Nepal

Apr 27 2015

I made writing to you a priority ever day for ReLent — you know; ReLent, which is “Lent Again” for those of us who forgot to do it the first time around. Whenever possible, minus a few extraordinary circumstances along the way, I’ve kept my promise. Writing drivel at times, yes. And using a very liberal interpretation of “extraordinary circumstances” because I believe to my toes that you, like me, know that “can’t keep going” and “need rest” and “have to watch Outlander” count as extraordinary.

But I’m writing to you today because I DID make that promise, so I won’t go all quiet and dark here even though I don’t really have time to pen this.

This time, it really is an extraordinary circumstance. Of the kind not just my fellow Mombies will understand.

On Saturday, an earthquake hit Nepal.

And my Other Life, outside my life with my family and my life here with you in this space, is that of Humanitarian Aid worker.

I work also at Medical Teams International.

I keep that quiet a lot, not because it’s a secret, but because I say Weird and Wild things here, and I never want my wild ways or weird theology or bumbling words to reflect poorly on these people I love who spend their lives to save and improve the lives of others. 

I work at Medical Teams because it’s our mission send medicines, doctors and nurses — real help — to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty around the world.

Now, I’ve talked about Jesus here before and the ways I do and don’t fit in with Other Christians. You’ve let me process my faith, and I’ve adored you for sharing yours, especially because we’re sometimes different and sometimes the same, and there’s incredible beauty in finding all comers in this place and talking with each other instead of at each other. So, if you’ve been in this space much at all, you’ll know how sad it makes me when terrible words and deeds are done in Jesus’ name, how I almost abandoned the word “Christian” to identify myself until an athiest friend set me straight (although it occurs to me I may not have told you that story and I probably should), and therefore how healing it is for me to get to work for an organization that just loves people — without regard to faith or creed or status or symbol or ANY OF THE THINGS — just LOVES people who desperately need it, AND are Christians at the same time.

Imagine! Christians out there giving aid to people because they need it!

No requirements.

Just help and hope.

THIS is the church I want to be part of.

THIS is the way I want to spend my life.

Loving people.

I know; I’m a mushy mess.

So I work at Medical Teams International. In the president’s office, no less, although I keep waiting for him to realize I’m a nutjob. (Confession: That cat might be already out of the bag.) And there was an earthquake in the poorest country in South Asia last weekend. And we’re spending this week in emergency response mode. Because there are people who need help. And we’re uniquely positioned to provide it.

I want you to know — I’m going to try to honor my ReLent promise to write to you. And I also want you to know — if I do it, my writing may be even more disjointed and irregular and weird than usual. Because I’m working hard, and my heart is with the people of Nepal. 

My heart is with ALL the people, as you know, who are sitting in the dark and waiting for the dawn

Holding Hands in the Dark — with you and Nepal,

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Medical Teams International is one of only 5 U.S.-based organizations vetted by the World Health Organization and the United Nations to send foreign medical teams to Nepal to respond to this disaster. You can learn more about the Medical Teams International Nepal Earthquake response here

This Made Me Think of You. Not Because You’re Bad at Punctuation.

Apr 25 2015

I saw this yesterday and I immediately thought of you. 

IMG_3629

Not because you’re really bad at punctuation, but because I LOVE YOU.

“I love you with ALL MY BUTT. I would say heart, but my butt is bigger.” 

This is a true truth, friends. 

As true a truth as I know. 

I LOVE YOU WITH ALL THE BREADTH OF MY GIGANTIC BUTT. And I hope you feel at least somewhat comforted by that. I know I do. Because I grew this butt myself, and our community grew this love together, so this makes strange sense to me. Strange and beautiful, beautiful sense. 

Last night, I wrote about destinations and the unavoidable reality that we aren’t necessarily able to navigate to our destination just because we desire to be there. Diana wrote back on Facebook, “The other day I was up in the middle of the night, no reason, kids all asleep…. It’s just me who can’t sleep lately. And I hate the dark, hate the night. But I laid there and thought… I know for a fact, because of your posts and this community, that others mommas were also up and waving in the dark at that very moment. I waved, and said out loud, ‘waving in the dark,’ and the comfort that it brought me was profound. Thank you ALL.” 

