Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Year Two Holiday Grief

So here's how it worked for me...

I didn't cry one bit over the holiday, despite the fact that my Uncle called and was missing Mom and my Grandma (my two best cheerleaders in life) and wanted to have a little, forty minute conversation about it. The commentary was cut to about two minutes because the kids were in the car and wanted to say "hi". Plus, in that moment, though he was experiencing deep grief, my soul just wasn't there. I could have listened forever, but I just couldn't relate.*

I didn't cry one bit as I was moving pictures on the shelves in anticipation of Christmas decorations and saw my favorite of Dad and his brothers and my Aunt and Mom.

I didn't cry one bit as I was thanking God for the blessings of this life and for Mom over Thanksgiving dinner.

But, I cried Monday morning, post-Thanksgiving, when the song "Close to You" by The Carpenters flew threw my head in response to something goofy Hooman said and I couldn't help but sing the refrain.

But it wasn't the song that caused me to cry. It was the memory of our neighbor, Joyce Conyers, who died of a brain tumor years ago, that got me. Mrs. Conyers LOVED The Carpenters and would play their songs on her piano when I was growing up.

See, I hadn't really understood what my bestest buddy from birth to the early years of elementary school had gone through when she lost her Mom. I hadn't connected the dots that she was also somewhere in this universe, grieving a gone-way-too-soon loss.

Until that moment in my kitchen in my 45th year of life.

*If I could tell anybody who is grieving one of the most important things I've learned, it would be that it's perfectly OK if you don't feel sadness every time someone else does. You aren't the bad guy if you can't cry when others are.

Look at it this way: Not everyone is moved to tears by music or lyrics or melodies, but that doesn't make those who don't cry love the music any less.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bookish, Part Deux

I dedicate this post to all the teenage boys who didn't understand me growing up. Thanks for ignoring me so I could read and become the woman I am today. Your lack of attention was the wind beneath my wings.

And to all the young, bookish girls out there who are currently being ignored: KEEP READING! Boys will come and go, but good books will always be there for you.


You're back?

Wow. Must be hungover from that vaca I took you on yesterday. So sorry.

Anyway, here's the rest of my shopping/must get book advice. Or, maybe, better said "Books I may/may not know are good/horrible but might peak your interest." And, "Don't blame me if you hate what I haven't read. Or have. Just don't blame me."

Wild at Heart (John Eldredge)
Progress Meter: not started
Someone told me, years ago, this was the key to figuring out my husband. Not sure I need a book to tell me "Feed him good food and make sure you have sex with him", but OK.

The Letter to the Romans (William Barclay)
Progress Meter: not started
This is a hard back book we found at Dad's house when we cleaned out "Mom's" craft room. I am a sucker for Paul, so I claimed it and quickly discovered why: There is a picture of me, in a bikini, walking toward my Mother when I was almost one year old. That incriminating evidence had to be contained!

Not sure when/if I'll read this one. But that picture is living proof that I did, way back when, have a bikini-worthy body.

The Power of a Praying Wife (Stormie Omartian)
Progress Meter: read once, feel the need to read again at the moment
I wish I had happened upon this book in my mid-twenties because I would have given it as a gift to every bride-to-be in existence. All forty-thousand of you whose weddings I attended, that is.

I don't think we wives can overemphasize the positive impact we can have on our husbands through prayer. And, Mrs. Omartian drives that point home in a mighty way.

If you are so inclined, there is an entire franchise around this premise of praying for your wife, kids, etc.

Party Mix (Karol K. Ladd)
Progress Meter: thumbed through and decided it needed a good look later
A friend actually gave me this book since she was done with it and it looks like a great place for inspiration from a local Mom-cum-author.

If you're throwing a shin-dig, I've got the book! Give me a jingle.

Choosing to SEE (Mary Beth Chapman)
Progress Meter: not started
This was a very thoughtful gift from my sister-in-law after Mom died, but I haven't been able to open it for practical and emotional reasons. Mrs. Chapman is married to Steven Curtis, of Christian singing fame, and theirs was the young daughter who was accidentally run over in the driveway of their house by their teenage son.

A tragedy of that proportion practically begs to be written to help others with this type of enormous grief. I'm just not ready to get that perspective quite yet.

The Five Languages of Apology (Gary Chapman/Jennifer Thomas)
Progress Meter: not started
This is my newest book, courtesy of a gift card to In ordering it, I realized that five is a reoccurring theme to authors (see The 5 Love Needs), so I'm guessing one of the ways to apologize is to feed your husband while having sex.

Truthfully, my life has been on a trajectory of forgiveness for quite a bit now, and this book just grabbed my attention when I heard the authors discussing it on the radio. I'm very excited to start it. And, not just because it should totally give credence to breakfast in bed.

Overcoming Emotions that Destroy (Chip Ingram/Dr. Becca Johnson)
Progress Meter: 1/6 through and can't wait to find to time to continue
Purchasing this book was the best thing I did after finishing Ingram's Invisible War. I didn't even know the subtitle until the book was in the house (courtesy of another gift card): "Practical Help for Those Angry Feelings That Ruin Relationships". When I read that title, I started to sweat because I didn't realize anyone was following my life to gather information to write a book on this topic.

The biggest help built into this book is a series of reflection questions, deep questions, at the end of every chapter. Those are what have slowed me down, but in a very, very good way. I don't want to skim this book; I want to ingest it, word by word, so it really takes up residence in my soul.

Wild Things (Stephen James and David Thomas)
Progress Meter: 1/4 through and just read more over Thanksgiving
You know that book on raising kids that should have come out with the after birth? This is it, if you are raising boys. This book will make you feel normal again.

Subtitled "the art of nurturing boys", this book is full of practical information on all things boy during several stages of their lives. Especially if you are still in the sub-five-year-old category, this book is a must. It will help you appreciate your testosterone-filled bundle(s) of joy.

The Soul of a Business (Tom Chappell)
Progress Meter: not started
This was a freebie, courtesy of Tom's of Maine (the company), because I participate with them in focus groups online.

I'm interested to read this book because the company makes such great products that I want to understand the man (Tom) behind the Tom's. He has grown from a small shop to a multi-million (?billion) dollar business and not let a huge conglomerate mess up the stuff that makes his products tick. I am interested to know how that is done.

I've just noticed that my book shelf is not only full, but also decidedly dusty. In this house, that's just fodder for dust bunnies, but since we are entertaining soon, I best go tackle the dirty work.

Enjoy reading, peeps.

Monday, November 28, 2011


This post is dedicated to my Dad, who is the biggest reason I am a reader.

I'd be lying if I said there was anything but joy, joy, joy over here in the Nowell household.

I'd also be lying if I didn't disclose that the three joys should have been written in SARCASM font.

We've had to settle no less than three different kid-to-kid tiffs involving our kids vs. kids not named "Nowell" over the past few days.

We've spent our time coaching one of our sons about lessons that, had we not been put in a really foul, fallen world, wouldn't have even been an issue.

And I look like someone stuck me with a turkey injector and filled me up with mystery fluid. The scale shudders every time I walk by it, as if to conclude "YOU, lady, are going to BREAK ME!"

But, instead of dwelling on what should have been, what would have been better, and what could be, I'm going to tell you some exciting news.

I'm pregnant!

HA. Kidding. That's news from almost seven years ago.

Current news: I finally organized our book shelf after almost three years!

