statue of lib

Raise your hand if you remember watching Roots. Or Selma. Or Straight Out Of Compton.

Keep your hand raised if you are a white person who felt some shame and even a little bit of guilt as you left the theater for what racist white people did in those films.

Yeah, me too.

I wanted to pull a Jerry Maguire and run around hugging everyone while announcing “I love black people!” Just to make sure nobody thought any of those bigots in the movie represented me.

I get the feeling that the Muslim taxi driver who picked us up from the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City probably felt the same way.

The museum is not for the faint of heart. It’s a 3 hour self-guided tour of heartbreak. It features relics of that day. The luggage of one of the hijackers, pieces of airplanes, twisted metal, shoes, eyeglasses, firefighter hats and pictures.

Tons and tons of pictures.

Pictures of average looking people who went to work on an average looking day but then ended up having their picture as part of an exhibit in a museum.

All of the bad guys who caused this tragedy were Muslim extremist. I studied their vacant expressions in the pics of them featured in the museum. It was easy to start allowing ugly thoughts about Muslims to build up inside my mind as I continued through the exhibits. We stood and watched the surveillance footage of the hijackers casually checking out of their hotel on the morning of Sept 11th then heading to the airport with mass murder on their daily agendas.

So callous.

It’s hard for any sane person to fathom their rationale.

Also, I’ll admit that prior to arriving in NYC for the Thanksgiving weekend with my family I had to take a Xanax before boarding the plane. It was just a few days after the Paris attacks. The terrorism risk was raised to high for air travel.

So my pre-anxiety due to current world events coupled with my raw emotions from touring the museum had me slightly on edge.

When we walked out of the museum heading to dinner the cab that my husband hailed just so happened to be driven by a Muslim man. I immediately recognized that to feel anything ill towards this young man, as though he had done anything wrong, was discrimination and unfair to him, but I felt slightly uneasy despite the logic.

I watchfully climbed into his car.

Traffic was a snarled mess and it took us a half hour to go 7 miles. In that time we got to know our cab driver pretty well.

I know it’s not customary to chat up the cabbie, but we are from the south. The initial 45 seconds of silence felt weird and rude and uncomfortable so our southern hospitality overrode the ways of the big city and a conversation ensued.

Because of this I can tell you all about the driver, what he loves and what bothers him, his political views and his thoughts on religion.

I can’t help it. When I get nervous I talk.

He was a young 32 year old who called both Libya and Algeria home. He was married and had a baby girl. He and his wife came to America 22 months ago to pursue their dreams of getting college degrees and making a good life for their daughter. His wife attends college classes until 2pm every day while he stays home with the baby. When she gets home he leaves and drives his cab until midnight to financially support the family. Their plans are for him to go to college after she graduates. He told us he fluently can speak Arabic, Italian, Spanish and English. He said his daughter’s 1st language will be Arabic, but that he wants her to also speak English. He was proud of his Muslim heritage.

I asked, “Do you ever have time to see your wife with that schedule?” He shook his head and said, “No, but it’s the sacrifice we make for the dream.”

To further solidify my American snob status I asked another question and immediately realized how pretentious it sounded. I said to him, “So you must really love it here compared to Libya don’t you?” He immediately responded that he misses home, their food and inexpensive healthcare. He told me I shouldn’t visit Libya right now because “the terrorist are doing crazy things and nobody understands them” but once that’s all over and things return to normal there he suggested I go visit. “It’s a beautiful country.” he said.

In that short conversation he became human.

Not Muslim or Libyan or anything else, but just mutually human.

I can sympathize with him on how it must feel to be Muslim right now in this country while the extremist of his faith are making headlines for the most horrific of reasons. It probably feels similar to how I feel when I see people in this country do inhumane things in the name of Christianity.

News Jesus always seems biased and intolerant. The news Jesus and his followers always look harsh and unlovable and condemning. The Jesus portrayed in the national news is not the same Jesus I know.  The Jesus I follow didn’t turn people away or hate anyone.  He didn’t condone anyone being heartless towards anyone else.

I don’t recognize news Jesus. Most Muslims don’t see any semblance of their faith in the footage they see of ISIS either.

If you read my bio on this website you will notice that I said I was raised by Baptist parents.

Want to know who else is Baptist? Those lunatics at Westboro Baptist Church.

You know the ones I’m talking about. They picket at military funerals and hold signs about God hating homosexuals.

Yep, them. They are Baptist.

I cringe every time they do something hateful. I really wish they didn’t call themselves Baptists and weren’t the ones scoring the PR for the rest of us, but the terrible tragic stories are always what is newsworthy. It’s one of the reasons I no longer associate myself with any religious denomination.

The people who shoot up abortion clinics and promote their ideas with fear under the name of Christianity are similarly minded to the crazy people who fly planes into buildings and promote their ideas with terror under the name of Islam.

Right now the big debate is if or how to allow Syrian refugees to enter our country. I don’t like being political on social media or on my blog because I hate reading about that stuff by others. However, when I hear people talk about a nation of people as though they are dogs and less human than we are because a few of them are heartless, it becomes a human issue, not just a political one.

I understand the concern with keeping the bad out. I fully agree that we have to be careful of who we allow to enter our country. It would be foolish not to be cautious. What I don’t understand is the harshness by which some Americans talk about the refugees, as though they aren’t real people.

I certainly hope that if I’m ever in a situation where I need to flee to safety with my family that I’m not rejected because the people who I’m running from are scaring the people I’m running to.

If this is the mentality Americans have then why don’t we be fair and implement these rules for all large groups of people in the name of public safety?

Let’s stop allowing men to attend the movies. All the shooters at the massacres in the movie cinemas over recent years have been men. We just can’t risk it.

