Tamar & Cancel Culture

I apologize for the late delivery of this blog post. Monday is usually the day I publish new material, but a nasty cold took me down earlier this week. Now I’m wondering if it wasn’t for the sake of what I discovered.

I’m studying Tamar’s story, and I’m seeing how an overwhelming lack of understanding of her tale is playing out across our world right now. You’ll want to pause and read Genesis/B’reisheet 38 if you’re not already familiar with Tamar. The short chapter is an amazing digression in a larger narrative, but it is one that must not be missed.

I would also urge you to reject the usual feminist perspective of scripture as patriarchal and misogynistic. Tamar’s story is so much more than that, and to stop here in your thinking is to do her a great injustice and miss the fact that her actions provided the opportunity for revelation, healing, and repentance.

I admit that I never truly understood Judah’s statement “She is more righteous than I” until I came across sources that delved more deeply into the text, the history, and the culture. Understanding all three is crucial to learning the lesson at hand.

One must accept that children were highly prized at the time in which Tamar’s story was written. Children were understood to be life and wealth, not burdens and inconveniences. And when I say wealth, I don’t mean that they were treated as mere property. Children were considered one of the ultimate blessings not just for the woman but for the family as a whole. This truth must be accepted, or the rest of the story breaks down.

And perhaps that’s why we are where we are today.

When a woman was denied the right and privilege to bear children, she was denied an honor to the degree of severe social shame. Yet in Tamar’s case, her shame wasn’t because she was unable to bear her own children. Something, or someone, stood in her way.

A close reading of the text reveals that Judah had no intention of giving Tamar to his youngest son for the purpose of raising up offspring for his brother, which was something that Tamar wanted for herself and her dead husband. She was trapped between Judah’s fears of losing another son and her inability to marry anyone else because she was legally bound to her brother-in-law. In her desperation, Tamar took drastic action to ensure that her husband’s name would not be lost among his brethren and that she would become a mother.

At this point, one might believe that Tamar’s efforts to gain children were what made her more righteous than Judah. She took a great risk to achieve what should have rightfully been hers. While her methods were more in keeping with her Canaanite heritage, her desire to be part of Judah’s family—a family striving to adhere to the instruction of the one and only living God—must not be casually discarded.

Both Judah and Tamar conducted themselves inappropriately. Two wrongs never make a right, and neither person in this story was perfect. But here’s where Tamar prevailed: Judah, believing his daughter-in-law was guilty of adultery, wanted her to be dealt with publicly, whereas Tamar, knowing Judah to be the one by whom she was pregnant, sent him a coded message that only he would understand, thus revealing the truth. Tamar fulfilled her duty to her dead husband, but more significantly, she spared Judah public shame.

Allow me to repeat that: Tamar spared Judah public shame.

What she did was huge, and the moral implications have reverberated throughout history for those willing to learn the lesson.

Through her understanding of shame and humiliation, Tamar had become sensitized to what Judah was about to experience if she allowed it. Again, Tamar was holding all the cards, yet she chose to act in righteousness by sparing Judah’s dignity when she withheld her words. What Tamar knew—that for which she was willing to put her life on the line—was that psychological damage can harm far worse than physical damage.

Words hurt, and once spoken, they can never be taken back.

Fast forward to today when exposing someone’s shame is considered not simply justice but righteous justice. People are applauded for conducting smear campaigns to the point of canceling another person in the eyes of a fickle society. The fact that this goes on in politics is no big surprise, although it is still unacceptable, but at the familial level, it’s nothing short of reprehensible.

Imagine airing your dirty laundry to the degree that you make millions of dollars and produce a documentary. Surely, the hurt you’ve experienced justifies you doing so, right? No, not according to God’s word. Not even if you attach the latest trending social label to it.

Tamar was on the fringe of society as a two-time childless widow, unable to remarry a man of her choice, and a foreigner. Yet instead of cashing in on her low status for the sake of gaining sympathy, she considered the other person and spared him the loss of dignity that would equate to a loss of life.

