Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meeting Jesus in Home Depot

I had to venture into Home Depot today to grab a bizarre little tool designed to keep my hands off the icky litter I intend to pick up in our neighborhood.

I know what you are thinking:  WHY?

Well, somewhere along the way, I've become hyper-focused on how nasty our streets have gotten in my little part of the world and I want to do something about it.  So, first stop was to find one of those little "grabber" thingies that will keep me from having to bend over constantly.  And, a pair of gloves when I have to pick up something that could have remnants of the bubonic plague all over it.

Can you tell I'll have a tub of Purell strapped to my back during this process?

A nice woman at the door directed me as I entered the store.  Now, those folks are usually dead on.  They say things like "When you pass the red-plastic-coated hooks on the bottom shelf on the right, look up two shelves and you'll find what you are looking for.  There are three dozen choices, so if you need more help, let one of us know.  OK?"  And then they flash a million dollar smile and scoot away to help the next clueless person.

Not my helper.  She sent me to the wrong aisle about a mile away, so it took me a bit to get my bearings and head in the right direction to find my grabber/gloves.  When I had thoroughly investigated about six aisles and rushed through three more, I finally found my intended target.

By this point, I could have swung one aisle over and come full circle to thank the hostess for her complete lack of help and direction.*  But, I was staring at a grabber thingy, so I wrote it off as exercise.

Back on aisle 35...

There was another employee there just waiting to help.  His voice reminded me so much of Barry White that I started to believe in reincarnation.  I almost had to sit down on the ground when he talked.  Vapors, I tell you.  Vapors.

Instead, I listened intently, searching my purse for a lighter, which I intended to thrust into the air when Ashton Kutcher came out, confirmed that reincarnation DOES indeed exist, told me I'd been PUNK'D, and this dude used those chops to sing a little song to me on aisle 35.  This is when I cursed the fact that my foray into smoking lasted less than a semester and I don't carry a lighter or matches.

KIDDING.  Though, wouldn't that have been ultra-cool?

Mr. White noticed I already had the grabber thingy and he wondered what else I needed to go along with it.  I stopped myself from saying "You, singing" and asked for an over-the-shoulder bag to put my "finds" in, like the kind you see convicts wearing alongside the road as they pick up trash.  But, I didn't mention the convicts.

He pulled a shiny object off the shelf, did some James Bond move to the thing, and took it from a square the size of a donut box (dozen, in case you are wondering) to a full-fledged cart, designed to carry large pallets of water or sodas.  Very cool.  But, completely impractical for my use.

And, that's when I said "I should probably design something and become a millionaire!"  He laughed at me (but Barry laughs right GOOD!) and said "Well, if you earn that million and become part of the 1%, please keep the 99% in mind."

You can imagine how that went over with me if you've been reading much of this blog lately.

It did give me pause, as I left the store, to think:  What would I do if I was the source of something that created great wealth for my family?

I'd like to think I'd be ultra-generous.
I'd like to think I'd bless others.
I'd like to think I'd look for ways to give others a leg up when they needed it.

But, how would I feel knowing the same group that I was attempting to help with the wealth I created and worked so hard for, was hating me behind my back?
Was speaking ill of me for working hard?
Was glumping me into a group with the Leona Helmsleys of the world?

I would hate that.
I truly would.
But, I'd have something more in common with Jesus.

He tried to show people how to help themselves.
He tried to show kindness.
He blessed others.

But, in the end, he was reviled.  Hated.  Executed.

Now, I'm no Jesus.  But, I can see how becoming the target, even if you do it intentionally, can really, really hurt.

And, No.  I don't think I will become the Queen of Over-The-Shoulder-Litter-Bags any time soon.  I think it would be easier to call the jail and make a little inquiry.

But, it's funny, in an odd way, how my Barry-White-Impersonating-Home-Depot-Employed acquaintance made me think all that.

*"Hey!  Home Depot trainers?  Time to remind your employees that memorizing the store's schematic is part of their job!"

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bizarre Stream of Conciousness Post

While semi-enjoying a jazz apple today:

"The name "Jazz apple" just makes me need to break out into some Broadway song from All That Jazz, including the little routine where they all do "jazz hands".Should I just go ahead and get it out of my system?"

While eating the apple and noting its flavor:

"Is it odd that this thing reminds me of some perfume I think I may have worn in my twenties?That really strong undertone of overly sweet is just screaming off my tongue.But how screwed up is it that I'm eating something that definitively reminds me of perfume?What the heck was the name of that perfume?  And why, perfume makers of the world circa 1990, would you think of inserting the flavor of an apple into a perfume?That's badly warped."

While deciding the apple needed a mask to overpower the perfume flavor:

"I truly pity the poor person who has an allergy to peanut butter.I could live on tablespoons of the stuff, morning, noon and night.UMMMMMM.That's so much better.Now all I taste is PB."


"So, how do you figure out you HAVE a PB allergy?Just all the sudden, one day, out of the clear blue sky, do you go all anaphylactic and need an Epi Pen?I mean, it has to start somehow, right?How do you know these things?Am I subjecting myself to developing an allergy just by eating PB to mask the fact that, clearly, either 1990 era perfumes were injected INTO the jazz varietal OR the taste of a jazz apple was injected into the perfume so we would all feel the need to bite each other?It's all so very disturbing."

Next time?  Buying Fuji.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

An Open Letter to Eligible 2012 Voters

Dear Voters:
You are within spitting distance of deciding who the next President of the United States will be.  Though it seems impossible, November will descend upon us almost as quickly as Herman Cain's campaign went down in flames.  And that smack was FAST!

No matter if voting in this election makes you feel all warm and fuzzy or angry and bitter, you must, above all, remember it is a privilege to go to the polls.  People in other countries stand in awe of our freedom to vote;  this responsibility is something we should never, ever take for granted.

Neither should we shy away from the polls because our favorite candidate isn't on the ballot.*  We show up, pony up a vote (even a not-perfect one), and thank God for whomever is elected, affirming him in prayer during his entire tenure, according to scripture.

And, even though this political season has been a hotbed of allegations, some false and some true, we have to ignore the distractions to get to the truth about the people who are running.

One fact I can darn sure gar-un-tee, that will set some of you on a cursing streak the width and breadth of the Mississippi, is this:  our next candidate will be in the 1%.

If you critically think about it, campaigns aren't run on sunshine and smiles.  They are run on money.  BIG money.  Huge war chests.

I will concede that the best man for the job may very well reside on Main Street in Plainville, USA earning $45,000 a year.  But we'll never know his name because the money doesn't back him, even though he has sound values, makes righteous decisions, and still exercises common sense.

Now, do I necessarily think it is RIGHT that, for the past 150 years or so, our candidates have come to their positions via wealth?  No.  But, it is reality.

So, let's lay this whole "1% vs. 99%" business to rest.  If you don't like this fact, it's time to fight for sweeping campaign reforms. 

We also need to forget all the chatter about tax returns, especially the BS Warren Buffet is slinging.**  If any of these candidates was filing inaccurate returns, paying less than they owed, or bilking the system in any way, they'd have a target the size of Massachusetts on their head.  And, the IRS would have aimed, fired and shot.

These guys are paying WHAT IS OWED.  When they earned the money, they paid a higher tax rate, probably in the 20-35% tax range.  That was taxation number one.  Then, after investing and showing a gain, they were taxed at a lower rate because they had been PREVIOUSLY TAXED AT A HIGHER RATE.  That's called basic tax law.

If you don't like that, fight for tax reform.  But, remember.  You have the same opportunity to pony up a higher percent of taxes on your earned income and invest the money, allowing you the privilege of being taxed a second time on the gains at a lower rate.   

And, further, just because someone is wealthy and has invested well, he isn't automatically the devil.  It makes him wise.  Blessed financially.  Possibly lucky.

So, with those issues aside, you have choices to make.  Are you going to look at the heart of the person?  Their values?  Their morals?  Their past decisions regarding issues that you feel are important?

Or, are you going to follow the campaign ads and the tweets and the accusatory language of the opposing candidates?

I would strongly urge you to do the former.  A site I discovered that might be helpful is called Vote Smart.  It allows you to find your "presidential soul mate" via a quiz of sorts, devoted to a bevy of issues and their importance to you v. the candidate.

This is going to be an imperfect election during imperfect times.  Not much new under the sun, frankly.

