October 2011


  • citrus desserts (lemon bars, etc.). I like fruit quite a lot, actually, and I love beverages made from/with citrus, but if I am going to eat a dessert I want something decidedly unhealthy. Plus, they just taste weird.
  • pumpkin. All the anticipation on facebook over pumpkin spice whatevers, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin cheesecake…all sorts of weird things. Have you ever seen the inside of a pumpkin? They’re disgusting. I can’t believe someone, somewhere looked at that and thought, “Gee, I should bake a pie with that.” If you are going to the trouble of baking a pie, fill it with chocolate or coconut cream and dab some meringue on top. Putting pumpkin in a cheesecake borders on obscenity.
  • musical artists releasing a greatest hits album…with new material on it. Really? You’re THAT sure of yourself?
  • Settlers of Catan. I can at least tolerate it now, and I’ve even accidentally won once or twice, but I just don’t think “Hey, this is AWESOME!” when playing. I seriously don’t get why it’s so popular.
  • people who act like their pets are people. No further comment.
  • Twitter. I’m not even interested in what I think every 20 seconds; I certainly don’t care to know what you’re thinking.
  • politics on facebook. Do people actually think they change people’s minds with their status updates?
  • baby weight. I used to think people with “baby weight” either gained too much while pregnant or were lazy, but now I know it is a mathematical anomaly. If you only gain the weight of pregnancy – baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, extra blood volume – in theory it should mostly be gone at delivery and almost all gone within a few weeks. But it is entirely possible, and even likely, to weigh nearly the same amount months and months later. I’m no math major but it just doesn’t make logical sense.
  • people who act like their phone is necessary for survival. I mean, Western civilization marched onward before the advent of the cellular phone, and certainly before phones also had extra gadgets. You should be able to make it 2 minutes without texting someone, consulting an app, or playing a game.

One year ago today, I stepped off the plane at DFW with a chubby baby wrapped to my chest, with Jake next to me insisting on wrangling our technically illegal number of carryons solo. We made it through customs with all our bags, made it through jetlag, made it through 6 moves, made it through a lot of uncertainty. If you had described this past year to me on that day, I may have just stayed in Marseille, despite the interminable trash strike and oh yeah, the fact that EVERYTHING ELSE was on strike too.

Today, that chubby baby is a skinny little boy who can walk and talk; Jake has a job he loves (I do too, for that matter). Today, I am happy. The sun is shining, it is absolutely gorgeous outside, I am wearing jeans and driving with the windows down, Foo Fighters cranked up, and things seem more or less right. At last.

I am scared of potatoes.

Once, when I was still living with my parents, I noticed a funny smell in the kitchen. Sort of fishy, and it seemed to come and go. It was very faint – no one else could detect it. (I am not sure how or why that is; I actually have a rather terrible sense of smell, thanks (I suppose) to countless sinus infections). After several days, the smell had become stronger. Other family members started to notice it. My mom, my sister, and I went around the kitchen, sniffing everything but could not identify the culprit. Several more days passed and the smell became quite bad. We went on a purge, taking everything out of cabinets and off shelves. Finally, we found a bag of rotten potatoes, forgotten in the back of a distant corner cabinet. Worst. smell. ever.

And so it is that I neither keep nor use real potatoes in my kitchen. We use the instant kind around here and thus avoid the risk of putrescence.

Asher: Mama?
me: Yes, Asher?
Asher: Hi!
me: Hi!

(pause)

Asher: Mama?
me: Yes, Asher?
Asher: Mama?
me: Yes, Asher?
Asher: Hi!
me: Hi!

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. This is probably at least in part due to Jon Foreman’s Fall EP getting some very substantial play time in my car (although it’s not as death-centric as Winter, just pensive) but also because I went to a funeral last weekend for a 6-week old baby. It was my 16-month-old son’s third funeral; at that rate I don’t see a way to raise him without a keen awareness of mortality. It is easy to say “she was too young,” but what you really mean is she didn’t die of old age. Every single one of us – 6 weeks old, 29 years old, 76 years old – we’re all exactly old enough to die. Whatever comes after death is just one breath away, one heartbeat away for me and for everyone I love. This is very sobering.

I have also been pondering the custom of making a memorial service/funeral upbeat. This is understandable when the deceased has lived a life worth celebrating – I have been to funerals of even those who were “too young” that were a genuine celebration of their life and faith – but it seems to happen even in cases where there is not much to celebrate. For example, a few years ago I attended the funeral of a man in my extended family. Many years before, when this man was young, his mother died and he demanded his share of the entire estate – effectively telling his father he wished he were dead, too. And he had nothing to do with the family in the intervening years. But at his funeral, the pastor – who didn’t know this man, as he hadn’t attended any church – kept talking about what a great guy he was and how he loved his family and what a strong faith he had. Maybe this guy did love his wife and two dogs but he sure didn’t love the rest of his family. I kept looking around, thinking someone should stand up and call the guy a liar and wondering why we were all just sitting there, accepting his words even though we all knew he wasn’t telling the truth. It was just communal make-believe, I assume to make the widow and the guy’s parents feel better.