For her selfless actions, great integrity was attributed to Tamar, the outsider. She wrote herself into the most important royal lineage known to man, that of King David and ultimately, King Yeshua. She was and always will be a role model for how to conduct ourselves when someone else’s dignity is on the line.

With Gratitude

As we use every moment between today and Thursday preparing for celebration, the Gibson Household would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for this year in the way of friends and family. Please know how greatly we treasure you.

Our goodwill wishes are in no way diminished toward those we don’t know personally. Thank you, faithful followers of my blog, for your presence here. It’s because of you, too, that I write at the higher standard I do.

May God bless each of you and may all your creative dreams find fulfillment.

~The Gibsons

What’s Going On?

I’ve read a lot of encouraging articles and essays on how to handle bad situations in our lives, and the first thing that always comes through is how calm and enlightened the author was. What I’ve had to remind myself after reading such a piece was that, most likely, when the author wrote, it was from a place of healing resulting in an after-the-fact relaying of the tale.

If you forget this while reading what should be encouraging words, you may come away believing the writer was unsympathetic, unempathetic, and a real know-it-all busybody who never again suffered the way you did or are. That simply isn’t true.

Just because someone overcame a trial and/or testing in his or her life and was able to share it doesn’t mean he or she won’t be down again. In fact, once a person overcomes, there is often barely a moment to catch one’s breath before another attack comes. But this is not the crisis we may believe it is.

Keep in mind that a way through has been made for us. Yes, a way through, not out. The text I’m referencing is often poorly translated to the detriment of many. Not only has the trial or testing been brought to you, or you to it, but it is for your betterment that you’re going through it.

I know that sometimes bad things happen that are simply an evil event, but even then, you’ll not be left without assistance, if you truly want it.

But let’s return to where you may be now or have been in the past. Ask yourself, “What am I learning/did I learn?” If nothing, well, expect to repeat the lesson until you succeed. But if you did learn something, don’t keep it to yourself. From that place of healing, and maybe even from a place of hurting if you’re still going through it, you can move forward by using it to help others.

It sounds so simple when written here, but how many times have we allowed our shame to silence us or believed a negative event was for us alone because we were embarrassed or didn’t want to burden anyone with it? Stop doing that.

While we remember our moments of weakness, we do not allow them to define us. This is done by deep self-examination that should result in a truthful admission of wanting to grow out of and beyond the bad moments in our lives. But again, you must want this.

Society today would have you wallow in your misery at the least and parade your dysfunction at the worst. This is not Adonai’s plan for you. You are better than that, so do not allow yourself to become less than you have to ability to be. You were created for greatness.

Sounds so easy, right? Just jump up, act as if nothing is wrong, plaster on a smile, and whistle a happy tune!

Reality is more often open your eyes, take a deep slow breath, let the tears flow as you put your feet on the ground, and push off into another day. One step at a time. But do it.

Imagine being so unhappy with your surroundings that you decide to take a vacation. You stand up, take one step off your porch, and become even more disgusted, maybe even discouraged and/or enraged, that after taking a single step you didn’t arrive at the beach, the mountains, or wherever would make you feel good again.

Ridiculous, right? And yet, that’s exactly what so many people do in their walk of life when things go wrong. “I tried, and it didn’t work,” they complain to those encouraging them.

How about taking that step toward packing (planning), and getting in your car (moving), and driving to your ideal destination with a few rest stops along the way? Please see that life itself if a process and so isn’t the path to healing.

And yes, it’s going hurt. Consider the beneficial invasiveness that is hip surgery. I watched my own dear mother, who never cried in agony pre-surgery, experience emotional and physical pain post-surgery because healing hurts. She wasn’t permitted to sit until the aching stopped or the inflammation disappeared. She had to move from day one and attend therapy before she could fully wrap her head around what had occurred.

As cruel as it may sound, this is exactly how Adonai works in our lives, especially when something is horribly wrong within. He’ll remove it, and you’re going to hurt during the healing. Again, as hard as it is, it’s for your benefit and quite possibly someone else’s, too.

