Feeble Knees

Saturday, July 29, 2006

What He Said

Okay, so I'm a little behind, but I've been trying to catch up with a few neighbors in the blogosphere. Just spent some time over at Totem to Temple's blog and found myself nodding vigorously and yelling "Exactly!"

The following posts in particular stuck out:

I Have a Problem, Therefore You Must Also Have the Same Problem

The Pathetic Realm - Charismatic Magicians

A Friend Sent This In

Each echoes so much of the stuff I've dealt with in my church past. It reminds me all over again that I wasn't nuts, they were. The Charismatic Magicians post resonated in particular. I remember one "special service" where an evangelist came to preach. I dutifully went to the altar at the altar call, and the man put his hand forcefully on my forehead, as if to force me to fall over "slain". Steeling myself, I went completely rigid and all but dared him to make me fall. He pushed again, I leaned into it, resolute. Eventually he gave up on me and passed on, toppling others like Dominoes.

On two separate occasions a nice elderly lady was supposedly "slain". Each time, she was hurtled backward with such force she nearly knocked me down. (Why she always ended up hitting me, I'm not sure, and I often wondered about it). Maybe I'm crazy, but there was absolutely no way, in my mind, that the gentle and loving Holy Spirit would throw and old and frail woman down to her own danger and peril. That is just not the Jesus I know.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Church Without Jesus

A friend recently bubbled over in excitement, she couldn't wait to tell me about her new church. "It's really great, there's this great community, and they have child care, and they do all sorts of stuff, but they don't talk about God - you don't have to believe in a specific god or anything, so there's none of this dogma crap. It's great!"

Church without God? Church without Jesus? Why bother!

Had it not been for Jesus, my friends, I'd never, ever have stepped foot inside a church. Neeeeever. Well, maybe for weddings and funerals, but that would have been about it. Even after I'd decided to turn my broken, messed up life back over to Him, I didn't want to go. I figured we could work everything out between us, Father, Son, Holy Spirit and I. I'd read the Good Book and do my best to obey, God helping me. Did I really need to go to church?

It was at the behest of a friend that I started going. I dragged my feet there the whole way. Once inside the music caused the tears to flow, and years of guilt, shame, pain, loneliness, anger and bitterness welled up, spilled over and washed away. I even did the aisle walk at the end of the sermon. I knelt in a tight little ball at the altar and sobbed heavily. Time passed, then more time passed, and I was still having it out, oblivious to anything and everything around me. When I finally lifted my head, I saw my friend sitting in the back pews, where we'd been sitting. The rest of the place was empty, save for the pastors (who looked like they weren't sure if I was ever going to get up) and the pianist, who dutifully plunked away on the keyboard until I'd composed myself and headed back to the pew. I'd been there wringing myself out for over an hour.

This wasn't for anyone's sake other than mine, and the Lord's. We had a lot of things to talk about. There were a lot of things to turn right. So many things, in fact, that one conversation wasn't going to do it. That old-timey pianist was going to run out of hymns long before the Lord and I ran out of things to discuss. Because of this, the following Sunday, I went back. And then the next Sunday, and the next. I didn't even know or care what the church's programs were. I just knew that no one bugged me at then end when I went down to the altar and wept and prayed, and they let me stay there as long as I liked and the pianist just kept plunking away. That's why I kept going back.

It wasn't the people. It wasn't the programs. It certainly, God help me (and that poor pianist), was not the music. Nor was it the air conditioning, the fancy lighting, the color of the walls, or the soft, cushy upholstered pews. It was my desire to apprehend That which had apprehended me (Philippians 3:8-14), namely the person of Jesus Christ himself. You see, I'd just learned what it really meant to really, really need forgiveness and then get it, even though I didn't deserve it, not even a little bit. I felt in my heart that God honestly wanted me back, despite all the crappy stuff I'd done, and was willing to help me turn things around in my heart and life.

It was heady stuff. Potent. Jesus was all I wanted, and I wanted all I could get.

