Category Archives: Don’t Make Me Come Down There

Tantrums and tirades

Kindness Is Free

Ordinarily at this time of year I throw a fit about Thanksgiving Day shopping. It probably won’t come as an overwhelming surprise to you that I’m not a fan–it takes all my concentration to deal with the concept of Black Friday (I’m down with the sales, but think 4:00 AM is too early to be doing anything and people getting into fistfights over a television is exactly what’s wrong with the world today), but starting the Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself is just beyond the pale. It is one day–one day–when the idea is to spend time with people you love, expressing gratitude for the things you already have. And apparently that’s too much somehow; apparently being grateful is just a thing to check off the list on our way to our next bout of relentless consumer frenzy.

I digress.

I usually throw a fit around this time of year about the whole Thanksgiving Day Shopstravaganza, encouraging people to opt out and stay home and remember that 10% off towels is no excuse for taking people away from their own families to come open a cash register for you. And every year I get howled down by the legions of dedicated Turkey Day Shoppers–interesting how this phenomenon has only been happening for a few years, and already there are people who cannot bear the thought of going without the opportunity to carb-load then grab a shopping cart–so this year I’m giving up. I surrender. Behold my white flag.

Instead I’ll say just this: if you’re going to shop on Thanksgiving Day (the advice applies to Black Friday shoppers, too), please be unbelievably kind.

Not like “say thank you to the cashier” kindness, or “minimize the number of people you kick in the face over a Lego set” kindness. No, we’re talking about “go out of your way to be the nicest person in the history of niceness”-level behavior here. Be so kind that you become a legend among the store employees who interact with you. Be so incredibly, spectacularly, overwhelmingly, relentlessly, unfailingly kind that everyone around you gets a little kinder just by association.

Here’s the thing:

A frequent argument for Why It Is Our Civic Duty to Shop on a Federal Holiday is that some store workers are getting paid overtime for working that day, so they sign up voluntarily to work for the extra pay. Even overlooking the fact that it’s a little sad that we live in a first-world nation where there are still people struggling so hard that they will surrender holiday time with their families for a few extra bucks, there’s also the fact that many companies have a rule that for every X employees who are working, there must be Y number of management on-site as well. There must be Z number of janitorial staff, or maintenance crew, etc. There must be W number of folks at the customer service desk, or the customer support call center. I can guarantee you with 99.999% certainty that not all of them are there voluntarily–somewhere in that chain is a person who is only there because corporate policy requires it and their choices are either to show up or to lose their job right in the middle of the holiday season. So since you have, in your undeniable need to save 30% on linens, forced someone to give up time with their family so you can come pick out new pillowcases, then the absolute least you can do is be supremely pleasant.

And in addition to the employees you’ll meet, the fact that you exist in the world and are out and about means that emergency personnel must be on duty. Someone has to be there to resuscitate your slap-happy self when you get all loopy on your DEALS DEALS DEALS and wrap your car around a parking meter. Someone has to hose down the toy aisle when you find the PERFECT GIFT OMG NOW THEY WILL FINALLY LOVE ME and spontaneously combust in the middle of the Barbie section. Someone has to come break it up when you get into a full-tilt West Side Story-style rumble in the parking lot over who gets the space closest to the door. So since all of those people also have to be away from their families to come save you from yourself, the absolute least you can do is be conscientious of that and behave accordingly.

And remember, we’re not just talking about throwing people the barest crumb of human politeness here. We’re not going to stop at doing the obligatory mumbled “thank you” or “happy whateverdays”. No, we’re going out of our dang minds with graciousness.

For example:

You can park at the whee lordy end of the parking lot and hike. It’s good for your health, and completely eliminates the parking lot rage aspect of your day; plus it lets someone else get a really good spot, which means they’re in a slightly better mood going in.

You can wipe down the sink in the restroom after you wash your hands. You don’t have to steal a bottle of Lysol from housewares and scrub the place down, but we all know how irritating it can be to have no place to set your purse because the counters all look like they’ve just emerged from the bottom of the sea. Take two seconds and give ’em a little dry-off.