Consider my experience with thyroid cancer. I would never wish that on anyone but is it only through my experience that I was able to counsel two other people with truth about what they were going through. This is why we must come together as a community. I may have the words you need to hear, and you may have the answer I’ve been looking for.

Do not allow the evil, bad, wrong things in your life to galvanize you against revealing what is occurring to you. Do not be afraid or ashamed. Reach out to those who are part of your community. Seek assistance from wise, older people. Get up and fight. And when you cannot even fight, at least stand until you are able to pick up your sword, take a forward step, and re-engage in the battle. I promise, you will not be left alone or defenseless in your misery.

This post comes to you after almost a week of wrestling with something I still cannot define. But since I’m determined to not let it sidetrack me, I’ve turned it into an article, thus using what was meant for evil to be used for good.

If you’re able, please share a time when you overcame. You never know who may need to hear exactly what you have to say.

If you have comments or questions regarding my post, the comments section is open to you, too. Let’s have a conversation.

The Pleather Labyrinth

This past Shabbat, a friend at church looked at my purse sitting on the table and said, “You’re quite an organized person, aren’t you?”

I pulled my beloved purse toward me, smiled proudly, and said, “Yes, yes I am.”

Allow me to explain. Two weeks ago I went on a day trip with two close friends. When I stepped away to powder my nose, fashionista friend said to mischievous friend, “Ugh… I really need to give her a new purse.”

I am not into purses the way the majority of women seem to be. I find a purse that meets my size requirements and compartment needs, and I carry that baby until tidbits of pleather flake off the handles exposing the fabric beneath and the lining rips out. I loathe purse shopping. Besides, the stupid things are so freaking expensive for something that’s going to be chucked into the back seat of my car, flung into a shopping cart, and occasionally forgotten at Home Depot or a restaurant.

I actually do have a lovely, leather purse my mother brought me from Italy, but it’s only big enough to accommodate a whispered secret and a tissue. Not practical. I carry it to weddings, funerals, and really fancy lunch dates.

What probably tipped fashionista friend over the edge was my horror story of how I once stapled the broken strap of a favorite purse and went right on carrying it. No doubt this is what prompted her to ask me upon exiting the bathroom, “How do you feel about black and white herringbone?”

A moment of confusion overcame me until mischievous friend spilled the beans on fashionista friend’s disdain for my bedraggled purse.

“Are you embarrassed to be seen with me and my purse in public?” I asked, laughing.

“Yes,” fashionista friend replied emphatically. She descended to the Fashionista Cave where she stores a bin of spare purses. I believe said bin has a keypad lock (with a code known only by her), is wired with explosives, and is guarded by a German Shepherd. Upon her return, she said, “I chose this one for you because I knew you’d like all the compartments.”

“You want me to switch out purses before we leave, don’t you?”

From the look on her face, I’m pretty sure that was understood. I plopped down on her living room floor and began sorting stuff into all the wonderful compartments of my lovely new purse. It was amazing. Everything just fell into place as I separated the most important items from those used less frequently. I even cleaned out a bunch of garbage I’d been hauling around and tossed it into a plastic shopping bag for disposal. Fashionista friend granted me one pardon when she allowed me to cut the handy little license holder from the old purse and slip it into the new one. Then she threw my old purse away, and we left.

Skip ahead to the next day when my husband noticed the new purse. I swear purses are like magnets for men in the weirdest way. They spy your purse, and suddenly they need something out of it. Of course, I couldn’t have hubby rooting around in my new purse like a warthog grubbing for food. Men are notorious for turning purses into disheveled messes as if a bear pawed through it.

For a microsecond, I entertained the thought of explaining to him how the setup of the new purse really wasn’t that different from the old. Inside the main zippered section (always the largest) was a tiny zippered section where cash and credit cards are stored. That was the same as was the open portion where lipstick, Chapstick, cough drops, and tissues were tucked.

