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A slow fade

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Sunday morning: A video was shown during the sermon–Slow Fade by Casting Crowns. Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics:

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you’re thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It’s a slow fade
When you give yourself away
Its a slow fade
When black and white are turned to gray

And thoughts invade, choices are made
A price will be paid
When you give yourself away

People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

It’s a slow fade

Monday afternoon: After a mostly sleepless night, I’m dozing off on the couch, news on in the background when I hear the name of a local high school. This immediately gets my attention because it’s the national news. The high school has been evacuated because of a bomb threat. By the end of the day, close to 4,000 students have been released from the school and a 19 year old senior is in custody. Something called a zip gun has been found in a backpack thought to belong to him and there are news reports that another such device has been found in his car.

Before any official word came from the school district, I was exchanging texts with a friend whose kids attend the school. She gave me the name of the suspect. I found him quickly on Facebook. Nothing on his profile would indicate anything other than a normal, high school kid. His profile pic even reminded me a little of my own son’s last school picture. But somebody had to know he was in trouble. Like the song says, people never crumble in a day.

I’m grateful that no one was hurt. I suppose I could be outraged that something like this could happen so literally close to home.

But mostly I’m reminded that as a parent, I need to pay attention. That sometimes kids go through phases but at other times there are serious issues they’re wrestling with. There are times when kids–my own kids–just aren’t that pleasant to be around. And while it’s tempting to leave them alone and avoid the attitude, it’s those times when they’re least unlovable that they need love the most.

I don’t know what lead this kid to do whatever he was planning to do, but I hope it serves as a wake up call for other families who may be one or two steps away from the same scenario.

Families never crumble in a day…

The clarity of light

Last year, in a response to a post my friend Billy Coffey wrote entitled The luckiest boy in the world, I wrote a post about my own personal experience with the aftermath of divorced parents. My parents’ divorce was extremely painful for everyone involved, but I still maintain that I’m a better for experience, even though I would never wish it on anyone:

“Not all children of divorce live their lives as victims. Some of us are stronger for it, because we had a parent who didn’t allow their circumstances to dictate whether or not they did the right thing. They did right thing despite their circumstances.”

When we’re going through the dark places, it’s so difficult to see the clarity of light they may someday bring to us.

A few months ago, my daughter told me that the parents of one of her best friends were getting a divorce. While I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the divorce rate in this country, I was. I know them to be a close family who love their three children very much. When my daughter told me of the divorce, she told me she didn’t know why her parents were getting a divorce and that she didn’t feel right asking. I told her that was okay, that if her friend wanted to talk about it she would. But her most important role as a friend right now is just to be there, to show her friend that even if her immediate future may be filled with inconsistencies and unknowns, her friendship remains a constant.

There have been many times over the past few months when her friend will call and ask to come over, and each time we pick her up. Sometimes for a sleepover, sometimes just for a few hours. I don’t think she’s escaping anything more dubious than the sadness that comes from knowing the house she’s grown up in will soon belong to another family. I think she just wants to be free of the big, heavy, grown-up worries that 10 year old girls shouldn’t have to carry. Even if it’s just  for a little while. Without fail, when we drop her back off at home we tell her she is always welcome at our house.

The greatest gift of my own personal experience with divorce is the ability to pass on my empathy and compassion to my daughter without her having to go through that particular dark place herself.

And I would never know the beautiful clarity of that particular light had I not gone through my own darkness.

The griddle of our discontent

The above griddle resides in my house. When I took this picture, it had been on the counter for three days. It made its latest first appearance last Saturday when my husband used it to make pancakes. Had I indulged in pancakes made on this griddle, I would have happily and gratefully cleaned the griddle and returned it to its home under the kitchen island. But I don’t eat pancakes. Ever. So why should I clean up after a meal I didn’t cook or eat? So I didn’t clean it. And neither did anyone else. It was moved from the top of the island to a spot next to the sink then back to the island again, but never cleaned.

The griddle was used again on Monday, when my son decided he wanted to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He wiped it down before he used it, but that doesn’t really count as cleaning, does it? Furthermore, after he made his grilled cheese sandwich, he left the griddle messier than when he found it, and he left it right where it’s mostly been since Saturday–in the center of the island in the middle of the kitchen.

Did I clean it and put it away?

No. Not right away.

Did I ask my son to clean it and put it back where it belonged?

No. I shouldn’t have to.

Nor should I had to have asked my husband to clean it on Saturday morning after making pancakes that I didn’t eat.

Because I’m not a maid.