Let’s go ahead and shut down online dating too. Statistics show that 10% of sex offenders use online dating services. Scams, rapes and even murders have happened as results of dates set up via online dating sites. It’s too dangerous.
But we don’t do anything like that because it wouldn’t be fair to the majority who are law abiding citizens.

There is evil in every group of people. People are flawed, but I have to believe that there is mostly goodness in every group of people.

As the cab ride came to an end and my exhausted family filed out of the cab I looked back at him and said, “Have a good night. Happy Thanksgiving.” He responded with a smile, “You too.”

Within 24 hours of stepping off the plane in Nashville, TN, from our NYC Thanksgiving trip we were back home putting up a Christmas tree. When the kids were little they would gleefully help decorate the tree, but now as teenagers they laid on the couch watching holiday movies while I did the decorating.

I’ll take it.

Right now I’m just happy we are safe in our home, not worried about suicide bombers nearby and not feeling as though our kids are in imminent danger as they head to school tomorrow.

Praying for the refugees who cannot say the same.

So grateful I live in this great country of ours.

Giving thanks a many.

Last weekend I took my son, my nephew and a friend to our church youth group leader’s apartment. They had plans to go get pizza then head to a local elementary school to use their gym for a game of dodge ball. On the way there the topic of career aspirations came up when I posed the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The conversation then went as follows:

My nephew: “I want to go to the community college for the first two years then transfer to the University of Kentucky and get a degree in nursing.”

Me: “That’s great. You would make a good nurse.”

My son’s friend: “I really want to get a scholarship to play soccer for Brescia University and get a degree in biology.”

Me: “You shouldn’t have trouble getting that scholarship. You are a really good soccer player.”

My son: “I know for def that I want to get a degree in science and then go work for NASA in Houston, TX. I’m thinking I want to go to college somewhere in Florida or California because, you know, more boobs there.”

Me: (face palming and making a sigh)

By the time this conversation had turned into an enlightening glimpse into my son’s mind, the moment was over and I was pulling up to their group leader’s apartment. I happily unloaded my car full of 13 year old boys and thanked the Lord that there are actually grown men who volunteer their time to hang out with them. I’m even more grateful that dropping off a car load of 13 year old boys at a grown man’s apartment on a Friday night wasn’t weird…because their leader is just that awesome.

On the way home I thought about my son and how he is changing as he grows up.

He is a self-proclaimed mama’s boy and I’m completely at peace with that. When he was little I would play a game called Who Loves You? with him and his sister. I’d ask them that question then they would answer with names of people who they knew loved them. The game could last all day for my daughter. She would answer each Who Loves You? question with a long list of answers including: Mommy, Daddy, Grammie, Pawpaw, etc.… However, the game was always a very short lived distraction for my son because no matter how many times I’d ask him the playful Who Loves You? he would answer with a joyful “Mommy do!”

I mean, come on, that’s adorable.

But now, he’s talking about choosing where he will earn his education that eventually will steer him towards his career goals by which campus would offer the most cleavage viewing opportunities. It’s a small example of the new trend in my house as I raise a brand new teenage boy. I can’t keep parenting the way I always have because he’s not the kid he’s always been. As he grows I’m forced to grow with him as a parent and adjust where necessary.

I decided it’s time to pay closer attention to how I am able to help shape his newly expanding mind so that he doesn’t become a complete chauvinistic ass as an adult.

I’ve come up with a list that I’ll call…..hmmm…..

3 Ways I’m Trying To Keep My Teenage Son From Becoming Chauvinistic Ass

1. I don’t let him kill hookers.

My son likes video games. When I was a kid we got a Nintendo and saved that Mario Bros princess more than a few times. Never even once, do I recall the princess wearing fishnets and smoking a cigarette as she walked towards the fire-breathing dragon. I don’t recall ever having the ability to fatally shoot her in the face. Video games nowadays (use of the word “nowadays” is indicative of my advancing age and wisdom to any of you laughing at the term right now!) Nowadays video games have ratings similar to movie ratings. I’ve had to pay close attention to those games with an M rating. Those games usually feature very realistic images of people. These people often include voluptuous women clad in black leather and stilettos. There is actually a game where you can steal cars and kill hookers. How can we justify allowing our young boys to virtually kill women for pleasure and let them indulge in near pornographic images of prostitutes then not expect them to have warped views on how to respect and show self-control around women in their non-virtual lives? He gives me lots of push back on this one, but I’m under the conviction that allowing him to disrespect women, or any human for that matter, in the virtual world is one step towards him becoming desensitized to it and then disrespecting them in the real world. When he’s 18 I won’t be able to stop him from playing the games he wants, but while he is a 13 year old I can stop him. So I do.

2. I respect myself.

If I’m going to expect him to respect women then, as a woman, I’d better dang well be sure I respect myself. I want his image of a woman to be a reflection of me. I don’t want that image to be one of weakness or one that resembles a doormat. I want my son to see my priorities in life and recognize that I am one of my priorities. I want him to see me practice self-control yet still speak my mind in a respectful manner. I want him to see how a woman can set boundaries in the relationships in her life while still being able to fully love and show affection in those relationships. I want him to learn how to treat a woman by seeing how I allow others to treat me. I have to find, then always use my backbone. If I want to raise a man of integrity, I must be a woman of integrity. It’s not easy. I fail all the time. I have to right wrongs often, but I think that’s all part of the learning process for the both of us. I hope by watching how I handle things when I get them wrong that he will see that while we aren’t perfect we still get back up and keep trying. I hope he can learn by watching me behave like a lady that women are not delicate flowers, but equals and should be treated as such.

