Tuesday, June 30, 2015

river dancing to kill bugs is a thing

I have this thing with bugs.
I don't actually like them.
But if they promise to keep their distance and not to touch me,
I will let them live their little buggy lives in peace and I will live mine.
Unfortunately, they keep trying to make friends.
Especially, the ones with wings.
Some of you who have been reading here for a long time remember the
Cicada Incident of 2003....most of you probably do not...but here is the thing....
bugs should not be allowed to fly.
I get it. They need to get places.
It just that I don't want to be their destination of choice.
Just the other day, Scott said to me casually, "Oh, there is a bug starting to go down your shirt."
That is not something that you just say to a person.
Because I come from a line of people who are willing to shed clothes when
critters are trying to go up or down them.
I distinctly remember my very modest Grandma Blakeley telling me once that
she had a lizard go up her pant leg while picking almonds in the orchard and
she said if she hadn't been able to shake it out, her pants were the next things to go.
It seems reasonable to me.
There can be no restrictions in place when trying to rid yourself of said critter.
Scott's statement resulted in a wide variety of movement from me.
Shaking. Jumping. Arm flailing. And screams of:
"Where is it?" and "Is it gone?" and "Why aren't you helping me?"
And he just stood there taking it all in and laughed.
It's not that funny. I have had one too many bug run-ins
I have had:
1. a grasshopper fly into my hair during an outdoor wedding resulting in the undoing
of a very pompadour-ish hairstyle,
2. several cicadas dive bomb me and land on my person,
3. a praying mantis (at my children's school) take up residence first,
on my right leg and then as a result of a very high cheerleader kick, land on my left leg,
4. some kind of flying bug land on my lips during a Bible Study which
resulted in a lot of raspberry sounds mid-exegesis,
5. don't even get me started on how many moths have tried to beat their felt-y wings
against my forehead, (sidenote: why are moths gross and butterflies cute? I don't know...)
and these are just a few examples.
The bugs? They love me.
The other night a junebug flew into our kitchen and started flying towards me.
First of all, don't junebugs live in Arizona? Or New Mexico?
And secondly, don't we pay a gagillion dollars to live in the Bay Area to NOT
have flying bugs in the summer?
If we are going to start having bugs, I want my rent lowered.
And thirdly, just don't fly into my kitchen, junebug. Just don't do it.
It took a pass at my head and then landed at my feet where upon I proceeded
to a do a river dance of stomping and high stepping to try and kill it.
I was getting some height and lift on those high kicks, kids, I really was.
Which caused Scott to say, "Sue, you are going to throw your back out again."
And then Addie said, "Where did it go?"
So at that point I had pulled an upper thigh muscle and had a flying bug on the loose
in the house.
I retired to my bedroom and closed the door. I was done for the night.
No, thank you, junebug.
And then this morning a wasp flew straight at my face when I was out watering the plants.
Don't even get me started on bugs that inflict injury.
They are clearly a result of the fall.
A clear menace and blight upon all the goodness that this world has to offer.
I am pretty sure I woke up the neighbors with my screams and the Maori slap dance
that I performed in my backyard.
The sad news is that I feel like the bugs are ramping up.
There has been an increase in bug activities and sightings in our yard.
They just don't give up.
So..where does that leave me?
Mostly, it leaves me thinking I need to do more stretching to limber myself up.
If the bugs want to try to dance with this partner?
It will be their last dance.
I will be BRINGING. IT. Have no doubt.
I will high kick, jazz hands, river dance,
and stomp my way through this entire summer if I have to.
If you are in the area, feel free to stop by.
It could be quite a show.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Richard the Great Adventurer (otherwise known as my dad)

