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Conflicted

September 23, 2011

After we left our church, we decided to visit another nearby church. Our attention had been caught by banners proclaiming that the church was in the middle of a series on poverty, so we took our social-justice selves and bruised egos on in through the door.

The service was…eh. The music was painful, and the well-meaning sermon was somewhat lacking in a call to thought or action. But the people were friendly. Even if there was a dearth of young families, no one seemed to mind my daughter’s wiggles.

A few days later, we received a letter in the mail. The new church was hosting something of a prospective member brunch, and we were invited by name.

At this point, I must admit, I was struggling. And grieving. Despite the fact that we had spent more than two years at our old church, despite the fact that I had been in the choir, despite the fact that one of my business partners was a member, despite the fact that it had felt like home…not one single person had called to talk to us. Not my business partner. Not a fellow choir member. Not the head of the children’s ministry.

It was as if we had never been there. As if no one even noticed that we were gone.

I was crushed.

But part of me still wanted to go back.

Why? Michael asked. Why do you want to go back, after how they treated us? When here we have a letter inviting us BY NAME to return to a new church? Why?

The answer, of course, is complicated.

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Mission Accomplished!

June 26, 2011

Finished reading Of Human Bondage this week! One less item on my long-term to-do list.

Some people just should not drink

May 24, 2011

When I was in college, I worked a few summers with a darling man. He was tall, good-looking, funny, goofy, immersed in his faith, smart… We shared an immediate and intense friendship. I adored him.

One night, we traveled to a small-town festival a few hours away. Lots of our friends and co-workers were also headed that way, and we had a friend in town whom we all planned to stay with. There would be a lot of alcohol and dancing and eating, and we would return home (back to work!) the next morning.

My beloved friend had only turned 21 a few weeks prior to the festival, and he decided he was going to DRINK. He bought hands-full of drink tickets and passed them out like candy. He downed one beer after another, and it became obvious that despite his towering frame, he had no tolerance for alcohol. Very quickly another friend and I conspired to acquire his car keys, since he had driven to the festival.

The evening progressed in a series of unfortunate and uncomfortable encounters. He would dance only with me, then grew mean and turned against me. He ignored me. He forced me to take drink tickets. He kept drinking long after I and other friends asked, then ordered him to stop. So drunk he could hardly walk, he decided he needed to carry me piggy-back. He was so much larger and stronger than me that it took the intervention of three other friends to get me back on the ground.

After we had made our way to our home-for-the-night, my friend was sweet and contrite and heartbreakingly candid. Or delusional–I can’t say which. He told me he loved me. He asked me to stay and sleep beside him. I sat and told him whatever he wanted to hear. I held his hand. I stroked his face. Finally, he fell asleep. And I, not drunk and well aware that he was engaged, broke every one of the promises I had just made.

A few days later, I tried to tell him what had happened. I tried to make him understand. But I was too chicken to tell him what he had said to me, and I don’t think he fully believed how out of his mind he was. He agreed he had had too much to drink, but was unwilling to avoid it in the future. He would not even promise not to drink at his wedding. “I think it will be expected…” he said.

I have only seen him once since that summer, and I do not know if he drank at his wedding. I just hope that he never went so far off the deep end again. Sober, he is a wonderful person. Drunk, not so much.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I have someone in my life now who drinks too much. She blacks out and she gets mean and she falls down and she makes scary-bad decisions. I really like her (when she’s sober), and I worry about her. And I wish she would stop drinking, but I can’t talk to her about this. I can’t do it at all.

The Awkward Phase

May 17, 2011

We decided to find a new church in the fall. I wanted to let the pastor and congregation know why we had left, but hadn’t yet figured out the best way to do it. The pastor had only been installed a few weeks previously, and I really didn’t know him at all. Besides, I’m not very good at telling uncomfortable personal truths face-to-face.

I thought a letter would be best. Or maybe an article for the semi-monthly church newsletter. Something.

Before I had a chance to decide, the church called me. Rather, the church secretary–who periodically checked in to see if we were ready to officially join the congregation–called. “We’re welcoming new members in a few weeks,” she began. “I know you weren’t interested before, but we would love to have you if you want to join.”

