Sunday, March 30, 2014

Catholic School

I heard a person talking the other day about their school days. Catholic school days to be precise. It was a mixed bag of pride and prejudice with sentences like, "Kids today! We would never have gotten away with talking like that to a nun," and then followed up with disparagence , "I had my hands rapped with a ruler every time I did anything. Those nuns were mean!" The latter seems to be the story often told by history as to what Catholic school was all about. Those who don't know any better have the definite perception that a lady in black stood there with a ruler constantly poised to rap knuckles at the slightest offense. As someone who went to Catholic school and obviously survived, I am here to tell you...the knuckle rapping nun may have existed but she was no more prevalent than the paddle carrying, swat loving public school principal. The only difference is....the wild eyed,  mean to the core Catholic school nun always makes for a better story.

As a young child and we are talking very young, exactly four years parents started me to public school. Back then parents weren't so concerned about what benefited the child emotionally and more about what benefited the family. In our case, both my parents worked and since there wasn't the law that children had to be a certain age before starting kindergarten, it was easier to send me to school (1/2 day kindergarten back then) and only have to pay for a babysitter 1/2 day. The truth was, at four I was immature and a product of a home life that was less than stellar. In those years my parents broke up and got back together so many times, it seemed as if their marriage had a revolving door. I was a mess and it showed at school. My kindergarten year, my only friend was a little boy with cerebral palsy. Together he and I were the classroom outcasts. In fact Sammy, still to this day holds a very special place in my heart and in my much so that I dedicated a blog to him a few years back. First grade was my biggest nightmare as I had a teacher who hated me. She spent the year using me as her personal verbal and physical punching bag and would delight in humiliating me in front of the rest of the class, not to mention swatting me with the ruler whenever I displeased her. My parents didn't have the money that the rest of the kids parents did....therefore she felt my well being was expendable. My second grade year may have been my saving grace as I had an older lady as a teacher who all the kids feared. From day one she showed me nothing but kindness and cared enough to scold my mother at a parent teacher conference telling her that I was too young to have been started to school at four and how much I had suffered ever since. My third grade year was a repeat of my first grade year. I was back to being made very aware that money was what was the difference between being treated well and being treated like the gum on the bottom of someones shoe. At that age, the kids will never give you a chance when the teacher doesn't!

It was the late 60's and public schools were in the midst of trying to end segregation. Regardless of what the history books tell us, it was a nightmare for whites and blacks a like. In the city I grew up in, probably like most, their was a definite black neighborhood that was located close to the midtown area. Just like the whites they had their neighborhood schools, stores, hardware stores, etc. Now the state was saying that their kids could no longer go to the schools in their neighborhood with the kids they had grown up with. Suddenly they were being bused miles away to all white schools and white kids were being bused miles away to all black schools. At the time I lived less than a block from my school and my parents got the letter from the district saying that my fourth grade year I would be going to a school in midtown that would require me to be on a bus for 2 hours one way. And so we moved a mile north and I was enrolled at St. Thomas Aquinas.

Apparently my mom had listened to my second grade teacher because when the principal at STA suggested I start their school as a third grader instead of a fourth grader, my parents didn't say a word. My third grade year (for the second time) proved to be one of the most tumultuous years for me personally and one of my best academically.

St. Thomas Aquinas was a fairly modern school by 60's/70's standards. At the held kids from 1st through 8th grade with each grade at the time only having one class room. The school was a sprawling one story building and the church was in the basement. We had two priests, two nuns and the rest of the teachers were lay teachers (meaning not clergy). Every morning we would attend Mass and sit with our respective class before school. It was as mandatory as math or reading and if you couldn't attend for some reason, you had to have a note from your parent. Even back then I was a bit rebellious and one morning on my walk to school I drug my feet and dawdled. By the time I got to school Mass was well underway. Instead of just walking in late and sitting down, I decided to just hang out on the stairs outside the church. I apparently forgot that since we had two priests, if one was saying Mass....that meant I didn't know where the other one was. As I sat there day dreaming and secretly enjoying my little rebellious act (obviously consequences meant little to me then) I felt a tap on my shoulder. I nearly jumped out of my skin and then I almost died when I turned to find that the person tapping me on the shoulder was the other priest Father Allen. He didn't say a word to me, he just took me by the hand, walked me down the steps and into the church and walked me up to the front of the church and made me sit with him through the rest of Mass in the front pew. I was embarrassed and a little bit frightened as to what would happen now that the rebel in me had been squelched. As I recall....nothing happened other than Father walked me to class after Mass and said that he was sure that whatever made me late today would never make me late again. He was right.

What set Catholic school (or at least STA) apart from public school was obviously the religious based structure and going to daily Mass along with having a religion class as part of our curriculum....oh and yes we had nuns. We also had to wear uniforms. The thought behind this was that regardless of income or community stature, no one dressed any different than anyone else. The girls wore plaid sleeveless jumpers over white short sleeved Peter Pan collar shirts. We also wore knee high socks and the only fashion choices we had were our shoes (most of us wore saddle shoes) and how we wore our hair. The boys also had to dress a certain way although their clothes weren't quite as structured. If I remember correctly....they wore slacks and dress type shirts. The other thing that set STA apart from public school was their library reading material. Yes we had normal library reading but we also had literally shelves of books on saints. It was here that I learned both my love of reading and my love of saints. In my three years at STA I read every book on every saint and martyr I could find. It was also where I learned about nuns.

By the late 1960's Catholic schools were no longer prominently taught by nuns. In fact, nuns seemed to be a bit scarce. Wichita had its own convent Mt. St. Mary's, a beautiful place that housed most of the cities nuns as well as had a place that kept and took care of the aged and ailing nuns. The nuns were from the Sisters of St. Joseph and this is where STA's two nuns lived. If memory serves me, we had Sister Richard and Sister Ignitious. Sister Richard taught religion to the younger kids and Sister Ignitious taught it to the older kids. As I recall, Sister Richard got to prepare us for our first confession, first communion and also our Confirmation. Back then, Confirmation happened at 9 years of age instead of 14 or older.

Confirmation was important business as we were becoming "Soldiers of Christ" and there was nothing more important in our faith, unless of course you chose a life of service as a nun or priest. In preparation, Sister gave us a page of 100 questions that we must learn all the answers to. Daily in class, she would quiz us and as she asked the question we would have to stand by our desk and answer.
"Who made you?"
I would reply..."God made me."
"Why did He make you?"
"To know Him, love Him and serve Him."
And at home at night my mother quizzed me too. By Confirmation time, there wasn't a one of us that couldn't answer these questions in our sleep. During our Confirmation, the Bishop randomly chose kids and asked only a handful of the 100 questions we had learned. The answers were flawless and Sister beamed with each correct answer. I remembered being a bit bummed that I sat there in my beautiful white dress, my head full of all the answers and not once was I asked "Who made you?" The knowledge was not wasted though, for today if I was asked any of those questions I am sure that I could answer them without a second thought. Even better though....those questions gave me a much better understanding of Catholicism and what it means to be a Catholic, not to mention.....a soldier of Christ. 

In fifth grade we transitioned from Sister Richard to Sister Ignitious. Quite honestly there is little I remember about Sister except that she was tall (taller than Sister Richard anyway), we prayed a decade of the rosary in her class everyday and she made rosaries. They were colorful rosaries made of plastic beads and she would sell them with all proceeds going to the convent. EVERYONE wanted one of Sisters rosaries and just last year I found that I still had one. I do remember that Sister very much had a servants heart and I think had a bit of a fundraisers soul. It was because of her that I got my one and only glimpse inside the gates of Mt. St. Mary. She invited us to the yearly craft show that the nuns had in order to make money for the convent. I remember it being quite lovely and it held a feeling of awe as I got a glimpse of what our Sisters did when they weren't teaching. If the array of tables were an indication, these women spent a lot of time crafting and baking, and these nuns were so happy to see each and every visitor that came up to visit with them. I still think of that day all those years ago whenever I happen to be in that part of town and drive by the huge gated convent, although I am sure both Sister Richard and Sister Ignitious have long left this world. God bless their souls.