You can try generally to avoid your phone, or at least get off your calls as quickly as possible; sure you may need to check a size or something, and we get that, but be done by the time you hit the cash register and for the love of all that’s holy, don’t be the person wandering aimlessly down the middles of the aisles, chatting away about their personal medical history while inexplicably cart-blocking every single thing anyone else in the store could possibly want.

You can observe the people around you, and take little opportunities to do things to make their lives easier. Move your cart if it’s between them and the toy they’re eyeing. Pick up the mitten their toddler gleefully threw down. Offer to let the guy carrying a 10-lb sack of potatoes at Target cut ahead of you in line–he’s probably on a WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T GET POTATOES YOU SOLVE IT OR I WILL MURDER YOU RIGHT NOW mission, and your cart full of stocking stuffers can wait.

Be kind, is what I’m saying, and then be a little kinder. Start being holiday festive now–if you can start your holiday shopping now, you can also start your holiday cheer. Be so full of peace on earth and goodwill to all that it makes people around you stand a little taller. Be the person who is so ludicrously kind and sweet that you leave a trail of kindness behind you wherever you go.

Be the loving, gracious, glorious you that I know you can be, gang. I’d prefer that you not shop at all on Thanksgiving Day, but if you absolutely must, please be so amazing that the stores you visit send you a thank-you note and a personal invitation to come back and shop again next year.

You’re amazing and we both know it; now get out there and show it. Kindness is free, gang. Go fling it around like you’re in a little one-person shopping parade.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Have a Seat at My Table

First a little background information: I used to work in childcare. Specifically, I was the lead teacher in an after-school classroom; my kids ranged from kindergarten to 12 years old, so while they were generally past the “how to function at a survival level” stage (how to eat, use the restroom etc), they were firmly in the middle of the “how to be human” stage. You remember what elementary school was like: half dumping in facts and data, the other half figuring out how to interact without too much bloodshed.

As a result, most of the disciplinary incidents could be resolved with a brief rules reminder or a bit of clarification–“walking feet, please”, or “we keep the cars on the carpet so people walking past don’t trip. Please take that one back onto the rug”. But every once in a while someone would have a super-rough day and need a break; you could call it “time out” if you want, but really the goal was something less punitive and more just removing the kiddo from the situation until they could cool off. The table nearest my supplies cupboard worked best for that–it was farthest from everything else in the room–so when someone was Hulking out, they were instructed to go “have a seat at my table” until I could clean up the calamity, stop any bleeding, console anyone left weeping, and come see what had set off the shenanigans.

Now here’s why I told you all that: yesterday some truly awful things happened in Paris. You’ve probably heard about them, and folks around the world are responding admirably and beautifully. But as with any truly awful thing, there are also some staggeringly insensitive responses coming from people who should absolutely know better (can you pick your own words to form a sentence? Then you can pick better ones and make better sentences. Try again, jerkfaces).

And initially, this post was going to be a full Buffalo Tantrum about that. I was going to scream and holler about people making racist statements, refusing to fact-check, lumping together groups of people who are literally on exact opposite sides of the problem, and so forth; and my rallying cry was going to be “All of you may have a seat at my table”.

But then I stopped and listened to those words: all of you may have a seat at my table.

And it occurred to me that I was about >this< close to committing the same sins I was railing against–lumping people together, refusing to hear where other people were coming from, declaring that any viewpoint other than my own was automatically wrong–when the truth of the matter is that I actually don’t understand what’s causing folks to say some of these things. At a guess there’s no small amount of fear at the bottom of it; but I don’t know backstories, don’t know histories, don’t know whether they (for example) lost someone on 9/11 and are now deeply scarred and reactionary about these sorts of things.

But perhaps if we have a seat at my table and talk about it, we can sort some of it out. We can brainstorm different solutions. We can look for similarities among the differences. We can pass the cookies and juice, and figure out why we’re using such angry words and whether there’s a better way to express the things we truly need.

Look, I’m not saying all responses are appropriate to share right out there in front of god and everybody. I’m not saying there aren’t people floating around who are just plain racist, just plain hateful, just plain malicious, just plain trolls. But I am saying it’s unfair of me to assume that everyone who has expressed an opinion that made me grate my teeth is automatically a bad person.

