Friday, December 30, 2005

Dancing into 2006...

I'm such a mom. I know it. I claim it. I'm okay with it.

Now that I'm the owner of a video iPod, I spent all of last night playing in iMovie, converting several older home videos into a format that can be viewed on my iPod. Excellent! Now, when people ask if I have pictures of my kids, I can do even better-- I have videos! In the process, I came across last years much more carefully edited but equally freaky Christmas iMovie. If you could find the last one, you can find this one, too! Enjoy!

Watching it today on my iPod (while sitting at an auto shop waiting for them to remove the gigantic roofing screw from my tire), I realized how much we've all changed over the past year, and how much our lives have changed.

For starters, my babies are getting bigger. The freckles are the giveaway. For some reason, all the children in my family start out freckle-free. Then, right about the time that they start to lose their preschooler pudge, the freckles come out. Barely visible at first, but after a while of staring into their faces (the way that mothers either lovingly or firmly do on a regular basis), you see them. Reminders that these children are indeed descended from ME and not just their freckle-less father, but also reminders that the end is near. The end of those adorable, baby-ish mispronunciations... The end of make-believe escapades unhindered by social awareness (like mixing popcorn all over the kitchen with a whisk, or talking about "friends" who live in Chicago in a big white house who are all pro skateboarders who never eat vegetables and whose mommies never take away gamecube)... The freckles coming out on my baby's face, while cute and precious, are heralds of the end of me ever again being mommy to a baby or preschooler. Sure, I still have one preschool-age child left in the house, but that's only until August; and given how quickly the last 8 months has gone, August is only a few pages ahead in the calendar.

This past year has been marked with quite a few pretty awesome steps forward, a few tiny steps backward, and few instances of someone else on the dance floor rudely interrupting our family mojo by smashing drunkenly into our happiness. These things happen; our family is not immune to life. But we've done well; I feel good about where the coming year, however uncertain it seems, will take us. I've had faith in the past; I've seen what God has done for and through us, and I have no reason to believe we'd be abandoned in the year to come. Besides, we've learned a few new moves in response to the unkind intentions of others. Challenge? Bring it on. I think we're ready.

For too long, we've allowed ourselves to be tossed about the waves of others' ambitions and intentions. No more. I'm not one for making resolutions for the new year (I've gained back weight that had been lost and spent parts of what had been saved, and know how fickle annual resolutions can be). But I'm open and ready for growth through unexpected challenges, and and am pretty sure I'm over my wallflower, meek and mild-mannered, timid and wussy self. 30 is going to be good for me; 2006 is going to be good for my family.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Last night...

... was good. Ahhhhhhhh.

I got my two new books from Amazon yesterday, and read all two hundred and something pages of Podcast Solutions in one sitting. I am now convinced that I cannot release another podcast until after I have my new recording and editing setup. And by the way, check this out: quite possibly the coolest audio software I've seen yet. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

I then set myself to sorting through the pile of invoices I had brought home from work. Year end is a sucky time to work in the accounting department of a moderate-sized business that stocks hundreds of thousands of dollars of inventory (with almost $2 mil annual sales) and has only two bookkeepers. The next week will be super-busy, so forgive me if I don't blog as much as usual over the next couple of weeks. In any case, I got a lot done by bringing some of my work home, and in the background-- My Name is Ed and The Office-- my two favorite shows. Yes!

Afterwards, I read the first chapter of Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised our Nation. Whaddya know-- it's on Eliza Pinckney, from my home state! What a tough chick she was. We'd probably be great friends.

And then, we crawled into bed and turned on PBS. I'd never seen Independent Lens before, but I will definitely try to catch it again in the future. My favorite was the little film on the Raftman-- too funny, too good!

So, this is sort of a slacker post, but year end is crazy, and hey, you're the silly person who sat here and read it anyway. Who's the slacker, now?

A real post coming soon. :-)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Eve Shenanigans Part One

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh..... I have so enjoyed the last few days, and yet at the same time, I'm relieved to be done with the decorating-gifting-visiting-baking hoo-ha that the last few days has been. Phhhhhhhhlllllllllllltht. (That is my deflating balloon sound, if you aren't fluent in Freak.)

Part One: Christmas Eve at Dad's

We woke up the morning of the 24th to a peaceful feeling of knowing there is time off of work, and family with whom to spend that time. That is, until I remembered that I had agreed to bring cheese biscuits and sausage balls to my dad's for our Christmas Eve get-together, and that I had no cheese, sausage, or bisquick in the kitchen. Phooey on whole foods and fresh vegetables-- I needed artery-clogging southern goodness, and fast! So, figuring it was a family day, I took my daughter with me to go brave the Super Wal-Mart Christmas Eve morning madness. This being my first time going to our town's Wal-Mart on a big shopping holiday, I wasn't sure what to expect. In Orlando, I once made a "quick run" to Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, and was in the store for 3 hours (1 hour of which was spent at the checkout). Anyway, it was busier than usual, but not bad.

Seeing as I'm trying to be a bit healthier, I picked up the "heart healthy" bisquick, which solved one of my challenges. The other: I hate pork. And it's nasty. And it's gross. So, I made a speed run through the produce section to get some soy sausage substitute, which promised to taste just like sausage. But, realizing that my dad's family is a pretty meat-and-potatoes kind of family, I didn't think I could pull off soy sausage balls without suffering severe emotional or possibly physical retaliation at future Christmas celebrations. So, I also picked up some hot and spicy Tennessee Pride sausage. Bllluuuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeeech. (translation: I might vomit when I have to stick my hands in this.)

We found a self-checkout with NO LINE at all, and were on our way home.

After whipping up cheese biscuits (Yum!), and veggie sausage balls (which really did taste like real sausage and 1/2 of which were devoured by my family before we even left the house), and real sausage balls (, we loaded the kids, the presents for my dad's family, and the tupperwares full of varieties of baked cheese into the car and were one our way. The kids had been fighting a bit, and the oldest had just lost gamecube privileges for the rest of the day (which on Christmas Eve, is a curse beyond all curses). So, we left about 45 minutes earlier than usual, figuring we'd drive around looking at pretty houses (there's lots of big, old, beautiful, wraparound porch, pastures with horses kinds of houses near my dad's), and that possibly the kids might fall asleep and nap a bit. Fat chance. We spent the entire 45 minutes listening to a 9 year old's take on the effectiveness, fairness, implementation, and occasional misuse of loss of privileges as a disciplinary tool. Sometimes I hate being the parent of a gifted child.

After we had been at dad's for a while, my 9 year old children's rights activist decided to be part of the family again, and things definitely went up from there. Since my dad's family had just returned from Branson, Missouri, the night before, we feasted on a huge spread of crackers, cheeses, dips and spreads, and it was wonderful! We opened presents (Daddy-O got a new 3-person tent for his Scouting trips with Funky Monkey, and did I mention I got an iPod?), and then headed home to finish the celebration. Oh-- the greatest presents of them all? We were given homemade blankets for all of our beds. Apparently, my stepmom has spent the last 6 months working on hand-crocheted blankets for each of us-- bright blue and red squares for Short Stuff, pink and purple squares for Sassy Pants, muted blue and woodsy green zig zags for Funky Monkey, and a gorgeous cream blanket big enough to fit our bed for me and Daddy-O. The fact that someone would take that kind of time to make something so precious for my family blows my mind, although it does not surprise me coming from someone as sweet and sentimental as my stepmom.

Christmas Eve Shenanigans Part Two

Prayer, presents, kryptonite bellydancing, midnight hobo runs to Walgreens, and cursing some complete stranger in Hong Kong. What could make Christmas Eve more fun than that?

Part Two: Christmas Eve at Home

As a family, we prayed, read scriptures, opened a few of our presents, and then sent the kids to bed. That was when I realized that I had left a few of the kids presents at my office. So, at about 8:30 pm, I dashed over to the warehouse. While I was there, I figured I'd go ahead and put some content on that snazzy little iPod I got. So, I opened up iTunes, and figured I might as well download a music video (something I've never done), just to see how it looks on the iPod. But, I knew that my husband the cheapskate was bound to make fun of me for buying a video to watch on a 2 X 1.5 inch screen, so I knew I had to choose my video wisely. I knew it had to be one with which he could not argue. I bought my video, updated my podcasts, and transferred it all over to the iPod. I called my husband to talk me through my exit (the warehouse is near a bit of a creepy, drug-problem and murder kind of neighborhood, so I always keep him on the phone with me while I leave, close the gate, and get back into the car), and headed home.

Once home, I broke out the iPod to show Daddy-O how cool it was. "I bought a music video," I said. He rolled his eyes and looked at me disapprovingly, but kept his silence. "What, you don't think I should have?" I asked. Silence. Glare. I started the video playing and smiled and danced. Still silence. Still glare. Now head-shaking. "You aren't right," he said. And then I flipped the iPod around to where he could see it and held it out as if threatening someone with a weapon. His eyes left my face, and landed upon Shakira in her full glory, bellydancing out of the ocean, strutting through a stampede, and crawling through mud. It was like kryptonite. "Oh, you bought a video-- cool!" The man was putty in my hands, and when I added in a few bellydance moves of my own, the argument was officially over.

I then set myself to the task of putting cool new Star Wars skins onto the 2 gameboys I had bought for my little guys. Piece of cake. Then I broke out the pearlized pink gameboy hard-shell case I had bought for my daughter, which required the complete disassembly and reassembly of her gameboy. It was quickly clear to me that I did not have a screwdriver small enough for the job, so I jumped up, pulled on my husband's sweatpants and hooded sweatshirt over my nightgown, and shoved my sockless feet into some fuzzy Emus. "You look like a hobo," my husband said. "I don't care-- it's not like I'm going to see anybody I know at Walgreens at midnight."

Walgreens was packed with people. I got my screwdrivers and went to check out. "What are you doing here, and not at home with your kids?" I hear from across the store. Nice. Someone I know. It's the 18 year old boy who started karate around the same time I did last year, and who was my sparring partner when we were both orange belts. I babbled something about the stupidity of buying things off of eBay from Hong Kong and the world's smallest screwdriver, did my best hobo jig, and darted out the door. Very Ashlee Simpson.