But, what shouldn't be imperfect is the passion of the people to grab their freedom by the horns and use it.

Show up.  Vote.  And let the chips fall where they will.

And, may the best man win.

*My current write-in, Abraham Lincoln, is most definitely too dead to actually serve.

**That argument is such political crap it makes my head hurt.  If Mr. Buffet wants to pay 30% on his earnings or gains, just frickin' do it!  But he knows as well as I do, that he has EARNED THE RIGHT TO PAY A LOWER TAX RATE ACCORDING TO THE IRS.  Don't bust every one's chops and start a controversy that has no basis in fact just because you have a bazillion dollars to blow, dude.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

There is no good starting point when trying to tell someone about this movie.  So, I'm starting here...I just met the movie I think deserves the Oscar.

And, coming from the girl who was MORTIFIED that The Help didn't get it's proper due at the Golden Globes, I'm shocked that I just typed that sentence.

I'm not sure if it was the stellar portrayal of a boy with something off the autism spectrum, the topic (9/11/01), some of the most amazing dialogue I've heard in a long, long while, or the fact that it was cathartic if you are missing someone you love who you desperately feel is slipping from your life.

I just can't quite put my finger on it.

I was charmed.  I was moved.  I cried through three kleenex; some happy tears, some tears of KNOWING, some tears of wishing, some tears of remembrance.

This movie made me want to stand up and go do something.  But, I can't quite put my finger on what I feel moved to do.

Remember?  Honor?  Contemplate?  Be a better parent?  Never give up?  It's some combination of all of those.

What I didn't leave the theater thinking about, not once, was the once tangible emotions I had about 9/11;  the anger and bitterness about what happened on that September day.  That wasn't the point of the movie.  The point was those who were left behind.  They are the story.

I can't emphasize enough how much this movie touched me.  I would see it immediately again, with notepad in hand, scribbling memorable quotes and emotional highs and lows, if time and money weren't of the essence.

All I know is that this movie is sure to become one that I will see over and over again, finding new treasures each time I watch it.

Two pinkies up from both MommaJ and Mike (though I'm pretty sure he'd want me to include a different finger than a pinkie), with a caution not to leave the concession stand without a hearty helping of napkins.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stupid Is...

Stupid things I've done this month that I KNOW are stupid but I just can't help myself:*

1.  Entering the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes daily.  Actually, twice daily.

Sure it would be nice to win the house and cash.  But, my big dream is to win the car that is part of the package.  See, the Armada just hit seven years, 100K miles and we really, really are going to need a new SUV in the coming months.  And, I HATE the thought of spending money on a car.

So, I'm a gonna win one!  Against like a bazillion to one odds.

2.  I bought a deep fryer long about January 3rd.

At a deep discount at Costco.

Do you think that was anti-cultural at the time?  You betcha baby!  Everyone else was stocking up on diet food bars and yogurt and veggies and I learned how to make donkey tails (a hot dog wrapped in a tortilla, fried to a crispy brown).**

I warned you this was the year I wasn't making the "normal" resolutions.

3.  I started following the Presidential election news.

OK.  That was for about 30 seconds flat then I couldn't take it anymore.

There is this point where I can feel my blood pressure rising, my sarcasm bone aching, and my heart racing and I realize "Put down the remote.  Back away from the TV.  Or you are going to explode all over this room."  And you KNOW how much I love to clean, so....

I guess that was the one SMART thing I've done all month.

I just wonder what the people at the polling place are going to think when I write "Abraham Lincoln" in as my candidate of choice?

*I'm hoping, by coming out of the closet on these issues, that I will straighten up.  Or, all of you will tell me I'm not as ridiculous as I feel and I'll have your permission to move onward and upward.

**Thank you, La Hacienda Ranch, for turning my kids on to these things!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Every Thursday morning, come rain or shine, I devote three to four hours to writing.  Mostly, this time is for "Mom's book", the one I'm working on about her illness.

This has become sacred time.  Time I don't waver from.  Time I look forward to.  This is my time to remember, cry, regret, forgive, and move on.

And, today is one of those typical days.  I woke up raring to go, ready to get into the writing.  I did my usual, pre-out-of-bed prayer, and started into the work of the morning:  cooking breakfast, packing lunches, unloading the dishwasher, prepping The Babe's morning phonics lesson.

And, somewhere, in the midst of all the business and the attempts at motivating the boys to be on time for carpool, I just crapped out.  All desire to write left me.  So, I did what I do best:  I started checking the computer, looking for inspiration.

When I got to the email you see below, I started to delete it;  I receive something daily from "Women of Faith", so what big difference would it make if I deleted just this one? was my line of thought.

But, something someone stopped me short of hitting that big X.  And, when I read the first line, I understood why this was such an important part of my today.  The day I now have renewed vigor for writing.

I took the time to underline all the parts of this that spoke to me.  Maybe you should do the same? 

Enjoy this little beauty.  And, may you find something in your day that is worth trying.

The hardest part of almost any task or challenge we face is getting started. I am an expert at sitting on my rear while I analyze how difficult a task is going to be, agonize over how long it will take or mull over whether I will be able to do it to perfection. A friend of ours, who happens to run one of the most successful fortune five hundred companies in the world, put it well. “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly the first time.”
JUST DO IT. You can always improve on it once you have started.
My friend, Eric Alexander, helped guide the first blind man to the peak of Mount Everest. He had to do more than just dream about reaching the summit. He didn’t sit around worrying because a blind man had never been on the summit before. They made it! But it would have never happened if he had hadn’t taken that first step, crossed that first stream, established that first base camp.
What have you got to do today?
What have you got to do?
Run or just have fun?
Forgive and let live?

Study and learn?
What have you got to do today?
What have you got to do?

JUST DO IT!--Ken Davis, author, from Women of Faith 1/26/12 email

Monday, January 23, 2012

One of THOSE

Have you ever had a weekend that seemed to blow by so effortlessly that you had to strain to remember what the heck you even did?

I've had one of those.

There was a little bit of birthday partying, a bit of budgeting and getting ready for tax season, and a bit of churching.

There was welcoming Mike home from a business trip and saying goodbye as he and Hooman jetted off to Tyler for a hospital visit.

There were meals and dirty dishes and bathes and laundry loads.

There were two too many nights with later-than-normal bedtimes.

There was the second glass of wine on Saturday night that meant there wasn't anything fun happening past 9:30 for yours truly.  Or her poor hubby.

And there were prayers.  For mother-in-law in ICU.  For friends who just lost their Mom.  For the homeless.  For children dying of leukemia and their family and friends.

But, honestly, there were no a-ha! moments or glorious memories or mind-bending revelations to be had out of this weekend.  It was just a silky-smooth, plain Jane couple of days.

And for that?  I am eternally grateful.

Twenty years ago I would have been mad to find myself approaching Monday morning with nothing to report.  No amazing date night.  No crazy activities.  No true excitement.

But, now?  I find that those things are so unimportant to me.  I don't have a need to have a "report" about the comings and goings of my weekend.  What's important is being available for my family.  Providing for their needs.  Finding time for God.  Finding time for rest.

And, frankly, my brain needed a rest.  My soul needed to luxuriate in God without having an agenda.  My body needed to fall asleep on the couch watching TV with my family.

And, if boring describes my life at the moment?  I'm totally, 100%, way cool with that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Girly Legos

Dear women who are getting their panties in a wad about Lego deciding to cater to girls:

I'm sick of hearing you complain.

Why is it a such an offense that there are inherent differences between girls and boys, women and men?  We were made to enjoy different things.  Stop trying to make everything vanilla, plain and boring by equalizing everything between the sexes.  It was never meant to be that way.

Every time I hear your cries about this that or the other being unfair, and how, in the name of equality and gender indifference, we need to change x, y and z, I want to throw up on your boots.

You DON'T speak for me.  Never have, never will.  Because I clearly see that God had a plan in making girls into women and boys into men.  We have different talents, skills, and emotional needs.  And, sure, there is SOME crossover.  But, we aren't gender neutral.

And it really troubles me that you are up in arms about an issue that, clearly, you haven't even researched.  If you look at the Lego website or go to the store, then you would know these sets are being marketed to girls: 

Cafe, tree house, vet clinic, house, beauty shop, convertible, bakery, pool, rock -n- roll stage, invention workshop, pet patrol, puppy house, fashion design studio, and dog show.

