Thursday, December 03, 2009

For Those Who Need A New Beginning

"I'm Alive! I'm Alive! I've got a chance to change and I will not be the man I was.

I'll begin again; I will build my life.
I will live to know that I fulfilled my life.

I will begin today, throw away the past and the future
I will build something that will last.
I will take the time I have left to live,
and I will give it all that i have left to give.

I will live my days for my fellow men,
And I'll live in praise of that moment when, I was able to begin again!

I will start anew: I will make amends
And I will make quite certain that the story ends
On a note of hope, on a strong "AMEN",
and I'll thank the Lord and remember when
I was able to begin again!"


When Leaders Disappoint Us

This morning I started laughing when I read 1 Samuel 16:1. The Lord says to Samuel "How long will you mourn for Saul when I have rejected him as King? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way." I laughed because I could almost see God impatiently rolling his eyes at Samuel's pity party and saying "Come on man, get over it - we've got work to do!"

I can just see Samuel slumped in the corner, depressed because of Saul's sin, replaying over and over in his mind the events of the day Samuel heard God say "This is the man that will govern My people."

Samuel was there when Saul was a nobody - Saul even admitted he was a nobody and God made him King. He gave Saul every blessing and every opportunity and every tool to be a successful leader. He even said " "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power...and you will be changed into a different person...once this happens, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you." It's a blank check from God. How could Saul possibly screw this up?

I'm sure Samuel's heart was full of hope as he along with everyone else anticipated the changes that handsome, strong and capable Saul would bring to Israel. Not anymore. Now his heart knew what his mind refused to accept - Saul failed. He disobeyed God and God removed his favor and chose another leader - "a man after His own heart." I wonder how long Samuel sat in that state of depression before God finally interrupted his pity party and said "Snap out of it!"?

It's a great comfort to me to believe that God never gives up on me, that He is long-suffering and that because of His great love, I will never be rejected. Yet, here I see a mystery that I can't wrap my mind around. God doesn't waste any time mourning Saul. God is so comfortable with our free will. He knew the exact moment Saul's heart turned from away from Him, the exact moment that Saul turned his back on his job.

How can God have so much peace when someone rejects Him? How can God partner with someone, lay it all on the line for that person and then be so secure when it doesn't work out? I am so like Samuel in this. I get hung up in the shoulda, woulda, coulda of the relationships in life that haven't gone the way I hoped. My heart strings and expectations get wrapped up in a person and when they rejected me, I fall apart, I get angry, I micro-analyze every aspect of the events leading up to it and I just want to know why. Surely if I know why we can work it out and salvage the relationship. I have no peace in rejection and failure so I can't understand how God who is love can just say "OK, I respect your decision, goodbye now".

In Saul's case God partnered with him for a specific purpose - the leadership of His people. God is a good Father. He protects his children. As a parent, it is easy to understand why God would put the needs of His children above the position of a single individual. I can see that a good father would only want to entrust someone with "a heart like His" to a position of protection and leadership over His children. And I can see why God would remove that person when His children's safety is on the line. David understood too. He said, "The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil." Psalm 125:3 David understood that somehow in order for the righteous to stay on course and their activities to remain pure, they needed a righteous leader.

It's a sobering thought to realize that while I will never be separated from God's love, I can be separated from my position. God called me to partner with Him for a purpose. He gave me a portion to rule over and all the tools to succeed. He expects increase and growth. Not only that, but I have a privilege and a responsibility to pursue and understand His heart. His favor will be removed if I reject my responsibilities and endanger those He's called me to serve and protect. He will not hesitate to take my portion and give it to someone else who does understand His heart and will be a good steward. Wow!

It's comforting to realize that God my father is so committed to His children's care. It makes me rethink the way I pray for leadership - all leadership. To question whether or not I'm in mourning and angry for what should have been instead of getting on board with His plan for the next leader, the leader who has a heart like His and can help His people thrive. What an amazing King David was. How foolish in retrospect of Samuel to be crying for Saul when David was coming!! Lord give us a heart like Yours to steward what you have given us. Give us the courage to snap out of it when you remove one leader and get on board with your plan for the next leader.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sometimes Telling the Truth Makes People Not Believe You When You Say You Are NOT A Man...

