Poopier Things

About a month ago, Benji find he’d saved about $30 in his allowance. That kind of cash doesn’t sit around for long; we promptly went to the toy store to blow that wad on Legos and Douglas stuffed animals.

While we were there perusing the stuffed animal selection, what should we see but a large-ish plush poop emoji with a happy smile and hearts for eyes. Benji immediately latched onto it, not for himself, but because he felt that Daddy needed this stuffed poop. Could we please buy it as a present for Daddy?

I said we had to have some holiday or some reason to give it to him. Not surprisingly, I thought idea of giving the poop emoji a permanent home was pretty crappy. I wanted to find a way to squeeze out of it… But I also kind of wanted to see what Ian would do if presented with such an excretory gift.

He wanted to know when Daddy’s birthday was — January. Oh. That’s a long time.

What about Christmas? Oh, December is still a long time.

Finally I took pity on him and admitted that our wedding anniversary was on August 9, not that far off. I said that we could buy it for Daddy as an anniversary gift representative of our marriage. (Don’t worry, that’s not actually the case.)

We agreed to not tell Ian about this plan, and amazingly, Benji only ever mentioned it when we were alone.

Last Wednesday after I got my tattoo, I was home earlier that usual. It was the perfect opportunity! I whisked Benji off to the toy store. The entire way there he fretted that someone might have already coughed up the dough for the poop. I couldn’t decide if that would be good or bad, in the long run.

Fears aside, the heart eyes poop remained available. Sales of plush poop emojis must have been a little constipated since we last were there, but we got things moving again with our purchase.

I had them gift-wrap it, which was amusing–the teenage boy doing the wrapping had no idea how to wrap a plush triangle–and off we went home to deliver our load.

To his credit, Benji managed to not say what it was, and he let Ian open it. When Ian got the wrapping paper off, all my doubts were blown out the window. Ian literally was speechless for minutes, and then he started laughing hysterically for longer. I have never seen him so surprised, astonished, or delighted at a joke. It was well worth the cost of the poop just for the first five minutes after it came out.

And that is how we now have a plush poop emoji, which Ian generally shares with Benji.

What My Tattoo Means

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a tattoo this week. This is something that’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been thinking about how to share about what brought me to doing it.

For several years, I’ve kept having the idea of idols in my life popping up. There’s this concept of idols as put forth by Timothy Keller in Counterfeit Gods that says an idol is basically anything that becomes the top priority in my life, supplanting God. Idols are usually good things–family, work, exercise–that soon become all-consuming things, things that define who we are. When that happens, their goodness becomes twisted and ruined.

When God is in His proper place, first in my life, the fundamental foundation of who I am–a beloved child of God, always imperfect but always covered by grace–remains true no matter what happens in my day-to-day experience. When an idol starts to supplant that definition of myself, I start to waver. That’s when start I having to earn or prove my worth, when I start to feel like I need to do more, work harder at whatever my idol is, prove I’m worthy of love.

For a long time, then, I’ve been feeling God nudging me and telling me that my Saturday bike rides are too important in my life. I’ve long reserved Saturday morning to midafternoon for a big ride, and I’ve been feeling like God is telling me that I’m willing to put them above the well-being of my family, above my own well-being, above other important relationships. That that aspect of biking, the riding hard and fast and long with a bunch of guys I know, has become too big and important in my life.

As with any idol, biking is a good thing. It’s healthy, and for me it facilitates mental health, too. Even going for big Saturday rides is a fine thing; it’s great to get out and push myself, and many of the guys I ride with are my friends who I only see on Saturdays. Before I got my job at Tamarac, it was also one of the few times I got to be away from home and Benji for an extended time, and simultaneously have adult conversation. Saturday rides have played an important role in helping me stay healthy and sane the last five years.

But every single Saturday, all year long, regardless of how the week went or the emotional status or anything else, really? Especially since I started working at Tamarac, I have much less time with my family than previously. I don’t need the escape from home or social outlet (although these guys are still my friends!) nearly as much as I did before. Now what I need is relationship time with my family and our friends.

For a long time I haven’t been interested in listening to God’s nudges about this. But on July 5 I got sick with this fever virus, and it didn’t go away for a full 11 days — including two Saturdays completely off the bike. Despite my best efforts at eating to maintain muscle mass, I did lose fitness. I’m substantially slower than I was before, and I can’t just hop on my bike Saturday morning to crank out a quick 100 miles.

I pondered this reality last Saturday while I was not riding, but was keenly aware that Dad and several of my buddies were doing a one-day STP. They were all off doing a hard ride and getting stronger and faster, and I was at home pulling weeds and shooting squirt guns. I realized then that, while this sickness doesn’t end my season, it probably ends my season with those guys.