That's REALLY big news considering it took me finding a bookshelf, creating room in the budget, having it shipped here, road testing it for two weeks before deciding it could stay, and waiting another three months for the attic to be cracked open and Christmas boxes to issue forth, before I wouldn't sound like a nagging wife when I asked "And, would you mind getting just one more box for me? PLEASE?"

Implicit in that question was the fact that this was the 500 lb. box that had been used for two consecutive moves and was suspiciously looking like it could collapse under the weight of a flea. And that was before it was taped together with adhesive that, I'm pretty sure, has since been recalled by Scotch. Twice.

The box proved its crankiness by almost falling apart on the stairs in Mike's abdomen/lap where I could do absolutely nothing but stand at the bottom rung and say "Let me know if I can help."

But, after all the waiting and drama, the books made it to our room. Which is when it got depressing.

See, I KNEW I had several books to read that were already on the shelf. What I didn't realize was that the attic box-o'-books was a treasure trove of its own.

Which means that I have exactly SIXTEEN books that I've either barely cracked the spine on or that are partially read that I thought were worth the price of admission, worthy of borrowing, or I accepted as presents and didn't immediately resell at Half Price Books.

And because I know today is the first day back to work, school, and all things routine, I am going to help you stay in vacation mode by thinking about books. Books stimulate the need for a sugar-rimmed margarita, an ocean view, warm, tropical breezes and a cabana boy with more fruity drinks. Books take you on adventures you didn't know you could afford. And, no, I'm not being paid for this drivel by the Author's of America.

I also hope, that in sharing the books I have on my shelf, that I'll stimulate that little part of your brain that thinks "I need to give that to ____" or "I need that myself".

SEE! Look at me giving of myself in the season of giving! Not only will you still be on vacation figuring out your next read, but I'm also helping you Christmas shop! And it isn't even 10am yet.

You can thank me later.

And, now, in no particular order, other than left to right, the book list you've been waiting for...for one paragraph. Actually, half the list, since I have so much commentary. Follow-up tomorrow.

My Fair Lazy (Jen Lancaster)
Progress Meter: 1/3 done but a definite do-over since I don't remember a word.
When I need a cheap date with a snarky girlfriend who says most of the things I think but don't actually say, I pick up Jen. She has one of the sharpest, most sarcastic tongues in the entire world, which translates to naughty fun.

In all honesty, I'm trying to tame the snark/sarcasm monster in my life, so this may be the last fake auto-bio of Jen's that I read.


If You Were Here (Jen Lancaster)
Progress Meter: not started

This is Jen's first stab at writing a novel that isn't directly about her life. I'm not entirely sure I'm going to like it, but Mike gave it to me on Mother's Day, at my request, so I could give it a stab.

Word on the street, or her website, is that she's working on another book. That translates to "Read fast, before Mother's Day comes again and Mike needs an easy idea!"

Underdogma (Michael Prell)
Progress Meter: 1/4 done. Skim highlighting to refresh memory.

If you are conservative or just like to make fun of conservatives or like to eat their ideas for lunch, this is a book for you. The subtitle says it all: "How America's Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power"

Pretty much the antithesis of Jen Lancaster. I'd going to have to learn to drink scotch neat to prove my worth at this table.

Facing the Facts/The Truth About Sex and You (Stan and Brenna Jones)
Progress Meter: not started

This is book four in the Christian book series "God's Design for Sex" and is designed for 11-14 year olds. This is on my shelf because I need to read it before next summer, when I'll require Nickels to read it and discuss it with me and Mike.

If you are kin to someone with young children and you can say the word "SEX" out loud, in the light, without blushing, the series would make a lovely, and unexpected, present. In fact, this might be your best way to get out of the "drawing pool" for gifts, if you are sick of buying for your fourth cousin's, three times removed, dog.

Shattered Dreams (Larry Crabb)
Progress Meter: not started

This is my neighbor's book that was loaned to another neighbor, who passed it to me because she didn't have the time. Oh the farce!

The premise is that we all have dreams that didn't survive life. How do we pick up from where the dream failed and move forward? I'm sure this Christian perspective will be worth the time.

A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
Progress Meter: not started

One of my best girlfriends gave me this book for Christmas the year Nickels was born (1999). It is an astounding 911 pages long. Since she eats small books as appetizers on her way to inhaling 2,000 page books as a main course, all on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I'm pretty sure she didn't get the solid gold irony of giving this to me three months into my first child.

But, I'm not one to give up! I'll have that sucker read sometime in a year that begins with 20.

Prayer (Philip Yancey)
Progress Meter: not started

Inhale the name. Yes, he's just that good. I know this will be a wonderful book, filled with tons of Christian inspiration and commentary, if I can just get it started.

The Jesus I Never Knew (Philip Yancey)
Progress Meter: not started

What kind of person was Jesus? Mr. Yancey wants me to know. In my spare time.

Searching for God Knows What (Donald Miller)
Progress Meter: not started

By every indication, this book was a Christmas gift, since I found my wish list from about eight years ago in it as a make-shift book marker.

Those of you who enjoyed Blue Like Jazz will recognize Mr. Miller's name. That book was the sole reason I asked for this one. With chapter titles such as "Imposters: Santa Takes a Leak", this is sure to be another page-turner.

The Seven Pillars of Health (Don Colbert, MD)
Progress Meter: not started

The fact that I haven't even cracked open this book or removed the price tag from the upper right corner should come as no surprise. If it doesn't, please scroll to the top of the post and look for commentary on my bloated body.

Of all the books on my shelf, this is probably the most necessary read.

A Dad-Shaped Hole in my Heart (H. Norman Wright)
Progress Meter: 1/4 done but a do-over...don't remember a thing.

There was a time in my life where I blamed everyone around me for all the ills of my life. That blame game has stopped now as I've worked to forgive others and myself and move forward.
This book was purchased when I thought I could fix everything by figuring out my relationship with my Dad and see if not knowing my birth parents fit into why I was still searching.

Turned out, it was all about God. Go figure.

But, I'm still going to read the book because I think remembering how it used to feel is helpful to not going back to times when you felt hurt. And, who knows? Maybe my knowledge of this issue might help someone else someday.

Well, if you aren't as bored as a gourd by now, tune in tomorrow for another thrilling installment of "The Books MommaJ Purchased, Was Given, and Borrowed That She Can't Manage to Find the Time to Read".

Word on the street is that it will be a page-turner!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Things I'm Loving About This Thanksgiving Weekend

1. Cooking so much food on Wednesday that I won't have to think about cooking again until sometime on Friday.

Or Saturday, if I can convince the kids that turkey really IS a breakfast food.

2. Washing my hands at someone else's house and leaving the restroom smelling like soap I don't use at home.

I currently smell like a Dove factory threw up all over me and I'M DIGGING IT.

3. Hitting the road Thanksgiving morning and sneaking a peek at other people traveling the same way, checking out how dressed up they are.

We passed some mighty-fine looking sports coats and bouffant hairdos on I-30 today.

4. Spending time reading, a luxury I can rarely afford most of the other 364 days of the year.

Of course, my tome du jour was a book all about boys and I was on the chapter about "nocturnal emissions", but that's not the point.

5. Eating pie until I no longer crave it. Or it runs out. Whichever comes first.

6. Watching football with one eye, shutting the other eye to help cure my pie headache, and pretending I'm asleep when the kids break into a fight about a hat that no one has cared about all year long until four hours ago.

Oops. Just busted my cover for next year.

