Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In memory of John

I saw an old friend today. And he filled my heart with love. That was the overwhelming emotion I had this past Sunday as I sat in church. I was listening but my eyes were roaming around seeing the faces of those in our new church, none of which are familiar to me yet. I suddenly spotted him. He wasn't quite the stature of my friend, but there was much about his face, his head that instantly transported me back 20 years in time.

I was in my twenties, single and going on my first missions trip through my church. John was a retired truck driver and he was going to be our bus driver, from Kansas to Monterrey Mexico. There are some people whose physical attributes are memorable and some whose personality is just so big and open that you'd never forget them. He was both. He was a large, muscular man that always wore boots. His head was like Kojak. His eyes and persona was the most loving of anyone I have ever known. Everytime he saw me headed his way, he greeted me with wide-open arms ready and waiting to embrace me with the best hug in the world. Not a squeeze-the-stuffing-out-of-you hug, but a cacooning, encompassing hug. Everyone that met him became his friend.

John and I had many opportunities during that week to talk and share. He had only been a Christian a few years and shared that he had been the stereotypical truck driver before. Memory has made some of the details a bit fuzzy, but around the same time of his conversion, he met the most wonderful woman in the world and they married. He shared with me about his wife's faith and was probably the first person I encountered that challenged my beliefs regarding denominational boundaries. He was very sensitive to that fact and made it perfectly clear he wasn't trying to make me believe as he and his wife did. But I was at a point in my own walk where I had some questions and never heard satisfactory answers. Some of the things John touched on answered those questions and my spirit knew it was truth. John and his wife were just the kind of people you could lay your complete and total trust in their walk they experienced as true and honest.

I left my hometown 20 plus years ago but there's always people, no matter how long or how far you go, never leave your heart. John was one of those. I would hear news about he and his wife from time to time through the grapevine and see him from time to time when we would go home for visits. I always felt like I had talked to him last week. John died of cancer a couple of years ago. I grieved the loss of such a wonderful person from this earth. It needs all the Johns it can hold. But I was so happy to think of him reunited with his wonderful wife in heaven and being a new bright light in the multitudes there.

As time has passed, I have thought of John, on occasion, fondly. And then Sunday, there he sat in front of me. As you now know, it wasn't actually him but someone that looked a great deal like him from a distance. Even though this particular bout of remembering John was fraught with missing John, it was a a good journey of remembering a soul that was one of the best this world has ever known.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Need to change our FQ--Food Quotient

It's been a few months since Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" was on television enlightening all of us about what our public schools are feeding our children every single day. It was also Jamie Oliver that pointed not only the schools, but the harried and brainwashed lives we parents buy into about jam-packed schedules and desire to feed our family, as well as ourselves, food that will soothes and comfort us.

We have are a society of 3 generations that grew up increasingly ingesting fast foods and having fewer and fewer home cooks. Our palates have increasingly become accustomed to smoother, greasier, cheesier, crispier, sweeter and more carbonated everything. We have had the invention and inundation of engineered foods, producing more and bigger things that were once completely healthy like vegetables, fruit, milk, cattle and poultry. Many would still argue their healthiness. I'm not arguing that point at all at this time. I'm not a militant vegan or vegetarian or stockholder on the beef council. I am simply a middle-aged wife and mother that enjoys cooking, eating and feeding my own small family. But after being hit, myself, suddenly with many food intolerances, I was unknowledgable and unprepared as to how to deal with it or cook for it. Fast foods and eating out, largely, came to a complete stop for us, as a family. Many, if not most restaurants have very little to offer someone like me. In researching, I learned that 1:130 are gluten-intolerant, if not an official Celiac, or one that cannot ingest wheat, rye or barley. Now, a large percentage of those 1:130 are also bothered by other foods/food groups. Now, no one expects restaurants to cater to everyone and all the different allergies. BUT, the first step would be to educate the food service industry about the new epidemics that are plaguing their customers. Educating chefs and staff is a start, but not only are professionals needing educating, the homecook needs a comeback along with new knowledge and confidence in providing foods for our families that are for health, not just comfort.

Where did alot of us that DO cook learn? Watching FoodNetwork, of course! The cornacopia of foods and ethnicities we've learned through the years have made this world and its food cultures a much smaller place as our palates have expanded and enjoyed truly great food. We all expect more from our dining experience. Now, with the explosion of obesity and diabetes in our country, I am looking to the FoodNetwork to step up and teach us what we need to modify our palates and how to put healthy moderation onto home tables again.

