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“Inappropriate” Questions

When the PICU attending physician came into Noah’s hospital room to tell me our son’s stool had killed dozens of mice at the CDC and wondered if Jason and I were going to “intubate” Noah, put him on life support, I asked the question we are all told NOT to ask, the question that is totally inappropriate, the one question that changes something, or someone, from abstract to absolutely personal…I said, “Would you do if it was your son?”

You see, I knew the rules. And they are important. Whether written or not, for people in the medical profession to treat their patients, especially children, they must develop a bit of a tough skin. It’s heart-wrenching to see suffering on a regular basis, no matter the age, especially those on the brink of death.

Again, I said, “Would you do if it was your son?”  He said, donning full contact precautionary clothing (PPE) which had not been worn up to that point around Noah for the 3 weeks he had been at the hospital…

…he said, “Hell YES, I’d do it! I’d want to know why my kid’s diarrhea killed dozens of mice!!!!” It was what I needed to hear, and it was what took Noah’s treatment from exploratory abstract human with an unknown incurable situation to, “Oh my God! This could be MY son” type of treatment.

And so, I have a pre-teen daughter, one hungry for learning, a girl with a huge heart wise beyond her years, and she has access to education, formal and non-traditional, and she eats it up at every opportunity. And there are hundreds of Nigerian parents who also have daughters, a bit older than mine, equally as hungry to learn and to be challenged, to grow and learn, to aspire to callings such as doctor, teacher, mother, lawyer, pastor, advocate, farmer, community leader, whatever, and their hearts are wrecked!

And they are saying, crying out the unacceptable, “inappropriate” question, the one we all avoid as to maintain a thick skin, “What would you do if it was your daughter?” Because then we’d have to stop our modus operandi and personalize these stories…we’d have to feel.

We would have to feel.

But I think in America we are so numbed to pain and fear and conflict, we try to avoid it at all cost.

And have we stopped feeling?  Just because we live an ocean away doesn’t mean we cannot both feel and make a difference. Stop and PRAY wherever you are. That is something.

I read a parenting book that is no longer in print about the 10 greatest gifts you can give your children. The only one I remember is to teach them this question, “How would that make you feel?” It imparts empathy and selflessness and an awareness or at least an awakening that we don’t live in bubbles and are not meant to avoid pain and conflict and heartache, but we were designed to enter into with others so they aren’t crushed entirely under the weight of it all.

We cannot single-handedly save the world from heartache, that’s a Divine job, but we can ask ourselves, “How would that make me feel?” and then love as best as we know how.

And my answer, like the PICU attending physician is, “Hell YES! I’ll help you get your daughters back!”

#BringBackOurDaughters #NigerianSchoolGirls

What If…God said, “Bang!”?

We’ve read the account of Creation to our kids many times.  Our oldest is in 6th grade and has gone to private, public, and home school during this time and has also learned about evolution.  And this does not freak me out one bit.  Because we talk about things at home, in the car, at dinner, during tuck in, all throughout the day.  Because talking to our kids matters…

“Mom, how old is the Earth?”

“Mom, do you believe in evolution?”

“Mom, were we monkeys or amphibians at one point?”

“Mom, do we all share the same DNA?”

And this is what I say, “You know, I don’t know.  I do believe in God, that He always was and always has been.  I believe He is the Creator of the Universe and everything in it.  I wasn’t there when He made everything.  I don’t know if He said, “Bang!” and it set all things into motion, but I do know He spoke things into existence.  Those mountains we see everyday on the way to school, He said to the land, ‘Be mountains,’ and they were, and He said it was good.  I wasn’t there when He spoke to the waters and told the waters to bring forth life, but if the account in Creation is true, then it’s probable every living thing in the waters shares the same DNA.  And when He told the land, ‘Bring forth life,’ and the land obeyed Him, creatures walked on it.  He took dirt from the land and breathed life into it and called it a human, so we do share the same DNA, in that sense.  I do think many things in the earth have evolved over time and different animal and plant kingdoms either adapt or die out, even rock formations have been molded over the years.  But I wasn’t there when it all started, so I don’t know exactly how it went down, how long ago it was, and, to be completely truthful, since I wasn’t there,  I can’t tell you the play by-play details.  But I can tell you this, God is a really big deal.  He is the Ultimate Creative.  He loves us, every single one, and He made us.  And in the scope of eternity, I would encourage you to explore His amazing Creation, but don’t ever allow your life and heart to be derailed by the details, debates, or hateful banter around the subject.  There are 7 billion people on this earth, each uniquely designed by God, with free will.  It’s not our job to convince someone of how the earth came into existence or not.  We are here to live LOVE.  Sure, it’s lively discussion and challenges us to use our amazing minds to dream.  But Em, there are so many things I do not know, and I’m not afraid to admit not knowing because not knowing doesn’t discount God.  God is ginormous and doesn’t fit into a box, so for me to tell you how God created the Universe with every nitty-gritty detail is preposterous.  But it sure is fun to live in wonder and awe and anticipation, because how cool would it be to die one day and maybe get to see how it all went down on a giant IMAX in the sky?”