7. Knowing that I can finally embrace all things Christmas.

Sorry Hobby Lobby. Just couldn't get my happy going when you started filling the aisles with Santas and snow globes in friggin' 100 degree weather sometime in mid-August.

8. Determining if it will be better to send Mike into the attic or me.

With the possibility that Ratatouille hooked up with a female friend and made copious numbers of little rat babies, I'm wondering which one of us will scream LESS like a girl when we see one of these critters scamper past us as we hoist boxes to the stairs.

Personally, I'm putting my money on Mike.

9. Knowing that we still have a good three day weekend ahead of us, a weekend ripe with possibilities to play board games, go to the movies, take the dogs on walks, and whatever else might come our way.

Or just eat pie until we all throw up.

10. Realizing the reason for the holiday in the first place.

For family and friends and acquaintances. For a roof over our heads and food in our belly. For too many blessings to count, though counting them is a fantastic goal.

But, mostly, for a God who loves us all, in the midst of all the good, bad and in between. In other words: the turkey, the dishes and the naps.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Teaser

I figured you'd be in too much of a food coma to want to read anything deep, so I'm sending you a brain-teaser instead. Guaranteed, you'll need the whole family to figure this one out.

Happy Turkey Day!

You are on a Horse, galloping at a constant speed.

On your right side is a sharp drop off, a
nd on your left side is an Elephant traveling at the same speed as you.

Directly in front of you is a galloping Kangaroo and your horse is unable to overtake it.

Behind you is a Lion running at the same speed as you and the Kangaroo.

What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation?

See answer below.

* *

* *








Get your drunk butt off the merry-go-round.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Recipe to Be Ultra-Thankful For

I pondered doing the usual "I'm thankful for these things" type post, but, frankly, I feel like hammered poop at the moment (fighting what seems to be a head cold) and I'm not really in that kind of mood.

In fact, I'd probably lose readership if you saw my list because it all has to do with what's coming out of my nose (or not), my current inability to move fast enough to get Thanksgiving ready before bedtime because I'm moving like a sloth, and general whinyness since all I want to do is curl up next to the cat, under five blankets, and sleep while Bob purrs to keep me company.


So, instead, I'm going to share the recipe that I fervently pray will be the beginning of my road to recovery.

Now, you'll have to brace yourself for the name. It ain't pretty. But, by-golly-by-gosh, is it good.

Just think happy thoughts and go make TURKEY CARCASS SOUP.* This is courtesy of the GOOD FOOD BOOK, subtitled Living the High-Carbohydrate Way, by Jane Brody.

Any woman who would encourage me to eat high-carbs, in my opinion, is worth her weight in gold.

First, start with the STOCK
1 turkey carcass, broken into pieces (if you aren't cooking the turkey this year, pretend you are taking your hostesses' poultry carcass to the trash and detour to the car with it.)
Any defatted pan juices or gravy that may be left over
12 cups (or more) water, enough to cover the carcass
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 ribs of celery, diced, with leaves if possible
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced well-washed leek (optional--I've never used)
1/2 cud diced turnip (again, never used)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt, if desired
Bouquet garni, made by tying in cheesecloth (OK, cheap alert: I use a cone-shaped coffee filter that I place the spices in, fold down like a bandanna, and pull to the side to tie. Works perfectly every time.): 6 sprigs fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes, 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves and 1 bay leaf

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, bring the stock to a boil, and simmer it, partially covering the pot for 2-3 hours. This stock tastes better the longer it simmers, as long as you don't cook away the liquid.

Strain the stock and skim off the fat (suggestion: use a colander to grab the chunky pieces and allow the stock to cool before skimming.)

Remove all the bones, and, if desired, reserve any pieces of turkey meat. Discard the bouquet garni and bay leaf. In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining vegetables in a cup of the stock and save the mixture for another soup or for flavoring a stew or sauce.

Now for the SOUP portion of our program...
2 Tablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon butter, oil, or margarine
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms (I always increase this)
1.5 Tablespoons flour
6 to 7 cups turkey stock (from above)
1 teaspoon marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cooked barley or rice OR 1/ 3 cup raw barley or rice (lazy cook alert: use the raw)
1 cup diced, cooked turkey meat
Dash hot pepper sauce or to taste (optional)
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley (optional--have never used)

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the butter, oil or margarine until they are soft.

Add the carrots, celery, and mushrooms, and cook the vegetables, stirring them, 3-5 minutes longer.

Add the floor and cook the mixture, stirring it, for another minute.

Add the stock, marjoram, salt/pepper, and barley/rice. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover the pan, and simmer the soup for about 1 hour.

Add the turkey meat and hot sauce, adjust the seasonings, and heat the soup to boiling.

Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

Just typing this recipe as I smell the stock cooking has made me thankful.

Have a wonderful holiday with whomever is at your table.

*If you are cheap, like me, this is actually reason for a happy dance. It blends delicious food with wasting nothing off the bird. Great stuff.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be The Change

Matthew 17:19-21 "Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Over the years, I have been to my share of counseling. In my late twenties, I was on a steady diet of sessions with a shrink in Fort Worth.

I tell you that so you know that I understand this psychology stuff. I tell you that so you know that I know of what I am about to speak. I'm no stranger to the way that man wants to try to heal man.

I share that part of myself so that you understand when I was awoken at 4:30am this morning and prompted out of bed by the following, I realized that this post would run counter to everything any well-meaning doctor who would analyze you on his/her couch might say to you.

Incidentally, I got out of bed unwillingly. I am not terribly happy to be writing at 5am. But, it was either get up and type or lie in bed and wonder why God wouldn't let this one go.

It think you'll understand why when you read the following: Change is very rarely about the other person. It is about changing ourselves.

In this passage from Matthew, I always thought the big lesson was that humans can change other humans by having faith. In other words, the disciples goal was to drive the beast out of the person to prove themselves worthy.

But, this morning, God led me to understand that the change wasn't about that it all; it was about the disciples changing themselves enough to have the faith IN GOD that He could accomplish anything THROUGH THEM.

It wasn't the disciples that could move the mountain; it was God moving it as a result of them having enough faith IN HIM that He could do it.

It wasn't them doing the healing; it was them having faith in God, our great physician, who is able to heal men who are too frail to heal themselves.

The disciples failed their mission because they lacked faith in God. If they had changed themselves (had faith), they would have seen a change in the other man. But, the change in the other man would have been accomplished because their faith allowed God to work through them.

So let me repeat the important lesson for the day: we can't change anybody but ourselves.

When our heart changes and we realize that only God can change another person, we are cooking with gas.

But, here is where the major paradigm shift has to occur and we have to drop pop-psychology on its head: our goal in this life should NEVER be about changing another person for the sake of making our own lives better.

Our penultimate goal is about changing our self so we no longer care about the other person changing, but care about what GOD can do in our OWN LIFE to change our lack of belief.

Because, even if we have a smallish, itty-bitty, mustard seed size of faith, GOD is able to use HIS power to move mountains.

I think this lesson is so important as we approach the holidays. We are about to be surrounded by people we wish we could change. These are sometimes people who drive us crazy with their greed or who have wounded us and won't admit their part in our pain or who are terribly, horribly selfish.

And, yes, there is room for judgment that these things are sin. And, sure it feels right to wish they would change.

But, there won't be any change in anyone around us until we surrender our lives to Christ and have faith in Him. And, when we ask for that, we can darn sure expect that the change is going to start in OUR LIVES, not in the life of the person against whom we have a beef.