3. I choose my battles.

My son is gross. There’s no other way around it. It’s not just my opinion either. Ask our friends or family, they would all back me up on this one. His room is covered in Hostess cupcake wrappers, glasses half full of sweet tea normally accompanied by a fly floating on top no doubt dead from sugar overload to its tiny little insect body. His bathroom induces a gag reflex. We are talking toothpaste on the sink, dirty clothes all over the floor and a toilet reminiscent of one of those truck stops off an old two lane highway. We have gone rounds and rounds over this. I’ve grounded him, given ultimatums and tried scare tactics by sharing with him how one day he will wake up with a horrible ring in his ear and that ringing sound will be that of a roach that has crawled into his ear from under his bed. But after all the turmoil his untidy part of the house has caused, the result is that it’s still untidy. As I review the list of things I want him to really get branded into his head a clean room falls pretty low on the priority list if I’m being honest. Maybe before he moves out on his own he will have arrived at the place in life where unflushed toilets will bother him, but for now I will keep his door shut, focus on the war rather than the smaller battles and will only go into his room to retrieve his laundry then quickly shut the door behind me. Whomever he ends up marrying, should he go down that path, will have her work cut out for her in this area, if things don’t change before then. I can’t make it too easy for his future wife though. I don’t want to hand her over too perfect of a man. They will need things to talk about.

Do I think any of these things will keep him from not enjoying a hottie in a tight shirt who walks by him on a college campus? Not at all. However, I really hope that the respect he has developed for women through some of these efforts will keep him from Bronx cheering her when he sees her.

No offense, men from the Bronx. I’m sure you’re nice people.

Dear Teenage Daughter Of Mine,

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided that we can’t be friends.

It’s not me. It’s you.

You help me understand why some animals eat their young.

When you were born you were exceptionally adorable, far surpassing the adorableness of the other babies born that day. I’m sure the other mothers looked at their newborns that day with great disappointment. You were such a good baby. You took long naps so that I could get a break, you slept all night in your own bed. You ate anything, which made me feel superior to the other moms complaining about their picky eaters. You were independent and had a desire to do things on your own. You took crap from no one, even as a toddler. When the sweet old man from church would touch your hand and smile at you, you would respond by pulling your hand back and throwing a ‘go to hell, go straight to hell’ look at him. You were so cute though that he would just laugh and try again next week. You were pretty perfect, actually. I had high hopes for you.

Now you are a teenager and at only 14 years old, you are equipped with a super model body and killer eye lashes. You draw attention of older boys because you don’t look a day younger than 17. This is not fair to me, being that I’m a full 7 inches shorter and 15 pounds heavier than you. You are still very strong willed, smart, creative and totally hilarious. You still will on occasion shoot a death glare at anyone talking to you whom you are not fond of (it’s something we are working on). However, none of this is why we can’t be friends.

You have turned from a sweet wide eyed little girl who loved zoo animals and American Girl dolls into a hormonal, irrational, emotional teenager. I have to strategize how I’m going to approach you about topics I fear may set you off, like trying to tell you that the wait at Olive Garden is too long and we are going to have to find a plan b restaurant to eat. When you are hungry you are especially scary. Full disclosure, you get that honestly. You may have inherited that trait. You bounce back and forth from being a child to being a fun loving, energetic teenager to being an immature adult. This is why we can’t be friends. People have warned me about this teenager thing, but I didn’t believe them….not my baby. Turns out they were on to something.

We can’t be friends because you need my help to survive your teen years and become an adult who people don’t avoid at parties.

Right now you don’t really need the other half of my BFF heart necklace. You need a mom.

When we argue because you have decided to wear your new fall outfit that includes an adorbs boho top layered with a long cardigan and skinny jeans with ankle boots on a day in early September when the weather forecast calls for a humid 92 degrees I am reminded that while you may not like me, you need me. Literally, need me to save you from heat stroke on the bus.

When you roll your eyes at me and mumble something hateful under your breath as you walk out of the room because I won’t allow you to ride in a car with the 16 year old boy you are crushing on I can see your innocence and how short sighted you are right now. You don’t see all the life altering consequences that can come from it, but I can so I’m willing to let you treat me like I’m the one being unrealistic in the matter.

When we are on a paradise beach vacation where everything seems perfect, yet when one little thing doesn’t go your way you curl up those long legs into a ball so that you can get in my lap and nuzzle into my chest to cry I’m yet again reminded that even though you are getting closer to being grown, you are still a child. You need me.

Let’s be honest. You have friends. I have friends. We don’t need to be each other’s friend right now. I make you insane with all my dumb rules and frankly you aren’t always a peach to live with either.

Never mistake my determination that we can’t be friends as a lack of love. I’ve prayed for you since the moment I discovered I was pregnant. Every day. My prayers have shifted as life has shifted. I used to pray that you would sleep well at night in your crib. I prayed that your diaper rash would clear up. I prayed that you wouldn’t get too hysterical over the shots you were going to get at the doctor’s office. I prayed for your self-esteem as you went through that awkward phase of snaggled teeth and crooked glasses. I prayed that your 1st day of high school this year would go great. Daily, I pray for your health, your safety, that you will make wise decisions and that you won’t get involved with the wrong crowd. I pray that as you edge closer to those dating years that you will know a douche bag when you see one. I pray that you will find a balance between confidence and humility.

It’s hard for you to understand and I don’t expect that you will ever fully understand until you have children of your own how deep my love is for you. You are the best part of me and your dad. You and your brother are the beat in our hearts. When you hurt, we hurt. It’s our job to raise you to be an adult who is kind, responsible, respects herself and shows respect to others. We want to send you out into the world as ready as you can be for what life will throw at you. We want you to be fierce and strong.

As it turns out, to fulfill that mission, this love I have for you is not well received all the time. It sucks and I wish it wasn’t that way, but I have hope it won’t last forever. It’s okay that you don’t always like me or think I’m cool.

