Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hop On! We're Taking a Tour of Changeland

The Funkapotomus has been away on an extended vacation. I always feel better when he heads out of town (obviously). Unfortunately, the big guy's back and settled in quite nicely, occasionally hugging me so tightly I can barely breath or think.

Whenever the Funkapotomus returns I spend a good deal of time trying to figure out exactly why he's here. Rainy day? Wintertime? Fight with Rob, or the kids, or my parents, or my boss or a friend? My monthly hormonal imbalances? If I answer "no" to all of the above I begin my nearly expert process of self-diagnosis. It's better than self-medicating and considerably less expensive than seeing a professional.

I have come to the conclusion that the Funkapotomus came home at this particular time because he's relishing the significant amount of change happening in my life, practically none of which is great or even good. Allow me to take you on a guided tour of Changeland, featuring the Funkapotomus in a starring role.

For our first stop, let's visit Kim's not-so-new-anymore job. I weathered quite well the initial transition in November. Making the move after eleven years at Judson Press was surprisingly painless. But as you know, my dear colleague/boss Burt passed away in January and that saddened me tremendously. I soldiered on and the dean lifted my spirits by taking a minute to say hello to me in the mornings. But now they've gone and replaced Burt. The new gentleman started a couple weeks ago and by all appearances he's a good guy. He says the right things, does the right things, treats his staff the right way. I think it's the staff part that's causing me to be childish bothering me. I'm not used to being "supervised" by someone ten years younger than me. Actually, I'm not accustomed to being supervised at all. And if I am going to work for someone, I want it to be Burt. I miss him. And it doesn't help that the dean stopped saying hello to me. I guess hellos are reserved for his direct reports.

We're now moving out of Career World toward our second stop -- Parenthood. A considerably more complex site on our tour. Simply put, I'm becoming painfully aware that my children don't really want me involved in their lives anymore. They still need me to drive them places, but that's about it. Heck, Abby can make her own meals, go grocery shopping, and do her laundry, rendering me almost completely obsolete. Being sad about this is terribly ironic given that I spent the first ten five few years of their lives wishing they didn't need me so damn much. It's not that I've had a change of heart and really want to do stuff for my kids, it's more that I want to be needed and loved and then free to decline all demands and requests they make of me. Kinda the way I want to be invited to parties, but don't actually want to go.

Now, let's pay a visit to Friendville. This year I watched as my childrens' relationships evolved and in some cases dissolved. Over the past year I too have seen a number of my friendships change. Some have become stronger and more fulfilling, while others have faded or been strained by forces left unspoken. Never an easy thing, no matter how old you are.

And speaking of age, like it or not, we have to take a moment for Grown Up Stuff. My parents, my friends' parents, and my aunts and uncles are all getting older (as if the rest of us are standing still). This means we're increasingly dealing with loss. My Aunt Faify passed last month. My friend Amy's father died in June. And my Aunt Glenna only has a short time she battles leukemia. In the years ahead loss is going to become way too familiar. I know it's inevitable, but it still weighs on me. I'm not in the slightest bit prepared to lose my parents.

Let's make Media Presbyterian Church the fifth and final stop on our tour. Formerly a place of comfort, fellowship and strength, my church has become a source of division, stress and disappointment. For those of you who aren't experiencing hell's arrival in your place of worship, let me tell you it sucks. Our senior pastor resigned after it was discovered he had been (and is still) in a relationship with a former coworker while she was employed by the church. (And no, it's not our awesome former children's director, Cara.) His behavior is in direct violation of the Presbyterian Church's Book of Order. And yes, I've only shared the Reader's Digest condensed version with you, partly because it's not proper to air what is actually years worth of dirty laundry, but mostly because I don't want to be sued for libel. Let's just say I feel like Dorothy, seeing the great and powerful Oz behind the curtain. It's been heartbreaking and emotionally and physically exhausting, and I've been bitterly disappointed not only in my pastor but in those whose responsibility it is (as church elders) to make important decisions related to this difficult situation. Even though I'm certain we'll survive this turbulent time, a strong, loving church -- your place of refuge -- is last place you want to see change.

