Saturday, March 31, 2012

Save A Tree

During the last few days, our neighborhood has been filled with the sounds of rumbling; a grinding noise that made my brain matter reverberate and knock against my skull.

Now, normally I pride myself on keeping to myself.  I try not to be the nosy neighbor who's peeking through the curtains, watching you stand in your grass wearing tube socks and flip flops as you water your lawn.  That's not me.  If you have a heat stroke while you're out there you better hope that I have to leave the house and see you on my way out or that someone else sees you because I will not be watching from a second story window and come running to your rescue..

But there is only so much buzzing a person can take so I broke down and looked through the blinds.


It was a truck that said "SavATree" on the side.  Isn't that sweet?  They're saving trees.  Except, wait, what is that thing attached to the back? Oh sweet son of a tree-hugger, it's a wood chipper.  The trees! The trees are screaming!!  

Save a tree.  Except not that poor tree that just went through the chipper, it's innards shredded to bits.  At any moment,  The Lorax is going to drop from the sky, perch himself on one of our neighborhood stumps and start speaking for the trees!

Friday, March 30, 2012

You Don't Have To Love Jesus For Me To Love You

I tell my kids to do lots of things.  Things like "clean your room", "stop fighting", "don't let the dog lick you on the mouth, that's disgusting" and "put soap in your hair and wash it while they're taking a shower, for goodness sake!"

Most of the time it seems as though all of that talk evaporates before it travels from my mouth to their ears.  And when it comes to teaching them about God, it feels like I'm crop dusting.  I'm working hard,  spraying that insecticide out there and praying that most of it sticks, protecting my kids from the dangers of the creepy, crawly things just waiting to sink their teeth into them.  I have faith that it works but still,  I know that there's a good chance that the wind will blow and not everything will stick.

So, you'll understand my surprise when my oldest daughter came to me and said, "you know how you told us that we are supposed to share our faith with others?"

"Um...yeah," I said, surprised.
"Well, I have this friend who is Buddhist and I told her about my faith and we are fighting about who is right."

I immediately stopped what I was doing and looked at her.  "You're fighting at school about whose religion is right?"

"Yeah.  At recess.  I think she is wrong and I'm trying to tell her all about Jesus but she says that I'm crazy and that she doesn't have to believe what I say."

She had partaken in a centuries old struggle of fighting over religious beliefs.  It was a playground crusade on the recess blacktop.  "Listen, school is probably not the place to have those discussions.  I don't want you fighting about it or getting in trouble.  You've said what you needed to say, now just agree to disagree."

The moment it came out of my mouth I felt ashamed.  Because you see, I spend so much time crop dusting with sayings like, "stand up for what you believe in", "change the world" and "follow your heart."  Yet here I was, telling her to be quiet.  Talk about mixed messages. I may as well have given her a pair of scissors and said, "here...go take a jog with these in your hands."

But as you know, it's complicated.  I'm her mother and I want to protect her.  The problem is, if I spend too much time trying to protect her, I rob her of the ability to learn how to rely on her faith.  This is the same reason that God doesn't keep us from all of the devastating things that happen in our lives.  He doesn't say, "I am your father, nothing bad will ever happen to you."  He says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

A couple of weeks later, I questioned my daughter.  "How are things with you and your friend? Are you still fighting?"

"No!  But Mommy, I didn't listen to you when you said to stop talking about it.  We kept fighting about it for a while.  I listened to her and I told her that we didn't have to agree, that she didn't have to love Jesus for me to love her. And do you know what she said?"

"What?"

"She wants to read my bible.  Can we buy her a bible?"

"Yeah, of course! I'll get one right away."

As she skipped away from me, oblivious of her awesomeness, I felt a mix of feelings.  I was proud, convicted, grateful, surprised and in awe. I was proud of her for not being afraid to be honest about who she is and what she believes.  I was never that brave as a child.  I'm not that brave as an adult.  I shirk when put under pressure.  It's not that I denounce my beliefs, I just don't stand in them proudly and firmly.

I was ashamed that I gave her such terrible advice.  I should have told her to do exactly what she did, to be clear about her beliefs but also show unwavering love and patience. I rarely if ever put myself in a situation where I talk about my religion to anyone who isn't a believer but if  I had been in her situation, I would have been afraid to offend my friend by challenging their beliefs.

What I forget is that there is a right way to do this and a wrong way.  God never called us to shove our faith down someone's throat.  He never called us to kill in defense of ourselves.  He simply said to spread the word.  The rest is up to him and if we encounter someone who is unwilling to hear, then we should not be angry but rather say, "you don't have to love Jesus for me to love you."

I was in awe of how amazing my children are and that I have just as many lessons to learn from them as they have to learn from me.  Children are so pure and innocent and have a natural way of handling things in a Godly way that is unobstructed by feelings and political views and shame.

They haven't yet noticed that they are naked, so they are still free. They don't worry about status or reputation or embarrassment and I realized that this is exactly what God meant when he told us to be like the little children.  To throw off all of our baggage and live freely, purely and honestly.  We should think simply.  It's easy to interpret that as meaning that we should live ignorantly but that might not be such a bad thing.  After all, you know what they say about ignorance...it's bliss.

I was also aware that while it may feel like everything I say and do goes un-noticed by my children, they really are paying attention.  It's a mistake to think that my lessons are futile.  Those little mustard seeds are falling on fertile soil.  They are growing and starting to bear fruit. God is amazing.  He can use the most unlikely things to transform the world.

I did end up buying that little girl a bible and she loved it.  She took it home and gobbled it up.  I expected a call from her mother, asking me why in the world we had given her a bible and how dare I?  But that never happened.  In fact, she never said a word about it.  Now at recess, my daughter and her friend often read their bibles together in the shade of the playground trees.  That is, when they're not fighting about who has the coolest Squinkies.

Awesome Wall Decals

So guys, I'm so very excited because I found these amazing wall decals by a company called A Great Impression.  Click on the link.  You won't be sorry!  I have a love of wall decals, mostly because I was born short of the gene that gives you decorating talent and I find them so beautiful...and non committal since they are easy to put on and easy to take off.

As the company's name says, they are "inspirational" quotes for everyone!  Here are a couple of my favorites!
I have a space above our front door that is just BEGGING for this decal!



I love all the scriptures they have, a wide assortment of the most amazing ones you always wanted to have! They have decals for every room in the house! Many of them have amazing Christan sayings but they also sell the most adorable decals for children's rooms, decorative elements and even seasonal decals!



I love the idea of putting this one up over a desk.  I imagine myself, four hours into a writing session that has really kicked my butt.  I would look up and see that and it might not be so bad after all!

Here's the good news!  This company has agreed to give me two wall decals! One, I can put on my own walls and show you how amazing it is.  The second is FOR YOU! Oh yes, kids.  You know what that means...GIVEAWAY!

I just got the decals in the mail yesterday so I haven't had time to put them up but you better believe that baby will be strutting itself on my wall within days!  I can't wait to share this with you too.  Please check out the website and let me know what you think, I doubt you will anything but fall in love!
 
 
 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writing For Free

I recently had a conversation with someone who balked when I told her that I was guest posting on a popular blog. She knows that I also blog for a website called Patch.com and have submitted to The Huffington Post. "But you are basically working for free. That's your time, your energy, your talent that you are giving away for nothing."

I understood where she was coming from because on the surface it seems exactly like that. But you see, I have no intention of never being paid for my work. If I'm lucky, I'll eventually earn enough to buy myself lunch at Subway.  I will count that as a success.  I just understand that when you are a newbie and are still learning the ropes, you have to pay some dues.

In your last year of college, when earning a degree in Education, you have to do this thing called student teaching. You get the privilege of working alongside people who work in the business of education. You get acclimated to the climate, you learn some tricks of the trade, you work hard--very hard but what you don't get is paid.  You simply get the experience.

