the adventures of ernie bufflo

things magical and mundane


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getting the thankfulness started

i'd be really REALLY thankful if we got more hammock time...

It was not so many Thanksgivings ago that I told my (biological for those who know both of the women who have mothered me) mother that I never wanted to see her again, and then basically didn’t for several years.  I was in junior high at the time. Not to get into the whole long story, but we had hurt and been hurt by each other, had misunderstood each other, and basically ceased to have a relationship after years of hurt and misunderstanding.  And it seemed that as years went by, hurt and misunderstanding piled upon hurt and misunderstanding, and even talking on the phone became difficult.  At the same time I felt guilty and somehow defective for not being able to have a functional relationship with my own mother, but the guilt just made the hurt and misunderstanding even harder to deal with.  Others who attempted to help heal this broken relationship just added to the burden of guilt and pain, making me feel even more defective.

Tonight my mother is coming to visit me for Thanksgiving.  It will be the first Thanksgiving we have spent together since that horrible Thanksgiving years ago.  I’m actually really looking forward to it.

What changed between then and now?

Jon.

This Thanksgiving, I have to say, I am so thankful for him.  It is thanks to Jon that I have a relationship with my mother today, one in which we can email and talk on the phone and visit and just know and be with each other in a way I couldn’t have imagined not so many years ago.  Rather than making me feel guilty for my broken relationship with my mother, Jon patiently and gently pointed out that while I didn’t have to reconcile, didn’t have to force forgiveness I didn’t feel, I did have to let go of anger and bitterness and hurt, because those things were weighing me down and making me a bitter and unhappy person.  And because I never felt anything but accepted and loved by him, I felt free to let go of those feelings that were holding me back and keeping me from really being myself.  And I also felt comfortable enough to see a counselor and work through my own issues.  And eventually, I felt free enough to forgive. And forgiveness led to reconciliation, and reconciliation to renewed relationship.

How many people can honestly say their partner makes them a better person, helps them have better relationships with others, and shows them what grace and freedom really look like? I can. And this Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful for him.


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it’s outta my hands

This is sort of how I imagine the computer that does the match. Image via Flickr user Lori and the Bell Jar.

At some point in toddlerhood, it eventually hits all of us, the “I can do it by myself!”  And from that point on, to be human is to want to be in charge of ourselves.  You’re not the boss of me! I choose my choice! I’m in charge!

Lately, though, I find myself feeling like a toddler, trying to DO IT BY MYSELF, and this thing called life keeps reminding me that I’m not always the boss of me, I don’t always get to choose my choice.  Boy oh boy does the medical education system that owns our lives right now make that clear.  You see, in three weeks, Jon will get an email that will suddenly reveal what we’ll be doing with our lives for the next three years. And it’s more than driving me nuts. Continue reading


is technology killing love and trust?

Image via Air America via degreedate.com.

David Brooks is sort of the Andy Rooney of the New York Times, always baffled by modern ways of life and love, and wishing we could return to the good old days, maybe even in Lake Woebegone, where the men don’t have iPhones, the women don’t have Facebook, and all of the relationships are hookup-free until marriage.  Brooks’ latest column is about how cell phones and texting have killed romance.

Brooks’ column is littered with proof of how he just. doesn’t. get. it. (He notes that the daters he quotes make up nicknames for their partners, not catching that “Stage Five Clinger” is a “Wedding Crashers” reference.  He also seems to think Bruce Springsteen is an appropriate cultural reference.) I sort of imagine that Brooks does his phoning on a Jitterbug.  He seems to almost want to return to the days of arranged marriages:

Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.

Now we have a dating free market, and free market conservative though he is, Brooks DOES NOT WANT!!!  Why? Because “texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination.” Continue reading


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Reviewing “Fireproof”

Last night we watched “Fireproof” because Jon Netflixed it after countless friends and family members told us we just had to see it.  Now, I spent a summer working in Family Christian Bookstore, and to say it made me cynical about “Christian” “art” would be an understatement, so I went into the movie fully expecting to mock and hate it. Jon knew this and was fully expecting my running commentary.

The basic plot of the film is that a married couple is on the brink of divorce, mostly because the husband is a borderline emotionally abusive, anger-freak, porn-loving, workaholic, layabout who disrespects his wife at every turn.  Meanwhile the wife is dealing with her aging parents and a mother who just had a stroke, so she is emotionally stressed and in need of support and encouragement, which she keeps finding in the form of a nice doctor at work instead of in her husband. One of the biggest points of contention is that the husband has saved up around $20k and wants to spend it on a boat, refusing to use that money to help his stroke-victim mother-in-law get a new wheelchair and bed. (Warning, some spoilers ahead, but if you don’t know how this one is going to turn out before you see it, then you don’t know jack about “Christian” fiction.) Continue reading


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on marriage equality and equal marriages

I just read a really excellent piece on marriage by Melissa Harris-Lacewell over at The Nation.  The entire blog entry is wonderful and if you’re interested in marriage, marriage equality, civil rights, and/or feminism, you should read the whole thing.  What particularly stood out for me was this section:

Typically advocates of marriage equality try to reassure the voting public the same-sex marriage will not change the institution itself. “Don’t worry,” we say, “allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will not threaten the established norms; it will simply assimilate new groups into old practices.”

