Thursday, December 30, 2010

The light at the end of the tunnel

The year is almost over. Most people will be reflecting on New Year's Resolutions. I'd rather not. First, because I never kept the ones I made in the past. Second, because I don't need any additional guilt on top of the baggage I'm taking with me from last year. Third, because I have no idea what the next year will hold so I have no way of even knowing what might be possible.

Sure, I could go with the typical list of "lose a few pounds, go back to school, get my closets organized, save a few bucks." Making a decision to do that this year is no different from any other year, or any other day that I've ever spent. I always want to do those things and for me, trying to make a big deal out of it just never seems to work. For instance, I have been looking at the stack of storage bins in my bedroom for four months now. Ever since we moved in to this little house, I have been planning on going through the bins, pulling out the clothes I want and then storing them neatly into the closet that they were so neatly stacked right next to. I've put this task on my list a dozen times. I've asked DH to help me move them. I've made a decision to "focus" on my bedroom for one day in the hopes of getting those darned things out of sight. Four months later, they were still there. Last night, however, I was gathering laundry from my room, I wanted a different place to put the hamper, so ... I took a quick look in the bins, realized everything in them is four sizes too small, and shoved them neatly into the closet that they were so neatly stacked against. Easy. No list, no resolution. Just one small space that needed cleaning out.

My problem is that I have a love-hate relationship with lists. They make everything look so neat and organized on paper. Then, I look at how long they get and I become overwhelmed. I never have the energy to actually finish everything on the list. I think I might be afraid of finishing them. What if I am all done with everything I have to do? Will I work myself onto an obsolete state? When the house is clean, what is there to do?

My hobbies never seem to align with my current state of energy and pain level, so I wander around the house, feeling bored, looking glum, and getting on my own nerves. Maybe I should just skip the lists for now and just do whatever is in front of me. I already have everything I need to do written down somewhere. I'll just pick a spot, clean it, move on to the next spot, and rest when I get tired. That sounds awfully smart and sane. Is this how other people run their lives? Do smart people and Born Organized people just KNOW what to do when to do it without anyone or anything telling them what to do and when to do it?

Help me out people... am I crazy for venturing out in my messy world without a list?
I feel scared....


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How about a regular schedule?

I don't know...what do you think? Should I try and stick to a post every day? I love to write so maybe I should use my writing time as a bit of a reward for a day well done. I can always use new motivators. Since I've been at home and not working or going to school for the last few weeks, I've had more time to myself to both write and read. Reading other blogs has become a real hobby for me. I guess it has inspired me to write more, but it has also helped me to look a little harder at what I have written and what I would like to write in the future.

Would I run out of things to say? Hardly. A lack of words has never been a problem for me. But, would you all get tired of listening? Well, would you? Do you like to read long blogs, short blogs, look at goofy pictures, follow interesting links...Let me know. I would like to hear what you all think and what you prefer.

Mom's Many Hearts is about my family and all the things I love. It has been a way to share the things that make me smile as well as a little bit of Universal Talk Therapy for the baggage I've got. For some reason I feel it is important to share the joy that has been given to me in my life as well as the laughter that is filtered through the tears. There are hundreds more things in my life that make me smile and, if you don't mind too much, I think I would like to spend the next year sharing even more of them.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Resting Day

The day after Christmas for me is always a day of resting. I need a day to recover from the craziness and hype and roller coaster of THE most anticipated day of the year. This year was no different, of course. After waking up several times throughout the night with nightmares about alien invasions, ghosts, interplanetary relocation, and failed wedding ceremonies (I have no clue where any of it comes from) I got up this morning just long enough to eat some breakfast, take some cold medicine and go back to bed. When it was time to get ready for church, I did make an attempt at getting ready (really! I tried!) but in the end, I decided to stay home and meditate on the blessings of  NOT sharing (you know, things like bad moods and your cold.)

I hate missing out on church. I have already mentioned how much I love The Pastor and His Wife as well as all the other people in town. However, I have learned not to beat myself up over the things I am not able to control. Over the last year, especially, I have taken a much different view on things like "rest" and "pain relief" and "obligations." I used to feel guilty about everything I couldn't do and all the things I didn't do well enough. Some people have begun to believe that FM might be a condition born out of that type of self abuse. There isn't any scientific evidence either way, but letting yourself off the hook for things you can't control can't be a bad thing, can it? All I know is when I worry about exhaustion and pain, I become sidetracked and ineffective. When I allow myself the time to rest when I am tired and pain relief when I hurt, I don't need either of those things nearly as often.

The rest of the world might not feel the same way. I'm sure more than a handful of people might judge me harshly for skipping out on things like church and school performances. One the outside looking in, I can see how another mother might be disgusted if I were to give details about what pain medicines I take daily and how often. I've had doctors who frankly thought I was making all this up (they didn't actually say it, but they wouldn't really help me either). Oh well. If they must feel that way, they must. We will just have to agree to disagree. As much as I want to be a Star Citizen and a Kool-Aid Mom, my health has other plans. The "best I can be" tends to change from day to day, and even hour to hour. The world will just have to be satisfied with the best I can be at THAT moment.

That sounds like a "who gives a crap?" attitude, and I'm sorry for that. But only a little. Right now I feel good and happy.

For the last week, I have absolutely adored having DH home all day. I have been able to rest without guilt and as a result, I feel better than I have in months (if not years.)  He and I have been busy with separate and coordinated projects most of the time and the girls have been pretty much been left to care for themselves. It was nice, though, to be able to play "tag team" when someone needed something or when it was time to work through chores. Because there was more than one adult here, I've managed to do something I needed to do for a long time. I was able to wean myself off of two of the three medicines I've been on for more than three years. (public service announcement: I didn't quit cold turkey or without a doctors advice. Don't ever stop taking prescription meds without the advice of a doctor. Just sayin') Adjusting meds sucks and even though it is needed, it can be extremely difficult without an extra person around to take care of business. It is more than just having an extra set of hands to help, though. Having a CHEERFUL extra set of hands is what makes the difference.

Reconnecting with the love of my life has been a special treat, too. A line from one of our favorite songs is, "I get the joy of rediscovering you." Truly, it is a joy. I miss him like crazy when he's gone, or even when he's home but not "here." As much as I hate the loneliness, though, the reunions almost make up for it. In the same way that you need rain AND sunshine to see a rainbow, I guess you need separation AND togetherness to truly appreciate your loved ones.

Just because I know this, doesn't mean I like it, though.

For the last few days, I have been daydreaming about different ways our life could change so that DH could be around more, or so that we will at least be able to SEE each other when we are both awake. Might he find a job that would be closer, and have better hours? Could he pursue getting his degree so that he could become a teacher? Should I focus on making more out of what we have instead of trying to pursue a degree of my own (so I could make the most of whatever time he does have at home?) I guess the daydreams have been reminding me that I am happier (and so is everyone else) when we are all together.

That brings my thoughts right back to my school again and I start to feel a lot less confident in the whole "releasing the guilt" thing. I have one more week of vacation before I head back to school. I will be attempting a morning class schedule instead of the night classes I was taking before. I should be in school the same time the girls are so I will be able to make better use of the daytime hours (when I seem to have more energy.) However, I am increasingly afraid of having to be up and behind the wheel regularly before 8:00am. I have failed miserably at that in the past, but I will have to work on it if I want anything better than what I have now. I have let my fears shape my life and my plans and I have given them way too much power over me. If I keep allowing the fear of failure to limit my success, I will never go nearly as far as I am able.

Still, I wonder if I am fearful or if I am merely being intelligent? Am I smart to acknowledge my limitations or am I selling myself short by refusing to push myself as hard as I am able?

I have one more week of rest to figure it out, I guess. After that, I hope I can take it one day at a time.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Eve

I am pretty darn proud of my self right now.

Now, I'm not totally 100% done with shopping, wrapping, cooking, or even cards. (I let myself off the hook about that YEARS ago. If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.) No, what I am proud of is that I am not freaking out right now. Earlier today, I had a pretty low moment. Life started piling up and I wasn't in the Christmas mood, WHATSOEVER. Considering I had shopping to do and very little time left to do it, I needed to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get moving. So, I did. And I had fun in spite of all the little niggling things that are STILL trying to gnaw their way through my brain.

I could go on and on about all the awful things that I have to deal with. I don't want to anymore, though. I feel thankful, now, instead. I went back and read my post from a few days ago and mentally gave myself a shake (well, it was more like a personal smack down.) How could I sit here grumping and whining when I clearly had much more to be happy, proud, excited, and thankful for? Somehow, I can even face down the negatives and turn them around. Maybe I'm playing Pollyanna in my head. Maybe I am just having a manic phase. Who knows, and who cares? I am experiencing a small drop of peace, and I am proud of myself for letting it take root. Tomorrow is a big day and I need all the peace I can get.

Christmas, for us, really starts Christmas Eve. The morning is spent making a big breakfast and tidying up and decorating for Santa. We bake cookies together in the afternoon. (Not that we haven't been doing that for weeks, but these are special. They are for Santa.) Usually, we visit with family but this year will, instead, make phone calls to people who aren't nearby. Unwrapping presents is most often reserved for Christmas morning, so we all take some time out to make sure everything is wrapped and ready and looking "just right."

This year will be a special honor for us. We have been asked by The Pastor and his Wife to light the Christ candle during the Christmas Eve service. There are four candles in the Advent wreath that are lit during the four weeks before Christmas and one in the center that is lit during the Christmas Eve service to symbolize Christ's birth. In this small town, this is a pretty big honor. I am pretty nervous actually. Nervous, and honored.

