Posted by: Erica | March 2, 2010

Have a Laugh at My Expense

I make it a point to read the signs outside of churches, because I’m a big fan of the cute sayings you sometimes will find there.  The other day I passed by a sign that read, “Prepare for 2010.  Have an escape plan.”  I have been trying my best to figure out what scriptures they were drawing that one from, until today when I drove past again and realized the building was a fire station.

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Posted by: Erica | February 25, 2010

Homelessness

Monday night, Martin and I came home and discovered an eviction notice in the mail.  We have been paying outrageous electric bills ($1600 for the last two months) due to a malfunctioning heating unit.  Martin recently asked to be compensated for some of the cost and this, apparently, is their reply.  We must be out by March 31st.  Reading those words induced a strange feeling.  Suddenly I realized I was standing in a place where I was unwelcome.  The natural instinct is to remove yourself and retreat to a place where you are, but we just stood there facing the reality that we don’t have any other place to go. 

It has been a stressful relationship with the property managers this whole year, and honestly, I’d be glad to walk away from the situation at this point if it wasn’t for two things:  1) moving requires so much energy and it is taking about all I have these days just to get out of bed in the morning.  2)  we are not having much luck finding another rental property.  You see, even though the D.C. area is vast and sprawling, it is also a very confining environment because of how populated it is.  You are limited to certain locations by how long it would take you to get to work.  The other night it took me over an hour to drive 20 miles.  So, take those prospects and narrow the field by which neighborhoods are safe.  Take those and narrow by which properties we can afford.  And then those prospects are reduced by space and whether or not pets are allowed.  Would anyone like a dog or two?

I tend to be a worrier, so I have learned that my level of panic is not always a good indication of how serious a situation actually is.  A better one, I’ve found, is how early Martin gets out of bed in the morning.  That night I don’t think he slept at all.  A side effect of emotional pain is how it becomes physical.  You lose the ability to sleep, your muscles ache,  etc.  These things combined with your anxiety soon render you disabled.  We come home and make ourselves TV zombies to cope.  I’m terribly behind with household tasks and neither of us have cooked in a while.  Not that it matters; my body has been rejecting any form of food or drink for the past two weeks.  Today I’m trying a diet of dry cereal, applesauce, and green tea–we’ll see how that goes. 

It has me thinking about the homeless people living on streets, in shelters, in cars.  The vagrant.  The displaced.  I’ve always had a soft heart for these people, but have also let myself off the hook with the ideas that  “they should just get a job…they must have done something to deserve it.”  In my present situation, I am heartbroken at the reality of just how hard their struggle must be.  In truth, we are all one perfect storm of misfortune away from being in their place.  And once there, the uncertainty of meeting basic needs can pull you the rest of the way under. 

The other night I was folding socks and noticed that some of Martin’s are stained with the blue paint that we used on our master bedroom walls back in Illinois.  We all miss that house.  Last night as I was tucking Ansley into bed, I decided to start preparing her for another move.  “We’re going to start looking to see if we can find a better house to live in.”  She rolled away for a second and then looked back up at me and asked, “Who’s in the one we just came from?”  I should have appreciated it more than I did; I wanted a better space for entertaining–ha!  Whoever penned the words “your home is your castle” wasn’t talking about architecture.  It is your safe place, your security, your foothold in this world.  When your lose those things, it doesn’t matter if you have a roof over your head, you become homeless.

Posted by: Erica | February 22, 2010

And Just Like That, I’m Published!