It's the same thing if you want to become a doctor. You are required to work through a residency and are usually paid very minimally, as in...enough to eat and do your laundry kind of minimally.

My point is that, when you are learning a craft, it means you have to pay your dues before you get paid in return. There's lots to learn if you expect to make anything out of a career in writing. I'm not saying that you should never get paid, that should eventually be your goal but you can't expect to hit the ground running. If you are lucky, you will start earning cold hard cash with magazine submissions and skip to the bank with your $.25/word.

Honestly, writing for free is nothing new. The only difference is that nowadays there are forums to showcase your work. Fifty years ago, a writer couldn't submit to The Huffington Post but they could write editorials in newspapers. They could write for their family and friends. We still have to write. The only difference is that our audience is bigger. We can't expect to be paid for our mediocrity. When you get good enough to make money you will start making money but let me tell you, if you get into writing for the big bucks, you are setting yourself up for some epic disappointment.

Maybe you'll be the exception to that rule. Maybe you are a rare talent and will shoot straight to the best seller list but for the rest of us who have to scratch and claw our way just to see our words in print, there is no shame in starting at the bottom and working our way up. There is no shame in working for the love of the craft. I've learned some invaluable lessons from writing for free.  Its taught me to submit to editors, take criticism,  be rejected and learn the sting of defeat.

That first rejection slip stinks! When you open it up its as if they folded the paper in just the right way so that when you open it, it unfolds and gives you the finger. But just like a novice beekeeper must expect that he will be stung, so must a writer expect all kinds of rejections (and lots and lots of unpaid writing) in their future. If you really love it, that magic of expression that comes from filling a blank page,  you'll even do it for free.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Post for Stuff Christians Like

One of my favorite sites is Stuff Christians Like, written by Jon Acuff.  This site embraces the lighter side of faith, the side that we all feel, we all know but rarely talk about because we abide by unwritten rules that say something about how we can't be ridiculous and still be Christian, that we must take our faith seriously for goodness sake. Conservative Christians might call his site blasphemous! But for the rest of us who aren't perfect (and know it), it is remarkably relevant.

True Christianity means  to love God and that means sometimes doing completely ridiculous things.  Acuff embraces the belief that God wants us to laugh and be silly and happy.  I agree.  I think God wants us to be simple and find humor and comic relief in just about everything.  It keeps us from taking ourselves so seriously. So for real, I love his blog.  It doesn't hurt that Jon is off the charts hysterical.

I am so proud and humbled that he chose one of my blog posts to be featured on his website as a guest post this coming Friday (March 30th).  Essentially, he's letting me come over to his place and pop a squat for a whole day.  I'm going to raid his refrigerator, hog the remote control and watch Netflix from his comfy couch.  I might dig through his medicine cabinets too. It'll be totally awesome.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What I've Been Reading and What I Am Reading

I just finished my Feb-March books.  I'm continuing in my memoir research by reading a ton of non-fiction, with a couple of exceptions.  I'm going to tell you all about them so you can run to the library.  A word of warning: the library DOES have henchmen and they WILL hunt you down for the $1.90 fee you owe them! :/

"A View of The Ocean" by Jan De Hartog is a memoir about the loss of his mother.  He doesn't go into depth about how it feels to lose a mother but it does capture the physical ugliness of those last few days really well.  Those days of shock and anguish and denial that feel like you're walking in someone else's life.  I also related very well to his watching his mother turn into something that he didn't recognize and also how he came to find something bigger than himself through it all.

De Hartog's writing is simple yet elegant and this book is a very quick read.  You could read it within a couple of evenings.  De Hartog confirms that even with something as big and tragic as losing a parent, we are all still fundamentally the same.  It all looks the same no matter how old or how young, what time you live in or where you come from, life and ultimately death is something we can and will all experience similarly.


"The Taste of Salt" by Martha Southgate. One of the two fiction books I read during the past month.  I picked this up because it was being featured at our library during black history month.  This is a story about a young woman who distanced herself from her family and did a good job at forging a new path that looks nothing like her past.

Ultimately, it proves impossible to run away from her family and she has to face it head on when it lands on her doorstep.  I found this main character to be very interesting because I loved her and hated her all at the same time.  She is so easy to like because she's funny and insightful but on the flip side, she's dangerously self afflicting.  Perhaps she reminded me a little too much of myself.

This book reminded me that we can never run far enough from our history because it's weaved into the very fabric of who we are.



"My Louisiana Sky" by Kimberly Willis Holt. This is one of my daughter's books but she brought home two copies so we could read together at night.  I found myself reading it during the day while she was at school.

Ironically, it touches on many of the same themes of "Taste of Salt."  Perhaps I just needed to hear those themes this month.  This book does not read like an AY book, it feels very grown up to me while still being very interesting to kids.

The story follows the main character "Tiger Ann" who lives with her Grandmother and her parents who are both described as "slow."  Something happens and Tiger has to make a big decision about who she is and where she belongs.

It's impossible not to like this endearing and well-written book.  Even if its target audience is adolescent girls!


 "Naked", by David Sedaris is a memoir written in the form of a collection of essays that talks about everything from being an obsessive compulsive child all the way through to his adulthood when he lives in a nudist colony.

The sections are broken down into tiny pieces of his life yet they give you a huge window into who he is.  Sedaris is often described as the best humorist writer of our time and I have to admit, there were definitely times when I called Hal from another room and read him entire sections of this book and we sat together giggling like school kids.

There are times when a book makes your brain smile.  Other times, books will make you chuckle under your breath.  This book will make you shoot coffee out of your nose and refuse to stop reading as you wipe the snotty coffee from your chin.

My favorite essay was "Cyclops."  Don't ever read that one while you're eating.  You will surely choke and die.


"Running With Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs is another memoir.  It follows Burrough's life a little before, during and after his mother adopts him out to his psychiatrist, whose family is strange to say the least. Whether the kids are playing with the electro shock therapy machine, kids are pooping under pianos or the family decides to live outside, it always keeps you on your toes in a series of bizarre happenings.

It's definitely a sad tale but Burroughs tells it with such wit and sarcasm that you can't help but embrace it as his reality.

As a lover of memoir, I love the detail of this book although I felt as though it was very surface and would have loved for him to delve deeper into how dealing with all of this crazy, impacted him.  That being said, Burroughs isn't that kind of writer and I still love him.

In order to read and love this book you have to be willing to see past the abuse and neglect and fear and embrace his childhood in the same way the author did.  Ultimately, this is a story about survival.  I'd love to see the movie and see if it does it justice.


As for what is sitting on my nightstand right now, here is a list:
1.  "Pig Candy- Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home--A Memoir", by Lise Funderburg
2.  "The Kid" by Dan Savage
3.  "The Year of Magical Thinking", by Joan Didion
4.  "A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius", by Dave Eggers
5.  "Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir" by Lauren Slater

I know that is a plethora of non-fiction.  It's just what I'm into right now being in the process of researching some writing styles so there you go.  Let me know if you're read any of the books I just finished and what you thought and if you plan on reading any on my list to read during April.  Oh and if you have any books you'd like to recommend, please let me know.  I'm always keeping a look-out for a good read!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spider Sweat Shops

Carter: "Daddy, how is silk made?"
Hal: "Spiders make it."
Me: "What? Don't tell him that!"
Hal: "It's true.  Spiders make silk, right?"
Me: "Their webs are silky, sure, but they don't make silk fabric!"
Hal: "Sure they do."
Me: "Are you like, for real? Silk is a man-made fabric that comes from the cocoon of a silk worm."
Hal: "You're WRONG!  The spiders make it! Then people collect all of the silk webs and spin it into fabric."

At this point, Carters head is looking back and forth at us like he's watching a game of ping pong.

