Thursday, October 31, 2013

Can we talk about that ad???

Is it just me?
Whenever I see this ad on tv my head spins. Not like I'm ovewhelmed by intense thought; more like that girl in the Exorcist movie.
The premise is that this guy is taking his little girl to school. I'm guessing she's a second grader? She wants to dress inappropriately for school, in her butterfly princess outfit. He says no, because of course, that is ridiculous, you don't wear costumes to school. She, like the mature little champ that she is, accepts his direction and puts on a perfectly lovely dress, a dress that 8/10ths of the world's children would thank the stars above to wear.
But then... she sighs. She is experiencing sadness, disappointment. But just a little! She's not crying, she's not threatening to leap out of the car.
So Dad turns around, because apparently they are so early that they have plenty of time to head back and change her entire freaking outfit and make it back to school for picture day.
When did it become so unbearable for parents to allow their kids to feel feelings? This guy's reasonable parenting efforts were dismantled by one sigh. My parents had no problem with us feeling disappointed... in fact I think they kind of enjoyed it. When we'd say "but I want (whatever)...!!!" my parents would say (siblings, say it with me): "Wanting builds character."
Seriously, this girl is experiencing a modicum of disappointment and handling it well and this guy BLEW IT.
I heard a stunning radio doc a few years ago (wish I could cite it, sorry) where a woman said "parents think their job is to make their kids happy, but it is to make them resilient." If move into adulthood as resilient people, you see, they can find/make their own happiness. I believe parents think back on their childhood moments of unhappiness but forget to change lenses- they see those disappointments through the eyes of their inner child, and forget that they were building blocks to the lives they have built. It's not a good thing to live a life free of disappointment. This doc also said that even after all these years of parental efforts to "make children happy,"  modern teenagers' average rates of stress equal those of teenagers who were institutionalized in the 1950's, implying that this formerly debilitating level of stress has become the norm. We are not raising resilient kids.
Wanting DOES build character, and dealing with frustration and the occasional "no" builds resilience, and that's going to be important if kids are ever going to launch from their parents' homes and make lives for themselves one day.
Oh and here's another thing I think whenever this ad plays- I imagine that man's wife coming home from work that day to find that her daughter wore that ridiculous outfit to school... on picture day... and I bet she gives that guy an earful... and I hope she signs her daughter up for the retakes.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday, Not Quick At All* Edition

*also, I realize it is not at all Friday.

1) Well work has been outrageously stressful lately. Not stressful like people who have actual stress have, like, I don't know... emergency room surgeons or EMTs or... I can't think of non-medical examples right now, but you know what I mean. But it has been stressful, in that we have been preparing for our first "real" GOF sessions, the first of which was last night and then will be again tomorrow. They're "real" this time because last month, we had a guest performer who did a one-man show for everyone, meaning we didn't have to break out into groups, or have teachers in place, or any of that hard stuff. Last night went pretty well, considering the MANY loose/moving parts to putting on a night like this.

2) This year (and hopefully not for long), I've stepped into the DRE position, a job for which I am, let me just say, the wrong tool. I don't know nothin' about teachin' no children- my expertise starts at about grade 6. In fact now that I'm thinking of it, the one year I worked with 2nd graders (at a Catholic Charities afterschool daycare) was one of the worst in memory... and it was for the same reason- I had no business leading/teaching little ones. Funnily, I've had so many conversations this past year with people who were miserable about being in the wrong job- and I've told them all what I believe to be true: that God gifts us specifically, and when we are not using those gifts, nobody wins- not God, not the people around us, not us. Now here I am in the wrong spot myself, knowing the job should be done better than I can do, and knowing I could be doing good work in another (aka my former) position. ANYhoo, the hope (prayer) is that someone will step up, take on this part of the job, and let me go back/forward to being an adult faith formation person/pastoral associate at my current parish. In the meantime, everyone suffers. Ha! Just kidding, I think it's mostly me (and Scott, poor Scott).

3) While we're on this topic, let me urge you... when you leave your job, don't just walk away. Even if you hate it or are SO DONE with it or don't care who comes in after you, leave something helpful behind- a calendar, lists of people, information on what you did. Maybe the new person won't need to use what you leave, but it will help, and it will help you feel like you did something professionally courteous. Leave well, that's what I urge you. I'm still digging out from under my predecessor, and it's making me think angry thoughts toward my former colleague! When I've left jobs in ministry before, I've always cleaned out computer files and old stuff, and left a "successor file" for whoever came in after me. Contacts, info, lists, directions, outlines, suggestions. In my last job, the jamoke that took over for me promptly stashed that binder in a back closet with nary a look (I'm told), but a few years later I spoke to his replacement, who thanked me sincerely for the files. Just, kids, seriously- leave well.