So when you yell at me to come into your room to curl your hair in the mornings, complain about how it looks afterwards, ask me to iron your shirt, make you some breakfast then on the way to school remind me of a 3 page form I need to complete before I drop you off at school or you won’t be able to attend the field trip I knew nothing about, I will take a deep breath and do it.

Because I love you.

Also because I have been praying to God that you will have a daughter exactly like you one day. That, in itself, will be the reward I need to make this all worth it.

I hope you understand. Don’t take it personally.



My dad is my guy.

After I grew up, got married and had a couple kids, my dad was still my guy.

He was my go-to for most anything. Something breaks, he’s who I’d call. He could fix anything. Before I got a car with navigation and would get lost he would be my 1st call. I’d call him and he could tell me exactly where to go to get back in the right direction. He expected me to call him when I got to my gate at the airport, when I landed and when I checked into the hotel on business trips. When I was sick he would make sure I had Sprite then would call throughout the day and wake me up to ask if I was getting any rest. When he sat next to me he held my hand. Always. If I ever went more than 3 or 4 days without talking to him I would get a melodramatic voicemail while I was working that said something like, “I guess the only way I can talk to you is if I schedule an appointment. You don’t love me anymore. Maybe one day you will find time in your busy schedule to call your dad.” Then would laugh and say, “Just call me when you can. I don’t need anything. Bye baby doll.” He would sing Barry Manilow’s song ‘Mandy’ to me on my birthday. He loved me. He made me feel safe.

Love like that takes some of the sting out of living in this world.

One sunny day in June, he went to the ER with numbness in his arm, some dizziness and a headache he couldn’t shake. He was diagnosed with brain cancer and was dead 8 months later.

Life is brief.

18 months have passed since my Dad died. I’m no longer consumed by my grief. I don’t cry every day, every week or even every month. I can think of him and find comfort in the legacy he left with me. I’ve adjusted to life without him.

This morning I dropped off the kids at school then went downtown to run. Actually it’s mostly a jog. Who am I kidding, it’s a slow run until I remember that I really suck at running then it’s quickly downgraded to a jog until I approach a big hill, which then gets downgraded yet again and turns into a winded, panting walk sometimes crawl. The goal is to just make it back to my car before I collapse and embarrass myself.

As I was heading up the big hill at the panting, near collapse part of my walk a song come on my playlist that I don’t remember having put on there. It was sandwiched in between Lenny Kravitz and Rihanna. It was a song from a Christian artist, Laura Story, called ‘Blessings’. I was amused at the irony of the eclectic mix of musical genres, but continued to trudge up the hill without much thought until a lyric from that song created a tsunami of emotions causing my eyes to well with tears.

The lyric was:

“We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, comfort for family, protection while we sleep. We pray for healing, for prosperity. We pray for your mighty hand to ease our suffering. And all the while, you hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.”

It may have been pure coincidence that at that moment I was literally running alongside the hospital of the ER where my Dad went. It could have just so happened that a song like that would pop up in the middle of my playlist. It could be totally random that the song that popped up contained a lyric that spoke straight to my heart altering the course of my morning. But I think not.

I was still about a mile from my car. By the time I got there, I was a mess.

I had been living with a chip on my shoulder.

My secret problem, that I really hadn’t even fully admitted to myself, was that despite my faith in God I’ve always wondered why he didn’t answer my prayers during the time that I was losing my Dad. 1 John 5:14 says that we can be confident that when we pray he hears us. Mark 11:24 even says that whatever you ask for in prayer, to believe and it will be yours. For 8 months, I prayed that my dad would be healed. I prayed for the chemo to work right up to the time when it didn’t and then my prayer changed to “please heal him or take him.”

I was kind of quietly pissed about the whole ordeal if I’m being honest.

I finally made it back to my car. I got in, pulled up the lyrics and read them several times. “He loves us way too much to give us lesser things.” Was my request to him to heal my Dad and keep him here with me a lesser thing?

Yes, actually, it was.

My Dad was coming to the end of fulfilling the purpose God had created for his life here on earth. The problem was that my plan and God’s plan didn’t match up. It didn’t work for me. I didn’t like it.

Thank goodness I’m not in charge.

I can recall praying for relationships to work out only to later be grateful that they didn’t. When I was fresh out of college I prayed for a certain job then much later on saw how it would have been a disaster had I gotten it. I’ve prayed for God to take away the various pressures and stresses of my life, not understanding at the time that he was preparing me for the purpose he had created for me. That the pressures were often what motivated me to do more, get better and become who I am.

I’m happy I don’t always get what I want.

My heavenly father loves me more than my earthly one was capable of and he won’t allow anything lesser for me.

Even if I don’t like it. Even if I don’t understand.

I started a blog on July 8, 2013 to keep everyone current with medical updates with my dad and to help keep all the questions he got to a minimum. It quickly turned into posts mingled with personal stories about our relationship. He would call me after a post, sometimes crying, and tell me he read it 10 times. He’d ask when I’d write another one. It kept me motivated to produce. After he died the blog site sent me a beautiful book with a copy of all my posts and everyone’s comments in it as a keepsake. When I got home this morning, I dug it out and randomly opened it to an entry from November 13, 2013. On that date I was wrestling with the same issue.

An excerpt from the post that day reads:

“One day when it’s my turn to leave this earth I think my 1st question to God, when I see him face to face, will be to see the playbook. I’d love to see the strategy he came up with for each of our lives. This helps the cheerleader in this situation relax and cheer without it being as burdensome of a task. I can root for the team and not question the coach. There is a reason he is the coach.”

Such a good reminder, written with own words, to further douse me in peace this morning.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, he did, indeed, love me way too much to give me lesser things. He loved my Dad too much to give him lesser things. I still don’t have the answers to why, but I have faith that tells me it was all part of a much grander plan.