My time at STA was much shorter than I would have liked. My parents, mired in their own issues finally stopped the revolving door of their relationship divorced. We moved and I left my beloved STA behind. It was the best and most influential time of my grade school years. Teachers, nuns and priests left positive and indelible marks on my life and even though miles and years divided the friendships I made during that time in my life, I am still proud to call some of those people friends today. In fact, not until we moved to Mulvane in my 7th grade year did I have teachers or friends like that again.

It makes me sad and sometimes even borderline angry when people bad mouth and undermine Catholic schools....especially back in the day. Did nuns discipline with rulers and were they tough? Yes. They believed in "Spare the rod and spoil the child," and like it or not....the kids that came from Catholic schools were often better educated and more prepared to face the world than public school kids. I can say this because I have seen both sides. And just so you know, neither Sister Richard nor Sister Ignitious ever laid a hand on any child that I saw. They didn't have to. We respected them as both teachers and nuns. What they said.....went. I also know that public school was just as "brutal" back then where corporal punishment was concerned. Teachers could rap hands with rulers, use dunce caps for missed answers and every principal had a paddle which they used indiscriminately and quite often. Nuns did not corner the market on discipline. In was the way of the world back then. Kids were expected to get in line and stay in line and if they didn't....teachers, principals and even nuns were expected to get them in line. Whats one screamed, yelled or sued the school because kids were disciplined. In fact....most of us knew that whatever trouble and punishment we got in at school, we could expect to get double at home. Trust discipline was not just a Catholic school thing it was an expectation of the times.

Looking back, I realize what we all learn as age and wisdom take over our lives....EVERYTHING happens for a reason. Had I not started my scholastic experience in such a negative way, with true abuse in light of things I had no control over, then I might not have appreciated my experience at STA as much as I  did. The priests, nuns, daily Mass and my 100 questions gave me a sense of who I was both as a person and a Catholic. The discipline both necessary and usually deserved helped me set boundaries and guided me to make good choices and have respect for not only those in charge but also my self. And finally....the education opened the door for me to love books and ultimately writing and also had me doing 8th grade level math and English in the 6th grade.

So next time someone makes a Catholic school joke or complains about those mean nuns, just remember.....there were just as many mean and even cruel teachers in public school. They put the fear of God in kids, made them feel small, insignificant and abused and they didn't even need a black habit to do so. In all fairness, I am sure there were nuns that took their authority to the extreme and their desire for obedience and perfection was backed up by a ruler. After all, meanness is not cornered by any specific is equal opportunity. However, I think most nuns were far more in line with Sister Richard and Sister Ignitious than they were with the ruler wielding tyrants than lore likes to admit. My only regret is that Sister Richard isn't still here for me to tell her that to this day.....I still know why God made me!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Pioneer Woman Connection

Do you ever just connect with someone? It doesn't matter whether it is in person, in a book or on TV. Sometimes we just find a person or character and feel a camaraderie with them. This happened to me one day while I was channel surfing and happened onto The Food Network. It had been months since I had watched as I was both mentally boycotting the channel as well as mourning the loss of my beloved Paula Deen. I felt as if she got a raw deal and that the channel sold her down the river rather than stand behind one of their biggest personalities not to mention biggest money makers.

So this day as I was surfing, a red head with a bright smile, a quirky sense of humor and an amazing kitchen caught my attention and I put the remote down. As I listened to her talk, I caught a bit of an Oklahoma accent that might only be picked up by someone who had grown up with an Okie. Her cooking terms were not culinary terms by any means as she talked about "a good amount of this" and she referenced her family not as her family but as "the cowboys." As she talked she told corny jokes and she seemed completely at ease both on camera and in her surroundings. She should have, after all she was standing in her own ranch house (not to be confused with her actual house which is somewhere else on her property.) So who was this woman that caught my attention and whose kitchen wowed me? Why Ree Drummond of course or better known to her fans as The Pioneer Woman.

Until that day, I had never heard of her but she fascinated me enough that I decided to do some research. Drummond was apparently well known in blogger and writers circles long before The Food Network wisely signed her up. Before that, Drummond did what any wise writer/blogger does....she wrote about what she knew about. Her blogs are full of her life on a ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma (see....I knew she was an Okie). Her and husband Lad run a huge cattle ranch that has been in Lad's family for years. She regales readers of early mornings on the ranch, calving, feeding and other mundane ranching jobs that she somehow makes interesting. Perhaps it is because the Drummonds number one ranch hands are their four children whom they are giving a pretty balanced life between learning the ranching business and home schooling. Her husband, whom she refers to as the Marlboro Man (no he dosesn't smoke) and her kids whom she calls "the cowboys," (even though two of the four are girls) are always in some way featured in her blog. AND as if being a ranchers wife, ranching, homeschooling, blogging and being a photographer weren't enough (did I forget to say she is also a photographer? Well she is!) it turns out that she is also an accomplished cook and now has her own TV show in which she films on her own turf. No wonder I find her so amazing.

From that day forward I was hooked on both Drummond and her show. There is an awkward ease in which Drummond cooks and shows off her family, dogs and ranch in each episode. She is every bit the self described homebody, homeschool mom and cook that you might expect her to be and yet every once in awhile we get a glimpse into another life that Drummond might have lived before the Marlboro Man and cowboys came into her life.

Much like watching Paula Deen in years past, I have spent a great deal of time drooling over and on my TV as Drummond prepares rib sticking meals which feature "cowboy favorites" of meat and potatoes and yummy desserts. While her meals are seldom light or Weight Watcher friendly, for her family and their fast paced, metabolically charged life style they are just the ticket after long days on the ranch.

As a blogger myself who loves to have my blog read, I am a bit ashamed to say that I have only skimmed Drummonds blog in the past or read only certain posts that came across my facebook feed and caught my attention. It is colorful though and I keep telling myself that one of these days I will just take the time and read. The other day I took that time as it coincided with a show of hers that I had dvrd. The show was about her big brother Mike. Now Drummond is not shy about introducing the world to her family members and close friends but Mike was not one I had ever seen.

Brother Mike is a little guy, probably a good foot shorter than his sister and it is obvious that there are handicapable issues in Mikes life. Still Drummond, Lad and the kids obviously love Mike and include him in their ranch life and ranch duties as much as possible. It is obvious from his highlighted thirty minutes that like his sister and the rest of the clan he is comfortable in front of the ever present camera's and he has a larger than life personality all his own. As if I wasn't already intrigued and emotionally connected to Drummond, I find out she has a handicapable brother. It almost makes me want to drive to Pawhuska and march up to her door and introduce myself and David. Have I mentioned David is as intrigued and entertained by the Pioneer Woman as I am?

After watching the episode with Mike in it, I scoured her blog looking for posts on him and I wasn't disappointed. Mike is very close to Drummonds heart but like most of us with special needs family members, we seldom refer to them as such nor do we treat them as such. Mike is far more independent than it was ever believed he would be. He has lived on his own for over 20 years and holds down a job. He is a character in ever sense of the word and loves to joke around and tease. Most of all though.....he is his sisters big brother and holds a very special place in her heart. Yep....if I wasn't a fan before, learning about Mike and how she connects with him made me a fan for life.

If you have never seen or heard of The Pioneer Woman, you really owe it to yourself and your palette to tune in to her show. She is on in the afternoons and on Saturday mornings on The Food Network. If cooking shows aren't your thing though and you like a good blog then head on over to  her blog. I guarantee won't be disappointed! Oh....and I was just kidding about going to her house. I am a fan....not a stalker! (wink)

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mila and Ashton, Julia Roberts, March Madness and Just a Bling Thing

And we are back! Spring break is behind us and I could have cried as the weather stated last night that we "might still have snow in our forecast!" Ugh! Oh well, in the big scheme of things.....snow is no more than a tiny speed bump. It's not like I packed our winter clothes away yet. (If you could only see how hard I am laughing right now!)

Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher are going to have a baby together. Random? Yes but I thought it very interesting as back when I watched That 70's Show, I used to think they were the perfect couple. Well, perfect for each other. She was self absorbed and narcissistic and he was an idiot. Yeah, I know it was just characters they played but when Kutcher took up with Demi Moore, that was just too weird for me. I am sure she had socks older than he was. I could never date/marry someone young enough to be my child. I think Kunis and Kutcher are a better least age wise and I like the fact that other than what they specifically tell the media, that they keep their personal lives personal. Perhaps the Lindsay Lohans, Miley Cyrus's and Justin Beibers of our time should pull a page from the book of Kunis and Kutcher. Oh well, I wish them well on the expansion of their family and this new journey in their lives.

August: Osage County. Has anyone seen this? It is funny, but if someone asks me who my favorite actress is, I would never immediately say Julia Roberts. In fact I would likely say Sandra Bullock, however after watching AOC, I am brought back to the same thought I always have after watching a Roberts movie......what an amazing actress. She blew me away in this movie and quite honestly......Meryl Streep was no slouch either. It is a gritty movie about family and the fact that no family is without their own brand of dysfunction. It was raw and at times almost painful to watch as a family's past is showed to weigh heavily on their present. There is a lot of colorful language but I felt that it was used accordingly with the amount of pain these characters endured. I walked away remembering that maybe Roberts is my favorite actress after all.

Any sports fans out there? Yeah, me neither until...... it comes to the playoffs of any sport and then I am all in. I guess I don't have the patience to watch them get there, but I will cheer the heck out of them once they are there. This weekend I watched as not one or even two but THREE Kansas teams got into March Madness (college basketball for those of you who do not speak sports). First we lost K-State my alma mater, then KU was out and then there was ONE! I watched on the edge of my seat as WSU and Kentucky fought it out yesterday afternoon. It was a nail biter that I was almost afraid was going to give me a panic attack. At one point I yelled so loud over a bad call that I scared the beans out of David. Sadly, in the end Kentucky won out. I was proud though of WSU and how well they played. They have an amazing team of players and an amazing coach behind them (Gregg Marshall) and I have no doubt that at this time next year......they will be back and just maybe this time......victorious! What a great season guys (35-1)! you like cute clothes and lots of bling????? Well then you might be interested in Just A Bling Thing. Carrie McDowell, the owner has graciously offered to do a fund raiser for my family (yes we are still struggling) and starting in June, things will be a lot tougher if I don't find a job. At any rate, Carrie doesn't really know me, she is just a resident of my home town who has a big heart and a generous spirit. Yes, people like Carrie are why I love my home town. Carrie is doing this fund raiser to help my family and it will end March 30, 2014. She has so many cute things from leggings and dresses to jewelry. If you are local you can come by and see her stuff in person at the Derby Antique Market LLC, 317 N. Rock Road in Derby or if you aren't local, check here out on line at Just a Bling Thing.  Remember....if you are ordering to help us, the orders need to be in by Sunday March 30th. I know once you see her stuff you will be hooked and you will also be helping my family out a lot.

So there you have it. A little about a lot and a lot about........... well you fill in the blank. Happy Monday folks!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Holding Pattern

Although it has felt to me like life has been in a holding pattern for the last couple of months, the truth is that time continues to march on. It occurred to me this morning that as today is the last official day of spring break, the next few weeks will be a mad dash to the finish line of this school year and Z's high school days. The dreaded snow seems to be gone but cool temperatures remain, however I know that I will blink my eyes and hot days will soon be here. Before I know it,  it will be too late for spring cleaning as summer will be here and plans for David to walk and Z to attend college will be all that we as a family can think of. So in reality, I guess there has only been a holding pattern in my head. Life has trudged along while I felt like I was standing still.

Today is the first day that I have opened my eyes and looked around me. So much needs to be done and the feeling of so little time is taking me over. It is ridiculous really, as time is something I seem to have endless amounts of and yet my mind makes it seem as if everything is on a timetable with the sand in the hour glass running at an alarming rate. The truth is, you can have all the time in the world and if you mismanage that is fruitless. Time to hone my time management skills.

I am starting to feel the unrest of early spring which is adding to the mixture of emotions which seem to be seeping out today. My heart and soul are longing for an amazing stormy day that starts with warm humid temperatures, over cast skies and a knowing surge of energy in my body. I want to feel the sweat from the building stickiness and the excitement from the first crack of thunder. I want to sit on my porch and watch as the lightening dances across the sky and bows down to the ground jumping and returning to the heavens. I want to hear, see and smell the rain as it pummels the ground and washes the winter away along with all the stress, worry and fear that has built up in my body and held me captive all these months. I want to hear the thunder clap and shake the ground drowning out all other sound. And after it is all said and done.....I want to feel only a spring storm can make me.

I am hoping that I am not speaking too soon or jinxing myself, which I don't really believe in although past history might make me reevaluate that belief.....I am actually starting to feel much better. The last month I have been dealing with health issues that although not permanent did seem to be pretty chronic along with fairly unpleasant. They sapped my energy and just made me feel like throwing in the towel. Add to that the mental roulette that seemed to be going on weekly and I felt like a thumb sucking, fetal position, whinny mess. Not a pleasant way to start the new year at all. I am sure that I have been a joy to all those around me too. Yep....I have definitely been the mother "they got" these last few months and NOT the mother "they deserve!"

So here's to hoping that the holding pattern just quit holding and that moving forward is on the permanent agenda. I steps. However, there appears to even be hope for one of my highly sought after spring storms come Thursday. Only time will tell though. Only time will tell!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fred Phelps, Spring Break, Pot and Quotes

Well....there is a lot consuming my brain today, so I guess I will do something I haven't done in a long while. I'm going to do an excerpt blog....short excerpts of all that is going on in my head. Fasten your seat could be a weird and scary ride.

Today the Wichita Eagle posted on facebook that Fred Phelps Sr. the head of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church has died. Phelps, many members of his family as well as his followers have long been known for their preaching of hate instead of love and firmly resolving that God hates just about everyone and everything. In most recent decades, the WBC has become well known for picketing the funerals of soldiers, gays, children, murder victims and just about anyone else that might help them to promote their hate speech along with getting them public notoriety. While Phelps group seemed to be particularly hateful towards gays, their special brand of hate and strange views of Gods "love" seemed to include just about anyone and everyone that wasn't a WBC member. 

I have always felt that there might be a special place reserved in hell for Phelps because of the hate he has promoted and spread over the years, however today as I heard the news of his passing, my mothers words came to mind.  She always believed that you should never judge anothers soul because that is God's judgement alone. Only God and the individual know what is in their heart and soul at the time of their death and true sorrow as well as true forgiveness may also be present. Heaven or hell for each individual is God's choice and not based on the assumption of others, no matter how well we think we know the outcome. In other words.....God may have seen something in Fred's soul or may understand the big picture better than us. 

As a mere human it is hard for me to understand the evil I seemed to see in this man and the hate he seemed to thrive on, but it really is not for me to judge. So to Phelps passing I simply say, may God be kinder to you in death than you were to others in life. 

Spring break is over half way gone. This year has been nothing like past years. We have spent a good deal of time at home and I have spent a good deal of time working on my asthma and my newly found ulcer. Both seem to be doing better but both have also curtailed a lot of normal activity. 

David is getting closer to being cast free and is getting anxious to get back into a more normal and social life. Hanging with Mom just doesn't cut it anymore. 

