The “Mom Switch”

Natural Bridge

Let me start this by saying, I’m a guy. It is what it is. It’s how God made me. I like manly things. It’s easy for me to be rough. I wrestle with the kids, and win – most of the time. If you come to me with a problem, my instinct is to try to fix it. I’m better at eating than I am at cooking. Cleaning doesn’t come naturally to me, and when my daughter mentions the word “boys” I instinctively reach for my shotgun. I am who I am. It’s how God made me.

Because I’m a guy, there are certain things that seem to come natural to me. For example, I’ve been told that I’m a pretty good Dad. I’m Not bragging. It’s just what I’ve been told. Conversely, there are certain things that do not come natural to me. Like, for example, being a mom. That’s why God gave me a wife – even if just for a little while.

My wife was my perfect match. She was awesome at everything I wasn’t, and if she couldn’t do it then I probably could. This “yin & yang” relationship applied to most everything. Especially parenting. She was a great mom, all the way up to the day she passed. She took her last breath while holding the kids hands.

My wife had an amazing amount of patience with the kids. She loved them, and was able to connect with them on a completely different level than I. Whether it was helping them with homework, comforting them when they got hurt or trying to imagine “the perfect wedding,” she was always there, ready to make them feel special. I, on the other hand, was known by all as “the Drill Sergeant.” You can probably imagine how I got that nickname, and the difference between my wife’s relationship with the children and mine.

I find it amazing how God plans things. He brought my wife and I together for a reason. We were a perfect fit. We went together like peas & carrots. She was the chocolate in my vanilla, the sugar in my coffee. She made everything – better.

Mark 10:6-8 (NIV) states “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

It all makes sense, especially when you get to look at it retrospectively. I have the benefit of having experienced what it’s like when “the two become one flesh.” It just works. There are certain traits that men and women have that the other does not. Women are just naturally more nurturing than men. That’s why when we get hurt, we naturally want Mom. On the other hand, men were built more for battling and protecting. It’s what we’re good at and requires a thicker, less sensitive side. We somehow aren’t bothered when the kids start crying after they fall down. Our natural response is to say something to the effect of “suck it up and drive on”, while Mom bends over to kiss the booboo and “make them feel better” – ugh, gag me please!

So if we are so much better together, then what are we supposed to do when we suddenly find ourselves without our “other half.” Or, in my case, my “better half.”

Study after study has shown that when a person loses the use of one of their senses (vision, hearing, etc.), the other senses become enhanced to pick up where the other can no longer contribute. For example, if someone loses their vision, then typically their hearing becomes enhanced. It’s a body’s natural response to the loss of the other sense.

I would argue that the same applies when we lose our “other half”. When Dad now has to play the part of Mom, or vice versa. It doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes a lot of practice, prayer and patience. But eventually, we develop that sense. The ability to take a step back and ask ourselves “what does the situation need at this moment? A mom? Or a dad?” And in my case, it lets me know when to throw – the “Mom Switch.”

Being a Mom is totally different from being a Dad. It’s not easy as a Dad trying to “play Mom.” For starters, there’s no instruction manual. I looked. There really isn’t one. So the best I could do was try to remember what my wife would have done in circumstances needing a Mom rather than a Dad. In these times, I usually ask myself “what would she have done” and then try to picture her sitting there doing what she did best: being a Mom. Then, I throw the Mom switch and go to work.

There are several circumstances where I find myself playing mom. My kids tell me that after four years of practice, I’ve gotten a lot better at it. I on the other hand, still feel inadequate as a mom, and much more comfortable in my role as a Dad. That being said, I do feel that I’ve won a few victories in my role as “Mr. Mom.”

When my wife was alive, we did a great job of tag teaming when it came to Alexys and the topic of boys. She would sit down and talk about how great it is to be in love and how wonderful the wedding day would be. They would look at wedding dresses and get all gushy and weepy. It was sickening to watch;but as long as they didn’t say anything about me sitting there with a shotgun in my lap, I was okay with it.

So, how do I tackle this situation now as a dad playing mom? Well, I can assure you that I haven’t discussed a wedding day or dress. We haven’t gushed or gotten weepy over anyone who just happened to be “the cutest guy ever!”

What I was able to do was put the shotgun away and force myself to come to the understanding that my little girl won’t be little forever. One day (later rather than sooner) she will find a guy that she wants to “go out” with. When this happens, she’s going to tell someone who will likely give her advice. I wanted that person to be me. So I had to throw the Mom switch, even if only halfway. And that meant making myself available for “boy talk.” We do this often, fortunately. I don’t like to brag about much, but I think most would agree that a daughter talking to her Father about boys is a pretty big win.

Just to be fair, I’m still a dad. I can be quite insensitive at times. Not intentionally of course. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just a little slow to throw the Mom Switch sometimes. That’s all. I mean, the fact that I take pleasure in watching Andrew squirm for a couple seconds before blowing on the scraped up knee I just poured peroxide on doesn’t make me a bad person. Does it?

Okay, all kidding aside. This is a real obstacle. My wife was quite good at recognizing the difference between crocodile tears and real tears. She had a sense about her that would tell her when the kids needed comforting as apposed to a lesson in tough love. It’s this part that I seem to have the hardest time with. When the tears start flowing, I instinctively think, “Really? Why are you crying?” It’s in times like this that I have to take that step back and decide if they need dad? Or a mom? Then decide if it’s time to throw the Mom Switch, or sit back and enjoy the show.

God gave us all kinds of senses. Those senses all have a purpose. They’re all responsible for their own things. So, too, He made men & women, moms and dads,both with their own strengths. Nobody ever said that life was going to be peaches and cream. There’s no expectation of perfection or trouble-free living. It’s life. Things happen. The questions is, what do we do when problems find us? Do we curl up in a fetal position and wallow in self pity? Or throw the Mom switch and get to work?

I choose to throw the Mom Switch and get to work.

God In The Little Things

We’ve all heard the quotes — “our God is a big God” – “There isn’t anything too big for God” – “God can handle this”. Often, it’s during a period in our lives when we are facing what seems to us to be insurmountable odds. An illness. Financial troubles. Divorce. Death. The message is usually delivered in an attempt to make us feel better about the particular problem we are going through.

Let me just say, I love the fact that God is there for me when I face the big problems. But what about the day-to-day things — you know, the little things, those “troubles” that are more of an annoyance than anything else? Are those things too little to bother our big God for”? Shouldn’t we just try to work it out ourselves?