Minutes after composing my last posting, I checked my email.  This is what I found there:

February 22, 2010
On behalf of Tim Schmoyer
Dear Erica,
My husband, Tim Schmoyer, is the author of the youth ministry blog, Life In Student Ministry, as you may know. In March of 2011, he will also be the author of a book with the same title, published by Youth Specialties/Zondervan.
He’s including a blog post in the book, a post that you commented on after it was published on his site. Tim thinks your comment adds a lot of value to the original post and would like to include it in the book. We just need your permission to do so.
Here’s a link to the post with your comment that will be published: http://www.studentministry.org/qa-handling-students-who-dont-want-to-participate-in-youth-activities/
Will you please give Tim Schmoyer, the publisher, and its licensees and assigns permission to use your comment material in all editions and derivations of the book, Life In Student Ministry, throughout the world, in all languages and in the advertising, publicity, and promotion thereof? Proper credit will be attributed to you in the book. You may, if you wish, provide the credit line you prefer instead of how your name is currently displayed on the original blog post linked above.
Please reply to this email giving your explicit permission if you agree to have your comment published in the book. By granting us permission, you warrant that the material in your comment does not infringe upon the copyright or other rights of any third party. If you do not control the rights to your comment in its entirety, please provide me with the name and address of any other party from whom permission is required.
Please respond as soon as you are able. Thank you!
Dana Schmoyer, on behalf of Tim Schmoyer.

Isn’t God amazing?  Do me a favor and follow the link to read my comment, and especially his advice to me.  I particularly love the 2nd to last paragraph in his reply….how he suggests I become more vulnerable.  Of course this is advice I long ago forgot.  Now, I know that this isn’t a great, big deal….but it’s a start!  My words and name in writing in a published manuscript.  A beginning.  You wouldn’t have understood the miracle if you hadn’t have witnessed the disaster. 

My prayer is this:   if there is someone out there reading this blog who is still not convinced that God is real, let this be the evidence.

Posted by: Erica | February 22, 2010

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Last night Ansley was trying to get me to race her around the living room, but I wasn’t wanting to, “Come on Mom!  Do you love ice cream?”  “I like ice cream, but I can’t really eat it anymore,” I replied.  “Do you love coffee?” “Yes, I love coffee,”  I answered.  “Well, there’s coffee at the finish line!”  Poor, innocent child.  One day she’ll learn that coffee at the starting line is a better motivator. 

That hard truth is, though, that sometimes the “good race” we run with God works just like this.  It would be so much easier if we could always see the plan He has in mind at the beginning of our struggle, instead of having to endure the trial and then look back on what He accomplished through it.  Wouldn’t we have much more courage, energy, patience….that little extra bit of something we feel we need to actually run the race in the first place?  It doesn’t always work this way.  Sometimes we have to rely on our training and run the best we can without much coaching from above.

Yesterday the sermon at church was on the book of Esther.  Perfect.  Esther’s story is about how living out the normal circumstances in her life brought her to a point of great challenge–a matter of life or death for herself and many people.  The choices she made were decided upon without any direct advice from the Lord.  In fact, this is the one and only book in the Bible in which God is not mentioned.  The famous quote from this passage is a question put to her at the pivotal point in the crisis:  “Who knows, perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:14, NKJV).  Essentially:  “How do you know that God hasn’t been behind the scenes arranging everything in your life to take place the way it has so that you could be right her at this time to take this risk?”  Of course, we know that He did just that.  But, at the time, I’m sure the question in the back of Esther’s mind was, “How do you know that He didn’t?” 

We have to have faith, sometimes an incredible amount.  I’m thankful that God has given me enough to know that my life and my last year has been about more than what it seems on the surface.  Martin lost his job due to the financial recession.  We had to move far away from people who I love to a place that I would never have picked to live.  I had to walk away from job security, a church that I loved, and a ministry I felt successful at.  We lost our home and all the equity we had in that investment.  We became more financially burdened by the cost of moving.  Once here, I was harassed by a co-worker at my new job and became unexpectantly unemployed.  And, it looks like I am facing another move next month because our current landlords have been fraudulent in disclosing issues with our heating unit.  But, I fully believe there is a blessing to come from this. 