Now, FoodNetwork isn't to blame for the unhealthy conditions we have today, we DID forego exercise and the outdoors, choosing sedate activities such as video games, NetFlix and computers at the same time that processed and fast foods were becoming the norm. But what I'd like to see is the FoodNetwork have MULTIPLE programs geared to healthy cooking and programs for allergen-free cooking. Watching and experiencing explanations with the cooking educates very well. Home cooks would learn better ways and understand what we are eating for. Perhaps the stigma that is rampant amongst restaurant servers believing a gluten-free diet is only a trendy, Hollywood diet. Extended family of those that can no longer enjoy old family favorites at Thanksgiving will no longer believe we are only trying to be high maintenance or that "just a little won't hurt" really WILL hurt.

As much as I LOVE Paula Deen and want to eat absolutely everything she fixes, one show's worth of her "fixins" would kill me, as I'm one of the 1:130. I will still love watching "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", watching all the wonderful fried, cheesy things that are "the BOMB!" And I will still tune in to other channels to watch never-ending contests of eating ginormous amounts of food in an hour. Its all fun and gastronomically enticing. But we need much more balance and Food Network sets the standards in teaching not only the basics of cooking, but what we should be eating and living.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

yet to come

I've never been a thin person. I've always struggled with my weight. Looking back, I wish I could struggle with the "weight" I thought I had 30 years ago again, but even then, I was considered heavy, according to social mores. That was back in the days of Twiggy or just after. I would have been one of the thin girls nowadays. But that fact only breaks my heart for the young girls of today. Even though they may view their weight differently than I did 30 yrs ago, I know they must have pain in their condition and only someone as old as I am can know the real health problems their weight will cause them at much earlier ages than they did my generation. But I've spent years trying to figure out just why food and exercise has been my weakness. I seem to be stuck on a perpetual "about to take the first step" but not actually doing it. And if I do, I soon stop. Why?

I was watching an a television show about people that had lost great amounts of weight and then gained it back again. They were saying they lost the weight for others, for the accolades and attention they got instead of just for themselves and I think if I do anything its maybe not BECAUSE of myself, but I would have to do it BY MYSELF. I was an only child and even though I had quite a few friends growing up, I was kept very close to home, so to speak. I was never allowed to go to camps or spend time with friends without having a reason, place and time frame. So even though I had the friends, they all had other friends they could spend more time with. I was encouraged to stay at home to commute to college for money-sake, so my tether was still fairly intact and friendships were severely limited during those years. I finally left home and lived on my own but financially, didn't make enough to enjoy many outings with friends, and again, spent alot of time on my own. Against all odds, I did meet a wonderful guy and married. He has always been a very work-oriented person, spending an average of 12 hours a day at his job and being on call much of the time through the years. I had a full-time job prior to having our son and then became a full-time stay-at-home mom. I often felt like I was parenting alone, even though my husband always tried to have his input and spend time as much as possible with our son. Probably as with alot of couples, parent-teacher conferences were mostly mine to handle. Homework and schooling was mine to handle. I wish I could say I did a better job but I did the best I could at the time.

I don't tell any of this to place blame on my husband at all. We both did what we felt was the right thing. He has always been a very responsible, hard-working man and by working hard, he shows his commitment to his family. I get that. I say all this to show why I might feel like most of my life has been spent on my own, alone. Perhaps because I have always been in this position, I have a warped sense of security in it. On the other hand, it has always caused me to have a place down inside myself somewhere that feels very alone, as if a big gray cloud hovers over me at all times. Now, I don't want to paint a picture of a depressed, woe-is-me person, because I'm not. I am a very blessed person and there's not a moment I don't know and believe that.

I don't believe I'm depressed. I'm just trying to understand myself and figure out what exactly is the block that keeps me unmotivated enough to lose my weight. Am I just lazy? I don't know. Perhaps. I used to be successful in my schooling and job. So, why do I seem to be such a failure at this? I know PART of my problem is being convinced I'll fail, so why start? But who am I going to be a failure to? Others? My mother? I'm 51 years old, I think my upbringing is an inadequate excuse anymore. A failure to myself? Am I so convinced I'm a failure of a person? I have had a few people in my past make me feel like a failure and I took each and every one of those too close to heart. Why? Why did I let a few people completely mold my own opinion of myself as a total failure? Whatever the reason....I head KNOWS I'm a capable person. I can do anything I want to do badly enough. Perhaps I don't want it badly enough? I don't think that's true because it seems my whole identity and thoughs are centered around me and my size.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Drowning in Stuff

I have reached a time of life where my tastes in surroundings has taken a fork away from that in which I was raised. My parents' generation seems to have gained their self-worth in those things in which they accumulated through the years. The bigger the house, the more things one has the more successful one was perceived. And I think how they were perceived by others was also where they gained their self-worth, because they were always comparing themselves with those around them, their neighbors and peers. Most people of that generation tended to shun the antiques of their own parents and grandparents for the new trends of traditional, Mediterranean and Modern.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Drum Corp Experience

Our summer has once again begun and our son has gone away to begin his summer of drum corp. We all did this last summer. Been here, done that. But, I'm finding its just about as much of an adjustment as it was last year. And I wasn't expecting that.