As I was thinking about this, I asked myself what God would say.

Psalm 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV) I don’t know about you, but that one seems pretty self-explanatory. But let’s make it a little more personal. God is MY refuge and MY strength. MINE! So cool! He is an ever-present help. So, I think that means He’s ALWAYS THERE! As in, He never leaves. He’s an ever-present help, in MY trouble. Now, I read that as “trouble”. Not “big trouble”. Just, trouble. Doesn’t matter if it’s big, small or somewhere in the middle. And as cool as that is, it’s not even the best part.

Psalm 55:22 says “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken”. So, not only is He my refuge, strength and ever-present help in time of need. But now He’s commanding me to “cast my cares on the Lord”. Not the big ones. Not the small. But all of them! Is this not the coolest thing? I can take all of my cares, concerns, troubles, worries etc. to God! Does anyone else feel like their life is going to be a lot better from this moment on?

Okay, so by now you’re probably wondering, “Dude, what did you put in your cereal this morning”? Nothing. I had eggs, bacon and pumpkin spice pancakes. But that’s beside the point. I’m excited because I had the opportunity to test this last week.

My beautiful baby girl turned fifteen recently. It’s scary actually, I still remember the day she was born. She was so tiny. It’s hard to believe she’s now a young lady.

Well, we had been planning her day for months now. I would take her to get her drivers permit, and then head over to the church parking lot for some wheel time. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go as planned. It was a crazy, troublesome morning.

The plan was to get up at seven, get ready to go, then take the 50 question exam online so that we could then head over to the DMV to get the permit. Everything went like clockwork, right up to the start of the exam. Alexys had been taking practice exams that “mimicked the actual exam”. Well, they didn’t. Alexys started to get anxious and was stressing a bit. I calmed her down, and at question 46 the exam stopped and told her she had passed. What followed proved to be decidedly inconvenient – a message stating that it would take up to 24 hours for the exam results to post to the state system. And there went our plans for the day’s activities.

Alexys sighed and hung her head. The look on her face said it all. She was disappointed. In an attempt to make her feel better, I said “lets make a call and see if it’s really 24 hours.”

I called the DMV and asked the very pleasant lady who answered the phone “my daughter just finished her 50 question test and we received a message that it would take up to 24 hrs for the results to post. Is this conservative? Or generous?”

She sighed and said “I really wish they would change that. It’s more like 48 hours.”

“Really? What are the chances that it would be uploaded sooner?”

“Sir, you really need to wait till Monday.”

“Hmm. Well. That’s quite inconvenient.”

“I’m sorry sir.”

“It’s not your fault. Thank you, and have a great day.”

I hung up the phone, looked at Alexys and said “lets go get breakfast and revisit this on a full stomach”.

We went to Cracker Barrel, a family favorite for breakfast. We were seated, and we placed our order. It was time to give her the gift I had gotten for her.

When Alexys was born, I bought Christina a Sapphire ring (September birth stone). Recently, I had the Sapphire ring sized for Alexys. I gave it to her not just as a gift, but as a reminder that she should seek God first, in all of her relationships. She was thrilled and couldn’t seem to keep from smiling.

We made small talk while we enjoyed pumpkin spice pancakes until Alexys got quiet. I asked her “what’s wrong?”

“Do you think we, really have to wait till Friday to get my permit?”

“I don’t know Kiddo.”

“Do you think we could try?”

I could tell it was bothering her, so I decided then and there that we would at least try. But I really wanted to stack the odds in our favor. So I looked up to heaven, and started talking to God.

“God, thank you for Alexys. Thank you for allowing us to spend today together. God, you know how long we have been planning this day. You know how excited we are, and You know how important it is to Alexys. God, I ask that if it be your will, please expedite Alexys test results to the front and put them into the state’s system so that she can get her license today. In Your name, Amen.”

I smiled at Alexys and said “we are going to walk in faith all day believing that God will come through for us.”

She smiled and said “okay.”

We had to get a consent form notarized, so we drove to a bank where we spoke with a very friendly banker. We told her what we were doing and she was excited to help. About halfway through the process she looked up from her ledger and asked “are you a member of the bank?”

“No, but I was told I didn’t have to be.

“By who?”

“The teller”.

“Oh, well, they don’t know anything. We aren’t supposed to do this for non-members, but I’m going to go ahead and do this for you anyway.”

She then looked at Alexys, gave her a wink, and continued documenting the information we needed.

We finished at the bank and gathered the rest of the documents we needed for the DMV. Alexys was hungry, so we stopped for a snack before heading to the DMV.

We arrived at the Winter Garden branch around 1:30pm. When we got there we were advised that the line to get a license had already closed due to the number of people that were already there. I asked if she would be able to check any of the other branches for me. She smiled, handed me a slip of paper, and said “No sir, but feel free to check them yourself”.

I smiled, said “thank you”, and we took a seat while I checked with each of the other branches. They were all closed, except for one. Downtown Orlando had a few spots remaining.

I put myself in line from the Winter Garden branch, and then Alexys and I took a nice leisurely drive downtown. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite “leisurely”. But we got there safely, and with time to spare.

We waited about 45 minutes, and then our name was called. We approached the clerk and told her what we were there for. She asked “has Alexys had taken the 50 question test?”

I said “yes.”

“Has she waited 24 hours?”

“No.”

She said “I’m sorry, but it takes at least 24 hours to update the system.”

I smiled and said “the message we received said it would take up to 24 hours, which means it might take less and we wanted to give it a shot.”

She sighed and said “okay”.

She started the process and began asking Alexys questions. Alexys looked at me for a couple of them and I, of course, answered for her. The clerk smiled and said “Sir, since it’s her license, I need her to answer.”

I laughed, looked at Alexys and said, “It’s all you Kiddo”. She laughed and I did my best to remain silent. While the clerk was entering information, Alexys and I chatted about our prayer from earlier and we both agreed that God would come through for us. The clerk smiled and continued entering information.

When it came to the point of checking the system for Alexys’ test results, the clerk looked at us with a smile and said “Okay, here we go.”

We smiled and waited with anticipation. The clerk made a few key strokes and then waited for what seemed like an eternity. Then she gave a bit of a surprised look and said “Oh! They’re there!”

Alexys smiled and said “yay!” as I once again looked to heaven and gave Jesus two thumbs up.

Alexys left the DMV, license in hand. I took the obligatory picture of Alexys with her license. We talked all the way home about when and where she would be able to drive. She’s been driving almost everywhere since then, and loving almost every bit of it.

