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Category Archives: Overthought

Photographic food for thought

What does a week’s worth of groceries look like?  It depends on where you live.

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My cup of tea

Sometimes, there are things you might not read/listen to/bake unless someone pointed you in that direction.  Like this article which is from a blog with an unusual name, and about a topic that might stir up some disdain.  I’m not sure what I think about the premise, but it has me thinking.  It’s a quick read, but if you don’t even have time for that, here’s the paragraph that sums it up:

A much bigger plague among young women than poisoned apples or evil stepmothers, as far as I’m concerned, is the hope of earning a man’s affection. You can convince, guilt or trick someone into being with you, but not into loving you. Not even by rescuing or fixing them. Prince Charming’s allure as an adult isn’t the tiara, it isn’t even about his ability to build us moats, it’s the idea that the only thing he needs from you is you. If I dare re-frame a damsel in distress as a lady willing to wait for a suitor with his act together, would you agree that she’s setting a good example?

You might hesitate to pick up a 600+ page novel about surgeons.  The cultural aspects are interesting, but it really is the medical writing that makes those pages fly.  I love capping a long day of school by crawling into bed and reading page after page of surgery (the vena cava repair was tops).

Speaking of medical goodness, doesn’t Call the Midwife sound like a reality tv show?  Luckily for me, it’s actually a BBC dramatization of memoirs, set in East London.  It’s raw, and it’s gorgeous.

Another thing you might not jump at is a recipe that asks you to put strawberries in the oven.  But this was excellent.

Oh, and my actual cup of tea right now?   I start most mornings with this– smoldering, strong, and sweet.

(I’m not endorsing any of the above- just telling you what I’m thinking about.  They do have bits I’ve skipped [except the tea, which I drain to the dregs], and plenty I’ve disagreed with.  As the opening to Call the Midwife will tell you: discretion is advised.)

On babysitting, assumptions, and awkwardness

“Hey, you should bring the kids over and we’ll cook out.  Later this week?”  the new guy suggested to the family marching their toddlers through the church parking lot.  He buckled his own toddler’s carseat and addressed me, “If you have a free evening sometime, Em and I would love to have you come over. . . [wait for it]. . . and babysit.”

I could honestly respond with an, “Oh, yeah.  Let me know when you need someone.  I’d love to!” before I slid into my car and added “Ouch!”  All these parents of toddlers were my age, in my Bible study; I thought of us as peers.  But in their minds, I was babysitter material and the contrast to friend material was just a little sharp.

There were other instances when this man blessed me with his graciousness; I’m glad I knew his sweet family.  I’m highlighting this one story because it’s been repeated, in my life and many friends’ lives.  A bare left hand means babysitting requests, whether you like babysitting or not, and a lot of those requests come from friends or could-be-friends.  Relationship status seems like an odd factor to consider for a childcare provider.  Singleness doesn’t actually make people better babysitters, or more likely to enjoy babysitting.

Somebody should say this, and since I actually do like babysitting, maybe it should be me.  Parents, when you ask your single friends to babysit, they often feel weird.  And by weird, I mean bad.

Sometimes, the request or even assumption that she’ll babysit tells a not-in-college-anymore woman:

  • I assume you have nothing better to do.”
  • I don’t think of you as a real grown-up.”  (People don’t ask their thirty-something guy friends to come mow the lawn.  Well, maybe someone does.  But you see how that’s weird, right?  Babysitting’s like that for most people- low-paying manual labor that we did back in high school.)
  • Too bad you don’t have any kids of your own, but you can borrow our kids as a consolation prize (while we go out with other couples).” 

I’m sure nobody really wants to say those things, so here’s a simple criterium: would you ask her to babysit (or accompany your family to Chuck E. Cheese, or head up children’s care at the church gala, etc.) if she were married?  You very well might- maybe she’s a natural with kids, or you know that she could use the money, or she’s simply the nearest safe person in an emergency.  I think that means you should ask.  But if you wouldn’t ask her married self, maybe you should find someone else to care for your children.

