Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Archive for May, 2014


All right my peeps.  It’s time for some straight talk.  I think we’ve been friends for long enough to be real with each other, right?  Today I  am going to get really real.  Like, you may-want-to-cover-your-eyes real.   I want to talk about fidelity, or marriage,or families, or maybe all three.  It’s hard to separate them.

I was talking to a Realtor/friend this week.  She was telling me that she’s getting her butt kicked.  She’s been working with so many friends and acquaintances who are calling it quits.  They’re splitting one home into two.  Everyone is miserable about giving up on what once seemed like a really good idea.

That’s sad stuff.  It’s sad for the family that it’s happening to, but it’s also sad for everybody who cares about them. Everybody who wanted that marriage to last a lifetime,  is now mourning  the fact that it won’t.  Divorce is just sad.  We all know this.

On the same day my friend and I were talking about sad divorces, I had an interesting grocery store experience.   I was getting my cart, and when I turned around this guy appeared from nowhere.  He was about my age, and he was wearing a suit.  I didn’t know him. He said, “Excuse me.  I couldn’t help but notice how nice you look.”

Well, if you want to know how to scare the crap out of me, that’ s a good way to do it.  I jumped.  I think I said, “Thank you.  That’s nice.”   My heart started racing.  Not in a good way, in a scared way.  I pushed my cart away as fast as I could. I think he may have been  following me for a while, but I couldn’t be sure.  My eyes were locked straight  ahead. I am not used to uncomfortable conversations with men.

I know that  guy probably tried that approach 10 times that day. You might be thinking that I’m flattering myself.  You might be right.  He may have thought I was a nice elderly lady who could use a compliment.   But, if that were true, then I couldn’t make a point here.  Just let me make a point.  Can you at least give me that?

This guy got me thinking about some things.  He got me thinking about marriage.  He got me thinking about how precious marriage is, how fragile it is, and how good marriages don’t make themselves.

Many years ago I was a new sales rep.  I was fresh off of my stint as a stay-at-home mom.  I was participating in some training with other, more seasoned sales reps in a city far from home.  We all went out for dinner one night.  The company picked up the tab.  There was plenty of alcohol consumed, and people were having a good time.    I saw married people exchanging numbers and flirting with other married people.  I was told some crazy stories about how things often played out. It wasn’t pretty.

I know I’m not being very open minded, but I am being honest when I tell you that I was disgusted with humanity that night.

I spoke to my manager about it.  He was a good guy.  He was happily married.  I told him that scene wasn’t right.  He told me, “Welcome to the real world, Laura Ingalls.”   He also gave me some sage advice.  He said, “When you are dealing with people in the business world, and of the opposite sex, you either have your ‘open for business sign’ out, or your ‘closed for business sign out.”  He told me that people can read those signs.  He said I had nothing to worry about, because I had a very clear “closed for business” sign. That’s a pretty crass analogy, but it was honest, and it hit the mark.

People do give off signals, don’t they? I probably am not used to having overly familiar conversations with men who aren’t my husband, because I project a signal.  I project a signal that says there isn’t any amount of flattery you throw my way, money, charm or fame you could possess that would make me forget how awesome my husband is, and how fortunate I am to have him.  So, beat it!  At least, I hope that’s my signal.  It should be, because that’s what I’m thinking.

Kudos to grocery store guy for  being stone cold sober and approaching strangers in the hopes of getting a date.  That’s a confident guy.  But really…me? Read my sign, buddy!  You’re up the wrong alley; quit barking.

I was thinking that married people should think about these things.  Marriage is becoming a risky venture in this day and age; married people should invest in  and exercise whatever measures it takes to lessen their risk.  Here are a few ideas on where to start:

Get your fleepin’ “Closed for Business Sign Out” –    Signals aren’t hard to read.  Flirting is a universal language.  Hair flipping, sexual innuendo, standing too close  and laughing too much are all part of the language.  Avoiding talking about spouses and kids is another sure sign that your hook is in the water.

Almost any non-business conversation I’ve ever had with someone of the opposite sex has been peppered with a story about my husband, kids and/or a cute anecdote  about church/faith.   The church stuff is  a classic just-in-case-you-were-getting-any-ideas-here’s-a-bucket-of -cold-water-over-your-head maneuver.

“What’s that you say?  You want to meet for a drink?  That reminds me of the time Jesus met the disciples for a drink.  Would you mind if I asked Jesus to join us?  What am I thinking?  He’ll already be with us.  In our hearts.  Wait.  Where are you going ?”

You can drink, but you can’t get drunk.  Maybe you shouldn’t drink –  I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you.  I know there are tons of good reasons for getting drunk:  it’s good for your health, it’s a good investment,  you feel great the next day,  and we say the coolest things when we’re drunk.  But, there are some bad things about being drunk too. Being drunk opens the gateway for your inner stupid.

If you ever, ever, ever thought about putting out an “open for business” sign, there’s a better chance you’ll do it when you’re drunk.   If I was at a luncheon with those sales people, and everyone was sober, would they still have been flirting and exchanging numbers?  If they were grocery store guy they would.  The rest of them, probably not.

Some  people don’t know how to drink without getting drunk.  In that case, have some apple cider.

Spend more time in risk free places – I’m sorry to beat this alcohol thing to death, but I think we need to be honest with each other here.  When you put that “open for business” sign out, spend a lot of time at the bar, and have a habit of drinking too much.  You’d better be good at handling fire.  You’re playing with it.

How many affairs have started when you’re on a bike ride with your family, or playing basket ball with the kids in the driveway?  Maybe a few.  I’m not sure how, but I guess it could happen.  How many instances of infidelity start at night, in a bar when we’ve had too much to drink?  A few more than a few.

I’m sorry if I sound like a fun killer.  This is just common sense though, right?

Spend time with people who have gold star marriages  You know how we want our kids to pick the right friends?  If they pick friends with bad habits,  those friends habits are likely to rub off on our kids.  You know why we think that?  Because it’s true.

