Tuesday, March 30, 2010

State of Meanness...

I think it's in Ecclesiastes - the passage about "there's nothing new under the sun." It's all been done before. Humans are human, no matter from which generation they stem or how much technology surrounds them.


Kids are mean. I'm no psychologist, but I'd speculate they are mean because so few of them know any other way to make themselves feel superior. And don't we all like to feel superior? Even some adults find themselves caught in a trap of pointing out the flaws of the people around them to make themselves feel better. I've been the brunt of it, no doubt. I'm sure we all have at some point.


This morning's Today Show had a segment about a young girl - 15 years old, I think - who committed suicide after being slammed by insults and threats from a group of young people in her school. The behavior all started with one girl becoming jealous of the attention given to the beautiful high school student by a popular football player. And I guess a small band wagon from the peanut gallery tagged along. They slammed her on facebook and through text messages. The young girl's parents had been to the school advocating for their daughter but to no avail. She's now dead.


I can remember those type issues and feelings. While I lived in Zachary, Louisiana, I experienced some taunting and teasing, but none to the extent to which this poor girl suffered. I think back on those days when I had no clue who I was, what I believed, or if anyone in the whole wide world liked me. On top of all that, I had zits that make up couldn't hide and bad hair days. I also remember a little bit of it in high school - this one guy I dated that was so ugly to me causing me one night to spill an entire soft drink on myself (by hitting the bottom of the cup as I turned it up for a drink) and him laughing hysterically afterwards. And there was this girl who kept threatening to beat me up in the K-Mart parking lot for no apparent reason. So I guess the meanness has always been alive and well.


I think the biggest generational difference is this: kids don't have to have the courage to do or say anything anymore. They text all the stuff that in generations before we would think but dared not say aloud. They bash on facebook where they know they can be encouraged and surrounded by other people and their comments. They are able to communicate in ways so beyond what my communication methods were just a short fifteen years ago. Back then, we could write a note by hand on a piece of paper or we could call on a land line telephone. That was it. And if you called, the person you were trying to reach might not ever have a clue you had phoned them unless they actually answered; answering machines were still not a standard staple in the household then, and caller ID was a gleam in the eye of a now wealthy American.


I must say that I am thankful to have been a teenager in a much simpler time. Sure, I moped around on a Thursday night wondering why so-and-so hadn't called me yet when the truth of the matter was that he had probably tried to call while I was in the shower and I never even realized it. Now days, these kids know every detail of every day of their lives - who called, what time, what cell tower the phone call bounced off of to get to them. These are amazing times we live in, but they are just as frightening as they are amazing.


Funny thing is that David already wants a cell phone. Absolutely ain't gonna happen. There's no way I'm gonna put such a powerful tool of communication in his hands at such an early age. I think it's time for America to take a little of this power away from these kids and get them back down to reality. Back down to a place where there was a face behind every conversation had and every word communicated. Just a thought...

Friday, March 26, 2010

A little thought and prayer...

I've been thinking a lot here lately about how I could make some money. Well, I've been thinking about that for a little over a year now. I've racked my brain - go back to school, do medical transcription from home, find a menial job somewhere that requires little skill. My possibilities have been narrowing more and more as the days go by. Let's face it; there's not much out there for a thirty-something who's been at home for nearly nine years and knows a whole lot about nothing at all.

Sure, I guess I am somewhat sharp or intelligent, but I've got no piece of paper to verify it. I have a few talents, but all are rough around the edges. I have the dream but not much motivation or confidence in myself. I've been searching myself - the most secret parts of my heart - trying to figure out what I'd really like to do with myself and why I've struggled for so long to follow through with those desires.

I want to write. I love words. I love the way I can piece things together with the stroke of the keys. I like to chronicle my feelings and thoughts and the events of the day. If I close my eyes and shut out the world - my past, my mistakes, my insecurities and fears - I see myself sitting at an old typewriter clicking away at the keys. Why an old-school typewriter, I am not sure, but that's what I see. Maybe because I have memories of the typewriter as a child. I was fascinated with the machine - the ribbon, the eraser tape, the strike of the metal as it hit the paper leaving its mark, the ding of the bell when it reached the end of the line. There's just something about the typewriter, enabling it's user to legibly express herself.

I have this memory in the secret part of my heart. We all have it - the deepest part of who you are but the pieces that you rarely reveal. Well, my friends, I have many of those pieces. Broken little pieces of me that I am now trying to reorganize and put back together so that I can get a complete picture of who I was made to be. So I will share with all who are reading what I've discovered as the reason for my insecurity about living my dream of clicking the keys...

It was May, 1998. My husband at the time had just made a royal ass of himself by heading down to the beach with is best friend while leaving me alone at home with the idea that he was going away on a trip for work. The lie might have gotten him out of driveway, but a friend of mine called not long after he was on the road to tell me of his true intentions, none of which involved business. A huge mess ensued, and several conversations about our future together left me knowing in my heart that he wouldn't be my partner for life. At the time I was enrolled at AUM and enjoying a Creative Writing course. My instructor enjoyed having me in his class and even talked to me about my writing skills and encouraged me to polish them. I don't know why it was brought up in an argument with my first husband back then - I don't remember the circumstance. But I do remember where I was standing when I said something to the effect that I'd like to be a writer one day - to write a book or write for a magazine. And I remember his laughter at me, how he told me I'd never do that.

Did he think I was stupid? Incapable? Or was he more afraid that I was intelligent and capable of things beyond anything he could comprehend? Now, looking back, I know it's the latter. But at the time, I believed the first... man, he tore me down. Just did his best to tear me apart. Broke me into a million little pieces.

