Friday, May 30, 2014


I can't sleep. I have to get up in five hours and what am I doing? Torturing the life out of people who can probably sleep just fine. Here's how that goes...

I make my first trip to the bathroom. Very quietly, of course, because I don't want to wake anyone.

I go back and lie down. I'm going to try to go to sleep, 'cause that's what I'm supposed to be doing, and that's what normal people do at this hour. But I can't. Maybe if I lie this way... Nope. If I just move my leg over -- ooh, sorry kicked ya. It's ok, it's ok; just-- ah, yeah, there ya go, back to sle... Man, I can't sleep!

This pillow is really hard. How can that be? I sleep with this pillow every night and I never realized how hard it is. Wait. Oh, uh. Yeah, that side's just as hard. What is up with this pillow?!

How can he just lie there, sleeping like that? He just got in bed. How is he sleeping? And he is soouund asleep, too! He's snoring! Do you hear that? He's snoring. How can he have just gotten in bed and be snoring already? This time I'm gonna kick him on purpose. Uuuh, huh? What? No, I'm sorry, Baby. I was asleep. No, go back to sleep.

I gotta go to the bathroom again. Might as well, I'm not sleeping anyway. AH! What the-- No, sorry, Baby. I stepped on a Lego. Nah, it's ok. Go back to sleep.

2:30. What am I doing up at 2:30? I'll call outa work. There's no way I'm going in; I haven't gotten a wink of sleep. I gotta go in. If I don't have that report on Carlson's desk by tomorrow-- The report! Did I enclose last week's figures. Crap! I gotta go check. But I can call out, right? I mean, after all, they don't really meet until Friday... No, I gotta check.

I wonder if he ate that egg roll. Hmmm... Hey, all right; it's still here. Tinkerbell! Go back to bed. You're not gettin' any. There's not enough egg roll in all of China for the two of us. Heh, heh, eggroll in Chi... *yawn*

Uuuuuhrrrr. I think that hit the spot. I just might be able to grab a coupla *yawn* hours of shut-eye before-- Ah, doggone it, the report. Where did I-- BACK. TO. BED. TINKERBELL! Must've left it upstairs.

AAH! SON OF A-- What are you doing?! No, I couldn't sleep so I was gonna-- Huh? No, I wasn't eating egg roll. No, no, I didn't mean to startle you. You startled me. Just go back to bed. I'll get the light. What? I love you, too. G'night.

Aw, Liv, what? No, no, it's ok. I just couldn't sleep, 'n when I was coming back up the stairs, Daddy was in the hall, 'n-- What? No, we can't *yawn* go to the movie tomorrow. We'll go Friday, all right? Huh? What? No, Baby I got her. She's fine. *yawn* Heard us, is all. Whaddya mean, you can't sleep? You were snoring like crazy a minute ago. You gotta *yawn* get some sleep. Liv, go *yawn* back to bed, Kiddo. Baby, why don't you try going back *yawn* to be-- Huh? But you were asleep. All right. Don't feed the dog any *yawn* thing this late a-- Oh. The egg roll? Yeah, about that...

A Tale of Deliverance

Several years ago, my children and I were returning from a hockey game. We took a winding back road we thought nothing of using, day or night. At a place in the road I call the "commercial curve" -- a slight incline and a curve, reminiscent of the segment in a commercial where the vehicle advertised is emerging from the landscape toward you -- we saw headlights. Not the way you are supposed to see headlights, but headlights that mirrored mine in intensity and placement. Steven, my oldest, was in the front seat, and typical of any mother, my primary cause of panic was for his safety. It was at that point I think I closed my eyes; maybe a prayer went up as well, or simply some sort of internal cry. As we found ourselves on the opposite side of certain gore, as we let out a collective sigh, it was then we began to determine how we came to be in this place.

Intellectual answer: we don't know. Spiritual answer: God, an angel (I don't know how all that angel stuff works in its entirety, but I know they are out there.)

I tell this story because 1) it is my charge to give God the glory, point others toward His greatness, and proclaim all He has done for me (mundane as well as "otherworldly"), and 2) because far too many Christians wish to explain the miracles of the Trinity.

