[I have a work project that I'm trying to finish by Friday so I don't have to work over Labor Day weekend - when dear husband will actually be home! Work, unfortunately, has been aided by the fact that younger son has a cold and feels bad so he's been watching lots of TV ("I am the terror that flaps in the night, I am the fingernail that scrapes the blackboard of your soul." "I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him.." "You should write a book: "How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less" "Vulcans are a species that appreciate good ears").]
There is so much said about Christianity, but nobody seems to address the questions I have, most of which start with, "Can you be a Christian if..."
...you're an introvert.
...you have a tendency to depression.
...you're not good at politics.
...you're a regular middle-class mother who is passionate about the arts.
This latest one has been the one I've been dealing with lately. I don't do mission trips (do you know how expensive those are?! I haven't paid for a plane ticket since... Never mind. My parents paid for plane tickets when I was in college. Flying is expensive. I haven't flown in over two decades.). I don't volunteer at soup kitchens - you have to be over 14 to do that, and I've had at least one child under the age of 14 for the last 23 years. A major part of being a Christian is helping the poor, widows (who aren't related to you),* and orphans. I don't do any of those. Not that I don't care, but there isn't any way that has ever come up beyond writing a check.
I am currently increasing my volunteer time, but with what? Community theater. There's nothing about that in the Bible! I love it, though, and younger son is enthusiastic about it too. That's not something to take for granted in a 12 yo boy.
There's a blog I read called Tiny Buddha. It has lots of wonderful advice about slowing down, being present in the moment, forgiving, the value of listening, etc. There have been a few posts lately about doing what you're passionate about. They really resonated with me, particularly one titled Knowing What You Stand For, which mentions, "we’re more apt to make a consistent positive difference, whether through charity or work, if we discover what moves us and then let that lead the way. Then it’s not just about supporting a cause–it’s about having a cause to do it." When the author went on to ask, "What do you stand for–and why?" my immediate response was "Beauty and the arts." However, what I'm passionate about, except for choir, isn't particularly Christian.
I'm really wondering if I should just stop calling myself a Christian. I wouldn't change what I believe, just what I label myself.*
Okay, I'm back. I took a break to take cookies out of the oven (We don't do store bought cookies for the most part, except Girl Scout cookies. Preservatives, etc., and they just don't taste as good) and to sing and dance around the kitchen along with Ben Vereen (on the Pippin CD I have in the mix tonight):
...Because, let's face it, I could easily while away the hours napping and nursing, checking my Facebook page hundreds of times each day, and researching all known facts about newborns. But is that what I should be doing?
It's obvious I won't be scrambling to find the nearest mommy-and-me playgroup...
...Okay, brief diversion here. Her experience is so unfamiliar to me! I felt barely sane and sentient when each of my kids was eight weeks. They all had colic, and older son, the first one, had it the worst. He screamed for about 12 to 14 hours for the first four months - except when I was walking him in the stroller, which I did for the entire morning. Every morning. Daughter didn't have colic as badly, but, at that point, I also had a 4 yo who was used to having all my undivided attention and was not pleased with me (he did think his sister was cute). By the time younger son came along, I was homeschooling the older two. "Whiling away the hours" doesn't go along with "new baby" for me.
And the playgroup I was in was a sanity saver. I wasn't domestically inclined like most of the mothers I knew at church. Our playgroup, however, was a green-before-it-was-popular group of Sierra Club type mothers. We hiked (among other things). Being an outdoorsy, active type who reads too much was just fine there.
And when my father passed away, the playgroup mothers were much more supportive and understanding than anyone I knew at that church. People at church just avoided me until they could see that I could pretend to be normal again and not start crying. Because of that experience, when my father-in-law passed away last Christmas, I only told two people at my current church, and I only told them because his cancer had come up in previous conversations. I would have skipped church for a month or two, but daughter was back from college and singing with me in the choir. I just tried to cry quietly during the time I couldn't get through a service dry-eyed.
I'm still in touch with the playgroup mothers occasionally. I don't have any reason to be in touch with anyone from the church I went to back then anymore...
End of not-so-brief diversion.
The author of this post goes on to talk about starting ministry with her new daughter, which I can understand, but then one of the comments says:
...I have my comfortable first-world life in the suburbs, but what good is it? My children, yes, are my first ministry, but what about serving the poor, helping the orphans and widows, mercy, justice, all the rest? How do I live that out in a practical sense from where I am?...
And so I'm back to where I started, particularly since I went on to read Elizabeth Esther's blog, where she writes about her life-changing experiences on a mission trip in Ecuador.
The things that resonate the most with me - things like bloom where you are planted (i.e. do what needs to be done where you are, or that presents itself to you) or getting involved with things you're passionate about - don't go along with, what seems to me, a more rational, church-based evaluation of what one should do.
