Monday, March 9, 2015

Vagina Power

You're probably thinking: oh she's just grabbing at attention with a snazzy blog post. And maybe I am. I was going to title this: I'm coming out of the feminist closet. Truth be told though, I don't think I ever went in it. 
Yesterday was International Women's Day. I spent my free time reading about amazing women and my chest swelled with pride- which made my boobs look awesome. And that tends to be the extent of my feminism now. Slipping in random references to the awesome power of boobs and vaginas. (I have been known to shout out, in a roomful of men: 'vagina power!' and give a forceful fist bump to the heavens.) 
Let's be real here though: too often women are viewed as these delicate, pretty objects. When a woman doesn't want to be a delicate, pretty object she gets called something that rhymes with witch and starts with a big ol' B. (For boobs, of course.) 
I was a woman who wasn't about to fit in that type cast. The games and toys were geared towards kitchen and home which often caused me to steal my brother's Gi Joes for the good Lord deemed it wise to put in me a warrior's heart. 
So when I went to college and started to enter the adult world I tried to do what seemed like socially acceptable roles and quickly found out that I was an outside cat trying to claw its way inside. This lead me to find a role that fit for me, which led me to a career that is dominated by men. 
I would say by in large the place that I work has been good to me, but I see how much of the ground I now walk on was paved by pioneering women who went before me. Who had it way rougher. In fact, even that I could get into the field I'm in is due to courageous women who went over to a circle full of men and said: this is where I belong, I'm staying here, deal with it. 
My ninety year old grandma told me in my last visit with her before she passed that she admired what I do and would have always liked to have been able to do something like it. When I went to her funeral I volunteered to go through the pictures and select some which was a mind-blowing experience. She was always grandmother to me, never a 'worker.' But there before me was the evidence in black and white that for her entire life my sweet grandmother worked- and did so surrounded by men. So. That's where she gets her feistiness from. 
The best one was a photo of her at her desk and she's got this boss look on her face. I mean, she's killing it. And my boobs swelled with pride. No wonder I didn't want to dutifully put on the apron and go to my assigned spot in the kitchen. It's just not in me, for that look in her eye -the one where she is OWNING it - that's my look. 
Recently, one of the female leaders at work invited some of us to an event. It took all of my self restraint to not scream out: vagina power! when she was speaking. The kicker that I wasn't expecting was she had us get up and speak. I naively sat through watching the bosses above me, smirking to myself that I was so glad I wasn't them when she called my level of bosses up as well. I would love to report that I killed it, but sadly, no. Before you smile and think to yourself: oh, I'm sure it wasn't that bad, the leader pulled me aside afterwards and said: 'you have to get better at this.' To which I said, yes ma'am. 
You see I'm better at one on one interactions or at reflecting on an event whilst in my pjs. Truth be told though, she's right, I do have to be better. For in my mind there truly isn't two separate races- one for men and one for women- it's all one. I learned that in kindergarten. It was the end of the year race and I gave it my all. Not that I am really that into running, I'm just into winning. So when I made it to the end- in third- I was disappointed. The teachers all cheered for me and one of then informed me I was first. I argued. He may have even been the principal. I kept arguing: 'no! I'm third!' I seem to remember my dad intervening and telling them it was best they drop it for I certainly wasn't going to see it their way. They of course meant that I was the first girl. I knew I was still third. 
