Friends, it’s time I confessed. My husband and I have a
little problem. I could argue that it’s his problem and I’m just the enabler,
but you could argue other way around too. The truth is we are both addicted. We
have a problem with West Wing.
It started as simple escapism, a coping mechanism for
getting through the Bush years. Leading up to 2004 the series at least gave us
hope that an alternative to the Current Occupant could exist, that our flag
would still wave beyond these dark times. We’re not big TV watchers, so it was
easy to excuse the obsession with coming home on time Wednesday nights, and
later Sundays, to see the latest installment. It connected us to our friends
and to pop culture, of which we get precious little.
But now, I fear our little addiction has lost its social
acceptability. We haven’t just watched the series once. We bought all the DVD’s.
And we’ve watched them all – more than once. On any given evening as night
falls and the kids are finally in bed, you are likely to find us huddling on the
couch, self-medicating with the wit of CJ, the loyalty of Charlie, the gruff passion
of Toby. (We almost named Johannes Tobias instead. . . I’m glad we didn’t).
Does anyone know a way out of this little problem? I know
admitting it is the first step. . .
Today is one of those odd feast days no one remembers. I do tend to think of it because a) I have a godson named Michael and b) when our office manager Michael retired last year, we re-named the work room in his honor, complete with an icon. Lord knows we need a few angels around the copier.
My interest in this day is more about why it falls now. The other quarter days -- and even cross-quarter days -- have some connection to the Christian calendar, but fall equinox doesn't get a lot of attention. I haven't found any details on why this feast falls when it does, but I do wonder whether the failing light makes us more mindful of the need of more protection. I've noticed how heavy the shadows are lately -- in some ways longer now than they will be in November, when the leaves will be down.
We've been more aware of the darkness at our house this week because a neighbor two houses down had a break-in this week. At 4 a.m. someone entered the house, took computers and cameras, all the time seeming to know where to look and how not to wake anyone. Creepy. I can rationalize that their house is newer and bigger and a more obvious "target" than ours, but that's just defenses at work.
I love the Book of Days comment that in many cities this was the day for electing magistrates. .. if what you need is a local protector, a good mayor is angelic indeed.
It was one of those mornings I was thinking, "Why do I do this to myself?" I'd been at church into the evening the night before, so when my son awoke he seemed a little surprised to see me (guilt, guilt). My husband is out of town, so morning breakfast/ changing/ washing up/ packing up/ lunch making was all on my own. I saw #1 to the bus and then packed up #2 to preschool, writing out a check at the last minute for school pictures, which happened to be today. I rushed into the office to download directions to the meeting I had in 20 minutes, 20 minutes away. And I knew that that was it for the morning's work. By the time I was done, it would be nearly time to pick up my son again. Ack! Why do I do this?
The meeting was with a staff member of our soon-to-be-retiring Congressman Jim Ramstad, to urge him to take stronger leadership on climate change measures. I was one of two pastors, along with two mayors and several state legislators. They were strong, positive, articulate company, all taking time out from equally busy lives because this matters so, so much.
I told her now is the time. This is a moral issue that dwarfs all the others because in 50 years my children may be asking, "Why didn't they do something before it's too late?" It's a theft from our children to go on living as if carbon emissions don't matter.
That's why I do this to myself. It's good to be reminded every now and then.
I can be cranky when it comes to apparently mundane comments on the weather. People who whine too much about winter get no sympathy from me. It is Minnesota, after all. If you hate it that much, why not move south? I spent my first 18 years in northern California, and while I have no complaints, I do actually prefer the four seasons we get here.
Yesterday gave me a little window, however, into the wistfulness some people feel at summer's end. Me, I'm usually bounding out the door with renewed energy and singing "O Canada!" when it's finally jacket weather again. And if it's 80 in October, you will NOT find me going on about how lovely it is. 80 in October in Minnesota is just wrong.
But yesterday it was officially fall, and it was in the 80's, and I was OK with it. Really. We went for a family bike ride on our train -- the tandem, followed by the trail-a-bike, followed by the Burley. The kids were perfectly cheerful, singing the whole 20 miles to Izzy's Ice Cream, the establishment in St. Paul that got me through my first pregnancy. On the way home we began to run out of steam and stopped on Lake Calhoun for fish and chips at The Tin Fish. Three guys were playing some sort of experimental minimalist jazz, the tables were full of kids, there were ducks and dogs everywhere, and the sun was going down at its appointed equinox hour. It was a perfect evening, and I felt that combination of wistfulness and contentment that watching small children brings when they are well-behaved. I didn't want it to end, and I knew it would. We wouldn't have done that in 50 degrees. . . OK, I get it.
I've mentioned Brain,Child here before, my favorite publication about mothering that doesn't tell you ten ways to get your kids to eat zucchini. It's filled with good writing and lots of good thinking about the stuff no one can reduce to a bullet-pointed list. It also makes me feel better when I feel overwhelmed, because a lot of the writers are dealing with parenting dilemmas bigger than mine. And they usually do so with a better sense of humor than I can muster on my worse days.
Take this month's article by Elizabeth De Vos about visiting a Kindermusik class. She asks some of the same questions I do before signing up for anything, but then she goes further. . . much further. Turns out she lives with OCD (literally, I'm not being snarky), so watching a plastic shaker go unsanitized really does bring up issues for her.
My favorite quote of late has been, "Be kind, because everyone you know is fighting a great battle." I know this from ministry, but it's easy to forget it in the day-to-day interactions of parenting. You watch someone else parent and either judge them or yourself harshly, depending on whether you think you're doing better or worse. But the reality is we can hardly ever know just what kind of practical, relational, and emotional difficulties other people deal with. I am fortunate to be able to work less than full-time, raise my kids, and maintain some semblance of a marriage. But we are slobs -- no really, we are. If I had higher housekeeping standards, or if, God forbid, my mind wouldn't let me relax a little about all the dust bunnies and germ-laden stuff my children encounter, I'd have to quit my job (or my spouse would). I sometimes feel bad about my "shortcomings,"but in the end I am grateful that I can choose my own priorities and not be a slave to economic, emotional or medical realities that limit the choices of others.