The new purse also had a middle section with a place for my cellphone, check book, and sunglasses. So, slight up grade. Actually, super, awesome terrific upgrade because there are two zippers to this compartment that only need to be opened halfway to reveal a particular side. Lovin’ it!

But wait, there’s more. The next level down is yet another zippered section with a metal zipper pull where I store my keys. Husband should be kissing the ground where fashionista friend walks because in the past two weeks, I haven’t misplaced my keys once since I’ve owned this purse all due to the special place in my purse for keys. “Why did she mention the metal zipper pull?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because my metal keys go in the section with the metal zipper pull. See how that works. Easy enough for any husband who needs to put gas in my car to remember in which section he can find my keys.

Oh, but that’s not all. The whole back of the purse is open, so incidentals like brochures from gourmet olive oil shops and the business cards of women trying to sell me Viking refrigerators land there. No zipper or snap ensures that they fall out which is actually my goal.

There’s a tiny pouch with a snap where my business cards live and another with a zipper where gift cards I have yet to use and restaurant rewards cards are tucked. Brilliant, isn’t it? A place for everything and everything in its place. Did I mention that my lovely, new purse has handles and a shoulder strap? What’s not to love?

But just try explaining why things are where they are to a man, and the whole system breaks down. A woman would look at my purse and know in seconds where to begin searching for whatever she needed. Not that a woman would rummage through my purse without asking. Oh, no—that’s the sort of criminal behavior only men would commit.

Now I know there are many jokes about how scary the inside of a woman’s purse is. There’s even a stupid song about it. I am here to tell you that’s no accident. If we could fit a Minotaur in our purses to keep men out—or at least deter, possibly maim them for tossing it like inexperienced burglars—we would. And don’t bother suggesting that we draw them a map or label the compartments. Our husbands would ask us to store the map in our purses, and it’s not as if we’re going to number the compartments with a black Sharpie.

So now you understand how the friend at church pegged me as an organized person. I like to think she was a little bit envious of my purse. I’m going to carry this one forever, and when I say forever what I mean is until tidbits of pleather flake off the handles exposing the fabric beneath and the lining rips out.

True Grit

Memory Makers Masquerading as Cats

I love blog posts about the magic of ordinary days. You know the ones that expound upon the grit in our daily lives as if it’s some sort of fairy dust sprinkled over us that makes everything perfect and wonderful. This blog post is about the true nature of grit.

If you have ever owned cats or know anything about their personalities, you know they are thieving, little devils. They develop weird passions for things like pens, pencils, Q-tips, etc. Basically, anything they can swipe off a table, out of a cubby in a bathroom cabinet, or from the trash. My three cats (Henry, Simon, and Freddie) crave pencils especially if I’ve placed an eraser cap on the end. They usually chew off the eraser that comes with a pencil (I have found gnarled pieces of metal left as evidence of their handiwork) necessitating the addition of an eraser cap. I believe they work in concert to ensure this happens, and then they celebrate by waiting until I go to bed to work the pencil out of the jar in the living room, the wire spiral of my notebook, or from the side of my laptop cooling station.

Looking for one of my lost pencils is what prompted this blog post. I was on my hands and knees in the kitchen with the three offenders watching my progress as I laid my head parallel to the floor to peer beneath the printer table. I spied a popcorn kernel, and my mind flooded with memories of teaching Joshua how to make popcorn on the stove. I retrieved the kernel and sat back on my knees as I recalled what a great day that was and how many more like it we’ve had since. But I didn’t find the pencil.

I looked into the corners of the fireplace mantel also in the kitchen. A two by three piece of grey Lego was wedged behind the antique wood. It has been years since my kid played with Legos. He started by building every kit according to instructions, but his best creations were those he made up without the benefit of a pattern. The Titanic with a removable panel to simulate destruction by an iceberg, the Iron Giant, a mask similar to that worn by General Grievous, an M1 Garand that ejected the clip, a three-level ship longer than my kitchen table, and a working crossbow were among my favorites. Still no pencil.