Yet, all I keep hearing is "Lego is trying to keep the girls down.  Why can't we have Legos that move and do stuff."

Um.  Rock -n- roll stage?  Invention workshop?  Vet clinic?  Tree house?  Am I missing something here?

In case providing sets with animals is giving you grief, keep in mind that most girls think puppies and babies are really cute.  Given a choice between playing house and guns, they'll do chores any day of the week, thank you.

And, newsflash, when we were younger, many of us dreamed of raising babies and owning a puppy, along with marrying a man who would take care of us and provide a house with a white picket fence. 

When you figure out that many of us feel just fine walking around planet earth with breasts and vaginas, wearing jewelry and perfume and being called "wife" and "Mom", you'll understand that you don't speak for the majority.  YOU, in fact, are the very loud, obnoxious MINORITY.

I don't want to, nor will I, take away girl's rights to do whatever makes them feel competent, needed, and heard.  However, I happen to believe that embracing who you were made to be generally fits that bill nicely.  And, when the next generation of girls is surrounded by women who always feel like they are getting shafted?  You aren't helping the issue one bit.  It's time to teach our girls to embrace the difference between them and their male counterparts and be grateful for it!

If you were born to become a woman, you are welcome to shatter stereotypical roles.  Feel free to play with the "regular" Legos*. But keep at the back of your mind that men have turf, too.  And they are competitive.  And if you want to play on their field, you'll have to bring it.  Bring it big.  And, that isn't unfair.  It's life.

And, while you are complaining that you dislike things that are girly and fighting for your "rights", where does that leave those of us who WANT girly options to exist?  Is it right or fair for you to trample on OUR rights?

I, personally, can't wait to spend my money at the Lego store buying girly Legos for my nieces and the other females on my list, IF THEY WANT THEM.  Meanwhile, feel free to continue to give your daughters whatever toys float your boat, including the regular Legos.  I promise I won't complain if I find them playing Army man with my sons.  They just better not cry when they get pegged in the head by a BB.

Meanwhile?  I am going to put on my earrings, pull my hair back in a pony, and throw on my pink panties. 

Viva Girl Power!


*Which, incidentally, aren't called BOYS Legos;  they are gender neutral.  And I don't hear a bunch of men whining about THAT.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Yesterday, despite the circumstances, was a blessed day.

*I enjoyed the beautiful flowers my sweet neighbor brought, with a card that told me she was thinking of me and praying for me.
*I had the privilege of being in this glorious, unseasonably warm, sunny weather as I drove around, following God's lead.
*I visited the grave of my college roommate and left her flowers, reminding her that 27 is way too soon to be gone from this earth.  As I walked through the cemetery, I told Mom that I missed her dearly but that didn't mean I would change a thing and have her suffering on earth;  I am glad she is at peace in Heaven. 
*I inhaled the smell of fresh flowers crowning the grave of a dear friend's Mother while I prayed over her family.
*I followed God's lead out of the cemetery and found myself parking next to Lullabye Land.  I meandered through the area, only to discover that an infant daughter of friends was buried there.  I talked to Baby K and told her that Mom would love to rock her.
*I picked four Bibles to keep in my car, in a bag with food and water, to give to the next homeless person I meet.  I know Mom would be proud I'm continuing with traditions of service to those less fortunate than me.
*I learned that my Mother-in-law's surgery went off without a hitch but that doctors found an issue that will require another procedure.  Then, trouble set in, in the form of blood in her chest cavity, and that her blood pressure had dropped too low;  she required ICU intervention.  I thanked God that she was in such competent hands;  that He had seen fit to have her in the right setting for such a crisis to occur and for bringing this additional issue to light before it became a crisis.
*I welcomed home Mike, who had been traveling since Monday.  We enjoyed lunch together, just the two of us, catching up and enjoying each others company, as only best friends can do.
*I celebrated the life of a very dear friend who turned 40 this week.  And, in celebrating his life, realized it was a celebration not just of him, but of Mom as well--this day is the second anniversary of her "birth" and her homecoming in Heaven.

It was a full day.  It was a day where the tears were minimal, my heart was full, and I could tangibly FEEL your prayers, well-wishes, and thoughts.

And, for that?  I can't thank you enough.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's in a Number?

2600.  The result of Mom's initial CA-125 test.  In case you aren't versed in cancer-speak, "CA" stands for "cancer antigen" and this is the standard blood test used to determine if ovarian cancer is present in the body.

8.  The result of my first CA-125 test;  a "baseline", if you will.  I made a rather hasty decision to take the plunge while in the doctor's office earlier this month.

630.  The number after Mom's first chemo treatment, the day before her second treatment occurred in December 2009.  An amazing sign that gave everyone hope that the tumor was shrinking.

110.  The percent confidence we had that another round of chemo would continue to send the CA-125 numbers down. 

35.  The dividing line between "worried" and "not worried" with CA-125 results.

1.5.  The number of quarts of fluid that built up in Mom's abdomen due to the cancer and were, subsequently, drained off.

"Down".  The results of CA-125 tests after the second and third rounds of chemotherapy.  This would seemingly mean that Mom's tumors were shrinking;  instead, it was an incomplete picture of the whole:  the cancer had spread to her liver.

Six. The number of weeks set aside for Mom to try another chemo regime in early January 2010.

Nine.  The number of days after discussing the alternate regime before the cancer had spread to Mom's liver, kidney, and intestine and she had fluid on her lungs.

Three.  The exact number of months between diagnosis and death. 

Two.  The number of years Mom has been in her Heavenly home.

One.  The number of lives we all get to lead. 

Zero.  The number of women over the course of the rest of my life that I want to see diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 

Infinity.  The amount I love and miss you, Mom.

As many as it takes.  The number of years I plan to live and fight for everyone who has a Mother, daughter, sister, Aunt, Grandmom, friend, or niece who could possibly contract this killer disease.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Land of Opportunity

Imagine a place in the world where there were limits. As an adult, you were told in which areas of town you could live, how much money you could make, how much schooling you could pursue.

All of these decisions were made by others. You had no say.

Once you were placed on a track, you were there for life.

The neighborhood you grew up in was the only one you could live in. You could trade houses but, similar to the boy in the bubble, you couldn't move outside the boundaries of the area you were born into.

No matter how hard or how little you worked, you stayed in the same job, doing exactly the same duties. Forever. Until you retired.

Even if you desired to move up in your job by expanding your eduction, you were stymied by previous decisions about how much education you needed beyond high school or a GED. No amount of money, contacts, or intelligence could cause this decision to change.

Does this sound like America to you? Is this how you would describe your America to someone from Africa or China or Australia?

I want you to think again about your answer. Really ponder this one. Don't read forward until you have a firm "Yes" or "No" answer.

Because it seems there is a trend in this country that intelligent, moral, hard-working people are buying into. They BELIEVE America is like this.

Their thinking goes: only those who are successful (which is usually defined as earning more money than they earn) have the chance to live where they want, earn what they want, and have a good college eduction.

If this sounds preposterous to you, consider how people respond to the phrase "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer."

Most people shake their heads affirmatively, bemoaning the fact that others in America who have managed to make millions and become wildly successful, while they are "stuck" in the same place they've been for years.

Add to this "I'm stuck" concept the idea that in order for the rich to get richer, the poor are caused to suffer.

This train of thought is poisoning America. It is literally being used to drive a wedge, to create a "haves and have not" mentality, in society.

We are FAR from the pagan vs. the castle scenarios of old.

We have freedom. We have choice, sometimes too much choice. We have free will.

You can live anywhere you choose to. If you want a bigger house in a "nicer" neighborhood you must earn a larger paycheck, cut expenses so you can afford a larger house, or pay off other debt so you can be approved for a bigger mortgage. Want to live in Beverly Hills? In America, YOU can do that.

You can earn as much money as you want to. If you want more money, you'll have to work harder, put in longer hours, get more education, change companies/jobs, or start your own business (which could mean eating lots of Hamburger Helper while your business ramps up.)

Contrary to the argument that the rich, by getting richer, somehow take from the poor, there is no big pot at the end of the rainbow full of money from which we each take our paycheck;  there is no limit to the amount of money any particular person can earn. The sky is truly the limit. If your goal is $5 million a year? In America, YOU can do that.

You can go to college if you choose. It may not be Harvard or Princeton or Rutgers, but you can certainly apply there, if you wish. You can get into any junior college in-state for just a few hundred dollars. You can actually work your way through college and come out with no debt to speak of. Or, work extra hard and garner scholarships. In America, YOU can do that.