And they all should know better than to leave that griddle out assuming I’m going to clean it.

So instead of cleaning the thing and putting it away,

it served as a reminder every time I passed the kitchen how often what I do is taken for granted.

But it only served as a reminder for me,

because no one else cares that there’s a big, dirty griddle sitting on the counter.

Just as no one else but me knows how much it bothers me.

It’s clean and put away where it belongs now.

I finally broke down and did it myself.

I suppose I could tell my family how having to clean a griddle I never use makes me feel taken for granted.

But I know hearing those words spoken aloud would sound incredibly petty and ridiculous.

Almost as petty and ridiculous as being mad about a griddle for three days.

What’s your giant fork and spoon?

Apples to Apples

There’s a whole lot I like about Twitter. There’s a whole lot I don’t like, but that’s another post altogether. One of my favorite things about Twitter is that people on there are so helpful. Last week, when I tweeted that I was looking for some family friendly games, folks were very generous with their suggestions. Many suggested Apples to Apples, and since both of my kids have played this game with friends, I decided to purchase it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, here’s a brief description via the fine folks at Wikipedia:


Each player is dealt seven “red apple” cards; on each card is printed a noun or noun phrase, or possibly a gerund.
The judge (a chosen player) draws a “green apple” card on which is printed an adjective (“scary”, “frivolous”, “patriotic”, etc.), and places it face-up on the table for everybody to see. Then each player (except the judge) chooses a card that they think is the best match for the green apple card, and places it face-down. The judge shuffles the red apple cards, reads them (often aloud), and decides which noun is the best match for the adjective. This decision is subjective; the official rules encourage the judge to pick the match that is “most creative, humorous or interesting”.

The player who submitted the chosen red apple card wins the round, and takes the green apple card to signify the win. All players then draw red cards until they have seven again, and the role of “judge” may pass to another person (generally going to the next player in line, though some rules have the round’s winner becoming “judge”). Some editions of the game suggest discounting the last red-apple card played, to encourage players to place their cards down more quickly.

The winner is the first player to accumulate a pre-designated number of green apple cards; the more players, the lower the total.

I had never played this game before, but it only took me a couple of hands to figure out that the key to this game is understanding how the person holding the green card (the judge) thinks.

For example, if, as judge, a person were to play this card:

you would have to know what that person might consider vile. My daughter might choose one of these cards:

Actually, my daughter played "Oil Companies" when this card was selected at which point we reminded her what her dad did for a living.

while my son would most likely choose one of these:

my husband would probably choose any one of these cards:

whereas I would most likely choose one of these:

Note: I should clarify. I don't think all Reality TV Shows are vile. Just the ones where people are shown at their worst in order to make the viewer feel superior by comparison. Deadliest Catch and pretty much any show Mike Rowe has anything to do with are excluded from this list.

The object of the game is to guess what the judge will consider the closest match, not what you think it is. I’ve only played it with my immediate family, but I have to think it would be the ultimate ice breaker game. What better way to get to know other people than playing a game where knowing what a person cares about and what he doesn’t means a better chance of winning in the end? Where letting others know what you think is less important than paying attention to what others think?

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

What do you think?

Ever played Apples to Apples?

Holding on to the past

The new furniture and bedding has been ordered.

With the arrival of an accent pillow, we’ve been able to choose a new paint color.

This room that started out as a nursery filled with ladybugs, fireflies, bumblebees and butterflies has had subtle transformations over the past 9 years.

From toddler princess…

to American Girl princess…

to “I’m a big girl now, no more princess stuff” room.

About a year ago, my soon-to-be 9 year old daughter announced that pink was no longer her favorite color. Her room was way too girly. I’ve resisted the change for as long as I could, but over the summer, all remnants of this pretty in pink room will be gone. We’ve found new homes for the bed and other pieces of furniture that once resided in this very girly little girl’s room.

In the negotiation process, my daughter agreed to certain terms. We’ve been at odds for the past several months because her room is often a disaster area. She suffers from what many of us suffer from: too much stuff and not enough space to put it all. She finally agreed to part with a sizable collection of My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop Pets, Barbies and all the various and sundry paraphernalia that accompanies said collections. This includes a large fold-out Barbie castle with a horse drawn carriage, furniture, clothes, etc. (LOTS and LOTS of etcetera. Two large boxes of etcetera, actually.)

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks going through and sorting toys to be given away. We’ve redressed all the naked Barbies and returned them to their original personas of Barbie Princesses, separated the ponies from the pet shop crowd, and threw in some DVDs to go with the different collections.  We wanted her old toys to seem as new as possible so that the little girls receiving them might enjoy them as much as she has.