And I just want you to know, friends, in case you wonder why I love you — WHY? Why? — it’s because of this thing Diana put her finger on. It’s because you’re there for each other. Because you’re creating a whole community of momrades who wave in the dark.

I think you’re incredibly rad. Times infinity. And I wanted you to know.

Love (truly),

Signature

On Making Our Way to a Destination When It’s Not Always Where We’d Planned

Apr 24 2015

My friend, Bethany, is a sailor.

Like a Spend-a-Year-Raising-Kids-on-a-Sailboat kind of sailor. 

Like a Navigate-From-Oregon-to-Mexico-and-Back kind of sailor. 

Like a Knows-What-a-Boom-Is and How-to-Build-a-Dinghy kind of sailor. 

A SAILOR sailor, you know?

Bethany and I were trying to find a restaurant tonight with Jen, Jenn and Heidi. 

I was in charge of navigating, which was, of course, a terrible mistake because I was going by memory which — HAHAHAI don’t have anymore

I got us to the neighborhood but not to our destination, and since the neighborhood wasn’t planning to honor our reservations, that was, technically speaking, a problem.

Bethany navigated us to our destination instead of me, solving problems on land the way she solves them at sea, which led us to a conversation about the ocean and listlessness and, you know, direction. So I mentioned, with all my knowledge of sailing, how nice it must be to be in a vast, wide, open space, choose a destination and then just go there. How freeing.  

“Well,” said Bethany, “sometimes you can choose a destination.” 

And I said, “Wait. Wait. What?”

Because this idea that you can sometimes choose a destination, of course, with my teeny, tiny control issues and anxiety issues and panic issues and the need for medication, terrified me. TERRIFIED me.

What?” I asked again. “What do you mean sometimes? I don’t like sometimes. SOMETIMES is no good for people like me who NEED TO GET SOMEWHERE. Who need to know we will, eventually, arrive. ‘Sometimes’ is not OK. I am very uncomfortable with sometimes.”

And when I stopped verbally panicking, Bethany said, “It’s like this. When you’re out there on the water, you can choose which direction you’re oriented. In general. You can choose where you hope to go. But this is the thing: you can’t sail directly into the wind. If you try, your sail catches nothing and you stay, stuck, where you are. So if the wind is coming from your destination, you can’t go there. You can argue with the wind as much as you want. You can yell and yell into the wind. But the wind doesn’t care. And even if the wind dies, you can’t always get through the remaining swell. 

“You know what I hate?” Bethany asked, “I hate that saying about sailing that goes ‘you can’t change the wind; you just adjust your sails’ because it’s bullshit. The reality is, when the wind changes, you can’t just go on doing what you wanted to do, no matter how badly you wanted to do it. I mean, sometimes, yes, your destination is a few degrees off the wind and you can work your way there. But sometimes? What you wanted is — truly — no longer an option.

“The weather forecast isn’t the same thing as the weather,” she went on. “Storms come up you didn’t anticipate and couldn’t foresee. Even if you drop your sails and use your engine to motor, you can’t always go straight to the destination. There are tides that run hot, and you have to gauge whether you have the fuel to get there working against the tide. Engines fail. Sometimes you have to head back. Sometimes you have to head to a safe harbor. “

Listen, friends; I don’t know about you, but I want to feel safe. I want to feel in control. I want rather desperately to always aim for a destination — in geography, in relationships, in my career, in life — but sometimes the wind blows. The wind blows and the tide comes up and storms we didn’t anticipate arrive out of no where. Just no where. So we change course. 

Here’s what I want us to hear tonight: it’s OK to find a safe harbor. It’s OK to head back. It’s OK when we don’t arrive at our planned destination — on time or at all. It’s OK to evaluate and change course. Friends, this is sailing and this is life. And it’s OK to be where we are on the water. 

 

P.S. Bethany blogs about sailing at Adventures in Lilo

5 Quick Questions About Personal Hygiene

Apr 22 2015

It’s time for a new edition of 5 Quick Questions!

5 Quick Questions are a Sometime Tradition here on the 5 Kids Blog. This is my opportunity to get to know you better, and it’s one of the best things we do here because it turns out you are very good at truth-telling, friends. 