So maybe I should invite them to have a seat at my table. Maybe I should be willing to dialogue with people instead of dismissing them out-of-hand because of something they said during a frightened moment. Maybe I can insist on a model where my table is for cooling off and talking, not for sending people to sit in time-out until I’m tired of being mad at them.

And for the folks who have a seat at my table, and we talk, and I find out that they’re the sort of vitriolic hate-mongering fear-mongering jerks who will never be part of the solution?

Well, I guess they can go back to playing with the other kids, and I can keep on watching ’em like a hawk and praying that their grownups will come pick them up soon.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Liar

Depression is a damn dirty liar.

(Oh, by the way, pottymouth warning.)

Depression is a damn dirty lying liar who lies.

I know this about depression. I know that it twists things, distorts them, hides things, takes pictures from the least flattering angle with terrible lighting against a background that makes you look all sallow. I know that it misremembers things on purpose, pulls things out of context, finds details that distract from the truth and fixates on them. I know this. I have fought this battle many times, and I know its tricks.

I know that forgiveness is a key part of a generally happy life, and I practice it as much as possible; but I also know that depression keeps excellent records of the things you have forgiven people for–the things you’re so, so sure you’ve forgiven people for–and trots them back out to hurt you again. It will recite the things the school bullies shouted at you or whispered to you or passed you in a folded-up note or etched into your binder that time they stole it from your locker. It will tell you that if you’re going to argue that having a bunch of friends who all say you’re awesome must mean that you’re awesome (you’re outvoted, after all), then having a bunch of people tell you you’re worthless must be equally true for the same reasons. Even if they’re people whose opinions are usually valueless to you; even if they’re people who have been dismissed from your life because they were never going to be people who helped you be your best self. It will call you every name you’ve ever heard, and invent a few new ones along the way. It will become your new worst friend and your new best enemy.

I know that activity is a way to combat depression, and I try to stay busy; but I also know that depression will sap you of your energy and your motivation to do things. It will remind you of the things you’ve tried and failed at–we can’t all be experts at everything, but it will tell you that you’re particularly good at failing and will flatly refuse to acknowledge any successes you’ve had. Or it will chalk them up to teamwork, or someone else’s help, or dismiss them as a fluke. It will tell you that nobody believes in your ability to succeed at anything, and that they’re completely gobsmacked if, by some unlikely miracle, you accidentally don’t suck at something sometime. It will tell you that any accolades or praise you’ve received have been people’s attempt to encourage you to keep trying, that they come from the exact same place as a parent going batcrap crazy with excitement over a toddler peeing in the potty. It will do everything it can to block you from doing things–anything, any thing–that distract you from its insidious voice.

I know that exercise is a way to combat depression, and I have over the last several months added near-daily exercise to my lifestyle. In this particular instance I am recovering from a Medical Thing That Happened(TM), so exercise is on the “do what you can, and that might not be very much yet” list; but depression will tell you that you’re not doing anywhere near enough, that you should be over it by now, that you’re being a huge wimp and should be pushing yourself more…all while it’s siphoning off what little energy you physically have and suggesting that instead maybe you should in fact just lie there a bit longer, because maybe you’re not up to going for a walk and besides it’s all hot outside and the doctor said to take it easy and to take your time with recovering and ha ha ha you’ll just take any excuse at all to keep being a disgusting lump, won’t you, because that’s all you are and all you’ll ever be. It will tell you that you’re this close to losing everyone and everything you have ever loved because you’re so disgusting, so you may as well settle in with the Doritos and the trash tv and try not to look too surprised when you die alone of a heart attack and nobody notices because everyone has left you.

