Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I'm trying something new this school year out of desperation.  Our after school routine, toward the end of this past spring, had gone haywire.  Frankly, after school had become an exercise in S&M, with a side of homework.  And nobody, especially me, was digging THAT scene.

So, this year I've made a major attitude adjustment toward what happens after three p.m.  And, no, it doesn't include copious amounts of liquor.**

See, used to be that I had this "8a.m. to 3p.m. is my time to get stuff around the house done, errands run, workout completed.  And 3p.m. to bedtime is my time, too.  It just happens to involve additional bodies and cooking and homework and sports.  But, we all agree this is MY time.  So don't mess with me."

Yeah, it sucks admitting that I was that selfish, but I was.  Basically, after school became a rush to the finish line called "bedtime".  And, I even rushed that routine or let Mike handle it.  Can you see that I wasn't really participating in this little exercise called "being a good Mommy"?

Yes, with perfect 20/20 hindsight, I see it, too.

So, with a fresh palette called the first day of school, I've made a few changes.  I've purposefully committed my school hours routine to a calendar so I know exactly what needs to get done while the kids are away.  That keeps my afternoons from becoming a time of playing catch-up to the stuff that didn't get done from 8-3, which is what they had become last spring.

My afternoons now look like this:  carpool, help kids with homework, complete dinner***, play board/card games before bed, help with baths****, take several minutes to dig deeper into the day's events with each of the boys/say prayers/give lots of hugs and kisses.

In case you missed the big change:  my new routine involves other people's needs, not my own.  And the rest of my evening, once the kids are in bed?  Involves falling into bed and praying I can stay awake until 9pm to spend a little time with Mike.

It is exhausting being present.  It frustrating to shelve something I started but didn't finish sub-3pm, but it's important so that I can listen to the boys unfold the events of their day.  Some days it seems non-productive to make five trips to the karate studio because none of the classes line up.*****

But, in my heart, I know it isn't.  If nothing else, my boys are going to remember that Mom made some funky change back in the early days of our lives and all the sudden she was THERE.  Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

Honestly, since God has committed to being there 24/7/365 for me, and He blessed me and Mike with these boys, I think committing my afternoons/evenings to the boys should be plenty good for me, too.

And, even though change is awfully hard at times, I feel incredibly blessed, in so many ways, to be able to say that this is how I'm ordering my life as a Mom.

*My little wink at ya, David Bowie.

**I have to drive carpool, for Pete sake!  But once I'm off duty?  All bets are off.

***Which I'm trying to get in the habit of prepping during the day so I can be more attentive to the kids' needs.  Can you say "Crock Pot"??

****Or, do dishes while kids are showering because they are now "too old for me to see them naked", except The Babe, of course.

*****Drop off at 4pm.  Pick up/drop off at 4:45pm.  Drop off at 5:30pm.  Pick up at 7pm.  Pick up at 8pm.  I'm thinking of charging by the mile.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I have a new nickname as of 7:07am, CST, August 29th, the year of our Lord 2011:  The Slayer.*  After several hours of wearing it, I'm becoming a tad cocky.

You see, I single-handedly managed to find the perfect resolution to this little issue.  And, it is a killing machine.

It seems, in my quest for an environmentally-friendly, non-dog-poisoning, no-blood-thank-you-very-much solution, I found myself trolling the Internet to determine my best course of action.

As you can imagine, this is not something you have conversation about in polite company.  Because it would go something like this:

MommaJ:  "Hey, Mom of my son's friend from school!  I know you live in the rat capitol of Dallas, AKA Highland Park, and I was wondering how you dealt with your little "issue"."
(Spoken as I pick lettuce from lunch out of my teeth, because that is exactly what someone who would make this statement to another human being would do.)

Other Mom:  "I think I have the vapors.  Please call an ambulance, cancel the play date our kids were to have, and make sure little Timmy gets to football practice."

Yeah.  Better to troll the Internet.

So, after what seemed like viewing and reading about every known form of killing mice/rats known to man, I ran across the death chamber of my dreams.

And, I quote from memory, which is a dicey proposition, a comment about this contraption off the big-box-home-stores website:

"This thing works GREAT!  And, since I'm into environmentally-friendly products, I have to give this a thumbs-up.  Once the rats are dead, I just chuck them into the empty field behind our house and VIOLA!  Lunch for the hawks!!!!"


Mike decided that the whole "chucking" business was only going to occur if the object of the chuck was the garbage can.  I, on the other hand, was pondering dead rat bodies on the roof for the red-tail hawk that lives in our hood.  Guess who won?

Anyhoo, it seems that rats LOVE peanut butter.  They'd probably swim in it were it not for the sticky, thick qualities.  And that fact works really well when you bait the back of the electric chamber.

Yes, electric chamber.  AKA:  that funky black box that sits near the porch, right near the huge gap created by unseasonably dry/hot weather, that has allowed what appears to be a small battalion of rats** to take up residence under our house.

Once the rat smells the peanut butter, it is drawn inward through the door of doom.  Then, it finds itself standing on an electrically charged plate, which senses its presence and takes it on an electrically-charged ride out of the realm known as THIS HERE PLANET.

Now, some of you think this sounds absolutely, positively cruel.  But, faced with disposing of a shocked body vs. a bloody body?  I'm taking shocked every, single, stinking, time.

You also might be wondering "Why in Sam Hill would she be sharing this information?"  Well, the answer is two-pronged:

1.  I'm betting I'm not the only person in the greater metroplex that has this issue.  And, I'd prefer you save your money on exterminators for lunch out with me.  The total of my death trap, including batteries:  $50.  That would be selfish AND cheap reason number one.

2.  I was afraid, after posting the first two admissions about our rat issue, that people would be all freaked out about coming to our house.  As if rats and mice would be running, nilly-willly, through the house and stop to shake your hand and introduce you to first-cousin "Sal.  The one with the missing whisker."

No.  I want my house to be a place of peace.  So, reason number two:  I'm regaining my composure by killing every furry thing with a nasty, long tail that likes peanut butter.

So, please feel free to come over again.  Don't worry about scheduling lunch now that I have better things to discuss over enchiladas.

And, by all means, don't resist the urge to call me MommaJ, THE SLAYER! 

*Thank you, Nickels!  What a supreme compliment!

**OK.  Maybe that's overkill.  Three we've actually seen.  But you know the saying about roaches:  "If you see one, there are a thousand somewhere?"  Well, I feel the same way about rats.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Let's Hear it for the Girls!

From the chronicles of "Never underestimate a girl" comes this gem.  Can you say "Well done, sister friends?"

I am a HUGE proponent of teaching kids how to protect themselves.  Not be vigilantes.  Not go crazy on a hooded robber in the local bank.  But, to know, should someone attack them, how to defend themselves enough to get away or, at the very least, kick someone in the tenders and render them a soprano.

And, while I applaud what these girls did, I am also realistic that this could have gone the exact opposite way.  This creep could have been carrying a gun and turned on either of these young women with tragic results.  Thank God that wasn't the case.

I can tell you that this story, should Olympics be in their future, will be retold countless times.  Every interviewer will, inevitably, ask for details hoping to get some new tidbit.

And these girls will become synonymous with "girl power", much like Dan Jansen has become synonymous with triumph in the midst of grief.  This story could become the thing that propels other girls to believe they can do whatever they set their mind to.

And, coupled with Justin Bieber's genius "Never say never"?  Look out world--here come the girls.....

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Never Say WHAT???!!!!

I'm going to admit something rather embarrassing today.  And I'm going to blame it squarely on the three young boys in the house.  But, if I'm being honest, I was kind of excited when they said "yes".

See, I was tooling around on to find a movie for "Family Movie Night", which is back in full swing now that school has cranked up.  I had been looking at options for at least 5 minutes when smallish people started crowding around me.  Then, a larger one joined the group.  And then a random dog.  Still, even with all the "help", I couldn't find anything remotely worth watching that 1) I'd let the kids view 2) they hadn't seen and 3) most importantly, Mike and I could STAND to watch.

When I spotted a picture of teenage singer Justin Bieber, I shouted the idea to the now dispersed crowd.  I was shocked when I received a hearty "Yes!" from Nickels.  "OK."  I thought "Maybe there's a chance Hoo will watch it to."  To my complete shock, all three Nowell boys weren't only on board, they were excited.