Okay. Yes. It’s a little thing. In the grand scheme of things, a driver’s permit is not a really big deal. But it doesn’t have to be.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It doesn’t say anything about big or little. He want’s to be in every part of our lives. Is this not cool? Are we not blessed to have a God who loves us this much? In the words of the Pointer Sisters “I’m so excited! And I just can’t hide it! I’m about to lose control and I think I like it!”.

God is great, all the time. All the time, God is great. Big things. Little things. Doesn’t matter. He is great in ALL things. Thank you Lord for all your blessings.

Hindsight

It’s a topic for small gatherings. For fun discussion. Something we talk about when we’re bored. It’s a question we all have probably asked, or been asked at some point in our life. “Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and change one thing or do one thing differently, what would it be?” It’s a pretty deep question actually—one that allows us to think about our past, and the decisions we’ve made, good, or bad (usually bad). It’s kind of fun to think about all the things we could have done–what the possible outcomes would have been, how life would be different now. Of course, then reality hits, we all laugh a bit, and then change the subject. Sound familiar?

I used to think this question was ridiculous. Because I can usually link a pretty valuable lesson that I learned from the decision in question. A lesson that shaped who I am today. But then something happened that changed my opinion. Not totally of course. But I found something that I would change if given the chance. I don’t want to call it a regret, but I would definitely do it differently, if I could.

It was the evening of August 4, 2012. It had been a long day–a very long day. Christina was in bed and there were about eight or ten people in the room chatting with her, including me. At one point, she sat up in bed and said, “I want some ice cream.” Everyone jumped up to get it. I think my mother was closest to the door and ultimately got it for her.

When she came back to the bedroom, she had a full bowl of Chrisina’s favorite–Chocolate/Vanilla twirl. Christina held the bowl and let the ice cream soften a bit. At one point our pastor looked at the ice cream and said “Wow, that ice cream looks really good.” Christina looked up at the pastor, squinted her eyes in a feigned glare and said, “You get your own bowl.” The room erupted in laughter and the slightest grin crept onto Christina’s face. In a time when we were all in agony over the prospect of losing her, she was still able to bring joy to everyone, and lighten the mood a little.

We all talked for a bit more, and then I called it a night. Christina was doing her best to remain strong for everyone that was there. But you could tell her strength was waning.

People were slowly starting to leave, and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. I knew Christina would soon be back to sleep, so I said “good night” to her, kissed her, and let myself succumb to the sleep that so desperately called to me.

That’s it. That’s the moment that, if given the chance, I would change. See, that was the last time I saw Christina awake. That was the last time I kissed her and got a reaction from her. It was the last time I got to converse with her. It was the last time I heard her sweet voice.

When I woke up the next morning, Christina was asleep. Her breathing pattern had changed. She was taking about 5 or 6 breaths a minute. I knew at this moment that she would never wake up again. And she never did. I laid there with her for the remainder of her life. At about 1:20 pm, while she was surrounded by family, wrapped in my arms, and holding each of our children’s hands, Christina took her last breath on this earth.

I tell people that I have no regrets. Christina and I had a lively marriage. We fought like cats and dogs. We disagreed on a lot of things. We hurt each other, said things we shouldn’t have said. We also had wonderful times. We took trips. We moved across the country. We have two beautiful children. We built a house together. But more than any of that, we loved each other unconditionally. No matter what happened, we both knew that we would be there for each other. Leaving never crossed our minds. We were best friends. I miss her dearly. Every day.

So what is it? What would I have done differently on that night? Well, if I had it to do over again, I would have fixed a pot of coffee, and stayed up all night talking with her. Listening to her. Looking at her. Holding her hand. Rubbing her feet. Whatever. Just being with her.

See, even when we are caring for someone who is on the brink of death, we find ourselves getting into a routine. That routine tends to give us blinders to the cold reality of our situation. I went to bed that night fully expecting to see Christina the next day, fully expecting to fix her breakfast, to help her get cleaned up, to give her a hug and a kiss good morning. I expected to have that next day with her. It was the routine.

I wonder how much our daily routine blinds us to the reality of life. How many of us went to bed tonight expecting to see our loved ones in the morning? How many of us leave for work in the morning expecting to see our loved ones when we get home? How many of us say mean and cruel things, expecting to have the chance to say we’re sorry? How many of us will one day say “I wish I had fixed a pot of coffee so that I could just be with her a little while longer”?

The bottom line is that we will all make mistakes. We will all do crazy things. And we’ll all have those times when we wish we could have done something different. It’s life. The question is, “What can I learn from those times to help make my life better”? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking in small gatherings. For fun discussion, or when we’re bored–or when we really want to know. Maybe?

A Scary Moment & A Thank You

Everyone who knows me, knows my motto. Living life “one moment at a time”. I mean, that’s all we really have to live anyway, right? This moment? The one we’re in right now? So let’s focus one the moment. Whether good, bad, so so. Or, in this particular case…..scary.

