Sunday, April 15, 2018

If Cinderella were Tirzah


Once upon a time, a young-looking maiden named Cinderella slaved on a dirty, grungy floor. Day and night she worked while her evil stepmother cracked her whip and her ugly stepsisters lazed about.

Ironically, Cinderella didn't really mind the work so much. Have you lost weight? people would ask her. Yep, she would reply, hoping they would change the subject. If you worked as hard as I do, and you only got paid peanuts, you'd probably lose weight, too, she thought. Heh, heh. I like to keep people guessing.

"Stop thinking so much!" cried her evil stepmother. She was about to crack her whip again when Meepthuselah's deep growl caused her to cautiously exit the room with her whip behind her back.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Cinderella remarked under her breath while she continued to scrub.

Meepthuselah was Cinderella's wildcat who once latched hold of the evil stepmother's foot and attempted to gut it with her long back claws. The evil stepmother had kept her distance from the animal ever since.

"Good girl," Cinderella told her pet with her singing voice.

Suddenly, Meepthuselah leapt onto Cinderella's arm and latched onto it with her fangs. Her high-pitched meep-growl reverberated through the room. Instinctively, Cinderella grabbed a nearby dustbunny and flicked it across the room. Meepthuselah unlatched from her arm and chased the dustbunny.

"Someday my prince will come?" Cinderella remarked under her breath and wondered if perhaps she were in the wrong fairy tale. She rubbed the fresh welts that her wildcat had created on her arm and pretended to not feel the pain.

Suddenly, ugly stepsister #1 sauntered over to Cinderella's scrubbing spot on the floor. "I've been told that you're doing it wrong," she declared while standing over Cinderella.

Ugly stepsister #2 kicked some dirt in Cinderella's face. "If you were doing it the right way, you would have finished already, rookie."

Cinderella stopped scrubbing and scowled at ugly stepsister #2. "Who are you calling a rookie? I've been working down here for nearly six months, and you've only been here for a few weeks. If either of you two would pull your own weight, we wouldn't have so many dustbunnies around here." She spotted one nearby and flicked it away. Meepthuselah suddenly appeared to play with it. Her very presence frightened the ugly stepsisters, who shrieked and scurried out of the room.

"Good girl," Cinderella whispered.

Later that day, at high noon, there was a knock at the door. A royal messenger sounded a trumpet and read a royal message: "Hear ye, hear ye, peasants young and old. The royal prince has decided to marry a few of you in the next few months, if the budget allows, if he hasn't mismanaged his kingdom to the ground, and if he feels like it."

"We're polygamists?" Cinderella remarked under her breath.

"The way that the prince has chosen to identify the stars in the kingdom -- the ones who work especially hard and make an especially focused effort in kissing his butt -- will be based on a shoe test," the messenger continued.

"Shoe test?" asked ugly stepsister #1. "We weren't told to study for a shoe test."

"Don't interrupt," retorted the messenger. "The prince only has one pair of glass shoes and has decided that his future wife or wives will wear it."

"Who in their right mind would wear glass shoes?" asked ugly stepsister #2. "What if they break?"

"I said don't interrupt. The prince will come by sometime this afternoon, if the budget allows, if he hasn't mismanaged his kingdom to the ground, and if he feels like it. He will administer the test at that time."

"How much time will my daughters have to study for the test?" asked the evil stepmother while clutching her whip.

The messenger sighed and shook his head. "Thank you for your time and attention to this matter." He did an about-face and marched away.

"Well, don't just stand there, servant," the evil stepmother barked at Cinderella. "Get back to work! We might be having company this afternoon!"

Instead of rolling up their sleeves to help Cinderella, the two ugly stepsisters gossiped about the messenger's proclamation.

"This story is all wrong," Cinderella muttered while she slaved away. "I don't get a fairy godmother or nothin'."

"What's that you're complaining about?!" cried her evil stepmother.

Cinderella sighed in frustration. "With all due respect, please make up your mind. Do you want me to think, or do you want me to share my thoughts out loud?"

Meepthuselah growled deeply. The evil stepmother cautiously exited the room with her whip behind her back.

That's right, hotshot, Cinderella thought while she scrubbed faster.

Later that afternoon, there was a knock at the door. The evil stepmother and ugly stepsister #2 ran to open it. The women grimaced at the sight of a strange-looking character in the doorway.

"Um, your majesty?" asked ugly stepsister #2.

The strange-looking character -- who was dressed in a monk-like robe with a hood over his head -- slowly nodded. He entered the room and asked quietly, "With whom shall I begin first?"

The evil stepmother groaned. "I wish you could begin with my elder daughter, but as usual, she's late! Please begin with my younger daughter."