Don't let Washington mentality poison your mind.  You control you.  You control your future.  You control how you choose to help others.


*Of course, there would be no you without God, so He most definitely factors into this equation. But, for sake of argument, I'm putting this in the simplest terms.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Abandoning Ship

The press is having a field day with the half-sunken Costa Concordia for what probably is going to boil down to a grown man acting like a little boy.

From what I can gather from the coverage, El capitan decided to steer the boat a little closer to shore to either thrill the mainlanders OR those on board OR himself OR all of the above.

And, the result of taking a dare?  Even a self-imposed one?  Disaster.  Something most ten-year-olds have figured out by the time they've had their second broken arm and third set of stitches and their Mother is threatening them within a millimeter of their lives about setting foot in another ER before they hit 53.

And here is where the real lesson becomes crystal-clear:  Veering off course means that you might end up in trouble.  And when you end up in trouble as a result of your own actions?  You have to take the blame and deal with the consequences of your actions.

That's where brother failed.  He literally abandoned ship. 

I can't help but compare his actions to Christ.

Though He was faultless and blameless and sinless, Christ ended up in trouble because of the things He was doing and saying (which, of course, were truth).  The people of His day, who felt He was a blasphemer and a fraud and not worthy of saving ahead of a known criminal, were having none of it!  And, as a result, He knew He would have to deal with the consequences;  He would have to perish.

But, when Christ's "ship" sunk, did He abandon it?  NO!  He looked death head-on and died for all.

Here's what I know about captaining a ship:  you are the last one out.  You are the one who shuts the door and turns out the lights.  Everyone is counting on you to do that.

And, because Christ did that for all of us, including the captain of the Concordia?  We have forgiveness for our sin.

Captain made a mistake.  A costly mistake compounded by another mistake.  But, just like you and me, He can ask for forgiveness BECAUSE Christ didn't abandon the ship.

And, I hope, once the dust settles on all of this, that the press finds it in their hearts to focus on the true tragedy here:  the families who will not be able to welcome home their loved ones when the Concordia was supposed to dock.

When we turn out attention toward those who perished and those they left behind, we focus on showing love and peace and comfort amidst a horrible situation.

But, first, we have to stop crucifying and stirring up hatred and placing oodles of blame on a man who made a horrible mistake.  We need to let the investigations take place and the evidence be gathered and the true story be put in place.  And we need to learn from it.  And, yes, the captain needs to face his punishment, when all the proper work has been completed and submitted to a court of law.

Trust me, people of the press, captain is in his own Hell right now.  You don't need to help that process along.

Please allow us to get to know those who needlessly died.  Please let us know who they are survived by.  Please don't let them get overlooked so you can get more website hits or sell more magazines or increase the nightly news ratings.

Oh, that we would live in a world that embraced love rather than hatred!

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winking, Part THREE -OR- Haven't We Had Enough Lessons This Week ALREADY?

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 
"Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:5-20)

So, we covered the idea that revenge is bad with one son, just in time to find out that another son is dealing with what could best be described as bullying or verbal abuse or physical abuse.  Or, let's just put it an in a nutshell and call it "meanness".

Now, some of you are shaking your heads thinking "They are in a CHRISTIAN school!  How in Sam Hill is THAT occurring in a CHRISTIAN school?"

To which I am pointedly going to respond: "Where BETTER than a Christian school for this to happen!" 

Now, I didn't come to that point by myself.  I have my moments of clarity, but this week hasn't been one filled with crystal-clear reminders.

Instead, it was one filled with knowing that I needed other people praying me through the mire and lifting me up continuously.  And when I raised my prayer requests, someone suggested that, in this school, we all KNOW we are broken.  We all KNOW we need a Savior.  We all KNOW we are capable of sin.  So, when issues are brought to our attention, we should be kindred spirits who are willing to work together to ask Christ to make the situation right again.

Well, bless her little heart if she isn't right.  Do you have ANY idea how freeing that thought was to me?  Even if it does scare the living daylights out of me at the same time?

Because that means confrontation.  That means bringing the ill behavior of someone else's child to light.  That means having difficult conversations about the way things are versus the way they SHOULD be.

But, having spoken to Mike, I see this is the RIGHT thing to do for everyone involved.

Just like my friend whose son was the victim of my son's ugly, vengeful words, I have to be woman enough to speak, in love, about the sickness of some one else's heart, as evidenced by their actions, FOR THE OTHER PERSON'S GOOD.

Just as the Matthew quote says, it is a responsibility that God placed on me (and us, as parents), to stand up and bring peace to places where there is hurt.

And, in doing so, we can expect that some will receive it readily and apologetically and with welcome arms.  Others won't.  But, according to scripture, it is certainly worth binding these issues on earth.  That, in my estimation, is making one giant step toward our Lord being able to come back to our home to take us to His Home.

This coming week and the weeks after will tell.  These conversations won't be easy.  And I have two very wonderful women to thank for pointing me to Christ in this situation.  

You know who you are, I admire you, and, I thank you for speaking the truth into my life, with boldness and love and courage.

The light of Christ truly does shine in the darkest of hours and in the darkest of situations.  And, yes.  You can quote me on that.

Because, if I know nothing else, that is more than enough.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winking, Part Two

"Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.  This is faith and obedience in action." --Dr. Charles Stanley, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia 

Today was the day I found out God sometimes winks slyly.  As if he has a secret that He is about to unload on you.  One you aren't sure you want in on, but you can't help but beg to hear.

Next time?  I'm going to mind my own business.  And stay out of messes like this.  OK, God?

See, one of the boys purposefully put the hurt on a classmate because said classmate had been verbally rude to our boy during the first few months of school. 

To say I was disappointed was an understatement. Then I wondered if I had dropped the ball;  I intervened when I knew about the situation and it seemed to have been taken care of, but were there signs along the way that I had missed?  Was I supposed to done something more?  Seen something that I didn't?  And, why did it take so long for my son to bring this to our attention? So many questions that all pointed to my failure.

But, somehow, I doubted it was really all about me.  After all, this is our son who likes to stuff his feelings and let them fester a while before they come spewing out of him like hot lava.  He isn't your "let's deal with this presently and then promptly let it go" dude.  He doesn't fall far from him Momma's tree on that one (though I have made tons of progress in this regard.)  And, surely, this was an area where God was doing heart work, work to correct our son's very inner motivations. 

But that's the thing with God.  He usually doesn't just teach my children something without taking my elbow, turning me in the right direction, and flashing me a grin that says "I think you meant to go THIS way, correct?" 

Yup.  He's sly alright.  

Check this:  just the night before last, the Mom on the other side of this equation and I were gloating about the fact that we got the easy part of Mothering because boys were SO.MUCH.EASIER.TO.RAISE.THAN.GIRLS.

Translation:  A mad boy today is a boy who is making fart jokes tomorrow with the same person who made him mad today.  Girls, on the other hand?  Still mad thirty years later.  And, they'll cut you with their eyes.

Yes, that sound is God laughing at both of us as we figured out that boys can cut you, too.

Needless to say, there was a really good lesson on the ills of revenge to be had here, one I jumped on the opportunity to share.  And son was receptive and repentant and ready to hear that forgiveness and love fall under our human job description;  God has our backs when it comes to vengeance.

I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of brother understanding that stooping to the level of the person who is plaguing you is NOT the way to live life.  The world will try to tell him at every step that this is the way to play life.  But, he learned tonight that that is simply not the truth.

And the beauty?  I didn't have to lecture him, I simply asked how it felt now that he had done the deed.  Was he satisfied?  Did he feel "better"?  No.

Then I asked if he wanted to know the effect on the other little boy in the situation.*  Meekly, he said he did want to know.  And telling him that he had caused someone else to cry and be very sad and not want to continue being his friend about crushed him.

This whole event ended with a quick trip over to friend's house, where forgiveness was asked and a promise made to "cover" friend's back should our son hear any of the other boys making jokes based on our son's mistake.

All-in-all, it was mortifying but freeing.  We don't often think of having to talk with our children about exacting revenge.  But, I believe our society has become one where offense is easily taken, trash-talk is acceptable, and forgiveness is a quaint word that most people don't even begin to understand.

