Monday, November 29, 2010

A Tribute to Daddies

Lately, two people I dearly love have borne the agony of losing their "Daddy".

Note they didn't lose a "father" or simply a "dad" but a "DADDY". There are important differences here.

Anyone can be a father. Heck, a sperm donor even gets that distinction.

Being called "Dad" is a step-up. This implies you were THERE. You helped. You did your duty to your wife and your children.

But a "Daddy"? A Daddy is so much more.

-A Daddy holds your hand when you are scared, even if for no reason.

-A Daddy makes sure every one of your boyfriends is appropriate and has a serious conversation with your fiance about his ability to care for you.

-A Daddy had the biggest smile in the entire crowd at your first dance recital.

-A Daddy always has a little extra change "just for you", even when you are old enough to earn your own money, because he secretly stills feels responsible.

-A Daddy wipes away your tears when he sees you are in pain.

-A Daddy agrees that boys are horrid when one has broken your heart.

-A Daddy will take you out for ice cream, in the bitter cold, just because you need a little cheering up.

-A Daddy will always ask how you are doing before you have the chance to ask about his life.

-A Daddy will cry before and during your wedding, as well as at the reception*.

-A Daddy will teach you how to fish and gut what you caught. And, if you are squeamish, he'll bait the hook and let you go back to the car while he cleans all the fish.

-A Daddy will give you his coat when you get cold, even if it means he freezes himself.

-A Daddy will take the time to sit down and listen to you talk, even if he is bored to death by the topic.

-A Daddy will show-up, step-up, live-up and give-up for his baby daughter. And do double that for his grandchildren.

There is just no denying that Daddies have a special place in this world. And that, when they are gone, there is a void so big that it feels like we might fall into it and never be found again.

If you've been lucky enough to have a Daddy, I hope you take special note of the fact that the one who created your Daddy is still very much interested in taking care of you.

He loves everything about you. All your hurts, hopes, fears, dreams, cares, worries and wishes are at the top of his priority list, all the time. If He could, he'd take you in his arms and rock away the pain and hurt.

As much as your Daddy loved you, He loves you more.

Take heart, sweet ones. Take heart. There is a time coming when you will meet your Daddy again and be introduced, face-to-face, to His creator.

My prayer for you is that, in the time you have left here, you will live the kind of life that honors your Daddy. And that the distance between today's hurt and pain and your future joy and happiness will be the shortest time possible.

I know that is what your Daddy would most certainly want for you.

*And those tears are mostly because there is no absolutely no way to deny that you are now officially no longer "his" girl.

Stinkin' Dishwasher

There are just some appliances that I think were invented someplace akin to Heaven. The dishwasher is one of them.

It manages the tasks of rinsing, washing, rinsing again, and drying with nary a worry from yours truly. Given that I have fond memories of actually hand-washing entire tables of dishes at my Grandmother's house*, I know the flip-side can be a pain.

Sadly, a couple of months ago, I made a trip back through time to the land of Palmolive and rubber gloves because I realized that a) the dishwasher was making a noise that resembled a gravel truck schlepping it up Hillcrest at 45mph b) the dishes weren't getting as clean as they used to and c) the friggin' soap dispenser had stopped clicking shut, rendering it useless.

The soap dispenser itself caused me to consider the location of the White Pages and the letter "C", under which was a phone number, at the ready, for a local marriage counselor.

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, Mike decided that I must have forgotten how to properly use a soap dispenser unit or done something horribly wrong to the plastic contraption. He fixed the dang pin hinge over and over and over again, only to have it break within .4 seconds of his handiwork being complete.

Finally, he gave up. And I put the White Pages away.

We discussed buying a new dishwasher. Considering the last 18 months had been nothing but "How much?", "WHAT?", and "When?" in regards to our budget and remodeling, neither of us was jumping on that bandwagon very quickly.

All that meant I had to employ new methods of using the dishwasher.

For about five weeks I used the "cycle" method: exactly thirteen minutes in, rinse cycle one finished and I could open the door, add soap, and allow the dishwasher to go through the rest of its iterations.

This worked beautifully until the day I forgot if I had added soap and had to start the entire cycle over again because I was too freaked out to unload a potentially dirty load of dishes into their proper cabinets and drawers.

Given there was another load of dishes behind this one, I was, shall we say, "miffed"?

So, I decided to see what other methods of manipulation I could employ.

One of the absolutely knuckle-cracking aggravations of this dishwasher is the lack of choice. Literally, I can use "delicate", "power scrub", "regular", or "rinse only". That's it.

Now, I remember when the "dishwashers of the future" employed a turning knob that made hair-raising, creaky sounds as they moved. Miles away, dogs bayed at the noise. But at least the knob allowed choice: 15 minutes? 33 minutes? 1 hour?

This dishwasher? Not a chance of choice.

Armed with little at my dishwashing disposal, I decided to experiment with the "rinse only" option. I theorized "Do a darn good job of sink rinsing, run the dishes through several dishwasher rinses, punctuated by one soapy rinse, and that should do the trick." Off I went.

It didn't take long until I discovered that the trifecta of dishwashing was a singular button I had previously ignored.

The rinse cycle was a mere 9 minutes long. It employed hot water. My method of madness made for one well-cleaned load of dishes.

Just as with the first method, though, I've run into issues. It was virtually impossible to remember where I was in the process if I was even remotely interrupted. If I happened to have an attack of ADD, I'd have to start from scratch.

All this led to the inevitable "It's time to replace the dishwasher" conversation again.

The big hurdle this time? The Great State of Texas.

Turns out, after 12/19, there is a bats-chance-in-Hell that we MIGHT, POSSIBLY, get a $160 rebate IF we turn in paperwork, it makes it through the mail system in a timely manner, and gets to Austin before everyone else tries the same thing and the program ends, without notice, because the "quota" has been met.

But, you know what? We're still cheap, if we're nothing else. So, for the next several weeks, I'll be doing a scalding hot rinse cycle in the sink and three rinse cycles, the middle with soap, in the dishwasher.

If you happen to be in my kitchen during this period of time and wonder if the sound of that truck barreling toward you is anything to get worried about?

Just remind yourself that there are still people in this world who would rather allow convenience appliances to inconvenience them, all in the name of potentially saving a few bucks.

*The fond part came from spending time with my Grandmother, not actually doing the dishes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm still trying to decide...

if Mike saying he wants to "play TSA agent" with me is a good thing or a bad thing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Disappointments of the Potter Kind

Because I am a stay-at-home Mom and I have nothing better to do with my time*, I decided to take the "Which Harry Potter Character Are You?" quiz.

Several people I know on Facebook have posted their results, so I figured I should throw my hat in the ring and see which interesting character I'd be tagged as.

After all, when the first movie premiered, Mike and the Marriage Enrichment class from our church all skipped our traditional evening of talking and eating to attend the movie. Even got ourselves interviewed for a little article in the local paper. And the church got some rather, shall we say, hateful voice and emails**.

But, I digress into ancient history. Now we are staring down the seats at almost the last movie. I've long since bored with the spells, plots, and that Ron boy, ESPECIALLY since he became the heart-throb a couple of movies back***. That's when I told Mike he'd have to find a suitable, yet different, date for the next one.

So, since I fancy myself to be somewhat interesting, sometimes exciting, and definitely a little "dark" (but in a NICE way), I figured I'd end up being somewhere between a Death Eater, him whose name we can't mention, and a house elf.


It turns out you CAN'T escape your past. You are doomed to relive the person you were in High School****. The boring, bookish, good girl whom the principal only talked to once*****, in the hall, in all four years.

I'm "Hermione".

She's described as " smart, moral and cool under pressure. You love learning and showing others what you know. You’re way more mature than those around you, and you always seem to know what’s best."

OK. Let's dissect:
1. Yeah, sometimes, sure.
2. Yes. Duh, I'm a teacher.
3. Is this meant as a backward compliment? 95% of the time I'm around people who are a quarter my age, give or take five years. I BETTER be more mature than they are and I should know what's best!

In other words? B.O.R.I.N.G.

Even my glass of Yellow Tail Chardonnay can't dull the pain of that one!

I want to be my friend, who is running up to Seattle this week, to start her new job under a boss who wanted to "shake the hand of the woman who's been stealing business from me."

I want to be my friend, who is running her umpteenth marathon, and still manages to stay up to a respectable hour of the evening without falling asleep before the news starts, even though she's up before most roosters six days a week.

I want to be someone who people call to find out what party theme they should employ, what the hot trends are, and how to get on the list at the hottest restaurant.

But, instead, I'm Hermoine. I manage to marry Ron and have a kid I name Hugo.

When I think about that? All I have to add is: Thank goodness I'm ME!

So, if you need a killer homemade pot pie recipe, want to know how to remove the stench of dog poo from your carpeting, or the name of the line that trails behind a plane, I'm your gal.

And, in just a couple of minutes, I'll have the results of "Which Rocky Horror Character Are You". So, stay tuned.

*Besides eat chocolates, have an affair with the pool boy, and take my dog-in-a-bag to the local mall, that is.