Ugly stepsister #2 excitedly grabbed the glass shoes out of the prince's hands and tried them on. The shoes were only half the size of her feet, so she nearly sliced her feet on the glass.

"My apologies, m'lady," said the prince sophisticatedly while he yanked the shoes off her feet.

"Let us all keep calm and stay positive," said the evil stepmother while clutching her whip. "My elder daughter is AWOL, my younger daughter has giant feet, and so, eh, where do we stand now?"

The prince pointed a sinister finger at Cinderella. "What about her?"

"Well, she's only a temporary servant, but I suppose you are welcome to test her as well."

Cinderella pointed her callous right foot into the right shoe and slipped it inside without incident. She did the same thing with her left foot into the left shoe. "Whoa. They fit."

Ugly stepsister #2 kicked a nearby dustbunny and stormed out of the room. Visibly suppressing tears, the evil stepmother covered her face with her whip and scurried away.

"What now, studmuffin?" Cinderella asked boldly.

With a royal gallantry that made Cinderella feel as if she were about to live happily ever after, the prince slowly removed the hood from his head. But underneath the hood -- instead of a hip-looking young prince -- was a shriveled-up old man.

Cinderella groaned so loudly that she awakened Meepthuselah from her deep afternoon slumber. "Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!"

"Don't be mad at me," said the old man. "I'm not the one who's writing this fairy tale parody."

Cinderella crossed her arms. "No, I'm not mad at you. I respect you. This is just a frustrating situation." She removed the shoes from her feet and handed them back to the old man. "I think I understand what's happening now."

The old man received the glass footwear and asked, "Eh?" with a confused gleam in his eye.

"See, up until this point in the story, everything about this messed-up fairy tale has been symbolic of the author's employment situation: the quota, the management, the uppity coworkers who are trying to kiss up so they can get hired, the peanuts -- "

"And who is she supposed to be?" asked the old man while pointing at the newly napping Meepthuselah.

"Oh, she's a fictional version of the author's real cat. Methuselah is a Bible character who lived to be 969 years old, so the author based her cat's satirical name off of that -- because she wants her cat to live forever."

"And who am I?" asked the old man with a chuckle. "A prince?"

"Yeah, you were at first, but at this point in the story you symbolize something else: The author's calling."

The old man rolled his eyes. "This author chick is mighty weird."

"She knows. See, you have the tools in your hand, and they're a perfect fit for her, but it's just not time for her to wear them yet."

"Then why am I here? And why am I so old and eccentric?"

"Because the timing is off. Also because you've been inside the author since forever."

The old man ran his wrinkled fingers through his thinning, balding hair. "So, eh, you're saying you're attracted to octogenarians?"

"Pffffft, no. But nothing personal; I've sworn off men forever. Ain't no one on this earth man enough for me." Cinderella suddenly used her magic powers to shrink the old man and his glass shoes, enclose them inside a glass jar, and set them up on a nearby shelf.

Shocked and frightened, the old man pounded on the jar and shouted, "Get me out of here, you cheeky heifer!"

Cinderella chuckled. "No, sir, you need to stay there for safe keeping. If God is going to keep me in a holding pattern for a while, I might as well have some fun with it." She added in her thoughts, Shucks, this ain't no fairy tale. This is fantasy fiction. Anything can happen.

"I heard that!" cried the evil stepmother from the next room.

Meepthuselah growled deeply.

Cinderella grabbed her scrubbing bucket, rolled up her sleeves, and squatted on the floor to resume her work. "Good girl," she told her pet with her singing voice.

Suddenly, Meepthuselah leapt onto Cinderella's arm and latched onto it with her fangs. Her high-pitched meep-growl reverberated through the room. Cinderella sighed. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

#BoycottTarget

You used to be my favorite store. I used to visit you every time I got a paycheck. I used to spend around $75 or so with you every two weeks.

Then your customer service got bad. Why did you have to treat me like cattle? After all we'd been through, you just took me for granted?

Then came the bathroom scandal. I mostly boycotted, but I couldn't completely stay away. You still sold some products that were better and cheaper than your competitors. Besides, many of my friends still shop with you. How bad could you be?

Today I found out. Your bathroom scandal continuing, a little girl got exposed to something that she never should have been exposed to at one of your stores on Easter Sunday. Well, guess what, megastore? She's not a piece of furniture, and neither am I. Enough is enough.

I will never set foot in any of your stores -- physically or online -- ever again. Goodbye forever.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spontaneous thoughts on current events

Today I saw a newspaper headline that made the pastor of First Baptist Dallas look really dorky. I've never met the guy; but unfortunately, when a famous pastor looks dorky, it kind of makes Christianity in general look dorky.