My heavenly father (I picture my Dad standing with him as he did it) choose a time when I was alone and clear minded to infuse wisdom. It’s amazing really. He used a mundane Monday morning jog, with girl deep in the middle of jamming to a collection of randomness including the likes of Jay Z to speak to her heart in a way she understood.

Because he won’t allow lesser things.

My mother tells a story of when I was about 5 years old. She heard a noise in the middle of the night. She got out of bed to go investigate and noticed I wasn’t in my bedroom. She then walked into the kitchen and found me pushing a baby doll stroller back and forth with a dazed look on my face. Sounds like stuff out of a scary movie. She said I had no memory of it the next morning.

My friends from school have stories of me sitting up in bed and talking about random things during the night when we had sleepovers.

My husband most often gets to witness my bizarre behavior during my sleep. Mostly talking nonsense in the middle of the night and sitting up in bed sleeping. Once he got up and found me in the kitchen rummaging through cabinets. I’m not sure what that was about.

I’ve had seasons of insomnia for as long as I can remember. My mind won’t shut off. The daily stresses of life always seem to create the most sleep stopping thoughts right about bedtime.

My typical insomnia-fest routine looks something like this:

Lay in bed, eyes closed, hoping I’ll fall asleep.

Start hearing noises. Assume someone is trying to break in my house. Get up and check door locks. Double check to make sure alarm system is on. Peek in the kid’s bedrooms to make sure they are still in there. Give the dog the ‘you let me know if you see anything fishy’ look.

Go back to bed to stare at ceiling.


In no certain order my mind then begins to relive conversations, contemplate if my son’s dentist appointment is tomorrow or the next day, think about upcoming social events, kick myself for something dumb I said to someone, what I’ll wear, did I remember to send in the enrollment form for my daughter’s next thing, etc., etc….

Fall back to sleep approximately 45 minutes before alarm goes off to start the day.

What ticks me off the most is when my husband is in the bed, has been in a deep sleep since 30 seconds after hitting the pillow and is clearly not thinking about a thing. Hateful Amanda wants to jerk the pillow out from under his head and make him talk to me about chemicals or monthly EBITDA goals. That talk normally spaces me out and has me sleeping with my eyes open within seconds. Nice Amanda doesn’t do that. She just stares at the ceiling and listens to him snore

When I mention my insomnia to friends and they respond with ‘try some melatonin’ or ‘don’t drink caffeine’ I nearly want to punch them because I’ve already taken enough melatonin to induce a coma and haven’t had caffeine in months yet still sleep evades me. No remedy helps, no cocktail that is promised to help me sleep works.

The biggest problem with me not getting sleep is that being tired for too long makes me emotionally fragile. The outcome resembles the same attitude of when I’m overly hungry and the restaurant is being slow with the food. You have been warned.

This week during my middle-of-the-night-reading-something-anything moments I happened upon this scripture. Pretty confident it wasn’t just by coincidence that I stumbled upon this specific verse out of all the verses in the bible.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Therein lies my problem.

My lack of trust. Lack of faith. My attempts to depend on myself and do it on my own. Falling into the reoccurring problem of people pleasing. That’s what keeps me up at night, not insomnia.

Upon this lightbulb moment, I began to pray…silently, so not to wake Mr Sleeping Beauty. I say something along the lines of ‘Thank you for taking this. Thank you for caring about the details of what worries me. Thank you for promising to give me rest. I need it. I’m so sorry for making this harder on myself than it needs to be. I must be hard for you to watch. Please forgive me for forgetting how much more full my life would be if I would just trust you more.’ I then begin to have a conversation (prayer) silently in my head of what’s really eating at me and ask him to take it. He already knows anyway so I lay it all out no matter how petty. I tell him I don’t want to worry about some frustration I have with a friend. That I’m really tired of being worried about how many calories I consumed that day. How I’m worried about how someone else will act at a meeting. Everything. I go into detail of each and every thing and thank him for taking it.

The most intriguing of this to me is that I fell asleep during this prayer. If it were anyone else offering to be dumped on and I fell asleep while dumping they would be offended, but I think in this case that it must be a promise being fulfilled from God. Maybe when he sees me finally throwing up my hands and surrendering and trusting him he gives me the desire of my heart. Sleep.

I woke up the next morning, realized I fell asleep during the prayer and felt exactly what he promised. Refreshed and new.

Before anyone comments let me say that insomnia is a real medical condition that people really have. It’s miserable to want to sleep and not be able to. I, however, wasn’t suffering from insomnia. I was suffering from a self-induced, perfectionistic method of trying to be in control over what I most often had no control over.

I’m the child of a king. I can sleep well at night!

And now I do.

Until the next time.

I have never been a fan of American Idol. I watched the first couple seasons way back when Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson were judges, but stopped watching because I couldn’t stand how mean they were to the contestants. I agreed with them many times, but I would have found a less abrasive way to tell the brave contestants they have no singing ability rather than making soul crushing remarks of rejection to them. Call it my southern upbringing, but being rude is never attractive. Simon would famously criticize the appearance of a contestant, telling them they don’t look the part forgetting it was a singing competition, not a beauty contest. He even would laugh at some people, like he did with the super talented Susan Boyle, for their un-Hollywood like style. This started a trend for all the other singing shows that have spring boarded off American Idol’s fame. They are all the same. Is there a rule somewhere that all singing reality shows must feature three famous celebrity judges, one of which is required to be a royal ass?