I know that reaching out to people can help combat depression, and I have somehow managed (despite some social anxiety and self-image drama) to build a circle of beautiful, wonderful friends; but I also know that depression will tell you that you’re being a tremendous inconvenience to them if you try to make contact. It will tell you that they only like you because of what you do for them–that you are at best a convenient and capable assistant who can be replaced by an unpaid intern at a moment’s notice–so if you dare to ask them for anything they will immediately drop you and never look back. It will tell you that when they go out of their way to offer help, they are counting on you never taking them up on that; or that what they are secretly saying is that they want you to emotionally validate them, to congratulate them for being Such Very Nice People(TM) but that they don’t actually want to do anything (remember, you’re the giver here, never the receiver) so you have to put on your happy face and fall all over yourself about how wonderful they are and send them a thank-you note and a fruit basket but never–good god, never even once–actually accept any of the things they’re offering. Not time, not company, not assistance. It will tell you that you must never let them see you cry, then remind you that the Very Nice Doctor called you “stoic” and got all mad at you (in reality, she very kindly suggested that you give yourself time to grieve, but depression lies, remember) when you didn’t fall apart in her office.

It will tell you that you lost the baby because you are a failure at being pregnant, and it will tell you that you may have to have a D&C because the ultrasound found residual tissue in there and unless it sheds itself by next Friday that’ll mean you can’t even miscarry right. You’re a failure at being pregnant and a failure at not being pregnant. And you’re a failure at recovering physically from the miscarriage, and a failure at grieving because you’re not crying all the time and a failure at recovering emotionally because you do cry sometimes, and it’s only been a week but you should be over it by now except that you’re a failure there too because you shouldn’t be over it by now and what kind of monster would even think about being over it after only seven days; and you’re a failure at activating your support network and a failure as a wife and let’s not even get started on the state of this house, shall we, but if anyone even hints that they’d be glad to come help you will seriously consider moving to a cave in the mountains because of the shame–the SHAME, I say–of letting anyone see you as anything other than perfectly composed and capable at all times.

Depression is a goddamned dirty lying liar who lies, and it is an abusive douchecanoe who cannot be trusted, and it is a jerk with no soul and it is everything that is wrong and everything it says is wrong (even when it sounds really reasonable) and it will lie out of its lying mouth and it is a stupidhead and its face is stupid and it really, really sucks.

…And knowing all of that doesn’t fix it, so today I am coloring in my coloring book and I am petting the dogs and I am breathing, just breathing, and waiting for it to pass. It will pass. It always passes.

Dammit.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings

Buffalo Tantrum: Imma Let You Finish

Ok, look.

Last week SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality (if you hadn’t heard that yet, spoiler alert: last week SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality. Also, I’m sorry you’ve been entirely cut off from the news recently), and I. Am. Miffed.

Not about the marriage equality itself–I was actually one of the folks who got all sniffly when the news came down, who fought off the urge to send congratulatory messages to everyone I knew whom this would personally impact. I danced around the house. I changed my Facebook profile picture to the one with Moon Man and me grinning like fools with George Takei (yep, the George Takei. There aren’t a lot of people I’ll pay money to meet, but he was/is absolutely one of them, and those were dollars well spent). I had fun conversations with people about Where We Were When History Was Made, and how excited we are that our kids will someday say to us, “Mom? Were you really alive when gay people couldn’t get married?” and we’ll say “Yes, honey, I was, and I was so proud on the day when that changed”. I was elated, because by god, love wins.

And since going to social media about these things is what we do nowadays, I went to social media to celebrate with the rest of the world. People changed their profile pictures to have a rainbow overlaid on ’em. People used hashtags in excited ways. People posted videos and articles and links. People were thrilled, and rightfully so.

But then there were the outliers. Not the ones who were opposed to marriage equality: I actually don’t have a beef with them, because we’re allowed to disagree. I prefer it when the discourse stays civil and respectful, but I get it that some emotions were running high that day and people are allowed to express opinions. This was a ruling that hurt some people’s hearts, and I get that. That’s ok. Play nicely and share the toys, and y’all can disagree all you want.

No, the people on my short list right now–and the reason I’ve finally come back to blogging after just ages and ages–are the ones whose response was various shades of “Wow, marriage equality is a thing! That’s great, but here are all these other problems that still exist. Should we really be celebrating this thing when there are still issues to solve?”

*blink blink*

YOU’RE DARN TOOTIN’ WE SHOULD BE CELEBRATING THIS THING.

Here’s the thing, kids: yes, there are still problems to solve. Racism is still a thing. Gender issues are still a thing. Climate change is still a thing. I live in Brownbackistan; so my life is a more-or-less constant state of mild disgust. There are still kids who don’t know when their next meal will be, models are still getting Photoshopped into physically impossible shapes, the wage gap is real, and people are still eating shark fin soup.