Z is enjoying his last spring break as a high schooler. True to his nature he has managed to balance a social life and still help me with David. He, like the rest of us is starting to feel the tug of spring and the unsettled feeling of both ending and beginning chapters in life.

I have never been a supporter of pot, weed, marijuana or whatever else you choose to call it as a recreational drug. I have very definite reasons why and maybe someday I will regale you with a blog on those why's, however recently I have been  reading some interesting stuff on the use of marijuana for controlling seizures. 

I had seen some fb post in the past where mothers with seizure kids had been discussing the new findings and the possibility of being able to get medical marijuana for seizures in non-pot legal states. So I was asked the other day that if I found marijuana to be a good seizure treatment if I would turn to it for David. The answer......I don't know. 

First I would have to do a great deal of checking into it and see actual written findings on outcomes for seizure patients. My belief is that pot could and likely does have a place in our society with healing properties for diseases such as seizure disorders and even cancer. That being said.....penicillin is an amazing drug too, but not recreationally. Yeah, I know that makes me sound old and antiquated, but as I said....I have my reasons. So yeah, bring on that research and show me some positive outcomes and I just might consider pot where David is concerned. Especially if it meant him having a seizure free life. 

And finally I will leave you with some of my favorite quotes:

You have to go through what you have to go through, to get to where you need to be. Tim

If life is what you make it...then I think I will make mine.....chocolate! Unknown

Children are not choices, burdens, property or pawns. Children are simply gifts! Unknown

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.' Erma Bombeck

Now that wasn't so scary.....was it?. Me

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Perfect Storm

So yesterday driving home from the thoracic surgeons office, I was thinking about the first three months of this year so far and looking for a way to describe them in my writers brain. The same words kept coming to mind...."The Perfect Storm." Yep, that is what these months have been like. With Davids two surgeries, multiple ER and hospital stays, Z turning 18 and being in the last semester of his senior year, social security giving me fits and being considered "unemployable," common sense should have told me that the damn would eventually break and all would come flooding or at least seeping at an alarming rate...right out of me.

I am thinking if there was anyone left out there believing in the illusion of my strength, I have successfully squashed all that in the first three months of this new year. If anything I have become a thumb sucking neurotic who spends most of my time waiting for the other shoe to drop (yet again) and trying to deal with the fall out as it does. To say life has not been pretty in Lisaland of late would be a major understatement.

Happily I write today though that things seem to be moving into a somewhat more even space where hopefully I can catch my breath and reassess life with a less frantic lens. But I jump ahead. First a bit of a recap as to The Perfect Storm I speak of.

December 31st David has surgery on his hips in St. Louis. This is followed by fever (because of the trauma of the surgery) and seizures (because they withheld his meds for 16 hours). Little did we know that this little faux pas on the hospitals part would have months long repercussions. We arrive home from St. Louis on a Wednesday and find ourselves in our local ER on Friday followed by another five day hospital stay for pneumonia which had set up from his lying in bed following surgery. We go home on Wednesday and we have a good week and then the following Saturday we head back to St. Louis for cast removal from his surgery. All seems well until the next Saturday when he starts having scary seizures (repercussions from our St. Louis stay). Again we are admitted (this time to PICU) and we stay until Wednesday. We go home and all is good.....or so I think. We start our telemed appointments with a local orthopedist who links in with his Shriners doctor on Friday and we get the go ahead to start physical therapy (PT) the next week. We are happy people and ready to move forward until.....Saturday night when David starts crying in pain. Silly me, I think he has just done too much the previous day and after a thorough check of his hips give him pain meds and rebrace his legs thinking that will help. By Sunday he is in agony so off to the ER we go to find that he has broken his right femur. This requires surgery and we learn at this time how soft his leg bones are. The surgery then sparks a fever, which in turn sparks seizures which ends us back in the PICU! This time we go home on Thursday. Once home, I learn how he broke his leg. He pulled it up sideways and bent it double in his sleep. I know this because I watch him try to do the exact same thing to his left leg. I then brace his left leg to keep from having to have yet another surgery. After two weeks with no ER or hospital stays, I foolishly get cocky and speak of this on facebook. Yes, I know better. By Friday night he was having multiple seizures and after being in contact with the neurologist he tells us....back to the ER where David was immediately admitted to PICU. Luckily this time they were able to get the seizures under control quickly and we were out of the hospital and home by Monday night.

In the process of all of this, social security decided to cut my income by about $700/mo because of their failure to file paperwork that I had already sent in regarding Z turning 18 but still being in school. While admitting that the fault was didn't change the government red tape or their inability to fix my predicament. All the while I am frantically looking for something that I can do from home as I can't afford to have someone come in and care for David while I work. Bottom line....I am told several times over that I am simply "unemployable!" You think that doesn't do something to your mental capacity?

We also find time to celebrate Z's 18th birthday and have the classic beginning struggle of  the 18 year old brain that says...."I'm an adult, so the rules for me need to change around here." This has required many lengthy conversations on adulthood, maturity, "my house my rules" and making sure he has enough information on any given subject to make an educated choice. It is both necessary and exhausting not to mention a bit nerve racking for me as I am having to let go and hope that I have instilled the right things into his brain and hope that his still teenage brain can pull the right information when the time comes. Again....exhausting. Luckily I have an extraordinarily amazing kid and so far my parenting efforts seem to be paying off.

So this and a few dozen other issues bring us to the Monday that I brought David home after his seizures. I was so happy and relieved to have had such a short hospital stay and to finally have his seizures under control. You would have thought nothing could spoil the perfection of the moment. Then the other shoe started falling. That night I had what I assume was a panic attack brought on by weirdly enough.....STRESS! I had never had one before but I assumed that is what it was. I was hot, sweaty, hyperventilating, heart racing and my chest felt tight. I made myself sit down and breathe and within about 15 minutes I was okay, but it did scare me a bit. I knew that one panic/anxiety attack might not be the end of it. I was right. That Wednesday I was driving in Wichita. I didn't think I was feeling particularly stressed (although who the heck knows anymore) and I felt a heat start at my toes and work its way up my body. I started sweating and my heart started pounding. My chest felt like it was held in a vice and I couldn't catch my breath. The combination really scared me and took me back to an article I had read awhile back about women and heart attacks. Apparently ours aren't necessarily like men's. I was about 2 minutes from the ER (our home away from home) and a little scared to try to make it to my real the ER it was. I must have looked horrible because they had a wheelchair under me before I could even tell them why I was there. However, after a complete heart work up and five hours of every other kind of test known to man.....I learned that my heart was good and that YES.....stress did seem to be the culprit. I was told to sleep more, relax and maybe do yoga. Yeah, I would get right on all of that. Perhaps I should have made a better effort.

The next Wednesday I once again had another five hour ER stay. This time I literally couldn't breathe. I could not catch my breath and felt as if I had a weight on my chest. This time after a partial heart work up and a chest x-ray, they told me unequivocally that I was having a full on asthma attack. Once those words were out of their sounded right. I hadn't had one since 1989 but thinking back, this is pretty much how they always felt. So they gave me breathing treatments and steroids and sent me on my way. By Friday I felt back to me, however Saturday I woke up sick. I was nauseous, headache and I had a progressively bad pain in the right lower side of my chest. As the day progressed the pain got worse and I called my doctor who told me (you guessed it) to get to the ER.

Before I go further.....I should tell you here that this is where part of the perfect storm comes in. Because of my mother's prolific cancer history, I get checked twice a year for breast cancer. One time it is an MRI and the other is a mammogram. During my last MRI six months ago....they found an incidental finding of spots on my lung and a spot on my thyroid. They did a three month follow up on both which showed everything to be stable and now it was time for the six month follow up. So in a day I had a chest CT and a mammogram which is to be followed by a thyroid sono. As if I didn't have enough to think about, worry about and contemplate.

