Let’s Not

france+flag

Paris was on my mind when I woke up this morning, Paris and its people and the heartache, the grief, the sadness and yes, the fear, that must be pressing down on them today.  I imagine every thought in every mind there is colored by the events of last night, when terrorists attacked multiple sites in the city and massacred people who had done nothing – nothing – other than go out for an evening’s entertainment.

As I went about my morning routine I thought how there would be no routine for the Parisians today.  I got my coffee, I checked Facebook.

And there it was.

Already we Americans are turning France’s horror into another “it’s all about us” thing.  Right there on Facebook (where, face it, everything is spewed out for the world to see), the gun-rights advocates are posting memes with their favorite saying:  “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”  Gun-control advocates, in response, are throwing up their favorite annual gun death statistics.

Critics of President Obama are reminding the world that his face was conspicuously absent among those at the anti-terror unity march in France after the Charlie Hebdo attack and speculating that his response to this slaughter will again be “empty words.”  Supporters of the president are shouting back that it’s just like the right to try to smear a good man with out-of-context actions before he’s even had a chance to act on the situation right in front of us.

You know what?  Let’s not.

Let’s not turn this into the Right versus the Left.  Let’s not turn this into an American political snowball fight.  Let’s not use France’s grief, and fear, and soon-to-be anger as a springboard for our own political agendas.

Let’s just stand with them.  Let’s hold our arms out to them, all of us together – liberal, conservative, independent – and offer them our collective shoulder to cry on, just for this short time before we go back to our respective corners and put the gloves back on.

After 9/11, France stood with us.  Although we have had differences over the years, France
has always been our ally.  France was with us, shoulder to paris911shoulder, when this country was born.  Without her, we couldn’t have won our independence when we did.

So let’s not, okay?  Let’s just reach across the ocean and hug her right now.  Let’s pray for her, and her people.

And let’s hope the Lord hastens.

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Hooray for the Women of The View

Unless you live in a cave, or maybe in a Tiny House off the grid, which I’m guessing you don’t since you’re reading a blog, you’ve heard the uproar caused by the women on The View mocking Miss Colorado – and hence the entire nursing profession – for wearing her nursing “costume” and a “doctor’s stethoscope” and giving a monologue about her experiences as her talent.  Although I’m not a nurse myself, one of my best friends is, my neighbor is, my aunt is, my daughter-in-law’s sister is.  And many others I know are.  And so I joined my voice with those who were pretty outraged by those comments.

But I’m rethinking my position.

Now, Pam, and Becky, and Aunt Sonja, and Tricia, and Krystal, before you start throwing things at me, let me explain.

In one short week, nursing has been propelled from the background into the bright, bright spotlight.  People are hearing story after story of how nurses change people’s lives.  How nurses make unimaginably difficult news just a bit easier to bear.  How nurses catch things that save lives.  How nurses make frightened little kids smile in the midst of their terror.  How nurses sit with the elderly during the last minutes of a lonely life.  How nurses care for us, calm us, comfort us, and yes, fix us.

I’ve had a lot of experience with nurses over the course of my life.  I was an accident prone kid who spent so much time in the ER that they knew me by name at St. Joseph’s.  Same thing at St. Bernardine’s as a young adult because of asthma.  My elder son was born 11 weeks early and all I can say about that is God bless the NICU nurses.  God bless them.  God. Bless. Them.

And then there were the nurses who took care of my mom in her last few years, when she faced one health issue after another.  One hospitalization after another.  One round of tests after another.  Nurses at the many, many, many doctors’ offices who made sure she got in as quickly as possible because she didn’t have the strength to sit in the waiting room forever.  Nurses at the hospitals who understood that cranky old women were really just frightened old women who needed someone to brush the hair out of their eyes, or give them a gentle pat, or just talk to them for a minute, amidst all their other duties.  Nurses who never failed to stop in the hall and answer my questions, or get ice water when I asked even though that wasn’t in their job description.

But like so many people, I don’t think about nurses that much.  I think about them when I need them.  And I always hope I don’t need them.  Now I’m thinking about them.  I’m thinking about all the times in my life when they have been the most important people in my world.  I’m thinking about all the hours they’ve spent taking care of me, of my children, of my husband, of my father, of my mother.  I’m thinking about how they then went home and took care of their own families.  And then did it all over again the next day.  And I am so grateful to them, all over again, for the hearts that they have.  And for that, I say hooray for the women on The View, for making me conscious again of these wonderful men and women who choose to be nurses.

I’m pretty sure the women on The View are probably not feeling contrite over their words – except maybe because they’ve lost a couple of sponsors.  I’m just conjecturing here, but their callous non-apology that merely reinsulted nurses by implying that they didn’t have the wherewithal to understand The View’s sophisticated humor, or else they just weren’t listening indicates to me that those women are probably sitting around rolling their eyes and wondering what all this fuss is about.

You know what?  They’re the ones who don’t understand.  They’re the ones who aren’t listening.

I’ve read some posts on social media that said things like, “What’s going to happen when Joy Behar finds herself in need of a nurse?”

Here’s what’s going to happen:  A nurse will be there, and will take good care of her, and will brush the hair out of her eyes, and will give her comfort.

Because that’s what nurses do.  See, nurses are bigger people than, say, talk show hosts.

