January 18, 2010

Faith by living...

No, I didn't just get the song lyrics backwards.

But for the last several days, I've had the beginnings of a serious thought nagging at the back of my mind. I don't like that... it makes me feel more intellectual than I am comfortable with thinking of myself as. So I was thinking I might start writing about it here and hopefully it will either become a more coherent thought or go away and leave me alone.

Over the last week or so, I've been thinking a lot about fath... specifically faith in God. I've heard a lot of people discussing how much faith they do or don't have, faith they got from their parents, faith they found for themselves later in life, increasing faith, diminishing faith... all over the spectrum.

Inherited faith concerns me. Yes, I know a lot of people say they learned their faith from their parents, and I guess it's great if you can do it that way. But at some point it has to become your own faith and not your parents' faith, or it won't stay with you. I know in my own personal case what I had up until I was about 25 was "my parents' faith", and right around February of '08 it just wasn't enough anymore and for a couple of months I had "no faith". That caused me to have to ask myself a lot of difficult questions... what did I believe in? I know the song is about "living by faith", but that only works if you have faith to begin with. After a lot of soul-searching, reading and experimentation with a couple of other things I came to the conclusion that the faith handed to me by my parents was the right one after all, but I just had to make it mine somehow, not theirs.

My faith may not look the same as your faith or even my parents' faith, but I don't think it's any less correct. Some of you may remember back in the days of my old MySpace blog I had a little mind-dump one day about my idea of God. For those of you who missed it, I don't think of God as the bearded, gray-haired, grandfatherly figure that you always see him portrayed as when people bother to try to draw him. I don't see God as that stern, unibrowed figure who peers down at us from the heavens shaking his finger at us and saying, "Don't you dare do that!"

Nope... my vision of God is a bit different. I see God more as kind of a middle-aged suburban dad (usually I picture him in a t-shirt, jeans and sunglasses), standing out in the backyard watching his kids play and invariably get into trouble and shaking his head and saying with infinite love and patience, "What on earth am I going to do with you kids? Didn't I already warn you that was going to hurt if you tried it?" But God, in his infinite wisdom, realizes that we learn better from making our own mistakes and thus has given us the freedom to make them rather than just chaining us to the wall so that we behave ourselves. (Though I'm sure God, like most parents, occasionally wishes tying the kids to a chair with duct tape were an option.)

But once I had established that I still believed there was a God and he had a certain way he preferred things done, there was the challenge of doing it. At that point, I was at one of the lower lows (though not the lowest low) of my adult life... I had just gotten divorced, I was living in a falling-apart house with no heat, I had no money, and those were just the obvious issues. So I decided to try an experiment... I picked a minor problem in my life and said, "Okay God... I'm going to do as much as I can to take care of this problem, and I'm going to give the rest of it to you to handle." And in my mind, God said okay. And nobody was more shocked than me when things started changing. So I found another larger problem and said, "Same deal, God... can you handle this one?" I was pretty sure he said he thought it would be cake, and of course he would think that, being God and all. But sure enough, that problem started getting better too.

Over the nearly two years since then, I have been acquiring more faith by living... not living by faith so much. Faith by living. Faith by seeing what God can do with my broken life when I decide to let go and entrust him with the pieces. Faith by seeing my life go from being pretty much a trainwreck two years ago to the point now where I write blog entries like the one previous to this one (see: "Can't complain"). And my faith is still far from perfect, I assure you... I am stubborn and there are still some things I don't want to let go of. My faith is probably in its toddler stages, if it were a human child. I can walk, even run, but I still fall down pretty often, and sometimes I insist that things are MINE! and I frequently get distracted by shiny/colorful objects. God still loves me, though, and when I do something dumb while out playing in the yard with the other kids and get hurt, he reminds me that he warned me about that and he hopes I've learned my lesson. Sometimes I have and sometimes I haven't, but he doesn't love me any less.

I guess I'm still not sure what my original point was, other than don't be afraid to find your own faith. That doesn't mean I won't try to teach my faith to my son, but I still hope that someday he will test it and make it his own rather than just accepting what I give him without question. And with that thought, I leave you with a little picture I threw together just in case anyone was curious....