Under the stove I found a cap from a bottle of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. How my cats managed to get the bottle cap was beyond me, but its discovery prompted the memory of a wonderful, teen-free evening spent with my husband. The night was outrageously hot and the light beverage tasted delicious and refreshing. Husband and I felt like newly-weds again as we whiled away hours in each other’s company doing absolutely nothing and loving every moment. Again, no pencil.

I crawled all over the house looking for my pencil. I could have simply used another one, but it was a matter of principle now. The cats trailed me with mild interest, and I swear they nodded their heads toward their litterbox as if suggesting I look there. Little creeps.

Every room received a thorough search, and along the way tidbits of stuff located beneath furniture or in corners prompted memories of the past twenty five years. At times I fretted over scuffed baseboards and the scars of puppy-chewed carpet, a house that looks quite “lived in” and the realization that I need to sweep more often than I already do! (A wise friend once said, “If you have pets, you’re going to have pet hair.”) But every inch of every room in our home offered up life that was and still is sound and stable. I cast a glance at my cats who sat just out of reach watching me. Their smug faces seemed to say, “You’re welcome.”

I eventually found my pencil inside the cooling station where a clumsy paw had pushed it in an effort to snag it off the table. I threaten to beat their hides every time one of my pencils goes missing, but I have to admit the process of looking for it adds to my memories most positively. Someday—hopefully not in the near future—my broken heart will reminisce Henry, Simon, and Freddie, and I’ll be most appreciative for the days they decided to steal my pencils.

God Gives Us Teenagers Because He Loves Us

I have a theory. I’ve been sitting on it for about six years, keeping it to myself as I mulled it over and tested it. I experience it in daily life especially when interacting with my teenager. It goes like this: I ask Joshua to do something, and he responds with “Oh joy, oh rapture” to let me know that he is not going to enjoy what I’ve asked him to do. I already knew that what I requested of him wasn’t meant to produce pleasure, but nevertheless, it needs to be done. A voice in my head whispers, “Kind of like I told you (insert request here) needs to be done.”

Another example is when Joshua asks me for something, and the answer is no.  I usually follow up with a tactfully pointed out, “Why would I spend money on (insert desired objection) when you don’t appreciate what I’ve already given you?” And the gentle voice in my heart says, “Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”

Then there are the times when I give Joshua instructions for completing a task, and he does it wrong because he doesn’t listen and/or doesn’t care about the outcome. It takes him twice as long to finish (insert task here) and often things end up broken. I say, “Why didn’t you do it the way I told you the first time?” and the loving but firm voice speaking to my will sighs, “Exactly, beloved.”

My theory: God gives us teenagers to let us know what it’s like for Him when dealing with us. If I hadn’t heard His voice every single time I corrected Joshua, I would never have come to this conclusion. And because I’m the adult, the parent, the smart one who has lived more than twice as long as my child, I have it all together and nailed it the first time, right? Wrong.

I’ve grumbled, complained, whined, begged, pleaded, made deals, and sulked my way through life just like a teenager. God—being the great parent that He is—never backed down. Discipline and guidance came my way whether I wanted it or not. The lessons flowed from God to me to Josh, and still I didn’t catch on.

Until one day last week when I had a moment of brilliant insight. I had been moping because I received my first rejection notice concerning the novel I’m currently querying. Instead up getting right back up in the saddle and sending out another query, I sat in a chair at the kitchen table and sulked. It was a most unproductive day until my teenager came home. While Joshua may be a sluggard when it comes to picking up the dirty socks on his bedroom floor, he’s a drill sergeant when it comes to my writing.

“How many queries did you send out?” he asked. No “Hello, Mother, how are you? It sure is wonderful to see you.”

“None,” I replied.

“Get up.”

“What?”

“Get over to the laptop and send out a query letter.”

“I don’t want to.”

Without further comment, Joshua pulled out the chair with me in it, used a karate hold on me that put my arm behind my back, and led me to the computer at the other end of the table. Before you become upset thinking that he hurt me, please be assured that we laughed throughout the whole process. No bullying was involved as my son strong-armed me out of the doldrums and into positive energies. It worked.