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Uncivilized Public Discourse

I just read a blog lambasting Franklin Graham for his reaction to Target’s new policy eliminating all reference to gender in its toy department.  The article made some really good points – like, do we need to label dolls and toy kitchens as “girl” toys?  What if a boy wants to play chef?  Or daddy?  Is that wrong?  Of course not.  Same with tool belts and big trucks.  When I was a little girl I could be found digging in the dirt more often than playing Barbie.  Well, most of the time I had Barbie out there buried in the dirt, but you get the point.

The thing is, that blog post, I think, missed Mr. Graham’s real objections, whether intentionally or not.  I hope it was unintentional but given the educational level of the writer I’m inclined to think it wasn’t.

Anyone familiar with Mr. Graham and his beliefs would understand that his objection was not based on wanting to force little girls to play only with dolls and kitchens, and little boys with trucks and tool belts.  There’s a bigger picture here.

Mr. Graham believes, as I do, that God created men to be men and women to be women and that He did not create a third category called “other.”  He believes, as do I, that the Bible is clear in its teaching on this topic.

So, then, his objection to Target’s action is that it is one more step toward complete gender neutrality in our culture, a trend many think is a good thing, but many think isn’t.

Those who think it is have decided that those who think it isn’t are {fill in your word of choice here}: bigots, intolerant, homophobic … the list of derogatory terminology goes on and on.  Maybe we should look at some of those terms.

“Bigot” is defined as “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.”

“Intolerant” is defined as “not willing to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.”

“Homophobia” is defined as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.”

The problem, as I see it, is that the same people who are calling Mr. Graham – and me – intolerant, and bigoted, and homophobic are themselves intolerant, and bigoted, and, what? Christianophobic?  (Or Muslimophobic, because Islam has the same beliefs about homosexuality as Christianity does.)  Because it is obvious from the vitriol leveled at Mr. Graham, and at Christians everywhere who are trying to stay true to what they believe, that those who believe differently will absolutely not tolerate us.  Not only do they disagree with our beliefs, they also malign us as people.

I have no problem with someone debating my beliefs with me.  I have no problem with someone telling me, “I disagree with you; I think you are wrong; I abhor what you believe.”  What I have a problem with is that when I stand up for what I believe in – when Franklin Graham stands up for what he believes in – our beliefs are not attacked.  We are attacked.  All of a sudden we become bigots.  We become haters.  We become small-minded extremists.  We as human beings get marginalized, denigrated, vilified.

I want to make it clear:  I do not hate or fear or have any antipathy toward homosexuals or transgender people.  There are people I love very, very much who fall into those categories.  I do not believe having same sex attraction is a sin.  I believe what the Bible says:  Same-sex sex is a sin.  Extramarital sex is a sin.  Premarital sex is a sin.  Those are all unpopular positions in this culture, but it’s what the Bible says, and it’s what I believe.

But that doesn’t mean I hate, or fear, or have antipathy toward people who engage in those sins.  The Bible also says love one another.  Love your neighbor.  Love your brother,  Love your enemy.  That means – love everyone.  If you believe the Bible, you have to believe all of it.  You don’t get to pick out the parts you want to believe and reject the ones that don’t fit with how you want to live.  (So you folks at Westboro Baptist, you’ve got it all wrong, and you need to put down your signs and open your Bibles, because you really are bringing shame to the name of Christ.  Just sayin’.)

We all sin.  I can’t judge someone else just because they sin differently than I do.  The thing is, Jesus came to save all of us from whatever our particular sin is.  That’s the universal truth.  Do I think a homosexual can be a Christian?  Yes.  Of course.  What kind of question is that anyway?  Anyone can come to Christ.  But in order to walk in obedience to God, he or she will have to practice celibacy, as do the millions of unmarried Christians out there.

It’s a fallen world.  Every one of us has things we have to deal with in this life.  Adam and Eve were the last people to come into the world in a perfect state.  I don’t hold myself out to be any better than anyone else; in fact, I know I’m a whole lot worse than a whole lot of people.

It hurts my heart that our society has digressed to the point of conflating people and their beliefs – instead of having a good, heated debate and then going out for a drink, we’re now more likely to throw the drink at one another and stomp off.  We “unfriend” people who don’t agree with us or who dare to say things we find “offensive.”  We call them haters.

The era of civilized public discourse is over.  The lines are drawn.  As are the swords.

But as for me, I will choose to love as best I can.  I will love my friends, love my neighbors, love my brothers and sisters, love straight people and homosexual people and transgender people and those who are still confused, and with God’s help love my enemies – even the people who unfriend me after they read this.  Even the people who leave hateful comments.  Even the people who won’t tolerate my “intolerance.”

I will stop and take a breath before I speak; I will try to be Jesus to the world around me.  It’s what the Bible tells me to do.  Maybe it’ll catch on.

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Cottage Cheese and Angel Wings

This summer I started wearing shorts again.

I haven’t worn shorts for probably ten years or more.  Ever since the backs of my legs pedal pushersstarted looking like cottage cheese.  There’s a certain age where women trade in their shorts for Bermudas because, really, does anyone want to look at cottage-cheese legs?  And then after that we trade in the Bermudas for capris (or pedal pushers, if you’re from my era) because, really, does anyone really want to look at those elephant knees?  Yuck.

About the same time I gave up shorts, I quit wearing sleeveless tops.  Why?  Well, duh.  I had those flappy arm things.  And does anyone really want to look at those??