There is a show that has taken my fancy. The Voice. It looks the same as all the others at first glance. They have four celebrity judges (Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams) who listen to countless numbers of aspiring singers and critique the artists’ performances. Each judge chooses contestants to be on their team by sitting in spinning chairs with big red buttons in front of them. If they like what they hear they push the button, spinning their chair around to reveal the identity of the singer. For the remainder of the season the chosen contestants work with their judge (coach) and compete against each other until a winner is ultimately selected at the season finale. What makes this show different and endearing is that the judges don’t get to see the contestants until after they have chosen them for their team. It has zero to do with appearance of performer and 100% to do with their performance….imagine that. If more than one judge chooses the contestant, the contestant can choose which judge’s team he/she would like to be on. That’s another one of my favorite parts of the show. In that case the judges vying for the contestant usually try to use flattery to persuade them to join their team. It’s fun to watch the awkward 22 year old IHOP waitress from Kansas stand there and watch as Adam and Pharrell fight over her. You can see the surreal experience playing out on her face. The show is refreshing in that every contestant gets a fair shot. It doesn’t matter what they look like. They are judged on talent.

One of the areas I volunteer in my community is in the student ministry at my church. Oh how I wish we could strap those teenagers in chairs and let them talk and get to know each other, not seeing the physical appearance until after conversation. Not until they’ve decided they want to push that red button and spin around. The spinny chairs would aid in developing more authentic and unlikely relationships. It would help cut those friendships that are mostly for status. It’s not just teenagers either. Adults do the same thing. We often gravitate towards people and form our friendships using the Simon Cowell method of judging. Relationships matter and life is just too short to be like Simon. He would pick contestants this week, then later eliminate them when their lack of talent becomes obvious. He passed up amazing contestants and chose some that weren’t as good based on the level of eye candy they offered. In contrast, Adam, for example, never seems to be negatively affected by the contestants surprise appearance because he has already fallen in love with their talent. The appearance is just an unimportant side note. His choices are more longstanding. It pains him to see them get eliminated as the season progresses because he chose them for honest reasons….being their singing ability.

My husband is the oldest of 5 siblings. His parents both worked to keep a roof over their heads, but there was never much extra money left for anything not necessary. He had clothes to wear to school, but it wasn’t the stonewashed Guess jeans that everyone had or the latest pair of Nikes. He remembers how he was judged by how he looked by kids he went to school with. One story that he always tells is of a teacher who made fun of him in middle school. He recalls wearing a pair of sweats this particular day and being picked on by kids because he had a hole in the knee of them. When a teacher overheard this instead of defending him he started making jokes with the bullies and teasing him as well. He talks of how much that embarrassed him and made him feel less than the other students. Flash forward 20+ years and my husband is with some business associates at a restaurant when he spots that teacher at another table eating. He walked over, shook Mr. Jerkface’s hand and asked him if he remembered him. He told him that he was a former student of his. The teacher didn’t remember so he told him his name. That’s when the old, balding, now retired teacher’s mouth dropped open. He did remember him. He couldn’t believe who that boy from his class so many years ago had become. The teacher seemed impressed, asked him where he went to college, asked what he does for a living and congratulated him on his accomplishments. My husband told him thanks for being part of putting that drive in him to succeed. When the teacher thanked him and asked him how he did that my husband told him something like this: “Because you made fun of me when I was in your class for what I was wearing. I was just a kid and it was all I had to wear that day. School was hard enough for me, but your comment that day made me more determined to prove everyone wrong. So thanks.” The teacher seemed obviously shocked and apologized having no memory of that happening. I wish that man had a spinny chair back when my husband was in his middle school class. He could have without unfair comparison clearly heard how smart, driven and ambitious his student was. He would have definitely hit that red button and not cared as much about the pants the kid was wearing.

We all want to be judged fairly. We hope that someone will look past our outward imperfections and see us for who we are. The person who offers that to us esteems themselves even higher when that happens. That person is an encouragement to us and adds fuel to our passions and talents. It builds us up and makes us better. When we offer that to others we discover relationships that are valuable and real. Most of us don’t look like the photoshopped images we see on the magazine covers, but we are all gifted with abilities that are unique to us. Not judging a book by it’s cover is easier said than done, but worth the effort. It’s win-win.

Would anyone choose Simon over Adam? If you know of anyone who would please let me know. I want to talk to them. As their friend you may consider having a heart to heart conversation with them. Friends don’t let friends admire Simon Cowell.

I logged onto social media recently and saw a petition going that was being shared. It seems there is a new movie about to premiere that features graphic love scenes and unchristian like values. Kind of like every other movie released. It has women talking about how perverse the new movie, 50 Shades of Grey, is. (I wonder how they know so much about it. Read the book perhaps?) By signing the petition I, as a Christian, agree that I’ll join them in not watching it. The blog attached to the petition was from a Christian woman expressing how the movie is basically like cheating on your husband, by committing adultery in your heart from lustful thoughts the movie would create in your mind. What the what? She went on to talk about how it has what love really means all wrong and is degrading to women. Yes, I agree with that, but I’m still waiting to hear how this movie was selected as the poster child for Christians to boycott when it’s by far not the first or the last to have a non-biblical relationship showcased. I agree on many points, Christian Grey is not the kind of guy I hope that my daughter ever meets one day. However, I can make a long list of other fictional movie characters that I’d rather her not date too. (Dr. Hannibal Lecter comes to mind as being top of the fictional creeper list of people I never want to call me Mom.) I understand the thought behind blog/petition and I think it was drawn up with good intent. I also fully support people’s right to express their own opinion (hence this blog). My knee jerk response to this blog/petition request is to say, “I’ll watch it if I want to. You aren’t better than me. Don’t tell me what to do.”

It brought to mind Chick Fila circa 2012. I’m a vegetarian and wouldn’t consider eating their chicken, but I do love their waffle fries and peach tea. As a good Christian girl, I’m expected to eat there because apparently they are owned by a Christian and are closed on Sundays. I’m cool with playing along with that because, as I said, I really like their waffle fries. That all changed when somebody there said something that branded them as anti-gay. A big group of Christians decided the best way to show love would be to spend a bunch of money on chicken in support of them. The drive thru line was backed out to the street. Facebook was exploding with petitions to sign in favor of eating at Chick Fila. The media had a field day with it. Conan O’Brien tweeted “This Chic-Fil-A scandal has got me worried. I want to go to Arby’s but I don’t know where they stand on the unrest in Syria.” THIS is what Christians decided to picket about? Seriously???