Here’s the key: I knew better than to resist the karate hold because it was a real one he learned on his way to becoming a red belt. It didn’t hurt at all when Joshua helped me from the chair and gave the instruction to get back to work. If I had pushed or leaned in any direction against the hold, it would have been painful, and that’s when it hit me. God’s instructions only hurt when I resist them.

Finally, I’ve learned my lesson. Will I always apply it to my life perfectly? Probably not, but that doesn’t let me off the hook from trying. Just as I expect Joshua to strive for new levels of maturity in his life so, too, am I expected to stop behaving like a child, grow up, and pass the lesson forward.

For Love of Country

I’m writing my blog post for Memorial Day one day late because most Americans were busy yesterday with picnics and parades. That is certainly not a criticism, so please don’t take it as one. In fact, my hope for every person reading this post was to have been surrounded by loved ones doing the activities you enjoy. But again, quite a few of us were busy yesterday, so I hope you have time now to read what I write because it may present information of which you were not aware.

Did you know that the Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more American lives than any conflict in the history of the United States? The first national cemeteries were established to provide final resting places for the many soldiers who died in the war.

Americans began the practice of decorating these fallen soldiers’ graves with flowers and reciting prayers during springtime tributes in the late 1860s in various towns and cities. No one is sure where this tradition originated because different communities may have started the memorial gatherings independent of neighboring towns.

In 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo first celebrated memorial services on May 5, 1866, and the town was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event. All businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

These days, businesses stay open and Memorial Day is often seen as simply marking the beginning of summer. Most Americans wish each other Happy Memorial Day, but I’m not quite sure that’s appropriate. And at the risk of becoming a little more somber, let’s not forget that the day came out of a conflict in which brother fought against brother. Still, if I make you pause for just a moment to realize how blessed America and Americans are, then I’ll take the risk.

War is never good, and America is not perfect. But since we have Memorial Day, I’d like to offer some suggestions on how to observe it. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts decorate the graves of local soldiers with American flags. I’m sure they’d gladly welcome non-Scouters who wish to honor the fallen.

Visit nursing homes and seek out veterans. Use caution when talking about their war experiences, but by all means, encourage them to talk about whatever interests them. Keep in mind that your own neighbors may be veterans, so offer to cut grass, cook a meal, or run errands for them. Please don’t rule out young veterans. They have needs, too. Remember, not all wounds are visible; use love and wisdom in every situation.

Don’t forget the family of soldiers who are currently serving. Your kind words and offers of assistance will go a long way. It doesn’t take a lot of money to show compassion. Babysitting, washing dishes, or simply visiting a lonely spouse will help to ease the void left by a serving soldier. And since we’re Americans, and everyone knows Americans love their pets, don’t forget to walk the dog or brush the cat of a serving soldier or elderly or disabled veteran.

Widows and widowers of fallen soldiers may be the hardest to detect especially if you weren’t already aware of the fact that she or he was married to a soldier. When you do find out, gently encourage the surviving spouse to remember their fallen loved one. Sharing memories is a great way to work through the grieving process.

When you see a stateside soldier, shake his or her hand and offer thanks for his or her service. If you’re able, offer to buy that cup of coffee he or she just ordered, the lunch he or she sat down to eat, or his or her groceries on the conveyor belt ahead of yours. And if you’re not able, consider giving your place in line to the soldier behind you.

I hope this doesn’t come across as preaching. These are just suggestions, and I’m sure you can come up with many more. The thing is, it isn’t just on Memorial Day but rather every day that we need to be serving each other. I have to remind myself more than I care to admit that I should be serving others. Memorial Day is one of those days, not unlike Thanksgiving, when I’m reminded to do just that.

Children Need Pause and Rewind Buttons

Well, we finally did it! The hubby and I survived high school. We made it through all four years and came out the other side relatively unscathed. There were some bumps and bruises along the way in the form of forgotten homework, mad dashes to school with hastily packed or forgotten lunches, and most recently, the delivery of two loads of cardboard that entirely filled the back of hubby’s SUV to the school our son attended in the afternoon for Civil Engineering and Architecture. Oh, did you think I meant hubby and I survived our own high school years? No, no, no… I’m talking about our son, Joshua, and how despite all the snark thrown our way (and that’s when he was actually communicating) we are now the proud parents of a high school graduate.