**You're welcome, previous church, two-times removed. Just doing my duty to keep the war going between the two sides.

***Look, people. I can suspend reality only SO MUCH. That was jumping the shark.

****Less the booze and tight jeans.

*****I was wearing what could be described as a "long midriff". It was a T-shirt that skimmed the top of my painted-on Jordache jeans. And the Vice Principal said to me "I'm sure you didn't mean to wear something out of dress code, but that shirt is a little too short." I turned eighty shades of red and about died. Never wore that thing again.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kick Butt

"Can I kick you?"

That was a serious question, aimed at Mike, from one of the karate kids. Who just earned his yellow belt this weekend. And who broke a board with nothing but his forearm and a "YYYAAAHHHH". On the first try.

Mike's answer was swift and decisive: "NO."

You know how they say "It takes a village"? In this case, I agree that there are just some parenting jobs that are best left to someone else*.

Becoming a human kicking bag is one of them.

*A karate master, in this case, who I write a nice check to at the beginning of every month and who knows how to effectively be on the receiving end of tween kicking and punching and, for the right price, doesn't seem to mind too much.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Things I'm thankful for today:

1. The provision of a meal that will outlast the lunch my family will share and will provide extra food for days on end.

2. Less cooking in the days to come.

3. Leftovers to be delivered to the homeless.

4. No carpool for five days!

5. Time to spend reconnecting with family.

6. The warmth of a house, the beauty of the fall leaves, and the joy of knowing I am loved.

7. Turkey. I can go all "Bubba" from Forrest Gump about turkey: turkey pot pie, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey enchiladas....

8. Movie time! Whether it is at the theater or at the house, this is the time to break out the popcorn and tissues and enjoy a good laugh or cry.

9. Friday shopping with my sister-in-law, at a crazy-early hour, and the quality girl time I'll get with someone I adore.

10. The fact that Mom's Thanksgiving is daily, in Heaven, with my birth Mom and Grandmothers and Grandfathers.

11. The fact that a quote of 32 words can, literally, cause me to catch my breath, bring me to tears and heal me, all at the same time.

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

12. Adopted babies coming to our street in the next several weeks!

13. My future daughters-in-law and the joy they will bring to our Thanksgiving meals.

14. Dad finding another "true love" and looking forward to being married next year.

15. Freedom in a country that allows me to worship God without prejudice.

16. My brother providing a wonderful home for his family and being a quiet man with a kind heart.

17. The Trinity and THE sacrifice, which is the greatest reason to be thankful that I can think of.

18. My in-laws, who allowed me to join their family and gave me the best gift in the world: Mike!!

19. Pecans and cherries which, when bathed in sugar and cradled in crust, make a wonderful dessert. Or snack. Or breakfast.

20. My wonderful family of friends, who have lifted me above my grief this year, placed me in the palm of God's hand with their prayers, and whom I love beyond words. 'Thank you' isn't adequate, but it is all I have.

21. The relative health our extended families enjoy and for the healing coming for those who are in a state of weakened health.

22. Mike's sister, who works daily to improve the lives of the kids she teaches and is a beacon for Christ and a source of joy to me.

23. My brother-in-law, who is one of the most sincere, kind people I know. And the most honest attorney you'd ever need to hire!

24. My birth Mother's family, who accepted me and made me feel right at home this year. Big hugs and kisses to all of you this day!

25. This blog, the writing outlet it provides, and the book that it is helping shape.

26. For YOU. Wonderful, awesome little you. The person who challenges me to write, causes me to want to continue to write, and who humbles me daily.

You are, quite simply, the best one God made!

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Back

I am consistently amazed at people. And, generally, I don't mean that in a nice way.

People can be so very mean. I'm sure this is a phrase that has been uttered over the years, from ancient times through now, and will be spoken again in the very distant future.

Yet, there is that streak of humanity, that sometimes quiet element around us, that presses forward, against all odds, to make a positive difference.

They work under the radar in professions that don't pay well, in jobs that aren't glamorous, under scrutiny, at times, for their very existence it seems. People just don't get why some think it is important work to work for the "unimportant".

In my next season of life, I'm pretty sure God is calling me to a job like that; one that works with the impoverished. I've had a passion for this since I was a little girl on a trip to New York with her family. A little girl who couldn't bear to eat her pizza when there was a man sitting on a collapsed box who was smelly and looked ashamed.

And even though he was one in a sea of homeless people in the cold that day, I'm not sure I'll ever forget the look of gratitude on that man's dirt-streaked face.

I don't understand those who can't at least pray for the person on the street corner holding up a sign. Much less, give him/her a few cents that, were it not given away, would probably be spent on an over-priced coffee anyway.

I realize not everyone has a passion for the homeless. Some of you prefer your missions work in remote parts of the world where famine and disease are part of everyday life. Where the American homeless looks fat, by comparison.

Others give by interpreting Bibles into other languages or by volunteering time on the local "library bus" that goes into the inner-city or by giving blood on a regular basis. Not every donation has to be monetary, I'm reminded.

The point is that we all give. In some way. At some time.

If you are like me, you might find yourself "bitten" by the giving bug the first time your heart is tugged and you release a little of yourself to someone else. It never ceases to amaze me how stinking good it feels to give, even though that really isn't the point.

Give it a little try this holiday season. In honor of someone you love. In thanksgiving for your life or your family or your job. In memory of someone who has gone before you and set you on a good path so you could give back in your time.

Just TRY.

Because, like me, you might be amazed to find that people aren't so bad, after all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Experience Trumps All

"The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences."
--Unknown, though attributed (possibly incorrectly) to Saint Augustine

This quote has really stuck with me. It is true beyond belief, even in its simplicity.

Writers put words down on paper and on computer screens daily. Those words are read by others who, often, don't have much knowledge of the writer's background. In essence, it is entirely possible for a writer to compose an entire diatribe on something s/he has no personal experience to back up.

Take for example a writer, sans children, who chooses to write about the horrible job being done by those of us who actually have kids.

Childless Writer concept: Children are easy to control.

Parent concept: Yes. When they are made of plastic and only pee when you put a bitty bottle in their mouth that doesn't even really have "milk" in it.

Childless Writer concept: Any parent worth their weight can control their children.

Parent concept: True. Given the exact proper dosage of Benadryl and a good bed in which to place the body.

Childless Writer concept: Any parent who can't control their child shouldn't have had children unless they were willing to put in the work to do a good job parenting.

Parent concept: Hypothetically, yes.

But no body told me that my children would have the lung capacity of sperm whales and the ability to scream until glass in other countries began to shake violently.

No body warned me that my children would have distinct personalities and, just when I figured out how to parent numero uno, that number two would respond to the exact opposite type of parenting.

Number three? (WAIT! There's a third? Did we leave him in the Nissan?) He's receiving a conglomeration of parenting from lessons learned with one/two, lessons that MIGHT might work if the wind is blowing due south and the temperature is exactly 89.6 degrees.

Honey, I work at parenting. I just get no paycheck, no sick leave, no bonus, and no lunch break. Unless you consider stealing bread crust from a used PB&J sandwich a "mid-day hiatus".

Childless Writer concept: Parents should avoid restaurants until their children reach an age where they won't disturb other patrons.

Parent concept: True. Were it not for the fact day after day of nothing but hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and apple sauce can make someone a little homicidal.

Besides, Black-Eyed Pea pours a mean glass of wine and since Daddy automatically gets designated driver status because he's been at work all day, Momma can cut loose with a $5 drinky-poo. And not worry about cleaning up the dishes either.

Further, why are you wasting your time in "family friendly" restaurants when you are single/married without kids and can afford to blow major coin on the five-star joint up the street? Please. This is our sacred cow, Childless Writer person! Get your own.

Childless Writer concept: Giving stink-eye to the family with the over-ripe diapered infant and screaming two-year-old is going to help them understand "You are not welcome here. Go home."

Parent concept: When I see you looking at me all crazy-eyed, I go into Mommy mode. I begin to think:

"Now is the time for a LESSON! In baseball. Someday, maybe you'll play for the Rangers, junior. So, let's start developing those throwing skills NOW. See that table over there, the one with the woman who looks like she combed her hair today and doesn't have throw-up on her shirt? See the roll here? Take that roll and throw it like you mean it."

The more stink-eye you give, the less inclined I am to change that diaper or try to quell the screaming. The stress that look sends my way causes me to feel and do things I wouldn't normally do. Like order dessert or a third drink.

Dearest Childless Writer: Your day is coming. You will find yourself eagerly awaiting that little, pink bundle of joy. And the first time s/he poos green, seaweed stank that you can hardly believe didn't come from a barfing alien, then you'll know.

You'll know.

And, all the Mommy's in the restaurant, with our cute, umbrellaed drinks? We'll just smile at you, raise our glasses in salute, and say a silent prayer for your sanity to outlast your parenting years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Year's Resolution Well Ahead of its Time

God can heal a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces. ~Author Unknown

When's the last time you YELLED at God?

Wait! You grew up in a church where yelling at God wasn't, say, KOSHER? It was unacceptable? "Polite" people don't do that?


Well, me too.

Nobody taught me to yell at God. I learned to do that myself. I, erroneously, thought that, through my yelling, I was "giving God all the pieces".

Am I particularly proud of that fact? No. I wish I could communicate like Michelle Duggar* and have even emotions and flat conversations that resolve issues without raised voices. That's just not me.