This is his second summer of marching an extreme version of marching band all summer, traveling all over the country and competing at shows, culminating in the DCI (Drum Corp International) World Finals in Indianapolis in August. This is marching band on steroids. This is NOT the "easy A" everyone remembers band to be in school. This is kids aged 14-21 spending their summers practicing, outside, inside, everywhere they can all day, everyday and putting together a cacophony of music, props, design, color and heart like you have never seen. Some of the corps have chosen classical, serious, dramatic selections for their show, emphasizing the music of composers that never could have imagined their pieces in such ways. Some have chosen jazz or popular, comical, light-hearted selections placing more emphasis on a story told or a visual circus to tantalize our spirits. Each corp is judged at every competition on the execution of the music, the preciseness, the musicality. They are judged on the props, their integration to the instruments, their individuality from the instruments, their preciseness and creativeness. These kids from corps all over the country spend their entire summers living together, sleeping on school gym floors, eating from their individual food trailers and traveling on buses, some touring, some school for hours and hours on end to the next competition on the map. And constantly practicing. In the rain, in the sun. A smart parent would buy stock in sunscreen and bug spray companies.

Every couple of weeks a corp will schedule a "free" afternoon or day to sightsee and/or take care of personal needs like laundry. Their wardrobe consists of t-shirts and shorts and if anything is new and nice at the beginning, chances are they may need burning by the end of the summer. And quite often they come home a completely different color than what they were when they left.

These are just a few of the lessons the kids learn on their own all summer. Or don't learn. But somehow, with or without their moms help or doing, they make it and they are somehow a changed kid from the experience. They return home more mature, more disciplined, more independent. Not only have they learned discipline, they have learned excellence, striving and work ethics. How many things actually do that for our children these days? If you would like a real treat, please go to http://www.dci.org/ and find a show in your area to attend. Cheer on a bunch of kids that are giving 100% of themselves for an entire summer and let them know how much this country still appreciates such great entertainment.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Apple Pie, Baseball and Packo's

Well, I don't think there was really apple pie to be found, but there was plenty of hot dogs and cotton candy. And the baseball was the Toledo Mud Hens game last Sunday versus the Indianapolis Pirates. We don't live in Toledo. We don't even live in Ohio, but its a nice little drive to it and we decided to experience one more thing that's a fun little trivia piece of our obsession with the old television series, M*A*S*H.

We had ventured down previously to eat at the world-renown, ok...maybe not WORLD renown, Packo's, a place mentioned many times by Private Max Q. Klinger as he often reminisced of his beloved days in Toledo. Hungarian hot dogs. It's a quirky, fun place and the food is really good. It's not exactly a place ideal for those with lots of food allergies, such as myself, but the experience makes up for it. And I'm finding a couple of things there I can have once in a blue moon. Much of their fare is spiced with their famous Hungarian Paprika. My advise....get a large drink! There are pictures of M*A*S*H scenes all over. Their claim to fame is having celebrities sign "hot dog buns" and they are displayed all over the establishment. I still wonder if they are real hot dog buns or simply pieces of wood made to look like buns. Even though they are adequately sealed, the thought of decades-old buns is a little nauseating.

So, since we had experienced Packo's, twice now, we decided to go to a Mud Hens game. I had never been in the downtown area of Toledo. It reminded me a lot of a little Milwaukee, which, in my opinion is a very good thing. I love Milwaukee. The stadium is a very nice stadium for a minor league stadium. The attendance was outstanding with tons of excitement and support for their local team. The food offerings were the usuals that are found in all stadiums. Again, not the greatest for someone with food allergies. But I came prepared with my own supply of Craisins, an apple and corn chips. There was the regional favorite of sausage races, hot dog tosses and cute mascots, Muddy and Muddonna. Yes, that's what I said. It was "Kids Day" and they were certainly well represented. My favorites were the ones that were about 2 to 3 years old and cute as a bug. My least favorite were the 8-10 yr old girls that decided every time the scoreboard said, "Make Some Noise" had to scream the most blood-curdling, high C scream. And not just a little. Long......constant......screams. But the old woman holding her ears needs to get over herself and realize the kids were having a good time at a great American tradition.