Me: *rolling eyes* "Spiders don't make silk."
Hal: "Yes. They. Do!"
Me: "Yes Hal, actually...in third world countries, there are sweat shops that house millions of spiders who churn out thousands of pounds of silk webs every hour which then become our blouses and sheets.  It's a travesty really. We should organize a march on Washington for the senseless overworking of spiders in all those sweatshops who work seven days a week, fourteen hours a day without a lunch break.  It's such a shame.
Hal: "Yes.  Yes it is!"

Later that day I sent him a text that said, "I just found a giant cobweb in our family room.  How long do you think it'll take the spider to make us some king sized silk sheets?"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Magical Mornings With "Bewitched"

Every time I see a clip of “Bewitched”; it triggers nostalgia so intense that I can smell eggs fried in lard.  Each morning before school, my mom cooked me a fried egg.  Sometimes she’d wrap it in a warm tortilla and top it with some shredded cheese. And every morning I ate my egg at our kitchen table while I watched “Bewitched” and waited for the school bus.

The show came on at 6:30 in the morning and as soon as I heard the flute trills of the theme song I came running from wherever I was in the house, often with a foamy toothbrush hanging out of my mouth.  I moved with such speed that I usually made it to the television before the cartoon witch had spelled out “Bewitched” with her broom.

I loved everything about that show.  Elizabeth Montgomery was just about the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen.   1164 Morning Glory Circle was big and stylish and always perfectly in order.  Darrin was sarcastic and had that loveable ignorance about him. Mrs. Kravitz was always nosy and confused.  But best of all, Samantha was a witch and while she had to restrict herself from doing magic overtly, she still used it all of the time and it seemed like so much fun! 

I never quite understood why she wanted to give up her magic.  I could relate to Endora thinking it was a crazy thing to do.  I mean, why pour yourself a cup of tea when all you have to do is snap your fingers and the saucer comes floating over to you?  I loved Endora.  She was funny and always made Darrin so nervous that you'd almost expect his eyes to twitch.  She never remembered his name and called him things like “Dimwit" and “What's his name."  She was a trouble maker which always made me snicker because I myself am a trouble maker at heart. 

Samantha was my favorite character though.  She was smart, funny, beautiful and in control.  She was everything I wanted to be.  I know she gave it all up to be a normal, everyday housewife but I couldn’t imagine giving up something so amazing. Especially for someone who looked like Darrin.  Now, if it were Rock Hudson, I’d understand but Dick York? I guess witches fall victim to that whole “love is blind” thing the same as we mortals do.

To me, the idea of having a magical way to solve my everyday problems was like a dream come true. When I didn’t finish my homework, I could just wiggle my nose and poof, a finished assignment would appear in a cloud of smoke.  If I didn’t feel like cleaning my room, no problem!  All I needed was a wave of the hand and poof! Hospital corners and folded laundry would appear on my bed.  

It wasn't just the little stuff I wanted to control.  Things at home were hard to say the least.  My step father was at the height of his drinking and my mom's face was suffering the consequences.  She then passed  the left overs to me.  It was impossible or me to make her happy and knowing that made me feel hopeless and powerless.


I felt completely out of control.  I would have given anything for a little bit of that magical power.  To be able to conjure up a little raft of happiness in the rough waters of my home life.  The idea of being able to escape, of being able to protect myself from all of the flying shrapnel around me, was intoxicating.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Walgreens Gift Cards Giveaway Starts Today!

Welcome to America's Next Top Mommy's Easter Giveaway!
I'm giving away 2 $25 Walgreens Gift Cards so you can stuff your Easter baskets with goodies! 
Don't hesitate to enter. You don't want to miss out!  This contest only lasts one week in order to get the gift cards to you before Easter!

This giveaway starts on March 23rd at 12:01 am EST and ends April 1st at 12:01 am EST. It's open to the US only, ages 18+.
Winners will be chosen by rafflecopter, notified by email and  have 24 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Enter below to win!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Vicious Pitbull

You know how "they" are always saying that pitbulls are dangerous and vicious and deadly? Well, "they" are right. Except that it's not in the way you might be thinking.

This is our dog Cocoa. 


She's a one year old,  fiery, redheaded Sagittarius who loves long walks in the park and who would pledge her undying love for you if you scratched her butt. And is she vicious? YES! But not from the front end.

It's not her sharp teeth or powerful jaws that should terrify you. If you put your face in hers she wouldn't bite. She would; however, try to stick her tongue down your throat. She's fond of the French kissing.

No, it's her butt that you need to be worried about. Her wagging tail can knock over a 200 pound adult who isn't tipsy. If it hits you, it feels like you've been slapped with a bull whip and you'll be left with bruises and welts.

 And then there's the gas that comes out of that end! Mercy! It can simultaneously melt the paint from the walls and collapse your lungs. If I could bottle the stuff, I'd make a fortune selling it to the military who could commence chemical warfare and disable entire countries with it. Al Qaida would surrender within seconds of it being pumped into mountain caves.

Oh she's dangerous alright. She's vicious and deadly for sure...especially if she's had cheese!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy Spring

Spring has sprung! As in, nearly 80 degree weather sprung. Like, "whew, I'm glad I put an extra swipe of deodorant on this morning" kind of sprung.

The plants seem confused. The daffodils that are normally blooming in May are in full splendor. The crocuses, dressed in their royal purples, are dazzling the landscapes. We've had an exceptionally warm winter here in Connecticut. This is in stark contrast to the blizzard-like conditions that tormented us last year. And I'm grateful for the bye. It's as if Mother Nature was like, "dude, sorry bout that shitstorm of snow last year, how bout you never have to drag out the snow blower this year and while I'm at it, I' ll throw in an early spring for you!

Normally, we are dressed in snow suits as we search for eggs on Easter Sunday. This year, we may be donned in swim suits and flip flops. The only thing that scares me is whether the hot weather will continue to rise. Like if it's 80 degrees in March, can we expect that by August, the average temperature will hover somewhere around the melting point of heavy metals. Let's hope not!

Even my allergies have been manageable. I'm usually peeing myself daily from all the sneezes when this time of year rolls around. But my itches and sniffles have stayed at bay so far, confused by the weather. I'm lifting up my glass of cheap wine to you and saying, "here's to the sunshine, the yawning and stretching of the trees as they awaken from their winter slumber and to being able to sleep with my windows open without my eyes swelling shut!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jessica's Trip To Ecuador

Hey, do you guys remember when I told you about my friend Jessica? She's the one who I said if you called her up out of the blue and asked to her go with you to Timbuktu for the chance to help one child and promised her that she'd be bitten by mosquitoes the size of ostriches, she'd go with you without hesitation because she has this amazing heart? Well, she's not going to Timbuktu but she is going to Ecuador in a few months.

I'm so proud of her! I hope that doesn't sound condescending because I don't mean it that way.  I mean that I've sat across from her at Panera many times and listened to how much she knows that God wants her to take this trip but that she just didn't know how in the world she would ever pull it off. I've listened to her wrestle with this decision.  "I want to go but how do I make it happen when I have to work and have responsibilities and can't seem to get away."   Let me tell you guys, Jessica is taking a HUGE leap of faith by doing this!  She's terrified but walking through her fears. So yes, the fact that she is throwing caution to the wind and letting the chips fall where they may, makes me very proud of her.  I'm proud to know her and to call her my friend.

A lot of us use our financial situations as a way to excuse ourselves from doing missions.  After all, they are a huge expense  Most of us could scrape the money together to make it happen.  It might take us a while, but we could do it.  Jessica doesn't have that luxury.  There is nothing to be scraped so you can imagine how when she heard God telling her that she needed to go how she was like, "Right...and where, pray tell, would you suggest I get the fundage for such an adventure.?  I'm certainly not going to, like,  ASK PEOPLE for the money!"  She may be too scared to ask, but I'm not because I know that many of you are not going to be led to donate money and that's okay but there are going to be a couple of you who when you read this are going to know that you want to be part of it and have been looking for this opportunity. This is for you.