Today I don't get to be with my dad.
He is in Colorado probably at church talking to people
or there is the possibility that he in Washington DC or
on a short trip to Mumbai....he is hard to pin down at times.
I am here in California in my kitchen trying to figure out a way
to let him know how incredibly thankful I am that he is,
in fact, my dad.
My dad was a missionary's kid.
At age 3, he sailed from New York Harbor with his parents and sister, Lou Anne,
within months of World War 2 coming to a close.
He remembers the shell shocked harbor of Naples, Italy, and
survived a bout of malaria within his first year of arriving in India
At the age of 4, he was shuttled up to the tea plantations
in the Nilgiri Hills of India to attend a  British boarding school.
He learned about bananas on toast, sipping tea and VERY PROPER table manners ...
which he tried (with no avail) to pass on to his children.
(How can you sit up, keep your elbows off the table, take small bites,
chew with your mouth closed and not sing...all at the same time????)
His parents worked, teaching students, hours away at a small Bible College.
He saw them a couple times a year.
This would have shattered some children.
For my dad, it only seemed to cement in him the adventurous spirit.
He had crossed the Atlantic and Indian Oceans...
He conquered the hills of India and the British Boarding school system....
He had defied a life threatening illness....
All before the age of 7.
His question?
What next?
It is the question that has propelled him through life.
Through college, grad school, church planting,
college presidenting, countless speaking engagements, overseas trips, mentoring gigs,
and now authoring a book.
He just did a life plan with a life coach....he is seventy three.
Because, clearly, retirement is out of the question.
That would be boring.
Every day, for my dad, is an adventure to be had.
A new person to meet.
A new friend to make.
A new story to tell.
24 hours of endless possibilities.
There aren't a lot of "no"s in my dad's vernacular.
Instead he says things like,
"How can we make that happen?"
"I think we should do that!"
followed by
"Wouldn't that be fun?"
And then you see the wheels start spinning in his head because,
He is going to make that happen....
He is going to do that (whatever that is)...
and he is about to have some serious fun.
If you stick around him long enough, you get to get in on the fun.
We Foth kids got in on the fun and are richer for it.
Some people say that I remind them of my Dad.
Which is fantastic except when it comes to his baldness.
This is something I could do without.  I would like to keep my hair. (No offense, Dad.)
But I want to be like my dad because I love how he looks at life.
With great expectation.
With a great love. (For my mom, for us kids and grandkids, and mostly for, Jesus)
And with a sense that his best adventure is just around the corner.
And knowing my dad? It is.

I love you, Dad.
Thank you for loving us so well and including us in your adventures!

I hope you have your best Father's Day...EVER.
And I guess my only question to you is.....
What next?

Friday, June 19, 2015

i am not pregnant...but I am writing a book about it

Thirteen years ago, I flew down to LA for my first, true meeting with a publisher
about my first book that ever made it through both editorial committee
and publishers committee.
I was thrilled.
It was a gift book full of pregnancy poems and prayers.
I had been promised a contract.
It had been 4 long years of going to writers conferences and
rejection letters and all my dreams were coming true.
Scott and I were getting ready to move across the country to
work with my parents and Mark and Lora Batterson at National Community Church
in Washington, DC.
We were youth pastoring at the time and had moved into an apartment behind the church
that was so tiny we could sit on the couch in the living room and
open the refrigerator in the kitchen.
Scott would not be youth pastoring for the the first time in 14 years.
We were excited and sad all at the same time.
Excited to embark on a new adventure and sad to leave our church,
our family and our friends behind.
I was newly pregnant with my second, Will.

There was a lot of nausea and mood swings involved.
Basically, we were in upheaval.
Both literally (me)  and figuratively (Scott).
Pregnancy seems to do that for you....
even when you are not planning a cross country move.
And then I got the call.
No. They did not want to publish my book.
They had changed their minds.
Even after it had been approved and the style of artwork had been decided.
Getting published is a perilous process
and a book can be dropped at any point in the journey.
They were so sorry.
I sat down on the couch and wept.
In the space of two weeks following that disappointment,
I got two more rejection letters.
One of them  was the harshest I have ever received,  telling me that my writing was
"crass" and "gross" and "that I was better than that".
The editor was referring to a chapter I had written on being nauseous while pregnant.
It was clear the HE had never been pregnant.
There is a bit of grossness involved. I'm just saying.
As I threw up for the gagillionth time that day, I thought to myself,
I am crass and gross.
I told Scott, "I think I am done writing."
And I was.
It hurt too much.
The next few years I put my computer away and was lost in a haze of babies,
toddlers, sleepless nights and another cross country move.
National Community Church was sending us back out to California to church plant.
It was 5 years after that before my writing dream was realized and
my first book came out.
And now, here we are 6 years later...and we have come full circle.
The gift book of pregnancy poems and prayers
along with newly penned devotionals for pregnant moms ....
will be coming out next year.