4) On a completely unrelated topic, we have been having this yellow jacket invasion at our house. They built a nest (hive?) behind the light over our door, which would be bad enough, but if you remember our indoor squirrel issue from a few years back, you know that the space between our inner and outer walls are basically empty- so we've been killing about 20-25 big-ass yellow jackets in our kitchen every day for a few weeks. Yellow jackets are not bees- they are some kind of nasty, vindictive creatures that, when killed, emit a Shark/Jet-like pheromone that summons its friends to come and co-attack whoever killed it. Nice! Well, finally the pest guy came today, telling us he has chemicals that you need  LICENSE to use, and that he would spray, then powder the nest, then seal it up. "But," I asked, "If they can't get out, won't they just come IN?" He admitted that this was likely and that we should stand by. We watched him work through a porch window at a safe distance, and have since killed about 8-10 half-dead and super resentful YJ's in the kitchen. The pest guy (I like to call him "that pesticidal maniac") was calling me "deah" by the end of the visit and gave me his personal phone number, in case we need to call him back in. I'm not sure if that was a compliment or a hint that things were about to get much, much worse. Either way, I have it in a safe place.

5) I've been doing LEX again at work, in the afternoons with seniors (I like to call it "little old lady lex" but really, these gals are impressive scholars, and blow my mind with their insights every week), and young adult/adult (21+) "alcoholic lex" in the evenings, with wine and snacks. It's turned into this awesome thing, reminiscent of my old beloved "Banana Bread and God" group with kids. Now the participants know how to look for insight in the scriptures, and they dig really deep with each other- AND they bring delicious snacks, which is a lovely development! Only two weeks to go on this series, and then a break until Advent. Now THIS is the job I was meant to do. I'm so glad I can still do it. This week one of my afternoon ladies said "I'm really starting to like the Gospel of Luke!" How cool is that?

6) Here's how cool: this Sunday's Gospel is about the dishonest judge and the persistent widow. At non-alcoholic Lex we puzzled over the judge- were we supposed to be learning that God is like a dishonest judge, or that if we just harass God long enough he'll get annoyed enough to grant our prayers? Didn't seem right. One of my afternoon ladies, though, pointed us toward the widow, who is almost barely mentioned in the story. But in Luke, widows are used as an example of a powerless person- someone with no authority, no ability to get things done. This widow, though, DOES have a power- ONE power: persistence. We concluded that maybe the message for us in this gospel is that we have ONE power- prayer- and that all Jesus wants us to do with this story is to remember to hang in there, prayer-wise. I love that!

7) Go Red Sox! All through this series, every time I've tuned in to the games, the sox have started to flounder, and when I leave the room or change the channel, they do better. So, basically, the fate of the World Series is on my shoulders. It's a lot of pressure, but I'm holding up okay. Let me know how tonight's game goes!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Sharing Stories

    Recently I was dining with a few friends and someone told a story. MY story. It was about a funny thing that happened to me several years ago, and I've told it a few times since it happened. But this time, I sat quietly as it was told to a table of people, from someone else's point of view, as if it happened to the teller. I was fascinated. I listened for how different the details would  be- the story teller got a few wrong, but also, dressed some up to be really visual. He held his hands up and made a worried face for some of the story, and gave the characters actual lines, where in my version of the story, there is really no dialogue.
    He got a few laughs, and I wasn't sure whether to be proud or mad about it. Mostly, I was just fascinated by the way stories come to have their own lives.
    I think I've done this before, had this deeply familiar story that turned out to be something that actually happened to a sibling, for instance. Just this morning I told Scott something that I immediately doubted- did my friend bring my dog to visit me while I was on retreat that time? Or did she just say she thought about bringing the dog? It would have been really nice to see my dog there, that emotional weekend, and somehow I can see him, on the other end of the leash from my lovely friend, just lovely that she even thought to do that, even if it didn't really happen.
    One of our family  legends is told by my uncle, who would swear on the birthplace of the baby Jesus that my brother, as a young kid, pulled the tablecloth out from under a table full of dishes, like a magician. I've heard that story evolve over the years- over time the background details have developed; at one point my brother was just threatening to do it, and I think at some points in the history of its telling the trick was successful and at others, not so. I remember hearing how mad my parents were, and the most interesting detail to me is that my uncle says now that my brother was reading a book about magic tricks, and that's what inspired him to attempt it.
    Honestly I have no idea what happened or didn't happen. But I like that my uncle feels this ownership over the story, and I can tell that he has vivid vivid images in his head when he tells it, seeing it all unfold just as plain as day, even while my family sits around him with their eyes rolling and their heads shaking nooooooo, that's not how it wasssss. 
    I think I heard on Radiolab that our memories are pretty much stored in our brains like files in a filing cabinet, and that they get changed every time we pull them out and look at them. So, they said (I think) the best way to keep a memory/file pristine is to never pull it out. What a conundrum! Is it better to have our perfectly preserved memories hidden away, or our stories constantly remolded over time? Maybe our most-mused-over memories and stories bear very little resemblance to our real experience, after a while. But, you know, maybe they're better than the originals.
    I kind of like the idea that  my story can become someone else's memory, even if it's not true. Maybe the reason my friend felt so involved in that story is because of my vivid telling of it. Yep, that's probably what happened, or at least, that's how I'm going to remember it.