She recently, fought through the terror and stood up in church and asked for their support.  She's waiting on God for the rest.  I'm attaching the letter she read in church.  When I asked her if I could post it she said, "could you please change that first line wherein I say that it's important to care for orphans and WINDOWS! I meant to say widows, good grief!"

Yes, Jess...I will change it.  But I reserve the right to tease you mercilessly about it.  You'll probably get a text from me while you're in Quito that says, "I'm praying for your team, may God's love be poured through you towards all of the orphans and WINDOWS you meet." :)


Dear Friends and Family,

  The Bible says in James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (NLT).   This summer I have the opportunity to do just that as I join team members from all over the country on a mission’s trip to Quito, Ecuador with the Christian non-profit ministry Visiting Orphans.
 
  In the last two decades, the population of Ecuador has doubled – creating a growing population of abandoned children. Most of these children are from poor and/or indigenous families. Growing poverty, lacking education and limited governmental resources have further exacerbate the problem of street children and orphans in this country.   Many orphans are never adopted; thus, for many of these children there are very few options and little hope for a normal life once put into an orphanage. While Orphanages in Ecuador supply housing, food and clothes for the children, there is still more to be done!  This trip is an opportunity for me to help and literally be the hands and feet of God as I step out in faith.

  I will be leaving to meet up with my team July 27th and returning August 4th.  While in Ecuador my team will be working with Maria Campi de Yoder Orphanage, as well as venturing outside of Quito to visit some new orphanage partners and ministering to kids there who don't get many visitors.  We will be leading VBS type services, as well as working on construction projects and most importantly loving on these precious children with the Love of Christ.

  I am writing to ask you to partner with me on this trip by praying, encouraging, and financially supporting me.  Please pray that our team will have unity, that our travels will be safe and we’ll remain healthy.  Pray also that God will teach me more about Himself and especially pray that we’ll be able to communicate God’s love to the Children we meet.

  The cost for me to attend this trip is $2500.  This includes all my travel, lodging, meals and translators.  Once I’ve reached my goal, any additional money raised on my behalf will go towards a donation to the orphanage we will be working with.  Will you join me on this journey through your prayers and/or through a financial contribution?  All gifts are tax deductible and can be made by making a check out to “Visiting Orphans” with my name in the memo line or by going online to www.visitingorphans.org.  Click "donate".  Under the "funding category" select “Ecuador –July 2012”. Enter how much you'd like to donate, any amount will help.   Where it says, "Would you like to preference this donation toward the work of a specific team member or ministry?" click "team member or ministry name" and enter my name, Jessica Wojcik, then simply complete the donation page.

  I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to serve and I thank you in advance for your support!

Jessica Wojcik

Let me know if you donate! If you do, I'll make sure to bug Jess about sending me lots of pics so that I can post them for us all to share!

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Showtime

This past weekend, my oldest daughter performed in a theater production for the first time.  She is in a group of a bunch of 4th and 5th graders and these kids, wow, these kids did an amazing job.  They were funny and engaging and carried the whole story with ease.

I have to admit, I was a little worried about them.  Last week, I dropped by one of their rehearsals and to say they were nervous, was an understatement.  They were all "dropping lines" as my daughter says.  I asked what that means and she said it's "what we in the business call it when you forget your lines."  Because, you know...she's "in the business."

That night I found her crying in her room because she was so nervous.  "I've got butterflies!" she said.  She considered dropping out entirely because the idea of performing in front of a group of people seemed like a terrifying prospect.  I tried to comfort her and soothe her and tell her how she knows all her lines and how she should just be in the moment and act as if nobody was there watching.  This didn't work.  Finally, I told her what my 7th grade band teacher said to me when I was about to perform a solo and thought I was going to crap my pants.  "Just pretend they are all in their underwear.  That old man over there, he's wearing superman underpants."

This seemed to help but I was worried that she'd crack under the pressure.  No such thing happened.  The day of the show, I walked past the bathroom where she was standing in front of the mirror combing her hair.  She looked at herself as she made jazz hands and said, "it's SHOWTIME!"  That's when I knew she'd be just fine.

And she was.  Better than fine.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

We Have A Winner!

I was a little nervous about ending my giveaway.  Having never done this before,  I didn't know how Rafflecopter chooses it's random winners.  Turns out all I have to do is click a button that says "pick a winner" and it generates a winner! Duh!  Congratulations to JELedford for winning ANTM's first giveaway! Your $100 Giftcard is headed your way!

This is so much fun! So much fun that I have already generated a second giveaway! Do you know who is coming to town soon? The EASTER BUNNY! And he's bringing lots of colored eggs, chocolates and Easter basket goodies!



To help all you Easter bunnies out there, I am giving away

 TWO $25 Walgreen's Gift Cards!!
The giveaway will start on March 23rd at 12:01am and go for a week, ending on April 1st at 12:01am.  There will be two winners for this giveaway (each winner will get one gift card) so you have twice the odds of winning!  The winners will be announced on April 1st (I promise it won't be a prank) and I'll get that in the mail asap so you can run out and fill your Easter baskets before April 8th!

The giveaway will be done by Rafflecopter and there will be lots of ways you can enter.  You can even enter every single day! 

I also have a great Mother's Day giveaway coming in April, a gift card to 1-800-Flowers! And a cutest kid contest where you can submit pictures of your adorable kiddos and win a gift card to Shutterfly where you can take pictures of yourself holding all your gift cards! :) Keep tuning in and entering to win!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Rhythm Of A Morning

My husband always wakes up before me.  It takes him a while to get going in the morning so he wakes up at 5am and takes his Adderall, drinks two Red Bulls and goes down into our cold basement that smells like a litter box and combs through the 900 emails in his inbox.

I wake up a little before 7.  I don't use an alarm clock and nobody wakes me up.  My body is very good at knowing when I need to wake up, like to the minute. I thank God for the day and then use the bathroom, sometimes I take a shower.  At 7, I start to wake up the kids.

Sometimes I'm lucky and my oldest daughter remembered to set her alarm clock the night before and is already awake.  Other times I have to sit on top of her and tickle her until she screams and says that I'm a terrible, horrible, awful mother for waking her up.  She's tired, can't I see that? I can't possibly expect her to get up at this ungodly hour. Her life sucks.  She's going to run away and join the circus.  I tell her she already lives in a circus/zoo so it won't be a long trip.

My youngest two are much easier.  All I have to do is open their doors and they wake up.  If I say "get dressed", they get dressed.  If I say, "wash your faces", they wash their faces.  Sure, sometimes they are slower than molasses in January but still, they get it done.

Every morning, I comb my youngest daughter's hair.  She's picky and never leaves me a tip.

My husband almost always cooks breakfast.  By the time we all march downstairs he's usually got the cereal bowls laid out or is cooking up a batch of scrambled eggs.  He makes the best scrambled eggs in the history of the world.  They are fluffy and delicious.  I'm afraid to ask him what he puts in them only because I suspect he uses a pound of butter for every 2 eggs.

Our dog Cocoa is always in rare form in the morning.  She greets us at the bottom of the stairs with her ass wagging so fast, it shakes the floor!  Her tail sounds like a whip as it slaps against the walls. If you are unlucky enough for it to hit your shins, you better be prepared for some serious bruising.  Or to lose a leg.  Her tail is so dangerous and fast that it could slice through steel.  Sometimes she will curl up and smack herself in the face with her own tail and she'll take it because we are apparently that exciting.  Being greeted by Cocoa is not unlike what I suppose it felt like for Oprah to be greeted by her studio audience.  She jumps, claps and almost faints in our presence.  "Thank you, thank you Cocoa.  Now have a seat, we've got a great show for you today!"