And, truly, you want it that way. It is the ultimate in freedom to be able to accept another human being, faults and all, painful past included, and release your hurt TO GOD, believing by faith, that He has your best interests in mind.

God can do amazing things when we get the heck out of the way and are faithful to know that He sees our pain and wants to help.

But, His ways of helping aren't the ways of the world.

After we have just a smidgen of faith, He heals us from the inside. He heals what is outside of us AFTER we've been touched by His love, and He often uses our healed self to change the person we wish we could change.

This is the exact opposite of the way the world looks at healing: the world wants you to buy the books that say "Fix the other person and your life will be better." Stop believing the lie.

So, this holiday season, feel free to think about all the ways you want to change the people in the room who come to your house or send you Christmas cards or ignore you for the fifteenth Christmas, even though you share the last name.

But, if you truly want to see change by this same time next year? Get busy working on that relationship with God. Get busy reading up on Him. Get busy gathering faith that He can do all things.

Because He can.

And He wants the change to start with you.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grief Is Good

For so many years I never understood why the holidays weren't anything but happy times for some people.

I didn't understand the profound feelings of loss that accompany this time of year. I felt like so many others who thought "Being surrounded by family should be enough. We're here to love you!"

But, now that we are approaching the second holiday season without Mom, I'm starting to get it.

Yesterday, I attended a grief support group at our church for the first time. Truly, it was a selfish act because the speaker, Laurie T, is someone I have a history with. She was the reason I went; I wanted to hug her neck and catch up.

What I didn't realize was that I was going to catch blessings during the time I had together with the wonderful folks at our church who are grieving losses during the holidays.

I learned that there are two general types of grievers: emotive (like me) and stoic (those whom you can't tell are even bothered by loss). With me, there is no doubt I'm grieving; it's all over my face, in my tears, in my writing. With stoics, it's not at all remotely near the surface. But, I now understand, it's there.

Therapists used to worry about stoics but have discovered that, over time, there is really no difference in suicide rates or length of grieving or other measures of how someone expresses profound loss.*

I always thought it was better to KNOW you are going to lose someone then to wake up one day and be shocked they are gone. Surprise number two: not true. Both expected and sudden losses have their share of burdens. But, they share the same grief.

We talked about loving ourselves enough to carve out time to intentionally feel grief in our lives because, while our grief is life-long, other people's lives move forward after the funeral is over. And, they have a hard time understanding why we are crying on a Tuesday afternoon, in carpool line, over a song that jettisons us back in time, before loss became a permanent part of our lives.

Sure, it sounds like some ancient form of torture to cause yourself to grieve, but it extremely therapeutic. It's what I've been doing since August on Thursday mornings each week. I have a scheduled time to write just about Mom.

Some days I find myself crying buckets. Other days I am laughing at memories. Most days, it's a mixed bag. But, I never leave a Thursday morning not feeling as though I've been blessed for the work. Sure, it takes effort, but it is so important. It is one way I can intentionally grieve, which is giving myself permission to miss her, showing myself love, and honoring Mom's memory all at the same time.

As we grieve, we have to honor our own grieving process, whatever that looks like, to truly love ourselves first, so that love can spread beyond. I've found that I am so much more empathetic to other's losses when I've intentionally grieved my own.

I loved the analogy that grief is like a cactus...a cactus that we have to learn to hug. No, it doesn't feel good to get pricked, but over time we learn that the pain becomes less and less, though it never completely goes away.

I also loved the comparison of grief to laboring to bring a baby into this world. It's not fun to do, we wouldn't intentionally choose it if there were other options, but it is a necessary part of life.

I learned that people have "grief bursts" where a particular song or picture or scent brings their loved one immediately back to the moment. Those are nature, normal, and to be embraced.

Life after losing a loved one, Laurie said, is like picking up a million shattered pieces of your "before" life, one at a time, and putting your "after" life together. No, it doesn't look the same as before, but the after can be good. It can even be great.

It takes a lot of time. It takes persistence. It takes discipline. It takes intentionally grieving. But, there can be THANKS in Thanksgiving and blessing in Christmas.

So, I enter this holiday season ready to cry or laugh or hug someone to almost fainting when I need to. I'm daring myself to do what others won't: to be me; to feel deep feelings and let them overflow into life. To stop worrying about what the kids or neighbors or complete strangers think. I'm giving myself a gift by letting grief move in my life.

And, as a result, I'm moving into the holidays without worry about what others will think or react or say. I'm ready.

Sure, grief is my sidekick. Sure, it may decide to rear it's head over turkey pot pie or at the Christmas Eve service or when we sing Auld Lang Syne. And, you know what? That's perfectly, A-OK.

So, to you, if you are in a period of grief, know you aren't alone. Know that not everybody gets it. Know that some are going to try to fix it. Know that others are walking down the same path at a different pace as you.

But know that, in taking care of yourself by expressing what you are feeling when you are feeling it (or not expressing it when you are feeling it), that you are honoring a process created by God to help us miss those we love who have gone home to Him.

And, if God saw fit to create grief for me? I'm going to grab it and hold onto it for all it is worth.

*I'm so glad to know this because I have stoics in my life who I've worried about. And, I've been in conversations with people who also thought this was a problem. Now I can confidently say that "everyone grieves differently and no type of grieving is better than any other".

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Family Gatherings

Sometimes, topics are brought to me courtesy of friends.  Such friends shall remain faceless and nameless, but their topics are so timeless and universal that I just have to ask God for a word where I don't have an adequate one.

Below is my personal take, mixed with God's response to my questioning, on "Hosting Family at the Holidays".

Hosting over the holidays can be such a rewarding experience.  There really isn't any better feeling than gussying up the house, lighting pretty candles, finding the perfect music, and enjoying a home cooked meal.

And, if it stopped right there, it would be okie-dokie for all of us.  We'd sit down with our family, whose faults and lives and quirks are in our face on a daily basis and we'd eat until we all needed a nap.  And it would be good.

But, sometimes there are people in your family whom you feel obligated to ask over.  And, sadly, they tend to be the lumps in your otherwise perfect mashed potatoes.

And this is where I admit that I like my holidays clean.  As in fuss-free, easy going, drama-less.  Frankly, there are just some people in my life who end up creating holiday gatherings that mimic bad soap opera plots.

They bring their dirty laundry, past hurts, sense of entitlement, grudges, complaints, and anger and spew them all over the holiday.  In short, they are not even remotely pleasant to have around.

But, as I've thought about the dilema of "invite them" vs. "don't invite them", I've come to a conclusion for my own life:  I am required to invite these people into my life.

I am called to put aside my feelings about who they are as people and co-exist with them.

I am called to be light and salt in their lives, even if they don't seem to want me to be.

At the same time I can confidently write all of this, I equally feel that once or twice a year, near the holidays, isn't necessarily the time I'm called to do these things.  Really, it's an every day sort of calling.

If, on January 1, I began forgiving and pardoning and working to find the little child inside of the grown people who drive me crazy, I could be a long way down the road toward having a happier holiday with these folks come November.

I could actually invite them to sit at a meal with me without having a knot in my stomach from the time the invitation was issued.

I could be the hostess I was meant to be because the hard work of forgiving my guests was done throughout the year.

To say the least, it would be a rare family dinner that resulted in every one forgiving every one else all the things that had been left unsaid the other 364 days of the year.  Forgiveness is a process, not a Hollywood movie that wraps up in two hours with all problems shoved to the side and everyone all huggy and kissy. 