Everything else was superfluous, unnecessary. I didn't care if there were mission statement banners in the sanctuary, or what colors they were. I didn't care whether or not the worship team had microphones or speakers or any electrification at all. I didn't care if there was a projector for lyrics - isn't that what the hymnals were for? I didn't care if we sang two hundred year old hymns, or new ones for that matter. I didn't notice whether or not people around me were doing all the right spiritual gymnastics. All I cared about was that I was right with God and loving Jesus more every day.

Then somewhere along the line it all went nutso, the church went beserk and it became agony to go every week and see and hear things that were not of God, that were not done as Christ would have done them.

I left precisely because not only was it just plain getting spooky and dangerous, but there was less and less of Jesus. Oh sure everyone talked about Him and invoked His name everywhere, but in a constant spiritual-one-upmanship type of way that fostered divisions, cliques and strife of all sorts. People jockeyed for elected positions, or, if unelected, formed their own new little special interest groups, even rival prayer meetings. Yes, rival prayer meetings. It's true.

Maybe that was part of my problem in church, is that I kept going expecting it to be about Jesus. That was the reason you went, I thought, to learn about Him and worship Him and do your best to act like Him. It started out that way, at first. But take Jesus out of church and why on earth would I want to go? It's like making a cake without sugar, hot water without tea, a meal without meat or bread - what's the point?

Why on earth would a born introvert like me put myself out there with a whole bunch of other people early on a Sunday morning? Exactly! I wouldn't!

As she took a drag on her cigarette, my friend went on and on about the great communal experience she has found. "They have sermons, but they're not like about God or anything. They talk about how you have to take time for yourself, and awareness, and all that. I really like it."

Given my own churchless state of late, the strength of my inward reaction surprised me. There were many things I wanted to say, many super-spiritual insta-sermonettes about drinking from broken cisterns sprang to my lips. But I didn't go there.

"Hunh." I said. And that was it. What else could I say? She has found what she likes, hears only what she wants to hear, and sees no need or lack anywhere in her life. In essence, she just wants a Starbucks® with childcare.

I'll have a Mocha Grande Caramel Latte, light on the religion please, extra whipped cream, and hold the dogma. Thank You! See you next week, ta-ta!

Monday, July 24, 2006


You may remember the infamous, ill-fated and short-lived vice presidential campaign of Admiral Stockdale, onetime presidential hopeful Ross Perot's running mate. Well lately as it pertains to this blog I find myself quoting the old Admiral.

"Who am I and what am I doing here?"

Since Bug was born (almost) ten months ago, I've certainly lost my focus, but even before he arrived on the scene my priorities and objectives shifted. I was like the starving artist who finally got fed - I lost some of my drive and my edge and started to meander all over the place.

Instead of rooting out all my angst about my past church experiences and the church in America in general, I got all happy and wrapped up in this new little life, which is as it should be, if I'm to keep progressing toward mental and spiritual health. No wound ever heals if it keeps getting picked at. And at times that's what I felt like I was doing with this blog - picking at things that would heal in time if I just left it alone. Maybe not. Maybe I've just been far enough removed and insulated enough from the craziness that still exists out there that it hasn't been pressing on my everyday heart and mind.

So Bug was born, we were deliriously happy, deliriously stressed and stretched by parenthood, and I lost just about all of my desire to blog. I've been trying (vainly) to keep it going in the last few months by doing a lot of mommyblogging, but that's far afield of what this blog was originally about (no matter how hard I try to keep it relevant, it never quite connects).

I'm at a crossroads and thinking about closing down Feeble Knees. It wouldn't necessarily be the end of my blogging life, but perhaps a start of something else - maybe something more generalist or more specific - I really don't know yet. But I'm seeking redirection and a focus that hasn't materialized as yet. The more I try to keep things going here the more it feels just like that - that I'm just trying to keep things going, and it's just not as fruitful as it used to be.

That's my line of thinking lately. Like anything else, it could change. I'm giving myself a few more weeks to discern where this might be going, and if it has a future. We shall see.