And God knows that. In fact, at times, even my family knows that.** Some days, I'm pretty sure my neighbors even know it.

So, by way of introduction: "Hello. My name is MommaJ. And I'm a yeller."

I don't like being a yeller. I want to be even-tempered. I want to be kind and soft-spoken and gentle with my words. Instead, sometimes I seem to be malicious, hard, and sand-papery.

I am convicted by passages like James 3:6: "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."

OUCH. That one burns.

Or how about this?

Luke 17:1-3..."Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves."

My yelling does cause my little ones to stumble. It causes them to yell back or start crying, which causes anger and hurt, which I know isn't something God wants in their little lives.

And the Word further convinces me of my need to change as I read James 1:19-20: "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."

My yelling is a quick reaction. It causes me to ignore my God-given ability to listen. It causes anger. Which leads to a break in my lifeline to God.

My yelling is a lifetime habit. And, as I discovered when I donated quite a few quarters trying to break my propensity to cussing, habits are very hard to break.

But, I think teaching my boys and having pity on Mike and the neighbors is a worthy, if not lofty, goal.

So, today, I publish my New Year's Resolution for 2011***: I am going to quit yelling. I'm going to attempt to replicate 2 Samuel 23:2: “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue." instead of getting riled up by the world and letting evil speak through me.

Out come the quarters again. But, this time, because I think it is SO important, I'm spending four at a time.

Yup. A buck for every time I yell.

And every penny of it will come out of a small bit of inheritance money I received from my Grandmother. That I'm supposed to be saving to take a trip with my friend in 2011.

Here's to having enough left over that we don't have to hitchhike to our destination.....

*Of "19 Kids and Counting" fame. Who has NEVER, EVER, EVER raised her voice in all the years I've been watching the show.

**Alright, peanut gallery. Shut it.

***I'm getting a head start in the last 41 days of 2010. I figure I'll need that much time to get good and ready for this challenge.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful for the Scars

Have you ever been hurt and the place tries to heal a bit, and you just pull the scar off of it over and over again. ~Rosa Parks

Ms. Rosa Parks was ahead of her times. Frankly, she was ahead of THE time.

She "got" it. That no person should be discriminated against because of the color of their skin. Because, in reality, who you are isn't how you look. It's the contents behind the outer covering that REALLY matter.

Remember the movie "Elephant Man" where Jospeh Merrick famously says "I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"? Another instance where the exterior trumped what really mattered.*

Or, how about those who look "Muslim", who remind us in our worst times, of the horrors of 9/11? And scare us just a little when we allow our minds to wander.

Strangely, as I was writing about how looks can be deceiving, I was reminded of those who are in process of grieving.

Those of us in mourning don't look like there is anything awry. There doesn't appear to be anything going on behind our smiles and laughter and polite conversation. We don't embellish ourselves in black 24/7/365.

We look just like you. We make progress toward healing, only to have the scar exposed and damage inflicted again and again and again.

We have joined a club of people who have lived through unimaginable loss. But, this isn't a social club that we willing joined. We were forced to become members.

But our hope comes from the word "LIVED". We've managed to live in this world even after our world has been destroyed. And, each day brings a fresh chance to move forward a couple of steps, to heal that scar, and ready ourselves for the time when that wound will be exposed again. Because we know it will be.

The holidays are a really mixed bag. It is virtually impossible to escape the message that you SHOULD feel happy during this season, even though it is the time of the highest incidence of suicide in the entire year. I never quite understood the depth of that until this year.

I, myself, am not anywhere near suicidal at this point in my life.** But, I GET that people could become so consumed by their loss that their life seems pointless.

So, I am extremely grateful that Jesus wants to save each and every one of us. He can save us from the despair that seems to envelop us. From the grief that engulfs us. From the sheer hopelessness that leads people to think they can't make it another moment with the pain.

If you love someone who is in the midst of grief this holiday, don't feel like you need to drop your life to help. Help us through this time by remembering us in prayer. Be thankful, with us, that our loved ones were part of our lives. Be thankful that God is sustaining us. Rejoice with us that God sent His infant son to live among us and, ultimately, die for us. Rejoice that those we love will be waiting for us when we enter those Heavenly gates.

Personally, I am taking comfort in the words from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, a reminder of how much God loves each and every one of us, regardless of the color of our skin or the perfection of our beauty or the senselessness of our fear or the depth of our anguish.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

If you have ANY doubt that your loss and pain are for naught, reread this verse. The comfort we receive is the model God will use to help us when we comfort others. We are needed. We have purpose. Even in our pain.

This season, may we all take comfort in the God who brought us into this world, sustains us, scars and all, to this very day, and who will take joy in receiving us when our numbered days are through.

Thanks, praise, and honor be to HIM.

*And, if you haven't seen this movie from 1980, go get it now. Forget the popcorn, you'll be too busy with that big, honkin' box of Kleenex you'll need to watch this true story unfold. If you need incentive to watch a tear-jerker, it stars a young Anthony Hopkins and the legendary John Gielgud. Bliss.

**Though, truthfully, I can admit now that this was a running theme in my life for way too many years.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dog Torture, Done Properly

I spent every summer between college semesters working for a vet. That was eons ago, but I still have fond memories of the people and animals I worked with.*

And, I still fancy myself capable of handling animals, even those with a stubborn streak.

Enter Doug. Dang dog still hasn't learned that 1) you live in a house now 2) food is provided twice a day 3) you don't have to bark at ever leaf that passes by to continue getting the twice daily rations.

A wee example of this is his obsession with acorns.

This must be a bumper year for the darn nut because they litter every part of our backyard, from the bottom of the pool all the way to the driveway. Right now, were you to decide a little nap on the hammock would be a good idea you might suffer a concussion from all the little acorn bombs falling all around.

Enter Doug, part deuce. Apparently, acorns were a staple of his diet when he was dog-homeless. On any given day, I'll find him snarfing on a tasty little appetizer of "raw acorn caps and meat". Very Japanese, mind you, but not a really great idea.

It seems that acorns, in certain quantities, can actually kill a dog. Or at least cause them to have diarrhea and vomiting.

Then there's the enviable way of kicking the doggie-bucket if you really ingest too much: renal failure.

Needless to say, I give him a good piece of my mind when I find him chewing the free squirrel food. But, he continues on, in hopes that, maybe someday, he'll find the one, the creme de la creme of acorns, that actually tastes like squirrel guts.

So far, the only thing this practice has yielded is a badly busted lip. Which tonight, given my prodigious history of practicing vet skills three months of the year for four years, I decided I would doctor.

Have I mentioned that two-squares-a-day has rendered Doug, um, portly? Caused him to become "big boned"?

Crap. He's just fat. Period.**

So, when I needed to get a better look at that lip and tried to turn him over like a newborn baby? He was having NONE.OF.THAT.

He wiggled and squirmed until I saw the only reasonable way to clean that wound with peroxide was to put him in Mike's sink.***

He acted like my kids when I use peroxide. Their initial reaction? Not bad, Mom. Three seconds in? FIRE. YOU JUST PUT FIRE ON MY OPEN WOUND. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU?

Doug freaked. So, when I had to leave him in the sink to get the actual antibiotic?**** He jumped down and ran off. As fast as his bloated body would go.

Now that did nothing but inspire me. How would his lip heal if he didn't have any antibiotic on it? I don't kiss him on the lips, but a lip less dog just sounds disgusting. Not on my watch, kiddo.

So, I went looking for him. And he was coming at me, all repentant, wagging his tail like "MOM? Sorry I left you. I just don't like you trying to burn my lips off. Can't we pass on doing that again for, like, FOREVER?"

Me? I sat down, let him climb on my lap, and grabbed his face, all vet-style. Like I meant it.

He? Didn't like that ONE BIT. The squirming was worse than an earth worm on concrete in Death Valley in August.

So, I resorted to real vet-style tactics. I sat on his butt. Literally. Straddling the dog. Who was doing his best "I'm going to Houdini out of this by backing out between her legs. I'm small. I'm really small. She has no chance."

The net result of all of this? TONS of squirming, two failed attempts at escape, and one topical administration of antibiotic on Doug's lip.

Which he, immediately, licked off. And then used his tongue to redistribute onto my chin.

Doug: one. Me: zip.

I found him in the dining room, after that, about to squat and take a little "load off". When he saw me and realized "She caught me about to exact my revenge!", he scampered to the back door. Which I opened and gently pushed him out of.

I ga-ran-tee that dog not only relived himself, but also had a little late night acorn snackage.

I swear, if I find him hurling on my floors later tonight, I'm not going to have any mercy. I'm only going to give him ONE biscuit tomorrow.

That'll teach him!

*Especially that calf I helped birth in the rain. Whoa.

**And, I fear, it's my fault for not being able to resist his cute little face and giving him people treats every time he looks at me....

***He'll never know, poor dear, because he's in bed with a migraine. Unless he reads this post or wonders where the hair in the sink came from.

****Remember, I deal with ADD. Planning ahead? Not in the cards.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ramblings of an Unstable Mind

In my life, there have been times when a single conversation with a friend or a certain look from someone I love or an unkind word from a stranger stirs a well of darkness inside of me that is so disturbing that I wonder "Was that REALLY inside of me?"