* I don't think that teaching an aerobics class that had a devoted contingent of widows counts either. The club closed a few years ago, but I still miss the women (of all ages) in my class. Oh, and the one man who came occasionally.
* *What am I going to label myself? A person-who-tries-to-follow-God-and-believes-Jesus-is-Divine-but-scary-at-times-and-who-thanks-God-constantly-for-the-beauty-of-nature-and-the-arts-and-for-her-family-and-for-the-wonderful-people-around-her. It doesn't fit on a bumper sticker, though.
[Photo: Totally irrelevant photo of a Brugmansia at Duke Gardens.]
I was gloomy on Monday. After a fun weekend up in Asheville (well, fun - except for the part where we said goodbye to daughter at UNC-A), dear husband was out of town, younger son was playing with friends all day, older son was at NCSU, and I was cleaning. I was looking to Broadway dance to cheer me up.
We started with Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries from Fosse (and we sang along). Along with other songs, we did a warmup to Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat from Cats.
We did the across-the-floor moves to You Can't Stop the Beat from Hairspray.
The major dance, however, was to one of my all-time favorite songs, I Can Do That, from A Chorus Line. It was a fun dance, and it also was one of the most exhausting dances I've done at a Broadway class.
I've looked at many videos. The movie version isn't done in the original style, and there aren't any videos of the original Broadway version, which is what we danced to. However, I found a version from the PBS series, The Best of Broadway, with the original Broadway Mike, Wayne Cilento, singing and dancing. It's not exactly the same version - the orchestration is different and it's longer. It gives you a feel for the energy, though - and I love the Dixieland part at the end!
Our choreography was totally different, though. The dance starts at about 0:54:
You can get a small taste of the original version, which is a crisper and more Dixieland-ish, at Pandora.
Today was the first day of school for the local district (and most of the surrounding ones). We always do something special on the first day of school - partly because younger son's friends, whom he has been playing with a lot this week, are back in school, and also, for me, to celebrate homeschooling.
[Note: This is an "I enjoy homeschooling" thing, not an anti-school thing. You can untwist your panties now.]
It turns out that the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is really quiet on the first day of school. We had it almost to ourselves... well, except for families with cute preschoolers.
I realized that I haven't ever really posted about this museum, even though it was a large part of our homeschooling for a while. Older son volunteered at the Arthropod Zoo there for four years when he was in high school so the other three of us ended up wandering around the museum a lot.
Some of these photos aren't exactly straight, but it's too late in the evening to mess with them much:
The current part of the Museum. They're working on the new wing behind it.
A close-up of the acrocanthosaurus skeleton through the window.
The new wing is on the next block.
Close up - they're in the middle of putting a new girder on the globe.
Whale skeletons in the coastal section
View from the second floor
The special exhibit is Our Expanding Oceans, a display of silk batiks by artist Mary Edna Fraser with commentary by scientist Orrin Pilkey. The batiks are quite beautiful, and I'm trying to get older son and dear husband to go see them.
If you want to go see them, the exhibit is free, as is the whole museum.
Giant cave roach, or death's head roach, from Latin America
We spent a while in the Naturalist Center. This is a drawer of butterflies.
The mammal drawers
Octopus. I took more pictures in the Naturalist Center, but I figured that you probably don't want to see any more.
Dinosaur room from the balcony (which isn't always open). There's another dinosaur room, but I was trying not to focus on taking pictures.
We also went to the "Meet the Animals," which we were regulars at back when we went often. That's where I developed my daydream of having an African pygmy hedgehog as a pet. We didn't see one of those today, though.
We dropped daughter off at UNC-Asheville this weekend. More about that when I'm in a better mood. I'm glad that younger son is out playing with friends today. They go back to school later this week so I want him to make the most of the time. Older son is at NCSU. Dear husband is out of town.
I'm cleaning house - all those things that I haven't gotten to all summer. Okay, I'm making a small start at cleaning all those things.
I just spent fifteen minutes doing research on the internet trying to find out how to get the shower clean. It just gets browner and browner, and nothing I try helps. The internet is no use: "Use your favorite household cleanser..."
I don't have a favorite household cleanser because none of them is any BLEEPING good! Vinegar and baking soda? Doesn't clean the shower. Comet? No. Clorox? No. Tilex? Just streaks. Oh, and of course my asthma LOVES all these things (Of course I open the window. I still get asthma from them). Stupid internet. Stupid people who give useless, NAUSEATINGLY PERKY, cleaning advice on the internet. "Just do this and your shower will be sparkling clean." No, it won't you stupid idiot. I've tried that. More than once. As "green" as I normally am, after years of scrubbing fruitlessly at this shower, I'm ready for the most toxic air-out-the-bathroom-for-a-week cleanser I can get just to get this over with!