So for the past ten years or so I wore longer pants and tops with sleeves, even though I lived in California where the temperatures in the summer could bake a nice triple chocolate cake without an oven.  Because, after all, I was officially middle aged, menopausal, cottage-cheesy and flappy-armed, and it was time to tuck those imperfections away so as not to impose them on the world.  Fully clothed and well covered, I looked pretty good.

Then I moved to Missouri.  The temperatures here don’t get as hot, but we have something else: humidity.  And it didn’t take me long to realize that humidity and tops with sleeves did not blend well.  Plus I lived out in the middle of nowhere so who saw my flappy arms anyway?

Once I started wearing sleeveless tops around the house, I became liberated.  I mean, seriously liberated.  OMGosh liberated.  I remembered that my grandma used to call her flappy arms “angel wings,” and I decided I liked that.  No longer were they ugly old flappy arms; now they were angel wings, and I was dang proud of them.  So from about April until October, it was sleeveless tops and angels wings for me.  And not just at home, either.  Because guess what?  It’s also hot and humid in town.  And once I became liberated, there was no going back.  Plus I realized that I really didn’t care what anyone else thought about my lovely wings.

Then this year came along, with its record rainfall – which means record humidity.  And my capris began sticking to the backs of my legs as if I’d sat in a puddle.  Or had a little accident, a much less pleasant visual.

It was then that I started thinking about why I’d stopped wearing shorts in the first place.  I mean really thinking about it.  Was it because I didn’t like shorts?  No.  Was it because they weren’t comfy?  No.

It was because my body had changed, and my legs weren’t 18 anymore.  Just like the rest of me.

Now, here’s a funny thing.  I started thinking about my husband’s wardrobe and realized it really hadn’t changed much over the years.  Well, except for style trends — he wouldn’t be caught dead in those 80’s basketball shorts these days, but only because no self-respecting guy would.  But other than that, he gets to wear whatever he wants.

It’s different for women.  See, the world has convinced us that once our bodies peak and start down the other side, we need to cover them up.  We need to hide anything that doesn’t look 18 anymore.  Cottage cheese legs?  Hide them.  Ugg.  As in ugly.  Angel wings?  Keep them under wraps.  Bit of a tummy issue?  Spandex, baby.  Chest sagging a bit?  (Not that I have that particular problem since I don’t have a lot to work with there.)  Lift and support – which means wider and tighter  and more uncomfortable bras.  Feet getting gnarly?  Trade in those cute sandals for orthopedic tennies.

Why do we have to do this?  So we can “look good”?  For whom?  And why is looking good so important?  Sure, everyone wants to look nice when they go out, but this goes beyond looking nice.  This is changing your whole wardrobe to hide your body because it no longer fits into what the world says a beautiful woman should look like.

I’m not buying it anymore.

I refuse to accept that a woman’s beauty has anything to do with how the world views the package in which she is wrapped.  A woman’s beauty — anyone’s beauty — comes from their character, not their body.  It comes from what’s inside, not what’s outside.  If that sounds trite to you, reverse the statement — “beauty comes from what’s outside, not what’s inside.”  Yeah … I’d choose trite over shallow any day.

I read an anecdote in Readers Digest once that really stuck with me:  A man and his wife were sitting on the beach when a young woman in a bikini strolled by.  They both watched her for a minute, and then the woman sighed and said, “I’ll never look like that again.”  Her husband replied, “That’s okay, honey.  Neither will she.”

I’m not 18.  I haven’t been 18 for 40 years.  I have the body of a 58 year old, and I’m not ashamed of it.  I’m not going to dress to please other people; I’m going to dress to please myself.  If you don’t like looking at the bumps on the backs of my legs, then don’t look at my legs.  Why are you looking at my legs anyway?

So I’m wearing shorts again.  To go with my sleeveless tops.  My legs are cooler, my arms are cooler, I am freer.  And my body is so happy that I’m not ashamed of it anymore, it’s doing the happy dance – in all its lumpy and flappy glory.

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Boredom Is as Boredom Does

I was weeding the garden this morning, absolutely the most fun and exciting aspect of weeding2gardening, said no gardener EVER.  Seriously, wouldn’t you think that when you tell all your friends, and post all over Facebook, that you’re going to attempt your first-ever vegetable garden, at least one person would love you enough to forego all the you go, girls and just say, hey, don’t forget the part about sitting in dirt full of manure and trying to pull out a gazillion little tenacious weeds, which, by the way, are going to reappear after the next rain so you get to do it all over again?

But anyway.  I was weeding the garden and thinking that task could bore the spots off a leopard when I remembered something my dad told back when I was just a kid.  It must have been when I was in the fourth grade.  I say that because I thought my fourth grade teacher was an idiot.  She wasn’t, of course, but I, in all my nine-year-old wisdom, thought she was.  And she didn’t have such a hot opinion of me either.  In retrospect, that may be because my nine-year-old self wasn’t mature enough (read: smart enough) to refrain from rolling my eyes and sighing whenever I thought she said something dumb.  Which I thought frequently.

Anyway, I digress.  One of the things I thought was just stupid was our weekly spelling homework.  We got a list of spelling words that we had to write out five hundred times each.  Okay, maybe ten times each but it felt like five hundred.  I was a voracious reader from the time I could sound out “See Spot run,” and like most voracious readers, I was a good speller.  I could see a word once or twice at best and know how to spell it, and I was way above grade level at reading and spelling.  (I’m not bragging on myself, I’m bragging on my parents.  This is a plug to all you parents out there to read to your kids and get them excited about books.)