Song o' the Day: "Almost Easy" by Avenged Sevenfold.

January 16, 2010

Can't complain...

A friend of mine, who for the sake of this blog we shall call "Spineless Worm" (and that probably became immediately evident to about half of you who I'm talking about... the rest of you probably confused him with Emo Steve, who he is not), called me the other day to whine about how he, like 10% of Americans nowadays, can't find a job.

(I'm just going to pull over for a bit and point out that I have called Spineless Worm a spineless worm to his face many times over the years... it's almost like a term of endearment, because that's the sort of relationship we have. If he reads this, he won't be too offended. He also goes by "CRAKA!!!!")

Anyway, moving on, while Spineless Worm was going on about how he couldn't find a job and they were living with his wife's parents because this agency screwed him over and this other couple stabbed him in the back and he severed all contact with them, etc., I realized something.... I really can't complain much about my current circumstances. It's sort of sad, because I think that used to be sort of a hobby of mine.

But let's be real about this here. I have a job. I'm paying my rent. We have food, water, shelter and toys (yes, toys are very important). We even have video games and electric guitars. We have family, good friends, and the means to visit both fairly often. We have a relatively spider-free home. We have music playing devices in every room of the house except for the Chamaco's bedroom. We even have purple chili pepper lights in our bedroom (thanks Mom!).

I searched my mental database and could only come up with two complaints, one in my professional life and the other in my personal life. My professional complaint would be that one of my supervisors (not naming names) tends to hover and meddle a bit more than is strictly necessary, but that's a minor annoyance since I'm not the top of the hierarchy and I don't have to deal directly with that person too often. My personal life complaint is that I'm still single... and that didn't used to be a complaint. I used to enjoy that quite a lot, actually, but the novelty has worn off I guess.

So no, I can't complain too much. And I'll bet if you think about it, you can't complain too much either. Especially if you were to compare yourself with, say, someone living in Haiti right now. If you've got everything you need and even just some of what you want, you're among the wealthiest of the people on this earth. Go forth and count your blessings!

Song o' the Day: "Smoke on the Water" - Metallica. (Yes, I know this is a cover. I just happen to like Metallica's cover better than the original.)


Yesterday (Friday) I went over to the Great Clips in Sandy and let the mom of one of my students do pretty much whatever she wanted to my hair. I had talked to her the day before about what she might like to do, and she said something about "lots of layers" and asked if I would mind losing some length. That was exactly what I wanted to lose, so I just let her play. Here's the end result... I straightened it this morning.

January 9, 2010


Yes folks, the long petless spell is finally past...

Friday evening I took the Chamaco to Wal-Mart so he could spend some of his ridiculous amount of birthday money (now that it's been a month since his birthday and all). He got the Bakugan game for Wii (no surprise there), a toy lightsaber, and a betta.

I love a good bandwagon, so I jumped on and also got a betta. I favor bettas because they're nice to look at and pretty hard to kill. His is red, mine is dark blue. He named his Ford, and I'm calling mine Skye until I come up with something better. Both fish have pulled through night one and day one, so I'm assuming neither sustained any serious injuries in the trunk of my car on the drive home from Woodburn and will probably be with us for a while. I think they have already outlasted the guppy that the Chamaco got not too long after his 7th birthday. Having heat in this house probably helps.

In other news, first week back at work flew by way faster than those two weeks of vacation did. I mean, really, I was SO bored sitting around here at home too broke to go anywhere or do anything. I'm also glad to have a routine back in place rather than just waking up, drifting aimlessly all day not really knowing what day it even is, and going to sleep sometime when I get bored with being awake and drifting aimlessly. Yay for January!

Now if only we could get this winter thing over with, I'd be content.

Conversation excerpt from a week or two ago:
CTG: Well look at that! You've got four studs on the car and one at the pump!
ME: Yeah, you are the best-looking guy in a Santa hat I've seen for quite a while I have to admit.