So, there's full circle on how we ended up watching Justin Bieber's movie "Never Say Never" tonight.  It was the first "G" movie I found that got three thumbs-up from the kids and wasn't described as having "thematic elements", "crude language" and/or "drug references".

In all honesty, I didn't check to see how long the movie was.  This thing clocked in at 105 minutes.  And, considering it was full of girls from young to old with lungs that could scream paint off a wall, I might have reconsidered had the disc not already been home when I discovered this little fact.  Truly, this was stretching my ability to deal with screaming, crying, hysterically-in-love pubescent girlage.

But, I was pleasantly surprised.  Actually, more than pleasantly surprised.  And here comes the embarrassment:  about half way through the movie I realized I had become a Justin Bieber fan.

I had Bieber fever.

Yes, I think the Donny Osmond of our times has been identified.  And he even wears purple.  SIGH.*

This movie was so much fun to listen to in surround sound that we felt like we had front row seats to every performance.  I appreciated the fact that, with the exception of Miley Cyrus making an appearance in a semi-trampy outfit, there wasn't anything untoward in terms of costuming, language, activity, etc. I would even be hard pressed to identify many tattoos (save Justin's father).

The story has a rags-to-riches theme running through it.  But, without the (so far) "Fame ruined me and now I'm hyped up on Oxycotin and sitting in my own waste in the back of a Maybach as the paparazzi tries to get my picture."

I was also shocked to watch genuine prayer and gratitude toward God.  And, to witness that Justin just seems like a regular 16-year-old boy, who was given an amazing musical gift and is now sharing it with the world.  And all because he wouldn't quit on his dream.

Yes, that message is in there.  Once, it is a little canned, but the reaction is priceless from the recipient (watch for the girl with the violin).  But, more often than not, it is just part of the narrative of the movie, which is given from the perspective of the people who helped Justin become who he is and genuinely seem to want to help, not ruin, him.

Mike and I both agreed that this is NOT how we would want our boys to live their young lives.  Too much pressure, too many responsibilities, just too much, too soon.

But, I'm hopeful, that Justin Bieber will be that class act, that one-in-a-million, that actually makes it to adulthood without being ruined.  And that his voice changes in ways that he can sing until his old age.  And that he can find TRUE love amidst all the psychotic voices that are screaming "I love you!!!!!!!"

Two pinkies up.  With a very vivid understanding that he is old enough to be a grandchild of mine and that his mother could be my daughter, if the circumstances had been just right.**

*I WAS Mrs. Donny Osmond in my dreams.

**Geez am I ever getting old.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Sweetest Fruit Ever

So, today is the day that God totally and completely and irreversibly

I've often told you, sweet readers, that there have been many times that God writes and I type.  One of those times happened in June and it about killed me.*

See, I was writing to a dear Mom who had lost her teenage daughter to Ewing Sarcoma.  And that revelation put me clearly in a zone of dealing with what had happened just a few months earlier when Mom died.  And, even though I was writing about someone else, God was using this opportunity to help me deal with my own grief.

There came a point when I was typing and I clearly felt I was supposed to type "strawberries" into the sentence I was composing.  I literally stopped typing and was mentally questioning God "Are you sure?  That seems AWFULLY specific.  I mean, what if that isn't exactly right.?  Won't she think I'm absolutely crazy?"

Do you hear God laughing at this line of reasoning, the way I do as I type this?  Here I am, typing at cheetah speed, clearly not of my own volition, and I'm questioning God about whether or not HE knows about the strawberries.

Yeah.  That was most clearly a time of doubt.  Not one I'll be proud to admit once I'm face-to-face with God later on.**  But, I typed the sentence and tried, to no avail, to dismiss my doubt as I delivered the entire message to my acquaintance's mailbox. 

Fast forward about eight weeks, when I had the good fortune to be wing man for The Babe's last lemonade stand of the summer.***  About 30 minutes into it, up drove my Mom acquaintance, and introduced herself and thanked me for the letter.  That was a precious few minutes I will never forget, with warm hugs and salty tears and words of thanks and gratitude and sorrow. 

And, in that moment, I asked about the strawberries, since the conversation had turned to the writing and how much it meant in the days after her daughter's death.

At first, there was hesitation.  I could clearly tell that the strawberry part of the post, this detail that had become such a huge deal in my mind, was my hang-up.  There were other pieces that took precedence in her mind;  other parts that brought her comfort.  That was a giant relief to me, again in my carnal mind, because she wasn't thinking "What an idiot!"

Then, today, I opened the mailbox to a note card with my name on it.  And inside, the most precious letter of thanks I think I've ever received.****  With a P.S. that reminded me that God is always watching, guiding, helping, and loving us:

"(---) did not eat much the last couple weeks of her life.  And probably the last food she took two tiny bites of--was strawberries...her request."

I collapsed in a puddle of tears.  I couldn't believe the trust I had been given.  I couldn't believe I had doubted God.  I couldn't believe a God so big cared for little me and that He was winking at me, probably standing beside one of his newest saints to come home.

If there is one thing I've learned from this whole experience, it is that you never know who is going to be affected when you do something that you feel directed by God to do.  Even if it seems absolutely, over-the-top, crazy nuts in the moment.  Even if you have doubts.  Even if you are worried about what other people might think.

Because He is good.
No, He is great.
HE is GOD.

And what a privilege it is to serve Him.

*In case you missed it the first time around, click here to view the post.  Just know you'll need kleenex while you read and a good nap afterward.

**But, one I'm glad to admit to so I can repent of that sin.
***Made $6.  Not bad unless you factor in that I had to chug about as much bottled water to survive the heat, which made the whole thing an economic wash.

****Really, this is a thank you note to God, because I'm just the vessel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Revelation of the Eye Kind

Yesterday, I woke up with what can only be described as a hunk of metal in my eye.  Not a sliver of metal or a smidgen.  A HUNK.  It stung like crazy and itched like I had gone to some overgrown field, found a long vine of poison ivy, and systematically smeared my eyeball with its leaves, just for grins.

No amount of rubbing, flushing, or eye-drop watering seemed to make a difference.  About the only thing that helped was hot compresses and keeping the darn thing shut.

Early in the day, as this annoyance became more entrenched in my life, I remembered a verse in the Bible, from Luke 6:42:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

I got to thinking "Is this my proverbial plank?  Is there an offense I have committed against someone else while I, clearly, have a real issue on my end?"

And, the conclusion I came to was "Yes.  Yes there is."*

If you haven't read my posts over this past week, I've been HYPER critical of things going on around me.  I haven't been happy with people.  I haven't been happy with situations.  I've been really jacked up about companies that weren't treating me well.

My attitude was piss poor.  And it is reflected in the last three days of writing I've done.

I could blame all kinds of things for this issue:  monthly timing, school starting, the heat.  But, honestly, my attitude is my domain.  I control it.  And, if I let pressures outside of myself control my attitude, shame on me.

Do I think God intentionally caused my eye problem?  No.
Do I think God caused me to remember the words of Luke and make the connection?  Heck, YES!
And, for that?  I'm VERY grateful.  This was a somewhat gentle reminder to get my rear back on the right track.

Because, when I remember that Paul was afflicted with a thorn for the entirety of his ministry, one he clearly wanted removed but that God determined was necessary, probably to keep Paul humble, I am thankful.

While my eye isn't one hundred percent this morning, it certainly didn't take an overnight turn for the worst.  I didn't wake up to a fully shut, crusty lid and a painfully red, itchy eyeball.

I prayed last night  for complete healing for my eye.  And, I feel, this morning things are looking significantly up.

Most importantly, my attitude has been adjusted.  And considering that God normally has to hit me with a frying pan to get my attention, I'm glad it was the gentle reminder, via scripture, that got me back on track this time.

Even if this eyeball goes full out itchy and red tonight, I still have a lot to be grateful for.