I've discovered, for me, the best way to let things go is to get them in writing. Sometimes I let the words go straight into the trash can after I've written them. Other times I put the paper into a pretty envelope and send it. Sometimes I take joy in shredding into smallish pieces, barehanded, what I've written while simultaneously crying my eyes out.

This was one of those days, way back in August of 2009, when a certain situation caused me to think through all the things in my life that were dark and disturbing and evil. I just started typing them and this is what came out.

I share it with you today because, to some of you, my life seems cheerful and blessed and wonderful. You don't see the underbelly of my suffering and angst and sorrow. It's there. Just as, I'm sure, it is in there for you, too.

Please know: you are not alone. We all have that dark place inside. And most of us spend our lives trying NOT to go there. We avoid it at all costs. And many of us do a really good job avoiding it.

But God wants us to live in the light. And living in the light means accessing those dark places and handing them over to Him.

So, today, I share my dark places with you and I hand them over to God, knowing that "He has searched me and known me." (Psalm 139:1)

And I'm convinced that His words are as perfect today as they were thousands of years ago: “...even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." (Psalm 139:12)

Have you ever been so disappointed in a situation that you can't let it go? Have you ever been so disillusioned that you can't focus? Have you ever felt the weight of the world crashing down around you and wondered if the darkness was going away? Have you ever regretted scheduling something and wish you could un-schedule it? Have you ever felt so rejected that you wish you'd never put yourself "out there" to begin with? Have you ever wished you could just tell people what you really thought about how they were treating you? Have you ever wished that the truth didn't hurt so much? Have you ever wished that the truth would really just change your life instead of hurting you, making you mad, making you sad, then making you change? Have you ever felt like you'd wasted part of your life forming a relationship only to see it change in one conversation? Have you ever wished you could skip through life oblivious to what other people thought or did? Have you ever wished you could have a do-over? Have you ever wished forgiveness brought amnesia AND an invisible barrier that would keep that person away from you forever? Have you ever wished that God would rain down punishment so you could witness it? Have you ever witnessed that punishment and wish you hadn't? Have you ever been in such a dark place that it feels like a pit? Have you ever wondered if the other person understands what darkness they brought into your life, just by their lack of sensitivity? Have you ever felt so alone, surrounded by people, that you thought you might burst into tears but no one would notice? Have you ever wished you were dead? Have you ever thought the world would be a better place without you? Have you ever wished you could be a certain age forever so you could avoid the pain? Have you ever wondered what your life would be like without your spouse or kids? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to win the lottery on a ticket with the wrong date?

I have.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


It was shortly before summer that I typed the numbers 3-0-0 in the Title blank on this blog.

Looking backward even further still, post number 100 was almost the end in my mind. I wasn't sure I had it in me to continue on and I sure wasn't making any money doing it and I was driving everyone around me nuts with my new obsession.

This journey started with more of a "FINE. I'll write if you shut-up" than with a willing and eager writer.

And now? I can hardly wait to sit down and pound my fingers across the keyboard and tell you all the wacky, great things that are happening in my life.

I worry sometimes that you will think I'm vain or haughty or self-absorbed since all these stories include me. But, I guess that doesn't stop people from, daily, writing their autobiographies.* And, most of you have stuck with me for this entire haul, so I guess you like SOMETHING about what I'm doing.

As I looked at the "300th" post, I realized I've made the giant step I was so worried about. And I didn't trip. I barely even hit the ground and twelve chapters of that long dreamed-about book were under my belt.** No doubt, thanks to some or all of you who answered my request to pray for me. My hands played marionette to God's words as I wrote and, if you prayed, you are a very important part of that writing. THANK YOU.

I've managed to make it from 300 to 400 in slightly more than five months time. I've shifted the focus, on many occasions, to what I feel God is calling me to write, instead of the usual suspects: poo, pee, and drinking.

I think the posts have become more substantative and interesting and engaging.

Yet, I've noticed you've stopped commenting. And, some days, I wonder if I've ticked you off so much that you can't take another day of my blattering on. Other days I think I've challenged you too much. Or made you cry...again...and you are mad at me. On the best days, the ones I'm most secure in, I just hope something I wrote left you so speechless that no comment could even begin to cover what you are feeling.

THAT would, most definitely, be the highest compliment I could possibly recieve.

But, with only 400 posts under my belt, I don't think I've reached that level of sophistication yet.

So, onward and upward. With this blog. With the book. With our lives.

Thanks for staying tuned. Keep coming back. Often.

I look forward to seeing you here for another 400 posts or so......

*NOT the subject of my first book, for sure. Even bets on it being the subject of number two, though.

**Let's not discuss the fact that I haven't written another word since.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Alone Time

Over the years, I've come to know myself pretty well. I've become predictable, boring, and pretty mundane.

When people ask "How are you?" I jump into fine mode and prattle on and on about how the kids are doing, the latest at Mike's job, and the never-ending, sometimes frustrating, house remodel that is/isn't complete.*

But, as was pointed out to me recently, I rarely comment on MYSELF.

So, today, while the boys were on a Daddy date at a soccer game, I asked myself "How are you?"

Besides the slightly groaning headache and tired shoulder muscles, I felt tired. Bone tired. Haven't slept well in weeks tired.

Maybe it's my diet today, I thought. Probably not a good idea to subsist on coffee until noon then eat a CLIF bar followed by microwaves mac n cheese and a handful of chocolate chips.

Maybe it's the perfect weather, which almost lulled me to sleep on the hammock, until I was awoken by the timer I had set so I wouldn't sleep too long.

Maybe it was the slightly disturbing news that someone I love has an elevated PSA and is "waiting it out". Or that someone else I adore is trying to decide how to deal with the cancer doctors just discovered.

Maybe it's just post-partum depression, haunting me years after the fact.

Who knows. But, if I were to tell people "I'm tired" every time I really am? Truly, they'd stop asking. But, nine of ten times, that's the honest response I'd give.

It makes complete sense that I am tired because, as a woman with children in their childhood years, I am tending to lose myself. It's certainly not intentional. We're just busy. Kids have a tendency to fill calendars. And I am the taxi driver, check writer, and cheerleader who is the necessary cog in the wheels of their busy-ness.

Though I still have a "life", I've become entangled in the lives of those I support. Like vines that take over everything, I just can't separate myself from the other lives that interconnect to mine. If I stop for just one 24-hour period, it becomes perfectly apparent that I am needed.

There is a genuine desire in my heart for this intertwining to continue forever. It tugs against the need inside of me to have some "alone time" and reconnect with who I am and what I need and where I'm going.

I think that's why connecting with God is so important to me. I feel grounded and led and happy when I know that I am trying to follow His plan for my life. Even if that plan involves activities and duties that I wish I could sometimes farm out so I could take a long, restful nap.

It's hard being a Mom. If you thought, like me, that raising a baby was all sunshine and roses when you signed up for this job, then I'm sorry we're both having to learn that clouds and thorns also exist.

But, even through the hardest times, I never forget that this is good work.

And, Mike? If I happen to neglect your needs on occasion in favor of helping your babies? Please try to understand.

This is only for a season. And I love those babies we created and the work that you do that helps sustain us and the guidance you give that is turning the boys into Godly young men.

And I love you for giving me this opportunity to be a Mommy. And for understanding that, in the blink of an eye, our time in parenting mode will be gone.

So, for now, when I am sometimes way too focused on the kids, to the detriment of the romantic life we used to enjoy? This, too, shall pass. And it will be back to just the two of us. And, YES, I'm excited about that time, as well.

This is why, when I ask for alone time, I so appreciate the chance to escape. It grounds me. It gives me wings. It helps me reflect. It shows me who I am and reminds me what is important. And it reminds me that there will be a tomorrow when this job is less important.

Knowing all that, when someone asks "How are you?" next time, I am probably going to say "Fine" and launch into the lives of my family of wild and crazy boy-types.

Just know that, with a little digging, you'll find that there's a lot more going on in the mind of this middle-aged, child-raising, taxi-driving Mom.

And be doubly glad all I said was "Fine".**

*Why didn't someone remind me that you have to DECORATE after the big work is done? I'd have bought stock in a privately-held wine company at the beginning of the remodel, purchased enough cases of the stuff to get that puppy on the NYSE, sold the stock, and used the proceeds to hire an interior decorator.

**Ever heard of "Talking the ears off a Billy goat?" That's what Mom's can do, given the right timing and the opportunity.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quote for the Day

I feel like I am tripping through life on the fumes of sanity. -MommaJ

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Shower

I'm married to a man who takes long showers. Showers that run the hot water in the house down to nothing but "Lake Michigan in February" cold. Showers that sometimes frighten me into thinking "He's been in there so long that I fear he may have had a heart attack or kidney stone issues or been rendered a burn victim so I'll just take a little look-see to be sure he's OK."

Now, I used to be a long shower kind of girl myself. Back in the day, I would luxuriate until the water ran stone cold and I was so beyond late for whatever event necessitated the shower, that I knew I'd have to rush through the hair drying/make-up applying/clothes choosing part of my routine. In about five minutes flat.

Those were the good old days, when the cost of the water bill didn't even register on my radar screen. And when I could ensure that I wouldn't exit the stall to find my children knee-deep in Crazy Glue and flour.