 So, yesterday I had a pretty scary moment. Now, scary means different things to different people. But I think it’s safe to say that most anyone would have found this situation, scary. It started with a text message from Alexys at 12:20 in the afternoon.
“Can I talk to you? Something is wrong”.
Now, usually when I get these sort of text messages I role my eyes and wonder “what’s she having an issue with now”. She does tend to over exaggerate on occasion. So I replied back to her saying “sure”. After about a minute, I decided to call her instead. She answered, but I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. I thought we had a bad connection. But I’m not totally sure anymore. The call disconnected, and I sent her a text asking if it was something that could be texted. I did not get the reply I was anticipating.
“This is the nurse. She is having what I believe to be an anxiety attack”.
At this point, I started wondering why it was the nurse texting back, and not Alexys. So asked for a phone number, which she provided. I called, and the nurse began filling me in on the situation. Alexys came to her “not feeling well”. But it wasn’t the normal “not feeling well” that Alexys has. The nurse informed me that Alexys was having some blurred vision, a tingly feeling in her arms, she was having a hard time forming a thought, and when she smiled, one side of face didn’t. It was actually a little “droopy”. It was at this time that she told me she wanted to call EMS.
Well, I’m not sure what you’re thinking right now. But I immediately kicked into “First Responder” gear. My mind went back to all of the medical training I had ever received. But things just weren’t computing. I mean, all the signs and symptoms were saying that Alexys was having a stroke. But my logical mind started saying things like “really Steve? Who has a stroke at 13 years old”. It just wasn’t adding up. But I wasn’t taking any chances either. So I told the nurse to go ahead and contact EMS, and I would be on my way.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else. But when an emergency strikes, things go into slow motion. I mean, not like time slows down. But like, I hit EVERY red light. And the only people on the road all of a sudden thought it was Sunday, and started driving accordingly. I won’t lie, I started praying. It went something to the tune of “Lord, please clear the roadways of idiots, slow drivers, and Law Enforcement”. I must have had the same trouble formulating thoughts that Alexys was having, because I’m confident that God heard the complete opposite of what I was praying. And answered accordingly.
I was just around the corner from the school when the nurse called back. She advised that EMS was at the school, and that Alexys had calmed down and her symptoms were starting to go away. EMS was giving a choice of transporting her to the Emergency Room, or allowing me to take her to our Primary Care Physician. I told her that I was almost there, and that I would take Alexys to see her Primary Care Physician.
Once I got to the school, I located Alexys in the school nurses office. She was playing with her fingers like they had fallen asleep and she was trying to wake them up. The nurse let me know that she was doing better, but that she still needed to see her doctor. I asked Alexys how she was feeling, and she tried to tell me, but was still having a hard time formulating her thoughts into sentences. I remember feeling extremely frustrated. I was trying to figure out if this was one of her usual “I don’t feel well” moments, or if there was really something more going on. I remember in that moment, my demeanor was more direct and to the point. Versus concerned, nurturing, and consoling. I wonder now what the nurse must have been thinking about me.
I took Alexys home, and called to schedule an appointment with her pediatrician. I was able to get an appt for 4pm. While I was changing and getting ready to take Alexys to the doctor, she started complaining that she was feeling nauseous, and had a headache. And it continued throughout the entire 40 minute drive to the pediatrician. Once we got to the pediatrician, it got the best of her and she threw up 3 times in the bushes outside the pediatricians office. It was at this time that I was finally able to transition into what I’ve affectionately dubbed “Mom Mode”. I helped her get cleaned up, put my arm around her, told her it would be okay, and then walked her into the pediatricians office.
Now, everything started to move at warp speed. We saw the pediatrician, explained the situation to her, and the symptoms that were displayed. She did a complete work up on Alexys and everything came back normal. However, some of the symptoms that Alexys had displayed earlier were really concerning the pediatrician. She made some phone calls and consulted with a few other physicians, and then ultimately came to the conclusion that Alexys needed to be taken to the Emergency Room. She recommended Arnold Palmer Childrens Hospital, and then called ahead for us so that they would be ready for us when we got there.
As we were on our way to Arnold Palmer, Alexys started asking questions. She wanted to know what had everyone so concerned. I debated briefly as to whether or not I should tell her what I was thinking, but decided that if I didn’t, she wouldn’t stop asking. So I figured I’d be up front and honest. I told her that her symptoms were telling everyone that she may have had a stroke. I explained to her what that meant, and the possible implications. And while she was obviously concerned, and voiced as much. I feel like she processed the information well. Didn’t really freak out. Obviously concerned. But ready to face it head on to see what was going on.
While the fears were real, and concerns were not without merit. It wasn’t the case at all. When we arrived at the hospital, the staff jumped into action. I was extremely impressed with not only their professionalism, but also their level of care and concern for Alexys, and me. It was not something I had ever experienced at a hospital before. Now, I’m not saying hospitals don’t care, but Arnold Palmer took it to a different level. They quickly got her back into the ER and immediately started running the necessary tests to figure out what was wrong. In an effort to make sure the story was accurate, Alexys was asked repeatedly, by different nurses and doctors, to recount the incident and symptoms. I know I heard her repeat it at least 8 times between the Pediatrician and Emergency room. Each time, it was exactly the same. It actually became a joke for us. Each time she was asked to recount it, we looked at each other, smiled, and then I would say “8,972,3,4”. And then everyone would laugh.
The Dr’s and Nurses were Fabulous. The took great care of Alexys, and made sure that she was comfortable with each procedure. And if she got nervous, they took the time to comfort her and answer all of her questions. In the end, all of the tests came back normal. It was determined that Alexys had not suffered a Stroke, but an Ocular Migraine. She was discharged from the hospital in the morning. And we were given instructions to follow up with a Neurologist soon to determine how to prevent/treat future occurrences. We came home, and Alexys promptly went to bed and slept from 2pm till 6:30am the next day. I did pretty much the same, just not as long as Alexys.
It’s often been said, that in our greatest time of need, we will find out who our true friends really are. Well, if that’s truly the case, then this adventure demonstrated that not only do I have a lot of people that truly care for me. But I’m also incredibly blessed. Dozens of “FaceBook Friends” commented and acknowledged posts updating on the situation. My phone was blowing up from all of the texts messages asking about how we were doing. Several people asked if I needed help with Andrew. Fortunately, I had AWESOME family looking after him. One of my new friends text me to say that she was in the area and could stop by to pray with us. And when she didn’t get a response, just came anyway and waited till we were done with the doctor to come in and sit with us. She prayed with us before Alexys went back for her MRI. And then waited with our stuff till we got back from it. Other friends stopped by to bring Alexys a “get well” poster. And then sat with her while I went to get some food for her and I. Our Pastor came by in the morning and prayed with us. And then my dive instructor brought me coffee and breakfast in the morning. Every need was met. And was done by friends/family who just stepped up. They went into action as if it had been practiced. And I can’t even begin to tell you just how comforting it was. I am truly blessed.
So, to end this post, I want to express my most sincere appreciation to all of you that reached out to help me in my time of need. Whether you called, text, emailed, came to the hospital, took care of my son, or just acknowledged my post to let me know you heard me and were thinking of me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is because of people like you, that I am able to continue this difficult journey and still maintain my sanity. Thank you.

Cheerleader

Cheerleader – Noun

:a person who is a member of a group (typically a group of young women) who shout out special songs or chants to encourage the team and entertain the crowd during a game in sports like American football and basketball.

:a person who encourages other people to do or support something.

As with most things I right about, there is typically something that happens that gets me thinking. Something I see, hear, experience. This time, it was a song I heard. I have a friend who is going through their own “season”, and has been posting the “song of the day” on FaceBook. Since I love music, I have enjoyed watching and listening to the songs and videos that he has been posting. A while ago, he posted a song called “Cheerleader”. I hesitated when I saw it, because the picture looked like a bunch of scantily clad women and I thought for sure it was going to be about a bunch of half naked women jumping around. But I know my friend, and I figured there must have been some kind of message, or he wouldn’t have posted it. So I clicked on it. And I’m glad I did.