This funeral for the baby – this pastor said that it was a day for celebrating, because she was in a better place. He spoke words of comfort to the parents, assuring them that they had done everything possible to care for the gift entrusted to them by God. I had/have 2 problems with this: 1. the cause of death had not yet been released, and the surrounding circumstances were somewhat suspicious, so unless this guy was also the coroner I don’t think it’s appropriate to state with certainty that either parent was not at fault and 2. the father wasn’t even there because he was in prison. Do you know how awkward it is to hear someone repeatedly address an absentee in a public speech? It’s awkward. This time I kept thinking someone should point out to him that Dad can’t hear you, you can stop talking to him. Once again it was a man of the cloth just running his mouth to make the people on the front row feel better.

I’m not sure what is the right thing to do. It would be really depressing to go to a funeral and hear “This guy squandered his life. He was selfish and treated special people like crap, and it is possible he is burning in hell.” Or, “There are so many things this child will never get to do. And that is really, really sad.” But it’s not really encouraging to hear things you know aren’t true, either. I think it does a great disservice to the afterlife beliefs of Christianity (which are, after all, the point of Christianity) to treat death so lightly that it doesn’t faze you to lie about it to a room full of hurting, questioning people.

Zombie Church by Tyler Edwards is basically about those people in church – or an entire church – who just go through the motions of a relationship with God, without their heart. It is a slim book so I thought it would be a quick read but it took a lot longer than I thought it would. Maybe the pages are super thin or something. There are a lot of churchy words and cliches in there, but I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t spent a few years abroad. Trying to explain spiritual concepts with an infant’s vocabulary forces one to ponder one’s spiritual script in order to cull the meaning (which sometimes leads to questions regarading dearly-held doctrinal beliefs…but that’s a different post).

I will say this: the past year has really sucked for my family. But we kept going to church, and our motive was that if we gave up, we would never have gone back. That is a less-than-stellar motive, I know. We went because my mouth needed to sing that God was faithful, even if my heart didn’t believe it. We went to hear the Word, even if our hearts didn’t want it. We went because sometimes you need to do the right thing, even if you don’t feel like it, because that is how you train your heart to respond as it ought. We would absolutely have qualified as Edwards’s zombies – smiling, shaking hands, saying everything was fine even though it wasn’t (I mean, really. It’s not appropriate to inform a total stranger during the “welcome time” that you’re unemployed and homeless and not totally sure you’re going to be able to eat that week). Truth be told, we haven’t fully recovered from that time yet. It’s just that most Sundays it was literally all we could do to just to be there, at least without screaming that everything was sort of falling apart and didn’t anyone care? Just sitting all the way through was the two mites my heart had to offer. It may have looked zombie-like but it’s all I had.

(I don’t mean to imply that our church is awful or one of these zombie churches. Our small group imploded at a critical time and we just fell through the cracks.)

I know this isn’t what Edwards is talking about, or who he’s writing to. But you read a book through the filter of your own background and that’s mine. I just kept thinking that maybe all these people are sitting woodenly in a service because they don’t believe the person next to them genuinely cares, and instead of calling them zombies we should go be their friends. Real friends, the kind who invite you over and feed you and just listen to you and don’t think you’re a heretic because you have some big questions about God.

If you are concerned about the lack of life in your church, the church at large, or in your own life, then this book will have some good stuff for you. Read the other reviews on the blog tour here. There’s also an Amazon giftcard giveaway!

This book was provided for review by the LitFuse Publicity Group.

Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy is about an American couple (a TEXAN couple!), their adopted Chinese daughter, and the daughter’s bio sister who tracks them down. She (the sister) has discovered they potentially have a genetic kidney issue. So really, it is the story of how they all become family. It’s an interesting and creative story idea, a refreshing change of pace from your standard Christian fiction.

I do have a few bones to pick, though:

  1. Joy/Lily was a little difficult to believe. She has a pretty rapid change of heart; I was not even a rebellious teen and there is no way my attitude toward my parents would have changed that quickly, tornado or not. Also, I know teenagers say “like” a lot but hers seemed to be, like, in the wrong places or something.
  2. She doesn’t go by Lily in the book, so why is that the title?
  3. Near the end of the book Lacy mentions driving to Waco on I-20 and maybe I misunderstood, but to get from Ft. Worth to Waco you take 35. 20 doesn’t go through Waco.
  4. The Christian message is pretty heavy-handed, so be aware of that if you find blatant Christianity offensive.
  5. SPOILER ALERT!!! I am really confused at why Joy was allowed by the medical community to be a kidney donor. She is very young and has plenty of time to manifest symptoms later, and she’ll already be down a kidney then. Kai herself tested negative earlier in life so Joy’s present absence of symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a good candidate.
  6. Do Chinese people really call each other First Daughter and Second Daughter?

Overall, like I said, I thought this was a really interesting idea for a story. And I think it was pretty real in acknowledging that adoption isn’t the end of the story, adoptive families can still have problems years later (because all families have problems).

You can read other reviews on the blog tour here…and there’s also a giveaway for one of the new Kindles and an Amazon gift card!

This book was provided for review by the LitFuse Publicity Group.