Through the day, I went through so many emotions: Frustration and disappointment and discouragement as I compared myself to them; slowly moving to acceptance and the reminder that comparing myself has never made me happy and anyway, I had a really great time with Benji and Mom and squirt guns. Finally I reached the point when I accepted that God was right: I needed to reprioritize my Saturday riding. It could no longer be paramount in my life, not now and not ever.

It took literally taking away my fitness for me to accept that my Saturday efforts–riding 20 mph for 100 miles, or climbing 10,000 feet in 100 miles, or doing something equally challenging each week–while fine goals, they can never be the most important thing in my life.

I shared this with Ian, and we had a talk about it. I felt so unburdened and freed! In that moment, I let go of comparing my riding mileage or speed or climbing to others. I let go of having to be my strongest, fastest self every day and every season. I put God back in His place and reordered everything else right:

Jesus
Others
Yourself

(Trust me, this is coming to the tattoo.)

This is only one example of where I’ve had to make a significant course correction in my life. Anorexia and vulnerability are two other areas that jump to mind, plus lots of marriage-related moments.

Every time, I’ve had to come back to this truth, which I first really started to absorb in Henri Nouwen’s wonderful Life of the Beloved, as I mention in this (surprisingly insightful) post:

I have value because I am God’s beloved. He loves me not because of what I’ve done but, by grace, in spite of what I’ve done. I am beloved. Nothing I do, no amount of brokenness, will stop the grace-filled love God has for me.

The tattoo is my reminder to make that truth my North. I want to remember every time I look at it that I am beloved and that God freely loves me over all the ugliness in my heart and all the nasty failures of my actions. It’s a powerful truth that changes how I live at the deepest level. I don’t want to forget it, and now every time I look at my arm, I will remember.

And about biking? This week, my first week healthy, Ian and I decided together what kind of bike ride would work for us as a family. It looked like this.

I rode alone. I left at 9:00, an hour later than usual, and I played more with Benji than previous Saturday mornings. My ride was short, by summer standards, but I did get out. And when I got home, I took Benji for a walk in the woods and some playtime at Blyth Park while Ian got a nap. We are all happy.

Except for my hands, which got sun burned because I didn’t put sunscreen on them and I took my gloves off because I was too hot. But I kept my arm covers on and my arms–and, more importantly, my tattoo–remained un-burned.

I Got a Tattoo

Compass Rose Tattoo

I am pretty stoked.

How I’m going to keep it out of the sun for the next 30 days while also doing my usual bike training, however, remains a mystery yet to be solved.

I originally set up my tattoo appointment in April, and the earliest date that worked was June 29. But the artist had to have foot surgery, so they rescheduled a week or so before the day. The rescheduled date was for September, but they added me to the list of people to call if sooner spots opened up. One did open up, last Thursday, and I quickly took it — and then had to cancel when my fever returned with a vengeance on Wednesday. Fortunately, the artist had another cancellation for today, and I’m so pleased to report that, despite my extreme apprehension, my fever did not return today.

I rode my bike there, and I worked hard to get there early but arrived just a minute or so late (no big deal). On the bright side I got a good workout at the same time.

Then it was tattoo time and yes, it HURT. A lot. It didn’t get easier and it didn’t hurt less, but it was bearable and I bore it. Without crying, throwing up, or passing out, all of which the artist said she’d seen.

So now it’s done! There’s some aftercare that seemed mostly focused on keeping it clean and well moisturized, and not getting sunburned.

Like I said: Pretty stoked.

Some Summery Somethings

On the laundry line, one of the things was a little out of place…
What's Different Here...

Playing with water in the yard, we’ve a real dearth of offensive weapons. Actually we just have the one, the hose. So one person gets the hose and the other people…. get really wet. I cogitated on this problem, looked around the back yard, and literally with a little duct tape, the water table lid, and some PVC pipe, came up with some defense: The water shield.
Water Shield: Construction

Water Shield: Modeling

Which works well enough to let the user get close to the hose-sprayer and dump a bucket of water on the sprayer, although ultimately everyone gets wet, which is, of course, the whole point.

Water Shield: In Action

Love, for Preschoolers

The other day I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 for my Bible study. I realized this could work really well from a preschooler’s perspective, so I decided to write it. If you haven’t read 1 Corinthians 13, read it here first so you know why this parody is amusing. (I also referred to this alternative, more literal, translation.)

Without further ado, here’s the famous chapter on love, from a preschooler’s perspective.

THE WAY OF LOVE

If I always use please and thank you, but don’t love, I might as well be throwing a tantrum.