To those of you who used the last few volumes to delurk, it’s wonderful to meet you! And to those of you who’ve been around a while, mucking about in this space and putting your feet on the furniture? You’re always rad. Thank you.

As you may know, 5 Quick Questions can be anything from the EVER IMPORTANT What Is Your Family Booger Rule? to the more serious (and my absolute favorite because you were so deeply honest and so very different from each other) Questions About Faith.

Today shall be along the Ever Important lines.

We shall discuss Personal Hygiene. 

Why?

Because I miss it. I miss it very much. And it’s good to mourn together. 

ID-100400665 Quick Questions about Personal Hygiene

  1. What is your personal hygiene regimen?
  2. Was question 1 too hard to answer because REGIMEN — HAHAHAHAHA?
  3. What is your best Fake-Like-You-Have-Good-Hygiene Trick?
  4. Assuming soap is provided, if you were stuck on a desert island (a desert island with little umbrella drinks and cabanas and All Your Momrades and access to long, hot baths and HUGE beds without sand or smashed cereal in them) and you could only bring TWO personal hygiene products with you, what would they be?
  5. Will you go skinny dipping with me on the island? What if it’s still daylight? ( <– Not actually a question about hygiene, but I got distracted by the whole island thing, and now I’m on a need-to-know here.)

Here are my answers:

  1. Regimen? HAHAHAHAHA. I used to have one of those. Pre-kids, I showered twice a day. Twice a day, friends. When sharing a hotel room, friends would ask, “Do you want the shower in the morning or at night?” Then I’d laugh at them and say BOTH. Like THEY were the crazy ones. Man, those were the days.
  2. YES, QUESTION 1 IS TOO HARD TO ANSWER. So far, I am NOT impressed with these questions. Does it count as a “regimen” to shower once a week when my hygiene becomes truly too awful to ignore? Does it? Does it count as a “regimen” to give myself quick sink wipe-downs between luxurious 5-minute weekly showers so no one On The Outside notices? Is it weird that I’m referring to outside my house as “On The Outside” like my house is a penitentiary or is that just good sense? I DON’T KNOW ANYMORE.
  3. This is a much better question. MUCH better. I actually have some of these Fake-Like-I-Have-Good-Hygiene Tricks. Here are two:
    A. There’s the wash-the-bangs-in-the-sink trick. That’s a life saver.
    B. There’s the buy Suave (read: cheap) Dry Shampoo trick. I honestly would consider giving up one of my toes to keep this in my life. I mean, how much can I possibly miss a toe?
  4. Assuming I have time to actually shower on this magical island, obliterating the need for Dry Shampoo (and allowing me to keep all my toes — HOORAY!), I’d go with hair conditioner and a razor. I probably should’ve picked deodorant and a toothbrush. I feel like this is unnecessarily hard.
  5. I will lead the charge. In the dark. I will lead the charge in the dark for the skinny dipping, or, as we call it in my family, the chunky dunking. Now, to be technically accurate, I will lead the chunky dunking charge in the daylight, too, if, by “lead the charge” we understand it to mean “find an unpopulated part of the island, strip so fast we break the sound barrier, and jump into mostly opaque water.” …Or if “lead the charge” means you triple dog dared me… after all, I’ve always been highly prone to peer pressure and had very poor judgement. In fact, Greg made me a Venn diagram once to illustrate what I’ll do in any given situation. He called it “practically a bicycle.” So, you know; be careful who you let lead these kinds of charges. WORD TO THE WISE.

WhatBethWouldDo

 

OK – your turn. 5 Quick Questions, friends! What’ve you got??

……….

Open Hand With Glove image credit Ambro via freedigitalimages.net

Dear Parents, Sometimes You Are NOT Crazy

Apr 21 2015

Dear Parents,

I’m going to hit you with some new news here, and it may be shocking, so brace yourselves.

Ready?

Here we go.

Sometimes you are NOT crazy.

Now, I know. I know. Believe me, I know. We parents are crazy most of the time. We are out of our ever-loving minds, in fact. And I’ve written about being crazy here and here and here and here and here, into infinity. We are NUTS, and I’m not denying it. I’m really not.

It’s just that…

Sometimes you are NOT crazy.