And- ahem- I have a babysitting opening this Saturday night.

(Major disclaimer: I genuinely enjoy babysitting and I’m honored when people ask.  In this post, I’m advocating a change I don’t really want for myself.  I think most people ask me to watch their children not because I’m single, but because they know I enjoy kids.  By all means, keep having me babysit!)

Farewell to whom?

I hope not.  I would miss its precision, not to mention its Scrabble versatility.  This story makes me want to use as many object pronouns as possible when I’m around young children.  Babysitting clients, you’ve been warned.

Hannah Coulter, again

After your expectations have gone their way and your future is getting along the best it can as an honest blank, you shape your life according to what it is.

Flexibility goes to the movies

Isn’t this a great idea? This company has adapted the movie theater experience to be more accessible to people with special sensory needs. I came across this while looking up show times, and immediately thought of several families I know through books, blogs, or real life who would welcome it. Social expectations and sensory contrasts are lowered to help everyone relax. It won’t cure or treat anyone, and it doesn’t provide a necessity, but it’s still a nice way to care and welcome.

I can’t make a toned-down theater experience, but I can make sure that my Sunday school class is inclusive.  I can invite that clingy mom to sit with her child in my class and listen long enough for her to tell me that she’s grieving another child.  I can look acceptance at the parent of the violent child.  Maybe later I’ll find out (as I did in one case) that she’s only recently came to a healthy family, or maybe I’ll find out that there was brain damage done at birth.  Maybe I’ll never know.  I shouldn’t have to hear the back story or the list of diagnoses to extend the tolerance and love I would if I knew.

Some of us are in a position to structure inclusion into an organization, but all of us can extend a welcome.  While I’m glad companies are adapting to fit special needs, and I hope we see more inclusive events, anyone can make any movie, church service, outing, party more inclusive.  We can’t always lower the sensory contrasts (although sometime we can and should), but we can broaden our expectations.  If you expect that some children will have sensory issues, or behavior problems, or trauma triggers, you will often have your expectations met.  I want to be the smile, not the stare, at that mom who is wearing her five-year-old, or the person who’s not fazed when a dad hands his seven-year-old a pacifier, or lets his son wear earphones in the grocery store.  I want to pretend I don’t notice the antics of the too-old child behind me in church instead of glaring.  It’s possible what I’m seeing is a parent doing the absolute best thing for his child.  It’s even more probable that I’m seeing a parent do the best he can.

“Fine” is fine.

I’m fine.  And I’m fine with saying that, even if I’m sick, or the day has left me feeling like a punching bag, or if I’m missing my grandmother (which I always am).  But there is (especially among women) a certain disdain for fine-sayers, the attitude that to declare one’s self fine is shallow and fake.  So I appreciated this wisdom from Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter who is anything but shallow (emphasis mine):

We know that every night, war or no war, there are people lying awake grieving, and that every morning, people wake to absences that will never be filled.  But we shut our mouths and go ahead.  How we are is “Fine.”  There are always a few who will recite their complaints, but the proper answer to “How are you?” is “Fine.”

The thing you have most dreaded has happened at last.  The worst thing you might have expected has happened, and you didn’t expect it.  You have grown old and ill, and most of those you love are dead or gone away.  Even so:

“How are you?”

“Fine.  How’re you?”

“Fine.”

There is always some shame or fear in this, I think, shame for the selfishness and loneliness of grief, the fear of the difference between your grief and anybody else’s.  But this is a kind of courtesy too and a kind of honesty, this unwillingness to act as if loss and grief and suffering are extraordinary.  And there is something else: an honoring of the kind of solitude in which the grief you bear will have to be borne.  Should you fall and your neighbor’s shoulder and weep in the midst of work?  Should you go to the store with tears on your face?  No.  You are fine.

And yet the comfort somehow get passed around: a few words that are never forgotten, a note in the mail, a look, a touch, a pat, a hug, a kind of waiting with, a kind of standing by, to the end.  Once in a while we hear it sung out in a hymn, when every throat seems suddenly widened with love and a common longing.