Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Helios

My husband has taken to writing short stories. He's written one full novel, and has started at least three others, but has published two short stories now, with a third and possibly fourth one waiting to be printed, on top of all the ones he's written that are waiting like diamonds waiting to be mined.

The one he just finished, however, is WAY too good to keep short. It's my all time favorite story he's ever written. I think I've said that every time he's finished a new one, but this one is HANDS DOWN the best. It's not only that he's becoming a better writer, it's also the nature of the story and the overall content.

My darling husband has a knack for story telling. He is a big picture kind of guy so he's able to make some connections in a story that link things together in a way that most people only dream about. I can remember in high school when we'd study a story and all these connections would be made-symbols of this or that-and I'd think we were all just maybe reading too much into the story....but my wordsmith husband has proven me wrong time and time again, but never more so than this time.

I am in the process of begging and pleading him to develop it into a full blown novel because I'm POSITIVE this one would quickly be published, and turned into a movie, and give us the second home in Venice that currently exists only in my dreams. It's that good. It really is. As it's written now, it's only 4400 words, but it could easily be expanded to 44K, even 88K and probably still leave me thirsty for more.

Please, darling....if you love me, write the NOVEL version of this tale. I NEED that house in Venice so when we go over for the Venice marathon we'll have a place to stay!! Because we know it's really all about me.

I love you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'M BEING ARRESTED!!

Yes, you read that right.  I'm being ARRESTED!!!  I'm being locked up for "good" and your donation is my key to freedom!!

Before you decided I've completely lost my mind and stop reading....let me explain.  It's for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  I've chosen to participate in their fund-raising effort by agreeing to be locked up on November 17th.  In order to be released, I need to raise $3200 in bail money!



I'll be honest, the only thing I knew before today about muscular dystrophy was...well, nothing.  I started to say I knew about Jerry's kids, but I think if you'd have asked me yesterday, I wouldn't have been able to tell you his telethons were for MDA.  After I got the call saying a friendly warrant had been issued for my arrest, I did the geek thing I do-research.

Turns out, muscular dystrophy isn't just one thing...the muscular dystrophies (MD) are a group of more than 30 genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement.  There's no treatment or cure and no way to reverse the diseases.  There are some therapies and drugs that are used to treat the effects of the various diseases.

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association website,

MDA is the world's largest non-governmental sponsor of research seeking the causes of and effective treatments for neuromuscular diseases, sponsoring 330 research projects annually.

There are so many different causes that are asking for your money these days.  We have all been hit by one disease or another either personally or through a friend or family member.  Obviously, the charities that raise awareness or sponsor research for those nearest and dearest to our hearts will also be the ones that reach into our pocket books as well.

Allow me to tell you why it is you should click on my bail raising link and help to raise funds to research these diseases.  Because if you're reading this blog, chances are you either run now, did run at some point in time, or want to run some time in the future.  Children and adults who are most severely hit by MD aren't afforded that luxury.  These diseases rob people of the joy you and I know that comes with running.  There is constant ongoing research looking at everything from how to eradicate these diseases to how to most effectively treat them.  But, that costs money.

Ultimately, my goal is to raise $3,200 for "bail" by November 17th at 2pm, but that's the "marathon" if you will.  I have been told that one hour of research costs just $74.  Therefore, I have a preliminary goal to raise $74 in 74 hours (that's my "one mile" mark).

I know all too well how easy it is to put off making a donation when things like this pop up--I am the QUEEN of procrastination.  But, won't you consider CLICKING THE LINK and making a donation that will help me make it the first mile of my marathon...and help MDA get closer to a "cure"??

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Am I Lazy?

Yes, I think it's true.  I think I'm just lazy.

I have good ideas, and great intentions, but just not the wherewithall to follow through on some of my plans.  That is the very reason I've set the goal to run a marathon in December.  It's a goal that can't be easily met, and requires planning and focus and FOLLOW THROUGH.

I started writing a fiction novel a little over a year ago....and just can't seem to finish it.  But, the truth is, it's really not the story I want to tell.  The "real story" I want to write about is my own.  I have a lot of very good friends that have encouraged me to sit down and write my memoir....and it is truly my heart's desire to do so.  But, I think I'm just lazy.  It's going to be a hard story to tell.  It's going to be tough to rehash some things I think I'd rather just leave in the past. 

In order to write the story well I'll certainly dive back into some left-over emotions that I left behind long ago.  Like taking a box out of the attic and sorting through old photographs...  And, I think I'm just lazy.  It's going to be work.  Hard work.

I got to meet a dear blogger who I called friend long before I met her in person for a (LONG) lunch this past week.  We talked about my running blog a little bit and it got me to thinking.  I started that blog as a sort of on-line, public, log of my progress.  I am completely obsessed with running and love it with every muscle fiber in my body as well as every synapse in my mind!  I love writing about all things running, and it comes very easy to me.  I sit down (usually after a run/work out) and the words just flow right out of my fingers.  I don't usually even have to think about what I'm saying (and, yes, the readers can tell).  Most of the time, I'm not really writing for anyone other than myself.   Sad, but very true.

The novel I started was completely (well, almost completely) for "others".  Romantic fiction is not something I really have any interest in at all but the story came to me and I started writing.  I like the story....but it's getting harder to get the words out.  I know what I want to say, but it's getting harder to put it all together.  And...well...I think I'm just lazy.  I don't want to invest the time it's going to take to finish it.  I'd rather go for a run, or a swim and write about that.  Or even write a post about new runners' race strategies and tips.  That's easy.

It's the same thing with my training.  I want to sign up for a marathon training group, but I'm scared I won't be able to cut it.  I have to start out with six miles at a pace of 12:30 and I just don't know if I can do it or not.  I "need" to go find out, but I'm just .....lazy?  No, I'm scared.  I'm scared I "can't" do it.  It's the same with the story.  I'm scared that the truth is that it's just complete garbage.  No amount of anyone telling me, "you're a good writer" will change what I think about myself.

I'm not lazy.  I'm afraid of what I can't do.  That fear keeps me stuck, holds me back, keeps me from finding out what I CAN do.  That fear keeps me from working toward a goal.  That fear has me shoot for shorter goals, whether that's an easier run or an easier story to tell.  That fear makes sure I don't get hurt by failure by not even allowing me to try.  Ironically, not trying hurts more than not finishing.

I am not lazy...and I will not be scared any longer.  But...just like my goal to run a marathon will take training and time to work up to...my writing will also take practice.  I can't go out and run 26.2 miles today (especially not doing it well and still be in good shape the next day)...and I can't sit down to write "my story" (and do it well) right now.  But, I will do it.  I will do them both.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Attempt At Fiction...

I took this!!  (This photo is copywritten, please do not use without permission.)

Last year I started writing a Christian romance novel.  It's still not done but, I've decided to post what I've written so far in another blog called "Writer's Block" (the proposed name of the book).  This is my first attempt at fiction, and romance is not the genre I intend to eventually be published under, but I've had fun writing it.  Please go over there and check it out.  I'll be posting new installments each day until I get caught up to where I've stopped writing.  Depending on feedback I'll either scrap the whole idea or keep on with the project.  Please be brutally honest, even if you post comments anonymously, I want to hear what you have to say!!  (Questions about plot or characters may be answered later in the story, but go ahead and ask anyway.)  Thank you so much for your help developing me as a writer!!  :D

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"...you must master it."

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis back in November.  I was told this is an auto immune condition where my body is attacking my thyroid.  I was told I'll need to take Synthroid the rest of my life.  I was also told there's no explanation for why this happens.

In my quest to figure out for myself why this is happening to me (as if I can explain something doctors have been trying for years to understand), I stumbled upon the theory that food allergies might cause the body's immune system to go haywire thereby causing any number of auto immune responses.  I went and had a blood test done looking for allergies, and was given two lists.  One was a list of foods that elicit an Immunoglobin G (IgG) response, the other list of foods cause an Immunoglobin E (IgE). 

Even after spending days pouring over all the information on the internet, I can't say I have a handle on what all this means, but the little card I got from the lab that did the test said I needed to not eat the following foods:
  • Avocado
  • Barley
  • Beef
  • Milk (cow's)--including all cow's milk cheeses
  • Milk (goat's)--including all goat's milk cheeses
  • Coconut
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Peanut
  • Egg
I pretty much immediately stopped all of these foods.  I had been "preaching" to a friend of mine who had just gotten her own list of "off-limits" foods how she should feel good because she was going to start feeling better just by giving up some foods, so I had to step up and walk the talk.  Within a couple of days I felt better than I have in a couple of years!

Even though I made sure to keep up my calorie intake, within a week I lost about three pounds (NOTE: I've been trying for six months to lose weight with NO success), and within two weeks I lost another four pounds!  My sinuses were clearer than I can ever remember them being.  I had energy that I haven't had in a very long time.  My chronically swollen lymph node in my neck went down and my thyroid, that has been noticeably enlarged for about five years, shrunk.

