Home

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As a parent, sometimes I feel like much of my time is spent correcting my kids. I know it exasperates them. It’s not much fun for me either. But I’m trying to raise them to be responsible and respectable. Not because I want them to be successful. I mean, of course I want them to be successful, but more importantly, I want them to be responsible and respectable because those qualities are important to me. I often feel I’m fighting an uphill battle in a society that seems to teach that everything is always someone else’s fault and you are entitled to just about anything for no other reason than the fact that you want it. So I correct them, I take away privileges and I wonder if any of it ever sinks in. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a drill sergeant or anything. I just feel like one at times.

But recently, after one of my kids experienced a difficult and bitter disappointment, I was reminded that one of the most important jobs as a parent is to be here for my kids; to make sure they know that no matter how big and bad this old world is, there is a place where there is acceptance and love. This place called home.

“Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule.” ~Frederick W. Robertson

I’m staring out into the night, trying to hide the pain
I’m going to the place where love
And feeling good don’t ever cost a thing
And the pain you feel’s a different kind of pain

Well, I’m going home, back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I’m not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong
I don’t regret this life I chose for me
But these places and these faces are getting old
So I’m going home, well I’m going home

The miles are getting longer, it seems, the closer I get to you
I’ve not always been the best man or friend for you
But your love remains true and I don’t know why
You always seem to give me another try

So I’m going home, back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I’m not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong
I don’t regret this life I chose for me
But these places and these faces are getting old

Be careful what you wish for ’cause you just might get it all
You just might get it all and then some you don’t want
Be careful what you wish for ’cause you just might get it all
You just might get it all, yeah

Oh, well I’m going home, back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I’m not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong
I don’t regret this life I chose for me
But these places and these faces are getting old
I said these places and these faces are getting old
So I’m going home, I’m going home

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Home, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more on this topic, please visit him at PeterPollock.com

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 5

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In the first post of this series, The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part one, I promised to present a few examples of these fabled beasts and show how to ensure your elephants continue to thrive and live indefinitely.

I also mentioned that while there are a myriad of conditions which result in the creation of an elephant in the room, there is typically commonality to the environments in which they thrive.

  • The owner of the elephant is rarely its master.
  • The elephant cannot survive in an environment of open, honest communication where there are no secrets.
  • “Shoulds” and “ought to haves” are an elephant’s favorite treats.
  • These beasts feed and thrive on guilt, fear, pride and shame.
  • Ancient elephants still exist today; many producing offspring through several generations.
  • The ideal environment for a large, virile elephant is one where secrets are never openly confessed but are known by both the elephant’s owner and its master.
  • Several elephants can co-exist under one roof. The come in many shapes and sizes, as do their masters.

At this point, many who have been living with these elephants in the room may be thinking that it’s high time to face the beasts and get them out of your lives forever. Having some experience in this endeavor, I feel it’s only fair to warn you that the task is not an easy one. Both owners and masters hold strong beliefs that the survival of these elephants is vital to their own survival. The longer these beasts are fed on a steady diet of things left unsaid; of feelings held but not expressed, the stronger they grow:

You must approach the beast with caution, but with strength.

Do not attempt to maneuver around the elephant. It will see this as an act of weakness on your part. Be as direct as possible when addressing an issue.

Try and talk around an issue, and you'll be in trouble. As soon as the beast senses any timidness in your approach to it, it will typically push back immediately.

You must not come to the battle ill prepared. As the saying goes, "Don't send a boy to do a man's job." If you sense your defense is too weak to fight on this particular day, retreat. Live to fight another battle when you're better prepared.

As I said before, they do not go quietly and they will put up a good fight.

Do not underestimate the elephant in the room.

Underestimate it, and your battle is lost before you begin.

But don't give up the fight. You may lose the battle, but the war continues. Maybe you need to bring in the big guns next time.

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to my friend Darlene of Simply Darlene for sending me these photos which inspired this post.