Dunn Brother’s Coffee is a charming little coffee shop on Beltline road in Addison. In a city, well a country really, where Starbucks reigns supreme, Dunn Brothers is capturing the heart of it’s neighborhood.

A cheerful coffee bean roasting machine greets you when you walk in the door. Dunn Brothers roasts all their coffee in house and it smells soooo good. Shiny wood floors are soft against the gushy, velvet sofas and giant arm chairs. Book clubs, game clubs and musicians alike love to hang out in their hospitable environment.

This was the setting of one of those events you know you will never live down but hope that someday, sometime you can laugh at the memory instead of dying a little inside.

I was sitting on the purple, velvet sofa enjoy a cup of coffee with a group of friends from church. This was BC - Before Children when coffee was sipped not gulped and sofas were sat upon, not just collapsed upon. Back in the day it was common to find me enjoying friends and coffee in a sophisticated environment like Dunn Brothers.

During the riveting conversation, the urge suddenly hit me and I excused myself to go to the restroom. As usual, the silent call of the female species had gone out and women were lined up at the women's room to answer. Men don’t hear such calls and therefore are not subject to bathroom lines.

I’ve always prided myself in being unconventional. That night I walked right past those women into the mens bathroom like I owned it. I laughed as I thought of all those poor women waiting in the hall and smiled at my own brilliance for beating the system.

Still smiling I swung the door open to leave and was startled to bump into a tall man waiting at the door. He was just as surprised to see me so I lightened the moment by cracking a joke. I looked up at him and quipped “I’m really a man.” He gave me a very peculiar look and walked past me without a word.

Unfortunately, one of my greatest virtues and gravest flaws is my insoluble desire for absolute honesty. I am a horrible liar and cannot live with myself when I’m dishonest. So I did what any rational human being with a conscience would do. I stood outside the men’s bathroom door and waited.

After a few minutes “Tall” walked out of the restroom.

I stopped him and said “Excuse me. I’m really NOT a man.”

“What?” He stopped and looked down at me.

“I’m really not a man” I repeated.

“I have no idea what are you talking about?” said Tall.

“Remember a moment ago when I came out of the bathroom and you were standing there? I said I was a man, but I’m really not a man, I’m really a woman.”

By this time bathroom guy was backing away with wide eyes.

I took a step towards him, eager for the understanding of what I was trying to tell him to sink in. The next thing I knew he was turning on his heel and making a b-line for his friends who had just settled in to enjoy a cup of coffee in what they no doubt hoped to be a crazy free zone. I saw him pointing at me and gesturing and suddenly they all got up and left. Left out the door. Like picked up their bags to get away from crazy woman left the coffee shop.

I stood their blinking in disbelief. I wanted to run after them. To explain that I was not crazy I was simply ridiculously honest. After all isn’t that a quality to be admired? Even if they didn’t admire my honesty, at least they could believe that I was not a man posing as a woman trying to convince people that I was really a man. They saw me coming and drove away in their black jeep before I could even make sense of what had just happened.

In retrospect. I have never made sense of what happened. Who stands outside a restroom to convince a perfect stranger that the joke she told a few moments ago was a lie? And No I’ve never lived it down. My husband loves to drag this story out at parties like it’s some rare piece of art to be enjoyed by all. I’ve also never stopped blushing at the memory. I have however learned a valuable lesson. Some people do not appreciate honesty. In fact, if you are too honest, some people will not believe you at all when you tell them you are really not a man.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Forbidden Love

I'm having an affair. It started out innocently enough, a smile here, a flirtatious glance there. Suddenly, I was daydreaming about them all the time. One day, my daydreaming wasn't enough. In a moment of weakness, I found myself in their arms.

They were consummate lovers. Sweet, passionate every woman wanted them but I had them. I lusted for them with every fiber of my being and they never disappointed. It was like they were made for me.

Then we got sloppy. My husband began to be suspicious when every other night I was making excuses to be alone. Then one night, he found us together. Me and Ben&Jerry.

