A Theological (Mis)Treatment of Hello, Dolly!

There are at least three things I know to be true: one, this week always sucks for me, no matter how much I think it won’t; and two, I have a very slight obsession with the movie, Hello, Dolly! When I say “very slight,” I really mean it. It isn’t like my obsession with, say, acronyms, Trader Joe’s chocolate yogurt, or good books. But it’s there, nonetheless.

So today on the way to drop Rachel off at pre-school, I was thrilled when she and Aaron both requested to listen to the HD soundtrack. I love the songs, yes, but more importantly, the songs make me happy. This week, I’ll take any form of happiness I can get.

After listening to the first track several times in a row because Aaron demanded it, we moved on to the other tracks. We were singing with gusto, using jazz hands, and largely being dorks in general. As I sang along, I could vividly picture the long-legged, loose-jointed dancing of Barnaby and Cornelius, and I wished I were free to move around rather than stuck behind a wheel.

It was good, it was fun, it was what we do.

But then, as it does every year, the unbridled grief came, right there on Ritchie Highway in front of the gas station that for some reason has statues of cows in front of it.

As I belted out the chorus, “And we won’t go home until we’ve kissed a girl!” it occurred to me with painful alacrity that not all little boys get to grow up and kiss a girl.

And I was suddenly just done and over, dabbing my eyes with the Scruncii I leave in the cup holder in case of wind and hair emergencies. I checked the rearview mirror and, thankfully, the kids were too busy singing and staring at cow statues to notice their mom had just melted into a nauseated puddle of sorrow and mascara.

I somehow managed to drop Rachel off but leave her part of the class project, due today, in the car, as well as talk to several teachers without anyone noticing that the entire world had turned to ash.

On the way home, Aaron blissfully snoozing away in his car seat, the CD played on, and I realized that the HD soundtrack is much more than mere songs: It is, in fact, both a deep theological work as well as an almost perfect representation of a parent’s grieving process. (The two are not exclusive, nor are the “whys” listed here inclusive.)

Dolly, despite her seeming cheer and Subliminal Man-style humor, is a grieving widower. After years spent mourning her husband and helping other people fall in love (she works as a matchmaker, among other things), she wants to move beyond her grief and discover what life has to offer her:

Life without life has no reason or rhyme left
With the rest of them
With the best of them
I wanna’ hold my head up high.
I need a goal again
I need a drive again
I wanna’ feel my heart coming alive again
Before the parade passes by…

This is a turning point for Dolly, and it is only two songs later that she decides she can’t live in daily grief. She does this in “Love is Only Love,” when she sings about finally, years after her loss, looking to fall in love:

If it’s love you’ve found
Your heart won’t hear a sound
And when you hold his hand
You only hold his hand.

The violins are all a bluff
But if you’re really wise
The silence of his eyes
Will tell you
Love is only love
And it’s wonderful enough

And just like that, she has found her hope: Love may be only love, but love is everything. She can love Ephraim (husband one), she can love Horace (soon-to-be husband two). And she can love them both equally, wholly, and passionately, because love is not finite. And if you let it, love will resuscitate and resurrect you into who you are meant to be and allow you to enter into the world of the fully living. Which Dolly does.

The now fully living Dolly walks—no, sashays—in all her glorious finery into Harmonia Gardens (her old stomping grounds), and sings:

Here’s my hat fellas
I’m stayin’ where I’m at, fellas.
I went away from the lights of 14th Street
And into my personal haze,

But now that I’m back in the lights of 14th Street
Tomorrow will be brighter than the good old days

Dolly’s overjoyed and overwhelmed and over par.

Do you hear the ice tinkle?
Can you see the lights twinkle?

I hear it tinkle.
I see them twinkle.

Wow, wow, wow, fellas,’

Dolly’ll never go away again.*

You see, she is living the resurrected life. She is living love. That is a hard thing to do, but once you’ve got it, it is, as Dolly says, the most emphatic of wows.

