Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why I'm not cheering for the Cowboys this year, and I hope you won't either

There were a few things my daddy taught me early on. If there's food on the table, you bow your head and thank God. If there's a river, you can fish. And if it's football season, you cheer for the Cowboys. 

In states like Montana, most people choose the closest NFL team to call their own, so I spent my childhood surrounded by Broncos and Seahawks fans. But because my daddy grew up in Texas, he was a born and bred Dallas Cowboys fan, and he raised me with the same devotion. 

I learned the basic rules of football before I learned to read and I learned them sitting on the couch with my daddy watching Tom Landry's team. He taught me that true fans don't give up on a team, even when they are 1-15.  I learned the sweet success of three Super Bowl championships. Eventually I moved to Denton, Texas right down the road from Texas stadium. My wedding colors were silver and blue and I seriously considered naming my firstborn Emmitt, even if it wasn't a boy.


AP
But this year, after 38 seasons, I won't be rooting for the Cowboys, because right now, I can't even stand to look at them.

In March, the Cowboys signed Greg Hardy to a one-year contract after domestic violence conviction left him sidelined in North Carolina for all but one game. Unlike the Ravens' owner, who we can assume didn't know that Ray Rice beat his then fiance until a video emerged of him knocking her out cold on an elevator, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones had full knowledge of Hardy's conviction and still opted to sign a contract with him. 

Perhaps worse than that, in the midst of the inevitable backlash, Jones sent his daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson, to comment on the signing. 
We don't believe in throwing people away,” Anderson told the Dallas Morning News. “The experts have told us it is far better to provide a way out, coupled with educational and rehabilitative services and therapy. That does more to protect the victim and prevent future violence than a zero tolerance policy. We have to trust the advice of the experts. I embrace that.”
Having not spoken with Ms. Anderson myself, I can't say for sure which experts she is quoting, but I worked for SafeHaven of Tarrant County at the time Hardy was signed. It is the only domestic violence shelter in Tarrant County, home of the Cowboys, and I can say for sure no one from the Cowboys organization reached out to us. 

While it is true that batterers can and should seek help (SafeHaven provides such a program), no amount of education or therapy can break the cycle of abuse unless the batterer admits he is at fault, because abuse is not about hitting. Abuse is about power. And Greg Hardy has all of the power. From the moment he threw his girlfriend onto a stack of guns, put his hands around her neck and threatened to kill her, to the day he signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys, to this week, when he won his appeal, reducing his ten-game suspension to four games.

And every time he puts on the Cowboys Star, the owners and coaches are telling him that what he did is okay. 

And so are we.

When the Ray Rice video surfaced, it gave domestic violence a face, and America was outraged. The NFL assured us that things would be different. More education and stricter penalties. But eventually the rage faded, and with it, the NFL's resolve to stand by victims of abuse faded as well.

So I'm making my own stand. And for a team whose fan base is America, I know it won't mean much. Jerry won't miss my minuscule contribution to his bottom line. But it matters to me, and that is the most important thing. My daddy taught me that too.

1 in 4 women will be abused in their lifetime. If you or someone you know is being abused, go to thehotline.org.


  

Monday, June 22, 2015

A letter to my husband the day after Father's Day

Dear Richie,

Well, I blew it. Yesterday, while the Internet exploded with sentimental pictures of daddies and daughters dancing at weddings and selfies of fathers and sons fishing and drinking beer, my Facebook sat silent.

It's not for a lack of pictures. Just this week our tweenage daughter rolled her eyes in disgust as I forced her to snap a picture with you at her fifth-grade promotion ceremony.

There are so many events in our kids' lives worthy of photos. I should know since there are over 900 photos sitting on my phone right now (which is probably why it's crashing). It's easy to want to show up for those events. They are cute and (usually) rehearsed, and you generally know what's going to happen next.

Most of parenthood is not like that. At least not in our family. Life is messy. Sometimes it's completely insane and other days it's pull your hair out monotonous. The thing that makes you such an amazing dad is that you don't just show up for the well-rehearsed, photo-worthy events.

You show up every day. In all things, big and small, you are there whenever we need you. And it turns out, we need you a lot.