What he said was that the way to solve the issue of gun violence in schools is to teach students the Ten Commandments. In context, I believe he said that that would be one root solution, not the only solution, to the problem. Yes, of course he's right. If you teach somebody to not kill people, and if they obey your teachings, they won't kill people. But taken out of context, it sounds pretty insensitive and holier-than-thou. I mean, people have died. Our country is hurting.

I've had some rather insensitive reactions myself, but mainly just in annoyance toward all the protests. It seems like every time a millennial gets offended, somebody organizes a march. What about me? Where's my march? Why didn't anyone organize a frickin' protest for me anytime anyone dumped on ME? And how would a protest or a march help to stop gun violence? What kind of lesson would it teach these kids?

A huge lesson, honestly.

   
Today while I was listening to music, the old song "We Are the World" reminded me of how important it is to give money to people who need it. I was in the third grade when this song was popular. I went to a cool school who would show us very interesting and helpful filmstrips and TV specials. One day, they showed us the making of "We Are the Word," and I've never forgotten it. I knew somebody who was involved with the cause, and I remember giving $10 to help starving people in Africa. I even got a nifty poster that I treasure in my home to this day.

I used to work for a company that produced direct mail for nonprofit organizations. Today I got to thinking that the "We Are the World" song was more effective at influencing me to give money than any piece of direct mail ever was. I had this silly thought that maybe my previous employer should have just put their direct mail to music -- that would get people to give. Heh, heh.

Then I got to thinking that since my elementary school exposed me to giving to the needy, I got the message.

I'm not a millennial; I'm a gen-Xer. The people of my generation didn't really have to deal with as much violence in schools as kids today. We had to deal with AIDS and drugs. (I understand that those still exist today; it's just that we as a country were kind of first learning about them when I was a kid.) I remember the educational campaigns with videos and T-shirts and mottos that taught us how important it was to not catch AIDS and to not do drugs. To this day, my ears perk up when someone talks about AIDS or HIV. And to this day, abusing drugs isn't an option for me. (Frankly, this is something that is good to know as a woman in her 40s with broken dreams who sometimes wishes there were something immediately handy to numb her pain.)

Where did I learn this? In school. From the constant exposure.

Here's my point, and I hope it isn't an insensitive one. I don't have kids, so I don't have to worry about exposing anyone in my family to potential violence inside a school building -- which really should be the safest place in the world for a child. And I don't have to roll my eyes because my kids are growing up in a society that teaches them to hit the streets in protest every time they disagree with something. But I think these kids are going to grow up learning a very important lesson: Violence is wrong, and they deserve to be safe.

I'm not saying the protests will solve everything. (And I'm not saying I won't roll my eyes again the next time I see yet another march against something on my Newsfeed.) I'm saying the schoolchildren of this twisted generation will be impacted very positively in a way that they won't forget. For as long as they live, they will remember that violence is wrong, guns don't solve problems, security is important, and their lives are worth being protected. Perhaps they will be better equipped to love themselves, and to love their neighbor as themselves, than I was as a kid.

(As a side note, I don't own a gun, I don't know how to shoot a gun, I'm not opposed to your right to own a gun, and I'm not opposed to learning how to shoot one myself. For now, my method of self-defense is longish nails and a crazy-Mexican disposition. You should know by now that you shouldn't mess with me.)

I think it's a shame that the people of my generation ended up raising a generation of children who have to wonder if someone is going to show up at their school and go postal. It's a shame that our society has deteriorated so quickly in recent years that we have to evaluate the type of security that we have in schools. (And yes, it's a total shame that we officially don't allow prayer in public schools and that parents may not teach basic laws like the Ten Commandments to their kids already at home.)

I guess the people of this generation will end up taking after their hippie baby-boomer grandparents. I guess instead of protesting a war in Vietnam, they're protesting a domestic war against themselves... and they didn't even do anything to deserve it. That's a huge shame.

But, as the songwriters of "We Are the World" would say, "We're saving our own lives. It's true we'll make a better day, just you and me."

Monday, March 19, 2018

If Joseph were Tirzah


The rhythmic clack-clack of the rock hammers filled the communal prison cell and echoed off the dingy walls like a torrential hailstorm. As he concentrated on his rock-breaking, Joseph wondered yet again how long he would be able to survive there.

Suddenly, his concentration was broken by an insistent tapping on his shoulder. "Hey, Joey, this rock is too big. How am I supposed to break it?"

Even though he had already explained the process to his prisonmate a couple of times, he took a deep breath, endeavored to speak patiently, and explained again. "See this middle part here?" he asked while pointing to the irregularly shaped groove in the middle of the stone. "Aim your hammer at it, and then give it a quick whack."