And I was caught. What could I say? The thought of lying crossed my mind, but I didn’t really want to. But neither did I really want to tell her everything that had happened, because–among other reasons–that would mean crying. Again.

The silence lengthened. “Well…” I began, the high pitch of my voice betraying my emotions. “We’re not really going to church there anymore.”

“You aren’t? Why not?”

Slowly the story came out. About my noisy daughter and the reactions of people around us. About the man who said my child did not belong in church. The secretary is a very sympathetic woman and was much disturbed by what I had to say. She asked if I would tell the pastor, and I reluctantly agreed.

“We don’t all feel that way about kids in church,” she said before transferring me.

With the pastor listening, I hashed through it all again, my stomach tight, my face wet with tears. And he couldn’t say that the people who had rejected us were a minority, because he was new and barely knew anyone at the church. But he did say that they were wrong, and that it bothered him, and that he would address it.

He asked if we would be back at church; I said I didn’t know. I asked that they not call us, that he would know our decision by our presence–or lack thereof–at church.

A Brief Aside

February 15, 2011

From my Simply in Season cookbook:

A shopper’s prayer
Provider God,
Transform this chore, this reluctant shopper.
Journey with me on this expedition of privilege.
I stroll past the breads cooling on the trolley;
yeast-smells proclaim their rising
and invite me to taste and see that they are good.
My hand hovers over the carrots, parsnips, beets….
Thank you for signs of your presence,
for foods and peoples rooted in the soil.
Bless me as I choose.
–Ruth Preston

 

Nyom, nyom, nyom

November 15, 2010

Note: I’m not sure why I didn’t publish when I wrote it, but here it is: only three months after composition.

I’ve been on a baking streak lately. First it was the Bean’s birthday cake:

Then I made chocolate-peanut butter chip cookies, using–alas–the Doubletree Hotel recipe instead of my old Betty Crocker standby that has all the family-approved adjustments written in. They were good, but not great. Which is why we still have a dozen left after two whole weeks–a situation unheard of in our household.

Next I tried a new Smitten Kitchen recipe: Peach Shortbread. Oh, it looked so beautiful in Deb’s photos. And it was tasty, but not what I think of when I think shortbread. A little too close to pie crust in texture. I’d like to try messing around with this recipe to see if I can come up with something more like shortbread, but embedded with some sweet little peach slices as in this recipe.

Tuesday was a dear friend’s birthday, so I made her a single-layer chocolate cake, cutting down the recipe I used for the Bean’s birthday.

Wednesday was the weekly garden Weed-and-Feed potluck, so I made Plum Kuchen. I had a few pints of wild plums from the farmer’s market and a Deborah Madison recipe accompanied by yet another gorgeous photograph. Mine was delicious, even if it wasn’t as pretty as the inspiring picture. I love to cook for garden night, because I can try new recipes without fearing I’ll have to eat a ton of the result. Aside from the Green Tomato Cake (which was HUGE), I have yet to bring home any leftovers.

Yesterday I received a few gallons of pears and apples from my grandparents’ trees. Today I searched for pear recipes online. I found another Smitten recipe: Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake. So I made it for tonight’s dessert, to share with my parents and in-laws. Ooh, yummy.

Up next? Another Deborah Madison recipe: Cornmeal Crepes with Plum Compote (for breakfast, because I still have at least a pint of plums). Then maybe Emeril’s Blue Cheese-stuffed Figs with Lavendar Honey. Or perhaps Fig and Orange Flower Water Custard Tart, also from Deborah Madison. But then what will I make with all of my remaining apples and pears?

Am I in a rut? Is it irrational that I want to bake at least three desserts between now and our trip to New York (only five more days!)? What does it mean that my baking is suddenly using more fruit than chocolate? Will I ever learn to take gorgeous food pictures for my blog?

Zombie snacks

November 1, 2010

Last weekend was the third annual Omaha Zombie Walk–a fundraiser for the Sienna/Francis House. We took the kiddos up to The Waiting Room and paid $3 per person to be made up as zombies, then joined the horde for a mile-long stagger around downtown Benson. It was awesome.

1217 zombies; more than $3000 raised for charity!