So here I am, 12 years later. I have been working at putting all those pieces back together one at a time. This blog had been such a blessing to me. To write again... it's something I all but gave up. But through this little piece of the internet, I've rekindled my passion for words, the lovely simplicity of our language. And it's what I really want to do.

To write.

I received a sign the other day. I won't say how or where, but I'll just say that there it was and it slapped itself in my face at the most unassuming time. And I heard a little voice inside me say, "Maybe I should polish up some of my favorite posts and take them somewhere and just sort of try to sell myself as a writer." It's the same little voice I've heard so many times in my life before. I haven't always listened to it or acted upon it in the past. But I must admit, looking back, the little voice has never been wrong. So why not take a chance. Take a chance on me. That I could actually do what I've really always wanted to do but never had the courage to act upon.

What do I have to lose?

So I am working on a few things, and I am praying over it. And I am hoping that the Lord will open a door for me so that my words could maybe one day bring Him glory.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Other things you probably could have said...

I am thinking of offering my services to our fine Vice President, Mr. Joe Biden. I must admit, Mr. Biden has always fascinated me with his perfectly quaffed hair, a tan better than any I've had in the middle of July, and the most amazingly white teeth inhumanly possible. And being married to a car man myself I don't hesitate to add that he looks like the picture I have in my mind when I think of a shady used car salesman. Or televangelist. Either one.

I was, along with a gazillion other Americans, mortified to hear the f-bomb come out of the VP's mouth in a clip on my fave morning show. I get it that he's a wee bit excited. I mean, what Democrat wouldn't be excited about this health care reform bill finally passing? But I would think that the VP of the most powerful country in the world might have a broad enough vocabulary to express himself without using expletives. Even if he wasn't the Vice President, he's of grandpa age, and there's just something about an f-bombing grandpa that doesn't settle well with me either. And even if he's not a grandfather (cause to be honest, I don't really know enough about him to know if he has grand kids or not), he just looks too darn perfect to utter such profanity. In front of the President of the United States. And those two microphones on the podium right in front of him.

So, I'd like to offer some other phrases he could have whispered in the President's ear in the midst of his excitement about health care reform. Instead of, "This is a big f#*$ing deal," he could have said...

"I am so glad I finally bought my own tanning bed!"
"Do these hair plugs make me look fat?"
"Thank God we're not poor!"
"You don't think the middle class is really buying this, do you????"
"Of course we'll be passing that tampon tax next week..."
"I forgot to pick up that pack of cigarettes for you..."

Instead, Mr. Biden stuck with the good ole' predictable, "This is a big f#*$ing deal."

Well, you're right, Joe. This is a big deal. And if you were so excited about doing what you claim all this fuss is about - helping those in this country who can't afford good health care - I would think something like this would have spilled off your lips:

"What an amazing moment, Mr. President. I'm so proud of what we've done!"

Instead, what rolled of his tongue was more like what a underage frat boy would say if he had finally scored a fake ID with his own picture on it.

I think what amazes me the most about his statement is that he's whispering profanity into the President's ear. I mean, I don't care if you are Republican or a Democrat or from Australia... if you were speaking to the President of the United States, the absolute last word that would come to my mind would be the f-bomb. And I totally get it that Mr. Biden is probably a little over that wow factor that would get the majority of us, but there's still the little fact that he's speaking to his boss. And I don't know many people (or at least I hope I don't) that would spout off the f-bomb to their boss. Unless, of course, they were being fired or actually caught their boss sleeping with their spouse.

Needless to say, I'm slightly disappointed with my Vice President and his lack of control of his tongue. And this comes from someone who used to suffer from the same condition. But I learned to control my tongue when the little ears around me learned to repeat what flowed from my mouth. And I would expect nothing less from the Vice President of my country. Unless the government outlawed any form of unnatural tanning, and then I might could excuse his use of profanity...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An open letter to my sinuses...

Dearest Sinus Cavities,

I know things have been really tough here lately with all the rain and ups and downs of the temps and the trees beginning to bud. But we need to come to an agreement on what we're going to do with all this mucus. You and me must have a meeting of the minds...

Seems here lately you like to let the mucus just roll down the throat and settle into the bronchi or get hung up in the back of the throat. This leaves me no choice than to cough and strangle on mucus all day. I've become all too familiar with spitting, even finding myself spitting in public - at the ball park, on the way to pick my son up from school, in the parking lot of the grocery store. I caught my daughter spitting the other day and told her it wasn't nice. She responded that I do it, so why can't she? I didn't quite know what to say except that I had nasty stuff I needed to spit out of my mouth, and one shouldn't spit unless they cough up nasty stuff.

She offered her advice, of course. She informed me that she swallows the nasty stuff, and I told her that I probably did the same thing when I was five. But my stomach can't handle that anymore.

I've been trying to blow my nose a lot here lately to encourage the movement of mucus in that particular direction, but to no avail. The mucus refuses to travel through the nostrils. So I am asking you, dear sinuses, if you could help me with this little problem. We've never been in this predicament before. We've had stubborn mucus that simply refused to move out, but we've never had a river of it streaming down the back of the throat and then wanting to paddle its way back up again.

I'm doing my part. I've started a daily dose of generic over-the-counter Claritin. So, sinuses, it would be fantastic if you could just stop producing the stubborn mucus all together. If you can't oblige this request, then will you please talk some sense into it. Tell the mucus it's much easier to wait with you and allow itself to be blown out of the nose than it is to go all the way down the throat and have to come back up again.