The inmate coached himself under his breath: "Middle part... aim... whack." And the rock broke under his hammer.

"Good job, Ben-Balaam."

"You're so smart, Joey!"

I used to think so, too, Joseph thought as he quickly returned to his work. He had hardly gotten a chance to refocus because another prisoner waved his hand in front of his face.

"Hebrew," began the prisoner, who could never remember Joseph's name, "how many of these rocks are we supposed to break per day?"

Again he was being asked a question that he had already answered repeatedly. Thankfully, this one could be answered with just a little bit of numbness. "150."

"What?!" exclaimed the prisoner. "How in the world am I supposed to break that many? I'm a prisoner here. I'm being forced to work in conditions that are completely foreign to me!"

You're telling me, you big baby, Joseph thought. "I feel ya," he replied aloud.

"How many rocks do YOU break per day, Hebrew?"

Joseph was about to answer 160 -- and he used to be able to break 180 before he was given additional duties -- when the keeper of the prison entered the room. "Joseph, sorry for interrupting, but I'm going to need a headcount earlier than usual today!" he shouted to be heard above the clack-clacking.

Joseph nodded to his superior and then rose to leave. "Excuse me, Nezzar," he said with a friendly tap on the prisoner's shoulder.

Joseph always preferred to begin his headcount downstairs in the dungeon, where the new prisoners were brought in, because they were unruly and would often distract his concentration. Today was no exception.

"Oww!" screamed a haggard-looking man with a trill of his tongue. He was standing up and chained to the wall. "Hey, there, pretty boy. I've been naughty. Are you here to teach me a lesson?"

Joseph snickered under his breath and thought to himself, No, thank you, I'm learning plenty of lessons without your help.

"Leave him alone!" shouted a nearby prisoner who was seated against the wall. He was attached there with a very short set of chains. "He didn't do anything to you."

Joseph noticed that the short-chained prisoner's water cup had been knocked over, so he refilled it with a nearby water jug and offered it to the prisoner. "Here you go."

"Thank you, sir! Your wife must really be missing you while you're in here."

Joseph pushed down a rising wave of pain and began to count.

In the very early hours of the morning -- long after Joseph and the other inmates had completed their evening chores -- Joseph suddenly woke up to the sound of someone snoring. He exhaled and rolled his eyes. Growing up with 11 brothers was nothing compared to living among these animals. Then he felt a twinge in his soul and wondered if his snobbiness was what sentenced him to prison in the first place.

Slowly and quietly, he rolled over on his side and gazed at the barred window. The moonlight shone brightly into the communal cell. Joseph closed his eyes and prayed. God, please forgive me for whatever it is that I did to deserve to be in here. He opened his eyes and noticed that his vision was blurry with tears. With all due respect, thank You for protecting me and keeping me alive, but... He sighed and felt tears stream down his face. I don't belong here.

Through the years, he had mastered the art of silent weeping. He felt his tears trickle into his straw bed and wondered if the moisture had mingled with the dirt on his face on the way down. The other prisoners looked up to him, and he knew that he needed to stay strong for them. But he wondered if perhaps they, too, knew how to weep silently, because he sometimes saw clean streaks on dirty faces in the morning.

He wiped his tears with the back of his hand and prayed, God, this whole prison thing -- am I doing it right? Am I missing anything? Is there anything that I haven't done that I need to be doing?

As suddenly as the background snoring began, it stopped. All Joseph could hear were crickets chirping.

That's the sound of Me not complaining, God replied.

Joseph chuckled very quietly. That's what had kept him going these past several years: his God. And his dreams.

His dreams... his brothers... his father... the stories they shared... the home they had built together... the rich foods and fine clothes... his old way of life... before he became dead to his family and vice versa...

It all came swirling back to him and erupted as a fresh wave of tears that flooded into his eyes. How he missed his father! He knew he would never see him again. But his brothers... years later, he could still never figure out how and why they had treated him the way they did.

Then he found himself in that same old spot in his mind that he couldn't easily escape from once he had fallen in. How dare they, he thought to himself as he squinched his eyes shut and gripped a fistful of straw. They had no right to do what they did. He knew that it was no use holding on to the past, and he knew that he was being useful where he was, but still... This was a prison. Would he ever see freedom?

Joseph opened his eyes and mopped his tears from his face. What IF I were to be free someday? he thought. I'd like to give them a piece of my mind. Give them a taste of their own medicine. Oh, hello there, caravan of Hebrews traveling through Egypt. Would you like to buy a coat of many colors? Here, step inside my office. Oh, I forgot to tell you that my office is INSIDE A FREAKIN' PIT! Here. Let me show you what prison life is like. Would you like to drink some water out of my silver goblet?