  • You get the kids up, fed, and ready for school every morning, which I would compare to herding cats, but that would only be a fair comparison if you had to convince a cat to wear standardized dress. What you do is much harder.

  • You talk me off the ledge when one of the kids has a bump or a bruise or a low-grade fever and I'm convinced they've developed a life-threatening tropical disease that I may or may not have read about on Web MD.

  • After working all day, you stop at the grocery store to pick up a bag of limes that our daughter needs for her science fair project on "how much acid is in your food". 

  • You take the kids trick or treating even though it means you will miss game 7 of the World Series. 

  • You clean up the puke.

  • You always open the door for me and pull out my chair. These are the things that will show our daughter how men should treat her. That and cleaning up the puke.

  • You learned how to speak Minecraft.



  • Every night, you ask our kids what the best part of their day was, and listen as they tell you stories of winning awards and eating the cheesiest nachos in the world. And every night you pray with them, tell them you love them and kiss them goodnight.
I know these are not the most glamorous parts of fatherhood. And some days, they may seem unimportant and small. But to me . . . to us, they are more than important. They are the things that show our kids that not only are they loved, they are adored, by the man they call daddy.

And one day is simply not enough to tell you that we adore you too.

Love,
Kristen
(and Little Princess & Little Man)


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The ten best things about best friends: A.K.A. How to survive middle school


My daughter starts middle school next year. I'm not going to lie, saying those words makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. My middle school years brought stereotypical grief. The mix of braces, freckles, a spiral perm, first chair spot in band and desire to be smart combined with my lack of athletic ability made me quite an ugly duckling. And like every ugly duckling, what I wanted more than anything else was to be a cheerleader, or the female middle school equivalent of a swan.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mac and cheese theology

Remember the Bible story about Elijah where he was running from Jezebel, hiding in a cave, when all of the sudden he hears a voice tell him,
 “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
So Elijah goes and he waits. A wind comes and shatters the rocks, but no God. An earthquake shows up, but no God. Fire, but no God. Finally, comes a whisper and in that whisper, who shows up, but God.

My whole life I've thought that this story meant that if I wanted to hear God I needed to be quiet. I needed to "Be still and know that He is God." I needed to stop waiting for God to send me a billboard and be content for a still small voice to nudge my spirit.

I think maybe I got it wrong.

Because today, I'm pretty sure God spoke to me through mac and cheese.

I know what you're thinking. How good was that mac and cheese? Let me stop you right there, it was pretty amazing, but the fact that I poured two entire bags of shredded cheese into one pan of melty goodness did not cause the spiritual awaking.

Like Elijah, my last few weeks have been a mix of running for my life and hiding in a cave. It seems odd that in this day and age one can do both, but the fact that I work from home actually uniquely suits me for such a task.

My friends and frequent readers know that my health is a;ways somewhat of an enigma, but my body decided to kick its defiance into high gear three weeks ago with what we thought was the stomach flu, until ten days and ten pounds later when I still couldn't keep food down. My doctor was sure it was my gallbladder and sent me for an immediate sonogram. Gallbladders are irritating, but seem to be a somewhat useless and easy to fix, so I wasn't worried. A sonogram, MRI, and what I can only describe as a two hour long CAT scan where I got to watch 60 pictures of most of my organs, have all showed that my gallbladder is a-okay. Unfortunately, I'm still having all the symptoms that every doctor, nurse, and man on the street are sure indicate that my gallbladder is not a-okay.

We are among the fortunate that have health insurance, and I feel extremely blessed to be in this group. And once we reach that $7500 deductible, I am sure they will practically be giving away things like sonograms, MRI's and two hour CAT scans.  But right up until that $7500 deductible, they are a bit pricey.

Oh yeah, this week, I leave the comfort of a monthly paycheck.

At the beginning of the year, God was nudging me to cut back on work, spend more time with my family, and finish my book (coming soon, pre-order yours today! Just kidding mom, you can't order it yet, please don't try). I wasn't ready to give up the security of a monthly paycheck. God and I had a heart to heart, and as happens very frequently with these talks, God didn't speak as loudly or convincingly as I did, and I won. He should definitely consider using the earthquake, although I'm sure I could have found a way to argue against that as well.