But on this one day, an amazing, historic thing happened. On this one day we declared that love is love regardless of the swimsuit areas of the people involved. On this day we made progress–yes, progress that will still need work so it actually functions, but progress of any sort.

And some of y’all want to ignore that because your pet topic wasn’t the one that got the momentum?

Let me put this differently: all y’all who did the “yay marriage equality but OMG WHAT ABOUT THIS OTHER THING” posts are like that parent whose kid has been flunking all their classes for the last two years, is this close to getting thrown out of school, who got a tutor and worked his tuckus off all semester long and quit hanging out with his friends and gave away his Xbox and finally–finally–got his math grade up to a C and brought home his report card all glowing and happy and you said “well, that’s better, but you’re still only getting a D in chemistry and let’s not even get started on this English grade”.

You’re the kid whose parents scrimped and saved and worked overtime to get you the iPhone for Christmas, and you threw it across the room because it wasn’t the color you wanted.

You’re Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech.

Look, I’m not saying that you’re not allowed to have things that you care about. Please do; and in many cases, that’s a big part of why I love you.

But what I am saying is that people stop inviting you to their birthday parties when you’re the guest who comes, looks around, and declares that the party is fine and all, but your own birthday is coming up so maybe people should be starting to shop for your present instead of spending quite so much time on today’s birthday girl.

Why can’t we just have today, is what I’m getting at. Why can’t we celebrate a big, joyous, important moment? These other issues will still be there tomorrow. And no, I’m not trying to say your Issues Of Choice should be swept under the rug; I’m saying that the new baby doesn’t mean we love you any less. I’m saying you’re allowed to be happy when something good happens, full stop, and that you can go back to your righteous indignation tomorrow.

I’m saying that a lot of folks had waited a very long time for their relationships to become legally recognized, and some of y’all came to the party and Kanye-d all over their wedding toasts.

So if you’re one of those folks, I reckon this would be a good time to go sit in a chair someplace and think about your life choices. It’s Monday now and the marriage equality news is no longer quite so immediate, so by all means, go back to Fighting the Good Fight for whatever you’re fighting for, and I’ll go back to supporting you in your endeavors…but first, maybe you’ve got an apology or two to offer, for spitting in the rainbow punch because somebody else was being the center of attention at their own party.

Just don’t be surprised if you’re not invited to the party at all next time.

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Not My Croissants

Ok, I have to confess something here, and I’ll totally, totally understand if you come after me with pitchforks for it: I’ve been holding out on you guys. I have been selfish and un-sharing, and I’ll turn in my Commie ring if I need to. I get it. Mea culpa.

See, there’s this blogger whom I ran across a while back. And by “ran across” I mean “with whom I survived Introduction to Practical Self-Loathing and Applied Fat-Shaming 101, aka high school gym class”, and by “a while back” I mean “approximately 1994”. We’ve drifted through each other’s orbits every so often since then, and since I’d recently decided that what I needed to do was take up bellydance (this is also a thing that drifts through my orbit every so often, so don’t start marking your calendars for my grand dance debut anytime soon or anything like that) and I was given to understand that she had also done bellydance and perhaps would have some Helpful Resources for People Looking to Shimmy Their Jiggly Bits, I did a bit o’ googlin’. And found her bellydance videos (she’s got two of ’em! SCORE), but also found her vlogs.

Which I have been watching for like the last three days straight.

And not telling you about, until now.

/hangs head in shame, sends self to corner forever

But here’s the thing, y’all: I found this video of hers today, and … well, look, just watch it, ok?

/blinkblink

/notices hand is numb, looks at it, realizes it’s been raised to Jeebux for the last 5 minutes

/notices tongue is dry, realizes jaw has been hanging open for the last 3 minutes

For those of you who couldn’t watch it right now for whatever reason, here’s the jist: Krista was eating her breakfast and noticed her husband’s savings-club-sized box of croissants on the table. Without really paying much attention, she opened it and started eating from it…then realized that these were her husband’s  croissants. They weren’t her croissants–she didn’t pick them out–and she didn’t even particularly want one. But they were there, so she was absentmindedly eating them, because that’s what you do when there’s a Tasty Foodstuff(TM) right there in front of you. And it hit her that she was participating unconsciously in someone else’s habit–that she was letting her day’s diet include a choice someone else had made–and that maybe she didn’t need to do that. Maybe she could just, y’know, not eat her husband’s croissants.