The time between appetizers and desserts isn't when forgiveness takes place because truly forgiving someone is a personal journey bourne out of tons of prayer and tears and self-reflection.  It takes time.  It takes desire.  And it takes more than most people are willing to give.

So, if I desire peace at my Thanksgiving or Christmas tables?  I have eleven months to work on it.  What other people bring to the table, both literally and figuratively, can no longer be my issue.

But, it has to start with me.

And it probably shouldn't start the day before the turkey is cooked or the candy canes are hung in the stocking.

Instead, it should start, on my knees, after Auld Lang Syne is sung.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I Want for Christmas

I would never claim to be hyper-organized or as prepared as a Boy (Girl) Scout about most things.  But, when it comes to Christmas, that is simply not true.

On January 1st, our budget starts over with a monthly contribution for the big day.  That allows me to start shopping just when things have gotten dirt cheap.  I set aside stuff like paper products, colored utensils, and paper/envelopes for the upcoming Christmas letter.

Throughout the year, I shop for people.  If I find something just perfect, I buy it on the spot, doing my level best to stay within the prescribed budget.  And I am sure to note the purchase on the spreadsheet as I've been known to accidentally buy thirteen gifts for one person and zero gifts for another when I wasn't tracking things. 

As of today, I am within spitting distance of finishing my shopping.  In fact, my goal is to have every gift but those for my immediate family purchased, wrapped, and shipped off or under the Christmas tree by the week after Thanksgiving.

All that to say, I like to be done before most people have even started because I abhor the joy of Christmas being sucked out of me while I stand in the "10 Items or Less" line at Toys R Us with one $10 item while fifty people ahead of me each have 45 items in their basket and a handful of paper ads to "match" prices from other stores.

So, really, this is just self-preservation.  Because, the thought of a padded cell and Prozac isn't appealing to me.

But, for the past couple of years, I've had a beef that I don't know what to do about.  It seems, just about the time I'm getting finished, my mail and in boxes are all the sudden FLOODED.  I'm talking Biblical-proportions.  I fully expect to see Noah go floating by when I sign on to

Today, for example, I've cleared out no less than three dozen emails about Black Friday and The Countdown to Gift Giving and Big Bargains, 25% off.

And the mail?  I practically need a front loader to get all the catalogs, ads and requests from charities out of the mailbox, into the kitchen, and onto the counter.  If I intend to actually open the mail and do my regular, anal-retentive recycling, I have to wait until bedtime because I would have to postpone any carpooling, homework help, or dinner prep just to get through the top layer.

Am I the only one dealing with this?

Maybe the biggest rub is that I'M DONE WITH MY GIFT SHOPPING!  I don't need any more ideas.  And I sure don't need the temptation to buy even one more thing.  That's like sending an alcoholic a liquor magazine with scratch-and-sniff samples.

So, I would love to figure out how to stop the madness.

Do I just remove myself from the email lists of every company I've ever ordered from?  If I do that, what about the other eleven months when I really WANT their email coupons and specials?

Do I call a bazillion 800 numbers and tell each company to stop sending me catalogs, even though I know it will take "six to eight weeks"* to remove me from the catalog list?** 

And, if I order something off the net, why is it, when I open the shipping box, that I get the EXACT SAME CATALOG AS THE ONE I JUST ORDERED OUT OF AND PROVIDED A CATALOG CODE FROM?  Are those the trees I hear in the background, begging for their lives, as companies cut them down to send me high-gloss, non-recyclable catalogs as thick as cow patties?

So, what I want for Christmas is for every company to hear me loud and clear:  stop sending me stuff after mid-November.  Stop trying to entice me to shop with 13,257 other people at 4am when your store opens on Friday morning.***  Please don't clog up my inbox with offers that have so many strings attached that I look like a marionette when I try to take advantage of them.

For the love of everything red, green and shiny, please just stop the madness.

*Why is this the standard response when you try to get a company to help you accomplish something? 

**Why is it so hard to pull my address label off the run or create a computer program to put a big "X" on the label so the machines will dump it?

***I'm totally behind those who are mad that they are having to report to work sub-midnight on Thanksgiving Day to beat the Black Friday rush.  Retailers need to stop and think:  they'll be paying overtime to all the employees who come in early AND pissing them off in the process--how could that POSSIBLY benefit the bottom line???

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Word Origins

Overheard at breakfast this morning:

Hooman (to Nickels) "Do you know what breakfast really means?"

Me (thinking) "Pick ME!  I know!  I know!"

Nickels "Yeah" (do I even need to add that the "DUH" implicit in his voice told me he had NO CLUE what the origin of the word is?")

Me (because it was so evident that Hooman was about to answer his own question and I'm a know-it-all) "I know!  I know!  Pick MEEEEEEE!"

Nickels "Everybody knows that.  It's a break and you have to eat it fast."

I was stirring the eggs, facing away from the kids in that moment.  My head cranked around so fast that I practically got whiplash.  I looked at Nickels thinking "REALLY?  That's your origin for the word?"

Then I started laughing.  And, because I am a know-it-all, I asked Hooman to let his brother in on the secret.  After HE stopped laughing.

Obviously, Nickels felt it was a break from the morning chores his horrible parents make him do.  And, because he is so sloth-slow at getting said chores done, he is constantly having the verbal breakfast whip* cracked over his head, so he HAS to eat fast.

In other words:  he recreated the origin of breakfast to include laziness that results from feeling pressured to hurry.

I hate to tell him this, but he'll be learning that word over the next couple of years.  What he defined is commonly called procrastination in these, here civilized Americas.

And, if he bothers to crack open the dictionary to look it up, he might even see his Mother's picture to the right of the word.

*You probably have one of these at your house, too:  "You're running late?"  "Hurry up.  Eat your cereal.  The car is about to leave."  "You have to pack your backpack.  COME ON!"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

EWWW, That Smell

Those of you lucky enough to have boys will recognize what I mean when I say "little boy smell".  It is a combination of odors created by sweat and dirt and leftovers from breakfast, lunch and snacks.  It can be sickeningly sweet or a little on the putrid side, depending on how much running, heat and sticky food leftovers are involved.

I've dealt with my share of little boy stank.  And each time one of my boys has ventured into this land, I knew that there would be a day that they would come out the other side, not smelling so much.  Because, for some odd reason, there is a sweet spot between about seven and nine when boys smell like nothing.

But, no amount of little boy smell could have prepared me for tonight. 

Seems Nickels had an intense workout at the karate studio.  Coupled with higher than normal temperatures outside and humidity sticky enough to bounce a quarter off of, the amount of perspiration that came out of that boy's pores was enough to cure the Texas Drought of 2011.  And then loan some water to Oklahoma, just for grins.

The boy stunk.  Period.  So, after his shower, when he was comfortably in bed and wanted a little tuck in courtesy of Momma, I gladly obliged.

As I bent down to give him a little peck and a big squeeze, I was hit* by a wall of odor that stopped me in my tracks and made me sit bolt upright and wish my nose was deaf or whatever it would be called if your nose was unable to smell anything. 

Good golly, Miss Molly.  Stink.  Stank.  Stunk.  And everything in between.

Turns out, sweet boy decided to wash every part of his body but his pits.  When he was six this would have passed the sniff test;  a bit of odor would have reminded me that he had a fun day with lots of groovy playing.  But, he's twelve now and that is no longer true.  That little bit of odor could knock a full-grown elephant off its feet.