What really caused me to (mostly) outgrow this extravagant habit was an incident involving my best friend's Dad. He called the house one day when I was blissfully wallowing in the hot steam of the bathroom, letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that as I was taking my sweet time, he and his family were waiting for me to show up so the car could leave on the 45 minute trip to Houston. He said, and I quote, "If your ass isn't down here in five minutes, we're leaving without you."*

That was 1982.

Fast forward 28 years to today. When I took a long, hot shower for, maybe, the tenth time since I've had kids.

And, boy had I forgotten how good a hot shower can be for the soul.

I don't remember ever philosophizing "this is a good place for thinking" when I was a teenager. In fact, I barely remember rubbing two brain cells together when I was growing up in the 80's, except to ponder "Are these jeans tight enough?"** or "Does the piquant flavor of Tickle Pink trump anything?"***

But, back to my shower of late: in fact, I did some wicked good thinking in the stall that morning. So much so that I had the audacity to take ANOTHER ONE just two days post hence.

I know what you are thinking: "The nerve of that woman! What's she going to do next? Eat her salad with the long-pronged fork?**** SHEESH."

There really isn't much more to this post than that. I've rediscovered the joy of a shower that is wasteful.

HMMM. Not that I've put that sentence down, this no longer sounds like a good idea.

And, that, is the bummer of writing. You clarify your thoughts, distill them to a few words, and learn the truth of what you are doing.


*"Old Weird Harold" was what we called him. I think the phrase "That boy can cuss a blue streak" was coined after someone overheard him swearing at one of his employees.

**1980's, when Jordache jeans had to be zipped with the hook of a bent metal hanger. Not the 1880's, like my kids think.

***An uneducated palate is a horrible thing. About three weeks ago I saw a bottle of this stuff on the shelf of a grocery store in a hick town we were traveling through. I about lost my lunch just at the sight of it.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Definition of "lost"

Lost [lawst] adj.: no longer in your possession or control; unable to be found or recovered.

Hooman has locked himself in his room. Which is no big deal because he has 30 minutes to simmer down before he has to be in the car on the way to school.

Apparently, I caused this. His Mother. The Queen Bee.*

See, this morning is the 13th anniversary of the wonderful day I had the common sense to marry Mike. And, last night, he was up well past his scheduled bedtime working. Working because there was so much activity this weekend (two football games, a baptism, three parties (two we hosted), and overnight guests) that his regular once/month computer job was very low on his priority list. Until last night.

Being the "nice" wife, I told him to stay in bed this morning. I would do everything** in the morning routine.

I was met at the door, in the dark, by Hooman. He's a regular rooster.*** He was in a cheerful mood, on his way to getting ready. I helped him get his clothes out and proceeded to enter The Babe's room. After talking him down from the "I just woke up and I don't want to lie here because it is so BOORRRRINNNG what can I do?"**** mood he woke up in, I grabbed his clothes and headed down the hall, after I assured him he wouldn't die of boredom.

On to Nickels' room. He was dead asleep. He is, quite possibly, more impossible to wake up than his Daddy, who sleeps just like him. Getting him vertical in the morning is a miracle we have the privilege of witnessing on a daily basis.

So, in my nicest "We can do this the hard way or the easy way" drill sergeant voice, I asked him to get out of bed and head for the shower I was about to turn on. One more set of clothing in hand, I headed to the laundry room to iron.

Ironing complete, next stop was the kitchen. Had to pull together breakfast. That's when I realized neither Mike nor I had taken out the trash bins and the cans in the kitchen were overflowing from the last party of the weekend.

So, I assigned Hooman, now ready for school save his shoes, the task of moving the trash bins from the back of the house to the alley in anticipation of our weekly trash collection.

That is when all Hell broke loose.

You see, it's 52 degrees in Big D today. In Texas speak, that's "FREEZING". Stuff of Artic winters cold. Bone chilling plus some.

And my little champ had managed to mislocate every stinkin' hoodie I've purchased for him in the last fifteen millennium. So, he went out in short sleeves.

Now, this wouldn't have been a problem had big brother not gotten finished in record time and decided he'd go retrieve his hoodie because he was chilly. The hoodie that was hanging seven feet from the back door that Hoooman was pounding on because it auto-locked when he went outside and now he was DYING in the cold.

Did Nickels open the door? NNNOOOO.
Did Hooman lose his marbles because of the injustice? YYEESSSS.
Did I start to scream like a little girl with a sensitive scalp having her hair brushed? Um, YEAH.

Now I had two children, jerk-boy and crying-frigid-lass, who were teed off at each other. And crying-frigid-lass didn't have a hoodie. But, jerk-boy did. And this made Mr. Frigid madder than a wet, cold, egg less hen.

He could NOT let it go.

Meanwhile, I've now realized I haven't packed lunches or started breakfast and I am still in my pj's. And we have 15 minutes before our carpool buddy knocks on the door. And I'm the designated driver.

(Sidenote: if any of this sounds familiar to your house and you are laughing hysterically at me, I'd like to have a little happy hour experience with you...misery loves a drinking buddy.)

I run to the car and find two hoodies. A quick look in the other car reveals two more. But, THE ONE? The school hoodie that can be worn, carte blanche, without question, throughout the school? The only one that he can use in the classroom when he gets cold? Still missing. Magically hasn't reappeared in the three weeks since he, admittedly, left it in one of the classrooms.

This is when I am informed by the Hooman that he has, in fact, NOT lost his $50 school hoodie.

Contrary to the fact that it isn't in either car, in his room, under his bed, in his backpack, in his shoe drawer, in his closet, in any of the lost and found boxes at school, at any neighbor's house, on the rooftop, or in the pool.

(Sidenote, dear readers: Honey, there ain't enough Botox in this world to relax the incredulous crease in the middle of my forehead that this comment caused.)

I calmly inform him that, since we purchased the first hoodie (still MIA) and split the cost of the current "not-lost" hoodie, that this one was on him. Long-term savings would save the day.

And, since we had 45 minutes before school started, I would gladly allow him to move his reading lesson to the afternoon hours and we could go to the school and scour all the lost and found boxes before we went to the school store. Just in case.

OH.MY.GOSH. You'd think I had told him that we were rendering him a eunuch and sending him to work for King Abdullah's wife*****. He went ballistic.

I got the "This isn't fair. It isn't lost." lecture accompanied by the "I'm the unluckiest kid in the world" slanty-eyes.

And, he slammed his door in complete disgust, just to punctuate things, in case, because I'm only 44 years old and I've never been his age, and I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND, that he was pissed.

I eventually got a pretty shallow apology. And I could tell he'd been crying. So, I pretty much felt the need not to badger him anymore.

But that dang hoodie? Is still MIA. And "un-lost". And it is still a wee bit chilly outside. So, I pulled out the "grace" card and offered to split the cost 75/25 (him/me). Still no dice.

So, I sent my kid in a "non-uniform-take-it-off-at-the-door" hoodie today. I hope, if he is dying of hypothermia in his class later today, that he'll reconsider my generous offer. Or that someone will offer to loan him theirs. Or that, magically, his hoodie will peel itself out of the woodwork and fall into his lap.

Truthfully? I'm counting on defrosting him this afternoon.

*Which he would, no doubt, like to define with a "B" and a few choice vowels/consonants.

**Kind of like when he travels. Except, when he's away from Dallas, I don't wait until the morning to accomplish everything.

***If he could learn how to imitate the bird, he'd have a gig for himself.

****I'm thinking: "It's called "relaxing", honey. Try to lie there and not think about anything. Enjoy this time. When you are old, like me, you'll be up before the sun wondering what happened to your lounging time."

*****She is a STUNNING woman, in case you didn't know.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Has Jesus Done for YOU Lately?

Hopefully you'll be able to click on this and it will load. If not, make sure your volume is up and cut/paste into your browser.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lessons from the movie UP

Hooman is home ill today, so he had a chance to choose a movie from the DVD basket. He chose UP.

I haven't been able to watch UP since Mom died; I tried once and it about killed me. So, I swore off it for awhile, even though I dearly love the movie.

This morning, I waited until the movie was almost 3/4 of the way done and then I went in to spend some time watching with Hoo.

Stupid me. I had forgotten that some of the best parts of that movie are in the last quarter.

It isn't often that I can look at a movie and say there are some good, true, and right take-aways. But, this is a rare gem of a movie.

If you haven't seen UP, it will be worth your time. Just be prepared that it deals with real life issues: infertility, death, loss, love. For a "kid's movie", it delivers to even those of us who are well past that demographic.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned (being typed as I simultaneiously watch and cry):

1. Not all progress is good.

2. Love still exists.

3. Our biggest disappointments are often followed by blessings we never could have seen coming.

4. When it comes down to it, love is all that matters.

5. Ice cream is still a wonderful treat.

6. In the end, all the material possessions in the world don't matter.

7. Dogs are a man's best friend. They love you even if you don't love them back.

8. It is possible to change from being cranky to being happy.

9. Hearing aids are good for tuning in AND tuning out.

10. It is important to give those you love wings to move on after you are gone.

11. Chocolate is a universal craving.

12. Hollywood, for all its faults, can still make a great movie.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fable of the Porcupine

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold.

