God vs. Football

Sometimes it is oh so hard to live in Texas. I was dismayed to hear that some of our legislators were proposing we stop observing Daylight Savings Time. And even more dismayed (yet not surprised) to see my next-door cube mate had posted a difficult-to-interpret poster advocating dropping it.

It’s not that I’m in love with Daylight Savings Time. I’m not sure I care one way or the other, really. I love gaining an hour in the Fall and I hate losing one in the Spring. I don’t find it cumbersome to change the handful of clocks I have that don’t already do it automatically. Yet I don’t think I’d particularly notice or mind if we stopped.

What I do have a problem with, though, is being different from the rest of the country. Right now, I’m in the same time zone as the rest of my family, save a handful that are in Mountain Time. It’s simple. But if Texas drops out of DST, then I have to think about whether the rest of the country is in it and adjust my understanding of what time it is there accordingly.

Now, Texans seem to like to be fairly insular so maybe a lot of them don’t interact with people from other states – I don’t know. I, for one, would find it a much heavier burden to remember the temporary time shift between Texas and Oklahoma for part of the year than I do taking a few minutes two days out of the year to change my clocks.

I had hoped the measure would fail, but suspected it would succeed. Texas politicians do crazy things all the time. I was elated to find out a couple of months ago that the measure had collapsed. But shocked and deeply embarrassed about why.

Proponents for the change had argued about the (in my opinion faulty) burden of changing the clocks. They had also made a slightly more reasonable argument about the safety issue that had children walking to school in the dark. The opponents’ response to the risk of children getting hit by cars that can’t see them?

“I don’t want to have to choose between whether to go to church or whether to watch the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t want to miss either one.”

That’s right. Church start times wouldn’t change if we no longer went to DST. But the NFL schedule would stick to the national concept of time, not Texas’s. The result? For a handful of Sundays in the Fall, people without DVRs and/or without the ability to avoid media until they got home would have to choose between God and Football.

And that choice is apparently a difficult one to make. And not just a difficult one, but one best avoided.

This reminded me of conversations I’ve had with (typically older) fellow Christians who bemoan the loss of blue laws or other evidence that we are a “Christian Nation”. They’ll shake their heads that sports leagues schedule games on Sundays, that schools schedule events on Wednesday nights. They laud Chick-fil-a for being closed on Sundays.

Yet they go out to eat on Sundays at other restaurants. They take care of their grocery shopping. They maybe even catch their grandchild’s game. Because, well, they don’t want to miss it. Or they don’t feel like fixing lunch. Or they really need to pick up some bread and milk.

Part of the angst about the loss of a Christian face to our society is fear that the country as a whole is moving away from God. But I think another part – quite possibly a bigger, but not thought about part – is that it exposes how far we are from how we’d like to be. How we think we should be. How we think God wants us to be.

Consider this. If sports leagues never schedule games on Sundays, then there is no conflict. There is no choice to be made. You never have to decide between church and your kid’s baseball game. You can live your wholesome Christian life without ever being challenged. Without sacrifice.

In today’s environment, however, you have to make that choice. You paid all that money for your child to play in the select league. The team is depending on her. Do you tell the coach she won’t play in any Sunday tournaments?

You see, Seventh Day Adventists and Jewish worshipers have been making these difficult decisions for decades. Why shouldn’t we share the burden? Why shouldn’t we take the opportunity to examine our faith and our priorities and how we live out our life? Why do we want society to enforce it for us so we don’t have to sacrifice? What does that say about us?

Seriously. It’s a standing joke that football is as big as God in Texas. But it’s just a joke. Or, at least… it’s supposed to be.

 

Advertisements

Inside Out

So here’s my dilemma.

I’ve got this post I wrote a bazillion weeks ago. Ok, not really. I wrote it back in May but with all that’s happened since then, it feels like a bazillion weeks ago. It’s about my adopted state of Texas and one of its quirks. I should really read over it and publish it already. It won’t be relevant if I wait too much longer.