Pretty amazing results.

And yet, here I am, about a month later, craving all those foods I "can't" have.  I want to put Country Crock in my oatmeal.  I want pizza.  I want bread.  I want a steak.  I want cake.  I want a Nutty Bar.  And yet, every time I've eaten any of that stuff my nose runs, my throat hurts, and (sometimes) I wake up the next morning swollen up like a puffer fish!!  I'm trying to remember that taste is temporary and the effects are lasting.  More than that...those foods are damaging my body.

And yet, I want.

It feels like I will always feel this way.  It feels like I will crave these things forever and that I'll never be able to eat any of these foods again (there is an indication after a period of time the foods can be reintroduced slowly).

I personally believe that this is something I am being called to overcome.  Do I love my body and my well-being more than the taste of these foods?  Am I willing to sacrifice a fleshly desire in order to gain better health?  Am I willing to abstain from foods that certainly seem to be hurting me?  Can I exhibit self-control over food?  ...The jury is still out.  For now, this verse is what I'll hold on to:
 6Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
 7"If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
Let me be clear-eating food is not a sin.  I do believe lack of self control is.  I believe my body is a temple and should be taken care of.  I believe that to do otherwise is sin.  I am not pointing a finger at anyone else or trying to tell anyone else how to live or what to do.  This is personal.  It's about me.  All I really ask is that you wish me well in my quest.  I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mesmerizing Insanity

Dwayne invading Dana's blog once again.

One afternoon, a little over three years ago, I received an email from eHarmony informing me of a potential match living in NW Arkansas. I checked the map and discovered that Springdale, AR was over 9 hours from Huntsville, AL. I knew I wasn't likely to make a 9 hour trip just to see a skinny, short-haired, goofy girl that liked to travel and eat at non-establishment, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I could have closed the match (and she almost did from her side, but you'll have to get her to tell that story) and my life would have remained within the realms of sanity, but something drove me forward ... curiosity, divine providence, synaptical misfiring ... not sure, but I started reading her replies and, unknown to me at the time, the infection began.

If you're not familiar with how eHarmony works, then allow me briefly to explain. You start by filling out a massive questionnaire that digs into every area of your beliefs and psyche, then they "match" you with someone who seems to be a good fit. Obviously this is an inexact science, so there are protected stages of getting to know someone. If an initial match seems interesting, then you respond with a list of likes and dislikes, then questions and answers, and finally an email or two. At any stage you can decide things aren't to your liking and kill communication. Since it all takes place through their system, both sides remain somewhat anonymous.

During the Q&A stage, they offer an extensive list of prescripted questions, which most people use. I should have noticed the first sign of trouble when Dana wrote her own questions instead. This alone intrigued me, but even more so were the questions themselves. In retrospect, looking at those three questions on the screen was akin to Alice peering down the rabbit hole ... falling in was bewildering, exciting, emotional, confusing, maddening, and unbelievably satisfying.

Her first email was a tome of epic proportions. She "borrowed" the title of her blog, "Using 100 Words When 10 Would Suffice", from a novel I wrote, but it accurately describes her at that time (NOTE: Her writing now is much more focused and concise). As I navigated the uncertain waters of her initial letter, seeing flashes of brilliance coupled with vast spans of utter perplexity, the disease wormed deeper into my mind.

I could have ignored her. I could have deleted the match. I could have replied with, "Are you insane?" Instead I waded into the fray and answered her, point for point, matching her voluminous verbiage word for word, trying to make sense of her chaos.

Emails led to chats ... sessions in which we literally typed the exact same reply at the exact same time over and over again. I thought it was amazing at the time. Looking back, I now realize it was actually a side effect of the infection. How, I asked myself, could ALL OF THAT be going on inside her head at the same time?

And then we talked on the phone. I didn't like her voice at first because it reminded me of a friend's wife that had less than desirable mannerisms. That changed over time though, and now her voice makes me involuntarily smile (except when she's angry, and then I want to cut the grass). I initially thought her meandering, spaghettified lines of thought might be the product of a stream-of-consciousness writing technique. Wow, was I wrong! She spoke the same way, circles within circles, seemingly incoherent but somehow teetering on the edge of making sense, weaving a web that drew me in tighter and tighter.

And then we met.



Our first meal together was at Mike's Place in Conway, AR. We choose Conway, AR because, in part, it was three hours from her home, six hours from mine. That way if the worst ensued, we could both drive home. But the infection had other plans, and within 24 hours of meeting my wife-to-be for the first time in person, she laughed, stunned me with her beauty, collapsed into a bawling mess of emotional insecurity, waxed eloquent on topics from music to theology, and kissed me with the fattest tongue I've ever known in my life.

We dated for over a year, and with every lengthy drive from AL to AR, I foolishly thought I had a choice in the matter. You see, I had a knack for making sense of her seeming insanity. I've always been a "big picture" person, seeing patterns, discerning structures within apparent chaos, and as she talked, I saw what was underneath and it was ...

...

so beautiful!

The scars carved by a life of disappointment and imperfect love had made the path from her heart to her words so complex that what emerged seemed insane ... but it wasn't. And over the course of that year, God slowly, one episode at a time, allowed me to see through the maze. I caught glimpses of the truth from time to time, obscured by angry words or seemingly meaningless tangents, and knew her heart was not only one that resonated with mine, but it was so beautiful, so soft, so tender, so caring, so desirous of truth and purity that I was hopelessly mesmerized.

And then we married ... June 26, 2008.


The journey of understanding my wife has not ended. I come to know her a little better, trust her a little more, value her increasingly, every day. And to anyone else listening, she still babbles incoherently from time to time, but the Mesmerizing Infection allows me to understand her ... most of the time, anyway.

She cries hysterically at movies, screams with delight at the TV, greets me with a hug and kiss when I get home from work, makes me eat fish, steals the covers at night, loves my bald head, and likes to watch football. I may be infected, but if so it's with a disease I intend to die of.

Happy Anniversary, Dana. Life with you is indescribably good ... even on those increasingly rare moments when you make absolutely no sense at all!

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Three Fathers..Part One

Biological

My main childhood memory of the man who provided half my genetic code is not his face at all.  It is his electrician's belt.  After searching though about 825 images, I was very disappointed to find Google doesn't seem to have my memory accurately depicted in their database.  The closest it got was still not what was captured in my mind's eye.  I remember it being dark brown leather with a thick leather belt strap and covered in pockets, slick and shiny from use, full of tools of his trade.  He's not wearing it in my mind...it's just laying on the floor after being discarded from the day's use.  

Interestingly enough the word that comes to mind is "utilitarian".  I wanted to be sure that word means to Webster what it means in my mind, so I looked it up.  One definition is basically "fitting some purpose/designed for use/worth to some end".  That mostly fits what I had in mind.  But as I dug further into the word, I found the definition of utilitarianism..."a doctrine that the useful is the good... the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; specifically : a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number."

Ironically, that definition fits what I have come to understand of my biological father better than what I originally had in mind.  The determination of what constitutes "right conduct" should be based on the usefulness of its consequences.  The aim of action should be "the largest possible balance of ...the greatest happiness of the greatest number."

If you had asked me twenty years ago, I would have said the part of that definition that represented him was "the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain"--his pleasure over his pain.  Twenty years ago I didn't have children of my own.

My parents divorced when I was about five.  (If you read the series of posts I wrote for my mom, now you can see why I said life changed a lot for me that year of my life.)  My mom moved out of state; my brother and I moved with her.  When she remarried, she gave us the choice of who we wanted to live with.  I choose to stay with her.  I didn't really know my biological father.  He worked a lot....out of state.  Between the time of the divorce and her remarriage, only a few mental images were added to the one of the tool belt...only a couple of which were actually happy memories of him.

I saw him only once after my choice was made, until 17 years more had passed.  During that time the man my mother married, the man I called "Daddy" for most of my life, adopted me.  In order for him to do this...my biological father had to relinquish his paternal rights. 

At the time I believed this to be a matter of "the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain"--his pleasure over his pain.



I reconnected with him as an adult, well after I had two children of my own.  He explained the decision to allow the word "step" to be removed from the relationship with my "Daddy".  He believed it to be a matter of "the largest possible balance of ...the greatest happiness of the greatest number."  He tearfully recounted to me the night he signed the papers.  In his mind I had moved on just as my mother had.  This man I had called Daddy for most of my life at that point had replaced him.  He was certain that by signing over his legal rights, the pain it caused him would be overshadowed by the happiness it would surely give me, my mother and my Daddy.

For most of my life I believed my biological father had little concern for me, little concern for my happiness.  I believed the decision he made was for reasons I won't mention here, but certainly not with an unselfish heart.  I have come to believe, correctly or not, this sacrifice was made as an act of love for me.