I'm guessing this is just the beginning of a train of changes:  deodorant, Peter Brady syndrome**, zits.  I guess it's too late to worry about what have I gotten myself into.

But, I'm throwing a guess that my nose already knows.

*I think I have bruising to prove it.

**"When its time to change, you've got to rearrange."  Remember?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Let Us Pray

Several months ago, we christened ourselves "Banglican".  See, we rocket between two churches almost every Sunday morning:  one, Baptist and one Anglican.

We adore the order of worship, the weekly communion, and the reverence of the Anglican church.  On the other hand, we love a good, old-fashioned Baptist Sunday School lesson. 

Now the Banglican thing makes complete sense, right?

Moving on.

Another reason we enjoy the Anglican church is because it is so liturgical.  Once you've been going for any significant period of time, you get used to when you stand, sit, kneel, sing, respond, etc.  Practically, you don't need the bulletin, because you are cued by the minister at the altar or the hymnal board on exactly where you are in the books.  And the rest?  You simply memorize over time, which frees your mind up to concentrate on what the words really mean.*

Now, I realize there is a pretty steep ramp up to having this level of comfort.  I was raised in a liturgical setting, so I know most of the little ditties and prayers and psalms put to music.  But, when you first attend?

That was the case with The Babe yesterday. 

Father Young** stood up to lead us into the scripture readings for the day and said "Let us pray."  Standard terminology, sprinkled throughout worship, probably repeated about a half dozen times each Sunday service.

But, for Babe?  "Holy cape, Minister Man!  What did you just say?"

He looked up at me and said "LETTUCE?" with this scrunched up look on his face.  Then he repeated it, just for emphasis and to be sure that I understood that he was paying attention to this man who was, clearly, putting in an order for the toppings on his post-service cheeseburger.

I corrected him, but The Babe STILL didn't get it "What do you mean let us?"  Unfortunately, there was no way, in a relatively silent room, to explain this turn of phrase to him without it causing more raucous.

But, when he saw that what he said made me chuckle, he kept looking up at me saying "LETTUCE?"  "LETTUCE!"  "LETTUCE."   It looked like he was auditioning for a commercial for the Lettuce Growers of America.

I'm confused by the lettuce, happy about the lettuce, content about the lettuce. Every possible combination of emotions about lettuce was coming through on his face and in his voice.  Which reminded me that I need to find an acting coach for him.

But, I made the point that this wasn't an audition with my squinty "Shut it!" eyes and "SHHHH" finger over my mouth.

Even this morning, though we've been over the "let us" turn of phrase several times now, The Babe is STILL convinced that, somehow, he heard Father Young correctly.

Maybe, in his six-year-old mind, this was God speaking.  Maybe God was telling him "It is time to catch up with the rest of your family and eat romaine at dinnertime."

Probably, this is all wishful thinking on my part, because I am tired of making salad for four and broccoli for one.***

But, hey!  If he keeps paying attention in church, maybe he'll hear more code from God, things like "Obey your Father and Mother" and "Forgive" and "Love One Another". 

I'll take it, even if it is sprinkled in with a little, leafy misunderstanding.

*Or, zone out, if you are too dadgum tired to focus.

**Not his real name, but he's young, so....

***This kid could single-handedly take out an entire broccoli field in one day, given the chance.  And, I imagine, probably gas us out of the house afterward.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time Out Chair

One of the lovely things about this time of the year is that the mail box is filled with magazines peddling junk that no body in their right mind would actually purchase, even if they were quadzillionaires.

See exhibit A:  the "Time Out Stool".*  In navy.

First, this is exactly how I picture Little Jack Horner, of children's poetry fame, looking after his mother discovered he had stuck his finger in the Christmas pie. 

Second, is that timer made of glass?  If the answer is "yes", then I can already tell you it has a design flaw...the very first thing to get kicked, while a child is sitting on this thing, pissed as a hornet, would be that glass.  And, BOOM!  Sand all over the house. 

Even the website mentions that this thing isn't a toy and requires adult supervision, just in case of "rowdiness, rough-housing, and buffoonery" which could "cause it to break".

However thought ordering this was a good idea DOESN'T HAVE KIDS.  They wouldn't be in time out to begin with if they weren't rowdy, rough-housing buffoons!

And five minutes?  Are you serious?  Five minutes worth of sand?  HELLO.  I start at 20 minutes and work my way UP.

But, if you have angels who wouldn't 1) kick 2) need more than five minutes of time out and 3) have $69 plus tax and shipping to spend this holiday season, I'd highly encourage you to buy one of these.

I'll come to your house, without my kids, and admire it.

*Mine is a fashionable, Rubbermaid, plastic gray stool.  And, under $15, including tax.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fourteen Carrot

This morning Mike and I awoke to wish each other a happy fourteenth wedding anniversary.  And, even though the day is overcast and rainy, we have so many reasons to rejoice.

Take the fact that the weather isn't picture-perfect:  gives us a chance to cuddle up under an umbrella, Mike's arm around my shoulder, when we have our Tuesday date lunch.  It will feel just like it did when we were dating, before kids came along and our foot-loose-and-fancy-free days were changed to foot-chained-to-gas-pedal weeks on end.

Or, check out the picture above.  This little carrot will forever symbolize this anniversary.  It came from a two-pound bag of carrots I've been using for the past couple of weeks. 

Every weekday, I reach into the bag and choose a carrot to peel and cut for the boy's lunch sacks.

And, each day, up until today, I had not laid eyes on this veggie or felt it in the bag in my usual morning quest for the "perfect" carrot.*

I showed the boys, who each made his own plea to take it to school.  I denied them that right, knowing this carrot needed to be photographed.

Then, I told the boys that this was an anniversary carrot--sent just in time to celebrate Mom and Dad's anniversary.  It looked just like two people who had become one.

When Mike made his way to the kitchen, I showed him too.  He thought it was really cool.

After the rush of getting breakfast on the table, lunches packed, and carpool run, I came back home to a counter full of dishes.  And, as I was thinking about writing a post for our anniversary while I stacked the dishwasher, I started to think about the carrot again.

And I cried.

I realized that this was a little love note sent from God to me and Mike;  a wink that He thinks we make a really fine couple.  And that the He remembers us, extra especially on important days like this.

And, I'd love to think, that Mom had a hand in it, too.  She had a knack for picking out unusual, but very thoughtful, timely, and appropriate gifts.  I certainly think an entwined carrot would make that cut.

It's all about blessings today.  Or, more appropriately about recognizing the enormous blessings and acknowledging that they are straight from God.

Some would think that an anniversary wouldn't be complete without dinner and dancing and a night with just hubby.

But, me?  I'll gladly take a fourteen carrot wedding anniversary over all that stuff.

Happy Anniversary, Mike.  After all these years, you are still my Knight in Shining Armor!

*Some carrots just don't make the grade in my house.  They are plucked out of the bag and become treats for the dogs after they've been peeled and washed.  Yes, I know:  spoiled, weird, carrot-loving dogs. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fish Lessons

This morning, I had the distinct privilege of cleaning all three Betta tanks.

That makes Mom:  123 tank cleanings.  Kids:  0.

Truly, I would feel horrible about the slow, oxygen-deprived death these fish would die if I just left he water murky and gross, if I waited until the kid noticed and decided belly-up isn't fashionable for fish and sprung into action.