So I made it back into the ER pumped full of drugs and afraid to go to sleep because I was by myself. After numerous images and tests they found the culprit. I have an ulcer. In the big scheme of things...this is no big shock and my next trek to the doctor needs to be for an endoscopic procedure. Yay me! However, there is good news to all of this story. After seeing the thoracic surgeon yesterday, it appears that two of  the three spots originally seen on my lung are gone and the one remaining is unchanged. He wants to see me back in six months but expects nothing new. Thursday I go and find out about my mammogram (yeah more waiting) and there is still the thyroid sono to get (it was suppose to be today but got changed).

My asthma seems to be under control again, I am working on treating the ulcer with meds and I guess it is time to really work on the whole more sleep, less stress, yoga thing. David is doing better and last week was fitted with an actual cast to be taken off in a couple of weeks. Z is at least humoring me when it comes to listening to my words of wisdom.......and best of all spring seems to be trying to show itself.

I still feel as if the last three months have been moments lost in time and that I am playing catch up, but it is my deepest hope that we got this perfect storm out of the way at the beginning of the year and the rest of the year is blue skies and light breezes.

Well, there you have it. The Perfect Storm and  we once again seemed to have survived. You will forgive me though if I say....I don't ever want to step inside another ER or hospital. I think we have gotten our quota in for this year and several years to come!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sacrifice vs. Service

In a blog I wrote a week or so ago entitled 40 Days, I talked about Lent and things we can do during the 40 days leading up to Good Friday and  Easter. Since, I have gotten a couple of emails about the topic and both said basically the same thing. Both readers seemed a bit upset that I didn't touch more on sacrifice during Lent. One even felt that I had gone so far as to "sugar coat" Lent making it seem more like a "do what you want" time instead of a "do what you need to do" time. It really got me to thinking.

As you get older you quickly realize that you will never have all the answers and there is always much to learn about EVERYTHING. Was I right with my 40 Days blog? Yes and No! It really depends on who you are, the decade you were raised in and who you were raised by as to how you view Lent. I also did a bit of research on the subject as well as a lot of thinking about it and here is what I came up with....and mind you, my findings basically pertain to Catholics as that is the point where the knowledge I have springs from. 

In the world of Catholics and Lent, there seems to be three schools of thought. The first is very old school and one that my family growing up leaned towards. Lent is a very solemn time that prepares your soul for Good Friday (the death of our Lord) and Easter Sunday (His Resurrection). The 40 days prior is what reminds us of the sacrifice made for our sins as well and it serves as a pre-mourning period for what we know transpired on Good Friday. Because of all of this, old school Catholics use this time to sacrifice. Many choose this time to deny themselves things they like or enjoy, to pray and attend Mass more and to even dress more modestly or even in black as a reminder to themselves and the world, of this solemn time of year. On reading up on Lenten acts I saw where some people gave up conveniences such as using dishwashers, microwaves and even driving their cars during Lent. One woman refused to use her home washer and dryer during this time, instead making herself take all of her clothes to the laundry mat, a chore she despised. Some people put their sacrifice where their mouth is and give up chocolate, sugar, bread, all meat, soda or whatever else their palette likes to indulge in. And finally others give up  habits such as social media, smoking, drinking, watching TV, reading, video games and one lady I read about even gave up curling her hair and putting on make-up during Lent. All of these sacrifices are personal though and not all sacrifice is equal to all persons. It is good to keep in mind that sacrifice is different things to different individuals. the old school Catholics, Lent is about sacrifice. It is about giving things up as a reminder of  the extreme sacrifice made for all of us. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. However, there is now a more modern approach to Lent which many Catholics (often of a younger generation) seem to abide with. The modern mind set seems to actually be more service oriented with as one person pointed out "a more zen approach," to Lent. In other words instead of sacrifice, it is believed that Lent should be a time of giving back, helping others and doing things (for the better) that we might not be so eager to do the rest of the year.  Another  person stated that in the modern world, "sacrifice was in the eye of the beholder."  As I stated above.....sacrifice means different things to different people and because of this, some feel that service is a better way to go. However, the flip side to that with more traditional or old school beliefs on this subject is that we as a society don't want to deprive ourselves of anything, therefore "we eat our chocolate, but also buy chocolate for those who don't have chocolate." It is win/win and everyone gets off easy....right?! The question is though, is this modern approach pulling our attention away from the big picture.....SACRIFICE? God sacrificed His only son and Jesus sacrificed His life for us and the best we can do during Lent is to give some clothes to Goodwill? Hmmmmm

Finally there is the third school of thought on all of this and it is the one that I tend to lean towards, perhaps because I have one foot in both worlds being fairly old school and understanding that new generations are going to have new ideas. I say pulling a little from both schools of thought is good. Sacrifice is necessary. It keeps our souls in good working order and keeps us centered and focused on why we honor Lent. Granted, sacrifice means different things to different people but we all have something that means a great deal to us and giving it up shows that we acknowledge Our Lords sacrifice and the importance of it for our souls. I also think extra prayers and Masses are always a good thing and doing it for 40 days may just make it become a habit the rest of the year. Finally.....service. Service is an important act year round whether it is giving of your time, your prayers or your money...... but offering it up during Lent makes it especially good for us mentally, spiritually and physically, not to mention how it helps those in need of these services. 

So do I have a preference between sacrifice and service? Yes and No! I think during Lent both should be done. There is a place for both but one should not be done to replace the other. In other words, sacrifice and service should both be key words and acts in our lives during Lent and a reminder that in our goal to be more Christ-like....He was both a man of sacrifice and service! your thoughts. Sacrifice? Service? Or BOTH?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

500th Post and the Wichita Fellowship Club

Today is a big day in Lisa”blog”land. Today is my 500th blog on From Beginning to End and Back Again. WOW! To celebrate this day I wanted to make my blog extra special, so here it goes…….

I know I have talked about my late husband Tim, many times. He was an amazing man who in his last years, changed a lot of people’s lives for the better. What many don’t know about Tim is that he was a recovering alcoholic. I can say this without hurting anonymity because he has passed and because he was very open about his alcoholism and his Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) affiliation. In fact….July 10, 1991 was his sobriety birth-date and it was almost more important to him than his real birth-date. Tim became sober by the grace of God and with the help of AA. From that point on he did all in his power to help others in the way that he had been helped. Sometimes this meant him getting a phone call in the middle of the night and him going to keep someone from taking that first/ last drink. Other times it meant people sleeping on our couch so that they had a place to dry out.

Sobriety is an amazing gift, but the battle to quit drinking is never an easy one. Usually it means that the alcoholic has lost family, friends, jobs and sometimes even their home because they thought they were stronger than the alcohol and that they were in control.  When they realize they are not, that the alcohol is, that is when the real work starts. That is when they have to hand everything over to their Higher Power and start taking the 12 steps down the long road to recovery. It can be a treacherous path filled with setbacks and start overs time and time again. Often because of their alcoholic behaviors and attitudes, they have alienated everyone in their lives and now their support system is a bunch of drunks in various stages of sobriety fighting the same daily battles that they themselves are.

As if doing this weren't hard enough on its own, doing it homeless, which many alcoholics find themselves….makes it just that much more difficult. I saw this time and again when I was welcomed into “open” AA meetings with Tim. I saw the day to day struggle these individuals battled and I saw how much harder that struggle was when they had no place to go at night and no body outside those meetings to support them. Thus our always available couch and Tim’s late night runs.

Being married to an alcoholic taught me many things and gave me a view of a world that I never even knew existed. You learn quickly that every recovering alcoholic is just one drink away from being a practicing alcoholic and they are fully aware that the next drink maybe their last completely sober moment. It is because of all of this that I have a special place in my heart for recovery and those who fight daily to make sobriety a part of their life.