I was up until 1:30 AM assembling that stupid Gameboy and getting the last few things ready for the kids, and then played tetris for 1/2 and hour before bedtime. I'm getting better at tetris, by the way, and can now make it to level 15 with ease.

Christmas Day Shenanigans

So, we were awakened Christmas morning at 6:00 AM by children who couldn't wait to open presents. Daddy-O and I shuffled down the hall, plopped onto the floor, and prepared for the stampede of children rushing down the hall. They did not disappoint.

After opening presents, we realized our kids had enough electronic gadgetry and games, legos, Cabbage Patch Kids, building sets, books, and stocking stuffers to entertain them from now to eternity, and the grownups went back to bed. When I finally found it in me to open one eye, sometime around 8:30 am, I could smell something yummy cooking, but was too tired to care. It was 9:30 am before I was able to reopen first one, then the other eye. Daddy-O was in the corner of the bedroom, sitting in his reading chair and studying. "What is that smell?" I asked. Turns out he had been up since 7:30, and had made homemade cranberry sauce, vegetables, and had put a turkey in the oven. I love the fact that my husband can cook so well, especially since I am not good at any kind of kitchen activity except baking and being kissy-kissy.

We had a great lunch together, much more family prayer, and spent the day hanging out and generally just enjoying being together. We called all our family, and I got to talk to my Mema, whose Alzheimer's is pretty far along. She knew I was family, but I'm not convinced she knew which one of the girls (my mom, my aunt, my sister, or me) it was, what year it was, or how old I was. She asked me how I'm doing in school, and I said "great." She asked why I didn't just come on over, and I told her I live 10 hours away. "Oh, I thought you lived just over there. I wouldn't drive ten hours, either. I think I'd just stay put." I asked if she wanted to talk to my kids, and she said, "well, I'm not sure if I even remember who they are anymore." "They remember you," I said. She chatted with them for a while, asking about presents, asking about school, and asking how old they were, while my Aunt V. (who was there with her) gave her the picture we sent with our cards this year, so Mema would know who she was talking to. It was sad, because it's all progressed so quickly over the past year, and because I lived with her for a while as a child. But, she seemed happy, so I guess that is enough for now.

Our kids still have quiet time for 2 hours every day (nap, read, play quietly, no electronic games), and I laid on my bed with Short Stuff, turned on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert on PBS, and got some very special mommy snuggle time, followed by another 45 minute nap. It felt so good to just hold him in my arms, him running his little hands over my face and smiling at me as he fell asleep-- wow. Those are the times I love being a mom.

In the evening, we baked a birthday cake for the Christ child, gave the kids their baths, and tucked them into bed. Then, I played with my iPod. And Daddy-O grabbed the camera to get some happy-Christy-with-iPod pictures. I danced, I cheesed it up, I jumped on my bed, all the while with him snapping photos. Then I stopped to change playlists, and while I was looking at my iPod, he apparently took a zoomed in photo of... well... my chest. And looking at it in the review mode, he liked it so much that he geeked out and fumbled the camera, accidentally pitching it across the room. The battery cover part broke into about 14 pieces, the battery flew into our closet, and the camera, without power, was stuck in the open position on the bedroom floor. I wanted to be mad at him for breaking my camera, but was too flattered to get ugly, so I just got some super glue and started to work. 30 minutes later, and after using half a tube of super glue and a few strips of packing tape, the camera was again working. We have, however, placed a new camera on our shopping list, as it just feels way too ghetto to use a digital camera that is held together by packing tape.

Anyway, we really had a wonderful Christmas. It was the perfect blend of fun, reverence, family time, and celebration, and I'm just thankful to have my family. In spite of the things that sometimes don't go according to plan, they really are perfect for me, and I hope I'm perfect for them.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


So, no time to type a long blog post between the wheezing and gasping (my asthma acts up when I get too excited), but we just exchanged gifts with some of my family, and I am now the extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemely happy owner of a 60GB video iPod.

You may all envy me now.

That is all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas-- for real this time!

A few things, and then I'm done with blogging until after Christmas...

1) My baby sister is 24 today. Happy birthday, babe, and have a great time in Michigan snowboarding! I fully expect the video you promised of you "shreddin'" or whatever you call it.

2) Our annual family crappily-edited proves-we're-freaks iMovie is now up and available for viewing. If you know 1) my primary email address, and 2) how .mac homepages work, you can find it pretty easily. If you don't know my primary email address, it's probably because you just happened upon my blog sometime in the last few weeks. If you really want to see video of me lip-syncing "The Humpty Dance" and of my husband being incredibly white, you can email me at thinkingsoutherner at mac * com and I'll think about sending you a link.

3) Christmas is my favorite time of year, and even this year, which is a bit more confusing than most, there's a certain peace about me and my family. Growing up, our family had some fairly non-traditional Christmas traditions. We rarely ever attended church. Period. Except for the occasional visit to grandparents at Easter. For a good number of years, my stepdad had his own "House Call by S. Claus" business, and would do parties, deliveries, and business get-togethers as Santa, in a super-fly, high quality, real velvet suit and full theater makeup, including latexed aging on his face and hair-gray around his temples. So, Mom would sometimes work all day the day of the 24th, and then Dad would spend the afternoon and evening delivering presents to rich family's kids. My siblings and I would spend the evening circling the Christmas tree like birds of prey, counting the presents, sorting the presents, shaking the presents, sniffing the presents-- anything to pass the time until he came home. He'd usually get home sometime between 10 and 11 pm, and we'd groggily but excitedly tear into our presents as soon as Mom and Dad would let us. A tradition for our family, yes. But not very traditional. Such is the life of a weird entertainment family, and for the most part, that weird life was a lot of fun.

For quite a few years, my parents were instrumental in planning and pulling off the "Lowcountry Christmas Festival" in Charleston. My sibs and I tagged along, and got to help out wherever they'd let us. Some days, I'd help Margie with the decorating. We'd put up over 30 different color-coordinated or themed Christmas trees, from three-footers to the towering live trees that filled the two-story lobbies of the Gaillard Auditorium. Other years, I'd get to be a costumed character, and spend hours in a giant Ted E. Bear costume, hugging kids, dancing, posing for hundreds of pictures with little kids. Everything there smelled good-- from the cinnamon and spice in many of the decorations for sale, to the pine smell from the trees, to the fresh-baked bread smell that came from the booth that the local Mormon church set up each year. I'd gorge myself on fresh bread with homemade honey butter, funnel cakes, and other goodies, and wonder why every day of the year couldn't be as beautiful, wonderful, and warm as the inside of that auditorium was when the craft and gift vendors were set up. The Christmas festival was one of the first memories I ever have of Christmastime being truly magical.

The second was when I was 20 and going through a bit of a rough patch in my life. I was invited by one of the sisters of the Order of St. Helena to come spend a bit of time at their Augusta convent for Christmas, an opportunity I couldn't resist. Having primarily experienced the joys of a warm and inviting, but thoroughly secularized, Christmas, being in a place whose sole purpose is to glorify God and be His instrument at a time of year that we celebrate the birth of Christ-- that was incredible. Sister Rosina, who came to the United States from Ghana many years ago to become a nun, and who is now an ordained Episcopal priest, led a beautiful ceremony in which we blessed the creche. Her Sunday homily focused on the dangers of allowing a completely secular and cultural Christmas to overpower the quiet and subtle, yet mystical and profound, true message of the birth of Christ. What had originally been intended as a three or four day getaway to celebrate Christmas at the convent became a 2 month hiatus from my regular life, during which time I was able to give myself fully to praying on, thinking about, reading about, and otherwise exploring what that infant's birth truly meant for me, and for the world.

Now, I have children of my own. I've been fairly deliberate about the kinds of Christmas memories I want to create for them. Not wanting to completely extract our family from the culture in which we live, I've tried to blend societal, cultural, family, and religious traditions into something we can all be pleased to remember. We have a tree and presents and all that... The children each get to open one present from underneath the tree to open on Christmas Eve, and the rest are for Christmas Day. We've never told our children Santa brings gifts; they just know that the real St. Nicholas, on whom the Santa story is based, lived a long time ago, and that now lots of people act as "Santa's Helpers" to make Christmas special for children and families, and that the mystery is in who your particular Santa's helpers are. Before bedtime on Christmas Eve, we read nativity stories from the Bible, and pray together as a family. On Christmas Day, after we've opened the rest of the presents, we bake a birthday cake for the Christ Child, and either spend more time with family, or go to church (as we will this Sunday).

This is what I want my children to take from our family's Christmas traditions-- that Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the promise of God's love, and the warmth of a family. It's a time to enjoy the fun and magic of gift-giving, tiny lights reflecting off of shiny ornaments, warm cake just out of the oven that crumbles in your fingers, the smell of pumpkin bread and cinnamon, the sounds of beautiful music and kids playing with new toys, and being reminded, once again, that your family will always love you and be there for you. This is what I want to take from Christmas for myself. This is what Christmas means.

I don't think any of us can escape our society's messages about Christmas, even if we tried. And trying, in the end, often leaves us looking silly and combative, unwilling or unable to participate in a society that doesn't believe exactly as we do. Is that really the message of Christ? I can't take our cultural, secular Christmas traditions and pretend that they don't exist; I can only transform them into meaningful messages that extend beyond consumerism and fictions... I can't change them for everyone, but I can change how my children do now, and always will view such traditions... as only a small part of a much greater celebration.

Whatever and however you celebrate this time of year, may it be truly meaningful to you and to those around you. And if you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas from our family to yours. May wisdom be ours this Christmas season, and may we always follow what is true and holy.

Matthew 2: 1-2
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.


A kind blog reader recently emailed me a video of a man who was clearly enjoying building his new dream mac waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy too much. "Ha ha," I laughed, from the superiority of one who is not as susceptible to such technology-induced love frenzies. "I am not that much of a geek."

