Friday, July 29, 2011

Crusty Bear

Kids say the darndest things, and sometimes its hard to follow their thought process.   When my baby sister was small, she came up to my mom one day, "Mom?"
"Yeah - hon, what...?" Mom said while probably making a bed, or tossing laundry in the washer.
  "What is a Crusty Bear?"
 "A crusty bear?  Wha - huh? I don't know what you're talking about." 
"When we were at church, someone was talking about their crusty bear, and I just wanted to know what it was."

You love to be the Font of All Knowledge for your kids, but sometimes they come at you sideways and you need a little context...

"Uh, um, what did they say about it?"
"They said, 'Its my Crusty Bear.'" and then they said how it was hard.

Thank heavens for inspiration.  "OHHHHH!  You mean 'Cross To Bear,'  Is that what they said?"  I think my sister was totally thrown by the new syntax.  She wasn't expecting some idiom, she wanted to know about this bear, which is apparently crusty, and how to care for such things.  And if it is a really cool bear, where do you get one?

The phrase comes from scripture, and it was such a significant event that everyone mentioned it.  Matthew, Mark, Luke AND John.  We'll borrow from Luke, the physician, since Drs tend to be anal in content and to the point:  Luke 23:26 And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

So this poor guy is visiting Jerusalem for a little Passover Vaycay, checking out his "Jerusalem On 20 Mites a Day" guide, and suddenly a big hulking Roman soldier says, "Hey YOU!  You with the GUIDE! GETOVAH HERE!" And the next thing he knows, he's haulin' a couple of rail road ties down the middle of a ridiculously crowded Main Street, through a screaming, spitting, hoard - next to a guy that looks like he has had a truly rough night.  And that is how you get a Crusty Bear.  You had other plans, and you were happily going about your business when, BAM!  Suddenly things are a lot harder.

Crusty Bears come in all shapes and sizes, but I think everyone acquires the initial matched set of Fuzzy Fear, Deeply Disappointed Bear, Health Carebear, and Outta the Blue Bear. (Yes that sounds lame, but I'm typing this with a kid on my lap - there isn't a lot of time for editing, ok!)

As I was thinking over my dear acquaintances, and their crusty bears, I find it intriguing that our sorrows, challenges and disappointments are like a  teddy bear.  We ALL have them; some new, others well worn, but the crusty bears tend to remain hidden to all but our closest friends and family.  Many people we know hardly get a glimpse of them.  The Big Crusty Bears, like the FAO Schwarts size ones, are easy to see; bald young mom, child drooling in a wheelchair, people who are missing body parts etc.   But in my experience, most people keep their collection of crusty bears to themselves. One of my friends was hiding the fact that she had cancer, from her parents.  "I don't want them to worry..."

Parents DO worry.  Its in our nature.  As I was sitting at a stop light, and thinking about what a therapist had told me about my son, and how he gets "flooded" with emotions that leads to lashing out, and will possibly need counseling, I didn't notice the light turn green.  The jeep behind me honked, and I snapped to, and started driving.  The car switched lanes, and as I looked out my window to give a visual apology to the driver, the girl in the back seat looked at me, and stuck out her tongue.  My apologetic look evaporated.

I would like to say that I had compassion, and thought to myself, "Oh, she's probably having a hard day too..." but  I had THE strongest urge, to get behind this car and honk LOUDLY at every stop light that turned green, until one of us had to turn.  "That'll learn you some compassion, you little snot-nosed brat!"  It was more a decision process of trying to figure out if it was worth scaring the pants off that little so-and-so twit while also annoying the poor drivers around me that didn't get her salute. "She's young, " I thought.  "You may think I am the worst person on the road, but honey, I KNOW what my crusty bears are.  Yours are still waiting for you..."  Then I went back to trying to figure out where my son gets these lashing out tendencies.  Probably from his fathers side. I dunno, we don't always have a clear view of ourselves "in the round."  Maybe it is experience, and getting a good look at others crusty bear collections, that helps us to have a bit more tolerance.  And makes us better detectives for the crusty bears of others that are barely perceptible.

That same little sister of mine has a new bear this summer.  Unrequited Love crusty bear.  She doesn't want anyone to know about her new bear, and I don't know that she has seen mine.  But as we sat around the table at a small family gathering, the compassionate detectives wanted to know, "Is there a new crusty bear?"  Yes.  There is. We now refer to her Ex as "Porta-Scotty."

I didn't have to pull out too much of my own bear collection, and I'm grateful for that.  Sometimes, the only purpose of knowing about a collection is the comfort that you don't have some of the bears that others have.  But in another way, I also know that people - in general - would also be kinder if we knew all the crusty bears each of us is having to deal with.

No one is exempt from this.  I think of someone like Saint Joseph raising his kid. You'd think it would be easy.  Unless, as I imagine it, Joseph had seen things going a different way,  "Mary - Jesus is out crying in the yard again.  I swear!  He boobs at the drop of the hat!  The Knish boy shot down a sparrow for target practice, and Jesus just falls apart, boo hooing like he made the darn thing! And then he cries because I look disappointed.   I don't know what we're gonna do with him - really I don't. Public school is OUT of the question.  Maybe we should just make out like your hippy cousin and go raise him in the wilderness!  Let him get all weird like his cousin John! Wander around in his skivvies and go diggin' for honey! Oy! This is NOT what I had planned... Of all the blended families, in all the history that EVER was or that EVER will be, I got THIS one!  My boy wouldn't be like this.  He'd be a freakin' rock star, baba ganoush!"