I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,
Crazy Mama

P.S. With all this health reform stuff going on, I'd appreciate it if we could work this out amongst ourselves and not be dependent on a doctor for help. I really don't want to find myself waiting in a line at a health clinic in a few years strangling on and spitting out mucus in front of a bunch of total strangers. Thanks a million!

Monday, March 22, 2010

First Road Trip of the Season

We had our first overnight trip for this baseball season to Atlanta, Georgia. Can I just say that we truly experienced the South's weather at its craziest this weekend? As the trip grew nearer last week, the burning question plagued my mind... what will the weather be for us? Saturday looked promising - highs in the 70's and sunshine galore! But Sunday - oh, Sunday - was quite the opposite. Highs were predicted to hover around 60 degrees, and rain was almost guaranteed. Makes for a fantastic day at the ball park!

So, Saturday, I wore my capri pants, short-sleeved t-shirt and flip flops. Sunday the wardrobe was significantly different - thermal underwear with athletic pants on top with a long-sleeved t-shirt and warm sweater over that as well as a hooded sweatshirt. And I can't forget about the umbrella. It rained on us the bulk of the day. Not a heavy rain, but that steady slow rain and mist that chills you to the bone. And the wind was gusting and cutting me right in two. But we made it - all of us, the players, parents, and siblings.

It was a great baseball weekend. The weather was indeed perfect for baseball on Saturday. The sun was high, but there was a beautiful breeze to keep you from getting too warm. The sun felt so nice on my skin, especially coming out of this unusually cold winter we've had here in Alabama. I didn't think to put sunscreen in my bag. It's that fatal March mistake I make every year - forgetting about the sun and the tenderness of the skin that's been hidden all winter long. My chest got fried on Saturday... so much so that all who saw it Saturday evening basically glowing like a fire were shocked. My arms were a little pink, my face got a little color, but my chest was the sun burnt perhaps worse than it had ever been. And still is quite red and painful. My crazy farmer's tan is in effect already, and it's only March. Great.

Sunday was, as I mentioned before, cold and rainy and windy. Not the best of conditions for any sport, really. But the boys played. I really don't know how they did it, but they played and played well. Really well. They played really well all weekend - two games on Saturday and three on Sunday and winning them all. It's a funny feeling walking into a ball park in Georgia where you know absolutely no one (the exception this tournament was another team from Alabama that was there to play whom we know well) and no one knows you, but you are the most disliked, most talked about, most well-known team there. They all have their vendetta against us. Some of the teams there we had played in the World Series, and they wanted their piece of us this time. Some had only heard about us, and came into the tournament believing they'd be the ones who could knock us off our high place. Some were playing outside of their normal leagues and were so genuinely blindsided by competitive children's baseball that they didn't even know what hit them. But all of them left the park knowing that our little men can play baseball - real baseball. They can make plays on the field same as boys twice their size. They know what to do and how to do it. They aren't perfect, but they are driven and passionate. They are amazing.

The best part about our boys is this - they really do have a good time. I used to have this opinion about travel ball (before my kid played it, of course). I thought that it was a bunch of over-zealous parents who were pushing their kids too hard and putting too much emphasis on sports. And, sometimes, that is the case. But we truly have the most unique group of kids (and parents as well). They are hard working. They have a hunger for victory and success on the field. They rejoice in each others' triumphs and try to lift each other up when a mistake is made. They are a team, working together to get the job done on the field.

Some of my favorite moments during games is not the actual awesome catch in the outfield or the amazing scoop at short, toss to 2nd and turn to first for the double play. For me the most moving moments are the boys' sincerest excitement for one another - the high five as they are running off the field for the player who dove to make the catch for the third out, the chest bump or hit on the helmet for the kid who just jacked one over the fence for his first ever grand slam, the holler across the field and the thumb's up with the "Let's get him at two," to the player who just over threw the ball. I could go on. I think we know I could just go on and on about these boys and what they do, but I'll spare you all. I've just never seen anything like what these kids do together, especially at their age. They are practicing hard, loving the sport, pushed just enough, loved just enough, supported by one another and their coaches and their parents, and celebrating each individual as well as team success. These are truly the days that these boys will remember forever. And I am so grateful my kid is a part of it. Is he the best player on the team? Absolutely not. Will he play baseball past the age of thirteen? Who knows. But he will always look back on these days and remember the lessons learned and friends made.

So we're back at it. Baseball. Road trips. Entry fees. Concession stand candy. Man, I love it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Break...

Well, Spring Break is almost over. And I really can't think of a day during this Spring Break that has felt even remotely close to Spring. There's been no sunshine. No warm temps. No springishness at all.

Never fails - David gets sick during nearly every break from school. This go-round it was a crazy, funky, itchy rash from scalp to toes. Literally. Like covered. As in all over. No part of his body spared. He woke up Tuesday morning, and I was completely shocked. I've never seen anything like it. I've experienced hives, but this was definitely not hives. I immediately put a call into the doctor to ask at what point (if any) should I become concerned. The part that bothered me the most was that is was all around his face - surrounded his ears and the back of his neck and started to move down his forehead. I just didn't want to wait in patience with the mysterious rash (as any good seasoned mom would do - why waste the copay and introduction to germs for a rash that just has to work its way out of the system?) only to wake up the next morning and find that his eyes were swollen shut or lips were the size of bananas. Of course, the nurse said it sounded viral and could be something called Fifth's Disease.

Why do kids ailments sound so horrible when they really aren't? Fifth's Disease. Scarlet Fever. Hand, Foot and Mouth. And basically you could sum it all up by saying things like, "It's a virus," or, "Oh... a bad sore throat with fever and rash." It's like whoever made up the names for the ailments said to them self, "I need to call it something really important and scary sounding." Anyway...

