Monday, December 30, 2013

New Pictures of Chocolate and Me

Chocolate spends a lot of time in the winter curled up in his heated bed.  This was a gift from his grandma years ago, and has been his favorite bed as he gets older.  Thanks Mom!
 Chocolate is sleeping on his blanket at the foot of my bed.  He goes in spurts where he sleeps.  Lately at night it has been on my bed, which is my favorite place to be, and my favorite place for him to be!  I just find it comforting. 
 Here is our new Christmas tree.  I look like I am choking my poor cat.  He doesn't like to be held.  He is not a camera friendly cat.  I used to have to quietly sneak up to him to take pictures, and even then he'd run away.  Now I can take pictures of him sleeping and he doesn't even wake up. 
I try to take a selfie.  I don't know why the crooked smile.  I don't see it when I look in the mirror, unless it is a corner or 3-way mirror.  Do others?  I also have a crooked neck which makes my head sit on my body crookedly.  My eyes are two different sizes.  The size gets even more different when I laugh.  Oh well, what can you do.  I am used to it and just live with it.  The last time I got upset about trying to take a selfie for a dating site, I threw my camera and broke it!  I am much better now.  "I'm not crazy.  My mother had me tested."-Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Half the Sky

Edna Adan started a maternity hospital in her home country of Somaliland to help combat genital mutilation and prevent maternal mortality.

Urmi Basu started her own organization to keep women and girls out of prostitution in the Red Light district of Kolkata, India.

Amie Kandeh advocates for women in Sierra Leone, working to seek justice for victims of abuse.

Rebecca Lolosoli is an advocate for women in Kenya and started her own women and children only village for victims of domestic abuse.

Somaly Mam was a victim of sex trafficking as a child in Cambodia, and after escape, started her own rescue and rehab organization for other women and girls trafficked in southeast Asia.

These women and more you can read about on: http://www.halftheskymovement.org/

Why did I write this?  I saw the documentary on PBS and have read the book twice.  I even wrote a letter to my local papers about it.  This inspired me because as a woman, I never realized how good I have it here in America at this time. 

I was never mutilated, abused, or sold into slavery.  I was educated to the best of my ability, earning a Masters degree in Education.  I was gainfully employed for some years in various occupations.  I have truly been blessed and never appreciated it.

I write this because every night I thank God I have a warm bed to sleep in, a cat at my feet to keep me company, and warm jammies to keep me cozy.  I write this because I do not know hunger, ignorance, or disease.  I was born in the richest country at a time where my rights are respected and I am considered equal.  For this I am eternally grateful, and I hope I remember this when I complain of the cold and frigid temps, complain of my bad eyesight or hearing, or complain of having to use a CPAP for my sleep apnea.

I love being a woman, and I wouldn't want it any other way. 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Coming Home



 

The season of Advent is about Jesus coming.  First is in the past, when He came as a helpless baby to be worshipped in a manger.  Presently it is when we see Him reflected in His creation.  Future when He comes again one final time to reign for all eternity, where there will be no more tears and no more pain. 

Home is a place where one feels loved and accepted.  Where one feels a part of something bigger, a sense of belonging.  So what does Advent have to do with Home?

Where I feel most at home is where I see Jesus in His creation, when I feel Him moving in my soul.  Where I am most myself and closer to Him than ever. 

I feel this way when I am with my parents playing cards.  When I am laughing with my niece.  When my sister and I enjoy an episode of Big Bang Theory.

It is when I am holding a cat in my lap or playing with a dog.  When I feel the purr of the feline, the licks of the canine.

It is when my students learn something new in English, and I had a part in that.

It is when a family brings home a pet, and I had a part in that.

It is when I am talking with my friends at church, sharing a snack with my Bible study group.

It is when I am moved to tears during a sermon, remembering the goodness of God.  When I am singing a particularly moving worship song.

It is when I am snuggled up in my bed on a cold winter's night, with my cat at the foot.

It is when I am praying to God and reminded of His grace.

It is in remembering the Christmases of my childhood, the lights on the tree, the scents from the kitchen, the warmth of the hugs.

It is in the Christmas of now, seeing the joy in my niece's face, the contentment of my parents, the craziness of all the dogs.

It is in the simple things of life that bring me joy, peace, and purpose.  The things that last.

http://synchroblog.wordpress.com/

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Memories, part 2





These are my two favorite Christmas movies.  I try to see them every year, but don't always have the time.  But they make me cry and they make me laugh, even though I have seen them a million times. 