But then there’s how Sunday morning went and I really want to tell that tale – about how I really wanted to stay in bed and cuddle and listen to the rain but dragged myself to church instead. Because I had to, more than wanted to.

Oh, and then there’s my thoughts about my step-dad that brought me to tears during the Father’s Day worship service. But my dad-dad reads my blog and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Could I write it in a way that would convey the emotion I was feeling but not hurt dad’s feelings?

And then there’s all the reading I’ve been doing about Charleston and all the different perspectives and my overriding feeling that we just aren’t ever going to progress to some place valuable as a nation. I want to write about that too but… Nah. I know for sure that I don’t have the energy to plumb those depths.

So what’s a woman to do?

I think I’ll talk about movies. I’ve seen some doozies lately. And by that, I mean really, really good ones. Seriously.

Several weeks ago… well, sometime after I wrote that post about Texas that I’ve yet to publish… I saw Mad Max: Fury Road with my husband. I was quite simply blown away. Blown. Away. That movie was perfect. There’s lots of good blogs and articles out there about just how perfect that movie was so I’m not going to try to bumble through it myself. Here’s one of them. I don’t have anything to add – that article pretty much sums up my reaction to the movie.

Sunday night, we had a movie marathon – Jane, Daddy, and me. First we watched The Butler. I was amazed again. And chilled. And thought about Charleston. And sat there still. And happy and sad at the same time. We decided to top it off with Forrest Gump. Because why not? And because Jane hadn’t seen it yet and that seemed like a shame.

So then we get to Monday afternoon. I was barely able to get off work in time to join my family at the last matinee-price showing of Inside Out. We had been looking forward to it for several weeks now. Or maybe a bazillion. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure we started looking forward to it long before I wrote that Texas post that maybe I’ll get around to sharing later this week. Maybe.

Anyway, totally different tale than Mad Max. That probably doesn’t shock you. But… again… I was blown away. Blown. Away. This movie is magical. It nails emotion. It found a way to explain the inner workings of the brain in a fantastical and magnificent way. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud as much during a movie as I did in this one.

You have to go see it. You simply have. To. Go. See. It. Right now. Or when the theater opens. Whichever comes first. I loved this movie. My family loved this movie. I loved watching my family love watching this movie. Hal was on the edge of his seat near the end. I think Jane and I might have missed some of the on-screen magic just then because we were too busy staring at the in-theater magic sitting next to me: back straight as a rod, face intent, a slight smile, body leaning forward with anticipation.

It’d be hard to escape the theater without catching the at-credits extras but make sure you don’t. You can leave after the cat. But don’t you dare leave before the cat! I’m telling you – the entire movie was precious and sincere and lovely and funny and charming and insightful. But the cat – the cat was real. The cat got it right. So make sure you stay for the cat.

That’s all I’m saying.

So, yeah, I could have talked about what’s wrong with Texas’s obsession with football. I could have talked about my deceased step-father. I could have walked the minefield that is divorce and tried to discuss Father’s Day. I could have talked about faith and commitment and fatigue. I could have talked about racism and America. But life is heavy enough and you need a smile.

So go watch Inside Out. And stay for the cat. It won’t let you down. I promise.

Rain, Rain Here To Stay

It won’t stop raining. Everyone is trying not to complain because, well, the lakes have been dry for ages now. They are finally filling up, which is good. Good, good, good! But still. This is North Texas, not Portland or Seattle.

At the end of a recent workday, I began the long trek across the poorly leveled parking lot. In the rain. Like usual. There were a couple of people ahead of me and it struck me that there are three kinds of people in this new world of ours. And they were being illustrated in that moment.

