our boys with relatives, and that in itself makes it special to me.

Our boys attend a Christian school where there are no costumes allowed on Halloween. Each of my sons have several classmates who are not permitted to trick-or-treat at all. In fact, Joe was telling me that one classmate stays home and hands out candy to other kids who come to their house. I’ve always been baffled by those who don’t participate in Halloween. I understand that their disdain for Halloween stems from a religious belief that this is the devil’s holiday. (Joe actually gave me this entire lecture today on why he believes this cannot be a holiday celebrating, as one friend told him, the “devil’s birthday” because Lucifer was created as an angel and not ever born in the traditional sense at all, so how could Halloween be a holiday celebrating a birth that never actually occurred? I don’t know. He lost me about two seconds into that explanation.) But, I was raised in a fairly strict Catholic household, and my parents had no reservations about Halloween. Until my boys began at this school, I really had no idea that there were so many Christians who do not allow any sort of Halloween activity in their household.

Curious about the reasons why some people choose not to celebrate what, to me, seems like such an innocuous and fun occasion, I did some research tonight. The Christian Broadcasting Network article I read claimed that Halloween is linked too closely to Wicca, the official religion of witchcraft, and “those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.” Huh. I guess you have to toss me into the category of those who aren’t totally aware of Halloween’s roots because I do not believe I am intentionally promoting evil and its power in the world by letting my kids dress up as superheroes and Star Wars characters and take candy from our kind neighbors. As I read more and more, I began to better understand where these families are coming from with regard to their stance on Halloween. They truly believe that Halloween gives power to Satan. They want no part of that. I get it. The devil is scary business.

I would never tell someone they should allow their children to trick-or-treat. But, I have to say that by keeping your kids from enjoying some fun and candy with friends on the basis that Halloween is a holiday that promotes Satan’s power in the world, you seem to be giving the devil even more power than he deserves. I’m not a practicing Wiccan, so Halloween isn’t a religious holiday for me. It’s just a chance for me to draw on some whiskers and follow my kids through the neighborhood to ensure they are being polite as they collect what will be dessert every night in our household until Valentine’s Day. I choose not to examine too carefully its origins because whatever Halloween once was is not what it is now. In today’s society, in our culture, it’s not devil worship, it’s sugar worship. Plain and simple. And, any day when someone willingly hands me a free bag of Skittles is all right in my book. Devil be damned.

 

My God Doesn’t Make Junk

There is beauty everywhere.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” ~Audre Lorde

This morning while driving the boys to school, we got into another one of our deep discussions about life. In particular, today we were discussing the Bible, Christianity, and love and tolerance for all types of people. Very ambitious subject matter for 8 a.m., I know, but I cherish these conversations with my boys because it’s in them that I see the amazing young men they are becoming.

Today’s conversation started because I was talking about something I had read where two young, gay men had been asked to leave a public place they had every right to be in. In fact, they were told they would be thrown out if they did not leave willingly. This type of exclusion bothers me a great deal. Every time I start to think that as a society and a country we are moving forward with acceptance, I read something like this and my faith in us is diminished a bit. My boys are being raised in a home where it’s acknowledged that homosexuals are the same as heterosexuals except that they fall in love with someone of the same sex. We’re raising our boys this way because 1) it’s what my husband and I believe, and 2) they have family members in same sex relationships and we’ve never wanted our boys to think that it was unusual. We’ve decided the best way to teach tolerance is to discuss it and demonstrate it.

“I don’t know why people care who someone else loves,” I said. “Gay people deserve our respect too. Just because they’re walking a different path doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. If Jesus could love the sinners, beggars, and lepers, why can’t His followers find love for different types of people too?”

“I don’t know.” Luke said. “It doesn’t bother me,” he said with a bit of pride. Then, after thinking about it for a minute he added, “Why does it bother people?”

“Well,” I replied. “many Christians quote the Bible and say God says it’s not right for men to be with other men. Personally,” I said, “I think it’s a little crazy the way people pick and chose things just the things they want to support from the Bible. I mean, do we go an eye for an eye or do we turn the other cheek? You can read an awful lot into Bible text. If every life is precious, then that means the lives of gay people are precious too. If we’re going to chose things from the Bible to follow in our lives, you’d think we’d pick the positive ones…like love your neighbor as yourself.

I allowed for a little pause while the boys chewed on that tidbit.

“Sometimes people fear what they don’t or can’t understand,” I added.

We sat in silence for a minute or so. Then, Joe spoke.