I also love to listen to KOOL 108 (107.9 FM) for they play vintage Christmas music, like Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole.  Now these guys and more were singers.  My grandma played these records on her console, along with The Sound of Music.  My cousin and I sang and danced around the basement (our play room) the soundtrack.  Even now I can remember the words of some of the songs. 

My mom and I made spritz cookies last weekend.  We took turns wrestling with the cookie press.  She hates making them but does it for us, knowing how much we love them.  My parents worked hard to make Christmas special for us kids.  We got a tree from the lot, dad cut it just right and carefully arranged it in the tree stand.  Then mom and dad wound the colored lights and golden garland around the tree.  As the perfectionist as my dad is, the tree always looked like it was the most regal tree there ever was. 

How blessed I am to have had such great Christmas memories.  I am very thankful to my parents and grandparents who gave so much of themselves, during this time of year, and all throughout the year.  I have been greatly and deeply loved, and I am truly thankful for that. 
 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What is beautiful?

Cheezburger is one of the that websites that I check everyday for a good laugh.  But sometimes there is something meaningful there, something that makes me cry and changes my perspective.  I encourage you to view this youtube video, and you will see what I mean.
http://thedailywhat.cheezburger.com/share/56723969

After I saw it I cried and for the first time in my life, I felt beautiful.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Memories, part 1



 Do you remember Shiny Brite?  These were popular when I was growing up in the 70s.  You can still get them online.  I have some myself on my tree.  How about the white flocked Christmas tree?  These are a bit more difficult to find. My grandparents had one so I decided years ago to get one myself.  The picture on my blog of me and my cat includes this tree.  But my grandparents' tree looked so much better, like the one in this picture.  My tree was a mess.  Every time I touched it a flake would fall off.  Then Chocolate my cat would eat it, then throw it up later.  So much fun.  Then I got a white tree from Kmart.  Bad idea.  The tree lived up to the store's nickname I give it (Came Apart), and the lights went out.  Now I have a green tree with lights that are guaranteed to last!  At first I was a little disappointed as it wasn't white like my grandparents, but after putting my too many ornaments on it, it reminds me of my parents' tree, which also brings back memories.

I have a confession to make.  I  never took down my tree from last year.  I just couldn't bear it as the winter was too long (snowstorm in April?  please!).  So I left it up sans ornaments.  I find the lights comforting.  I just like to sit there and look at them.  I love to nap on my couch with the lights softly glowing, as they did as a child at my grandparents. 

My grandparents made the Christmases bright for us kids.  I still smell the krumkake and rosettes my Norwegian grandma made every year.  I laugh at the cheap tape and tags they used on the gifts.  The tags fell off, but my grandma always knew who had what.  Maybe the cheap tape was intentional so they could save the paper! 

When my grandparents moved from their little yellow rambler into a nursing home, I grieved the loss of no more Christmases at my grandparents.  Every Christmas I would grieve, wishing they were still here and still in their home.

But now it seems that slowly but surely, I am appreciating more the Christmases at my parents, as they are now the grandparents to my niece.  No more are the traditional Christmas cookies, but a new tradition resurrected with my niece getting older: making ornaments.

That's what Christmas is about I guess.  Creating new memories to help you move on from the pain of loss.  And being thankful for the memories in the first place.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving

In this post I am going to be ordinary and write what I am thankful for.

I am thankful to be born in a country where as a person born with a disability, I am able to get all the medical care I need, an equal education, and opportunity to work and contribute to society.

I am thankful to be born in this great country where I can worship God in accordance with my conscience, and I am free to express my beliefs and opinions.

I am thankful for my family, who saved me, raised me, and always is there for me.

I am thankful for friends over the years who have loved me and accepted me as I am, just as I am.

I am thankful for fellow writers and bloggers, who inspire me and remind me that I am not alone in this crazy career I am trying to pursue.

I am thankful for my grandparents who always loved me and saw the best in me.

I am thankful to my sister, who is the closest friend I have.  We fought a lot as kids but we grew up and learned to appreciate each other, and share in our common passions.

I am thankful for my brother-in-law for being the husband my sister needed, and for being the father my niece needs.

I am thankful for my niece, whose uniqueness has inspired me in my own uniqueness.  She is the closest one to a child of my own, and I am so proud of her.

I am thankful for my pets over the years.  They were my best friends, and always there for me.  They didn't care what I looked like or how successful I was, only that I loved them.

I am most thankful to God, for none of these things exists without Him.  He never lets go, never gives up.  He loves me just as I am.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Death

My dad's business partner died this week from a long and protracted battle with cancer.  I didn't know him very well, I just wasn't that interested in business things.  But it did make me think of some other people in my life: my parents.