Fast-forward to this week, last paycheck on the way, handing my credit card over for a new $300 medical bill every two days, still in pain, and praying that the food I eat doesn't come right back up and every meal.

Replace the word "cave" with "bedroom" and "Jezebel" with "reality" and I'm pretty much a modern day Elijah who is running from reality and hiding in my queen size bed.

At times like this, the good Christian in me knows that I should open up my Bible and seek God's face. I should crank up the praise and worship and get in my prayer closet on my knees. But I'm sad and I'm hungry and nauseous (I don't even know how this is possible, but it has been my constant state of being for the last three weeks), and I think I might fall over if I stand up from a kneeling position because of low blood sugar. Plus, and I can't state this enough, I really don't want to and watching Netflix is so much easier. I convince myself that if he had the option, Elijah probably would have watched Netflix to distract himself from being hunted by a crazy murderous queen.

After church yesterday, I crawl into bed with my husband and put my head on his shoulder.  We are both weary from our last month. And it isn't just this month. We've buried three grandparents and two family friends this year and we recently received more news that is devastating to our family. I rest my head on his chest and both of us sigh with the understanding that we need a break from our lives. Just a little while.

I hear the alert on my phone that tells me I have a text message. I pick it up and it is the bank telling me that a $224 charge from Costco has cleared. I contemplate not telling Richie, because even though neither one of us wants to admit it, finances are stressing us out. While my phone is in my hand, I check my email, which I have been trying not to do on Sundays.

But there it is.An e-mail from God.  His name isn't in the subject line nor is he listed as the sender. It is an offer to consult on a project from a colleague. Nothing big. Not a steady gig. Certainly nothing to replace the paycheck I am losing.

I put my phone down and tears stream down my face, which these days in our house is not a good sign. Richie was instantly concerned, so I explain that God had just sent me an email.

"We are going to be fine," I tell him.  "I've been so concerned about finances. I know that stopping this job is absolutely the right thing to do and that God is going to provide. He does every single time, but every time we've paid a medical bill, I've just freaked out. And then, all the sudden, right when I needed it, God sent this email, and I knew that everything was going to be okay."

Yep, this is the actual pan of mac and cheese!
Fast forward to ten o'clock this morning when, for the first time in a month, I am hungry.  I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you haven't been able to eat and every kind of food, even chocolate cake, makes you sick, trust me, it is a big deal. And at ten in the morning, I can think of nothing except my grandma's mac and cheese. So at ten o' clock in the morning I make a giant pan of mac and cheese and proceeded to eat a big old bowl of it. And for the first time in a month, I don't get sick.

Hallelujah!

One of the people we lost last year was my best friend's husband. She continues to amaze me by how much she places her faith in God in a million ways every day. Some days when she is having doubts I remind her that God didn't bring her this far to let her fail.

Today, God reminded me of that. And I swear to you He whispered it right through that mac and cheese.

He didn't bring me to the top of this mountain to push me off. He brought me here to show me the sun. So even though it is rainy and dreary outside, tonight I am going to eat another big old bowl of mac and cheese and I am going to soak in the sun.

I invite you to do the same. Because caves are okay, but mac and cheese is way better.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Probably the best sandwich related career advice I've given my kids

Most nights before bed the kids and I watch Wheel of Fortune. I consider this to be quality time as Wheel of Fortune contains all of the components of an educational activity; spelling, critical thinking skills, and the perils of excessive wheel spinning which often lead to bankruptcy. But tonight, Wheel of Fortune surpassed even my expectations as it presented me with a teachable moment that could quite possibly change the course of my children's lives. 

During a commercial featuring someone dressed as a sandwich, I looked at my daughter and said, "That's why you go to college -- so you never have to be the guy who dresses up as a sandwich."

My very wise ten-year old daughter replied, "I can't even dream why someone would want to be the guy who dresses up as a sandwich.  I'm going to college." 

It would have been easy to end the conversation there, but that isn't the kind of parent I am. I'm the parent who goes deeper. I'm the mom who is intentional. Remember, I'm the one having Wheel of Fortune time with my kids.

"Anna, you can be anything you dream. Unless your dream is to be the guy who dresses up as a sandwich. Then it's time to get a new dream."