Scott and I have friends who are 20 years older than us, and they make marriage look fun and exciting.  That helps us.

Make sure your BFF is not of the opposite sex – I know.  You have a best friend who is of the opposite sex.  Well, you’re an exception.  Let’s just talk about the rest of the world here.

Almost every woman knows that the most romantic thing her husband can do is to listen to her, and to care about what she is saying.  In good marriages , spouses talk to each other.  They laugh.  They share inside jokes.  That is intimate.

If  something super cool happens, and your first instinct is to call someone of the opposite sex who isn’t your husband, wife,  or family member, that’s something to ponder.  That me be a sign that at some point your marriage will be in danger.

Call a spade a spade – Speak plainly and honestly.  When I had our third baby I had a wicked case of postpartum depression.  It  snuck up on me slowly.  I didn’t know the warning signs.   By the time I figured out what was wrong, I was in deep.  It was too late.

What I learned from that experiences is that one of the best ways for managing, or avoiding future postpartum episodes is to prepare for it in advance.   Doing so, dramatically reduces the odds of going through it again.  The other way to avoid postpartum depression,  is to not have any more babies.  I chose the latter option.

My point is that we all know that infidelity happens.  It’s a real and possible threat for even the coolest/happiest marriages.  Pretending that it isn’t possible is putting yourself at risk.

Speaking with your spouse honestly about how to protect yourselves, and what’s at stake is healthy.   Not in an insecure/whiney way, in a practical way.

It’s also healthy to acknowledge that life happens.   Sometimes our relationships with our spouses are off.  That’s when we are more vulnerable , and apt to make poor decisions.  Talk about that too.   Talk about how it might look easy to start over somewhere else, but talk about how usually it isn’t.  People will be wounded.  A lot of those people are little people.  People we created with each other.

Take care of yourself like you’re still on the market – This one doesn’t need an explanation, does it?  Remember how you used to care how you looked when you were dating?  Keep doing that. Do it for yourself, and do it for your spouse.

Ask for help –  Are there any marriages out there that haven’t hit a slump?  Mine has.  Be secure and confident enough to know that it’s okay to ask for help.  Not from your BFF of the opposite sex, either.  From a counselor.

Pray for your marriage – Put your spouse at the top of your prayer list.  Pray for your relationship.

Well, I’ve got plenty  more, but you’ve given me enough of your time for today.  I just wrote a book.  I didn’t  even know I was going to say all that, but I guess I  did.   Thank goodness I  have  a degree in psychology, and I’m licensed as  a Marriage and Family Therapist in Wisconsin.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to give out all this free, professional advice.

Nope.  You got me again.  I have a degree in communications.   I have nothing  that qualifies me to tell you how to protect your marriage.  I just have a husband that I like and a blog.   You should probably keep that in mind.









It’s Celebrate a Good Guy Day!!!

Sometimes men in the United States get a bad rap.   I mean, we do have that whole not letting women vote thing to hold against them.  Those idiots!  I’m still holding a grudge.

Men show up in the news a lot for cheating on their wives,  committing violence,  and operating drug rings.  Sometimes men deserve a bad rap.

I’ve heard plenty about men who suck.  I’m grateful to be living in a country where women have a voice.  Women in the United States are strong; they have the means and opportunity to accomplish whatever they set their minds to accomplish.  THAT is something I don’t take for granted.

I could just as easily have been born in a country where the sucky men outnumber the intelligent men.  A lot of those sucky men are still getting away with oppression.  Those oppressive men are making the good guys look bad.

I know a LOT of good guys.  I was thinking about all the good guys I know.  I mostly ONLY know good guys.  I wish the bad guys would start paying attention to the good guys, and copy them.  That would be a nicer world.

I’m going to devote a blog now and then to a good guy.  Then, all the bad guys who read my blog will see how wrong they’ve been.  They’ll decide to change their ways, and start acting in an intelligent and decent manner.  We will have no more oppression or wars.  Families will stay together, and the world will be an infinitely better place to live.  You will have me to thank, and I can finally rule the world.  I’ ve always wanted to try that.

Publicly honoring good guys is no small task.  Do you want to know the number one thing good guys do NOT like?  Good guys do not like being recognized for being good guys.  Good guys do not like being recognized.  I’m going to have to work my way around that.  I’ll do my best.

If you’re wondering what makes a good guy a good guy, I can’t exactly say.  I can tell you what won’t put a guy on the good guy list.  If a guy has #1 and and his career on his license plate, he won’t be on the list.  If a guy has told anyone other than his wife what a good athlete he was in high school or college, he’s not on the list.  If a guy is married, and he’s super romantic and flirtatious with a woman who isn’t his wife…yeah.  You know.

My first Good Guy award goes to my Brother in Law, Lee Rahn.  Let me tell you what, you should thank me for this.  Getting Lee’s approval to say nice things about him in public was no small task.  I had to do some quick talking, and use a little trickery.  I’m not above it.

Lee Rahn goes in the Good Guy hall of fame for a lot of reasons.  I’ve known Lee for 18 years.  He’s married to my sister, Heidi.  Aren’t they cute?



Lee and Heidi have two children: Naomi and Caleb.  Aren’t they cute?



Lee grew up on a farm.  He has worked hard his entire life.  He was fixing tractors and machinery before he hit middle school.  Lee was a quiet kid at school.  He didn’t cause problems.  Well, there was that one time a bully was picking on a boy with special needs on the bus ride home.  That made Lee mad.  That didn’t turn out  well for the bully.  Lee got in a little trouble.

Lee might have been happy to stay a single, working guy for the rest of his life.  He loves to work.  It’s his favorite.  But, then Heidi happened.  She messed up all those single plans.  Lee liked Heidi a lot.

Lee added Heidi to his list of favorites.  After Heidi, Lee worked, hung out with Heidi, sang, taught children in Sunday School,  and worked some more.  His life was still pretty simple.