/goes fully Shug Avery walkin’ to her Daddy’s church and singin’ “Maybe God Is Trying to Tell You Something”

Here’s the thing, y’all: how many times (lord, lord) have I eaten someone else’s croissants? How many times have I let someone else’s choices become part of my day without it ever occurring to me that I had full control over whether I wanted to be part of them? How many times (glory, hallelujah) have I let old versions of my own self determine what I would do today (you better preach, sister)?!

I get antsy sitting at stoplights, because I used to have a car that in its final days would just, y’know, up and die sometimes. Particularly at stoplights. And since my then-fiance had failed to pay the bills for several months, taken all the money I’d given him for said bills and spent it on god knows what, then run off with a 19-year-old voice major, I couldn’t afford to do anything about it. Eventually the car completely died for real, and we sent it off for scrap and I was on foot until I could (with my parents’ assistance) get another cheap beater lined up. Stoplights made me nervous because if the car died there, there wasn’t a dang thing I could do except push it to the side of the road and pray that it started again. But now my husband has a good job, and I have a good job, and we both got raises within the last 6 months and have roadside assistance and reliable vehicles. If the car dies at a stoplight, we can afford to get help. But somehow I’m still antsy about them because I useta couldn’t afford to fix the car 10 years ago? A decade later and I’m still eating the same old croissant?

My father was a smoker. There were always cigarettes in our house. When I became an adult, I started smoking, because smoking was a thing adults did. To be fair, there’s an element of addiction here…but at the core, 18 years later I am still smoking my father’s cigarettes (fewer now than before–I’m babystepping to being nicotine-free). 18 years of eating the same smoky croissant? Really??

Doctors scare the bejeezus out of me–not because of the sticky-poky-pinchy part, but because of the judgey-shamey-belittling part. I got the Your Problems Would Go Away If You Just Lost the Weight lecture when I was being seen for a broken finger. I got the “you are clearly exaggerating for the sake of drama” response when I was underreporting how spectacularly bad my menstrual cycles could be. I threw my back out once, saw a chiropractor, then got a lecture from a General Practitioner about how chiropractic is straight-up quackery and how if I wasn’t going to make my situation better (read: lose the weight immediately, preferably via bariatric surgery) the least I could do is stop making it worse. So I have tended to avoid doctors, because I don’t need to hear again how I’m a horrible person…but I’m not a horrible person. I’m a mighty fine person, and my body is just my body, and if the doctors I’ve seen historically have had epic fat-hatred issues, that’s pretty much their own damn croissant to eat.

So y’know, it occurs to me that maybe I can do something about this. Maybe I can just, y’know, not eat somebody else’s croissants anymore. Maybe I can sit at the stoplight or go see a doctor or leave the cigarettes at the gas station and say “actually, those are somebody else’s croissants, and it is not my place to eat them”. I can say “I don’t even really feel like eating a croissant right now, thanks”. I can say “I am full and do not need this croissant”.

I can just not eat other people’s croissants.

Holy cow. I can not eat other people’s croissants.

Krista Kubie, you’re a genius and I love you. And to those of you who are just finding out about her for the first time, I am so, so sorry. You can pelt me with croissants later if you need to. And I can choose not to eat a single one.

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Buffalo Tantrum: Hobby Lobby

So. Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, saying in effect that a corporation is able to have religious convictions–and that if those religious convictions oppose, for instance, providing birth control as part of their employee benefits package, the company can say “nope” and get out of doing so.

And y’know what? If I were a pastor right about now, I’d be furious.

I think RCRChoice summed it up quite nicely in the following tweet:

Here’s the thing, y’all: when I think of a religious community, or a congregation, or a gang of hooligans who happen to share a faith, or whatever mass noun you want to use here, when I think of this group of people, the first word I–were I a pastor–would not want to think of is “excuse”.

