Sunday, August 30, 2009

When the Whistle Blows...

So the question was raised, recently, "Why do you work?"

My first response, instinctively, was, "Because I have to." But something about that answer wouldn't really settle in, and it has continued to nag at me for the last several weeks. I just kept thinking: there has to be more to it. And I have concluded that there is. So here goes.

I do not have to work. I choose to work. Most people, upon hearing that, would automatically assume: trust fund, inheritance, independent wealth, etc. But none of those things are the reasons why I do not have to work. See, if I chose not to work, I could probably collect enough public assistance to survive. I could get food stamps, housing vouchers and welfare benefits. I could shop at Goodwill. I could solicit much-needed items in the name of charity. I could actually probably have all of my basic needs met and then some. So I don't work because I have to work. I work because I want to work. Perhaps a better question would be: why do I want to work?

Simply put, to have a better life. There are several areas of my life that are made better, or enriched, because I work. Because I work, I am able to afford my vehicle - a vehicle that suits our needs, that is reliable, but also that I like. Because I work, I am able to afford my house - a house that I am completely in love with, a house that is an investment. Because I work, I am able to afford cute clothes for Livi (and myself), the food that we want to eat, the things that we want to do, the books that we want to read, et cetera, et cetera.

My work enriches my sense of accomplishment, of usefulness. I enjoy what I do. I love being in leadership, I love innovating, analyzing, creating, producing. Love it. I get to do that in a relatively low-stress setting, working for two men that I respect, who in turn respect me and treat me well. I do not feel as though I am being held against my will 40+ hours a week, even if I would occasionally like to be elsewhere (that, by the way, is completely normal).

My work teaches me. It grows me, stretches me, shows me where I am lacking and ideally will provide me with the means to fill in the gaps. I am extremely fortunate to be working for a very pro-training, pro-development organization. Since starting work there 9 months ago, I have already put in over 120 hours of professional development. And I've been given the freedom to provide access to these same resources for my employees. I know about things now that I was oblivious to this time last year. Things like enterprise architecture and continuity of operations planning and how to write a SQL query that will actually return real, valid results without having to run a user interface that will (maybe) do it for me or spend massive amounts of money paying developers to spend their time writing queries that I can write myself (see: one of my greatest accomplishments this year).

So the benefits of work, for me, surpass mere survival. I work to have a better life in as many ways as work will provide a better life. Maybe that is one reason why my generation is and will continue to be such a mobile workforce. I will choose work that suits my goals for a better life for myself and my daughter. And even within the broad spectrum of what constitutes a 'better life', I will rate the individual elements: money, satisfaction, growth, and base my choices on how I rate those elements. I did just that 9 months ago, and I have to say...I made the right choice.

I am now much more satisfied with my answer to this question. But I would love to know...why do you work?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Try a Little Tenderness

There is a lizard crawling across my porch rail. I'm okay with it. That's part of living where we live. And while that makes it sound as though we are living in the Mojave, we are, in reality, about a mile from the interstate, in a city that is roughly 750 miles from the nearest desert (I love google). Crazy how you can be so close to things like interstates and car dealerships and supercenters and still feel like you're smack-dab in the middle of the country. That's what I love about this place. Usually.

So I'm looking through my Moleskine at notes I've made over the last few weeks about things and stuff. It's part of the process for me...I think it, I scribble something about it, I go back and decipher the scribbles, then I write about it, as I think about it some more. I readily confess, however, that some scribbles will never be written. At least not where they are easily read. My moments of willingness to disclose the deepest and darkest tend to have fairly narrow windows. Just the same, something happened last weekend and painfully, I admit that I need to write about it and think about it some more.

I can be such an ugly person sometimes. Last Sunday morning, I was of course at church. I was playing piano, so I was there for both services. Since we get there early to rehearse, someone else usually takes Olivia to the nursery for me before the first service starts, and then I pick her up after the second service. Usually that person is Bailey Via, whom Olivia l-o-v-e-s, so they don't give Bailey one of the number tags because she keeps several of the worship team's kids. This Sunday was a little different because my dad was there. So he took Livi to the nursery while I wrapped up rehearsal and went to the back to meet with everyone before first service. Long story short, the last I saw of Dad was when he took Livi to the nursery; I did not have a chance to talk to him between the first and second services. After we played in the second service, I went to get Olivia so we could go home, and as I was signing her out, I said, "You know, my dad dropped her off, and I haven't seen him since then, so I'm not sure if you all gave him a tag for Livi or not...", to which the nursery worker replied, resolutely, "Then you cannot take her with you." In that moment, I could have been standing in St. Peter's Basilica and it would have mattered little. I instantly saw red. Luckily someone was standing nearby who went to find the nursery coordinator, who is a friend of my sister's, so she could verify that I am indeed Olivia's mother. Now, I know - I know - that I should be grateful for this, for the fact that the nursery worker would not release my daughter to someone who did not have any proof that they could pick Olivia up and take her with them. And I have tried and tried to get to that place, but more than anything, I just keep running into - but she would not give my daughter to me.

