Summer’s begun. I know this because the swimsuit MJ’s been putting on all winter is now a legitimate outfit here in Cleveland. It was all of 69 degrees here the other day.
I also know it’s summer because MJ is eating corn dogs. She got turned on to them at Blossom Fest; our very Stars Hollowesque (for you Gilmore Girls fans) town fair.
MJ now insists on eating a corn dog every time we plop on the couch to watch Peter Rabbit for maybe the fiftieth time. PR now rivals Shrek on my list of top 10 movies ever made. It’s hysterical.
So no, I’m not the parent boasting here of my child’s sophisticated palate for sushi and filet mignon. Miss Margaret Joy wants a corn dog.
It makes her happy.
And don’t we all want to be happy?
I know this because schools seem to give awards for all sorts of things these days in efforts to incite happiness in kids and their beaming / clapping parents.
At Kenston there are awards for the highest grade in Physics (go Phoebe!), awards for perfect attendance, and an award for “Hey, you’re 17, got up each day, and put your pants on.”
Know what makes me happy? Getting organized and clean. So while my older kids are off glamping in Jackson Hole, I’ve been categorizing my cards, polishing silver, and sorting through holiday decorations in our basement. I even washed my car. Like all of it.
Eric Boaz had a granola bar lodged in the side of his car seat from three months ago and a very sticky Costco fruit snack from last year stuck in the seatbelt. That is all totally and completely clean thanks to me.
It should surprise no one that as a woman about to turn 40 I’m cleaning my car with the same gusto and dutifulness I had cleaning our family mini van when I was 11.
Because I was the kid who took out the little vacuum accessory parts stuffed in a drawer somewhere and cleaned our “sorry excuse for a car”.
Our “sorry excuse for a car” was a bluish gray Plymouth minivan in which we’d change from our ballet clothes into horseback riding clothes every Saturday morning. The minivan in which my mom drove us all to Mercer Island to see my cousins, a roughly 40 hour drive from Phoenix. I remember that ride because we listened to Psalty tapes, I got car sick, and my older brothers used my back as a footrest on the journey.
Over the years our “sorry excuse for a car” morphed into a transformer like box with 4 wheels but 0 side view mirrors. Thank you teenage brother drivers. We’d even ask mom to drop us off a mile from school so no one had to see our “sorry excuse for a car” with smashed mirrors and a big swipe of peeled paint on the door.
But let me tell you, that bluish Plymouth mini van with no air conditioning, fabric from the roof caving in, and a side door that didn’t exactly open without a karate kick, was perfectly vacuumed inside because Miss Marcia Larson did that.
So yeah, clean makes me happy.
So does TV. I treat my TV shows and TV watching with the seriousness some reserve for politics. And with only two kids at home the past few days, I’ve been learning from master writer Shonda Rhimes via Masterclass – learning from the writer of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and now the phenomenal “For the People” (the best show on TV, hands down) how to write for TV. I just love it. TV makes me happy.
But by happy, I don’t mean fulfilled.
Seeing my kid get an award, cleaning my car and dislodging fruit snacks from hard to reach places and yes, watching The Bachelorette with my girls Monday nights…those get me about 25% “there.”
C.S. Lewis once said “don’t let your happiness depend on something you can lose.” And you can lose awards, clean rooms get messy, and TV shows veer off course and leave us disappointed. Even the big things we think are our “everything”, the stuff we count on for happiness like family, ultimately can’t fulfill.
To be frank – these are dark days. “Become My Mom Again” in The New York Times just breaks me. Because hopelessness is on the rise. Suicide rates are up 13%. Last week the most widely read piece in the New York Times led with “You accomplished something great. So now what?”
So now what?
Women face dark seasons for chemical and biological reasons we don’t even fully understand. In fact, there’s a term for that now: “mastescence”: the “hormone-addled transitions of pregnancy and parenthood. Rhyming with adolescence, both are times when body morphing and hormones shifting lead to an upheaval in how a person feels emotionally.”
Hurt is everywhere. Defying gender, racial and religious differences. We are all human and so we must all hurt.
So when I read MJ’s book last night – The Garden. The Curtain. And the Cross. it moved me to tears. Because we don’t have to wander around looking to our awards, our cleaned up car, or our DVR queue for answers.
This simple book delivers a simple message. And that message is this: God took down the “Keep Out Sign” when He sent His Son to die for us. And we can live everyday with hope that as bad as life can get.
When our babies die.
Our house burns down.
Our parents get sick.
Our jobs get taken away from us.
God says “come on in friend” and bestows upon us His undeserved and reckless love:
“There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me”