We managed to score seats just behind home plate. I KNOW! We sat among all the scouts. Mets, Tigers and a few we could never quite figure out. They sat with their speed-guns, papers, stopwatches and stats. I never realized quite so much paperwork goes into being a scout. It was interesting to watch. And the guy sitting next to me, the Tigers scout, was actually wearing a real World Series ring. I had never seen one in real life and I was impressed. I know, it doesn't take much. What didn't impress me was the two "hens" that sat behind us. Two men, somewhere in the neighborhood of 55-60 years old, yacked more than my aunts do when they get together. If anyone ever says women are the gossips, you can tell them I said it's not true! These guys talked about everything and everyone under the sun. One certainly had lots and lots of colorful language and it was always said at a few decibels more than the rest. Their armchair coaching amused the Mets scout sitting directly in front of us. I often caught him turning his head slightly sideways so he could catch what was being said and then he would always grin, as if he'd heard a good joke or something.

The Mud Hens won their game in the bottom of the 9th. As we were leaving the stadium, and my hubby retrieved his forgotten backpack, we spied another Packo's location across the street! Nothing could finish out our day like another visit to Packo's. It was more than a day of baseball and hot dogs. It was a day in the life of Private Max Q. Klinger. Eleven years of M*A*S*H (and 30 years of reruns!) has brought my family a great deal of enjoyment and fun over the years. This past weekend was maybe one of the best, thanks to Max.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2 at Midnight

Well, I certainly had an interesting night last night. I went to my first midnight movie. My son and, eventually, a friend of his wanted to see the opening showing of "Iron Man 2". Now, my son is my movie "buddy" as my husband doesn't care for movies much and seeing them in theaters even less. Over the years I've seen a lot of movies I really didn't care to see because that's what interested my son. I was grateful when he started reaching an age that more action-packed movies were on his list. "Chick flicks" are still on my own, therefore I'm very much behind on the one's I'd like to see, but I'm pretty up-to-date on action films.

Now I need to tell you that I've never been one to stay up till the middle of the night, not even when I was young. I may stay up late but it's in my own home and I'm all tucked in. My son came to me and asked if I'd go see the midnight show with him, knowing I thoroughly enjoyed the first Iron Man. It took me a few days to get used to the idea of actually leaving the house when most people with sense are asleep. But since it's our "thing", I was grateful he wanted to take his 'ol Ma and spend time with me. When his friend mentioned wanting to go, I eagerly offered to give him my ticket so the boys could go sans Ma. Nothing doing! Ma is going, so if that's ok with the friend, he can come with us.

So I caffinated myself even more than usual yesterday and actually took a short nap, hoping to ward off any chance that I'd be found snoring at some point during the movie. We arrived an hour and a half early and retrieved the pre-purchased tickets from their little red box. The cinema was showing the movie in 2 theaters. We were allowed to go in, sit and wait. It was important to stake out good seats as soon as possible. You would think being so early, we wouldn't have a lot of competition for those choice positions. You would be wrong. There were quite a number of high school kids already there and growing roots. Over the next many minutes the place filled up with more and more kids that looked to be high school age. Eventually, in a theater of maybe 300 seats, it was packed. I made mental count that there MAY have been 4 of us that were over 25. And a couple of us had that beat by quite a bit. But it was certainly an interesting feel being in the midst of so many young people. It reminded me of my own days of high school when we were called to the gym for an assembly. Remember those? Remember the freedom we felt as we got out of class for something fun? The hallways would loudly buzz with activity and once in the gym everyone was looking for friends, calling across the bleachers and floor to each other and generally having a good time. There were always the cliques of giggling girls, athletes that stuck together and acted like hot stuff because they knew everyone was watching them and the few that could find trouble where there was none. It always seemed to take a minute of so to get everyone quieted and settled enough to begin with whatever was on the agenda for that day. This theater felt much the same. And I felt very conspicuous among them. And old.