The first verse of the song goes like this;

“When I need motivation, my one solution is my Queen, cause she stay strong, Yeah Yeah. She is always in my corner, right there when I want her. All these other girls are tempting but I’m empty when you’re gone”

Part of the chorus goes like this;

“Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader, She is always right there when I need her”

Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the artist was talking about his girl, and not making a bunch of sexual references to a group of half naked girls. And as always, I found it quite interesting how it applied to my current situation.

The last couple months have been pretty stressful for me. My new position at work has proved to be a lot more of a challenge than I originally thought it would be. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing. I enjoy a good challenge. The last few months seem to have magnified the challenge.

June has always been a busy month. Not only is it the end of the quarter, but it’s also the end of a year for us. My team seems to have hit a road block, and they’re having a hard time getting past it. Now, this isn’t uncommon. Many new agents get a great start to their career, and then get a little too comfortable. Then they plateau. And they tend to have a hard time getting started again. Some get it going again. And others, well, don’t. Throw all of this into the month of June, and it provides for a very stressful month. Not only have I been trying to help my agents get their businesses moving again. But I also have several new agents that are trying to get started. My biggest challenge has been recruiting. Not the actual recruiting part, but getting the candidates in for the interview. In the month of June, my assistant and I scheduled 40+ interviews, and 9 showed up. By far, the worst month ever. Now, I’m sure it’s an anomaly. As it’s the worst month I’ve had in that respect. But that doesn’t help with the stress. Add to that, home life. Taking care of the kids. Dance schedules etc, etc. Yeah, I’ve definitely been feeling the pressure. And the last two weeks, I’ve been in a bit of a funk as I have really been feeling the loss of Christina. And that song hit the nail on the head with what I was feeling.

It’s like the definition say’s……..cheerleaders encourage the team and entertain the crowd. They encourage other people to do, or support something. It’s that one piece that seems to have been missing for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of encouragement from family and friends. But there’s really no substitute for the support, encouragement, and “cheerleading” from that one special person. That affirmation from the one I chose, and who chose me. That person who could release the stress of the day with just a touch of her hand. Sigh. She had magic hands. I loved her hands. Without it though, the stress builds and builds until it gets almost unbearable.

So what’s a guy to do? Well, I guess it’s at this point that all of my Christian friends would say “Steve, it’s at times like this when you need to lean on the Lord”. “He wouldn’t bring you to it, if He didn’t have a plan to bring you through it”. Yeah, yeah. I know. I get it. And that works to a certain extent. But there’s a certain power in the affirmation from that one special person. And I believe God planned it that way. It’s why he put Eve in the garden with Adam. Genesis 2:18 states “The Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him“. A cheerleader.

Well, my cheerleader isn’t hear anymore. And while I truly believe that the affirmation of my cheerleader is powerful. I also believe that God will carry me through this season. And I will ultimately be better for it. God tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness“. I am grateful for His provision during my time of weakness. I am grateful that I have a heavenly cheerleader, in the absence of my worldly cheerleader. And I’m grateful for all of the friends that He has provided to help me through these tough times. I am truly blessed.

Sympathy vs Pity

I’ve been pondering this one for a little while now. And I’ll admit, I’m still a little flustered with it. But as always, I had to go back to the definitions to try to figure this one out. So let’s start there (and forgive me, I stole parts of this one).

 
Sympathy, [sim-puh-thee], noun
1   harmony or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another
2   the harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions
 
So I guess what it’s saying is that for someone to feel sympathy, or be sympathetic to someone, then they too must understand what the other person is feeling. Whether it be good or bad. But then, I always felt that was more “empathy”. Sooooooo, let’s look at that one;
 
Empathy, [em-puh-thee], noun
1   the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another
2   the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself:
 

Yeah. Not helping. I mean, it does. But doesn’t. I think I get it, sort of. But having a hard time explaining. Because it just confirmed what I was originally thinking. It’s all so flustering. So I decided to ask Google what the difference is. It took me to Dictionary.com for the best explanation that I couldn’t put into words:

“Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally “feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person. Sympathy derives from Latin and Greek words meaning ‘having a fellow feeling’. The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person’s postion and experience all the sensations involved in that position. You feel empathy when you’ve “been there”, and sympathy when you haven’t.”

So I guess what I’ve learned from this little word study is basically a confirmation of what I already knew…..I can feel sympathy for someone, even if I “haven’t been there”. I can still fee a sense of loss, even if I haven’t experienced it. Or even a sense of accomplishment in something, even if I haven’t experienced the same accomplishment. But ignored to empathize with someone, I have to have been in their shoes. Experienced what they’ve experienced. And be able to feel the same feelings with that person. So where then, does Pity fall into this?

Pity, [pit-ee], noun
1   sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy
2   a cause or reason for pity, sorrow, or regret

And this is where it get’s frustrating (worse than “flustering”). I’ve always thought of pity as a negative thing. To “feel sorry” for someone. To….pity them. It just feels negative. But as I write this, I’m finding my thought process change about pity. Reading the definition, it doesn’t sound negative at all. In fact, it reminds me of something else…..compassion.

Compassion, [kuh m-pash-uh n], noun
1   a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering

Yeah. Not much of a difference there. With the exception of the “strong desire to alleviate the suffering”. But again, there is no negative connotations in any of the above definitions. So where then is the line, between feeling sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion, and causing harm by enabling a victim mentality in those we feel sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion on?

For the last few years, I have had a conversation with each of my kids teachers during “meet the teacher” night prior to the beginning of school. I explain to them that the kids Mother had passed away, and they have still been known to have their “moments”. Each time I speak to a teacher, I explain that I am telling them this for the purpose of understanding, NOT as an excuse for an actions that may occur during the school year. I have NEVER allowed my kids (or myself) to use Christina’s death as an excuse for bad behavior, or as a reason for not being the absolute best that we can be. We are NOT victims. We are participants in this wonderful thing called Life. And sometimes in life, bad things happen.