The first are those poor fools who still haven’t figured out that the sky is highly likely to open up and dump on them. They can be seen crossing the parking lot with their shoulders hunched to their ears, their shirt and pant legs quickly turning dark from the absorbed moisture. They hesitate at the large puddles, as if trying to decide whether it’s better to just give up and splash through or take the time to find a route around. They are drenched by the time they get to their car. Such a person was one of the ones ahead of me.

The second are the average folk. They have an umbrella or raincoat and thus walk more deliberately to their destination. They are not immune to the puddles, though. Those suckers will come up over the top of your shoes if you try to walk through them! So they approach each row of cars with an eye out. They sometimes have to walk along the row for several cars before finding a place of safe passage. The other person in front of me was one of these.

Then there are the wise, the special, the few. These people, these people, have learned. No old dogs here. Yes, these people stride with confidence and grace, taking the most direct path to their vehicle, heedless of any depth of water the parking lot might throw their way. They are dry under their umbrella, but more importantly, their feet are safe and cozy in their giant rain boots. They take a childlike pleasure in splashing through the deep puddles. I am one of these people. I even take it a step further: my umbrella matches my rain boots. I know. You only wish you were half as cool as me.

At Least We Have Austin

We were visiting Rocky Mountain National Park recently. Near the main visitor center is a long staircase leading to a vantage point for taking pictures or just looking around. It had been closed for construction last time we were there and this time the boys wanted to walk up.

So we did, just the three of us. The rest of the family hung out at the visitor center, drinking hot chocolate and checking out the view from the massive windows.

When we got to the top, we found ourselves in a lucky lull between crowds of people. It was just a dad with his two kids and us. We each did our own thing until Daryl walked up to me, looking very concerned and uncomfortable.

“Mommy,” he said, “that man over there told his kids, ‘Hey, you should be doing better than this. You are from Colorado, not Texas!’ Why would he say that?”

My poor son looked like his feelings were hurt. Either that, or he was wondering if there was something wrong with being from Texas.

“Oh, honey, he’s probably referring to the altitude. I bet his kids were complaining about the walk.”

About then, the man, having overheard our conversation, looked over and said, “I’m sorry if you guys are from Texas. I could have picked any place: Louisiana, Oklahoma, whatever. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Actually,” I said, “we are from Texas. Well, they are. I live there but still have trouble claiming it.”

After nearly twenty years, I’m not sure why I still say that. Part of it is because my general outlook on life and society is so different from the standard Texas one. Mostly though, it’s because I grew up in Oklahoma and Oklahomans have chips on their shoulders about Texas, that big neighbor to the south that thinks so much of itself.

As I was pondering whether I should embrace my children’s birth state more fully, the man said, “At least you have Austin!”

I laughed. Yes, at least we have Austin. I laughed because it’s not the first time I’ve heard that remark as I’ve traveled the country and because he tipped his political hand in that one brief remark. I can only assume that those of a more liberal persuasion have resisted completely writing off Texas because at least we have Austin.

What’s the Capital of…?

As the boys played in the play area at Chick-Fil-A the other night, Jane sat with her parents and quizzed us on geography.

“What’s the capital of South Africa?” she asked.

“Johannesburg,” I answered.

“How do you know that?!?”

“It’s common knowledge,” her dad said.

“No it’s not! Fine, what’s the capital of Mexico?”

“Mexico City.”

“Guatamala?”

“Guatamala City.”

“Panama?” she started to laugh.

“Panama City. What’s the capital of Nevada?” I asked, turning the tables.

“What? I don’t know. Um. Nevada City?”

“No.”

“Um… how about… California City?”

“No, but that’s closer. It starts with Ca and ends in ity.” Eventually we got her to name it by giving the last name of a classmate named Carson. We moved on to other states. Her knowledge of state capitals was fairly weak.

“The capital of Florida…” she tried to answer, “…is… it’s like… Naomi. Right?”

“Are you trying to say Miami?”

“Yes! That’s it!”

“No, that’s not the capital of Florida.”

“But it’s pretty close to Miami, isn’t it?”