I made excuses. Said I was lonely. Said I had needs. Said I was more woman than one man could handle. To my amazement, my husband took it in stride. Said I was a fool to think I could succeed where so many women had failed before me. I ignored him. He didn’t understand.

A few months later I walked into Just Add Water. Our 10th anniversary was coming up and John booked a 5 star resort with a gorgeous view of the ocean. All I needed was a cute little bathing suit and everything would be perfect.

I picked up a few flirty numbers in the usual size and strolled over to the disgruntled fitting room woman.

“Hello. I’d like a dressing room please.” The anorexic fitting room woman glared at me with her “You better not try any funny business” eyes while she counted each ensemble. What’s her problem? Finally and reluctantly she handed me a plastic number and grunted towards the dressing room door. Seriously, where do they find these people?

But I’m in a grand mood, I’m on my way to Mexico and I quickly forgot all about her.

I picked my favorite - a sunny, yellow tankini with flirty white accents. I stepped into the bottoms and pulled up up - something was stuck. What the? I tugged at it again yanking harder this time as I turned toward the mirror. Just then, I heard a woman screaming. Not just any scream, a scream that would make Alfred Hitchcock go weak in the knees. I was so startled it took me a moment to realize that woman was me.

I looked away, braced myself against the dressing room walls, took a few deep breaths with my head between my knees and dug around in my purse for my inhaler. A knock at the door.

“Ma-am, I’m going to have to ask you to keep it down in there. You are disturbing some of the other shoppers.”

“Yes. OK. Sorry. Something just startled me.”

“Right, yeah, we get that alot.” She said.

My mind was racing. What was happening to me? I know! Someone washed it in hot water. When they realized it shrunk, they returned it. Of course that’s what happened. How silly. So many dishonest people in the world. Tsk Tsk.

OK, no problem, I’ll just try on a different suit. Careful not to catch my reflection, I slowly reached for a red, one piece. It had a gold, decorative buckle at the bust-line and cute horizontal slits coming up each side. It was the kind of suite Audrey Hepburn would wear with dark sun glasses and a big floppy hat. As I stepped into it, I smiled. I love Audrey, she’s so classy and beautiful. I could almost hear La Vie En Rose as I turned to the mirror.

There was the screaming again. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only had Audrey Hepburn let her self go, but someone had stuffed Pillsbury biscuits into each and every horizontal slit in that poor bathing suit.

Knock Knock. Ma-am?

What the hell do you want? I yelled.

Ma’am, I believe this is the bathing suit you are looking for.

What I can only describe as a black tennis dress made of military-grade lycra came flying over the door and hit me in the face.

The nerve of that woman! If I weren’t half naked, sobbing and collapsed on the floor I’d definitely be shoving Ding Dongs down her scrawny little size 4 throat!! .

I called John.

“It’s OVER!”

“What’s over?” He asked

“I’m breaking off my affair with Ben&Jerry!”

“What happened?”

“They betrayed me. Our whole relationship has been a series of love and betrayal, love and betrayal. Now Audrey Hepburn is fat and the ding dong lady wants me to wear a dress to the pool!”

I slunk out of the dressing room with the black dress/suit, threw a wad of cash and a snickers at the anorexic shrew. Here’s hoping.

“I don’t know what to do.” I squeaked into the phone. “Why can’t I have a trendy eating disorder like everyone else?”

“Oh honey.” John said the way he does when he feels very very sorry for me; Too sorry even to say “I told you so”. “Just come home my little chunky monkey. Come home.”

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Public Enemies Movie Review

I’m never happy when a movie glorifies a criminal, but I really enjoyed Public Enemies, the story of bank robber John Dillinger played by Johnny Depp. Of course in true Johnny Depp form, he rocked the part of Dillinger, causing the audience to fall instantly and madly in love with him. Even so, while I sympathized with his character, I never for a moment forgot that he was indeed a criminal.

Depp portrays Dillinger as a man who lived by his own moral code. Fraught with contradiction he robbed banks, but didn’t take money from the pockets of the customers. He terrified bank employee’s, taking them hostage at gun point, yet offered a coat to a woman hostage who was cold. Above all, he hated the institution of government and felt entitled to steal government money.