Shopping often gets thrown in the mix, too (usually when we are getting church clothes together and we suddenly find out someone has outgrown their shoes or tights overnight) and tomorrow will be no different. Actually we are going to do what we call "treasure hunting." This is what we call the trips to the thrift store. Treasure Hunting is possibly the best time I can have shopping. My kids have embraced the ideas of saving money by using your imagination more than I could have ever hoped. They love looking through racks filled with odds and ends and finding clothes that fit their personality. I love being able to say "yes" because I can afford to let them take it home. We all love finding things that are unique and different. Tomorrow's challenge? To find a "new" church dress for everyone, and maybe shoes, too. Sounds like crazy last-minute shopping doesn't it? Yeah, it is. But I don't have to tell THEM, do I?

I have bills to pay. I always have and I always will. I don't have to go it alone anymore, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful for DH who has a job that pays at least some of the bills and is here to share the weight of the responsibility with me. I am proud of myself for relinquishing the burden and sharing it with him. I am thankful for the little town I live in because I DON'T have the malls and stores and billboards yelling at me to do more, more, MORE! The people here are amazing and caring and wonderful. They have all given me a piece of the orange this year. I miss my old friends and family, but we CAN stay in touch which is more than I have been able to do some years, even when I WAS in town and hardly a mile away from them. My messy home is a sign that people and children live here. My family LIVES here. I have three amazing daughters who play and run and make noise and leave a mess. The day I have no mess to clean is the day I will cry because it means I have no one here to MAKE the mess. I am thankful for being healthy enough to make a stab at taking my health into my own hands. I will be a little rocky for awhile, but I am self aware an in control enough that I know I can make it through this.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A slice of the orange

This isn't mine. I borrowed it from a Pastor who spoke at our church this weekend. I don't exactly know where he got it from, but I found a copy online with an author attached, so I am putting this out for all of you. Contents are the property of the original author.

Typically, I hate sappy Christmas stories. They are all so formula and the image is always so IN YOUR Face. I don't even like listening to sad Christmas songs on the radio. Crappy stuff happens all the time, but people only bother to notice around this time of year. Gratuitous tear jerking just isn't my thing. Those Chicken Soup for the Soul books were really just a marketing scheme between the publishers and the manufacturers of  Kleenex. If you made it through any of those books without crying, you might feel like an emotionally dead zombie.

This story is a little different, though. If you've already read it, that's fine. But if you haven't, just read through it once. Not to show what a good person you are, or to encourage you to run out and buy a puppy for a stranger, or anything like that. Read it because the story is something that might have happened to you, and it is wonderful to revisit this type of wonderful good-feeling-ness.

Christmas story

'A Slice of Life'
Jean heaved another world-weary sigh. Tucking a strand of shiny black hair behind her ear, she frowned at the teetering tower of Christmas cards waiting to be signed. What was the point? How could she sign only one name? A "couple" required two people, and she was just one.
The legal separation from Don had left her feeling vacant and incomplete. Maybe she would skip the cards this year. And the holiday decorating. Truthfully, even a tree felt like more than she could manage. She had canceled out of the caroling party and the church nativity pageant. Christmas was to be shared, and she had no one to share it with.
The doorbell's insistent ring startled her. Padding to the door in her thick socks, Jean cracked it open against the frigid December night. She peered into the empty darkness of the porch. Instead of a friendly face -- something she could use about now -- she found only a jaunty green gift bag perched on the railing. From whom? she wondered. And why?

Under the bright kitchen light, she pulled out handfuls of shredded gold tinsel, feeling for a gift. Instead, her fingers plucked an envelope from the bottom. Tucked inside was a typed letter. It was a...story?
The little boy was new to the Denmark orphanage, and Christmas was drawing near, Jean read. Already caught up in the tale, she settled into a kitchen chair.
From the other children, he heard tales of a wondrous tree that would appear in the hall on Christmas Eve and of the scores of candles that would light its branches. He heard stories of the mysterious benefactor who made it possible each year.
The little boy's eyes opened wide at the mere thought of all that splendor. The only Christmas tree he had ever seen was through the fogged windows of other people's homes. There was even more, the children insisted. More? Oh, yes! Instead of the orphanage's regular fare of gruel, they would be served fragrant stew and crusty, hot bread that special night.
Last, and best of all, the little boy learned, each of them would receive a holiday treat. He would join the line of children to get his very own....
Jean turned the page. Instead of a continuation, she was startled to read: "Everyone needs to celebrate Christmas, wouldn't you agree? Watch for Part II." She refolded the paper while a faint smile teased the corner of her mouth.
The next day was so busy that Jean forgot all about the story. That evening, she rushed home from work. If she hurried, she'd probably have enough time to decorate the mantle. She pulled out the box of garland, only to drop it when the doorbell rang. Opening the door, she found herself looking at a red gift bag. She reached for it eagerly and pulled out the piece of paper. get his very own orange, Jean read. An orange? That's a treat? she thought incredulously.
An orange! Of his very own? Yes, the others assured him. There would be one apiece. The boy closed his eyes against the wonder of it all. A tree. Candles. A filling meal. And an orange of his very own.
He knew the smell, tangy sweet, but only the smell. He had sniffed oranges at the merchant's stall in the marketplace. Once he had even dared to rub a single finger over the brilliant, pocked skin. He fancied for days that his hand still smelled of orange. But to taste one, to eat one? Heaven.
The story ended abruptly, but Jean didn't mind. She knew more would follow.
The next evening, Jean waited anxiously for the sound of the doorbell. She wasn't disappointed. This time, though, the embossed gold bag was heavier than the others had been. She tore into the envelope resting on top of the tissue paper.
Christmas Eve was all the children had been promised. The piney scent of fir competed with the aroma of lamb stew and homey yeast bread. Scores of candles diffused the room with golden halos. The boy watched in amazement as each child in turn eagerly claimed an orange and politely said "thank you."
The line moved quickly, and he found himself in front of the towering tree and the equally imposing headmaster.
"Too bad, young man, too bad. But the count was in before you arrived. It seems there are no more oranges. Next year. Yes, next year you will receive an orange."
Brokenhearted, the orphan raced up the stairs empty-handed to bury both his face and his tears beneath his pillow.
Wait! This wasn't how she wanted the story to go. Jean felt the boy's pain, his aloneness.
The boy felt a gentle tap on his back. He tried to still his sobs. The tap became more insistent until, at last, he pulled his head from under the pillow.
He smelled it before he saw it. A cloth napkin rested on the mattress. Tucked inside was a peeled orange, tangy sweet. It was made of segments saved from the others. A slice donated from each child. Together they added up to make one whole, complete fruit.
An orange of his very own.
Jean swiped at the tears trickling down her cheeks. From the bottom of the gift bag she pulled out an orange -- a foil-covered chocolate orange--already separated into segments. And for the first time in weeks, she smiled. Really smiled.
She set about making copies of the story, wrapping individual slices of the chocolate orange. There was Mrs. Potter across the street, spending her first Christmas alone in 58 years. There was Melanie down the block, facing her second round of radiation. Her running partner, Jan, single-parenting a difficult teen. Lonely Mr. Bradford losing his eyesight, and Sue, sole care-giver to an aging mother....
A piece from her might help make one whole. -- By Carol McAdoo Rehme
I admit, I cried like a baby while I was listening to this. I was in the choir loft, awaiting my turn to sing our selection  of songs when, THUMP I get hit in the chest with this story that was so obviously aimed directly at me. I can see myself as the new orphan, feeling as I never quite had what others did, and that I would never own what so many around me took for granted. The tangible items - clothes, books, toys, friends - those were there, but not the same. The intangible items - love, comfort, security, self esteem, - again, I knew what they should be but I didn't truly own any of them, not for a long time.

The second main character, Jean, is someone I also know well. Feeling overwhelmed, stretched thin, unable to gather the heart to do things that I usually love to do; seems to be a normal day around here. My reasons are much, much different that hers, but I can still feel it. Knowing that you will not be able to do everything, you are less and less inclined to do anything at all. Helplessness becomes lead blocks tied to your feet, making any forward movement more difficult by the moment.

Lately, my life has been a bizarre mixture of these two faces. One minute, I see that I have nothing and I am so weary. After that, I find something that might potentially bring everything back into focus, but it slips away like mist.  I want to have the bare minimum that ANYONE should have - food, shelter, work, security, health.  I don't have those. I picked up and moved 75 miles away from anything I knew looking for those things. I am here and I still have none of them. But, while listening to this story, I realized, I have a lot more than I was realizing. A whole orange made of the slivers gathered from everyone else? Looking in my living room, I can clearly see that right under my tree.

So many people have given us "just a few things, they aren't much" but they all are, all piling up next to each other under and around the tree. A few filled stockings with lip gloss and bath bubbles, pieces to make trinkets and jewelery . It already looks like Santa's been here and we haven't even put our gifts under the tree yet.  It isn't strangers and passing acquaintances who have made this possible. It is the family we choose and the family that chooses us. Friends who have been friends so long, they are morphed into Aunts and Uncles have given us pieces and kits so we can give gifts we were not able to afford. One sister is giving to another a thing she already owns, but knows her sister would love more. She wraps the item in a box and puts it under the tree. WP, hand making special and individual gifts for each grandchild, using the precious resources of his fixed income to make sure there will be at least a few more things under the tree Christmas morning. Our dear friends the Pastor and his Wife gifting the girls and I with tickets to Holiday in the Park with the youth group, and making sure she could give us snacks and drinks without it once feeling like a charity offering. The Wife, again, going beyond what she should have to, invites the family over and pulls out her collection of flutes and pipes and recorders and makes sure each girl leaves with one.

It already looks to me, that I have a beautiful, whole orange, juicy and fragrant, just waiting for Christmas morning. All of the gifts given for my girls make me realize that even if not one more thing shows up, there will still be the amazing feeling of Christmas morning sharing and joy.