“No, actually the capital of Florida is about as far away from Miami as you can get and still be in Florida. It’s Tallahassee. How ’bout Kansas?”

“It’s not Kansas City, right? I mean, Kansas City is in Oklahoma.”

“What?!”

“I mean. It’s in Texas? No, wait… it’s somewhere… Missouri!”

“Actually it’s in both Missouri and Kansas, but what’s the capital of Kansas?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wichita*. How about Texas?”

“Houston.”

There was a moment of stunned silence before, “No, wait! I meant Austin! I meant Austin!”

“Wow,” her dad said. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

“I’m not even a Texan and I know the capital,” I added.

“It used to be the capital! It’s because of time travel! I travel with The Doctor, you see. I just forgot when I was. I’m confused. No, I’m…”

“Befuddled?” suggested her dad.

“Yes. Wait. No!”

I truly wish I had a recording of the conversation because I’ve forgotten many of the details. We traveled all over the world, naming capitals and rattling off facts, teasing each other and laughing the whole time. We all got to show off our knowledge and struggle through our weaknesses, like when I took several minutes to call to mind that Ottawa was the capital of Canada, while Jane grinned like the Cheshire Cat. She had classmates playing in the play area, but she chose to spend her time with us, exercising her brain. I truly cherish moments like this.

*Edit: To my great amusement, a friend on the East Coast, far, far away from Kansas, pointed out to me that Topeka is the capital of Kansas, the state that borders my husband’s and my home state. We also misstated the capital of India, but that one didn’t make it into the story. Proof that even the parents don’t always get it right.

The Best Christmas Ever

Our Christmas tree is still up and decorated. In fact, Hal just turned the lights back on today. The first week after Christmas was spent out-of-state, visiting family. The next, out-of-town to celebrate our anniversary. The most recent was full, first with a funeral and then with resuming school and work. I am telling you this so that you understand it is still Christmas at this house, and thus not inappropriate at all for me to finally get around to blogging about the best Christmas ever. I was too busy enjoying it to write about it at the time.

Christmas 2012 did not get off to a particularly auspicious start. The 11:00pm Christmas Eve service was wonderful, don’t get me wrong. We all attended in our pajamas, including my husband in his footed smiley-face PJ’s that I had just given him. That drew a few looks.

No, the service that heralded the arrival of Christmas Day was nice and the drive home was uneventful. I was worried about what such a late bedtime would do to the day, but not too much. The problems started when we got home. Hal did not want to use the bathroom before retiring to his bed and a tantrum ensued.

Once all the children were settled, I needed to wrap just two or three presents and stuff the stockings. That took well over an hour. I finally went to bed around 1:30 or 2:00 and wondered how late the children would let me sleep.

Not long, as it turned out. A serious thunderstorm moved in by about 2:30, waking Hal. I stumbled into his room to comfort him. I struggled for a long time before I got back to sleep. The wind picked up and a loud metallic thwacking sound woke me around 5:00. I asked my husband if that was the new roof coming undone.

“Probably.”

“Do we need to do anything about it?”

“Like what? I’m not going out there in this.”

He had a point. Besides, the old shingled roof was still under the metal of the new one. No way I was getting back to sleep, however. I lay there listening until the sound changed to something bounding down from the roof. And then silence.

“There,” my pragmatic husband said, “It blew off. Happy?”

Before I responded, the next strip of the crown began to rattle. Sleep was a distant memory by this point.

Things improved once I gave up on sleep, though. My husband had once again managed to slip something under my pillow undetected. He hates wrapping, so this has become our new tradition. I already knew I was getting a Kindle Paperwhite, but I still don’t know when he managed to slide it under there.

As I passed through the living room, I saw a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in my stocking that I had not put in there the night before. So he hadn’t forgotten about my stocking either – another nice surprise. I added the toppings to the breakfast strata started the night before and put it in the oven.