As a parent I’m not afraid to tell my children, “I don’t know” when they ask me things.  It gives us opportunity to explore, study, and learn together, not necessarily finding the answer, but continuing to live in awe, curiosity, and wonder of the One who has the answers.  What if the point of the beauty of this world isn’t to debate about the How or When, but to live in it and steward it and be loved by the One who spoke it into existence?

Science says we use potentially 10% of our brains.  What if God sees the other 90%?

I don’t know, and I’m okay not knowing.  In the meantime, while others are fighting about it, I’m going to work on the “Love the Lord, self, and LOVING OTHERS” part.

An Open Letter…to Everyone: My High School Do-Over

(*This isn’t a passive-aggressive “open letter”, rant-style, where I go off on your sucky behavior as a human, as it affects me or my people, but rather my own confession.)

This past weekend I was curious. After several years on Facebook reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, I thought it would be fun to look through the yearbook from my senior year of high school and see if I recognized people, because I barely recognize myself.  I headed to the seniors and went from Z to A.  There were a couple of things that stood out to me, the first being the abundant use of hairspray (and obvious reason for global warming) and, our amazing bangs.  Bang height and even wings took work, people, so before you mock it, know we worked hard for height that stayed throughout the day.

But what stood out to me even more than bangs, as I turned page after page, was NOT recognizing the faces of old friends or classmates, but that there was, ON EVERY SINGLE PAGE throughout our senior class, one or more students with special needs.  And I recognized every one of them.

This is where the “open letter” part comes in, not because I was awesome and recognized them or because we were all best friends, but because looking back, as I slowly turned each page and looked into every face, I didn’t know their names.  I’m so sorry I didn’t know their names.  So I read each of their names out loud, because I wanted to hear them in my ears, on my tongue, in my heart…because they were also God’s gifts to creation.

You see, I never teased “them”, made fun of “them” with others, or looked at “them” as anyone less…my parents always taught us to treat others the way we wanted to be treated.  I saw them at lunch, school assemblies, in between classes walking or rolling in a line to the furthermost corner of campus to their classrooms, but I didn’t join “them” at the “Buddy Club” and I never took the time to know “them” so that “them” was rather “us.” 

I’m not sure I knew HOW to.  I smiled and waved when I mustered strength out of my own high school insecurity.  I didn’t care if others saw me smiling at them, but at the time, I did care more about the opinions of others as a general theme rather than believing God’s truth about me…and for that, too, I apologize.

I’ll be honest.  Except for one year in Michigan, high school was awkward for me.  This is NOT an excuse, it’s just that looking back, even though I was captain of the swim team and played basketball and knew a lot of kids, I never really felt like I was part of any one group of people.

As I looked through the pages of my 1990 yearbook, awesome memories of good times did not flood me.  I did have fun, but I know from experience, “fun” isn’t the goal.  What did overwhelm me was the idea of what a high school do-over would look like, if you paid me to go back there

