Thursday, September 10, 2015

When your favorite becomes your frustration

I love fall. To me, fall is perfection. Not only does it contain two of my favorite holidays, but it brings with it the sound of crunching leaves, a reason to pull out my boots, and most of all, and I cannot stress this enough, it brings the end of summer. 

Growing up in Montana, ending summer was not so important, but living in Texas for the last 19 years, ending summer is akin to receiving a pardon from hell. If you've never moved from a state where the average high temperature in the summer is 85 with a low of 40 to a state with an average high of 102 with a low of 85 with equal parts humidity and scorch your feet, you may not be able to grasp how much I look forward to the end of summer. 

God understands. He made sure that I was born on the first day of fall, and the only day of the year I look forward to more than the end of summer is my birthday. Amen and hallelujah.

Any of you who have been around my blog know that I struggle with health issues, the most prevalent of which is migraines. While I've been able to identify and control a lot of the triggers over the past decade, the one I can't do a thing about is the weather. Every time there is a shift in the barometric pressure, my head spirals out of control. 

So as much as I hate Texas summers, they are actually the best time of year for me migraine-wise. No rain, no cold fronts, no migraines. 

A few days ago, I woke up with not just a migraine, but with swollen joints aching so badly I wasn't sure I'd be able to get out of bed. This happens to me a couple times a year --a doctor thinks it might be the early onset of RA -- or it may just be my body telling me it doesn't want to get out of bed. Who knows? All I knew was it meant the weather was probably changing, and sure enough, rain and a cold front came in two days later, and as I type another cold front is on its way.

I should be ecstatic. After a week of temperatures over 100 in September (which is ridiculous even for Texas), the forecast showed a high of 85 this weekend. That means fall was finally on its way! My mind should be planning outdoor activities for the family this weekend, because after being trapped inside for three months, we cab finally spend a weekend outside without roasting.  

But instead, I've spent the week in bed, lying there in pain, cursing the weather and cursing my body. After months of feeling better I was once again relegated to bed, with even the simplest task draining me of energy. Instead of enjoying the sound of the raindrops on my window, they pounded into my head, making it throb worse. 

My favorite season had become my biggest frustration.

Some of you may be struggling with something similar.

Maybe it's not your health. 

Maybe it is grief. You are about to walk through your first holiday season without your loved one, and that holiday that once was your favorite has now become a dreaded time for you.

You just sent your child off to college, and your home, which was once filled with their laughter and dirty socks is now too quiet, and you aren't sure what to do without them. Your favorite place has now become somewhere you don't want to spend your time. 

Your marriage is struggling and that relationship that once felt so safe and secure now feels like it is faltering. 

It is a horrible feeling to find yourself hating a thing or a place or a time that you once cherished, because somehow it feels like two losses. And that is where I found myself this week. And the more I hurt physically, the more I began dreading the thing I loved.

And then God whispered this verse from Isiah 61 into my soul: To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.

The only thing I focused on during this pain is ashes, and I forgot the beauty. I forgot that even during the days with pain, even some days where I don't make it out of bed, the leaves will still change colors, painting a beautiful landscape. I forgot that my sweaters will come out of the attic and I will wrap up in them, finding comfort in their softness. I forgot the joy that will fill my heart every time I hear my kids giggling as they jump in leaf piles and the love that will fill my soul with every pot of my grandmother's homemade soup I make. I forgot that even if I'm stuck in bed, I will smell the crisp fall morning air because we will turn the AC off and open the windows.

And don't even get me started on the new fall TV line-up.

The good news, my friends, is that when we our favorite becomes our frustration, we don't have to try to fix it.  God may not change the situation. He won't make it summer in Texas last forever --- please no -- nobody wants that!  But He will give me a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair, and a crown of beauty for ashes. 

And he will do the same for you.

And with those promises, my favorite can be my favorite again. 

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.

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


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.

(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.


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.