My husband heads upstairs to get ready for work.  The kids eat breakfast sitting around our giant, oval dining table while I fix their lunches and snacks.  Cocoa circles the dining table like a shark, ready to sink her teeth into any stray food scrap with the misfortune of falling from the table. The kids' conversations usually sound something like this:

Carter: "Is big foot really real?"
Laila: *playing recorder*
Me: "No baby, it's just a legend."
Maryn: "Can someone get me some more milk."
Carter: "What's a legend?"
Laila: *playing more recorder*
Me: "Like a made up story."
Maryn: "I SAID- Can someone get me some more milk!"
Carter: "I think that big foot is real.  I think I saw one! And I saw a show where people were hunting for them and they could hear them howling. And on 'Harry And The Hendersons', he was real!"
Laila: *still playing the recorder but stops to correct her brother: "That's just a movie Carter, it's not real."
Me: "Nobody has every been able to prove that big foot is real.  But I guess you never know!"
Maryn: *gets her own milk*

Everyone is sent upstairs to brush their teeth at about 7:50.  By 8:00, they've packed up their school folders, lunch boxes and homework and are flinging their backpacks over their shoulders.  Invariably, someone forgets where they left their jacket, someone begs me to give them money for a snack, "no I've already packed you a snack", and someone has forgotten to put on their shoes. By this point in the morning, Cocoa has already curled up in her favorite spot on the sofa and is snoring and dreaming of goldfish crackers.

There is a mad dash at the last minute but by 8:02ish, everyone is out the door.  My husband usually takes them to the bus stop before he heads to work.  He comes downstairs partially dressed with all of his clothes on but nothing fully fastened.  His shirt is unbuttoned and he has a tie slung around his neck. His pants are unzipped, his shoes are untied and he's sweating.  I kiss them all and say, "God bless you and have a wonderful day" as they head out the door.  Then I sit and have a cup of decaffeinated coffee with Amaretto creamer and enjoy the stillness and silence (except for all of the snoring coming from the couch) of the house.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dan

I met my husband's roommate, Dan, before I met him.  They lived in the apartment above mine in an old brownstone building in Middletown, PA.  Dan worked similar hours to mine and I would pass him in the hallway and wave.  He worked at a fruit packing plant and one day he brought me a bowl heaping with pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe and strawberries.

He knocked lightly at my door and when I answered it, he held the bowl out in front of him like he was delivering a fruit basket.  "Do you like fruit," he asked in a deep monotone voice.

"Sure!" 

He handed it to me and said, "Yeah." Then walked away without saying another word.   Dan  was what one might call "socially awkward."  His hair was always a mess and he usually smelled bad.  At first glance you might take him for a serial killer who buries individual body parts in his back yard, piece by piece.  But on closer inspection you would realize that his insecurities would never allow him to so much as touch someone else, let alone murder them.

He shopped on the same day every week.  He ate Spaghetti on Monday through Thursday and on Saturday morning he always had pancakes.  He drank nauseating amounts of Mountain Dew and always washed his clothes on Tuesdays.  You could set a timer to the day and time when he took out his garbage and he could always be counted on to have extra quarters for the washing machines because he always planned ahead.

If you've ever seen the movie "As Good As It Gets" you would do well to compare him to Jack Nicholson's character, without the anger. He was prone to weird outbursts and could say inappropriate things at inappropriate times.  He was far from "normal."

Sometimes, if I was bored and lonely, I would go upstairs and talk to him.  He never said much. He'd just sit in his chair and chain smoke Marlboro cigarettes.  Still, it was nice to have any company at all.  Having moved from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania, I didn't know many people aside from the ladies I worked with at the bank.

Sometimes he would turn the channel to Univision to watch re-runs of "Sabado Gigante" and he'd ask me to interpret for him.  He wasn't concerned about the characters or what they really had to say.  He was mostly interested in watching the girls dressed in skimpy bikinis.

When he did talk, he would ask me the same questions over and over.  "So....what's up," he'd say, squinting one eye as he took a drag of his cigarette out of the corner of his mouth.

"Not much, what's up with you?"

"Nothing. But....what's uuuuuuuup?" I never knew what to say to him.

After a while, I would give up and go back downstairs to my apartment to eat my diner and watch television.  It's been fifteen years since I first met him and he's still smoking his Marlboros out of the corner of his mouth and asking me "what's up."  And I still don't know what to say to him.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Artist Formerly Known As Alicia

My name should be Andrea.  That’s the name my parents picked for me except my dad changed his mind at the last minute and named me Alicia, pronounced ah-lee-see-ah.  He named me after an ex- girlfriend who he thought was beautiful and sophisticated. I have no idea how he convinced my mom to name me after an ex-girlfriend.  My guess is that she was high on pain-killers when they filled out the paperwork.  

My dad wanted those same qualities of sophistication and beauty in me.  Talk about pressure!  It always seemed like he wanted a daughter who was tall, thin and beautiful; a delicate girl whose hair always stayed in place, wore skirts every day and could walk in pumps.

I am none of those things.  My hair is defiant and bi-polar.  It tends to be straight at the top and wavy at the bottom which gives me the perpetual look of having a grown-out perm.  It also never stays in place, even with poisonous amounts of Aqua Net.

 I am not tall but I don’t see how I can blamed me for that.  I would like to point out that I’m far from short; I can reach the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets, thank you very much.  You could say I’m the opposite of thin.  When I was little, I had a friend who was very tall and skinny and people called us “the ten” because when we stood next to each other we looked like the number ten.  She was tall and thin, I was short and round.

I’m still round.   I’m trying to find a word more eloquent than “fat”.  “Overweight” doesn’t do me justice, “heavy set” sounds too masculine, “obese” sounds too clinical and “pleasantly plump” just sounds stupid.  I guess “round” will have to do.
I don’t like skirts and I’d rather pull my toenails out with a pair of rusty pliers than wear high heels. I guess you can say that I never lived up to my first name, at least in my father’s eyes. 

When I was 14, I started using a nickname.  It’s common for Mexican girls named Alicia to go by the name “Licha.”  I liked it and hoped that it would give me a new identity.  Licha (pronounced Lee-sha) would be cooler than Alicia.  Licha would sign her name with a little heart over the “i”.  Licha would be more grown up.  

It confused all of my teachers.  For months they couldn’t figure out my new identity.  “Well, you may want to call yourself that but your name is still Alicia in my class.”  I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t embrace the new me.  I was the same person, only better!  I’m sure that Prince felt the same way when he changed his name to that weird symbol.  I’m sure people still called him “Prince” for months afterwards!  “You can refer to me as ‘the student formerly known as Alicia’,” I suggested. But they just rolled their eyes at me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blind Faith

When we bought our house and went to our closing we were presented with a pile of papers that were as tall as a half-dozen stack of flap jacks.   We signed our name so many times that Hal and I each developed a raging case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Our attorney was there to help guide us through the process.  He showed us the terms of our mortgage, how the numbers broke down, explained clauses and footnotes.  There was a lot that made sense.  But there was a lot that didn't make sense.  We never asked any questions.  We just wanted our keys!

There were legalities and jargon that flew right over my head but I trusted that our lawyer wouldn't steer us wrong.  There was enough that I did know and understand to make me feel secure.

Ididn't have to understand everything.  There were things that I wouldn't get even if I had studied for years.  I figured that I didn't need to know every single detail, only the big picture.  We were buying a house and I was going to get to live an American dream.

We took a bit of a leap of faith and trusted that things would be okay.  We focused on the big picture and that was all that mattered.  We didn't expect to understand everything or demand explanation of every line of the contract.

Yet, when it comes to the bible I seem to think that I need a line by line breakdown.  I was studying Romans yesterday and got stuck on Chapter 9 which deals with free will vs. predestination.  At least on the surface it does.  That's always been a big one for me (I'm sure I'm not alone in that one).  How can the idea of free will be valid if God knew you, who you are, every mistake you'll ever make, your entire life all the way to the end, before you were even born?