A miracle, by definition is "a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency." Is it possible God initiated Creation and left it up to its own devices? I don't think so, but some do. Is it possible the walls of Jericho fell as the result of an earthquake -- effected by God, but an earthquake nonetheless. I don't think so, but some do. And here's my thought:

If Noah and his family had climbed into that ark (some Christians think this is a poetic illustration and never truly happened, as well), if the disciples had brought Jesus five loaves and two fish, and if those gathered at Pentecost had expected only what science could explain, what would have happened?

Science has never fully and comfortably explained a worldwide flood. If in science we trust, where does that leave the concept of God's power to judge all of mankind? Or the belief that God even has the power to control all of nature? If God is limited by science and its explanations, I guess we'll have to hold off believing until they rewrite the text.

And five loaves, two fish to feed thousands with some left over for the poor? Shall we call this a "miracle of sharing." It was miraculous in the fact that one man could motivate thousands to share selflessly, generously with others. Garbage! Does the text even remotely insinuate this? If God is unable to provide for thousands strictly of His own capability, how can he provide for hundreds of thousands? Millions?

Pentecost. El NiƱo? Mass hysteria? Or miracle -- a supernatural intervention? An action so permeated with the wisdom and power of God, it cannot be fully comprehended and certainly not explained with finite human knowledge or experience? If this was simply a weather phenomenon, or a case of temporary mental illness, what does that say about the birth of a church, a worldwide organization of believers?

I still shake my head in wonderment of the events on that dark, winding road that night. I am thankful each time I relive the experience. I know some would say my perception was skewed -- a lack of sleep, maybe. My children's testimony can be ruled out completely as they would obediently, infectiously and eagerly corroborate their mother's strange account. And if the scene unfolded just as I tell it, what on earth did the folks in the other vehicle experience?

I believe, "nothing on earth."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Imagine That

I don't mean to disparage Paul M. Barrett, author of this article. While he does a pretty good job taking a position the media rarely takes, he still misses the mark. Maybe he places a great deal of blame on the fact the Santa Barbara shooter had access to a gun, because that's what we do -- we look for some way to fix things, even things we cannot fix, even things that have already been fixed. Need I remind anyone, that significant damage has been done by all manner of psycho with box cutters, pipe bombs, fertilizer, and aircraft? This guy in California was as self-absorbed, egotistical, twisted as the rest of them. To put it even more simply, the guy was sinful, and had given himself over to that sin. No one ever wants to talk about the elephant in the room. Sin is what people do when their whole lives are designed to glorify themselves. "I'll show them." "Who do they think they are?" "They can't do that to me."

And all of us standing by, watching the carnage look for someone to blame. If you have someone to blame, you have a cause; if you have a cause, you can formulate a solution. Right? Wrong. We can't solve sin. We can't solve self-gratification. There is nothing we can do to fix ourselves much less one another. Besides, we don't have to even try -- it was done almost 2000 years ago on a hill called Calvary. Jesus paid the price that day.

This past Sunday, someone at church said, "God doesn't send people to hell because they have rejected Jesus as their savior. God sends people to hell because of their sin." Jesus is the way out of getting what we deserve -- the ONLY WAY. He paid the debt we all owed. No amount of gun control, mental health reform, or anything else is going to save us from the consequences of sin, but Jesus has fixed it. If the world lived the kind of life that demonstrated a genuine belief in that, imagine the world it would be.

Shooting Oursleves in the Foot

I'm not sure how it is where you live, but I have followed school buses that literally stop at every intersection in our development. Perhaps my memory is fading, but I seem to remember walking from the school half a mile away (according to Google) -- dear heaven! I thought it was only 1/4 mile! In all sorts of weather. Even when I had not listened to my mother, and I'd worn my favorite jeans and sweater -- in June. Even when I had to carry that cumbersome model of the solar system, home from the science fair. But half a mile, nonetheless.

Fast forward to 2014: It seems someone has stumbled onto a brilliant idea -- walking home from school!

