Extending Grace

So I’m packing, getting ready to go to the beach with my Storyline ladies and I get a phone call. You know, the kind where just from seeing the caller ID you know is going to be bad.

It was one of my mom’s sisters calling. I know her about as well as I know my mom, which is not really at all. My aunt tells me that she has some bad news and that my mom had a heart attack yesterday. The latest news was that she has had to have two stints put in and will be evaluated to see if she needs a third.

I have thought about receiving a phone call like this, whether for my mom or for my dad, and I have tried to imagine what it would feel like. But nothing prepares you for the reality. My husband told me years ago, that I should really think about the relationship I have (or don’t have) with my dad, because someday my dad won’t be around anymore and he (my husband) doesn’t want me to have any regrets. I explained to my husband that it is too late to not have regrets, but I cannot make my dad want to be a dad to me. To continue accepting the little bones that he would occasionally throw my way was far more hurtful than just putting up some boundaries. Really, the boundaries weren’t for him, they were for me. If he wanted to pursue a relationship with me, he could, but I was no longer going to pursue him. I had been spending an awful lot of time trying to make him love me, and my husband and kids would watch me be disappointed and hurt, over and over. So finally, I set the boundaries in place. His behavior did not change. It was mine that changed. And it was freeing.

With my mom it was different. I didn’t know her while I was growing up, so I created this magical, fairytale mom in my head of who she was. The funny thing is about doing that though, is when I finally met her, she was not the impossibly perfect person that I had  created. She was who she actually was. Aside from a plethora of fairly serious health problems, my mom had been a victim nearly her whole life. She was (and is) a woman who had her children stolen away from her. She doesn’t know how to be anything else, even though those events took place 42 years ago. She has not moved out of that space of raging, grieving, childless mother, and there is a part of me that understands that, after all, I am a mom. Imagining the devastation of not knowing where your kids were or if there were okay is very painful. However, there got to be a point, ten years after my dad took off with us, that she did know where we were. She knew, but she couldn’t replace the stolen years, and so she continued to be bitter and live in the past, instead of stepping into the present.

Her bitterness surrounds her still to this day and it has been a stumbling block for our relationship, because I don’t really want a fixer-upper in my life. That sounds harsh, but if she needs to rehash history or if she needs to trash my dad or grandparents every other time we talk, it is just not going to work with me. I don’t feel the need to protect my dad, he’s earned her feelings. But there is nothing for me there, living in the misery of her past, with what should have been, could have been and what wasn’t.  I have worked hard to overcome my childhood and rise above the circumstances I lived in, I don’t feel the need to swirl in misery that I not only didn’t have any control over, but I didn’t live through. Setting those boundaries was difficult though. The desire to have a mom weighs heavy in my heart against the desire to have peace and stability.

Now with today’s news, I am faced with what I have known all along, and that is the fact that my parents will both die one day, never really having parented me. I have never told my mom I love her, because although I love the idea of having a mom, I don’t know her to love her.  I stopped telling my dad that I loved him years ago, when I realized that he really didn’t love me. He loves the idea of having a daughter, but he can’t follow through with the time,  responsibility or care that goes into parenting. I’ve moved passed the age where I am willing to pretend, for everyone else’s sake, and say words that don’t mean anything, because really, no one has been overly concerned with how I feel, so why not be true to myself?

That did not stop me from crying for all 62 minutes that it took me to get to the beach today. Yes, I cried. Like a baby. If my friend Castor reads this post, he’ll be shocked. He just told someone yesterday that I was like a four star general, never getting overly emotional. It’s just that even though I may as well have hatched from an egg, it does not quench the desire for real parents. It does not stop the fact that I have mom who is laying in a Las Vegas hospital with life threatening health problems that I not only feel no sense of belonging to, but I don’t know how I am supposed to deal with this whole situation emotionally.

I  texted my friend Rachael, who was supposed to come to the beach, but couldn’t make the trip. She has some similar, although different parent issues, so I hoped she would understand. Her response was amazing. She said, “Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel or whatever you don’t feel. It’s ok to be affected by this and it’s ok not too be! But extend the same grace to her as you would a stranger. And extend that same grace to yourself! Then drink wine! Lots and lots of wine!”

I loved this, and I love how God planted the right person in my mind who would say just the words my heart needed. I especially needed the part about extending grace to myself. It was exactly what I needed to hear. That I have permission to feel exactly the way I feel, which is confused, hurt, angry, sad and scared, all rolled into one, with each emotion taking center stage at different times.  I am going to just roll with that for now and see how it goes. Oh. And I think I’ll follow her advice on the wine too.

Broken Record

I was driving somewhere with my husband a while back and we stopped at a red light. There was a man walking up to the corner, and he pushed the crosswalk button, so that he could cross the street. That in and of itself was pretty unremarkable, and I really didn’t even notice it happening, but suddenly, he let out a series of rapid fire taps on the button. Again, we’ve all done that. But, he paused and then he did it again. And again. He even had my husband’s attention now. Why did he think he needed to assault the crosswalk button so furiously? Did he think that maybe the first press of the button went unnoticed by the electronics in the button? Did he think the WALK sign would flash sooner, the more he pressed the button? Did it just make him feel like he was doing something? The only thing he had control over in the situation, so it was better than doing nothing? Was he just really really impatient?