Luckily, I had some resources that helped me sort things out a bit. What I found (as is almost always the case) is that it's dangerous to read the bible for face value.  It requires a much deeper study.  In order to read Romans you need to know Paul and what the Israelites were dealing with at that time.  In order to know that, you need to read through Acts which would not make sense unless you read the gospels which would be easier understood by knowing the entire Old Testament.

And even if you read all of that, there are going to be things you understand and things you don't understand unless you are a seminary student or biblical expert.  What you need is to read it, understand what you can, look for information to fill in the gaps and pray about it.  That helped me to understand it better.

I say "better" and not fully because I think the bible only takes us about 90% of the way on understanding.  You have to throw a heap of faith in for that last 10%.   God will only walk us so far along the path and teach us word for word.  He will eventually bring us to a precipice.  He will present us with a wide, deep and jagged-edged canyon with no bridge and will perch himself on the other side and smile and wave.  We have to decide whether we want to believe or not, whether we go to him or not.

 "Come on," he'll say.  We see him on the other side and want desperately to get to him but will be terrified that when we step off the ledge, we will come crashing down.  I'm not going to pretend that it's not scary.  The idea of crossing a canyon with no bridge sound completely crazy.  It's not until we take that leap, that step of blind and often unreasonable faith that we find that we've been standing next to him the entire time.  He's never left us.  We were always safe. We just had to take action to reach him.

Without that step of faith we are left alone, bound by our fears and able to see but not touch him.  We stay in our confusion because there is comfort.  The problem is that we often choose comfort over exhilaration.

So, I'm not going to choose comfort anymore.  When I get to those parts of the bible that send my mind reeling, I'm going to trust him. I'm going to take a leap of faith and try to focus on the big picture.  It would be silly to never hold the keys of my house until I understand every bi-line.  And it would be even sillier to never hold the keys to the kingdom because I don't understand every line of the bible.

Why is it that I can so easily sign my mortgage without thinking twice, yet go through every line of scripture with a fine-tooth comb? That I'm so willing to trust my lawyer but not trust the word of God?

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Lonely Boob

My husband has quirks.  One of his most prominent is that he thinks in terms of black and white.  When presented with two options he doesn't say, "hmm they are both good but I will pick this one just because." 

Instead, he chooses one and the other is dead to him.  He doesn't have preferences, he has discrimination. We have two recliners in our living room and he has picked one, his favored one.  The other one may as well be a red-headed step child.  He won't acknowledge it.  And when he's forced to sit in it because, I don't know, we have company or something, he re-positions himself constantly and gets exasperated.  Beads of sweat roll down his face.  If you've ever watched The Big Bang Theory, think Sheldon when he's asked to sit anywhere but "his spot."

We have four pillows on our bed.  As you can imagine, two pillows are preferred, the others are tossed to the floor or offered to me like sloppy seconds.  He looks at them like they are used, bloody syringes, so foul, so disgusting, that he struggles to look at them. Using only his thumb and first finger to hold them, he passes them to me with  a look of disgust on his face.

If I were to fall asleep on one of his pillows he would have two options: 1) rip it out from under me or 2) not sleep that night.  Because the idea of using a non-sanctioned pillow would be unacceptable!

We have two throw pillows on the bed too.  And as you already guessed, one is deemed acceptable and the other is not.  "I'll trade you pillows" is a phrase that can be heard nightly at our house.   Let me point out that there is no discernible difference between any of these pillows.  At least not to the layman.

But my husband has fluffed, inspected, looked at them from every angle, sniffed them, placed one in each hand and weighed them against each other.  None of these tests have valid results.  They wouldn't hold up in court.  That's because my husband is no expert.  He's just picky.  And a little crazy.

It's a good thing that we have three children.  The odd number is what keeps them each in equal standing in his eyes.  If there were two, he might adopt one out.

So last night when he climbed into bed and pointed at the pillow I had comfortably tucked under my head, I  sighed and handed it to him without him even saying a word.  "You really do have a problem," I said.  And then I suddenly realized this is the reason he only ever really touches one of my boobs. He loves that boob.  A lot.  The other one may as well be invisible.  It never gets any action.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Giveaway Update!

Only five days left on my giveaway! I'm so excited! The gift card, in all of it's $100 magnificence, is in the mail to me right now!

Thank you all for entering. I have so loved hearing who your favorite Disney characters are! It makes me want to take a trip to Disney.  I've never been to Orlando! I've gone to Disneyland a few times but never to Disney World.  It's a bone of contention in our house. My children are sure that the fact that we've never taken them, is causing psychological and emotional damage to them.

I give full props and bow down and say "I am not worthy" to anyone who takes babies and toddlers to Disney World.  That would be like my worst nightmare.  Now that the kids are older, my excuses aren't holding so it's time we go and make some memories that will last a lifetime!

Remember that you can get THREE extra entries daily if you tweet about it! If you blog about it you get an extra FIVE entries!

And guess what's in the works for next month? Oh yes, another giveaway! I'll give you more specifics in a few days :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Jessica Simpson Poses Nude For Elle Magazine

I can already hear it now, the sneering, jeering and heckling over Jessica Simpson's new cover for Elle magazine where she poses nude as a throwback to Demi Moore's cover for Vanity Fair, twenty one years ago.  Go ahead and let that sink in.  When I looked online to find out how long ago that picture was taken I was aghast. It seems like that was like just a few years ago and I'm starting to feel very old!

People will call her fat. People will call it scandalous. Just because.  That's just how the media is.  There's no story if there isn't something scandalous.

I think she looks absolutely beautiful. And I applaud her confidence and bravery to pose nude on the cover of a magazine while she's in her third trimester! Not to mention, knowing in advance that you would be compared to Demi Moore, whose body nobody ever called anything short of spectacular. It was a brave thing for Demi to do TWENTY ONE YEARS AGO (sorry, I just can't seem to believe it's been that long), it's even braver for Jessica.

I've been pregnant three times.  And I remember those third trimesters. If anyone would have suggested to me that I pose nude for the whole world to see and be compared to Demi Moore, that person would have a shoe print on their face and be short a few teeth.

For real, of all the things I felt in those third trimesters; swollen, leaky, sore, achy, happy, excited and exhausted, the one thing I didn't feel was sexy.  My husband said I looked sexy (Because he knows what's good for him).  I just didn't feel that way. Nope, not one bit. So the fact that she can pull up her granny panties and show us how a bountiful baby belly is beautiful, is something to be admired.

Maybe she did it for publicity.  Maybe for money.  Much more likely, she did it to show that pregnant is beautiful. Jessica has done other covers for Elle magazine.  And she's just as beautiful in this phase of life as she was in those.

If I could I would high five her.  As my mom would say, "you go girl!" So tell me, if you're a gal, would you pose for a magazine in the nude while you're in your third trimester? If you're a dude with a beer belly...would you pose nude on the cover of a magazine while clutching your moobies in one hand and your beer belly with the other? :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine made some homemade laundry detergent and gave me some. I imagine that she looked around her kitchen at all the filled half gallon jugs and said to herself, who is both cheap and likes to pat herself on the back for her half-hearted attempts to save the environment? That's when she snapped her fingers, reached for her phone and texted me.

I have to admit, I was suspicious at first.  The stuff is not pretty.  It is white and has the consistency of something I won't tell you about because this is a family blog and it wouldn't be appropriate.  Please understand that it's taking great restraint for me not to type the word right now.  Someone needs to get me a gold star. Look at me, all maturing and what not.  The side of me that is a fourteen year old boy is snickering and making obscene hand gestures.

Esthetics aside, the homemade soap had a good resume. It's made from borax, washing soda, soap, water and essential oils.  In other words, it's not full of the crazy contaminate chemicals you'll find in most of your brand-name detergents. Naturally, they don't advertise those things in commercials.  They don't say, "keeps laundry fresh for weeks and during that time releases fragrant Acetaldehyde that will someday give you blood cancer."