This is a pragmatic, political strategy, but I hope it is not true. I hope same-sex marriage changes marriage itself. I hope it changes marriage the way that no-fault divorce changed it. I hope it changes marriage the way that allowing women to own their own property and seek their own credit changed marriage. I hope it changes marriage the way laws against spousal abuse and child neglect changed marriage. I hope marriage equality results more equal marriages. I also hope it offers more opportunities for building meaningful adult lives outside of marriage.I know from personal experience that a bad marriage is enough to rid you of the fear of death. But this experience allows me suspect that a good marriage must be among the most powerful, life-affirming, emotionally fulfilling experiences available to human beings. I support marriage equality not only because it is unfair, in a legal sense, to deny people the privileges of marriage based on their identity; but also because it also seems immoral to forbid some human beings from opting into this emotional experience.

We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let’s use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.

Here I must first confess that I have been one of those people who has said that gay marriage doesn’t change my straight one. That it doesn’t matter to me what my neighbors are doing in their homes, with their families.  That two people in love committing to each other has no bearing on my love or my commitment.

But the truth is, it does. And it should. And I want it to. Continue reading


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maybe NOT baby…

Image via BL1961s Flickr.

Image via BL1961's Flickr.

So it’s been about a week or two since I wrote my “Maybe Baby” post about starting to think about having kids.  Today I picked up the September issue of Skirt! magazine and read a piece by Valerie Weaver-Zercher, and now I’m pretty sure having kids, while still definitely something that will happen some day, is back in the not SO soon pile.  The piece, called “Mentor or Mom” is about Weaver-Zercher’s experience as a mother of 3 who has a lot of 20 year old college girls in her life.  She sees herself in them, and she seems to have a fantasy about shattering their illusions of what their lives will be.  She imagines:

I pull the college women aside, fix them with a steady gaze and whisper in a conspiratorial voice: I was once like you.  I baked bread in Germany and walked through streams in Nicaragua.  I worked for a magazine and had a company credit card and wrote editorials that shocked people.  I got married to a man willing to clean bathrooms and we lived in a city and walked to market and protested the death penalty.
And then I had a baby. Here I pause, then raise my eyebrows.
And two years later, another. Another significant pause.
And two years later, yet another.
I stop for awhile, until they think I’ve made my point and begin to sidle away. Then I begin again: Each child is like an earthquake that hurls your identity off the shelf, I say. You will spend years picking yourself off the floor, along with everyone else’s socks and Play-Doh. You will no longer know who really wins: the one who goes to the office all day, or the one who stays home with the kids. You will feel guilty about each choice that takes you away from your children, and resentful of each choice that takes you away from your calling. And here I grab them by their scrawny elbows and bring it home: And you will never, ever judge a housewife again!

Yikes! I may not be a college woman, but that’s enough to send me heading for the hills, or at least the birth control pills. But Weaver-Zercher continues:

Young women don’t need phony assurances about how easy it is to be both a mother and an individual, to maintain both a family and a career, to win in both the office and the house. Such platitudes can only lead to disillusionment and anger– unless the next decade brings about sane maternity leaves, affordable childcare, universal health insurance, and family-friendly work environments. (I’m not holding my breath.) Or maybe, if they have children, they and their partners will find better ways to navigate these days of early parenthood– some way to change the world, change gendered patterns and still change diapers. I’ll be the first to cheer them on (provided I’m not too jealous).

On the other hand, maybe some college women will end up like me: bewildered, exhausted, not sure whether they’ve won or not, or whether they even trust the society that’s keeping the score. Indeed, maybe college women need me a little bit like I need them: as a prompt to reexamine how we calibrate wins and losses, and as a reminder that when it comes to motherhood and work, winning and losing are categories that no longer make an iota of sense.

I hope to be one of the ones to change gendered patterns and still change diapers. To read bedtime stories but still find the time to write for myself. But then I read things like this and wonder if I’m not just a hopelessly naive no-longer-in-college woman.


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maybe baby

Image via the Google LIFE photo archive.

This lady makes it look sort of fun...Image via the Google LIFE photo archive.