DH is now inspired. He has begun sewing and jewelery making, and crafting. His amazing talents are being put to use in order to make the items that so many people have asked of him over the past few months, that he hasn't had the time to get to. He's also giving himself permission to make for himself the things that he has been gathering materials for, but just hasn't been able to make the time do. Allowing him that time (with as few interruptions as possible) is my gift to him.

Another slice of the orange.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Last minute scramble

Man, I love it when this happens.
Me: LH, do you have everything ready for the concert tonight?
LH: Sure, mom, I have everything I need. I have the dress, but I just need black shoes, and tights, and a jacket to go over the dress because it is sleeveless...
Me: So, really you only have the dress and you still need to find everything else>
LH: Well...yeah

God love her,  the child drives me nuts some times. Mostly because she is just like I was at that age. Scatterbrained and naive, with the attention span of a butterfly and the heart of a lion. I have cause to be a little more "in her business" than my parents were with me. I would love to give her the same freedoms I had at that age, but she is not who I was. It is a good thing that I hover over her shoulder as much as I do. Otherwise, I would end up missing a lot of little stuff, like...her school band scheduled events, and tests, and report cards. You know, the little stuff.

Seriously, though, I do worry that I hover too much and I fear that I am overprotective. LH is growing up to be quite the teenager these days. Out of no where she decided that she wants to wear  little make-up now and then. (Not that she needs it, or that you can ever tell when she does.) Last week she determined that her hair looks better when she washes it at night (when before, she never really cared if it was brushed, let alone clean.) Today, she is getting ready for her band concert and after getting into the dress, tights, and shoes, she declared to the mirror, "I'm so pretty!"

It makes me laugh to hear her say stuff like that. It is one of the things that really does remind me that we can be so different. I would have been too self-conscious to say something like that out loud. She is completely unashamed and unrestrained by fear. As she gets older, I can see her start to compare herself more and more to the other girls around her. Unlike myself, though, she very seldom finds herself lacking in the comparison. There are times when I hear her wish out loud that she wishes she were normal. She doesn't like her waist (her belly is still round and distended from blood pressure imbalance) and she does not like her pale skin and freckles (although I think it adds to her charm.) These things do not make her doubt her overall worth, they way I did  when I was 13, though. I remember looking in the mirror and being so critical of every inch of myself. LH, however, shrugs off her imperfections. She can attribute them to something real and tangible - something that isn't her fault, that she can't change. She can disregard them and move on. Oh, if I had been able to do that as a young girl!

Watching her teach this confidence with her little sisters makes me so proud. They are growing up taking for granted that it is okay to love who you are. Neither TD nor EG are plagued with the insecurities that I was while I was growing up. The fact that they are so different from each other (in their own eyes, at least) helps this concept along, I think. Each of them have their own strengths (and weaknesses) but I have tried so very hard to keep them from comparing themselves to each other. I'm sure I compare them to each other unconsciously, but I try not to.

After LH came along, I was actually scared to have another one. Her personality is so sparkling and memorable. I was afraid that any other child in the family wouldn't be able to compete and might feel inferior. How could I possibly love another child as much as I loved her? Then, TD came along and I was shocked to realize I had grown another heart. I must have, since I loved BOTH of them with all my heart. As they both got older, I realized I had worried for nothing. TD was just as amazing in her own way and managed to hold her own next to the super sized personality of her big sister. When I found out I would be having EG (although I had no idea as to the level of Evil or Genius that was in store) I was so excited and curious about what differences this child would have compared to her two sisters. Sure enough, as opposite as LH and TD seemed to be, EG managed a completely different facet of the spectrum.

Now, looking at them, I see three completely different girls, but they also have one wonderful thing in common. They love each other as much as I love them. That isn't something that can be taught. It just IS. That might be what makes me the proudest of all.

Monday, December 6, 2010


My DH is back! How I have missed him!Technically, he hasn't actually been anywhere. He just hasn't been himself and I missed that so very much!

Before we made this big move out to the country, I made a decision that I would start making and effort to include him in our financial situation a little more. Things are really no better or worse than they have been for the past few years, but the burden of taking care of it on my own has been a huge stress for me. Just letting him know where we are and what needs to be done (even if I do it anyway) takes a major weight off my shoulders. I think this has a lot to do with why I am finally recovering physically and getting stronger.

Unfortunately, sharing the information also means sharing the worries. I kept things to myself for so long because DH tends to worry about it day and night. When things aren't going well, he tends to become withdrawn and negative and depressive. I guess for him, ignorance was bliss, but for me it was toxic.

The last month has been especially hard. My starting school means that I spend more money on gas, which of course, makes it even harder than it was before. DH's van broke and the repair bill is more than a month of rent. Since we were already behind on bills by a few weeks, we had to put off paying for the repairs and getting the van back. Being restricted to only one vehicle made things even worse when DH's boss was forced to end all work-at-home privileges. Boss Man isn't happy that he had to do it, but it came from above him and he couldn't fight it. So far it hasn't meant any other negative changes are due. It just sucks for everyone.  Now we BOTH have to commute more than an hour twice a day, and I had to ask WP to borrow HIS car to do that. Our schedules are off by just enough now that I have to get up after he leaves in the morning and he has to go to bed before I get home at night.

This does NOT make for a happy couple situation.

I thank God every day that he and I aren't the bickering/arguing/fighting type. When things get stressful we don't take it out on each other. However, there is only so much support and happiness you can give when you aren't even in the house and awake at the same time. It doesn't take very long for us to feel like strangers when we only get a few words to each other over the phone or e-mail.

This past weekend, DH was invited to go to a scouting event a few hours north of here. He rode with the other members of the Drum and he even scored a bit of cash for it. I admit, I was not 100% happy about it at first. I was asked to work at my on-call job and I had to cancel because he was out of town. (I also had the first migraine I have had in three months, and that put me out of commission, too.) Very often, when he goes to these scouting events, he comes home exhausted from the work and worn out just from the politics of attending it. In his own area, there are too many people who have either been there too long and hold on the to the wrong ways because they are easier, or they are new to the organization and try to cut it and hammer it to fit their own needs. For someone who loves the heart of the organization the way DH does, it can create a political hell storm. The patience, dedication, and support he gives in the face of backstabbing, cheating, and lying is a testament to the type of man he is. It is one of the many reasons I love him so much.

Sunday morning, when he came home I was completely surprised by his attitude. He was truly a different man than he was when he left. Instead of the same, backwards, obstinate group he usually has to deal with, he was asked to teach and perform by a different group who were thankful, supportive, attentive, and extremely gracious. He was able to teach things the way he was taught to, and he had boys and adults who were willing to listen (and were excited to learn!) Feeling appreciated for doing what he loves to do made such an amazing difference for him. He smiled, snuggled the kids, and kissed me like my husband for the first time in weeks.

The friend he rode out there with stayed over for the rest of the day and all three of us sat and talked like grown-ups. He started talking about his weekend and for once he didn't have anything negative to say. I made lunch and we all worked a bit on some of the crafts that DH does. We got to reconnect as adults and talk about things we all knew about. By the time the afternoon was nearly gone, I felt recharged and energized, too. We didn't talk about money, or crappy jobs, or anything truly negative all day. I can't remember the last time I had a guest over without panicking over the state of the house and worrying about everything else, too.

Around 4:30, we had been talking for almost four hours but we were due at the church to practice for the Christmas program. Last week DH agreed to help the men out by singing, even though he has never actually sung in a choir before. Instead of backing like I really thought he would, he went with me, sang, and even lent his skills with the trombone to the caroling practice. After that we spent some time talking with the other members and decided to grab a pizza for dinner. (We happen to have an excellent and inexpensive pizza place nearby but it is pick up only - no delivery - so we haven't gone there much since we moved. Pizza has become a treat again instead of a last minute alternative for forgetting to go shopping.)

We brought pizza home for the kids and DH's mood was infectious. I was smiling and happy and laughing. All of the girls did their chores without fighting (EG even went above and beyond, just because she wanted to.) Bedtime was a breeze and before we realized it, it was 10:00 and DH and I had been talking with each other all night.  For the first time in a long time, I didn't want to go to bed and go to sleep. I just wanted to stay up all night and talk about anything and be happy with him. Before bed, DH reached in, grabbed my face to pull it close to him and gave me a long passionate kiss. My throat got tight and tears sprung up as I realized just how much I had missed that. I remembered again all the reasons I love this man and why he still makes me smile after all this time without even trying.

Tomorrow, December 7th, is Pearl Harbor Day, the day that America was forced into participation in World War II by the Japanese bombing of our fleet stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It also happens to be the day that DH and I first met 15 years ago. We both kind of chuckle because it is known as "the day that will live in infamy." I suppose that is as true for us as it is for the rest of the world. We had a rocky start all those years ago and we didn't get here the easy way, for sure. I know that the reasons we are together today are hard work, dedication, forgiveness, compassion. tolerance, and especially love. My heart knows that The Universe had a special purpose for us; that someday we would be together and the little pool of life we live in would be touched by the ripples of what we are and who we are.
I know I could never make those ripples without him. I am thankful for every drop of every day we have together.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Paths to choose

So many decisions coming up! It seems like months of sitting and wishing for things has all come together all at once. Coupled with the changes to the routine I already have to make, my head is spinning!

First, I finally landed a real interview with a real company that employs workers at home. Yeah, it isn't the most glamorous or high paid, but it IS a real job. It isn't brain-bending difficult, and it means  I would be able to work without commuting. They would send me a computer and phone to use. I would only need to supply the monitor and headset. So, what's the catch? The hours, and the atmosphere. Currently, my position is slotted for the "evening" time - right around dinner and into the late night. That means I'll be taking calls at the same time the girls will be at home. Can I trust them to respect the office space and noise level? I'm not sure. I will find out tomorrow if they offer me the position, so I guess I'll have to figure this one out pretty quick.