I would not want to think “cop-out”.

I would be hoppin’-up-and-down, spittin’, red-eyed, steam-comin’-out-my-ears mad if people thought “easy way out”.

Building a congregation is work, y’all. It takes time and effort and dedication. You don’t just open a church and people show up and you’re done. There are sermons to write and passages and references to double-check and cross-check and pray about. There are recent events to follow and sort out what your god’s opinion on ’em would be, then figuring out a way to present that to the congregation so that half of them wouldn’t immediately bolt for the door–because you know full well that that opinion isn’t always going to be popular.

There are grieving families to comfort. There are parishioners to visit in the hospital, and prayers to be said over people who are probably not ever going to go home again but it’s absolutely your job to give people a little bit of hope to hold onto. There’s explaining to six-year-olds why we can’t ever see grandpa anymore, and trying to make “he went to live with Jesus” sound like something that’s neither scary nor a punishment. There’s answering questions like “Is it because Jesus is mad at us?” on the fly.

There are communities torn apart by “acts of God” to rebuild. There are sidewalks to be shoveled out when the snow comes in while services are in session and ain’t nobody needs Miss Sophia to break another hip. There are endless repairs to the church building itself that need to be financed–which usually means trying to squeeze more financial blood out of the spirit-is-willing-but-the-checkbook-is-weak flock–and volunteers who won’t actually nail themselves to the window frame this time to line up.

There are wedding ceremonies to write, and baptisms and christenings and confirmations. There’s couples counseling, and if your denomination permits it, divorce counseling. There are funerals to perform, trying your best to hold it together while you say goodbye to the nice fellow who smiled at you from the second pew, third seat from the right, every Sunday morning for the last 25 years.

You work your tail off for these people who have been entrusted to your guidance, is what I’m saying. If your congregation is really nice, you might get some casseroles every now and again, or your lawn mowed, or a card on Pastors’ Day (it’s the second Sunday in October, if you want to drop a hint or two from the pulpit), but for the most part you do it because it’s what you’ve been called to do. It’s your passion, your love, and your mission. It’s the reason you’re on this earth.

So to have that reduced to a bargaining chip? To have it turned into a political ploy so that a company, or perhaps more appropriately, the owners and chief profit-reapers of a company, can make some big statement about who is or is not the boss of them? And to have all that happen with a company who has itself invested in other companies that manufacture the very products they’re suddenly so up-in-arms against?

I. Would. Be. Enraged.

This is not what you work for, y’all. You don’t go out of your way to try to make your congregation an open and inviting place so that some corporation and its supporters can turn around and say “If you don’t like being beaten about the head with our particular brand of religion, you can get out”. You don’t take meals to your housebound members so that your faith can be mockingly compared to a sale on model airplane glue and crochet hooks.

You don’t spend hours praying for a sign–any sign at all–that you’re doing this right just so that your convictions can join menstrual cramps, sick grandmothers, and “I don’t think last night’s sushi agreed with me” on the list of Nebulous and Difficult to Prove Reasons to Get Out of Doing Things One Doesn’t Want to Do.

This is not what you signed up for, gang. Yes, having a sincerely held religious belief occasionally sets you up to be the butt of jokes, and you knew that going in; but having your sincerely held religious belief trotted out as a Get Out of Jail Free card for a company who wants to make some big political point (which appears, for all intents and purposes, to be “we don’t like the ACA and by golly, we are NOT going to participate in it”)? That was never supposed to be part of the deal.

Now look, it’s not up to me to tell you whether you should agree with Hobby Lobby here. If you do, by all means, carry on with your day, and keep on doing the good things that you do–whether I agree with your reasons for doing them are irrelevant, and we can agree to disagree on some points.

All I know is that if I were a pastor today, I would be flipping tables left and right. Jesus chased the moneychangers out of the temple; it’s just a cryin’ shame that they seem to have set up right next door with a sign claiming that they’re still his BFFs.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings

No, You Can’t

Hey, guys? I need you to trust me for a minute here. I’m going to ask you to do something, and I promise it’s going to make sense by the end of this post. Ok? Here goes:

1. Please stop whatever you’re doing and get a piece of masking tape, or a sticky note, or a piece of paper and some clear tape, or whatever you have handy that enables you to make a sign that you can affix to something else. It doesn’t need to be big or fancy, though you’ll be able to make it as ornate as you want in step #3.