So, I asked the nurse what the course of treatment would be if it were this Fifth's Disease. You know the answer. We mothers have heard it a million times before.

"Oh, nothing. It's viral. It simply has to run it's course."

Dr. Crazy Mama hit the google search and diagnosed her son with Fifth's in two shakes and a snap after viewing pictures of other children in the same predicament. And from what I have read, my little man had a pretty severe case. Most of what I read said it tends to be a fairly mild rash with some itching. David, on the other hand, had an incredibly severe rash with a great deal of itching. He's just like me - when his body gets something, it really gets something. Like when I had the chicken pox... I didn't just get a little case of them. Oh, no. I had them in my belly button, in my mouth, in between my toes, inside my ears, and they lasted for like two weeks. I really thought I would just die from the chicken pox.

But he's feeling much better today. Much, much better. And his body doesn't look like he spent the night on a mosquito farm today, so that's definitely good. And I hear that tomorrow should be sunny and 70 degrees. Does that mean that we'll actually get to enjoy one day of our Spring Break???

I hope so...

Monday, March 15, 2010

The past week has been tough for my mom. She received her first injection of her treatment on Monday and also began the oral chemo pills she will take daily. The negative effects have already reared their ugly head.


The thing about being a mom is that you are constantly shielding your children from your own pain or problems. It's just an innate protection you have for you babies, no matter of they are three or thirty-three. I can remember the first time I was really sick when David was old enough to know. I had a horrible reaction to some medication, and there's really no delicate way to explain what it did to me, so I won't even try. But David saw me in my state, and I was weeping and in bad shape. I can recall his little baby voice asking, "You okay, Mama??"


I answered as any good mama would... "I'm fine."


He wasn't stupid. He knew I wasn't fine. He could clearly see I wasn't okay, and that's why he asked. But as a mom, it's my duty to take care of him and worry about him. It's not a part of the natural order for my son to be looking after me. And so you lie. That's what it is, right? You say you're okay when you're not to spare your child the burden of worrying about you. When they are little, it works. They quickly believe it is as you say it is and go about to the normal activities of childhood - hot wheels and crayons.


As children age, it becomes increasingly difficult to shield our kids from our own personal problems. And yet we try, as my own mother tries.


The truth is that I know my mom well enough to know when she isn't feeling well. When she's had enough. When she's irritated and frustrated. When she is wanting to play along with the whole mom-is-fine thing. And I let her tell me she is okay even when I know she's not.


It's hard to understand why anyone on this magnificently made earth has to suffer. Physically suffer. Hard to grasp how in the grand scheme of daily natural miracles - like the conception and birth of a living being, the planting of a bulb in the fall that emerges as a flower in the spring, a cow's milk, the chicken's egg, the perfectly sectioned pieces of an orange - that there is no explanation for great natural misfires such as cancer. There's just no answer. I don't care how smart you may be, how well you understand the human body down to the very cellular level... I don't think you'll find one person in the world that can tell you what purpose cancer has here. What purpose does it serve?


And so I feel it through the phone. I hear it in the voice of my precious mother. I sense it. I know it. She need not say a word. We talk about everyday things. About baseball, school, David's conduct, Madalyn's latest funny, the show she watched on HGTV. And yet it's still there hovering about us in a cloud. The cancer. The side effects. The desperate desire of mine to do something, to make her feel better, to run in and fix it all or take it away from her. But I can't.


And even more painful is that the world keeps spinning. I find myself at the ball park in the middle of a game thinking about my mother. At the grocery store. In the shower. In the midst of all those daily things that just keep on going despite what you or anyone else around you is going through. And I know that's just the way it is, and there's nothing I can do about it. But it doesn't make it hurt any less.

I will never understand why my mother has cancer. I will never know why she has to suffer as she is. I will never be able to wrap my brain around what she's going through. I will never be able to tell her enough how sorry I am that she's hurting, how blessed I am to be her daughter, how much I love her. I will never be able to be there for her the way I wished I could - every day by her side would be ideal. But I'm a mother with two kids to take care of, and it's just not possible.

I think of all those around the world who are suffering, and I pray for their physical and spiritual strength. And I pray for the most special lady I know in the whole world... I pray.

I pray all the time.

I just continue to pray.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sugar and Spice

Some days, I think to myself, "I truly suck at being a mom to a little girl..."

I thought it on the day we had our recital pictures for Madalyn's dance class as I struggled to get her limp hair to even go up in a clippy, especially after putting all her hair up in velcro rollers only to take it out and find it had done nothing at all. I feel that way when I see little girls out and about with their moms all matchy-matchy with their little bows and coordinating socks and all sugared and spiced like a little freaking cupcake. I feel that way when I look at my little girl all stained from playing in the dirt in the yard or at the ball park.

It's not that I'm not perfectly content with my little girl and the way she is... it's just that I feel a little less qualified to raise a little girl than some of those other moms that can at least convince their daughters to stay clean and look like froofy little girls some of the time.

I've never really been froofy myself, though. Never been matchy-matchy with the clothes and accessories and what not. Never worn much jewelry (especially earrings... we all know that). So when I see other moms whose little girls look so adorable and clean and accessorized, it leaves me feeling slightly inadequate.

Inadequate is a word that plagues my internal vocabulary, in case you haven't figured that one out... I wish I could abolish it from my mind and never use it again. Even if I tried, I would do something, and I'm sure it would pop back into my mind.