Happy Father's Day...Dad.  I love you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What My Mother Has Done For Me

All week I've planned on writing about the summer my mom spent living with me and my family. 

The year after my dad died she came to live with us for the whole summer.  She took care of the kids so we didn't have to send them to summer care, or hire an expensive baby sitter.    You might think having your mother/mother-in-law live with you would not be the happiest of situations, but it was one of the best summers of my entire life.  I've spent the week rehashing all the great memories of that time.

But something changed.

As I've spent the week writing about other things...all the wonderful things my mother is...I realized the best thing my mother has done (and does) for me is just simply to love me in the best way she can with all the love she has to give.

My mother has supported me in every thing I've ever done.  She has always told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, and even when I'm sure she thought my mind was pointed in a direction that might not have been the best, she allowed me to make my own mistakes, knowing I would ultimately learn from my choices.


My mom has loved me like no one else on earth could love me, with a mother's love.  This was something I never understood until I had children of my own.  As my kids have grown, my understanding of this love has also matured. 

Mother, I love you and I appreciate all you have done for me.  Thank you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Random Memories and Thoughts

I have tomorrow's post planned out, but I want to save it for the "big day".  As I was sitting here pondering what to write about today so many random thoughts and memories came to mind, I thought I'd make sort of blog collage. 

My mom was a fantastic artist.  I used to beg her to "draw me a horse".  She had art books that I tried (unsucessfuly) to use to learn to draw.  She drew really good faces.

My mom was the QUEEN of Random House magazine subscriptions and is the QUEEN of e-mail forwards.

My mom has always bought plants.  I used to think she had as much of a black thumb as I do, but the truth is she's been able to keep a lot of things alive.  She had rose bushes and a wisteria outside, and all kinds of various house plants inside, when I was growing up.  Now, she's got a veritable botanical garden of things growing.  She killed a lot of things, but, unlike me, she never gives up.

My mom is a consummate student.  I remember her taking college classes when I was very young, with her books all spread out on the living room floor.  She probably took every correspondence course there was to take when she was in the guard (always making perfect, or near perfect scores).  She and my dad took Spanish two semesters.  Whereas he couldn't remember how to say, "Hola" (he would usually say "Low-ha"), she made A+'s and could have taught the class!

My mom could play the piano, but she rarely ever did.  We had an organ (I think she still has it), but I think I pretended to play more than she ever got on it.  I loved to hear her play.


My mom had a little black French poodle named Pierre when I was little.  She later owned a Siamese cat named Mai Tai.  She now owns a teacup chihuahua named Chiquita.

My mother makes the best breaded porkchops and baked Corn-Flake chicken breasts.

My mother's laugh is contagious.  So is her clap.  When she laughs or claps, the whole world wants to join in.  (Well, angry people don't like it because it makes them realize just how sad and pathetic they really are!)  I realize more and more every day just how much like her I really am--especially when I'm "cheering" or laughing!!

My mom found out I had, uhum...cough..., "altered" my 7th grade report card (I changed my art grade from a D to a B and my French grade from a D to a C)....and she kept it a secret from my dad.  She told me I had to 1) bring up the grades, and 2) NEVER do anything like that again, or she would rat me out.  I did bring up the grades, and never did anything like that again....and, as far as I know, my dad never found out!


I had several boyfriends who told me they thought my mom was seriously hot, especially her legs!!


I really can't wait to write tomorrow's post.

I love you, Mother.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Letters Kept

Believe it or not, no one in my family is the writing kind.  It might be hard to fathom given the fact your reading my blog right now...but it's true.  Letter writing, specifically, is just not something any of us do, no matter how far apart we are from one another, or for how long.  However, when I was probably about seven years old, and staying with my father for the summer, I wrote my mom a letter.  I told her all about how tan I was getting and how I was learning to dive into the swimming pool.  The whole thing couldn't have been more than five sentences.

In the fifth grade I wrote another letter, but not to my mother.  This one was addressed to Santa Claus.  I had gotten into an argument with my best friend over the veracity of the toy-giver.  I wanted conclusive proof of his existence so instead of allowing my mother to tell good old St. Nick of that year's toy desires, I wrote directly to him.  I asked for a Bing Crosby White Christmas record.  I explained to him it was of the utmost importance that he prove himself to be real with this one request.  And, he did!!  Christmas morning I burst into the living room and there it was, my album.  I remember the elation, jumping up and down with giddy joy, to finally know for sure Santa Claus was certainly real.  I called my friend and boasted to her about my irrefutable proof.

As clearly as I remember that morning, I also remember the events that took place months later when I found that very letter, the one that had been sent off to the North Pole, IN MY MOTHER'S PURSE!  I was devastated.  As an adult looking back, the careful planning it must have taken to convince a skeptical ten year old of Santa's undeniable existence far outweighs the one minor "mistake" of saving the letter.  My mother could have won an Oscar that year when she feigned surprise over the "mystery" album under the tree.  (I had intentionally not asked my parents for that particular item, in order to get the assurance I needed.)  It was probably the same day I found that letter that I went in search of all my missing teeth, because no doubt if Santa wasn't real then neither was the Tooth Fairy!!

Many years after Santa-gate, I was given the opportunity to keep a letter of my own.  I was spending the fall of my eighteenth year at Basic Combat Training.  My name was announced at mail call, to receive an envelope from my mom.  She told of home life, work, my dog and the cat.  She gave encouragement and love in the form of her familiar writing on notebook paper.  It couldn't have been more than five paragraphs.

I still have the letter in a box of keepsakes; I know my mom still has my letter to her.  I'm not sure what happened to the one written to Santa.  ...You don't think I TOLD her I found that letter, do you??  Hello?  What child would give up extra presents???

Thursday, May 6, 2010

When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best

One thing I can count on for all major (and some minor) holidays from my mom....a perfectly worded Hallmark greeting card.  Now I realize some people might think it's "easy" to find a perfectly worded card from Hallmark...but I personally do not find that to be a simple task.  I have literally spent hours in the Gold Crown Shop searching for a card for a special someone only to come away empty handed and frustrated.  My mother, on the other hand, can walk in, peruse the selection, and as expertly as Elizabeth Taylor can pick out diamonds, walk away with the exact card that pours forth all the emotions a heart can contain.


My mother has never had a hard time saying, "I love you"...but the cards she chooses don't just spout off trite platitudes.  The greeting cards my mom sends are overflowing with artesian wellsprings of heartfelt emotion.  Not the cards' creator's emotions, but my mother's emotions, pour out of the words on the card right into the heart of it's recipient. 

Much like Pavlov's dog, I've grown so completely conditioned regarding the response one of my mother's cards brings, I am usually teary-eyed before I have even broken the golden seal of the envelope.

Mother, thank you for caring enough to send the very best.  It really does mean more to me than I can even begin to express in words.  Maybe there is a card for that, but I'm sure only you would be able to find it!

Please Sir May I Have Another

My mom has always been an over achiever.   So much so, after joining the Arkansas Army National Guard, she came home from her summer long Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on crutches, having basically shattered both heels!  Thirteen years later, when I spent the better part of a summer at Fort McClellan, Alabama, I found out exactly how amazing her feat really was.

My mom gives her all to everything she does.  She works very hard at every endeavor she attempts.  Not just hard, she works as hard as she possibly can, and she "always" meets the goals she sets for herself.  I say "always" because there's not a goal I know of that she hasn't met.  I'm sure she would say that's not the case, but in my eyes, she's a goal getter.  More than that, once she meets a goal, she sets another one.

Since retiring from her job, my mom has taken to making things.  She has crocheted, done needle point, made dolls and made scrapbooks.  Before she finishes one task, she's already looking for the next project.  One thing my mother is not--idle!

My mother lives by the philosophy you can do anything you set your mind to.  When the Guard went from a physical fitness test that consisted of walking four miles in under an hour to push ups, sit ups and a two mile run, my mom hadn't done push ups for several years.  She began training months before the test each year in order to assure she could pass with flying colors, and she always did so.

I remember one time she set her mind to lose weight.  She found a diet plan that called for two meal substitutions a day with a special shake.  After faithfully sticking with the plan, she lost all the pounds she had wanted to.

This attitude served her well when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I'm sure she was worried on some level, but she never seemed to even let it phase her, even though the cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in her underarm.  She is the only person I've ever even heard of who gained weight during chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  The doctor ordered her to keep up her strength and eat even if she felt sick-and she did what she needed to do. 

Just after breathing a sigh of relief at her five year remission anniversary (the time when the chance of relapse drops significantly), she found out the cancer had in fact come back.  She was told this time it was an aggressive, fast growing cancer.  She didn't bat an eye and said, "Okay, let's do this again."  She came through with flying colors, just as I expected and has been cancer free for over three years now.

I hope I have even a fraction of my mom's drive and determination.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Skating, Softball, Bowling and Various Forms of Dancing

It's kind of funny...I have never thought of my mother as being particularly athletic.  But, as I reflect on my childhood....I have to realize that's just not correct.