We need to stem the tide of this thinking, as Christians.  It is our duty to make sure our kids are prepared for the negative feelings they have when someone treats them poorly.  Their first thoughts should never be revenge.  Instead, they should be about the other person and how to be a balm for his/her weary soul.

We need to educate our kids and let them know that not everyone is going to want to be their friend and some might even be out to hurt them.  But, as aliens in this world, that, in a nutshell, is the commitment we make as Christians walking planet Earth.  It is, by no means, easy.  But, it is what we ascribe to as Bible-believing people.

This job of raising kids, whether they be female or male, is the hardest work in the universe, as far as I can tell.  It is emotionally-draining, financially-demanding, and socially-deadening at times.  The rewards, though sometimes few and far between, are always worth the work.

I'm pretty sure this is one of a bazillion lessons I am about to learn as we approach adulthood with our three boys.

I, for one, am glad to have God on my side to help me figure out the direction I need to take, the counsel I need to give, and when to just shut my trap.

*Mom had called and explained her son's side of the story earlier in the day, along with the heartbreaking details on how her son responded in carpool.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

OK.  Today's post is sour grapes.  If you want to read about happy-clappy, sunshine-filled, joyful-noise type things?  Try a different post.  Or another blogger for the day.

Might I suggest the laugh-fest that is my friend's reaction to the selling of the contents of Spelling manor?  Yeah, she's in her happy place making fun of the ridiculousness that is inherent when you have too much money and no common sense.

But, back to my whine fest.

Maybe it is post-holiday letdown, the time when your house feels so empty.  Empty of all the fun holiday decorations and all the time with family and all the anticipation.

Maybe it is because I've spent the last 48 hours feeling like some idiot stuffed cotton up my nose, followed by a fireman's hose running at full capacity and followed by a boombox that began to loop industrial-strength punk rock music into my head, just to emphasize that my cranium is splitting into thirteen parts and, anytime now, I'm either going to blow my brains out my nose or they'll come oozing out my ears.

Maybe it's because, simultaneously, the period fairy came to visit.

Maybe it's because Mike is super busy at work right now and didn't pay much attention to my sick self yesterday.

Maybe it's because my chiropractor treated me exactly the same way my Mom would have, by covering me with a blanket and smearing smelly, homeopathic stuff on my aching head to make it feel better.

Maybe it's because I really started to miss Mom and I can't believe, in one week, she'll have been gone two full years.

Maybe it's because one of our dear friends' Mothers went home to be with the Lord this week.

Who knows.  But, all this happened this week, making me feel so incredibly sad.  And, honestly?  This is not a place I like to stay for long.  So, true to form, I'm coming up with the silver lining.

Each of the boys was super sweet.  Hooman said he was praying for me, unprompted.  Nickels must have hugged me a thousand times and told me he hoped I felt better.  The Babe cracked a boiled egg for me, watched "Wheel of Fortune", and laid in bed to "take care of me".

Bob, the sweetest cat on planet Earth, has not left my side once.  He has been curled up on my right side, touching me, from the moment I came to bed.  When I cried, he managed to make himself into a "cat hat" and purred on my pillow, slung around my head.

The chiropractor's use of cold laser on my sinuses/adjustment of my neck seems to have done the trick.  My fever broke late last night and my headache has almost gone away.

I've had my good cry, thanks to hormones and the stupid TV show "Mobbed"* and I feel so much better for the experience.

The funeral is scheduled at a time that we can attend, without having to move anything on our schedule.

In years past, I would have wallowed in pity for awhile.  I would have gotten good and upset and sat down in the middle of it and refused to get up.

But, I've figured out, that doesn't hurt anybody but myself.  And, by proxy, those around me.

So, today, three-quarters-well, I'm going to march forward, thanking God that He created bodies to heal themselves and then, eventually, to be renewed and join Him in Heaven.

The period, though?  Still working on the thankfulness for that.....

*How can you NOT cry when a Grandmother is introduced to the adorable six-year-old grandson she'd never met?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Boy Wonder

A recent Wall Street Journal article brought to light the fact that grown adults, in the year 2011, have about as much common communication sense as the local emu at the Dallas Zoo.

That, for those of you a bit on the slow side, would be NONE.

Seems a certain Aidan Dwyer was taking a walk through the woods one fall day and happened to look up at the bare trees.  He noticed that most of the trees looked alike.  And when he arrived back home, he did some research on the Internet and discovered a mathematical concept called the Fibonacci number which underlies the structure of tree branches.

(To which I add "Had I known there was cool math behind trees, I might have attempted Calculus, Dad."  OK, not so much.)

Anyway, Aidan took this idea and ran with it, coming up with an application for the Fibonacci number that involved solar panels.  He hypothesized that arraying the panels like the leaves on a tree would lead to more sunlight being collected.

Meanwhile, his hypothesis cum national science competition winner cum Internet post turned wildfire started to mean Mr. Dwyer's research had some followers.

Some commented all about his ingenuity and intelligence, but many had concerns about the way the experiment was measured.  Their commentary tended to be so full of hatred and negativism (comparing him to an "alien" and calling his science "bad" and "impossible nonsense") that it was almost unbelievable to Aidan and his family.

But, when you factor in the next sentence, you'll see that this country is adrift in a sea of meanness that we need to steer away from.  See, this tree revelation was made when Mr. Dwyer was 11.  ELEVEN.  As in, a tween.

Fast forward to today, where our 13-year-old boy wonder has taken some of the actual, constructive feedback from his haters critics and is in hot pursuit of a revamped, properly measured version of his original project.

Undeterred by adults who never learned how to give kind feedback were clearly jealous of his genius, he has moved forward by doing chores to earn money to buy his own materials to recreate his experiment and compare it to "traditional" solar panels.

So far, the new versions are proving him right.

Hip, hip, hurray Aidan!  You have one Mom in Texas who thinks America is lucky to have such an intelligent, explorative, brilliant kid on our team.  Keep up the good work and never stop observing and dreaming about making this world a better place.

To quote you:  "I'm thinking that it could actually change the world."

Game on! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

There Isn't Enough Time...

to react to rude strangers with anything but kindness.  You might actually soften them up.

to wonder whether your family's favorite dish belongs at the potluck.  Just make it and take it.

to worry.  Replace it with prayer.

to ignore that feeling that you should visit someone or make a phone call or send a card.  You never know when today will be your last opportunity to express your love.

or money to waste on plastic surgery.  We like you just the way God made you and the way he is aging you.

to fret about the numbers on the scale.  Just stand in front of the mirror and decide if you like what you see.  If not?  Do something about it.

to skip reading your Bible again.  Often, God speaks through His word.

to pray "another time".  Do it now!

to sit and be still.  But, make the time anyway.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Surely You Jest!?

"It's a fool who says 'I don't tell my child what to believe' because if you don't, some one else will!"--Dr. Tony Evans, Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, Texas

Just a few days ago, I posted that I was working toward my movie diet being less PG13 and R rated stuff.

I distinctly remember, many years ago when I listened to Glenn Beck's radio show and he announced his family was doing this.  I was a committed Christian and I remember thinking "Is he an IDIOT?"

So, in some way, this post is my "Hey, I'm not an idiot" response to my own post, which you can view here.

Two summers ago I watched "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", the first version with subtitles.  That was the last time I really just decided to see a movie without checking it out first.  Truly, I should have turned that thing off before the first half hour was over.

That one movie had a long-term effect on my desire to watch "reality" being played out by actors/actresses.  I think there is something to be said of subtly.  And, watching something so vile that you can't shake it from your head, even two+ years later, is not good.

After that occurrence, I did a Kelly Minter study where she recommended we examine everything that we are considering putting in our minds (music, books, movies).

I was changed.  I no longer cared that everyone was seeing the latest movie, reading the latest book, listening to the latest music.  I wanted to be different.  I wanted to stand out for my own good.  I didn't want to expose myself to crap that would poison my mind.  I didn't want that for my kids.  And, I was one of their biggest examples!

If I was going to go to the latest R-rated movie, my kids were old enough to know.  If I was listening to inappropriate music, my kids would want to listen along.  If I was reading a book, my kids would want to know the plot.

So, I began consulting "Plugged In Online" for all our movies.  Surprisingly, not every PG movie even passed the test!  The chipmunks movie, for example, is chock-full of inappropriate lyrics from "popular" music that my kids don't/won't listen to.  I began looking up lyrics for songs and explaining to the kids WHY they wouldn't be able to download them, including the REASON for my concern (which often came down to glorifying premarital sex).

