Monday, April 6, 2015

The Case for the Superlative

I am on Spring Break this week.  It's a wonder I even sat down to type this out, what with all the bikini-wearing & tanning & beer-swilling that's been going on since Thursday afternoon when Spring Break officially began for me.  Okay, I'm kidding; none of the aforementioned gerunds apply to me, not this week, or ever.  Actually it doesn't feel like Spring Break at all, & I think it's because the Spring Break fairy, while she did dismiss my classes all week, forgot to dismiss my kids.  Rather than donning a bikini & kicking back with a cold beverage, I've been on Easter Bunny/mommy duty, & so little relaxing has taken place.

When I came home last Thursday, there were two boxes sitting on my front porch, each containing a lamp I ordered from JCPenny.  A month or so ago, I decided what was missing from our kitchen, & also from my desk area, which is adjacent to the kitchen, was a lamp.  It was a tricky search due to the height limitations imposed by the small space between the kitchen counter & the cabinet hanging above; I needed a lamp that was no taller than twelve inches.  After looking in a few local stores where I've had lamp success in the past & browsing endlessly online, I found what I was looking for on Penny's website.  If you're ever in the market for a lamp, I have always been impressed with Penny's online selection; don't say you don't learn anything important reading this blog.

I decided in the interest of visual flow & solidarity between the kitchen/dining/desk area I'd order two identical lamps, & it was a good decision.  I say all this to let you know that I woke up Friday morning eager to unbox & set up the lamps, but first I had to do some decluttering.

One of the first pieces of furniture I bought after we moved in our house was my desk.  I love it a lot.

Here's Reagan inspecting the desk right after it was delivered, circa August of 2012:

I promise I am right & the desk was purchased in the fall of 2012, not at Easter time as you might assume from the basket perched on the desk beside Reagan.  When she was younger, Reagan enjoyed carting everything she could find around the house in various baskets.  I know it was fall 2012 because soon after the desk was purchased I got pregnant with Henry & could not stand the desk for about two months because I thought it smelled funny.  

So anyway, I've spent some quality time sitting at the desk over the last few years, but the quality time has waned lately due in large part to the nice flat surface of the desk that attracts junk.  This is not unlike the flat surfaces of our kitchen countertops, which also attract junk.  So before I could revel in the glory of my new lamps, I had some decluttering to do.  Nothing screams Spring Break! like digging through piles of old test papers, magazines, & notices from Blue Cross while you simultaneously manage the kids because daddy chose to spend his Good Friday holiday shooting guns with friends, a decision which eradicated the last bit of guilt mommy felt over spending money on new lamps.

If I ever write the great American novel, it will be done in this cozy nook in our home:

(light off):

(light on):

Even if I don't write the great American novel, I now have a fantastic lamp to light the way as I peruse Twitter & generate blog posts laced with sarcasm & interesting stories about lamps.

And here's the lamp in the kitchen:

(light off):

(light on):

The lamp search began because I decided we need a small lamp in the kitchen due to the midnight & middle of the night blood sugar checks.  I usually check around midnight, & Trey, God bless him, usually checks Reagan around two or three in the morning, & he wakes me if anything is amiss with her number.  I felt that all the roaming around the house in the middle of night might be more pleasant if we had appropriate lighting, lighting that perfectly creates that it's-the-middle-of-the-night ambiance parents of infants & diabetic children seek.  I have to say, the glow of the new lamp has put a spring in my middle-of-the-night steps these past few nights.

Right about the time I was turning on the new lamps for their inaugural glow, the refrigerator burst into flames.  Oh, I am kidding.  I actually have no fridge news to report, & no fridge news is the best fridge news.  No, this week it's something even better: Trey's truck.  Satisfied with (& tired & hungry from) my decluttering efforts (which eventually involved not just my desk & the kitchen cabinets, but mounds of the kids' clothes & shoes that they've outgrown), I drove the three of us to Chick-fil-A for a car picnic of chicken, fruit, & chocolate chip cookies (& coffee! for me).  As I rolled into the garage to unload us all & go back in the house to look at my lamps some more, Trey called, & I could tell from the tone of his voice he didn't have good news.  I figured either it was his truck, or someone had shot someone or something they did not intend to shoot.  Thankfully, I suppose, he was calling about his truck.