About 40 minutes before the movie was to begin, I heard this strange sound and asked my son. We listened and turned around to find a few boys blowing up beach balls. I found it humorous and said, "That reminds me of the segment 'What's That Sound' on America's Funniest Home Videos. The videos prove its never what you think. So these beach balls start getting tossed around and many of the kids cheer and begin participating. It seems like good, clean fun for a few minutes until one boy (isn't there always SOMEONE?) gets hold of a ball and proceeds to squeeze the ball with his fingers turned in and pops the ball. He seems quite proud of his accomplishment. The place erupts into booing. There are 3 more balls continuing to be tossed here and there. Eventually each of those balls found their way in his vicinity and he repeated his previous action to each one. The room, collectively, is very unhappy and mad. And all I could think was, "Oh, no, what if a riot starts?" One boy, that sat directly in front of us threw his popcorn all over Mr. Ball-Popper. Ooooooo, that should show him! Mr. Ball-Popper quickly follows suit and tosses his very large soda up and all over Mr. Popcorn. What stopped Mr. Popcorn from hurling himself down on top of Mr. Ball-Popper, I don't know. He was certainly in position but the voice in his head must have been screaming that he should have more sense than that or something. The room erupts in pointing at Mr. Ball-Popper, much like the ever-popular tomahawk chop and chanting endlessly, "A&*-Hole, A&*-Hole, A&*-Hole........" . We've definitely left MY assembly experiences behind. I'm still preparing for the ensuing riot coming, when everyone settled down. I eventually realize that the cinema's manager and a couple of other employees have walked in and are standing "guard", if you will. At least the inmates, however voluntary, recognize an authority figure and reacted appropriately. This 'ol Ma is breathing a sigh of relief!

Only a short few minutes later and the movie starts. My fear of a rowdy crowd during the movie was unfounded. Everyone was glued to the action and seemingly loved the movie as much as I did. Only yawns caught up with me in the last 15 minutes or so, but sleep was kept at bay. There was certainly too much going on to even consider sleeping. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my son and his friend and I definitely enjoyed the movie. But I can't say that I'm a lover of midnight showings of blockbusters. I'm glad I experienced it, but I have a new appreciation for my matinees in theaters that are sparsely attended, with maybe a few kids with their mothers, depending on the movie. I enjoy being the one that lowers the age average of the room instead of raising it. But, one thing I cannot acquiesce and that's spending the time with my son. I'm grateful that he wants his mom to see some movies with him. I was grateful that he wasn't embarrassed by having me with him and that he has friends that didn't mind my presence either. THAT was my Mother's Day gift to my heart!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not completely blank...

Well, I realized a lot of time has passed since my last post. I've hit another one of those times when nothing has inspired me to write. But I want to write and I read the other day that doing it is simply a decision to do it. So, here I am. No issue to stand on my soapbox about. Nothing terribly inspiring or thought-provoking to say. So, this is simply ramblings in my head lately.

I have one large thing going on in my head and stressing me greatly. But every time I try to voice or write about it, it gets so big and convoluted that I cannot possibly put it "out there". It turns into one HUGE whine. I try to leave it in God's hands. I know it can only work out because of Him. But there's a small part of me, a very human part, that thinks this one thing can even override Him. IT is a very intimidating thing. One that has left it's damaged marks on me from childhood. See? And even trying to talk AROUND it, it's getting bigger to talk around. So, that's enough of that.

My father died almost a year ago. I miss him. A lot. But I am so thankful he's no longer in pain and I picture him up in heaven all the time. I'm sure he's been getting all the facilities up there up to code and then some. He was a very precise person.

My baby is turning 20 soon. It's amazing how sometimes it seemed like he was never going to get out of stages or ages. In their moments, some of them seemed endless. But looking back, it seems to have all flown by. I made SO many mistakes. You often say you won't do the same things your parents did, but it was amazing how many times I heard my mother come out of my mouth. I KNOW I prayed so much that what mistakes I did make didn't permanently damage his heart and soul. He's such a fabulous young man, in spite of me. I'm very proud of him and anxious to see what God has planned for his life.

Well, that's just a sampling of some of the ramblings in my head lately. I wrote. For better or worse.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution"

Did anyone see Jamie Oliver's preview of his new show, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" last night? I wasn't terribly hopeful going into it, but it was FANTASTIC! Jamie has challenged and improved the school lunches in his home country of England and he's come to America to try to do the same. He started with the town of Huntington, WV, as it was deemed by government statistics as the worst town for overall obesity and overall bad health. To say he was welcomed with opened arms would be a HUGE lie.

He is currently working with five "lunch ladies" in one of the area elementary schools. They took great offense at the term "lunch lady" and wanted to be known as cooks. But in my opinion, anyone, whether at school, restaurant, institution or home that only heats up food or reconstitutes food, isn't cooking. One lunch lady hung her attitude on the fact that in the LONG list of ingredients of everything Jamie was trying to point out as extremely processed, thus "not real" foods, the first ingredient was always the "real" food that the item was suppose to be. It wasn't pointed out that the one real food ingredient was followed by thirty other ingredients that the majority of us cannot pronounce or have a clue what is. Being a gluten and multiple other food-intolerant person, myself, I can attest that many, many things have wheat and milk added as fillers, so we are being hugely overdosed on some items we don't even realize would have those things in them. But I digress.