Joseph cackled silently within himself and then had a terrible taste in his mouth. He breathed deeply and closed his eyes. That isn't Your way, is it? he prayed.

No, God replied. Stick with Me. You'll be fine.

The next morning while Joseph aimed to fulfill his quota, his rock hammer clack-clacked quickly and methodically as he bent over his work. His thoughts went back to the previous day to his conversation with the short-chained prisoner, who had assumed that he had a wife. No, I'm not married, Joseph thought, but I have a great pickup line. Hey, baby, I unjustly did time in prison for attempted rape. Wanna go eat some falafel? He chuckled quietly to himself. The little humorous things like that had helped him survive emotionally through the years.

His thoughts returned to his father and the times he had spent with him. He always knew he was his father's favorite. His mother died when he was very young, but his father would tell him stories of how he met his mother -- and how he worked for his grandfather for seven years before he could marry his mother.

Seven years was a long time. But waiting for your dream to come true was always worth the wait -- this was a lesson that he learned from his father.

Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by an insistent tapping on his shoulder. "Hey, Joey, this rock is too big. How am I supposed to break it?"

Joseph suppressed a frustrated sigh and re-explained the process as patiently as he could.

Ben-Balaam coached himself quietly under his breath: "Middle part... aim... whack."

"Good job."

Suddenly, Nezzar waved his hand in front of Joseph's face.

"Hebrew, how many of these rocks are we supposed to break per day?"

Joseph felt both of his fists clench. He unclenched them while he took a deep breath. "150."

"What?! That's too many!"

Ben-Balaam screamed and dropped his hammer, suddenly snapping Joseph out of his déjà vu.

Instantly, Joseph ran and found the bandages. The keeper of the prison had assigned him the task of mending the inmates' wounds, and he had gotten pretty swift at it.

"Thanks, Joey," Ben-Balaam said as he slowly bent his bandaged thumb. "I guess it was this stupid rock. Maybe it isn't a rock at all. I think it's a potato." He held out the rock for Joseph to see.

"Um, that's not a potato. It's a rock covered with moss and dirt."

"Oh. You're so smart!"

Joseph looked over at Nezzar, who was working cautiously and shaking his head.

"Joey, have you ever hurt yourself so badly that you blacked out?" asked Ben-Balaam. "It's kind of like a bad dream."

"Dream?" asked Nezzar with a scoff. "I'll tell you about a bad dream. Last night, I dreamed that there was this vine -- it had three branches that budded and sprouted grapes. In the dream, I had Pharaoh's cup in my hand. I squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh's cup, and then I gave the cup to Pharaoh." Nezzar shuddered. "It startled me, because I haven't seen Pharaoh since he threw me in here. I told my cellmates about my dream, but they couldn't figure out what it means. Isn't that weird?"

"I had a weird dream last night, too!" exclaimed Ben-Balaam. "Only, in my dream, I had three white baskets on my head. The basket on top had lots of goodies in it, and the birds ate them all."

"But what does it mean?" Nezzar asked.

"I don't know," Ben-Balaam replied. "I asked a couple of guys about it, and they told me to shut up." His eyes sparkled as he looked into Joseph's face. "What do you think, Joey? I bet you're so smart that you could figure out both our dreams."

Nezzar gently punched Joseph on the shoulder. "For once, he has a good idea. Do you know how to interpret dreams, Hebrew?"

Joseph pensively rested his chin on his fist. "I don't, but God does." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he opened his eyes and knew how to proceed. "Nezzar, you were Pharaoh's chief butler, weren't you?"

Nezzar nodded.

"The three branches in your dream symbolize three days. So, in three days, Pharaoh will release you from prison and restore you back to your old job."

Joseph felt a familiar tapping on his shoulder. "What about my dream?" asked Ben-Balaam.

"I, uh, wish I had better news, my friend. You were Pharaoh's chief baker, right?"

Ben-Balaam slowly nodded his childlike head.

"In your dream, the three baskets symbolize three days. So, in three days, Pharaoh will chop your head off and hang you -- "

"Huh?!" Ben-Balaam exclaimed.

"And the birds will eat you."

Nezzar laughed.

"Shut up, butler!" Ben-Balaam exclaimed. "Joey, maybe you're not so smart after all."

Three days later -- three days of the same grind of repetitive question-asking, head-counting, and nighttime-weeping -- Pharaoh threw himself a grand birthday party. The revelry was so loud that the prisoners could hear it over the rhythmic clack-clack of their rock hammers. A few of the men abandoned their posts and began to peer outside through a nearby barred window.

"Hey, men, we really need to get back to work," Joseph announced as soon as he noticed the distraction.

