Because life is a series of edits

Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

They Made It Work

In Thought on December 28, 2014 at 11:23 am

Rog and Char in 2015It was a proposal that could only have worked given its partners: my father, the most principled of pragmatists (which is the profile of a small farmer still farming), and my mother, the most eternal of optimists (which can only explain her 30 years of teaching English to rural high schoolers). As I understand it, there was no down-on-one-knee, hand-over-heart scene; no particularly inventive presentation of a ring (though I’m assured there was one). Forget the drama of the old question and answer; this wasn’t so much a proposal as a proposition – long-considered and risk-evaluated – to be taken (or left) as quietly as it was made.

“I think we can make this work.”

Rog and Char in 65It was so unromantic as to be nothing BUT romantic – this idea that my father, Roger, offered and my mother, Charlotte, embraced while college students in the early-60s at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. And 50 years later (just a few days early from the actual anniversary of January 2nd to kindly accommodate us out-of-towners), here we are in west central Illinois (Pike County, to be exact) celebrating its continuation. Principally and pragmatically, my two younger sisters and I (along with each of our spouses and combined eight children) would attest to their success; by most measures, it seems Rog and Char made it work.

As a kid growing up in the pregnant bulge of Lincoln Land, I attended more 50th wedding anniversary receptions than I care to remember. The weekly county papers always had at least one announcement of a couple’s fiftieth big day coming up, and growing up outside a town of 1,200 people, we almost always knew them. Still, there were worse things to do on a Sunday afternoon (and there was cake, and the punch was usually good).

Anymore, however – whether in Pike County or elsewhere – the 50th wedding reception has gone the way of the dodo. In these days of no-fault divorce, the marriage vows ending with “’til death do us part” tend to mean “or until something better comes along.” Never mind the 50th anniversary milestone; as a culture, we’re seeing fewer 40ths…30ths…20ths…even 10ths (not to mention plenty of folks who aren’t even taking vows in the first place, or are sadly confused as to with whom they’re taking them).

There are plenty of examples of marriages that have fallen apart and failed for all kinds of reasons, but I’ve always been equal parts grateful and inspired that my parents’ is one that hasn’t. From the beginning, they set out with little more than an idea and a hope of getting, being, and staying married. It wasn’t complicated (except when it was), and 50 years after having said they would, by God’s grace, they did. They made it work.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

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An Invitation to an Honest End of the Year

In Family, Friends, Holidays, Humanity, Marriage, Thought on December 23, 2014 at 12:02 am

The website McSweeney’s Internet Tendency had a pretty funny post yesterday entitled “Snopes Investigates the Anderson Family’s Holiday Letter,” in which the fact-checking website analyzed an imaginary family’s uber-happy annual end-of-year Christmas correspondence. The result was a brilliant paragraph-by-paragraph “true” or “false” or “mostly true” or “unconfirmed” study, substantiated or unsubstantiated by evidence the investigator(s) at Snopes had snooped out.

I find myself taking this same tact now that the Christmas cards and letters are showing up at our house. Actually, we don’t get many letters anymore as no one takes the time to write them; instead, we’re getting what seem semi-expensive, do-it-yourself, four-color published cards with a happy picture and some sentiment of the season printed across the top or bottom. There’s usually a signature, but not every time.

But there are always smiles. Always.

We’ve been off and on in recent years when it comes to the year-end Christmas letter. This year, we didn’t send anything, partially because we didn’t get a family picture taken (or, I should say, we didn’t get a family picture that we wanted to spend money to reproduce and mail), but mostly because it just wasn’t a holiday hoop we were able and willing to jump through. Still, not wanting to throw in the towel completely, my wife posted the picture on Facebook and included the following update:

Christmas Pic 2014

This, friends, is the best I could do this year. It’s the only family photo we have of all six of us together from this WHOLE YEAR. And I’m pretty much out of steam, so I’m not sending these in the mail (and why would we, anyway, because…well, look at us).

2014: Good, Bad, and Ugly. It had plenty of each. I’m honestly thankful it is finally panting toward the finish line of New Year’s Eve. I’ve never really thought January 1 held some magical restart, but there is something to be said about a clean slate and hope.

And it’s hope that I’m clinging to for 2015. I lost it in 2014. And during this time of the year when the line to the mall parking lot blocks traffic on the main road and everyone wants a piece of the calendar, I sit here with soft music on and sleeping boys who are now home from seeing their parents for the day, still dazed and a little confused by all the caregivers in their lives and the constant transition. I hear my girls laughing with each other over a shared card game, and sometimes bickering because of a small offense, and I grasp to try to remember why we come to a halt this time of the year.