So imagine a very active nine year old having to sit down week after week and write out five hundred words, like dear and aunt and bubble, five hundred times each.  Okay ten words ten times each.  Same-o same-o to a nine year old.  I hated it.  I thought it was stupid.  Let’s write “stupid” five hundred times.

One time I was discussing this with my dad.  “Discussing” sounds much better than “whining and complaining.”  I told him how stupid and boring it was.  I knew all the words.  I got 100 percent on my spelling tests every week, and not because I wrote out the words over and over again.

My dad did not tell me to quit whin… quite discussing the matter and just do what I was told.  He did not poo-poo my preadolescent rant.  He listened, and then he told me that throughout my life I was going to find myself in boring, tedious situations.  I was going to find myself doing things that had to be done but which did not hold my interest.  My choice, he said, was to be consumed by the tedium of my task or to find a way to make it interesting.  (You have to love a dad who uses the word “tedium” with a nine year old.)  Anything can be interesting, he said, if you find a way for it to challenge your mind.

Dad took my list of spelling words and told me to make up a story as I wrote out the words using each of the words in order in the story.  I had a dear aunt who lived in a giant bubble ….  From then on, writing out my spelling words became a lot more fun, and my love of writing stories emerged.

So today as I was weeding, I remembered Dad’s advice and wondered how I could challenge my mind with this onerous task.  Nothing brilliant occurred to me.  The sun was hot, and it’s incredibly humid here in Missouri, and by the way there are bugs in a garden.  Anyone ever tell you that?  Humph.

But as I pulled the weeds I found myself feeling very satisfied when they came out with their roots intact and irritated when they would snap off at the surface, because I knew then that they would just grow back.  And a thought niggled at my mind, and I found myself composing a blog post in my head.

And so weeding the second half of the garden went much faster and was much more pleasant than weeding the first half.  My mind was fully engaged in composing an analogy of weeds in a garden and the weeds of sin and hate and evil in our world.  When your mind is engaged in thought, it doesn’t really matter what your hands are doing; there’s still something interesting going on.  (Plus the second half of the garden is where the herbs are so instead of the smell of good old cow dirt I was surrounded by rosemary and basil, hence the “much more pleasant” aspect.)

IMAG0400

I’ll write up that post about weeds and get it on here sometime soon.  But this post is just a hats-off to my dad, an unassuming man whom no one would look twice at on the street but whose mind never stopped and who taught me that boredom is always a choice, that a person with a brain has an endless capacity for self-entertainment.

Just one little suggestion, though – if you’re weeding a garden, don’t get so lost in your head that you forget to stop pulling the weeds when you feel a sneeze coming on, or you might end up with a handful of sage instead of weeds.

I guess we’ll have pork chops with sage and cinnamon for dinner tonight.

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I Wish I’d Rubbed Her Back More Often

I was thinking about my mom today.  Not because of any of the usual reasons – it’s not her birthday, or the anniversary of her death, or a holiday that makes me remember family gatherings of the past.

Because my back hurt.

I’ve had arthritis issues with my back for the past couple years, starting ironically enough shortly after my mom passed away.  I say ironically because Mom suffered serious arthritis in her back for 20-some years before she died, and I probably wouldn’t be writing this if I’d experienced the pain of arthritis before she died rather than after.

My own pain is much less severe than hers was, and it’s under pretty good control with a lovely little pill called Celebrex.  But after days like yesterday, when I spent the morning chasing a ten-month-old boy around and the afternoon tilling and raking and hoeing the very wet, very fertile (think cow country) dirt in my raised garden bed in order to get it ready to plant, there’s nothing on this earth short of a morphine drip that would help the pain in my back.  And for some reason they don’t let you keep morphine drips on hand for days when you’re just stupid.  So today my back hurts, and it makes me think about my mom.

I wish I’d rubbed her back more often.

In the last few years of her life, I was blessed with the privilege of taking care of her to the extent she needed care.  She lived on her own right up to the end, but for the last four or five years her health wasn’t good, and I went over to see her nearly every day. That sounds really super sweet and oh-I’m-such-an-awesome-daughterish, doesn’t it?  Let’s be honest.  This is one of those things that you appreciate much more in hindsight.  I admit to you here and now that there were plenty of times when all I wanted to do after I got off work was go home, have a glass of wine, and crawl into bed with a good book.  There were plenty of weekends when I didn’t want to leave my beautiful little mountain haven and drive 45 minutes to Mom’s, go to the grocery store for her, spend the day watching the golf channel, then drive 45 minutes home.

Florence Nightingale I wasn’t.

But even though, yes, I appreciate those years more now that Mom’s gone, for the most part, I didn’t mind them while we were going through them together.  God had orchestrated things so that my husband was working 1600 miles away for those same years, and I could spend as much times with Mom as she needed without any guilt that I was neglecting him.

We had a little ritual on weeknights.  When she wasn’t well, I’d fix dinner for her; when she was feeling pretty good, she’d fix dinner for me.  We’d play Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit and watch Jeopardy, and then she’d be ready for bed and I would head home.