Common Resentment

I’m a bit of a bird snob.

I love watching birds, just not all birds. I have a large picture window in my office. Just outside this window, I have strategically placed two bird feeders and a bird bath so that I can look outside and watch the array of birds native to this part of Texas.

There are cardinals (my personal favorite)

finches and sparrows

the loud and proud Blue Jay

The State bird of Texas, the mockingbird

But mostly there are doves…

Lots and lots of doves.

So many in fact, that frankly they’ve become a nuisance for me.

There are dozens of them. While some weigh down the feeders, others peck on the ground for seed. More await on the roof. They're everywhere.

They’re like rodents with wings. Hungry rodents. The city pigeon’s country cousins. I bought three 5 pound bags of bird seed over the weekend. As of Thursday afternoon, those bags are empty. I don’t want to look at these doves. They’re common, they’re dull, and they are eating up the bird seed I would much rather be eaten by the birds I actually like. Then something occurred to me while I was watching them gobble up all that bird seed and repeatedly fly into the window. (Yeah, they’re dumb, too.) I have turned this pleasant experience into something less than that because I’ve lost my ability to see them as anything special. But they are special.

and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” ~ Luke 3:22

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How could I have disdain for a bird whose descent is compared to that of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus?

But familiarity really does breed contempt. The images I conjure up in my mind when I think of the American bald eagle are similar to this one. Majestic, independent, powerful and graceful.

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And frankly, that’s the image I want in my mind. But how would your image change of the National bird of the USA if you saw hundreds of them every day scouring a landfill in search of food?

Image courtesy of the Vancouver Time. In February, 2011, 1400 bald eagles were spotted at a Vancouver landfill.

I can’t pick and choose which birds come into my yard, and I can allow my disdain for the commonness of these doves to spoil my enjoyment of bird watching.

Instead, I think I’ll choose to embrace the fact that just because things are common doesn’t mean they aren’t of value.

Unless, of course, any of you know of a way to get rid of the doves without getting rid of the other birds. Not that I would entertain that notion, of course. Being all enlightened now and whatnot…

Why I hate writing, Part 9: Honesty

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Sometimes I’ll tweet stuff that’s rather cryptic. These tweets are often the result of frustration. They’re incredibly selfish on my part. My way of stomping my feet without stomping on anyone’s feet in particular.

Some writers can take a story about themselves and make it about the reader, some can take just about anything and make it about themselves. I’m not a fan of the latter. Navel gazing does not make for compelling writing.

I often read something almost good and mourn the first draft before the writer worried about offending anyone.

While both tweets may seem somewhat unrelated, they’re really not. Both are about my frustration with lack of honesty in writing. I understand that all writers should consider their audience and what they are hoping to accomplish through their words. Still, I think we spend way too much time worrying about what others think of us; too much effort trying to be a better version of ourselves–or worse–a different version of another person.

I know what a competitive field writing is. I also understand the pressure writers are under to build platforms and broaden their audience, even if much of that pressure is self-induced. But I’m telling you as an avid reader and a big supporter of writing and of writers:  Intelligent readers can sniff out dishonest writing. The last thing you want to do is to insult your reader’s intelligence.

Writers, and fiction writers in particular, have the freedom to express what’s in their hearts; to live lives through their words they most likely will never experience in the real world. Do that well and you’ll do us all the grand favor of allowing us to come along on the journey.

And I for one will be extremely grateful.

Sweet dreams are made of this (or not)

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Who among you is old enough to remember the Euryththmics? I sure do. Back in the day when they actually played music videos on MTV and VH1. Ah, good times. I loved that band immediately. Not so much because of Annie Lennox’s voice–which I think is great–but because they were freaks. Unapologetic freaks at that. Finally, some role models!

I’ve always been told I have a vivid imagination. Okay, not really. When I was a kid, the most common descriptive of me was “That girl is weird”. And perhaps to give strength to that assessment, when people told me I was weird, I always took it as a compliment. Now I’m all grown up, married to a man who is decidedly not weird, and have two children of my own.