Here’s a picture of Lee with the kids he taught in Church.  These are “Cubbies”, on a Wednesday night.   It looks like a Cubbie’s Christmas tree.  Cubbies love Lee:




Over the years Lee has served on the school board, taught little Cubbies,  sang in the choir, taught kids in  Sunday School, sang  on the worship team and set up endless number of  chairs.  Lee volunteers a lot.  When Lee tells you he will be there to help you, he will be there.  He will be early.

When people need practical help, they call Lee.  Lee has fixed snow blowers, garbage disposals and fences.  Lee has helped move more pianos than he can count.   Lee won’t let you pay him.  If Lee sees someone stranded along the side of the street, or an elderly person carrying too many bags, he stops to help.  He doesn’t consider not helping.  He doesn’t know that option exists.

If you’re having a crabby day, I hope you run into Lee.  Lee is friendly to strangers.  He smiles at them, and chats with them too.  He’ll probably ask you what you’re having for dinner, and you might forget you were crabby.

Lee loves his own kids.  He loves them a lot.  Lee’s kids have a lot more than Lee had when he was their age.  Like most teenagers, Lee’s kids like technology and staying in regular contact with their friends.   Lee doesn’t understand, but he’s patient.

Lee’s teenage daughter loves her Dad.  Now that she’s older, she’s an awfully big fan.   When she was younger she used to complain.  She would ask her Mom why her Dad had to be so old fashioned!!!  Lee IS old fashioned.  It has never once occurred to Lee in his entire lifetime to try to be IN fashion.   Too bad for a young teenage daughter,  good guys are never motivated by being in fashion.

Lee was too busy working on the farm when he was a boy to play sports.  Lee’s a big guy.  He may have liked sports.

Lee’s teenage son LOVES sports.  His son is very busy with a full sport’s schedule.  Lee’s son excels at almost every sport he tries.

One night Lee’s son was talking about his hopes for breaking a school record in track.  The track meet was the next day.  Breaking that record was all Lee’s son could think about or talk about.  His son was nervous and excited.

Lee didn’t run track.  Lee didn’t  have any advice to give his son on how to build his skills, or   improve his technique.  The morning of the track meet,  Lee walked into his son’s bedroom at 5:30, before work.  Lee put his big hands on either side of his son’s head.  He said, “Son, it’s okay if you don’t break any records, the sun will still come up in the morning.  If you do break any records, remember to give God the glory.”  Then he walked out.

Lee’s son broke a record at the track meet that day.  Lee’s son gave God the glory. Lee is not perfect.  Lee is definitely a Good Guy.


Why I am Not That Into Religion

I want to say I’m sorry.  I’m about to go all Christian on you again.  I apologize  if you’re sick of that.  Christian stuff isn’t the only thing I write about, but I guess I do wander there a lot.  To be fair, I warned you I might.  It’s in my blog bio.  I said I’d be talking about a few things that were important to me; one of those things was faith.

This is a blog written by a Christian lady.  If you’re interested in learning more about Judaism or New Age, I’m going to seriously disappoint you.    If you’re just in it for the silly stuff I write,  and you’re just tolerating my Christian musings, thanks for sticking it out. You’re a good friend.  .

If there is one thing I like, it’s making people happy.  I’m not an agitator.  Even if I don’t agree with you, there’s very little chance I’ll challenge you. I haven’t seen people accomplish anything I like when they argue.  They walk away with their opinions unchanged,  AND they’re angry.  Who really wins? I guess people who like making people angry do.

I like finding common ground; I like to put my focus there.   I like diplomacy, but there is one thing I like MORE than getting along: common sense.  Common sense.  I am a fan. I can’t bring myself to ignore common sense for the sake of  staying with the herd.  I’ve never been able to do that.

In my formative years I went to  a Baptist church.  Not as strict as some, but stricter than others.  While I went to that church I was taught about Jesus.   When I was young I decided I believed that Jesus was my Savior and my friend.  It was an easy thing to do, because everyone around me was doing the same thing.  Christianity was certainly part of my culture, but, for me, it was also personal.

In my Baptist church I saw adults who showed me what it looks like to be a grown up who believes in Christ.  Those grown ups were decent,  humble and kind.    They cared about people, and served others.  They took time to teach me stories from the Bible, and they showed me  with their actions how their faith impacted their lives.  Those Christians helped shape me.  It was a positive experience.

My Baptist church was not perfect.  I believe they had the important things right, but from my current view point, I believe they also had  some things wrong.  My Baptist church thought it was important to be a Christian, and Baptist.  Well, not Baptist, really.  Just not Catholic, or Lutheran or Methodist, or any other denomination that wasn’t Baptist.  Baptists believed that Baptists had figured out exactly the right way to believe.

When I was younger, most of my school friends were Catholic.  Every now and then, I would be staying over at one of their homes, and we would have to go to church.  I was honest-to-goodness scared to go to a Catholic church.   And can we just be straight with each other?  Once I got there, the incense, chanting and long robes didn’t exactly scream, “relax, make yourself at home”.  It was intimidating.

I thought that Catholics did not believe the right way.    I’m pretty sure Catholics were taught the same thing, in reverse.  I also was under the impression that other protestant denominations  were  not ideal.

Us Baptists were not alone in our snobbery.  I had a Catholic friend tell me a story about growing up in a small Catholic community in Iowa.  She said a protestant family moved into her neighborhood; that protestant family was shunned by all the Catholic families.   At what point in life do intelligent people decide the shunning technique is their go to move?

I have another friend who went to a protestant church that she once loved.  The church leaders there started getting more and more dialed in to the exact way they interpreted God’s instructions for their lives.  My dynamic Christian friend and her family were eventually found to be lacking.  They were also shunned. By their own church family.

Do you think I mean that those church people just didn’t get along with each other after that?  Oh no, you would be wrong.   That’s what I thought my friend meant when she first told me this story.  Then my friend explained that she and her family were literally shunned.  My friend taught me that shunning is a real strategy that has rules and everything.

She explained that the church members had directions from their leaders to turn their physical bodies away from my friend, walk to the other side of street if they saw her, and avoid ANY and all contact with her and her family.