Suddenly, the prison doors opened and the keeper of the prison stood in the sunlight like an Egyptian godlike warrior. "Pharaoh has called for the release of his servants! Everyone listen carefully for your names." He spent the next few moments reading names that were written on a long papyrus sheet.

Is this it? Joseph thought. Did my old boss Potiphar finally realize his mistake and pull some strings?

The keeper of the prison finished calling out names and rolled up the papyrus sheet. The freed prisoners scrambled to collect their things and exuberantly allowed the guards to unlock their chains. The ones whose names weren't called, including Joseph, observed the scene with a strange mixture of gladness and shock.

"Bye, Joey!" Ben-Balaam exclaimed with a warm hug.

"Congratulations, my friend!"

"Hebrew!" the butler exclaimed with a wave of his hand. As he turned to walk out of the prison door, Joseph clasped a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

"Joseph," he told the butler. "My name is Joseph."

Nezzar turned around and repeated with a warm smile, "Joseph. Thank you for everything."

The two former prisonmates who had been placed in Joseph's care were whisked away as quickly as they had come. With a deep, quiet sigh, Joseph knew that he may never see them again, and he felt the similar frustration rise within himself.

Such was the rhythm of the prison: Easy in, easy out. Come and go. Everybody always left. Nobody put down roots. Nobody stayed.

Except Joseph.

As the guards slammed and locked the prison door shut -- giving the inmates the last full glimpse of sunlight that they would see until a stranger would decide that they would get to see it again -- Joseph whispered, "Don't forget me."

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Casserole2


If you missed the first Casserole post, you can check it out here.


----------------------------

I mostly did my taxes today. I haven't finished crunching all the numbers yet, but so far it looks like I'm going to get a refund this year. Last year, I ended up owing around $800. I think that means either I'm in a much lower tax bracket this year, or my previous employer kind of screwed me over last year.

----------------------------

 
I think MeepMeep's hormones have been settling, because she hasn't gone into heat for about a month (around Valentine's Day, go figure). She recently developed a voracious appetite for food, so I've been trying to not feed her too much. Lately, she's been politely requesting food when it isn't feeding time. It took me a while to figure out what she meant when she would crawl up onto my leg or crouch outside the bathroom door (when I'm not in there) or just randomly meow. Oh; it's because your bowl is empty. She hasn't developed a flabby gut like Macho did, so I'm hopefully not overfeeding her.

But far be it from me to deny her request when it's time to eat.

----------------------------

"Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:11-12)

This morning when I woke up, I noticed that my hip, wrist, and foot were hurting, and then I noticed that the weather was colder. Then I wasn't surprised. As I get older, I notice that my body helps me predict the weather. If my hair is behaving in the morning, that means the weather will be awesome. If my hair is being unusually stubborn, that means the weather will become bad later in the day. And, apparently, if I have old-person pains in my joints, that means I should probably dress warmly.

I still don't understand why people marvel at how the weather is acting. This is Texas. In the summertime, it's going to be hot. In January, it's going to be cold. If it isn't officially spring yet, there's a chance that the temperature could dip below freezing. If it isn't officially fall yet, the temperature will be parked on the 90s and the 100s. And if it's fall or winter, and if the weather suddenly gets hot, that means it's about to suddenly get cold again.

Spiritual seasons are the same way. If I'm in a season of prosperity (I believe the New King James Version says that this type of season is when you "abound"), everything about that season will have characteristics of prosperity. My bank account will be fat and happy. The atmosphere of my soul will be peaceful and happy. It will be easier for me to give -- moneywise and soulwise -- because I will have more than enough to go around.

If I'm in a season where I'm being squeezed tightly (when you're "abased" in the NKJV), everything in that season will squeeze me. My bank account will be skinny and sad. The atmosphere of my soul will be fighting to not become depressed, and I'm probably going to be working through a lot of anger. I'll probably be grieving the loss of something or somebody, I'll probably be hurting, and I'll probably be pretty needy -- moneywise and soulwise. But some very good things can come out of this type of season.

I didn't write any songs last year (because God told me to not write any), but He reminded me recently about the desperate times last year when I would pace around my living room and pour out my heart to Him. He basically showed me that I gave all my poetry to Him that way. Sweet. If He's happy, I'm happy.

One thing He showed me last year was that I've learned how to be content when I'm "abased," but I've never really learned how to be content when I'm "abounding." So, He said sarcastically, "I'm just going to have to take you through another season of abounding." Oh, darn.

So, I'm keeping my eyes peeled open for that season change.