Before I was five (we moved to Arkansas from Texas when I was five, so life was divided at that age...), my mom took figure skating lessons.  I think the only reason I remember this fact is because it was at the skating rink a dispute with my older brother led to my mother's shattered elbow!  Let me explain....it started over a Spree, you know, it's a little round hard sweet/sour colored candy that comes in a long roll.  (In all honesty, it might have been some other kind of candy, but it will forever be Spree in my mind.)  My brother had the roll, but it was my turn to have one.  He, looking out for my dental health I'm sure, wouldn't allow it.  As we struggled with each other, a little candy Spree flew over the concrete barrier that surrounded the rink, out onto the polished hardwood surface.  I remember it in slow motion....my mom rounded the corner and slid into the candy dot, causing one wheel to lock up.  She tumbled forward and cried out in pain.

The last memory I have of figure skating was my mom's arm in a sling, being brought out of the doctor's office in a wheelchair.

Years later, for at least one season, she played women's softball with a group of her friends.  She had a glove and a ball and the cute softball outfit to go with them.  I know I went with her to the softball field, although I can't say that I ever sat and watched her play, because I had friends at the ball field with whom I passed the time.  My memory of the ball field consisted of dusty red dirt, and sweat (my own).

When I was in about the fourth or fifth grade my mother joined a bowling league.  I remember her blue and white bowling bag, unbelievably heavy ball, and slick-bottomed shoes.  Every single Monday throughout the school year she set out for the local alley hoping this would be the night for a turkey.  She did several things to improve her score.  She was custom fit for a ball.  She bought a bowling glove and special towel.  She joined a summer league (at least once) to avoid losing the progress she had made throughout the year.  She even sacrificed and drank a couple of beers while there, "to loosen up her nerves a little bit"!  She was a good bowler, even if she wasn't going to leave her family to go on tour with the PWBA.

Each Monday she would give me a dollar bill and send me along to play in the arcade.  It was there I learned to play Pac Man and pool.  Four quarters got three games and 3 songs on the juke box.  I can hear "Hot Blooded" playing in my head as I write out this memory, as if it's playing in the corner of the room right now!  I'm sure I might have watched her bowl, if I ran out of money and my friends weren't there.  But, I'm just as sure that didn't happen more than once in all the years she bowled (at least eight, while I was at home).

One thing I didn't have the opportunity to see my mom do (when I was younger), was dance.  My mom loved to dance.  She and my dad would go to conventions where I had visions of her dancing the night away.  As I got older, I got to go with them and saw her out on the floor, shoes kicked off, up on her toes, being twirled around in a waltz or two-step and she could Cotton-Eyed-Joe like nobody's business!

When I was in the ninth grade, she planned a special surprise for my dad.  She bought a belly dancing outfit!!  In preparation for a special evening, she went in search of finger symbols.  As luck would have it, she stumbled upon Mirana's School of Middle Eastern Dance.  Mirana was the youngest 50-something woman I had ever seen in my life.  She not only sold my mom finger symbols, Mirana convinced my mom to take lessons in order to learn how to use them!  Not wanting to go alone, my mom convinced me to go with her.  We learned how to click our fingers, and shake our hips, to the beat of various Middle Eastern music.  I don't remember watching her although we danced several times together, because I was too busy trying to perfect the moves myself.

After all those years spent not watching...Mother, I want you to know, I saw you.  You inspired me then, and you continue to inspire me today.  (By the way, her sport of late is Shuffle Board.) 

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Mom

In honor of Mother's Day--coming up this Sunday--I thought I'd try to write something about my mom each day.  Mother, this is my gift to you...since we both know I can't seem to make it to the post office to mail anything!!
 

My favorite childhood memory took place when I couldn't have been more than five years old.  My mother was still named Mommy, and she was still the smartest, prettiest woman I had ever known.    My mind may have filled in some gaps with extras that may, or may not, have materialized in real life on that day in time...but, nevertheless, this is the reality of my memory.

We lived in Garland, Texas, but for that moment in time, our typical suburban three bedroom house transformed into a day spa.  My mom learned to cut hair in school, but she seldom used this skill to do any more than trim bangs out of my eyes.  This day, however, she expertly snipped and coiffed my straight, thin, fine golden locks into a style fit for Barbie.

Our beauty shop soiree continued as my mom massaged lotion into my tiny hands and slathered cream on each of my fingernails.  She not only filed my nails, she pushed back each of my cuticles with an orange stick.  The finishing touch?  Naturally...polish.

I ended the day looking exactly like I felt-a million bucks!  I didn't feel beautiful as a result of the new hair cut or polished nails.  I felt beautiful because I had been bathed in love and attention from the smartest, prettiest woman on earth.  For a "whole day" I had the undivided, complete and total attention of my mother.

If I haven't ever told you...thank you for playing beauty shop all those years ago.  I love you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dear Hag In My Head...

Dearest Hag in My Head,

I appreciate all that you've done for me in the past.   You've kept me from making a fool of myself (most of the time).  You've kept me from taking unnecessary risks.  You've kept me safe.  Thank you for your faithful service.  Unfortunately, with the economy and all, through no fault of your own, your services are no longer needed.  I'm going to have to let you go.

Rest assured, it has nothing to do with the fact you're keeping me in constant fear.  It has nothing to do with the fact you've grown overprotective and controlling.  It has nothing to do with the fact you berate and belittle me every chance you get.  It has nothing to do with the fact you've never learned the difference between encouragement and badgering.  It has nothing to do with the fact you're an angry, sad, pathetic, nagging, hateful, screeching hag of a voice in my head that makes me want to vomit.  It's simply a matter of cost effectiveness.  The price I'm paying keeping you around is more than I care to afford any longer.

See, the truth is, you've cost me more than I am willing to pay.  You've cost me friendships.  You've cost me jobs.  You've cost me love (although without you guiding controlling me I have found it, despite you, at last).  You've cost me precious time.  You've cost me happiness and laughter.  Because of you I've doubted my abilities, I've doubted my personality, I've doubted my value as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a runner, as a human being.


I have found another voice who will pay me to fill my head with positive proclamations of my value and worth.  That voice longs to encourage, longs to give hope, longs to love...so much so it will enable me to go further (and eventually faster) in runs than I YOU ever thought I could, be happier in life (even in trying circumstances), be satisfied and content, be relaxed, be confident...all with a smile on my face.  With this other voice in my head (your replacement), I will naturally draw other positive people closer to me.  I will be vulnerable, in spite of your life-long, relentless, warnings that to be so would inevitably cause me heartache.  You lied when you said if I let people see the real me they would only hurt me.  This new voice as assured me being vulnerable is exactly what will allow me to be filled to overflowing with love-for, and from, other people.

I will be filled with joy and move forward in life with reckless abandon....me and the new voice in my head that has taken your place.  There are likely some people in Hell from whom you could seek gainful employment....although, I have a feeling that's exactly where you came from in the first place.

Have a, or MAKE IT A, great day!!!
:D

Monday, April 12, 2010

Let's Hear It For Dr. Google!!!

Dr. Google Images was (mostly) right!!  It turns out there are "multiple" cysts in that right bazoom...not just one...  No biopsy, I just have to return in six months for a repeat ultrasound-which is exactly what I expected after I earned my web-degree Friday night!!

I think this has been an elaborate life lesson in how not to worry!!
:D

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Boob Invader

Well....I hate to report my right boob failed the re-test mammogram I had on Friday.  They did an ultrasound immediately and I very clearly saw the "boob invader" that has taken up residence in my body. 

The ultrasound tech is forbidden from giving any results in the office.  She told me the doctor's office should have the report by late afternoon.  I called my doc as soon as I left and found out they close early on Fridays.  The receptionist said the doc would still check for results and would call me if there was anything "urgent".  She didn't call.  ...I guess it's "good" news that she didn't call??

Obviously I have no idea what exactly this invader is, but Dr. Google Images told me it's a simple fluid filled cyst!!  (Yes, I'm completely aware you should not check on the internet for things of that nature, and yet, I did it anyway.)  Knowledge is power...even if it's not correct, it did make me feel a lot better.  I've pretty much been able to let it go all weekend long!!

I'll keep you posted.

:D

Friday, April 9, 2010

Save the Ta-Tas


Let's talk breast health for a minute....

CHECK 'EM OUT and FEEL THEM UP

How many of you do breast self-exams every month??  (Yes, men can get breast cancer, too...)  I've done it a couple of times in my life (literally a couple of times).  My husband told me that's what he was doing more than once, but I don't think he had breast health on his mind at the time. :D

I don't know this from personal experience, but it's my understanding they all feel lumpy.  That's why you've got to do it every month...you need to know what's normal for you, so you can detect what shouldn't be there, if that's ever the case.

Listen, it's not only easy, it's necessary. 

