Heart in the Hinge

For the past three years I haven’t been writing, because I’ve been preaching. Sunday mornings. Church. Choir. Communion. Gay-friendly church stuff, because I’m gay, so it has to be gay-friendly, or I can’t show up.

The best part of being a pastor is the kids. Little kids running around like holy terrors in angel costumes at christmastide, and big kids asking hard questions like: Why should I be a Christian? Those people hate trans people and brown people and I am literally both. I love the kids.

I LOVED the kids…past tense, because I quit my job, which is why I’m back here. I’m back on this blog only to discover that – surprise! – no one blogs anymore. I guess we binge Netflix, drink cheap liquor and put our therapist on auto-pay. Or maybe that’s just me.

I’m a ex-pastor mom to two kids right now: our sassy, precocious first-grader (via open adoption), and a sassy, precocious toddler (via foster care).

Foster Care.

OH MY GOD.

Really, Oh My God. I hope She knows what is happening, because no else has a clue.

Becoming a foster parent required ripping my pulpy heart from my chest and nailing it to the wall….no, to the family bulletin board with the school lunch menu, expired pizza coupons and last month’s grocery list, so that I pass it every morning and wonder: what is that HOT MESS doing outside my chest, and will I ever get it back?

I already know that I won’t. My heart won’t ever fit back into that hollow cavity I carry around with me.

I know that already, but I pretend otherwise because that’s what motherhood is all about….holding it all together. You hold it all together, even if all you’ve got are dried-out junk drawer glue sticks and rubber bands thieved from egg cartons brought home from the grocery.

I’m Old

I turned 44 last year, and realized my life was half over. (I don’t really want to live past 88. So I’m half done.)

WOO HOO! Half-way done. Go me!!

I took myself on a birthday retreat, because that’s what you do when you’re middle-aged and parenting small children: you justify your escape with a fancy, therapist-approved permission slip. If “retreat” seems like it could be a word for running away, sending the troops skedaddling in the opposite direction (as in “fall back! retreat!”) that’s because it is….retreat is the last ditch attempt to save your skin before parenthood completely annihilates you.

Anyway, on my retreat I realized that I’m in the hinge: at 44, I’m in the middle part of my life between the door that’s swung open and the one that swings shut.

What does that mean for my karma? (Am I allowed to be a Christian minister and publicly talk about karma? I’m pretty sure in Trump’s America, that’s a big fat YES.) I’ve got just this second half left to make up for all the mistakes and omissions of the first half of my life. I better get BUSY!

But….oof. I’m tired. My body is – shockingly – also 44 years old. My eyesight is worse. My knees ache. My right foot has this thing that HURTS, and if I wasn’t so busy going to the dentist before my health insurance expires, I’d have it looked at. Hot Mess and a side of fries, that’s me.

Yet here are these kids. My whole heart. The reason I get up in the morning. To feed them. To negotiate all the reasons they can’t – won’t – dress themselves. To remember their glasses. Homework. Parent teacher conference forms. Lunch boxes. Hats, gloves, coats, boots. Matching socks? Please. Socks – of any kind – are extra. I’m not that kind of mom.

I’m the kind of mom whose heart makes a steady drip-drip sound from its place on the bulletin board. That heart, half-way done, still beating. It’s the only one I’ve got, and I don’t need it back.

The Real Reason People Believe in God

I’ve figured out why religion came into being.

This just in time, as it turns out, because I’ve changed careers and am now a licensed (someday to be ordained) minister in the United Church of Christ. (If you’re snickering, stop. Programming nerds can TOO be pastors…it just means every third sermon we preach has a story line from BtVS, which I happen to think is a GOOD thing.) 

At any rate, since I haven’t written AND I’ve been missing this space, I’m going to cheat. Below is an as-reported-in-real-time-Facebook-post of a conversation with my three-going-on-four-year-old daughter.