I used the homemade detergent and have to say, my sheets have never smelled so clean.  My friend used a subtle lemon scent and the sheets, washed and left to dry in the sun, smell intoxicating, like warm lemonade.  They feel crisp and clean and there is also the peace of mind that they aren't saturated in carcinogenic chemicals.

And if that weren't enough, it's also ridiculously cheap to make.  We figured up that we could make nearly 10 gallons of detergent for something like $10.00.  I'm including the recipe for you to try.  This is not mine, in fact, I snagged this from TLC.  They also offer up a powdered version which I think would be much easier on the eyes if you catch my drift.

Liquid Detergent

1 quart water (boiling) 2 cups bar soap (grated) 2 cups borax 2 cups washing soda
1. Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted. (*Try using homemade soap from Whole Foods*)
2. Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the borax and washing soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
3. Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
4. Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Once it's cool, add 5 - 7 drops of your favorite essential oil per gallon. Stir the soap each time you use it (it will gel).
 * my suggestion

You can find everything you need at most supermarkets and it takes only a few minutes to make.  It's a super easy and inexpensive way to wash your clothes while looking out for yourself and the environment!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nobody Seems To Care When You Have a Panic Attack

Five months ago, as I was driving my oldest daughter to theater rehearsal, I had a massive panic attack that was set off by a tall mocha latte.  It struck out of nowhere, like a rogue wave, unseen yet over-powering as it knocked me over and sucked the air out of my lungs.

I'm no stranger to panic attacks.  They first surfaced about five years ago, when my mom died.  Since then, I've learned to manage them, my weapon of choice being abstinence from caffeine which is a real bitch because I love me some coffee.  Sometimes the allure of sweet caffeine proves too tempting to resist. Most of the time it has no effect at all but apparently this time was the exception to that rule.

This panic attack was so intense, so unexpected that it scared me.  I parked in front of my doctor's office and called a friend who came to pick up my kids.  It's good to have friends like that, who will come un-bathed and in their flannel pants without thinking twice because they hear the fear in your voice. They will feed your kids and call your husband and tell you to "just go take care of yourself."

The doctors checked all the basics.  I was fine. "You're just having a panic attack," they said.  They said this like they were diagnosing a hangnail.  Like it's no big deal, nothing spectacular. You'll live.  Except if you've ever been in the midst of a panic attack you'll know that it feels just the EXACT OPPOSITE of no big deal.

It feels like you're a fish whose been yanked out of the water and your first reaction is to flop around in a desperate attempt to fight for your life.  It feels like you're a caged animal who will do anything, claw at the walls, over-turn furniture, shake the person in front of you, anything to get relief.

Don't these people know I'm dying, I thought.  I'm dying. I'm going to die at any second and they will step over my body and then a few days later someone will carve "she died of nothing spectacular," on my gravestone.

The way that people act non-nonchalant when you're in the middle of a panic attack is maddening.  I'm in a state of emergency and they are picking their fingernails and reading magazines and taking their time.

Of course, this very lack of hysteria on everyone's part should be my first clue that there isn't anything seriously wrong with me.  I'm fine. I'll be fine.  But tell that to my pounding heart and the gasps for air and the sweating and the feeling of impending doom.

The doctor gave me Xanax, or rather the generic version Alprazolam.  It's a ridiculously small dosage but just enough to take the edge off.  I've only taken a handful of pills in the last five months which is to say that I have been feeling great.

I'm not a big fan of pills.  My mom took lots of pills and to me they represent that needy, desperate, sick part of her that I hated.  Pills made her drowsy, caused side effects and turned her into a different person. Consequently, I will endure a 2 day migraine without pain medicine just for the simple (and stubborn) principal of not taking any pills.

The fact that I came home and downed two pills immediately should tell you how bad that panic attack was.  And knowing that they are sitting in my medicine cabinet, an insurance policy against feeling like I want to rip the skin from my body, is a great deal of comfort.

That and a carousel full of DE-caffeinated k-cups.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Just A Sneeze

Last weekend we had some fierce wind roll into town.  It came in like a lamb but was roaring a few hours later.

Each of our kids had a friend over for a sleepover that night and all six kids sat huddled in our family room looking at the ceiling and waiting for the wind to blow the roof right off the house. Part of it was genuine fear.  The house was creaking, swaying and thumping.  Part of it was an excuse to stay up just a little longer.  They held out until 11:30.

The roof didn't come off of the house but we did lose some siding.  I was in our bedroom reading when I started to hear a thump that got louder and louder. 

"Babe! What is that noise?" 

"What noise? I don't hear anything." my husband said.

He was wrestling with our clothes line that goes out of our wash room window and attaches to a tree on the other side of the yard.  Earlier, I put sheets and blankets on it and had forgot to take them down.

"I'm sick of this stupid clothes line. I want to rip it out of the house!" It's not that he's opposed to the clothes line.  He's opposed to my leaving things on the line when it rains or snows (or winds).  They get tangled up and then he has  to clean up my messes.  It's the tradeoff we make for my having to follow behind him and turn off lights and close cabinets and doors.

"But it saves us so much money on electricity," I said.

He managed to unhook the line and told me to hold it while he went downstairs to pull the blankets and sheets to safety.

"There is that thumping noise again," I said.

"I think you're hearing things."  He rolled his eyes at me and shook his head.

Turns out I wasn't just hearing things.  The wind had pulled the siding off with such force that it bent the aluminum underneath.  We had a guy come by a couple of days later to fix it because my husband is terrified of heights.  One ring up on a ladder and he starts to tremble.

"Boy that wind was horrible, wasn't it?" said the siding guy.

"It wasn't too bad," I said.

"What are you talking about? I'm replacing sheets of siding on your house!"

"Yeah.  But you've got to understand.  I grew up in Oklahoma.  Where we think an F2 tornado feels 'just a little breezy'.  We don't consider wind to be an issue unless we find our car a few miles away, wrapped like a pretzel around a tree.  Having some siding ripped off the house amounts to nothing more than a sneeze in an Oklahoma girl's wind comparison."

In the wake of all of the twisters that broke out across the country, I count myself as lucky to be fixing a little siding and pray for those whose lives have been torn apart.  Within moments of the first storm, Samaritan's Purse was en route to the devastation, putting themselves in the path of many of the storms.  Thank God for people like this, who run into the frey, doing the work that I so wish I could do.  Some of us can't be there physically to help but that doesn't excuse us from our duty.  If you feel so led, please consider clicking on the SP link above to donate money toward the recovery efforts.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wolf In Sheeps Clothing

The school called me the other day to talk about my youngest daughter who is in Kindergarten.  The reason for the call was unclear and bordered on disturbing.

"We're calling to talk about M," the woman said.

"Okay.  Is there a problem?" I asked.

"Well, not really.  She's doing well academically and making great progress.  She's also doing well socially and is a real joy to have in class."

"That's good to hear.  So...what would you like to talk about?"

"We want to do some testing on her." I got a flash in my head of teachers in white coats, placing my child in a maze like a lab rat.

"You see, when her teacher gives her instructions she will sometimes hesitate before taking action," said the woman. "

"Does she follow the directions?"

"Yes."

"Is she having a behavioral problem?"

"No."

"So, what you're telling me is that my daughter listens, thinks before she acts and then follows directions."

"Yes."

"And that's a problem becauuuuuse....?"

"Well, it's not really a problem."

"So then why do you want to test her?"

"I just told you.  Because she's stopping too long to think before she acts. And in Kindergarten (as you know) we have so much to teach.  We've got to keep these kids moving. And we want to make sure that letting her take time to think is the right course of action. We need to make sure she's understanding what she's being told."

"Does she seem confused?"

"No.

"Is she disrupting the class by taking too much time to think?"

"Not exactly.  She's polite and does what she's told.  But she's just slower than we'd like her to be."

"Right.  Let me talk to my husband about this."