So last week I talked about an opportunity that had been presented to me that I was very excited about. That opportunity is to work with a place called the Wichita Fellowship Club. As many meetings as I have been to over the years….this was one place I never even knew existed. I was asked by a friend who I have worked with in the past to help put on a fundraiser for WFC. I liked the idea of doing a fundraiser as it was a way for me to give back, but I had no idea really what we were fundraising for or how close I would feel to this project.

The WFC is located off of Broadway and 18th in Wichita. It is a huge sprawling turn of the 20th Century old home. Walking in you could literally feel the history absorb you. This home was the brainchild of Jim James. James a WWII vet and recovering alcoholic himself who had lost everything to his own addiction knew the other side of addiction and he wanted others to find that too. He also knew, just like Tim did, that it often takes a drunk to help a drunk. James began having AA meetings and inviting both men and women who were looking for a way out of the darkness that is alcoholism. Eventually WFC was formed and James had at one time, four houses in the same area which were all half way houses helping those who were fighting alcoholism to get on their feet and stay sober. Today, only the one house remains which houses up to 45 people. Originally it was just for men but in more recent times women also have found a place at WFC. Along with WFC there is also the Jim James Memorial 101 Club which is out by Valley Center. This was James dream to have a place that was alcohol free where an alcoholic and their family could go and have fun. It provides camping space, swimming pools, horseshoe pits, soft ball tournaments and many other outside activities along with a building where dinners and dances are held. WFC also runs a Bingo game there which helps to support the club.

Currently the home houses 40 people and with the addition of women, there are also children that end up residing there from time to time. The WFC only employs one full time employee to oversee everything that goes on and take care of the needs of all that reside in there. There is also a part time bookkeeper as well as a couple of part time cooks. All others who work there and help out are strictly volunteers. It was also pointed out that WFC is not AA, although it does provide a space for AA meetings. What WFC is, is a service organization for recovery and an independent 501-c-3. It is basically in the same line as a hospital ward for recovery. Unfortunately, WFC seems to be one of the best kept secrets in Wichita outside of those who are well acquainted with alcoholism and recovery.

The need at WFC is great and I am both happy and proud to say that I will be helping with the fundraiser to help support this home. However the date of the fundraiser is looking to be 2015 and that does not help WFC right now. While there I could see obvious financial need such as the structure of the building itself and I can only assume that heating such a house in the winter is not cheap. There is also a need for bedding, linens, toiletries and clothes and shoes of all sizes. A few children’s and baby things seem to be becoming a necessity too. Most of these people come to WFC with little more than the clothes on their back and WFC tries to give them everything they need to help them from food, to a warm bed and clothes so that they can work and become an integral part of society again.

One need stipulated which really touched me, was the need for a shed that can be locked. This would house bicycles as this is the main form of transportation for the members. Sadly, those that have bikes get them stolen on a regular basis which limits their ability to get and hold a job. Imagine stealing from those who have nothing!

Okay….here is the ask. If you have extra clothes…all sizes and all kinds (gently used and decent enough to wear to a job or job interview), shoes of all sizes, a few kids clothes/shoes, diaper bags, diapers, wipes, toiletries (shaving cream, razors, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc), sheets (single bed size), towels and wash cloths….they are needed at WFC. If you would be interested in donating, then either call the WFC at 316-265-9348 or contact me and I will get your stuff to them. If you have a shed you are looking to get rid of or you would like a volunteer job of building one….again contact us. Finally, cash donations are always welcome too and the money will go towards maintenance and up keep of the house along with taking care of the needs of those who live there.

This will not be my last time talking about WFC and I know that if Tim were still here he would be a huge supporter. So please, if you are looking for a way to volunteer, donate or simply pay it forward, consider the WFC and donate to the future of others. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Good, The Bad and the Moving Forward

So today is about the good, the bad and moving forward. Since I always like to get the negative out of the way first I will start with the bad. A few days ago I mentioned either here or over on the Incredible Mr David, that I had an anxiety attack on Monday night after David got home. I had never had such a thing before but since I was able to talk myself off the proverbial ledge and calm myself down, I figured that is what it was. The funny thing though is that I really haven't considered myself "overly" stressed, so I just didn't think much about it. I figured I was more tired than anything and just needed a good nights sleep.

Jump ahead to Wednesday. I met a friend to talk over a possible project. Immediately after leaving her, I was driving in Wichita and I suddenly felt a wave of heat start at my toes and climb my body. As it hit my face I also began to feel nausea. NO it was not a hot flash. I have been dealing with those for years and I know this was not one. Then I started feeling my chest tighten up and it felt as if I couldn't catch my breath. I was actually almost hyperventilating and everything felt tight and a bit painful in my body. It really kind of scared me.....ALOT! Of course my fear only exasperated the situation and made me feel worse. I felt inside like I was just having another anxiety attack, but there was that little voice saying, "But what if it is more? What if you are having a heart attack?" Mind you I was driving while all of this was happening. Luckily I was just a minute or two away from the ER and I broke all land speed records getting there.

Blessedly as I walked in, drenched in sweat and apparently looking horrible.........there was NO ONE in the ER. I could have cried with joy. When I told them  what was going on, they had a wheel chair under me and were rushing me back immediately. As I lay down on those oh so comfortable ER beds, I could feel my body cooling off and the nausea beginning to go away. My heart rate was high (130) and my blood pressure was (160/100), so I immediately became a heart patient with wires being strapped to my chest and a thousand questions coming my way. I forced myself to breathe deeply and focus on the questions and as I did, both my heart rate and my blood pressure started dropping. Soon the tightness was gone as well as the all over pain.

After 5 hours, them taking half of my weight in blood, several EKG's and having to wait to hear test results around the critical patients that were arriving, my heart rate was (85) and my blood pressure was (120/70), the doctor came back to talk to me. Basically I was told that I was suffering from extreme stress and anxiety. The cure? Don't stress and relax more! As he said this, I felt my heart rate jump as I wanted to reach over and strangle the stupidity right out of him. After all that I had told him, he tells me to relax more. I will get right on that......between hospital visits, broken appendages, fights with social security and insurance, trying to fix my finances and getting Z graduated. I assured him though that I would do my best. And although he really doesn't believe it is my heart.....I promised to see a cardiologist in the near future. It will have to wait until Spring Break though.

So that was the bad. As bad goes....not the worst but still, anything that causes me to go within a thousand feet of that stupid hospital is never a good thing. onto the good. 

I am not going to give a lot of details here just yet about my "good." Instead I am going to touch on the experience, but trust me....soon you will hear details. A bit cryptic....right? So the other day, I got a call from my old boss from a few years back. She asked me if I would like to help her plan an event for a non-profit. It would actually be a fund raiser and she wanted me to meet her and the person who ran the place so that we could get some ideas. Of course when you are working with non-profits, 75% of everything is volunteer work and that is what I would be doing....volunteering my time and services, but the idea really appealed to me. First off.....what an amazing way to pay things forward. Second.....I really need the distraction. I need something that doesn't involve waiting for our next ER trip or hospital stay!

We met Wednesday evening (before the anxiety attack) at the non-profit. It was a place I had no idea existed and when I was told of its purpose, longevity and the work it does.....I was in love with the idea of being involved. As we began to outline and plan I could feel my mind come alive with ideas and possibilities. Before I knew it.....those ideas were leaving my brain and racing out my mouth. My old boss just smiled. I have a feeling she knew this is what would happen and maybe that is why she called me. For the first time in months, I was really excited about something. 

I have planned events before on both a large and small scale. The big one that I did was something that stretched me and tested my abilities. I did not disappoint either myself or the non-profit that I planned for. I loved every second that I worked on it and I could feel all of that coming back as we talked about this new venture. Next to my passion for writing.....event planning has to come a close second. I was over the moon and the planning ideas have been filling my head ever since. In fact, as I lay in the ER that night, that is all I could think of. I am on a mission. As I said, you will be hearing much more about this in the weeks and months to come!!!!