Without even unbuckling the confused kids, I backed out of the carport & headed to meet Trey at the local Goodyear place.  A few hours later, they called Trey, & blah blah blah, it's likely going to be an expensive fix.  Trey's taking it to the dealership this morning, but it is a possibility that the truck might not be with us too much longer.  While I hate to see all the money go, to bid farewell to Trey's old recliner (which, as you recall, bit the dust a few weeks ago) and his large, loud, gas-guzzling, impossible-to-park truck all in a matter of weeks would be more than I ever dreamed or imagined.

Saturday evening, while Trey looked up the Kelley Blue Book value for his truck & concocted various truck death/new car scenarios, crunching numbers & renting his garments, I tore myself away from the glow of my new lamps to get cracking on the Easter Bunny's duties.  I've been kind of Easter-pathetic this year; I have a few super cute Easter decorations that I didn't even drag out of the closet until Saturday night.  Easter comes a little too soon after Christmas for me to be enthused about unboxing & displaying seasonal decor.

While I was assembling Easter baskets (mentally counting the carbs in Reagan's), I was trying to remember Easters of yore, & then, right about the time my frustration over not being able to recall one thing about last Easter hit fever pitch, it occurred to me I blogged every Easter since Reagan's birth.  I had a, pat-my-former-self-on-the-back, way to go, Anna! moment.  Not only have I logged an Easter blog every year for the past four years, I have an "Easter" label on the blog, meaning every Easter blog is one click away.  Organization is a beautiful thing.

Once the Easter baskets were assembled & displayed, I switched on the new kitchen lamp to set the mood for the night & retired to bed, where I visited the Easter blog label so I could reminisce about Easters of yesteryear, which were apparently so fantastic I cannot, without the help of a detailed blog complete with photos, remember at all.

Here's the kids last year, our first Easter as a family of four:

I hesitate to post these, but I will in the name of family togetherness, or posterity, or something.  Trey & I are both slimmer now, mind you.  These were taken about a month or so before my blog manifesto re:losing weight was posted, & lose weight I did.  I mean a person's really left with no choice but to make serious changes after posting a public manifesto (see:Martin Luther).  

Anyway, Easter 2014, continued:

And, shift to 2015 . . . the Bunny loot:

The DHZs relaxing in their Easter attire:

Revived by his church nap & ready for lunch:

Selfies at the lunch table, because someone has to teach them manners:

with Granddaddy:

Things got dicey after lunch.  Henry was exhausted; Reagan was in an egg/candy/my blood sugar is topping 300 frenzy.  I attempted to get a few of the two of them.   

Hunting indoors, because of course it was fifty degrees & raining outside.  

The part of the federal government is played by Henry in these photos as he attempts to rectify the unequal distribution of the eggs:

If we were teetering on a photo cliff before, at this point, we began, to quote Tom Petty, free falling.  

First attempt.  But where's Reagan?

Oh, she's hiding behind the chair.  Isn't that hilarious.

This is not an outtake.  This is honestly the best picture of the four of us.  I am opting not to post the ones that followed; they look kind of violent, & Reagan's rear end is up in the air.

We dismissed the children.  

The end:

This year we were without Jessica, Heath, & Maisie, which is a shame because last year, Reagan was the lone egg hunter since neither Maisie nor Henry had a good feel for their legs yet.  This year, however, we have three mobile kids on our hands, & so while Reagan & Henry hunted Sunday, there's a possibility the kids & I might pay Maisie a visit in Dallas later in the week, & there's a possibility eggs will be hunted again, especially if we're blessed with a sunny day with temps over fifty.  Spring Break = endless possibilities. 

I'd like to wrap up this, my fifth Easter blog (where does the time go?) with a little grammar lesson.  Stay with me here.  I won't be lecturing anyone this week (at least not in any formal capacity), & I need to keep myself sharp; be my whetstone.  

