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Tonight I have book club. I usually pick up food from the grocery store to bring to our potlucks. Who am I fooling anyway? I’m not a cook! Plus, most months I come straight from some other commitment.

We read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. OK, I didn’t “read” it because I couldn’t find a copy in the library. That’s the book I listened to on CD while doing several months’ worth of filing—how can any one person have 18 hours of filing and still not be done? But, I digress . . . by listening to the book, I felt even more immersed in the story than if I had read it. The story takes place in the Deep South, back when I was a toddler, just like the little children watched over by “the help” at the centerpiece of those changing times.

Home-style Easter Dinner, 1971

Home-style Easter Dinner, 1971

Thank goodness I lived far away from the place and how things were done in that particular place in those particular times. I don’t know much about living in the South, but I do know something about growing up in a place with lots of country folks—or people who had been from the country. Our grandmothers and mothers served farm-style food not so different from that served by the black help to their white families.

That’s why I chose to make biscuits. Biscuits are my comfort food, my home, my mother, my childhood. My mother was not much into cooking either, but almost every day of my childhood she made me a hot breakfast. She might have been a working woman who lived in town and had access to convenience foods, but in the morning she served farm-style breakfasts—minus the quantities needed to perform farm-style chores.

We weren’t so “country” that we ate them with sausage gravy—didn’t my father wish!—but we had them with syrup. After leaving home, I could count on those biscuits on my visits. My mom always made them for me, introducing them to my own kids when we visited.

Mae & Christiana, Christmas Dinner 2005

Mae & Christiana, Christmas Dinner 2005

Thus I decided I should make them, from time to time, when my own mother visited or just for my own kids. Christiana really liked them, so they became our treat together. Then last year she was diagnosed with celiac disease—I, also, gave them up so that she might miss them less.

Of course, we can make gluten-free biscuits—and we have—just like we can make gluten-free sugar cookies as a substitute for the Ritter sugar cookies. But they won’t be the family recipes. They won’t be home. They’ll just be . . . food.

So I sneaked a couple biscuits before I hid them away for tonight. I expected joy, but didn’t expect the tears. Those biscuits tasted like mother’s love—and loss. Loss of who my mother was and loss of being able to pass on my own mother’s love to my daughter.

I’d rather savor my own sweet memories than mix them up with the bitter taste of mourning. I think I’ve baked my last batch of biscuits.


Sometimes your kids surprise you so much you are almost speechless. And when you’re me, that says a lot!

Becoming a mom ensures us that we’ll spend a lot of time doing things we’re not always good at. We have to take the whole package of motherhood—we don’t really get an option for an a la carte version of doing only what feels most comfortable.

One of the hardest things for me is how often we parents have to advocate for our kids. Of course, parents have always had to stand up for their kids, but many in previous generations were more likely to accept what the schools, doctors, or other authorities said about kids in general, as well as about their own kids. On the other hand, since Baby Boomers as a group have been pretty good at overdoing so much of what we do, we’ve been accused—not unfairly—of overstepping our boundaries too often and not letting our kids fight or learn to fight their own battles.

Given that I personally am not really fond of conflict, the first conflict always starts within me. Do I really need to argue with this person about this situation? Should my kids just have to deal with the situation? How do I know when something is really just part of life? Do I really have to put myself in an uncomfortable position? Yet, isn’t my job to stand up for my kids?

With all that going on in my head, you’d think I never get around to advocating for them at all! But I do. Once again I go back to how my operations management education changed my view on almost everything, it seems. The discipline really teaches that by just accepting the status quo it’s easy to miss opportunities to do things better. And then there’s the angle that organizations really do owe their “stakeholders” decent service or products—and sometimes it takes the stakeholder (or maybe many stakeholders over many years) pointing out problems and/or solutions in order for real improvement to occur.

I’ll admit I’m getting frustrated with certain situations and wondering if it’s time to accept the way things are. After venting privately—and being “outed” without my knowledge—I did my best to make suggestions and explain my positions more appropriately, as well as try to listen to the other side. Then as I went forward from those events, other events showed me that change isn’t likely in the situation.

So who took up the battle from me? My daughter. If anything shows me how far she’s moved in her healing journey, it is this. When someone who has had a hard time voicing her slightest needs begins to speak out, it is a victory, no matter the results. There’s something about earning respect by not letting others walk over you, even if you may not ultimately gain what you had wanted.

This is one of the life lessons I was afraid my kids wouldn’t learn if they didn’t do any of the advocating on their own: you can be proud of yourself even when you’re disappointed with how things turned out.Christianaqueenhalloween1998

We don’t always have the power to overturn the decisions made by authority figures, but we can make sure they have at least heard how their decisions are perceived by others—even if we can’t really make them listen. Amazing when the person who was previously afraid to speak up for herself becomes the one willing to speak for others.

I am so proud of her at the very same time I am relieved to know that she really does have the tools that will help her deal with many of the bumps she’ll encounter in life.

She didn’t even have to wait to become a mom to make herself take on the often uncomfortable task of advocating—she’s way ahead of me—and she always was. Truth is, this is the girl who took on the pint-sized preschool bullies who wanted to push around her friends, only now she’s almost all grown-up. The queen is back.