She’s been a real trooper. Of the sizable collection of Barbies, she only asked to keep two dolls (one given to her by her cousins and one to keep the other one company I suppose) and a small Barbie car. As I was boxing up the rest of the stuff, I asked her repeatedly if she was sure she was ready to part with her stuff. She assured me she was.

There were a few items she pulled out of the box. I reasoned that she was taking a last stroll down memory lane and I was fine with that. The first item was a blow-up swimming pool complete with slide and diving board, which I found in her bathroom filled with water. This was quickly emptied, disassembled and put back into the box. I’m as nostalgic as the next person, but I’m not a big fan of indoor water toys.

The other item was a tiny, plastic recreated scene from the movie Barbie Fairytopia:

Since she had spent many hours playing with this particular toy, I asked her if she wanted to keep it. “I don’t care”, she said. “Are you sure? Because I really don’t mind if you want to hang on to it”, I said.

“No, Mom. I don’t care. I don’t really want to talk about my room stuff right now.”

Fair enough. Into to the box it went with everything else. That was Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning, I loaded up the boxes into the back of the jeep and headed to church. One friend’s daughter would be the recipient of the ponies and pets, another friend’s granddaughters would be getting the giant box of Barbie stuff. All was well.


We got home from a late lunch after church. My daughter, tired and cranky, went straight to her room. Moments later she emerged asking where her flower thingy was. I reminded her of the conversation we had about whether or not she wanted to keep it. With tears in her eyes, she told me she did. “But I need that back. I didn’t mean to give that away.”

Uh oh.

In separate conversations, her father and I both explained that we had already given her things away and it wouldn’t be right to take it back. She said how sorry she was, how that toy reminded her of when she was little. She went on to say she didn’t know how much it meant to her until she didn’t have it anymore.

After a couple of hours she was still upset. I conceded to a point. I told her I would call Mr. Randy. If he hadn’t given the box to the girls, I would ask if I could stop by and get one item out of the box. But if the girls had already opened the box, its contents belonged to them.

I think I was almost as relieved as she was that the box was still sitting in the back of Randy’s truck unopened. I don’t know if it was the best example to set as a parent. The best thing to do was to probably just tell her you can’t give something away and then ask for it back.

But I know what it’s like to have something and lose it, never understanding how important it is to you until it’s too late. This time it wasn’t too late.

She’ll be 10 years old in 2 short months, and I’m happy she has something special to remind her of when she was little. I’m even happier that she wants to hang on to being a little girl a bit longer.

It all goes by much too fast.

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 2

image courtesy of

In the first installment of this series, The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 1, I mentioned that I would be sharing a few examples of the unseen elephants in the room and how to insure said elephants continue to thrive and live indefinitely. The first characteristic mentioned in last week’s post was that the owner of the elephant is rarely its master. In the following short story, the roles of master and owner cross over and change.


The stack of magazines, once hidden carefully between the boy’s mattress and box spring now lies atop his neatly made bed. His mother discovered them while changing the bedding this morning. Her initial shock gives way to uncomfortable understanding. He’s not her little boy anymore. After her mind processes the whys of the situation, she begins to wonder about the where and the who. There will be hell to pay for any cashier who sold pornography to a child who is obviously under 21. She looks at the pub dates on the magazines. They’re 3 or 4 months old. Did he buy them or were they given to him? Or maybe he found them. But found them where?

The separation was difficult on everyone, but her oldest son seemed to take it the hardest. Filing for a divorce was not something she did lightly, but after discovery of the second affair, his promises seemed as empty as his side of the bed. She knew her boys needed a positive male role model in their lives. Unfortunately, their father wasn’t fulfilling that role. She grabbed the phone and dialed her soon to be ex-husband’s office. When she heard her voice–affair number two–she immediately hung up.

No, she would handle it herself. But what could she say to her son that wouldn’t cause them both embarrassment? That’s when she got the idea of putting the magazines on top of his bed. She reasoned that he would know that she knew. Surely that would put a stop to it.

When the kids got home from school, she asked them about their day just as she always did. She also mentioned she had changed the sheets on their beds, her eyes catching her oldest son’s gaze and holding it just a fraction longer than usual. As a cold sweat broke out on the back of his neck, her son said he was going to his room to play video games. He opened the door, his mind racing as he saw the stack of magazines placed so neatly on the center of his bed. What now? What would he possibly say to his mother? Then it occurred to him that she hadn’t said anything to him about them, even though it was clear she was the one who put them there. He knew his mother well enough to understand that there was often more meaning in the things she didn’t say than the things she did. And her message was clear: I know what you’re doing. Stop it now and we won’t have to talk about it. We can pretend that it never happened.

