31 October 2012

Just another sign that I'm getting all old and matronly

But I’m also curious as to whether this is a rural Midwestern phenomenon, or indicative of a wider cultural trend.

When we vicared out on the East Coast, yea those many years ago, my husband was Vicar Lastname, and I was Mrs. Lastname. At the time, this felt a little funny to me, because I felt very young, and also because I was still fairly new at being Mrs. Lastname. But it also felt appropriate, because I did some substitute teaching at the church’s school. 

Fast forward to my husband’s first Call. We arrived with a six-week-old, so the question of how our kid(s) would address people was initially moot, but I noticed that kids tended to Firstname adults, even those old enough to be their grandparents. My husband was Pastor Lastname, and I was Firstname. There weren’t zillions of “youth” running around, and I didn’t have much interaction with them, and I still felt young and quite inexperienced at pastoral wifery, so I didn’t think much of being Firstnamed. 

Then our kids started getting old enough to talk. (This took quite some time, as our firstborn was a conscientious speech dissenter for nearly three years, and it was nearly another two years after that before he’d condescend to speak to people in public.) We decided to establish a policy of using “titles of respect,” as the good ol’ grammar books call them. While there are a few people who so persistently Firstnamed themselves that we just let our kids Firstname them, our kids address most adults as Mr.-, Mrs.-, Pastor-, Dr.-, etc., -Lastname. 

Fast forward to my husband’s present call. There are lots of “youth” running around, and I have more interaction with them. My husband is still Pastor Lastname, and I am again Firstname, as are most other adults. Even in Little League, our kid was the only one to Coach Lastname his coach; the other kids called him by his first name. I dunno; this just isn’t how I was brought up (see how old and matronly I’m getting?!). I would never have dreamed of Firstnaming my Sunday School teachers, or even the “cool” youth director at the church we attended when I was in middle school. I still think of my high school friends’ parents as Mr. and Mrs. Lastname. 

I stand firmly by our decision to make our kids the “weird” ones who don’t Firstname everybody; and many people (older folks at church especially) seem to appreciate it.* It’s kind of funny when my third-grader Mrs. Lastnames someone in the same interaction that her preschooler Firstnames me. Generally speaking, I have enough things in life to fret about without being annoyed by a knee-high rugrat presuming upon the use of my first name, but there are times when I do feel that Firstnaming does convey, even facilitate, a certain lack of respect (see? Old and matronly again). 

For instance, a certain neighborhood waif often drifts over to play with our kids. It’s fairly apparent that the poor child has received little guidance from her parents in many regards, and I find myself in the unasked-for and frankly undesirable position of having to be quite firm with her regarding the rules while she is on our grounds and the times at which she must depart said grounds. In such a case, I do find it quite annoying to be Firstnamed by someone who has yet to attain a decade of life, and I wonder whether this reluctant job of mine might be easier, were we not assumed to be on a Firstname basis. (My husband corrects her when he hears her Firstname me, but how can you fight a town-wide trend? All the other kids Firstname me, and to insist otherwise, when people older and wiser are Firstnamed, would seem pretty snobbish.)

Anyway. Just wondering if this is a small-town phenomenon or if the whole dang culture of our country has gone this way. 

*I know some people who have their kids Miss/Miz Firstname people, which seems to me to have a charming Southern touch to it, and to be a mannerly alternative in some cases to Mrs. Lastnaming, as well as a good solution to the sometimes-sticky issue of How to Address High Schoolers and College Students.

29 October 2012

It's when something is . . . ironic

I guess I only thought I knew it when I saw it?

24 October 2012


that a tree would work so hard to generate so many of something so large, and so utterly useless.

17 October 2012

Guest Post: On Why Single Females Should Not Attempt to Save the World

From a friend of CSPP who wishes to remain anonymous.

Ok, first of all, a shout-out to the doctrine of election and an acknowledgement that none of us can save the world.  Jesus does that.  We don’t.

Moving on –

If you know a Save the World type who is a single female, please make every effort to curb her enthusiasm.  By STW types, I’m referring to those optimistic and generally sincere individuals who leave the comforts of home and move to a developing country where they teach English or feed the hungry or educate women or something.  (A side discussion could easily be had about whether any of these efforts are even needed or helpful. Another time, another place.)

The problem with the single female Save-the-Worlders is that they are subjecting themselves to dangerous, hostile environs, and they often think they have some kind of force field around them for going under the name of a Christian sending organization.  I am here to warn you: No such force field exists.