Man, did that go quickly. I put him on the bus for kindergarten on Monday, and he graduated on Friday? When I dressed him for school, he had on shorts, a striped t-shirt, and sneakers that lit up when he ran. He loved those shoes. What came home that last day wore a backpack bigger than he was when he started school and sneakers longer than the bus. His sense of fashion didn’t change much. He still leans toward t-shirts, but if you ever see him in shorts it’s only because someone pulled a prank and cut off the legs of the sixty dollar jeans he conned out of his grandfather.

I have vague memories of a little kid who never ordered anything to eat except “chickie fries” suddenly being the young man whose stately walk into the auditorium and perfect pivot at the aisle deposited him at his seat where he promptly clasped his hands behind his back like a Marine standing at attention. And after the ceremony, the only way I could spot him among the sea of blue and white caps and gowns was to look for the face that had once been soft and round and was now square and chiseled. I can recognize that jawline anywhere.

Leap past the graduation dinner at his favorite restaurant to all of us fast asleep in bed that evening. Everyone except me because my mind and heart aren’t quite sure if I’m supposed to be happy or sad. I believe that mix is called melancholy. Add to it a dash of “what do we do with this young person now,” and you will be standing outside the fence of the ballpark in which hubby and I are now playing. Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario, but Joshua is our one and only. We won’t even have the opportunity to apply what we learn to another child.

As I sit here typing this, watching him brush his teeth in the kitchen sink like some kind of animal, I have to wonder how we did with him. Is he truly ready to be unleashed on the public? How much will his behavior reflect on us? Is it too late for Catholic military boarding school in Siberia? Does he love us? Does he even like us?

I suppose we could have done this instead of that. More of A and less of B. Chosen what was behind curtain one as an alternative to taking what was in the box. Would it have made a difference? Life is not a dress rehearsal, so who can really say? I made a promise to infant Joshua to never lie to him no matter how many times he asked me the same question as a toddler (it’s true that airplanes don’t fly when it’s too cold). I tell teenage Joshua that I’ll pay for any therapy needed due to emotional scarring endured while cleaning his bedroom.

Sometimes I wish we had a crystal ball so we could see where all this is heading because it feels like we’re riding a roller coaster in the dark. There are times when I think that’s a good thing because there will be no witnesses when I push Joshua out of the car. But most days, I cling to him in case there is a sudden drop up ahead that none of us can see. We know he wants us to loosen our hold on him for the thrill of rising out of the seat on the dips and hills. And we will… once we check that he secured his seat belt for life.

Tumbler Roulette

I am seriously considering the switch to disposable plastic cups. I originally wanted to do this because both of the men in my house, husband and son, are notorious for grabbing a clean glass when they have one right in front of them. The amount of dirty dishes they produce in a day is staggering, but at the forefront of the parade of crockery and glassware marching into my dishwasher is always the humble tumbler.

They recently earned a reprieve in my campaign to get them to reuse a glass when illness took America in its grip. Just today I logged on Facebook to see that several more friends were either succumbing to the creeping crud or finally recovering from it. Because I am somewhat of a germaphobe, I granted husband and son amnesty during the periods of sickness that took down the Gibson Household not once, not twice, but three times.

But my men, God bless them, aren’t always diligent in following my gently applied guidelines when it comes to glasses. For example, I love to keep a glass by the sink full of ice cubes and fresh water so I can grab a drink whenever I’m thirsty. We don’t own one of those fancy refrigerators with water and ice magically spewing from the door, so this practice served me well until my son decided to indulge himself in my thirst quenching drink. I cannot tell you how many times the water-thieving twerp has guzzled my beverage moments before I reached for it. Adding insult to injury, he left the empty glass full of ice cubes right where I placed it.

