Wednesday, January 22, 2014

February/March Travels

Unpacking from last weekend's overnight trip to Portland, I'm realizing I won't be moth-balling my suitcase any time soon. (Wait, does anyone still use mothballs?) Yes, it's nearly time for my usual springtime spate of speaking gigs. I'm exited about it; I do enjoy the chance to get out there and shine. Though I need to make sure I'm on top of the deadlines for my writing projects and the more mundane stuff at home. I should also be sure to replace the aging battery and balding tires on my car, lest they cause unexpected adventures along the way.

I'm teaching eight Perspectives classes in three states. Last year it was a different lesson each time, but this time I'm playing more to my strengths and should be able to get by with just blowing the dust off three of my better lesson plans.

Add in one overnight conference thing in Portland, and another of those eight-day trips to Florida for meetings with my Pioneers team, and here's what we've got:

Feb 20 - teach Perspectives lesson 7 (Bend, OR)
Feb 23 - fly to Louisiana
Feb 24 - teach Perspectives lesson 7/8 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Feb 25 - teach Perspectives lesson 7/8 (Lake Charles, LA)
Feb 26 - teach Perspectives lesson 7/8 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Feb 27 - teach Perspectives lesson 7/8 (New Orleans, LA)
Feb 28 - fly back to Oregon

Mar 2 - teach Perspectives lesson 7 (Richland, WA)
Mar 5 - teach Perspectives lesson 8 (Portland, OR)
Mar 7-8 - Muslim ConneXion (Portland, OR)
Mar 15 - fly to Florida
Mar 16-21 - agency meetings (Orlando, FL)
Mar 22 - fly back to Oregon
Mar 31 - teach Perspectives lesson 10 (Portland, OR)

Friday, January 17, 2014

The weird world of stepparenting

Is any of this OK for a stepparent to say? Maybe it's
not ideal for a parent, either!
If someone were to tell you they never yell at their kids or speak harshly to them, you'd wouldn't think them completely honest, would you?

But being a step-parent, loving someone else's child, is a different kind of relationship than parenting, and exercising power and discipline (except over oneself) are really not part of the job description. Certainly, losing your temper or exerting your will (because "I am your mother") seems really inappropriate, along with parenting "techniques" like nagging, giving commands, issuing ultimatums or punishments, and withholding privileges. I don't recall either of my stepparents doing those things either, ever, at least not with me. (Though I'm aware of a few times they pulled such strings through my parents.)

And for their part, my stepkids are almost unfailingly polite to me. That's also how I tend to respond to them, as well as to my own stepparents. Eye-rolling, sarcasm, and battles of the will seem saved for the parents-in-the-flesh, if they are around.

Might be different if the kids were younger or living with us full-time. But signing up to marry someone with teenagers seems to mean seeking to be their ally. And, to the extent they welcome it, friend. Maybe that's a better job description than a parent gets, though it's certainly a less intimate one. I will never experience the contrast for myself, and I don't know what kind of ("real") parent I would be if I had the chance.

Don't get me wrong, things aren't bad in our house or in my relationships with the kids. But it feels like as a stepmom I'm simply not allowed to be mad at them (and show it) the way one does with a spouse, sibling, or parent. Nor can I discuss them with my husband the way I might they were "ours" in the traditional sense. Complaining to him about his daughter would be like complaining to him about his mother, not a good idea - better to listen supportively to any of his frustrations, but keep my own opinions more or less to myself.

So being a stepparent is a weird thing. It tries to tie the hands and make you bite your tongue. Our relationships are marked less by the tough love of family, more by the service and civility of  housemates, coworkers, or friends. Perhaps that's a good thing. The challenge of being a mother is not one for me, but I know how to be a good housemate, coworker, and friend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

What if it did happen?

Do you have dreams apparently entirely in another language you're trying to learn, or see yourself shine as you show off a skill you'd love to master?

Have you ever composed the perfect essay, story, song, or sentence in your head only to find it flee (or flawed) when you get a chance to write it down?

Or maybe you just imagine conversations where you connect (or conquer, as the case may be) in ways that never seem to happen in "real life." (Why not? Do you think it's just because the right circumstances didn't quite coalesce or the other person botched their lines?)