Take a 5 min look at the opening story of the news any day of the week and you will hear stories of innocent people being beheaded in Syria, sex trafficking, boats searching the sea for a black box or gang related crimes. But please, by all means, let’s put all of our effort into policing what movie will turn me into an adulteress if I watch or where I should buy chicken. I look at all this and feel deeply saddened knowing this is among the reasons why people are so turned off by the church and their perceived narrow minded viewpoints. I wonder how many people look at this kind of thing unfold in the media and are filled with a burning desire to check out what this whole Christianity thing is all about. I’d imagine not many. If I am repulsed by it, then I’d guess anyone who is not a believer would be so even more.

I am much more inclined to follow someone who lives a life of goodness and integrity. One I can admire by seeing how they handle life situations, not one who tells me how to handle mine. One who is salt of the earth and lives in a way that attracts by how they live rather than what they say. One who shows love and offers advice when asked, but doesn’t cast judgment because they don’t assume they have all the right answers. That’s the kind of Christianity that might draw some positive attention. What I choose to wear, eat, read or watch at the theater, for example, is a matter of personal preference and conviction….and honestly none of anyone’s business. There are just bigger fish to fry. We should certainly take a stand against injustices! When we speak up, however, let’s make our voices heard in a way which makes progress for the greater good….things that really matter. Christian on Christian shaming is wrong. Can we agree that some things really do have grey areas? (pun intended)

My New Year’s Resolutions don’t involve weight loss. Here’s the thing. I really don’t care as much what I look like when my pale white legs that haven’t been shaved in 4 days are covered with leggings and tall boots. I try not to stress when I gain my winter 8 because those 8 pounds will be layered with a sweater, scarf and coat. I’ll work out and count every calorie that goes in my mouth beginning in February through the 1st week of October. For the next 3 or 4 weeks I’m content being the doughy girl who forgets her fitness app’s password and keeps a steady diet of sugary goodness in her belly. I will reset my password on MyFitnessPal and squeeze into spandex soon enough.

I have, however, been thinking of what I can begin doing tomorrow that will make me a better person in 2015 if I keep it up throughout the year. Here’s what I came up with.

FIrst: If I’m not part of the story or part of the solution to the problem at hand then I don’t want to talk about it. Gossip damages relationships. It shatters trust. It causes us to harbor resentment. It only allows for one side of the story. It makes us turn into narcissist, thinking that every time certain people are together they must be talking about us. Also, I’ve found it to be true that if someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you. We have to have friends that we can share our frustrations with and get advice from about relationships in our life, but the line needs to be drawn when the story is not mine. If the story isn’t mine then I shouldn’t be telling it.

Second: Speak kinder. I recently read an African proverb that simply said “The axe forgets. The tree remembers.” How wise that person was to have put such a grand thought into such a simple phrase. The words that haunt me are most likely words that the person who said them doesn’t even remember. They were most likely spoken without any thought given to them. When I was in elementary school there was a boy who called me fish lips because of how full my lips are. I ran into him recently and he now has his own family and was very nice when speaking to me. The entire time he spoke to me I felt self-conscious of my lips. I’m certain that if I had told him how much he hurt my feelings by calling me names that he would have looked at me confused having no idea what I was talking about. My 2nd resolution is to think often on that short but powerful proverb……I don’t want to be an axe.

and Finally: Martin Luther King was quoted as saying, “Let no man pull you low enough to hate them.” As sort of a part two to my previous resolution I want to not only intentionally speak kinder, but also to let go of the unkind words already spoken. Once, just a few years ago, I was deeply hurt by the words of someone and was discussing it with my dad. He told me to forgive them. I asked him how I was supposed to forgive them of something they’re not sorry for. He told me, “You don’t have to get an apology from him to forgive him.” It sounds silly as that is something I should already know, but it did change my thinking on the matter. If I sat around waiting for that person to feel bad for their actions and say sorry I’d be an old lady still holding out on an apology which will never come. The hurt eventually turns to sadness which turns to resentment which stirs up hate in my heart. The person at fault not only said something hurtful but now would have my emotions held captive creating negativity in my life. I can’t let that happen.

That’s enough for me to have swimming in my head for 2015. Not gossiping, speaking kinder and letting go of past hurts is something I can work at. Hopefully at the end of next year I can see how it improved my life and those around me. Now I’ll go back to eating the leftover Christmas M&Ms. So happy my resolutions this year don’t require me to get off the couch today.

This summer as I sat on a therapist couch I recall sputtering something like this, “I don’t know what my problem is. I have a great husband and 2 amazing kids. I have something nice to drive and somewhere nice to live. I’ve never worried about where my next meal would come from. I’m healthy. Why is there a constant tugging at my soul to be gone….not be dead or run away, but just to evaporate?” The poor guy worked hard for his money when he agreed to take me on as a client. To summarize what he has told me over the timespan of several hours on that couch in his office, is that I’m a “bootstrapper”, as he calls it, when it comes to being able to turn off emotion and focus on task. He says I am naturally wired to be heavy in the compassion and guilt fields. He concludes that all this makes me “lower case neurotic”, which is much better than upper case neurotic or the dreaded ALL CAPS NEUROTIC, I suppose. He gave me a homework assignment that we would discuss on my next visit. The homework was to read a book and make a list of self-observations. He had me write down each time I felt bad about something, no matter how small, and what happened that made me have that feeling.