Expectant Blessings: Prayers, Poems and Devotions for You and Your Baby

And I couldn't be more thrilled.
When I got the call that, "Yes! They would like to publish my book,"
I wept again.Tears of joy and almost disbelief. And then I laughed.
God has a funny sense of timing.
I haven't been pregnant in nearly a decade.
I am trying to remember what it felt like.
The two thoughts that I remember having during my pregnant years are:

1. I feel huge.
2. Can I be done now?

I am not sure how many devotions I can write on those two themes.
But there is one more thought that keeps popping up.
I had it in the throes of pregnancy and I am having it now.

3. God is good and his blessings overwhelm us.

I don't understand His timing. I probably never will.
But I am going with it. Whole heartedly.
Joyfully. Hopefully. Expectantly.
And I will do my best not to be crass or gross along the way.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

a summer manifesto

We are one week into summer and things are feeling good.
No school uniforms.
No bag lunches.
Staying up late.
Sleeping in.
Free time galore.
Free apricots from the neighbors.
Hanging out with friends.
Only one thing is not going as it should this summer.
The fact that the children want to stare at screens all day long.
Even when it is absolutely lovely outside.
They wimper when the sun touches their skin.
(From where did this vampire-ish behavior arise? It must be stopped.)
And then there is the readjustment to spending ALL THEIR TIME together
which results in a lot of punching and crying.
Is this is what the lazy long days of summer are for?
Sucker punching? Nope.
Chasing with intent to maim? No, thank you.
Endless hour of video games while your brain seizes up from lack of individual thought? 
Not so much.
So I have decided to write out a decree.
A Summer Manifesto for the Aughtmon nation to remind us what summer is for.
This is the list I came up with....

1. Swim more
2. Video game less
3. Eat Ice Cream
4. Eat Fresh Fruit only...straight off the tree when possible
5. Say Yes to going outside
6. Say No to fighting, complaining, tattling, general violence and 
hitting below the belt (even if it seems funny)
7. Give 5 hugs a day (wrestling counts as a hug with your brothers not your mom)
8. Be forgiving...even when you don't want to
9. Wear underpants at all times (this is an issue)
10. Avoid broken bones or stitches or contagious diseases
11. Make s'mores once a week....preferably with friends
12. Spend more time with cousins....you can't do summer without cousin time
13. Laugh...all day long...whenever possible
14. Embrace good music, loud singing and crazy dancing
15. Experience boredom (it is a necessity for creativity...use your brain...make something happen...nothing fire related, please)
16. Say your prayers and be grateful...we are blessed...don't forget to 
to thank the One who loves you most of all for the gift of an amazing summer.

Okay...so here is the deal...

I love every single one of these mandates but the list is so long
I will lose my mind trying to get the kids to follow them. 
First of all, my memory is going so I need things short and sweet.
Secondly, our family can follow 2, maybe 3, rules a day tops, 
before  we become an angry and violent people. (this is an issue.)
So I have reconsidered and condensed it
and kept the essentials.
And...voila...here it is...


This is doable.
Done and done.
I think today we will start with eating ice cream.....