That's the point when my son walked in the room. He had been brushing his teeth, you know, because it was a commercial break and he didn't want to miss any quality Wheel of Fortune time. How was he supposed to know that life changing conversations were happening during the two minutes (okay, minute and a half . . . okay, who are we kidding, 45 seconds) that he was fighting gingivitis? Thankfully, his big sister, understanding the gravity of the wisdom I had just imparted unto her, laid it out for him.

"Ryan, you can be anything you dream. Unless your dream is to be the guy who dresses up as a sandwich. Then it's time to get a new dream." 

 "What? I want to be the guy who dresses up like a sandwich! How do I do that? Cool!"

I would like to say that his enthusiasm for dressing up like meat and bread is because he is six, but the truth is, my children are just different people. Really different. Anna is always going to dream of high achievement and the fastest way to get there by following all the rules and Ryan is going to dream of ninjas and light sabers and who would win in a ninja verses light saber battle.  

So as a firm believer that college is a better career path than life as a PB&J, how does a parent encourage their children to follow their dreams while still pushing them to be all they can be (I apologize to the Army for the copyright infringement)?

To answer this, I don't have to look any farther than my own mom. 

One of the first things I ever remember my mom telling me went like this: "You are going to grow up, graduate high school, go to college, graduate from college, fall in love, get married, and have a baby. In that order."  

It seems my son takes after me in the dreaming category.  I didn't really ever dream of college.  I dreamed of being a country singer, Ms. America, a hairdresser, and the first woman President of the United States -- in no particular order. 

Even though my mom was determined for me to go to college, she never discouraged any of those dreams. When I wanted to sing, she encouraged me to sing in the choir at school and at church. She let me cut the hair of every Barbie I owned. She didn't ever put me in pageants, although in hindsight, I probably need to thank her instead of fault her for that.

But she kept pushing college. She and my dad told me they would pay my way wherever I wanted to go and that I should pursue a degree in whatever interested me. It didn't matter to my mother what my degree was in, only that I had one. When I was 17 and wanted to be a hairdresser, my mom calmly told me that if I graduated from college and still wanted to be a hairdresser, she would be my first customer. And I believe she would have been.

This belief was confirmed when after six years my brother graduated college with not one, but two degrees, and then decided he wouldn't use either of them. Instead he took a year off to be an actor, something which he never studied. He was completely broke, and my mom was completely dumbfounded, but still my parents drove from Montana to Texas to watch him every chance they got and bragged about him in their Christmas letters. Oh, I'm sure my dad got an earful from my mom at night, but to us, she was nothing but supportive. And eventually, my brother gave up being an actor and found his calling teaching music and theater using his degrees.

Ironically, my brother was the child who always knew exactly what he wanted to do. Growing up, he was the one with the clear dream, much like my daughter. And me, the child who didn't want to go to college? I started using my degree before I even finished. I got an internship at 20 and have been in the same career for 19 years. And I have loved every minute of it. 

So what was the secret? My mom didn't diminish my childhood dreams. She never told me they were silly or that I was silly for having them. But when she sent me to college, she expanded my capacity to dream bigger, and when I did, I found what I was really meant to do, and for that I'm ever in her debt. Although the first woman president is still on the table.

It's a tricky business, parenting. Especially when you have kids with big dreams and even more when those big dreams don't match yours. If my mother taught me anything it's that you have to let your kids be who they are and follow their dreams, unless their dream is to be the guy who dresses up like the sandwich. Then it's time to get a new dream. 
 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Waiting . . . .

Today kind of sucked.  I really wanted to write something more poetic or even just more thoughtful, but I don't have it in me. In fact, I kind of feel like curling up in my p.j's and having a good cry.  And maybe some ice cream.

But advent is stopping me.

Until yesterday, I didn't really know what advent was.  Apparently, it is waiting with candles. Oh, and for someone to show up.  It is waiting with candles, and in the Christian tradition, for Christ to show up.  More specifically, it is the four weeks before Christmas where you wait, and light a candle each week, and, as I learned yesterday, read long passages about how sometimes, the waiting sucks.