Even when your kids look at you like you’ve lost it again. Even when they really sell it with shocked faces and looks of bewilderment and crocodile tears spilling down their sweet rosy cheeks. Even when they look utterly confused by your behavior and choices and the things you are telling them, I just want you to consider… 

Sometimes you are NOT crazy.

Sure, MOST LIKELY you’re totally off your rocker, but — and I need you to really hear me here — MOSTLY LIKELY does not mean Always, friends. It just doesn’t.

For example, hypothetically speaking, let’s say your kid gets jock itch or a yeast infection.

These things happen to the best of us. 

Yes; let’s say your kid gets jock itch or a yeast infection and you hand that kid some appropriate topical medicine with this instruction, “Take this into the bathroom. Apply a small amount to the itchy bits.”

And the kid says, “To my privates?”

And you say, “Yes. To your privates.”

And the kid says, “By myself?”

And you say, “YES, by yourself.”

And the kid says, “Can’t you do it?”

And you say, “No. No. NO.”

You know, because not touching your teenage kid’s private parts seems like a Good Idea. Distinctly NOT crazy, right? Can I get an AMEN here?

But let’s say said kid becomes sad at going to the bathroom by him/herself.

Let’s say said kid asks you again and again to apply it, instead.

Let’s say YOU’RE NOT CRAZY so you say no repeatedly. Also HELL, NO a lot of times in your brain but not out loud because you don’t want your kid to feel bad and you once made the mistake of telling your kid he or she could ask you anything — anything at all — and it feels like the wrong time to explain that you didn’t actually mean it. You didn’t fully consider all the questions he or she may ask when you made that ill-advised promise.

So let’s say your kid asks you to apply the medicine to his or her privates and you say NO, and then the kid becomes inconsolable. Desolate. As though he or she truly Cannot Believe you would abandon him or her in an hour of desperate need. As though you have done the equivalent of asking that child to walk across burning coals. As though you have done the equivalent of asking that child to walk across burning coals and slide down razor blades into a lake of boiling oil.

Such is this child’s misery.

Well, let me just say, hypothetically again, YOU MAY BEGIN TO QUESTION YOURSELF at this point. You may wonder if you’re getting this one wrong. If your child is very, very, very gifted at this kind of thing, like my friend Meghan’s daughter (about whom Meghan writes, “I’ve never known anyone who could turn things around on me so fast. She could punch me in the face, and I’d end up feeling guilty for making her “feel like a bad person” when I said “ow”), YOU MAY START TO BELIEVE YOUR CHILD HAS A POINT, and you may actually consider acquiescing to his or her demands.

Well, here’s a word of advice: STOP IT. 

Consider — against overwhelming cumulative past evidence, perhaps — consider the idea that SOMETIMES YOU ARE NOT CRAZY, and sometimes the child does NOT have a point, and ALWAYS it’s OK not to apply jock itch/yeast infection medicine to your adolescent child yourself

OK?

OK.

I’m glad we had this little chat.

In conclusion, sometimes you are NOT crazy, and also I had a very weird day.

Sincerely yours,

Signature

 

At First I Thought Japan Was Against Having Clean Balls. Now I Don’t Know What to Think.

Apr 20 2015

Abby and I traveled safely to and from Japan, despite flinging ourselves across the Pacific Ocean – TWICE – in a tin can suspended 30,000 feet above the Earth, which feels a lot like a miracle.

Abby and I LOVED Japan. We did. We had a blast doing all the Usual Tourist Things.

We went to the Fish Market on a bicycle tour.

IMG_3276

We did yoga in the rain. 

IMG_3109

We did identical dance poses. 

IMG_3094(I’m the one on the right.)

It all worked out really well because the Japanese are into conformity and not making public spectacles out of themselves, so we fit in perfectly.

But our very best thing — the thing at which we excelled greatly — was Going Potty.

In fact, we liked going potty so much, we went every day while we were in Japan. Sometimes more than once.

Going Potty is, of course, the Very Best Tourist Thing of All because pottying teaches us a lot about other cultures and adaptation and, well, it can’t be avoided, so it’s really the place where we MUST assimilate, you know? It’s the place we wholeheartedly strive to become quickly proficient. After all, no one wants to return from an international trip and say, “Yeah. Japan was good, but you know what I never got the hang of? Relieving myself.” 