My point with all this though is that we all, women too, have to change our mind sets. We still limit girls constantly, in our speech, in our ideas, and in just about every way that we communicate to them. We need to get to a place where we look at someone and see who they are and then try to help them get to the fullest version of themselves. 
My daughter is not a warrior. I'm not saying that to slam her, and I'm not saying she's not brave for she truly is. I don't know yet what she will be, but I hear her saying things like: I want to stay home and be a parent. The interesting thing is she has chosen this primarily because she sees it modeled by her father. Hence why she says parent. Part of me hopes for more still for her, but I have to accept who she is. It may just be that in fact she is meant to be a parent primarily and she will totally kill it. She will own changing those diapers and running around in the minivan (hopefully they will fly by then for Pam's sake - I just made that up by the way, don't know why we always say Pete.) and become the version of her she is meant to be.
For I don't think it's a step forward if we force all women out of the house when all may not want to be. (Though I do think more men need to be brave enough to do what my man does which is get in that kitchen and put on the apron and OWN IT.) No, I think getting to a place where we look at our kids at first like they are blank slates, and we wait to see what strokes they start painting with themselves. Where we take them the whole box of colors to choose from and not just offer the blues to the boys and the pinks to the girls. Some girls like blue and some boys like pink. It's all ok. 
Once we see what picture of themselves they see, then we help. 'Oh, you want to be a doctor? Study this. Work on that.' Don't even begin to address that she may be the only girl. It is frankly a non issue. She obviously won't be dumb if she is striving for doctor, so she will look around the room and see she is the only one with a vagina in the room. Maybe she will find a friend in another male-dominated field and they will become best friends. And they will tell stories about these idiot men they get to deal with while they eat chocolate and watch Gravity. (This actually hasn't happened yet, but I'm about to text my doctor friend and make a date because it sounds awesome.)
I also think we need to encourage more of our kids to try out stuff, that we may even think isn't them, and be willing to let them go as far as failing at it. I learned a lot more this week from my failed impromptu speech then I did from a work problem I was successful at solving. Fail up though. Get up off the ground, grind your teeth, and say: I'm gonna give that another go and I'm gonna keep at it until I own it. 
Tell the boys you are here and you are staying. Tell them you are third when you are and try your best to be first. Use the vagina power. We truly think different and it's a wonderful thing. God clearly thought man wasn't good enough alone, and though we may have started with a bit of them that doesn't mean we can't stand on our own two feet and roar if we freaking want to. 
Above all, be yourself but only if you are the self that you were meant to be. If you got sidetracked, or listened to a different story, were forced to paint with green when you wanted orange- get out the white bucket of Gesso and start all over. Slap down a new canvas. Doesn't matter if your seventy. It's never too late to own who you are and kill it. Go vaginas.