----------------------------

In my constant struggle to have the perfect quiet time -- or perhaps to not obsess over how perfect it supposedly has to be -- God recently spoke something rather profound: "I don't care what you do during your quiet time. I just want a relationship with you." Lately, I've been having a 10-minute iPhone quiet time where He'll lead me to read a Psalm, but He really seems more interested in me chatting with Him than anything else. (And I mean chatting like a teenager at a slumber party.) I also sing a little bit, but when I do, MeepMeep will shoot out of nowhere and try to bite my arm.

Someday, I might just grab all my Bibles off the shelf and arrange them on the floor into the shape of a heart. Sigh.

----------------------------

When I was in high school, my birth father started a church. (It split off from another church.) He hated Daylight Saving Time. So, in his congregation, he began the tradition of everyone setting their clocks forward/backward together at the very END of the church service on Sunday morning. (That was before everyone had a smartphone, when everyone was still wearing a wristwatch.)

I thought about that tradition this weekend. If you weren't aware of Dad's corporate time-change tradition, and if you had set your clock forward the night before so that you could be on time for the 11:00 service, you'd end up arriving an hour early. In hindsight, I think this was Dad's way of manipulating people into going to Sunday School. Not cool.

The older I get, the more my personality reminds me of his, so I'm watching myself.

----------------------------

This afternoon/evening, I had my Dumb and Dumber DVD playing in the background. Listening to the 1994 soundtrack to that movie always transports me to my freshman year of college. I think about being in the cafeteria with those same songs or similar ones playing on the loudspeaker. I feel understood, and I feel safe.

Also today, I remembered when I was in the psych hospital in 2000. Somebody from church came to visit me in the ER, and they asked me if I remembered when was the last time I was happy. I replied when I was 6 years old.

Today, I realized that my answer in the ER wasn't accurate. I was happy in 1994 when I was a freshman in college. For me, maybe 1994 was just as magical of a year as 1982 was. I guess it was because I was adjusting to a new school, and I was putting down roots. In 1994, I was also introduced to the Holy Spirit, who made everything better and yet threw a wrench into the inner workings of my life so that I could never, ever go back to the way things were.

As Lloyd Christmas would say, "I like it a lottt."


Monday, February 19, 2018

Love, hate, and MeepMeep

Several ideas have been swirling around in my head for a while, and I thought it would be interesting to combine them here and see what happens.

 
I've mentioned this before, but I believe that God used my previous cats Macho and Choochie (pictured on the left) to teach me about how to relate to Him, and now He's using MeepMeep (pictured on the right) to teach me about how to love people. Notice that in this photo, Macho and Choochie are politely enjoying themselves while respecting my things, but MeepMeep is totally making herself at home in MY space. (I didn't even know it was possible to use a piano keyboard as a scratching post, but MeepMeep figured out a way. She's impressive.)

I will now abruptly switch gears. Last week -- on Valentine's Day -- one of the higher-ups at work gave us a tirade about how we weren't working fast enough or good enough. I was reminded pretty quickly that God really intended this job to be a temp job, cuz I ain't gonna want to stay all that long in a place that lectures me for working my butt off for them. Know what I mean? I've been trying to keep as of positive an attitude as I can during this prolonged season of temp-employment, because I honestly am thankful for the paycheck, and because I know that God is doing some important things inside me right now, and because I know that He wants me there right now. (And because I wouldn't be able to work where I REALLY want to work for at least another six months). A guest pastor at church preached a sermon at the beginning of the year in which he encouraged us to persevere, and I know that my job is a place where I need to just keep my head down and press through, especially when it's difficult. But a lecture at work on top of it being Valentine's Day just made the entire day a load of --

Anyway, while I was doing dishes either that night or the day after, I remarked to the Lord about how crazy it was that I could suddenly go from loving the upper-level managers at work to hating them. He basically said, "That's what it's like with authority. You either love them, or you hate them. You've been trying to find a middle ground, but you won't." I will probably be chewing on that piece of wisdom for the rest of my life.

I'm not saying that this is a word for the body of Christ at large, or for everybody, but I know that it's for me. I think there's some biblical evidence for it. For instance...

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Jesus talking in Matthew 6:24 about money, but I think the same principle applies)

"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan." (Proverbs 29:2)

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5, where I think it's very interesting how God, the ultimate Authority of all authorities, tells us how He wants us to relate to Him)

One of my English teachers in high school shared one of the coolest pieces of wisdom I've ever heard: The opposite of love isn't hate; it's indifference. Love and hate involve passion, but indifference doesn't involve any passion at all. That's why love and hate are basically like a switch. You can go from loving something/someone one day to suddenly hating it/them the next. All you did was redirect your passion.