I could tell when Mom was having a bad pain day.  She would move a lot in her chair, never able to get really comfortable.  Sometimes she’s just sit up on the edge of it.  When she did that, I knew it really hurt.  I’d go over and rub her back for a little bit, and she’d just close her eyes and kind of sink into the pressure of my hands.

Now that I have my own back pain, I understand how good it feels to have someone rub it when it hurts.  I love it when my husband gives me an impromptu massage when I’m hurting.  It’s a little piece of heaven right here on earth, let me tell you.  If I’d known how blissful it felt, I think I would have rubbed my mom’s back a lot more than I did.

And that makes me sit up and think, what else am I missing?  What other things am I not doing for people I love – or people in general – just because I don’t know first-hand how much it would mean to them?  How oblivious am I to the world around me just because I haven’t personally experienced something?

Maybe it’s human nature; maybe we all tend to be reactionary.  We give to the charities that somehow touch our own lives– the cancer society if we’ve had cancer or lost someone to it, the heart association likewise, or Alzheimer’s research, or diabetes prevention, or domestic violence prevention.  We tend not to think so much about things that haven’t ever affected us.  (Okay, by “we” I mean “I” but somehow it makes me feel a lot better to include all of you.)  How awesome would it be if we – I mean if I – could be more aware of all the little needs around me that don’t usually make it onto my radar?

There must be dozens of things I could do every day for people I come in contact witkids at storeh to make their lives just a little tiny bit better, a little tiny bit brighter.  I could scratch my husband’s back even if he doesn’t ask me to.  I could make an extra meat loaf next time and give it to my daughter-in-law to freeze for one of those days when the world is crazy and she needs something easy to make for dinner.  I could take a second to tell the manager at IHOP that our server did just an excellent job, kept us in hot coffee and was exceptionally pleasant.  I could let the mom with the three kids under five have cuts in line at the grocery store so she can get out of there before her head explodes.  And help her unload her cart onto the belt while she tries to keep six little hands from putting every candy bar in sight into the basket.

If I could do one unexpected thing each day, just one, that brought a small happiness to someone, wouldn’t that just be cool?  And at the end of the day, I could think back and not have any regret that I’d wasted another 24 hours.

I don’t have a lot of regrets about my time with my mom.  I really, honestly do feel blessed to have been there for her, and despite the occasional periods of exhaustion, I knew while I was doing it that it was a privilege.

But I do wish I would have rubbed her back more often.

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Every Day at Three

Today I’m sharing something a little different, a short story I wrote.  I hope you enjoy it.
3-o-clock

Lorraine did not need a watch to tell her it was getting on to three o’clock.  She felt it in her bones; she felt it every weekday in her bones, and she had ever since she started letting Becky Lee walk home from the bus stop by herself last year in fifth grade.

Goodness, was it just last year?  Seemed like forever ago.  But Becky Lee was in sixth this year, so must’ve been.  She hadn’t wanted to let her do it, but Becky Lee threw fit after fit till she just wore her mama out.  And truth be told, all the other kids had been walking home alone for a while already.

Lorraine knew she was over protective without James having to tell her.  And to give him credit, he never did say it.  But she saw it in his eyes when she argued with Becky Lee, and even if he never said anything, she knew what he was thinking.  So in the end she just threw up her hands and said fine, walk home by your own self, but you better be in this house by three o’clock every dang day or I’m coming to get you and you won’t never walk home alone again.

Every day when it was close to three o’clock, Lorraine knew it, felt it, and she stood by the window and peeked out.   All this time, and she still got the nervous stomach waiting till she got that first glimpse of the child coming up the walk.  She tried not to let Becky Lee catch her at the window; she didn’t want her to know she was nervous still.  When she spied her on the walk, she’d hurry back to the chair, pick up her stitching or a book or whatever might be handy and wait, all nonchalant, till Becky Lee poked her head in.  Then she’d say, oh, is school out already? My, this day has just flown by.

Now she held the thin curtain in her hand and moved it just a little so she could see the schoolgirlwalk.  Her stomach was getting sore from the nerves.  Becky Lee must be a little bit late today.  Lorraine tried to keep the bad thoughts away but they came anyhow.  Things could happen to a little girl in three long blocks between the bus stop and home.  There’s bushes people could hide behind.  She’d read one time about a car that pulled up and a man snatched a little girl off the street, right in the middle of the day, right in plain sight.  Just took her.

Where was that child?  Lorraine looked at the chair to make sure her sweater was ready if she needed to go out looking.  If she did, it would be the only time.  She’d never let that little miss walk home alone again, she didn’t care how many fits she threw.  She didn’t care what James said or didn’t say, or what kind of looks he gave her.

Where was James, anyway?

Lorraine looked back out the window.  Her shoulders, hunched and tight, relaxed.  There on the walk was her sweet girl.  She dropped the curtain and hurried over to her chair.

A minute later Lorraine heard the door open behind her, heard that sweet voice.  “Hi, I’m home.  I’m gonna go to my desk and do my homework.”

Without turning around, Lorraine nodded.  “Be sure you do it all, Becky Lee, before your father gets home.”

“I will.”  The door closed softly.

Lorraine closed her eyes and said her daily prayer of thanksgiving for her child’s safety.

At the desk down the hall, the young woman slid into the vacant chair and typed a password into the computer.  She took a drink of Pepsi out of a styrofoam cup and turned to her friend in the chair next to her.