Books have been a little tougher--Nickels recently went with a friend to Barnes and Noble and picked up "The Hunger Games" because "everyone is reading it"*.  I had just read the bio on the upcoming movie** and knew, immediately, it was not a good book for him to read.  Add to the bio glowing commentary on the dust jacket from none other than Stephen King, horror-writer extraordinaire, about the "violent" content and I knew I was making a proper decision. 

Now, here is the God part of the story:  the woman who returned the book for us was a Mother of four boys, which I didn't know until Nickels attempted to find the pot of gold at the end of his broken rainbow.

See, he is still trying to find an in for the Nook Color, which boasts Internet access but has no parental controls for controlling content.  He currently has the "inferior"/no-Internet Nook version.

Never one to back down on what he wants***, Nickels decided to ask our salesperson whether the Nook Color now had Internet lockout ability.  In front of our salesperson, I re-explained that the functionality hadn't changed and, therefore, he couldn't upgrade.

That's when this woman jumped on my bandwagon, explaining she was a Mom of a tribe of boys.   She said she agreed with me and that there were things on the Internet that Nickels wouldn't want to expose himself to.  My message, exactly, from a seasoned veteran with grandchildren.  And, as we parents all know, when a complete stranger says the same thing you've been hammering home for nine months?  It's GOSPEL, baby!****

After that?  Zach walked over to the B&N Cafe and downloaded Tim Tebow's book, which he says is "AWESOME".  Side note:  finished it in about two days and can't wait to read more of Tim's stuff.

So, in my mind, it comes back to Dr. Evans' quote up top:  If I am going to walk a path for Christ, I can't be trying to walk the world's path at the same time!  I have to make choices, not only for myself, but also for the protection of my own children.  I live in a very transparent bubble, a place my kids peer into moment-by-moment to figure out what is right in life.

Now, not everything that is in the world is horribly bad, but so much of what we do on a weekly basis needs more critical thinking thrown against it to determine "Should I expose myself, my family, to this?"

The jury of popular opinion is no longer the rudder that should steer entertainment decisions.  If we allow that, we get a head-full of murderous or sexually-explicit lyrics, movies portraying torture, rape and vengeance, and pictures stuck in our mind through our reading that we can't shake.  I don't want to find myself constantly coming to God's throne, confessing my weakness in choosing inappropriate entertainment!

So, there you have it.  I am not out to judge anybody else.  I see clearly the path I am going to take (which, incidentally, will be the boy's path but NOT necessarily Mike's--he has to come to this on his own) and I'm sticking to it.  But, I know I am not your average person when it comes to this train of thought.

Take a look at this topic with fresh eyes, if you dare.  The world will try to tell you your freedom is being taken away, but, in reality it is the exact opposite.  You are giving yourself boundaries, such as you give your children, that are ultimately for your own good.

When you choose to walk a path that is more narrow, it is a transition that isn't always easy.  But, it is completely worth it.

I can tell you from being on both sides:  the freedom associated with being on the cusp of society is so incredibly worth the peace that comes with it.  And, eventually, you will no longer care what those around you think or say or wonder about your "sheltered" life.

And, I dare say, you will be a better, happier person for the change.

*Yes, that has started in our house.  My hair may be a little thinner by the time we are finished with this exercise in adolescent reasoning.  Or, as I think, LACK of fully-thought-through-reasoning.

**Coincidence?  You know what I think!

***My side of the family.  Has its good and bad points.

****One of the biggest irritations of parenting, in my book.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Christmas Lessons

Knowledge I gained, Christmas 2011:

1.  Kids DO check to see how many gifts are under the tree and they DO compare gifts with those received by their siblings.

I thought my Mom was full of hooey on this one but, clearly, The Babe is the golden child because his three gifts trumped his brothers' two by about a million miles.  I felt compelled to scream gently explain that the entire budget for one of the boys was eaten up with his ONE big gift request and, had Mom not been a REALLY savvy shopper, that gift number two would still be at the store.

This year?  Not changing a dang thing.  My kids (except The Golden Child) are old enough to understand what a budget is and I will be reminding them of that when their gums start flapping about wanting a Ferrari.  If they choose a gift that gobbles up half their Christmas gift budget, fine. 

Just don't stick your lip out Christmas morning or I might just slap it back in place.

2.  The Advent Calendar is a great family activity that promotes daily reading of scripture about Christ's birth. However, the little trinket gifts that accompany our A.C. have become a beat down of epic proportions.

Since I budget about a dollar a day for these little beauties, it is difficult to find decent stuff.  Add to that fact that the dollar bins at Michaels have gone up to $1.50* and I am seriously thinking about doing activity driven gifts this coming season.

Truly, the focus of the calendar is to remember the reason for the Christmas season.  Somehow, it has become a "what do I get next?" activity.

Time for a HUGE revamp, me thinks.  Your suggestions/comments are welcome.

3.  No matter your best intentions, it is virtually impossible to under-schedule December.

We started with the premise that we have two annual events in the month:  a mission's party and Hooman's birthday.

To that, I added a baptism/brunch for The Babe, two out-of-town trips to visit/celebrate Christmas with family, one weekend family celebration that included house guests.

Others added Christmas Chapel, school parties, and dinner parties.

By the end of the month, our calendar had at least one seasonal activity that someone in the house had to participate in on TWELVE of the thirty-one days.  That was outside the "normal" routine of our lives:  homework, final exams, karate, church, etc.

Crazy, crazy, butt crazy.  Great times and great memories, but just a bit over-the-top during a time when most people are trying to slow down and enjoy a few moments of quiet, family time.

A friend of mine suggested she had left one weekend blank in the month.  I couldn't figure out how in Sam Hill I could make that happen, but that is my stretch goal for twenty twelve.

4.  If you anticipate Santa Claus not being part of your life in the coming year, make sure you get one last, great photo with your fav SC.

When I am in a really creative mood, I'm going to find each of the twelve pictures I have with Santa and the boys and put them all in a huge picture frame, to be hung each Christmas.

I just LOVE going to see Santa.  There is a part of me that wants to sit in his lap and shove the boys to the side because I BELIEVE!

I love the story of the patron saint.  I love the idea of giving to others anonymously, which is the Big Guy's Job.  I love making other people smile until their cheeks hurt.  I love, love, love everything about Santa.

And I just want to hug him every time I see him.  And, yes, I cried at the end of Arthur Christmas when Arthur's heart and good intentions beat out Steve.

So, I'm going to need those pictures to keep myself from driving to Northpark and sitting on Santa's lap by myself.  And being labeled some middle-aged, insane woman from the burbs.

Sure, seeing Santa is one part of our Christmas routine that is both an exercise in patience and a time suck.  But, if I could somehow keep The Babe ignorant for one more year, I'd be thrilled.

Viva la Santa 2012!

*That price increase blew my mind.  Somehow, if I want to treat someone to a little something, spending a buck is totally cool.  But, a buck fifty?  Outrageous!  Why is that?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I really love it when God winks at me by sending a lesson my way.

Today provided a ripe example.  Within minutes of the sermon beginning, one titled "God is in Control", Nickels developed a particularly bad case of the hiccups which continued through the end of the service.  The Babe's nose started running to the point that Mike had to rummage through my purse to find him a kleenex.  And Hooman turned to me and whispered "I have to poop.  NOW!"*

Not exactly the best of circumstances under which to take in any talk, much less a sermon on how God knows everything that is going on in our lives and has it all figured out for us, even when it seems to be going willy-nilly.

I listened rather half-heartedly to what Bishop Sutton was saying, catching tidbits in between deep sighs and squirming from Hooman, hiccuping by Nickels, and blowing by The Babe.

I had a moment where I realized that this situation was so much like life in general:  it is the little distractions, that fly around us like annoying mosquitoes, that keep us from truly being able to focus on God.

But, remember, the theme of the morning so far was CONTROL.  Not my control, but God's. 

So, fast forward to Sunday School at our "other" church.  I wasn't two feet in the door when I noticed the scripture of the morning was "Do not let your hearts be troubled" (John 14:1)

I practically stopped dead in my tracks.  For some reason I considered missing the bulk of the sermon so paramount to my walk for the week that I totally lost sight of the idea that missing one, short message wasn't something to fret about.  There were other messages to be had.  Other truths to uncover.  More to life than one fifteen minute talk.