It’s a baby, y’all. A baby who came to redeem the world in all of its brokenness and disaster and make it whole again.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

Joy to the world. Joy to you…to me.

Merry Christmas

I tried to convince Megan to add “damn it” after Merry Christmas, but she resisted, despite the fact that 2014 was a brutal year of loss for the Dunhams – foster kids, Megan’s mom, connection with the past, health, sometimes confidence, oftentimes hope. If you know us at all, you’re probably familiar with some of this already, so if suddenly we sent out a “happy, happy, joy, joy” Christmas letter in December, it might seem a little disingenuous, which should bother you.

I would sure love to read more honest letters at the end of a calendar year. I roll my eyes when I see pictures of people smiling on ski slopes or beaches, and I’m bored with the braggadocious behavior that links the fact that God is good with the good time somebody had this year (for the record, God is good, regardless of your good time). Instead, I’d love to see a family picture in which all are somehow owning their dysfunctions. Or even better, how about some tears to go along with what everybody already knows is going on? Sure, talk some hope, but what good is hope if we refuse to acknowledge the life situation(s) crying out for it?

Maybe you don’t want to come off as down or discouraged to family or friends (after all, that’s what Vaguebook is for, right?). Well, even if Megan and I happen to be family or friends (or both or neither), please know you can send us an honest letter and we’ll be glad – actually excited! – to read it. We might even pray for you as a family, which would be pretty cool because we suck at that, so think of this as your invitation to help our family’s life of prayer rather than as your family’s Christmas confessional.

You can email us your letter (cmdunham [at] gmail.com), or request our mailing address if you want to send us an actual piece of mail. Please include a picture (preferably not the Glamour Shots version) that’s at least as desperate as ours so we can make the refrigerator photo gallery a little more interesting.

With all that said, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

(I was again going to suggest “damn it” at the end, but Megan again wouldn’t let me, so just know that we mean it. We really, really mean it.)

On Foster Care in Oklahoma

In Calling, Church, Family, Oklahoma City on December 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

Some thoughts on foster care in Oklahoma on The MiddleGround. (Not my best look, but with a face/body for radio, well…)

You’ve Got (Someone Else’s) Mail

In Humanity, Internet on December 5, 2014 at 7:10 pm

email-inboxTwice this week, I’ve received emails in my inbox addressed to me but meant for other people.

The first email was from the Bursar at Elon University, a private liberal arts university in Elon, North Carolina, and while the email address was mine, the person addressed in the message was Claire M. Dunham. I’ve never been known as Claire, nor do I know of one to whom I might be related. But I do know that Claire is enrolled for classes next semester at Elon…at least until I figure out her password, hack her account, and cancel her scholarship for listing my email address as hers.

The second email (with multiple emails in the thread) was one in which I was copied by a Carol Dunham. She apparently has a daughter (Michelle), who (ironically) also attends Elon University and is majoring in teaching Spanish. I have no idea why Carol copied me, nor do I have any job leads for her daughter (we already have a good Spanish teacher at The Academy – I’m looking at you, Abby Lorenc). But the most recent email in the thread had Carol thanking Louise (who apparently is the mother of Michelle’s boyfriend) for paying to fly Michelle to Hawaii. I’m guessing Michelle’s living it up on the Big Island, and for some reason, her mom felt the need to tell me about it.

We’ve all heard of identity theft; this is more identity threat.

Does LifeLock know about this? I want them to because it’s my email address! I was surprised by how affected I was by the idea that someone else was using (consciously or not) my email handle. It’s the same feeling one gets after Googling one’s name (not that I’ve ever done that) only to discover you’re not the only Craig Dunham in the world. In fact, there are other Craig Dunhams – some who make you proud to share the name, and others who make you wish your parents trademarked it upon signing the birth certificate. You’re – I’m – the original! Everyone else is but a poor imitation!

As I didn’t have Claire’s actual email address, I went ahead and replied to the Bursar, telling him/her (are Bursars usually male or female?) of the mistake and asking to have my email address removed from Elon’s list, which they did. And because Carol only copied me on her email, I didn’t feel a need to respond (though she is a fellow Dunham, God love her), but will see if she sends something else before inquiring as to what’s going on (and maybe how Michelle liked Hawaii, just to freak her out).

But regardless, I should probably think and pray more about my initial reaction of feeling so threatened by someone else using what I think of as belonging solely to me. Indeed, “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” (Proverbs 22:1a), but ultimate identity in any name other than Christ’s can feel like one big and unending Google search.