  • I would have joined Theater because, let’s be honest, my drama could have been put to better use.
  • I would have actually gone to my Guidance Counselor for more than just a class schedule.
  • I would have read all the books required for English Lit rather than winging it.
  • I would have skipped Math since my husband knows enough for both of us.
  • I would have baked cookies for the Facilities Crew.
  • I totally would have taken Shop, Metals, Wood, and Automotives.
  • I would have taken Art and then joined the Home Ec club so that today I’d have a wicked Etsy site.
  • I would have been on Student Council, but they didn’t vote me in…but since this is my do-over, I would have won and hopefully made a difference.
  • I would have asked my friend more about his Indian culture and upbringing, and joined “CHANT” to educate myself about those who were here before me.
  • I would have taken showers in the locker room after PE, because that was about hygiene, not body insecurity or comparison.
  • I totally would have joined the student Newspaper staff and honed my skills as a writer, interviewer, and reporter.
  • I would have joined the Band and played the saxophone, because it’s jazzy.
  • I would have been part of the Chess Club because there are permanent chess tables in parks.
  • I FOR SURE would have been on the Speech and Debate team because it would have prepared me for real life challenges, opened my eyes to other people’s ideas, and taught me how to communicate publicly with confidence.
  • And, I would have joined the Buddy Club, the club on campus where friendships were formed with the students in Special Education, and, apparently, there were no stereotypes and everyone was welcome.  If only this had been the ONLY club, we would have all been the better for it.

But I didn’t do any of the above things.  And THANK GOD I don’t get a high school do-over.

Like I said, I barely recognize myself from back then, not only physically (I’m STRONGER), but spiritually, emotionally, and as an overall human.  I’m definitely smarter than I was because I recognize that even though I wasn’t part of a lot of clubs, they all held value, and I trust that at the heart of the teaching sponsors, their purpose was to instill value and purpose.

I don’t regret being in sports because I learned a lot about working as a team and the art of collaboration, but I do regret not being mindful, purposeful, and intentional as a friend, of the many beautiful faces which graced each page of the senior pictures, the Special Education students who weren’t looking for my approval or acceptance, but who likely had so very much to teach me about love, friendship, and the art of acceptance.

I’m sorry I never took the time to know your names…I’m truly very sorry.

I can’t go back, but I can move forward.

If you have influence in the life of a school-age student, don’t encourage them to be part of what is popular.  Encourage them to do what they are gifted in, be part of what matters, help build worth in others, and especially to do hard things.

Let’s be strong together…because strong people build each other up.  No exceptions.  No exceptions.

If you are the parent or family member or friend of a child with special needs, I am sorry I wasn’t in the Buddy Club.  Please forgive me for my ignorance and not reaching out back then.  The loss of my son, who had so many special needs no one could even figure them out, first opened my eyes to this on a deeply profound level, but seeing the kids in my yearbook who were separated from the “mainstream” kids breaks my heart and only makes me more aware of our need to stop segregating all of our stereotypes and start collaborating for one another.

Let’s be strong together…because strong people build each other up.  No exceptions.  No exceptions.

If you are someone who has had no interaction with a person who has special needs, don’t be afraid and don’t beat yourself up about the past.  You may not understand all the specifics, but special needs look like many different things and comes in countless beautiful packages.  Our lives will be richer for not only knowing a face, but for learning the name behind it.

 

Show Me Your Moves

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

As we were driving home from Denver this evening, after a fun day where Jason and Em went climbing at REI and Ryan and I watched monster trucks in all their volume do their thing at the Pepsi Center, we were flipping through the channels looking for some good tunes to pass the time.

Em told me to stop it at a certain song. It had a pretty good dance beat. And it’s like it’s automatic, or something…but the ribcage just started going.

I turned to Jason, my ribs all over the place, and said, “Show me your moves, Graves.”

Jason has one move, and well, it looks like this: Stand up straight, bend your arms to a 90 degree angle, elbows at the waist, hands held in loose fists. K. Now, barely move your hips from side to side.

That’s it. That’s what he’s got. Though, if you must know, he did once have a mean moonwalk, but that was before I ever knew him, you know, way back when he and his best friends wore parachute pants.

I said, “Dude, we would have never hooked up if we had met at a club…”

He smiled and said, “I would have learned to dance to get you.”

And that’s the end of the story, folks.

Jason Graves is my lobster.

Thankfulness is a Lifestyle

…not just a November thing.

Sure I love Thanksgiving!  Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods, along with warm comfort treats like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and turkey.  Of course, that’s simply the meal.  More so, I love the gathering of people throughout our home, often orphans and widows, like the check out lady at the grocery store and her daughter one year, or the far from family single women in our neighborhood, or new people in town who know no one.  I’m not the sentimental who only wants to gather my close family around, though I love and cherish them.  But, spend one Thanksgiving in a Children’s Hospital among selfless caregivers and tireless staff, friends and family, and the day of Thanksgiving becomes something else entirely.  The meaning not lost on me.

