Monday, February 1, 2016

My People

We shape our buildings; 
thereafter they shape us.

-Winston Churchill 

Today we're going to dive headfirst into C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.

Okay, no. Not really.

Last week, without having consciously planned to do so, I apparently (again) had some things to say about Lewis's work. By now you've likely recognized my pattern. I don't let a book go until the book club has convened & discussed it from all possible angles. I may circle back to Lewis's book at some point in the future, but for now you can look forward to a post or four about the Young Adult series we're reading for February.

Written by Veronica Rossi, the series is not as thought-provoking as The Screwtape Letters, but you know, sometimes thought-provoking is overrated. These books are just straight up delicious fiction, & I am loving them. I've read the first book (Under the Never Sky) & am in the middle of the second (Through the Ever Night). The final book is titled Into the Still Blue.

I won't spill all the beans today, but I'll tell you the hero's name is Peregrine (yes, like the falcon . . . this point is hammered home by the large tattoo of a falcon that graces Perry's back). Perry is eighteen (well, now nineteen as I've made it to book two), & he's a blonde. In life & in books, the men I love most tend to be dark headed, but Perry is proving himself to be worthy of my affection. Sure, Perry is young. Yes, he is covered in tattoos & he can't read, but as the people of Iowa prepare to make decisions that affect my future, I need someone like Perry in my life.

Hours after sharing this with you last Monday, I headed to this year's inaugural book club meeting. Every book club meeting is spectacular, of course, but we really began this year on a high note. We had, I believe, eleven in attendance. We ate a delicious dinner prepared by a relatively new member to the group who began attending regularly during our big Harry Potter summer; she is now hooked, I believe, & has shared with us that her husband refers to us as "her people."

As an aside I'll tell you that our host's husband shot to the top of my favorite people list (an elite group) because he brewed us coffee before leaving his own home so that a gaggle of loud women could stuff their faces & yammer. When we sat down to begin discussing The Screwtape Letters, I shared with everyone that at any moment I expected Tom Cruise to burst through the door & breathlessly tell one of us we complete him.

I didn't get home until almost ten o'clock Monday night, which is pretty late considering I'm old it's a school night for me & Reagan. I may as well have stayed out until two or three in the morning for all the sleep I got. The kids were both asleep when I got home, which was of course amazing, but I was wired, which is always the case post-book club meeting. I ceremoniously returned The Screwtape Letters to its home on the bookshelf & began reading Under the Never Sky. I quit about fifty pages in, knowing if I kept going I'd be in so deep with Perry I'd never go to sleep. As it turns out, I should've kept reading because I was awake for a long, long time after I put the book down. 

Tuesday was less thrilling than Monday. I was running on about three hours of sleep, which is one hour for each time I had to stand & teach & pretend to be enthused about explaining my students' upcoming ceremonial speaking assignment.

The remainder of the week is kind of a blur (a blonde-haired, tattooed blur named Perry). Trey was in New Orleans all day Wednesday & so that meant all school-related duties fell to me. Henry & I dropped Reagan off & had just enough time to go through the window at Chick-fil-A before returning to do Cookie Wednesday duty.

Here we are waiting for Reagan to join us on the little bench where Cookie Wednesday medicine is dispensed. I don't want to brag, but I think the dark navy hoodie I am wearing in this photo contrasts nicely with my ashen face.

After Cookie duty, Henry & I left school & went to Hobby Lobby. I purchased the candlesticks pictured below.

I'd been thinking about them for a good while. I knew they matched my favorite new living room piece, also pictured below. I bought maroon candles (pictured) & a neutral color as well. My new rug has heavy maroon accents, & my mom likes the maroon, so I suppose I'll leave them for now.

Here, at long last, is the piece from Havertys that inspired the entire living room makeover. 

Yes, I know, that frame needs a photo. It's a process, people. You may or may not recall (likely not) that I purchased that piece with the cross on it over a year ago at Hobby Lobby with this formerly blank wall in mind. It's spent the past year leaning against a wall in my bedroom, waiting patiently for me to find the perfect piece to compliment it. Sure, we've been here four years, but again I say, blank walls are better to look at than a hastily made decor decision. 

The lovely weathered blue piece is not the only new piece of furniture in the living room. 

As you see below, I purchased a coffee table & a matching end table. We've never had a coffee table. The living room in our first house was too small for one. I've been looking for one I loved off & on since we moved in our current house, but I was never in any particular hurry since there's always so much stuff on our living room floor.

Trey's only comment when he first saw it was that the room is now too crowded, which would be true were we giving gymnastics lessons. 

The fourth & final new piece of furniture is pictured below between Trey's recliner & a striped chair I bought years before Reagan's birth but to which she has laid claim. Trey hasn't said much about this table, but I suspect he's growing fond of its spacious shelves on which he can rest all five of the remotes he needs to operate all his devices.

That flash at the bottom of the photo is Sophie the dog.

So anyway, Henry & I had a grand time in Hobby Lobby before picking Reagan up from school. I do have a pretty clear recollection of Wednesday afternoon because the kids were horrible. They were tired & fought with each other constantly & if I said, "Hey, cut it out, things are finally starting to move for Perry & Aria!" once, I said it ten times.

Praise the Lord, Henry fell asleep about seven-thirty Wednesday night. Sadly, I was so tired I could't comprehend what I was reading & so I gave up & fell asleep watching Gilmore Girls.