“Okay, so you know what to do tomorrow, right?”

“I only watch you do it every day.”

“Tell me anyway.  It’s important.”

The friend laughed.  “I go out at ten to three, circle around front, walk in the front door, go to 107, pop my head in, and say hi, I’m home, I’m gonna go do my homework.”

“Right.  Don’t forget, and don’t be late.”

“Promise.  But isn’t she going to know it’s me and not you?”

The young woman smiled.  “It’s not me or you.  To Lorraine, it’s her daughter Becky Lee, when she was in grade school.  And if you’re late, it’ll worry her sick, so don’t be.

“You’ve been taking care of Lorraine for how long now, and she doesn’t remember you from one day to the next.  But she knows every day when it’s three o’clock to be watching for Becky Lee.  How is that possible?”

“That’s Alzheimers.  It doesn’t matter if she can’t remember me.  What matters is that Becky Lee gets home from school safely every day.  So don’t forget, okay?  And don’t be late.”

alz

Facts:  An estimated 5.3 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer’s this year, two-thirds of them being women.  It is the sixth leading cause of death in America.  One in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia.  Every 67 seconds, another person in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Won’t you consider joining the fight against this disease?  Visit http://www.alz.org/ to learn more and find out how you can help.

This story was inspired by and is dedicated to my amazing niece, Sarah Spreitler Silva, a young woman with a heart full of compassion for those needing memory care.  I love you, Sarah.

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Now Leaving Eden

The other day I caught a mini-micro glimpse into what God must have felt when He saw Eve reach for that apple.

I was entertaining my nine-month-old grandson Jayden while his folks were busy outside.  This is the awesome part of grandmotherhood – you get to stay inside on hot, muggy days and entertain the grandkids while everyone else has to work outside.  Not a bad gig.

We were sitting on the living room floor – and if you’re a grandparent (or a parent of young IMG_2244children, for that matter) you will immediately picture a floor covered with primary-colored toys that play inane songs if you so much as look at them, stuffed animals, balls of every shape and texture, bouncers, baby chairs, and a pack-n-play whose sole purpose is to hold all the above-mentioned paraphernalia once baby has left the building – and Jay was playing with a piece of thread he had found on the carpet.  It was more interesting than the myriad toys, balls, animals, etc.  Of course.

Then he noticed the lamp cord running from the lamp under the recliner and made a beeline toward it.

Now, this has happened before.  Anything that looks like a string or cord or rope is fascinating.  When he sees the lamp cord and heads for it, I just pick him up and turn him around, and something else catches his eye.

Except this time, he turned back around and headed for the cord again.

And again.  And again.  And again.

Well, I thought, excellent time to start teaching the boy what the word “no” means.

“No, Jay,” I said, turning him around and handing him something else to play with.

Back to the cord.

“Jay, no no.  Here, play with this.”

Back to the cord.

“Jayden, no.  You can’t play with that.  It’ll hurt you.  Here, play with this.”

Jay growled at me.  Yes, he growled.  He scrunched up his little face (his daddy used to do the same exact thing) and went, “Errrrrrrrrrrrr!”

I laughed.  It was cute.  “No, Jay.  That’s one thing you can’t have.  Look, there’s a whole room full of toys here.  Let’s play with THIS!” I said, pulling over one of his favorites and pushing the button that starts the incessant singing of merrily-we-do-something-or-other.

Jay then tried to climb over me to get to the lamp cord.  When I turned him around again, he yelled.  Now, this is a child who seriously never cries except when he’s hungry or tired.  (In this way, he does not take after his dad, who was much more … vocal … as a baby.  Just saying.)  But he yelled, and then he growled, and then he started to cry.

He had decided that, despite the fact the room was chock full of wonders and delights, the only thing he wanted was the one thing I would not let him have.  And when I prevented him from getting to it, he started into full fit-throwing mode.

Yep.  We are definitely leaving Eden.

And it made me a little sad, even though I knew it was coming, and it wasn’t really a surprise.  But I wasn’t quite ready for that sweet time of innocence to end.  That time of trust.  That time where his curiosity could be channeled easily to the things that were good for him, and things that weren’t could be kept away.  That time where he depended on us for everything and defiance hadn’t awoken yet.

eveappleHow much more must it have broken God’s heart when Eve reached for that apple?  Even though He knew it was coming, even though of course it was not a surprise to Him?  Here was this perfect place to live, this garden chock full of wonders and delights, and defiance crept in, and all she wanted was that one thing He said no to.

And since that time, with every single human being He has created, He has goearth-explodedne through this same thing.  That’s pretty sobering.  I mean, seriously, after the first few I would have just thrown in the towel.  At the very least, after I’d saved Noah and his family, and then the defiance started all over again, I would have just pointed my finger at the earth and let ‘er rip.

Lest you think I am preaching down my nose at a world full of unbelievers, I’m talking about myself.  I’m talking about people like me, people who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and have been redeemed.

We’re the ones who hurt the Lord’s heart when we insist on reaching for that lamp cord even though He has told us no.  Even though He has told us it’s not good for us.  We’re the ones who understand the truth of God’s word and have the Holy Spirit in us, guiding and directing us.

Is God indifferent to the sin of the unbeliever?  Of course not.  God hates all sin (and loves all sinners).  But if you’re watching the news and you hear that a local man has been arrested for bilking poor little old ladies out of their life’s savings, it’s going to make you sad.  If you find out it was your child who did the bilking, it’s going to break your heart.