And then today, I built my podcasting dream cart online, complete with two nice but inexpensive condenser microphones (ooooooooooh), some cables and stuff (aaaaaaaahhhhhhh), and the Presonus Firebox complete with two preamp mic inputs, 2 analog inputs, 10 different outputs, firewire interface, and Cubase LE audio editing software, which completely did me in. After clicking "Add to cart," I noticed a warm feeling spreading through my body that is usually only put there by candlelit evenings listening to Joss Stone or John Mayer...... Smooth, yet satisfying. I'm in love. I feel so dirty. ;-)

Maybe I am a little more of a geek than I suspected.

My friend Maher makes fun of me for being a closeted geek. This from a man who (the last time I was there) had 6 computers (count them: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) in his one-bedroom bachelor pad. Six flippin' computers, in a two room apartment. SIX! "Hey, I need them to practice setting up and maintaining networks for my exams and all." Yeah. Or maybe, you're just a geek.

His comeback: "Well, at least I don't have one of those keychain flash drive thingies actually on my key ring like you do." Yes, but I only have two computers, neither very fancy-- one desktop and one laptop. And you can walk through my home without tripping over network cables strewn all over the couch, coffee table, and Xbox.

But maybe he's right. Maybe I am a geek. I did buy my husband a swiss army knife with a built-in 512MB flash drive for Christmas. Such a mind-boggling combination of manly, geek, and redneck all in one little piece of Christmas magic-- I had to have it for him.

Anyway, I may or may not buy the sweet little number I'd like to own-- I still have about a week until I make my final purchase-- but a girl can dream, can't she?

Edited at 11:15 AM to add one more link, because it feels so good to click on it.

Edited at 3:50 pm, because one more time can't hurt. Yeah.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


It's amazing how we, as humans, have this innate desire to connect with each other-- to be accepted by, reach out to, and be reached by others. We're social creatures, really, not just in the sense of meeting a sociologically evolved need for protection, but in the fuller sense of having our own humanity and experiences validated by contact between, friendships with, and respect from other people.

Today, on my lunch break, I spent a bit of time speaking with a woman from my church for my next podcast (which should be out in a day or two). I met her through her little girl, I*. I* is a beautiful 5 year old girl with long eyelashes and gorgeous latte-brown skin, and she's in the Wednesday night kindergarten girls' class I taught at church until just last week. She's smart, sharp, and thoughtful, and was one of the two girls in that class that could always read the memory verse (my daughter is the other). Each week, I'd ask for prayer requests before our prayer time, and each week she would say, in her precious little voice, "please pray for my daddy." So, each week, we would pray for I*'s daddy, along with grandmas and grandpas, pets that had died, and boo-boos that needed healing.

I*'s mom volunteers each Wednesday night in the infant nursery at church, and I've always seen her as a quiet and shy kind of person. She's always alone taking care of her 3 children (ages 5 and younger), and blushes a bit when I tell her how wonderful I* is to have in my class. A few weeks back, at Wednesday night dinner before classes, I mentioned to her that I* always asks us to pray for her daddy. Her mom, K*, smiled and said that I* is always so thoughtful, and then told me why I* requests prayer for her daddy. It turns out that he has been in jail for the past two years without a trial, although he has a trial date set for May. Although K* believes firmly in his innocence, he stands accused of a serious crime, and there are no guarantees that he will be coming home any time soon. K* is now 25 years old, and went from dedicated wife and mother to single mom in the 20 minutes it took for her husband to be arrested.

I spent two weeks deciding if, when, and how to let her know I'd love to give her the opportunity to share her story on my podcast, before just going up and asking last week. I was so nervous, not that she would say no, but that she would think I'm an idiot or a jerk for even asking. Instead, she almost started to cry: "People almost always seem to forget that there's a family left behind... We get lost... I would love the opportunity to share my situation with others...." So, we set a date-- today at lunchtime.

I was nervous going to her home-- I'm not a professional at this, and would I know the right questions to ask? Would I put my foot in my mouth? I have a good bit of counseling training from seminary and over 2 years' experience at pastoral counseling from my time as a chaplain, but this was going to be different. I'm not there to counsel; I'm there to listen, to be a friend, and to give a voice to someone who has spent far too much of her life, to use her words, lost... ignored.

I pulled in to the drive and went past a long row of beat up singlewide trailers before finding hers. After her husband was jailed, K* had to quit her job, and relocated to a mobile home that had been given to her, on a lot with extremely low rent. In spite of the humble housing, it was warm and home-y, with nice candles burning, a tree decorated in the corner, and several small boxes wrapped neatly under the tree. I sat down onto the slightly lumpy, old, brown couch, and started to set up my recording stuff (I bought two new lapel microphones to try to get better sound quality on the outings this time). I was wondering how to begin the conversation, when K* spoke up.

"I can use our first names only, can't I?"

"Sure. You can say as little or as much as you want. This is your story, and I'll let you tell it the way you want."

"What if I start to cry-- is that okay?"

"Hey, I wore waterproof mascara today, just in case I cry with you. If you need to stop at any time, let me know and I'll shut off the recorder. And I can always go back in later and edit out anything you tell me you'd rather not have in."

"Talking about what got me through this, I'm going to talk a lot about God. Is that okay?"

"Of course. I don't censor content-- this is your story to tell."

There was a bit of a silence while K* thought for a while. When she spoke again, my heart dropped.

"I gave a baby up for adoption when I was 16. Can I talk about that before you leave? Will you put that in your podcast?"

It was then that it hit me-- hard-- how much we, as humans, crave being heard... being understood. I guess that's a big part of the premise behind my starting the kind of podcast I have. So many people out there-- people we just pass right by every day without ever giving a second thought, people we see as quiet and reserved, people who walk through our lives each week and we never even get close enough to realize that they're just barely putting one foot in front of the other, hoping that somehow, they'll make it through-- with a story to tell. I've been there. It's lonely. And sometimes, getting to tell someone the contents of our heart isn't an obligation or a chore; it's an opportunity for outpouring that is welcomed into a life in which you feel nobody wants to listen.

I assured K* that although I may not fit it into this episode of the podcast, I definitely would welcome her story, perhaps for a future podcast incorporating several different perspectives about adoption. Several times over the course of the interview, K* asked me to turn off the recorder, and shared even more about her life that strengthened my conviction that she is an overcomer of great character. After recording, she joined me for lunch, and we had some of the best conversation I've had in a while.

I'm sure there will be plenty of people with amazing stories of heartache and/or triumph that will not want to talk with me about it at all, much less for public broadcast. But if I'm right, and I suspect that I am, many of us are suffering from the way our society has tended to rip us apart from meaningful social networks (unless we deliberately preserve and create networks for social connectivity). And if, from the quiet and unspoken suffering of our isolation, we could reach out to others, be heard, speak out, and change perceptions, I think many of us would jump at the chance.


I'm about to leave my office, and head home for the night. I'll be driving home to a relatively small apartment, with three children who fight too much and a husband who wishes he could give us all more. We have the same crappy fake Christmas tree we've had for the past 3 years, and half of the beautiful matching Christmas ornaments I bought last year have been broken. There are more presents under our tree than in recent years, thanks to a generous holiday bonus I got at work. When I get home, my husband will go out for a few hours to study for his upcoming teacher certification exams, and I'll try to keep the kids from killing each other until bedtime, all the while trying to catch up on the cleaning that doesn't get done during the day. After the kids are in bed, I'll start to edit the audio from today into a podcast, and hearing it will remind me of some of the less-than-enviable things we're now going through as a family. I'll cry a little, and edit some more, and pretty soon my husband will come back home. At some bizarre hour, I'll crawl into bed next to my soul mate, and as I'm laying there having trouble falling asleep, like I've done every night for the past month, it will dawn on me that I am so completely blessed to have my children and my husband, a home that meets all our needs, a job where all the employees are treated well and spoiled rotten, and a life about which I really can't complain.

Look around you, people, and then give thanks. For every thing we can each find wrong with our lives, there are so many things that are right. Thank God.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Great Smoky Mountains

A few weeks ago, my daughter, who is 5, commented that some hill we were driving by was "a really big mountain."

"Sweetie, have you ever seen real mountains?"

"Yeah, mom, remember? We played on some big clay mountains at Mema's house." My Mema and Papa's house has a big hilly red clay area out back. This child has never seen real mountains, which means that her little brother hasn't either.

So, Daddy-O and I decided that rather than go home on interstates through Atlanta, we would go up to Chattanooga and then cut across the Appalachians. We didn't say anything to the kids about it-- we just figured we'd wait to see how long it took for them to notice the change in scenery.

It was a brilliant plan-- the kids loved being in the mountains, and we stopped off a few times for good views and little creeks. Then came the part that wasn't in the plan: Short Stuff, who had really bad chest congestion all weekend, started puking up mucus once we were about 45 minutes off of the interstate and on curvy mountain roads. We stopped a few times to take care of him and change his clothes ("We don't have to tell anyone I was outside in the mountains in my underwear and no pants, do we, mommy?"), and finally found an old McDonald's bag and gave it to him for if he got sick again. "Mom, do you have a pen?" asked Funky Monkey. "No, Funky Monkey, we are not going to write 'barf bag' on it," I asserted. Apparently his 9 year old sense of humor had been thwarted by my momminess--"Aw, man!"

By the time we got the puking all taken care of, the kids were getting hungry (we had eaten an early lunch), and we stopped for dinner. We got back on the road, and the sun started to set. That was when it occurred to us that we had picked some of the most mountainous, curvy paths to take, so that the kids would have stunning views the whole way home. We did not anticipate being delayed by a few hours, and taking these roads at night, with neither of us being experienced mountain-drivers.

Can I just say that the "Great Smoky Mountains" are not so great to navigate after dark when you aren't familiar with the roads and are not a mountain native? We spent FOUR hours driving 15 mph in the dark on winding mountain roads with terrifying dropoffs and no guardrail. Sassy Pants started crying about 1 hour into it.

"Why are you crying?"