According to reports, the children play learning games and develop face-to-face relationships as they walk a safe, predetermined route with a responsible adult. Officials laud the program as a way to reduce child obesity, incorporate fitness, and even save districts money by cutting bus routes.

Albeit a bit obvious, I'm really not taking issue with the program itself -- here's where I have a problem:
"Elementary schools in Columbia, Missouri, were among the first in the nation to have walking school buses. Piloted in 2003, the program, at its height, involved 450 children, 13 schools and about 200 volunteers. It was canceled this year because of funding issues..."
Huh? Seriously? A program that can do so much for children and their tax-paying parents, and nothing. 450 students, 200 volunteers -- people were obviously on board with this. "Many of these programs are funded by the federal Safe Routes to School program, which pays for infrastructure improvements and initiatives to enable children to walk and bike to school." OK, and what happened there? Are you telling me it's cheaper to fund healthcare? Let's Move? school districts? If you follow the money trail, I'm sure someone had plans for the money -- plans that suit a different, self-serving agenda.

A simple step -- literally, toward helping children develop conversational skills, life-long fitness habits, an interest in the outdoor world around them, and meaningful relationships, just to name a few -- and bureaucracy can't get it together?  We've got money for the core curriculum which does nothing to whet their appetites for learning, or teach them to explore and think for themselves, right? Past generations have put men on the moon, discovered vaccines and medical cures, made commercial airlines part of our daily lives, put computers in our homes, our cars, our phones, and even our bodies, and raised DNA technology to a Orwellian level. This from childhoods spent playing until the street lights came on and delivering newspapers on those marvels of modern engineering, our bicycles.

We "red tape and politic" ourselves to our children's peril. When we will put aside our prejudices and egos, cross party lines, and selflessly do what's best for our own future?

Killing Women

I have no recollection of being deliberately taught anything other than, "The opportunities are there; you can be anything you want to be when you grow up." In real life, however...

At 25 or 30, I was greatly respected in the work place for my ass-ets. Today, as a woman approaching 50, not vying for promotion or transfer, I am greeted with, "Is there anyone else there tonight, or is it just you?" (I realize that by answering the phone, "Feeders, Judi," I am offering all kinds of clues to my incompetence.) Betrayed of course, by my obviously female voice, I know what they mean: "Is there a male supervisor there?"

As frustrating as it all is, it is nothing like living in Pakistan:

In Pakistan, just across the border from Afghanistan, where American forces have been fighting Taliban thought as well as heavily armed Taliban forces for well over a decade, a 25-year old woman was executed outside  the High Court in Lahore, in broad daylight, for marrying a man she loved -- an act thought to be rebellious and therefore, disgraceful to her family. They call it "honor killing."

Statistics report there are around 1,000 honor killings in Pakistan every year. However, these are based on the individual stories that hit the news. The Pakistani government does not keep statistical data on honor killings, and the custom itself -- perpetrated and protected by the family -- lends itself to safeguarding information. This number does not reflect any cases of mutilation and other punishments associated with honor punishments (or Karo-Kari).

Human rights organizations such as the The Aurat Foundation, the PWHRO and the HRCP have been fighting many years to hold the government and perpetrators accountable. Brave individuals such as the young Malala Yousafzai, whose story reached the world when she was gunned down in October 2012, have suffered for their courage in speaking out against these injustices.

The rights we enjoy in America may be far from perfect, the way we treat one another -- less than kind, but women in Pakistan are giving their lives for the freedoms we don't even acknowledge as freedoms. They are willing to risk it all for opportunities I don't even see as anything but business as usual. As a prosperous, entitled nation, shouldn't we use the voices and the means we have to make their stories heard and their murders stop?