The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other.

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen.

So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth.

Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion, but the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

Moral of the story: The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person's good qualities.

When was the last time someone you are close to REALLY ticked you off?

For most of us, it won't take much time to think of an instance. In fact, for many, the last instance was in the last hour.

Did you make the person aware that they ticked you off?

If you tell me you posted a pithy comment on Facebook, that doesn't count. I'm talking you made a face-to-face contact or phone call to work the whole thing out.

Are you still stewing about it?

If you answered "yes", then I'm guessing you haven't had a conversation with the person who made you mad. Or that you hold grudges. Or that you are making a conscious decision to remain mad, even after you've received an apology.

I'm not calling you out on this today because I think you are a bad person. In fact, I am just as guilty as anyone, probably more so, about holding grudges.

As I approach my mid-40's, though, I'm starting to see things so much more clearly.

I recently read a book by a great Christian, Beth Moore, called So Long Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us. It opened my eyes to the deep-seated insecurities inside of me that have kept me from living my best, insecurity-free life.

I learned that I was overly-sensitive to other people's comments because I placed all my value in what people thought of me, not in what God saw in me.

When I realized I'm God's daughter, His princess, and that He alone is what matters, stuff started rolling off my back at a much faster pace.

Are there still topics that are "prickly" in my life? Honestly, yes. I think there will always be a hint of insecurity within me when people criticize my kids or my weight or any other of a long list of things that have been long-playing songs in my head about my worth.

But, with the help of God, I'm learning to navigate the "prickly" waters of life. And I'm learning to let go of the hatred and bitterness and anger that come with being unable to let people I love/like/hardly know be "prickly" without sending that quill straight into my heart.

It's not an easy task, but it is a worthy one.

Which is why I'm going to issue you a challenge today. Your goal is simple: determine that one person in your life who has been the most "prickly".

Figure out what you can about WHY they are "prickly" and say a prayer for them; not that they would change, but that your heart would change toward them, that YOU would find empathy for their plight.

If you need to resolve conflict between the two of you, start by writing an open letter about how you feel and what needs to be resolved. Since you won't send that letter, be perfectly honest with your thoughts. Your goal is to pinpoint what YOU need to do to allow the healing to begin in your life.

Finally, pray for the best time for the two of you to have a conversation. Don't email, text or tattoo a message on your skin. This needs to be DIALOGUE. The goal of your conversation is to ask for forgiveness for the way YOU'VE been treating Mr./Ms. Prickly.

Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's emotional. And, Yes, you can do it.

Don't put this off. Like the porcupines, we have to decide how we are going to live the rest of our lives. And I know you care enough to want to be "right" with those whom you love.

Because, in the end, it's the prickly people who are going to be there for you.

Quills and all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Resilience in Action

"Mommy? I lost."

The Hooman announced this as I was sitting at the kitchen table and he was playing Wii lacrosse in the next room.

"OOOHHHH." The comment came out sorta sadly, as I was pretty sure he was feeling bad about losing or he wouldn't have announced this out loud.

"But there's always next time. Right?" He said this so cheerfully that I couldn't help but echo his optimism in my reply: "That's right!"

The fact that some people view the world as glass half-full and others as glass half-empty is all together interesting, frustrating, inspirational, and maddening.

These opposite extremes exist because our world is horribly awry. If we weren't prone to screwing up, our world would know nothing but happy, happy, joy, joy.

But, how you choose to view life defines which category of glass you'll be drinking out of.

You can choose tears and hatred and pessimism. With the exception of rare exceptions, these emotions are a choice.

You can just as easily choose to find the optimist in yourself and experience the joy and love route.

For today, my little man chose to blow sunshine and butterflies into the world.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring, so today I'm rejoicing that he sees the world as a half-full kind of place.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I recently read the writing of someone I think is a fabulous person. The first time I met her we literally tuned out the entire table of people around us to get to know one another. She's just kind, warm, endearing and wonderful.

Though it's been a couple of years since we've spent time together, she still sends a card when something celebratory or untoward happens in our house. Seems the grapevine is still very much intact when it comes to us.

I tell you all this so you'll know that I dearly love the writer who inspired the following post. I agree with 99.9% of the article she's written.

But it was one word, that little phrase, that sent my head spinning. And I've been noodling my reaction ever since. That is the basis of the blog post below.

It was created from the seed of the writing of a dear friend, whom God used to whisper some truth into my heart.

What does it mean when someone says there is "injustice" in the world?

Well, I had to look this one up because I was pretty sure there would be some "right v. wrong" in the definition but I had never really given it much thought beyond that.

A brief definition reads: "An unjust act."

So, breaking down this word to a level I can understand: an action (act) that is not morally right (one of the definitions of 'just'.)

Here I insert the writing of my friend that originally started me thinking:
"As their poverty continues, our plenty increases. This tension constantly pulls on my mind and heart, but I hope it never goes away. The injustice reminds me of a world far away filled with beautiful people who taught me what is really important in this life."

The underlying message I read here is: there is something morally wrong with Americans many, increasing blessings while there is still poverty in the world.

I just couldn't get past this idea. Wasn't this the same message from those who masterminded 9/11? Why are good, Christian Americans buying into this train-of-thought? Since this isn't the first time (and won't be the last) I've heard this statement, I decided it was worth a second, fortieth, and hundredth thought.

Let me start by stating the obvious: I am called to help the poor. Deuteronomy 15:7-8states "if anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need."

As a Christian in America, I can give generously in several ways: of my time, witness, talents and/or money. How blessed am I that we live in a society free of constraints.

Yet, 2 Corinthians 9:7 plainly states "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Even though I CAN give of all I am and all I have, if I am guilted into it (under compulsion) or made to feel that my gifts aren't worthy enough because I am comparatively rich and could never give enough, then I might feel reluctant to give and choose to rebel against what is right (cheerful giving).

That verse tells me to look into my own heart (and, I would assume, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) to decide what I should give.

In other words, whether I am wealthy, impoverished, or somewhere in between, the giving decision should come from within, from God, and not from the guidance of men.

Even though I can listen for perfect guidance in my giving and follow that guidance perfectly, I still live in a world that offers a load of negativity toward the blessings behind the giving.

I've grown weary over hearing the argument that there is something evil about America because of our opportunities, freedoms, and comparative wealth.

Most people I know use the freedom our country provides to take advantage of opportunities so they can, ultimately, give back out of gratitude. When they see need, they respond. When they hear of true injustice, they fight for the right outcome.

I won't even bore you with all the good our country does in the world. But the world DOES try to tell us that America just never does enough. Even when we give over and over and over again.

To the world (and to some Americans), if we could just "step up" faster and harder and better then poverty would cease to exist.

That, however, is a false statement, based on the true facts of Matthew 26:11: "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me."

Jesus states we should EXPECT the poor in our generation. They aren't going away. Poverty is the result of living in an imperfect world. Were we all still in Eden, this wouldn't be an issue. But Eden is no more. So, here we stand.

Knowing I can expect poverty to exist, I have to wonder aloud about the fallacy that goes "Those who possess wealth create an unfair imbalance because they have more than others."

Whether we like it, think it is "fair", or agree with it, there WILL be poverty. And, even if the wealthy of this world give EVERYTHING away, there will never be complete equality; someone will always have more because there will always be poor. It's a guarantee!

Somehow, I have to silence the voices of the world that would entrap me in improper thinking. Only then can I understand a healthy way to approach financial blessings.

James 1:17 says "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

We've been GIVEN good and perfect gifts, chosen by God! ALL of us; rich and poor.

I don't know about you, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Regardless of my position in life, I'm going to be glad. And how much more so because the gift is from GOD!

If I find myself feeling sorrowful that I haven't been giving in a way that is pleasing to God, I have to ask for His forgiveness so the feelings of guilt will be lifted and I can move forward to obeying His call on my life.

However, if I feel condemned or accused for the life I've been provided by God, I need to ask God's help to rebuke the Devil who is telling me lies. Lucifer takes great pleasure in trapping me in a state of guilt and keeping me there, separated from God. And there's just way too much work to be done in this world for me, or any of us, to caught in a state of perpetual guilt.

To put it bluntly: It is up to me to choose: the world's viewpoint or God's.

Some of you won't agree with what I've written here today. You'll see me as an ignorant, hypocritical, self-entitled American. I expect that. And, frankly, I'm OK with that.

I didn't write this post for you, but for me. I had to work out my thoughts. I had to work through my questions. I had to decide the truth.

I posted this so you could consider your position. Whether it is in direct contrast to mine or aligns directly with it, I pray you will take the time to consider WHAT you believe. And learn to back it up so you can converse about it logically, concisely, and with pride.

And, in the same way, I hope you will consider your giving. What are YOU being called to do? What has God blessed you with that you can give away today?

And, finally, I send blessings to you as you work through all of this.

Listen carefully for that still, small voice; it won't disappoint.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Christmas Wishes

In the car*, on the way to a birthday party today, with all three boys in the backseat:

ME: "Hooman. What do you want for Christmas?" (Everyone else has made their exhaustive or expensive list known by now.)

HOO: "I don't know."