For some weird reason, suddenly I connected this man’s actions with my actions with praying to God. The first time I have a need that I pray for, is probably much like the first time this man pushed the crosswalk button. I pray, and my prayer is not answered immediately, so then I wonder if maybe God’s out to lunch and has missed my request, so I pray about the same need again, and again and again. Do I think that God really didn’t hear the first one? Is He up there keeping tally marks, “She just needs to say it three more times and I’ll really believe she wants My help…”? Is it because I can’t control any other part of the situation that I pray so many repeat prayers? Do I really not trust that God is going to deliver an answer, unless I annoy the heck out of him? My kids used to repeat a request over and over and over, usually in a whiny or demanding tone, hoping they could wear us down with their persistence. Am I acting like a whiny two year old, by repeating the same prayer over and over?

I don’t know the answer. I do know that this man, pounding on the crosswalk button, has changed my prayer life. I no longer pray for the same requests over and over. If it is something really important to me, I might preface my prayer with an attention getting, “Now, God, I know that you have a lot of people with needs, but what I’m about to say is important, so listen up…” and occasionally, I might end in a gentle, “…oh and about that prayer from the other day, yeah, I know you’re still working on that one.” But for the most part, I know that our God is a God that answers prayer, in His time and in the way that molds us into who He created us to be. He doesn’t need my help reminding Him that I have needs, anymore than I needed my kids’ help remembering they wanted ice cream. I don’t need to be a broken record. He got it the first time.

 

I Don’t Do Puke.

Ernie, one of my dogs, woke me up puking last night. There is just nothing like the sound of someone heaving to pull you gently from your slumber.

We thought he had gone under the bed, so my husband is on his hands and knees at three in the morning with the mag light, moving around those big vacuum seal bags that have the other season of clothing in them. Most places have four seasons. We have two. Rainy and not rainy. It’s currently rainy. When he had exhausted his search of both sides of the bed without finding  the dog, it was my turn to look, so I got out of bed and went out in the hallway, past a pile of puke, and  into the living room where I found Ernie hiding behind the entertainment center. I took the dog, my husband got the puke. I don’t do puke. Like ever.

My daughter, Skyler, once puked on my bed when Phil was out of town. She sat up in the middle of the night and just let it go. I was horrified. I’m pretty sure I might have yelled, “Skyler! What are you doing!?” because most kids that puke, do it on purpose and have a reasonable explanation for it. With Phil out of town, I was in a predicament. There was no one to deal with the steaming, stinking mess my daughter had created. So, I did what any reasonable person would do and I carefully, to avoid any sleepcontact with anything that might be in contact with the vomit, folded the comforter up and took it out to the trash.

My husband got home and I then had to explain why we had a new comforter. He was confused as to why I didn’t just wash the old comforter. I replied that there was NO WAY that I would have put those chunks into my washing machine. He then suggested that I could have taken the comforter outside and hosed it off and then put it in the washer. That was probably the most ridiculous thing I’d heard of. Can you picture me outside at 2am rinsing off a comforter in my back yard? The neighbors would think I was cleaning up a crime scene. Then I’d have to deal with them peaking through the fence for weeks. I’d have to lay off the duct taping the kids for a while. The whole thing would just go badly. He so rationally suggested that I could have waited until morning to rinse off the comforter, I mean, who does that stuff in the middle of the night?

Who does that stuff, period? I threw it away. End of discussion. Case closed. The deed is done. Now, can you please go and ground your daughter for puking on the bed?

Anyway, back to my sweet, sick dog, he finally settled back down to sleep around four, so when my alarm clock went off at 6am, I was thinking, “Hell NO.” and I reset it for 6:30am, but then when I woke up at 6:30, Ernie was stretched out, snuggled up against me sound asleep and I just didn’t have the heart to move the poor little angel after his rough night. So, I laid there for another hour, not disturbing him, my foot falling asleep, surfing my news feed on my phone, until he finally turned over. I think I might love my dogs more than my daughter. I didn’t yell at my dog for puking and I did yell at  Skyler. That’s a sign, right? Don’t tell her. I need someone to take care of me in my old age and she’s so far my best bet of the three kids.

weatherAnyway, in news that doesn’t involve throwing up, I opened up my email this morning and there was one that caught my eye. It was titled: “Summer is here. Grab your friend and get a bowl.” I thought maybe I had somehow accidentally hacked into my neighbor’s email. Things are sometimes pretty fragrant in their direction, but no, it was an email from Noodles and Company. Maybe their marketing department is working out of Washington state these days? I don’t know. There won’t be any bowls involved, of the noodle or other variety, but I am grabbing some friends today. We’re heading to the beach for a girls’ weekend. I’m super exited because the weather looks like it’s going to clear up just about the time we get ready to leave the beach to go back home. Perfect.

I guess I’ll have to bring a bottle of wine. Actually, I was going to do that if it was sunny too, so… I’ll let you know how that goes.

If you are a regular reader (there are about three of you now) and were looking for something deep and inspiring today, I apologize. I was up with a sick dog and now I’m sleep deprived. I had a different plan for today’s blog post, but this is where it ended up. Here’s to hoping no one throws up tonight!

 

 

 

Where’s The Porter When I Need One?

Packing for travel has got to be one of the most frustrating things to do. Years ago, we spent three weeks in Italy, which was a trip of a lifetime, but the weeks leading up to the trip were stressful, knowing I had to pack.