“You know, in the X-Men show we watch, they say humanity crushes what it does not understand.”

“Exactly, Joe,” I replied.

I was so proud of him just then, proud that he understood what I was saying enough to draw his own parallel to support it, even if that parallel was the X-Men. Sometimes my boys surprise me with their wisdom. To explain people’s differences, I tell them what I truly believe. A Christian should follow the example of Christ first and foremost. We are not God and we can’t understand His wisdom, but we can strive to accept that He does not make junk. Just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t make it wrong.

Hitting My Head Against The Same Wall

My son who is too much like me in the ways I wish he was not

I wish I had the energy for a decent post here tonight, but the truth is that I gave at the office today. My full-time job is as stay-at-home parent, aka chauffeur/homework guru. Today my oldest son, who has moderate ADHD, had a rough afternoon. A very rough afternoon. You see, he didn’t do so well on a few math papers last week, papers that he completed in class so he didn’t have to bring them home to be checked by us. This would have been a nice avoidance tactic except that in his rush to finish he missed a lot of answers. His teacher, being the sweet woman she is and wanting to make sure he understands the material enough to be successful, kindly gave him the opportunity to correct the areas in which he had fallen short. In addition to the corrections he needed to make (about 20), he had 28 new math problems to complete and about 50 spelling words from two spelling lists to practice. Oh..he also had at least 15 minutes of reading to do. He missed recess because his teacher made him stay in and work on the math he was struggling with. As I was approaching him after school, I could tell we were headed straight for Chernobyl-level meltdown.

By the time we walked the thirty feet to the car, he was crying. He desperately needed some free time or a nap or a snack. But, he was so overwhelmed by the list of work he knew he needed to complete that he was certain he would have no time for television or video games or playing with friends tonight. Joe has a miserable fate as a Type A personality in a brain that is not readily capable of Type A behavior. As Joe carried on in the car about how sad he was that he wouldn’t get any “free time” because of his workload, I told him that I would not let him work for six hours without dinner. I told him that we’d happily accept the bad grades on his homework rather than making him redo everything if it was too much to ask of him today. I told him that this is only 5th grade math homework, and it’s definitely not worth crying over. I reminded him that in the grand scheme of things none of it mattered. I told him that we loved him and that he was plenty capable of completing the work with time to spare. He wouldn’t listen. His mind was made up. He was determined to believe that his short life was over and that he would never get the work done. Ever. The dramatic performance on the way home in the backseat would have put the actors on Days of Our Lives to shame.

If there’s one thing I understand about ADHD, it’s that it’s not a rational disorder. It makes no sense to someone who doesn’t have it. Many people don’t even believe it exists. I can understand that. You can’t quantitatively measure it, therefore it’s dubious.  (Side note: you can’t quantitatively measure migraine headaches either, yet doctors prescribe medication for them just the same and that is considered a perfectly acceptable diagnosis and treatment.) I can’t get into Joe’s brain and help him calm down when he gets this way. I’ve had my son for 11 years and, even though I understand what ADHD means for him, there are times when I completely mess it all up. It’s not that he wouldn’t listen to me. It’s that when he gets into that state, he can’t listen to me. After all this time, you would think I could stop the tantrum or curb it just by knowing how to handle it. But, I can’t because I don’t know from drama to drama what will work to calm him. It’s in his head. He has to be willing to let it go before things will change. Instead of letting him vent, I kept cutting him off and trying to comfort him. When he still wouldn’t listen, I became agitated and tried harder rather than backing off. I should have known better. I’ve had this wonderful child for 11 years. I should know better by now. Bad, bad mommy.

So, this is why it’s now 10 p.m. and all I want to do is watch some mindless television and go to sleep rather than write anything about what ended up being a mentally exhausting day. I didn’t do the best job at my job today, and I’m worn out. The good news is that I still have a smart, sweet boy who loves me, and I have another chance tomorrow to prove to him that struggles in school do not make him less of a wonderful person. They’re just what they are…struggles. Nothing more. Nothing less. We all have them, and no one is immune. Maybe I would have a better time convincing Joe of this truth if I believed it applied to me as well?

Faith, Hope, and Frogs

Swimmy (left) and Splashy (right)

Last night I was holed up in bed, trying desperately to keep my brain focused on writing while my body was using every spare ounce of energy to fight a head cold, when I heard Joe call from their bedroom. It was time for me to say their prayers, a ritual that I’ve carried out nearly every night since they were toddlers. I was exhausted and felt miserable, but I hauled myself down the hall to fulfill my nightly duty.