The bulk of the Sunday School message was that Christ taught the disciples, through His time with them, how He loves.  Now, He was asking them to love each other similarly, and to love all neighbors as themselves. (John 13:31-14:3)

In one short hour I realized my entire morning fit together like a perfect puzzle.

Zero control in the midst of a message on God being in control + Frustration with those whom God commanded me to love = this message "HEY!  I love you AND I love those kids AND I am in control even when you can't see it.  Just love, that's it.  Nothing else to worry about in the least."

And I could just see Him standing there, with a huge grin on His face and a twinkle in His eye, with which He would wink at me to let me know "You're my favorite."**

I love that, all the while, He knew exactly what I needed to hear.  He knew the more important message was the connection I'd make between what I partially heard in church and what I heard fully in Sunday School.  He KNEW.  And He choose to allow me in on his little secret.

Sigh.  He's just too much for my soul sometimes.

*To which I reminded him of the cardinal sin of not using the restroom before the service starts.

**And the cool thing is, in that moment, He was doing the same for countless millions of His favorites all around this big world.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I have discovered...

that it feels better to ask forgiveness than wallow in anger.

that I DO have a tipping point where my weight feels out of control.  I hit it this week.

that I am capable of loving someone, right where they are, even if they've repeatedly disappointed me.

that I can gently convince Mike, in the middle of his sleep, that he needs to roll over.  Never underestimate the power of the mighty elbow.

that when I'm impatient and hurried and thinking only of myself that I will inevitably be behind the car without a muffler, in a traffic jam, in the middle of a downpour.

that my best friends aren't always the ones who are around all the time, but the ones I speak to every few weeks or months.  Conversations after an absence are deeper and sweeter and more meaningful.

that having rats under my house gives me permission to buy that pink BB gun I saw at Academy.

that the best recipes aren't always the ones that include fancy ingredients with funny names.  Velveeta and cheap macaroni that reminds me of my childhood tastes infinitely better than Chateaubriand.

that homemade popcorn and a Redbox movie with my love is just as satisfying as actually going to the movies.  And, it's about $50 cheaper, when I factor in the babysitting.

that helping with homework in my forties is so much more frustrating than homework from when I was actually IN elementary school.  But, I wouldn't miss the chance to teach my own children for the world.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thorn in My Side

Most of you have no idea that I used to be (and still am to some extent) deathly afraid of sutures.  Add to that, a fear of needles, and I'm a phlebotomists worst nightmare.

I discovered today that I have trypanophobia (an extreme fear of hypodermic needles).  I'm not sure where all this wonderful fear started, but I do have a memory of a nurse, once I was intoxicated for foot surgery by some dreamy cocktail of drugs, pulling my hand and inserting an IV against my wishes.  She was obviously not good at this procedure because, even being stoked on meds, it HURT butt-good.

I was so out of it, all I could do was pull my hand away and say "OWWWWWWWWW" (and I remember it coming out just like that:  one long sound).

And, the first time one of my best friends conned me into the Carter Blood Care trailer to donate blood?  All my co-workers came by the chair I was dying in to look at how ghost-white I was.  And to laugh.  All while I was near death, sweating profusely, and on the verge of passing out.

Honey, there ain't enough free orange juice and Oreos you can give me, post bloodletting, to repeat that fun little exercise.

So, having a hypodermic needle inserted into my body to deaden the skin, followed up with becoming a human pin cushion that is being sewn up, is my idea of Medieval torture.

In late 2010, I had to face my fears head-on.  I had two procedures that involved needles and one that resulted in eight sutures in my back.

Blissfully, I couldn't see any of the work.  But, I could feel the pricking of the needle and the wonderful pain that came from the lidocaine being administered.  And, the whole time, I kept thinking "If this stuff doesn't work, when the doctor touches me with that scalpel, I'm going to scream my stinkin' head off.  Then sue for malpractice.  And move to a small country where needles are strictly forbidden."

Do you see my potential for shooting up drugs going below zero percent?  Yes.

Fast forward to this week.  The sutures were out, an act that took every once of courage I had.  Yet I couldn't help but have this nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right.

About once a day, I'd feel my shirt or bra strap rub up against the wound site and I would get a sharp, pricking feeling.  I must have asked Mike and Nickels and Hooman to look at my wound about forty times, trying to figure out what was going on.  Each time, save one, everyone said all was well.  And, given that I couldn't see squat, I had to trust them.

Back to the "save one" statement.  That was Mike.  He said I had a "hair" coming out of the wound, which he removed without incident.  I should have gotten the magnifying glasses out at that moment and made him stare at my back until he extracted SOMETHING.

Finally, on New Year's Day, that sharp pain returned for the umpteenth time and I was DONE.  Someone (Mike) was going to figure out what was going on.  I wasn't moving out of the bathroom or putting my shirt back on until I had an answer.

And, you know what?  Turned out, one of the sutures had embedded itself inside the healing wound.

Yes.  You can say "&*^%".  I almost did.

I know for sure I added wrinkles to my eyes that day, because I was staring at myself, wincing in the mirror, with divots the size of The Grand Canyon staring back.  It hurt like crazy.  But, thankfully, the suture had been cut, so it was a clean removal, once the scab was removed.

Then, Mike looked at the other wound site and determined there was ANOTHER piece of suture leftover.  LUCKY ME!

This did NOTHING.NOTHING.NOTHING. to decrease my phobias.  NOTHING.

Bottom line:
1.  Don't chat up the nurse while she is removing your stitches, even if it is the only way to keep yourself sane while she does.  It would be better to pass out and have the stupid things removed before you are revived.

2.  If you think you have a suture left in your body, YOU DO.  Go straight back to the doctor and require him to see you immediately.  Don't wait it out.

Now, there really is a point to all of this, because I kept thinking of Paul having a "thorn in his side" in the Bible.  A thorn that he plainly wanted removed, but that God thought should remain.  And, for the duration of Paul's life, that thorn remained.

The Bible is non-specific about what that thorn was, but those who study such animals believe it might be a physical ailment.

I'm feeling you, Paul!

Clearly, I can't be compared to Paul.  He's a superhero of the faith.  But, I can get on board with wanting God to do something, begging Him to grant the wish, and having Him say "No.  Not now.  Not ever."

What we can't see, at the time of our pain, is that it will be redeemed for good.  We can't understand that our pain may help others.  We can't see the "big" picture, the way God does.

I'm thankful that my little issue was resolved relatively quickly, before it turned into another, more difficult problem to solve.

I find myself feeling for those who have a physical ailment that is constantly bugging them but that God doesn't seem to be paying attention to or that He has refused to remedy.

The bigger picture will eventually come clear.  It may not be on this earth.  It may not be in the time you wish.  But, you will see clearly, someday, that what you've gone through has a purpose.

Trust.  Obey.  Pray, without ceasing.  Ask others to pray with you.  Listen.  Learn.  Stop trying to control, but don't give up.

And remember, always:  God is with you.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thank You Notes

There are few things in this world that I couldn't be convinced to do away with.

And, no, I'm not talking Diet Coke or coffee or cake, though those are things I would happily leave behind if I thought it would, somehow, significantly prolong my life or make me less sarcastic or cause my body to revert back to pre-children.

But one thing that never gets old and that I will never give up is sending handwritten thank you notes.

Normally, I like to be sure that each gift giver receives a prompt note of acknowledgement before the received gifts are well-worn, cashed, or otherwise used.  And, since having kids, that has made thank you notes time intensive. 

So, this weekend, I reminded the kids that they needed to work on their December thank yous.  Surprisingly, this year didn't include the sounds of a torture chamber that generally accompany this task.  I lorded over them supervised their writing without even one hint of eye-rolling or whining or "WHHYYYY?"

I saw, for the first time, Nickels taking pride in using "my" method of writing:  Greeting, thanks, word about the gift, thanks for spending time together/thinking of me, sign-off, signature.  Being my man of few words, I was overwhelmed by how many words he actually used in his notes this time.  I could tell he was really trying to convey his heart!

Hooman seems to have a natural gift for writing words of thankfulness, so I barely had to lift a finger, other than to tell him to wait to read me what he'd written.  He gladly wrote birthday and Christmas thanks in a very short amount of time, leaving lots of his sweet self in those cards.

The Babe had double duty writing baptism and Christmas thanks, a task that would have left most six-year-olds in a heap of writhing pain on the floor.  But, The Babe?  Nope.  He embraced copying the names of his gift givers and signing his name (in cursive, Mr. Fancy Pants!)