We learned A LOT about Japanese culture from the potties.

For example, Japan is a very technologically advanced culture, and their potties reflect that.

We’ve been introduced to warm potties and gadgety potties and potties that sense your weight before warming the water for the built-in bidet.

FullSizeRender

 And speaking of bidets, there are OPTIONS for those, folks.

FullSizeRender (1)

 Of course, you’ve got your usual bottom-washing bidet (which is what “shower” means, FYI (you only make that mistake once)), and, for the ladies, a special lady-bits bidet.

FullSizeRender (1)

 A whole separate bidet for lady parts!

FullSizeRender (2)

 It made me happy to see it, I’ve gotta say, until I started wondering where the bidet is for the boy bits.

I mean, sure; boys can wash their bottoms like the girls, but say they want to clean their boy parts. They’re out of luck. There’s no bidet for those. NONE. NO boy-washing options at all, which, given the number of other options available seems like either a gross oversight or… and I hate to go here, but I feel I must… deliberate. 

I mean, in a culture that is rampantly detail-oriented and extremely precise, I can’t imagine they simply forgot the boys.

In conclusion, I’m not sure why Japan is against men washing their balls, but the evidence is pretty conclusive.

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Given the anti-balls potties all over Tokyo, I figured Japan must be very discriminatory when it comes to gender, but then I saw this bathroom sign…

 FullSizeRender

…which doesn’t split up potty-users by gender at all, instead dividing toilet-goers by People Who Are Shaped Like Bells and People Who Are Shaped Like Suitcases, which, on the one hand feels very progressive, allowing any gender to use either water closet, but on the other hand feels pretty judgmental. “HEY, YOU! YOU RESEMBLE LUGGAGE. GET OUT OF THE BELL RESTROOM, STAT.”

Now I don’t know what to think. 

P.P.S. I know, like all Americans, I’m particularly gifted at correctly interpreting other cultures and not seeing them through the lens of my own bias, but if you have any other interpretations to share, I’m willing to hear you out. 

P.P.P.S. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t fit in well with other Christian bloggers. Then I write about whether Japan does or does not support clean balls, and I don’t wonder as much anymore. #LifeIsAMystery #AndThenItIsnt 

Proof America No Longer Leads the World in Innovation

Apr 19 2015

Dear America,

This is a Spaghetti Sandwich.

IMG_2943

It’s an enriched, bleached, white wheat roll stuffed with spaghetti noodles and red sauce; simple carbohydrates wrapped in simple carbohydrates, and, I think we can all agree, nutritionally deficient GENIUS. 

GENIUS, I tell you.

You would think this kind of innovation came from America.

It’s our legacy.

It’s in our collective blood.

Crap food + crap food. Like deep fried Oreos. And Every Single Thing at the Cheesecake Factory. Delectable. Deadly. Delicious.

Yes, you would think this kind of innovation came from America, but you would be wrong.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Spaghetti Sandwich is a product of Japan.

JAPAN.

Land of electronic wizardry and bullet trains. 

Land where 90% of the population belongs to the middle class.

Land of prosperity.

Listen; I don’t want to be an alarmist here, folks, but when Japan is not only leading the world in technological advances and economic success — when Japan is taking over the world of delectable anti-nutrition — we ought to wake up from our Doritos- and Twinkies-induced stupors and take notice. THIS IS OUR TERRITORY, America! Our domain! And Japan is STEALING it from us. 

First, we let the Canadians invent poutine right under our noses, AND NOW THIS. 

COME ON, AMERICA. 

We can do better. We can BE better.

Ethnocentricly Yours, 

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Lest I leave you on a sour note, let me also say All Is Not Lost. Not yet, friends. Via Starbucks, an American original, we are infiltrating the Japanese sandwich empire with inventions of our own…

IMG_3268

…like the Banana and Bacon Sandwich. Granted, bananas are full of potassium, and fail to turn immediately to fat in our bodies like spaghetti and white bread, but we’re on the right track by adding bacon. We have a long way to go, I’ll grant you, but, led by Starbucks, we have not totally conceded the fight. 

In other words, Carry On, Warriors. Carry on.