One thing I also have to consider is school. Right now I am going to school at night and I'm not doing so well with that. I've missed enough class that I am in danger of failing regardless of my grades (which aren't that great, either.) I have already arranged to take morning classes next session. On one hand, it means I'll be in and out of class early so I can take care of whatever else I need to. On the other hand, I don't have a great history of getting up and getting going in the morning. With an hour long commute in rush hour traffic, it is going to take a lot of coffee to get me moving in the morning. I really pray that I surprise myself and my passion for cooking pushes me beyond my hatred for the hours before noon.

If these were the only things to ponder, I might be having a pretty easy day, but no. Medical and physical issues are pressing me as well. About a week ago I quit one of my  meds. I know it isn't a good idea to quit these things cold turkey, but I have been slowly dropping it for some time. The benefits of taking it (less body pain, headaches, and more energy) are less and less attractive considering the detractors (massive weight gain, exorbitant cost.) So, is being thinner and having more cash better than being pain free and awake? Only time will truly tell, but I think I am leaning towards skinny and cash-laden. I think I can manage the pain other ways. Besides, extra pounds cause pain, at least some of it. I am positive that any weight loss will contribute at least a little to feeling better, in general.

Another option I am being presented with, concerns a certain procedure that The Country Doc recommended to me. Apparently, there is a solution that can be injected into the knee joints to help relieve the pain caused by reduced cartilage. Usually, this is called arthritis and it happens just because you get older. In my case, it started a long time ago, wasn't found until I was in high school, and has only gotten worse since then. It has actually gotten MUCH worse recently, and I have had to make a lot of concessions to it. Imagine me, looking young-ish, riding in the electric cart at Wal-Mart, while my DAD walks along beside me. The Elderly Power Walkers were giving me dirty looks. Not every day is that bad, but a lot of days are. Stairs, shoes that I have to tie, and walking more than a block are all on my list of Not To Do.

When I told The Country Doc about this, he suggested I let him inject my knees with this stuff that would act like a cushion in my knee joints. It is a natural substance extracted from a rooster's comb and it apparently has been in use for many years. I would need them in both knees, of course, and I would need to get around five sets of injections to feel relief. Some people get months or even years of benefit from it. Research online shows a lot of good stuff about this, and not many detractors, unless you are allergic to chicken or you have a problem with people sticking really long needles into your joints. I'm not allergic to chicken, but I'm not gung ho about being poked THAT much. It could be what I need to get moving and be able to walk again. It also means five office visits and co-pays and probably a nasty deductible, too. I think I will wait until after the New Year and see if we can't handle this with Flex Pay. Now, how can I manage to fit the appointments and recovery time into my schedule. THAT will take some magic, I think.

Right now, I get to put all of that aside for a few hours. Our little town is having the tree lighting and parade in a few minutes and Tiny Dancer is scheduled to the show choir. It is getting pretty cold out there so I need to get bundled up and get there early enough to find a parking spot within three blocks of down town. I'll bring the camera and see how many shots I can get in the twilight.
Also, tomorrow, I may have a surprise for everyone. LH has been writing play scripts again and got a hold of the video camera today. With a little editing, I think we have some classic blackmail material on our hands!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Love is Free

Sitting here tonight, I realized that the best things in life are free, but the second best things cost a lot of money.
That said, I am thankful tonight to have so much of the "best" things. All three of my girls are in bed and (mostly) sleeping. My darling husband is in the other room chuckling at something on the Comedy Channel. I am drowsy but not in too much pain, and that is a vast improvement over the way the rest of the day has been going. Tomorrow I will being spending the day with my most awesome parents-in-law. Because we are so short on the "second best" things, they are bringing the whole dinner over here and will be spending the day with us cooking, watching football, and hanging out. Fun will be had by all and too much dressing will be consumed.

In a few more days, the massive hoarde of my side of the family will congregate here. We are expecting nearly 20 people from from toddlers to grandparent and everyone in between. My kids will get a chance to play with all their cousins all at once and I will get a chance to chill with all my sisters AND my dad. Everyone is pitching in and bringing goodies and I'll be working on a few delightful dishes of my own.

All I can say is, Thank Goodness we planned it for after Friday. One, because it's after payday which will allow a grander expanse of food and drink. Two, because cramming all of my family into just one day is simply insane. And three, because the weekend after Thanksgiving is murder for anyone traveling to, from, or around any retail or discount establishment anywhere. Being in North Texas, we have a mall, strip shopping center, and mega-gigantic-store just about every half mile, so that tangles up traffic something fierce. You would think that all these places to shop would mean that the crowds would be reduced instead of the other way around. That would be the case if everyone didn't try to shop at every store within a 30 mile radius of their homes, and if we weren't quite so high in population department. One thing I LOVE about living in The Country, is that all our neighbors will quite likely be traveling to the more developed areas for their shopping and will leave our little country stores alone for this weekend.

Since I am finishing up my third week of school, there has been just enough time for everything in the house to go completely insane. The house was a wreck and a mess, the laundry hamper was full, and the pantry is still empty. Little Heart has become decidedly un-enamored with having to cook dinner most nights. Tiny Dancer and Evil Genius have perfected their ability to badger their older sister and wreak as much havoc as possible. Throw into that mix a whole week out of school and you get complete and utter chaos. My Darling Husband has that Thousand Yard Stare going on. I'm wondering if he is going to explode or just heave a sigh and give up. The entire day was spent by me cleaning, tidying, and making ready for all the guests that are due. The kids did (mostly) their part of the duties and I will go to bed with a clean floor and a shiny sink. I haven't been able to say that for some time, now.

Even though it is making things so difficult around here, I refuse to give up and quit school. Right now, things are just getting interested. We have gone beyond trimming potatoes into funny shapes and are now learning the secrets to a Perfect Sauce. Someday, I am sure I will have the ability and the opportunity to create a perfect stock made from delicately roasted bones, veggies, and a delicate bouquet gardin. Until then, I am so thankful the rest of the world uses chicken broth.

I have decided that I don't have to agree with or embrace the techniques that I am learning in order to become the next Great Chef. What I really need is to know HOW to do all of this so I know what rules to follow and which ones to throw out the window. I have to believe that there is a happy balance between wasting 3/4 of your food to get a beautiful meal, and squeezing all you can get out of your ingredients and ending up with a sloppy, but yummy final product. That is what I am going to be searching for over the next two years. The Happy Middle Ground between what I am learning and what I know to be true.

I seem to be rambling on a bit, so I will wrap this up quickly. Cough syrup can do strange things to the mind.
For the record, I take no responsibility for anything written above, seeing as it is clearly marked and distorted by Codeine and Sudafed. I know, I know...that doesn't really excuse the past few months, but hey - give a girl a break for the Holidays?


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Guilt Sucks

I've got it. Most people do, for at least a little while every now and then. In fact, if someone doesn't have it -ever - that is when they become sociopaths.  So, at the root, guilt has its place and is actually kind of good. It is what keeps our actions in check when we don't get caught. All it takes is one really strong feeling of guilt after doing something before you will never want to do it again, or anything else that will give you that awful feeling.

Sometimes guilt gets out of hand, though. When you doubt your actions, you feel guilty. When you contemplate too much how every action will affect every other person in the world, you feel guilty. When you think about everything you could have done, but didn't, or didn't even think about, you feel guilty.
This kind of guilt is insidious, because you think to yourself, "If I just do THIS one more thing, then I will stop feeling guilty."
It doesn't work that way in real life, though. Trust me on this one.

I have guilt about everything I do or don't do, from the time I wake up until well after I go to bed. In fact, when I feel especially bad about something, I will DREAM about how guilty I am. Of course, that is only when I am not dreaming about incessant fears (tornado dreams, where I SEE the twister heading right for me and I can't do a thing about it,) or my anger issues (I have woken myself up yelling at someone and woken DH up by smacking him in my sleep.) In general, it doesn't sound like I have very much control over my emotions at all. Actually, I try too hard to contain these emotions and that is why they come out in dreams. But anyway, back to the point. Guilt.

All day long I am haunted by the things I did or didn't do today, or yesterday, or last week, or last year.
Intelligence dictates that I should let it go. Sure. Like I haven't tried THAT before. It seems like as soon as I have dealt with something sufficiently and moved on, something else will replace it. Normally I like to tackle this sort of thing logically. I have found that acting on the things I CAN deal with help to eliminate the guilt of the things I CAN'T. For instance, if I am at the grocery store and I bump into a stranger. I can apologize and try to be more careful but I can't really change the way she feels. This is a sensible method that works 30% of the time. You do the math. If I can't really release all of it, it just keeps building up until I have more guilt than anything else.

The length of time since the offense doesn't really make much difference. The severity doesn't matter, either. I feel just as bad about not doing laundry as I do about the time I waited until after Christmas to break up with a guy because I liked his parents and didn't want to skip the holidays at their house. The difference, of course, is that I could go do laundry and feel better, but there is absolutely nothing I can do to erase that horrible feeling every time I look at the jewelry box the guy's father hand made and personalized for me.

The feeling of guilt doesn't always show up on its own. It tends to piggy-back on whatever else I am doing until it finds a nice place to WHAM! hit me in the chest. I will be sitting on the computer, for instance, reading comics or food blogs and feeling Contented. In sneaks Guilt to remind me that I should have started dinner an hour ago. How about when I really crave something sweet, and then I find a mini chocolate bar in the bottom of my purse. The Surprise of the unexpected treasure and the Enjoyment of the treat are both quickly replaced by Guilt for eating something that isn't good for me, especially when I should be losing as much weight as possible. And, who could ignore the "guilt" part of Guilty Pleasure, like when I am listening to Justin Timberlake and singing along? Guilt doesn't creep in with just the positive feelings either. Maybe, I have had a tough day at school, failed a test, and made a fool out of myself in front of the class. The waterworks will start up and just when I think I am starting to feel better about letting the feelings go, that's when Guilt sneaks in and asks me if it is really fair to be throwing a fit and making everyone else worry about me.