Here's the link showing the how-to's for the serious types.


Here's the link for those of you, like me, who would rather laugh a little bit... (it's a little long, but the "exam" starts at 3:50--and although it's funny, it's also informative.)  This video, on the other hand, is just plain funny.


And, for those of you who just don't want to do it yourself....these guys are more than willing to help...

AND...SMASH 'EM DOWN

If you're over 40 (or younger, but have a family history of breast cancer), in addition to the monthly rub down, get a yearly mammogram.  At the very least, get 'em smashed every other year.  

****

Yes, for those of you who read my last post, this is the thing I'm not going to worry about....one of my girls has to go get smashed again today because they apparently didn't think "flat as a pancake" was good enough the first time!  
 
My mom had lumps removed...and then survived not one, but two rounds of breast cancer --because she's a SERIOUS over-achiever!  Consequently, I had my first mammogram at 30.  I had to go back because they wanted to be sure to document every millimeter of tissue.  A few years later I had the joy of doing it again because I had some "issues" that had to be checked out.  A mammogram ended up not being enough, so they did an ultrasound.
  
I went in a few weeks ago for my "now-I'm-40-so-I-get-to-have-my-girls-tortured" smash-down.  They gathered up all my old tests....and compared them to what they're seeing now...and today they're going to take a closer look.

The only thing that I'm NOT going to be worried about is the fact they have all those old studies to look at....is there something new in there?  

And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? Luke 12:25

Okay....I'll let you know what they don't find!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Worry

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34
I admit it, I'm a worrier.  I don't like to think I am.  I don't like it that I am.  But, I'm confessing it here and now...I am a worrier.

Some things are more understandable to worry about than others....but at the same time, we're instructed, "Do NOT worry about tomorrow."  I don't think that really means we can worry about today, because Luke 12:25 says,
And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span?  

My intention when I sat down to write was to unload my worry onto all of you.  Get it out there and let someone else worry with me...maybe better than that, worry for me.  After reading those verses, I'm reminded there's no need to worry. 

Worry not only will it not add on any time to my life, but it will actually rob me of precious time.   If I'm sitting here thinking about what could happen if....  I'm not able to enjoy this moment I have right now.

So I think I'll toss that worry to the side and instead focus on this moment I have right now...and making the most of it I can.  I won't even disguise my worry as a prayer request!!  ....and I'll refuse the idea that my telling you there was something that caused me to worry about worrying will in and of itself cause you to worry!!  No need.

Thanks for letting me get (some of) my words out!

:D

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Zorro

(((NOTE:   I wrote this the day after Zorro took off on "vacation"...before my husband wrote his post (which he wrote before he read this).  Obviously, he did come home, and again my husband eloquently put fingers to the keys and poured out my elation into words.  I debated whether to post this or not because it seems superfluous........and, yet, I needed to "get my words out", so here it is....)))

Here's the "back story" about the cat:

From 1999-2009 I worked as an insurance adjuster.  I was the person who would review the policy and tell someone who had been involved in an auto accident, or who had something happen to their house, what was covered and what was not...and I was the person who would decide how much to pay...and I was the person who got griped out on a continual basis for doing my job!  (People do not like to hear, "I'm sorry, but a 20 year old roof that's leaking, but has no storm damage, is not going to be replaced by your insurance policy.")

Anyway...in 2006, less than a month after my (second) ex-husband left (you can read about that here), the county I was working experienced the worst hail storm to hit a single county in the history of the state.  I watched the news in horror that night knowing my work life was about to look a lot like my personal life...and I didn't know how I was going to get through the next several months.

It seemed every day there was new insult added to injury.

My company asked me (told me) to cancel a Florida vacation my kids and I were set to go on the following week.  (People were called in from all over the state to work in order to get policy holders paid for their damage...they couldn't let some of us go on vacation at the same time...understandable.)

My kids went away to their dad's for spring break, leaving me alone to work ungodly hours...leaving me alone in a house built for five.  I was reeling from the pain, and the work stress was unbelievable to say the least.
 
Working late on a Saturday, I pulled up to a hail-damaged house and got out of my truck preparing to set up my ladder.  A gorgeous black cat came bounding up to me and started rubbing on my leg.  I bent down and patted his head, for which he immediately rewarded me with purrs so loud I thought a car was coming up behind me!  After taking a moment to enjoy the unbridled love of my new best friend, I told him I had to get on the roof and do my job.

After I scoped the damage to the house, and as I was discussing with the home owners what I was going to be able to pay, the cat reappeared.  He jumped into the arms of Mr. Homeowner, and started rubbing the man's beard with his face.  When the man put him back down on the ground, the cat became quite "dog-like" and went from Mr. Homeowner, to Mrs. Homeowner, then to me looking for love and attention.  I made a comment like, "That's the kind of cat I want."  They told me how he had belonged to their daughter; due to health reasons she was no longer able to care for him.  They had been looking for a new home for him because he had to be outside although he'd always been an inside cat (he didn't get along with their bird!).

I should tell you, my ex was a cat hater, even though I had a cat when we first got married.  (We moved to a rental house that didn't allow pets of any kind, so we had to find a new home for him.)  A couple of years before he left, he (my ex) bought a dog (completely against my wishes)--a completely CRAZY short legged Jack Russell Terrier.   (It's not that I didn't want a dog, I just thought we needed to get one that would fit in with our family, a family pet; from everything I had read, this dog was not the most likely pet for us.)

Since, I still had very high hopes my ex and I were going to work out our differences, and that he was going to come home (with the dog), when the offer to take this beautiful cat was made, my first thought was "HE" would never "allow" me to have a cat. 

As usual with me, there was much thought involved with the decision to take, or not take, the cat home.  Worried that my husband would think bringing home a cat would mean I didn't want him to come back, I sent a (long and involved) email asking him about it.   His response should have been a clue of what was to come..., "I don't care if you get a cat."  I agonized over the decision and what it would mean...the message it might send, what life would be like if we put the cat and dog together under one roof, how horrible it would be to take the cat home and then have to later find another home for him when my family was reunited (everything I had read suggested JRTs can NOT live with cats).  It took me five days to decide....

Right from the start, he was a great cat.  He was always ready for love, unlike most felines.  When I would cry my eyes out over my marriage, he would nuzzle my face with his, reminding me I was indeed loved and needed.   He came when you would call for him.  He had a particular fondness for shoes....in that when someone (anyone) would take off their shoes, he would walk up and put his face down inside one of them!!  Then he would lay down with his paws around it as if the shoe was his long lost beloved soul mate!

After the divorce, and our house was sold, I moved to a rental house (making sure they would allow me to keep Zorro).  The landlords had one stipulation, that he be completely declawed.  Since I had willingly given up custody of the (crazy) dog, and since Zorro had not seen the outside of the house for over six months and was a perfect inside-only cat...I obliged.  All ten of his cat defenses were taken from him.  Left in their place were soft sweet paws that would caress my face as I held my sweet kitty in my lap.  (He had this habit of touching my cheeks with his paws as if he were a person.)

Not too long after Zorro became a permanent member of our household, I bought an automatic feeder so he could be left at home while we were away on a trip.  He was a perfect litter box patron, and he already had a special water bowl.  The only thing he would miss was his daily dose of edible love.  He did fine with the feeder, except that he learned how to make it dispense the food at his will--and this cat loved to eat!  Over time he gained about 10 pounds and was lovingly nicknamed "Fat Cat".

When I met the man who I later realized was the man of my prayers...I made sure he understood I was a package deal that included not only all my past baggage (that I was working on ridding myself of), and two teenagers...there was also an adored cat included, no extra charge.  (Well, actually, there was an extra charge of food, litter, toys, vet bills, and all that's involved with including a cat in your life.)  He reluctantly agreed to accept my cat as an extension of me.
 
When I put my house up for sale, my cat moved in with my man.  This man, who had professed to merely tolerate the cat, went out the first day and bought toys, cat nip, and a fluffy cat bed (although the cat became his new bed partner so the cat bed was hardly ever used).  This man, who would be perfectly happy living in a (windowless) cave, started leaving the blinds in the sun room slightly open for Zorro's enjoyment (to watch birds and bunnies in the back yard).

After we got married and as life settled down we put Fat Cat on a diet.  The vet told me the second leading cause of feline mortality is diabetes...and that's caused by over feeding combined with a lack of exercise.  He went from self feeding at an all-he-could-eat feeder, to 1/2 cup of food a day, and then down to 1/4 cup of food a day.

About six months ago we decided to add another member to our family when my daughter rescued a dog (a terrier mix) from the pound.  That's a whole other post...but this dog was PERFECT for our family in almost every way, not the least of which was how he was accepted by the cat.  They became best buddies.  They would play and chase and pretend to attack each other.   I think the dog really is scared of the cat, even though the truth is the dog could kill the cat with one shake of his head, but who am I to judge?