So that’s exactly what he did. He gave the magazines back to his mother’s new boyfriend and told him it was probably not a good idea to leave them at her house anymore. He also asked if he could get some tickets to the ball game. They’re all going together this weekend. Mom’s really excited that her boys seem to be bonding with her new boyfriend.

Good roles models are so hard to find these days.

Her son doesn’t look at pornographic magazines anymore. Not since his dad got him a new computer for his birthday. There’s so much more to choose from on the Internet.

What type of rhino would you be?

rhino stencil

Some of you know I was working on a art project for my daughter’s 4th grade class last week. Each year, the school holds an auction to raise money for the PTA. In years past, the most popular items have been pieces of pottery decorated by the kids. This year, they decided to expand this concept to other mediums. Some grades still did pottery projects. There were also decorated benches, quilts, and painted canvases.

In years past, I have donated small rhino canvases (the school mascot) to be auctioned off. I’ve painted sports themed rhinos, superhero rhinos (Spiderman was my favorite), girly-girl rhinos, Sponge Bob, Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, camouflage rhinos and many more. I even painted a rhino that looked like a Louis Vuitton purse. I don’t do that anymore, but I did offer to paint the rhino canvas for my daughter’s class.

I won’t go through a blow by blow of the process, just the basics. 1) Each child was given an outline of a rhino I created with a stencil and was instructed to personalize it any way they wanted. 2) I xeroxed the rhinos then transferred each image onto a canvas using graphite paper. 3) I completed the rhinos to look as close to their original artwork as possible.

Prepared canvas

Arranging the rhinos

Copying the rhino images onto canvas

When I sent the blank rhino sheets for the kids to decorate, I also sent pictures of some of the rhinos I have painted in previous years. I wanted to give the kids some ideas about how they might want to decorate their own. A few kids used my ideas, but most of them personalized their rhinos to reflect something about themselves. I was very impressed with what they came up with:

Of all the great rhinos the kids sent me, I did have a favorite. Mostly because while other rhinos reflected a hobby, sport or other interest, this particular rhino was a reflection of the artist, a self-portrait in rhino form. I hope this suggests that the artist is a rugged individualist and comfortable with who she is:

Or maybe I’m just a proud mama…

How would you decorate your rhino?

Child of divorce

image courtesy of

Yesterday at Billy Coffey’s site was a post called The luckiest boy in the world.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Mr. Coffey’s writing, but that particular post struck a nerve with me. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s the sad and all too real story of how children are often made to suffer for the poor choices their parents make. And while I’m sure it wasn’t Billy’s intention to paint all children of divorce as irrevocably damaged, as a child of divorce myself, I took it very personally. In the comments I wrote the following:

I was one of those lucky kids, too. Fortunately not lucky enough to have 3 bedrooms. I had one room, at my mom’s house. The divorce was difficult for everyone but in my case, I think I’m a better person for having been raised by a mother who showed me how to choose to live with honor and dignity, to do the right thing even when others around you choose not to.

I spent the day with my mother on Thursday. This woman of small stature and enormous strength. By today’s standards she might be considered old fashioned. Her marriage did not end because of “irreconcilable differences” or some other fancy term that means two people don’t love each other anymore. My father left her.

If a single mother of four who had spent the previous 17 years raising children and being a housewife doesn’t paint a grim enough picture, consider that 18 years earlier, when she announced to her family her plans to marry an American serviceman, they completely disowned her. She has had no contact with any of them since. With the exception of the four of us kids, she was completely and utterly alone, with no job and no hope for the future.

As a woman from a very proud family richly steeped in Japanese tradition, honor and dignity are written into her DNA. She would never remarry. By her way of thinking, you marry once. She had been dishonored by one failed marriage, she would not dishonor her family and herself by choosing badly again.

This is the woman that is my mother. A woman who worked first as a waitress in a high end Japanese restaurant and later as a deli manager at two major grocery chains. She never took food stamps or any kind of government aid, even though I’m quite sure she qualified for it. I never remember being in want. She worked long hours on her feet all day then sewed and altered clothing to make ends meet. She’s suffered heart break that she didn’t share with us so as to not speak poorly of our father.

So when she tells me (as she did today) that she’s proud of who I’ve become, it is the ultimate compliment. I am who I am because of who she is. And I pray I can be the kind of mother she was and is to me to my own children.