*I totally heart Phineas and Ferb.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Advice to Newly Married Men

Dear Sirs:
Please note that the beautiful lady you just married loves you 365 days of the year.  Unfortunately, somewhere between 60 and 94 of those days, she is going to be under the spell of a little thing called a "period".  Your Mama may have called it her "cycle" or you heard about "menstruating" in health class or your buds crudely referred to it as the "red tide".

They were all right.

BUT, like the little secret Mommas keep from first-time pregnant women about how incredibly PAINFUL breastfeeding really is, no one will give you the straight truth about what your sugarplum is feeling.  So, I am going to be your savior:  DON'T TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT.

Instead, from the very first time your wife is making you a turkey sandwich and you respond to her mayo vs. spicy mustard question and her head reels around like she is possessed of Satan and spews "YOU JUST SAID YOU WANT HAM, NOT TURKEY?" when, clearly, you said "Whatever's in the fridge, dear", you NEED TO MARK YOUR CALENDAR IN BIG, BOLD, RED LETTERS.  Something like "I love my wife".*

You'll actually need that as a little reminder in about 28-30 more days.  Because, guess what?  This isn't like a blue moon that happens, well, once in a blue moon.  This is more like the werewolf change DURING a full moon.

So, count 28 days into the future, note again that you dearly love your sugar pie, and do yourself a big, honking favor:  schedule flowers, chocolates, massages, spa trips, chick-flicks with her girlfriends, and/or tequila-tasting tours.  The more preoccupied she is with things other than you, the better off you'll be.

Or, better yet, if you still don't have kids (because they will NEED you to run defense for them), schedule business trips for yourself during this time.**  Trust me, it is SO MUCH EASIER to fake listening over a phone from Schenectady then it is to endure the wrath of your wife when you doze off as she enters hour number three of endless ranting about the ineptitude of the current PTA President.

Do it today, for the love of all things peaceful and chocolaty.  You'll never regret this advice.  And, actually, it may make your marriage the envy of the neighborhood.

Best of luck!

*Not to be confused with "I love my life", which, in this case, kind of go hand-in-hand during this monthly ritual.

**This may or may not reflect my husband's current actions.  Let's just say he is a BRILLIANT planner.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coupon Codes, Schmoupon Codes

Dear Large Coupon Company Who Sends Me Deals On an Almost Daily Basis--
When I write to explain that the coupon codes I purchased don't work, they don't.

When you reply "please follow these instructions", which I've tried 13 times, it's not me.  It's YOU.

When I send a message to the company I want to purchase products from and they can't get your codes to work either, and I communicate this to you, please don't resend your instructions for me to follow AGAIN.  Been there.  Got the finger cramps from trying.

When I email you again because I am disputing the charges from your company and your response is to send the instructions a THIRD time, along with a condescending note that your programmers checked the codes and they worked for your geek squad, don't be surprised when you receive this*:

I want to make something CLEAR.  My issue has been with M-Company this WHOLE TIME.  I explained three times, via email, that the m-company codes weren't working and I kept receiving condescending messages about how to use the codes.  In the process, I wasted valuable time and energy on something that could have easily been fixed on your end.

I followed, in each of all three instances, the exact RULES I was originally sent when I purchased this deal.  I do not, in any way, blame R-company;  they attempted to help.  Unfortunately, the codes weren't working on their end, EITHER, as evidenced by an email attachment I forwarded from them.

What I would have appreciated is someone taking the time to call me and straighten this out via phone;  I sent my number via email and I'm sure it is on my account as well.  This probably could have been fixed had someone changed the codes so that both R-company and I weren't stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I expect better customer service than canned emails re-explaining instructions which I can clearly read and follow.  Unfortunately, you all dropped the ball on this one, big time.  I appreciate you crediting my account before I had to go through the process of disputing it;  sadly, since I kept receiving the same, canned message time after time, I felt I had no recourse but to go that route.

And, yes.  I expect to receive another email.  Probably with detailed instructions on how to stick my codes where the sun doesn't shine.

UPDATE:  I DID receive another email!  This time, the company fell on their sword and profusely apologized for not handling the situation well and thanked me for my feedback (because they like getting the "good, bad and the ugly" so they can improve their customer's experience.  Can I hear a collective "AAAWWWW!!")

I, in turn, responded:  Please accept my apologies for being an "ass".**  

And, now?  I have to give them a second chance.  Not just because they ended up being so nice, but, more on point, because they refunded my money AND gave me a $5 credit on my account!

I guess this falls under "All's well that ends well"??

*No capital letters were hurt in the writing of this letter.

**Yes, this is exactly what I said.  Should get a good laugh on the other end of the email, as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Trifle with Me (AKA: I Have My Knickers in a Knot)

In a perfect world, volunteers would be up for the task, even if it was inconvenient, untimely, or not their preference.

In a perfect world, car accidents wouldn't happen and people wouldn't die of cancer and children wouldn't be kidnapped from their front yards.

In a perfect world, we'd all get along and sing hymns of praise and recite scripture until we lost our voices instead of screaming about our supposed innocence, even when everyone around us knows that just about the biggest line of BS to hit this planet in 2,000 years.

In a perfect world, we'd just show up, shut up, and do the work that is laid out for us.  We wouldn't complain or argue or try to change the game plan to fit our needs.  We'd grin and bear it and know that the temporary issues we deal with are hardly worth noting on a celestial plane.

Sadly, in the last 48 hours, I've realized that this is a very, very, very imperfect world.

I implore you to start tomorrow trying to stem the tide.  Turn your boat.  Be the change you want made.

Stop complaining.  Start doing.  Show up.  Put up.  Be the man or woman God called you to be. 

Don't hesitate.  Don't wait.  Don't holler about "your way".

We can all do better.  And when we all do better, our world will be closer to perfect than it was 48 hours ago.

Just do it.

Monday, August 22, 2011


One of the joys of raising boys is that they want to cuddle at night.  Truthfully, this is just a scheme to allow them the privilege of taunting their other brothers the next day to the strains of "I got to stay up past bedtime!"  But, the side benefit is that I get to actually talk with each of them, one-on-one, on the nights that they are interested in fueling themselves with "up-past-my-bedtime" ammunition.

Such was the case with Hooman tonight.  Only problem was that he was flailing around the bed like a fish out of the sea.

See, he's still trying to detox from a smorgasbord of sugary-treats that were provided to him at Sunday School to celebrate his coming promotion.*  I stopped listening after he told me he'd had "Three donut holes, two cupcakes and a Sprite." 

He's been bouncing now for over 24 hours and I'm not sure which of us is going to lose it first.**

But, during this dance of pulling himself up under the top bunk and falling back on the bed and rolling over and hugging me and making strange sounds, we began to discuss that tomorrow is the night before he officially becomes a Covenant Knight.

I mentioned how cool that is going to be.  Which led his sugar-stoked brain to remember that three kids wanted to sit with him at lunch the day he visited.  Which reminded me that he's cute, which I stated, and followed up with "You know.  The girls are going to really like you at the school."***

Hooman:  "Yeah.  I know."  (giggling)  "I don't know what I'm going to do about that."
Me:  "What do you mean?"  But, I knew he was thinking of Katherine.

And DING, DING, DING.  Give that woman a prize!  That's exactly what he meant.  His late spring, budding romance.

Here's the funny/curious thing about the situation:  early in June, Hooman really wanted to take Ms. K to the roller rink and back home for a day swim.  So, I emailed her Mom and waited.  And, within a day or so, Mom replied and said she'd give me a call.

It's now late August.  I'm still waiting on that call.

Honestly, I had shut the door on that whole situation when we didn't hear back within a week.  What I didn't know was that Hooman was apparently betrothed to this girl.

Hooman:  "I feel kinda funny about that.  You know kind of like "Girl, I have no idea where you are, but I'm going to dump you"?"

And then he coined the most hysterical phrase of the entire summer, with a huge swipe of his hand and a cartoonish voice he said:  "AIR DUMP!"

I started laughing so hard tears were flowing down my face.  That's just brilliant, I was thinking.  Truly, why didn't I air dump a ton of guys back in the day?

Then Hooman asked if I was going to blog the whole thing.  To which I responded "Of course!"

So, now you are caught up on the Hooman crush of 2011.  Apparently, like my first crush, he'll never forget her.  But, he also refuses to be tied to her forever since they aren't even communicating.