"Because I'm scared?" *blows nose*

"Oh, baby, don't be scared! Why are you scared?"

"Because we're lost." sniff sniff

"Honey, we're not lost. We have a map, and we know where we're going."

This is where Short Stuff (the 4 year old firecracker) chimed in: "I think I saw a sign back there that says there's monsters ahead!"

Sassy Pants again: "Shut up! I know there's no such thing as monsters!"

Short Stuff: "Well, I thought I saw a sign, anyway."

Me: "There are no monsters, no signs about monsters, and we're not lost. I saw the map, and this road does go to South Carolina. It's just a curvy, hilly road, and we have to take it slowly. That's all."

This quieted the fretting for a bit, until we had been driving for another couple of hours on winding roads, and came upon a state line sign: Welcome to Georgia!

Funky Monkey read the sign out loud, and major freaking out ensued in the backseats.

"We are lost! I knew it!"

"I thought you said this road went to South Carolina?"

"Oh, great. Georgia. We're never going to get home."

I did my best stern mom bit: "Chill out, guys. We're not lost. We are going to South Carolina." Then I turned to Daddy-O, and under my breath muttered, "check the map."

Turns out, Highway 28 does a bit of a turn through Georgia for a few miles before heading into Oconee county, South Carolina. No problem. Not lost.

The rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful, which is fine by me, as driving 4 hours on death-trap roads was event enough. Oh yeah, one final note: If you are ever passing through South Carolina and see a sign for a town named "Walhalla," please be advised that the locals do not say "wall' ha la" like my Sarasota-raised Floridian husband does. If you're in the Carolina lowcountry, it's pronounced "Wawl hah' luh." If you're in the upstate, where we live and where Walhalla is actually located, you gotta get a little more redneck with it. "Wawl holler" will suffice.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

History Podcast

Okay, so another of my favorite podcasts is the History Podcast with Jason Watts. And this should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, as I am a total history nerd. Not necessarily a knowledgeable history buff, but a passionate history nerd, nonetheless. Having contributed a podcast on Francis Marion once before, I can say that it was a blast, even though I got more email feedback about my accent than about the content of the podcast (you naughty little midwesterners!). Jason, whose dedication and consistency in putting out a great podcast that usually comes out a few times each week is rare and admirable, works hard to keep it coming, and definitely deserves a break every now and then. So, I decided I'd put that little 4 year degree in Religious Studies to work, and submit a podcast about the New Thought movement. Having focused on new religious movements in the United States in college, I figured it would be interesting, although I know religion is a touchy subject for some, and wasn't sure if Jason would be able to use it. Apparently, he liked it!

Check it out!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Small Town Christmas

(Advance apology: I'm making this post from my laptop, which had almost all the keys ripped off a couple of years ago when Short Stuff was 2, and the M and W keys never went back on right. So, I will try to proofread, but if there is a missing M or W, love me anyway.)

Ahhhhhh... family time. Much needed, much wanted, much appreciated. It's funny how I tend to let things get more and more hectic, partially so that I won't have to think as much about some of what's going on in my life, that when I finally slow down, I can't decide if I'm going to cry, enjoy my weekend, or just fall asleep.

This part of Alabama is beautiful-- foothills, little winding creeks, and crisp, cold weather. We're visiting my mother-in-law and her family, and getting to visit also with Daddy-O's little sister, who is my age and a single mom of a little guy about the same age as Sassy Pants. It is nice. It is peaceful.

This morning, MIL asked if I wanted us to try to go to the Christmas parade. My mind went a little something like this: "Parade? Ack! Sitting outside in too-cold weather, trying to wrangle my children and keep them from running into the street, while watching one crappy small-town papier-mache'd float after another stroll along, cheesy beauty queens, and a guy with a cheap Satan Santa costume wave out of obligation... Sounds positively frightful." Call me a grinch-- I don't care. I'm really just a homebody, most of the time. But in spite of the humbug happening in my head, what came out of my mouth was, "Wow. That would be nice."

We rushed to get everyone ready in time, and sprinted out the door 20 minutes before parade time. "Mom," said Funky Monkey. "I don't want to go to some stupid parade. I'd rather just stay here and play." "Nonsense," I said in my most enthusiastic game-show-host voice. "This is going to be fun!" He didn't seem convinced. I leaned in a little closer, so that nobody else would hear me. "Listen, kid, I don't want to go to this parade either. But, it's going to be fine, we're going to have a good time, and Grandma is excited to be taking us. If I can stuff it and smile, you can, too." Now, realizing we're on the same team, he smiled and nodded. Our little secret, you know. He kind of likes the idea of us being in cahoots-- us being in it together and all. Camaraderie. Cool. Especially if you're 9, and your younger brother and sister are not in on the secret.

We arrived at the parade site just before the start time, and were shuffled by the local police into a parking zone near where a bunch of horses and riders were gearing up for the big hoopty-doo. So, I hopped from the car, toting both of my cameras, and we settled in along the route. Chelsea, Alabama, has a population of around 3,000 people. I'd estimate that about 400 of them were lined up along the route near us. Another 400 or so of them were actually in the parade. For all my grumbling, it turned out to be so much fun! For starters, any parade in which candy, stuffed animals, footballs, beach balls, green tea, and bead necklaces are thrown at you without any expectation of nudity is A-okay in my book. Some of the kids on the floats were so carried away, that they sadistically pelted the onlookers with candy, so much so that all would duck and scream when the floats came by. One float had a little boy on it who was gleefully and repetitively shouting, "We celebrate Hanukkah! Wheeeeeeeeeee!" while flinging candy violently at the onlookers. He seemed so happy and full of joy, I almost didn't mind when the dum dum lollipop he had fired at me like a spear almost took my eye out.

And then the float for the local Curves gym worked its' way up the road. I could see that they were flinging larger-than-candy objects off the float like frisbees. Could it be...? Is it really...? My heart raced with anticipation. I shot out of the crowd, tripping over roadside piles of leaves and knocking down small children, determined to claim mine... And then I saw it being sailed toward me, and I flew through the air with the kind of slow-mo agility seen in The Matrix, and caught it in my hand as I landed on the ground. A banana flavored Moon Pie. Ahhhhhhhh, the Deep South. Hallelujah and praise Alabama. I love Moon Pies. :-) Now, whether or not a weight-loss gym tossing Moon Pies into a crowd of sugar-crazed individuals constitutes a breach of ethics-- who knows. As for me and my Moon Pie, we don't care.

Shortly thereafter came the float for a local native tribe... As they drove by, I yelled out a heart-felt "Happy Holidays!" A lady on the float yelled something back that I didn't understand. Seeing my look of confusion, she added, "It means 'Merry Christmas' in Cherokee!"

After the parade, we came back to the house to rest for a while before opening presents.Three things about presents:
1) Whoever it is that designed the humongous Hot Wheels thingy that Short Stuff got from Grandma should be praised for his or her genius and creativity, shortly before being shot for creating anything that requires the painstaking assembly of 321 small parts and stickers;
2)Cabbage Patch Dolls still smell exactly like they did when we were kids, and my sister-in-law and I took turns sniffing "Nancey Tiffany" until my daughter, disturbed by the fact that we'd rather smell her new doll than play with it, forbade us from doll-play for the night;
and 3) A remote-control helicopter that really flies will put the kind of smile on a 9 year old's face that hasn't been there for a very long time.

The kids played with the presents until dinnertime, and then just as we were about to sit down for dumplings, greens, and sweet potatoes, we hear a ridiculously loud siren from outside. My husband and I, conditioned to think of sirens as a bad thing, hid under the coffee table. My MIL and SIL jumped to their feet and shouted, "SANTA!" We grabbed the children, threw on their coats, and ran into the front yard. Driving up and down the streets, at 6:30 pm in the evening, in the dark, a big, red fire truck was toting the fat red dude through neighborhoods, tossing even more candy to children. Up and down the street, children, in various states of dress and/or pajama goodness, stood in their front yards shouting and celebrating.

We came back in, ate tasty home-cooked vittles, and started a fire in the fireplace. The children were asleep almost immediately, and the grownups were mellow and satisfied.

Getting away for a bit has done me good already, and I still have a couple more days to go. Family time is a luxury I fight to maintain when back home in the daily grind; here, away from work and chores, it is my life... a good life. I tend to be one to let the worries of my mind and heart surround me, turning them over and over until I'm not sure I can escape the anxiety. Today has been different. Today has been good. It is starting to feel like Christmas.


I'm being fitted even as we speak for my mutant X-Men suit.

Scientists identify genetic mutation that lead to lighter skin

Friday, December 16, 2005

Griddlecakes Radio

Again, I have to tell you that I really love listening to Griddlecakes Radio, and it's not just becaue I got to do a little voice talent for them this week (listen to Griddlesode 14, and you might hear me playing the part of a very southern-sounding receptionist). My main reason for loving the heck out of it is because Ron, who does the podcast (and the other Ron, who will be mad if I leave him out), is so incredibly talented. I stand in awe of his voice talent, recording setup, and creative editing skills. If you get a chance, go give a listen, and let him know I sent you!

In other news, we are safely in Alabama, looking forward to a great visit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Almost Winter

We had our first big winter-style weather during the night last night-- everything was frozen over on my drive to work today. Big pine trees lumbered over from the weight of the ice, almost like willows. It's cold. Really cold (for South Carolina in December). Last week, I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt one day and was fine. This week, winter has announced its impending arrival.

Signs of the season: For starters, I'm back down two shades in my foundation makeup-- I've gone from "Almost Pasty White #200" through "Slightly Pasty White #100" to "Damn, Whitey, Get Some Sun #104." When my youngest son, the firecracker, was 2, he went through a fascination with body lotion, and would get into my bathroom and cover himself with smelly girl lotions, simply because he was two and didn't know better. One day, he got into my #104 foundation, and thought it was body lotion. So, he stripped himself naked, and covered himself with my foundation from his chest to his knees. Ladies, when your foundation shade is a perfect match for your 2 year old's naked rear, you are WHITE.