EDIT: Corrected to say that Admiral Stockdale was Ross Perot's running mate, not Dan Quayle's as I mistakenly wrote. Thanks to Jeff the Baptist for the correction!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Biting My Tongue

There are a good number of things I've been chomping to write about, but can't divulge without giving away too much identifying information.

Unlike La Petite Anglaise, I don't have to worry about getting dooced from a job, but even that would be easier than dealing with certain family members if I blogged about them.

So I will not write about the unexpected, albeit legitimate, pregnancy which should be bringing more joy than controversy. Nor will I write about how I've had it up to here with people who go to church every time the doors are open and treat their own like dirt. Nor will I even get into how tired I am of people who love to tell gory medical/surgical/accident/terminal illness stories under the guise of giving a "Praise Report".

And I absolutely will not wonder out loud about how it is that a group of immediate family members who all claim to be followers of Christ (myself included) can get their noses out of joint, nit-pick and hold twelve-ton chips on their shoulders better than any poor average godless soul I've ever met.

So if anyone has wondered why I've not been traversing the Christian blog-world and offering up thoughts and comments on the fractious and contentious state of that sphere, it's because I've been dealing with too much of it in my own family lately and I'm sick of it UP TO HERE. Aaaaargh!

There, I said it. God help me and God help us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Exciting Day!

My Exciting Tuesday, by Feeble Knees

I woke up and took care of the baby! Then I went to the grocery store! Then I took care of the baby until he went to bed!

Then ... (drumroll please!)

I cleaned the tub!

Hooray for me!

The End!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Areas of Neglect

For kicks I thought I'd speed post a list of things that I've either neglected to do completely or have failed to do on a routine basis since Bug was born nine months ago.

  • Dusting
  • Washing the kitchen floor
  • Vacuuming
  • Cleaning the tub (just threw out yet another mildewy shower curtain this morning. I've started buying several cheap ones at a time and treating them like disposables. Shameful, I know.)
  • Getting my hair cut on a semi-regular basis
  • Shaving legs/underarms (just so you don't get a totally unflattering image in your mind, I have managed to do this two or three times a week - but definitely not every day)
  • Calling friends
  • Calling family
  • Blogging
  • Reading books (i.e. the grown up kind - I've read lots and lots of baby-sized board books) Although I did read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Word of caution: sleep-deprived new mothers should NOT read this book. Waaaaay too painful and hard to read without sobbing). Then I finally finished Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which I picked up sometime last year. Then after those two, I made the mistake of I trying to pick up Blue Like Jazz and found myself immediately annoyed by the author's "single person with no kids" point of view/Starbucks induced writing style and wanted to throw the book across the room. Sorry Don Miller! Maybe I'll lighten up in a few months and try to give it another fair shake later, after I've read a few light things in succession.
  • Following the Red Sox. Sad but true. I've missed so many games this year, even when they are on the TV or radio. I know who's in the lineup and have a general sense of how things are going for each player, but I haven't followed them w/my usual devoted fervor. But I did manage to score some Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Hansen rookie cards on eBay (for Bug, of course!) and I am acutely aware that the Sox are still 2 games up in the loss column over the Yankees coming out of the All-Star break. Ha!
  • Movies. Haven't seen a movie in the theatre since I was pregnant. Last one was Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and what a waste of ten dollars that was, regrettably.
  • Music. I think I have thirty or forty dollars sitting unused in my iTunes allowance account. The last purchase I made was children's music for Bug. But it was cool children's music, really. (You're shaking your head and saying "uh-huh", aren't you?)
  • My feet. These dogs are uuuu-gly baby: callouses, chipped toenails and heels like sandpaper. It took me almost six months to finally remove the last vestiges of the bright purple pedicure that I'd had professionally done two days before Bug was born. Picture stripes of purple polish along the top of the nail and you've got the idea. It was not a good look. It took my Rheumatologist to point out "gee, it's been a while since you've had those done, eh" before I was shamed into doing something about it.
  • My diet. I'm not exactly living on Twinkies, but I'm not being as careful as I should be, given my bout with gestational diabetes and increased risk for Type II. Trying to change that now, but boy it's not as easy as it used to be to plan healthful meals. Especially ones that actually require more than 2 preparation/cooking steps.
  • Exercise. Unless it involves pushing a stroller or lifting a twenty-pound baby, it doesn't happen.
  • Gardening. All the plants are pretty much on their own this year. Didn't do any vegetables, not even containers of tomatoes. Managed to plant some stuff at the beginning of the season, including a tree for Bug, but that's about it. Luckily for me it's rained a lot so I haven't had to get out there with the hose.
  • Writing. A few months ago I promised myself I'd try to write something, anything, every day. Ha!