As much as I love seeing what people are thankful for on Facebook, it’s important to me to model to my family that giving thanks is a day in and day out act of beauty, worship, and dying to ourselves.  It doesn’t only last for 30 days, one month out of the year, but in this life, in this family, we will be intentional about thankfulness, in both the giving and receiving of it.

To be given something for which you are unable to ever repay, this is the true definition of a gift.  The words, “Thank You” may never seem enough, but this is the beauty in giving and receiving.  It’s a world changing event which takes place in the admission of gratefulness, every single day.

My friends and I encouraged one another to start these thankfulness posts back in October…because Thanksgiving is one day out of the year, 30 Days of Thanks is apparently a new thingy, but saying “Thank You!” is an every single day of the year privilege, a practice, an act of face to face time with the Giver of all good gifts.

Yesterday this was the thankfulness expressed at our breakfast table, on this particular day, in no particular order:

Jason

  • My relationship with God
  • My wife and kids
  • My extended family
  • Friends
  • My job at Compassion
Emily
  • “You guys”
  • “Our family”
  • The Ocean
  • Friends
  • My school
Ryan
  • Giraffes
  • Zebras
  • Cheetahs
  • Elephants
  • And, elephants!
Me
  • Quiet time with God
  • “You guys”
  • Healthy bodies
  • Heated blankets
  • Hot tea to warm me
I’m happy people are being intentional about being thankful during the month of November.  My prayer is that after 21 days, it will become, not a habit, but a lifestyle.  Please don’t hear I think I am perfect at being thankful.  I am not.  I reject gifts and compliments and helping hands, am too prideful to ask for help, and try to do stuff on my own more often than I should.  I’m learning through this…learning that the giving and receiving of thanks is a lesson of honoring another more highly than ourselves.  
Not an easy Thanksgiving bite to swallow…

Some friends are writing about thankfulness on their blogs:

It’s Important for you to Know

It’s important for you to know I don’t always hate myself.

It’s important because it is the truth.

And “hate” is a big word, one which isn’t truly accurate for how I feel day in and day out.  But for those of you who struggle with the person in the mirror on occasion, you know when the word “hate” is stirring and feel the brunt of it when it rears its ugly head.

Most days I don’t even think about myself.  I love being a wife and mom and friend and neighbor.  All roles I enjoy and have even chosen.

But this morning a thought came to mind.  After processing it a bit with my husband, a friend, and just an hour ago with my counselor, I’ll try my best to convey here.

Earlier this week I read this article.  Before you criticize the author, read it and then process it through the following filter:

My intention in attending a 4-year college was not to find a husband.  I mean, really, if you think about it…$20,000/year for private schooling = a really nice dowry after 4 years.  Instead, I got married with a heap load of debt.  I went to school with a desire to learn and grow and explore more of God’s creativity, knowledge, and will for my life.  Originally I wanted to be a writer, but after being placed in remedial English my freshman year (WHO KNEW you could study for the SAT???!!!) and being challenged by my parents to choose a “real major,” I decided to move forward in pre-med, because I at least knew I wanted to heal people.  (*Pretty sure my parents envisioned a beatnik writer in a smoky coffee shop with a beret handing out free copies of my work or a writer in a cabin in the woods, never publishing but living off her parents.  I think they forgot about journalists and columnists and you know, authors and writers.)

Photo by Ann Larie Valentine

If you’ve read here a while, you know I didn’t make it through pre-med, seeing as how passing chemistry is necessary and all.  With a passion for international travel and culture and a love for God’s love story for the world, I majored in Theology with a Missions emphasis and a minor in Spanish.  Upon graduation, my husband and I set off with hundreds of teenagers in tow to Venezuela to share God’s love, and that was just the beginning.  (*This doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m talking about here…but you try tracing a thought in your head on paper.  It’s tough stuff.)

Anyway, way back when my mom told me about reproduction, namely sex and baby delivery, I was cool never being a mom.  And FOR SURE not going through the delivery part.  Ewwww and OWWW!  Kids were fine and all if they belonged to someone else, but for me, it was six in one, half dozen in the other.  Then I met my husband and realized he would be one amazing dad.  And then I met our first child and fell in love.

I hung up the world of Student Development in the college setting, having only been surrounded by college aged women from the time I entered college plus 7 more years as a professional.  And I entered into daily one on one’s with an infant girl.  One for whom I was souly (*I meant: soul) responsible, but really had nothing to give in return other than bodily excretions and some lovely sounds and snuggles.  All good, but not the reason I went to college.