I bought a bra on Thursday. This is blogworthy because I assume that other women are like me & we all own twenty bras & only ever wear one or two of them because the others just don't work for a variety of reasons that you simply cannot foresee in the store. I was in Target Thursday & I saw it & just grabbed it & threw it in the buggy with the diapers & miniature boxes of raisins & lo & behold, I love it. Maybe one day I'll write a blog on the nuances of the right bra, because oh, the wrong one can ruin an otherwise lovely day.

I made another valiant attempt to return to Perry Thursday night, but awoke Friday morning to realize I'd read maybe a paragraph or two before falling asleep. Frustrated by my lack of progress, I got down to business Friday. We didn't have anywhere we needed to be, we had food in the house, & so I plowed my way through, doling out apple slices & peanuts & popcorn & insulin throughout the day as needed.

I finished the opening book in the series Friday night & went to bed feeling overly satisfied with my week: amazing book club meeting (check!), teaching coherently on three hours of sleep (check!), new candlesticks (check!), new bra (check!), new Young Adult book series featuring a wonderfully distracting hero (check!).

Oh, I also finally got the dog groomed last week. I was clearly on fire. Sophie doesn't often make the blog, so I attempted some shots of her haircut. It was an overall fail, but here's what I got.

So, Perry. I did race through book one, but I haven't finished the series, & I want to take my time doing so. You never get that first read again, you know? One of the central themes of these first two books is identity formation. The heroine, Aria, has lived her entire life in a pod that was erected years prior when the earth's atmosphere became increasingly volatile. Everything about her existence has been carefully planned, carefully controlled. For reasons I won't divulge for purposes of time (& so as not to spoil you because I know you're going to read!), Aria finds herself outside the pod she's always called home. Naturally, as is so often the case in Young Adult fiction, Aria crosses paths with tall, muscular, square-jawed Perry, whom she refers to as a savage because, well, he is a savage.

Perry's ancestors were not brought into the safety of the pods. He's lived his entire life with his primitive tribe. As their relationship unfolds, the dialogue between Aria & Perry is, I think, fairly realistic & well written. They both make references to their people, their way of life, on numerous occasions. Via Aria, the reader is provided details of the structure in which she lived the first seventeen years of her life, & via Perry, the reader learns details about his primitive dwelling, as well as the common spaces in which the members of his tribe share their lives.

Identity formation is a phrase you don't always hear in discussions of raising kids; it's a process that is ongoing & so ingrained we don't often think about it. Every day, in a thousand different ways, we tell our kids who we are, & in turn, who they are. Sometimes this is simple stuff, like geography.

On the drive to my parents' house Saturday the sight below elicited a wave of questions from Reagan. She was perplexed by the house moving down the road. I gave her an explanation that was likely more than she bargained for; before I was done I'd made mention of zoning laws & our German heritage.

Sunday afternoon's Mardi Gras lunch buffet provided another opportunity for explanation as Reagan was curious about the man wearing a crown & white tights. 

There are a hundred ways to say, We live in Louisiana. It's January, but Mama got some sun on her arms while she exercised Saturday. Yes, that is a house traveling down the interstate. Yes, that man is wearing a crown & white tights. Yes, Mama's school is out because it is Fat Tuesday.

There are a hundred ways to say, We value books. Our home is filled with them. We don't tear their pages. We read them together. Mama misses book club only when someone is hospitalized.

There are a hundred ways to say, We value our bodies. We eat well. We exercise. We check our blood sugar. We see the doctor regularly.

There are a hundred ways to say, We are Christians. We get up & get dressed & go to church on Sunday morning. We don't wear that. We don't drink that. We don't spend our money on that. We don't watch that. We don't say that. We are kind. We pray.

All the talk of buildings in the books I'm reading, the contrast in the described structures, reminded me of the above Churchill quote. I read it a long time ago & it's stuck with me. Watch what you build. Build intentionally. I married Trey, with whom I likely never would have spent much, if any, time had our parents not become friends. Select the bricks with which you build with care.

I like my friend's husband's description of our book club. They are, indeed, my people, my tribe. They love to read, they love to talk about what they read, & they love the Lord. All of this was on display last Monday evening, & it was glorious.

What would your kids, what would my kids, say if they were loosed from the safety of the pods in which we shelter them & they stumbled on an outsider? What would they say about their people? My people are kind. My people love a man named Jesus. I pray that's what they would say.

Our culture is attempting to assimilate our kids into a tribe I want them to have no part of, weaving a web of deceitful, harmful lies in which to ensnare them. They need & deserve an alternative. Every day we ought to diligently build that alternative structure, making sure we're not chipping at the foundation with hypocritical actions. Live so that you never have to actually say the words; say We go to church, we pray, we are kind, without uttering those words. I have never once had to tell my kids I enjoy reading or drinking coffee because they have eyes.

I leave you with these thoughts. First, say thanks for your people, your tribe. You need them. The world can be a scary, lonely place, & those people who share your passions are your buoy. Find people who share your passion for Christ. Seek them out, & among them you'll likely find those with whom you share further commonalities. Those are the best moments, after all, the you too?!? moments.

Second, pray for the people of Iowa. Pray for the process that's unfolding in America today.

I've got a big week ahead. I'm not having major surgery or climbing Mount Everest, but there's a girls' trip to visit my very pregnant sister planned at the end of this week, though before we depart I of course have my weekly child-rearing/teaching routine to continue to perfect. Between what has the potential to be a harrowing primary season (for me & for this nation) & the weariness that comes with traveling with children, I will make every effort to return to you with photos, interesting stories, & amusing anecdotes next week, but I make no promises. You may get nothing more than an update on Perry, unless of course I find another great bra in Dallas, though that's unlikely because as is the case with men, you always find the great ones in unassuming places when you're not even looking for one. 


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