Monday, May 26, 2014

"For Them"

Can one be reverent and happy? Thankful and happy? We do it all the time on Good Friday. We even call it "Good" Friday.
Have you ever been to a Home-Going? Rowdy and sorrowful.
Like the apparent oxymoron "Happy Memorial Day." Happy remembrance of those who died so you can have a free hot dog at the community picnic!
On Memorial Day, thankfully, I have no one to whom to attach my grief. My uncles and cousins served during war time; my uncles and cousins returned. As the mother and mother-in-law of soldiers, I can't fathom celebrating a serviceman's death no matter how noble. I can, however admire a soldier's selflessness and know that is what prompted them to give the way they did. I can know that they gave their all because they were brave and loyal, because they loved their country and family, because they valued the freedoms they'd grown to love, and because they wanted their children and the children of others to value them as well. They did not put their lives on the line so I could hang my head in disgrace, or in guilt, disregard the fruits of their sacrifice. I can celebrate their courage and altruism; I can give great thanks that such people exist in this world. I can raise a glass, raise a dog, take a swim, or bow in my head in celebration and ceremony. Anything less would not honor the memory of those who perished.
As I attended Memorial Day Commemoration this morning, I saw a little girl resting on her grandpop's knee. She was holding her ears at the raucous gunfire and bagpipe music; her grandfather was trying to be heard over the din as he explained the purpose of the racket which was not at all somber. Just as the noise ceased he was yelling, "...for them!" For them, indeed!
So fire up the grill, enjoy the sun, and celebrate! Thanks to those who gave their all, we are free!
Enjoy these pics from Upland's Annual Memorial Day commemoration. They do Memorial Day right!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Everywhere a Sign

Bill Engvall has made some serious bank on his "Here's Your Sign" bit. Here's your sign is sarcasm at its finest -- drawing attention to the obvious at the expense of the one who stood motionless as it traveled right over her head.

Well, I got to thinking about signs, and how many there are out there. Signs that show us someone really cares, signs that point the way to a better tomorrow after an absolutely rotten today, and signs that shed some light on the similarities between us when only differences seem present.

Just this morning, I watched Tinkerbell as she trotted into the house for her breakfast. Our old girl is at least 8 years old -- 56 or so to her -- and it shows when she takes the stairs to bed each night. A bird flew across her path just as she started toward me. In a flash she was on it! She gave up the chase as it swooped straight to the sky, but when she turned back to me she was a puppy again. Her eyes were bright, her step was quick, and I'm not sure how, but for a split second her fur was the rich tan and black of her youth. Sometimes we just need to recall what it's like to be young again.

I'm having surgery in less than two weeks. The folks at work know all about it; I've already had to take some time off, and I will be on short-term disability afterward. One day a week a group of young (as in young enough to be my children) employees comes to my office to hang out with one of their friends. They're rowdy, opinionated and close-knit. They do not listen to the same kind of music that I do, they don't watch the same movies or take part in the same activities; their lives are very different from mine. They have graciously adopted an old-head like me, and I affectionately refer to them as "The Kids." They gave me a Get Well card last night. It was signed by each and every one of them. I was touched, really touched. They didn't have to do that, but I'm glad they did. Never judge a book by its cover.

Two weeks ago, I had my truck in the shop for some simple repairs and inspection; the bill was about what I expected -- definitely not my worst. This past week, I noticed a new noise. Upon returning it to the shop, I received a preliminary diagnosis of "something needing to be adjusted." $1800 later... Oh, yes, in addition to the first bill! I know the repairs were necessary, but it was money we did not have, and I wasn't entirely sure dumping more money into the old girl was a prudent use of limited finances. The next few weeks are going to be tough -- budget, budget, budget -- so on the way home I stopped at a discount grocer to pick up some items. I carefully selected those which would s-t-r-e-t-c-h my wallet. As the cashier asked for $30.48, the lady behind me exclaimed, "I'm going shopping with you! You really know how to shop." It was then I realized I had three bags -- milk, OJ, enough meats for five dinners and a couple of lunches. I did all right! I walked to my car feeling more confident than I had in days. The little things can mean so much.

The signs abound, we only have to be willing to look for them. It's not faith in the signs, or signs that rescue us from the snag we're in but it's our willingness to see the signs as gifts -- encouragement and inspiration for when we need it most, lessons to treasure for the long haul.