Like today, I was feeling on top of the world. I visited Claire's - not for the first time, mind you, but for the first time in search of earrings - and was enjoying all it had to offer. Madalyn has kept an internal calendar of when we'd be able to put different earrings on. And I don't' blame her one bit. She loves all that sparkles and glitters, and she's definitely the type to bore quite easily of the rhinestoned daisies she's been wearing for six weeks now. I was so pleased with what I found... little hearts with dogs on them (that she spotted when we were in to have our ears done), little M's with pink rhinestones, a couple pair of flowers, a necklace, a pack of bows... I went nuts at the 10 for $10 racks! I found myself a few pair for now and some hangy kinds for later. I walked out of Claire's feeling the girliest I'd ever felt in my life - my very first earring purchase!!

Madalyn was thrilled. And, of course, she immediately wanted to change her earrings out. So I got out my alcohol, cleaned them off real well, sat her on the counter, and started to take out the ones in her ears. Problem was I couldn't get the back off... could not get it off to save my life. Well, I could probably get it off, but she was ouching and flinching and telling me it hurt. And I just wasn't sure if I could apply the right pressure I needed to get it off without taking her entire earlobe off with it.

Okay - plan B. I'll take mine off in hopes that she will push through the pain of the pressure to get to change them out.

Yeah... it hurts. These lobes are still incredibly sensitive. I got so tickled by it actually hurting (as I really thought Madalyn was exaggerating a little), and there we sat in the bathroom giggling about the fact that I can't get the backs off the stinking earrings. We decided that seven or eight weeks with the same earrings is not so bad after all.

So, here's the deal - I'm so not good at being a girl. And I am terribly afraid I'm passing the trait down to my own little girl. She seldom matches, though she believes she does. She usually doesn't have a bow in her hair, and if she does, revert back to the whole not matching thing. And well, she likes to get dirty at the ball park and play cars with her brother. She thinks it's funny to burp. In fact, she thinks all bodily functions are hysterical. We may not always look all sugared and spiced like some other gals out there, but we're happy.

Still working on that little devil inadequacy, but me and my girl know how to laugh and have a good time. Just don't ask me to help you change out your earrings.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Feeling a wee bit guilty... or should I say convicted?

I've been following this guy's trip to Kenya. He, his wife, ans several other bloggers were given an opportunity to travel to Kenya and find out first hand what Compassion International is doing for the children there. They were asked to blog about their experiences in hopes to raise awareness for the organization and boost sponsorships for the children. I enjoy the blog on a regular day. Turned onto it by my BFF, Erika, several months ago, I've been a regular reader. I enjoy his fresh approach to Christianity mixed in with stories about cooking, his two lovely children, and the open ended questions he asks his readers to get their wheels spinning. Don't get me wrong; his appearance is unlike any minister in any church I've ever attended. But beneath his exterior is a man who, from what I can see by reading his posts, truly wants to live a life as close to the life of Jesus as possible.


I digress.... I've been completely moved by the images I've seen of these children - smiling faces and bright eyes - in the midst of all this poverty. I can't help but think of my children who have way too much and parents that continue to buy more. Of course, we buy more with the best of intentions and purposes. You know, it's a birthday or they've been really good in school or what have you. They eat as much as they hunger for in a day's time. They complain when I haven't bought any Sprite or Coke. Lord forbid we don't have the particular flavor Caprisun they prefer. I know that's all they have ever known, and one can hardly expect a child with no experience of anything other than being taken care of and having what they need to understand third world living. But I do want them to have some sense of how blessed they are.

I just showed David the pictures on the above referenced blog. I thought it might be slightly moving for him to see children his own age and size in an area with no water or trash service. He was amazed for a moment, and then quickly went back to asking when I'd be done so he could use the computer. So in that moment I decided we should sponsor a child ourselves.

We picked a boy, age 8, named Collins. He was born in June of 2001. "Just like me," said David. So for $38 a month, this child will have food and shoes and a better chance of feeling special and being educated.

At first, I selfishly thought, "$38 a month... I don't know if I can do that.... things are awfully tight around here..." Then I think about all those times I've not hesitated to buy a $25 bottle of liquor or how I don't flinch at the thought of that $16.95 monthly fee to Napster to keep the latest music on my MP3 player. You know, in the grand scheme of things, $38 in this country is next to nothing. I can always cut out a little luxury here or there if need be. And besides, I haven't even been drinking liquor here lately anyway (one of those little vices of mine I've been working on). So why not put that money I'm not spending on myself and put it to good use?

I am hoping when I receive my packet in the mail in a couple of weeks that maybe David can begin to understand that there are so many people in this world who suffer - some on the other side of the world, and painfully some just right down the road. And if we as a family can do one small thing to brighten a child's world, well it can only bring about good things.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Good Spot

We have a tall table in our kitchen - pub height I guess they call it - with four stools around it. It's nothing fancy and a little small, but it's the perfect fit for the little eat-in area in my kitchen. I do try to make the kids sit and eat together in the kitchen. I know that we need family meal times even though most of the time the kids would much rather take their food into their rooms and eat in front of the darn TV.

Everyday I hear the same question (usually from Madalyn first), "Who gets to sit in the good spot????"

The good spot happens to be the seat nearest the laundry room and with the back against the windows. Why it's considered the good spot I'm not sure I'll ever know. But it is. And they both want to sit there. Every single time we sit down to eat.

It used to be an all out war over the good spot, usually ending with Madalyn shrieking in the most horrific pitch you can imagine and David angry as a stirred hornet's nest. Screaming, hitting, tears... not the perfect picture of the family dinner. One night, it was so bad that Scott actually moved the table so that for a moment the good spot didn't exist. I've gotten so fed up with the daily argument that I've refused to let either of them sit in the good spot and sat in it myself. But it's never mattered what solution I found; on the next occasion of eating, the argument ensues.