Just thought y'all should know. :)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ch-Ch-Ch-Change Me!

Oh the changes that have taken place in the past nine months. Me changes. Mr. F changes. Bug changes. Diaper changes.

This is the new song Mr. F came up with for use during diaper changes. To the tune of David Bowie's "Changes" we sing:
"Ch-Ch-Ch-Change Me!
Turn and face the strange odor
Ch-Ch-Ch-Change Me!
Oh look out this one's a stinker!"

This is just one of the new hidden talents that have emerged post-baby: our ability to parody any song a la Weird Al Yankovic. I have sung "Dry that Baby" to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus, "Clean Up The Baby" to the tune of "Roll Out the Barrel" and so many more that don't immediately spring to mind but always seem handy when the occasion warrants. Apparently there is nothing like a happy tune to distract my cranky guy and make him grin. Maybe it's not my singing that cheers him as the complete idiot I voluntarily become in an effort to snap him out of a fuss.

Which leads me to another thing that has changed in the last nine months: our complete surrender of personal pride. Oh the things you do to keep a happy baby happy, or nip a fuss in the bud. We've worn strange things on our heads, made noises and faces that'd make Jim Carrey proud. We've acted like gorillas, we've danced silly dances to the hum of silly tunes, we've bonked ourselves on the head with toy hammers that go BOING! There is not much room for pride in the life of a parent. It just gets in the way.

Another change: the relinquishing of self-will.

You want to go to the store to buy a book for someone. This takes a great deal of tactical planning. It is currently 11:30 am. You'd like to go at one, but you can't go at one because the baby needs to nap somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 and he will NOT nap in the car, thank you, nor will he nap in the huge cushy overpriced stroller that looks like a Lunar Lander Model (LEM). So, knowing he'll nap for exactly 38 minutes (give or take two minutes) the earliest you can probably attempt the trip is 3:00 (don't ask me why this doesn't add up mathematically. It does add up if you apply the Infant Unconstant to the equation.) Ok, so 3:00 it is. You start packing the diaper bag now, before lunch, so you'll be ready to go.

Of course baby throws you a curve and decides he doesn't want to nap until 2:30, which he communicates by means of very loud protestations and banging of feet on the crib walls when you attempt to put him down at 1:30. You could fight it, and try to wait him out but he'll just scream and holler until you finally give up and take him out of the crib at 2:10. Immensely pleased with your capitulation, he will play for ten minutes and then cry to be held, whereupon he promptly sacks out in your lap.

Okay, 2:30 it is.

He sleeps exactly 38 minutes. It is 3:08. You could go now, but it's twelve minutes to the store. Then you have to find the book, then ideally you'd like to browse for a few minutes. But now you're treading on dangerous ground because The Big Fuss Hour starts on the dot at four PM. You might be able to make it out and back if you left THISINSTANT, but you can't go at THISINSTANT because he just pooped and that's going to take a couple minutes to deal with. Then there's the getting one little squirmy body into his car seat. And the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking ever closer to the Hour of Reckoning.

You have two choices: give up and try to get out tomorrow morning when his disposition is generally sunnier and you run less risk of dealing with a complete meltdown in a nice quiet bookstore filled with people who will shoot loathsome "how-dare-you-reproduce" looks in your direction. Or you can screw your courage to the sticking place and hit the road.