I'm still laughing over that.

Song o' the Day: "Did It Again" by Shakira. Pretty well stuck in my head for days now.

January 1, 2010

New Year's "Suggestions"...

I don't like New Year's Resolutions. They seem to me like a really good way to set yourself up to feel like a failure come December... as if the holidays weren't stressful enough! In fact, I have never before made a list of New Year's Resolutions. I can't be bothered to write a list of stuff I should do that I probably won't do so I can feel bad about myself later.

This year, however, I feel moved to write myself a list of "ideas" or "suggestions" for things that I might work on in 2010 if I feel like it/get around to it. Stuff that I should do because it would be good for me or for those around me. Things that I should change, because probably my life would change for the better if I changed them. And if I don't change them... well, stuff stays the same I guess. In the words of the great philosopher Tyler, "If you do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got." (That would be Steven Tyler in the song "Get a Grip", in case anyone wondered.)

So brace yourself, people... I'm about to have one of my rare introspective moments! Here are some of my suggestions for myself in the order in which they occur to me.

1.) Spend less time on the computer. I am blind enough as it is. And hand in hand with that...

2.) Encourage "Wong" to either take things offline or give it up already.

3.) Find an outlet for my creativity besides writing short stories that I never let anyone read. Blogging is more narrative than creative most of the time. I'm not sure if I should start trying to write a novel or just start playing guitar more (bet the neighbors would love that), but I think the constantly rotating cast of characters in my head is detrimental to what, for lack of a better term, we shall call "my sanity". It seems to me I also used to do some halfway decent pictures with pastels and colored pencils many moons ago in the far-flung times of, oh, about 1999...

4.) Try to start saving some money. You know, now that I actually have an income. And not far behind that...

5.) Never buy anything on credit ever again if I can possibly avoid it. I would like to pay off the two credit cards I have and then quite possibly get rid of them altogether. They are evil.

6.) Exercise more, blah blah blah... (everyone says this one, I think)

7.) Date someone. Could be Wong (if he were to get himself over here), could be someone I haven't met yet, but seven years of singleness is bloody long enough.

8.) Spend more time out doing things with friends. I think I tend to hold myself back with the "I can't do that, I have a kid" excuse. Perhaps some of that money I might put aside each month could be used for a babysitter one night a month... I think all parents, but maybe full-time single parents in particular, need some regularly scheduled down time. Also it's really hard to meet people to date when I never go anywhere except to work and to church.

9.) Reduce the size of my mean streak. Currently it's at about three miles wide. I'd like to reduce it to a mile or less. I'm pretty sure I used to be a nice person once, but high school screwed me up and I never recovered.

10.) Broaden my musical tastes. Much as I complain about the music snobbery of certain people (who will stop listening to a band if they think too many people like said band), I'm guilty of my own flavor of it... I have convinced myself that if it's not rock of some description, I probably don't care. Don't expect me to start listening to rap, though... I stand firm on my requirement for actual singing talent!