If I were my friend, here’s how I would have liked to  handle that situation.  When the church leaders came to me to announce that I was going to be shunned, I would say, “Too late. I already starting shunning you.  This morning.”

Then the leaders would have to go back to their manual and look up on page 18, Chapter 4, “How to Handle a Double Shun”.  Gotcha!  The ol’ double shun. You never saw it coming.

Read:  When a second shun is put forth after a preceding shun, the shun in place is dominant, or could equalize the previous shun.  Thereby making the shunning power of a second shun not withstanding of all shunning parties.  Are you with me?  No?  I thought that made perfect sense.  Just like shunning does.

My friend blew up my brain when she told me about shunning.  I thought, “THAT happens?  That happens in this day and age,   in my backyard?”  Is it really any wonder why so many people find religion distasteful?

I can only guess that the people running this shunning operation are middle schoolers.  Because that routine sounds like it’s right out of the middle school handbook on conflict resolution.  For sure these people are taking themselves too seriously.  For sure.

I find the whole shunning operation to be illogical and immature.   I’m pointing fingers, but I shouldn’t.  I’ve been guilty of both as well.

When I was in college one of my favorite classes was on Chinese history.  My professor was from China.  One time he was telling us a story about some Christian missionaries in China.  I raised my hand and asked him what religion they were.

He answered, “Christian.”

I said, “What kind of Christian though?  Baptist?  Lutheran?  Catholic?”

He laughed at me.  He said, “I don’t know.  They were Christian.  What difference does it make?’

I was embarrassed, but I wanted to say, “It makes a big difference.  I want to know if they’re the kind of Christians who believe the right way, or the wrong way.”

I don’t know at what point in my adult life I had an epiphany.   Actually,  it wasn’t really an epiphany.  I guess my view point has evolved slowly over time.  I now can see something that I was clearly missing before.  Religion is for humans.  It isn’t for God.   The collection of beliefs each denomination has compiled and noted as ideal, were put together by humans, for humans.  Humans love affiliation.  They like to be in clubs, and to be able to name things that set them apart.

I’ve told you before I’m never going to be a theologian.  But, from what I have read, Christians are people who believe Christ is their Savior. Christians see a need for a Savior.  They acknowledge that Christ is doing the saving; they know they can’t save themselves.   They also believe the Bible is actually put together by God, and contains the answers for their life.

If you’re a Christian, it doesn’t matter if you yammer on all day about what you believe. Your faith should show.  You know, in how you act.  The decisions you make.  What you say. What you don’t say. Where you go.  Who you shun.  Sorry. I thought I was over that.  I’m still bitter.  Christians are also not apathetic.  Christ calls out apathy big time.

So, that’s a Christian.  Right?  I mean, what am I missing?

I know.  I know.  You might be thinking, “what about Baptism?”  Everybody is positive they are right about Baptism.  I have nothing intelligent to say on the subject.   The only thing I feel like I know for sure, is that I’m certain God did not give us Baptism for the purpose of arguing about it.  Why can’t we just agree to disagree?  Because I can.  I really can.

Our family financially supports a Catholic missionary.  She is a former student of Scott’s.  She used to hold Bible studies in the morning before school.  Now she’s a part of a college campus ministry.  She is one of the most joyful people we’ve ever met.  She is a Jesus freak.

Our kids go to Lutheran church camp.  It’s solid.    They go to our “Evangelical Free” church’s youth group.  It’s awesome!  Our youth pastor is one of Eddie’s best friends.  They’ve been on missions trips together, and Eddie has learned a lot from being a part of our church’s youth program.

In the summer, Eddie  goes to a Catholic youth group.  This youth group is run by a husband and wife who are the closest examples to Christ-like behavior that I have ever seen.  This couple’s home is open to people who need shelter.  They have organized, “Feed my Starving Children” in our community.  They have had Eddie at the nursing home visiting the elderly, and working in the community garden.  It is so exciting.

Eddie said that at Catholic youth group they pray and read the Bible.   He said sometimes they  also recite prayers from a book together.  That’s usually a little more Catholicky than Eddie’s in the mood for, so instead he just opts out and has his own personal conversation with God.  That’s Eddie’s preference, and his leaders are totally cool with that.  Although,  his leaders  did say that  typically prayer skipping is worthy of a  4 hour shun.  They showed him mercy (guess I won’t be letting this shunning thing drop any time soon).

I think people should go to church where they’re comfortable.  I think people who are just going through the motions, should ask themselves why.  I think people should focus on what is in their own heart, and not presume to know what’s in another’s.  I think folks should acknowledge that various Christian denominations are rich in history and tradition, but not at all significant to saving  their  souls. I think people should be honest about what religion is, and what it isn’t.

I just said a lot.  I hope I didn’t make you mad.    It’s just that when I see something that doesn’t make sense, I can’t seem to stop myself from pointing it out.  It seriously feels impossible to sit on that stuff.  It can be annoying for both of us.

If you don’t agree with me, I’m totally fine with that.  Just let me know, so that I can add you to my list of those I’ve shunned.





How to Deal with Paparazzi and Other Things You Need to Know

These are the people who read my blog: friends, relatives, friends or relatives of my friends and relatives.  Catch that?  What I mean is that most of my blog readers are connected to me socially,  one way or another. It’s a very little blog.

Lately though,  things have been getting a little Key-RAZY! Lately I’ve been hearing from people I don’t know.   I have this one  person I didn’t know who has been commenting on my blog, like, literally,  once a week.  Who’s got time to read all that?

I told Scott it may be time to switch up the game plan.  Where do you go to hire a publicist and personal attorney in a small town?  What about bodyguards?   Should I wear a disguise?  It’s just a whole knew world, and I have a lot of questions.

I thought I might pick up the phone and give Oprah a ring-a-ling.  I’ll ask for some pointers.  She can probably hook me up with a lot of this stuff.  I’ve never talked to her, but what are the odds that she hasn’t read my  blog, and already knows who I am?   I agree.  Slim to none.  She’ll get it.