On a normal day, I look through my dresser and closets full of clothes and complain that I have ‘nothing to wear’, which clearly is not the case, considering they are full. I put on an outfit that I felt great in three weeks ago, and suddenly I am not feeling it. Did everyone actually let me leave the house wearing this? What were they thinking? What was I thinking? Two or three clothing changes before I walk out the door would be a fairly typical day and you can always gauge what kind of mood I left the house in by the size of the pile of clean clothes on the bed. The bigger the pile, the wider the path you should consider giving me. How can a person have full closets and nothing to wear?!

Then it comes time to pack for a trip, and suddenly, I have to know what I want to wear next Tuesday? And the Tuesday after THAT? How is that even possible? I changed my mind three times about the shoes I have on today, and that was just to go running. It’s not just what to wear, but the endless possibilities of the types of clothes that are needed. Are we beaching it? Do I need work clothes, church clothes, going out clothes, casual clothes, workout clothes?

Gentlemen, make no mistake, these are all different clothing categories in my mind. Chances are great that the longer a trip is, the more categories of clothing will be required and each category is going to require it’s own type of shoe; Boots, heels, wedges, flats, sandles, flip flops, tennis shoes. Within each category, there are sub-categories; ankle boots, tall boots, heeled boots, flat boots, running shoes, walking shoes, weightlifting shoes, etc. And then there are color choices. I need to go through this same selection process with shoes, jewelry, hand bags, jackets, sunglasses and belts, never mind what gets worn underneath. Seriously. It is a burden.

The only thing that makes me feel a little bit better is if I pack a few spare choices into my bags, but have you tried to get three weeks of clothing, toiletries, make-up and shoes plus a blow dryer & flat iron into ONE bag? One bag that weighs less than 50 pounds? Or dealt with crap from your own DNA because you packed seven pair of shoes for a weekend college visit? Note: I wore all but one pair, take that!

Some people pride themselves on packing light, and more power to you if that’s you. I just like choices- and to wear clean clothes every day. Plus, who really wants to be wearing the same shirt every day in your pictures? Your Facebook friends would totally know you only brought one shirt. It’s just that bringing all the extra crap means that you have to deal with a couple of things.

1. Your kids will never let you hear the end of it about how many shoes you’ve packed- even if  they will be borrowing some

2. Your husband will look at you, your bags and you again and then raise an eyebrow and leave the room saying, “Good luck carrying all of that.”

3. You will single handedly have to figure out how to get two bags, a carry-on, a personal item and your neck pillow out to the car before everyone else, because if it’s a tight fit, you don’t want your bag to be the one that won’t fit or left behind. This is also the perfect time to practice carrying all of that stuff at one time though, because once you’ve reached your destination, no one that you’ve traveled with is going to volunteer to lighten your load, after all, natural consequences… aren’t YOU the one who was so adamant about teaching natural consequences?

4. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be charged $25 for your first bag and even more for your second, because if you insist on looking good, you are certainly going to pay for it.

5.  God forbid one of your bags weighs over 50lbs. You tried to avoid this by putting it on your scale at home but it kept sliding off, so you finally had to get on the scale holding your bag and then get on the scale without your bag and do a fricking algebra problem to figure out if it’s going to make the weight limit. If in fact the check-in crew find your bag to be in violation, you have two choices, pay through the nose, or take some things out and try to shove them in your carry-on or someone elses  bag. Neither of which your family will appreciate. No one wants your underwear in their bag.

I’ve actually tried to embrace minimal packing, giving myself no choices, just necessities. I feel great about getting it down to one bag and I’m all show-off-y about it. These are the trips where I arrive at my destination only to realize that I actually forgot my panties. Really. It has happened. More than once… Which does nothing to reinforce a girl’s light packing habits.

porterI have been on enough trips with myself to know that I do end up over-packing most of the time and I do think about how much easier it would be if I packed lighter. Lugging around all that baggage is expensive,  awkward and can cause you to need your chiropractor.

As I have gotten older, I have realized that it is also not necessary to carry around all of the baggage of the past. There are occasionally times that I need to shuffle through it, but for the most part, the crap in there is out of date and doesn’t fit me anymore.  Carrying it around all the time can be expensive and awkward. When you decide to quit taking it everywhere with you, you can focus on the stuff that is really important. The stuff that DOES fit. Just one word of advice though, don’t forget your panties!

 “Many of us are one job behind who God’s turned us into.”    ~Bob Goff

 

White Noise

There’s this row of bushes outside of the salon I own. They are not pretty. In fact, I would say that they are a bit on the unsightly side. They’ve been there for the thirteen and a half years that I’ve been there, and probably for years before that. They are Berberis aquifolium  or Mahonia aquifolium,  commonly known as the Oregon Grape Bush. Don’t stand in awe. I am not a bush expert. Far from it, in fact. A client told me that was their name and I Googled images to make sure she was right. How do people just know these things? The landscapers clearly aren’t fluent in bush, either, because this row of bushes have never looked good.

Well, for years, I’ve been walking past these bushes without giving them much thought. Yes, I had noticed that they weren’t lovely, but they were just there, you know? I had to walk through them at least twice a day, going from my car to the salon and back. But I essentially stopped noticing them.