Husband, on the other hand, is actually quite good about not drinking from my glass except that he forgets which glass is his and exactly where he set it. His mistake results in another lecture on the evils of the “community glass” replete with examples of how drinking from someone else’s glass is just plain gross.

“Guys, my glass is the one with the pebbled texture on the inside, okay?”

“Oh, I drank out of that one,” says the son who came home from school with the sniffles.

Big sigh as I empty that glass and place it in the dishwasher. Then I fill another glass, this time one with a lovely pattern resembling tartan plaid cut into the glass, and fill it with ice and water for me and me alone. Except this is also the pattern of the glass husband, who is recovering from illness, has decided upon, and now he can’t remember where he set his glass, and maybe he drank out of mine, maybe not. Two more glasses enter the dishwasher to prevent the spread of germs.

Three new glasses are procured for dinner, all different in pattern and color, and we agree to keep an eye on them for later use. Except my guys don’t, and to make matters worse, they cleared the dinner dishes, mixed up our glasses, and forgot which belonged to them. So you see I simply have to switch to plastic for the good of all mankind or at least to maintain my sanity.

The run on drinking glasses became so bad that we started using mugs. Not that this kept my boys from mixing up which one they had used to begin with. And I even caught the younger one drinking from mine again. I had to abandon my lovely glass (or mug) of chilled water waiting for me on the sink in favor of all three of us grabbing a fresh glass (or mug) every time we wanted a drink. And let me tell you, we’re water drinkers at the Gibson Household…which I suppose is a good thing especially when one is trying to push fluids during an illness.

But seriously, I’m switching to plastic cups. It’ll be me and Solo against all the tree-huggers who claim the popular red receptacle is a hazard to landfills. I can no longer play Jacob in trying to sort out the speckled and striped glasses and who drank out of which one. Procter & Gamble will no longer receive my money for countless boxes of dishwasher detergent every two weeks. Now, I will support Dart Container in my effort to stamp out germs.

In the words of Toby Keith, “Proceed to party!”

Let Them Eat Cake

The last recipe I’d like to share with you from our Hanukkah celebration is one that always popped up in church cookbooks.  Unfortunately, those old cookbooks are disappearing and no one seems to produce them anymore.  I held on to this recipe and tweaked it a little by using raw sugar in place of white and dark brown sugar instead of light brown.  The changes make for an even richer cake that still receives lots of praise.  Not to mention I love pulling out this old recipe to share with people who’ve never tasted it.

I made this cake to share at my writers group.  Even though a few ladies took two pieces, there was plenty left for my boys.  And then it was game on.  They ate it for breakfast with coffee, as a midday snack, and again after dinner.  I had to battle them to get a piece myself.  The only thing to do was make another which worked out for me as I needed one more blog post this week.

This easy, delicious cake would be great on Christmas morning while opening gifts or to have on hand for when friends stop by during the holidays.  The ‘everything mixed in one bowl’ batter and topping along with ingredients one almost always has on hand makes you look like a culinary genius when the guests taste that first bite.

Old-fashioned Oatmeal Cake

1 ¼ c boiling water

1 c oats

1 stick butter, unsalted

1 c sugar (I use raw)

1 c packed dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

1 ½ c flour

½ t salt

1 t baking soda

1 ½ t cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Pour the boiling water over the oats and allow them to stand for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the oats are cool.  Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter, both sugars, eggs, and vanilla.  Add the oats and mix thoroughly.  Sift the flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and blend well.  Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 inch pan that has been greased or sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes.  A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Five minutes before the oatmeal cake comes out, prepare the topping mixture.

Topping:

½ c dark brown sugar

½ stick of unsalted butter, softened

¼ heavy whipping cream (can substitute whole milk)

1 c chopped pecans or walnuts

½ c flaked coconut

½ t vanilla

Mix all ingredients together and spread carefully over the hot cake so as not to tear the surface.  Work with small dollops of topping.  Heat from the cake will melt the butter and sugar as you spread.

Enjoy!

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