Soooo, follow along here for a sec…a few years ago my mom and I were talking about indulgence and contentment specifically how I’ll eat to escape.  We talked about how on vacation we are relaxed, enjoying feelings attached to new memories, rewarding experiences, and new pleasures, often times coupled with dining and trying exotic foods or yummy drinks or relaxing on warm beaches.  These are all good and great and obviously a luxury, but all reasons we long for and look forward to vacations, even short getaways. 

This morning it occurred to me, a person who loves authenticity and enjoys the art of writing, whether on paper or in my head, that even though I love being a wife and mom, those roles do not define me.  My friend even said her husband posed the question to her several years ago, “If I died or our children died, you wouldn’t be my wife or their mother anymore…so who would YOU be, not what would you DO?”  He went on to say those are roles she may love, but they aren’t necessarily her authentic true self, they are part of her but not her.

Are you even tracking with me?  I’m sorry if not…I’m trying here.

So, I can’t speak for you, but I’ll speak for myself.  I adore my children and am a really good mom.  I’m also a smoking hot, attentive wife who prays favor and blessings over my husband every day.  And during this season of life, which is now going on 11 years as a parent, 20 as a wife, I’ve put aside much of my own desires, passions, pursuits, and ways in which I am wired, to focus on the here and now, namely my family and their well-being.

I put all my coals in one fire.

Like the British mum who expressed her heart, this is not something I should have done.  Loving myself by keeping one iron in the fire would have kept God’s deposits, His gifts, still kindling.  INSTEAD, like many SAHM’s and Outside the Home Working Mums, I focused on just one thing and that one thing became THE thing.  And as a result, I have FILLED those places which were rich and fulfilling with temporary satisfaction, namely food.

And maybe you’ve filled it with an addiction to sassy coffee or keeping a perfectly clean house or volunteering extra hours at things which are good and worthwhile and important or shopping or redecorating and redecorating and redecorating your house or that third glass of wine?  Or maybe you’ve filled it with accomplishments at work and others opinions of you or checking things off a list or keeping up the image you portray to those around you, no matter how weary you really are?

These feelings we experience on vacation when we are able to escape from the day to day become feelings we want to experience in the day to day when the rubber hits the road and we feel overwhelmed…and especially as Americans, we think we deserve it.

Okay, never mind, I’ll speak for myself…I think I deserve it.

I think because I did 7 loads of laundry, cleaned the house, got Em off to school and played trains and dinosaurs with Ryan for three hours and put a healthy dinner on the table, I deserve this or that reward…and truth be told, I crave the reward and instant gratification food or wine or, for sure, chocolate, delivers.

All the while, the reason these temporary indulgences have come up short is because as I dove head first into being a mom, specifically, I didn’t leave an iron in the fire.  A writing iron, that is.  The very iron God designed in me as an outlet for creativity and in more recent years, for authenticity, ministry, and healing.

Which leads me to my Facebook post after counseling today:

“Here I go to counseling to talk about disordered eating and unhealthy expectations and body image, and we wind up talking about writing…because apparently when I write authentically, candidly, and with vulnerability, I’m being true to who God made me to be.”  #stuffcounselorstellyouthatyouknowdeepdown #killingmonsters #findingfreedomtowritemyheartout

After counseling I had lunch with Jason, then headed to a beatnik coffee shop to write.

The girls next to me asked me what I do.

I told them I’m a writer.

A Whole Lotta Tongue in Cheek

Recently someone I know posted a picture of himself being baptized as an infant.  His caption had some sort of smart ass sentiment about “water boarding” and “for shame…I was just a baby.” 

It got me thinking.  I started attending church at the same age he was in the picture.  That was about 41 years ago.  And church has looked like many different things over that time, including the last two years where I haven’t gone to church really at all…

Why did my parents do it?  Why was I given a head bath at a mass in 1972 in Ohio, one winter day?  Why did they choose Catholic over Lutheran over Episcopalian over Baptist over some other brand name denomination?  Why did I go to CCD, First Confession, First Communion, Confirmation?  Why did we give thanks before meals, pray before bed, talk about our problems and apologize, talk to God and about Him with one another?  Was it just so I could wear pretty dresses once a week?  Was it strictly out of social obligation?  Was it because our grandparents expected it or to escape the gates of hell?  Why did we “leave” the local catholic church, anyway, and how is it we wound up in the different kinds of churches since then?  How come some people danced and clapped their hands while others were solemn? 