This morning I was listening to a Christian radio station.  The “postive thought of the day” was this:  “Sometimes our greatest success in life comes one step after our greatest failure.”  Maybe last week when I began sharing the reality of my current situation I pushed the self-destruct button on my credibility, on my pride.  But, maybe that’s something that more Christians should be willing to do.  Following the positive thought quote, the song “The Lost Get Found,” by Britt Nicole, came on the radio.  Here are the opening lyrics:

“Hello my friend, I remember when you were
So alive with your wide eyes
Then the light that you had in your heart was stolen
Now you say that it ain’t worth stayin’
You wanna run but you’re hesitatin’, I’m talkin’ to me

Don’t let your lights go down
Don’t let your fire burn out
‘Cause somewhere
Somebody needs a reason to believe

Why don’t you rise up now?
Don’t be afraid to stand out
That’s how the lost get found
The lost get found

So when you get the chance, are you gonna take it?
There’s a really big world at your fingertips
And you know you have the chance to change it”

Yes, writing gives me personal satisfaction.  That’s true.  But, I believe that God places dreams in our hearts that will be used for His glory.  And, I think that I’ve finally reached a point in my faith to not be afraid to stand out in order to reach someone, even if it means forsaking my pride.  There’s a lot of gray in life, isn’t there?  I think that our youth are a generation living in gray–the blending of the black and white from our grandparent’s time and the colorful years our parents witnessed.  If I can testify about the praises in my life, I should be willing to testify about the pitfalls and how He brings me out of them.  That’s the race I know I’m in.  I may arrive completely exhausted, but I am betting there’s coffee at the finish line.

Posted by: Erica | February 20, 2010

Ballet Lessons

It’s hard to give in to full-blown, take-to-the bed depression when you have a lively 3-year-old.  That isn’t to say I haven’t tried.  Last night after work, I met Martin and Ansley at a restaurant for dinner.  When I arrived, they were already 15 minutes into an hour-long wait for a table.  Ansley was down on the floor having a temper tantrum.  I tried time-outs and “talking-tos”  but neither produced an improvement in her behavior.  So, what’s a nerve-shot parent to do?  When the waiter finally came, I ordered her entire meal immediately:  an ice cream sundae with chocolate syrup, Benadryl, and a cherry on top.  Unfortunately, they were out of Benadryl. 

The ice cream worked and I made it through the night.  But not without feeling guilty over my parenting skills as of late.   So this morning, instead of lingering in subconsciousness as I had been waiting all week to do, I got up and took  Ansley to her ballet class.   

While I was sitting in the hall waiting, I wondered if she would someday turn 32 and wonder if her life had turned out wrong.  I wondered if there was something I could do to prevent that.  Does telling our children that they “can do anything they want to do” prepare them for the reality of life?  Maybe it should go, “You can do anything you want to do as long as it’s the right thing, at the right time, and you’re in the right place.”   

This may seem harsh.  But, it’s something to consider.  When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina too.  Most little girls do.  But, geography was a problem.   My mother actually drove me a few towns over to the only ballet lessons in our area, but after a short time of chasing that dream, our teacher moved back to the city.  Living in a small town in southern Kentucky meant scratching things off the list of possibilities early on:  ice-skater, violinist, actress, you get the idea. 

So, do I stay here in a place where Ansley can have these chances?  Is the idea of moving to rural, Midwest suburbia selfish on my part?  Sure there would be advantages there as well–a sense of community and closeness to family to name a few.  But, either way, the decision I make will shape her. 

Time is also a factor.  When she graduates high school, I think my advice will be, “Yes, your dreams are limitless….but, they do have an expiration date.”  For example, I think if Martin could do absolutely anything he wanted right now, he’d go back to vet school.  How crazy is that?  He just spent the last 15+ years getting to this point of having a permanent position in science, and he finally figured out he should have got his DVM and took over his father’s practice.  It seems so obvious to him that it must be painful.  I’d love to tell him, “go for it!”  That’s the advice we all like to give.  But, truthfully, even if I could afford our expenses on my own while he was in school, by the time he was finished he’d be at some people’s retirement age. 