I try, in so many things, to step back and see from a broader perspective, but for some reason with this, I am having a very hard time. And it makes me feel really guilty because I shouldn't be so blinded by my own protective instincts that I fail to see the merit in the protective efforts of those whom I trust to care for her, even if it's only for a few hours a week. Maybe a teensy bit of what bothers me is the fact that I have been going to this church since October, I have been playing the piano since December, and this woman and I had no idea who the other was. I didn't know her name, and she neither knew my name or who belonged to me. Something about that will not leave me alone this week, specifically where my own responsibility to plug in and get to know people is concerned. I didn't curse and throw things, but I made it pretty clear that I wanted my daughter. Like right that second. And as I was driving away and my heart stopped pounding so in my chest, I thought...oh crap. I am such a jerk.

And that's not all.

In between the 1st and 2nd services, I saw a good friend of mine whose wife is getting ready to have a baby. He was telling us how the doctor said she could go any day now, and in his words I heard that fateful let's-have-this-baby-early hope. You know, the one I started voicing when I was 6 months pregnant. (Hey, after being told by every Kroger cashier in the city that you 'look like you're fittin' ta pop', one can ONLY hope to go early.) I immediately reminded him that most first-time mothers do not have their babies early, so they had better save themselves the disappointment. Later, this conversation came to mind, and I thought...oh my gosh. I totally sounded like that woman. You know, the one whose pregnancy didn't go the way she thought it should, or the one who's had so many epidurals that she thinks natural childbirth and those who choose it are totally idiotic (I met this woman when I was pregnant and opting for natural childbirth), or the one who obviously doesn't remember what it was like to be 38 weeks pregnant, weighing more than she ever thought she would weigh, with every joint - including her finger joints - aching and cracking and getting stuck in ways that they should never, ever get stuck...I was her. And I hated myself for it. Because I do remember what it was like to be 38 weeks pregnant and so miserable but also so incredibly ready to meet my sweet darling. And I remember how desperately I wanted to have her early, how diligently I tracked each and every possible sign of labor, and how disheartened I was when, at long last, my own body failed me and the doctors had to intervene and do for my daughter what I could not do for her myself. So I hope she has that baby early, or at least by noon on her due date.

And I hope that I can soften my heart. That I can see things from someone's perspective besides my all-important own and have some compassion, show some wisdom, extend some tenderness, some grace, some love.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time Keeps on Tickin'...

I am dragging myself - dragging (kicking and screaming) - to post a blog as often as possible. I started out, in my own personal Pollyanna world, thinking that I could write a new blog every day. Um. Okay. Make me a list of the things you do every single day, and let's compare notes. Then let's add updating a blog to that task list. Mmm-hmm.

Anyway. The point of this blog post is mostly just to tell you that I have lots of interesting things on my mind. Things about which to write, things upon which to reflect, things that will not be neglected. Thanks to a lovely friend who gets me, I now have Moleskine notebooks in which to write the beginnings of these things. I am a sucker for a Moleskine.

So many things to write about. So little time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Believe in a Place Called Forgiveness

con·done: to regard or treat (something bad or blameworthy) as acceptable, forgivable, or harmless

Bill Clinton brought two American journalists home from imprisonment in North Korea today. Based solely on my own emotions and a few comments made by some folks here and there, I think it's safe to say that there are those of us in the body of Christ who may be having a hard time separating their negative opinions of Bill Clinton from the very positive role that he played in securing Laura Ling and Euna Lee's release from a 12-year prison sentence in one of the most hostile countries in the world. Naturally, that got me thinking.

I was very puzzled this afternoon when I felt like that rush of pride over Bill Clinton being one of Arkansas's own was out of place in my heart. I think it's because I'm afraid that if I say what he did this week was good, then I am saying that anything else he ever did that I disagree with is okay, too. It's because I don't want to condone his previous actions. We all have heard/said that, right?

So I looked up the word 'condone' at in the hopes that it might shake a few things loose in my head, and I posted the definition at the beginning of this blog. First, I do not think that 'acceptable, forgivable and harmless' are even close to meaning the same thing, so I think that part of the definition is a little broad for me. However, I think it is also interesting to note that the definition does not indicate a person in the definition; rather, it limits its scope to actions or even presumably objects, in using the word 'something' as that which is bad or blameworthy. Please do not misunderstand this point: I am not making a grand statement about the inherent goodness of humanity. The Word says that no one is righteous, no not one, and I believe the Word.