I hung up the phone; totally confused.  I'm sure there's got to be a reason for this call although that reason was not exactly clear.  It's obvious that she's slowing them down.  But since (so they say) it's not affecting her academically, socially and behaviorally and furthermore she's not causing classroom disruptions, I don't see the issue here.

M is very good at avoidance.  She'll pretend to not know how to do things when she doesn't feel like doing something. She's an expert at pretending to be needy and does a very good job at getting her brother to get her drinks and snacks and manipulating her sister into cleaning her room.  What can I say, she can be a brat sometimes.  And if that's what she's doing than it's unacceptable and she needs to be held accountable.  But testing?

Surely they wouldn't want to test her to see how they can get her to move faster. Or would they?  I can't imagine what kind of testing they would do. Are they going to poke her with a cattle prod to see if that puts a jump in her step?

We've always been very open to any help the school can offer, even if we don't always agree with it.  Only because we know that we aren't experts and we trust our teachers and school professionals to have our children's best interest at heart.

With very few exceptions, those interests have never come into question but this? This needs further investigation.  Her teacher (a wonderful woman who has had all three of our kids in her classroom and has always been very good at communication) has never communicated any concern to me.  Just two weeks ago I asked her how things were going and she smiled and said, "she's doing great. She's such a little star."

I feel uneasy. If I were dealing with a doctor, this is when I'd be asking for a second opinion.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Girl Scout Cookies With a Baseball Bat

Do you know what time it is?  Girl Scout Cookies Time! Girl Scout Cookies With A Baseball Bat.

We're picking up our cookies today.  All four million of them.  This year, I am co-leader of a daisy troop and what that means is that my garage will be stacked to the rafters with boxes of cookies until Monday when we distribute them to our girls.

All except the TWENTY BOXES my husband and I bought between both of our girl scouts.  Twenty boxes people.  Okay, some of those twenty, we donated to be sent to troops overseas but still.  It's gonna be raining trefoils and thin mints up in this joint!

The worst part about the cookies is the delivery and money collection part.  Everyone seems to be home when you take their orders but then can never be found when you come to deliver and collect the money.  It's like Murphy's Law that you sell to a neighbor on the one day out of the month when he's actually at home.  The rest of the month he's MIA. 

Last year we went by to deliver cookies to a neighbor who was never home. Ever.  I seriously considered knocking on his door at 11 pm when their lights finally came on. 

I've got to think of a creative way to get rid of some of the cookies we bought.  We do not need them in this house.  I bet I could donate them somewhere.  But where? At this point, I'd be willing to take a walk down Main Street and hand them out to homeless people!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Right Way To Pray

I once went to a church where a woman, a self-confirmed prayer expert, called another woman out on the way she prayed.

"I say this in love, but you are praying incorrectly.  You can't just talk and not address your heavenly father by name.  You must say, "Lord" and then follow it up with your request.  I wouldn't want your prayers to go unanswered."

The woman who'd been called out went red in the face because you see, this had been pointed out during a prayer group and now everyone was staring at her.  She started to cry.

"I'm just trying to be helpful.  There is a right way and a wrong way to pray," said the expert.

I didn't see what the woman had done wrong.  I usually pray the exact same way she had but apparently we've both been doing it all wrong.  Obviously, God is very picky when you dial his number.  You must include a prefix code of "thou" or "Lord".  If you don't, he will assume you are a crank call and hang up in your ear and then screen your calls.

I was sure glad that I hadn't spoken up in prayer because my prayers are almost always of such a personal nature that I often times start mid-sentence.  I'm also prone to what I call "spurt prayers."  I will sometimes pray in tiny little spurts when I'm thinking about things so I don't forget them later.  When I'm driving by the school I say, "please look after my kids today as they go through their school day. Remind them that you are always with them.  And that you’re watching so they better not pick their noses and eat their boogers."

Then I start making out a mental grocery list of what I need to get at the market.

Other times, when I'm in line at a red light I'll look over at someone who just looks like they are having a bad day and I'll say, "I don't know this person but he sure does look like he needs you right now.  Please follow him wherever he goes and fill him with peace."

Then I turn up the radio and start jamming to "Moves Like Jagger."  Like I said, spurts.

Later, when I have time to devote I will pray in earnest.  These prayers are most always not about something I want or need but about giving thanks.

"Thank you for this beautiful day, okay so maybe it's cloudy but it's still beautiful.  Thank you  for the fact that I woke up at all.  Thank you for my silly husband and sweet children, my friends and family. Thank you for my home and our security. I don't deserve these things above anyone else and why you chose me to bestow them on while there are people living in refugee camps, I will never know but I thank you.  Thank you for my health (remind me to eat more fiber) and for loving me when I'm completely un-loveable and unable to even love myself.  Thank you for pursuing me so ferociously when I played so hard to get and for second chances and for grace that I will never fully comprehend.  Thank you for all of it, everything you've ever given and will give me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Sometimes I pretend that God and I Skype.  Like we have a 3:00 meeting and I sit down, tuck my hair behind my ears and say, "It's me........".  He always smiles.  Sometimes he winks while he points his finger at me.  I usually do this when I need some serious advice or when I'm super confused about something.  He always listens but sometimes he doesn't stay on task (my task).  One time during one of our conversations he was way off base.

If you've never heard from God, let me tell you how he talks to me.  It's like a thought in my head that pops in from out of nowhere and is so loud that it sounds like a loud speaker. It's always unreasonable and so foreign that it's very clear that the thoughts do not belong to me.  I most always feel invaded.  The thoughts will play over and over again like a flat tire that keeps on thumping until I finally stop and tend to it.

"Hey, remember that girl Danielle that you used to work with like, ten years ago? Maybe you should call her out of the blue.  She used to invite you to church all of the time and was really nice to you!" he said.

"What? Are you crazy? I haven't talked to her in like, well ten years.  I don't know where she is, what she's doing, how to reach her.  Lets please get back to my problems, shall we?"

"You could probably find her on Facebook you know? Look her up, Look Her Up, LOOK.HER.UP!"
"AAHHH! If I will, would you kindly stop shouting in my head?"

"Maybe. Tell her that you appreciated how she brought you to church and how you didn't find me then but eventually you did.  You found me, you looooooove me (I imagined him fanning his face) and that she was part of your journey and I used her for that and want to keep using her for great things."

"This is crazy. She's going to think I'm crazy."

"So?" he said.

I got up, opened my browser and logged into Facebook all the while rolling my eyes.  This is really pretty stupid you know.  I let out a long sigh as I thought to myself.  I don't have time for this.  I need help.  I need advice. I need guidance.  Isn't that what God is for? Isn't he supposed to help me? I was just praying for his guidance and instead I'm here running crazy errands.  Good grief!

I typed in Danielle's name and she immediately popped up.  I sent her a friend request and a message.

"Hi Danielle.  You're going to think I've completely lost my mind but I just wanted to say 'hi' and tell you how much I appreciate how you took me to church with you back when because while I didn't know God then, I do now (he's looking over my shoulder right now and tapping his foot). Please know that he loves you and he used you to bring me to him. He wants to use you again."

I sent the message, half embarrassed.  She's going to think I've completely fallen off my rocker, I thought. I went on with my day and a few hours later when I checked Facebook there was a note from Danielle.  She had accepted my friend request and her message said this:

"I left the church about five years ago. I was deeply hurt by my many things that happened with our pastor and haven't been close to God since then.  Last week I went to church for the first time since I left and just this morning I was praying to God, for him to let me know if I was doing the right thing by going back.  Would it be okay this time? Would I be able to return and start fresh?  I'm writing this with tears falling onto my keyboard.  Thank you SO much for messaging me!"

I rolled my office chair away from the desk and sat very still. Did that just happen? In one fell swoop God had answered both of our prayers.  He had distracted me from myself and re-focused my purpose while simultaneously reassuring Danielle.

And I didn't even say "thou."