So, here’s the deal.  Most of us (with the exception of a very small few) are all semi-genius.  We are each specially gifted in some way.  The challenge of what to do about it faces us all, and the meter is running.  There is a window of time and choices you make narrow the gap further.  Yes, God has a plan and is trying his best to keep us on course.  But, whether we pay attention to that is still a choice we make.  And, in the end, we need to find a way to make the best of the outcome. 

That’s what I’m trying to do.  I know all of you are worried (or scared, offended, fill in the blank) about me.   I’m so fortunate to have friends like you.  But, while it may seem that my foundations are shaking, I can assure you that they will hold.  More than anything, this is me pushing forward, not stumbling back.  I feel like I needed to become vulnerable as a writer in order to remove whatever block I’ve always had.  You’ll probably all agree that I achieved that (claiming intelligence, admitting to a crush on a punk-rocker–crazy stuff!) I certainly hope I didn’t completely change your perception of me in the process. 

Maybe I’ve turned a corner.  No Green Day music this morning and I shed less tears today.  I even laughed a few times (Martin used gel to spike-up his hair).  Who knows what tomorrow brings?  But, what I learned today is this:  try to stay on your toes and do your best to enjoy the dance.

Posted by: Erica | February 19, 2010

Hunger

Nothing great today.  Just some random thoughts I can’t manage to piece together.  Disconnected.  That’s how I’m feeling.  Blah.  But, I’m going to keep up the writing process.  Is this how we coined the term “blog”:  “Blah…log?”  The good news is that I have officially given myself permission to write the worst crap ever.  And, I decided to dive right in with a good dose of humiliation.  It’s freeing.  Am I losing my mind or am I finding it?  Can’t tell. 

I went home last night and forced myself to do pointless things–picked up a week’s worth of dirty laundry on our bedroom floor, put the story books back on the shelf, took out the trash–all this stuff will be to do again and again and again.  But, I’ve been absent from the routine life for a few days and knew that getting back to it would be soothing.  I wonder if this is what we do to ourselves, a sort of brainwashing with laundry and dishes. 

For those of you keeping up with the soundtrack of my mental breakdown, this morning I awoke to “American Idiot.”  There are a lot of thoughts on that one rattling around in my head, but I’m just not up to a political post today.  I’m too weak.

I’m hungry.  It’s been about 5 or 6 days since I had a decent meal.  I’m completely nauseous, but starving at the same time.  You know how this feels.  You get so empty that you start “digesting yourself,” as a friend of mine calls it.  This is a great metaphor for me right now.  I know the scriptures on bread, and food, and water; I’m not in the mood.

Posted by: Erica | February 18, 2010

Be sure to buckle up.

Sometimes you just crash and no amount of “God is hope” is going to prevent it.  I actually made “God is hope” my login password last week so that I would be constantly reminded.  Maybe it was too late. 

Last night I felt much better after purging pain into words, like relief you sometimes get after vomiting.  I thought maybe I’d found the solution.  It was temporary, of course.  This morning I woke up for the seventh day in a row with Green Day songs playing in my head and the uncontrollable urge to weep.  Ansley wasn’t yet awake and Martin’s arms were a safe harbor, so I did.  He thinks maybe it’s time to try antidepressants.  He’s probably right.  The donuts and jellybeans aren’t working anymore.  But, something in me isn’t ready to turn that direction yet.  I’m afraid I’d be numb, and I don’t know if I want to be.  After the pills were gone, would I find this waiting on me? 

I am not rejecting God.  Nor am I giving in to a careless defamation of my testimony.  That’s not to say it won’t happen, I am capable of mistakes–huge mistakes.  We all are.  But, right now, I feel more like this is God’s will that I am going through this.  Of course it is.  Maybe He doesn’t put more on us than we can bear, put sometimes it is going to feel like it.  And how would you tell if you were razor blade close?  Today is the day my mother died 8 years ago.  And, honestly, waking up to that this morning added nothing to my misery.  That is surely close to bottom.