I think that can happen with authority figures. I frickin' LOVE being under authority, I love being mentored, and I love getting to flourish under somebody else's wing. But if that somebody suddenly shames me, abuses me, or otherwise disses me -- especially if I've been faithful and hardworking -- I can get resentful VERY quickly. I'll start fighting very hateful thoughts toward that person. God has been showing me that those thoughts might not necessarily go away right away... or at all.

I'm in a unique season of my life when my emotions are so freed up that I'm unhinged on the inside. I'm in my early 40s, I don't have a husband or parents to answer to, and I really couldn't care less about what other people think about me. Basically, I have nothing to lose. There's so much freedom to just go for it right now. So, I'm kind of getting an emotional crash course in self-control.

I understand that when an offense happens, I need to forgive. If I'm bitter about something, I need to work through it and get rid of it. If I get wounded, I need to let God heal me from it before it festers and destroys me. I'm acutely aware of this process. When the rage against the authority flows freely through my insides, I need to control it and work through it. Currently, when I talk to God about it, He basically just says something like, "Keep it in your head. You're not acting on it." Some days, the stuff I internally work through can get pretty intense.

But my word for this year is "brazen." God has been showing me that I'm tough; I'm strong; I can handle stuff that maybe I didn't realize I could handle in the past. I'm strong enough to choose love, honor, and blessing. I'm strong enough to NOT punch anybody in the face. I'm strong enough to NOT take revenge (or to let God take it Romans-12 style).

I'm strong enough because God has strengthened me and shaped me in the fire... kind of like a Blacksmith forging an iron weapon to be used in battle. Say hello to His little friend: Tirzah. She's strong enough to kick the devil in his scrawny little --

Abruptly switching gears again, I'm learning how to show other people grace, and I'm learning how to show myself grace. I think I understand more than ever why God doesn't sanitize my internal emotional flare-ups: I wouldn't be myself.
  

My cat MeepMeep has been going into heat rather frequently this winter. (I think the cold weather is what gets her all excited.) It's kind of like a Jekyll and Hyde thing where she turns into a completely different cat for a week or so. When she's normal, I'm SO glad to have her back to her old self because she's more manageable. When she's in heat, she only has one thing on her mind, and she won't leave me alone until her passion is satisfied. (Sorry, kitty, but Mama isn't a boy cat.)

It can get pretty overwhelming. I've even considered taking her back to the vet office and telling them that it isn't working out for her to live with me anymore. I've thought about it... but I won't do it. If I were to return her, you'd may as well rip my heart out with a fork.

Because I love her. I want her just the way she is -- misplaced passion and all. Yes, I can't wait until her hormones have all worked themselves out of her system for good and she doesn't go into heat anymore. But here's the deal: I wouldn't trade her or her intense emotions for anything -- NOT EVEN FOR A NORMAL CAT.

See that picture I shared of her several paragraphs up? That was her saying Hi to me while I was writing this post. This evening, she's normal, so I'm able to write this thing in peace.

When she's in heat, she's restless and insatiable. But I don't disown her. I don't lock her away in a room until she decides to behave. I let her finish her cycle, even if it is a major inconvenience for me. And when she's finished her cycle, we've come through yet another situation where we've bonded together, and she's stronger as a cat. (For example, after her most recent heat cycle, she started meowing more.)

People can be the same way. They can get obsessive about one little issue, and they won't leave you alone until their restlessness is satisfied. Shunning or shaming these people can be an easy way to get rid of them... but being patient with them can help you understand their heart, and vice versa. Then after they've worked through their issue, come down off their soapbox, or simply calmed down, perhaps you've gained a lifelong friend.

I'm learning all kinds of interesting lessons about people right now. One thing I've noticed is that grown adults can totally turn into little kids anytime they learn something new, or anytime they're comfortable in a situation, or anytime they're fully allowed to be themselves. If you're in charge when this happens, you gotta put your big-girl pants on and be patient, gracious, and loving towards them. (And you might also need to draw some boundaries.) Otherwise, you'll hurt them.

I know what I'm talking about, because it's happened to me. But hopefully I've learned how NOT to treat people.

As a side note, I hope I'm not being all hoity-toity about me being an awesome leader. I already know I'm not perfect. Maybe there are people out there who hate me, too. I heard choir people talk about me behind my back once. (Or maybe they just thought it was behind my back.) I think and pray through that type of thing with God, too. When you let people express how they're really feeling, you get to see what's really in their heart.

For now, I'm enjoying MeepMeep's normal streak. I just now walked a few laps around the living room while I was holding her. For the record, she is much more affectionate than Macho and Choochie ever were. MeepMeep's emotions aren't always very controlled, but they are always very deep. I like it that way.

I think God likes it that way, too, and I think that's why He doesn't zap me off the face of the earth whenever I'm acting like a foolish little --

Thanks for reading!