Since my creativity wasn’t really nurtured or encouraged as a child (I’m not bitter about this, my family just didn’t know what to make of me), it gives me a huge sense of pride when I see creativity in my own kids. My son is an avid reader, and while he doesn’t write often, when he does it’s usually well written. He’s also a great golfer and a pretty decent French horn player. (In my unbiased, motherly opinion, of course.)

My daughter, while she definitely has her own distinct personality, has a tendency to think like me; to take seemingly unrelated objects and put them together to form something completely new. Sometimes the results are whimsical or even incredible functional. Other times…

Well, other times they’re just downright scary. To me, anyway. Take her latest creation:

This is a decorative dressmaker's stand. I bought it for her thinking it would be a good place hang purses, scarves or even play dress up with.

And she did use it for dress-up. This is a little ballet dress from a performance a few years ago. So far, so good.

Okay, this is where we take a little leap outside the box:

Stick horse inserted through the neck of the dressmaker's stand. Things are getting a little creepy.

Not creepy? Okay, maybe it’s just me:

How about now?

Perhaps I’ve seen The Godfather too many times. Or perhaps I’ve read too many Stephen King novels. Specifically, The Dark Tower series. Here’s an illustration from The Dark Tower:

I don’t worry about my daughter having nightmares. I don’t think she thinks there’s anything at all scary or creepy about her…whatever that thing is.

It’s MY nightmares I’m concerned about:

Sweet dreams, people! Mwha ha ha!

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 4

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Family Reunion

It’s Sunday afternoon and the family has gathered for a very special occasion.

The boys and their families flew in from Colorado and Tennessee. The girls married and settled closer to home, neither one more than an hour’s drive from their childhood home.

The big occasion? It’s Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. The house is small, so John, Kevin and their families chose to stay at a nearby hotel in town. Now gathered in the tiny family room, the brothers and sisters wonder aloud how they ever managed to all fit in this house, let alone grow up here.

While their parents are in the back yard playing with the grandkids–nine in all–John, Kevin, Janet and Kara catch up on each other’s lives. The brothers each left home after high school graduation. John set off for college on a football scholarship and Kevin headed for Fort Bragg and a career in the military. They talk about their kids; about how much has changed and how much has remained unchanged.

What they don’t talk about is why Janet’s husband has spent most of the afternoon taking private calls on his cell phone out of earshot of his wife, or the fact that no amount of make-up can cover the purple, swollen skin under Kara’s right eye.

The elephants in the room loom as large as Kara’s husband’s absence from this auspicious occasion.

But the biggest elephant of all–the one each sibling recognizes but none want to admit to themselves, let alone each other, is the old saying that in this case rings heartbreakingly true:

Both Janet and Kara married men just like their Daddy.

And the elephants feed and grow…

If you missed the first three installments of this series, you can find them here:

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 1: An Introduction and Explanation
The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 2: Unspoken
The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 3: Anniversary Gifts

Water, water everywhere

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Thursday was the last day of school. Before I sat down to write this post, I dropped my daughter off at an end of school pool party. My son will be attending one on Saturday.

In what has been the driest spring (and now moving into summer) that I can remember, I am still surrounded by water. Clean, accessible water for drinking, bathing and for all the other things we do that require water I rarely think about. The only time I think about it is when we suffer the occasional power outage and we are temporarily unable to access it. (We’re on a well and septic system, so when the power goes out, so does the water pump.)

Much of the world is not so fortunate.

Forty-two thousand people die every week for reasons clean water could help cure. Ninety percent are children.

Thirty-seven thousand, eight hundred children die every week because they don’t have access to clean water.

When fellow blogger Matt Windley of Becoming Last contacted me last month and asked if I would join him in an ambitious fundraising adventure for Charity Water, I didn’t have to think long about it before I agreed. I’ve been involved in a campaign with this organization before (30 Days/30 Bloggers), so I happen to know they are a good group of folks.