I never thought I would get old enough to see my parents as grandparents.  I don't know why, it just never occurred to me that they would get older like my grandparents were at one time.

Now that my people my parents' age are dying, I think about my parents. 

I don't like thinking about this.

I'd rather live in blissful ignorance.

I wonder if my parents felt as I do when their parents were their age.  Did they wonder what would become of them?  Did they wonder how they would die?  Did they ever see themselves being the adult and not the child in these relationships?

That's how I see myself.  I am perpetually the youngest sibling, the youngest child.  They are the adults.  That's it.  But will it change?  Will they get senile like my grandparents?  Will they become a shell of their former self like my grandparents did?

I try not to think about this.  It makes me ill. 

I know my parents will read this, and I hope they know, that I am so thankful for them, that I love them, that I am so proud of them.  It was too late for my grandparents.  At that time I was impatient and young, having little energy or time to cope with their senility.  I regret that.  I wish I had appreciated them when I had the chance.

That's why I try to help my parents now.  That's why I go home, tell them I love them.  I don't want it to be too late.  I don't want to live with more regrets. 

I love you Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Be Brave

Steve Wiens on his blog http://www.stevewiens.com/ posted a cool video Children's Hospital made about their patients, singing and dancing with the kids a song about being brave.  It reminded me of the one time I was a patient there.

My case was not so dire.  I can't breathe through my nose, so the doctors there decided to stick a tube up in there for a month and then take it out in the hopes of creating an airway.  Needless to say it didn't work.   But what did happen was more eventful than this surgery.

For some unexplainable reason I was placed in the heart ward.  My roommates were three other girls with heart disorders that required surgery.  One teenager had blue lips because she wasn't getting enough oxygen.  During the night, I heard her crying, so I went to her and talked with her.  I remember how scared she was, afraid she might die on the table. She wanted to have a regular life, to go to her high school prom.  I listened and tried to encourage her with my na├»ve words.

The next day after I recovered from my surgery, I noticed her and her things were not there.  I asked but no one seemed to know, or they didn't want to tell me.  Even now I think of her and tears come to my eyes.

I can only hope I was some sort of help for her.  I know I prayed a lot for her.  It saddened me, still does, that there are so many children in hospitals suffering,  just wanting to have a regular life, be a regular kid. 

I wish I could take away all their pain.  I wish that children didn't have to suffer in this way.  I don't know why and I suppose I won't know this side of eternity.  We can say all kinds of pithy things in the hopes of silencing the pain, but in the end, life is hard.  Sometimes it sucks.  A lot. 

God never promised to ease the pain.  In fact, He said that in this world you will have suffering.  But He also said He has overcome this world.  He is bigger that all of us, all the universe.  He is bigger than the terrorists.  He is bigger than disease.  He is bigger than me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bullies

I just want to send a shout out to my family, relatives, and friends.  You have supported and encouraged me in my writing, taking the time to read my blog posts and tell me how much you like it.  That means so much I can't even express it in words.

I have been thinking of bullies lately.  I have always been an easy target, being small and an easy crier.  Usually I have no response when someone bullies me, as I still am shocked, even in my 40s, that someone would stoop so low as to do this.  But I think I know why they do this.  At least, its just a theory but something that popped into my head the other day as I was trying to figure out why some people are just plain mean.

I think a person who bullies is someone who feels powerless.  So they have to abuse someone that they see as smaller or weaker than them.  We see this all the time as we find out that kids who bully come from violent homes.  An adult who feels powerless finds power in abusing a child or an animal.  Men who feel powerless abuse their wives.  They may vehemently deny they feel this way, but in the end, isn't it what we all want?  To feel powerful?

I know I did.  I wanted to be like Wonder Woman or the Bionic Woman.  They were powerful and could beat the crap out of anybody who dared cross them.  I wanted to fly like Wonder Woman or leap tall buildings like the Bionic Woman.  I wanted to stop those bullies but had no idea how.

Of course, not all people from violent homes become violent themselves.  And not all bullies are from violent homes.  Then why?  Why do they feel powerless?  I think we all just feel powerless.  And then we all deal with it in different ways.  Some lash out, some hold it in, seeking comfort in food, drugs, or alcohol. 

Life is just plain scary.  I learned this from day one.  I was born with something I didn't want.  Then I had surgeries I didn't want.  Then I was bullied in school with teachers who did nothing to stop it. And on and on and on.  We all have our stories to tell about feeling powerless.

