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OLDER POSTS

Back in February, I received a Kindle for my birthday. This was a good thing, encouraging reading and all that jazz, blah, blah, woof, woof. Of course, it also feeds a little book-reading addiction (I’ve read 16 books since) that runs deep in the roots of my family tree. My father worked for a book publisher prior to his days as a beach bum in retirement, and so he became a peddler of cheap books (10 cents for paperbacks, 25 cents for hardbacks) to family and friends, handing out his “crack” to those he loves. As a result, almost every night of my childhood right up until and through and beyond college–well, to this day–my folks have nestled in to the couch with a good book.

Which made me think about how O and Ro will see me unwind as they grow up. Will they see me plugging away on this laptop (most likely), and/or will they see me cradling a book (or e-book reader), laughing aloud at some bit of characterization “I’d just have to read some time” as my mother has all these years?

I’ve got my heart set on the latter, and so far so good. The girls see me reading some at night as they plug away at a puzzle or “read” their own books to one another. Yes, to one another. They move their tiny human index fingers across the page and babble to one another until they find a figure they know. “Cat! Pup! Rooster! Rock-a-roodle-roo!”

This feels like a major coup in the tough terrain that is parenting (read: it’s no joke). I don’t know what has made me more proud. Ever. Sure, earlier today one fell out of her chair while I was comforting the other who had just stubbed her toe. And yes, they may have fought over who could go up the slide next, which may have resulted in a wee bit of hair pulling at first until we sorted it all out. But there was also the unprompted kiss between sisters–twice. The fits of giggles and the feeding of snack crackers back and forth. Then there’s the reading bit.

I’m taking small victories where I can get ‘em.

We recently made our way back from our first family vacation at the beach. Thankfully, my folks have a vacation home there (Have I told you guys lately how much I love you?), and so we’ll forever have a place to go when life hands us lemonade (take today, for instance), should we still be able to afford the outrageous gas prices in order to traverse there.

Stepping off my soap box… now.

In heading to the beach with our litter (parents of twins or multiples get to lovingly refer to their offspring as such), I couldn’t help but notice how our daughters O and Ro interacted with the water. One went running in without looking back, pushing and pulling for us to let her go since she clearly had it all worked out already. The other kicked and screamed and clung to us, only relaxing after much coaxing and the singing of her particular lullaby. (I, Master of What, am quite fond of making up tunes for the ones whom I adore. I may have also made up a little ditty if you’ve wronged or hurt me terribly, complete with dramatic feeling and perhaps a frustrated hand gesture or two, but you probably wouldn’t know about that. I never said I wasn’t a major work in progress.)

I also couldn’t help but reflect on my own nature in conjunction with the surf. No, not “surfing” the act, but the literal surf from which I narrowly stray. My nature has always been a bit more on the reserved side, which is why, in my (ahem) 30s I just now learned to ride a bike, thanks to one incredibly patient husband. As a kid actor, there was always some show coming up, and I was afraid I’d break a literal leg in lieu of the proverbial one, and so that bike lesson never had any followups.

My husband, on the other hand, is part fish. Growing up in Africa made him adventurous and fearless. Tales of standoffs with poisonous snakes, vacations at Victoria Falls, lions and tigers and hippos (Oh, my!) pepper his childhood story. Needless to say, I watched from the shore as the father of my children reconnected with his own nature by swimming further and further and still further from the surf, leading him to swim right next to a manatee. That is what adventure can bring you–the unexpected joy. I was also reintroduced to his inner boy, who rode off daily on a bike to go fishing in the Intracoastal Waterway, eyes laughing when he said, Man I hope there aren’t any gators in my fishing spot.

There’s a reason why this careful girl married the adventurous boy. I needed that spark from him that I pray the girls will inherit, too. Until then, we’ll happily strap them in a couple of life jackets and wait with them in the water, riding out each wave as it comes.