One attribute I wholeheartedly embrace as a middle-child is that of peace maker.  I will believe the best in you to a fault, and so, I imagine that next to historical conviction, my parents raised me with faith not to cram their own beliefs down my throat or so us girls would fit a mold and be perfect, but so we would always hear from them and know from God that God is good, God made us, He loves us without condition and wants us to love others the same way because life is complicated, messy, and painful, and that He will come back for us one day, which is a good thing, not scary.

I’ve heard there are worse things parents can do to a child…I’m grateful my parents chose this form of “abuse” as some would see it. 

How tragic…a child was raised with loving parents who made mistakes and were learning it as they went along seeking Wisdom smarter than themselves, but deep down, at the end of each day, knew God was real even though she couldn’t see Him, and that He loved her.  For shame…

The peacemaker middle-child in me isn’t a score keeper.  On our family faith journey we haven’t always done everything right.  On my personal journey with the Lord, I couldn’t even begin to tell you all the mistakes I have made…you can do the math:  I dedicated my life to serving the Lord on May 10, 1987…if on average I screwed up 3 dozen times a day, to be conservative, that adds up to a whole lotta thankfulness for Grace and Forgiveness, that’s all I know.

Last night Emily and I snuggled on the couch and watched, “Parental Guidance.”  All parents and kids should see this film together.  There are some fabulous lessons all around.  In one scene Billy Crystal and Marisa Tomei, father and daughter in the film, are in the kitchen late at night after the culmination of a weeks worth of fighting and disagreements and misunderstandings and major underlying passive aggressive anger from the past.  The film is a comedy, but I was bawling.  Tomei’s character had set up her life in such a way to do everything opposite from the way her parents raised her, a clear statement to them that they pretty much sucked/aka she could do it better, without their help, and quite perfectly, thankyouverymuch.

There are things I have done differently as a young woman, mom, wife, and follower of Christ than my parents, and their parents, and their parents before them.  And I’ve done many things the same.  Good and bad, because I am a human.

I know I will make many more mistakes in parenting as long as I’m on this earth.  I’ve already screwed my kids up a little, I’ll admit.  But if when they are older the worst thing they can say about me is that I prayed and asked God’s help in how to show them how much I loved them, well, then, I’m willing to take that risk.  We cannot force our children to believe what we believe, and it very well may break our hearts if they don’t, but we can love them…yep, that part is up to us.

Just make sure you love them with all of your guts…because holding some of your love back just because it may rip out your heart will only leave you never really knowing what it’s like to fully live.

Where Lies Your Beauty?

Today, Em and Ry and I were walking through Walmart.  As we stopped to honk the bike horns on the aisle display, parked between youth men’s clothing and the craft aisles, my eyes locked on the new Sport Illustrated swimsuit calendar, displayed right next to the Justin Bieber and Harry Potter posters.  Thankfully, come December 21st, all the “athletes” who purchased the calendar already, you know, for “sports” inspiration, oh wait, I mean for the articles, won’t even get a chance to look at it each month.

photo “courtesy” of Sports Illustrated 2012 Swimsuit Issue #$%^&*

Tongue.  In.  Cheek.  If only the Mayans were right!  I’m looking forward to my destination…

This display, with two extra large calendars side by side, was at Ryan’s eye level.  He was too busy honking the bike horns to notice.  Thank.  You.  Jesus.

However, Em’s eyes went there and I caught it in the corner of my eye, taking mental note of her response.

We headed to the check out and then to the car.

Me:  Em, I know you saw that poster of the woman in a bathing suit.  What did you think about it?

Em:  I thought it was kind of weird.

Me:  Why did you think it was weird?

Em:  Why would you take a picture of a girl in a really small bathing suit like that?

Me:  There’s a magazine called, “Sports Illustrated,” that is supposed to be a magazine about sports.  You know, like football, basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, swimming, lacrosse.  You know, sports.  But every year they have one publication dedicated entirely to women in their bathing suits.  What do you think about that?

Em:  What does that have to do with sports?

Me:  Uh-huh.  Who do you think might look at that particular magazine?

Em:  Someone who is kind of weird.

Me:  Actually, it could be anyone.  But do you think it’s necessary or beneficial to the person looking at it?

Em:  No.  It could make them think all girls should look like that.