In my own life, I meet a LOT of different people. As I get to know these people, “my story” always seems to find it’s way out. Not because I’m looking for sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion. But because it’s part of me. It’s part of who I am. And while it has aided in shaping who I am today. It doesn’t rule my life. and yet, the knee jerk reaction of everyone who hears it is to say something to the effect of “I’m sorry”, “gasp!!”, “oh no”, or an other variation of an expression of sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion. And (after doing tonights research on this topics) I must admit, I feel bad about my own knee jerk feeling (I try not to let it show)…..I hate it. I’ve learned to take these comments and gestures in stride. Since they only last a moment.

What I don’t tolerate, is a victim mentality. Ironically enough, I personally don’t get it much. But I see it a lot with my kids. Those close to me know how I feel about this. And while they try (they really do), I often see them giving my kids special treatment. Doing things for them (over and above the norm). Or even letting them get away with bad behavior because they “feel bad for them” or because “they’ve been through so much”. And I have to say…….I HATE THIS!!! It does nothing for them except breed a sense of entitlement. A sense that they deserve more because their Mom died. And this does nothing but fuel the victim mentality that is so prevalent in today’s society. It does nothing positive.

I’ve always been told (and have also experienced evidence of the same) that adversity breeds success. Whether in business, or in life. In fact, Jesus tells us the same thing:

Romans 5:1-5 say’s “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured our His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us”

So I will end with this; as you hear me talk about “my story”. Or start to feel sorry for my kids. Stop for a second. And think twice before feeling bad for us. We are not victims. We don’t need to be treated differently than others. We are no different than anyone else. We are all participants in Life. And we have all experienced our own trials and sufferings. Ours is just……different, from yours. Maybe. But NOT worthy of special treatment. Instead, rejoice with us! For we are in the process of being strengthened. We are building perseverance, character, and hope. God is working in our lives. He knows what He is doing. And He’s doing awesome things.

And since it’s now 3 o’clock in the morning, and I have to be up at 5 (but will likely sleep till 6:30/7), I will say……….good night, and God bless. 

Seasoning

I am always amazed at how sometimes, the simplest concept can just blow me away. And when I say “blow me away”, I mean really “wow” me. Make me really think. Not just about it’s profound nature, but also at how simple it is, and yet I still didn’t think of it. Well, one of these moments happened to me last week. I was having a conversation with a recently acquired new friend. We were meeting at a local Panera Bread and getting to know each other a little better. Now, I’ll be honest, I felt as though I was the one in the hot seat. But that’s okay. It gave me a chance to reminisce a little bit about Christina as I related my journey to my new friend. We had such a great time, chatting, getting to know each other, and brainstorming (but that’s for another post).

Okay, so what does that have to do with seasoning? Well, if you know me, then you know that I love to experiment with cooking different things. And when you experiment with cooking, you start learning about which seasonings work better with/than others. Sometimes it works out. Other times…….not so much. But I still LOVE to experiment. Figuring out which seasons work best with others. Which ones work better with different foods. I’ve gotten pretty good with matching seasonings to foods. Although I still sometimes get a little over enthusiastic in their application of the seasonings to those particular foods. If you would like to hear more about my disasters, feel free to ask the kids. They’ll be happy to point out my flaws to anyone who asks……..with, of course, the proper dollar amount. But don’t worry, it’ll be money well spent, going directly to their college education.

Now, contrary to what you might think, I didn’t start this post for the purpose of discussing my cooking inefficiencies. No, it’s much deeper than that. Our discussion turned to a different kind of season. See, just like the weather will go through seasons over the course of a year. We too will go through seasons over the course of our lifetime. Now, I personally prefer Spring and Fall. But that’s me. I know this other guy (I think he’s a little crazy) who absolutely LOVES Winter. (Don’t worry Dad, I won’t tell them it’s you). It’s kind of like cooking. I have a couple of seasons that I like to use more than others. And then there’s some that I have absolutely no use for. I wouldn’t say that your wrong because you DO have a use for it, but it wouldn’t make you right either. Okay, all kidding aside now (I love you Dad!!), there is a point here. During my conversation with my new friend, he gave me a quote that was so incredibly simple, yet so profound. He said “Seasons, season seasons**”. Yes, I had to stop and think about that for a second. But it’s so true!! Just like in cooking, we season our food to add flavor and make it better. What would Spring be, if we didn’t first go through Winter? I can tell you that I probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much if it weren’t for how much I dislike Winter. And so too in life, every season we go through, adds season and flavor to the next.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking……”but Steve, what about all those times you put the wrong seasoning in you food and made it taste bad?”. Yeah, I get it. Not every season in our life is a good one. And if given the chance, we would likely put it back on the shelf. But if we take a moment to think about it, it works. See, just because a season didn’t taste good in one dish, doesn’t mean it won’t taste good in another dish. So in experimenting, we learn were to apply that particular season. We have to be proactive in our approach. The same process applies in life. We may go through some tough seasons. Seasons we would much rather not have gone through. But if we are proactive in our approach to life, we learn where to apply the season so that it makes the next season of our life a little (or a lot) better. But it’s up to us to apply it properly. It may take a lot of trial and error. And we may screw up some other seasons. But like in cooking. If we screw it up one way. We learn from it, and don’t do it that way again. We try a different way. Until we get the desired result.

Jesus said in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. I mention this because, while I REALLY enjoy experimenting, there are still times when I have to consult an expert. Someone that can direct me in the desired direction. Someone who wants to give me hope for my future of cooking (or has pity on my kids). So too in life, we may need to consult an expert to direct us in the desired direction. Someone who wants to give us hope and a future. And I personally, am incredibly grateful to Him for helping me through my seasons, and giving me the direction I need to make each subsequent season, the most flavorful of all of them. Don’t be afraid to let your seasons, season your seasons.

** Quote credit to my new friend Mark Goldstein. Thank you sir!!

Expectations

So tonight, I’m at Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure chaperoning several thousand 8th graders as they enjoy themselves in their 8th grade Gradventure. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. I imagined an absolute mad house of teenagers with a few hundred chaperones pulling their hair out. And then when Alexys informed me that the group I was charged with was made up of four teenagers that didn’t want to be grouped together……..well, yeah. You can probably imagine the nightmare that was playing out in my head. To my surprise (and relief), it’s been nothing like that.