Several months ago, that all changed. One of my co-workers came in one day proclaiming that she hated those bushes. I was a bit surprised at her strong lack of love for them, but then, I have a list too. It just doesn’t include bushes. She said that they caught on her clothes or scratched her every time she walked by them. We joked about bringing in weed killer and ‘accidentally’ spilling it on the bushes; Or, at least I joked, but you don’t joke about killing with a homicidal person. Time went by and she continued her lack-of-love-affair with the bushes. Clients and co-workers were very helpful in their suggestions. ‘Walk around them’ was offered up several times, but who wants to walk ten feet around when there is a little path cutting right through? This is Oregon. It rains. A lot. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. See, I did learn something useful in math class! When it is raining, you want the shortest distance. Another person suggested just accidentally running over them in her car. Kind of a hit and run deal. Her car is nice and low, so I’m pretty sure she would be take them out with one pass, but would she scrape up her paint? Someone else suggested tearing them out and planting something pretty there, but it’s not our space to do with as we please. At least that was my first thought, until I thought about planting a raised bed there and putting in a pumpkin patch. How fun would it be to have our own pumpkin patch?

Anyway, the scheming when on and then one day Lindi tells me that she put a post on our business Facebook page that if anyone brought in a hedge clipper, she’d give them a free haircut. It was getting serious. I felt like this was a pivotal moment. Should we call the authorities? Should we warn our landlord? Should we call her boyfriend and see if she’s stockpiling bush-killing materials at home? No. We did what all good friends do. Or what people do when they want to see just how far crazy will take it. We encouraged her.

ImageFinally, the day came when she walked through the door, in the best of moods, proclaiming she had remembered to bring the clippers from home. Today was the day! Her first spare minutes, she ran outside and started pruning the two bushes on either side of the path. Heavily pruning. She came in, victorious. Thrilled that she had conquered those suckers. We all just smiled and backed away slowly. No we didn’t, we celebrated with her, because with her pointing out their horribleness every day, we had all come to dislike the bushes too. Of course, WE weren’t the ones who groomed them so thoroughly, so we weren’t worried about being shunned by the Arborist Society.

It’s funny how I can have something in my life for years and not really see it? I may have noticed it at one point, but with continued exposure, it became white noise. Then a fresh pair of eyes come along and point out just how annoying it is and suddenly, I start being bugged by it too. Is it the actual object that is suddenly bugging me? Is it the fact that it’s being pointed out to me every day that I find annoying or is it that I am annoyed that I wasn’t the one to say just how annoying it was that bugs me? What else am I being unobservant about? What other ugly things would my life be better without? More importantly, what beautiful things in my life have become white noise?

It might be time to invite Lindi over to my house to point them out,  but she’ll have to leave the clippers at home.

 

 

The Door Is Open

Years ago, my husband and I had decided to go back to church after taking a 2 or 3 year sabbatical. Of course we didn’t want to go back to our original home church. Those people all thought we had moved or died or something. Why else would we be MIA for so long? So we started shopping for a new church. One where we could let people assume that we were new believers, or at least new to the area.

One church right down the road from us looked quaint and inviting, so we did a drive by to see what time their sign said church would start and one Sunday, we got up, dressed, caffeinated and headed out the door to church.  We pulled into the parking lot and headed into the building, hoping we could slip unnoticed, into one of the pews in the back. No such luck. Although the building was a good size, the congregation was small. Microscopic, really. The pastor may have been having a family reunion, actually. And it was a very small family. Every eye in the place was on us and we were suddenly wishing we had scheduled a dentist appointment, instead of going to church. We had wanted a small-ish church, but were wanting a church that at least had a decent selection if they held an all-church potluck. We survived, of course, and we even filled out the little attendance sheet in our handout, so that whoever tracks these things would know that they had a huge uptick in attendance that day. We are thoughtful that way.

The next week, having blocked the memories of the awkward church experience out of my mind, I answered the ringing phone.  It was a very nice woman from the micro-church asking if we would be willing to be greeters at church the next Sunday. I hurriedly explained that my family was all going on vacation to Iceland, (or did they say Illinois?) and I was going to have to stay and house sit their pet cactus, or some other nonsensical excuse that made it perfectly clear that we would not be attending church the next Sunday, so we could not be possibly be the greeters (of all 12 attenders).

Really? Is this how you make someone feel comfortable at a new church? Put them to work? I was just there for the music. Or to get out of the heat or something. I wasn’t really here to sign up for a job. Geeze. Hit me up my third visit. After I’ve had a chance to enjoy communion. At least feed a girl.  These were seriously my thoughts, and I’m the joiner in the family, so this was definitely NOT the church for us.

It took us a few months to recover from that traumatic experience before we worked up the nerve to try again. This time, we went to the church that my husband had gone to as a child. Of course, they had a different pastor than he had had. Again, we did the drive-by for the time check and then Sunday morning, we rolled out of bed, had our coffee and a Valium (just kidding on the Valium, although I think we could have used one due to the PTS of the last church experience),  and headed to worship. The parking lot was a little more full, so we felt relatively confident that we were not going to be asked to take up the collection plate that day. We snuck in and sat towards the back  and tried to look invisible. Again, we filled out the little information sheet. This time, it was a test. If we got a phone call, this would definitely NOT be our church.

That week, every time the phone rang, I was half expecting it to be someone from the church asking if we could bring food or flowers for the next service, but by the time the week ended, the church had passed the test. They had not called. We were relieved and spent a lot of time joking about how crazy the first church was. We planned to take a second run at the second church, since they had passed our test, but it was a sunny day, or there was something good on TV or something and we just didn’t make the next Sunday’s church service.