That doesn’t mean the rest of life will be forest green shutters and late nights by the fire for Dolly or for any of us. It won’t be. Love is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Grief is hard. And no resuscitation, no amount of resurrected living, can take grief away. It can only make it better, bearable; tortured moments fewer and further between.

But as Cornelius sings in what is for a grieving parent the most heartbreaking song on the whole damn album, none of that matters. Because in the end, we have this truth to hold to:

It only takes a moment
For your eyes to meet and then,
Your heart knows in a moment
You will never be alone again. 

I held h[im] for an instant
But my arms felt sure and strong
It only takes a moment
To be loved a whole life long…

And that is all
That love’s about
And we’ll recall when time runs out
That it only took a moment
To be loved a whole life long!

And so this is the third thing I know to be true: He may have only had a moment, but in that moment, Jeremy was loved his whole life long.

* I cut out all the lines that weren’t Dolly’s. (and even cut a few of hers.)
PS – I hope it’s clear that much of this is tongue in cheek. Then again, some of it absolutely is not.

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Why He Should Get Up With the Baby While I Sleep

One of the things I’m most grateful for in the parenting arrangement my husband and I have worked out is that he’s the one who gets up with the baby. There are several reasons for this (such as the fact that I usually can’t fall back asleep for hours), but the primary reason is because I stay home with the kids.

I know this arrangement may seem counterintuitive and maybe even a little unfair: He has to put on dress clothes and uncomfortable shoes and interact with actual human beings all day, whereas I can wear PJs from start to finish while eating lots of chocolate and fatty foods to get myself through until bedtime (yes, yes. I KNOW that’s a bad idea). I can usually put my paid work off until a better day, and things like laundry and dishes are done on a self-imposed deadline. But really, it makes a lot of sense and is more “fair” overall for everyone involved (because let’s be honest: so much of marriage comes down to discussions over what’s “fair” or not. It’s like a never-ending kindergarten battle over who had what toy first.)

Why is it more fair?

Because if the parent who stays home with the kids doesn’t sleep (be it the mom or the dad), multiple family members pay the cost:

  • The kids may get put in front of the TV too much, which will lead to brain rot and keep them from someday joining the ranks of contributing members of society (otherwise known as “Really Useful Engines”);
  • The kids may get disciplined instead of redirected, which will lead to absurdly high therapy bills, both for us and for their future families. Reducing tax-deductible medical costs is good both for our checkbook as well as for the national debt;
  • The kids may get snapped—or even yelled at—for minor, un-snap, un-yell worthy things (see above);
  • Etc.

All that said, there are many reasons to let the work-outside-the-home parent sleep:

  • If s/he is an attorney or judge with a trial the next day;
  • If s/he operates motor vehicles or carnival rides for a living;
  • If s/he works at a daycare;
  • If s/he works at a nuclear power plant or the Pentagon;
  • Etc.

Before you go thinking how lucky I am, I should point out that I often get up at 4am, which is when the little guy wakes up. So oddly, although my husband’s sleep is broken into chunks (a MISERABLE way to sleep), he frequently gets more sleep than me, especially on weekends.

(Ha! Equal points, people, equal points!)

There’s also the option of switching off, which can be a great way to go since it’s “fair” for both parents and reduces (or evens out) score keeping. It tends not to work for us, but, you know, once Andy starts hallucinating, I figure it’s time I step up a bit.

I recently decided to take New Year’s resolutions a bit more seriously than in the past (I mean really? Wait until 1/1/xx to start bettering ones self? Makes no sense to me, but this year I’m giving it a go), and I’m going to try the same with Valentine’s Day. With nine days to go until the big to-do, I’m racking my brain for things I love about my husband (okay, it really isn’t THAT hard). With three kids and lots of marriage under our belts, this list has turned away from things like:

What gorgeous eyes!

He’s best writer I know!

Check out those calves!

To:

He doesn’t mind unloading the dishwasher!

He gets up with the baby!

He likes to run errands!