And, no matter how you slice it, it is kind of hard to have a lasting relationship when all that's between you is a bunch of hot air.

*Otherwise known as:  he's moving from the third grade to fourth grade classroom.

**Score today:  Hooman, 0.  Time out chair:  3.  Could have easily been a big goose egg vs. an even half dozen for the chair if I'd been more Hitleresque.

***I'm terribly sorry if you can't speak ADD and get lost in our endlessly crazy thought patterns.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the Lighter Side

Stupid things I've seen lately, disguised as "necessary":

Toilet paper covers for the "naked" roll of toilet paper that is sitting on the back of your toilet.

My question?  If you intend to actually USE that roll, do you really want to go through the trouble of taking it out of the holder?  And doesn't that mean that the roll holder ends up, well, touched by a LOT of people who are sitting on the toilet?

Nice try, big TP company.

Beer labels that tell me when my beer is cold enough
Sure, it's cool that the mountains turn blue.  But, have my hands stopped working?  Truly, I can feel if my bottle of beer is cold.

And, if I've taken the six-pack out of a working fridge at my local grocer's case and brought it directly home to my fridge, that son-of-a-gun is still going to be frosty, mountains or no.  Even if exposed to 107 degree heat.*

BUT, just in case I'm the only handless human being in history AND I'm only able to read two-syllable words, they've added banners that indicate that my beer is COLD or SUPER COLD.

Sadly, stupid is as stupid does.  So, I guess that means I need a new brand of beer.

Beer labels with a "born-on" date
I'd like to shake the hand of the mother whose been busy at work, cranking out all those beer bottles/cans.  And tell her that she can stop birthing beer.  Because, honestly, that is just this side of disgusting.

Head apparel that creates a bump in your hair
When I was growing up, I could get this same effect by tormenting any of my brother's friends and allowing them to get close enough to me to bonk me on the head with a hard toy. Or, I could throw my head upside down and tease the snot out of my hair.

Both with no shipping.  And for FREE.

My next mission is to discover the most idiotic warning labels placed on products and bring them to your attention. 

This is probably going to require research.  Which is going to require beer.  Which means, before anything else, I'll be researching my new brand of beer.

And, I bet, I'll be able to tell if it is cold enough.  Even without the mountains.

*Tested this theory, for science sake;  proved it right.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Trouble with Family

In case you think I'm going to bash sweet Auntie Em or crazy Grandpappy Earl on this here blog today, you'll have to look somewhere else.  Because neither of them have done anything heinous to me.  And, besides, they are fictional characters.  SO.

Actually, as promised, I'm expounding on another person's God messages.  So, I guess this could be part two of a mini-series on epiphanies that I didn't have, but I get to write on.  Freakin' cool, huh? 

In case you hadn't already had the chance to look at the first "revelation", this is the link.  Take a few minutes and read it, before you tackle this writing.

It's OK.  I'll wait.  And work on that patience issue that keeps cropping up.

(Insert elevator music here.  Non-irritating elevator music.)

Here's the thing:  families are a part of the larger church.  And the head of the church is Christ.  In John 15, He also refers to himself as a "vine" in the story of the vine and the branches.  Christ is the vine, off of which the branches (in my case, the Huber and Nowell family members*) grow.

God is the gardener of the vine.  When he finds a branch (a Huber or a Nowell) that is bearing no fruit, God cuts him/her off from the larger vine.  He prunes any branch (person) that IS bearing fruit so that it (s/he) will become even more fruitful (verse 1).

For those pruned branches, Christ commands we "remain in me, as I also remain in you."  He also explains that "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (entire paragraph:  verse 4)

So, allow me a little latitude here with the analogy.  We are used to our families being part of a tree, so think of the tree as a vine.  Instead of the branches being wood, they are simply plant (vine) branches.

And here is the crux of the trouble within families today:  we have become a society where our family trees (vines) consist of broken branches.  In many, the branches have been completely cut away from the original trunk.  In others, the vine consists of so few branches that those left standing are barely able to maintain the original health of the larger tree.

This is the case for many reasons, a few of which came to mind...
some people attend church but have never really accepted Christ as their own.
some people hate God because of a perceived offense, a hurt which they blame on Him.
some people refuse to go to church and be surrounded by other believers because they (the other believers) are "hypocritical" or the service is too contemporary/too long/too liturgical.

The list of reasons why certain branches of our family are cut off from the larger tree is longer than a 100-year-old oak is tall.  But, regardless of the reason, when even one of our family is cut off from Christ, a part of our heritage is missing from our eternal family tree and from the church as a whole.  That leaves a huge gap in God's plan for his people.

So, God keeps on trying to call each of our family members back, often to no avail.  Because, if the branch refuses to be part of the vine, there is absolutely nothing being completed for the larger vine;  no fruit is being borne.  Christ makes this message apparent (again)* in verse 5:  "If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

The saddest part is what happens to the branches that refuse the vine (ie:  they are cut off): "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (verse 6)

But, here is where hope plays into this:  if you've ever learned a little about caring for plants, you know that, done properly, pruning off one part causes either a new flower or fruit to grow.  There must be something about the process of a branch being pruned that causes the vine to regenerate in new, healthy ways.

I found the following article about pruning while writing this post.  I've emphasized some points by italicizing them, as they apply to what God does when He prunes those who are producing fruit for His kingdom:

"While there may be as many reasons to prune a tree as there are trees, the important factor is that there is a reason to prune and trimEach cut has the potential of changing the growth habit, character, and health of a tree.  Your arborist** can determine the type of pruning needed to establish and maintain the health of your trees, and is an expert at pruning each species of tree to develop and maintain its unique aesthetic form.

Young trees are pruned to develop a structure that will meet the need of the tree and the purpose it serves in a landscape. Pruning cuts are made with an eye to the future.  The pruning of a mature tree is driven by practices that are known to maintain health."***

And that is often what happens through family:  when one of us grows, we enthusiastically speak to those who have been cut off.  And we plant little seedlings along the way, which God uses to call those who've turned from Him.  And, when the entire family works together, a healthy tree is created.

Sadly, too many families are caught in age-old, petty disagreements and pointless arguments about things that don't truly matter.  This type of illness creates weak, diseased, broken trees.

We can start the process of calling our family tree back to health by earnest prayer.  For Christ says "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (verse 7)  We can ask God to show us how to communicate our desire for those who have been cut off to find their way back.  We can pray for salvation for the lost.  We can show love, even where it is unwarranted and, possibly, unwelcome.  We can begin the change we seek for our family. 

I believe, in doing these things, we answer Christ's desire, from verse 8:  "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

If I could share anything with you right now, it would be the song "City on Our Knees" by Christian artist Toby Mac.  But, since I can't find a good link to the song, I'll leave you with the lyrics.****  They speak volumes about what can happen when we all come together for a common cause:

If you gotta start somewhere why not here
If you gotta start sometime why not now
If we gotta start somewhere I say here
If we gotta start sometime I say now
Through the fog there is hope in the distance
From cathedrals to third world missions
Love will fall to the earth like a crashing wave

Tonight’s the night
For the sinners and the saints
Two worlds collide in a beautiful display
It’s all love tonight
When we step across the line
We can sail across the sea
To a city with one king
A city on our knees
A city on our knees

If you gotta start somewhere why not here
If you gotta start sometime why not now
If we gotta start somewhere I say here
If we gotta start sometime I say now
Through the fog there is hope in the distance
From cathedrals to third world missions
Love will fall to the earth like a crashing wave

Tonight’s the night
For the sinners and the saints
Two worlds collide in a beautiful display
It’s all love tonight
When we step across the line
We can sail across the sea
To a city with one king
A city on our knees
A city on our knees

Tonight could last forever
We are one choice from together
Tonight could last forever
Tonight could last forever
We are one choice from together
As family
We’re family
Oh Tonight could last forever
We are one choice from together
You and me
Ya, you and me
Tonight’s the night
For the sinners and the saints
Two worlds collide
In a glorious display
'Cause its all love tonight
When we step across the line
We can sail across the sea
To a city with one king
A city on our knees
A city on our knees
Oh oh oh
A city on our knees
A city on our knees
Oh oh oh
If we gotta start somewhere why not here
If we gotta start sometime why not now
Now, go.  Create a family tree that will survive eternally.