When I – I who have accepted God’s gift of salvation, I who recognize and believe that Jesus Christ willingly took my sin on Himself when He was brutally nailed to that cross, I who have been adopted as a daughter of the King Himself and am eternally His child – when I choose to reach for that lamp cord, in whatever form it may take, then it’s not just the sin itself that hurts God.  It’s that His very own child has once again defied Him.

Jayden doesn’t know that electrical cords can hurt him.  He’s too young to grasp the concept that I tell him no in order to protect him, not to withhold good things from him.  He doesn’t have a developed-enough mind to reason these things out.  That’s all part of the learning process.

But I, as an adult and a Christian, understand fully that God’s word is the lamp unto my feet.  I understand that the things He tells me I should not do are for my protection, not because He wants to withhold good things from me. I understand that sin is bad for me.

And yet … I gossip.  Sometimes I lie (shocking?  Come on, you know you do too).  Sometimes I am mean.  Sometimes – more often than I want to admit – I think really ugly thoughts.  I have been known to cuss.  Do these seem like “little” sins?  Do you really think I’m going to list all my big ones here for the world to see?

Every time I sin, God must feel like He’s watching Adam and Eve leave Eden all over again.  How sad is that?

Shouldn’t that be enough to make me quit reaching for that lamp cord?

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Killing Big Daddy

I’ve been living in rural Missouri for about a year and a half now, after having lived most of my life in Southern California.  If you’ve ever been to SoCal, you will know that it’s really just one big metropolis, and the only way you know you’re in a new city is the little sign they post to let you know you’ve crossed that imaginary line that divides one from the next.

Talk about culture shock.  Here I have to drive 30 minutes to get to a town of any significant size, and by that I mean one big enough to have a Walmart.  Woo hoo.  If I want a Target – heaven forbid – it’s an hour, minimum.  And that’s only if I disregard the speed limits.  In SoCal, driving an hour to get somewhere is taking a trip.  Here it’s just going to the store.

But I’ve gotten used to that.  There’s something to be said for miles and miles of pastoral countryside, especially this time of year, after a bleak winter.  Everything is getting green, and it really is one of the most peacefully beautiful places.  Even the cows I often make fun of are cute, dotting the hillsides.  And driving all that distance to get somewhere isn’t such a big deal when you only run into one or two other cars the whole way.  There and back.  (Of course, it can be a little irritating when you get behind Farmer Joe on his John Deere, because it’s hard to find a good passing spot on these winding, hilly roads, but then again, around here the motto is, what’s yer hurry?)

The thing I haven’t quite grown accustomed to is the wildlife.  And by that I don’t mean majestic wildlife, either.  I love the bald eagles and herons and cranes that fly by my house on the river every day.  I like the beaver that has a home directly across from us.  The deer that bound and leap on the hillside when I go out my front door are just gorgeous.  Even the wild turkeys are pretty amazing to see.

I mean the possums.

We have got the biggest, ugliest possums in the whole wide world.  Honest to pete, I’ve never seen an uglier critter in my life, and they are bold.  They come right up on the back deck as soon as the sun even thinks about setting and start snooping around for any errant bits of cat food that our outdoor cats might have neglected to consume during the day.

They look like rats on mega steroids.  Hunchbacked, with big old mouths and wicked sharp teeth.  And their tails.  opossumOh my goodness, you think a rat’s tail is nasty looking.  If one of these  possums hit you with its tail it’d knock you into next week.  And the tails are that icky pink color that’s just, you know, gross.

So every night it’s a battle, me against the possums.  As far as I can tell, there are two who live somewhere close, a big one (I call him Big Daddy) and a little one (the Runt).  They come up on the deck and snoop around and I go chase them off.  Time and again.  My husband shoot them, but he doesn’t want to put a hole in the deck and once they’re off it, they’re gone into the shrubs and hidden.

Finally I borrowed a trap from a friend and baited it.  The first night we caught one of our outdoor cats, which I expected.  We let him out and didn’t see him again for a week (he’s pretty skittish, so I figured it would only take once to make a true believer out of him).

The next night, though … bingo!  We got Big Daddy.  I planned on letting him cool his heels in the cage all day, and hubby could take care of him when he got home from work.  A little target practice.

Throughout the day I’d go out on the deck for one reason or another and there would be Big Daddy, pacing and hissing at me from that cage.  Nasty critter.  After a couple of times I moved the cage farther down the deck so I didn’t have to look at him.  He was so ugly.

In the middle of the afternoon I noticed Big Daddy was hunched down in the cage, not pacing.  It occurred to me that he was probably hot, out in the sun.  They’re nocturnal, after all.  It was kind of cruel putting him out in the light like that.  I moved the cage into a dark, shady spot.  As I moved it, I noticed Big Daddy’s head.  The hair was missing on one spot, and he had a big scar. He must be a fighter, I thought.  A tough guy.

A little later I went back out and walked over to the cage.  Big Daddy didn’t hiss at me.  He just looked at me.  Ugly or not, there’s something heart wrenching about a caged animal looking up at you.