I’m married to a pediatrician. This means he really likes kids. This means he spends a lot of time around kids. This means that he spends a lot of time giving people advice ABOUT kids. This means at some point he needs to have a kid so he can test out for himself all the stuff he spends his days telling people about kids. This means at some point I need to have a kid.

And for a long time, this has pretty much been my line on the subject: “Yeah, I guess at some point I need to have a kid so Jon will know what he’s talking about!” (This is mostly a joke– he’s a great doctor, and most doctors spend their days treating things with which they have no experience. We don’t require oncologists to have had cancer, and most women are ok with male gynecologists, even if those men don’t really know what it’s like to possess a uterus, ovaries, or vagina.)

My other line on the subject has been that I won’t have a kid while my husband is a resident, working 80 hours per week, because “I didn’t get married just so I could be a single mom.” But we’re into our final year of residency, so that line won’t work for much longer.

Add to this that my husband is about to have a milestone birthday and is currently working in the nursery, surrounded by adorable babies and happy families, and you’ve got a clock ticking. I’m not even sure it’s a biological clock, but rather, some sort of societal clock that expects certain things to happen at certain times, particularly in the South and in the Christian culture in which we operate. Continue reading


the fogey man

Some people manage to avoid it, but I fear I have to admit this fact: somewhere along the way, Jon and I became old fogeys.

Last night we had dinner with some friends, and then met up with a larger group because it was a friend’s birthday and they were going out for dessert and drinks.  At this point it was after nine, which on any normal Tuesday is around the time I start thinking about putting on my pjs.  I yawned through the 30 minutes we spent chatting with our friends, before I looked over at a yawning Jon and asked if it was time for us to go home yet.

On the way home we both marveled at how crowded the streets were.  WHAT THE HECK ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE DOING OUT THIS LATE ON A TUESDAY?  Clearly, we have spent so many weeknights snuggled in at home we had no idea the world continues to go on, even on Tuesdays.

It’s only a matter of time til I can’t find where I put my teeth, I’m helping Jon find his bifocals, and we’re yelling at the damn kids to get off our lawn.


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more married

n86100010_30030954_7356Three years ago today, a crazy 21-year-old still in college walked down an aisle and said “I do.”  She was crazy not because she was unsure of herself but because she was so. darn. sure.  She took a leap without an ounce of fear or hesitation, which is perhaps the craziest thing of all.

That 21-year-old is obviously me, but the third person sounds so much more writerly, doesn’t it?  I had every reason in the world to be scared out of my mind– as the child of divorce, I know all too well the reality of a broken marriage, the odds that things won’t work out, the possibility that something that began in eye-gazing wonder could end in screaming and the crashing of a box of wedding dishes into a driveway.  But after three years of dating, in which we saw each other at our best and our worst, and after a seriously in-depth book I highly recommend called 101 Questions to Ask before you get Engaged, we knew we were ready, that we could face whatever came our way as long as we were facing it together.

In some ways, when we were getting ready for the wedding, I realized that we had already been becoming married.  I know that sounds strange, but if marriage is the merging of two into one, we had slowly been knitted together, heart-string by heart-string, over the three years before.  Married wasn’t something we suddenly became with the incantation of vows in a ceremony on a wedding day, but something we had been and are still becoming, day by day, intimacy upon intimacy.  As someone who grew up in the Presbyterian Church, the wedding itself reminded me of what I had always been told about sacraments.  They are outward signs of inward graces.  They’re our way of acknowledging things that had already been at work within us, just like baptism isn’t a magical act that confers salvation, but a ritual that recognizes salvation which has been freely poured out like water.

About 9 months after we got married, I graduated from college and went on a two-week trip to England with my English class.  It was an absolutely wonderful trip, full of hiking across the Brontes’ moors and up peaks that inspired Wordsworth and around lakes that spoke to Ruskin.  We kept journals throughout the experience, as a way of receiving our grades, and in many ways I used my journal to pour out my heart as I was missing my husband terribly during the longest time we’d spent apart since our wedding.  I remember wondering what my professor would think about these ramblings, because I wrote about this strange feeling of not being able to enjoy the trip to the fullest because the one person I wanted to be sitting next to on double-decker buses, strolling hand in hand through Kensington Gardens, and just talking to about everything was not there with me.  It was on that trip, I wrote, that I started to begin to realize “just how married” I really was.  It was like I was having a wonderful experience while simultaneously feeling like half my heart was across an ocean.  Thankfully, my professor did NOT think me a sad sap, and wrote that she had really enjoyed my journal.