"It's my turn!!!!!!"

"You sat in the good spot last year!!!!!" (Last year is Madalyn's equivalent to the word yesterday - took me forever to figure this one out, but I have finally cracked her vocabulary code... somewhat.)

"You're not sitting there...." (This one's always followed by a lot of shoving and pushing and usually ends up with them sitting side by side on the same stool, which never lasts for very long as some one's behind always ends up on the floor.)

I finally came up with the conclusion that I would determine who got to sit in the good spot each time. The prime factor of the decision making process would be who sat there last and the behavior of the child at the moment. For instance, say it's Madalyn's turn to sit in the good spot, but she runs into her brother's room bragging about it being her turn and says something along the lines of, "I get to sit in the good spot and YOU don't... so there!" That type of behavior usually lends itself to good spot loss of privilege. And her brother has those moments as well, but his most common form of antagonizing (as he is a little older and wiser) is the silent repeating of what his sister says. It's really quite genius - he simply mimics what she says, moving his mouth and making funny faces at her. Of course all the activity is silent, and it sends Madalyn into a frenzy.

"He's frepeating me!!!!!!! Stop frepeating me, brudder!!!!" (Yes - we add F's to certain words, like repeat, and it makes it quite difficult in these types of crises to keep a straight face.)

So David's approach is a little more stealthy, while Madalyn's is incredibly loud and obnoxious. And I find myself wanting to take the table outside in the yard and go at it with an ax and use the remnants for firewood. Or maybe make a raft and plan my escape from this deserted island I find myself trapped upon... wait a minute. This is no island.

But then I find myself realizing that the day is coming soon that they won't be silently repeating the other with weird faces and all. That Madalyn won't care where her brudder sits at the dinner table. That these really are the simplest of times. That all my kids have to be upset about in the whole wide world is who sits in the good spot while they eat their grilled cheese.

Life is good.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Home Run


Yesterday, our little baseball team played our first tournament for the regular season. We played in a little tournament a couple of weeks ago, but it was just basically a weekend of practice games. Yesterday was our season opener, and we had such high expectations of what our boys could do... I mean, would you expect any less from the group that fought so hard last July and won their age group World Series?

The first game was a mess - lots of fumbles and bobbles and pop-ups. But somehow we won. The second game looked much the same, but it had one distinct difference for me. I watched my son hit his first over-the-fence home run. I've seen him make it all the way around on errors many times - too many times to count in his two years of tee-ball and last season of coach pitch combined. Last Spring, when we traveled to a tournament in Mississippi, he wanted a home run so badly. We played on a shorter field than we normally do, and several of our boys hit it over multiple times. David hit well that tournament, even rattling the fence a couple of times, but he never managed to clear it.

His mama kept telling him, "David... just do what you do. Just get out there and do what you do."

And then later last season, we traveled to Georgia and had the same set-up. Shorter field than normal, several teammates hit it over, David had a great batting average, but he never made it over. Again, he wanted it so bad. I could see it in his eyes every time he stepped into the box. And his mama wanted it for him, too... I wanted my child to experience seeing his ball clear the chain link, to round those bases without the fear of that ball beating him to the bag, to watch his teammates pour out of the dugout and gather around home plate waiting on him to touch it with smiles and cheers. Who wouldn't want to see their child experience that?

I have classified David in my mind as a consistent base hitter. And that's what every team really needs - a kid who consistently gets on base and brings in runs. But even those consistent kids want their moment of glory, and that's exactly what my boy got yesterday. Not once, but twice.

It came as a complete surprise to me when that first ball cleared the fence. It's hard to believe that any of these boys can hit a ball that far - they're so tiny in my eyes. But it's not really about the size of the hitter, I guess. It's more about the moment - the very moment - that the bat hits the ball. The form. The pulling together of power from the center of the body and the hips. The connection. The explosion of energy.

I had always imagined I would cry when I saw it happen for the first time - when I saw his smiling face round third and head for home. But there were no tears. I think I was too happy to cry. Too excited for him. Just plain excited that he had now had a moment that he could see the fruit of his labor and focus in a physical manifestation. He could say to himself, "I hit that ball over the fence." He did it. By himself. No one helped him. It was his power that put it there some 165 feet through the air. What an amazing moment!

And then the little man did it again... now that's just too much for a mama to handle in one day!

But the moral of the story is this: we lost the tournament in our final game. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter how many home runs you hit or how many runs you score in a game. It's how your team comes together. It's how you play collectively as a group. And I sure do hate that his first home run came in a tournament in which we didn't take the first place trophy. But I guess it helps to teach that there will be shining moments and not-so-shining moments in life. Sometimes they will juxtaposition themselves right next to one another. Sometimes they will intertwine so tightly that it will be hard to pull them apart. But my advice to David will remain the same as it was a year ago when he could taste that home run in his mouth as strongly as the sour straws he got from the concession stand...

Just do what you do, little man. Just get out there and do what you do. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you hit it out of the park. Sometimes you're thrown out at first. But you keep doing what you do best. Play your game. Use your skill. Just be you. Because, my boy, you are remarkable. You are truly wonderfully made in many ways... and most of them have nothing to do with baseball.

Friday, March 5, 2010

And..... they're.... off!!!