Then it was stockings and presents time. Hal passed out the stockings, such a good Santa’s helper. All of them distributed gifts. Just like last year, though, there were no names. Last year were numbers and they’d have to ask me which number was whom. This year, they were letters. Perhaps this will become a new Christmas puzzle. As they heard who was each letter, I asked them what the formula was. I gave them a hint that I couldn’t put the appropriate leter on Daddy’s gifts because it was a duplicate of someone else’s. Daddy figured it out (2nd letter of their middle names). No one else did.

Jane unwrapped four nested boxes, each wrapped individually, before uncovering her mp3 player. Daryl received a used Nintendo DS, given to us by a friend to give to the kids. He immediately declared this the best Christmas ever.

And so it was, but not because of the gifts. When we were done unwrapping, we ate the strata. And then… then we just were. Most Christmases would have seen the hustle and bustle of preparing for a long trip. We would have been packing suitcases and piling into the car to travel the four hours or so to relatives in Oklahoma.

But Oklahoma was forecast to get hit by a blizzard. We had decided the day before that we would delay our trip by 24 hours. We had no idea how life-changing that decision would be.

After breakfast, we just enjoyed ourselves. We set Pandora to play Christmas music. People tried out their new electronics. We played some games and worked some puzzles and read and ate and relaxed. And shouted in excitement when we looked out the window and saw snow! Snow, on Christmas Day, in Texas. No one even changed out of their pajamas, except to go play in the snow.

I looked up at my family at one point and wondered, Is this what Christmas is like for other people? Christmas has never been a relaxing time for me, not even in childhood.

As a child, I remember opening presents at home and then almost immediately leaving the house to go… somewhere. Christmas Day usually included 2 or 3 extended family gatherings. The usual routine was to head over to my maternal grandparents’ house for lunch and Christmas with my mom’s family. At some point, sometimes before lunch and sometimes after, mom would drive us to my paternal grandmother’s house and we’d have Christmas with my dad’s family. Mom would then pick us up and we’d have dinner and Christmas at my step-dad’s parents’ house with his family.

It got even more complicated when I married. My husband brought with him Christmas obligations to his dad’s family, his mom’s family, and his step-dad’s family. Some families adjusted to celebrating Christmas on a day other than the 25th, but we usually still had at least two places to be that day, often more.

Shortly before we had our first child, we decided that we wanted to be able to attend our own church’s Christmas Eve service. That meant attending worship and then hitting the road, arriving at my mom’s house around 2:00 Christmas morning.

When the kids arrived, my husband began to agitate for change. He wanted to celebrate Christmas at our house. I wanted to avoid hurting people’s feelings. The compromise that stood for years was the Christmas Day travel. This allowed us to worship at our home church, open presents at our house, and still make it to Christmas obligations back home. I had been trained to believe that the right thing to do was to cram everyone in, jumping from one place to another, making sure we made an appearance everywhere.

This time, though, we actually found ourselves with no family meeting on Christmas Day. We still planned to travel that day, so suggested to my dad that we celebrate that night. And then we got word of the weather. There was no problem changing plans with dad. No reason we had to travel that day. No place to be until 6pm the day after. Why not stay home? It was such a novel idea for us.

The experience was ground breaking for me. Earth shattering. Tears-down-the-face significant. I sat at the table, watching my family just exist, with no place to go, no obligations to meet, no phone calls or appointments or errands, and I cried. My husband looked at me and smiled.

“Do you need a hug?” he asked. I nodded and he rose from the table.

“I’ve never had this before,” I said into his chest as he hugged me tight. “Not ever, not once in thirty-eight years. I’ve never just stayed home and relaxed on Christmas Day. This is amazing.”

We didn’t have to speak the words then or now, but we know what we are doing next year. The 26th is soon enough to travel for family. The peace of Christmas will descend on our household again. It is the only day that we can truly just be still and be together. I never understood how special that kind of time is. But now that I’ve experienced it, I am not giving it up.