In my public speaking text, there's a vocabulary term that shows up in almost every chapter.  The word is ethnocentrism.  In the text, it's defined as, "The tendency of any nation, race, religion, or group to believe that its way of looking at and doing things is right and that other perspectives are wrong."  A previous edition of the same textbook concluded the definition with, ". . . that other perspectives have less value."  

The authors of the text harp on the ethics of public speaking ad nauseum, & about eighty percent of the time, "ethics" means "political correctness."  They stress that one of the most important goals of a public speaker is to never, ever, in any way, ever offend someone, & thus the harping on their favorite word, ethnocentrism.

Basically, when it comes to culture, religion, etc. - you know the biggies that ignite Facebook arguments & world wars - the comparative & superlative forms of good should always be avoided.

Capitalism is good; communism is good.  You can't say capitalism is better, & you certainly can't say capitalism is the best.  Christianity is good.  Islam is good.  Judaism is good.  Buddhism is good.  You find your path, & I'll find mine, & harmony will reign supreme.  We'll all get one of those neat-o Coexist bumper stickers.  You know, the one that implies that the person driving the car is accepting of all peoples, races, religions, creeds, etc. . . . until a worker at an Indiana pizza joint implies, in an answer to a hypothetical question, that said pizza joint would not be thrilled about catering a gay wedding, & then, well then obviously coexisting is not possible.  I do wonder if any of them scraped their bumperstickers off, so unbearable was the constant reminder of their hypocrisy.  

For obvious reasons, I struggle with this word, ethnocentrism, every semester.  Usually there is a student who blurts out something like, This is liberal garbage!, & while I reply professionally & diplomatically, I'm smiling inside, my faith in humankind having been restored just a little.

On both Facebook & Twitter, I follow a handful of politicians & other public figures, & many of these folks posted Easter well wishes over the Easter weekend.  The messages all began with the same generic greeting, something like: "For those who celebrate, . . ." They post similar messages for their Jewish constituents on Jewish holidays.  You get the picture.  Their religious holiday greetings never venture into the comparative or the superlative.  All holidays are the same, all holidays are good, & certainly no holiday trumps any of the others, because to suggest otherwise would be political suicide, to suggest otherwise would be a flagrant display of ethnocentrism.

I'm going to say this here, unambiguously, because semester after semester I have to artfully dance around the issue over & over again, ethnocentrism to my right, ethnocentrism to my left, & it drives me a little mad: in matters of religion, this is good, & that is good, too does no one any favors; it could cost a person their soul.

 Religion is not an all roads lead to Rome scenario (fyi: Rome = Heaven in this analogy).  Christians, if you believe there is any way to be with God for eternity other than the path Jesus paved, you are wrong, & you've grossly misunderstood the God you claim to love & worship.  Non-Christians: ditto.   If you're not worshipping the one true God & His Son who conquered death, you are worshipping in vain, & if you're insinuating that other religions or other gods are in any way the equivalent of Christianity & the Lord God, you're denying the power of the cross.

I understand it's uncomfortable to broach the issue with your Jewish friends or your your Muslim friends or your friends who shun all religion, but, frankly, I bet hell will be uncomfortable too.  The truth is that Christianity is superior to other religions because Jesus is alive.  Christianity is not one option among many other interesting, quality choices; Christianity is the only option if your goal is defeating death, & spending eternity in the presence of your Creator.  I know, it's all so, so ethnocentric of me.

We slip into the superlative easily in everyday conversation.  Penny's online selection of lamps is the best.  Chick-fil-A has the best coffee.  Gilmore girls is the best.  Tina Turner sang a whole song in the superlative . . . You're simply the best, better than all the rest.  We make proclamations like these routinely about trivial matters, but unfortunately we're waist deep in a culture that not only doesn't want to hear that Christianity is the best, they're not so keen on folks who mention that it's good.

As C.S. Lewis said, "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.  The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."  Christianity cannot be good, or even better;  it is either the best, or it is nothing.  Easter Sunday (& every Sunday) is not just another religious holy day to lump in with all the rest; its purpose is to remember, with reverence & awe, that the Creator of the universe died for His creation, & three days later defeated death, paving the way for his beloved creation to one day do the same.  Nothing tops that; it's the best story ever.


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