I grew up in church, if you know anything about me you know this is not a "I went to church on Sundays" kind of sentence.  This is a "I was in church more than I was in my kitchen" kind of sentence.  I grew up in church.  But I don't ever remember celebrating advent.  We've been at our current church for 12 years.  I don't ever remember celebrating advent, until this year.

I'm 38. That's a lot of years of not ever celebrating something.

Apparently until exactly when I needed it.

If you talk to my mother, she may disagree that I didn't need a lesson in waiting before now.  I'm not, by nature, a patient person.  In fact, I am extremely impatient.  I frequently open the microwave when there are only 3 seconds left.  I have always unwrapped my presents before Christmas morning and then carefully re-wrapped them and placed them back under the tree (although I place the fault for this squarely on my mother for putting the presents under the tree before Christmas). I finish my husband's sentences, because I always know what he is going to say, and I rarely have time to straighten all of my hair, so there is always one little section that is still curly.

But the place I have been most impatient in my life has been my health.  In fact, my health issues were the reason behind this blog.  I coined The Waiting Room title after spending hundreds of hours in literal waiting rooms and thousands more in metaphorical ones.

My health issues have been random, to say the least, over the past decade, including several surgeries and more than one diagnosis that included the words, "Well, I've never actually seen this happen on a real person before . . ." But the most frequent and debilitating issue that has plagued me is chronic migraines.

My dad and brother both get migraines, and since they are genetic, it isn't unthinkable that I would get them as well, but I had never had one until after I stopped nursing Anna. During my first migraine, I made Richie call my dad, because I was sure it was an aneurysm and I would going to die right then.  I had never felt such intense pain, and I recently gave birth. In the ten years since then, I would estimate I've spent well over 2,200 days with migraines (I just actually did the math and it is depressing).

I know your first instinct here is going to be to send a comment that is something to the effect of, "I have migraines and I've tried XX" or "I have a friend who has migraines and she tried XX and it worked great for her."  I promise you that I've tried it all.  I've eaten and not eaten everything.  I've tried prescription and herbal.  I've done chiropractic and even acupuncture (yep, needles in the face). If there is a medicine on the market, I have taken it, shot it in my veins, snorted it (yep), or rubbed it into my feet.

I don't tell you this to make you feel sorry for me.  In fact, even though I still get them a few times a week, they are actually better now than then have been in years. Even so, I am impatient.  Every time I read a verse or hear a sermon about how God heals, I wonder why I am still sick.  I can't help but ask God why my time in the wilderness is so long. What else could I possibly have to learn here?  I know I should be thankful because there are so many people who are so much worse off than me. I should have so many days where I count my thousands and thousands of blessings instead of focusing on this trial.

But today, was not one of those days.

Today, my precious little boy had his first migraine.  And today my heart is broken.  Because as many times as I have prayed for my own healing, I have also prayed that this cup would be spared from my children. And I cannot stand the thought of him bearing this burden.

So tonight, as I was pondering drowning my sorrows ice cream and p.j.'s, I thought about advent. About waiting with expectation for Christ.  And I thought about yesterday's sermon.  How we were reminded that even in the midst of waiting we could find joy.  Because our joy is not found in our emotional state, it is found in who God is.  

And so even though today, I am devastated, God is still on the throne.  He is still good.  He is still faithful.  He is still wise.  He is still powerful. He is still in control. And He is coming.

And that is why tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting for the third day of school

I love back to school time. Always have. I'm a total nerd that way. When I was a kid I would spend an hour in the school supply aisle searching for the perfect black pen. I grew up in a generation before a 75 bullet list dictated whether we put college or wide ruled paper in our Trapper Keeper. And it wouldn't have mattered if I had a list or not, because even at age seven I knew better than to write with a blue pen.

So while some people have chosen to complain endlessly or skip social media altogether rather than be bombarded with first day of school pictures this week, my inner nerd is rejoicing.

This is the one time of year that everyone not only talks about school, but is excited about it.  For one glorious day, people unite in their genuine and visible support of education.

My Facebook feed lit up with adorable pictures of kids holding creative signs written on chalkboards with their grade-level and teacher's names.  High school seniors posed holding their first day of kindergarten picture. Teens posed in front of the same tree where they had stood each year to show their growth.  The creativity was endless!