So…what do vegan zombies eat? GRAINS!

Unemployment Appeal

October 18, 2010

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to appeal the “Notice of Adjudicator’s Determination” sent to me on September 28, 2010, which reduces by ~40% the amount of unemployment compensation I qualify to receive.

According to this letter, I left the employment of _______ Company on June 17, 2009 because I did not have satisfactory child care arrangements. This is incorrect. Beginning June 17, 2009, I took a leave of absence to give birth to my daughter.

I contacted ________ several months later to inquire about returning to work. At that time (roughly March 2010), I found I needed a more reliable work schedule in order to have the money to pay for child care for my daughter. The work I had done prior to June 17, 2009 was strictly on-call.

When I spoke to my former supervisor, I was told that a) the company had replaced me out of necessity and b) there were no positions available, either on-call or with a regular schedule.

To sum up, I did not resign from my job with __________ Company.

I have a second objection to the determination made in this letter. The letter states that a lack of child care arrangements is a “personal reason not connected to” work.

As one of thousands of working mothers in this state, I strongly object to the idea that child care is a solely “personal” issue. In 2007, the Nebraska child care industry serviced 100,000 children. Nebraska also has the third highest female labor force participation rate of any state. Without the available and appropriate child care, the state of Nebraska would lose most (if not all) of the mothers in its workforce.

Child care is not a solely personal issue; it is also an economic one. The Office of Unemployment Insurance needs to treat it as such.

Writing again

August 5, 2010

I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, but that title really has nothing to do with the blog. It has to do with me, or rather, the rest of my writing.

I don’t know exactly why, but my confidence in my own abilities has been pretty low for awhile. I think it probably has a lot to do with being laid off, then being un- or under-employed ever since. Maybe also the fact that my current “job” is something I’m not terribly good at, so I feel incredibly inept whenever I am working.

This feeling was highlighted by a conversation I overheard earlier this summer. Two under-employed women I know were discussing their job searches and interviews. They were also complaining that their current employers seemed oblivious to the range and extent of their talents. While it is a shame that both extraordinary women are being underused, the main thought I came away with was: how can they both still feel so sure of themselves?

I mean, I’m an extraordinary person, too. I have a lot of talent that has been sitting completely idle. And yet every help-wanted ad that sounds intriguing also feels unattainable. Why bother applying when I know I won’t get it?

Anyway. For no apparent reason, this low-self-esteem season seems to be waning. Suddenly, I am feeling creative again. I’m cooking a lot, experimenting in the kitchen, even if it’s not as much as I’d like to be doing. Several of my stagnating stories have new life. Ideas keep popping into my head. And, quite inexplicably, I’m writing poetry.

Okay, so I still haven’t applied for a new job. But the job I’ve always wanted–writer–has never felt so within reach.

Kids and race

May 19, 2010

So I just read this:

Kids’ test answers on race brings mother to tears

Here’s what I think:

My extended family is multiracial, and I didn’t have a clear conception of “race” until I was at least nine or ten. We didn’t really talk about race, so I thought that those relatives who are not white were just…like that. Their skin color was a part of them, and I didn’t associate it with another, larger group of people. I only associated it with them.

I think the main reason that kids have responses like those in the study is because most people associate with people who look like them. Most white people hang out with white people. Black people gravitate toward black people. (Yes, these are generalizations. Bear with me.) So kids don’t usually KNOW people with skin color different from their own, and people naturally fear that which is unknown and different. It isn’t that kids are necessarily racist (although some do inherit biases), but that they differentiate between what is familiar and unfamiliar.

That being said, there is the contingent of black kids who associated positive values with white people. I think this, too, relates to what they know. Barack Obama notwithstanding, there are not a lot of positive black role models. At two different schools I know, minority kids make up most of the student body, but most of the staff is white. And black people as a group are still dealing with a racial self-esteem issue that goes back to slavery.

What I’m getting at is this: if you’re worried that your five-year-old has a racial bias, don’t try to talk to them about race relations. They won’t understand a word of it. Instead, broaden your circle. Get to know people who are different from you, and let your child do the same. SHOW your child that each person is himself or herself, and differences in hue don’t mean a thing.

Actions speak louder than words, right?