It’s funny how things change with a bit more of life in the (I’ll-get-to-it-someday) scrapbook. The jury’s still out, but I’m pretty sure I’ll take night wakings and unloaded silverware baskets over gorgeous eyes and a well-turned phrase any day.

On our honeymoon eons ago.

On our honeymoon eons ago.

Mythbusting for Foster Parents

As a community committed to caring for those in need, Christian families looking for ways to reach out and serve often think about foster parenting. Barna Group reports that 31 percent of Christians have seriously considered foster parenting (compared to 11 percent of non-Christians). Strikingly, only 3 percent have actually become foster parents.

Why the discrepancy between those who are interested in the opportunity and those who have actually gone on to serve in this way?

While there are many practical reasons that could prevent people from taking on foster children, negative perceptions of the foster care system—such as front-page stories of social worker neglect and the belief that most foster parents are only in it for the money—loom large in America, including among Christians.

Whether from movies, media, or word-of-mouth, people worry that they will be unable to take on the responsibility of welcoming a child into their home for foster care or will become frustrated with the demands of the system itself. The Dave Thomas Foundation, which advocates for orphan-care in the U.S., cites this negative view as the most common reason people choose not to foster.

As with most things, it helps to know the facts. We are more comfortable and more willing to commit when we are well-educated about a cause. As an attorney and advocate who has spent 14 years working for and volunteering with foster children and their families, I’d like to offer the nearly one-in-three Christians considering becoming foster parents a realistic look at the demands and benefits.

To have the top truths and myths explained and debunked, click here to read the rest of the article on Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics.

A Day Like Any Other

Despite the fact that I have had 364 days to prepare, today still caught me by surprise.

The hours passed, chasing fairy wings, crying over mismatched clothes and sand-filled shoes. Knowingknowingknowing that I should enjoy every bit of the 45 minutes it took to walk 10 feet, remove every “hurry” from my mouth.

The fairy princess waltzed across the grass, owned the world around her, asked to walk up the big stairs by herself.

IHobo Fairy Princess

I thought of the day they’ll all be gone. Because they will.

Jamie and Collin 1996, then 2012

I yearned for a bigger pocket, a bigger purse, a bigger heart to carry them in.

2012 Christmas Eve Twas the Night Before Christmas

I shattered when the little one patted my hair, my face. Placed sticky fingers against my cheeks, hugged me with spit-up covered arms.

Shattered again at bad news from my oldest, and again when listening to Oklahoma funeral plans.

Put myself back together with shoestrings and Silly-Putty when the fairy princess belted out the blessing for the entire restaurant to hear:

God is great.
God is good.

A ketchup-covered french fry halfway to her mouth

Let us thank Him
For our food.

So be it.

Why this almost-35-year-old mama doesn’t mind wearing beige.

There’s a car commercial that has several women—all of whom are roughly my age and presumably mamas—pulling out of the driveways of their identical suburban homes, getting into identical beige cars, and generally acting like Stepford wives, although they most likely have professional jobs they go to Monday through Thursday, with a work-at-home day on Fridays. The voiceover says something along the lines of “everyone says you need a beige car now to fit your beige life. Break out of the beige and go bold!” (totally paraphrasing here). Then some woman breaks free from beige and shoots down the freeway in a bright red car. The commercial cuts off just before she gets a speeding ticket and a visit from CPS for child endangerment.

While I don’t have a beige car (but want one!), the outside of my house is beige. The inside of my house is beige. (Well, at least the remodeled parts. The yet-to-be redone parts are a shade of grayish-yellow that can’t be found on even the most inclusive color wheel.) Today I am wearing a beige shirt under a beige sweater, and I would have switched to a beige purse but I was running late, and does the woman at the DMV really care if I’m color coordinated?

My baby’s highchair is beige, as is his crib set, as is my kitchen granite, as is my kitchen tile. Someday we will redo our bathrooms in slate grey, another lovely neutral.

Much to my teenager’s surprise, my favorite color is no longer red, but is instead sage green (but red is a close second, mainly because I wish it were Christmas year-round).