Do you feel lucky punk?

It is situations like these that have taught me, time and time again, that some times it's a good thing to surrender my own agenda for the sake of world peace. I could drag him out and then have to take him out of the stroller when he begins whining and stretching out his arms in a pitiful attempt to grab my leg. Then I'd have to bounce him vigorously on one hip to calm him down while repeatedly trying to catch the binky as he spits it forcefully towards the floor.

Maybe I could do it one day when I'm in great shape and don't have so much pain in this creaky arthritic frame of mine, but not this day. Maybe there will be a day when I won't be sensitive to the stares, disapproving looks and hostility of other store patrons, but not this day.

This day, we stay home.

This is just one example of how a child (can) impact your life and choices. Some more stout-hearted than I would maybe still forge out into the wilds of suburban strip malls with their wailing progeny in tow. I can't do that, and I won't do it. That puts a few limitations on me. Some would say I'm depriving myself. Well, yeah, I am. Momentarily. Temporarily. For Now. There will be time for bookstore trips and such like when the child is older. It's tough and sometimes it's annoying and frustrating. But in the end it's the right thing for me to do. I have to pick my health and sanity over trivial things, which forces me to examine everything I'm tempted or inclined to do and answer myself honestly "is this wise? is this prudent?"

I also used to be a pretty dignified person, maybe a little starchy and withdrawn to some. I've been broken of that too. That's not a bad thing, all things considered. I like to think my sense of humor is being refined and forged by fire. I'm more likely to laugh off things like getting pooped or peed on. And if you can laugh that off brother, you'd be amazed what else you can take in stride.

Which brings me to perhaps the biggest change I've noticed in the last few months. It's been a hard lesson but an invaluable one. I'm still learning it and in no way have mastered it. It has the power to completely change the outcome of any situation, however foul.

Attitude Adjustment.

Having a child and having a bad attitude are not a good mix. You can't have both under one roof and expect to survive the day without losing your mind. So the attitude has to go. Feeling bad for yourself for getting pooped on has to go. Resentment over not being able to go out and do all the things you used to do has to go. Feeling like you're going to put an ice pick through your head if you have to play with that same blasted toy again for the N-teenth time has to go. Focusing on all the bad things that happened today (getting pooped on, multiple fuss sessions, the screaming fit he threw when you tried to change him) all have to go.

It's as though a light's been shined on all my crummy thoughts (and everyone has them at some point...if you're a parent, this means you too... don't lie!) and I've been shown that keeping them around in my brain is a choice and really I could do without them. They don't help. It's not that I deny I'm having them, or that I'll ever prevent them from popping up, weed-like, where they are least wanted. But I don't have to nurse them. I don't have to cultivate them to the point of seeding even more crummy thoughts.

You would think that as a dedicated Christian who reads the Bible and studies God's word in earnest, that I'd have learned this before. To some extent I did, and I would have told you before Bug that I had a good handle on my "Thought Life" and keeping things clean. But since Bug, it's gone so much deeper into areas I never paid any mind to - all the real nitty-gritty storehouses of selfishness that have built up and calcified over my thirty five years.

So how have things changed? Well, I can't say I've managed a lot of change in this area other than to become aware the problem exists and to arm myself against it. This means recognizing an ugly thought when it raises its head ("I am so sick of rolling this stupid soccer ball back and forth") and attempting to neutralize it or redirect my thinking. ("He's growing up so fast, soon he'll be running around with this in the back yard.")

Just this slight mental adjustment has the power, if I let it, to turn my mood around to focus on something more positive, good, pure and hopeful. Some days require constant re-adjustments like this. Someday he won't want to cuddle anymore and he won't be this clingy, so I should enjoy this now and get my hugs in while I can. He's so strong now, wriggling in my arms. Remember when you were desperate to put weight on him? Look at him now, he's healthy and growing just the way he should.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

And when all else fails, sing silly songs. Repeatedly. World without end. Hallelujah, Amen!