But, none of us is going to live long enough to see THAT happen.

Part of the process of tank changes is transferring the fish from their tank to a glass while I change the water.  Generally, I have a small, plastic cup as a holding tank.  But, this morning, my counters had been cleaned* of all dirty dishes, including the plastic, and the only cup available was glass.

Now, these are your standard Walmart brand glass with octagonal sides.  Until I poured red fish into the cup, I had never realized that the interior is reflective, almost like a mirror.

Point nine seconds after hitting the cup, red puffed up like a blowfish, all gills and attitude.  He looked like a chicken who was pecking the ground, searching for feed, the way he was going from place to place, hitting the glass, trying to peck a hole in the "other fish" he saw.

Peck, move, peck, move, peck, puff, peck, puff, peck, move.

Honestly, this whole pecking episode looked like it hurt.  And, meantime, I had put fish pellets into the water.  Instead of gulping down his meal, red was way too busy being mad to even notice the blessing above him.

It reminded me how stupid fish truly are.  Their supposed three second memory even became questionable in my mind as I watched his little dance of anger.  He just wouldn't quit, pursuing this other fish until I moved him back to his real tank.


How many times have I gotten all riled up over nothing?

How many times have I blown a situation out of proportion based on faulty reasoning?

How many times have I lost focus of the blessing because I was busy being focused on something inconsequential?

"Too often" is the quiet answer that settled in my soul.

When you choose to live peaceably with those around you, pardoning offenses, forgiving misplaced actions, ignoring hurtful comments, you choose to swim in healthy, clean waters.  You choose a path that few understand;  but, your soul knows it is right.

How many of us prefer the dirty, stale water, being at war with ourselves and others around us?

It's time I learned from red that overreacting and poor thinking and self-deprecation are no way to live.

I should be pleased that my life, the proverbial tank I've been charged with, is no place to dwell when I've made it cloudy and murky.  I need to embrace the forgiveness that cleans my environment and soul, even if others choose to live in the mire.  I need to focus on the blessings of my life instead of worrying about those around me.

And, mostly, I need to be thankful that God chose to use a tiny, red fish to teach me these lessons.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wedded Blisters

So, I got a request to write a bit on the whole Kardashian/Humphries marriage blow-up.

At first, I declined to even give credence to the whole, sordid affair.  I think the media has this one covered, probably better than the wedding itself, all 10,000,000 dollars worth. But, then, the longer I thought about it, the more I realized there were lessons to be gleaned here.

And, interestingly, the fingers that are blaming Kim didn't resonate with me.  It was the fingers staring back at those who are pointing that hit me hard.  (If you don't get it, point at someone and see that there are fingers pointing "back" at you.)

So, some lessons to be learned when a marriage fails:

1.  We don't know other people's hearts.  Only the Lord does.  What matters, in matters of the heart, is that God is blessing the union.

2.  It is entirely possible for someone to find a perfect mate in a very short period of time;  Mike and I are on the list of examples.*

In my experience, when you get comfortable with being alone, just you and God, the right person enters your life.  It's the giving over of self that assures God He can send you a mate to complete your life without risking losing your love for Him.

And, by the way:  this works, even if your nuptials weren't blessed from the beginning.  If you turn over your marriage to God, and put Him first, He can help straighten out broken hearts.  This is what I wish Kim/Kris would see.

3.  We can't really know a person unless they are willing to be honest and open.

With reality stars, we know the persona that we are allowed to see, that is heavily controlled by publicists and the stars themselves.  But, we don't know the true people. That makes people who put themselves in reality TV in a very tenuous position:  people immediately think that the edited part of their lives they are allowed to watch is who the star really is.  Not true.

The same is true with Mr. and Mrs. Regularperson.  We can't judge them by the edited part of their life we get to see at work or at church or at school.  We have to want to get to know them personally and they have to want to share their life before we get to see who they REALLY are.  And, even then, unless we are married, there will still be pieces of them that aren't shared.  And that is perfectly OK.  That is the way friendships work.

But, when you are thinking about getting married, nothing in your life should be guarded.  You should be an open book and so should your future spouse.  You should talk about your past and your future and your dreams and your fears with abandon.  You should relish the idea of staying on the phone until 4am, if you have to, to get to know each other.

You HAVE to know each other intimately, from an emotional sense, for a marriage to work.  The one sure way to tank a marriage is to come into it with guarded secrets.

4.  There is a difference between being in love, loving someone, and being in love with the idea of love.

Clearly, many people love the idea of being loved by someone else, where the signs of love are gifts and adoration and making out.  It's a trip to have someone think you hung the moon and stars.  It feels good to have someone hanging on your every word.  But, if it is all focused on how the other person makes YOU feel?  It's not love for the other person.  It's lust.

When you truly love someone, though, the signs are more than physical and material.  They are emotional and spiritual.  You willingly put the person you love ahead of yourself and your needs.  You treat them as the prince/princess they are.  You pray for them and speak highly of them and respect them.  You would willingly give your life in place of theirs.  In other words, your love is Christlike, giving and forgiving and unselfish.

Kim was clearly in love with the idea of being in love.  And, this is a dangerous trap.  When others around you, friends and family and co-workers, are all planning weddings or having babies, it is easy to want what they have.  And, this translates to loving the idea of loving someone.

And, if Mr. or Miss Handsome/Beautiful walks through the door in the middle of your fantasy about what you eventually want in your life, BOOM!  It can seem like you've just discovered love.

Do the test:  Do you truly know the person?  Love him/her for who they are not how they make you feel?  Do you know, deep down, what they want in life?  Do they love God more than themselves?

If you aren't sure about the answers to these questions, you're not talking love. 

5.  Divorce sucks.  Period.

No matter how long you've been married, it is tearing apart something that wasn't meant to be disassembled.  If God is truly in the union of two people, He grieves the loss of their oneness. 

6.  Listening to people around you, when you are in love, is crucial.  But, even more important than that is that people SPEAK UP if they think you are making a mistake.

Being in love is like living life on crack:  you are somewhere, floating around above the world, high all the time.  You aren't in your logical mind.  Sure, it's great.  But, the tell-tale signs that this romance wasn't meant to be are easily overlooked during this period of bliss.

It is crucial that your friends and family are brutally honest with you about what they see in your relationship.  Being in love, you are just blind.  And the people who aren't wearing blinders in your life need to let you know if you are making a mistake, even to the point of potentially damaging the relationship in order to help you make an error in marriage.

Let me tell you from experience:  there is nothing worse than having the conversation, mid-divorce, where people admit they saw all the warning signs but didn't bother to tell you because they didn't want to "ruin" your moment.

With all the flip-flopping, "Hate Kris" today, "Love him" the next, that occurred in the Kardashian kingdom during Kim's brief engagement to Kris, there was no solid voice of reason calling Kim off the cliff.  She needed someone to sit down and point out that neither she nor Kris was treating the other respectfully, that they are from different worlds that can't be lived in the same state, and that, with all the concern about changing her last name, Kim was showing all the signs that she wasn't fully committed to being a wife.

I don't know that this train wreck could have been avoided.  But, it should be used to help others make sound choices about the person they are considering marrying.

If it doesn't feel right, seems too hard, or is stressful being with the person you "love", then it is time to take a break and seriously consider what you are doing.

Once you make that long walk up the aisle, it's a little too late.