The Christian sending organization will not protect you from knife-wielding malandros*  lurking at an otherwise deserted metro bus stop as you go on your merry way to church. The Christian sending organization will also not protect you from dreadful illnesses that cannot be understood or treated in the local clinica**.  Neither will it not protect you from illegit taxi drivers who are actually there to kidnap your pretty single self.  Oh, and the Christian sending agency will not protect you from experimental vaccines that are required in the foreign airports (but your out-of-country immunization record could spare you from this if you have the clarity of mind to produce it in time).  Let's not forget angry, violent political demonstrations involving tear gas and loud shoutings of anti-American rhetoric.  Oh, and house fires.  Those too.  Then again, those could happen anywhere.  But emergency response time is a LOT better in the U.S.of A.

[Alert! Alert! All of these examples are actually real! And all in the time span of one short year. I am not making this stuff up!]

Here’s the point -- and as you've already gathered, it’s coming from someone who knows:  The “mission field” is not a safe place for single ladies.  It is not.

And I know I’m being cynical with this talk about the imagined magic powers of the Christian sending agency…  We recognize that it is our own heavenly Father who commands His angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways.  I know and believe that it is only by the grace of God that I am safe and well today. I was a very stupid young woman and I realize now that things could have gone a lot worse. I am so incredibly grateful.  The same hindsight which produces this sincere gratitude, also compels me to urge others to be smarter than I was.  I did not need to go to those corners of the world. The Lord has promised that His Word will reach everyone.  I could have easily left it in His capable hands and spared myself a lot of calamity and hardship.  If my parents had had any real idea of what was going on over there, they would not have slept for an entire year.  Thankfully they were a tad on the ignorant/naive side. (Love you, Mom! Love you, Dad!)

Single ladies, please do not think you have to STW to feel good about yourself. Serve the neighbors closest to you. No passport required.  And no deadliness, either! I do understand that you may not have the same satisfaction of having done something super glamorous (Since when was living without running water glamorous? We’re all so backward!). But you will be no less a Christian.

If you have a daughter who aspires to STW, please encourage her to use her many gifts and talents in a setting that will not put her in great bodily danger.  If we aren’t ok with our baby girls sticking their fingers in electrical outlets, why would it be ok for them to wander alone into a crime-ridden foreign city 22 years later?

* Scroungers. Or a more literal translation: bad men walking.
** Oh wait, that's a cognate.  I'm not needed here!

Since they're not really debating ...

... they just as well be making us laugh and laugh.

Clip rated something like PG, just in case you've a couple babies at your elbow.

16 October 2012

A question for the ages

Is this still a brush?

15 October 2012

Mind over matter

There is a fine and often mostly mental line between joyful hubbub and dismal squalor.

Think the good thoughts, friends. Think the good thoughts.

14 October 2012


03 October 2012

Swamp thing

Here is something everybody just has to know: anything one thinks in the middle of the night while lying in bed is completely crazy and must be discarded from one's brain pan as soon as possible. I will provide a humiliating personal example because my sister likes it when I do this.

For a long time I have wanted to visit the Heron Pond cypress swamp in the Shawnee National Forest. I had seen pictures of it and thought it looked really cool, and hiking in cool places with the kids is one of my favorite things to do.

An opportunity arose. In the shining light of this opportunity, I hazarded to look forward to it. In the middle of the night while lying in bed did I hazard to do so. Doing so, I went completely crazy.

I imagined that we were hiking in the cypress swamp, and that some unknown sick freak had released an unwanted pet caiman into it, and the caiman grew into a mighty alligator, and attacked my defenseless family. I am fairly knowledgeable about alligators, having streamed a few episodes of Swamp People, so I knew that my beloved family was done for. We could not outrun it and we could not kill it by shooting it in its one tiny vulnerable area in the back of the head (see how knowledgeable?). We would all be torn to pieces in sight of each other by an alligator in Illinois. I lay in the dark breathing heavily, heart pounding, sweating, freaking out.

Need I mention it? Alligators don't live in Illinois. Caimans don't grow up to be alligators. A swamp in Illinois after a summer of drought is about two inches deep. My brain in the dark bed in the dark night was the only sick freak I needed to worry about. We went to the cypress swamp and it was awesome.

What is it you're worried about? Did you think of it in the middle of the night while you were lying in bed? I guarantee: it is insane.

You idiot.

01 October 2012

Hey politicians

The best way to get me NOT to vote for you is by robo-calling me while I'm trying to get six kids ready for bed.

Yes, even you.