I’m always excited when I find a better way to get things done—it’s just the operations nerd in me. However, with all the busyness in my life right now, I really need to find better ways to do what I need to do. Sometimes whatever could help is something I know about, but for some reason, I haven’t thought hard enough about how it could help with a particular problem.

For instance, I know about using music to motivate myself to do paperwork tasks I don’t like to do or to get myself cleaning the house. I know how turning on music helps me drive or how getting a book on a CD helps me when I have to drive longer distances on my own. I even know about using a CD to get through a nonfiction book I really should read, but can’t get myself to pick up.

So why is it such rocket science to realize that listening to a fiction book could get me through boring, stationary tasks? After all, I am obsessive about finishing the fiction books I start. I lack such control with reading that I often feel guilty for all those chores I ignore in order to do it.

Thank goodness everyone in Denver seems to be reading our next book club book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I’m trying not to buy more books, so I’ve become pretty good about getting the book club books from the library. But when I went online to look into availability, every single copy of the book in the library system was checked out. However, they had one copy of the book on CD at a close-by library.

Hmm—could I find enough time, sitting down while alone in the house, to get through 18 hours on 15 CDs? Maybe. As luck would have it, when I finally remembered to go to that library branch, I picked the day it’s always closed. But I really wanted to take care of getting the CDs that day, just in case even that CD got checked out as soon as that branch opened the next day. So instead of going home to check the status at my local library, I just stopped there before I got home.

I walked in, ready to look on the computer, when I glanced at the “new and popular CDs” located at the front door. There it was! I grabbed it and headed straight to checkout. The librarian asked how I managed to snag that “popular” book. Somehow my luck had improved. Trina just lucky (that day!) I guess.

Now some 18 hours (and several days) later, I’ve tackled finding a space for the reference books that have been driving me crazy ever since the arrival of my new laptop messed up the order of my desk. I’ve moved others from my desk to the shelves I brought from my mother’s storage unit. I’ve filed a couple months’ worth of bills, made it through the medical bills and insurance payments that don’t match up, started entering bank statements into a new accounting system, filled a recycling bin or two with papers, and made a considerable dent in the chaos that has been my office ever since too much life and the corresponding papers converged upon my already lacking organizational system for my office.

And . . . I loved the book so much I hardly realized how much time those tasks took. Yeah, I played a little bit of Solitaire and Mahjong on the computer, but mostly I was productive. Plus, I felt so virtuous it seemed perfectly OK to still read from real books at bed time—book six of the Harry Potter series, here I come!

Perhaps these books on CDs are adding fuel to my reading addiction, but I like to think my new listening habit just might help me regain daytime hours to do the work I really want to do—and that’s to write my own words.

Isn’t the operations principle of continuous improvement (CI) wonderful when you realize not only do you already have the tool you need and it isn’t going to cost you, but that tool also has the potential both to reduce your stress level and improve your productivity?

Two for the price of one . . . and book club doesn’t even meet for two and a half weeks!

So I was wrong—going to church on Sunday did give me some relief. I had been up in the middle of the night worrying about whether or not I could do my Father’s work and then you can guess what the sermon was about. See, I really am not in charge—thank you, God!

First came the reading, including Isaiah 35:4-5:

say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Oh, for my children’s eyes to be opened and their ears unstopped—and for me to not fear.

Then Pastor Ron Glusenkamp began his sermon titled “God’s Work. Our Hands.” by reading again those words from Isaiah. Then he repeated, “Be strong, do not fear!”

As he launched into the words from the baptismal ceremony—the ones where we parents are asked to teach our children God’s words and bring them to his house—I was reminded that we had done those things faithfully. These words are an if/then clause. If we do this, then such and such will happen.

Of course, faith is not so logical as such a statement would like it to seem. Just because the statement says it is so does not make it true—for now, anyway. Though my children do not now put their trust in God in the ways we had hoped, they do carry out other parts of that if/then clause in that they “care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.”

“God’s work. Our hands.” is the phrase the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) uses to reiterate that we are called to do God’s work in a tangible way in this world. In his sermon, Pastor Ron pointed out various ways we use our hands to do just that.

As parents, we use our hands from the earliest days with our own children, especially to hold them. We also use them while we do all the physical chores involved with raising children.

But in the gospel of the day—the story of the woman who begged Jesus to cast the demon from her daughter even after he tried to brush her off—we hear a story of how parents’ hands are used to advocate and pray for our children, also. Over the past year, especially, I have had to advocate for my daughter in the healing community: asking questions, pointing out possibilities, and even speaking out to protect her from those whose job it is to facilitate her healing. I know what it’s like to feel that woman’s desperation, to want nothing more than for the demon to leave my daughter.

The woman persists for her daughter’s sake—and Jesus’ own ears are opened. The girl is healed.

“Ephphatha!” “Be opened.” Pastor Ron then discussed the commandment that Jesus used to heal a deaf and mute man—and how we all have something in us that needs to be opened.