About mid-week of that next week, I was home with the kids, minding my own business, when the doorbell rang. It was early-ish and I hadn’t showered (I was home with my kids for goodness sake, what was the point?), but I’m not expecting anyone, so I go answer the door. There is a normal looking guy standing there and with my middle kid on my hip, wearing my shorts, a stained tshirt and flip flops, my hair all a mess, I say, “Yes?” to this stranger.

knockingHe very politely sticks out his hand and says, “Hi. I’m Pastor (insert name here) from (insert name here) Church. I just wanted to stop by since you visited our church a couple of weeks ago and see if there were any questions I could answer for you about the church.”

My mind actually could not land on what he was actually telling me. WHO is this person? When my brains finally caught up with my ears, I was in shocked disbelief. Did the Pastor of a church that I had visited ONE time, actually just show up unannounced at my house? Did he expect me to invite him in? How do I know this is really the pastor? I certainly can’t be expected to recognize him after 45 minutes of church. You don’t just show up at someone’s house without a phone call. You’ve got to give them a chance to put their wine away!

Like a vampire, he waited for an invitation to come in, which he did NOT get, partially because I was dazed and in shock and partially because there were cheerios all over my couch and I clearly did not have time to vacuum them up to give him a place to sit. What was I supposed to do, brush them on the floor, or offer him a snack?

Needless to say, we did not go back to THAT church. We had wanted a place to hang out on the Sundays we decided not to sleep in, where some people knew our name. We didn’t want to get involved in volunteering or have the Pastor over for dinner.

After a few months went by and the trauma of being dropped in on had worn off, we decided to play it safe, and return to our original home church. Yes, we had been MIA for a while, but if anyone noticed, we could just claim we’d come back from the dead. Christians believe in that resurrection stuff, so it shouldn’t be that big of a problem. Our home church was really big, so there would be little chance of having someone call us to ask if we wanted to volunteer and the Pastor certainly wouldn’t have time to be driving around harassing all the new visitors. He has a lot of people to pray for. He’ll be busy.

So, now it’s years later, and after beginning to write this post, early Sunday morning, before church, I decide to share this story with my two girls while we are driving to church. We are all laughing at the absurdity of it all and having a good time. Then we sit down in church and our Pastor is preaching about how God doesn’t like a lukewarm believer. Kind of like how I feel about coffee. Be hot. Be cold. But don’t be lukewarm. It’s all going fine until he throws up Revelation 3:20 on the overhead screen. We start giggling, and then the tears start, and then we are out of control, finding it difficult to quit laughing.

The timeliness of this sermon is remarkable… and suddenly, I’m left wondering if my Pastor has been peeking through my windows, spying on me. Wait. Am I going to have to go find a new church??

 

 

Moving Past Shame

When I was in the second grade, I lived in a tiny town in northern Minnesota. There was a flashing yellow light, a small convenience store and a school that housed grades K-12 all in the same building. It was the town where everyone knew everyone & at least half of their business. We lived in a ranch style home that had a basement and our home was on the edge of town in a small neighborhood of maybe 20 houses.

My childhood was not a happy one. My dad worked a lot and he also played in a polka band on weekends, so he was often out of town for weddings and events. My older sister and I were left home with my step-mom and my two younger half sisters and half brother. Although my step mom was a good parent to her three children, she had no interest or desire in being a parent to me and my sister, in fact, she was not kind to us at all.  The day to day was rough going, but if my dad was going to be gone over a weekend, we really dreaded it, because we would often go the whole weekend without being fed. It was while we lived at this house, that children’s services were called to check on us several times.

One day, one of our neighbors asked my sister and I if we could feed their dogs for them while they were away for the weekend. They offered to pay us and we were very excited at the thought of making some money. If we had money, it meant we might be able to sneak to the convenience store and buy something to eat. Our neighbors showed us how to unlock their gate and walk around the back of the house to the door that went into their garage. There, they showed us the bin of dog food and told us how much we needed to feed their dogs, twice a day. They showed us where the water spigot was too, so that we could refill the dogs’ water dish.  We were thrilled at the opportunity to be responsible and our neighbors told us that they knew we would do a good job.

The first day that we were supposed to feed the dogs was a Friday evening. We ran down the gravel road to our neighbors’ home and my sister unlocked the gate. I really wanted to do it, but I was too short to reach, so I had to watch while she got all the glory. We shut the gate behind us and walked around the house to the door that went into the garage. We opened that door and went into the garage. It was dark, with light coming through just one small window, and it smelled like gas and oil and cut grass. We scooped dog food for the dogs and filled the water dish. We were pretty proud of ourselves.

We didn’t want to go back home, because it was a weekend and my dad was gone. He had left straight from work for one of his band gigs and wouldn’t be home until Sunday night. Going home meant hiding from our step mom, so we hung out in our neighbors’ garage, goofing around. There wasn’t anything exciting in the garage: tools, and a riding lawn mower, which we did sit on and pretend we were driving it, but we really were just killing time, trying to avoid going back home. At one point, and I really don’t remember which one of us thought of it, we turned the handle of the doorknob that went into the house. Surprisingly, the door opened. They had not locked it. Of course we knew better than to go into anyone’s house when they weren’t home and we weren’t invited. We knew we would get in big trouble for even thinking about it. The problem we ran into, though, was that the door opened right into the kitchen, and we knew that a kitchen meant food. We sat there in the doorway looking at each other silently. We didn’t even have to say it. Our stomachs were empty. We hadn’t eaten at all that day.