Now, three years after my wedding day, I can see how these passing years have made us even more married, ever more tightly bound together.  These past three years have been some of the hardest of our lives, living far away from all of our family and friends, suffering the stresses and indignities of residency, and the emotions and frustrations that come with sleep deprivation and schedules that don’t always line up and the difficulties of loneliness.  And yet, more than anything, these three difficult years have shown us that we can face anything that comes our way so long as we face it hand in hand.  In a few months we’ll get an email or an envelope informing us where we’ll be spending the next three years of our lives as Jon does a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine, and it may be here, it may be one of our homes (Little Rock or Denver), it may be a completely new city altogether where we have to start fresh all over again (Nashville, Birmingham, Salt Lake City).  But instead of being afraid of that challenge, as I was at the beginning of residency, I’m excited for it.  I even welcome it.  It’s completely out of our control, but I know that we will thrive and be closer and better for whatever the next chapter holds.  Because we’re doing that now, and we’re going to keep on keepin’ on.  I’m excited to see how much more married I feel after the next 3 years, and the next 30…


the sanfords, spiritual leadership, and submission

Image via the Washington Post

Image via the Washington Post

I’m with PunditMom: I LIKE Jenny Sanford. Reading this Washington Post piece on Jenny, after her eloquent and, I believe, genuine press statement about her husband’s oh-so-public failing, I get the feeling that she is smart, strong, and looking out for herself and her family. I also get the feeling she’s a genuine Christian, and her example stands in stark contrast to the hypocrisies of men like her husband, particularly this, from The American Prospect’s Tapped blog:

Sanford advised spending more time with one’s family (ahem) and praying together. “I don’t want to be old-fashioned here,” he added, “but I think the father has the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of the house, and there are some lessons on a daily, nightly, morning basis that need to go from the father to the little ones in talking about how shall we then live. And I think that particular responsibility is on the backs of fathers.”

Seems to me that Jenny Sanford is the true spiritual leader in that household.  And that her husband abdicated this role when he disappeared to be with another woman ON FATHER’S DAY.

And here’s the part that I’m really thinking about, pondering, and questioning: doesn’t this traditional gender role, male-as-spiritual-leader system really set a marriage up for failure?

Here’s where I’m going with this.  So the Sanfords believe that, despite having an equal education and career experience, despite an equal role in running her husband’s campaigns and PR strategies, despite keeping the home fires burning in such a way that Mark was even able to sustain his political ambitions, Jenny is spiritually inferior to her husband, in need of his leadership, headship, and “covering.”  She is the one expected (I’m fine if it’s just her freely-made choice, as someone who hopes to be a SAHM someday) to give up her Wall Street VP job to raise kids and bake oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for staffers and reporters.  She’s the one who disappears into home life, to the extent that I’m willing to bet that she wasn’t even the same person Mark Sanford fell in love with in the first place.  And then we act surprised when Mark Sanford, bored with this rigid assignment of roles, perhaps even with his no-longer high-powered wife, decides that a fling with an Argentinian is more exciting?  The entire system is unfair to both Mark AND Jenny.

I’m not excusing Mark Sanford’s actions.  I believe that there is no excuse for cheating on a spouse, and at the VERY least, he should have gotten a divorce before pursuing another woman, preferably not one who is also married (his mistress was apparently “separated” at the time that they met).  However, what I am saying is, this religiously-motivated gender-based spiritual hierarchy that its adherents believe protects marriage and ensures spiritual order actually creates a system in which both spouses are doomed to failure. The woman is left at home with the kids, deferring to her husband constantly, trying not to question him and his spiritual “headship,” and is expected all the same to remain attractive and attracted to her husband.  It’s like asking her to fight with one hand behind her back– how can she still be interesting and challenging and compelling to her husband if, after getting married and having kids, she’s no longer allowed to be the hard-working, high-powered, highly-intelligent person who first attracted him?

And the man is put on a spiritual pedestal, where, instead of answering to his wife, conversing with his wife, being challenged spiritually “as iron sharpens iron” by his wife, he meets with groups of men like C-Street or this Cubby character Mark Sanford seemed to be more broken up about disappointing than he was about disappointing his wife and kids.  And these men, I believe, often feed the very beast they are supposedly trying to tame.

This is why I don’t go in for this “headship” stuff.  I wasn’t looking for a leader, I was looking for a partner.  I wanted someone who can call me on my BS, and who I can call on his.  I wanted someone who would be just as devastated as I would be if I had kids and suddenly lost myself, my biggest fear about parenthood.  And that’s what I have in my marriage.  We see it as “iron sharpening iron,” not one of us inferior to the other.  When I talk about my desire to stay home with our children, my husband asks me if I would really be happy in such a role.  He knows me well enough to know I need challenges and mental stimulation, that I need to feel like I’m being productive and contributing to the world in a meaningful way, using my mind and my talents.  We will raise our children the same way we currently go through life– holding hands and picking up each other’s slack and doing the best we can.  But we’re certainly not going to handicap ourselves with outdated ideas of patriarchal leadership and one-sided submission that set us both up for failure and disappointment.

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