Monday, February 16, 2015

For when you are crawling

I keep staring at it. The photo of the woman crawling to finish a marathon. Something wells up inside of me from somewhere deep, for I relate to that image on a soul level. The crawling part of course, not so much the running a marathon bit. 
I had all these grand plans after cheering at last year's marathon. I even ran for about two weeks. Now I am down to what could generously be called jiggling. Wherein I get on my trampoline and I waddle. My beloved husband remarked wryly one night: 'if you're supposed to be jogging on that thing, aren't your feet supposed to move more?' I may have responded with a less than kind hand gesture. 
No, my marathon has been of a different sort. An emotional one, so to speak. With funerals, car wrecks, accidents and cancers attacking ones I love. There have been some wins, like a prayed-for baby that finally came. 
This brings up other babies I am still praying for. A few that went to heaven too soon. (And babies just shouldn't go to heaven.) A few struggling with diseases and wounds from accidents. A few I'm trying to pray into wombs that are barren and my grieving heart just can't even fathom that kind of pain. 
Every time I go to check my Facebook I see more stories that make me sad. More people from my past and present circles with grieving hearts and hard things attacking those precious hearts. Every time I check the news I see even more that I just can't comprehend. An entire row of brothers about to be beheaded, for starters. Pictures of communities attacking each other, and attacking those that choose to protect them. It is almost too much. The kinds of things that bring you to your knees.
So what do you do when you are on your knees and there is still a race to be run? Well. You crawl. You freaking put one hand in front of another and drag along behind you scraped and bloody knees. You just do. You crawl.
'You keep going, you keep going,' the runner says when they interview her and she tells them the only thing she remembered was a woman telling her that she was 'almost.' "I am 'almost' I thought," she says with a smile. 
Almost. It really doesn't matter where you think you are in the race, or even, what your race is. Truly, you are almost. Given a scary diagnosis of cancer? Almost. Just starting to drive again after having nearly been killed in a car? Almost. Possibly facing another freaking year of working nights? Almost. 
And yes, that last one is mine. The small one. I keep telling myself to girl the heck up already and git'r done for my burden to carry is far lighter then those around me. But even small burdens have a way of looking like a mountain, especially if you are crawling and it is the rock that is in front of you. You know how you crawl up a mountain though? One hand over one knee at a time. Almost. You are almost there. I am almost there. One day may we be there together smiling back at what it took to get there. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Through it