So there you have it. The good and the bad. Now I am moving forward. The bad was a wake up call that I am internalizing everything and holding on to my stress and anxiety. The fact that I really didn't know how stressed I was is likely why it hit me so fiercely. I also realized yesterday that I had not been eating much either. I made myself eat actual meals yesterday and I could literally feel my body feeling better. Now if I can just find time to go to the gym I can take any residual frustration and anxiety out on a the elliptical. Finding the time to get there maybe tricky though.  I think I just need an elliptical in my living room! As for the good, I am excited. It is a new adventure that will allow me to use skills I know I actually have and other than the occasional meeting....I can do a great deal of the planning right from my home. The opportunity to help others and give back is beyond amazing to me and for such a wonderful cause....well that is just icing on the cake.

I guess food, exercise and a new project are just what the doctor ordered. The highs and lows of Wednesday made me realize that these first three months of 2014 were nothing but more speed bumps. Soon they will be behind me and there will be nothing but straight road, clear skies and I am moving forward......full speed ahead!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tattoo's, Sin and all that Jazz

The other day I was going through my email. I still get blog email and some I was a bit behind on reading. As I was going though it I found this from a person who both reads my blog and follows me on Pinterest. Here is what this person had to say:

"I am interested in how you feel about tattoos and how they are with your religion. You seem very religious and you also said you have a tattoo. Isn't that religiously wrong? Aren't you defiling your body by getting tattoo's? How do you call yourself religious and still defile the body that G-d gave you? Isn't getting a tattoo almost sinful? I am not judging you I am just wondering how you feel about all of this."

There was a little more to the email, apparently this person also is a follower on Pinterest and pointed out that I have a board entitled Pretty Girls Have Tattoo's and they felt that I was promoting tattoos to others. So here is my answer and my feelings on tattoos.

When I was young, just about the only people with tattoo's were Popeye or guys in the military. It is safe to say that in the 60's, 70's and 80's, tattoos were mostly gotten by males and tattoo parlors were few and far between usually located in the seedier parts of cities. Most small towns didn't have tattoo parlors and tattoos as a whole were only socially acceptable if you a soldier or a vet. The average person on the street had little desire to get a tattoo and you definitely couldn't have gotten a teenage girl to even think about such a thing.

Swing ahead a few decades and the world is a very different place. Piercings and tattoos have gone from being edgy to being main stream and everyone from the most pristine high school girl to your grandparents seems to be sporting at least one or both. I personally have both. I have multiple ear piercings and two tattoos. So what changed? I have no idea. Perhaps it was a mixture of fad, societal norms and a need to express ones self openly and kind of in your face!

You seem to feel that I am very religious. If by very religious you mean that I pray and go to church and try to be a good person, then I guess I am. However I just think of myself as trying to be a good Christian. Are tattoo's religiously wrong? I don't believe that it says anywhere in the Bible that they are. In fact through the centuries Christians, Jews and other religious factions have both pierced themselves (usually ears) and painted and tattooed their bodies....sometimes with very religious connotations and themes.

When it comes to the murky waters of sin and I say this because if it is not lined out in the Ten Commandments then people start to put their own interpretation of sin into play, I really don't see tattooing as sinful. At least I don't see it as anymore sinful than elective plastic surgery or even putting on make-up, both of which change or distort the appearance of the body God gave you and I believe that is where you seem to think the sinning comes in. If we are calling any change in our bodies from the way God gave them to us sinful,  then everything from coloring your hair to shaving your legs would be sinful. Again it goes back to the murkiness of sin. Someone once told me that if "you" think something is a sin, then for you it probably is.

I have always been a bit of an oxymoron. No not just a moron but an oxy-moron. I am probably one of the most conservative girls you will ever meet and yet I have always had an edgier side. I dated and even married bad boys, had multiple ear piercings, listened to metal before it was cool and somehow still managed to go to church, pray and be a reasonably good person. I drove my mother crazy. Had tattooing been an acceptable form of expression back in the day, then I would likely have had tattoos much sooner in life. This rebel streak has followed me through life and even at my age now, I still find the uncontrollable urge at times to walk the edgy line. Some might even be surprised to know that I would not rule out a nose piercing (the little kind not the bar through my septum kind) if the mood struck me. Yeah....that's just how I roll.

When I got my first tattoo a few years ago, it was something I had wanted to do for a very long time. Edgy Lisa took over when I got invited to a tattoo party and the rest is history. My tattoo is a little pig on my foot. While most wonder what the heck, to me it is meaningful. Anyone who truly knows me, knows that pigs are something I love. I have collected them for years and this little piggie will still mean something to me when I am 90! From the moment I got him, I have wanted more but I have waited because if I put one on me and it is going to be with me forever (literally) then it must be meaningful. I think most people feel this way and that is why many tattoos are religious or spiritual in nature because they make the person feel closer to God.

I recently got my second tattoo on my calf. It is in honor of my mother and my daughter, both named Mary and both of whom I have lost. It is a very special tattoo to me symbolizing what I had and what I miss. I wear it proudly. There will be more I am sure because there is something (to me) amazing about getting a tattoo. There is pain involved but after it is done, there is something beautiful, meaningful and lasting left behind. Perhaps it gets in touch with my creative spirit or maybe it is just a way for me to make my hidden emotions visible to the world. Either way I am very proud of my tattoos and I don't feel the least bit sinful in getting them.

You say you don't judge, but I feel you do. Perhaps the next time you see someone with tattoos, rather than judge them as sinful, really look at their tats. I would imagine that what you will be seeing is something that is deeply personal and perhaps even spiritual to them. As my mom used to say, "Never judge a book by its cover because you might miss out on some fascinating reading." 

So there you have it. My thoughts on tattoo's, sin and all that jazz!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Days

For Christians, three days of the year are the most important of all days. The first is Christmas celebrating  the birth of Jesus, the second is Good Friday in remembrance of Jesus suffering and ultimate death on the cross and finally, there is Easter Sunday, in which we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead and taking his place in heaven. These days are the very roots of our Christian faith as we celebrate and honor the life of Jesus Christ.

In the Catholic faith, the 40 days before Easter...starting on Ash Wednesday called Lent are also very important. It is a time that we reflect and sacrifice in honor of Jesus's ridicule and suffering before He died for our sins and rose from the dead to be with His Father in heaven. Catholics are not the only Christian faith to adhere to Lenten practices many of the Anglican churches have done it for centuries but it has only been in more modern times that a few of the Protestant faiths have also begun to honor the 40 days.

Lent starts as I said, on a Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) 40 days before Easter. In the Catholic faith Ash Wednesday is traditionally honored by attending Mass and getting the blessing of the ashes. The ashes symbolize penance, mortality and mourning from the Old Testament and in essence Lent is a mourning period in reverse. We know what happened after these 40 days over 2000 years ago. We mourn it in advance of the celebration of His resurrection. And yes....that explains the black crosses on peoples foreheads today.

As a kid I knew the basics of what Lent was about after all, look who my mother was....and I did spend a few years in Catholic school, however it was not until I was much older that I understood the full meaning of Lent. Back then Lent was marked by ashes, giving things up, abstaining from meat on Fridays and strict adherence to nightly family rosaries. It was something I never questioned doing but I never really had a full grasp of at the time.

It was not until much later in life when I finally quit rebelling against everything, realized that as a matter of fact I did NOT know everything and I shut my mouth and started listening, that Lent became both very real and very special for me. When the reality of Christs dying and being resurrected became more than just a biblical story to me was when I became the mother of a son. To have a son, love a son and have to watch that son suffer and die for people who persecuted Him and ultimately killed Him must have been excruciating for His mother. Her grief must have been beyond measure. It was then I began to understand the sacrifice God the Father, Mary and Jesus all gave so that my sins and the sins of all men could be forgiven. Then I started looking around at the world and realized how little respect that myself and others seemed to have for this, the greatest act of love and compassion the world had ever seen. That was my moment of clarity as to why we fast, why we abstain and why we use those 40 days to reflect on this miracle and the worthiness of our lives for this miracle.