Pawnee Grasslands, (c) PSL 2005

Pawnee Grasslands, (c) PSL 2005

For me, it’s remembering that if God can send demons packing, then he can also open eyes and ears. Surely by persisting with both the physical work I do with my hands and the folding of those hands in prayer, I am doing God’s work.

Every day is the prayer—do not fear.

I’m up late—can’t sleep because I know going to church tomorrow won’t give me the relief I want. I’ll be sitting there blinking back tears and wondering how it is that everything they say there reminds me that I feel I’ve failed.

My church has looked out at the pews and knows that if we can’t bring our own children in to sit with us, then our church—and the faith—will die with us. But . . . in the end, our kids make their own decisions and sometimes all we can do is keep praying and going back to sit in those pews.

I wish I could rest peacefully in the knowledge that I’m not in charge—God is. He’s got all the tools—He knows the plan. Yet, how do I know that His plan includes my kids?

It wasn’t enough to teach them to come to church or to pray at their bedsides or before our meals. Every time one of the leaders launches into a speech about faith-forming that’s supposed to give me courage for the journey, I just feel bad. Every Sunday the words beat me down when they’re supposed to build me up.

I know much of the problem is in my perception. As long as I continue to believe that somehow I can control my kids’ faith, I have an even harder time accessing what I can control: my prayer life, my scripture reading, and the actions and words I model for them.

I sit here thinking how ironic it is that despite the fact my daughter has a renewed desire to live, now I worry that she has lost her faith—and is OK with that. For those readers who don’t have faith yourself, you might think that I’m not grateful enough for all the miracles that have been wrought in her life since her darkest days.

Words cannot express how thankful I am that she is still here, even if that means she’s here to rebel against the faith in which she was raised. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t break my heart.

She loves the lyrics of Brand New whose words often strongly demonstrate the lost faith of someone who once believed.

I used to pray like God was listening . . .

“Like”—as in condition contrary to fact.

Except I don’t think it’s God who’s not listening—and I’m suspicious that I, too, have the same problem with prayer right now. I must not be listening these days if I keep feeling like He’s pointing His big finger at me, instead of trying to reach out to me in my time of need.

I just need to pray like I believe God is listening—and perhaps one day soon I will believe it again. The truth is, I can still go about my Father’s work, even if I can’t yet sleep without stirring.

Roxborough 1998

Roxborough 1998

Christiana and Jackson have an assignment for Civics class: bring in items that show or reflect protest. Well, I’m not a big protestor, but I did loan out my “I read banned books” button. What a nerd—even my protest is about reading. (Yeah, I’m the epitome of the Ron Weasley quote about Hermione Granger: “When in doubt, go to the library.”)

Wittenberg Class T-shirt 1984, designed by Lisa Richards

Wittenberg Class T-shirt 1984, designed by Lisa Richards

Then I started to think harder to see if I had anything mildly resembling a protest. Really I don’t—too much of a people-pleaser it seems, even though I am a woman of strong convictions.

That’s when I decided to check out the trunk where I keep obscure clothes that I really should have thrown out long ago. Right away I found my Wittenberg, class of ’84 T-shirt. Lisa Richards designed the T-shirt and Pat Hoffman contributed the quote:

We are the people our parents warned us about.

Warning: Trina in the early hours before college graduation

Warning: Trina in the early hours before college graduation

That quote as good as describes the kind of soft rebellion typical for my peer group. Born close to the tail end of the Baby Boom, we missed out on the raucous protests against Vietnam and other institutions of “The Man”—unless you count that we often saw them daily on the news, so much so that maybe they seemed like just some other TV fantasy.

We were more Brady Bunch than Woodstock. As we were growing into our own maturity, many of the early rebellious Boomers were discoing and/or turning into Yuppies.

So maybe you can forgive my initial reaction to the quote: “Huh?” And then, good English major that I was, I first saw the irony in the grammar of the quote. Pat was another English major and, for the most part, even we English majors didn’t see the point of writing sentences to avoid ending with prepositions. Whoo—what a rebellion. Hardly anyone our age was going to say, “We are the people about whom our parents warned us.”

Still, the more I thought about it, the more I realized the statement was true in a lot of ways, even if it didn’t blare our rebellions on the backs of our class T-shirts. For one, at that time, you could call many of us fairly apathetic about our country’s leaders—we were the grandson in Don Henley’s “A Month of Sundays”—and that in itself was a change from previous generations.

My grandson, he comes home from college
He says, “We get the government we deserve.”
My son-in-law just shakes his head and says, “That little punk, he never had to serve.”

Less prejudice, fewer rules, and more cynical. You just couldn’t expect us to get in anyone’s face about our changing beliefs.

Wittenberg 1984 Class Shirt

Wittenberg 1984 Class Shirt

Today when my daughter put on that T-shirt to wear to her class, I started thinking about the ways that shirt now applied to her peer group. Every generation does bring about change, whether their protests hit at the previous generation’s faces or come about in ways more like that proverbial slippery slope. We lose some good aspects of society while gaining other good ones.

And, perhaps, that’s just as it’s supposed to be. The sky hasn’t fallen yet, no matter how many Chicken Littles have warned us to take cover.

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