Consider Job, Jonah, Asaph, Hannah.  There is plenty of crashing in the Bible.  Plenty.  And it becomes testimony.  The important thing is to be wearing your seatbelt–Jesus.  I am.  Therefore, I know that whatever destruction befalls, it is not the end.  Not only will God use this time in my life, there is bound to be something waiting on the other side of it. 

Christian life includes crashing.  You go through the motions sometimes.  You sing your ABCs to get through your morning routine without being stalled by heavy thoughts.  You go to work and tell yourself that a doorless cubicle is no place for crying, but the tears still fall.  How much time can you spend barricaded in a bathroom stall?  The need for answers to these questions juxtaposed to “What is the meaning in life?”  It’s surreal.  And that is real.

Posted by: Erica | February 17, 2010

It’s too late, I clicked “publish”

“I walk a lonely road

The only one that I have ever known

Don’t know where it goes

But it’s home to me and I walk alone”

If I had to define my life in one word, it would be “obedient.”  I was a model child.  I kept a clean room, practiced piano, studied for tests, minded my mother, left my father alone.  Adolescence was more of the same.  When I graduated high school at the top of my class, I could have done anything.  What did I choose?  Steve Harthun.  I wanted to explore Ivy League schools, but wound up at the nearest college with an open -admission policy lenient enough for him to gain admission.  A year later, I became the model wife.  I thought it was the right choice.  My culture had suggested it was; at age 19, I was the last of my group of friends to walk down the aisle (and none of us were pregnant).  I thought it was the Christian choice.  My Granny told me, “Better to marry than burn.”  It was my choice.  I take full responsibility. 

For four years, I woke up before dawn to iron his work clothes, match the tie, lay it at the foot of the bed next to a clean towel and wash cloth, where he would find them when he woke up to start his day.  I headed off to school and maintained an “A” average studying to be a doctor even though I passed out at the sight of blood, because it paid a lot.  I came home every night and cooked a fresh meal because he didn’t like eating leftovers.  He left me after an hour’s notice that our marriage wasn’t working for him, on Memorial Day weekend so that I shouldn’t forget it.  My Granny said, “If you marry another, it’s adultry.”

Soon afterwards, my mother died.  I found myself without a model to fit.  I went back to school and found writing.  At the time I graduated with my B.A., I was advised to keep going on for a Master’s…to find my voice.  I found Martin.  I don’t regret it.  He is a model husband. 

“I walk this empty street

On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Where the city sleeps

and I’m the only one and I walk alone”

Let’s talk about what I didn’t do.  I have never smoked a cigarette, never experimented with drugs, never been drunk, never snuck out at night, never slept with anyone I haven’t been married to, never had a cavity or a broken bone.  Sometimes I feel like I never lived.  I wonder if people who do all these things sleep better at night, having made their peace with past mistakes instead of agonizing over the missed opportunities. 

“My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me

My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating

Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me

“Til then I walk alone”

I am a semi-genius.  What does that mean?  It means maybe if I’d had an extra bowl of Cheerios before my last I.Q. test, the numbers would have added up to the real thing.  It means being told throughout life that you can do something amazing, but lacking whatever critical element it is that gives you the ability to actually do it.  It means seeing more than my share of the “gray” in life instead of black and white–the ugly gray.  But, at the same time, not wanting to shed your pessimistic view because it is key to your gift.  This is not something that I’m proud of.  Even as I write this paragraph the word “arrogant” keeps repeating in my head.  I haven’t ever shared this information with anyone other than my husband, until now.  I’m not trying to boast.  I consider this a curse more than a blessing.  For years, I have felt like a failure because I have no great work to prove otherwise.  So more than anything, this irrepressible (oh, how I try) urge to express myself is a constant irritation and a burden to my family.  Hope is found in oysters.  That the grit I cannot purge will somehow, throughout the decades of pain, become a pearl of value, beauty. 