The draw was too strong, and we tip toed over the threshold and stood in the kitchen, still. Then suddenly, we were quickly peeking through the cabinets, looking for something, anything that we could eat that wouldn’t be missed.  We settled on spreading some peanut butter on a slice of bread each. We were so careful to wash and dry the knife and clean up all of the crumbs so no one would ever know. Then we quietly tiptoed back out to the garage, carefully shutting the door behind us. We scarfed down our slices of peanut butter bread and then made sure everything looked fine and we left the garage, making sure to lock the gate behind us. We walked back home, neither of us saying anything. Both feeling guilty, but so happy to have had something to eat.

The next morning, my stomach was rumbling when I woke up. One slice of bread doesn’t cut it for a day’s worth of food. I woke my sister up and reminded her that we had to go feed the dogs, not that she needed reminding. Trying to be as quiet as possible, so as not to attract the attention of my step mom, we snuck up the stairs and out of the house, and then we sprinted to our neighbors’ home. Once again, we fed and watered the dogs, and then we stood there staring at each other. She was daring me to open the door to the house with her eyes. I was daring her right back.  Although I was the younger sister, I often took on the roll of the older sister, and I did it this time too.

I recklessly opened that door and walked through it acting like I wasn’t about to wet my pants in fear. Again, we made peanut butter bread, eating it while sitting in the doorway between the kitchen and the garage. And then we went back for seconds. We carefully cleaned up our mess and as we were heading out the door, we saw some coins. We whispered back and forth that if we took the coins, we could sneek to the store and get something else to eat, and eventually, knowing that it was wrong, that it was stealing, we took the coins. We quickly locked up the gate and ran between a couple of houses to a path that ran through some woods. We took the path through the woods and made our way to the store. We each bought a couple of wrapped, individual apple pies and walked slowly back through the woods, eating them but feeling guilty for enjoying them.

We went back that night and fed the dogs and had another sandwich and then got up and ran back again on Sunday. By this time, we had it down. She’d scoop the food and I’d refill the water dish and then we’d go in and sneak some bread. This time was different though. This time, when we were in the middle of putting peanut butter on our bread, we heard the automatic garage door opener spring to life.  Panicking, we tried to put the peanut butter and bread away, and tried to think about how we were going to get out of the house, with our neighbors now parking in the garage. I ran to the front door, with my sister right on my heels and worked to get the door unlocked. Finally, I figured it out. All that was standing between me and freedom was the screen door. Unfortunately, the screen door was also locked, but not in a way that I could figure out. We were stuck.

I cannot remember clearly, what happened from that point. I have vague memories of being walked down the gravel to my house and remember feeling like I was going to vomit when my step mom opened the door. I do remember the beating that followed. I remembered the look on my dad’s face when he finally got home. Most of all, I remember the shame. For years, I could not talk about this story, even with my sister. I was so filled with shame about what I had done. I knew better, and I had done it anyway. Top that with the fact that everyone in town now knew that we had broken into someones’ home and stolen from them. We were called stealers and thieves by other kids.

The guilt and heavy shame weighed on me for years. I guess in some ways, I am still embarrassed about it. Even though I can look at the situation with adult eyes now. I can see that although we did do something that was fundamentally wrong, we were just little kids, trying to survive. We were stealing, yes, but it was food for goodness sakes. The real shame should not have rested on our shoulders.

annelamottshameWe have all done things in our lives that have made us feel ashamed. When I feel shame about something I’ve done, it is really difficult to like myself, let alone love myself. If I can’t love myself, I cannot possibly love anyone else in a healthy manner. Learning to let go of shame and forgive myself is necessary if I want to be healthy. It is not an easy lesson to learn, and forgiving ME can be difficult, especially when I do something I know is wrong or hurt someone I love; However, God is not interested in reminding me of who I used to be. He is more interested in who I am becoming. So I need to let it go and forgive.

 

 

 

 

Just Ask Me

With water shortages, climate change and bees dropping like flies, there is one thing that we still have an over abundance of, and that is opinions. We humans are never in short supply of opinions, and only too happy to share ours, in the event someone needs one, or doesn’t.

I think that is why I like getting a jury summons. I seriously get one of those every other year; They want my opinion SO badly, they’re even willing to pay for it, never mind the paltry sum. My husband, on the other hand, who has lived in this state his whole life has only received one or two summons. What does that say about his opinions? Well, of course I think my opinions are better, but then, isn’t that the nature of an opinion?

Unfortunately, I completely forgot to appear the last time I was summonsed, so not only did they have to go without my opinions, but now I probably have a warrant out for my arrest and one day I’ll get pulled over for speeding (who, me?) and will have nearly worked my way out of ticket when the officer will go back to his car to run my license and come back, gun drawn, having called for back up, and arrest me. I’ll make the evening news, because of course I won’t go down quietly and then I’ll have to figure out which family member I should call to bail me out. First choice would be one with money, but I’m going to have to settle on which ever phone number I can remember without my cell phone. Seriously, does anyone know anybody’s phone numbers by heart anymore? Then I’m going to have to hope that I get bailed out before dinner, because I don’t want to take a chance that Red and crew are in the kitchen, ready to break in the newbie prisoner. I wonder, if I have a record, can I still serve on a jury? Anyone? Hmmm. Maybe I should make a run for the border, or just go turn myself in.