I was chatting with my unknown commentor this week.   She is funny.  I was amazed that a clever, funny stranger liked my blog.  Then, she told me she was a friend of an old friend.  Wait.  She wasn’t a fan/stalker/paparazzi?  She’s a friend of a friend????!!!  I just wanted ONE decent stalker.  Is that so much to ask?

As long as you’re so anxious to talk about people who read my blog, let me tell you another thing I’ve been thinking about.  Let’s talk about people who are very literal.  Sometimes I have conversations with people who have read my blog, and I realize they have taken me literally.  I feel badly when that happens.  I don’t feel badly for myself, I feel badly for confusing someone.  I like people.  I feel honored that they’d spend one minute of their life reading something I wrote.  I take no pleasure in confusing them.

I have my serious moments, but mostly I can’t resist nonsense.  I thought maybe I should put a disclaimer before each blog to help literal people out: “Caution: what you are about to read is generally utter nonsense.  This information cannot be verified, and serves no real purpose.  Read it at your own risk of confusion.”  Do you think I should include that?  I might.

This isn’t a new problem for me.  I’ve had this problem since before the invention of the interwebs and blogs.  The first years of our marriage, Scott and I were adjusting to each other.  When we were with people we didn’t know, he’d often give me the subtle thigh squeeze, or kick under the table.  Later he would explain why.  He would tell me that when I’m meeting new people, they don’t necessarily know that I’m a screwball.   He suggested that it wasn’t ALWAYS appropriate to use sarcasm.  He said I could possibly hold  off on  full scale jokery until I get to know people better.

Wow!  Hurt much?  That was a little bit of the cold, hard truth from my Amish husband.   After I nursed my hurt feelings for a bit, I admitted that he may have a point.   Over time, he changed his stance some too.  He realized that there’s really  just one version of his wife.  He learned to suffer through some awkward moments, trusting folks would eventually learn his wife means no harm.

Do you remember when I told you about our small bathroom?  It’s a half bath.   Scott and I use this bathroom.  We share the shelves in the medicine cabinet.   There are three shelving units in this medicine cabinet.  Scott has told me multiple times that he wants one of the three units, and one shelf in the middle.  I guess lately my stuff has been encroaching across his borders.

I know that SOUNDS like a fair agreement.  But, is it really?  Do you think it’s a simple process to look as good as I do on any given day?  NO.  It takes some effort, friends.  It takes lots of bottles of  spray and lotion and wax and oil.  Okay?  It does.  Scott needs soap and a toothbrush.  So, I’m not sure his deal is so fair after all.

The other day I decided to examine his side of the medicine chest a little more closely.  I saw that I was wrong.  He actually did have a couple more things than I had thought.  Like, a bottle of Aspen Cologne. Have you heard of it?  Oh, you haven’t?  Maybe that’s because the last people to wear it came over on the Mayflower.

I didn’t even know he wore cologne.   He said he wears it on special occasions.   That green bottle of  Aspen Cologne was given to him as a graduation gift…from high school…28 YEARS ago.  There’s about half a bottle left. I told him that seems kind of wasteful.  At this rate, he’ll use up that whole bottle  by the time he dies.   Then what are we supposed to pass on to the grand kids?  Because I’m pretty sure they’ll be counting on some Aspen.


Speaking of dying.  I had a little bit of a close call.  Don’t be alarmed.  I’m going to be okay.  If you want to send me flowers and cards with money in it though,  who am I to argue?  Sometimes it’s just a blessing to give.

I’ve had this spot on the bridge of my nose.  I didn’t think much of it, but then one day I realized it really should have gone away by now.  Then it clicked.  I have skin cancer.

I did what I always do when I’m dealing with a life or death emergency.  I consulted with my associates on Web MD.  I looked through the pictures on their website and tried to find something that looked even a tiny bit like what I had on my face.  I didn’t find a perfect match, but I thought I found something close enough.  I called the clinic to make an appointment.

My appointment was after work.  When I took the kids to school I asked myself if I should tell them that I had skin cancer yet.  No.  Not at the beginning of the day.  That wouldn’t be fair.  I would bear this burden on my own.  Let them enjoy their childhood for another day.  I started getting choked up thinking about all the sacrifices I make.

I saw the doctor in the afternoon.  She took a look at this spot and started yammering on about eczema, viral infections and who knows what other nonsense.  I said, “It’s skin cancer, right?”

She answered, “No.  That is not skin cancer.  That is definitely not skin cancer.”

I said,  “My dad had skin cancer.  I was a life guard.  I have a lot of moles.  Are you getting the picture here?  Plus, I don’t have what you’d call a “medical degree” (I used air quotes for emphasis)  but I do read quite a bit of information on WebMD.  My associates there agree that it could be skin cancer.”

She turned away.  Did I see her roll her eyes?  She did.  Well, isn’t she a little punk.

She turned back and said, “I am 100 percent certain that you do NOT have skin cancer.  100 percent.   We can swab it to see if it’s some kind of viral infection, if that will make you happier.”

What did she mean, “If that will make me happier”?    Like I asked to have cancer?  Like I ASKED to be caught in this nightmare?

I said, “Sure.  Do that.”

The test came back.  It isn’t cancer or a virus.  I guess it’s just dry skin.






Seeing Evil

I had a nice Mother’s Day last weekend.  My kids know the drill by now.  They just need to show me appreciation.  Hand written cards are the best.

This Mother’s Day I got a little greedy.  I told my family I wanted a big, fat coffee mug.  The Friday before Mother’s Day I changed my mind. I was looking out at our patio, and thinking how nice it would be to sit in a gliding rocker.  I told Scott that I thought a rocker would be a nice addition to the back yard, and since it was Mother’s Day…

Scott said, “We never sit outside.”

I said, “YOU never sit outside.  I sit outside all the time.”

He said, “So, if we get a glider, you’re just going to sit?”

“That’s the idea,” I told him.