*To help this make sense, I'm going to use the Huber/Nowell family names as an example.  I am speaking of my family of five, my/Mike's sibling, our parents, aunts/uncles and their families, and our grandparents.  These are the family of people who are still living that I am related to by adoption and marriage.  We are a hearty group of around 101 folks, at best count.

**I love thinking of God as the arborist of my life.  I don't fear the pruning process.  Instead, I look forward to it, knowing that the growth I will experience through the change will produce an amazing new flower or fruit in my life.  What a glorious Christ we serve!

***Young (immature Christians) are pruned for the tree (vine) as a whole.  Pruning, as a process, is focused on the future of the tree.  Mature trees (mature Christians) are pruned to keep the health of the whole tree intact.  An amazing analogy between the work of modern arborists and the work of God.

****From :

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bombs? AWAY!

Since when did dropping the F-bomb in PG-13 movies crop up?  I hate to admit it, but I hadn't really noticed this phenomenon in any of the aptly rated shows we've seen lately.* 

According to an article by The Associated Press writer Glenn Whipp, which you can view for yourself right here, this distinctive word is allowed once in a PG-13 movie, but only when used in a non-sexual context.  Once it crosses that line?  It becomes a deal breaker, which automatically moves the movie to an R-rating.

But, here is my beef:  marketing of movies, regardless of their rating.  It seems every movie coming out of Hollywood, if there any way to put it into a Happy Meal, becomes a toy or a gadget or a trinket aimed at the tween and under set.

Come Christmas, the aisles are filled with the likes of Ironman, the red suit indicative of the second installment, which boasts a PG-13 rating because of the following (which I borrowed off a website that I'm going to reintroduce you to in just a few seconds):

"The s-word is used three or four times. Two f-words are bleeped on a television program. Other curses include "a--," "b‑‑ch" and "h‑‑‑." "Pr--k" is used as a double entendre. There are about 10 misuses of God's name, one of Jesus'."

Sure, that iron-suited Tony Stark looks like a great toy for a little boy.  Sure, you can buy the toy without taking your kid to the movie.  And, honestly, with that much negative language, who would want to subject his little ears to that trash, anyway?

But, sooner or later, Junior is going to ask why he can't see the movie, since he owns the toy, and you are caught in the trap Hollywood created for you, namely the "We'll let you dabble with the fire.  We'll even let you touch it briefly.  We just won't let you jump in it."  And, now you've found yourself in a really difficult situation, one that really doesn't have a good way of being explained.

We Nowells have taken to allowing all non-G movies to play in theaters long enough that Plugged In Online has the chance to review them.  That way, we are fully aware of what is awaiting us in the theater.

For example, I knew before we hit the theater that Judy Moody and the NOT So Bummer Summer shamefully inserted the word "crap".**  With the heads-up from Plugged In, I had the choice to a) forgo the movie or b) explain to my children before or after, that this was a word that our family deems inappropriate.***

As with many things in our society, Hollywood is going to follow the money.  If parents refuse to allow their children to see PG-13 movies as a result of the issue of language, the less worrisome PG and G ratings will show a spike in sales.  Better yet, parents can vote with their dollars by seeing G/PG rated shows that also have a solid moral theme running through them.**** 

And, come Christmas?  Watch carefully that what you buy isn't tied to something you would never allow your child to see.

But, well before that, on September 30, to be exact, might I suggest Courageous as a family-friendly alternative to the junk Hollywood will be marketing our way?*****  Since it is from the makers of Fireproof and Facing the Giants, you can expect positive elements throughout.  And a solid moral message, to boot.

It's not that hard to parent your way through the traps of entertainment these days.  It just requires a little clicking, a bit of reading and, sometimes, defying what society crowns as OK. 

For the sake of your kids, just do it.

*Maybe that is my blatant desensitization to a word that used to pepper my language?

**As best as I could tell, this was the impetus for being moved  solidly into a PG rating, thereby creating a larger viewing audience.  That, and the odd casting of Heather Graham as Aunt Opal, who has either hit a bump in her career as a professional bimbo or took the role because she has a niece she was trying to impress.

***Turns out, only one of the boys went to see the show with me and HE pointed out that they had said a bad word before I could mention it.  No lesson necessary on that one.

****A recent example of Hollywood embracing the morally-upright, Christian message is Soul Surfer.   

*****I'm unsure of the rating at the moment, but tend to think it will get a PG for thematic elements.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Help

I hardly know where to begin on this movie because it was such a roller coaster of poignant moments.  Just about the time I was done laughing, I found myself crying again.  It is a rare movie, in my estimation, that can make that much of an emotional impact.  I don't think it is overkill to compare it to Schindler's List, emotionally.

The Help is based on a book by the same name, which I understand fills in blanks left by the 136 minute movie.  Truly, I didn't feel like anything was missing from the movie, but hearing there is more detail makes me want to add the book to my fall reading list.  And, I probably will.

I am incredibly glad that I attended this movie with a group of women, because it was fascinating to see the range of reactions.  One of the group had grown up with a black maid and was perpetually thrown into a whirlpool of memories throughout the viewing experience.  She wasn't even able to really verbalize how it affected her, but I could tell, because the mascara she'd worn to the theater was gone by the end.

The friend sitting closest to me patted my shoulder at one point in the show and said "It's OK".  I hadn't even realized I was crying that hard.

I think the overwhelming feeling I have, after letting this movie sink in for several days, is one of gratitude. 

I am so thankful that America went through the necessary growing pains to get to a point where a great majority of the white population no longer feels as if they can lord their color over others.

I feel indebted to the likes of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr, who gave it all to speak love into the hearts of a nation divided by color.  I was even reminded of the good of Abraham Lincoln, who paved the road on this process many years before Messrs. Evans/King were even a twinkle in their parent's eyes.

I feel a great deal of compassion toward families who grew up with a legacy of believing that they were superior to others because of the color of their skin.

If good was to prevail as a result of this movie, I feel like honest conversation between races would begin.  I can't imagine this movie NOT opening deep, partially-healed wounds for many.  This is a perfect example of the need for forgiveness on so many levels.

While we immediately think of the need for bigots to ask for forgiveness for their sins, there is another segment of society that was affected but is oft forgot:  the children of the families who employed black maids, with parents who felt the help was "their" property.

This is an example of generational sin come home to roost.  It was only a very strong person who could have grown up in a home where values were so very misplaced that could break away from that mentality.  In this case, what was good for the goose was horrid for the gander.

I don't purport to know all the why's and how's and when's that would have to occur for a true healing of this issue in our country in 2011, but I think this story could be a bridge for better things in our America.

I can only say that, come Academy Award time, I expect that The Help will dominate the show.  Good luck to voters when trying to decide which of the actresses to give the statue to;  they all deserve it.  If ever there was need for an ensemble acting award, this movie would earn it, hands-down.

I give this two pinkies way high up, with a side of kleenex and wistful thoughts of a TRUE, homemade, mile-high-meringue, chocolate pie.

A few side notes, thoughts that have gone through my mind in the days following this movie:
1.  Why do I know so little about Medgar Evers?  Where is his representation in the history books, especially in the deep South?

2.  Why did it take from the time of emancipation to the 1960's for this issue to be addressed in earnest?

3.  If racial issues don't still exist in America, why did it take 60 tries for Kathryn Stockett to find a publicist?  Read about that here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

EReader War

Dear Mega-Book-Store-That-Crushed-The-Life-Out-Of-Borders:
You have a pretty cool color ereader that caught the attention of my oldest, who devours books like they were chocolate candies that don't cause weight gain or pimples.  Basically, a trip to the library, if we don't want to make another trip within three days, requires us to check out at least five books.

All summer long he has been anticipating the eventual purchase of this cool gadget.  And all summer long I've been meaning to get into your store and discuss the safeguards you put in place to insure that my sweet baby doesn't accidentally search for the definition of "hustle" and end up staring at parts reserved for his honeymoon.