This concludes our tour of Changeland.  I hope you've enjoyed the whine. Please watch the tram car and carefully exit through the gift shop. Come back soon!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ack! Young Love

All you do, don't tell Abby I'm writing about her. She's not on Facebook and doesn't really care enough about what I'm thinking to check out my blog on her own, so I think I'm safe as long as you don't blab. I'm writing about Abby for two reasons: 1) She's apparently set a new record; and 2) I can't think of anything else to write about.

If you know Abby, you're probably not surprised to hear that she set a record. You may be wondering if it's related to baking, duct tape design, clarinet, hula  hooping, soccer, softball or math. What you probably would never have guessed is that she has apparently broken the middle school record for the longest sixth grade relationship. Yep, you read that right. If you're surprised, imagine how her poor mother felt when she learned four five months ago that Abby has a boyfriend. Just weeks prior to this great reveal (thanks to her brother, of course), I had told a fellow mom that Abby was not in to boys. In fact I'm pretty sure I said something like "I don't think she even knows they exist." Yep, I was that mom. The clueless one saying "My kid would never..." Next thing you know I'll find out Ian's given up computer games in order to take on yard work.  

The good news is that I know Abby's "boyfriend." In fact, they met in church, like all 12-year-old couples should. And did I mention his mom is one of my best friends? And that she isn't shy about "checking on things?"  If she can't find out anything by snooping, she'll actually talk to her son to find out where things stand. In other words, "Are you and Abby still a couple? Have you kissed?" They haven't. That's what we're told and that's what we choose to believe. From all indications, sixth grade dating seems to consist of text messaging, instagram and holding hands while walking around the school track at lunchtime. There's very little talking and even less actual time spent in one another's company. Hence the success of their relationship.

So my Abby has a boyfriend. This explains a lot about the increased frequency with which she showers and brushes her hair. She hasn't changed how she dresses, however, (t-shirts and shorts), but I guess that look works for her. "I'm an athlete mom, not some girly girl," she explains. Point taken. While I'm totally relieved okay with the improvement in her personal hygiene, there's one change in my near-teenage daughter that I can tell is going to cause me great angst for the next five-plus years: her complete lack of interest in sharing anything personal with me.

How did a woman like me who shares everything with everybody, end up with a daughter who doesn't want to tell me squat? When I try to talk to her, I get one word responses that provide me with just enough information to consider the question answered. No attitude or sneering or complete silence involved, but absolutely no details either. For example, when I ask whether she and the boyfriend remain a couple, I get (with no eye contact whatsoever) "Mm hmm." When I suggest she might want to talk to me about him she responds with, "What do you want me to say? You already know him." It's quite clear that Abby will volunteer nothing over the next five-plus years, which means I better figure out the right questions to ask.

Upon further reflection, I should have expected this.

The Christmas when Abby was nine-years-old, I gave her a copy of the popular American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You. This book offers a way out for those of us who don't want to have this conversation an ideal starting place for the mom/daughter conversation about changing bodies. It covers everything from deodorant and haircare to breasts and periods to friendship and healthy eating. When Abby received the book, I recall a grimace after which it was promptly forgotten. Or so I thought. The next day I suggested to Abby that we talk about it. From there, the conversation went something like this:
"I've already read it."
"All of it?" 
"Oh. What did you think?" 
"I really didn't need to know all that."
We never did talk about that book. Thank goodness for 5th grade health class or Abby might find herself asking the boy at the bus stop what a period is when she gets to that place in Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? Yes, I did.

So what's a mother to do with a daughter like Abby? Do I force the conversations knowing she'll avoid eye contact and shuffle her feet and behave as though I'm holding her against her will? Do I hope she's got it all figured out and that her friends are providing her with reliable information? (That was a joke.) Do I try to explain that "You don't really 'love him so much.' Here's what love is...?" (Good luck with that.) Do I ask our youth minister to speak to them, warning that God will strike them down should they ever lay a finger on each other?" (Seems like a good time for the scary version of God.)