This weekend marks the first of many chaotic ones to follow... garage sale benefiting our Bandits Baseball team bright and early at 6:00 am (and it's location is a good 35 minutes from my house - I'll let you do the math), and a Sunday tournament down in Millbrook. Of course, I love baseball, but in a few weeks, my life will so completely revolve around baseball practices and tournaments, the raising of money so that my son can play in said baseball tournaments, or the shopping for snacks and groceries to take to those practices and tournaments that my head will surely pop off and land gently beside me. Hopefully it will not make too much of a mess (because that would only give me more work to do), and I will be able to pick it up and carry it along with me until I have a good moment to work on its reattachment.

I am personally not a huge fan of yard sales / garage sales. I generally don't like anything that involves rummaging through other people's things, especially if they are things that have been used and are now unwanted or discarded. But when times are tough, one will do most anything for their kids to continue with their activities, even if it means getting up at 5:00 in the morning and driving 30 miles to rummage through people's stuff so that it can be organized and sold. Last year, we did great making nearly $900. We had all the stuff organized into departments just as a store would - we had housewares, children's apparel, women's and men's apparel, shoes and accessories, toys, and even a holiday section. Hopefully we'll do as well as this year as last. But, at the very least, I have rid my home of three or four huge trash bags full of stuff, a lamp, and two car seats.

This year's garage sale - which, by the way, has nothing to do with a garage nor will it be anywhere near a garage - will be located in the parking lot of the Gardendale, Alabama Waffle House. I don't know if this brings a chuckle to anyone else but me, but I find it a bit humorous that tomorrow morning the fair patrons of the Waffle House will be able to peruse the aisles of our departments after they enjoy their scattered, smothered, covered with eggs over easy and a side of bacon. Only in the great state of Alabama is this even possible - I do not hesitate to make that statement. Only in Alabama.

I am excited to watch the boys play on Sunday, mainly because the forecast promises it will be the most beautiful day. Sunshine. Warmth. The sound of the bat against the ball. Good times. I'm so thankful for baseball. It's given our whole family something to focus on instead of how little money we have at the time or whatever other stresses might be plaguing our little world. It's also given us a set of friends that have become invaluable. We really have become like a second family, bonding together over ball park hot dogs and french fries and the excitement of victory. So it will be nice to get back into the swing of things this weekend making memories and seeing what our little men can pull off on the baseball field.

So, we're off to a good start... baseball season has arrived!! And that gives me an endless source of blog posts...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Divine Retribution

Have you experienced true evil in your life? Can you look back over the years and see the hand of the Evil One at work in someone else and how it changed or touched your life in some way? Oh, I can.

Some of us get uncomfortable when the word evil is mentioned. I'll admit that the mention of the Evil One or Satan or the Devil - whatever you want to call the spirit of evil that exists and moves and takes hold of some - frightens me a little. I don't like to think about that alternative side to my soul - one that could hurt, harm, deceive, or much worse. I don't like to face the fact that there are people lurking among us who have no sense of morality or general goodness. But there are. There are people who for reasons only they fully understand have chosen a different way. People who have left a trail behind them of emptiness and destruction. People who use, manipulate, and destroy the souls and lives of others.

In my mind, I've often only attributed evil to the murderer, the violent rapist, the child molester - those truly abominable acts that all of society recognizes to be unjust and wrong. But what about the smaller evils of life? What about the evil acts that no one sees? What about the man who abuses his wife with his words or by making her perform acts even though she feels uncomfortable with them? What about the mother that hits her children with a belt for reasons no bigger than an unclean room or uneaten dinner? What about the young man who forces himself on his date at the end of an evening together when she clearly wanted him to stop? Are these things any less evil?

I've been processing some of the evil things that have been done to me. It's been a strange and painful experience for me, I must admit. Everyone knows that I was married and divorced in 1998. People have the general facts. But there are only a handful of people who really know what I went through. There was an evil spirit at work in that relationship, and it didn't begin with the adultery that ultimately ended the marriage. It began long before that with small issues of control, with verbal abuse, with manipulation and lies, and some even more painful things. I look back over those three years I spent in the relationship and can't even recognize the girl I became - insecure, scared, unworthy, inadequate. When God finally made known the truth in plain view for all to see and provided me a clear way out of the relationship, I remember feeling as though a weight had been removed from my chest, and the nervous tension I had felt for so long was gone.

But the fight against those feelings didn't end there. I went to a little therapy after the divorce, and for the first time talked openly about the inner workings of my relationship. I had not been honest with anyone about what had gone on - not with my best friend, not with my parents. But I didn't want to believe that this person - this man I thought loved me but ultimately violated every sacred part of my heart - could possibly affect me for very long. I didn't want to be a victim. I had no idea that the things I experienced in that relationship would continue to shape my decisions and interactions with others for years to come. But boy have my eyes been opened.

On Tuesday, I was rereading over some passages in Isaiah, which has become a place of refuge for my soul in the past month. I went back through the book examining the verses I had highlighted and came across this:

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance, with divine retribution he will come to save you." Isaiah 35: 3-4

Divine retribution - those words jumped out at me from the page. They meant something to me. Retribution is payback - it's, "Hey... you took something and now you have to pay it back." It's God saying to the Evil One, "Oh, no... that belongs to me. You've done enough here." It's God coming in and taking my soul back into His comforting arms and claiming me. And if you've ever been a victim of any sort of abuse - no matter how big or small - it's comforting to know that God cares for you that much.

That very next day, I opened my facebook account to find a friend request from my ex-husband. Funny how the day after I find in the scriptures something so meaningful and healing to my soul that the very person that represents evil in my life tries to push his way back into my world. Funny how the forces of good and evil are seen pitting against one another on a daily basis... but I praise my Lord for giving me those words when I needed them. For God did come in with divine retribution to save me. I have a wonderful family - a good husband who loves me and with whom I grow closer everyday, two beautiful children who make my life more interesting and entertaining than I ever dreamed possible, and I have a faith in my Lord that is moving and growing inside of me like a tulip popping up in the Spring. He came in and saved me. He claimed me. He provided the way out of the darkness. It hasn't always been pretty, I haven't always made the best choices along my way, but the path ahead of me is clear. And He continues to mark the way for me.