Disappointment Crusty Bear can be awful.  But, in hind site, getting crusty bears isn't all that awful though.  We grow in compassion from our collection.  We cry, suffer, and lift up our tear stained eyes away from the mirror of self pity to notice that there is someone else out there who is also suffering, and could use a little bit of shoulder rubbing, and kindness from those who know what its like.  Dang it, this sucks.  I'm so sorry you got THAT crusty bear.  I'd take it from you if I could.  You weren't looking for this.  You were just thrown into a situation by virtue of the fact that you were there at that time, and place.  Scripture doesn't tell us what happened to ole Simon, but if he inquired about the guy next to him, he would have known that the weight of the cross he was carrying was nothing next to the weight of the cross that the man next to him bore. And I don't think he would have stuck his tongue out.  And that, I think, is the lesson.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Small Victories

In 2001, when we were living in North Carolina, we took Abigail to get her 9 month photos, and they suggested this bath shot.  It was so cute, and we thought our little red head was THE most adorable thing, that we said to ourselves - we should do this for ALL of our kids!  And I put the photo away until I had a little free time to hang it up.

After our move to Ohio, I found a cute-ish bathtub curtain for $4.99 and complimented myself on my thrift as I hung it up in our very first home.  Unfortunately, I was on a crisis pregnancy when we moved, so the curtain got left behind. But at only $5, it was worth leaving if it meant trying to get the house to sell.

In 2005, when we were living in Nevada, we got our blonde preemie baby - Bear - to a healthy weight, and had his 9 month pictures taken in the tub.  We framed the two pictures and started a "duckie" themed bathroom.  The shower curtain cost a hefty $12.95, but with a semi- permanent wall border of duckies on blue, it was too cute to pass up!

I started trolling the Oriental Trading company for sets of rubber duckies by holiday so I could line them up on the tank. Sometimes the kids would get into them, and I would just have to give a benevolent shake of the head, and say, "Noooooo baby" and then shut the bathroom door.    I added a duckie garbage can AND curtain hooks that are in the shape of rubber duckies!  I had to take it out of the grocery money, but since I got them at Wal Mart, it wasn't too expensive.

In 2009, when we were living in Arizona, we had Sam's picture taken and he had - BY FAR - the most luscious dark hair ever photographed in a tub.  The 20-something photographer had to go to the back and get the galvanized tub and dust it off, but we had mission accomplished!  I found a chenille-duck-on-white-broadcloth shower curtain ON SALE for 50% off at $24.50 (it gets even better) PLUS!  I had a coupon for an additional 20% the entire order, so I splurged on bright "rubber duckie beak" orange towels. And we got a toothbrush holder, that quacked, for Christmas.

  Finding a frame to match the other two, however, was a bit of a challenge.  I got a semi-match and figured that if you put them on separate walls, no one really looks too hard.  Many of the holiday ducks got mold, and were pitched, which was okay since I was getting so annoyed with the toys being dragged out after they had been put properly away after each holiday.

Its 2011, and after 10 years, I just put up Isaiah's 9 month picture in a silver frame that doesn't match anything.  Finally.  All my children sitting in a galvanized tub with duckies at 9 months old.  I had to take the other three pictures to the studio, in Utah,  to show the photographer what I was talking about.  I guess they don't tend to mess with a mom with a surly 10 yr old, and 3 boys all strapped in and around a stroller who is showing 3 silver framed photos to the "photography hostess."  So, with worried and annoyed glances to each other they had to pull the props out of deep storage. "You see, I have this THEME for our bathroom... and we wanted ALL the kids to have their picture taken at 9 months sitting in the tub with rubber duckies all around!" They put the tub down and looked at the photographer with an, "I'm so sorry," glance.  Grrrrrr.

I'm not being difficult!  I'm trying to be ... consistent, fair, equal opportunity or something!!! And it hasn't been easy!  The chenille curtain got scissored by "I don't know," which nearly broke my heart.  A $50 curtain GONE, from senseless destruction!  Little did I know that it was an omen of things to come.

So, now we have a plain white waffle curtain - and the bright orange towels are now a dull orange.  They have some bleach stains that can be hidden if you fold the towels in thirds and drape each hand towel "just so" over the sagging rod.  Unfortunately, they were used to mop up water after a great number of toilet clogging disasters, but since my husband was willing to do it, I didn't complain that he was using my adorable bright orange towels that can no longer be purchased from Linens N' Things because bright orange is now "au tre" in the world of bath fashion!

Not everything survives.  A few ducks from the curtain hangers have had their heads snapped off, and the garbage can, standing alone with nothing in it REEKED from having too many poopy diapers sitting in it, so it was deemed unusable, oh, I don't know how many states ago!  As they were questioning me about positioning and whether to put half bubbles or full pictures, I was screaming in my mind, "JUST. TAKE. THE PICTURE, OKAY!".

So, even though Za is 15 months old - I think - we finally got his pic, in a silver frame, up on the wall.  It has taken me 10 years to get a matched set.  And now, after all that, as I look at my small victory, I realize that I'm kinda sick of rubber duckies.  Now, I realize... that maybe I should have had their pictures taken with a surf board instead when they each turned 5. TOO LATE!