On the next visit we discussed the book, went through my list and concluded that I was pretty much feeling guilty all the time and most of the time for no logical reason. It all came down to two major problems that were about to send me to the looney bin if not put under control. Problem #1: I am a people pleaser. Problem #2: I suffer from false guilt.

I now have a short list of 3 bullet points that I keep written down on a piece of paper in my nightstand and as well as ingrained in my mind so I can recall whenever the situation arises. I’ve learned as I’ve began to implement these new rules for my life, that it’s taken some of the pressure off.

  1. I do not have to keep people who treat me badly in my life. I’ve learned the hard way that when a tiger shows me his stripes, I better believe him the 1st time. This isn’t to say that I shouldn’t forgive someone when they wrong me. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t give 2nd chances. It simply means that it is okay to intentionally not have someone in my life that causes me repeated pain.
  2. I make my choices based on my own desires and passions, not out of obligation. As long as my choices are in line with what God would want for me then it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. There are certainly times in life that I am called to die to my own wants and make a sacrifice to help others. However, I can say no….and not feel guilty about it.
  3. I can voice my opinion even if it’s different from yours. It’s never okay for me to be rude to you. It’s not okay for you to be rude to me. We can still love each other even if we aren’t in perfect sync. Not expressing my opinion and just agreeing with your opinions will only cause me to be resentful and angry with you without you ever even knowing about it. Let’s just agree that it really is okay to disagree.

There are some people that even if I did everything they asked every time they asked, forgave them over and over for the same bad behavior and smiled while doing so, they would still have a problem with me. Can’t win them all…..shouldn’t try. I’m hard wired to be guilt prone. I’ll always struggle with it. However, when I strive to please God, not focusing on what others may think, I find peace. I still have days I want to evaporate. This year in particular has had more evaporation wishes than the norm, but there is a calmness in the madness when I remember who I aim to please. I’m finding since beginning to establish these boundaries that I feel more respected. Funny how that works. Sometimes I’m met with resistance, but the people who are meant to be in my life quickly love me in spite of (and maybe even because of) my new guidelines. The ones who become offended only do so because they are used to me being a doormat.

I was not taking out my emotional trash. We all have it, but I wasn’t taking mine to the curb by 6am on Friday every week so that the garbage man….sorry, I mean so that the sanitary disposal technician could come by to haul it off. Instead I was compacting my trash down and throwing more on top then mashing that down and adding more until it spilled all over the floor leaving me a rotten stinking hot mess on a little beige couch in a therapist’s office. Hopefully, this new outlook will keep me from moving to upper case neurotic.

Today is the 20th anniversary of Susan Smith driving her car, with her two little boys strapped in the backseat, into a lake. She told police she was carjacked, but later confessed to the murders. She is serving a life sentence in a South Carolina prison. I remember being a young college student, who didn’t have a clue what being a mother was like, watching that story and thinking what a terrible person she must be. Today, as a mother of two, I still have the same thoughts on that judgment of her actions, but I can understand how a mother, especially one with mental instability, could snap. I wonder if Ms Smith had anyone to encourage her, to offer to bare some of her load or to get good advice from. I feel like women like her who make the headlines with their horrific parental decisions probably all share the common characteristic of loneliness. I wonder if she never told anyone of her struggles because she was afraid of being judged.

For this reason, I’ve decided to make an intentional effort to support the mom’s in my life. Full disclosure… women who give their toddlers Mountain Dew in sippy cups, smoke cigarettes in cars with their kids in the backseat or do anything on a list of things one can do that would cause social workers and/or the po-po to have a legit reason to show up at their door are exempt from my goal of becoming a non-judgmental mother of other mothers. I feel like those mom’s probably need advice from someone a couple pay grades above me whom would be able to give better counsel. Everyone else not included in that previous sentence should know that they have my support. I promise that I will try to not compare my parenting style to yours in a negative way. I will do my best to not say anything to you to deflate you as a mother. I’d ask you do the same for me. Even when I do something like make my kid finish their sandwich only to discover the bread was molded or when I let my 12 year old watch a PG-13 movie. Let’s work on supporting and building each other up. This could be the beginning of a great thing.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or work-a-job-that-mails-you-a-W2 mom, you have a tough job. I’ve had both of those positions and they both come with their own unique set of challenges. I was a stay-at-home mom to two of the smartest, most adorable chubby cheeked babies on the planet. I had that job for all of 18 months before I dang near lost my mind and needed a job out of the house. I went back to work and loved most every minute of it until those chubby cheeked babies turned into pre-teen middle schoolers and my attention was needed back home. Now, after several years, I’m back to doing the domestic engineer gig again. My have the times changed. The last time I stayed at home I was changing diapers and listening to Toy Story 2 on repeat during the course of the day until I cried. This go around I’m more of an unpaid taxi cab driver enduring kid’s hormonal craziness. One thing that didn’t change is the need to feel like I’m succeeding. The criticisms I get as a stay at home mom hurt as much as the ones I got for working.

I’m blessed with several great friends who are also mothers. I can call them and vent or ask for advice, and know that I won’t be judged by them. Whether you work outside the home or inside the home, only feed your kids homemade organic dinners or slide on two wheels through a drive thru window on your way home from the office you’re doing your best. Being a mother is a hard job no matter how you slice it. I’m so grateful for my judgment free mom friends. Like the one who told me, “It’s okay Amanda. You didn’t know. He didn’t die. It’s fine.” When I called her crying because my fussy son (he was 5 years old at the time) who I’d been telling to toughen up about his sore thumb for a whole week had actually broken his wrist and was now in a cast.

I think my favorite SNL alum says it best, “Obviously, as an adult I realize this girl-on-girl sabotage is the third worst kind of female behavior, right behind saying ‘like’ all the time and leaving your baby in a dumpster.”