So, last week I finally made that stop.  I looked for the fine person you generally have ready to pounce on shoppers the minute they walk through the door;*  s/he was, obviously, on break.  So, I picked up a full-color brochure and still wasn't able to determine if there was any sort of parental password/block to keep my children from watching NC-17 movies at will.

Since summer is coming to a quick close and we were ultra-close to our local store, we stopped in again today, this time spotting the nice guy behind the counter.  He did his finest pounce on us as we walked through the door.  But, this time?  We weren't so unhappy to be accosted.

It turns out, explained the nice gentleman, that there is nothing to stop Internet access.  No parental controls.

So, if I understand this correctly, big-box-book-store, you created an ereader that can download books for preschoolers and didn't have the forethought to think that their parents might not want them to accidentally download pictures of Katy Perry wearing a huge cupcake bra?


Is someone in HR reading this?

You need to hire an old geezer like me, with kids who are more sheltered than most, and have her in your strategy sessions.  She'll point out the obvious error in your thinking and make this thing blast off through the roof with sales.

But, right now?  The best I can do is talk to an overseas tech who will add notes to his system so, hopefully, sometime in the next fourteen updates, this will become a standard setting.

Cripe.  Cheap old me even offered to pay $20 extra for this functionality, if they'd only make it available.  No dice.

Are you listening, big-wig corporate types?  I've just offered you a differentiating marketing tool.  And another revenue stream, via the additional fee anal-retentive, ultra-conservative, protective parents will pay to protect their children.

I just made you a fortune and you didn't pay a dime for my services.  But, wait!  Don't send me a Nook Color as a thank-you because, as of press time, the Kindle is the lead pony in this race. 

Feel free to give me a shout when you've added that parental protection package and we'll see if we decide to jump the Kindle mother ship.  But, you best hurry, because I intend to talk with some tech at Amazon about this same concern.  And we all know that Amazon is about to best Wal-Mart as the leader of the free world.

Most sincerely (and somewhat bitterly)--
MommaJ and her son, Nickels

*The fact that you are paying someone to man those stations sends up my "you must be making a blue fortune off these things" radar.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens and Apes, OH MY!

My AMC Stubs card has been on FIRE this summer.  And, overall, it has been a good summer for flicks.  And popcorn and Coke.  And an occasional package of M&M's.

Mike and I caught a 10am showing of the latest Planet of the Apes movie right after breakfast, so there were no goodies in sight.  Which was fine because I was pretty engrossed in the movie.  And I hate looking at the bottom of a large bag/box/tub of popcorn after a movie and wondering how I don't remember eating anything past the first handful.

Overall, I was amazed by the CGI effects.  I could have hugged the baby ape when he first appeared on the screen, all cuddly in his box.

It took quite a bit of unraveling to get to the apex of the movie but I never found myself getting impatient.  Each scene had a purpose which fit nicely into the "why" the apes reacted the way they did.  And, I've found, that I really love the creativity it takes when someone makes a movie that shows us the "back story" of a previously made flick.* 

However, let me add that this movie disturbed me.  Visually, it hit it out of the park.  Had a great script.  Let me repeat:  amazing CGI.  But, when that ape started behaving like a human and tested his voice box, I got chill-bumps the size of smallish gerbils.

That's when I realized that the premise of the movie was similar to one of my all-time favs, I am Legend.  And, in comparing the two, I realized one of the reasons I loved Legend was that I felt hopeful in the end.  Not at all the same effect the ending of Apes had on me.

I'm not sure if it was because I already knew the story of the original Planet of the Apes.  Possibly, it was because I really don't like it when animals are given human characteristics and abilities (unless they are talking animals such as those in Dr. Doolittle, which aren't out to destroy humanity).  Or, maybe it was because I do think there are researchers who have the ability to create drugs that could end up generating this type of effect.  But, something about this movie profoundly disturbed me.

So, if you like a movie that will most definitely make you think "What if?", then I can recommend this.  And, might I add, Mike says "It is awesome.  STOP THINKING SO MUCH.  Just tell everyone to go see it."

There you have it:  one pinkie partially up and one middle finger staring at me.

On to the next review:  Cowboys and Aliens.

Let's just start by getting the elephant in the room outed:  this is absolutely the STUPIDEST premise for a movie EVAH.

But, I'll do just about anything for my sugarplum, so I tagged along and did my best to be a good date.  Which meant I only ate my share of the popcorn and drank my share of the Coke and didn't point out the obvious "this is the STUPIDEST premise for a move EVAH."

Anyway, let's just say I was pleasantly surprised.  For several reasons:

1.  I'm NOT a Daniel Craig fan.

Love the blue eyes, but I get to stare at a pair of azure beauties everyday, if I choose to look at Mike, so that's not earthquake-producing for me.  Everything else about Daniel Craig?  HO HUM.  Until this movie.  I'll just go ahead and admit it:  he's eye candy for two hours.  The stylist who dressed him starting ten minutes in knew her audience.  I've rarely seen chaps that looked so dang good.  And he is just a cowboy bad-ass you wanted to root for. 

2.  I adore Harrison Ford.

Loved him as long as I can remember.  Love Calista Flockhart.  Love that they got hitched.  Love, love, love.  He's a tough cookie in this movie, with sentimental moments that felt completely right.  If Oscar doesn't nod Harrison's way?  He's a golden idiot.

3. I've never been much of a western fan.

They are beyond predictable:  bad guy rides into town, beats up a few people, shoots up a few buildings, drinks too much, acts like a jackass to a beautiful girl, gets arrested, gets released due to some glitch in the system, saves the day, gets the girl then rejects her, rides off into the sunset.

This one wasn't as formulaic as those with the likes of John Wayne.  I mean, when you insert aliens, you do kinda shake things up, to say the least.

I wanted the good guys to win.  I wanted the bad guys to get a bullet in the gut.  I wanted Earth to be rid of alien beings.  Missions accomplished.  So, overall, this was a win-win-win movie.

I'd give this a pinkie and a half up.  Mike LOVED it.  So, I get another middle finger from him to me.

Little does he know that I'm going to drag him to The Help as revenge.

*WICKED is just such an animal, even though it is a musical, not a movie.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Matters of the Heart

In a rare move, Mike and I decided to leave our waking time to forces outside the control of the alarm button, even though Bob did his level best to wake us up sub-6:30am, we received a 7:30 phone call, and 8:30 brought a series of texts.

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, was going to motivate us to get out from under the covers.  

Even the boys, with their "early to bed, early to rise" bodies were quite happy to leave us alone.  Starting about 8am they just hung in the TV room and played with Legos and watched the Disney channel, probably figuring their lazy parents would eventually get up when they heard the garbage trucks.*

So, when we finally tired of trying to keep the day from attacking us (and, more importantly, Mike realized he had a meeting in 23 minutes), we turned on the TV to check the weather forecast.

This move warranted a Nancy Kerrigan "WHY????"  Because, to think there is something different in the weather, as say compared to three weeks ago, is just flat stupid.  But, day after day, I guess we wake with hope that snow is in the forecast.  Or, at least a good, heavy rain.**

After the weather, our local channel reverted back to Good Morning America, which I see about twice a year.  I'm not into TV, especially sub-7pm TV, so this was a rarity.

Now GMA was doing a special report on "Bachelor Pad", a Monday night show that features cast-offs who didn't win the love lottery the first time they were on "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette".  I was mildly intrigued because Vienna and Jake were on the screen together, for the first time, in my mind, since he yelled at her to shut-up on primetime TV.*** 

Then the scene switched to white-bikinid women with targets on their back.  Who were being bombarded by paint eggs.  And, it seemed, one particular woman was getting the brunt of this.

Apparently, she was the "ugly duckling".  The object of the game was for the men to throw their egg at the girl they found least attractive.

Now, let me add my two cents here:  there wasn't a body or a mane of hair or a set of breasts that I wouldn't have gladly claimed as my own.  These were all VERY beautiful girls.  The one wearing the most paint had a Julia Roberts look about her.


The justification for this?  The men would have the same "ugly duckling" treatment later in the show.

Sorry, producers.  Doesn't have the same effect.  If you really wanted to equalize things?  Have the girls chunk eggs at the guy she thinks has the smallest member.  THAT would hit close to the same emotional impact as being labeled ugly on national TV.