The beauty of Charity Water is that they give 100% of the donations to their projects. Matt’s goal is to raise $1,000,000 in the month of June. I know. That sounds crazy, it is, but it’s the number he keeps coming back to. There are approximately 310 million people in the US alone. Even if just .003 of that group gave $1 each, we’d reach $1 million. I believe using our social networks in and outside of the internet, we can make a huge difference in the lives of many suffering children.

Will you help? If you answered yes to that question, or even if you only answered maybe, please visit Becoming Last for further details, or to donate directly to the campaign, visit the Charity Water 30 Day – $1 Million Dollar Challenge page.

Words with Friends: An idiot’s guide, Part 2

In the first exciting and compelling installment of Words with Friends: An idiot’s guide, I debunked any false presumption that I was a smart or logical person. Clearly, anyone who downloads a game app on their iPhone then stares at it for months hoping to ascertain how to play by sheer will rather than googling “How to play Words with Friends” is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

However…

Over the past two weeks, I have gained priceless knowledge about the inner workings of this game. Knowledge that I will share with you today.

Because that’s me.

I’m a giver.

The following are a few random observations about my journey into the world of Words with Friends (WWF). It is my sincere hope that you will benefit from my learning some things the hard way.

There are certain words used in WWF that I dare say have never been uttered by human lips. No one really knows what they mean, and if you look them up in the dictionary, the definition most likely will say, “word used in Scrabble”. This definition may quite possibly be written in the margin with a red crayon. The Mac Daddy of all of these nonsensical words is:

QI or its plural form QIS

Then there are those words whose root word is allowed, but not their verb form:

"STANK"

But not "STANKY"

There are other words that, if used in a writing assignment, would be circled with a big, red angry pen, but are apparently perfectly acceptable in WWF. Words like “NOHOW”. The use of these words may stir up anger and resentment in your opponent:

These seeds of resentment sometimes spill over into other forms of social media:

And speaking of acceptable and unacceptable words, many of you already know that proper nouns are not allowed. I found this out when my triple word score of “PEZ” was summarily rejected. JUNE is also not acceptable, even though I would argue that “JUNE” is a descriptive of “BUG”. But nobody asked me. You can, however use this word:

"JUN" - yeah, I don't know what it means either.

And finally, in choosing words, you must let your conscious be your guide. There are certain cuss words which are allowed and others that are not. I’ve tried to avoid using any bad words. Unless of course a double or triple word score is involved. (Sidenote: “BADGERASS” is not an acceptable WWF word. Or so I’ve heard.)

If you do choose to use questionable words, my personal recommendation would be only to do so with someone you know, and a quick text to them in the form of an explanation may be in order:

Just to make sure you’ve not offended anyone and everything is COPACETIC.

So what say you, Words with Friends fans? Am I leaving out any crucial information? Care to share some uncommon words with me? Talk to me.

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.

Until…

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.

Words too often overused

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I think it’s commonly accepted that the word love is overused. If I were to say I love Jesus, I love my family and I love a good pair of flip flops all in the same breath, you’d have to wonder (and hope, I would imagine) that I’m speaking about varying degrees of love.

But love is not the only word bandied about to a point where it’s lost some of its impact.

The Merriam-Webster definition of hero is as follows:

a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b : an illustrious warrior
c : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
d : one who shows great courage
2
a : the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work
b : the central figure in an event, period, or movement
3
plural usually he·ros : submarine 2
4
: an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol

So when I see the word hero associated with a sandwich,

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or a video game,

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or even a professional athlete,

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I wonder if we don’t downplay what the true meaning of a hero is.

The following video from Worship House Media was played in church Sunday. It is a moving reminder of all the fallen heroes who gave so much for what many of us too often take for granted. (Hopefully, your computer will allow you to view it full screen.)

We remember our fallen heroes today and we are grateful.

(Note: If you can’t view this video, please click on the link to Worship House Media above and watch it on their website.)