Last night, I think the cat either decided he wasn't being fed enough, or he grew tired of his playmate, or he just wanted to feel the cold night air in his fur once more...as the door opened, he scurried out into the darkness.  He's done that a couple of times, but usually he stays right by the door and we're able to get him back inside easily.  Last night however, when my daughter was trying to get him to come in, I guess he decided to have an adventure, and he ran away.  A black cat is impossible to find on a moonless night.

At this writing, he hasn't come home.

I took my feline friend for granted.  His constant meowing for food and affection was often met with frustration.  I didn't realize until he was gone exactly what he meant to me.  He wasn't just a cat....just a pet.  Yes, I'm sure I'm over analyzing (as usual), but after reading the story, can you really blame me?  That cat was my indulgence.  I got him for me at a time in my life I most needed a showing of unconditional love.  This house full of life, and full of love, is missing something with him gone.  Not just an incessant meow....it feels like a piece of me left into the night.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Prodigal Cats and Tearful Wives

Dwayne writing once again … forgive me for the intrusion, but some form of closure regarding the “beast” is called for. I promise not to invade again without explicit permission … or some other good reason.

After wandering through the wilderness of backyards, stray dogs, and birds unwilling to lie down before his clawless might, the prodigal cat decided to return home. Dana and I had retired to bed, thankful for another day of life and health, but also melancholy about the seemingly inevitable fate of the beast.

She wanted the monstrosity back because she loved it. I wanted it back because she loved it.

Our eyes were heavy with sleep and sadness when a light tapping on the door caught our attention. The daughter entered our bedroom holding a black bundle of fur and saying softly, almost whispering, “Mommy, look what I found.” The fact that the daughter hasn’t referred to Dana as “Mommy” for some years only added to the tenderness of the moment.

The daughter heard a sound outside her window, looked, hoping against hope, and she saw the beast. The prodigal had returned. She gathered the cat from the back door and rushed to our room.

As the beast fell from daughter’s arms to Dana’s, I saw the most amazing transformation come over my wife’s face, and I was reminded, once again, why I love her so much. There was no scolding, not even in jest. There was only unadulterated joy at the return of one loved so much.

The whole parable of the prodigal son is one that I’ve mostly viewed from the perspective of the son … his selfish choices, his squandering of the gifts given, his lack of gratitude and understanding. It’s a perspective I understand with my own failures and struggles in life.

Yet Dana helped me see through the eyes of the parent dying for their child to return to love and grace.

She laughed, she hugged, she told the cat she loved it so many times I wondered if I should leave for a few days and come back. Her heart was so full it overflowed, leaking from the corners of her eyes in the form of salty tears of joy. She took the hungry thing and went straight to the kitchen and fed it, all the while carefully inspecting for injury or damage.

It struck me as I witnessed this miracle that Dana is the closest thing to transparent I’ve ever personally witnessed in a human. And then, like lightening hitting the same spot twice, it struck me that her love is pure and powerful and so … god-like in its application.

You see, Dana and the daughter often butt heads. Sometimes to the point of me wanting to severe one of the heads from its young neck! (Kidding … mostly) I’ve seen this woman, my wife, be so exasperated and frustrated and hyper-ventilated that she could chew bricks and bore holes through solid steel with laser eyes. Yet, as soon as the daughter shows any sign of humanity and remorse, Dana demonstrates an even greater love than she gave the cat.

It is unfeigned and unconditional. My wife KNOWS how to forgive (on a side note, she’s probably aided by a less than stellar memory, but that’s a story, perhaps lots of stories, for another day).

I often feel that the daughter takes advantage of Dana. Not knowingly, because the daughter is not evil, just young. She asks for favors and repays them with sarcasm and snottiness (YES, that’s a word, or it should be). And Dana keeps giving and loving.

I’ve seen her greatest joys and deepest sorrows center around the love she has for that girl. Please understand, dearest daughter is a beautiful, wonderful young lady 91.3% of the time, and that percentage seems to be improving as she matures. Yet Dana’s love and general patience have remained unwavering. One day the daughter will realize the full scope and power of her mother’s love and be prepared to love her own children, and husband, the same way.

I’m reminded of One Republic, one of my favorite groups, who has a song titled “Prodigal”. One of the verses has the following:

I’ll take everything from you,
But you’ll take anything, won’t you?

Whether it’s the cat, or the insecure daughter trying to find her way in the world, or the selfish husband, we often TAKE everything from her. We rely on her ministrations to make it through the day. We need her affirmation and laughter or we lapse into modes of silence that threaten to become black holes of introspection.

And in return, she TAKES anything we give her, loving us and rejoicing in our joys, sorrowing in our sorrows.

Dana teaches me, and the daughter, and the cat too if its brain was any bigger than a black-eyed pea, that love is long on patience and forgiveness and short on memory and offenses.

The beauty of that is it makes me never want to take advantage of her love. Her vulnerability and tenderness makes me, more than ever before, want to protect her and keep her soft. Shoot, I’d probably fight a dragon for her … or at least let her keep up with me as we ran away.

If you ever have a chance to receive a prodigal, be it a cat or daughter or husband or wife, remember what Dana has taught me … love and forgiveness are more powerful than the very gates of hell. If God’s love eclipses the vision of my wife, then Heaven will be more wonderful than words can describe.

Who would have thought that stinking monstrosity had anything left to teach me?

Here's One Republic's Prodigal ... be sure and pause Dana's playlist at the bottom of the page.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We Fought, This Beast and I

We fought, this narcissistic beast and I.

I’m Dana’s husband, Dwayne, and the creature invaded my cozy man-cave when Dana needed to sell her house. In my mind, at least at the time, the beast was an extension of Dana herself, so I treated it well. I fed it, cleaned up after it, and even drugged it (cat-nip) in an attempt to make it feel it at home.

In return, it demanded attention, crawling in my lap when I tried typing on my laptop, waking me at 4:30 in the morning to be fed, reminding me when it needed scratching, and so on.

Little did I realize just how much of an extension of Dana it truly was. Even now when my love feels that she isn’t getting my full attention, and she grabs my ears with both hands and says, “ME! I’m the center of your universe!” … even now I can hear a slight “meow” to her voice.

I saw much of Dana in the mannerisms of the beast. It would approach strangers with wild trust and offer its affection and friendship. Yet it withdrew at the hint of disapproval, even to the point of turning a cold shoulder and appearing angry.

It had a knack for tripping my trigger … knocking over a glass, jumping on counters, and, did I mention, waking me at 4:30 in the morning!

But, when I was angry enough to throw the beast through the window, it would reach up with its furry little furry paw (you’ll need to ask Dana about the “furry little furry” line) and stroke my face. Where, I ask, did it learn to do that? The affection it demonstrated at times was definitively more dog-like than many dogs I’ve known.

Dana’s own struggles with her self-confidence, with emotions, with hurt and pain … have all been mirrored to one degree or another in the feline monstrosity.

Monstrosity? Yes, the word was chosen carefully, for the beast pursued its own ends, constantly tried to escape, terrorized the dog, and stole entire chicken strips from my dinner plate! While it offered affection and sought attention, it did so on its terms. I realize that’s par for the course for cats, but the analogy of being an extension of Dana continues.

You see, when Dana and I first dated, we would have wonderful visits, and … not … so … wonderful … visits! We fought and angered one another as we walked through the minefield of past baggage and ingrained habits. At times I represented an extension of her past, and she lived her old fears and defenses in front of me. And in her most cat-like moments, she offered affection and attention, but she was inclined to do so on her terms.

For so long, she was a woman torn by her past. She tried to escape pain, terrorized others in acts of self-defense, and probably stole chicken strips when people weren’t looking.

But something changed shortly before I met her several years ago. Something broke inside as God crushed her life to bring forth a sweet wine. As I mentioned, we had our difficulties through dating, and perhaps, if she ever lets me invade her blog again, I’ll share some of those with you. But what I saw in our good times was irresistibly attractive … she trusted me, heard my worst sins, cried, laughed, talked (wow, did she talk!), and wove a web that I couldn’t untangle even if I wanted … which I don’t.

We share a level of honesty and trust that is alien to me, or at least it was. She knows that she is loved and understood without question. When she tells me she respects me and admires me as a man, I believe her and don’t feel manipulated. When she tells me her fears and misgivings, I know there are no hidden agendas, only someone I love baring her soul before me. When she expresses anger toward me (and she’s VERY good at that), I know she’s upset and I know exactly why … no guesses, she tells me.

And when she stood in the kitchen yesterday and cried on my shoulder because her cat was missing, I knew how much she was hurting. Some part of her ran out the door with the beast into the unknown … some part that longed for old pains because they were familiar. You see, the analogy she drew with the cat and dog very much tells the story of her own metamorphosis. Perhaps in some way that only God can see, it was time for the cat to go. Perhaps the cat has been a living metaphor.