I'm wondering if the voices in our heads telling us the words could be perfect are more about confidence and not content. That feeling of getting it right, not the key to getting it right.

If that's the case, it's a beautiful dream about speaking flawless French; you didn't dream it all in French. It's the hope of writing that great song or story, it's not the one that actually came to you and somehow got away. It's wishful thinking about how you'd like to see yourself navigating relationships, probably not some kind of divine or diabolical inspiration.

Is this part of the appeal of fiction? Does it open the door for us to dream those dreams awake?

We watch a lot of action films in our house. Not my thing, really. On the one hand, I don't find them credible. I don't believe. You may see yourself as a soldier or superhero but the chances are very slim you will ever shoot anybody with a gun or run for your life or get in a car chase. Maybe the same could be said for the cheesy chick flicks for which I [sometimes] have more sympathy.

Is that desire, though, why you want to be that guy or that girl for an hour or two - maybe every night! - because it's not going to happen for you otherwise?

For me, the adventure aspect of the action films is overshadowed by the violence. When I watch violence on screen, I feel much much the same as I would if I saw it on the street. That's not what I want to feel. Even if I could suspect my disbelief, it's tough so suspend my dismay at what I'm watching.
  So the other thing about the fantasy stories of whatever type is the question, "what if it did happen?" Is that something to hope for, or a threat? Both?

Inside, do you really believe you'd have the courage, strength, or skill to come out on top? If opportunity or grand adventure really did come knocking - if your dreams began to come true - how would you respond? How would you handle it? Do you have what it takes, like that character?

Self image is a funny thing, isn't it? Maybe dreams and fantasy are where our hopes and fears come out and play.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Reading in 2013

This year I read just over 50 books. Not since I was 10 or so have I read so little as I have in the last couple of years, those that have passed since I left Denver and came out here to get married. Except for the months I spent overseas, that is. When I lived in Central Asia I read everything slowly. I chewed on it and copied down favorite passages in a journal. And that year, like this one, I had little library access and lived with people who prefer television and movies over reading. That won't change, this time. But I'm hoping to cultivate a greater reading life in 2014. I miss that part of my life a great deal and won't have more seminary classes until June.

I'm vacillating about heading to the Eugene Public Library to persuade them to give me an out-of-district library card, at $120/year (plus paying to park there!) I don't think I'd have gotten my money's worth on that until now, with so much less peaceful time and space for reading... but now may be the time? I do have access to a church library and several school libraries, though they aren't anywhere near my beaten path and have rather limited collections of the things that most interest me.

Under such circs, I've made do primarily with books I can get for free, e.g., in exchange for reviews, or in Kindle editions from my old library back in Colorado (which graciously still honors my library card). One thing I like about Kindle books is that they return themselves; that saves time and puts one less thing on my to-do list. One thing I don't like about Kindle books is that most libraries have rather limited collections of them in comparison to their printed books. So I can't necessarily keep up with all the books I'd like to read if I'm not interested in buying them.

In light of those dynamics, my reading list has been more eccentric than usual. Want to take a look? I just listed and ranked most of them on Goodreads.

A dozen of these titles were read (sometimes skimmed) in order to write reviews for Missions Catalyst, our weekly ezine. Another eight or nine were for the three seminary classes I took. That leaves only about 30 I read just for fun, like the mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear, Catherine Aird, and Anne Perry. (Or edification, like Tim Keller's excellent book, The Meaning of Marriage. Want to hunt down more by him). Some of the school and work books were quite fun or inspiring, too. I'm quite glad I read Hidden in My Heart, Mondays in the Middle East, and Fields of Gold - memoirs from Christian workers in Japan, the Arabian Peninsula, and Kazakhstan, respectively. 

More than two-thirds of the books I read were ebooks or audiobooks, not paper ones. Guess I've crossed over to the modern world, in this one respect anyway, eh? Certainly getting my money's worth for buying an iPad a few years ago. I seem to take it with me everywhere.

Related Posts:
2012 Book Report
2011 Reading List - Part 1 | 2011 Reading List - Part 2
2010 Book List
Read in 2009 - Part 1, Nonfiction | Read in 2009 - Part 2, Fiction
Book Blogging Roundup (2008)