Signs of the season: Static electricity! Having lived in Florida for the past 7 years, last year I was not accustomed to the way winter lights you up. Lately, it seems that every time I go to kiss my husband, a big zap connects us and it scares us half to death. Like some kind of Pavlovian conditioning, I've learned to slug him in the arm before kissing him, just to get out any electricity first. His response, equally conditioned? Kick me when he sees me coming to punch him. So, we have a mini-sparring match followed by a tender kiss. Nice. I mean, come on, I know I'd like some electricity between us, but that's not exactly the kind I was thinking of. Oh well, I guess after 6 years, we'll take what we can get.

Signs of the season: Navigation through the living room is now obstructed by the tree and the growing mound of gifts beneath it. I decided that this year, I was going to put all the items that weren't already boxed into boxes, so nobody could guess what it is from feeling it. And, working in a warehouse that stocks exterior building materials, the only boxes I could find are, say, the size of a shutter. Or a roll of PVC trim coil. Neither of which is actually small enough to fit under my tree, but hey, I'm creative, right?

Signs of the season: My beautiful children did their final performance of their church Christmas play, The First Leon, last night. My son's Leon made me cry on several occasions... He plays sweet and unassuming so well. Must be from 6 years of watching my husband, because it sure isn't from me! The child sings like an angel, and had everyone in the audience going, "Awwwwwwwwwww..." with his every word. My 5 year old daughter, who was a narrator with big words like "Caesar Augustus" and one line with more intos, out ofs, and untos than I could remember, was perfect! Even if her sequined headband (that was supposed to look like a halo) gave her that Olivia Newton John "Physical" kind of 1980s ambiance. And my youngest (the firecracker, remember?) dressed as a sheep and followed Mary and Joseph in at the end. Until he rammed himself head-first into the side of a front row pew, fell to the ground, and lay there on his back twitching like a dying cockroach for a few seconds before moving on. Then, during the finale, he jumped up onto the stage and did a stagedive, just for kicks. Oh, and the "Shepherd Boy Band" dance I choreographed and taught the boys? It stole the show. Nothing like a bunch of 5-11 year old boys breakdancing, doing the worm, and generally being ridiculous (exactly as instructed) to bring the house down! It was wonderful, even if my friend Maher (who is Muslim, but came to see the play to support my kids) declared us all infidels and made fun of my boy band dance. "They learned freak from the finest."

Not a sign of the season, but a fun thing I have to throw in: After the play, we came back to my place with Zaxby's take-out and some "party" supplies for my kids to celebrate their great job. After their bedtime, Daddy-O, Maher, and I sat up until 1:30 AM goofing off, telling stories, reminiscing about stupid things we did as teenagers, and engaging in what can only be described as the tetris armageddon. It was the battle to end all battles, but in the end, I think Daddy-O and I agreed that Maher was the winner. Quite possibly because while we were out dating, partying, and generally being heathens in high school, Maher was locked in his basement, playing tetris with a level of skill and dedication that is usually only reserved for surgeons and rocket scientists. His level of tetris mastery is simply not normal. He is a freak.

So, that's what's happening in the wonderful world of almost-winter so far this year. Hope you're all doing well! We're leaving tomorrow morning for Alabama, so posting may be sporadic for a few days, although I'll definitely be checking in. If you're much of a pray-er, pray for safe travel for us and a nice visit. We haven't been back since one of our family members there was killed, and it seems that both our lives and theirs have taken some crazy turns since then. It will be good to be with family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pet peeves,

So, I've read and re-read my previous post, and I think I have identified yet another thing to add to my list of pet peeves. Without a pet peeve setting off a nerve, I usually wouldn't rant like that, so something was at the root of the rant.

Previously, my pet peeve list was:
1: People who refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions and always find someone else to blame;
2: Repetitive and random annoying noises, generally made by children;
3: People who constantly do subtle and manipulative things to control others, all the while playing the innocent and loving card;
and #4, added last week when I heard it on the radio: Country songs with the word "badonkadonk" in them. It's just not natural.

And now, today, #5: People who talk acceptance, but don't really act it.

Let me start by giving you a little political background on me. I've never been much of a conservative, but I find that the older I get, the more conservative I'm getting. I'd say I'm in the moderate range, though still a little bit to the left of the central line. From the age of 15 until about 26, I was pretty far to the left of the central line, but this whole talk-instead-of-action nonsense just drives me to the center (more on that in a minute). I am registered to vote without a party affiliation, and vote based on the issues and the political climate. I'm pretty passionate about what the things I believe, but they don't all neatly fit into one side or the other. Some of my positions are extremely liberal, and others are radically conservative/libertarian. This is part of why I just don't get party politics. I have not yet found a candidate or party whose platform truly reflects what I believe, so I'm stuck going with whomever is the least offensive to my sensibilities. On top of that, my libertarian leanings lead me to question which of my personal beliefs could and/or should be legislated.

Welcome to the political world of Christy-dom. Now to the all talk little real action thing... When I see people talking about how open-minded, accepting, and wise they are, I often wonder about their actions. Myself, I don't tend to talk the politically correct acceptance and tolerance of diversity language as much as I probably should or could. My friends of African descent refer to themselves as B/black and me as W/white, so I do, too. It just rolls off the tongue a little more naturally than "African American" or "person of color," anyway. In college, studying religious studies, most of my friends read lots of books on different religions. I read books, and then I went to see what the real deal was. I was chatting with my husband today, and realized I've attended quite a variety of religious services: I've attended at least one service in Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Christian Science, Unitarian-Universalist, and Unity churches. When preparing a paper on the status of women in Islam, I stayed with a Muslim family for a few weeks, did what they did, wore hijab when out in public, and went to the mosque for several Friday services. I took Hebrew at a synagogue one summer, and attended quite a few services there, as well. I've also attended a solstice event put on for religious studies students by the campus pagan alliance, just to see what it was all about. I've helped lead a number of interfaith understanding events, even assisting the International Association for Religious Freedom's young adults coordinator in planning a regional interfaith event for young adults. So, while I may sometimes find it a pain to constantly adjust my language to conform to whatever the most recent trend in acceptance-speak may be, I can only hope that my actions reveal my commitment to a world in which we honor and respect each other, no matter what our differences.

When I hear about people arguing over language problems as if it's the end-all be-all of social reform, it just doesn't make sense. Someone who is Christian getting mad or demanding a boycott because a store asks its' employees to be socially sensitive and say "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas"-- well, that just seems silly to me. Equally silly would be the non-Christian person who flips out upon being wished a "merry Christmas." Say "thank you, and I hope you enjoy the season, too" or some other kind response, but don't use someone's kind-hearted (if not PC) attempt at a friendly greeting as your opportunity to take a stand and try to make right what you've perceived as some sort of social injustice. Christians being killed for their beliefs in some countries, Arabs and Muslims being dragged from their homes and beaten for no good reason, Israelis targeted by suicide bombers-- these are social injustices. The Wal-Mart greeter wishing me happy holidays, in whatever way she or he sees fit, is not.

Up until January of 2005, I had been attending a mainline Christian church. I loved the teachings-- the way they emphasized the love of Christ, love of neighbor, social action, and global understanding. But I looked around on Sundays, and every single person each week was white and upper-middle or upper class. My children went to Sunday school each week, and heard wonderful messages about how we're all equal-- messages delivered by a consistently white and well-off group of do-gooders. It didn't seem right; I don't want to sit around with a group of other people slightly to the left of the political spectrum and talk about how accepting we are. I want to make sure that my life reflects that acceptance and understanding. That was when we switched to a church whose racial and economic makeup is far more diverse that the community in which we live. I don't want to tell my children they can be friends with anyone they want; I want them to learn it naturally, through the friendships they're making as a regular part of their lives.

Maybe that's why I'm so resistant at times to the emphasis on being politically correct. I'd rather be socially accepting and loving in all my actions, and let my language naturally reflect who I am and what I believe, without stifling my sense of humor simply to avoid any possibility of ever offending. Does language make a difference? Sure. And when I'm in certain situations-- public speaking, presentations, representing my business, church, or community in a public forum-- my words are carefully chosen, and my demeanor non-confrontational. But in my everyday life, I'd rather be who I am, say what I'm thinking, and know that people are going to draw their own conclusions about me anyway, based upon where they are in their lives at the time. I can only take responsibility for my actions and perceptions; others' perceptions are unpredictable, at best, and out of my control anyway.

So, pet peeve #5: Talkers, not doers. People who censor themselves under the guise of being appropriate, and those who expect me to do the same.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Holiday" spirit

Well, the week is... going. And it's not going so badly, either. Tonight's music program (for the school where I teach music and band) was moved up to happen during the school day, so I get tonight off, and then there's just Wednesday and Thursday nights. Somehow, I will pack all our clothes for Friday's drive to Alabama. But for now, I will not worry. I will let the Christmas, er.. uh... Season's, ummmmmm,... holiday spirit be what it is, and will try not to get too caught up in the ick of it all.

You know, I've been giving a bit of thought to the whole Christmas/holiday thing lately. Personally, if someone is offering me well wishes, whether they're wishing me a merry Christmas, happy holidays, Eid, Chanukah, Solstice, or whatever, I just don't care which they use. Good vibes are good vibes, and friendly people are friendly people, and I'm quite simply not one to work myself into a politically correct tiz trying to be everything to everyone at all times. I've done that, and truthfully, I am quite skilled at it. If I put my religious studies, dialogue decalogue hat on, like I had to when studying comparative religion in college, I can do it. I can be painfully PC, because intellectually, I get it. But here's my take: If (in casual conversation) I feel the need to carefully choose each word I say to you to ensure that I don't ruffle your pretty little feathers, then it is probably for one of a few reasons. It's either A) because I think you're a complete idiot with whom I have to use simple words and concepts, B) because I don't know or trust you enough to know whether you deal in honesty or froo-froo as your social reality, or C) because you've proven yourself on at least one past occasion to be emotionally volatile, and I don't want to have to deal with your issues.