All this got me thinking about a verse in 1 Samuel 16, when King David was called to his position.  Samuel made an assumption, based on the fact that Eliab, David's older brother, was (presumably) handsome and was tall, that he was the chosen one. 

But, the LORD, in verse 17 states "...The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."**** 

This is a lesson we should be teaching ourselves daily and especially emphasizing with our children:  you can have the most beautiful, perfect body, face, and hair but if your heart is full of things that are contrary to the Lord, none of it matters.

I'm sure we all have met that physically perfect person who was extremely lonely on the inside or who couldn't seem to get past her lumpy thighs or didn't like the color or texture of her hair.  All while the rest of us were looking at her thinking "GEEZ.  If only I looked like THAT."

Teach your children, male or female, this verse from Samuel.  Remind yourself of it daily.  The temporal body, the good looks, fade with time.  But, the heart remains.  And, if that heart is full of bitterness and hate and lust, you are sure to look ugly to the Lord.

In case you haven't seen "The Help"*****, let me leave you with this tidbit "You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important."  While I'm sure the Lord would stamp that as A+ advice to all of us, in addition I'm confident he would add "But, most importantly, you have a wonderful heart."

*They were right.  But, only for one of us.  I'll let you bet on who THAT was.

**There's a consistency in the forecast that makes me believe I could become a weather girl.  It's not real hard to say "HOT" and "NO RAIN" and "HEAT ADVISORY". 

***I managed to catch that in its 1,000th rebroadcast because it was just so incredibly rude that it practically went viral and caused all of womanhood to scream "SEE!  This is why some women hate men!"

****WHEW!  Take heart, sweet girl on that ridiculously awful show!

*****Review coming, when I am able to discuss it/type about it without weeping.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Puzzle Piece Epiphanies

Epiphanies are strange sorts of things.  They strike you when the time doesn't seem right, convenient, or appropriate.  In sort, you don't know when they are coming and, often, are completely blindsided when they are revealed to you.

Today I am writing on the epiphany of another person, who figured I'd have the words to convey this message through my blog.  Let me just say I am simultaneously flattered and horrified. But, I am going to give it my best shot.

Let me also add the disclaimer that I've chosen just a fragment of the information that was shared with me.  I think the entirety of the message I was sent can't be shared in one post.  So, I've chosen the piece that spoke to me and expect that I'll expound on this more as the week goes by.

And, incidentally, the piece I'm starting with is about pieces.  Puzzle pieces.  If you are like me, I associate puzzles with greatness.

Puzzles are one of the few things you can accomplish with multiple people where competitiveness never takes root.  They can be done in one sitting, especially if you are captive to a rainy day and you want a group activity that lends itself to conversation but also feel the need to be "busy".  I have great memories of puzzles done on family trips to the lake and Christmas themed puzzles done over the long, holiday break and of the laughter and camaraderie those times created.

Human beings are also like puzzles.  Each and every day, we wake up in a broken world, ourselves broken by the sin inherent in living on this planet.  It is our job, with the help of Christ, to find a way to put ourselves together to serve Him in an appropriate fashion.

The problem is that most of us carry around frustrations, anger, and disappointment from days gone by.  And, with those unresolved emotions in our heart, we wake up sinful and open to attacks from Satan.*  Jesus stated in Mark 7:  “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

As long as we find ourselves trapped by any of these evil thoughts, we are separated from our fellow man by lack of forgiveness.  And when we refuse to forgive, God can not forgive us.** So, it is imperative that, first and foremost, we turn to God as often as it takes, and ask him to cleanse us of our sinful thoughts and actions.  His forgiveness should, in turn, cause us to return to the person against whom we sinned, and ask for their forgiveness.

It is from this place of completeness that we are able to address the pieces that make up the puzzle of our daily lives. 

We are commanded in Ephesians 6:14-17 to "stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Piece by piece, we are to build our armor and wear it to shield ourselves from the evil that surrounds us.  It is only in remembering that God has sent us a way to protect ourselves and actually wearing that armor that we can stand firm in God's promises on a daily basis.  In other words, it takes ACTION.

Think about what an armor does:  it protects you.  God knows that we need constant shelter from evil, so, in His goodness, He sent us an armor that protects us WHILE also bringing us closer to Him.  When we put on the armor of God, we gain open access to His word, His protection, His help, His love.  And, when we are that close to God, we can't help but hear His voice.

So, what if you forget the armor one day?  What if you have a day when one of your kids barfed at 3am and you had to run the shower to help the other one with croup and are just exhausted?  And the thought of forgiving your husband for not helping in the wee hours of the morning just isn't on your radar screen;  you'd rather stew.  And, the armor?  Much too heavy to pick up.

The sad news is, you leave yourself exposed.  And, isn't the time when you are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted exactly when you need armor the most?***

Let me lay this out concretely:  daily, we put together a puzzle of protection.  It allows us to walk through our day close to God, able to hear His voice, able to follow His commands, able to be confident in our strength, through God, to ward off evil in our lives.

I don't know about you, but I will never look at a puzzle the same way again.  And I'll never forget the armor that God has equipped me with.

When the Lord of the universe gives you a gift so precious, how can you possibly refuse it?

**See Matthew 6:15.

***I don't know about you, but when MommaJ doesn't get a good sleep and is dealing with sick kids and all I want is a nap, I am open to committing a multitude of sins.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Beginnings of an Infestation?

Several posts back, I introduced you to Ratatouille.  And, not too long after that, we realized that he was probably a victim of the dogs.  There was no funeral because that little rat turd never once entered my kitchen to whip up a batch of anything French.  Therefore, his death was no loss to me at all.

Well, sitting at the kitchen table this week, I met the children of Ratatouille.  Thankfully, through a double-paned piece of glass.

It seems that the unseasonably warm* weather we've been having has had a nasty impact on our concrete.  Let's just say, you could probably drive a Mack truck between the ground and what used to be the bottom of the concrete steps leading from the TV room.  Now, mind you, it would have to be a play truck and you'd have to get over your fear of rat scat, but you could do this, if you really, really wanted to.

Anyway, our concrete has dropped dramatically.  And near that concrete is a bird feeder** my sweetums surprised me with several years ago.  It's a very nice, squirrel-proof feeder and, just recently, I've set it up and filled it with the most expensive bird seed our budget would allow without causing us to eat Spam for weeks on end.  And, that is where the story began.

Turns out, mice/rats*** really, really dig the sunflower seeds that comes in this bird mix.  Dig them several times an hour kind of love.  So, I've been seeing a lot of the twins lately.

And, honestly, they are cute.  In a smallish, furry gray, rodent kind of way.

And, were it not for the fact that I dread the day when they figure out I have a pantry filled with things so.much.better than sunflower seed and enter my kitchen through some Stuart Little-inspired trap door, I would totally go on admiring their cuteness and ignoring the fact that they can multiply faster than cats in spring.  Or that they can carry disease.

In short:  while this love-fest between woman and naked-tailed rodent could probably become the thing of legend, the inner Terminator in me has decided to come out.  And now I'm trying to figure out the least smelly, most humane way to rid our house of these little pests.

I can't use chemicals that would drive them from their nests because Tex and Doug have this little issue with eviscerating anything they can get their mouths on.  Then, I'd likely have sick dogs, filled with the dread rat/mouse diseases of 1800's London, and vet bills to the sky.

Humane traps?  Doesn't that mean I'd actually have to deal with a LIVE rodent?  Where do I move it?  Somehow, I think my next door neighbors wouldn't like me much if I just deposited these little buggers on their back lawn.

Ultrasonic, Pied-Piper-like, sound devices that drive rats nuts and make them want to leave the premises?  Imagine my popularity at the neighborhood picnic when everyone was discussing the outflow of rats from under our house and over to theirs.

Rat traps with cheese?  Did I mention the dogs?  I have already channeled the video clip of Tex running full speed around the pool with a trap attached to his bony foot.  And it ain't pretty.  Then there's Doug, chasing behind him with the spring around his nose.