“I’m walking down the line

That divides me somewhere in my mind

On the border line

Of the edge and where I walk alone”

Every day I go to work as a research scientist.  I am finding it harder and harder to identify myself as such.  It feels like just a paycheck.  Every day feels like another one wasted, putting off something else I should be doing.  I do it for my family and for the part of me that is a mother and a wife.  I love those parts of me.  I have succeeded here.  I know that.

“Read between the lines

What’s F***** up and everything’s alright

Check my vital signs

To know I’m still alive and I walk alone”

Last Friday, I came home from work with a ridiculous crush on the lead singer of Green Day.  I took off my high-heels and just sat down in the floor of my closet.  There was a pile of laundry across the room that I didn’t want to do, so I just stayed there underneath a sizeable portion of my dead mother’s clothes. 

What I did want to do was turn back the clock fifteen years and join the punk rock movement, take a political stance, make my mark on the world. 

Don’t worry, it didn’t take me long to figure out that what I saw in Billie Joe Armstrong had nothing to do with anything missing in Martin.  For the record, I think that if I punked his hair and tackled Martin with a tube of eyeliner, I may have discovered his celebrity look-alike.  The aching I feel is more about seeing what I want to be.  Realized potential.  Genius:  full-scale.    Should a 32-year old, Christian wife and mother feel this way?  Is this normal.  I don’t know. 

 “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me

My shallow heart’ s the only thing that’s beating

Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me

‘Til then I walk alone”

Hard stuff to share, all the gray.  I feel an incredible amount of responsibility as a mentor to the next generation.  I also am scared of what revealing myself will mean to relationships with family and friends.  There would be a lot more blog entries if I wasn’t.  If I could talk about abortion, evolution, Chaucer.  And, for crying out loud, data on global warming is not a political conspiracy.  It is collected by scientists who undergo refereed scrutiny by other scientists, not democrats. 

Why am I writing these things now?   Because my shadow is always there.  It is be the complete me or perish. I want rid of whatever this is within me.   I have to cast the pearl.  I have to write in order to feel alive.  I have to try, anyway.  I love my family and my God, but need something for me, too.   I also happen to think that both Martin and God are man enough to handle it–that they will still love me, the ugly, gray me. 

(Italicized lyrics to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day)

Posted by: Erica | January 4, 2010

The Skinny on Fat

The other day I mentioned the possibility of blogging my way through a year of Paula Deen recipes, and within minutes there was something cooking alright–a controversy.  Poor Paula!  I think of her as an icon of Southern cuisine.  Apparently, however, the icon more popularly associated with her is a giant-sized stick of butter.  Let me say, I know and understand the health concerns that are being raised.  However, I think that Paula is unfairly being singled-out, and butter, too, for that matter.  Paula shouldn’t take all the heat for recipes that employ liberal amounts of saturated fat when there are certainly more cooks in that kitchen!

Here’s an example from my own recipe file.  (Those of you who have sampled my potato gratin–look away.)  I was entertaining a group of co-workers for a Christmas dinner at my house a few years ago, when my boss approached me after tasting my aforementioned side-dish.  “Erica, those have got to be the best potatoes I have ever tasted.  I would probably be scared to know how much butter you used, though.”  My quick reply was this, “Actually, there’s no butter in them at all.”  But, inside my head I was doing my evil laugh, because although I had not used a single smidgen of butter, my recipe for potato gratin calls for an entire quart of heavy whipping cream. 

So, here’s my point.  Saturated fat is saturated fat.  And there are plenty of cooks and cooking styles that rely upon them.  Is Mexican your fav food?  How many dishes come with sour cream and cheese?  French your forte?  Do you even realize what mousse is–eggs and cream.  Italian?  Look up a recipe for pasta and you’ll find at least a half dozen eggs.  And I won’t even mention alfredo sauce. Oops!  Oh, well, let’s skip to dessert.  Pastry–butter.  Pies–eggs.  Cheesecake–enough said. 

