Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Month: August 2014

How to Teach My Son: A Courtesy Letter to the Preschool World

The countdown has begun. Avengers lunch boxes line the shelves as though in anticipation for the one-boy parade that is my son, my beautiful curl-capped child who does nothing short of controlling the weather in our house.

Photo on 11-25-13 at 7.46 PM #6

Preschool World, I have a thirteen-year-old daughter whom I’ve sent your way before, and I have a one-year-old daughter who I’ll send your way again, but this year I’m sending my three-year-old son, and I’m a little raw about it.

I visited months ago. You thought I was interested in the art on the bulletin boards and how often he’d get music. You showed off a colorful play space with instruments lining the walls, touted the show-and-tell events where we could see everything they’d been working on.

Meanwhile, I counted fire exits, calculated the child-to-teacher ratio, asked questions about how much outside time and free play he’d get, and used that chance to check out the gate situation and see how many yards away the parking lot was from the street. I know precisely how fast he moves, so I spent those extra moments making mental bets about your speed and whether or not you’d catch him before he reached the double yellow line.

You see, we have a runner…

a climber…

a wrestler…

a pirate…

a soldier…

a cowboy…

an explorer…

a detective…

and a tinkerer on our hands.

You and I have supermuch to celebrate about him, his bold ways, and how he’ll change the world someday.

But I’m afraid you’re necessarily behind the curve. I’ve been preparing for every single today for the last three years and studying him since he first began barrel-rolling in utero so hard I believed he might think me a thief’s getaway car speeding toward the state line. Continue reading

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In Praise of Messing About, or Why I Hate Homework

I started hating homework long before I had kids.

When I think of the rawest form of torture I was ever subjected to as a child, short of the heartbreak that came when I learned that a boy had won a dollar for asking me out in the fourth grade (yes, ouch), I think of sitting at the glass-top dining room table the same year, staring through nearly transparent paper and seeing my legs swing beneath me, too far from the ground and dangling, feeling completely inadequate for the task.

I’d always been good enough at math for it to come to me easily, but long division was undoing me. By undoing me, I don’t mean making me whimper and whine and wiggle. By undoing me, I mean I thought I was going to die in that chair, like we were fusing together as one, Gilbert Grape’s mama-style. I was becoming a math problem. There would be no remainder. 

I don’t remember being forced to sit there, and I don’t remember not knowing the answers. I remember knowing the process and getting answers right-enough. But I remember that I thought it would never end. I remember looking at where I was on the page versus where I needed to be. Telling me I only needed to do the odds didn’t help—because everyone secretly knows that the odds are way freaking harder than the evens which had the answers in the back of the book.

On the whole, I was not an antsy kid. I remembered looking at the boys in class (the kind of boys who would make dollar bets and sell illegal Splasher gumballs at P.E. on the far side of the long track) and watching them get in trouble day after day from leaning back in their chairs. I never believed they’d actually fall until one did, right into the A/C unit and cut open his head deep enough to make him cry. I could have sworn I saw an “I told you so” smirk on the teacher’s face as she reached for the wooden hall pass.

Continue reading

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Book Review: Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted

I first met Jen Hatmaker on the pages of 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess. Her story of moving away from our mindless materialism into more conscious consumption is illustrated through a monthly endeavor to sacrifice luxury for the sake of peace and good stewardship. The experiment she conducts is extreme: eating only seven foods for a month, limiting the items of clothing she wears, and having everyone in her household give away seven items a day. In the book, she writes about her practice of mindfulness and, consequently, graciousness in seven areas: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress.

7

In 7, Jen conveys several revelations, some of which connected with my own convictions about living open-handedly. I’m a terrible stuff-monger with serious willpower issues in most aisles of Target. Many of my day-to-day problems are easily solved—from complaining about a too-small house, to complaining about the overflowing laundry baskets and toys strewn across the floor of every room, to not knowing what to do for dinner when we have two refrigerators crammed full of food and nuisance cabinet doors that remain somewhat ajar from being overfull. These issues are easily solved by my giving in and cutting back, and they are solved by my being wide awake and gracious for that which I have and far slower to complain about the problems others would view as blessings. Continue reading

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All the text is backwards (mea culpa), so just pretend I encrypted it for the Little Orphan Annie club. Get out your decoder rings! I may or may not include some Ovaltine with the book for the winner. No promises there.

Here’s a recap in case you couldn’t make it through the three-minute video:

  •  I’m giving away a copy of Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity  by Jen Hatmaker.
  • Send your name to writeprice@gmail.com by Friday, August 15, 11:59 p.m. (CST) with the short note, “I want the book.”
  • I will post my review of the book by Friday and announce the winner of the giveaway the evening of Saturday, August 16.
  • Go forth and be generally awesome.
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Iraq and Why I Won’t Look Away Again

After the 2008 election, I remember intentionally unplugging myself from that steady stream of news media, practically a staple of a believable, grown-up person’s diet. Overwhelmed and exhausted by the nonstop coverage I indulged in from twenty-four-hour looped network programs to the scrolling tickers on my homepages. I’d switched from NPR to talk radio and back again, filling in information gaps when advertisements aired.