Scott has a keen desire for efficiency.  Sitting is not very efficient. He certainly sits.  He just generally pairs sitting with something else.   He grades paper or folds laundry while he watches TV.  He reads the paper while he eats.  He sits, but he doesn’t ever JUST sit.  I do.

Scott aims to please though, so he started thinking about this glider.  He asked if I wouldn’t rather have a patio table.  He made a good point.  The patio table we had could ALMOST  be trusted not to collapse when you sat at  it; really, it was a roll of the dice every time.

We rescued that patio table from my parent’s garbage many years ago.  We’ve done the same with their lawn mower and their TV’s.  When they think something is ready to retire, we bring it out of retirement, and give it another life.   This patio table was about to meet its second death.

I said, “Okay.  A table is a good idea too.  How about a coffee mug AND a patio table?”  We had a deal.

We started shopping for a patio table at an upscale store near Madison.  We were naive.  We loved the colors, and styles of everything we saw when we walked in that first store.  We didn’t love the price tags.  We searched and searched for something close to our budget.  We couldn’t find anything for less than a thousand dollars. That’s where the prices started.   We began to question our mission.  Then we started getting philosophical.

Scott asked me if I thought we would behave differently, if he had chosen a career other than teaching and coaching.  He wondered what would happen  if our income was triple or quadruple what it is now.  Would we walk into that store and think spending $3000 on a patio table and chairs was a good idea?  Because he wasn’t sure he would. He said that seemed like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on something you don’t need, no matter how much money you have. He pointed out that there are people who are hungry and who have real needs.  Could we really forget that?

I told him it’s likely we could.   We were doing that now.  Sure, we were only spending $200 for something we didn’t technically need; we were still spending it.  We weren’t giving it to people who were hungry.  I said that it is all relative, right?  Then, we started to get cold feet.  Was this really a good idea?  Why were we doing this?

And that’s just a small taste of the whoop-it-up, care-free fun you can have when you shop with the Smiths; indecisive and over-thinking.  That’s how we roll.

In the end, we decided to ignore people who are hungry and keep shopping.  We walked to the back of this fine store, and I got really excited.  I found a table that was much closer to our budget than anything we’d seen.  It was $320.  The kids and Scott were taking  a closer look.  Then someone noticed the tag was coming from the middle of the table.  $320 was the price of the UMBRELLA, not the table.    Why were we in that store again?

We did find a nice little table  at Costco that fit the budget.  Scott’s going to practice sitting this summer.  In my head I’m not sure how that looks.  I don’t see it.  He said he would try.

patio furniture

Here I am, teaching Scott how to sit. It’s not for amateurs.

We also  went to church on Mother’s Day morning.  It was sweet.  I love being with my whole family at church.  There were a lot of people I didn’t recognize there.

I couldn’t help noticing how many women were wiping tears away that morning.  I don’t know why, but I could guess: maybe they lost their mother, their mom failed them, their children failed them, they lost a child, they couldn’t have a child,  they are utterly disappointed by their own motherhood, their lack of motherhood, or someone else’s motherhood.  There are literally hundreds of reasons a person could be crying on Mother’s Day.

I try not to speak of things I have not experienced.  That would be ignorant, arrogant and unkind.   I have had positive and meaningful motherhood experiences.  I’ve only brushed up against bad ones.   Just being in proximity to bad mothering left me with sad and uncomfortable memories that I’d like to erase, but I can’t.

What if bad mothering was all I had experienced?  How do you emerge from that with faith and optimism?  I know some people do, but many don’t.

When I was 18 I rode a Greyhound bus from Georgia to Wisconsin.   When we started out in downtown Atlanta, there was a mom on the bus with her children.  This mom’s body was too thin, and her face looked old and tired. I’m sure she was overwhelmed and all that, but I guess I don’t care.  I should care, but I don’t.  I don’t care because she was an adult; adults can make their own choices in our country.  Kids can’t.

I never saw her oldest son make the tiniest sound. I just saw him keep his eyes on her.  He looked scared.  He was supposed to be helping her with the smaller children.  He was doing his best, but it was too difficult.  Those kids were squirmy. His mom kept screaming at him.  She was berating him, humiliating him,  and at one point slapped him across the face.  She did that right there in front of everyone.  I’m sure you’re wondering what she did when they were alone.  That’s what I was wondering

I wish I could tell you I did something to stop this.  I didn’t.  I was scared and not courageous.  I just sat there praying for that boy, and hating his mom.  Many other things happened on that bus trip 24 years ago; that’s the only thing I remember.

Another brush with rotten motherhood was when our children were young.  We were camping in Michigan.  There was a camper next to us that housed  a half dozen children and their parents.  Scott and I  became friendly with the kids and learned they were at the park with their foster parents.

I tried to offer a hello to the foster mom.  She avoided eye contact.   Something didn’t feel good about that family.  Don’t you think most moms have some intuitive radar?  We can just tell when something is “off”.  There was definitely something  “off” next door.   I tried telling Scott that I had a bad feeling about our neighbors, but he thought I may be imagining things.

One morning my kids were chasing chipmunks and running around like rabid little monkeys. It was a typical day.  I looked over at the family next door and they were eating together in perfect silence.     No one was laughing, fighting or talking. It was not the natural way of kids.

At one point during their breakfast,  I saw the foster mom reach across the table and pull her little girl’s hair very hard.  The girl’s neck jerked awkwardly. The foster mom yelled, “What did I tell you about not letting your hair hang in your face while you’re eating?”

I felt sick.  I was consumed by thoughts of this family.  But again, I didn’t walk over there to help.

After we all went to bed that night I thought I heard yelling from that family’s camper.   I laid in my sleeping bag worrying.  We didn’t have a cell phone then, and we were staying in a tent.  I got an idea that I would go to the camp store the next morning and call the police.   If they couldn’t help, surely they would know someone who could.   It felt better to have a plan.  I was finally able to fall asleep.  When we woke up the next morning, the family was gone.