I think it becomes worse when I am trying to attempt to do nice things for myself, even if there is a good reason for it. That sounds pretty twisted, but there it is. Let's say I have to chop potatoes into triangles for one of my cooking classes, so I decide to have potato soup for dinner to give me an extra chance to practice. Can you believe that even though my kids and husband love potato soup and I needed to use the potatoes for something before they went bad, I feel guilty because I forced them all to have this meal for my own personal reasons? Yep. I know how sick that sounds.

I have even found ways to produce more guilt for myself on a daily basis, which sounds a whole lot like accidental masochism. I feel bad because my house is a wreck, the laundry has piled up, the kids are starving, and I have piles of homework to do. To combat this I try to organize my thoughts and needs to I can prioritize them. (Seems smart.) So, I will write a list and detail the things that need to be done. (Still ok at the start.) Before long, my list has stretched from a few little things to dozens of things. (Uh oh, feeling a little bad now.) The next step is to figure out what to do first and next and so on. (Warning! Warning! That sinking feeling is creeping in.) Before long I am thinking in my head about the things I need to do, the things I want to do, and comparing them to the things I have to do for others, and finally to the time I have available to do them. (SMACK! Right in the chest!) Often, this will be enough to paralyze me and prevent me from doing anything productive at all. Sure, it begins innocent enough, but the result is always the same. This whole procedure is repeated over and over again. From lists, to calendars, to menus, to shopping lists, my life is actually shaped by enumerating what I can't do. The balance is always to the negative so very little ends up getting done at all.

I think the biggest reason I feel this way is that for the last 7 years, I have been unable to do even the bare minimum that I feel is required by a member of household. Pain, fatigue, headaches, and depression have chipped away at everything I am and reduced me to a sad shadow of what I once was. I know there is an actual medical reason for my incapability to have the same level of energy and productivity that I did before but I still feel bad that I DON'T. It doesn't matter that I didn't do any of this on purpose, or even that the root of it is probably that I was trying to do too much with too little. At the end, all I can see it that I ended up trying to juggle but instead dropping all the balls.

That statement actually hits it right in the heart. I feel like I dropped the ball. It took so long for me to admit defeat that I by the time I asked for help, I was already buried in the pile of what I wasn't able to do. Now I can identify much more easily what I am and am not able to do. but, that doesn't release me from the guilt of not doing the rest. I am overly optimistic about planning and I usually end up disappointing myself in the end. No amount of personal experience seems to be able to keep my mind in check.

Hopefully, just by identifying the main cause of this, I can practice the procedure of living with and dealing with this insidious little monster.
Yep, there's that optimism again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another "Other" Day

I've been told that some days will be better than others. Apparently this is another one of the "others." It actually started yesterday when I left for school (on time, actually) and realized 30 minutes into the drive that I left my Commis Cap at home. I had to turn around and get it, of course. Without a complete uniform, you can not attend class. We have to go through a daily inspection before Chef Francoise will let us into the classroom. I have been told that the front desk occasionally has extra uniform pieces to borrow, but the front desk it usually closed by the time I get to the school. It seemed much more logical to turn around and go home after only 30 minutes than get all the way to school and get denied entrance and have to go all the way home again, anyway.

So, I turn around and I pull into my driveway at the exact time I should have been in class. Then, I come in to get my hat (which was still in my favorite chair) only to find DH had to manually turn the water off to the house because the pipes under the kitchen sprung a leak. On the positive side, it was UNDER the house, and since we live in a pier and beam with brick walls and skirting, it hasn't caused much real damage to the inside of the house. On the negative side, the water bill doubled over the last month and I would guess it is because the leak has been there for a bit longer than we suspected. Also on the negative side, the landlord's office is "swamped" with requests and hasn't gotten to ours yet. And, by the way, where is the rent for this month?

Grrrr. Fine, I get it. Some days just suck. But why must they suck as a whole? Can't there be some good stuff thrown in to balance?

Going back to last night, by the time I got to school, my first class was over. I could be my normal "Glass Is Half Full" kind of person and say that I only was missing a class that I already knew the most about. Food Safety and Sanitation is a subject that I already know a lot about and I practice daily. In order to think positive about this, though, I have to ignore the fact that I was just assigned a project with a partner and yesterday was the only time to work together on this. Missing this class was not very nice to my partner.

In any case, I managed to get to school in time for my second class and I did pass my daily inspection. I suppose that was part of the battle won. Getting through the rest of the class was a challenge, though. Actually, it was an exercise in conquering challenges. First the FM decides to rear its ugly head right while I am standing in front of my cutting board with a very long knife in my hand - aching feet (I am beginning to severely dislike the school-issued shoes), tightening muscles in my shoulders and all the way down to my fingers, weakness in my lower back and knees, headache, cotton mouth, and fatigue. If I didn't know what I was dealing with, I would have checked myself into the ER. However, I know this is just another day in the life of Me. While I am standing there, twitching, I get one ray of hope because I have some pain medicine in my pocket. That ray was quickly extinguished once I realized I have nothing to drink because I left my water bottle in the car. (Did I ever mention memory loss was a symptom of FM?)

For the next hour of class, (while twitching, aching, and nodding off) I had to pay attention to Chef's teachings (in his Fluid French accent) and practice chopping vegetables into 1mm squares. (No, that is not an exaggeration.) Of course, tonight we weren't just going after just potatoes. We made brunoise, brunoisette, des, emincer, ciseler, hacher, concasser, and macedoine. All of that translates into "chop onions, shallots, and garlic very, very, very tiny." I have done this before, on my own, several times with almost no issue. The procedure is much more complicated, though, when you take into account the facts that I am short (which makes the cutting board - and onion fumes - that much closer to my face, and I am rather round which prevents me from seeing the vegetables that are right there under my, uh... nose, and (like a fool) I chose a seat at the end of the 3rd row which is apparently created as the worst place in the entire class as far as visibility is concerned. Even the video projector doesn't do much good when you are behind someone who's head blocks the entire view. I was hopping from foot to foot, back and forth, bobbing and weaving like a boxer trying to see what was going on both in front of me and to either side on the projector screens.

Class ran overtime because so there are so many in the class and just gathering the vegetables to cut takes far longer than it should. By midnight, the room was finally cleaned, sanitized, all the tools were back in place, and we were all released. At this point, I am no longer sleepy at all. I am wide awake and wired. That is good because I have a full hour to drive home. That is bad because it took an additional hour for me to wind down once I got home. I think it was 2:30am by the time I finally drifted off to sleep.

This morning let me know that the "other" day wasn't finished with me yet. I had to wake up earlier than I wanted so that I could try and get a hold of the landlord again. Also, I had a sinus headache that was threatening to become a migraine if I didn't take care of it very, very quickly. The water is still off because the landlord has not sent anyone over to fix the pipes, yet. No running water means no shower and - more importantly - no coffee. I am not able to practice chopping things because I can't clean up anything after I do. I don't want to handle a knife anyway, because my hands and wrists are doing that swelling thing again and I can't make a fist or have good control over anything involving fine dexterity. The last thing I need is to cut myself at home and have to explain it to Chef Francoise when I get to class.

I guess it is time to pull myself out of this slump. I need to get moving in a good direction. Not only do I need to be fresh and alert for Chef Francoise but I need to make my presentation on The Care and Feeding of Clostridium Perfringes for Chef Safety. Beyond that, even, while school is gearing up to be a full-time gig, I got a lead on a paying part-time gig. I still have to finish the interview process, but I have a good chance of landing an at-home Customer Service rep position. It took a few weeks, but I found a position that has the hours I need as well as a training schedule I can attend. I might not actually start making any money at it for the next month, but right now I will take whatever I can get that will help us get solidly on our financial feet.

All this work and school stuff can get pretty draining. All work and no play makes Debbie a grouchy girl. I decided that I needed to pursue some leisure time of my own (because who really wants to sleep AND eat EVERY day?) The church that we recently joined has a Cantata scheduled for the week of Christmas and I have missed singing so much, I volunteered myself right in. As programs go, this one is fairly easy and not terribly long. The Music Director is just a lovely person with several music degrees and who is well overqualified for our little country church. She is very sweet, though, and I like her very much. She also happens to be married to our Minister and is additionally a Deacon so she handles a lot more than just the music program. Anyway, in order to help out the members of the choir who don't read music (I know...I was just as concerned as you when I heard that) she has made practice CD's for each of the parts. While I can read music, and the program is full of pieces I am already fairly familiar with, a practice CD means I can pop it in my car radio and use the hour long commute to school to listen and practice the music in solitude.

The prospect of singing in a choral group again has me just giddy with excitement. I haven't been able to sing much at all for the past 10 years and I really miss it. Each of my girls has a hobby of their own, DH has four or five things that could keep him busy at any point, but I haven't had anything of my own in quite a while. Singing for me is a wonderful thing, one, because I am already fairly good at it, two, because it doesn't involve the parts of my body that like to rebel (like my fingers and wrists), and three it is free. I already own my voice so there aren't any rental or maintenance fees. No costs equals guilt free time to myself.