If it comes back, we’ll rejoice, knowing that something has changed.

If it doesn’t, then we’ll move forward with a greater appreciation for what the creature taught us, and showed us about ourselves. Even the daughter appreciated the greater truth as she lectured the dog on not leaving his loving home for “the lie” of freedom outside.

I’m not glad to see the cat gone, but breaking the analogy only slightly, I am so glad to see what my wife is today, as opposed to what she was in the past. She is the most wonderful creature I’ve ever met. I love every laugh and every sob that escapes her lips. She changes me daily, helping me be the man I never was before. THIS is what love truly is … and, in some small way, the cat helped us see that.

We fought, this beast and I …

With Devoted Love, Sandy the Dog



Hello there, fellow blog readers!  This is Sandy the dog, here to bear witness to my master's honor and good nature.

First, let me tell you a little bit about myself...

Before I came to live here in paradise, I lived a life of unspeakable struggles.  Suffice it to say, my new master found me locked up in jail, weak and covered in blood sucking fleas.  My master came to my rescue, even though I didn't deserve it.  I didn't earn the right to be saved, she just loved me from the moment she laid eyes on me and immediately decided to bring me here.  She took me to a place where they washed me white as snow (almost).  She covered me with a liquid that not only took the fleas off of me, it kept any new ones from being able to attach themselves to me.

I quickly came to trust my master and know that she loves me with all her heart.  She would never do anything to hurt me, and only wants what's best for me.  I didn't understand everything she wanted from me at first...but because I love her, I want to please her, and want to follow her commands.

My playmate, the cat, doesn't understand the rules are put in place to protect us.  He thinks he is the ruler of his own destiny.  The other day he decided he'd be better off outside the protection of the master's home so he ran away.  My master sits by the window all day and night looking for the cat, waiting for him to return.  Oh the party we'll have if (I hope it's "when") he decides to come back.

See, the thing is, I've lived out there, and I know how much better things are here.  I know I can trust my master to continue to love me.  I believe my master is good and would never do anything to hurt me.  Because of my love and my trust, I can relax within the boundaries she has set out for me.

There are times, like when we're on a walk, that I want to test those limits.  I try to run faster than she will allow me, but she gently reminds me that's not acceptable.  One day she gave me my way and let me run up to a fence.  There was a dog barking on the other side-laughing at me for being on a leash, telling me I should be able to run free.  I ran up to the fence to see for myself what his world looked like....and, do you know what he did???  He BIT my nose!!  I realized instantly, he had not wanted me to see he was being held in a yard.  He wanted me to think he had the whole world at his feet, but he didn't.  He had boundaries of his own, even if he wasn't enjoying his comfortable freedom.

That experience taught me that my master wasn't telling me "no" just to suck fun out of my day.  She only tells me "no" when what I want to do will cause me harm, or will cause someone else harm, in some way.   I know that if I listen to her, and obey her, she will pour out her love to me.  I will have all my needs taken care of, and I will enjoy a comfortable life right by her side.

When I cross over my limits, some thing bad usually happens to me or to someone or something else.  My master told me not to chew up my toy...  When I did, I didn't have another one to play with.  If I had just played with it like she tried to tell me to, I would still be enjoying it.

Unlike the cat, I choose to trust, and have faith in, my master's love for me.  I want to please her and do everything I can to obey her directions for my life.

The cat liked to eat...a lot.  He would eat all of the food our master would give us, and then he would beg for more.  He would sometimes even try to eat my food!  One time he got into a food bad and ate so much he was sick, literally sick.  You would think that would be enough to deter him from doing that again....but, no, he was back to begging for more food the very next day.  Now, I can't say I've been perfect in this area, but I believe I'm getting better at realizing my master knows what's best for me and only wants good things for me.

I put my trust in my master

I sure hope the cat comes back, I miss my play mate.

Zorro Was Here


Yo!

My slaves call me Zorro the cat, my real name is King Majesty on Highest.  I've hacked into my head slave's blog to tell you the real story before she has the chance to slander my good name.

I was living the high life in my kingdom, when my former slave became ill and wasn't able to meet the expectations I laid out for her at the beginning of her serfdom.  Due to her incapacitation, I allowed her to transfer me from of the stifling heat of my castle into the cool breezes of the outer world.

I decided quickly this new living arrangement suited me nicely.  I hunted wild game.  I slept in the trees and boldly scared off screeching winged monsters.  My slave continued her feeding obligation;  when I grew tired of hunting, a nice bowl of ready-made nourishment waited on my terrace for my enjoyment.

My love for this new life became tainted when a bath was poured on top of me from the sky and there was no hiding place, or soft dryness, ready for me at its end.  Lucky for my slave, a new applicant came along about the time I had grown weary of the excitement.

The hu-woman happily accepted the opportunity to have me in her midst.  She showed me around a new castle.  Liking what I saw, I agreed to allow her to serve me.  I explained the terms of her employment:
  • she would pet me, with both hands, at every moment other than the times she worked to prepare my meals, or clean my toilet; 
  • my food would be delivered at my calling, and available to me at every moment; 
  • I would sleep on the largest bed in my room (aptly named the "master bedroom"), and would graciously allow her to keep me warm by sleeping next to me.
Finally, I had the life I was meant to lead.  My new slave loved me (almost) as much as I demanded, although she could not seem to understand sitting on her bathroom throne did not absolve her of the requirement to pet me at my will.  Still, I rewarded her with my presence, and would purr my appreciation for her servitude.   When her memory of her obligations would lapse, I meowed my demands loudly, lest she made a habit of the forgetfulness.

One day my slave introduced me to a hu-man.  She explained to me she wanted to share the few minutes a day she had that were not devoted to my pampering with this ...man.  At first I wasn't sure this new arrangement would work, until he demonstrated both his willingness to bow to my greatness, and his allegiance to me, with catnip.  I accepted his loyalty and made sure the hu-man understood the terms of his co-employment with my slave hu-woman.

They brought me to a new castle, one I loved because of the great expances of space and large windows overlooking my new kingdom full of winged monsters who were there merely for my pleasure and amusement (as I'm sure they understood).

And then....my slaves committed high treason.  They brought a canine creature into my castle without my preapproval.  Sure, they attempted to explain that, much like the aviary outside my windows, his presence was merely for my personal satisfaction...but I withheld my approval.  I watched and observed.  This animal was forced to live in a cage while my hu-woman and hu-man were out gathering my food.  He was forced to ask to go into the outer world to use the bathroom, even when the ice blanket covered the ground.  I, on the other hand, continued to have the run of the castle, and maintained my clean personal bathroom, which was available to me without slave notification.

The day I agreed to allow the canine jester to continue living in my castle, I made a grand display of my dominance by pouncing on him as he rested quietly on the slave seating area.  He accepted his place in my home and acknowledged my superiority with a yelp of subservience.

One day my slaves took me to a medicine man who had the nerve to say I was overfed.  He convinced them to feed me according to his directions rather than the terms of their employment.  I protested, loudly and I attempted to gather my own food every opportunity I could.   My pleas for justice went unanswered.




About the same time, the jester began to believe the slaves were the masters of the castle, instead of recognizing my status as the alpha.  He began to listen to them and even ((gasp...)) obey their commands for his obedience to them.  Couldn't he see my obvious superiority? 

These acts were nothing short of anarchy...in MY castle.

The other night I made the decision I would no longer allow my slaves, or my jester, to display this wanton behavior toward me.  I fled the confines of my castle.  I've been roaming my kingdom for two days now.  What a glorious feeling to know I have the world under my feet again.  My slaves have attempted to lure me back, and have continued in their feeding duties (leaving my food by the front door).  I want them to understand the seriousness of the offenses they have committed against me, therefore I made a personal pact not to return until they are willing to once again bow at my feet and give me everything in life I deserve.

This freedom I'm enjoying is exactly what I was looking for when I left.  Once again I'm able to hunt wild game, sleep under the stars, and feel the earth under my feet.  I even languished under a sky-bath yesterday.  Yes-sir-ee.  I love the joys of living off my land.  When my slaves realize how wrong they have been, and I believe they can agree to serve me in the manner I deserve, I'll return and allow them to beg me for forgiveness.  Until then I'm going to make them suffer without me.

In the mean time, if you happen to see me, feel free to give hand-outs.  While you're at it, you have my permission to apply to be my new slave.  I'll let you know if the quality and quantity of your worship suits my fancy.

Sincerely,
Zorro the cat......OH, I mean King Majesty on Highest.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Cat...The Dog

Coming Soon....

An insightful post about how I used to live my life like the cat...

(He's sitting in a box of recipes...which has nothing to do with the analogy...)


And how I'm now living more like the dog...

(Notice the Bama shirt?!  Again, nothing to do with the analogy.)


I know you can't wait, right??

:D

Friday, March 5, 2010

Using Faith to Conquer Anxious Thinking

.....I will write for ONE HOUR ONLY and then stop no matter where I'm at with this post....