Perhaps the most poignant of the observations I made this evening is this: the antonym of condone attention here...condemn. That's where I have to pause and think very seriously about these two words, and what's more, their corresponding actions. I'm looking at what this word condone really means, this word that we all so solemnly swear we simply cannot do, and I realize: we are all so right. We simply cannot do it. We cannot do either of these things! The Bible is very clear on the dangers of judging others and withholding forgiveness. Some argue that it appears to then temporarily lift the ban to allow us to judge what is good, what is excellent (1 Thess 5:21; Phil 1:9-10). But the words used for this type of judgment versus judgment of individuals are very different in the original text. Applied to individuals, the meaning is to condemn. Applied to judging what is good and excellent (i.e., what I should be doing as a believer), the meaning is closer to examination and discernment. Notice that neither of the passages above instruct us to judge what is evil. Rather, we are instructed: 'Be excellent in what is good, be innocent in what is evil.' (Romans 16:19) Again, I feel the need for a disclaimer: I am not saying we should not identify and avoid sin - by no means. I am simply suggesting that our focus is better spent on attaining to what is good.

I keep coming back to how everything God asks of us points towards reminding us of our absolute and total need for Him. I believe that He doesn't want us to judge people because it gives us a false sense of righteousness, and it ultimately leads us to the place where we forget our need for God. I know from my own experiences that this is the most dangerous place I can possibly be. I am safest when I am with Him.

In summary, regardless of how I will allow political opinions and the actions of others to fit into (or fall outside of) what I believe to be good and right and excellent, I am so very glad that Bill Clinton brought those girls home to their families. That is awesome. What's more, I'm glad that my sins, my flaws, and my failings are not public knowledge. Okay, I've got another what's more: I'm glad that the people who do know the yucky stuff about me still rejoice with me when I get it right.

So here's to getting it right. Peace.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I drop my sword and cry for just a while...

We are always fooling ourselves into thinking we are worse or better than we really are, aren't we? It seems I am constantly working to get past the lies of the impostor self, see myself as Beloved and know that anything that exists outside the realm of who I am in Christ is smoke and mirrors, dust and ashes, baloney. Something tells me I will be working on this for a very long time.

In his song, "To God Alone", Aaron Shust asks the question: Can you use me as I am? I find such hope and comfort in this question, this reminder that we are all in the same boat.

This song came out when I was 5 years old. My mom used to listen to it all the time. I had no idea that it would turn out to be so relevant to me now, 25 years later.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

When the Night Owl Hoots His Way Through Me Time...

There is a sacred element of my and Olivia's routine that has grown exponentially shorter as the other elements of her routine (eat, play, sleep) have grown longer. What is this element, you ask? It is Me Time. Our routine has been, since she was a wee tiny thing, E.A.S.Y., which stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, You. The Sleep and the You occupy the same time frame in the routine, and the idea here is that when your baby is sleeping, you go have mommy time. It is a welcome respite, and one of which I never grow weary, even two years after her birth.

The funny thing is, now that she is older, she sleeps less. She takes longer to eat, and she spends more time playing. But she sleeps less because she needs less sleep. Makes sense, right? Hmph. Well.

The dilemma I find myself in is this: where I used to kick off mommy time each night by 6:30 at the very latest, now I am lucky if she is in bed by 7:30, and usually it is closer to 8:00 or even later. If I am truly being good to myself and going to bed in enough time to get plenty of rest, this gives me around 2 hours each night to: clean the kitchen, clean whatever else needs cleaning, get the next day's meals in line, get the next day's clothes in line, check e-mail, return phone calls, pay bills, and, oh yes, relax. Two hours is simply not enough time for all of the above, and I know this going into it. So I end up doing small bits of everything, and I still end up staying way too late. The next day I wake up and it starts all over again. Wash, rinse and repeat.

I am not complaining. I love my baby.

Nonetheless, my life needs some order. I can't force her to go to bed before she's ready. We'd both be miserable. So I need to adapt, and that is going to take a little bit of organization. I keep hearing about this Fly Lady. I think I need her book.

I am not as young as I used to be. (If you have talked to me at any point in the last few weeks, you probably know I will be 30 very soon. Too soon.) I used to be able to work just fine on 6 hours of sleep. Not so now. So what gives? And why is it so hard for me to give up my 'me' time? Or is it really necessary for me to give it up? Maybe I just need to work harder at staying organized, and then I'll find all the 'me' time I need. Just maybe.