We arrived at Universal Studios around 4:30. Half an hour later than expected (not a bad thing, just different). After going through security, we started discussing which rides the kids wanted to go on first. At this point, it’s an open park and the kids are required to stay with their chaperone (and they hated that). I did my best to remain as invisible as possible. Allowing them to make their own decisions as to what we did next. To their credit, they all got along quite well (for not wanting to be grouped together). We rode a few rides, got some ice cream, and then headed over to the stage area to wait for the coveted hour (7pm) to arrive when they could bid farewell to their awesome chaperone, and spend the rest of the evening wandering around the two parks by themselves. And sure enough, when the clock struck 7, it was like cock roaches when someone turns the lights on. I gave them their final instructions (next meeting time and place…..don’t be late…….be early instead), and they were off. And I was left alone. And all of a sudden, a song started playing through my head………..”🎼 All, buuuy myyyy seeelf, 🎶 Sigh. Time to hit the Chaperone lounge. Get a water, a snack, and chill out in the air conditioning before venturing back out to keep an eye on things and be visible in case one of the kids needed something. As I wander throughout the parks, I’m thinking about how different the night could have turned out, had I let my original expectations dictate my attitude. And being glad I didn’t.
So the time has come for the first check in. So, at 9 o’clock I sent a group text reminding everyone of the 9:30 time hack. And by 9:15, all four of my charges have checked in, and probably didn’t need the reminder text. They’ve been having a great time, and are off to continue their evening of fun and freedom, leaving me once again with my thoughts. Which is why I’m currently typing.
So I’m thinking about my original expectations about the evening. And as I sit here trying to put my thoughts together, I look up and see that I’m sitting in front of a huge green ham. I’m sure there’s a green egg somewhere, but at the moment I don’t see it. And I’m thinking about how that story relates (in part) to where my thoughts are wandering. I’m thinking about how neat this adventure has been. The first two hours went NOTHING like I had expected. Rather than attitudes and grumbling, we had a great time! I had no clue what to think as I waited for them to check in at 9:30. But I promise that I was NOT expecting them all to check in by 9:15. After check in, Alexys spent a little time hanging out with me…..even though she still had a friend with her. And she didn’t appear to be embarrassed that she was sitting with her Dad. In fact, it was almost as if she enjoyed it (I know, enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t be long til she wants nothing to do with me). And then I smiled as she asked if I could hold their bags while they went on a couple of rides (aaaaahhhhh, the alterior motive presents itself). I said okay and watched as they skipped away to find a ride.
So, expectations is the thought of the night. And how they impact the way we think and act on a regular basis. I wonder how often we allow an expectation to ruin what would otherwise have been a fun evening/event/opportunity? Or maybe in a relationship? Do we allow an expectation to start or prolong an argument? Naturally, I think this has happened to all of us. And if we take a minute to think about it, identify a situation where we allowed an expectation to negatively impact what we are doing. And I’m sure we could also justify our own actions or reactions based on those expectations. But what if we took a moment to step outside of ourselves, and think about whether or not the failure to meet the afformentioned expectation was really a bad or wrong thing. Or was it just different from our expectation? Maybe it didn’t meet the expectation, but was that really a bad thing? Worth causing a problem or argument? Let’s take tonight as an example……..
I’m a pretty positive person. I like to try to make the best of things. But I’m also human. I’ve also been accused of being a bit of a Drill Sgt with my kids, and those that I’m put in charge of (for field trips or outings). So when Alexys talked me into chaperoning for this particular adventure, my initial thought went to having a list of rules and instructions that the kids would have to memorize and recite back to me before leaving for the park. Buddy system for bathroom breaks. No more than 5 feet away from me at all times. Don’t listen? “Front leaning rest buddy! And give me 20!”. Yup. Totally prepared for this. Then Alexys says “Dad, you know we aren’t going to stay with you the whole time, right?”. Really?! No problem. We’re not going. Problem solved (sort of). After calming her down, I settled on a compromise and began ordering GPS tags off of Amazon so that I could know their location in the park at all times. Get too close to an exit? I’m on your heals dragging you back in. Then I go to the chaperone meeting and find out that the groups are anywhere from 2 – 8 kids per chaperone. WHAT?! How stupid is that? Why would you give one chaperon 2 kids and another 8? That makes no sense at all!! Even it out!! So now I’m wondering how many I’m going to have. And why didn’t they have that information for the meeting? Yes, I know it was a strategic move. Because all the parents assigned 8 would quit. So I go home and ask Alexys how many are in our group. “I don’t know Dad. I should find out tomorrow”. So naturally, when “tomorrow” comes, I ask. And find out that I have four total (including Alexys). But theres a kicker. None of the kids “like each other” and don’t want to be in the same group together. Yeah. This just keeps getting better and better (how long do I have to do this?). Okay, so I’m back in Drill Sgt mode. Preparing my “suck it up and drive on speach”, ready to present prior to boarding the buss. “Okay, I know you all don’t like each other. And none of you want to be together. And I certainly don’t want to be with a bunch of whiners either. But this is the hand we were dealt. So we all need to deal with it”. Yeah, you can imagine how that would have gone over. And the tone it would have set for the rest of the evening. Instead, I just let the evening play out, and see where it goes. And as I mentioned before, I’ve been pleasently surprised. But it could have been a lot different.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that expectations are a bad thing. I think they are really good things actually. They can also motivate someone to action. And that can be a GREAT thing. For example…….prior to allowing the kids to run free, I let them know what my expectations for check in at 9:30 was. I expected to have them all check in as close to 9:30 as possible. The head chaperone expected me to have a report back to her by 9:50. But they also knew the consequences for their decisions. Check in early, and your off to spend the rest of the night with their friends. Check in late, and they’ll be spending some time with me until they can convince me that I can trust them to make the next check in. Don’t check in at all? I have your picture. The entire security staff will be looking for you. And we will find you. And then you get to be my special friend for the rest of the night. Of course, I’m confident that knowing my expectations is why they all had checked in by 9:15. 😉
Okay, so what’s my point? I guess my point is that if we can take a step back and evaluate our situation, and our expectations, before we initiate action, then maybe (just maybe) things turn out better than we expected. Maybe we don’t get upset so easy. Maybe we get a pleasent surprise. Or maybe you sit here and think “hmmmm, I expected something more and just waisted how many minutes of my life reading the ramblings of some guy that thinks too much”. And if that’s what you’re thinking, no worries. Just remember that while you waisted a couple minutes of you life to read it, it took me about 2 hours to write. And with that, I’m expecting my kids to check in soon. So I’m going to head to the next meeting location.

&%$#!!!!!!!