I think having music as a hobby will help me get through the next two years of school. For the longest time, I have been putting off and canceling any sort of appointment or meeting that pulled me away from the house and the family. What that leads to is both exhaustion and resentment that builds up no matter how big a smile you plaster on your face. KNOWING I need to take care of myself and that I need to give myself permission to do something fun and just for me, is so much different than actually DOING it. Since the girls are all part of the church choir and youth group, it is much easier for them to understand my desire to be part of it. That means they are more likely to respect my time and less likely to whine when I walk out the door. As a Mom, hearing that the kids miss me and they don't want me to go is usually the first wedge that is driven between me and whatever I want to do. I might be totally dedicated to the concept, but when you hear "No, Mom, don't go!" EVERY time you walk out the door, it seems less and less important every day, until one day you skip your lesson or meeting and you don't even care.

I am determined NOT to let than happen again. My girls are all old enough to be able to care for themselves to a certain extent as well as understand my need for a few minutes to myself. School and choir are two things I have always wanted to do and right now, I get to do them together. I am so afraid that I will fail and quit at one or another and I desperately need the support of all my family and friends in order to succeed.

For now, I will try and take things one day at a time. I will do my best to look only at today at what needs to be accomplished and what I am able to do on my own. The rest can, and should, be delegated. It really is the best thing for everyone. Everything gets done, I get my free time, and the girls learn a little responsibility.
Seems fair to me!

Deb "The Singing Chef" Lollar

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What is under Halloween Costumes

I know that probably every other Blogging Mom is going to make a post about this, but I want to put my opinion out there, too.

Last week, someone (actually SEVERAL someones) "shared" a link to a blog by a mom who let her son dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. (click here to read the original blog) Today, I read a report about it on CNN, too. (click here to see the CNN video report) The writer of the blog attended via phone (to protect her family's privacy) and there was also a psychiatrist there reporting his view point. It seems that when you normally have a handful of readers and you suddenly get more than a million hits to your site, the news services get interested. I think the news reporter hoped to get more "dirt" on the situation, or that she hoped to uncover a horrible story of hazing in pre-school. The psychiatrist had a few pointed comments to say about how she posted a picture of her son so now the world will know about his choices whether he wanted them to or not. They both were so off-base, it made me smile listening to the mother and her matter-of-fact replies. It's just a Halloween costume. He's only five. He's asked for this costume for a year and he loves the characters. It wouldn't matter if he was born gay, decided to "become gay", or just simply liked purple sparkly tights, she would love him the same. 

Reading the actual post, it was admirable how supportive this mom was of her son. The details of how her son came to be dressed up as Daphne and who really had a problem with it was eye opening. The other kids in class greeted him and hugged him just like they do any other day. The negative comments that she heard came from the other MOTHERS. It seemed that the adults were so concerned with how "others" would view this boy that they didn't even realize what hurtful things were coming out of their mouths. It was refreshing how down to earth about parenting she seemed, but also uplifting to feel the ray of hope she gave to so many others who needed to hear that somewhere out there, a mother proclaimed her love for her child regardless of his tendencies or choices. From parents, to future parents, to gay friends, and families of gay people, everyone I know felt that this mom was right-on. It made me proud of the people I am friends with.

I am not alone, either. Apparently there have been over 19,000 replies to her posting and the vast majority of them  were positive and supportive. As a mother, I do believe she was extremely courageous to post this story online (with an adorable shot of her son in the costume), but even more so to title her post "My Son Is Gay." If you read the entire blog, you will find first, that this mother isn't really professing that her son is gay. Also, you will find that neither shoe nor her son are making any political statements here. He just wanted to be Daphne for Halloween. She believes that it doesn't matter to her whether her son MIGHT be gay or not. She loves him the same. The point she wants to make is that the choice her son makes in Halloween costumes doesn't really mark him as gay, deranged, mislead, or anything else. It is just a COSTUME - something that he is NOT on a normal day.

I understand how much guts it took for her to allow him to make a choice like that and follow through. I also agree that is a little bit sad and a whole lot one-sided for anyone to make fun of his choice. Would someone think twice of a girl dressing up as Sipderman? Maybe, but it probably wouldn't make CNN. I see girls running around the school yard in clothes that were designed for boys. Even in Jr High and High School, no one would immediately question a girls' sexuality simply because she wears cargo shorts and a flannel shirt. (They might accuse her of having bad taste and poor fashion sense, but that is a completely different issue.)  Why is it ok for girls to wear boy clothes, or even aspire to become something that a man typically does, but a boy shouldn't wear pink sneakers or enjoy playing with Barbie dolls?

Seriously people. Use your brains about this one. First, there are some things that are forgivable simply because they are done by a child. If a 2 year old creates a masterpiece in Sharpie on your wall, they don't go to prison. For an adult this would be considered vandalism, but for a child this should be a learning moment for them and their parents. Children learn that they can't color on walls and parents learn to put the Sharpies out of reach. Shouldn't they also make sure there are washable crayons and paper available for approved art projects. If a boy wants to dress or act in a way that might not be mainstream, well, you should discuss the consequences of their actions but you should also allow them to follow their hearts. Who hasn't seen a mom in grocery store with her toddler dressed in a tutu and rain boots or as a superhero in sneakers? Is it really all that awful if the tutu is being worn by a boy? By telling our sons that they "can't" do this or look like that, aren't we training them that the possibilities in their life are limited? Why is it more acceptable to tell a boy not to wear nail polish than it is to tell a girl not to become a Firefighter? Are you afraid that the child will be psychologically damaged or are you more scared that his independence and charisma might shatter the perfect, well ordered universe that exists only in your mind?

I can't say I know what it is like to have a son and have to deal with the fear that his choices will have him viewed as a "sissy" by his peers or beat up on the play ground.  I only have girls, so I have worries of a different nature, that they will be called a "slut" for talking to the wrong guy in public or get verbally beat up every minute of every day DURING school because they prefer comfortable clothes over fashionable ones. I know these fears are so different as to be incomparable. However, I know some things are universal whether you are a mother or father or whether you have boys, girls, or both. I understand the feeling of wanting to protect your children from any pain at any cost, and I deeply relate to the feeling of aching for them and with them when you can't keep that pain away. I also know that as a parent, it is our obligation and duty to instill certain values and morals in our children. I would hope that those values and morals were positive, inclusive, and wholesome instead of negative, discriminatory, backwards. As a citizen of a free and multi-cultured country, our society has certain rules that should be followed if for no other reason than to be able to get along with others. Say please and thank you. Wash your hands. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Don't pee in the pool. Share what you have with those that need it. I really don't think "Make fun of others because they are different" needs to be one of the social norms that should be passed on. Neither should "Be afraid to be different."

I asked all three of my young hearts what they would think and how they would react if one of the boys in THEIR class came to school dressed as Daphne from Scooby-Doo. I even showed them the picture of the boy ans explained the circumstances so they would have a clear understanding of the situation. Their answers made me smile and also made me very, very proud. Little Heart (who is 13, now) thought it would be funny (as in comical) but she also made it clear that if anyone decided to push this boy around, she would be right behind him pushing the bully back. LH would not stand by and allow anyone - even a strange boy in a dress - to get picked on. It goes against her strong sense of justice. Tiny Dancer (who is 9) thought that she might be surprised to see a boy dressed as a girl for Halloween simply because it doesn't happen all the time, but she told me she would probably go up to boy and ask him WHY he wanted to Daphne, specifically. Is it because she is smart AND attractive? It is the cool wig? Did he decide that the other characters were boring? Again, she didn't see anything wrong with it, she was just curious as to the inspiration behind it. Evil Genius (now 7) was also more interested in which character the boy decided on being, and why. When I showed her the picture, she thought the boy looked great, but that she would have preferred to be Velma because she is the smart one, and that wig looked "horrid and itchy." For an Evil Genius, she certainly has a distinct sense of style and fashion.
Truly, I think they were all a little confused by the question. What do you mean, "how would I react?" Why should I react any differently than I would on any other day? You mean, someone would actually have a problem with this?

Having this conversation made me more than a little bit proud of my girls. I could see their different personalities clearly defined in the reactions. LH would be a protector, knowing how it feels to be the odd one. TD would be curious but also aware of the social ramifications and very careful to make sure she didn't offend. EG could care less about what everyone else thought about it, and more concerned with the details and thought process. None of them said that it was unacceptable, wrong, or that they would have avoided the boy. My heart also swelled with pride knowing I married the right man, when he, too, made it plain that there shouldn't be anything wrong with a boy dressed as Daphne any more than for a girl to dress as Batman.

As children, or even as adults, I don't feel that a person's sexual preference need be a factor in determining friendship. I also don't feel that choosing boys' clothes over girls' (or vice versa) is a definite sign of a preference in partnership. I am so very proud that as a family, we have friends of all different natures, colors, sizes, and any other descriptor you can imagine. Not only are we split religions (I'm Catholic and DH is Methodist) but we have family and friends of nearly every other religion there is (or isn't, as the case may be.) A normal party guest list might include boys, girls, toddlers, people over 70 years old, single people, married couples, divorced parents, gays, lesbians, autistic children, children who are deaf, disabled, or sick, little people, tall people, members of the clergy, people who have parking tickets, Native Americans, foreigners from whatever country you could name, as well as average, normal kids who are any color or combination of traits that are created. Many of our family and friends are covered with tattoos or piercings, or both. There are just as many who have none (or at least non that you could see.)  We have friends who live on a ranch with horses and family that lives in the city. Some people we know are financially wealthy while others have been jobless, and even homeless, for a time. We welcome all varieties of humans in our circle of friendship and we treat all of them with the respect that one person should show another.

I'm not saying I am a better mom than someone else simply because I know people who are different. All I am saying is that I wouldn't dream of treating one person poorly or excluding another simply because of their age, race, physical condition, partner choice, religion, or appearance. I am proud that I have raised my girls this way. In my house we call it being "color blind." It refers to more than just the color of the skin, though. It envelops a philosophy of treating humans as humans and reacting to them based on their personality, instead on a single trait or distinction.