I guess I figure that I'll start with the assumption that you are operating from good intentions, and that if you start with a similar assumption about me, then we're good for an honest and open interchange. I'm pretty direct, and fairly sarcastic sometimes, and forget that people who may not know me might not realize that I get a great deal of my humor from picking on myself and groups to which I belong. The other day, on the phone with someone who doesn't know me well, I was talking about living in South Carolina "in a real Deep South, fundy Bible Belt kind of area." It then occurred to me that I was talking to a New Englander now living in California, and that, being used to living in places where people are often very PC, he may have been offended or thought I'm some hillbilly who doesn't know better than to use words like that. Which is not true, although I have great admiration for hillbillies, being related to quite a few of them.

What he may not have realized, however, is that for all my joking about "fundies," I am currently attending my dad's church-- a very evangelical church that many would call "fundamentalist." I've never seen snake handling or anything like that, but Sunday services are full of dancing, praise and worship, healing, laying on of hands, and the occasional spontaneous testimony from a brother or sister who's been hit with some inspiration. As an interdenominational church, everybody there has their own take on Christianity, but we all worship together, and there are quite a few "fundies" among my closest friends. I'm pretty sure I'm not a "fundy." I believe in basic Biblical principles, pray several times a day, share my beliefs with others if they're willing to listen, and try to treat everyone with the same respect and support that Jesus did in the Bible. I also love to have a great time, cut up, test boundaries, swear every now and then (usually H-E-double-hockey-sticks, p-i-double-s, and a** [usually paired with "kicking" or "smart"] are my weaknesses), drink an occasional beer with my dinner, tell obnoxious (but not hateful or mean) jokes, honor people of other religious traditions, and operate with a good deal of reason and scientific understanding. If I can still be considered a fundy, then count me in. The label doesn't bother me. If I'm not, that's fine, too. I don't need a label to tell me where I stand in the ultimate scheme of things.

Same with redneck, a very common word in my vocabulary. Used in a sentence: "Hey, y'all, I brought a pellet gun back from Papa's house-- let's go have some redneck fun!" Related words: hott ("Man, that pimped out low rider is hott with two t's"), and klassy ("Hey, honey-- are these jeans okay? I'm worried that if I wear jeans too small, people will think I'm klassy with a k"). Both hott and klassy entered my vocabulary after the millionth neon underlit lowrider I saw with those words emblazoned across the back window.

Am I a redneck? I don't know. Not really something I worry a lot about, one way or the other. I just do what I enjoy, as long as it isn't morally or emotionally damaging, and leave it at that. Sometimes that means sitting around sipping hot tea, doing a little light reading, surrounded by soft light from my favorite candle and the smooth sound of vocal perfection. Other times, it means singing along with one of my favorite redneck songs, or shooting cans off of a tree stump while riding down the hill in a go cart, or throwing ninja stars at balloon dogs. I just do my thing. Sometimes it's a very redneck thing, and other times it's a mellow, intellectual thing. Sometimes it's a very mom thing, and other times it's a very spiritual thing. Lots of different things, all rolled into one-- isn't that really how we all are? And if we poke fun at one of those things every now and then, is that such a bad thing?

Seriously, I have been the butt of a good bit of mean-spirited nastiness at more times in my life than I care to remember. But I have also been the target of a TON of good-natured jokes about women, white people, rednecks, nerds, geeks, moms, wives, daughters, sisters, Christians, southerners, blondes, redheads, brunettes, dancers, singers, band directors, band members, college students, liberal arts majors, children, parents, skinny people, fat people, salespersons, Episcopalians, Baptists, atheists, agnostics, New Age folk, country folk, and city slickers-- none of which has offended me. At different points in my life, I either have been or currently am the above things. And I can laugh about the funny parts, particularly when I know that the source of the joke is a person of integrity, coming from a place of friendship and good intent, and someone who trusts me enough to be real with me. I can handle just about anything, usually even appreciate it, from someone who is real.

Which brings me back to the (insert holiday you celebrate here) madness. People, if you celebrate Christmas and get pissy at others when they wish you a happy holidays, I just don't get it. It's not a liturgical holy day, really, not in the sense that Easter is, anyway. But honoring the birth of Christ should be a holy day, or holiday, not an excuse to try to wave your self-presumed religious superiority over someone who is just trying to be nice. Please, get a grip, and read this. And if you don't celebrate Christmas and someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, take just a moment to realize that they are wishing you joy in your heart. Perhaps a joy you don't think you need, but a joy that they feel has come into their lives due to that tiny baby lying in the manger a long time ago. What a compliment; what an expression of love they are offering...

Our society seems to be in need of some serious mending of rifts. If we can't even offer a sincere compliment to someone without underlying motives, and if we can't offer such compliments and well-wishes to someone without fearing we'll offend; if we can't accept someone's kind expressions of joy and celebration-- we have a problem. It breaks my heart just as much as any compassionate and thinking person to know that some people are being legitimately discriminated against, harassed, or taunted because their lifestyles, beliefs, or ethnic identification is not that of the majority. But let's not get carried away. If we stomp out all references to our cultural and religious diversity in the name of promoting acceptance, then we've lost the battle before it has begun. Holding hands and singing peace songs will not change the fact that we each have our own unique set of experiences, beliefs, and backgrounds, and I, for one, feel no need to stuff the aspects of my background that may or may not seem sophisticated-- why would I? The diversity in my interests, activities, beliefs, political views, and in those of the people around me, are a huge part of what keeps life interesting. Studying, honoring, and (yes) occasionally laughing about those diverse aspects of human experience keeps it real, and keeps life fun. Be who you are. Celebrate what you do. And share the joy of what you experience when you are uplifted and at your best. And for once, let's not take ourselves too seriously, okay?

For those of you who clicked on "more" after reading a tremendous rant like that, SURPRISE and MERRY CHRISTMAS and/or HAPPY HOLIDAYS (take your pick)-- pictures!

My church is doing its' annual Christmas play, The First Leon, and Mary and Joseph are actually going to ride "into Bethlehem" on a real, live "donkey." Okay, so it's a pony, but it's still cool. Here, the kids practice and get used to the pony.

My son, as Leon, offers his performance flowers to the baby Jesus.

Here's my band. They're so cool!

Even if they do like to torture me.


Monday, December 12, 2005


So, the week o' madness continues. On a positive note, one of the week's events, scheduled for tomorrow night, has been cancelled. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh... :-)

I promise there is a real post coming soon, but for now I have a request I want to put out there: I am interested in experimenting a bit with recording conversations in Skype, but don't know who in my circle uses Skype. So, if there is a friend or family member out there who uses Skype and would be willing at some point to schedule in a few minutes to tell jokes, recite standup routines, and talk about the weather (or whatever), I would LOVE YOU for it. Okay, so maybe not, but I would be very much appreciative. I just need to read up a few more things on recording Skype conversations, and then I'm good to go. If you're willing to participate in what could potentially turn out to be yet another brilliant pathetic display of technical genius ineptitude on my part, and you're willing to do so patiently and without deciding that I'm an idiot way past the point of being helped, comment or email and let me know and I'll give you my Skype ID. Unless you seem creepy. If you're creepy, I'm sure there are plenty of other creepy people out there who would be willing to talk to you; I'm just not one of them.

In other news, I am sleep deprived due to managing my time with the skills of a chimpanzee managing a financial portfolio. Spending an hour and a half last night trying to convince a hysterical 9 year old that the moon will not crash into the earth if he pulls his tooth did not do anything to reduce my under-eye puffiness.

Where, oh where, do my children get their tendency toward being melodramatic? TELL ME!! I must know.

I think it must be their father.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Happy Anniversary to Us!

2 people
6 years
3 kids
some struggles
no doubts
best friends
still madly in love

Life is good! A real post coming soon... after this crazy-making week settles.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

tee hee

Sneaky me. I'm cramming a hobby into my schedule in spite of it all.

Fulfilling. Fun. :-)


If I were completely and totally insane, I would hatch a plan. In this plan, I would require that every single organization known to humanity would plan special events for 2 weeks straight-- school clubs, bands, scouts, camping programs, churches, children's programs, sports clubs, family get-togethers, and workplaces. (Did I miss anyone?) They would schedule so many activities, many of them purposefully planned for the exact same times, that any person or family who attempted to keep up and attend even 1/2 of the activities for the groups to which they belong would lose their minds.

As reality would have it, I am not completely and totally insane. Only mildly bizarre, hyper-sensitive, and generally kooky. So, the above is not my plan. However, it seems to be the plan of everyone else around me. Over the next 6 days, I have at least 16 hours worth of planned and structured activities in which I must take part. This is on top of the fact that I work a 40+ hour/week job (which is more than that this week due to year-end bookkeeping kinds of issues), teach music and band 6 hours per week, and try to occasionally make time to be a wife and mom. And I have to somehow fit in a bit more Christmas shopping to wrap that up before we leave (in 7 days) for a trip to Alabama. Time to be me-- just a woman enjoying some free time and a hobby or two? Bah, humbug. I'll be a woman later.

Mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen, for Thursday night, December 15 at 9 pm. That is when it will all be over, no more programs, school officially out, etc. And it is also likely to be the precise moment that I have a nervous breakdown. I can hold it in until then.

In other news, just when you think it's all sorting itself out, it's not. No tidiness, no wrapping up. Just the continual reopening of wounds that you just wish had never happened. I need to get used to the idea that this is my reality for the foreseeable future.

Realism at its finest

Okay, so maybe I am just a bit off kilter, but this video made me laugh so hard I dribbled diet coke on myself.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Al-Arian acquitted

A jury acquitted Sami Al-Arian of eight of the 17 counts against him, including a key charge of conspiring to maim and murder people overseas. The jurors deadlocked on the others, including charges he aided terrorists.

Living in the United States, you have to have a fair amount of confidence in the legal system to discern truth and falsehoods, and I think I do trust the system a good bit. I wouldn't want to be on the accused end of a trial or anything, but if I were ever falsely accused of something, I would hope that, in the end, the truth would come out.