The boy who was burned sits tuning his guitar, his foot and ankle wrapped up in a bandage. He tunes. The pain, I just can't even imagine. I tap a portion of a fingertip on a hot pan and it seems to much. A whole leg- I just can't even. But there he sits, tuning through it.
The woman with cancer enters and sits with her daughter on one side and her husband on another.  She smiles. This smile lights up my soul. There aren't many smiles that can light up another's soul, but hers certainly can. And there she sits, smiling through it.
The pastor has us pray for her and we circle around her. I mutter prayers. One of the pastors prays that we want to argue this, argue this diagnosis given to her, argue that we are not done with her yet. The amens and assents of agreements grow loud. 
We pray through it.
My friend who crashed now has a new car again. I walk around it, muttering prayers. Later, I make the mistake of saying forlornly that all I can do is 'just pray' about something. She fixes her sharp eyes on me: JUST PRAY? I hang my head. Look at me, I am a testament to the power of prayer. I am alive. She is who was broken through it.
The pastor is speaking about Hebrews and the litany of disasters they went through- from being flogged, stoned and to freaking being sawn in two. We're not talking being stuck in traffic folks, we're talking real life and death stuff. But they still sought Jesus, they still ran to him. They looked to him to finish their faith.  And, they believed through it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

When you wake up with a heavy heart

I don't even know where to start. Ray's face swims in my sleepy morning vision and I wonder if I was just dreaming about him. What did you expect? (The nasty Court voice snarls...) He had grey... No almost white... Hair?!
But here is another way to look at it entirely, completely sidestepping that the dear sweet man is now with Jesus: he was given thirty extra freaking years! That's almost a whole me. Thirty years ago they told him: well you have this aneurism and it could be any day now. Any, day, now. 
Don't we get that? We all have an aneurism, we just don't know it. It truly could be any day. As I drove to If: local at my church last night I passed my dear friend's smudge she left on a highway wall. She has been on my mind and nasty Court keeps muttering: 'what kind of idiot has a best friend who is seventy freaking years old!?' As if the answer to life's pain, especially when you are young and dumb still, is to simply shut oneself off to it.
I shush nasty Court one more time. Because I need grey haired and white haired people in my life like I need to breathe.
But that's just it.... I haven't been able to breathe for weeks. I am so tired of the bronchitis from hell. Yet hell has been unleashed all around me, so it's hard to complain about a little bronchitis. A boy I know was freaking burned. Burned. His sweet face, with that wild curly hair framing it has been swimming before me. Poor CJ doesn't understand why I keep hugging him this week. 
Not to mention a dear, sweet woman who just learned she has cancer pretty much everywhere. I so want cancer to be a being with a body and I want to be let loose in a room with it. I don't even need a sword. I've been marathoning 24 I'll just go all Jack Baur on it. 
This woman. This woman and her dear husband came up to us one Sunday and offered to be grandparents to us. Yes. You read that right. The crazier thing was I had been praying for that crazy thing. My parents had just moved out of the state and I was lamenting there weren't cuddly grey or white haired people close by to love my children. I felt like God simply asked me to ask for what I wanted, so I prayed a big, silly prayer: Lord, would you send us grandparents?
A week later, on Good Friday, the husband strolled up to my husband and said they wanted to be grandparents to us. Who does that??? People who listen.
I have decided to keep praying the big prayer for this one. For no cancer. I pray cancer is gone for everyone. 
Did you hear an eight-year-old girl might have just found a cure? She was having dinner with her parents and they asked her how she would solve it and she said she would treat it like a sore throat and get medicine. They laughed. And then they thought. Turns out her parents are cancer research people. They did tests on the effects of antibiotics on cancer cells and found that antibiotics truly do kill just about anything including cancer cells. 
I could barely finish the article. I had a bottle of half-finished antibiotics next to me that certainly weren't doing a darn thing for this bronchitis and it was all I could do to not get in the car and take them to my friend.
Because that's the thing. I'm a doer. This is why I have the hardest time praying. I pace when I pray. I sometimes punch the air. Those that know me are probably snorting. I'm not so much a doer as I am a fighter. Haven't found a fight yet that I didn't want to be in.
This year though. This has been the year for hospital beds. A fighter in a hospital is about as useful as an elephant in an elevator. 
Not to mention it's hard to fight when you can't breathe.
The If Gathering is talking about faith this year. I have faith that the cancer can be completely removed from her. Heck. I saw it this same time last year. My own mother was given a scary diagnosis and I was bracing myself for the worst when suddenly I got the best. 
Here's the thing though: even if he doesn't remove my friend's cancer, he is still good. 
God was good when the boy got burned, and he certainly didn't burn him. The nasty god might have had a hand in that. He was good when Ray fell this week and he certainly didn't strike him. He might have called him. 
One lady told me a story about how when someone's son died they heard when they we're praying that the boy was needed for God's army. My mind wandered then to wondering if little sweet Ray was getting measured for armor. 
God is still good when an entire country is watching a stupid dancing shark on TV and oblivious to the girls being tortured for the sex-trafficking industry right under their noses. God is still good when a man is burned alive by terrorists. We just have no idea the horrors that go on, but he knows and still he is good.
There are hard things in life, death being one of the hardest. He is sitting on his throne saying: "I am making everything new!" 
I really want to see the new Ray. I bet he is golden, ten feet tall, and set on holy fire. Like the white part. Like lightening. 
For now I will get up and pray for his family. I will pray for my friend with cancer. I will pray for the boy who was burned. I will pray for my friend still healing from her car wreck. I will pray. I may punch the air while I do it, but it is the work I have before me that I can do for these things heavy on my heart and so I will.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Half of you