Me:  Some religions have gone to the extreme to make women cover themselves, as not to draw attention to their outward beauty.  There is nothing wrong with being beautiful.  God made us that way.  But there’s a problem in our culture, in particular, Em.  Some women don’t know they are beautiful.  They believe that what shows on the outside is what matters, and by wearing very little they will get the attention or approval of men.  Our culture has gone to the extreme by encouraging women to wear very little, focusing on our outward appearance.  What do you think about that?

Em:  I want people to know me and love me for who I am on the inside.

Me:  Yeah, me too.  There’s nothing wrong with wearing a bathing suit, Em.  Please don’t hear that.  What I’m trying to say, that’s difficult to understand, is some people look at models and then compare themselves to them, wishing they were like them, assuming they are perfect.  Mommy felt badly about herself for years because I believed in my head those girls were prettier than me.  And, then other people might compare the people in their lives to the women in the calendar, wishing their wife or girlfriend was more like her.  Some guys then get feelings for the women in the magazine and want to be married to them, wishing they could have sex with them, instead of their own wife.  What do you think about that?

Em:  That’s really sad.

Me:  Em, God made you.  He made all of us with unique gifts and strengths, and we are all beautiful.  It’s the world that has tainted that beauty.  I mean, it’s so messed up, Em.  Take, for example, chips.  Some companies have hired a beautiful woman with big boobs and very little clothing to eat chips in their commercial.  I’m not sure what that has to do with chips, but it sells because guys watching the commercial are drawn to the sexuality of the woman.  What do you think about that?

Em:  I think she ate too many chips and her boobs got fat.

Me:  (*note to self:  save breast implant conversation for another day…dear God!)

Me:  Em, the point is:  our beauty comes from inside.  Some people have tried to make women into objects of beauty, just by focusing on our outward appearance.  We are a bigger deal than just gorgeousness!  We are brilliant, smart, kind, and we can change the world!  Literally!  We are not simply objects and our beauty isn’t just on the outside.  If it is, we’re in big trouble because we get wrinkly and crunchy with time 🙂  There’s nothing wrong with being beautiful, Em.  Period.  But do you think a guy looking at a magazine full of women who are barely covered makes him want to be a better man to God, his wife, and his kids?  Or to his future wife?

Em:  I think the calendar is stupid.

Walking, Part 2

My mom’s not a huge fan of crowds but she wanted to do this walk.  She didn’t want to stay for the closing ceremonies or anything like that.  She said walking together was her celebration, so that’s just what we did.

Three generations, riding the Light Rail at the wee hours…HOW AWESOME DOES MY MOM LOOK?!?!

Sisters

“Bebe’s Girls” (team name…)

This year we’ll stay right…

Emily doing a cartwheel on Speer Boulevard over I-25

Granddaughters and their Bebe

A sea of thousands of people affected by cancer in one way or another…aka, thousands upon thousands of STORIES!

One Year Survivor at the Mile 1 Marker
A dude dressed as Pink Panther…he even had a British accent (not that PP ever talks, but whatever…)

A pom squad cheering us on…

“Give me a B!  Give me an O!  Give me another O!  Give me another B!”

Thank you to the Denver Police Department for blocking off traffic throughout the city in order for us to walk together!

Here, Em and I stopped.  I said, “Do you see all those people walking?  Look ahead of you, behind us, all around.  Do you know why they are all walking?  They are walking because their lives have been affected by breast cancer.  Every single person here has been affected by it, whether in their own body, as a friend, spouse, parent, child, sister, cousin, aunt, co-worker, grandparent…every. single. person. and they all have a story.”

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” The Message, Philippians 3:12-14

Front Row: Young Bevy Girls in the making…knowing the importance of time with other women and showing support!  Nice job, girls!

My mom is a strong, loving, and selfless woman.  I have a lot to learn from her.  I’m really proud of her and so grateful we were able to walk WITH her today!

"Goodnight Moon!"

On August 28th, our son Ryan turned 2 years old.

Dad was out of town so we celebrated officially once he was home that following weekend with family and friends and sort of allergen-friendly cupcakes…and balloons.  Lots and lots of balloons.

When Emily was 6 months old, we chucked her pacifier to the curb.  Not literally since that’s littering, but you know what I mean.  But at 6 months, she didn’t remember a thing, so it was a non-issue.