An interesting side story that runs throughout the movie is the foundation of the FBI. Up until this time, no government agency existed that had the power to cross state jurisdiction lines. Catching and prosecuting criminals was very difficult and the case is made for starting the FBI. Of course being from Texas, I was excited when they opted to invite highly trained specialists from Texas to join the force of “G-men” because none of the Chicago guys could cut it in the field. While historically interesting, I have to agree with my friend Stephanie who said the investigative police work in the movie is confusing. In fact, I would take it a step further and say it is almost non-existent. Throughout the entire movie the “G-men” just seem to show up on the scene. Where did they get their information? How did they know where to find him? What was the logical process and time line of the investigation? I still don’t know.

Woven throughout the movie is the interaction of notable historical figures such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and J. Edgar Hoover. I especially enjoyed the appearance of one of my favorite actors Giovanni Ribisi who played Alvin Karpis. It wasn’t a big part but it was such a grown up, mature role and Ribisi did a great job.

If you will indulge me a moment, I would like to set aside the morality of the character and the man he represents and discuss what I felt to be a thought-provoking theme that ran throughout the movie. Hope. There is a touching scene when Dillinger takes his new girlfriend Billy to a very fancy restaurant for dinner. Everyone is staring at her and she comments to Dillinger “They aren’t used to seeing someone in here with a $3 dress.” To which Dillinger replies “That’s because they are all about where people come from instead of where they are going”. However misplaced, the most compelling part of Depp’s character was his ability to keep hope and optimism that a better day was waiting for him around the corner. There was a part of me that hoped he would find it. That hoped for a moment that he would make a good decision and leave the life of crime and run away to a new country and start a new life.

Unfortunately his optimism and mis-placed belief that the public loved him was not enough to overcome Dillingers poor decisions, faulty logic and bad company. A life spent running and hiding was as good as it ever got and in the end he was betrayed by a friend.

Don’t see this movie if you are looking for a modern day, blood and guts, action packed gangster movie. This isn’t it. Do see it if you enjoy the exploration of a character. This movie definitely has a softer side. That being said, there is still too much violence for me to recommend it for kids.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On Throwing Up

Savannah runs in yelling Loralei THREW UP!!
Loralei comes running in behind her with wide, hysterical eyes.
Me – Loralei, what happened?
Lo – I threw up! (Look of absolute SHOCK on her face)
Me – Are you OK? Do you feel sick? Did you eat something?
Lo – No, I didn’t eat anything.
Me – What happened? Why do you think you threw up?
Lo – I don’t know. I was watching cartoons and I just sticked my finger down in my throat like this…
She proceeds to open mouth widely and show me her finger going down her throat. At this point she begins to gag right over my desk.
Me – Stop that! That’s why you threw up! Sticking your finger down your throat makes you throw up!!!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I am Miss Hannigan

“RUN SANDY RUN”!! We’ve all seen the terrifying scene in the Broadway musical Annie where Miss Hannigan threatens to send the orphans beloved yellow mutt to the sausage factory.

As I write this, I am well aware that many who read this story will be completely horrified. Ironically, that knowledge makes me laugh even harder…

It started a few months ago when, in a moment of desperation, we invited the “Dog Whisperer” to our home to consult with us about a few minor behavioral issues. He wasn’t actually “THE” dog whisperer, rather a church member purported by some to have an unusual connection with dogs. I’d never met the man myself, but he worked with the church youth group so his alleged animal connection couldn’t be too far off, right?

From the moment he walked in the front door, the dogs sensed his authority. They obeyed, sat, stayed away from the front door when it opened, rolled over, made coffee and served it with a side of bread pudding that they whipped up in the kitchen even without the benefit of opposable thumbs. We were sold! The dog whisperer is a genius!!!

Unfortunately, the dog whisperer failed to recognize the dogs biggest problem – me and John. No consistency, no discipline, no follow through, and worst of all, we are way too soft.

It took 2 years of cleaning shredded paper and toys off the floor before I was ready to take action. Tonight, I finally had it. I marched Savannah’s mangled flip flop into the kitchen and slung it across the counter at John.