I guess that's why I firmly believe in God and the Bible.  He is the One who has power over all of this and more.  And sometimes I need to know that so much, to know that there is a reason bad things happen, even if I don't have an answer; at least I know that God is in control. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When We Were on Fire, pt. 2

I don't want to make Campus Crusade for Christ all bad.  It did help me in some ways. I had a great group of friends.  We ate together, lived on campus, and met together a lot.  Some were even my roommates.  My first year of college I was not in Campus Crusade for Christ, and had a horrible roommate.  Not only that, there were female bullies on my floor, which was a new experience for me.  I thought bullies only came in the male persuasion.  I was sadly mistaken.

Also, Crusade helped me leave a particularly legalistic church that I had been going to.  One that I went to in my middle school years, and then came back to after I quit drinking and decided to live a Christian life, whatever that meant.  This church had no name, could not be called a name, and definitely no denomination.  There was no pastor, but three or four men would stand up during "remembrance" meetings and either read from their trusty King James Version (KJV) Bible, pray in KJV, or suggest we sing a song from either of two hymnals, which sounded more like funeral dirges.  Women were not allowed to speak.  Women were not allowed to be leaders.  They could only teach Sunday school to little kids. I was not allowed to partake of the bread and wine.  I don't know why, a coherent explanation was not forthcoming.  We learned that this was the only RIGHT church, and if we left, we were headed straight for hell.

When I was in college the local branch of this church had only four members, including me.  It was even more boring than the one I went to growing up.  My Crusade friends were going to a local Evangelical Free church and they loved it.  I thought they seemed pretty spiritual, they must know what they are doing.  So I started to go with them.  At first I was in a panic state, worrying that I was doomed.  The songs, the preaching, it was so different.  But I stuck with it and after a while, I felt like I was going in the right direction. 

How sad that this "church" and others like it still exists.  My parents feared I was being brain-washed.  In a way I was.  As an adult I realized it was more like a cult, and I had experienced spiritual abuse. I really don't know the intentions of the people there.  I think most of the members just want to do the right thing.  The church may preach about grace but it certainly didn't seem to live it.

As with Crusade, this church wasn't all bad.  I had friends and families who loved and accepted me.  I felt a part of something bigger than me, which was nice for this lonely, introverted girl.  But I learned that I can have both.  People who love me and a church that doesn't abuse me. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Speaking of God bringing something good out of something bad...

Almost 20 years ago my best friend, my cat Nibby died.  She wasn't old, so this was a shock to me.  She wasn't in the vet's office, being put to sleep.  No, she died under my bed, in her favorite spot. 

I was going through a depression at that time.  Having moved back home from college with not a clue as to what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I was going to a church that I didn't like, but had given up finding one that I would. I searched all over for a spirit filled, alive church.  I wanted a church where people were not just going through the motions, holding up the status quo, and not daring to let God of the neat and tidy box they had put him in.

But when my cat died, I started to think about my death.  I knew where I was going, I just didn't know what to expect.  Eternal life in Heaven was something I couldn't even grasp or wrap my mind around.  All I knew was it was going to be different, and forever.

At the church I didn't like, they had members trained to be counselors, so I decided to meet with one to talk about this.  She was very nice, and had the wisdom and maturity I needed in spiritual matters.  I had complained that I didn't like the church we went to.  Instead of being offended, she told me about Church of the Open Door.

I had erroneously heard that Open Door was charismatic.  I suppose any church that dares to let God out of box seems that way.  Having known Charismatic Christians in college and attending their services, I was nervous.  For this Scandinavian woman does not get excited in church. 

I prayed about it, wondering what to do.  In desperation, I told God this was it.  If Open Door didn't work out, forget it, I am no longer going to church! 

Now I don't recommend making such ultimatums with God, but I think He wanted me to try Open Door and experience what He had in store for me.

Lo and behold!  It was not charismatic!  Just a Spirit filled, living church, with people who love God and each other, and who allow God out of the box! 

I have been there almost 20 years now, and have found healing along the journey of faith.  So I do believe that whatever happens to us, God can bring something good out of it, if we let Him.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Disability

I was born with a rare congenital condition.  The docs thought for sure I would die or be a vegetable, so they wanted to put me away in an institution.  Forget about this baby, you have a healthy one, you can have another healthy one.  But my parents would have none of it, taking me home, not knowing what the future would hold.