As I was approaching the room, I heard Joe make a comment about one of Luke’s frogs. My boys have each had two aquatic, African dwarf frogs for about 23 months. I love these frogs as much as any mother can love a frog. I especially love Luke’s frogs because, swear to God, they know me and perk up and look at me when I talk to them. That might sound crazy, but it’s true. Luke’s frogs, Splashy and Swimmy, are full of personality and joie de vivre like the boy that owns them.

“That one has been on the top of the water for a while,” Joe noted. “I’ve been watching him. I think he’s gonna die.”

Characteristically, the frogs prefer to hang out on the bottom of the tank and swim up simply to get a breath or feed. It is unusual to see one floating on top, so I could understand Joe’s concern.

“Oh, Joe. He’s not going to die. Don’t be so melodramatic. Sometimes they just like to hang out on top of the water,” I said, trying to alleviate the fears that were evident on Luke’s face after Joe’s dire pronouncement.

When I looked into at Splashy, though, I could tell there really was something wrong with him. From the top of the aquarium, I could see that his rump was red. I couldn’t tell if it was blood, but I sensed it was not good. I’m no herpetologist, but it looked like he might have an inflammation of his cloaca (yes…I had to look that word up). In other words, he might have had a little something stuck up his froggy butt. I figured that was not something I could help him with and since he wasn’t eating, I got a bit worried right along with Joe.

So, when I was done with the boys’ prayers, we paused to say an extra little prayer for Splashy. We asked God to watch over him, help him heal, and to keep him from suffering too long if this was indeed his time to go. I’ll be honest. I say the boys’ prayers each night because it makes them feel better. For me, it’s more of a habit than something I wholeheartedly believe in. I’m undecided on the power of prayer because I’m not sure that there’s a thing I could say to change events in the universe. I’ve never believed I was that powerful. But, I said that prayer for Splashy because he’s the sweetest little frog ever, and I truly hate to see creatures suffer.

By this morning when I went to check on him (at 5 a.m. because I was worried about Luke waking up to a dead, bloated frog), he was back on the bottom of the aquarium. When I went into the boys’ room at 7, he swimming around and his hind end looked considerably less red. It gave me hope. Maybe God is looking out for him. Maybe our prayers for that little frog helped a bit. I don’t know, but I kind of understand why people pray. It’s not necessarily because prayer will fix everything but because it offers hope that perhaps there’s a chance. In the face of the unknowable, hope is all we have.

 

 

Evolutionary Thought

Joe's latest library book from school

“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve blogged before about my deep-thinking son, Joe, and how he struggles with his ideas about evolution versus creation. I’ll admit that we’ve not made it easy on him. We’ve refused to give him definitive answers about science versus the Bible, mainly because we’re not the kind of people who are bound by absolutes. We like wiggle room. My favorite phrase to use with my kids when they’re going off on a tangent about why something is absolutely one way or another is “Let me complicate that thought for you.” Then I proceed to show them another way of thinking. The one thing I have vowed to create is children who are capable of thinking for themselves.

Today Joe came home with a new library book from school entitled The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible. He told me that he wanted to see how his classmates understand dinosaurs and the Bible and how the two are intertwined because it’s never made any sense to him. I was proud. Good for you, Joe, for being willing to learn another point of view. Then, he spilled it. He said he was hoping that maybe it would make so much sense to him that he wouldn’t have to be the only kid in his class who believes in evolution. Dang it. He’s still a tortured soul.

It’s hard knowing that my son struggles with trying to fit in and yet retain his own autonomous thoughts. I imagine it’s rough to be 10 years old and feel out of step with the kids with whom you spend most of your time. But, I’m sticking with my guns on this one. I want to raise thinking, reasoning adults. If I’d wanted sheep, I’d have bought a ranch. There’s no telling where Joe will land on this issue before it’s all said and done. We’re leaving the door wide open. We will accept whatever he decides makes sense to him because that’s what we want: children who can think for themselves and make up their own minds. As long as he’s done his research and found something that makes sense to him, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job. Now, none of this is to say that if he decides that this library book makes sense to him and that dinosaurs and people once coexisted I won’t struggle a bit with his truth. I will. But, I know I can’t have it both ways. I can’t raise a person capable of making up his own mind and then judge him when he doesn’t agree with me.

Sometimes, the parenting decisions we make can make our lives more difficult but nothing in life worth learning comes as an easy lesson.