I read an article in Better Homes and Gardens this morning that really got me to thinking (well 1/2 an article anyway...).  It was about changing negative thinking into positive thinking. 

I think there are (at least) two kinds of negative thoughts....one is an anxious thought, the other is more generalized negative thinking.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm not really sure if I'd be classified as an optimist or a pessimist.  My best friend would probably call me an optimist.  She has told me in the past I'm one of the only people she knows who can put a silver lining on a funnel cloud!  At the same time, if you've read any posts on either of my blogs, you'd know I battle negative thinking all the time.  So, as usual, I write as an attempt to answer my own questions for myself--NOT IN ANY WAY as an attempt to point the finger at anyone who might be reading.


One other thing....I've read several blogs lately that have really struck a cord with me.  I've had a very hard time not commenting with 100% abandon.  I'm trying to remember that just because someone publishes a blog post, he/she might not want the same kind of "feedback" that I want.  Just to be VERY CLEAR---I want your feedback.  If you have a thought while reading this post, please feel complete freedom to post your uncensored thoughts....even if you want to post them annonymously.  I am a firm believer that we are all here (on Earth) to learn from one another, and I welcome anything you have to say.


Now....to get to the topic in my mind today.....

I think both anxious thoughts and generalized negative thinking are based in lack of faith, but I'm going to try to stay on the topic of anxious thoughts in this post.

God tells us to cast our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7)...and that all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  To me, that doesn't mean we are to turn our anxious thoughts into positive thoughts, other than the positive thought that God has plans for our welfare and peace, not for evil, to give us hope in our final outcome (Amplified version of Jeremiah 29:11).  (I could list several other verses/passages, but I'll stop with these.)

There have been two school shootings in my city recently (one at a middle school, one boy shot-and killed-another boy; one at a college where a professor shot-and killed three other professors), and just yesterday a gun was found in the bathroom of another middle school.  I have naturally had concerns for my daughter's safety at school.  

On top of that, she has been sick with some strange symptoms.  (I don't believe they are related to stress from these shootings at all...maybe stress for some other reasons, but most likely something truly physical.)  The wonderful world of google has given me numerous medical conditions of which to be afraid.  

I believe it would be "wrong" for me to think my daughter is going to be perfectly safe at school, or that she is going to be completely fine medically.  The truth is, she really could get hurt, or sick.  AND, God would still be in control, and He would STILL be a good God, worthy of my praise.

Again, it's not my intention to be accusatory of anyone who might be struggling with anxious thoughts, or who has struggled in the past.  I'm just trying to build up my own personal faith.  

What if Job woke up the morning all of his children were killed with a "negative" thought that something bad might happen to them that day??  And, what if he told himself that all of his kids were going to be perfectly fine and healthy, and that they all would continue to prosper?  And what if, when they weren't, he cursed God for not protecting his family?  

I don't believe for one minute our lack of faith causes things to happen to us, and I don't think bad things are a punishment for anything.  Bad things happen because we live on earth...and God continues to be in control, and He continues to be good.



When I hear someone who is sick say, "well, I know I'm going to be healed because I believe in God and I have faith He can heal this"....I worry (if the intention is that God will heal them by Earthly standards).  God help me if I ever have to deal with that particular struggle, because it would be an extreme test of faith...but I have to believe I would be able to honestly pray, "Your will be done" and mean it no matter what the outcome.

So...what do I do with my anxious thoughts?  I cast them at His feet.  I remind myself, every day that has been ordained for me (and everyone else for that matter) was written into the book of life, and He knew every word on every page, before any of us were even born.  I hold on to, and have faith in, the belief that He will never leave me or forsake me.  No matter what happens, to me, my family, my friends...even if the moon crashes into the earth two years from now....I'm going to spend eternity in Heaven along with every one else who has accepted Jesus as their personal savior. 

Having said all that, I think it's obvious my personal struggle lies more with generalized negative thinking about myself.  Obviously that's a much harder topic to tackle because it doesn't just strike a nerve, it hammers and saws on the most delicate nerve I think I've got!!  But, lucky me....my 1 hour timer just went off so I have other things that must get done.

As I said before, please feel the complete freedom to post any (and every) comment you have on this topic.

:D

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How I Slipped Into This (Familiar) Pit

My husband suggested I retrace my mental steps to, hopefully, figure out when it was I descended down into this "pit" I've been in.

At first, I thought it had to do with Valentine's weekend.  When I was out of town (at my best friend's house), I found out my ex-husband (remember the one who texted me on Valentine's Day to say he was moving out) had contacted my friend.  (It's a long story...but to give context I'll try to make it short.  Basically at the end of our marriage, my friend's son was very sick.  He sent her a message asking how her son was doing.  Keep in mind, it's been four years since the divorce....and she was, and still is, my best friend, someone he rarely spoke to.)  Anyway...his message to her dredged up a slew of emotions for me. 

He was in my life for TEN YEARS.  My children were 2 1/2 and 4 when we started dating.  They still saw their dad regularly, but he was their every day father figure for EIGHT YEARS.  ((And, he's had no contact with them since he filed for divorce, and as far as I know doesn't even know if they are still alive.))  And he wanted to know how my best friend's son was doing??  (Oh, and, his best friend is related to my best friend's husband....he could have certainly found out how her son was without contacting her directly.)

What's worse is that he actually sent the message to her in September, but she didn't get it until that weekend--when I was there.  AND, even worse than that....I had found some of my ex-step-son's baby pictures, and other things, as I was going through old boxes back in November.  I sent my ex an email asking where I could send them to.  He replied (after a WEEK) giving the address.  He didn't say thank you, he didn't ask how the kids were, he didn't ask how my friend's son was doing...just gave me the address.

You can most likely hear the emotions welling up.  (And, I am aware I sound much like a petulant child.)....As I was digging up those "weeds" last night...talking about how abandoned I felt by this man who had promised to "never leave" me, a thought kept popping into my mind........

To understand the thought I had, I have to give another bit of back story....My parents got divorced when I was about 5.  My mother moved to another state.  I saw my real dad a couple of summers before my mom got remarried.  I only saw him once more, for about a week, (until I became an adult).  He never wrote letters or sent cards, or even paid child support for that matter.  As an adult, I reconnected with him.  I've been to see him a couple of times.  We talk about once a year, if that.  About a month ago, I got a call from him.  I thought it would be the yearly check-in, but there was more.  He told me he started a new business and he wanted my help with some computer stuff. 

I felt betrayed.  This man was supposed to be my FATHER.  Now, I shouldn't have expected fatherly behavior, because I'd never gotten it in the past...but this felt like a new low.

Let me assure you, there's a lot more in that "closet"...but that's the general (surface) information.

So the thought that kept popping into my mind as I bemoaned being abaondoned (and betrayed) by my ex....was "just like (I felt I had been abandoned and betrayed by) my father".  I didn't connect the dots as I was talking last night--I kept thinking about the abandonment I felt as a child.  As I was thinking about it last night, it felt almost like trying to put on old clothes that no longer fit.  This "excuse" for why I am currently feeling the way I do couldn't possibly be a by-product of those old emotions.

Then, at 2:30 this morning, it hit me.  The way I'm feeling right now started the day my father called....these feelings aren't directly connected to childhood wounds--they are a "result" of (perceived) fresh wounds.

Interestingly enough, the encounter with my father didn't push me over the edge.  I had been able to keep from sliding down that "slippery slope" of negative emotion, but I hadn't actually delt with the situation....when I got the news from my friend about my ex.   THAT pushed me completely over the edge into a pit of quicksand.

The more I fought to get out, the faster it sucked me in.

It's very interesting.  Just before the "phone call", I had started going to a women's Bible study.  I remember thinking the first time how good I felt...how STRONG.  My relationship with the Lord has grown and deepened and it felt more solid than it had ever been.  I started thinking about the kind of writing I want to do (Christian non-fiction) and went to the Christian book store that day to pick up some things to read.  I bought Beth Moore's "Get Out of that Pit".  NOT as a reference for my own life, mind you, but as more of a reference for the kind of writing I hope to (eventually) aspire to.

That phone call came on my second Bible study day.  When I left that day I remember having some very strong, all too familiar feelings of unworthiness....unlovablness.  I won't go into it here and now, but suffice it to say the feeling of being unworthy of love, even incapable of being loved by anyone, is like a second skin to me.  It's one I have moulted off time and time again.  It's what keeps me from flying.  And, every time I believe I've shed the last bit of skin that no longer suits my body...I find there's yet another layer.

Yes, I'm completely aware of the mixed metaphors...and I apologize for that.  I obviously don't feel too bad, or I'd change it, but I think anyone reading gets what I'm saying!!

And, yes, I'm reading the book (I got about 2/3 the way through yesterday!).


Thank you for joining me on this journey!!!