If I can explain and understand feelings so I always think of others first, and if I am willing to share even my most precious toy, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give all my fishy crackers to kids who are hungry and even don’t complain when I get a consequence for something I didn’t do, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. No matter how well I use my words, how often I put others first, or who I play nicely with, it’s all pointless without love.

Loves tries its best to do its best.
Love shares.
Love doesn’t whine for candy at the store.
Love doesn’t boast about how it’s the best,
Doesn’t yell to get attention,
Doesn’t demand the first turn,
Doesn’t get frustrated and throw things,
Doesn’t remember when things weren’t fair,
Doesn’t laugh when other kids get owwies,
Enjoys telling true things,
Tolerates playing with littler kids,
Trusts that Mommy and Daddy will come back,
Keeps looking forward to free play
Even while sitting still and listening at circle time.

Love gives it two good tries. Schedules and plans will finish; play-doh will dry out; grownups will run out of explanations. Right now you can read a few words, but the words you can read don’t tell the whole story. But when you learn to read all the way, you’ll be able to understand chapter books.

When you were a little baby, you couldn’t read and follow Lego instructions to build cool vehicles; you just wanted to eat the little pieces. When you got bigger, you quit trying to eat the pieces and built vehicles from your imagination.

Now it’s like a bad computer phone call, with pixels instead of faces. But it won’t be long before we can actually be in person. We’ll see not only our family’s faces, but be able to get hugs and kisses and play with them.

But for right now, until then, we have three things to help us be more kind and patient: Playing, snacking, and napping. And the best of the three is napping.

A Girl in a Man’s World

I just read How the Bicycle Paved the Way for Women’s Rights, which is what got me thinking about being a woman in a man’s world. (Funny thing about the article: It basically devolved into a discussion of newspaper coverage of women’s cycling fashion from the turn of the century. What the heck?) I found it interesting to learn that my hobby played a role in women’s rights:

The bicycle took “old-fashioned, slow-going notions of the gentler sex,” as The Courier (Nebraska) reported in 1895, and replaced them with “some new woman, mounted on her steed of steel.”

I’ve always gotten along with guys; I don’t consider myself a radical feminist or anything. I’m a (fairly) wealthy white woman, and I do not consider myself underprivileged or victim of prejudice. But more and more, I’ve been thinking about what my life looks like and how it’s determined by these cultural norms outside of my control.

I’ve always gotten along with guys, and that’s good, because…

  • At the technical school where Ian and I went to college, there were more boys named Matt than girls in Ian’s class. But in my classes, which focused on biology and writing, there were more women.
  • My occupation, in the software business, once again surrounds me with dudes. But in my department, there’s a pretty equal split of men and women (although it’s two male managers in a team of six, hmm).
  • In my chosen hobby, there are way, way fewer women than men. Statistics on this are difficult to find and tend to conflict, but at the level I prefer to ride (as fast as possible, with as few stops as necessary), men comprise the vast majority.

(Sorry, I’m afraid I may use more bullets even in my everyday writing since I started technical writing full time. They’re just so darn efficient!)

One of the things I’ve learned, spending most of my free time and work time with guys, is to push for my view. I’ve always been loud and willing to express my opinions, to put it nicely. At the same time, I’ve learned that guys respect me and listen to me based on two things: How firmly I’m willing to speak; and whether I can actually put my money where my mouth is.

For example, when I’m biking with a group of guys, we often call out hazards or alerts to each other. If I call out, “Steep hill, gear down!” at the beginning of the ride, the guys will hear me (I am loud) but it’s not until I’ve beaten most of them up the hill that I earn their respect. The next hill, if I suggest to gear down, they’re more likely to listen. There’s not a lot of negotiation or worrying about feelings, and they aren’t likely to be miffed that I beat them up the hill. More likely, they’ll work harder trying to catch me, and I’ll work harder trying to stay ahead.

At the same time, I’ve gotten many comments along the lines of, “You’re pretty fast for a girl,” as well as more overtly sexist ones: “Is this where the fastest housewives are?” and “If I was younger I’d want to marry you because you’re so fast.” DUDES. Would you ever, ever, ever in a million years say that to another guy? Harmless flirting with The One Girl isn’t harmless.

No, this isn’t the vast majority of guys I ride with. Most of them are great guys who want to know how fast my legs are, not what they look like. They treat me exactly the way they’d treat another guy, I think; that’s fair, and all I ask.

All I ask is the opportunity to earn respect, whatever environment I’m in — work or play; to show what I’m capable of and be judged on my abilities. Which is really all any of us could hope for, I suppose.

I’ve actually got a lot more to say about this, and about what I’ve learned being a cyclist in a driver’s world (can anyone say “discrimination”?), but unfortunately I’m out of time for now. Hopefully you won’t have to wait two weeks for my next installment.