I don't know which is worse, living with a disability or having a child with one.  Being a parent is the most challenging job in the world; adding a disability compounds it.  Add to that the constant grieving that a parent experiences at each milestone that a child is supposed to experience, that everyone takes for granted: walking, talking, school, marriage, children, career.  I grieved these things too.  Of course I can walk and talk, but marriage and children?  That's just not in the cards for me.  It is not what I wanted, but what I have accepted as my reality.  But there are still times that I rail at God, "why did you create me this way?"

There are no easy answers.  God is not punishing my parents, God did not deem them "special enough" to bless them with me.  Sometimes life just happens.  And in that happening, God still wants to use it for good.

So I created an online support group for those with my condition, and a website for those having questions about it. 

I'm not saying God didn't create me this way for a reason.  I believe there is a reason for everything, that every life has a purpose.  But when people ask why does God allow this?  I feel at a loss for an answer.  For I know that any answer I give will not be enough.  Sometimes all I can do is listen, and pray. 

I think that is what people want.  They want to be heard.  They want to know that their feelings are valid.  They want to know that their feelings matter.  They want to know their lives matter.  And they do.  All of it.   All of it matters, to God, and to all of us.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mental Illness

I read an article a few weeks ago about Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback church, and how his son committed suicide last year.  I remember how, same as now, I cried when I heard of it.  I know what it's like to be a Christian and yet still struggle with mental illness.  It is the ugly thing that is buried deep inside many of us, but we are too afraid to tell others, for fear of being judged.  How many times over the years have I been told to cheer up?  Just pray about it!  You don't have enough faith.  Etc., etc., etc. 

I struggled with depression and anxiety for about 35 years off and on.  There would be years that I would be doing relatively well, and yet I'd have a nervous breakdown and have to quit my job or school.  After college, I was so depressed I literally laid around reading books and watching TV.  At a teaching job I had, I forgot everything so I put everything on sticky notes but then I would forget to look at the sticky notes due to anxiety!

I have been told that I shouldn't see secular (non-Christian) counselors.  I shouldn't use antidepressants.  I shouldn't be a part of secular therapy groups.  However, I have benefited from secular groups, and use meds that have helped me regain my life. 

Why is there such a stigma about mental illness?  Isn't it a disease, like cancer or diabetes?  And as a  disease, need medication and treatment from the medical field?  And like a disease, have both genetic and environmental causes?  Why have we been tortured by so-called Christians over the years who have no clue what they are talking about and do not have the love of Jesus in them? 

I know I'm not perfect, I know I have problems.  Everybody does.  We spend too much time and energy judging (I know I do), but do we use the same energy to love our neighbor as ourselves?  I know I don't.  Some people are just so hard to love!  But I so felt for Rick's son, for he needed help. He did get help in various ways over the years, but it just wasn't enough.  I can't imagine the pain parents go through.  All that mine did, all that the Warrens did, sometimes it's just not enough.  I assume it's like having a child with a disability or a disease.  They can't fix it.  All they can do is hope.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When We Were on Fire, pt. 1

I follow a great blog by Addie Zierman who is coming out on Oct. 15 with her first book: When We Were on Fire.  I highly recommend it as I am getting it myself!  It is a memoir about her life as a Christian "on fire" for God.  Oh, I know how that feels like!  I was like that in college.  I was in Campus Crusade for Christ, you know, the ones with the little orange booklet, "The Four Spiritual Laws."  I was heavily involved for three years until I burned out.  I went to weekly meetings, bible study, twice weekly prayer meetings, and leadership training.  I looked like I had it together but inside I was questioning my own salvation.  I was dismayed at the divide between the Christian groups and denominations.  I had friends on both sides of the aisle, but was told by some on Crusade that THEY were the only right group, THEY were the ones who witnessed right, THEIRS were the only right church.  Added to this was the pressure from my Bible study leader to witness and lead a Bible study of my own.  But I felt like a salesman when I witnessed, and not particularly honest either.  We would approach people asking them what they thought about the little orange booklet.  But I felt like I was lying, we didn't care, we just wanted to convert.  Writing this now, when I have never written it before and seen it in print, makes me feel like what a horrible Christian I was, what a hypocrite. 

Needless to say, I finally quit, believing that Crusade had become my god, not God.  I had to go back to square one.  And I did.  Thank you God!

I still regret being so pushy in my old Crusade days when I was "on fire."  I hope and pray that I didn't push anyone further away from God than to.  I still see the divisiveness in the church, and it saddens me that we allow this to dim our light to the world.  I hate to admit I do this too.  It's so easy to be judgmental, isn't it? 

When We Were on Fire