A lifetime ago, I was an actor. I’ve got a very expensive piece of paper that tells me so whenever I forget. But there are glimpses of that old life in my day-to-day. I am a celebrity blogger after all, which gives me a very good excuse to keep up with the best and the brightest in the showbiz business,who’s covering what magazine, and the latest casting news. It’s not the glitz and glam or the “who’s dating whom” bit that draws me in, but whether or not Matt Damon starring starring opposite Michael Douglas as Liberace’s gay love will be good for his career. Is Steven Soderbergh ready to make his directorial return with the biopic after stepping out on wife and former “E! News” correspondent Jules Asner and fathering a child with another woman? Or is it all just a ruse if the likes of Channing Tatum in a stripper flick can convince him to stay in the biz? On a lighter note, will Bridesmaids come anywhere close to its male counterpart The Hangover at the box office? If not, I certainly won’t be blaming the ridiculously talented cast or that fact that “Saturday Night Live” funny lady Kristen Wiig co-wrote the screenplay

As you can see, the depth and breadth of my celeb knowledge is vast. Something of which to be ashamed? Or is it simply that I’ve been prepared over the last decade for such a time as this? Who can really say. All I know is that while I can’t do head math very well and got lost going to my own wedding (the venue was in the same neighborhood the hubs had lived in the entire time we were dating) and can’t remember how to navigate the directions to some of my favorite spots in Nashville (these two don’t exactly make for getting out much these days), I can very easily tell you where Wiig and costar and real-life pregnant BFF Maya Rudolph both studied improv (The Groundlings in L.A., a funny person breeding ground second only to Second City Chicago, home of The Tina) before starring on “SNL” together. Oh, and if you ever feel up for playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with me–stop while you’re ahead. I actually attended the same Governor’s School Program in Pennsylvania as the acting everyman. What’s that–one degree?

It is what it is, folks, and I really love it. I get to write about the likes of Hollywood (and other things) from home while O and Ro are dismantling CD cases at my feet. It’s a glorious life, and I’m thankful for it.

By the by, I get a huge kick out of people raising their eyebrows about the fact that I write about celebrities (Duchess Catherine Middleton’s train on that Sarah Burton for the celebrated Alexander McQueen gown was a mere 10 feet long–as opposed to Princess Diana’s at 25 feet. Get the knock-off here), but when no one else is around, they’ll totally hit me up for news on their favorites. Is she really dating him? He dumped her for that chick in that movie? So did she get plastic surgery or just fillers?

You betcha. You’ve come to the right source. Go ahead, and ask away.

I’d say the Easter bunny came for a visit yesterday, but that would be a lie of epic proportions. We did, however, force sugar and chocolate (though minimal) on O and Ro for probably the third time in their lives. And then there was the presence of pink bunny ears. I’m all about that junk. Dress ‘em alike and then dress ‘em up, too, so they’ll really be embarrassed to bring beaus home in the future. Always thinking ahead here.

O

Ro

It was our best Easter to date, and not simply because these two Buttercups are rounding out our family–although tulle and chocolate-stained faces are a good look for them. No, this Easter was so great because we’re part of such a rad church. Ever think when you were growing up that you would talk over and over again about how awesome your church is while doodling in the hymn book you snatched from the back of the pew during Christmas Eve service while the adults droned on and on about sheep and goats baa-ing at Baby Jesus? No? What’s wrong with you?!

I could go on and on about how gifted the staff and congregation at our church are, how talented–which they all are. But what they really are is honest. Honest about God. Honest about their shortcomings. Honest about how broken humanity is. Honest about how much we need someone to Rescue us. Honest about the Rescuer. Honest about what it means to live like someone who’s been Rescued. Honest about how we can’t really live this life without other people beside us. There is no bravado because there is nothing to boast about but Christ. No gifts. Now power. No wisdom aside from what is God-inspired.

What gifts they do have only help me to remember who I actually am, what I was actually made for:

Awake my soul,

Awake my soul,

Awake my soul,

You were made to meet your Maker.

–Mumford and Sons

All that said, I am absurdly optimistic that O and Ro will not find themselves in the same predicament come Christmas Eve or any other service. And no, not because our church doesn’t have pews. It’s not that I take pride in believing that my church is better than everyone else’s. I just know I’ve found the right church for me (not that “the church” is a place you frequent with help of copious amounts of caffeine come Sunday morning, but rather something you are a part of;). A rad one at that.

My hope for everyone else out there is that they find their own rad church.