Not all children of divorce live their lives as victims. Some of us are stronger for it, because we had a parent who didn’t allow their circumstances to dictate whether or not they did the right thing. They did right thing despite their circumstances.

The Way of Walking Alone (repost)

One of the great things about being me (of which there are many) is that I have the honor and privilege of reading some fairly stellar writing before anyone else does. This week I’m doing just that. Which is why I’ve been a little absent around the interwebs as of late. It’s also cut into my writing time, so I’m serving up leftovers today. If you’re new here, I hope you enjoy a little glimpse into my family history. I hope to be back to my regularly scheduled programming very soon.

Kazuko Hosokawa Dishman (aka - my mom)

I am proud to call myself an American first and foremost. My ancestors on my father’s side arrived and settled in what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia in the 1600’s. But that’s only half my ancestry.

My father met and married my mother in Japan. She was born Kazuko Hosokawa. The Hosokawas were one of the ruling samurai clans of Japan for many generations, and the family coat of arms (my mother was happy to report after a recent visit) is proudly displayed in the Tokyo National Museum.

So, while I am VERY much American, I am also very proud of my rich (albeit somewhat savage) Japanese heritage, and I wanted to share a little of it with you today.

Miyamoto Musashi

In the second month of 1641, Miyamoto Musashi (considered to be the greatest samurai who ever lived) wrote a work called the Hyoho Sanju Go (Thirty-five Instructions on Strategy) for Hosokawa Tadatoshi. This work overlapped and formed the basis for Go Rin No Sho, more famously known as The Book of Five Rings.

The Way of Walking Alone
(or The Way of Self-Reliance)

Do not turn your back on the various Ways of this world.

Do not scheme for physical pleasure.

Do not intend to rely on anything.

Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.

Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.

Do not regret things about your own personal life.

Do not envy another’s good or evil.

Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.

Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.

Have no heart for approaching the path of love.

Do not have preferences.

Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.

Do not have a liking for delicious food for yourself.

Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.

Do not fast so that it affects you physically.

Do not be fond of material things.

Do not begrudge death.

Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.

Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.

Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.

Never depart from the Way of martial arts.

Second Day of the Fifth Month, Second Year of Shoho (1645)
Miyamoto Musashi

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as either a blessing or a curse.” – Don Juan

A tale of two vacations

The call came in early September. My sister has been involved with the Gulf Coast oil spill clean up for the past several months. One of the command centers happens to be in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The big, evil oil company she works for rented a condo on the beach through the end of the year, and as fate would have it, no one was using it over the Thanksgiving holiday. When she called and invited my family to spend an extended weekend at the beach, I gladly accepted. Me and the beach go way back. It’s my favorite place in the world.

In my excitement, there was one thing I failed to consider–whether the luxury high-rise condos allowed pets. They did not. All of our vacations since we got Buddy Love have been to visit family, so we’ve always taken him along. We were very leery about boarding him because he suffers from stress-induced seizures, and being in a strange place without his people would most certainly qualify as a stressful situation. With only a week before our scheduled departure, we were faced with 3 options:

  1. Spend Thanksgiving at home and decline the invitation from my sister
  2. Have my husband stay home with the dog and take the kids to Gulf Shores
  3. Find a place in Gulf Shores which allowed pets

Boarding Buddy wasn’t ever a serious consideration, and options 1 and 2 were not exactly appealing either. God bless Google! I was able to find a cottage rental about 12 miles from where my mom and sisters were staying, and since the condo was already paid for, we weren’t sticking my sister with an extra bill for lodging.

It truly was the best of both worlds. I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my mom, sisters and my family at their kind of place: A beautiful, new high-rise condo right on the beautiful beaches of downtown Gulf Shores:

And a quiet, secluded little cottage on the bay. Away from the fancy stores, hotels and restuarants:

Both offered spectacular views:

Even though I rather preferred the view from our screened in porch to the 11th floor of the high-rise:

Although I’ve lived in the 4th largest city in the U.S. for most of my life (and maybe in some ways because of this), I prefer cozy to convenience, rustic to modern, and preserved to pristine. At the end of the day, I suppose what’s important is not where we stayed, but with whom we spent time with. Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends. To fellowship with those we love and more importantly, the One who loves us.

And there’s not a place on this earth where I feel His presence more than when I sink my feet in where sand meets saltwater and gaze upon the vastness of the sea.

Is there a place you feel closer to God than anywhere else?

This post is my contribution to the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by my friend, Bridget Chumbley. Please visit her site for more posts on the topic of Fellowship.

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