'I am turning 70!' You squeal in delight, with a clap of the hand. My mind immediately calculates my meager 35 and that it is exactly half of that. Naturally I comment. It's what I do, being the eternal 'baby' but what was most interesting was your response to me for it was one of patience. You patted my arm like: 'that's ok, you'll get to 70 eventually.' For 70! to you is not a bad thing but a thing of delight. 
Why wouldn't it be? After all you very nearly died. There's a giant purple smudge on the wall of the highway to prove it. Well, it's black now, but for a while it was purple. The color changed over time. Like a bruise.
Thirty and five years seem like a blink of an eye and I am quite certain I can fill the ocean with things I don't know. That I am hard on myself, and I know it, still doesn't make me age any faster. Why can I not be content to be my age, young as it is? Is it a youngest child thing? Always sprinting after older siblings with tiny legs, desperately trying to catch up time in some magical way? I just don't know.
I see my five-year-old son do it. Frustrated he can't do the same things his almost-eight-year-old sister can. She patiently tells him that she will reach the thing he can't, but rather than let her he pulls over the step ladder. I want to hold him, tell him he's perfect, and to let her help him. Is there some way to help him get over feeling too-young-for-this-itis now? 
Because I have a severe case of too-young-for-this-itis. At work. At home. Even at play. 
These last few weeks I have been making door art cards like an obsessed person. Before me sits a tiny piece of paper that with some scissors and glue I can turn into a little gift of art. So I did. Then again. In three days I had over a hundred. Before you pick up the telephone to have me committed let me assure you I have quit cold turkey. Well, mostly. I'm in the process of laminating them now and it is oddly satisfying to smooth the plastic. Like picking pebbles out of tennis shoes. 
I had resisted getting the book 'Jesus Calling.' My dear 70! friend fixed her sharp, racoon-like eyes on me and bluntly asked if I had gotten it yet. Reminding me she told me to get it six months ago. I hung my head in shame. 'No ma'am, not yet.' I go to a wake and a friend randomly brings the book up. I walk into my boss's office and there it is on his desk. Another friend slaps me on the thigh reminding me that our mutual friend told me to get it and insisting that I do. I decided to do what I always do- blame God and make it his problem. As in: fine, if you want me to have that book so bad then you buy it! But then I made the mistake of mentioning this to my beloved husband and he ordered one on Amazon before I finished that nasty sentence.
I blaze through several days, and have almost caught up already. January 12th's I get to last night, around eleven pm while I shove fast food down my mouth because I have a feeling it's going to be a busy night. I have a bad feeling. I don't always like being a person who has premonitions. "I will not show you what is on the road ahead, but I will thoroughly equip you for the journey." These words sink down deep. Probably to the place where I first stood on tippy toes insisting I grab something myself and refusing to let my big sister help. Or even deeper still then I can comprehend.
I am not half of you. Not even close. An eighth maybe. Heaven only knows what the good Lord will get through to me in the next 35 years, for the few lessons he has painstakingly finished took YEARS each. Bless my heart. And his. 
Trusting him through it all- especially through the nights of bad feelings- and that he will give me what is needed when it is needed is the lesson I'm in now. Going on about thirteen years now. We took a little detour when I chose to not trust and wandered off a few years. 
The lesson starting with a friend dying in a car wreck. So when my 70! friend was in a wreck, and they took her to the same blasted hospital my friend died at, I had this moment in the parking lot. This overwhelmed too-young-for-this-itis. This: I can't do this again God, I truly can't. So you told me not to. 'This time, let me walk with you. Don't leave me out here letting those emergency room doors slam in my face like thirteen years ago. Instead, let me in to this.' So I did. Clinging to the edges of his robe like a cat hanging onto the living room curtains, I stick and dig my claws in deeper. 
I pray and pray for the different stories swirling around me. One goes bad, as a boy dies and I had been praying for the big miracle and hoping against hope that it would be a Lazarus-like outcome. Instead we chat about what food we should take over- enchiladas? Pizzas? We discuss going to the funeral in business-clipped tones. It's the middle of my workweek so I decide not to go, especially since I went to last weeks funeral while he stayed home with the kids. We tag-team funerals.
Another one goes good as for years I prayed for a baby and there on my computer is the cutest, prayed-for face I have ever seen in my life. I keep flipping back to the baby. For right outside my window is the boy's house and I just can't even imagine losing a son. There aren't enough enchiladas in the world.
I bump into a father of another son I'm praying for and he tells me the next big event in their world is on Monday. Oh good, I think to myself, a whole weekend to pester God. If prayers are golden bowls up in heaven then I want to have an Ikea-like stack of a million racked up. 
On the back of the door art cards I wrote part of the verse the exhibit is based on: "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved..." John 10:9. The part that was left out was: 'and will go in and out and find pasture.' I think back to a sermon I heard years ago how shepherds used to lay down at the gate of the pen when they put the sheep to bed at night. Thus, their bodies literally made the door. 
A door that laid down his very life. 
This is the one I cling to. The one I pester with a million bowls. The one who equips me for the journey. The door by which I walk through, in and out of trials as simple as taking steps forward one way then the other. The eternal one who is ageless. Who 70! isn't even half of. 
In about a month the doors art exhibit will start and my psycho-processing that resulted in a hundred or so art cards will hopefully bless people. I re-read January 12th and resist the urge to skip to January 23rd. I will catch up soon enough. Just like I will be 36, and then 70, before I know it. Until then, this time, I do what he asks and let him into this.