Out of my eight years of teaching, this is my favorite photograph of my (former) students. While I’m fully aware of which students are standing before George Seurat’s Grande Jatte (a print of the famous pointillism painting and two other modern takes used to hang in my classroom as lessons in Greek and Latin roots–Word NERD much?), I like to imagine any one of the hundreds I’ve taught over the years standing before it and “getting” its power and worth.

These are some of my favorite students seeing my favorite painting in person for the first time on a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. There are so few times in life when you actually capture a “memory moment” as it’s happening. This is one of mine.

Recently, some Nashville musician folk (Jars of Clay, Mercy Me, Thousand Foot Crutch, Matt Maher, etc.) posted a video to YouTube covering The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” live I might add. The hubs has worked with some of these folks before, and we’ve been lucky enough to call some of them and their families friends. They’re good peeps–trust–talented musicians, and clearly, funny to boot. The lighthearted, silly video has been getting some major playage and (some angry) comments. Where’s the harm in such a video, you might ask? What’s the big deal?

Did I mention those crazy kids in the video are from “Christian bands?” Though I’m pretty sure they’d be happier to just be called a “band,” seeing as Christian music isn’t actually a genre. Details, details.

Watch silly video here.

So they made this great video while on tour, and some people don’t like the video because some of the people in the video are Christians. More like they hate the video. Well, actually, they dislike the video and hate Christians. OR maybe they just hate God. Or all of the above.

Sad that so many have been judged and alienated by Christians. Sad that Christians are beingĀ  judged and alienated in turn. Sad stuff all around.

Which is funny, considering how funny the video is. Maybe we should all just lighten up a wee bit and don a fake mustache. I’m game.

It’s just a funny video, so enjoy! The Kool-Aid comes later…

Dear You,

You were my first gay friend. Openly gay friend. Friend who was open with his homosexuality–with me at least. You’re a survivor. You were made strong from so much hardship. You are hilarious and thoughtful and brilliant and, at times, verbose, but in a completely lovable way about things you are extremely passionate about, said the girl with the blog.

I owe you an apology. That night when we sat in your car and you asked me if God could love you even if you’re gay, I didn’t handle it the right way. I said the right things, but I hesitated, trying to surmise what our faith said about being gay. We both know I’m no theologian. I hesitated because I was so much younger, and I thought I had to know everything in order to know some things. I was young enough to think I could figure it all out. But you weren’t asking to figure it all out. You were asking if God loves you.

Slap a decade and then some on me, and I’ve realized that the only wisdom that I have comes down to knowing I haven’t got a clue. But I do know this: God absolutely loves you. Thoroughly and completely loves you, just like He loves everything and everyone He created. The only thing I can boast about being sure of is that if God can love someone like me, which I believe He does, then God absolutely loves you.

That’s what I should have said and without hesitation. I’m sorry, and I hope this finds you well and well loved. I hope you’ve found Freedom and Peace beyond your wildest imagination.

With love and admiration,

Master of What?

In the past I’ve talked about my love of Dan Buettner’s book The Blue Zones, which talks about “longevity hotspots” all over the world. Buettner and his merry band traversed across the planet, from California to Costa Rica, over to Sardinia, Italy, Greece (a relatively new one) and of course, Okinawa, Japan. The folks in these areas are some of the longest living in the world, and something they have in common, besides staying active and eating well, is a sense of purpose and community.

In Okinawa, Japan, that community is called a “moai,” which means “having a social support network” to share life with and back you up when the going gets tough. I can’t imagine the going getting any tougher than it has in Japan in the last week. And for all the people missing or gone, all the tragedy and loss, you don’t hear of the Japanese looting or rioting. There’s no blame of politics or religion. There’s simply a coming together of a dignified people to lean on one another.

These communities or moais, where they exist, are not made up of folks you call on just when something goes wrong. Their relationships have been in place for decades, since they were children. They have known joy together and faced hard times with one another before. They have seen each other every day for most of their lives. Unimaginable. In America, we would think of this as being overcommitted, but the Okinawans know these relationships as the ones they are committed to living life with. Not a burden but a blessing.

Something to aspire to and admire in the quiet resilience of the Japanese. And hey, if a moai kind of community can bring me sweet laugh lines these (above) and let us bear our burdens together, then count me in.

“Carry each other’s burdens…”

–Galatians 6:2

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