If you really think about all the differences that all the people have from one another, it is obvious that no two people are exactly alike, but you can always find at least one similarity between you and someone else.

As my father said while quoting "Bill and Ted" - Be Excellent to each other.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Counting Down...

What a crazy week!

I finally got all my uniforms and books for school. Of course, I have to hem everything about 6 inches shorter or so, but that's nothing new for me. I put the whole uniform on at once to see what it was like, and I'll tell you it felt at once both foreign and completely comfortable. There are several layers that are required and all together it's actually pretty warm. My biggest worry right now is that I will walk around dripping sweat all the time. I don't handle heat very well. I will get my tool kit on Tuesday and I simply can not wait! Those knives are a thing of beauty.

I had a little bit of a freak out a few days ago. I looked online at my schedule and all my classes were scheduled in the morning. I called my adviser and when he didn't call me back immediately (like he usually does) I kind of panicked. I shouldn't have though, because late yesterday he DID call me back (with lots of apologies for not calling sooner) and let me know that my schedule had been fixed and my schedule is back to nights, where it belongs.

The biggest reason I panicked about it, was that I have applied and been accepted to an At Home Customer Service position. Apparently, there are a few legitimate companies out there that treat you like an employee with real paperwork and paychecks and everything. There is always a catch, though. This place requires you to attend 6 weeks of training before you start taking calls. For some reason, when you accept a job working certain hours, they like to give you a training schedule that isn't at all close to what your work hours would be. For instance, I said I could work a position from 8:00am-4:30pm. They give me a training schedule (that I am required to attend 100%) that is noon-9:00pm. How much sense does that make?

Anyway, because of that, I don't have a real position nailed down with them yet. If they can't give me a training schedule and a work schedule that are BOTH at reasonable times, I might have to back out of it altogether. That would suck because I really don't want to have to commute to work AND to school. I might get to see my girls and husband for a few minutes each morning and that's it! I wouldn't be home until they are already in bed. That just isn't something I am willing to do. There are a few other options that have come up recently, so I might not be totally up a creek. We'll just have to wait and see what comes of them.

Finally, I got in to see my neurologist yesterday. Since starting on the drug cocktail that is supposed to help ease the symptoms of Fibromyalgia I have gotten a lot better. There is less pain on a daily basis and I have more motivation to to get up and do things. I still can't work outside the house, though. A full day of working would wear me out enough that I couldn't go to school. School will only be about four hours a day for four days a week, so I think I can handle that.

The downside of the meds are, of course, weight gain. Lowering the dosage doesn't seem to help. On top of that, the extra weight is probably making the pain and fatigue worse. It also appears that I am developing some sort of sleep disorder. It might be the meds, but it is most likely due to the weight.  So, I have to go through a sleep study in a few weeks. I will spend a night at the hospital hooked up to wires and machines so they can determine what is happening and if there is anything I can do to fix it.

It just seems like this crap gets better and better.

There is a part of me that wants to flush all the drugs down the toilet, go off everything cold turkey, and just deal with whatever I have got. Would I lose any weight? Would I have more or less pain than I thought I would? Might I go completely dog-nuts and streak through the neighborhood trying to jump off a very tall curb? There is no telling. Right now, while I am (supposedly) sane, I can see that my quality of life is pretty low. I have to think back really far to remember why I started taking this crap in the first place. I have almost 10 years of symptoms and I am not really sure if the newer problems are related or not. I remember feeling pretty miserable back then, or I wouldn't have agreed to start the meds in the first place. I can't remember if it is more or less miserable than I am now. Not a positive thought, there.

I know that stopping the meds suddenly is dangerous, and I really won't do it (I promise.) I am just afraid of getting into the cycle of taking something for a symptom and then taking something else for the side effects and so on. It isn't easy to coordinate all of it by myself. I have three different specialists that I see and one regular doctor who is supposed to manage all of this for me. She really doesn't do that, though, and now I live too far away to see her anyway. I have to go to the local Country Doctor for anything I need. He's a nice enough guy, but he gives the same level of service that I would get at a Prima Care or Care Now. "What do you think it is? Ok, we'll go with that, then. here's an antibiotic. Call me if you die in the next three days."

I had to see him yesterday because of a double sinus infection. I've got the antibiotics and I hope to feel better soon. Until then, I apologize if I seem a little disjointed and vague. I already feel like I've been run over by a Mack truck, but the cold medicine adds a fluffy and fuzzy feeling to that. It's kind of like being wrapped in a blanket, with a pillowcase over your head, and the contents of a pillow stuffed INSIDE your head.
I think I have had enough of this joyous feeling for now. I'm going back to bed.


Monday, October 25, 2010


Now that I have committed to a schedule for the next two years (terrifying, isn't it?) I am trying to look ahead to see what changes I will need to make in my life to let this be as easy as possible. I also have to look at my girls and how the schedule changes will affect them, as well. There are so many things to consider - sleep times, meal times, hours that I am available to be around for my kids, and hours I am able to devote to DH alone. What kind of schedule will be needed to make sure I can juggle all my hearts and keep them all going on course?

Culinary school is going to be so cool, I can hardly wait the two weeks until the first day of class. Actually, for me, it will be the first evening of class. I had to choose a 7:00pm-11:30pm class schedule. Ok, I didn't HAVE to, but it just made sense. Originally, I was going for the 3:00pm class time, but the afternoon courses were not available for my start date. I have already waited 6 weeks longer than I wanted to, and changed my major from Baking and Patisserie to Culinary Arts, just to be able to work this into my life. Also, waiting any longer would have meant I needed to fill out all the financial aid paperwork again, and that is just a real pain when you have already accepted the grants. I could have opted to take one of the morning classes, but they start at 7:00am, or 8:30am. Yeah, um... that's not going to work for me. I will have to drive more than an hour to get to class every day, and attempting to do that at 6:00, or even 7:00 in the morning is just waiting for disaster. I KNOW me. I have never been a morning person and lately, I haven't even been a mid-morning or noon person, either. Besides that, leaving that early would mean my girls would have to get themselves out the door to school every day and I just don't think they are quite capable of that yet. They will be able to someday, I'm sure, but they are still learning and they don't have the best teacher in the "Getting ready to go on time" department.

Recently, I tried to figure out where my days go to and why I never seem to get anything I want to do done. Mostly, it is because I try to fit my day into the normal 8-5 schedule but my brain and sleep pattern just doesn't work that way. One problem is, I have gotten used to staying up later and later with DH. It doesn't bother him to be up until midnight or later most nights. He doesn't work until 10:00am so on the mornings he doesn't have a commute, he can get plenty of sleep and still stay up that late. I find anytime I can spend with him is precious, even when we are just in the same room on separate computers, so I tend to take advantage of those late night moments. Besides, I absolutely hate going to bed alone, so I tend to wait up for him no matter what. Thankfully, DH doesn't have nearly as much trouble as I do waking up and being functional so most mornings getting the kids up and out the door is his main responsibility. When do I have to get up to help the girls get to school, I end up coming home and going back to bed for at least a little while.

Even when I am asleep at night and awake during the day, I have noticed that I am most active and alert during the afternoon to evening hours. I might be in a brain fog all day, and then 5:00 hits and WHAM! suddenly I am awake and alert. Maybe it is because I don't really have a reason to be interactive during the day since I am either alone at home, or alone with DH and he is taking calls (and therefore considered "Unavailable" to me.) Maybe it is because in order to get to sleep at night, I have to be really, really tired or I have to resort to chemical aids. (sleeping pills, you ninny! What did you THINK I meant?) and I sometimes wake up groggy, even after 8 hours of "sleep." Perhaps, the Fibromyalgia just drains all my energy and I have to work up the energy to do anything productive during the day.

In any case, I haven't been able to successfully get myself up and out the door for a regular 8-5 job for many years now. Even when I was able to work at a job, I found myself being most productive at the end of the day. I think it's time I just quit fighting it. If I am an afternoon/evening person, why not structure my daily schedule around that? ("That's brilliant!" I said to myself.) Why not use this tendency to my advantage? When I was offered the ability to go to school during my most productive hours, it just seemed to make sense. Upon further reflection, I realized that getting a Culinary Arts degree should lead to a job in a restaurant or other food service establishment. While you can find some place that is open almost any time of day, the really high-end, five-star establishments make their reputation by serving primarily in the evening. So, where is all the to be money made? Not breakfast or lunch, but DINNER! And, it happens to be my favorite meal anyway, since you have the excuse to follow it up with dessert, which would be my favorite meal if I could get away with it. But, I digress...

I think I accidentally stumbled on the best solution for me as a career! By searching for a way to make one dream come true,  I have found a way to be as successful as I can be turning my "limitations" into "advantages." For the next two years, I will be fine tuning my ability to perform at my best between the hours of 7:00 and 11:30 at night. Once I graduate, I will be able to use this skill to secure a job that will pay me well and I will be able to succeed at. I know that this isn't the traditional schedule for a "Mom", but I am hardly a traditional person. My kids are already accustomed to my slow mornings and afternoon naps. It won't very difficult for them if I were to make this my "official" schedule (they probably won't know the difference anyway.) It also means I can stop beating myself up for being a lazy person and then trying extra hard to make up for it later in the day. I can make reasonable expectations of myself and then I can actually meet my goals instead of setting myself up for failure by creating an unrealistic schedule.

Recently, I have started looking forward to a new and exciting career. I used to imagine myself five or ten years from now and it just seemed kind of... sad. I had resigned myself to the fact that work would only ever be a way to make money so I could enjoy my life outside of work. I thought that I would always wind up working jobs that I was capable of, even if I wasn't particularly passionate about it. The majority of my waking hours would be spent passing time until I could be free and do what I REALLY wanted to do. That's kind of a sad way to live, don't you think? Shouldn't your main goal be to find something that you LOVE so that your work can be as exciting and full as every other part of your life?  (what a concept?!?)