I could totally put Bob on their trail if he A) wasn't afraid to go outdoors B) had front claws and C) didn't think that lounging is the number one career for cats, right behind abusing the much larger, heavier dogs in our family.  He'd look at a mouse/rat and be totally like "Dude.  Why even bother?  It's microscopic.  Those giant dogs are so much more fun to torment.  I'm returning to my nap."

The boys could probably shoot them with one of their BB guns, if these things weren't so stinking good at sensing danger.  I have to be super careful not to move too quickly in the kitchen when I'm watching them or they move at the speed of lightning to escape my mug.  Trying to take a picture of one of them this morning, for identification purposes, the little beep my digital camera makes startled them, too.

Can you imagine three little boys waiting to take their potshot at a moving target?  They'd pee their pants in anticipation and, I'm sure, the scent AND sound would create Rat Love-In 2011 as they stayed indoors for weeks on end, trying to escape the kids.

So, what to do?  The jury is still out.  For now, I've pseudo-adopted them.  If I give them names, we're all in trouble because I'll feel compelled to actually cage them and take care of them until they die a comfortable, natural, normal death.

Let's just say, considering we know they are in the attic and under the house, right now they are "Public Enemy Number One and Two".  And, I think, that's the way it's going to stay for a few more moments while I reflect on this issue.

But, hear me loud and clear rat/mouse things who have taken up residence without paying a single bill, from Arnold's lips to mine:  "I'll be back."

*Now that we've had one sub-100 degree day in the last 41, I feel it is only fitting to consider it "warm" instead of "hot".  I guess I'm also tired to striking up conversations that ultimately turn toward "How can it possibly be this hot and dry for so stinkin' long?"

**For years I have loved birds.  This is a genetic thing, via osmosis/nurture, that I inherited from my Grandma K and my parents, who have always loved birds.

***Whereas it was completely, utterly useless to try to cuteinate

Friday, August 12, 2011


I have long ascribed to the theory that God can't download too much information into our brains at one time because we just couldn't handle it.  Literally, our minds are too feeble to take in everything He could send us in one sitting.

However, I also believe that we are given revelation at the exact time that God needs us to see something brand new.  It may be something He has put in our path numerous times, such as a piece of scripture or a homeless person or a desire that isn't from Him, that we see with eyes so fresh that it is literally like we are seeing it for the first time.  And we delight like a child, seeing their first puppy, with wonder and amazement and joy beyond recognition.

Such has happened to me this week.  It has been a gradual week of layers of an onion being peeled back, culminating with a shortened sleep that awoke me very early this morning.  It has been a probing into my own heart and life and the lives of those around me.

It woke me, both literally and figuratively, to things around me that have, up to this point been a mystery.

And, over the next few weeks, I imagine you'll see bits and pieces of this come through in my writing.  I'm not ready, nor do I think I'm able, to share much yet.  You see, I'm still wrapping my mind around all this.  This proverbial peeling of the onion.

But, I realized this morning a few things.  Some of these relate to those of you who read this blog and you will instantly know "This is my story" or "This is the story of that person I love" or "This is what God needs me to rest in this week."

For others of you, this will smack of something entirely different.  It will sound prophetic and you'll wonder "Who is SHE to think she can claim these things?"

And, 24 hours ago, I would have told you "I am NO ONE to believe.  I am simply a sinner forgiven."  But, when God works in your life and lays issues on your heart so heavy that you think it might explode, you have to give voice to what He is speaking.  To silence yourself would be to silence Him.  And I NEVER, EVER, EVER want to do that again.

So, I risk you thinking that I am a touch crazy, foolish, high, or whatever you might associate with the following.  But, honestly, I don't care.  I am moving forward knowing that God has messages to share, THROUGH ME, that the world, and, more specifically, YOU, need to hear.

Your marriage troubles?  Completely of the devil.  He sees strength in the two of you and he knows that he can knock you down by troubling the heart of your man.  As the woman in this marriage, you are currently taking the spiritual lead for a time until your husband's eyes are open to these schemes.  You ARE the Ruth in this situation.  Rest easy, knowing the times of tribulation will make your marriage stronger.  And, even though they are far from over, you have much to be thankful for.

Your relative who can't let go?  She is sick.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually.  She has strongholds in her life that date back to before you were born.  It is imperative that you receive help.  You can not cure her, but you can cleanse yourself, get right with God, and be the one who helps pray her well.  You are the David to the Goliath that is the giant in her life.  This is a victory you will claim later.

That battle with pride you've been waging?  It is far from over.  It is far from won.  But you are on the right track.  And, if you continue on this track, you are going to break generational sin in your family of origin and begin a new branch on the tree of your family.  A healthy branch.  A Godly branch.  All you need is faith that you CAN be cured of this illness.  Claim victory now and watch it come into your life.

That anger you feel toward one so small?  You will find the biggest blessing of your lives in that little one.  You will find that all your pain and anger and fear will melt when you hold him for the first time.  You are being blessed and the devil wants you to believe it is a curse.  Rebuke him.  Tell him to leave your home and your life and watch him flee.  Rejoice!  For it is well with this child and with you.

Those financial troubles you so desperately seek refuge from?  They are coming.  But, you must be prepared for a complete shifting of your mind in this regard.  Don't expect riches to pull you out of this pit;  expect blessing in regards to your mind believing the true and right things of God's teachings.  Things don't make you.  On the contrary, they've done nothing but break you over the years.  When you start to let go of the dream you've had about things, you will be on the track to your most fulfilling years of wealth.  Just don't expect it to be the wealth of the world.  Expect a peace that can only come from following God.

I have literally written this in less than twenty minutes.  I know some of what I've written is targeted at specific people.  I know some of what I've written is for people I don't know, but God does.

If anything speaks to you from today's post, it is probably God.  So listen closely and see what you are supposed to glean.

Monday, August 8, 2011

So Blessed

Godparent.  In my world, that is a really powerful word.  And, this weekend, I was asked to step up to this duty.

You see, the latest member of Mom's side of the family is three months old.  And she brought her older sisters and her Mom and Dad all the way from Michigan to her Daddy's family reunion.  And while they were all staying with us, the question was popped.

My cousin was blessed to have my Mom as her Godmother.  And she and her husband felt it was only fitting that I continue the tradition for their youngest daughter.

Honored doesn't even begin to cover it, folks.  Yet, some of you are probably scratching your head because the only thing that resembles what I'm talking about is a mafioso family headed by Don "The Godfather" Corleone.

Sadly, the true concept of being a Godparent is often lost outside of liturgical churches.  Quite possibly, this is because infant baptism isn't the norm in that realm.  However, I find the symbolism of being a Godparent applicable to all candidates for baptism.

Here is what I promised when I said "yes" to this task:
With God's help, along with my cousin/her husband, I am responsible for seeing that baby girl is brought up in the Christian faith and life.  By my prayers and witness I will help her grow into the full stature of Christ.

I pledge to renounce Satan and all spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, all sinful desires that draw me from the love of God, turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace and love, and promise to follow and obey Christ as my Lord.

Being a Godparent gives you yet another reason to walk the straight and narrow.  It forges a bond between families that is girded in prayer and mutual love and concern for a child.  It allows the chance to be a life-changing witness to someone who was born into a world lost.

There was never any doubt in my mind that I would say anything but "yes" to this proposal.  On this day, I've added another sweet soul to the short list of children whom, as a Godmother, I lift in special prayer for their walk with Christ.

'Tis nothing sweeter.  Except maybe that little, grinny, toothless Godbaby of mine.

*This is my third time being asked and my fourth Godchild.  I am blessed beyond measure!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where is the Time Going?

It's August!  And I haven't.written.a.thing.

So, because life is too hectic for me to write something totally original at the moment, let me give you this beauty.  As always, the disclaimer:  I DIDN'T WRITE THIS.  DON'T KNOW WHO DID.  IF IT'S YOURS, LET ME KNOW AND I'LL TOTALLY GIVE YOU CREDIT.

Since this made me laugh out loud, I figure you might like it as well. 

Shortest College Essay 

A college class was told they had to write a short story in as few words as possible.  The instructions were that the story must contain the following three things:
a)  Religion
b)  Sexuality
c)  Mystery

Below is the only A+ short story in the entire class:

"Good God, I'm pregnant;  I wonder who did it?"