So what’s with all the boring neutrals when everything in my life used to be fiery shades of red and bold swaths of black and animal prints? Why do 30-something-year-old mamas have a reputation for being so “beige?”

That’s easy: we must be beige to maintain our sanity.

When you have to hit the ground running at 5:45am after sleeping roughly 4 hours for the 10th night in a row (and no alcohol was involved on any of those nights), and your day is mired in total chaos by 7am, who wants the mental stimulation of zebra pillows and leopard print blankets? Or even a red car? The brain can only take so much. Of course, the number of kids one has probably influences this, as does ones natural resiliency; perhaps I’m just not that resilient.

But let me tell you, my kiddos don’t stress me that much. I mean they DO stress me, no doubt about that. But not as much as they could, based on what other people tell me. Why? Because when you live in a crazy house it’s smart to crazy-proof yourself, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

That may sound like an exaggeration, but trust me: it isn’t.

Punk music? Nope.

Bright colors? Nope.

Emotion-laden movies? Nope.

Fist-pumping Irish anthem rock? Well, sometimes.

This is called self-preservation, not boredom.

It’s also why I had the following text conversation with a friend the other day:

ME: “Who is this booby $ person?” (referencing my friend’s recent FB post)

HER: “Huh?”

ME: “You know, this person whose breasts write her songs for her.”

HER: “Kesha!?? Tik tok?!? Oh boy.”

ME: “Hey, you have 3 kids [she has 1] and a husband who isn’t a DJ [hers is] and then see how cool you are!”

HER: “Awww. Where is C going to college?”

[momentary digression]

ME: “You still haven’t enlightened me.”

HER: “About Kesha?”

ME: “Yes.”

(She sends me a Google link, which is not helpful at all, because although I’m too busy to keep up with pop culture, I can certainly use a computer. When I looked her up, I found her debut album was released in 2009, the year Rachel was born. Case closed. Also in my defense is that I strongly dislike the majority of pop music).

ME: “Yesterday I was going somewhere and my husband told me I looked nice. I said, ‘No, I don’t. I look like a 34-year-old mom.’ And you know what? I did.”

She said nice things to make me feel better, then we went on to have a discussion about Capri pants, which she was also wearing. That made me feel somewhat better because my friend is still cool. (Did I mention she only has ONE child?)

The next day I went somewhere where many 30-something-year-old mamas were present. I started to count the number of women wearing Capris, but then I ran out of fingers.

But seriously, I am not apologetic. I am okay with being beige (and no, this blog post does not prove otherwise). You know that poem that tells old, empty-nest women it’s okay to wear purple? I’m here to say that, until your own nest is empty, it’s okay to wear beige.

PS – about 5 minutes after writing this, I realized this post may sound dismissive of the hard work parents of 1 do. I definitely do not mean to do that! Having 1 kiddo is terribly hard, so if you’ve got only 1, please feel free to go beige! (aren’t you so glad to have my permission? ;)) For me, personally, 1 was hard but not as hard as 3, but some people say the more you have the easier it gets! So I guess it all just depends (like most of life.)

No, this isn't beige, but in case there was any question: I was speaking more metaphorically than literally. Mostly.

No, this isn’t beige, but it is neutral. Also, in case there was any question: I was speaking more metaphorically than literally. Mostly.

Pretense

Leaving leaning in aside for the moment, a poem.

Pretense

His brother died, pillow-faced and lacking.

Same as: my lungs, veins blue
and mapping.

          La muerta, I told you in the back, smoking,
          kerosene on our fingers.
          In your stuttered English
          you thought my Spanish wrong.

 La muerta, I whispered again.
                        (Your flirtation ended after that.)

Her son, too.
Instead of pleasantries we exchanged

purple-faced stiffness,
white-faced rigor. Cold

disbelief.

Days-old for her,

                                                               eight months on my side

of the table mocking separation.

When first asked

I will be honest:

                   No, he’s not my first.

Later, I will dodge,
bob and weave around it.

Later,
now,
I turn to ‘yes’:
my first,
            my only,

my favorite.