It never occurred to me the day before to write down their license plate number; I didn’t know their last name. I didn’t help them at all.

I knew that foster mom was up to evil, and I didn’t do one thing to help.  I started praying for that little girl that day, and I still do.  That was 10 years ago.   She’s an adult now.  I hope God has answered my prayers, and that he protected her from more abuse.  I hope she is optimistic and has faith.  I guess that isn’t how things usually happen.

I have been a coward.  I have lived to regret it.  I wish I could apologize to those kids.  I have told myself to be ready the next time, and not to be afraid.

God regularly hears me cry out for children (and pets) who are at the mercy of evil.  I ask that my prayer will move God to protect the innocent.  I also pray that He will make my feet move, and open my mouth to protect anyone who cannot protect themselves when the opportunity occurs.

You might think less of me now that I’ve shared my guilt with you.  You should.  I think less of myself.

I don’t know why people choose fear over courage,  evil over good, hate over love, cruelty over kindness.  Some people assume this fact makes a case for the absence of God.  I believe the opposite is true.

I’m actually not very sold on humans.   I haven’t seen much evidence to convince me that we’re not born flawed; that we don’t need divine intervention.  We’ve been in existence a long time.  If we had any ability to save ourselves and to overcome evil, I would think that we would have done it by now.  Instead, we just keep making the same mistakes over, and over, and over again.   There are times that the magnitude of evil in this world just takes my breath away.

Over time, humans have developed technology and infrastructure that were once inconceivable.  Human’s souls have stayed the same.  We still hate, murder, rape, lie and gossip. We are jealous, arrogant,  angry, and apathetic.   We promote ourselves and we critisize.  We fight with our friends and family.  We fight over religion and politics.  We fight other countries.  We judge. We dislike people who don’t look and act like us.  We don’t root for others. We cheat on each other. We cheat. We don’t keep our promises.  Our inability to deny evil is exhausting; the consequences are soul crushing.

I see a need for a Savior.  A Savior makes perfect sense to me.

There can be a lot to cry about;  on Mother’s Day, or any day you choose.  I find comfort in a Savior.  I wish that was a comfort to everyone.

I pray peace, comfort and protection for all those who cannot protect themselves.    I also pray that some how the broken will know that somewhere there are people who’s hearts are burdened for them.   I pray that that through all the weight of evil, the broken-hearted will  hear the voice and feel the love of their Savior.  I pray that if God ever again gives me a moment’s notice to offer protection, that He will make me brave.











Why I’ve Been Acting Like a Brat:

I’ve been acting like a brat lately.  Well, maybe I haven’t been acting like a brat, but I’ve been thinking like a brat.

I’ve told you about our sweet little ranch style home that we live in, right?  I like our home a lot. A few  years ago, we put an offer on a larger, newer, nicer home.  There’s no reason in the world that I should not have been excited about moving into that home.  I wasn’t.  I was relieved when the deal fell apart.  I was just going through the motions, because I knew Scott liked that home.  It was nice. Who wouldn’t?

I’ve never yearned for a large home.  I remember when I was in college and I saw my first really upscale neighborhood.  This wasn’t small town upscale, this was big city upscale.  We were in a suburb of Atlanta.

The homes were beautiful and huge.  My girlfriends and I were impressed.  I didn’t tell them then what I was thinking; I didn’t really understand it myself.   I was thinking that I was happy for the people who lived in those beautiful homes, but for some reason I never wanted one of my own.

My favorite home in our town is one that I walk by in the early morning every day.  This home is a Cape Cod style cottage.  The exterior is made of large white and gray stone.    The home is extremely well maintained.   You can tell the owners pay great attention to detail: pretty planters in all seasons, welcoming patio furniture in the summer and nothing is ever out of place.  I love all that, but what I love even more is the cute little retired couple that I always see sitting in the 4-seasons patio in the morning.  The lamp is always on in there.  Their pretty dog lies between them while they read.  She usually has a book, and he reads the paper.  Doesn’t that sound nice?

One of these mornings I’m going to knock on their window.  When they look up, I’m going to yell through the glass, “Can I come in?  My house is a mess and we’re all on top of each other over there.  I really think I’d like it better in there by you.”

Don’t you think that will be a nice surprise for them?  People just don’t take time to visit the elderly much anymore.

cape cod

I like small houses, but lately I’ve been thinking that I get why people live in big ones.  We’ve lived in our house for 10 years.  From the beginning we have planned on finishing the basement.  A whole bunch of real life stuff has prevented that  from happening.

The basement has some paneling up now, but that’s about it.   We’ve done our best to make it feel like it’s finished with some paint and remnant carpeting, but you can only dress up a turd so much.   I know.  I’m pushing it a little far, but remember I said I was kind of being a brat?  That’s how a brat talks.

Unfinished basements are kind of like turds.  They smell bad. You just don’t care much for looking at them. And, you really don’t want to hang out in them.   We have a game system in our basement, wrestling mats and our ping pong table.  We go down there to play some games and do laundry; we don’t linger.

I would guess we exist in about 1200 square feet of living space.  NORMALLY that is fine.   But lately I’ve been thinking that it isn’t.  By lately, I mean since the start of this year’s NFL Draft.

Scott and Zeke are sports information junkies.  ESPN is successful because of guys like them. Scott and Zeke can NOT know enough about the sports they like, and the people who play them.

You may not realize it, but while you weren’t paying attention the NFL Draft has turned into this big, long, drawn-out and televised production.  That means for days and days there are men (mostly) sitting around hashing over the ins and outs of all the prospective players, and how to make the best picks.  I promise you not as much talk has gone into how to create world peace, as how to choose the right football players.


The detail these guys go into on this Draft thing  is mind blowing.   These guys talk around. the. clock.  They NEVER run out of things to say.  And that fact right there, is the source of my bratiness.