Here’s what this new pastor tells her kid when asked a serious theological question:

WhyThe Girl: Why did you say I couldn’t eat the cookie?
Me: Because you threw it on the ground.
Why did I do that?
Me: I have no idea. I think maybe you wanted to give it to the birds.
Did the birds want to eat it?
Me: Yep.
Why?
Me: Because they are hungry.
Why are the birds hungry?
Me: All creatures eat. Maybe they hadn’t had breakfast.
Why do creatures eat, Mom?
Me: They just do. They eat for energy.
But why do they EAT food, Mom? WHY?
Me: Because their bodies tell them they are hungry.
Why do their bodies tell them they are hungry?
Me: Because that’s how it works.
Why is that how it works?
Me: Because that’s the way Mama God made it.
Why did Mama God make it that way?
Me: Ask Her yourself. I can’t answer any more questions right now.

 

I’m sure that one day I’ll cringe at my lack of theological depth, but right now I’m feeling proud of my ability to stay in the WHY for as long as I did. That was at least 6 seconds, folks. And I didn’t go to my usual place of “why are you asking why????” as in: what exactly about my explanation of concrete mixers and the origin of sand don’t you understand? 

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What kind of spiritual wonderment is part of your parenting life? I’d love to hear from you!

Unexpected Outcomes of 3: The Preschool Formula for Managing Your Expectations

brandonhill-beard-formulaThere’s a big black dog currently circling the island in my kitchen. He is not my dog. He is a friend’s dog. His name is Stan, but we call him “Stan the Manly,” “Stanislaus,” “Stannis,” or “Manley Stan.” Today I asked my daughter, who is now 3.5 years old (STOP THE PRESSES!) why Stan the Manly had a red foil star on his head. She looked at me like I’m a moron and replied: “Because that’s the color he picked, Mom.”

Somehow, at some point between potty training and the start of preschool, I became MOM.

If I do something she doesn’t like (like humming, drinking coffee, or turning left) the girl shouts: STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE, MOM! If it is particularly horrific, such as, say, combing her hair, then she adds: BEFORE YOU BREAK MY HEART, MOM! BEFORE YOU BREAK MY FLIPPING HEART.

We have taught her to say flipping because her Mommy (that’s my name, thankyouverymuch) used to use another word that starts with F, before she saw the very public error of her ways.

The Girl also rolls her eyes, puts one hand on her hip, shakes her finger and SIGHS. She says “Seriously?” and “You have GOT to be KIDDING ME” and “For HEAVEN’S sake, Mom.” I have no idea where she got that behavior. She also uses the word behavior, as in the following exchange:

Me: Please stop putting your lip gloss on the dog, honey.

The Girl: Why?

Me: Because I said so.

The Girl: Because you said so? I’m not stopping my behavior because you SAID SO, MOM.

Superior parenting at work, folks. Looking at the nuance of that inflection. Genius!

The dog has been “breath-ing” (like breathy, but with an “ing”) a lot around our house. His arrival delayed the acquisition of a Christmas kitten, causing a very unexpected tiny level of trauma (mostly on my part), which just proves that the formula for preschool meltdown is this:

ExpectedOutcome + RationalExplanation – (Hunger + Thirst + Exhaustion) * WhoTheHellKnows = ActualOutcome

This formula means that you can predict a meltdown with about the same level of accuracy as “scientists” who deny climate change and sea rise.

On the plus side, wow, does The Girl ever look stunning in her holiday dress and HALLELUJAH she agreed to wear it on Christmas Eve. Another unexpected outcome, because lately she is 3 going on 39, preferring her juice in a thermos and “soft pants” when she leaves the house. In her defense, they DO have a yoga class at preschool…of course, that’s only on Thursday afternoons, for about 30 minutes, but who am I to judge?

All of this to say that I’m grateful..for unexpected outcomes, for the floatsam and jetsam of preschool parenting, for a good glass of wine…and a slice of pie, a shot of tequila…you know, whatever it flipping takes.

Enough about me….how are YOU?