Being in public relations, you would think my creativity extends to these types of situations. It absolutely does not. My kids' back to school pictures are taken holding a piece of white copy paper I grabbed from the printer and drew on with a Sharpie.  I did draw a somewhat decorative border, so I should probably get bonus points for that.  Also, I put them in front of a tree every year.  Unfortunately, since it is a crepe myrtle tree, it gets cut down every year, making it completely useless for tracking growth.

With pictures complete, I, like so many other parents, drove the kids to school and walked them to their classes. And at the end of the day we sat down and debriefed about every detail of their day.  After a home cooked dinner, and a mountain of district and campus paperwork, I bragged about their amazing day on Facebook, we said our prayers, and prepared to do it all again.

I went to bed Monday night with the hopes that this year would be amazing. The Facebook pictures and back to school pep talks and parody songs had once again filled me with the optimism that only a new school year provide.  I was prepared to be a better mom this year. To limit screen time to an hour a day.  To volunteer more.  To make a healthy breakfast every morning.  To complete homework before it was due.  To make healthy lunches in the shape of cartoon characters.

And I was on track too. Until yesterday morning, which, if you are keeping track, was exactly the second day of school.  The kids had been awake for about 90 seconds and I was just heating up breakfast when I heard our daughter yell, "Mommy, the toilet is overflowing!"

I'm sure there have been times when we could have had a conversation with our children about how many times to attempt to flush a clogged toilet, and the best times to have that conversation would have been anytime except at 6:37 a.m. on the second day of school.  The very day when I woke up confident that Tuesday would be as smooth as Monday had been, kids smiling and laughing as we all sat down and ate a healthy and balanced breakfast. Based on the amount of water on the bathroom floor, we have never had this conversation and I am guessing our daughter flushed the toilet at least six times, leaving us standing in two inches of toilet water.

Richie plunged, and we sucked up water as the kids ate their somewhat less healthy pancakes on a stick and I tried to calmly explain why you need to call mommy or daddy after one flush, before the water goes everywhere.

As calm as I tried to be, the flooded bathroom set the tone for the rest of the morning, from battles over the new toothbrush that spins and how long you actually have to brush your teeth and if you have to use toothpaste (a conversation I would have preferred any other time than while mopping the newly dried flooded bathroom floor) to the last minute lunch that didn't get packed thanks to the flooded bathroom, as I literally pushed the children out the door, my heart sank.  One day.  We made it one day before it all fell apart.  It wasn't going to be our super year after all.  It was just going to be another year of mid-night trips to Walgreens to buy poster board for a project we just found out was due in 8 hours, peanut butter and jelly for dinner, and me mumbling in frustration under my breath because the kids can't find their shoes and we are running 15 minutes late.

But then something happened.  My kids came home at 3 o'clock and told me about their day, and as they did, their eyes lit up with that back to school glow that I had just a day before.  As I listened to my daughter tell me about the science experiment her class was doing tomorrow, and my son tell me about his new kindergarten buddy, the disappointment of the morning started to fade and I realized I had the power to help keep this momentum going or to stop it dead in its tracks.

I had the power.

And so do you.

Believe me, I get it.  The third day of school is not as exciting as the first day, and the 30th is not as exciting as the third.  It's tough. Managing work and a family and a marriage is draining, and single parents, I don't even know how you are still standing at the end of the day with all that you are juggling! And the farther we get into the school year, the more difficult it becomes. Homework gets harder, extracurricular activities require more time, there are tests to take, bullies and boyfriends to contend with and it feels like Thanksgiving break is never going to get here. That new school year feeling fades and you are left to navigate all these realities, and sometimes that means standing in two inches of toilet water.

So take this momentum that you have right now, today, and let's push forward together.  Let's keep posting pictures of our kids doing great things at their schools, be it public schools, private schools, or home schools.  Let's encourage our kids and encourage each other.  Let's give teachers and administrators our undying support and gratitude, not just on the first day and the last day, but every single day in between. Let's get involved and stay involved in our kids' education, by volunteering in our schools and by working with our kids at home.

This week, right here, right now, this is as good as the feeling gets for education.  Let's keep it going, no matter how deep the water gets.