Lent in its most basic form is not difficult. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we both fast and abstain, meaning that we eat two small meals and one bigger meal and nothing in between. We also forgo any red meat or chicken. Fish is okay. During the rest of Lent, we abstain on Friday's meaning red meat or chicken. Catholics are also expected to receive the sacraments (penance and communion) during this time and if you go into a Catholic church during Lent, you will find that the crucifix that hangs above the altar along with any statues are covered in a purple veil. This reminds us that this a solemn time of mourning and preparation honoring the passion of Christ and His death.

If one questions why we fast and abstain during this time, the answer is quite easy. We are sacrificing in a small way for Jesus as He sacrificed for us. It also is a reminder of what was given to us body and soul in the last days and hour of His life culminating into His final breath. It is also encouraged during this time to take our sacrificing a bit further and to give up or change things during these 40 days and while making these sacrifices....meditating on the precious gift of eternal life given to us all those years ago.

Around this time of year and usually the week prior to Ash Wednesday, you will start hearing people talk about "what" they will be giving up or should be giving up for Lent. Since there are no rules and sacrifice is different to all people.....the possibilities are endless. Growing up the sacrifices were usually pretty much confined to the conveniences of our world. Back then, on of those conveniences was telephone time...which was usually already limited with an entire family sharing one line and one maybe two the sacrifice was not talking on it at all. Another was TV time. Again....we had three basic channels and a PBS channel. TV time was usually for kids, right after school and on Saturdays. Yep....we sacrificed our after school Flintstones and our Saturday morning cartoons! The funny thing was back then, there was really no agonizing or questioning what we would give up. We chose what convenience meant the most to us and viola.....we gave it up without question.

In today's world we have so many more conveniences and so many more possibilities for sacrifice and yet it seems that no one wants to give anything up. There are those that do look around and completely purge their lives of convenience during this time. Facebook and social media.....gone! Texting....gone! Half calf mocha whatever.....gone! Diet soda...gone! Okay, maybe that last one was just me, however.....the possibilities are nearly endless. Good rule of thumb.....If it hurts to give it up for 6 weeks, then it is a sacrifice. Lent isn't just about sacrifice though. It is also about change, reflection and prayer. More prayer is always good and Lent is an amazing time to hit your knees and thank God for all the blessings you have.

This year so far has been an emotionally awkward time for me. There have been those who have generously bestowed prayers, kindness and even some financial assistance on my family. Most have asked nothing in return except to pay it forward. What better time to start paying it forward than Lent and paying it forward can mean a thousand different things from dropping change into a Cancer jar to listening to a friend in need. Everyday of our lives we are afforded a way to pay it forward but seldom do we act on it or even recognize all the opportunities. For Lent this year I have decided that my focus will be to pay it forward daily and in each act I will think of the greatest gift ever given to mankind and say a little prayer of thanksgiving for the sacrifice given for us all. It is my hope that at the end of the 40 days, these acts will no longer be just a Lenten thing, but that they will also be a part of who I am for the rest of my life! this is Lent. Still wondering what to do or give up? I am including a few links to some other Lenten ideas and acts.....just in case you still haven't found that perfect act or sacrifice. First is a little blog article I found called 40 Bags in 40 Days. Now I am not sure that this was specifically for Lent but it a great idea and has charity as well as sacrifice written all over it. The next thing is a Lenten Calendar entitled Fast Pray Give. Each day can only be clicked on THAT particular day. You can't click ahead and the day gives a message to think about and meditate on. It is kind of cool actually.

And finally.....from the St. Jude facebook page I will leave you with these words......

Looking for something to give up for Lent?
Give up resentment and become more forgiving.
Give up hatred and return good for evil.
Give up complaining and be more grateful.
Give up pessimism and become more hopeful.
Give up worry and become more trusting.
Give up anger and become more patient.
Give up pettiness and become more noble.
Give up gloom and become more joyful.
Give up doubt and turn to God.

Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Panic Attacks, Politics and Church

So today I cleanse my brain. Of course this means I have absolutely no idea where this blog is headed or what I am going to say, so read on.....we will both be surprised together!

If you follow The Incredible Mr. David, then you will know that we spent yet another weekend in the hospital. As hospital stays go, it was pretty much a walk in the park and yesterday David was released. We got home, unpacked, settled in and then bam.......I had an anxiety attack! I don't have anxiety attacks....but I did last night. It made me feel weak and out of control and the more I thought of how weak and out of control I felt, the worse it got. My mind was racing from one worst case scenario event in my life to another. Intellectually I knew that my mind was just on overload and reacting or should I say "over reacting" to the events of the last couple of months, but until I got myself under control, my brain, my mind and my body seemed to all be racing towards a melt down of nuclear proportions. It was not a fun few minutes.

Once my heart quit racing and I slapped my emotions back into reality, I was fine. I knew though that if I didn't get a handle on this pretty darn quick, then I was opening myself up to more of these horror movie-like attacks. So why the attack? Lets see.... Since New Years Eve, I have been in the hospital with David five times, he has been through two surgeries, been in the PICU twice and had numerous seizures. We have had the flu, pink eye and stomach bugs attacking the house and I have also had the migraine from hell which gave me a trip to the ER too. I have had to plan and replan appointments, situations and life in general a dozen times, found out that Social Security was screwing me (for lack of a better term) which leaves me way short financially every month and I came to the realization that unless I get a job I will likely be a bag lady pushing David around in my grocery cart and living in the alley behind Dollar General. Oh and wait....I'm also unemployable! Yeah....there's some panic attack fuel there.

So...I spent the rest of my evening going over each concern and rationally thinking about it all. What I came up with? Yes, things have been a bit bleak of late, but nothing is forever and no matter how bad the storm....the sun eventually shines....right?! Probably being in the house all the time and feeling like I really don't have control over much right now just adds fuel to the fire too I suppose. So, I continue looking for a job (writing preferably) because that would go a long way in both distracting me and helping to alleviate some of my stress. I refuse to be considered unemployable!!!!

I did get a call from a friend who wants me to help her to do a fund raiser for a non-profit homeless shelter. It is strictly volunteer but something I have had experience with (fund raising.....not being homeless). I figured that this was a good time and place to start paying the generosity of others to me.....forward. It will also be an amazing distraction I hope.

Speaking of distractions, I was asked by someone the other day if I had given up my political "rants." Her word...not mine. She said she hadn't seen a political fb post from me in months. The truth is that I have not given them up at all. I still "rant" profusely and often, just not on my fb page. I have taken my political opinions to a fb group that I co-administrate called Conservababes. It is an extension of an old political message board that I used to be a member of. The original Cbabes is now defunct but the fb Conservababes is alive and well. It is a closed group but anyone can join. And of course....I still post my opinions political and otherwise here on my blog when I feel the need! The fact is, as frustrating as politics are, for me to rant speak my mind is extremely cathartic and actually helps me to vent and clear my brain out a bit. It is like punching a cyber pillow. I am however trying my best to keep blatant partisan politics off my fb page simply because I want my wall to be about my world, my family and my life and not just my politics.

Finally....tomorrow begins Lent with Ash Wednesday. I am ashamed to say that it has literally been before Davids surgery since I have been to church. It seems that my weekends have either been filled with hospital visits or sickness and church has been unattainable. I know that is part of my issue. I feel a lot more solid when I am going to church. Yes, I pray daily, sometimes hourly....but there is a connection with God that I miss when I don't go to Mass. It is personal to me and spiritually fulfilling in a way that nothing else is. I have also been thinking about what I will give up for Lent. I am thinking hospital and ER visits would be a good place to start!

So there you have it. In one short blog I have covered panic attacks, politics and church. WOW! I told you we would both be surprised! Happy Tuesday everyone!