News wended its way into my dreams, current events into classroom conversations, and the organic internet coached me link by link to get more involved and enmeshed. Headlines with photos kept me rubbernecking, every site equipped with a blogroll serving as a “You might like this” auto-feeder.

A mother of one and just beginning my dissertation, I realized something had to give. As a responsible, educated, voting adult, I needed to be engaged. I needed to pay attention with wide-enough eyes to engage with real people. But the daily consumption of what seemed truly to be “other people’s problems” was wearing me thin. The news only aggravated my already present anxiety, so I justified dismissing it as I did so many other, more personal things at the time: It’s not my business. Why do I keep thinking it’s my business?

So I pushed away from the table. I was just full. We cancelled cable around that time, I changed the homepages on my work and home browsers from news sites to the online college classrooms where I met my students. I researched as needed based on my students’ projects, read articles passed my way, and clicked the occasional shared Facebook link when a dear friend seemed especially up in arms.

I had friends deeply invested in social work, others overseas doing seasonal missions work, and one working with orphans in a school in India. In-di-a. She and the perpetual guilt of central air conditioning are the two reasons it is borderline impossible for me to say no when a charity asks me for money. I’m always thinking, Jana is probably hot in India right now. Get out your wallet. It’s the least you can do.

But I’m afraid the comfortable, air-conditioned, “not my circus, not my monkeys,” least we can do is killing us—or at least not preventing the death of others.

Did you know that children are being beheaded in Iraq right now? Their mothers are being raped and murdered in some cases and in other cases, forced to marry their captors then convert or be killed. Some are being killed anyway. The men are being hanged.

The homes of Christians are being marked to help along the extermination of an entire population. Families are forced to flee into the desert, where they will wait to thirst and starve to the point of death.

Image representing 'N' for Nazarene being used to label Christians from aidchurch.wordpress.com

Image representing ‘N’ for Nazarene being used to label Christians from aidchurch.wordpress.com

The images I would normally look away from, I’m letting sear into my mind. Last night I saw the headless body of a little girl not more than four years old in a blue dress. The pattern reminded me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. In one image she was lying on the ground. In another, a man had held her up beneath her arms, the same way an out-of-town uncle might position a niece to get a look at how much she’s grown.

For the first time in a long time, I scrolled past warnings of graphic images and made myself see what was happening because they would be happening whether or not I am aware. I grieved over every loss in every frame. I could have been their mother.

The horrifying images reminded me of Emmett Till, the African-American fourteen-year-old boy who was tortured and killed after apparently flirting with a white woman. His mother Mamie said she decided to leave open the casket so that the world “could see what they have done to my boy.”

That story has always struck me as one of incredible bravery on the mother’s part: to endure the scene, to experience the horror and emotions, for that greater call of exposing the evils of the world and having hope that, even though they cannot be undone, they can be stopped.

If the tables were turned, if it were me, I wouldn’t want you to keep your hands in front of your face. I wouldn’t want the channel changed. I would want you to see what they’d done to my son and to my daughters.

As I look at the images, I know I will not understand the evil that causes them, and I know that my hands cannot save a single one of these families who are, in every way that matters, an extension of my own.

I know instead that while my hands prepare sandwiches for my own three children, whose names are nearly indistinguishable from those I see on news tickers, helpless mothers will watch their children starve. As I write my children’s names on lunchbox labels, other mothers will draw letters in the sand on shallow graves.

But I know I still must look. I still must grieve. I still must pray. I still must hope that something, somewhere, someday can be done. I must remember that however little hope there seems to be, that there will always be even less if people like me choose to look down instead of up.

As overstimulated, desensitized people, we could not be of less use or greater danger to the world.

We feel weary from the noise of wars—even if those wars were fought afar with other children’s mothers and fathers and even if our arms held stories instead of bodies. We’ve unintentionally acquired a foreign vocabulary to describe groups we truly do not understand. We’ve become acclimated to their impact, used to their threat. When atrocities come across the screen, why do we sigh instead of yell? Maybe it is because the power to turn it off gives us the power to turn away.

Lodged somewhere between the static and the hum, we’ve begun hearing only ourselves. We’ve gathered our tribe and locked our doors. Our skin has grown too thick to feel, and some of us like me have built up callouses on purpose because it’s the only way we thought we could survive.

But I’m telling you not opening the mail doesn’t change the debt.

What is happening is happening.

The very least we can do is look.

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