“I think it’s time to take action! I declared

His eyes widened “You don’t mean?”

“Oh YES I do!”

The dog whisperer told us if we were ever to rid the dog of his horrible chewing habit it would require drastic measures. His explanation was logical – “Have you ever eaten something that made you really sick? You lose your appetite for that taste from then on. Dog’s are the same, if you can activate their gag reflex – they lose interest and don’t want to get near that taste again.” All you do is cut a piece of the offending item that is bigger than the dogs mouth so the dog cannot swallow it, then put it in the back of his mouth and tape his mouth closed around it. Let him go around this way for a little while until he cannot stand even the site of the offending item. Like I said, very logical!

“I’ll get the painters tape.” John said.

Standing in the kitchen with a large slice of pink flip flop and painters tape, we called the girls.

“Now girls, we just want you to know that we are not going to hurt Tucker.”

Sav – “WHAT?? You are going to hurt Tucker?”

Me – “No, we are NOT going to hurt Tucker.”

Lo – “What are you doing with that tape?”

Sav – “Did you cut my flip flop?”

Lo – “Why did you cut Savannah’s flip flop?”

Me – “Girls, remember when the dog whisperer came a few months ago, well he told us that if we want Tucker to stop chewing things up, we had to do this.” We just want you to know that even if it looks bad, we are not going to hurt Tucker.”

Children’s eyes wide, we call the dog.

Tucker!! – He immediately pees on the floor. Blasted dog!

John picks him up and when he sees the blue tape on the cabinet he pees on John.

The girls are staring wide-eyed over the top of the Kitchen island.

After several minutes of wrestling our 5 pound dog who suddenly has the strength of Samson, the endurance of Lance Armstrong and the defensive moves of Jason Bourn, we have managed a pathetic tape job which he removes before we can even set him on the floor.

Back up on the cabinet he goes. Round two:

Me – “You hold the flip flop and I’ll tape this time.”

John – “Whatever, it’s not as easy as it looks.”

Me – “You just aren’t doing it right.”

Loralei – “Did you cut Savannah’s flip flop?”

John – “You taped his eye shut.”
Me – “I can see that, just give me a second.”

Savannah – “Are you sure you aren’t hurting him?

John through gritted teeth – “NO…we…aren’t…hurting…him”

Me – “Got it!!”

Down he goes again. This time he takes three steps before he pulls a Houdini and effortlessly flips it to the ground.

At this point the children are convinced we are trying to kill the dog.

Back up on the cabinet he goes for round 3.

Lo – “I don’t think this is working”

Me – “Go clean your room”

Sav – “I haven’t finished my homework”

John – “Maybe we need duct tape”

Me – “No, that will rip his fur out”

Lo – “Why did you cut Savannah’s flip flop.”

Sav and Lo “You are hurting him!!!”

John – “No, we aren’t, we are just trying to make him gag. See, he’s not crying or even whimpering.”

John – “He’ll never get out of this one.”

Back down on the floor. He stumbles forward a few steps and then begins to Jackie Chan the flip flop hanging from his mouth. The orphans – I mean children – cheer wildly!!!!

Girls - “He’s getting it off!!!

Lo - “YEA TUCKER!!!”

Sav - “He’s got no tape – NO TAPE!!!


Suddenly I see very clearly. I am the evil villain in a Hallmark Christmas special that gets it at the end as the children and the dogs run free. I am Miss Hannigan.

I laugh so hard I can’t breathe. My poor children. What will they say about this when they grow up??

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Elbows and Pinkies and Such

Loralei informed me that I was being "rude" because I had my elbows on the table at Ikea. I didn't know that elbows and pinkies and such were even to be considered while eating paper-wrapped ice creams at the plastic tables and chairs in Ikea. Apparently Miss Manners felt differently. I'm so proud of her for being aware of her manners. I will definitely try to rise to the occasion and be more conscious of my manners in public. I will admit however - at the end of the day the most important thing I want my girls to understand is the spirit of this elegant quote from Emily Post - "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use." (Emily Post)