Yes, that SHOULD be my goal, an now I really think I could enjoy my work as much as I enjoy everything else. Now, I have dreams of working as the top chef or even pastry or dessert chef in a fancy restaurant or hotel (at least until I am able to get enough experience to feel comfortable running my own place.) I can just imagine, it's dinner time on a busy Friday night. I've been working in the kitchen preparing delectable dishes for customers who appreciate my fine culinary style. Then, I hear that my family is in the dining room. After I take a brief moment to greet them as I make the rounds in the dining room (as all good chefs should) I am able to serve them the same amazing food I have been making all night. My kids will see me at work and see my happiness and success, and I will feel proud of what I do. Who could really ask for more than that?

Deb "The Chef"

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Sorry I have been missing around here lately. I have a whole lot on my plate! That is not a complaint, it's more of an accomplishment, actually.

First, me. I am still fighting something and I still don't know what it is. The headaches are better, but the muscle pain isn't, and the joint pain is worse. It feels like something is attacking my joints on the inside and when it gets tired of chewing on one part, it moves somewhere else. For awhile, it was my lower back, then it moved down to my knees and ankles. Then it moved up to my shoulders and caused me to take months off work. I thought it was pretty well settled down, until last week when my fingers started swelling. I had to pull off my wedding band because I was afraid it would have to be cut off before too much longer. (For reference, my rings used to be too big for me. I had to wear little spacer thingies.) Whatever was going on in my hands also showed up in my elbows and shoulders (again) and it stayed around for three days or so. It hurt to move my arms, or grip a pencil, or even walk.  At one point, the only comfortable position was lying on my back with my hands propped up. I spent my entire weekend like that, actually.

So, in my quest to defeat this, I've messed around with meds, tried cutting out certain foods and ingredients, I have even tried pushing on and ignoring it (yeah, THAT was successful...) Now I am turning back to the docs and letting them have another stab at it, literally. Tomorrow I will go to get the ever dreaded ALLERGY TEST (dun dun duuuunnn.) I haven't had this done before, but I understand that the procedure involves pricking the skin up and down your back with allergen loaded needles and then the doctor watches to see which one of the dots gets most inflamed the fastest. And you can't touch them (because they are in the middle of your back,) and it will itch wherever it shows you are allergic to something, and you can't take anything to make it stop until several hours after the test. I think this has to be pretty close to cruel and unusual punishment. I seriously wonder which backwards torture specialist thought of this thing.

While I am not too keen to do this, and I know there is an easier way to do it, I am agreeing to it because of a few things. First, I love my doctor. She is kind and compassionate (usually,)  but very professional and extremely capable (something I haven't been able to say about many doctors over the last 7 years.) The second reason I am willing to undergo this tortuous procedure is because she is a double specialist in allergies and rheumatology, and she knows what she is doing. She is able to look at things from more than one perspective, which in this case, is highly valuable because so many of the problems are related at the core of it. The third reason I will do this is that I have already had so many other tests run on me, there aren't too many left to do to figure out WHY I hurt so much. If I can figure out that bread and dogs cause an allergic reaction then, I will know to stay away from bread and dogs and maybe I can get back to my life again. (It's good to have goals, you know?)

Beyond that, I am getting VERY close to the start date for college. Today, I will take the Math portion of the entrance exam (yes, I know I should be studying instead of writing) and get measured for my school uniforms. I am so stoked about this! Next weekend I will go to the orientation and receive my books, uniforms, and the tool kit (the knives!!!!) On Nov 8, I will start attending classes at this rather elite, international culinary university and I will be on my way to realizing my dreams!

On the flip side of that, is the mountain of fear that is right in front of me, telling me that I shouldn't even try. If I can't make it through three days without pain, how am I going to make it through two years of classes? My track record on professional endeavors has not been to stellar, lately. There is much more evidence to say I will fail than that I will succeed. Why do I think this time will be different? I have no clue. All I know is that I am running out of options. School is at least a different direction than I have failed in before. That has to count for something, right?

I am also worried about how the kids are going to handle my going to school. When I am home, I have a hard time struggling with whether I am babying them, or neglecting them. In either case, I have at least been home to do (or not do) what needs to be done. Now, I will be gone all day. They will have to make it home on their own (three whole blocks,) and they will have to take care of certain things to make sure the evenings run smoothly (instead of dinner at 9:00 and bed at 10:00 without a bath.) They haven't been very reliable at this over the last few months. Is it because I am doing everything and not letting them take responsibility? Or is it because I have not been giving them the proper guidance to let them learn how to do it themselves? Whatever the reason, I am very concerned that I will come home every day to a disaster.

Now, DH has been able to work from home three days a week since we moved to The Country.  On one hand that means he will be home three out of five days. On the other, that means that he will be working until 7:00pm those days and he has to trust the girls to be absolutely quiet while he is on the clock. If customers hear background noises that point to him working from home (and not the office) then he could lose his work-from-home privileges and we will be back to seeing him only on weekends. I am not sure how the girls will react to him being home, but unavailable, without my being here to referee. Frankly, this worries me quite a bit.

Well, it is time for me to make the last preparations and head out the door to the school. If you are the praying type, I would really appreciate a prayer or two. If you're not, just send positive thoughts my way, or skin a tree and burn a rabbit (whatever it is you do,) for successful completion of my exam and an influx of common sense and intelligence for my girls.
If I make it through this, I will hold a grand feast in your honor!

Deb "The Future Chef"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Slightly Political

Sorry guys, I have to get this off of my chest.

Yes, protesting at funerals should be banned. 

It sounds ridiculous to even have to state it, but there is a small, but very vocal church from Kansas, doing just that. Anyone who wants to look it up will find this subject prominent in the news today. This group thrives on publicity and hate and I don't want to propagate that any further.  I am struggling with even publishing this because I don't want to give them any more attention than they deserve. I am just so burned up that there is even a question on this that has to go before the Supreme Court, that I can't get it out of my mind.

The issue is that, whether the person being buried was military, civilian, religious, criminal, purple, or liked Furries, their families should still be allowed to say goodbye to their loved ones in peace. Funerals are private functions. They may be held in semi-public venues (churches and graveyards) but that shouldn't allow for strangers to come and disturb the gathering in an effort to defame the deceased, in spite of your freedom to think and say how you feel. Funerals are also usually considered a religious ceremony. Freedom of religion is just as important as freedom of speech, which is the Amendment this organization is using to validate their attendance and protesting at funerals of fallen soldiers.

My opinion is that certain things are sacred and should be respected. The families are grieving not only the death of a loved one, but also the loss of a brave solider, sailor, airman, or marine that died during active duty. Now, in the midst of their pain, they also have to see the picket lines and hear the bigoted chanting of a group that never even knew the fallen. While parents and children are burying their dead, this group of Religious Extremists holds protests before, after, and even during the funeral and burial ceremonies in an effort to add insult to an already suffering family. The father of one fallen marine has been forced to sue them for emotional damages since the only thing they are technically doing is being disrespectful.

Unfortunately, you can't pass a law requiring respect. Legally, you can only require that civility is practiced. It isn't always pretty that way, but it works. Here in the South, there are still people who view others of different color as less than themselves. They are allowed to think whatever they like (no matter how backwards it is) but they are not allowed to act on that bigotry. That is against the law and is considered a Hate Crime. Unfortunately, the group I mentioned before is filled with lawyers from the top on down, so they know what they are doing and they know how to work the system. (Strangely enough, the pastor was once a famous Civil Rights lawyer.) They use whatever rules they can to justify themselves yelling hateful (and slanderous) remarks about the soldiers during their protests.  They secure permits to assemble and protest, so technically, they are not gathering illegally. They claim that they are simply exercising their right to speak their minds.

The signs they use have the most shockingly horrible things that can be written - God Hates America, God Hates Fags, Thank God for Fallen Soldiers, AIDS cures Gays. Nothing could be more calculated to generate negative publicity and get people talking. They are very vocal in their belief that God is punishing America for its tolerance of homosexuality. How losing a soldier in the line of duty somehow equates to God punishing the country for Gays, I still don't get. But, I said they were lawyers, not necessarily SMART lawyers. (For the record I know several wonderful people who practice law and who are also very intelligent.)

So, this group declares they have Freedom of Speech and that gives them the right to assemble and protest what they feel. There are also laws again harassment, abuse, and slander that should be invoked as well. As many people have said today, you can't yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater and you can't burn crosses in someone's yard. Our Freedom to speak is already limited by law to encompass decency. Whether I agree with their message or not (for the record, I don't) they do have the right to their views, religion, and speech, even if it is bigoted and hateful, but they do not have the right to abuse others in the name of Freedom of Speech. If the government must permit the KKK to exist as a private organization, then we must allow this church from Kansas to exist, too. But just as the KKK can not have a lynch party, this church should not be allowed to harass families who are grieving from the recent loss of a loved one.

Some Americans are so upset about what this "church" has been doing that they have tried to combat them in a peaceful, yet effective way. A group that I am proud to name - The Patriot Guard - is a group of citizens, mostly motorcycle riders, who attend these same funerals and either make a physical barrier with themselves and American flags, or prevent the families from hearing the protest  by drowning the picketers out with their engines or with their own voices. While I am proud that so many wonderful people show up to support the families of the deceased, it is unfortunate that this group was inspired to exist at all.

So, if you want details, see what the news has to say about picketing at military funerals. Read whatever facts you can find and make your own decision. For me, if I had a motorcycle, I would be out with the Patriot Guard ensuring the safety and peace of families who have just lost a brave soldier who died defending our country.