*Started dating on July 18th, were engaged in October 7th and would have been married around the holidays, if my sister and brother in law hadn't already planned a spring wedding.  We'll hit 14 years in less than a week.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Who IS That Woman?

The past month has been a whirlwind of medical activity in my life. I have, most literally, been looked at from head to foot by the likes of a dermatologist doing a full-body mole check, a set of doctors performing my annual mammogram/exam, and my chiropractor (twice).

Yet, the most illuminating visit was to the eye doctor. Or, do I call him the eye surgeon?  Eye guru?  Cripe. He's the dude who did my Lasik surgery four years ago.

I knew, going in, that the correction wouldn't be permanent. After all, eyes change. But, I didn't expect that the change would come so soon.

Seems, in the past nine months or so, that my vision just ain't what it used to be, even post-surgery, that is. In the mornings, when I try to read my Bible study before the house becomes fully awake, I find myself rubbing my eyes incessantly, trying to help the words on the page focus themselves.

And, an hour later, when someone asks me the time? I can't read the digital clock from ten paces to save my life. Yes, both near and far sighted options are gone.

For a few months, I blamed my lily-livered, chicken self for not going to get the necessary "touch up" on my right eye. I reasoned "Had I gone in to make sure my vision was 20/20, instead of 20/30 or so, this wouldn't be happening to me."

In July, I squinted my right eye shut to pass the obligatory eye check at the DMV.

By September, I knew I needed an appointment, stat. But, a phone call revealing the cost of the touch up set me squarely back into squinting mode.

I finally gave in this past week. I simply couldn't take another moment of trying to see what I really couldn't. So, I bit the bullet and made my way down to the doctor's office.

I told everyone, from the receptionist to the office manager taking my $100 co-pay, to the girl who performed all the fancy eye tests, that I would need a whole lot more than one Valium to get me through another surgery. If that was in the cards? I was going to need forty industrial-strength relaxants chased by a quart of Jim Beam.

Yeah, that's how much I enjoyed that first surgery.

They all giggled at me and happily passed me on to the doc.

Turns out, the doctor had good news and bad news. The good news? I wasn't going to need any Valium or Jim Beam or surgery of any sort. Instead, I was welcomed "into the club".

The bad news? It's the club for people who need reading glasses.


Turns out, my vision is 20/15. But, my eyes have reached their mid-40's and my lenses are now more rigid than they were when I had the surgery performed. That's what was causing my problem: aged eyes that couldn't easily make the change from close-up to far vision.


I ventured to Walmart today and bought myself a pair of "cheaters". Yes, they work. Yes, the kids think I look cool, "just like Gran" said Hooman.

It's official people. My husband is having a love affair with an OLD woman. The one he married almost fourteen years ago? Permanently carted off to some foreign land, never to be found again.

I get the impression that I've hit the top of the mountain and I'm careening down the opposite side at lightning speed. I am becoming the person I said I never wanted to be: someone who is young in her brain and old in her body.

So, I guess the joke's on me. Like all human beings, I'm succumbing to the natural aging process. And there ain't no stopping it now.

Don't worry, I won't do anything rash like get a boob job or liposuction or booty implants.* None of those things will, ultimately, stop gravity or aging. And, they won't bring me back to a time when I could rely on my eyes not to treat me like an old lady.

But, don't count skydiving or applying for "Amazing Race" or swimming with sharks out quite yet. I think I still have a lot of living to do.

Even if my vision sucks.

*That would be massive overkill and catapult me into needing to change my last name to Kardashian.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Can't Take It Anymore

If I were unemployed (which I am, incidentally, by choice), I would be doing one of two things with my day:

1. Gaining skills necessary to return to the workplace in which I was hoping to continue my career.
2. Sending out resumes, meeting with contacts, and attending interviews.

And, I'd be praying, asking people to pray for me, and praying some more.

If I realized I needed to gain some skills, I would seek out the proper educational channels, do paid/unpaid internships, or work on my skills in arenas where I could perfect them (teachers can teach Sunday School, nurses can volunteers hours at the local hospital, carpenters can build a Habitat house, etc.)

In some way, I would be working to improve my situation and my self. By doing so, I would put myself into a position to run across people would see my drive, appreciate my skills, and either hire me or suggest someone who could.

If I already had a great resume but needed others to recognize me, I'd work on my interviewing skills, attending interviews for jobs that I might otherwise not consider, just for the practice. By doing this, I just might get myself in front of someone who would have the knowledge base to match my skills with available jobs at the company.

I would tap every human being I've ever said "Hi!" to and ask for their help. I'd make phone calls, send emails, text, be on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

I would, in essence, become the Mary Kay representative with the nerve to approach other people in the grocery store to see if they would be interested in a free makeover*: I would talk with everyone, everywhere I went.

I would be praying for a door or doors to open. I would be praying for doors to shut. I would be praying I would be open to criticism from those who interview me and listening for essential skills to add to my resume. I would be praying for the people who are praying for me.

In short, I'd be working to find work.

What I wouldn't be doing: sitting in the midst of a park or a sidewalk or a grassy knoll, camping, with a bunch of other people who have NO COMMON PURPOSE other than to throw a gigantic pity party and whine and gripe about how hard life is.

You will never find a job sitting on your butt waiting for someone to smile down on you and provide what you aren't willing to work for.

Folks, if you surround yourself with people who are losing, you are going to lose. When those around you don't have the capacity to improve your lot in life, you get yourself stuck in a pit with them.

Man up, Occupiers. You can camp AFTER you've found a job. You can have a love-in over the weekends, when you are gainfully employed. You can vote your conscience in the next election or, better yet, run for office.

But, what you can't do is sit on your rear end, day after day, week after week, and expect that you are going to be able to afford the house you wish to obtain, the car you want to drive, or the vacation you wish to take. That takes money and money follows work.

Stop listening to the lies. Pick up your sleeping bag and go home. Join the rest of working society that understands that life IS hard at times, but that doesn't mean you throw in the towel, stick out your bottom lip, and refuse to move forward.

It's time to move on, people.

*She's the one with the pink Caddy in the parking lot because she WORKS at it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Writing Castoffs

I'm writing today, but had to cut this out of the book because it just didn't fit. Yet, I liked the premise so much that I couldn't stand to leave it on the cutting room floor. So I added a bit to the thought and posted it here for you to ponder.

Ponder away.


Why did God give us the gift of forgiveness?

Without consulting my Bible for a verse, and basically throwing an idea to the wind, I think He knew we were going to stray and make big mistakes and feel incredibly guilty and He wanted to extend grace.

Forgiveness allows us to completely blow it, fall flat on our faces, yet get a chance to try again.

And the biggest beauty of the gift? There is no end to forgiveness. It is infinite. Isn’t that astounding?

Psalm 103:12 tells us “As far as east is from west— that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.”

When we repent, we are forgiven, period. The memory of our sin? Gone from God’s mind.

God grants us a pardon, if we ask and are truly repentant. In return, He asks that we extend the same grace to others.

In fact, we are called to forgive as we are forgiven in the great Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Yet, how many people do you know who won’t forgive others?

How many people do you know who won’t forgive themselves?

How many people do you know who won’t forgive GOD?

What is holding us back? Pride, jealously, bitterness? Anger, hurt, idolatry?

Why do we fail to understand that these things are not Christlike? Why do we fail to see that handing these things back to the world and embracing forgiveness is a path to peace?

Oh, that today would be the day we would embrace His gifts and live the extravagant life He has planned for each of us!