Well, I was going to title this entry something to the effect of “Lonely”, or “Lonesome”, or something else to that effect. But the more I tried to piece it together in my head, the more pissed off I got. Then I looked up the word, and it just doesn’t quite capture what I’m feeling at the moment. See, the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “Lonely” as:

: sad from being apart from other people
: causing sad feelings that come from being apart from other people
: not visited by or traveled on by many people

Dictionary.com got a little closer with it’s definition:

: affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome
: destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, intercourse, support, etc

The reality is, with few exceptions, by the definition, I’m not lonely. I have many friends. Family. A very large support network that keeps me surrounded with people. People that love me and care about me, and want the best for me. So, by definition, I’m not lonely. So what is it then? What is this feeling I have that I just can’t seem to shake. So I thought “Troubled”? Why not check that one out also. Here’s what Dictionary.com has to say about “Troubled”:

: to disturb the mental calm and contentment of; worry; distress; agitate.

Hmmmmmm. “disturb the mental calm”. Yeah, that pretty much hits the nail on the head for how I’m feeling. But only because I can’t put a finger on the real feeling. Is it “sad”? Hmmmmm. What’s the Dictionary have to say about that one:

: affected by unhappiness or grief; sorrowful or mournful

Wait!!! There’s that word. You know, the one that’s haunted me for years. The one that everyone tells me will crush me one day. Bring me to my knees, unable to function. You know the one……”Grief”.

: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret

Okay, well I can’t say that I have any regrets. But what is this word “keen”? And how does it apply to this definition? Keen:

: finely sharpened, as an edge; so shaped as to cut or pierce substances readily

It’s interesting really. I had never actually looked at the definition of Grief until I started writing this. But wow. “Keen mental suffering or distress”. Yeah, I think I can relate to that. But I think I would describe it a little differently. See, “mental suffering” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what this is like. It’s tricky. It plays games with you. Just when you think you’ve got it licked, it jumps up and stabs you again. Sometimes it’s a flesh wound, and you’re able to continue the battle. And other times it’s a near mortal wound requiring help. Sometimes your able to shake it off. And other times it leaves you curled up in a fetal position praying for the pain to go away. It’s not really anything that can be put into words. It has to be experienced, to be known. But one can always try, right? So let me see if I can do it. “Grief”:

: waking up in the morning…………alone
: standing in Church on Easter Sunday, watching as everyone around me is holding hands, have their arms around each other, heads leaning on shoulders, and realizing that you’re the only one who doesn’t have anyone
: leaving the office and wanting to call that one person to tell her about your day, and hear about hers, but not being able to
: searching the house for something that might possibly have her voice recorded on it so that you can hear her one more time.
: walking in the front door, and not getting a hug and kiss from her
: making dinner for 3
: seeing a family picture with 3, instead of 4
: seeing a family picture with 4, instead of 3
: hearing my kids tell me how much they miss Mommy
: watching a movie alone on the couch
: staying up till 12/1/2 o’clock in the morning, knowing you have to be up at 5/6 in the morning, but dreading the thought of going to bed alone……….again
: staying up late, and not hearing her call me to bed
: going to company meetings……….alone
: going anywhere……..alone
: wanting to feel the touch of her hand, the kiss from her lips, her gentle embrace, her head on my shoulder, her feet touching mine under the sheets, her head on my chest, my head on her lap, her hand in mine, my hand in hers, cuddling on the couch, cuddling in bed, sex (yeah, I said it)
: longing for the smell of her hair, her perfume
: not hearing the excitement in her voice when I call to say “I’m on my way home”
: not seeing the excitement in her eyes when I finally get home
: that first kiss in the morning, and the last kiss at night
: realizing just how much she did………and how much I haven’t done………and how much still needs to be done……..and how much time I DON’T have to do it.

I could go on. But I digress. Because even I can’t really put it into words. Because that’s MY grief. That’s MY “keen mental suffering”. This is my hell. And I wish I could tell you there’s a happy ending to this one. But the bottom line is, this sucks. There’s no way else to describe it. I miss my soul mate. My bride. The Mother of my children. The yin to my yang. My better half. My muse. My wife. My best friend. I feel like I’ve lost part of my life. And it SUCKS!!!!! And I just want her back.
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. Okay. My temper tantrum is over. I just needed to vent. I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I love you all. And I’ll be okay. This just REALLY SUCKS sometimes.

The Ripple Effect – Part 1

So this week has been pretty taxing on me. Andrew has been in rare form, and really testing the boundaries of my sanity. It all started this past Sunday night when he announced that he didn’t want to go to school because he didn’t like it. Okay, nothing new or surprising there. However, he then proceeded to demonstrate how much he doesn’t like it over the course of the week. Trust me when I say that it hasn’t gone well. And it all blew up tonight and resulted in restrictions being implemented. A strong lecture. And the proverbial “shortening of the leash”. And no, he wasn’t happy about any of it.

After everything was said and done, I got the kids situated at their grandparents house and then went back home to prep for my Mens Bible Study. I love these times with my brothers in Christ. And I always feel great after our meetings. And tonight was no different. Except I did have some pretty incredible “ah ha moments” tonight. Let me explain………..

We were discussing our Bible Study topic “Stepping Up”. Tonights lesson was focused on determining at what point a boy becomes a man. I know, deep topic. Anyway, one of the men referenced a stone being dropped into a lake, and the ripple it caused that kept expanding outwards (can’t say what this had to do with the topic, but it hit me pretty good). The course of the conversation ultimately went down the road of “actions & consequences” (see “The Ripple Effect – Part 2). But I immediately thought about Andrew and how he has been pushing his limits and really testing my patience. And as I visualized that ripple moving outwards, I found myself stepping back a dimension or two and wondering if this frustration I felt towards Andrew, is how God feels towards me sometimes.

See, I keep telling Andrew the same thing over and over again. Wondering when he’s going to get it!! It’s so frustrating to watch him struggle with his decisions, and know that if he would just do what I tell him to do, everything would work out alright. And as our conversation continued I found myself wondering, “am I that different from Andrew in Gods eyes?”. How often does God sit there, look at me and say “if you would just do it the way I told you to, we wouldn’t be having this conversation”. This, of course, made me start thinking about my own spiritual age. Am I still a child when it comes to my faith? Drinking from a bottle? Or have I matured in my faith? Worked my way to a better understanding of who God is and what he want’s for me? I regret to say that I am not quite sure. I’d like to say that I am mature in my faith. But the cold reality is, I don’t always feel that way. And if I’m “still a boy” in my faith, when do I “become a man”?

Food for thought. I got no answers on this one. Except to say “thank you God, for your grace, and your forgiveness”.