These ladies were nearly giddy when Jamie's first attempt at feeding the children baked chicken, roasted potatoes, salad and apples was a large failure. What few children chose this lunch, threw much of it out. Of course they did. They have had nothing but chicken nuggets and pizza their whole lives. And the school serves pizza for breakfast everyday. Jamie asked different children what they had for supper the night before and they unanimously said chicken nuggets, pizza, chicken tenders, etc. They are eating the same foods day in and day out, no matter where they are. Convenience items. Things we all throw at our kids when we have no time or energy to cook. By the time this preview show was over I likened feeding our children in this manner no better than opening a bag of feed and tossing on the ground for the chickens or slopping the pigs. Something that has to be done, but do it as quickly and easily as possible. I would hope we care more about our kids than the chickens and pigs.

"Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" actually premiers this Friday on ABC at 9pm ET. I challenge everyone to watch and be as grossed out as I was about the state of our diets and what we are feeding our children. We should be outraged and demand standards to change. If we don't not only are our children dying before we will, but their children, our grandchildren will die even younger. Our laziness and habits shouldn't be so self-important to kill future generations for no good reason.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Whose Fault?

Jihad Jane. Colleen LaRose. Everyone that has known her seems totally shocked at the turn of events that has exposed a side to this woman that no one seemed to be aware of. Her neighbors described her as a typical housewife. Her boyfriend didn't have a clue. Her ex-husband describes a "bible-toting church-goer". So when, why and how did her outlook change so much that she became willing to go murder a Swedish cartoonist and be a martyr for a cause that she, seemingly, had nothing to do with? Let me propose a theory. It may not have a lot of validity, but it's mine.

Anytime one used to be a "bible-toting" Christian and turns away from it, I think most people tend to think that their previous ways weren't real, putting on the mask to fit into the church crowd. It's always a possibility. There's certainly enough people running around, inside and outside the church alike, wearing various masks. And with anyone that seems to have such a change of personality and beliefs, you can never completely rule out a mental instability. But, again, I think that's an easy way out for explaining some situations. This one strikes me differently. She was married for 10 years to a man that says they lived a very routine, normal life and went to church every Sunday. Then they divorced. Now, I'm not saying divorce is the reason for people going over the edge, but its definitely seen as a failure to many. She moves to Pennsylvania and we haven't learned much about the next many years. But skip ahead 15 years and we learn of the death of her father and her attempted suicide. Suicide. Only people that are truly disillusioned and tapped out emotionally go this route. There's no indication that she continued going to church or had any kind of Christian support system after moving to Pennsylvania. We just don't know this part of the story yet.

Now, I've never been to Pennsylvania, except for the Philadelphia airport. But I'm fairly certain there are Christians in Pennsylvania. I have a few online sisters that are wonderful Christians. But have to ask, where were the church-goers in her community? In church? Going to choir practice, bible studies, having programs, breakfasts, dinners? There's nothing wrong with any of those things. But a lot of Christians seem s to hole themselves up inside the walls of the church. They keep themselves extremely busy with church activities. All their friends are other church members. They home school their kids and network with other church home schoolers. I've even known many that will only work for the Christian businessman that they know well from, yes, you have it, church. Many of them have themselves so insulated from anyone and anything in the world that they wouldn't recognize a real worldly need if it bit them on the nose. It is my theory that Colleen was badly disillusioned by Christians. How much did they try to help, without judgement, when she went through her divorce? How many tried to befriend the new neighbor when she moved to Pennsylvania? How many were there to comfort and lift her up when she was grieving at the death of her father?

We don't know the answers to these questions. But I've seen it happen over and over. Many Christians are so consumed with living the virtuous life and knowing virtuous people that they lose touch about what we are really here for. To touch the world. A very, very hurting world. Again, this is strictly a conjecture on my part about Colleen's life. But the observations of what goes behind my theory has been taken from years and years of spending time with "church-goers". Some are the most wonderful people in the world. And they are "in the world". But there are, sadly, still many that haven't woke up yet.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's been winter since Christmas, inside and out. You know that gray, bored, cabin-fevered emotional void that comes with the post-holiday letdown? And I always feel like I'm being ungrateful to complain about anything because, really, I have nothing to complain about. My life has been richly blessed and I never really forget that. I'm very grateful. But this is a feeling, a feeling that passes through me often. I don't know if its a chemical thing or a lack-of-sun thing but I get blue and this is certainly the time of year I feel I struggle with it the most. But for a very different reason, this has been a difficult last few months for me.