Bluebonnets and Mistletoe

Growing up in Oklahoma gives a person a certain amount of disdain for the state of Texas. It’s probably roughly akin to a little sibling who feels they are always in the shadow of their bigger and more popular brother or sister. After living here for over 15 years, I’ve softened a bit, but haven’t quite reached the point where I am proud to live here. My children, on the other hand, were born and raised here. They are, of course, proud Texans.

I don’t remember how old she was – maybe 6 or 7. It was before our third child was born. One day my daughter asked me, “Mommy, why did you and Daddy move to Texas?” I told her we were still trying to figure that out. She looked confused and I laughed and said, “No, honey. We moved here because this is where I got a job.” Her response? “Oh, I thought it was because you wanted {my brother} and I to be Texans!”… “No, actually, we’re still kind of upset about that.”

It’s not something I thought about as a kid. I learned all about Oklahoma history: the 5 civilized tribes, the trail of tears, the land runs, and so much more. It never occurred to me that kids in other states learned about their state history. I never really thought about it until my daughter started coming home from school spouting off Texas facts. That’s when I realized that she wouldn’t know all the words to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” unless I taught her. She wouldn’t know that the state flower is actually a parasite and she wouldn’t participate in a land run re-enactment in the fourth grade.

That last one kind of hurt. I loved the land run. I remember fretting for weeks that it might rain. There was a big field by the school where the land run was held. Your “family” would pull your wagon that you had made and race out into the field to grab a stake and take it to the claims office. Then you’d have a picnic lunch on your new land. If it rained, everyone just paraded their wagons around the edge of the cafeteria and then sat down to eat. Boring.

My daughter wasn’t to have such an experience. Instead, for fourth grade, she built a model of the Alamo. She made hers out of Lego’s. Some of the others were very impressively detailed. Still, didn’t seem like as much fun as our Land Runs. And to think I used to be intimidated!

The relative merit of the states has come up before in this house divided. When The Oldest was 10 and The Middle was 7, the following exchange took place.

TO: “I think Texas is the best of the 50 states. Or maybe Oklahoma.” ( I think the second sentence was a concession to make sure she stayed in parental good graces).
Dad: “I dunno. I like Wyoming.”
TO: “Me too!” (She’s never been there but always wants to be right).
TM: “I like Mexico.”

In February of this year, The Baby, at age 3, came up to me with a “pirate” eye patch on and said, “Howdy, Partner!” I explained that pirates wouldn’t say “Howdy, Partner” but he insisted I was wrong. The next day, he came up, again with the eye patch on, and said, “Howdy, Matie!” My husband said I was just going to have to accept that he is a Texas pirate.

And Texans, they are indeed. The Oldest had a splendid teacher when she was two. The woman also had a very strong Texas twang. Consequently, The Oldest did too for a time. I was quite dismayed. It has worn off over time but pops up from time to time. She recently said something with a bit too much twang and then said, “Dang! My Texas accent slipped through again.” I responded by talking like a hick with stuff like “we was” and “we seen” and “ain’t”. She informed me: “I said Texas accent, not Texas grammar.”

I’m learning to have fun with it and to not be afraid to admit that I don’t know basic facts that they’ve learned every year. Like which flags flew over Texas. I got Spain and Mexico and the Confederacy and the US. I learned from The Oldest that France was one of them. That got us to 5. Then she said, “and The Republic of Texas.” To which I replied, “Oh, yeah. I forgot you guys have that whole ‘we were our own country’ thing going on.” Then The Middle chimed in, “and then they took those 6 flags and made an amusement park with them!”

So we are getting along OK. Now that I can name those six flags, maybe it’s time they learned how the wind comes sweeping down the plain. And the waving wheat, can sure smell sweet, when the wind comes right behind the rain! I just hope they don’t look at me too funny when I yell “Ay yippy yi ki yea!” near the end.