And now it's my job to continue on with the good work that's been started in me. And that's what I'd like to do. I'd love to take my story - all my experiences - and find a way to do good with them. Whether it be talking to young girls about relationships or maybe even writing a book about what I went through. What it boils down to is this - I didn't go through all the pain of my experience to just seal it up in a box and put it in the attic. I need to use it. I need to reach out to others before they end up in the place of darkness in which I found myself during those years. I want to take the bad and use it for good. And wouldn't that just be the most divine retribution of all?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Well...

I had my meeting with the admissions guy this morning, and all I left with was a stinking headache and the feeling that going back to school is not the direction I should take. Don't get me wrong, now - they were beyond nice, and he was completely impressed with the courses I had completed, and he totally acted like they'd love to have me. But when the reality sunk in that I'd have to complete my undergrad (around two years worth of classes) and then continue to grad school (add another two years for that), the dream of becoming a speech therapist drained out of me as the rain is draining down the gutters right now.

I could do it, but it would be a tremendous strain on my family - financial and otherwise. Committing the next four years of my life to being a full-time student would be tough. Even tougher would be committing the $40, 00 - $50,000 it could take to finish the drill.

What I really feel is the need to make use of myself. To use my talent. So it leaves me in this weird place in my mind of taking inventory of myself. What can I do that I just inherently know how to do??? Well, that would be writing. Okay, so how do I take that God given talent and turn it into a career??? That's a little tougher to figure out.

No doubt I have a book in my head. Probably more than one. But how do I do that? Where do I begin? How do I take the stories and experiences that are in my head and put them on paper and then sell them to others? It's the selling part that scares me... I clearly lack the confidence.

So... I guess I'll spend some time in prayer asking God to provide some clarity for me - to provide a direction and me with confidence to follow it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Bit Shaken

Do you ever feel that literally your life has been poured into a big plastic container, a tight lid put in place, and that it's being shaken at the most ferocious speed. Back and forth, side to side, up and down, all around...

Well, that's where I am right now. I don't think there's a single part of my life that's been untouched by stress in the last few months. I have lived in a state of spiritual and emotional upheaval and have been completely unaware of when things might get better. And still don't know. But, for sure, one day the top will come of, all the contents will poured out, and it'll most certainly be interesting to see where all the pieces land! That's the adventure of life, I guess. Watching everything fall into place.

My mom is undergoing tests today to enter the study involving her cancer. This all after her fall and consequent broken wrist on Thursday. Just when I think she couldn't possibly carry more on her plate, there's more for her to handle. And somehow she gracefully balances it all. Now her right arm will remain in a cast for up to six weeks, and that will promise to be a challenge for her. But, as I told her, it will most certainly force her to slow down and quit busying herself and doing too much. She has no choice but to depend on the help of others now and rest more so that her body can heal in more ways than one.

Also on my agenda tomorrow is my first step in the possibility of going back to school - I have an appointment with an admissions counselor at the University of Montevallo. I am nervous just to step foot on a college campus, and I am nervous to sit down and talk with someone about all the ins and outs. The money. The number of hours. That stinking Biology class I would have to take that I should have gotten over with my freshman year but didn't out of the fear of dissecting an animal. And the even more frightening thought that I might have to take a college level math. I'm not sure I could pass a junior high school level math at this stage in the game. Dear me.

But I'm going to see about it. I want it so bad. I want to finish. I want to find a little place for myself after all these years of finding one for my kids. I want to put my brain to good use - other than negotiating with a five year old about what's for lunch. And I want to help take some of the financial strain off the household by contributing to the income. We have to begin to build ourselves back up after this difficult period (that's not even over yet). There's just so much weighing on the decision to go back, but I know that it's pretty much now or never.

I have to decide if we'll be able to handle me going back to school, or if I'll just have to go back to work. I'm figuring that it will take me two years to finish. If I'm eligible for any grant money, that would be fantastic because the cost of college has gone up considerably in the last ten years! Hopefully I'll get some answers tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have a little more clarity.

Also on the list of prayer has been my son. I received an email from his teacher last week about his behavior in class. He's struggling with self-control. So we've removed some privileges, and I've talked to him about respect and controlling his behavior, and I'm hoping he can get things straightened out. He's such a bright kid and generally so good in school. One of the privileges I removed is his talking to this little girl on the phone. And the more I think about it the more I realize that there will be some strict guidelines once he gains that privilege back. He doesn't need to be talking to some little girl for 30 or 45 minutes on the phone at night. It has effected his attitude at home - his sister has become more of a nuisance to him, he's easily angered by me, and he generally thinks he way cooler than the rest of us. And I believe it stems from the the little amount of testosterone he has in his little body - she's got him all puffed up inside and believing he's all that and a bag of BBQ chips. And I just think it's a little too early for him to be that effected by what a girl thinks about him. He needs to be worried about what his mama and daddy and teacher thinks about him, as we are the ones who control his whole little world at this point.

So that's just a few things going on at right now. Just a few. I will say that I am trying my best to remain calm and settled despite these rocky times. Trying my best. Some days succeeding more than others, but most days succeeding to some degree. And all the while trying to enjoy the wild ride of the vicious shaking knowing soon it will calm down. Hopefully soon.