I know, I know. You're reading this and admonishing me to talk to her, regardless of my her discomfort. Okay. You're right. I know you're right. I'm going to get right on it.

I just think it's prudent to give it another month to see if they're still a couple. These sixth grade relationships generally don't last very long.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Random Musings, VIII: Food Edition

It's been too long. I don't usually go two weeks without writing. You know it's not because I have nothing to say. I ALWAYS have something to say. Unfortunately, right now much of what I have to say isn't ideal blog material. There's the new guy I'm working for who's 10+ years younger than me (I'm not sure I'm ready to confess my angst about that). There's the crushing situation impacting my church (it wouldn't be appropriate to share at this point). There's the emotional exhaustion I'm feeling from a ridiculously difficult year that's less than half over (that's depressing). So in the interest of meeting your Freakin' Angel needs (isn't it cute the way I assume you need me?), I'm happy to share a new volume (#8!) of Random Musings. Food Edition.

Those of you who know me well, know that I have a few food issues. For instance, I generally try to avoid anything healthy. I work out so I can eat badly. I also don't like "crunch" in my food. Nothing inside something else that makes its presence known. Example: celery or onions in stuffing. Peppers in crab cakes. I'm pleased to say, however, that I've met someone who has even more food quirks than me. My soul sister and colleague Kelly won't eat lettuce because she thinks it tastes like grass. Not that she's eaten grass, but she assumes that's how it would taste.

But enough about the quirks. Here are some random food-related thoughts from a Freakin' Angel:

    1. Fish heads. Seriously, why would a chef think it's a nice idea to put the whole fish, head included, on your plate? How can you eat it when it still has eyes?
    2. Uncut chicken breasts on salad. If I'm paying for the salad, the least you can do is cut the damn chicken for me. You know I can't eat it like that, and have you ever tried to cut on top of lettuce? Not particularly effective, which means you have to remove the chicken from the salad to cut it up. This is annoying, especially when you're hungry and just want to get down to business.
    3. Shrimp. Along these lines, why do restaurants insist on presenting shrimp with the shell on? I like scampi, but I don't like dipping my hands in the buttery sauce to remove the crunchy part from the main ingredient in my meal (refer to my comments above about crunch).
    4. Leftovers. Why do we keep leftovers we know we'll never eat? If you're like me, you wait until they're moldy so you feel justified tossing them. Weird.
    5. Storage containers. Speaking of leftovers, is it just me, or does it seem that whichever Tupperware dish you dump your leftovers into, is bound to be the one you can't find a lid for? If you're one of those people with completely organized storage containers, you suck I don't want to know.
    6. Burnt food. In another example of the head games I play with myself (and my family), I turn burnt food over so the lighter side shows, tricking my brain into thinking it doesn't taste like charcoal.  
    7. Bread. Who else leaves the heel of the bread in the bag in the pantry, even though you already opened a new loaf and have no intention of finishing the other? When it's moldy, then you can throw it out.
    8. Miniatures. Why does food always taste better in smaller sizes?  Mini cupcakes, pierogies and goldfish, for example. And those miniature bottles of condiments are so darn cute! Of course there's something psychologically befuddling about miniatures, the way you eat way more than if you had just selected the original sized item.
    9. Sunflower seeds. What's the deal with the ones with the shells on them? There's so little reward for all the crunching and spitting involved. I don't get the appeal. 
    10. Vegetables. I have made a fascinating discovery. There is a direct correlation between the number of people who like a certain vegetable and how difficult it is to spell. Research proves me right. According to's list of the most popular vegetables, potato, carrot, onion (bleh), tomato, corn and  peas are among the top 10.  Lower on the list? Broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, rhubarb, artichokes, cauliflower and zucchini. 
    I hope you've enjoyed this food-themed issue of Random Musings. I'd love to hear some of your related random thoughts!