11.) (this one is going to make me sound horrid, maybe you shouldn't read it) Love my kid while I have him. Most of you still reading probably just went, "What's horrid about that?" Well, the awful truth is that I did not want to be a parent. I was dragged into it kicking and screaming, and for several years after he was born I still did not want to be a parent. I did not gaze upon my newborn son's face and instantly fall in love... oh no. For years I regarded him as an intrusion... a time-consuming burden draining my energy and resources that I never wanted or asked for. (Planned pregnancy he wasn't, as you may have guessed). I was bound to him only by a fierce sense of responsibility (Flake, I am not in the slightest, and I firmly believe in the "you make it, you take care of it" principle), and later by the knowledge that of his two parents I was the one less likely to screw him up, which I thought was really sad since I was already so screwed up myself on the subject of parenting. Loving him crept up on me gradually, without me realizing it. Probably he was four before I could say "I love you" to him and mean it at all. And even then an occasional mother would observe me with him and say something like, "You'd just throw yourself in front of a train to save your kid, wouldn't you?" (someone actually did say that very thing to me once) and I would look at them blankly... No I would not! Are you completely out of your gourd?! I would scream internally. Or they'd say, "He's just your entire world, isn't he?" and I would rail internally against that too... No! There is a heck of a lot more to my world than this kid! I am a complex and multi-faceted individual, darn it! But I guess even the most emotionless of us can't help but be eventually won over by a kid who loves you unconditionally and tends to shout things like "Best mom ever!" when you tell him that he can have two packs of fruit snacks if he wants. Fast forward to 2009, when the realization finally sets in that the Chamaco and I are our own broken little family and often we're all each other has. In November during our monthly meeting, I am telling my boss about something he said/did and she comments, "I can tell he's just your whole world." For the first time I do not mentally protest. Conversion from "reluctant mom" to just plain "mom" finally complete... only took 7 years and 11 months. I read in one of those "What to Expect..." books when he was a baby that actually many new mothers don't instantly bond with their child, and in some cases the process can take months. I don't know if anyone has ever taken very nearly 8 years before. Probably I needed/need therapy. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a baby because I want to, but I still don't want to. I really doubt I ever will. I still like kids much better when they're someone else's in general, but I have finally managed to become rather attached to the one I have. I don't think I'll ever be a "mommy mom" (as Tyha so accurately describes herself), but at least I'm a "mom" now instead of an "I'll take care of you because legally I'm responsible to do so". Only in hindsight have I been able to see God's wisdom in this whole situation... had I not suddenly become responsible for a small, helpless person at the time I did, I likely would have continued on the self-destructive path I was just getting started down at the time and I don't think it's a stretch at all to say that my life could have ended (badly) several years prior to now. Also before he was born I thought I preferred a girl and I was going to name him Natalie Renee. Eight years later I often thank God I did not have a girl... girls are too much drama! (Especially from about the age of 8 onward, I'm learning from watching other people's kids.) Anyway, back to the original thought, I may have sort of wasted the first eight years, but theoretically I've got about ten more to try and get things right.

Wow, that was a digression and a half, but maybe now you understand why I laugh and shake my head everytime someone tells me what a good mom I am (which happens surprisingly often... maybe people don't pay attention?).

Anyway, here's to 2010... may it be a fabulous year for all my friends and loved ones (and maybe some of the people I don't like too!).

Open letter to 2009...

Dear 2009,

I'm kind of going to miss you... overall you weren't a bad year. Certainly much better than some of your siblings in this decade - I'm thinking in particular of 2001 and 2006, which were two of the worst years of my life so far. Indeed, you were even an improvement over 2008, which wasn't terrible but wasn't that great either.

(It has just occurred to me randomly that I can't remember if my divorce was finalized in January of 2007 or 2008. I think I need to look that up. Hard to tell since we separated in 2003... the divorce date sort of lost some meaning. It'll be either two or three years next week since I got divorced officially... might be good to know which it is.) *gets curious and goes away to look* *comes back a few minutes later* (The divorce was finalized on January 7th, 2008. So I guess I'm close to the two year mark now... two years on Thursday. I'll have to take cookies to work and make Wendy and Nancy celebrate with me or something.)

Anyway, back to you, 2009... you had some good moments. Getting a new apartment in March was definitely a highlight (and it's hard to believe we've been here nearly a year already!). I am enjoying central heating immensely... after spending winters 2003-2008 without working heat, I doubt I will ever take it for granted again. I also liked the whole FINALLY getting a job in September (after having been unemployed since July of '08) thing. I'm liking this job so far. And I know lots of people think you sucked because they all felt financially crunched and didn't have as much money as they were used to having, but I didn't mind it too much. I've always been dirt poor, and I think I was actually less dirt poor in 2009 than I have ever been. So thank you for that, anyway.

Yes, I'm kind of reluctant to let you go and move into the uncertainties of 2010, but time marches on and I guess so must I. If you get a chance to have a word with 2010 on your way out, tell it I'm getting pretty tired of being single (like I have been since about May of 2003) and see if there's anything it can do about that. A new decade should bring change, shouldn't it? : )