If you have read any of my posts in the last 9 months or so, you know I lost my father to cancer last May. Besides the usual grief that brings, its just weird to suddenly know at my age that one of my parents is no longer on this earth. Move ahead 8 months. I had an uncle that suffered many, many mini strokes the past 3-5 years. The past 3 years have been spent in in-home care and not always being terribly aware of who people are or what's going on around him. But he remained a large man and was a burden that my aunt and cousins dealt with mostly on their own all that time. It was an existence that certainly seemed to have no quality of life, not an existence that anyone would consider beneficial. But he had the stubborness and tenacity to hang on nearly 3 years longer than anyone, including his doctors, expected. But he took a sudden turn last month and in a week's time, he suddenly was gone. As with my father's cancerous decline, no one could be terribly sad that their suffering was over.

Skip ahead one more time one month later. Yesterday.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A most amazing thought

I was at a gathering of people at church last night, one being our pastor. We were discussing the evolution of our particular church and that of churches in American in general. Apparently nearly 4000 churches close their doors annually due to dying congregations. Relevance. Their lack of revelance in the lives of those in their community. Our pastor reminded us that in remaining relevant to those in our communities has to continue to change as we get older and those coming in the doors should be younger. In doing this successfully, we must be willing to let go of alot, if not all, of our own things we like or feel comfortable with. We must continue to change with the times. He said the most amazing thing. "I have given up absolutely everything I love about my job as a preacher." Now, please understand he was not saying he no longer loved his job. Not at all. He was simply saying that God has shown him that he has needed to let go of any sense of routine or the aspects about his job that he always looked forward to. God has replaced those things with other things he loves and enjoys, but they aren't things from his own desires or thoughts. They are from HIS desires for us. And by letting go of the sense of self in doing a job, our pastor has been HIS tool for growth and touching the lives of those in our communities. Our church was once one of those about to close its doors to now being a congregation of well over 20,000, four weekly services and a new satellite location in another town 40 miles away.

Change and letting go of control this way never lets us arrive at a place where we can relax and be comfortable. It continues. It moves, constantly. Our comfortableness must be found in the change, in the work that is being done in the lives of those around us, in stretching ourselves to keep moving and growing with it all. The word to remember is relevance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The "Man" in the Middle

We are seeing it more often. Wife, mother, missing, police, searches, "grievous" husbands left at home to continue "normalcy" in the face of tragedy. We've seen it with Scott Peterson, Stephan Grant, Drew Peterson and most recently, Josh Powell. These are only the big cases I can think of off the top of my head and they made national news. I'm confident there are many, many other cases but for one reason or another, hasn't made the major airwaves, yet.

I titled this blog, "The "Man" in the Middle". I think most people can grasp my italicizing the word man, simply due to many definitions of what exactly a man is. I don't mean a male, alone. I don't even mean husband or significant other. I mean the degree and quality of character. The men that these missing ladies were married to, for one reason or another, did not have the character or integrity to be my definition of "man". These spouses either had control issues, financial issues, mental issues or anger issues left unchecked. Their wives, from what understanding we can glean from the events leading up to each of their disappearances, became spouses that had, for one reason or another, turned elsewhere away from their marriage, to grasp a breath of air away from what had become suffocating. And that is what I mean by "in the middle". There seemed to be an outside influence of even minor consequence that made these wives either look elsewhere or simply became aware that the union they were in was not healthy. These husbands were no longer taking care of her in some manner, whether it be physically, emotionally or providing that sense of security that we all need. And because these ladies lost faith in their spouse or their marriage, these men were moved to react in violent ways.

Being disillusioned by a marriage is no reason to fear violent consequences. Why should disillusionment or problems jump to violence, rather than a marriage counselor or even divorce court? A few cases has been reported where the wife wrote letters or told friends that if anything should happen to them, they should suspect their husbands. What is it about these men that jumps past reasonable action and goes straight to violence and the subsequent lying and hiding until the truth and evidence comes back to bite them? And why do wives stay with men they have such strong fears about?

I don't know what the answer is. I do believe there could have been more protection for them from the police. Perhaps it was available and these ladies chose not to open that door. But I would encourage everyone that may become suspicious in any way about the relationship of a friend, neighbor, sibling, adult child to get involved. Encourage them to talk. Encourage them to get help. Help them as quickly and as much as possible. We have too many children losing their mothers, and subsequently their fathers, in crimes of passion. Let's help these families before they get to that point.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What is a Right?

I suspect this post will not be a popular one. But, I have a need to look further into something I've observed quite a bit lately. There seems to be an uprising of people that are, somewhat, put off and bitter over the recent onslaught of fundraisers for the Haitian people and the tragic earthquake they recently experienced.