Thursday, June 11, 2015

apparently the children are starving or we have locusts...one or the other

Remember that nursery rhyme about Old Mother Hubbard?
How she went to the cupboard to give her poor dog a bone?
And how when she got there, there was absolutely nothing to 
to give her poor dog and the dog was bereft and cried and whined
and threw itself weeping onto the floor, saying,
"Why? Why is there no food in the house?"
Oh, wait, no, that wasn't the dog....
that was my 3 boys when they opened the refrigerator yesterday.
And I can tell them why there is no food in the house.
Because they ate it all.
The only thing that is safe is a giant cantaloupe on the top shelf
and truth be told, none of us is that keen on cantaloupe but 
I am saving it for Scott and me as our last food source.
I keep telling them,
"We have a certain budget for groceries...
you can either eat all the food I get in one day
or you can spread it out, say, over the whole week,
like normal, sane, regular eating people."
All they hear me say is,"Blah, blah, blah, food, blah, blah, blah, blah."
They look at me with pitiful eyes and say, "Where did you say the food was?"
Scott says we should offer them one meal a day 
and then lock them out of the house and let them forage for the rest.
I feel it would be wrong to unleash them on the neighbors 
since we brought them into the world and all.
Scott blames me.
"Listen, if you would just feed them junk food, it would stunt their growth
and we wouldn't have this problem."
But I am trying to nurture their young bodies.
I just didn't realize I was growing giants.
I bought 6 lbs of apples yesterday.
As of this morning, we are down to 5 apples.
Apparently, the apples are not so filling.
I am thinking of serving the rest up with a side of sand today. Maybe tar.
Something that weighs them down and sticks in the gut.
Jack informed me, "Mom, we are running low on cheese."
And I cannot for the life of me remember the last time we were running high on cheese.
Because as soon as it comes into the house, it is devoured.
I have started yelling things out like, "You cannot eat a whole loaf of bread" and 
"Back away from the peanut butter."
Things you would never think a kind and loving person would have to say.
So all of that to say, if you are thinking of asking us over for dinner this summer,
I am warning you in advance.
You will need to butcher a cow and buy an acre of corn, but then, yes, 
by all means, we would love to come over.
Because, in case you didn't know, the children are hungry.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

reaching for the light

Ever since I had post-partum depression with my third little guy,
who is actually not so little anymore, I have realized the importance
of filling my mind with good things.
Those sullen days can shadow me on occasion.
I have had to learn that when life takes hard turns,
I don't have to let myself spiral downward.
I have a choice...I can turn towards the persistent pull of dark thinking,
being engulfed by hopelessness and despair,
I can reach for the light.
I won't lie.  It is a harder thing to choose the light.
Some days when grief or health issues or giant bills overwhelm you, you have to work at it.
Slipping into the dark pit takes no effort.
Reaching towards the light means moving forward,
when moving seems impossible.
I think that is why I love David and the Psalms so much.
He had some dark days but he never stopped looking for hope.
There are days when darkness closes in when I would like to stay in bed...
maybe for a year.
And I know that in my own strength my only option is staying stuck where I am.
But that is when I love David's word "cry".
Sometimes reaching for the light is beyond us...but when we cry out?
Hope comes to us.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

He comes to us. In the dark.
With His all encompassing, dark shattering, hope filled light.
And He begins to set our worlds to rights.
Because really...when we reach for the light...we are reaching for Him.
And all He has wanted all along is to grab us up and squeeze us tight.
Comforting us...holding us...singing His love over us.
It may take some time to feel the light...
but if we ask Him, if we let Him, He keeps coming back.
Dark day after dark day.
Loving us like only He can.
And that is a bright and beautiful thing.

Monday, June 1, 2015

so i guess it is a good thing that we had boys

At breakfast the other morning Jack asked me,
"What were you going to name me if I was a girl?"
Me: "Dad wanted to name you Destiny."
A look of complete disgust lit up Jack's face.
Jack: "What about Will?"
Me: "I wanted to name him Sophie."
Jack: "And Addie?"
Me: "Ainsley."
Jack: "Ainsley? Who picked that?"
Me: "Dad."
Will and Addie walked in and sat down at the table.
Jack: "Addie, if you were a girl Dad was going to name you Ainsley."
Addie: "That sounds like anus."
Jack: "That is exactly what I was thinking."
Jack and Will in unison: "Hi, Anus-ley!"
Leave it to my children to made an adorable name sound like an unmentionable body part.
My sincerest apologies to any Ainsleys reading this.
You should know that my children are uncouth and enjoy making ANY name sound gross.
My own name has been re-worked into "Poo-sanna" on occasion .
Jack: "Will is the only one with a normal girl name....Sophie."
Will: "Yay, Sophie!"
Me: "Actually, I wanted to name you Sophie Kate...until your cousin Aly pointed out
that it sounded like "suffocate."
Jack: "You guys pick horrible girl names. Thank God we are boys."
Yes....thank God.