On the way back from Asheville yesterday, I was thinking of all the things I needed to clean and straighten. A large part of the problem, for me, is that I get no sense of satisfaction from them. Other women can be really pleased at how clean they get their closets. I clean, say, "Good, that's over with!" and go on to something that I do get a sense of satisfaction from.
I told dear husband and that I'd be better at keeping things like closets clean and organized if I actually found that Ifelt a sense of achievement from doing so. For me, it's all discipline.
Younger son piped up from the back seat, "Mommy, if you were that way, my life would be so boooring!"
I replied, "Then I wouldn't have dragged you to rehearsals all summer." [I don't feel comfortable leaving him home after dark alone yet so he came along when dear husband was out of town - which was most rehearsals.]
He said, "That's great because theater is aaawwwwwesoooome!" [He didn't feel that way at the beginning of the summer. I don't have the change quite thoroughly in my head yet.]
Okay, my shower is discolored, but I'm doing something right!
I've known all summer that today was going to be bad. After having my family around lots all summer, and after being around lots of theater people for weeks, I've known that today, when everything is back to "normal," was going to be like a bucket of cold water in the face. I could either get really depressed about the next few rather lonely days, or I could sing loudly with John Jasper (played by Howard McGillin) in A Man Could Go Quite Mad* from one of my favorite musicals, The Mystery of Edwin Drood:**
I'm going to go sing and finish the stupid bathroom. :P
* I love the way Rupert Holmes puts the words together in this song - lines like:
Unblessed are the dull. One ceaseless, peaceless lull. One wondrous night, Storm-struck thund'rous light Will cast me right
A sculptor lacking arms, a sorc'ror lacking charms, A fiend who frightens no one for there's no one that he harms. Whose clutches clutch at only desp'rate respite From this dim tableau!
Sing along with the part in italics - it trips wonderfully off the tongue!***
** The tape of which (you can't get it on CD), I found in daughter's closet when I went in her room to get library books to return.
*** From shower cleaning to how it feels to sing the lines of an obscure song in one post**** - I just can't be normal.
It feels strange to be nostalgic over the summer when August is only half over. After all, we still have at least a month of hot weather left. However, older son started his junior year at NCSU on Wednesday, and daughter goes back to UNC-Asheville tomorrow.
I'm not at all ready.
We've had an absolutely wonderful summer. We've been in, and been to, lots of performances. We watched lots of movies. We've had lots and lots of long conversations. We had a few good weekend/day trips. We've had lots of fun with friends. And, of course, the musical was wonderful. I haven't even noticed the heat all that much because we've been so busy.
I've enjoyed having the older two home and around so much! At least I will see older son for a little in the evenings, but I'll miss daughter so much when she heads back to college.
Younger son and I homeschool, off and on, during the summer. He's made large strides the last month, both in what he can do and in his patience. I've been really excited about it.
It's going to be very quiet around here when the older two are back at college, particularly when dear husband travels. Fall activities don't start up for a few more weeks. I've decided that younger son and I are going to take a day a week to do something in the area that we don't normally do. We'll go to the science museum in Raleigh, which used to be a regular thing, but we haven't had a chance to go there since last winter. One day, we'll take the train to Charlotte and back and see the science museum there. One day, we'll go to the art museum in Chapel Hill, which, I recently realized, I've only been to when he's been at camps the last few years.
The days have been so rich and full this summer that I'm not ready to go back to things like last winter's normal (which, because we were sick so much, was very isolating).
However, because of the community theater and the musical, I'm not going back the same way this year.
A number of years ago, I regularly went to a series of social activities where I didn't know anyone well enough to sit with and where I didn't meet anyone to sit with. I cut those short once I realized that I was starting to develop a social phobia. However, that experience has left me with a lingering feeling that I dread purely social activities unless I know the people really well.
On the other hand, last winter's loneliness made me realize that I needed to get out more and get involved with things that don't rely on my voice (unlike choir), or my knees/feet (unlike dance).* Nothing I've tried so far with the homeschooling group, which we got re-involved with two years ago, has really helped me meet people. Many of the homeschoolers seem to really enjoy the parents night out meetings (which I haven't been to yet), but that's where the above-mentioned dread kicked back in. I decided that I was going to grit my teeth and make myself go to them.
However, in the last few days, some opportunities opened up to get involved with the community theater group during the rest of the year. As you can guess, that made me really happy! It's also given me more confidence to go to the homeschooling meetings without having to grit my teeth!
* A friend of ours in the musical injured his back in the last few weeks of the production. They still wanted him involved, even if he couldn't do anything more than sit in the wings and sing (fortunately, he improved enough to be back onstage again). OTOH, I realized that, even if I totally lost my voice and could only pretend to sing, I still had a place onstage. Isn't community theater wonderful!