I know that it is only because I am bossy a good leader that I feel like everyone needs, no, wants my opinion. I just feel like if people would just ask me, they could save a lot of trouble, pain and money on things. I’m going to give you just one example, although I have many too choose from. There is this shampoo called Dumb Blonde. I didn’t name it, they didn’t ask me, so don’t get your panties in a wad to me about it! It is manufactured by a company named TIGI. Now, I have loved this shampoo for years. It is a gentle cleansing shampoo designed for people who bleach their hair (thus the name) and it is pH balancing. For those that don’t know a thing about pH, this is a good thing. AnyWHO… what the makers of Dumb Blonde don’t know, is that because the shampoo is pH balancing, it works really, really, super well for people that have dry scalp (which is a polite way to say dandruff- I am nothing if not polite!). Every time you wash your hair with this shampoo, it brings the pH of your hair to a natural, normal state (the goal of the shampoo), but it also, unintentionally,  does the same thing to your scalp, because it is difficult to wash your hair without washing your scalp, though I have never tried to do this. There are a couple of reasons that this is great news, first, most dandruff shampoos are really hard on your hair and scalp. They clean too deeply, which can be a problem if you color your hair and they also can irritate your scalp causing it to over-react, getting you into this vicious cycle of HAVING to use a dandruff shampoo to keep the flakes at bay. They can also smell bad, like medicine, and they usually say DANDRUFF on the bottle, nice and big so that when your snoop dog friends come over and have to pee and are checking out what you’ve got under your bathroom cabinets and in your shower, they know that you need dandruff shampoo. Yes, they do snoop. The door is locked. Wouldn’t you?

Dumb Blonde is sneakier, but only because the company hasn’t asked me. If they asked me, I’d tell them that it works better than any dandruff shampoo out there and they should market the sh*t out of it for all the flakey people in the world and then they should give me half of the cash, because I told them so. The other thing they should have asked me about is their packaging. When Dumb Blonde first came out, it was in this translucent pink bottle and the shampoo itself was pink, smelling like grapefruit. Pink isn’t exactly gender friendly color as a shampoo, but I still had no problem selling a pink bottle of shampoo to guys. After all, if it gets rid of the flakes… Everything was going along fine, when TIGI did what every company does, and it MAKES NO SENSE. We’ve got a great product in a good package that people love, so what should we do? Oh, I know, let’s change it! For the love of all things Holy! Why companies do this is beyond me. If we wanted change, we would pick up the pennies we walk by on the street. We DON’T want change. We want the comfort of the same product in the same package with the same smell. We can deal with a price increase if that is what is behind the whole thing, just do not change our products. So, the brilliant minds at TIGI concoct a plan to update the packaging & product of the already awesome Dumb Blonde, except, guess what. Their new packaging is HORRIBLE. Ugly. I think it was supposed to be a paint splatter, but it reminds me of barf, and I don’t do throw up. I would rather have a bottle that says “dandruff shampoo” in my shower than their new barf splattered bottle. They didn’t stop there though. They changed the scent of the shampoo too. What used to have this light grapefruit scent now smells like baby aspirin. Remember baby aspirin? Yeah, it smells like that tastes. Not that I ever ate baby aspirin, more than once or twice. Okay, I might like the taste of it, but, gross. Who wants their hair to smell like baby aspirin. So NOW when I sell this shampoo, I have to do this whole disclaimer about how the package is ugly and it doesn’t smell great, but it ‘works really well’. Much harder to sell, and they must have gotten that picture, because just recently, they went through another phase of repackaging and guess what? Their new packaging is nearly identical to their original packaging. WHAT? How much money did we waste on THAT decision? I could have told them and saved them bank, but they did not ask me.

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The thing about opinions that can be dangerous, is that we really only want to listen to opinions that are in line with ours. Why do you think those little opinion channels CNN and FOX are so opinionated? Because they know that they have an audience that agrees with whatever they are spewing out, so they don’t have to worry too much whether all of the facts are straight. No time is better to witness this than during the election cycle. Ugh.

Opinions are lovely things to have. They make us feel right, and smart, and sure of ourselves. But sometimes, I find that it is difficult to NOT share my opinion when I know the other person doesn’t want it, because I think they really NEED it. These are the times when I have to tread lightly. It usually goes something like this, “I’m going to say something, and you don’t have to get upset about it, but I really think you should hear me out…” leaving out the, ‘otherwise you are going to screw this up terribly and I’m going to have to say I told you so’    See. I can be gentle, subtle, non-obtrusive.

 

Big Love

My kids would all tell you that they’ve been displaced as the objects of our love and devotion. They would be correct, for the most part.

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Adorable Edith

Ever since the sweet little Ernie & Edith have joined our household, we’ve really only eyes for them. Ernie & Edith are mini Yorkies, weighing in at a hefty 5 and 6lbs respectively. Ernie is Skyler’s dog and Edith is Lizzie’s dog, making the dogs our granddogs. They have more toys than a toy store and a fairly impressive wardrobe as well. They eat grain-free, organic food, have three different kinds of treats and get first choice of any fruit or veggies chopped in our kitchen.  They sleep in our bed, often under the covers and plastered to my side, preventing me from changing positions without disturbing them, so I don’t change positions. When we are away from home for an extended amount of time, we are both excited about coming home to see the “little dogs”.

Some would think we are ridiculous. Some might be right, but, imagine, for a second, what it was like when your kids were, say, three years old. For some of you, this was so long ago that it’s difficult to remember, for others, you are living the dream right now, (Hang on! It gets easier!). Still others have no kids, so you will need to just follow along.