I have to trust that the jurors had many more facts in this case than I do, than you do, or than the media. On top of this need to believe in the system, I also have an uncommon perspective on the case. I was still attending the University of South Florida (wrapping up an incomplete grade) at the time it all blew up, and I knew Al-Arian's daughter, Leena.

The Religious Studies department at USF was small-- so small that each student, undergraduate or graduate, had their own box for communications in the departmental offices. Professors all knew their students well, and the students were a close-knit group who often attended baseball games together "to do a little participant observation of the ritual behaviors of the American pop culture." The conference room was often open during the day, and it was not unusual to find a small group of students having lunch around the conference table together each day. I was never a close friend of Leena, but I did have lunch with her on several occasions and get to see a bit of who she was. She's funny, sweet, ethical, honest, and kind-hearted, and spoke openly about her father, and what a great man she had always seen him as. Apparently, when his wife had wanted to go back to college, Sami stayed home with the children, and from Leena's stories, was the kind of playful, loving, nurturing father any child would be blessed to have. Truthfully, being at USF when he was placed on suspended leave and then fired, the way it was handled never really felt right. I don't know all the facts, but it just didn't feel right. And Leena, at age 17, was the one usually before the camera when the family wanted to make a statement-- exhibiting a kind of strength and courage that is rare among teenagers.

As for the victims of any terrorist actions in the world, my heart goes out to them and to their families. They deserve justice. And if Sami Al-Arian had any part in coordinating terrorist actions, then I have to have faith that the justice system will eventually bring that to light and see that it is punished. But no matter what he did or didn't do, he has a family, too. A beautiful one, with a strong wife and children of great character. It's just all pretty bizarre....

Monday, December 05, 2005

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Okay, so my husband is modest, humble, and much less full of himself and obnoxious than I could ever dream of being. After a few days without reading the blog, he checked in yesterday. So, he is thoroughly embarassed that I ramble on about him the way that I do, and has threatened to sneak in and change my blogger password to prevent future gushing if I don't cut it out now. I don't really know what has me feeling so lovey-dovey and schoolgirl lately, but it wasn't working yesterday at lunch. I briefly considered putting the man into a headlock and being a brute, before realizing he would win any physical match. But anyway, yesterday's blubber has been placed behind a cut, out of respect for the man I love. Warning: If you click on "more..." you will hear about how much I adore my man. You have been forewarned.

I have never, in my life, known someone who is as strong and as gentle, as tough and as kind, as courageous and as revealing, as my husband. Next week, we will have been married for 6 years, and I could still gush over him for hours (in case you haven't noticed). And no, it certainly isn't because I'm a delicate little flower of the South who thinks she needs a man to be complete. I'm not. While I'm a bit disappointed that the feminist movement seems to have been hijacked by radical liberals, I still call myself a feminist. I don't need my man in order to feel like a complete human. But having him around sure does make life better. He's just incredible.

I think of some of the stuff he went through growing up, and it amazes me that the exact same experiences that can lead someone turn out screwed up (distant, violent, a drunk, an abuser, a manipulator, a philanderer) can lead other people into becoming absolute people of integrity and true honor. Some people acquiesce; others see what is going on around them and vow that they will never be a part of that once they're calling the shots. What makes that difference? How can some people grow into adults who use excuses-- I grew up the son of a wife-beating alcoholic so it's okay for me to be screwed up forever and repeat the cycle? As if it's just expected? Personal responsibility, people... It's a beautiful thing.

I was reading over at 4haks and something caught my attention: From Wild at Heart by John Eldredge: "The violence we see is a result of a wound that each man receives earlier in his life." As a mother, and a generally heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person, this breaks my heart. To imagine any child being hurt, abused, neglected, made to feel less-than, or not having a positive father (or mother) figure in his life just makes my heart drop. But the thing is, childhood is no easier on women. We just cope differently. Women are taught to be manipulative and needy to deal with the pain. They grow up to be promiscuous, hate themselves, and give up dreams. They quit eating, or cut themselves, or sit around thinking about ending it all. Men are taught to keep it all inside until they damn near explode, and when they do, it isn't pretty. I've seen it, not from my husband, but throughout my life in other situations. And depending on who is there to witness the explosion, it might inflict another wound on another person, maybe a child.

But what we do with that wound, how we try to recover from the confusing swirl of memories and pain-- it sometimes seems to be pretty arbitrary. Some grow up and end up strong, advocates, achievers, or perfect spouses to someone who really needs a little extra patience and nurturing. Others end up in crack houses, strip clubs, or on the streets, with drug problems and no self-esteem. What makes the difference?

As a mother, I'd like to know. I'd like to provide all the support and nurturing for my children that I can to help my boys grow into healthy, strong, compassionate men, and my daughter grow into someone who knows her worth. But as a wife, I'm not too concerned about what makes the difference. I'm just thankful that I finally ended up with someone who has turned adversity into strength at every opportunity in his life, and who has used everything he has been through as a stepping stone to greater love and understanding. My husband is not my world; he is simply its' color.

I love you, sweetheart! Happy Birthday!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

pigs need not apply

Men. As someone who has finally found and married the most perfect man in the world (who just happens to have a birthday tomorrow), I don't really think about //men// as a concept, generality, label, or subgroup of the population any more. I don't have to worry as much any more about men who are liars or men who approach me with less-than-honorable motives, as the primary man in my life at this time is the kind of person who amazes me with his... his everything. Can't list it all, it's just all so good.

But that hasn't always been the case.
I didn't really date much in high school-- I was more the freckled brace-faced geek in the corner wearing plaid flannel and Doc Martens, too scared to be social, sitting around listening to the Pixies, the Smiths, and They Might Be Giants so that I wouldn't have to talk to anyone at lunch time. I had a few boyfriends (mostly people I'd met while at band camps, drum major camps, and Governor's School). Truthfully, I had received two marriage proposals before even leaving for college, both of which I turned down. All in all, though, I wasn't much of a player on the dating scene. But when I went off to college at 17, that all started to change, at least a little.

Serious boyfriend #1: Losing the Race (I was 18, he was 23; 3 months)
In case you haven't noticed, I am white (for most purposes). My first serious boyfriend was not. I actually met him when I was a senior in high school and he came to my hometown (a major tourist attraction in South Carolina) for Spring Break. He and his buddies stayed in the hotel where I worked (operating a small convenience store part time), and made an unusually high number of trips to the store to buy stuff. It wasn't until later that fall, when I realized that it was the same guy in the USC marching band with me and we started dating, that he confessed that he had made up excuses to come into the store just to talk to me. It might be good to note at this point that 4 generations up my ancestry tree, I have a biracial great-great-grandfather. Knowing that he would have been born in the Deep South in the mid-late 1800s, the imagination doesn't have to travel far to suppose the kind of circumstance into which he might have been born, but that's another post for another day. For the purposes of this story, the relevance is that although I have fair skin, freckles, and very white features in general, I have at least one (that I know of) branch of my family tree that goes back to both white slave owners and black slaves. So, the fact that my entire family flipped their lids over me dating a black guy remains a complete and total mystery to me. In any case, I didn't dump him because of my parents hissyfits. In fact, I think I went a few months without speaking to them because of their hissyfits. But in the end, the stress and anxiety of my parents' reactions (and his) contributed to the demise of the relationship. VERDICT: NOT A PIG

Serious boyfriend #2: Double Agent (I was 18, he was 34; off and on for 5 years because I'm a glutton for punishment)
Not much to say about this one, simply because there's too much that I could say. For now, I'll simply caution married men out there: If you one day find yourself dissatisfied with your current marriage situation and decide to take on a lover on the side in another state, at least have the decency to let the potential "other woman" know that you are married with a family in another state sometime before she's been in love with you for a year, and preferably before you take her out trying on engagement rings, meet her family, and start a new family with her. A woman, however young and naive and stupid, deserves to be able to choose whether or not she will be a pawn in someone else's betrayal. VERDICT: PIG. Primarily because he was someone who had so much potential to be an incredible person, but has never seemed to want to light that potential on fire and use it to make the world a better place.

Serious boyfriend #3: I was the heathen (age 21 [and already a single mom], about 6 months)
This was my first experience of falling in love with my best friend. In an attempt to put some space between me and boyfriend #2, I had moved to Florida in May of 1997. After a couple of weeks of writing back and forth, it occurred to me that there was, in fact, at least one guy out there who had never treated me with anything but respect-- someone who had taken care of me during rough times, listened to me, supported me, shared with me, and participated in absolute silliness with me (an important element of any relationship, as far as I'm concerned), and who had never once taken advantage of my emotional struggles for his own benefit. I wrote a letter confessing my complete and total admiration and infatuation, which led to a few months of a great long distance relationship-- lots of phone calls, letters, and road trips. Eventually, #3 became the 4th person to ask me to marry him, and for the first time, I said yes. And that was about the end of that relationship. Turns out, his parents, who are the first generation in his family to come to the United States and who are not Christians, were very much opposed to him marrying into the family of the great white westernized Christian devil, particularly at such a young age, and being the kind of son most parents dream of having, he would not oppose their wishes. He is still a very close family friend, and has become a friend to my husband as well, and remains one of the men I think of when I think of integrity, honesty, and character. VERDICT: NOT A PIG

Serious boyfriend #4: Weenie Man(I was 21, he was 34; 1 year)
This relationship was doomed from the start. We met at church and had a great time, and I think he was just excited to find someone who was both Christian and fun, and who (like him) enjoyed art museums, indie films, ethnic foods, and mellow nights at home. We were also both disability advocates at the time-- me working with kids with autism, and him working in technology for disability rehab. Unfortunately, two major things led to the end. First, I was terribly insecure and not very trusting after the betrayal of boyfriend #2, and #4 was the geeky big-brother kind of friend to a horde of gorgeous young women who never made an effort to get to know me. Secondly, I was a single mom and no longer interested in dating "just for fun," and #4 had some MAJOR commitment issues. Note to any guy thinking about dating a single mother: No matter how un-needy this woman may try to seem, don't waste her time if you know in your heart that you aren't ready for a commitment. It just isn't fair or productive. As a side note, #4 is now in his forties, and still not sure if "Mrs. Right" is ever going to come along. He'll be waiting a long time, I imagine. VERDICT: NOT A PIG. JUST A WEENIE. No guts, no glory.