But back to Paula.  Personally, I think by looking at the butter in her recipes, we have failed to applaud her for steering southern cooking away from the negative association it once held because of lard.  Pork fat, for you young’ens.  And, if you still don’t think that Paula is getting served an unfair portion of bitterness, check out Emeril on wikipedia:

 When frying or making dishes like sausage, Lagasse advocates using genuine lard, boasting, “Pork fat rules!”

And, I don’t hear anyone running Emeril’s recipes through the food grinder.  Really, I’m not a Paula person.  I have eaten at her restraunt and frankly, was really disappointed with her chicken and fried green tomatoes.  Because of this, I could never limit myself to a year of her dishes alone.  Although some of her foods are considered staples at my house, my personal cooking style has been formed from a foundation of many culinary experts, my mother and grandma included.  And it is because I have sampled from a variety of sources that I can tell you that all great cooks have their saturated fat of choice…. Paula’s just so happens to be butter.  So, if you are sour on Paula but your standby recipe calls for cheese (or cream…or eggs…or the rendering of bacon), then I hate to say it, but you may be a proverbial pot calling out her master kettle.

Posted by: Erica | December 14, 2009

National Lampoon’s Picture with Santa

The holidays are coming and I’m trying to keep up.  I thought I would get a head start on shopping while the little one was out of town around Thanksgiving.  I had done my research, made my list…checked it twice.  But Black Friday deals came and went while I was marooned at home with a flat tire. 

Frustrated, I collected my Christmas spirit and regrouped.  I resolved to make the best of a holiday season that will be lived in the absence of family and friends and made plans to take in as much of the area’s festivities as possible.  Our outting for last weekend was a trip to the National Mall to see the Christmas tree on the White House lawn and to visit Santa at his workshop.  We stopped first at the US Botannical Garden to see the train exhibit and the beautiful showcase of holiday flowers and greenery.  And then we walked from there down Pennsylvania Avenue 12 blocks to the White House, in the cold.  We saw the National tree and then made our way to stand in line for Santa, in the cold.  We waited for a half hour, in the cold.  All the while I’m thinking it’s worth it, of course, for Ansley to have this opportunity. 

Now, before I tell you what happened, it is necessary to remind you that Ansley is a very mild-mannered, happy-go-lucky gal.  She’s never met a stranger.  In fact, she feels quite comfortable approaching random people we encounter with a friendly greeting–and often does so while we are in the grocery, at the Post Office, wherever.  So, those of you who will be quick to tell me to beware, most kids are afraid of Santa…well, these are the facts that I’m working with.  This personality of hers combined with a 3 year history in which she was just fine sitting on Santa’s knee. 

Therefore, all the while I’m standing in line, IN THE COLD, waiting for Ansley to tell Santa her wish-list and get the free picture, I have nary a fear of the tragedy that will soon ensue.  The doors open and the line starts moving.  We make our way down the narrow, single-file corridor through Santa’s workshop.  Ansley seems quite the jolly little elf and points out the dollhouse on display.  Our day is merry and bright.  And then all of a sudden, it’s our turn.  Ansley, standing at my knees, stiffens like a cat on the edge of water and throws herself into reverse against me.  Only, there is literally no turning back at this point.  The only way out is to make our way past Santa to the exit.  With a long line behind me, I abandon the goal of immortalizing her childhood innocence with a photo and focus on a retreat strategy.  I pick up my squirming child, who then thinks that I’m going to force her upon the oddly-dressed, old man before us and begins to kick and squeal in protest.  I don’t have much awareness of Santa’s helpers at this point, but I heard him say, “Here, Mom, sit right here” and he then pulled me and subsequently, Ansley, into his lap.  In shock, I looked up from Ansley in time to be blinded by the flash and well, this explains the photo……and why Santa is on the Naughty List this year!

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