When your kids are three, you are the center of their universe. They have figured out that they can make things happen, but for the most part, life still revolves around you. They love to snuggle, love to play and come to you when they’re hurt. When you come home from work, they are waiting for you at the door, more excited than if it were Christmas morning. The crowd goes crazy! You are the bomb dot com!

Then your kids grow up. They quit being excited when you come home, in fact, they might go hide when you get home, so you can’t ask them about the ‘homework situation’. Your kids come and find you when they realize they need something. Users. Then, Lord forbid if you don’t actually give them what they want, then you are completely worthless. Gone are the days when you coming home is like a rock star taking the stage. This is when you go and get yourself a little dog.

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President of the Handsome Man’s Club: Ernie

The little dog will do everything the kid USED to do, without the homework or science fair obligations. It is perfectly delicious. The unconditional love that our little dogs lavish on us in a day is enough to last a soul for a week. Who needs kids when you have dogs?

When I was driving home from Pullman, after getting my daughter’s apartment set up, I was thinking about how exciting it was going to be to be greeted by our granddogs. It got me thinking about how I sometimes treat God like I’m a disinterested teenager. I can go days without thinking about God or without thanking God, but the second I want something, I am on the horn and impatiently waiting for an answer to my needs. I’m sure God gets annoyed with me, after all, I get annoyed at my kids when they do this to me.  How much closer would my relationship be with God if I greeted him with a wet, sloppy kiss every day?

 

 

Russian Roulette

While the world is falling apart, we are busy making felons famous. God Bless America. Maybe instead of giving inmates free cable TV and free education, we should just pimp them out to all the fashion magazines. After all, we do want them making an honest living, right? I’m pretty sure we’d save money. We’d just need a good gym, which most prisons already have and a tanning bed or spray tanning booth. Oh, and a runway. We must build runways in all prisons so that we can teach these guys how to Zoolander themselves into a REAL career. We would save money on food cost, rumor has it models don’t each much. Seriously. Oh, and BREAKING NEWS. The Malaysian plane is still missing, AND they’ve changed the search location again…  Add that to the list of wonders of the world. If they can’t find a plane with 240+ people on board, I guess it’s expecting a bit much from my daughter to find her missing library book. After all, it could be anywhere.

The really important news, though, is that infamous see-through yoga pant maker Lululemon is off the hook in a class action lawsuit brought on by their shareholders. You can’t expect a product (or a whole product line) to be free from defects. Geeze guys. Get real. Haven’t the other company lawsuits taught you anything? The real tragedy in this case, has never even been discussed, so I’ll take a moment to address it here.

Lululemon’s little ‘product defect’ has threatened and created uncertainty for women across the globe. Not because their pants might be see through when you bend over. I mean most of us wear panties and Lord knows, ever since the low rise and the low low rise and the super extra low rise jeans came into fashion, we haven’t been shy about showing off said panties every time we bend over or sit down. It’s not really a ‘you can see our panties’ issue. Here’s the real issue we need to bring a class action about:

Black is supposed to be a safe color.

I know. I brought color into an issue that seemed to be free of obvious color issues, which makes me no better than CNN or FOX News, take away my birthday. But you have to hear me out.

For years, women have flocked to black as the premier color choice of their closet. It doesn’t matter if you are a summer, fall, winter or spring, black will look good on you. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 years old or 80 years old, black will look good on you. It doesn’t matter if you are 110 or 420 pounds, black will make you look like you are at least 2.5 pounds lighter. Every ounce matters. It doesn’t matter what you pair it with, it always matches. It doesn’t matter if you are headed to the gym, the office, or a nightclub, black is always an appropriate color. I am a hairstylist, and like wine and Skittles are a staple in my diet, black is a staple in my closet. Black- it’s not just for funerals anymore.

No other color can say the same thing. White is CERTAINLY not going to be making the same claims. You can wear white if you’re black quotea winter, but if you are a fall, you have to go to a vanilla or champagne or it will just be all wrong for your complexion. An 80 year old in a white dress. It’s not going to work. You won’t lose the magic 2.5 pounds in white, in fact, you’ll probably gain it. That’s why you never see weather forecasters on TV wearing white. You also never see them accurately predicting the weather, but that’s another issue. You’d never do situps in white, go on a lunch appointment in white (ribs anyone?) or go out in a little ‘white’ dress. You know who wears white? Angels wear white. Because they know they won’t get dirty in Heaven. No one that wears white wants to do any real living. Hell, even Nuns wear black and half of them don’t even talk. That should tell you something. Black is was a safe color.

Women already have enough safety issues to deal with. It’s no longer safe to put make-up on when you’re driving. It’s not safe to use your cell phone in the car, it’s not safe to let your kids wander around in the back of the pick up truck while you’re driving to the grocery store. Once you’re at the grocery store, you have to use a cart wipe, because, for GAWD’s sakes, the handle of the cart IS NOT SAFE. You can’t even pee outside of your own home and feel safe. All this besides the small safety issues that running alone in a park at night or walking down a dark back alley bring and it’s just nearly too much to handle. What used to be a safe bet, no longer feels safe anymore. This is where the true uproar should take place. Lululemon has taken what used to be a safe choice and made it into a game of Russian Roulette. Women across the world are staring into their closets, looking at all of their black clothing and saying, it looks safe, and it might be safe, but, then again… maybe I’ll wear grey.