Serious boyfriend #5: Skeezy Porn Guy(I was 22, he was 34; 3 months)
I met this guy at a healing service at the church I started attending. He was one of the hands-on healers participating in the service, and I spent most of the service praying that he wouldn't come anywhere near me. Truth be told, I had just about had it with guys by this point, and didn't want to be touched by some jerk I didn't even know. Well, as things would turn out, he never did come to pray with me. But after the service, he came up to make sure he had not offended me: "You know, I just wanted to make sure you didn't think I was ignoring you or anything-- I just really felt it on my heart that perhaps you didn't want me to come into your space, so I wanted to be sensitive to that and not make you uncomfortable." A man who is sensitive, thoughtful, and spiritual? One like that exists? *swoon* After I found out he played in our local symphony, I was sold. At 16, I had been the youngest member to ever play in our local symphony back home, so it was a nice common bond. Once we started dating, I realized what a complete and total condescending, chauvinist a-hole he really was, and couldn't believe I had ever fallen for his act. He lied to and manipulated me, and told me lots of half-truths because he thought I couldn't handle knowing certain things about him and his lifestyle. Then I discovered the porn. Boxes and boxes of it. Videos, magazines, toys, and web histories that were pretty overwhelming by their sheer numbers; teens, barely legal, disgusting stuff, really. By this point, I had had it with guys wasting my time. I gave him an ultimatum-- get rid of it or I go. He babbled a bunch of excuses, and I left him. I probably would have left him anyway, even if he had gotten rid of it. He was a sorry excuse for a human, and the sad thing is that he probably still believes to this day that I was the one with the problem. VERDICT: PIGGIEST OF THE PIGS

That was the last guy I dated before my now-husband. Quite a passel of pigs, eh? (with a few exceptions...)

So, the past few days, I've been thinking a good bit about my husband and how thankful I am for him, for his integrity, for his honesty, and for him being such a larger-than-life great guy for my children to look up to. His birthday is tomorrow, and our anniversary is next weekend, and I can't help but be overwhelmed and humbled when I think of how greatly he towers over most of the "men" I've dated in the past. It's so intense, my admiration for him, so much so that I think we should quit calling everyone with a penis a "man." There's got to be a better word. We really should think of reserving the word "man" for people who actually deserve it-- for those who set the standard for others to follow. Pigs need not apply. Now, I know that the only commenters I ever seem to get on my blog are men, and from what I have gathered thus far they seem to be pretty extraordinary men, and so for weeks, I've resisted the urge to post something that might be seen as anti-man. But for the women reading this who have been putting up with CRAP from guys for however long, and for the male readers I may occasionally get who are blissfully unaware that they are pigs-- be aware. Ladies, there are in fact real men out there-- men who will respect you, love you, lift you up, adore you, spoil you, inspire you, and be your best friend. Don't settle for less. And pigs, watch out. Those real men-- they will happen upon your women eventually, and when they do, all your flaws and secrets and silliness and control issues will be exposed for what they are, and you will be very, sadly, and completely alone. Change now, or prepare for the worst. :-)

Merry Christmas!

So, every year my family does 2 things that are a part of our silly Christmas antics. First, we put the camera on a tripod, set the timer, and go berserk for a while. We then pick a winner from the resulting goofy images, and it goes into all our Christmas cards. Second, we put together an iMovie greeting that usually is sufficient legal and documented proof that something mental surely runs in our family. Well, the video won't be done until next weekend, but we did do our pictures last night (so much more fun than going to a portrait studio), and we've got a few winners.

Winner of the "this one goes in the cards because we look the least moronic out of all the pictures" award:

Winner of the "yes, they are in fact the most beautiful children in the world" award:

Winner of the "yes, they also like to wrestle and torture each other" award:

I have a beautiful family. Can you tell I'm proud?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

wrestling with shadows

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12, KJV).

I've been thinking a lot about betrayal the past couple of weeks. One day, you're plugging along at your life and everything feels fine. It might not be fabulous, and you might kind of sense that something is not right. The occasional thing might seem just a wee bit out of place, and you might start to suspect that some rough waters might lie ahead. Then it hits you... hard. And you realize how completely unprepared you really were for what actually happened. The rough waters you had anticipated might come years down the road rush in over your head, and you're not sure if you have the energy or drive to keep your head up. Currents of anger, hopelessness, and heartache pull at the stability you've come to cling to, and the very people you've always turned to to sustain you through rough times are either shut down, shut out, or clueless. You feel isolated, resentful, and lost, at the same time knowing that somehow you have to find it in you to use what you know to be true, to call upon the God who will never fail you, and to pull yourself out of your river of self-pity.

It sucks.

In my 12 years as an "adult," I've experienced 3 major betrayals. Three times, someone who has had my heart and my trust has completely torn me to shreds. The first time was the discovery that someone I loved romantically had been living a double life for over a year, all the time without my knowledge. The second was when someone who had been a mentor, employer, mother-figure, and friend was revealed to sometimes be a liar, an addict, and a fraud. The third... well, two weeks is not very long. There will come a time when the shock has settled a bit and life has reestablished itself (albeit a completely different life, with family relationships that are forever altered)... that time may open a door that makes it less painful to talk details. But for now, the wounds are fresh enough to hurt like hell, but beginning to heal enough that I can reflect a bit more clearly.

And truthfully, after a bit of reflection, I don't want to wrestle against principalities and powers. I want flesh and blood-- a real, live person to blame, to hate, to label my enemy and seethe over forever. From the weakness of my anger, I want to know that there is someone to punish-- someone who can be made to hurt as badly as I do, to cry as much as I have. This is what makes a complete and total betrayal so frustrating: you have all these hateful and confused feelings targeted at someone you've loved, trusted, and protected. You have a mind full of loving memories that you now want to erase-- that you feel like an idiot for ever taking as reality in the first place. You think of how many times you've put your ass on the line, sacrificed your own goals, and given nothing but support and encouragement to the one who betrayed you, and the more you think about it, the more you want SOMEONE-- flesh and blood-- against whom to channel all this anger.

And it starts to hurt so badly that you lose sight of who you are, what you're really capable of accomplishing, and what you believe. It hurts so badly that you almost wish you could go back to blissful unawareness of everything that was going on all along, right underneath your nose, even though you KNOW deep inside that ignorance is never a solution. The place of ignorance is a place where things seem to be okay, but the longer you go without knowing or understanding what truth is, the harder it will be when the blinders are finally removed from your eyes. Truth sometimes hurts. Truth sometimes reveals betrayals. But truth, however painful, is the only foundation upon which we can build lives that are well-rounded, centered, and healthy. Truth is the only space in which integrity can exist, and is the only option for true seeker. Lies, manipulations, excuses-- they only deceive us into believing in our safety and security, particularly the lies we tell ourselves.

I want flesh and blood. I want my anger. I want to gather up everything I know could spiritually bolster me or lift me up and lay it aside. I want to rage against everything and everyone who has ever kicked me down, to throw them up against the wall and show them that I am bigger than their stupid and selfish betrayals.

But I won't. Because as much as my heart may stray, out of the sheer shock and confusion of the situation, toward malice and revenge, it also belongs to a Power that is greater than me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even if it means reigning in the emotions of my human nature, validating and blessing them, and then letting them go-- offering them on the altar of my being as a sacrifice to a God whose compassion is sufficient even for me and my heartache. I have allowed these human thoughts to bounce around in my mind and heart for a few weeks, and they have brought me no solace. I have prayed, every morning, every day, and every night (and many times in between), for God to take this burden from my heart and replace it with a peace so profound that rushing waters only pour through, without disrupting, without displacing, without disturbing. I offer it all up to You, my God, so that perhaps, through whatever my family and I are experiencing, Your power to overcome will be revealed to someone whose faith is faltering... someone like me.

It also occurs to me that if we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, then we cannot win with flesh and blood as our weapons. Whatever it is we are battling, it will not be overcome through violence, stubbornness, vengeance, anger, human will, force, or reason. It can only be overcome by the principalities and powers opposed to those of the rulers of darkness. It can only be overcome by truth, honesty, integrity, love, prayer, faith, and justice-- all poured into a situation by the One who is their source. Acknowledging God as the source of all that can bring me to victory in this, and any other situation, a great weight is lifted and the need to exact a justice of my own diminishes. I realize that even on my best day, I am thoroughly unequipped for dealing with those things that hurt me, and must rely, for my very existence, on the One whose power is infinitely greater than my own. What I am going through now-- what we all go through when we question ourselves, feel like life as we know it is falling apart, or are utterly betrayed by someone we loved-- cannot be fixed or battled with flesh, blood, tears, anger, legal systems, or earthly justice. These things may all be part of the process we go through as people, but they are not part of the ultimate solution. It is so much bigger than we can fathom from the closed-in confines of our simple minds-- so much more awesome and ineffable. And whoever betrays you-- they aren't your real enemy anyway. Throwing darts at shadows is a silly pastime.

I think that I'm starting to crawl out of whatever hole I had allowed myself to be thrown into these past few weeks. I didn't cry today, and didn't cry yesterday. Two days-- small victories. But it means so much more. Because inside, I'm starting to feel stronger... like someone who is going to emerge from a hole as more than just a survivor. I feel strengthened, empowered, and confident, because I know my heart, however human, is blessed by a faith that can overcome anything. The process isn't finished-- Jesus overturned the tables of the money collectors in the temple; he didn't just sit silently praying until they overturned themselves. I know what I'm up against, and I am ready. Not because of me, but because of the principalities and powers to whom I've devoted my life. If I must wrestle, God, please let it be using the blessings and weapons You've placed into my hands, and with a courage, strength, and grace that would reflect Your love and mercy.