Well, fast forward and enter baby brother and mom’s “Advanced Gestation,” aka, mid-life pregnancy/crisis, and let’s just say, I threw other things to the curb, like, say, rules on pacifiers and rigid sleep training and all the modern rules, like giving a rip what any book might say!  Yes, I “sleep trained” Ryan, but not quite as militantly as I had Emily.  And I’ve fed him very clean, which I didn’t do as well with Em, but all of these things are partially a knee-jerk result of the 8 year gap, which is really only a 4 year gap, if you know what I mean…

What I’m sayin’ is:  when your big brother dies, it both works in your favor and detriment as to how on earth your parents may “wing it” and raise you, accordingly.

So, ANYWAY, as far as a pacifier goes, I chose not to get my panties in a wad about it and let Ryan suck, suck, suck away.  At least until Daddy returned shortly after his 2nd birthday.

A reader here a while back, but I don’t recall who, gave me the idea in the first place!  (Thank *you*!)

I prepped Ryan for about a month…

Me:  Ry, you are almost 2 years old and so that means you’ll be BIG.  This also means you won’t be sucking your pacifier any longer.

Ry:  (blank stare…while sucking…)

Me:  And, so, on your 2nd birthday, we are going to tie your pacifier to some balloons and send it to the Moon.  Every night when we go to bed you can look out the window and tell the Moon and your pacifier, “Goodnight!”

Ry:  (sucking voraciously…staring with possible, no, probable, comprehension…)

Me:  So, it’ll be so great, Ry!  We’ll wave bye-bye as it goes up, up, up to the Moon and you’ll be BIG and won’t need it anymore!

Ry:  (eyes wide as saucers now…)

Now, let me preface this to say that one of my dear, dear friends who also lost a child encouraged me as I let Ry suck away for 2 years, “OH!  Don’t take away the one thing that brings him comfort!”  And that’s exactly what I did.  I didn’t lose sleep or worry about it, because, of course, there’s always braces, right?!

But there’s more to the story…

You see, Ryan, our son, is named after his Daddy’s good friend, Dr. Ryan Arnold.  And Dr. Ryan Arnold was an exceptional orthodontist.  And Dr. Ryan Arnold would have been our kids’ orthodontist, but he passed away living selflessly.  The week before Dr. Ryan Arnold passed away, he examined Emily’s teeth and gave us a loose plan of how we’d move forward with her bite and such…and, since I was pregnant and he never actually SAW our Ryan’s mouth, he left me with these words, “Ade, don’t let your kid suck a pacifier…but if you do, I’ll fix it later…”

And then he smiled his great smile, which, incidentally, was straight and white…

Nice.

Nice, except Jason and I are taking “Financial Peace University” right now and let’s just say several thousand dollars for Ryan’s braces could, indeed, be used for his education one day, or towards a vacation for me and the hubster, or supporting a hospital in Ethiopia, or, or, or, I don’t know, maybe getting out of debt!?  But that’s another post…

So, anyway, back to “My Mom Rocks,” and whatever it was I was saying…

Oh yeah.  So, here are some pics of the day Ryan’s pacifier went to the Moon…the day he became a BIG boy…the day he saved us a few thousand dollars, or at least, the day his mom had peace in her heart that she was honoring a dear friend and finally taking the expert opinion of a professional.

RIP Pacifier.

Prepping Ryan that sending his pacifier to the Moon is going to be fantastic!  AKA, tickles with Daddy.

Running around at his birthday picnic, oblivious to what is to come…

Sharing a second birthday with his cousin, just days apart….

Daddy wearing his hat always in memory of Dr. Ryan Arnold…

The birthday picnic went a little late so the next morning we gathered what balloons remained…

Ryan willingly giving over his pacifier…

…sorta…let’s just say he wanted one last suck…

…a suck that lasted a while…until the release.

The reality set in as he watched his pacifier set soar into the western skies.

It’s been a week and a half now.  Naps on day one and two were a bit rough, but he has adjusted beautifully.  His teeth haven’t straightened out, and he does point to his teeth and tongue when I put him down to sleep, but then he says, “Goodnight Moon!” and all is well.

So, let’s face it:  we all have “pacifiers.”  If you were to take to heart the sentiments of a selfless man, who was saying more to me than just the obvious, what “pacifier” would you give up?

* We miss you, Dr. Ryan Arnold, and think of you and your beautiful family, every. single. day.  xoxox