ME: "Well, think on it and get back to me pretty soon. Santa's got to start working." (Said for the sake of The Babe who still has no idea Santa isn't the guy at NorthPark we are willing to wait in line for hours and hours and hours on end to meet.)

HOO: "I pretty much have everything I need. I have you guys." He said this so sincerely, that my heart almost melted into a little puddle on the floorboard of the car.

ME (LOOKING AT HIM OVER MY SHOULDER, SMILING UNTIL I THINK MY FACE MIGHT BREAK): "That is one of the sweetest things I've ever heard."

ME (THINKING): "God, I have no idea what I did to deserve these wonderful boys. But, thank you!"

*source location of most interesting, enlightening, spine-tingling conversations when you are a parent in a big city.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Overheard in the car after pick-up this afternoon:

Hooman: "This is a cool book on weapons."*
The Babe: "Yeah. HEY! That looks like one of the guns from the Pirates of the Cari-BEAN."

(Slight pause for the comment to sink in.)

TB: "Beans. beans. Mom?"
Me: "Yes?" (Totally expecting this to break into song any minute now.)
TB: "Do you know why they call them Pirates of the Cari-BEAN?"
Me: "Why?" (Yes, I know I'm completely exposing myself to the following comment, but I'm so curious if The Babe has learned the song yet that I'm willing to let this take its path to destruction.)
TB: "Because they like beans."
Me: "Oh. OK." (WOW. Hasn't heard the song yet. Amazing.)
TB: "And they have a LOT of toots." Smallish giggle. "Did you know beans make you toot?"
Me: "UH HUH."

Apparently, the insertion of the word "beans" into our conversation was about to cause Hooman to explode if the song didn't get sung because this followed:

H: "Beans. Beans. The magical fruit....." He finished the whole thing, except he totally botched the ending and it didn't even come close to a rhyme.**

What happened next was the most unexpected turn of events of the entire ride: Nobody started laughing. And someone changed the subject.


There may be hope for the Nowell boys to enter polite society after all.

*Apparently, the school library didn't notice that an eight-year-old boy was checking out a book as thick as the White Pages on medieval weapons.

**Takes after his Daddy's wicked bad lyric skills.

Family Friends

Growing up, I was surrounded by people my parents called "friends". Most of them had children around my same age, so they were "family friends".

To say they are an eclectic group would hardly cover it. They come from all over the world, from all sorts of backgrounds, and all served a different "purpose" in Mom/Dad's life. Like the gamut my friends run, there are some who Mom and Dad traveled with, some they partied with, some they played bridge with, others they enjoyed music with, some they prayed with. These folks make up the "tapestry" Father Peter referred to at Mom's funeral.

Even after Mom's death, several of these family friends keep in contact with me. I generally can expect, and send, Christmas cards and pictures on an annual basis. And, on occasion, one of them will pick up the phone and call me, just to check in, cry/laugh a little with me, and disappear back into their world until the next time.

These are the people who helped shape me into the person and writer I am today.

So, when I received the following email, it struck me as so, well, ME. I had to share it.

It came from one of Mom's best friends. One who is fun, funny, and loud.* She's the life of the party, just like Mom was. You can only imagine how an event could get out of hand when the two of them hit the room!

I hope you enjoy this heartwarming story as much as I did.....

In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee, inspected the elephants foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away.

Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing.

The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure.

He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

This is for everyone who sends me those heart-warming b***s**t stories.


Just in case you EVER wonder where my warped sense of humor and nasty case of sarcasm comes you know. It's my parent's fault for having such awesome friends.

*In a good way, mind you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cooking Substitutes for the Holidays (and Beyond!)

Inevitably, on days that life seems to be running in high gear and I can't even shift into first, I run out of something I need to complete breakfast, lunch or dinner. These are always the days where an event on the calendar or school drop-off/pick-up time renders me unable to make a quick dash to the store.

Recently, I've turned to the greatest source of information for moments like these: Goggle. I've found this search engine to be an unending source of help when I need a suitable substitute for just about anything food related.

Now, I have to admit that searching for a recipe for your favorite goulash can put you at a wee bit of a disadvantage. You generally will end up with 1,439 recipes, 94% of which wouldn't be given a second sniff by your neighborhood stray mutt.

However, I've found a couple of lifesavers that I have to share with you that are tried and true by yours truly.* These have stood the test of time (meaning I've made them several times), are kid and adult approved, and are allergy friendly (if you are allergic to high-gluten wheat, milk, MSG, and preservatives, that is).
Plus, these are great money savers. What more could a person want than less coin going to Daddy Kroger and more cashola in their own pocket?

Bon Appetit!**

Bisquick substitute
I was in Costco this weekend and saw 96 ounces of Bisquick for $6.99. If you buy a 5 pound bag of flour, salt, and baking powder, you may spend half that! The shortening will be more expensive, but you only need 1 tablespoon so you'll have some left for that wonderful homemade pie crust you'll be making at Thanksgiving, right?***

For 1 cup of Bisquick alternative (FYI: 12 small biscuits requires ~ 2 cups mix)
1 c. flour (I use spelt)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. vegetable shortening (try non-hydrogenated if you are concerned about Crisco)

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender or two knives (use criss-crossing action).

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

To bake: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add 1/3 to 2/3 cup milk (I use coconut milk), starting with 1/3 cup and increasing to necessary wetness (shouldn't be mushy).

For drop biscuits: Spoon onto baking pan/into muffin tins.
For cut biscuits (I never do this): Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, roll to desired thickness, place on pan.
Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes, just until lightly browned on bottom.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
At my Walmart Neighborhood Store, this stuff goes for a little under $5 for a 1.1 ounce jar. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that is more expensive than 10 gallons of gas, adjusted for proportions. Plus, unless you are using this spice to make something other than pumpkin pie in the fall, it just sits on the shelf begging to be used. So, conjure up these other ingredients (also known as "beg your neighbor") and put the kibosh on paying too much for spices.

Makes exactly 1 tablespoon

1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1/8 t. ground allspice

Mix together. Store in airtight container.

Creamy Italian Dressing
There is nothing I hate more than shopping for salad dressing. If I happen to purchase a bottle I hate, I refuse to throw it away (cheap, cheap****)until it expires. RIDONKULOUS. So, I've started to put together recipes that I can be sure are allergy friendly AND tasty. Emphasis here on TASTY.

1 c. Hellmann's mayo
2 T. white vinegar
1/2 t. sea salt
1/8 t. pepper
3/4 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 T. agave nectar (or sub sugar, if you must. I'll still call you "friend".)
1/4 t. oregano
1 large clove garlic, peeled

Place all ingredients in a blender to combine. Makes ~ 1.5 cups.

Taco Seasoning (equivalent to 1 store-bought packet)
There is almost nothing I love more than taco night. Not only are the ingredients versatile ("Would you like a taco, burrito, nachos or taco salad?"), but they also stretch a LLLLOOOONNNNGGGG way...often into the next day. And a leftover taco salad is next to Heaven.

I have to watch the cayenne pepper with my little ones. You might also go light on the chili powder, though that hasn't been much of an issue in my house.

1 T. dried minced onion
2 t. chili powder
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 to 1 t. cayenne pepper or hot pepper
1 t. cornstarch, dissolved in 3/4 c. water

Add all ingredients to browned ground meat (turkey, bison, beef). Turn heat to low and allow water to absorb into meat, stirring on occasion.

Blogger makes no warranties in regard to any of these recipes or any of the dishes that may be created from these recipes or any food poisoning that happens to come out of reader's kitchens. Blogger is further not responsible for the reader's inability to a) chop b) cut c) grind d) blend or any other semi-dangerous kitchen activity that may eminate from the posting of said recipes. Finally, Blogger holds herself completely harmless if you hate what I've posted.*****



*Hopefully, they won't end up in the garbage can as you shake your head in disbelief that I must be the world's worst cook (AKA: Now I understand why her kids are so thin.)

**Those of you who love to cook: just for grins, instead of reading this, channel your best Julia Child impression and use it generously, every time you serve your family, for about a week. A little French flair makes even Hamburger Helper seem so provencial.

***Just kidding. I don't do this myself, much less put the onus on someone else to try to make pastry. Use it to make butter cream frosting instead!

****No, those aren't chickens clucking. That's me acknowledging I'm thrifty to the core.

*****Have I ever admitted I wanted to be an attorney when I grow up?

******Just kidding. Please post comments, love or hate, so we can improve upon these recipes!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Parenting Su-/Ro- cks

I was actually feeling pretty cruddy about being a parent today when I realized I am acting toward my kids in much the same way God acts toward me.

WOW. Did that feel good or WHAT?

Let me cue this up:

Mike and a friend took all the kids to a soccer game this afternoon, leaving me and my friend's wife to "alone time".* At the end of the game, sweet friend asked about taking all the kids out for dinner. Seeing that the clock was about to struck six, Mike called me.

I didn't exactly say "no", but I did remind Mike that the kids would have to be REALLY choosy about what they ate and that most places weren't going to meet their needs and, in fact, would serve food that would send them on a attentionless high. Plus, there was church in the morning, a mission's party at noon, and Halloween candy in the near future.**

He agreed. But the damage had already been done. The kids were already keyed up for dinner out.