He looked so sad.  I wondered if he knew his fate.  Poor ugly little guy.  After all, he was just being what he was created to be, right?  Ugly and annoying.  But God created him.  And there he was, caged up on my deck waiting for the firing squad.  I wondered then, if it were a cuter little animal, say a raccoon or a fox, would I be so ready to see it dead?  Is one animal’s life worth more because it’s cuter than another animal?

Is one creature – any creature – more valuable than another just because it’s prettier? Or smarter? Or more talented? Or “normal” by man’s definition of the word?

I texted my husband.  I told him we got Big Daddy.  He texted back that he wouldn’t be home till late.  Well, I said, maybe I should just take Big Daddy far away and let him go.  You know, since it would be dark and hard to shoot and all by the time he got home.

My husband laughed.  Well, smiley-faced laughed.  He knows me so well.  He knows I have no heart for killing animals, no matter how ugly and annoying they are.  Truth be told, he doesn’t either.  He could shoot something that was menacing us, but he’s just not someone who enjoys it. And I love that about him.

So with a little help from my daughter-in-law, I packed up Big Daddy, took him off far, far away, and let him go.  I’m hoping to catch the Runt and do the same with him.  We have some raccoons I’d like to get rid of as well but I found out they’re a little too wily for the trap.  For now, I’ll settle for being possum free.

What’s the point of this post?  There isn’t one, really.  It’s just a story about an ugly possum and how he helped me remember who I was.

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If You’re Easily Offended, Don’t Read This

Fair warning: I’m going to go off the beaten path a little bit with this post.  It’s going to be a little more serious and a little more … hmm, I’m struggling for the right word here.  Political?  It’s not really political.  Politically incorrect maybe.  If it offends you, I apologize.  Well, no, actually, I don’t.  If it offends you, I think you’re too easily offended, and I find it a little ironic because it’s a bit about the ridiculous lengths people are going to these days to avoid offending people.

Two incidents were in the news recently that propelled me into writing this.  I thought about writing something after the first one, but decided against it because it was a group of college students doing what college students do – being a little radical, being a little esoteric, being a little (or a lot) liberal.  But when I read about the second incident…well, here I am.  I couldn’t keep silent any longer.

First, the first.  You probably heard about it.  Six students at the University of California, Irvine who were on the student legislative council voted to ban the display of the Americanbanned_flag flag, or any national flag, in the common are of the student government offices.  The resolution stated that national flags – citing the American flag in particular – have been “flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism” and “serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism.”  It further stated that “[f]reedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible[,] can be interpreted as hate speech.”

There was an immediate backlash.  Thousands of students at UCI protested the action, clearly indicating that the six students who enacted the bill did not represent the wishes of the majority of the students at the school.  The executive cabinet of the student government vetoed the bill within days.

Then, a few days ago, a story splashed across the internet that Lexington High School minute_manstudents were told by school administrators that the theme they chose for their junior/senior dance – American Pride – was objectionable and should be changed to “National Pride” so as to be more inclusive.  This is Lexington, Massachusetts, by the way.  You know, where the Revolutionary War started?  The shot heard around the world?  Their mascot is the Minute Man.

Again, there was a huge backlash, and administrators backed down.  The theme remains American Pride, and the dance will go on.  In fact, the administrators are saying it was all a big misunderstanding; they never said the theme had to change.  They just wanted a “dialogue” with the students about it.  They just “suggested” the change in order to make sure nobody felt like they couldn’t attend the dance if the theme was American Pride.  The students, administrators say, just misinterpreted their concerns.  That’s all.  Mountain out of a molehill thing.

But it’s not a molehill.  Here’s my take on it (and here’s where you might get offended, so if you’re all into political correctness or anti-Americanism or let’s-never-say-anything-that-ever-might-possibly-bother-someone-in-the-whole-wide-world, you’d better stop reading now).

This is America.  Yes, it’s a melting pot.  Yes, we are made up of people from all over the world.  We are diverse.  Many languages are spoken here.  But it’s still America, and there’s a reason people come here.  There’s a reason people want to go to the universities here.  There’s a reason people immigrate to America.

Because it’s America.  And America is something to be proud of.  Perfect?  No.  But there is no perfect place in the world.  There used to be, but then there was the whole, “Here, Eve, take a bite of this apple,” thing and that kind of screwed that up.

This is America.  If you live here, no matter what your heritage, you’re part of America.  You can be proud of it, or not.  You can love it, or not.  That’s your choice.

But if you are offended by the American flag, then you should find a country to live in that doesn’t offend you.  Don’t try to make us remove our flag so that you don’t have to look at it. Don’t try to squelch our displays of patriotism because you’re not feeling it. If you’re not proud to be an American, then don’t be one.  Find a country you can be proud to be part of, and move there.  You’d be so much happier, wouldn’t you, not living in a place that you’re ashamed of?

Do I mean that if you live in America you have to reject every aspect of your foreign heritage?  No, I do not.  Can you be part of America and still be proud to be French, or English, or Iranian, or Chinese, or Russian, or Nigerian, or Haitian, or Peruvian? Of course you can.

But if you choose to live in America, whether you were born here or immigrated here, then be part of America.  Be proud of the good things – because there are good things, great things – about America.  And the other things?  The bad things – because there are bad things – that none of us are proud of?  Well, let’s work on fixing those things together instead of wasting all this energy on arguing about whether red, white, and blue is going to hurt somebody’s feelings.

American-Flag-Demographic-Diversity-Faces

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