We have one TV that I watch.  Don’t even tell me to go watch in the turd.  I’m not doing it. And I’m sure as heck  not watching in the office-slash-Eddie’s-bedroom.  Eddie has a knack for leaving rotten banana peels under his pillow.  His socks can  be cracked in half by the time they make it to the laundry room.   You would need to sign a waiver before I’d let you go in that area of our house.

I can’t watch a darn thing, because every moment I’m home, Scott and Zeke are listening to and watching the latest released information on the corner back from Texas who may or may not have suffered a recent knee injury. Blaach!

In our house you can not say, “shut up”.   Saying shut up in our home is the equivalent of dropping the “F” bomb.  Well, guess what kids?  In my head, I’m telling the NFL Draft guys to SHUT UP.  SHUT THE HECK UP!   SHUT UP RIGHT NOW!!!!   I don’t know how you could possibly  still be talking about this boring subject.  Why do people care?  I don’t.  I don’t care the tiniest bit, and I only want you to, for once in your life…be quiet.  Stop talking.  Please.  Stop it.

As soon as Scott and Zeke leave the living room, I put the TV on mute.  I feel instant, physical relief.  It’s like I was being pinched before.  I hear the silence and I’m instantly pain free. That is why I’ve been thinking about big houses.  In a big house you probably have a place to escape the NFL Draft.

Another time I’ve been feeling bratty is in the morning.  We have one full bathroom.  It’s small, but it’s nice.  Then we have a half bath between our room and the living room; the room where the NFL Draft folks hang out, making the world a better place.

During the wrestling season I usually am out the door with the dog in the morning before Scott wakes up.   When I get back, Scott is gone.  We don’t cross paths.  Lately we’ve been crossing paths.

The other morning we were both in our small half bath.  We were jockeying for position in front of the small sink.  I am almost sure that he was hogging more than his fair share.  There is a chance he’d say I was  doing the same.  Scott asked me,  “since when do you use my bathroom in the morning?”

Where’s a girl to start with that?   I told him  I have been using this bathroom all year.  I said he didn’t know it, because he was still sleeping.   Then I said it must be nice to live a life of leisure and sleep in every morning (5:45 AM).  Because that’s how you hit Scott below the belt, you imply that he could try harder…at anything.

Then I told him that I was not aware that it was his bathroom, but we certainly could look into putting his name on the door.  See?  I’m just feeling bratty all the way around.

Now that the Draft is over,  we can resume our normal lives.    Or, maybe I’ll keep feeling bratty and tell Scott there’s a week long “Real Housewives” marathon that I have to watch.  I’ll assure him that there will be plenty of commentary to enjoy.  It will be very detailed, and  in depth.  I’ll tell him he’s welcome to watch with me, or feel free to hang out in Eddie’s room or in the turd.  We’ll let him be a brat for a while.

Dear Mother-in-Law,

Mother’s day is here.  We plan to send a card, but there’s a good chance it will be late.  Again.   I wanted to take this day to tell you some things that I hope you know, but I can’t be sure.  I’m learning that there are very few things worth regretting.  One thing I think IS worth regret,  is missing an opportunity to tell people what they mean to me.  I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you that today.

Mother-in-laws get a bad rap.  I guess daughter-in-laws do too.   Women can behave badly; especially when they’re fighting for control.

Mother and daughter-in-laws often have a rocky partnership.  That’s sad.  A mother-in-law can be one of your best allies.  You have always been one of mine.

grandma with boys

I fell in love with your smiling, hard working, honest, kind and funny son when he was fresh out of your home.  Who should get credit for the person he was then?  His parents should.

When I found your son,  he had never  known a single  moment in his life when his mom was not there, caring about him.   You poured your life into him.  You should know that all that caring  made a really nice man.

I want to tell you that I am sorry about a few things.  You know I have teenage sons of my own now.  I won’t like letting them go.  I know it.  I won’t.

When I met your oldest son, I never once considered the possibility that my relationship with him could be hard for you.   I never thought that seeing him grow up and away could make you just the tiniest bit sad.  You never gave me a reason to think that.  I only remember that you were happy.  Your son was happy, so you were happy.  I’m going to try to remember this.  I am really going to try to do the same.  Thanks for showing me it can be done.

I also want to tell you that I’m sorry for the whole me having your first grandchild phase of  our  lives.  Wow.  I was crazy, wasn’t I?  It’s okay, you can admit it.  It won’t hurt my feelings.

That having a baby thing just really hit me differently than I thought it would.  I could see how much you loved him, and how proud you were of him.   For some reason I felt a little territorial, like I needed to prove that I was his mom.  What I didn’t see was that my possessiveness was exactly (and only) about me.

Right out of the shoot, I was not scoring high marks for parenting.  I was selfish.  You were patient with me.    I’m sorry I did that.

Do you remember when you had surgery, and you ended up in intensive care?  You probably don’t.  I do.   You were completely out, and not responding to anyone in the family.  We were really worried.  Then, we brought your baby grandson, Eddie, in to your room.  We said, “Grandma, Eddie is here to see you.”  Your eyes popped open and you tried to jolt out of the bed to reach for him.  Your love for your family is deep.  Really deep.

I have a lot to thank you for now.  I am currently pouring my life into children that have part of you in them.   I have a daughter who delights me.  She is careful, thoughtful, smiley and loves a bargain.  She is more you than me.  I’m thankful for that too.

I have been married to your son for more than 20 years.   He’s really good at being a parent.   You taught him that. You have done too many kind things for us in all these years to count.  But, the kindest thing you have done for me is to show me how to be a great mother-in-law; the kind of mother-in-law that’s more like a best friend.  I know I’m going to need that lesson down the road.

Mother and daughter-in-laws are famous for turning pretend problems into real problems.  You never did that.  Thank you.

I hope you take some time this Mother’s Day to think about what you’ve done.  It isn’t a small thing.  It’s a really big thing. The biggest thing.   You’ve raised four beautiful, hard working, good natured children.  Those children are now pouring themselves into more children.  Your positive legacy lives on, and it reaches further than you will ever be able to measure.   You deserve a Happy Mother’s Day!!!


smith family   grandkids

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