If I have done one thing right in this whole parenting thing, it is to instill the need for thanks in my kids.  I'm not saying they will rush out to buy thank you notes once they are on their own, but while they are here, I feel good about forcing them instilling in them the need for showing appreciation.

And, of course, they have no idea that, as they pack for college, monogrammed stationary is on the short list of gifts they'll be taking with them.

Go ahead, call me evil. 

I have a thank you card ready for that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Giving Up

If you could compare my life today to that of my late 20's, you wouldn't recognize me.

Some of you have watched the transformation in my life and can heartily agree that change is good.  Others see my life becoming something a little on the "fanatic" side and don't get this whole "Jesus thing" that is going on.  Yet others just wish I would go back to who I was and camp there for the rest of my days.

Yet, there is this amazing freedom that comes from dying for Christ that is not really completely explainable unless you are walking or have walked the path.  And, I, for one, don't want to stray off that path and go back to the girl I was for all the tea in China.

To the outside world, this walk sometimes looks like shackles.  It looks like sucking the fun out of life.  It looks like legalistic rule-making designed to keep the man down.

I know, because I have been on the outside looking in. 

And when I was on the outside, I didn't understand what I was seeing.  I didn't understand the peace that accompanied giving up myself for Christ.  I didn't comprehend how having to change could be good.  I didn't know that sacrificing certain long-held beliefs to make room for more complex, difficult to explain truths would change me from the inside out.

But, it has and it continues to change me day-by-day.

Each time I participate in another study of the Bible or attend another Sunday School class or discuss politics with someone, my ideas are gradually becoming more Christlike.  I'm shifting away from what the world calls good to what Christ says is right.  I'm centering myself on the rock who was, and is, and is to come.

And the freedom in that shift, ya'll?  Indescribable.  Right.  Holy.  Amazing.

As the world continues to move toward self, I am moving away from it.

As the world continues to create warfare, I am moving toward peace.

As the world continues marching toward sin, I am marching toward victory over sin.

And there is no place I'd rather be than in this moment, at this time, searching for my Savior.

Won't you join me?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


A friend reminded me tonight that not everyone enjoys writing or finds it easy or loves to do it.

Is the abject HORROR showing on this blogger's face?

I realize writing is not something every one wants to do every waking moment of their life. But, I guess it had been awhile since someone so kindly put my abilities in my face and said "SEE? You have a gift."

I suck at plenty of things. I hate to sew and iron and wash windows. I'm not particularly good at making yeast breads or creating meaningful holiday projects or coming up with ideas for a rainy day family activity.

And, honestly, I don't consider myself that good at writing. I just type what comes out of my brain and it is what it is.  If it touches someone? Groovy. If it makes for a funny story? Awesome. If it becomes a great memory that only my family cares about? Fine.

So, the idea that someone wouldn't write because they "aren't good at it" just doesn't register.

I guess that isn't that far from how God sees us.

He gifted us with certain "extra-special" abilities, that usually show up from our earliest days, though we might not recognize them until much later in life.

It is our job to discern what those abilities are. We can do that by listening to what others see as our talents, speaking to and listening for God, reading the Bible, or being mentored in a variety of areas to determine which appeal to us the most.*  The possibilities are limitless, just like the gifts!

But, I don't think we are censored to just one thing that we are good at.  I think we have a variety of gifts, some more powerful than others, from which God can use our lives.

So, a writer can also be a great speaker.

And a housewife can be a great teacher.

And a businessman can be a great fundraiser.

And on and on and on the list goes.

God uses us as He sees fit and as we allow Him to.** He lets our light shine into places we would NEVER consider but that He ordained us for before we were even a though in our parent's minds.

What a privilege it is to be God's own. To be chosen for tasks that we feel inadequate and undereducated and undeserving to fulfill. Yet, to be perfectly equipped, by His good grace, to accomplish the task He has set before us.

We are all authors, in our own domain, through His power. The actions and words of our life are being recorded as we move throughout our days, without us lifting a pen or editing the words or worrying about the authenticity of what is being written.

Our stories are being recorded, second by second, whether we choose to record them or not. So, what will your story be?

A bold person who chose to follow a path others said was folly?

A person of conviction who saw Christ in the world around them, embraced their talents and used them for good?

Or, will you sit by the sidelines, watching your story unfold through someone else's life, all the while lamenting your decision not to act?

It truly is your choice.  But, you are gifted in some way.  Why let those gifts go to waste?

*The best way is through some combination of all of these or through countless other channels that point us to what we are best suited to do.

**That is such a crucial point:  WE cooperate in this plan.  Or we don't.  Our choice.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Boys Vs. Girls

Over the Christmas holiday, I had a discussion with my sister-in-law about death. Specifically, about animal death. More specifically, how kids respond to the death of a pet.

See, Red fish had been acting a little, well, LETHARGIC for a fish. And I was worrying about The Babe's reaction to the eventuality that one of our pets was potentially going to the big fish tank in the sky sometime within a few days.

Seems my niece about lost her mind when her betta died. Caused life to stop, sub-7am on a school morning, to have a FUNERAL in the backyard, with Daddy officiating and a live, box coffin for the fish.

"Great", I thought, "This is his favorite cousin, who loves animals like The Babe does. He is going to have a FIT."

When we arrived home the next day, I thought Red was leaving our cozy home within a few hours. His breathing was labored and he was kind of laying sideways in the tank. Not dead, just looking really, really relaxed for a fish.

As The Babe was standing in the kitchen when I noticed this, I called him over and, as gently as possible, told him I thought Red was probably going to die sometime pretty soon.

His eyes got really big and he said "Really?"

And, I thought, "Oh no. Here it comes. Brace for it. Get ready to hug him and cry."

And then The Babe said, with a smile on his face "Does that mean we get to FLUSH HIM?"

There are no words to describe my relief. I responded affirmatively, following up with "Would YOU like to flush him?" He nodded yes enthusiastically.

Fast forward to this morning. December 29th, to be exact. I had cleaned Red's tank, thinking that cleaner water might help his breathing, so I was anxious to see how much it had helped.

Clearly, Red had moved on to another place.* Or, I'm really, super-lame at balancing the water with those water conditioning drops. Either way, I was staring at a floater.

I had a moment where I wondered if the reality of a dead fish was going to change The Babe's tune.

NOPE. Not one bit. He gladly took the tank, dropped Red into the bowl, and gave the toilet handle a spin.

I couldn't see his face during execution of "Project Fish Flush", but I know there were no tears.

Once again I was reminded that, when God chose Mike for me, He knew that boys were in my future. He knew that I was better equipped to handle broken bones and stitches and farting than broken hearts and crafts and ballet.

He knew what He was doing when he made Casa De Nowell testosterone heavy.

*Hopefully one where his owners remember to feed him regularly and clean his tank before green mold appears on the sides. In other words, a better place than the Nowells provided.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Resolutions

I haven't been writing this blog long enough to have more than one resolution posted for your viewing pleasure.

Laugh away at THIS: Last year I paid a quarter every time I cussed. Until it got too expensive and I wrote a fat check to charity and called it a year.

I think that was late January.

Can you say "FAIL?"

So, as we sit on the cusp of 2012, I am again pondering resolutions.

I kind of like the idea of saying "I resolve to resolve to change nothing." Except, generally, the people who say this are the type who think they should be MENSA members and blame their lack of membership on the loss of their file in the process of choosing the incoming group.

I abhor the idea of trying to give up cussing twice. I just need to do it, but not under compulsion. Last year that made me less of a cheerful giver.

I've done the Weight Watchers and exercise resolutions until I'm blue in the face. My weight, within about a five pound range, has been at the same place for a couple of years now. Though I can't say I'm thrilled about the state of my body, I'm not so motivated by what I see in the mirror to put in the hard work.

So, my resolution for the year is a throwback to the seventies.

No, I'm not going to drop acid and listen to The Doors and protest Vietnam. I'm resolving to "Keep On Movin' On".

Throughout the year I am going to course correct, as necessary, based on listening to God's direction in my life, instead of directing my life based on a date on the calendar.*

So, Happy 2012! May whatever you resolve or don't resolve or work on or attempt turn out perfectly for you!

*And, if the Mayan people were right? All this isn't going to matter much in a few, short months anyway.