I was hanging my head after hanging up thinking "I HATE being the bad guy. I hate being the one who says "no" to birthday cupcakes at 2pm and "no" to dinner out at 6pm."

And then it dawned on me: God does the exact same thing with me!

He says "no" to things some of the time and waits for me to comply. If I don't get the message the first time, he says "no" again. And waits. And, on and on and on the cycle goes.

In fact, if I consult the Bible on this one, I see that He let the Israelites wander 40 years, waiting for their "AH HA" moment.*** That's an awful lot of "nos" and a gob of waiting.

This is how God shows me He loves me: He doesn't let me go willy-nilly and do what I want, when I want. He puts boundaries down and sets a line in the sand and says "These are the rules that are here FOR YOUR OWN GOOD."

I bet, if He were human like I am, He'd have moments of doubt and anguish and second-guessing, just like I do.

But, thank goodness, He doesn't waver. He calls a spade a spade and moves on. And waits for me to go "OOOOHHHH. THAT'S a spade. DUH."

And, so, I feel better that I am sticking to my guns. I'm not the bad guy here; I'm the one showing my kids that I love them so much that I'm willing to let them get mad at me for refusing their request in their best interest.

I may not win any gold stars or get a trophy or receive a big "thank you" tonight when they walk through the door. But, that's OK.

Someday they'll know how much I love them when they think on all the times I said "no" for their own good.

*Mike: Thank you, thank you, a thousand times, thank you!

**See post from 10/31 regarding the limited candy consumption in our house. The KIDS limited consumption, that is.

***PLEASE, Lord, don't let me wander 40 years before listening to you!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Simple Pleasures

I'm getting all geared up for Thanksgiving in my mind. Part of gearing up is feeling awfully grateful for so many things.

Before you read further, just keep in mind that I can feel blessed by little things. And, I often am. It just doesn't take a big bow on top of a new car to blow me away.*

I tell you that because the following things that I am currently taking great pleasure in are not your "usual" suspects. So, go ahead and laugh at my expense.

1. Using pizza bones** to lap up the leftover dressing in my salad bowl.

There is something about the combination of chewy bread and fatty deliciousness that speaks to my soul. And my taste buds. And my insatiable ability to pinch a penny until Abe screams simply because I'm too cheap to waste anything.

Hence, I eat every bit of a pizza.

The box, on the other hand, is safe. Until they invent sugar-infused, caramel-flavored boxes. Then all bets are off.

2. Paper towel in the handy "choose a size" roll.

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Nothing used to drive me crazier than taking an entire piece of paper towel for a spill the size of a gecko poo.

You see, at heart, I love trees. And I hate to waste trees on anything that seems unecessary.

And we waste enough toilet paper in this house that there are trees in distant villages in other countries that scream in fear of being cut down when my boys enter the bathroom. Boys don't get the conservation in the potty thing AT ALL.***

So, I'm hoping the "choose a size" roll will come out of the kitchen and make its way to the bathroom sometime soon. Maybe, just seeing those oddly-large pieces of tp will stop the madness.

I fear, short of that, our planet will have to learn to breathe without trees sometime before the Nowell boys leave for Heaven.

3. My tongue.

I promise not to laugh at you next time we meet if you promise to take this seriously. When's the last time you really thought about how awesome YOUR tongue is?

a. It can detect if something is so hot it shouldn't be eaten. Which conjures up images of Mike taking his pizza out of the microwave and sticking his tongue on top of it to see if it needs more heating.****

b. It can show universal disapproval. It's the silent way of telling another human being "I just don't like you/that". And, it's portable to other species! Have you ever stuck your tongue out at a monkey in the zoo? He'll do the same back!*****

c. In a few weeks, it will tell my body "pecan pie = sugary delight", "ham = salty deliciousness", and "cranberry sauce = still sucks"******

d. It is practically a military weapon. It will seek, and attempt to destroy, any small piece of food caught in between my teeth. If it can't get it the first 2,000 attempts? It goes for 2,001. And continues this annoying game until I can locate the dental floss that was used as a zip line for the Lego Star Wars droids.

Considering we are just at the beginning of November, I'm sure other blessings will pop into my mind. And, I'm just as sure, that I'll be sharing them here.

Aren't you lucky? Wink, wink, nod, nod.

*Though, feel free to try that on me.

**You know...the part of the crust that never gets any sauce or toppings and is left when you've eaten all the good stuff and are just down to bread. YUM.

***BIG IRRITATION OF MOMMAJ/SOAP BOX ALERT: I can spend half of my thirties coming in contact with your gnarly poo-poo diapers and you come screaming (literally) out of the bathroom if your OWN POOP accidentally "bleeds" through the tissue? REALLY? And, somehow, using half the dang roll doesn't help so you feel the need to use the entire roll for one smallish, solid poo. REALLY? Then I get stranded on the toilet when I have to go because there is no tp and my screaming isn't heard by anybody in the house. REALLY?

****This is somewhat practical, as long as it is HIS food and not MINE. And I've always wondered "So what if that food was Chernobyl reactor hot and you just stuck your tongue on it?" Habit-breaker, maybe?

*****Not that I've ever tried this when a monkey was slinging his own poo at onlookers....

*****Yet, year after year, I hold out hope that this will be the ONE TIME I really dig this stuff.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Glass Half-Full Comment from the Peanut Gallery

Upon finding out that the Rangers had lost the last game and, therefore, weren't the World Series' Champions:

Hooman: "Hey! At least we beat the Yankees!"

Of course, all the other testosterone infused boys in this house were down in the dumps.

I was just bummed because I now have no legitimate reason to keep beer in the fridge. Between the Cowgirls tucking tail and running back to their jillion dollar stadium between games, the Rangers coming in second, and Mike Modano defecting to Michigan* there really isn't a good reason to drink anymore.

But, maybe, just maybe, I could get consensus that the fact that we have no one left to cheer for is reason for keeping a few cold ones handy in and of itself.

We'll just drink to that.

And to one of the funnest baseball seasons ever! Thanks, Rangers!

*My heart is shattered into a million little pieces. Kind of like the ice when a good, hard, albeit illegal, check throws a player's head into it, Mike. How could you???


A prayer on this mid-term election day, courtesy of the Book of Common Prayer:

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blessings or Disguises?

This is a little soap-boxy today, but hang with me because the message is worthy.
Somewhere along the way, I heard "not everything that sounds good is."

I don't consider myself naive or brain dead or even ignorant when it comes to most things. So it seems like it would be hard for me to get caught up in something that looked good but isn't. Agreed?

But, let me tell you, this is one message that requires so much more than a corsery glance. It requires digging down. Then, possibly, digging some more.

In fact, our human brains are so easily misled that the Bible reminds us to "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves."*

So, maybe it would be a good idea to balance my intelligence with a little research every once in a while, instead of relying on my first perception of things. Right?

This all came to me today when we received one of countless hundreds of solicitations that enter our mailbox on an annual basis. These are well thought out letters, often from groups whose names I recognize, printed with stories and pictures and appeals that tear my heart out. And sometimes make me cry.

On this particular occasion, my attention was caught by the title of the charity work: Angel Tree.

That's the same name as our annual Sunday School party and the Salvation Army's huge holiday project. It had to be good!

Well, a little deeper digging through the five-part, color printed, picture laden mailing revealed that Chuck Colson, Rick Warren, and Franklin Graham all support this ministry. Two of the three even allowed their picture to be used right next to quotes on how great this ministry is!

Surely, NOW, I had reliable sources and should write a check, send it, and pat myself on the back.

But wait just one minute. A quick check of my favorite website for giving,**, revealed that the parent program for this ministry gets an overall one of four stars for its work. In fact, 69 cents of every $1 goes to the actual program costs. The other 31 cents? Over half (18 cents of every dollar) is used to send nifty brochures to entice people like me to donate.

Looking even further, within the same catagory of charity, there are four others who all have 3 or 4 stars next to their name. Now, I've never heard of any of them (probably because they aren't sending five-part mailings), but, apparently, they are using their money much more wisely.

Of all the things King David asked for, God was most impressed when he asked for wisdom. No, riches or status or health didn't rank. Wisdom did.

We should learn from that.

When's the last time you really looked into that favorite charity and how they are using your money? Do you know where the money at your local church is going? How much of those cookie dough proceeds are actually going to benefit your local school?

If you think "I trust them. They aren't out to dupe me. Besides, I'd be embarrassed asking." then you are only partially right.

Bottom line: It's the money God entrusted you to distribute, so it's your business.

And if you are refused information? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark***, honey, and it ain't the cheese! You should be able to get full disclosure on each and every dollar that's being earned and spent. Because, by law, this information is required.

This is the time of year we are most thankful for all we've been blessed with. It is our task to be sure that we are using our blessings in a way that would most please the God who blessed us with everything in the first place.

Now, go. Take a good, hard look at those blessings. And be sure you are pleasing God with the wisdom behind your financial decisions.

*Matthew 7:15, NLV. Truthfully, it will be worth your while to back up to Matthew 7:1 and read the whole chapter. You'll recognize most of it..and it is wonderful!

**I love Charity Navigator and have used it for years. But, there are, no doubt other websites for this same type of information.

***Thank you Shakespeare. HUGS.