The United States is usually one of the first countries to offer help around the world when things of this nature happen. We, as a people, give the most monies to the cause. And I would venture to say, without proof, that we probably have the largest number of people that will travel to these locations to offer personal help and resources. Our celebrities often join forces to influence for more money for the cause.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Still Lessons to be Learned

Today is MLK Day, Martin Luther King's observance. He was a great man, a Godly man. He had messages that we can all still learn from today. But I'm afraid he, and his message, have been placed in a box he was trying to open decades ago. The race box. And it could be eye opening to look at that box.

Martin Luther King, along with his day of observance, was first observed in 1986 after President Reagan signed it into law in 1983. It was immediately embraced by the black community. It has taken nearly 25 years for the typical holiday observances to reach the magnitude it is today. But that, said, it's not as observed, yet, as some other holidays. We do close the federal offices, post offices and post offices, along with banks now. Some school districts have the day off, but if you look carefully, alot of those school districts are urban schools with a majority of black students. Out in the suburbs, its still unusual to have this day off. Such is the case here, around the Detroit area. We lived in the New England region for a few years and there, they would really observe the day by having the children learn excerpts from Mr. King's famous, "I Have a Dream" speech. In my opinion, learning about the man, his message and his words is observing the day in a much more genuine way that having the day off from school or work, simply to play for the day or a few more hours to get errands such as groceries done. But that's just me.

I feel that one of the most quoted phrases that epitomizes Mr. King is the one that says he dreams of the day his children aren't judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. What a great quote. What a great sentiment. And what a great goal. I think in the four decades that has passed since it was originally spoken, things between the black and white communities have improved. But it hasn't arrived yet. One of his last speeches he gave was about the Vietnam War. In it, he said that darkness doesn't dispel darkness. Light does. And hate does not cure hate. Love does. Isn't that profound? A little obvious, but profound, nonetheless. In this fight for race equality, I think both sides have, at times, forgotten this simple concept. I think it also holds true in most conflicts of ideals. Hate is met with hate. We see it in the abortion protests. We see it in the gay protests. Hate is met with hate. And hate will never, ever change someone's mind. It will never be the more attractive option. God did not intend for His people to use His words and His teachings to spew hate toward anyone. And that does not give the recipients of the radical, over-zealous religious protests the right to meet their hatred with hatred of their own. Two wrongs don't make a right, remember? Martin Luther King has been held up as a great man in the civil rights movement. We also need to remember he was a great follower of God.

"The content of our character." That's a sermon and life-goal for all of us, black, white, Jew, Islam, gay, straight, Christian or not. Let's consider the next time we have a difference of opinion, difference of ideals, difference of lifestyles what the content of our character is showing the world. Let's all, all of us, strive to make this one phrase spoken by Martin Luther King many, many years ago more the norm than not. I think it would go a very long way in this world.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year, Now What?

Here we all are in 2010. Do you recall being a kid and thinking the 2000's sounded so Sci-fi? It's just so amazing how quickly time passes. I learned a lot last year doing my blog. I actually got where I was writing more and enjoying it more. Then comes the holidays. SCREEEECCCCHHH!!!! That's the sound of brakes, in case you didn't know. My husband took quite a bit of time off, my son was between semesters and we simply did a lot of nothing. Relaxing, watching TV--mostly football games, and going to bed and getting up and eating whenever the spirit moved. It was so enjoyable. But, alas, bills need to be paid and jobs and schooling need returning to.

I realized that it's been awhile since my last entry and started thinking about what to write about. I think my brain is still on vacation. Apparently, I'm needing to get back into some sort of swing of writing. I have a few aspirations for my writing this new year. I'd like to finish the fiction novel I began during NaNoWriMo in November. I entered in the nth hour, so I hadn't really prepared for it very well and I wasn't convinced it was something I could do. I didn't finish the goal of 50,000 words, but I did enjoy my story and would like to continue with it. I have considered a new blog also. One that is thematic. I gave this quite a bit of thought and concluded that perhaps it will be a blog about encouragement. My husband and I have been told many times that we are Barnabases, encouragers. And in this day, who doesn't need encouragement from time to time? We all do. What do you think?

For better or worse, we are already almost halfway through January of this new year. Yikes! I want this year to be more purposeful. I'm tired of kind of "floating" along wherever life takes me and not really accomplishing anything or bettering myself at all. I have a couple of other goals for myself in addition to my writing. I'm sure you may hear about that in the future. I didn't make "resolutions", just resolving to be more purposeful. It's a phychological thing for me. Maybe I'll stick to this one. It would really help me to hear from you, the readers. What do want to see in 2010 for yourself? Speak up and let's help each other make this year the best we've had in a long time.