2. Grab a pen, or a Sharpie, or a crayon, or whatever writing implement you happen to have nearby. It can be any color you want.

3. On your masking tape/sticky note/etc, please write–in great big, highly visible, as-fancy-as-you-want-them-to-be letters–a single word or short phrase that represents the person, place, or thing that is most critically important to you in the entire world (yes, you can have more than one. I’m not about to ask you to choose between your children). It can be anything you want: a loved one’s name, a concept like “freedom”, a destination like “the lake house”, anything at all–just aim for something that is so important to you that you would punch a charging rhinoceros in the face for it. This is the step where you can decorate your sign if you want to. Be as plain or as fancy as you like; it’s your art project, after all. You’re in charge here.

4. Now take your spiffy new sign to your car. If you’re being a naughty ninja and reading this at work, it’s ok to wait until your next break; but at the very next opportunity, go immediately to your vehicle with your sign in hand. Do not wait until tomorrow. Do it now.

5. Affix your sign to the interior of your car in a super-visible and easily reachable place. Your dashboard will probably work well for this.

Got it? Is your sign in place, or conveniently located so that you can go put it in place at the very next opportunity?

Good. Now here’s how you use it:

The next time you are driving your car and your cell phone rings, I want you to touch that sign you just made and say aloud–right out loud in front of god and everybody– “You are more important to me than this phone call”. Then let the call go to voice mail. If it is important, they will leave a message. If it’s not, your caller ID will let you know who it was. If it really is a call of critical importance, such as the hospital calling to ask you for your medical proxy decision about a loved one, they will understand if you wait until you can pull into a parking lot before calling them back. Heck, if the caller is a decent human being at all they will understand if you wait to pull into a parking lot before calling them back.

Here’s the deal: the other night, Moon Man and I were heading home from having Grand Adventures (usually this means going to dinner, seeing a movie, playing games at a coffeeshop–our sense of adventure is really pretty tame). As we drove down the street, we noticed that the driver ahead of us seemed to be drunk–they were weaving all over the place, having a heckuva time maintaining a consistent speed, etc–and as we passed them during one of their doing-20-in-a-45-zone stints, we noticed that the driver was on her cell phone.

/splodeybrain

Let’s get really honest with ourselves for a moment, gang. We’ve talked about this before, how I think one of the highest forms of respect is prioritizing safety over my text message, and that post got circulated and reposted and people were all “YEAH THIS IS TRUE PREACH ON I AGREE WOOOOO”…but seriously, if you’re really, truly, totally honest in your soul, how many of you actually ignore your phone while you’re driving? How many of you absolutely refuse to respond to your ringtone while you’re behind the wheel? How many of you truly never even peek at the text message?

Google “adults more likely to text and drive” if you’ve got a sec. See those 283 million results? Yeah, they’re pointing to something important: we spend all our time telling our kids and telling each other to hang up the phone, but somehow we’re all so convinced of our own superiority that we don’t think the rules apply to us. We tell ourselves that unlike the 16-year-old, we can totally multitask. We can have a conversation while we drive with no problem. We can absolutely answer one quick, easy text message, because we are grownups and we can handle it.

But you know what? No, you can’t. The lady swerving all over the road demonstrated that. The people in those PSA commercials demonstrate it.

The Mythbusters proved it, guys, that driving while talking on the phone is as dangerous as drunk driving. It didn’t even get a “plausible”–it got a full-on “confirmed”. You know it’s a big deal when the Mythbusters prove it.

So make your sign, and stick it somewhere visible in your car, and the next time you’re tempted to think you are the one and only person on the road who can truly handle being on the phone while you’re behind the wheel, think again. Then touch your sign, get your priorities back in order, and let the call go to voicemail and the text sit unread.

Thank you in advance for enabling me to get safely back to the person whose name on my own sign. I promise I’ll do everything I can to enable you to get back to the person named on yours.

Here's mine. ;)

Here’s mine. 😉

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings