Tuesday, February 24, 2015

50 Shades of Red

I left the classroom, the heavy blue door with a shiny silver knob slowly closing behind me, a familiar hiss sounding.  The halls were empty and eerily silent in the Jr. High school.  The sun shone through the open double doors at one end, reflecting on the flecked linoleum tiles that covered the floor.  I began to hurry down the hall, anxious to join my girlfriends for lunch. And then he appeared, seemingly out of thin air.  A "Christian" boy I had met at church the summer before.  My eyes quickly scanned the hallway once again, as my startled heart began to pound.  He wanted to talk to me, and before I could plan my escape, he pushed me against a locker, which loudly rattled as my back was pinned against it.  His hands held me, against my will, and although he wasn't very tall, I remember feeling overpowered in my diminutive, adolescent frame.

Obsession.  Or infatuation.  Neither really cares about the human being attached to the receiving end.  I suppose that is why the receiver is called the object.  I was the object of three different adolescent boys' infatuations.  While I never truly believed any of them would actually harm me, it felt unsettling.  I knew that I was being watched.  Information about me was being gathered and written down on lined notebook paper.  There was a photo of me in a hot pink and white striped bathing suit residing in a boy's wallet... a sophomore boy I didn't even know.

It is not romantic.  To stalk a girl and learn all about her habits and her life is not truly knowing her. To exert control over her or violent behavior against her is not expressing love toward her.  It is definitely not love.  I suppose you have to really know what love is in order to spot a counterfeit.

But what if the guy happens to be a powerful, billionaire business man?  What if he flies me around in his personal helicopter and sends me expensive gifts?  What if his special room of pain sounds intriguing.  Surely, then, he is just an eccentric.  What if I consent to be involved in his obsession. Certainly, it's just between adults, and it's nobody else's business but our own.

Unfortunately, you have made it my business, "Christian" Grey.  You, a fictitious character, have invaded the movie trailers on my television, articles and events on my Facebook feed, talk show topics, and most unsettling, the conversations at my freshman son's high school campus.  You peddle your wares as a great romance, a passionate love story, and a wonderfully naughty Girls' Night Out. While I thought you would quickly phase out, being the ersatz lover that you are, you have managed to entice and captivate the hearts and minds of women all over the world.  There are tens of thousands of women who have been blinded by your polished exterior and wooed by your mysterious persona. I am nauseated by the hundreds of millions of dollars you have convinced women to gladly surrender to you over the last two weeks.

Mr. Grey, it is time you were legitimately exposed for the scoundrel you truly are.

You are a poser, Mr. Grey.
You are weak and derive your power from preying on an innocent.

You are a coward, Mr. Grey.
You cloak your sexual escapades in secret contracts and shadows of fear.

You are a manipulator, Mr. Grey. 
You wield your tools of humiliation and degradation.

You are an abuser, Mr. Grey.
You have traded strength for control, tenderness for cruelty and pain, and love and affection for bondage and domination.

I won't wear your blindfold, Mr. Grey.  I see what you are doing to women, what you are doing to girls. When I look at you, I see shades of red.  Stop stalking my friends and family.  Stop brainwashing the masses, convincing them that you market love.  You need help, and using a young woman for your violent sexual pleasure does not qualify as therapy.  Guys like you in the real world aren't glamorous, they end up putting women in the hospital... or the morgue.

Authentic love. I am so thankful to have experienced what it really is.  I have been truly blessed to have married the true Christian.  A man who protects me and sacrifices for me.  A man who is strong, yet treats me with tenderness and sensitivity.  A man who leads instead of controls.  A man who has never struck me or tied me up, degraded or humiliated me.  A man who pursued me, won my heart, married me, and has loved me passionately and intimately for the past 21 years.  He is not the perfect Christian, and we have had our share of difficult seasons, but the more he chooses to surrender his life to Christ, the more he cherishes me and the better he loves me.   This is the love I want women to be able to experience.  This is what the women in this world are deserving of, and my heart breaks when I see them settling for something so demeaning.

My encouragement is this... 

Seek tender, sacrificial love, 

Seek gracious, mutually edifying respect, 

Seek a "Christian" who reflects the nature and character of Christ,

And live a passionate life,

Which mirrors the dignity and vulnerability and glory

You were created for and are meant to reveal.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Girl and Her Dog

While he looks like a lab, he's only about a foot tall.

Crisp and sunny, it was a beautiful fall afternoon in October.  We had no plans in particular for the Saturday afternoon... just a few errands up in town and spending some time together as a family. Costco would just be a quick visit for some fruit and a couple essentials.  Across the parking lot, a crowd was gathered.  Little fences had been erected, and a couple dozen small canines were running about in the enclosure in front of PetSmart.

"Oh, let's go look!" I casually said.  

"Ya!!" said the boys with sudden enthusiasm.

I had absolutely no intention of adopting a dog.  I am reasonable, and I research and plan things out.  I do not let dog rescues pull at my heartstrings.  At all!!  This was merely a fun little visit to "the zoo" that afternoon.  We had lost our 20+ year old leopard gecko, Lizzie,  a couple weeks earlier, and while we all missed her quirky, spotted little presence, we had not discussed getting any type of replacement reptile yet, let alone a dog.  For crying out loud,  the burial ceremony and eulogy next to the apricot tree had only been days ago.  No, this was just to maybe think about another pet for sometime in the future.

The dogs were cute and lively... various mixes of Dachshund, Terrier, Chihuahua, and other small breeds.  Some were being rescued and adopted, going home with their smiling new owners.  And then I saw him.  A small blonde, short-haired pup was up on a bench, curled into a blanket and taking a nap in the midst of all the chaos. His ears flopped forward, and he looked as though he was a yellow lab that got in the way of a shrink ray.  What happened to me next, was that I was instantly and intensely smitten.  

Could you resist this level of cuteness?  No, right?

"No, Linda!"  I scolded myself.  "You are going all on emotion here.  You did not come here today to adopt a dog, you are here for Costco!!  You are forgetting what it is like to have a puppy.  Do not pick that dog up.  Leave him right there on the bench where it is safe."

"Could I hold that one over there on the bench,"  I heard myself asking the pet attendant.  What?  Who said that?  If you hold him you will fall in love.  Stop.  Right now, before it is too late!!!  Stop already... don't do it!!!!!!

The next thing I knew, he was in my arms, snuggling his soft fur under my chin and licking my skin.  He was friendly and a bit tentative at the same time!  Patrick went to look for his stats, while this pup worked his wiles on my vulnerable heart.

"He is part Chihuahua and part Beagle.  Five months old,"  Patrick reported.  

Oh, no!!  I had always wanted a Beagle, for as long as I could remember.  No, I needed to be strong. One does not just get a Beagle and bring it home without any rational thought or discussion.  Take Sophie, for instance.  We thought about her and then prayed for her, and when the time was right, she found a place in our home.

"Should I fill out the paperwork," Patrick asked with his sly little grin.  

Paperwork??  Heavens no, paperwork!!  Was he crazy?  He went to fill out the paperwork anyway.  We never made it to Costco, as there were bowls, leash paraphernalia, a crate and dog bed to buy.  We were completely unprepared, and yet this little Cheagle mutt was suddenly going to join our family. 

The only way I can really describe what happened to me that afternoon was that I was stunned, completely at a loss for reason, and that I decided to receive a very unexpected gift.  A little gift who is also a clever escape artist. a lightning fast race horse, a bumbling clown, a ditsy surfer dude, and a very affectionate pint-sized companion.  The rest of my family refer to him as "mom's dog," and I protest, calling him the family dog, but I know they are right.

Sawyer.  Stilts.  Mr. Stretchy Pants.
It is not likely he will respond to any of these names...
but that is part of his charm.

His name is Sawyer.  It might have been, Scout, Brinkley, Skeeter, or Jack, but he is a lovable little scoundrel, and Sawyer just seemed to fit the best.  Sometimes he goes by "Stilts" and "Mr. Stretchy Pants," too.  He is my adorable, charming gift who completely surprised me one fall day.  I needed a chance encounter and a bit of crazy in my life, and  I'm thankful that my sweet husband gave me the leeway to think with my heart.  Every night Sawyer sits next to the couch and looks up at me with his chocolatey brown eyes.  I whisk him into my lap and he curls up into a little ball and falls asleep.

And I'm just so glad he's mine.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bad Mommy

Jason goofing around before the spots took over.

Jason, my 9-year-old who will always be my baby boy, was acutely ill last week.  In over fourteen years of parenting, I have never seen either of my kiddos so ill.  There was a deep cough that didn't seem very menacing, until it morphed into a 105+ degree fever, extreme fatigue, and a rash that covered his little body from head to toe.  I felt so helpless as I sat in the doctor's office, and he suddenly threw up on the floor.  Oh, this poor child!  What could be wrong with him?

Like many curious mom's might do in the event of their child's illness, I had Google'd "rash" and had come up with a myriad of terrible diseases and sicknesses.  My skin was crawling as I perused photos of red marks and bumps and spots of all kinds.  I got a very sick feeling in my gut when I read about the measles, especially having been made aware of a recent measles outbreak in December, at Disneyland.  I live in California.  I have also heard of children who have died from measles, so this was of concern.  I knew that it was definitely a disease to be avoided.  

"Could he get the measles even though he was vaccinated?" I wondered.

The doctor had the same idea, and said his rash looked quite measles-like.  Looking into his early vaccination record, she discovered that he hadn't had the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination.  I felt sheer panic and terror.  Back when my kids were babies there had been a lot of speculation about MMR vaccines possibly having a link to autism.  My husband and I had decided to put them off a bit until my sons' language skills were more developed.  I thought that we had gone back and done the MMR way before kindergarten with Jason, just as we had done with Josh.  But we hadn't.  Somehow it had slipped by the doctor and the nurses... and me.

"My son could die, because I've made this mistake," I speculated, utterly dismayed. 

My stomach began to churn as the the nurse at the pathology lab drew his blood, which in time, would reveal to us whether or not Jason had the measles.  

"Has he been exposed to measles?  Has he been vaccinated?" she asked, her eyebrows raised in anticipation of my reply.

"No," I replied, with tears in my eyes, "I thought that he had been, but somehow it was missed."

She looked at me and shook her head slightly.  I felt so guilty and ashamed, and I wanted to sink into the tile floor and disappear.

Whether or not the nurse was passing any form of judgment, all I could hear in my head was, "You are a bad mommy!  You haven't done what is best for your child!"

As I was helping Jason get back to the car, he suddenly told me that his legs wouldn't work anymore, and before I knew it, he was collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk.  Thankfully, the nurse saw it happen and rushed out with a can of cold apple juice to hold on his neck in order to revive him.  I eventually got Jason settled in the van, and then I lost it.  

I silently prayed, "Oh God, what have I done?  I need your help.  My sweet boy needs your help.  I don't know what to do."  

After two very long days of watching and waiting and trying to keep Jason hydrated and comfortable, we heard the conclusive test results verifying Jason did not have the measles.  After confirming that he also didn't he have strep or a certain strain of flu, we concluded that the illness was some other type of menacing virus. Eventually, his rash cleared up and his temperature dropped, and we were out of the woods, so to speak.

Jason was going to be alright, and yet I still felt the heavy weight of accusation on my heart.  When people asked if Jason was ok, I didn't want to tell them that we suspected that he may have the measles.  I didn't want to hear the question... Wasn't he vaccinated?  I didn't want to hear anyone gasp when I had to say no. And the really ironic thing is, I don't think any of my friends would have judged me at all.  They probably would have encouraged me and comforted me, telling me that I hadn't tried to neglect my son's health on purpose, no matter what their particular stance on vaccinations might be.

I think that when it comes down to it, most moms truly want to do what they think is best for their children.  Granted, there are moms out there who are selfish, controlling, manipulative, neglectful, and/or just plain mean.  There are moms who need their mom card revoked for a while, or forever... but on the whole, we are a sisterhood that just wants to do our best at motherhood.  

Whether the subject is...

vaccinations:  to vaccinate or to not vaccinate, flu shots or no flu shots
school choice: public, private, or homeschooling
sleep training: crying it out or co-sleeping
food: organic, non-organic, gluten-free, processed or whole food, etc.
baby care: nursing or bottle-feeding, disposable or cloth diapers, etc.
or (fill in the blank), 

the list could go on indefinitely,

yet I know that most moms are just trying their very best to weigh their options, to consider their children, and to make the best decisions they can with the resources and information they have.  Most moms don't set out to bring harm to their children, yet it is so easy to listen to that little accusing voice that is trying to convince you that you are incompetent, and that you are somehow going to ruin your child's life forever.  You end up crying and praying on your closet floor, convinced that you should just raise the little white flag in surrender.  

During the midst of this ordeal, I told Jason how sorry I was that I had somehow missed the vaccination.  

"I'm so, so sorry, honey,"  I told him, tears spilling down my face.

"It's ok, you didn't know, Mom."  

Oh, the grace that can pour out from a child in response to a parent's humble apology.  Grace in little arms wrapped around your waist and in little eyes looking up at you with forgiveness and love.

And the grace that pours out from a God who specializes in second, third and fourth chances, and who is overflowing with wisdom which He is liberal in sharing with those who ask.

And, oh, the promise of a new day, to try this mothering thing again in light of a fresh new morning with a little more wisdom under the mommy belt, and a lot more respect for all the women you know who have learned to do this mommy job well.

Update:  Jason will be vaccinated on Monday!  Appointment is all set! :)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Butterfly Beauty

Patrick and I had a wonderful little getaway last month in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary.  By the way, he is very good at remembering anniversaries.  This morning I woke up to a text that said, "Happy 1st kiss 24 years ago..."  A romantic, that one!!  I told Jason about the text and he asked how his dad could remember something that long ago.  "Because it was electrifying," I told Jason.  Jason gagged a little bit, and Patrick said, "Ya, it rocked my world."

Patrick still gives me butterflies all these years later.  Here are some fluttering creatures from the Tropical Butterfly House at Seattle's Pacific Science Center to commemorate our Kissaversary.

The butterflies can't even resist my guy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Where Humor and Gratitude Meet

Scaling the Mountain

Sometimes seasons are hard.  It's just the way life goes.  Thinking on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy takes a lot of extra effort during these days.  Trying to be grateful feels exhausting... exhausting, but still necessary.  I know that gratitude helps to change my focus, from one of misery, to one of counting my blessings. I also know that finding the humor in the midst of the crazy and the difficult can make the load a little lighter, too.

The last few weeks have been difficult, but they haven't killed me... not yet, anyway.  I can be thankful for that, right?  First, I'll dispense with the humor, and then I will do my best at being grateful.  Don't say I didn't warn you how this would go down.  Here we go...

I've had a fever every day for almost 2 months... and the chills and muscle weakness that go along with that.  I have no idea why it's persisting, but this has happened on and off for about 4 years now.  If I were 50, I'd think maybe it was menopausal hot flashes, but alas, I am a mere 42, and my equipment is still fully functioning.  I guess I'm just too hot for my own good... I'm kidding.  Well, my husband has called me a hot mama, so maybe.  Yes, I'm definitely way too hot for my own good.  What can I do?

I got an ultrasound on my thyroid.  There is a little nodule that I'm going to have to keep a watch on, in case he wants to mutate into the "C" word.   That little 5mm sucker!  For Pete's sake, who told him he could set up shop it my throat?  I think I should charge him rent for that.  Rent and utilities and a monthly HOA fee.  He could at least buy me a new pair of black pumps.  Size 8, please.

I should also charge rent for his twin cousins, Tom and Dom,  a couple weird nodules or ganglion (ya, I've never heard that word either) cysts on my left hand.  (Don't let the rhyming names fool you, they are fraternal twins, and Dom is half Italian.)  My pinkie finger won't straighten out any more (thanks, Dom).  I'll be seeing a rheumatologist in the near future for those little squatters.  Maybe we'll even find a secondary autoimmune disease to add to the pot.  I had my blood drawn yesterday to see about that.  The phlebotomist poked around in my one good vein no less than four times.  I finally cringed and groaned, and she called me a "trooper."  I almost called her a... oh, never mind.

Furthermore, there have been 2 mammograms and an ultrasound on my delicate chest area in the past two weeks.  First, let me just say I HATE mammograms, and yes I meant to shout that, and no, I'm not exaggerating.  Next, I will be following up these lovely breast procedures with a biopsy due to something "abnormal" growing in my highly sensitive, delicate chest area, duct.  Please, somebody hold my hand.  I'm not even kidding.  I got queasy and almost threw up on the ultrasound technician while he was checking out my personal region, and now he wants me to voluntarily come back and stick a needle in it?  Right.  Don't worry, I will go back.  I may have to be dragged and promised some very excellent European chocolates for my efforts, though.  That and hearing the word benign at the end of it all would be perfect.  Could that just happen???  Please?  Thanks in advance.

This party is just getting started, people.  You thought it couldn't get any more lively, didn't you?  Well, I've been doing some neurological therapy for being insane in my membrane.  I get to watch movies while I have wires and electrodes attached to my ears and my scalp.  Did you know you can actually map out your brain and see just how crazy your neurons and various lobes, cortices, and hippocampus actually are?  It was validating, people.  Val.i.da.ting.  In order to continue with these therapies, I have to wean myself off one of the meds I have become extremely fond of... not like I was abusing them or anything, at only a small dose per night, but it was my sleeping crutch, and it allows me to sleep in the same bed as my husband without my PTSD stuff going berserk.  It was good for the health of my marriage, ok?  Do you know what happens when you wean yourself and put the bottle back in the medicine cabinet??  Withdrawals happen, you all everybody!!  (And yes, that was a LOST reference, and I know exactly how Charlie was feeling.)  Try massive headaches, an inability to logically formulate thoughts, shaking from the inside out, could I get any more tired?, it's 4am and I'm still awake, are my muscles turning to Jell-O?, please don't talk... it's too much noise, my heart should not be beating quite like that, nausea... more nausea, everything bothers me, why can't I think, and whoever took my brain, please return it, no questions asked!!!  Couple that with some PMS, and I know you really want to be my husband just about now.  He tries to assure me that the couch is comfortable.  Sorry, hon.

I've been fully weaned since Sunday, and I am so proud.  Almost as proud as when I weaned my boys at 21 months and 2  1/2+ years respectively.  Yes, I was that mom, and you can feel free to withhold judgment.  Or you can judge.  Ya, go ahead and judge me.  Bring it!  I'm ready to go.  Let's do this! Anyway, the withdrawals are calming down bit by bit.  Do I at least sound partially coherent?  Feel free to lie to me if you don't think so.  I don't think that lying in this case would be considered a sin... especially if I'm giving you permission.  You can call it encouragement if it makes you feel better.  In the meantime, I will let the neurological treatments commence to begin again.
And finally, just in case you were wondering, I still have man arms.  I also have a fuller beard with my current plucking rate at about 130+ hairs.  I changed my doctor, because I just know the first doctor that was messing with my hormones must have secretly wanted me to morph or something.  The signs were all there.   In all seriousness, that doctor helped with a lot of things... hormones were just not one of them.  I had to bail, dude!  See, I am turning into a man!!

To be upfront and real about the last few weeks, there have been some very ugly cries.  One day, my eyes were close to being swelled shut.  Have you ever had a cry quite that ugly?  I had to view the world out of little slits.  Everywhere I went, people asked if I was feeling ok, and I told them, "No, I'm not feeling well at all."  Just back away, and then run, I'll understand.

Through it all, there is a little bit of gratitude percolating within my weird body and mind. Not a whole lot, but I have to start somewhere, don't I?  I'm definitely trying, which isn't always the case, if I'm honest.  I'm trying to be thankful about all the little things.  A medical bill comes and it's only $15... very thankful.  I was able to get to sleep before midnight last night... that's progress!  Go sleep!!  I can laugh at a Jimmy Fallon bit... ah, getting the old funny bone back.  That's good.  The washing machine is broken... no more laundry this week, right??  Yes!  I'm feeling coherent enough to drive today.  Yay, me!!  And you can consider this your official road warning.  I drive a blue van and sometimes a silver Mustang (I need to write about that car, so she doesn't get jealous of my sweet mini-van's awesomeness). 

And then there are the profoundly thankful moments.  

They do come. 

 The moments when I feel God is giving me a portion of peace and hope to get me through the day.  The moments when I feel joy in the midst of the difficult and painful.   The moments when I remember that Jesus knew suffering, too, but He and I also have a life beyond this one.  I am thankful for the earthly grace I am given, too.  For friends and family who have blessed me with their encouraging words, prayers, and their willingness to be patient and understanding.  For my dad's willingness to drive me to the diagnostic center and sit with me so I don't have to be alone.  For the countless times my husband has prayed over me and hugged me through the tears and frustration, made me some tea, and brought me home some extremely delicious Mediterranean food from Jaffa. He never gives up on me, although I'm sure it's been tempting.  For all the conversations I've had with my mom.  I know she is praying all the time, and I don't think she is going to let me give up either.  I am also so thankful for all the compassion God has grown in my sons.  The other day, Josh sat next to me, put his arm around me, and asked if he could pray for me.  By the end of his sweet prayers, he was in tears and told me how hard it is to see his mom crying (especially the ugly cry that I couldn't hold in that day).  And then there is Jason, the little healer, that surrounds me with his arms and embraces me with his waist-high hugs and doesn't let go.
Indeed, I am thankful for Jesus and the hope of heaven, 
friends and family that make the good days sweeter and the bad days bearable.  

What would I do without you all?

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