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Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Am I to Judge?

I rarely, if ever, talk religion or politics to anyone.  I just don't.  Not because I don't have a stand on my beliefs but because I'm not here to cram my beliefs down anyone's throat.  But today, I came across this article that truly spoke to me, from a religious perspective.  And for once, I thought I'd share my thoughts on this very timely, hot button topic.    

I think I may like this new pope.  Love Catholicism or hate it, you have to give this man credit for trying to draw people together.  Pope Francis is living up to his namesake, St. Francis, and I'm impressed by him more and more each day.

Today there is an article on CNN entitled Who Am I To Judge?  In the article Pope Francis says, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” All I could think was, "THANK YOU!!"  And I couldn't agree more.  I don't care whether someone is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, black, white, Asian, Mexican, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish or whatever.  As long as they are leading good, decent and honorable lives does it really matter that someone is gay or a lesbian, or black or white? NO, it doesn't!  I'm so glad Pope Francis said what he said.  I think he is working hard to show that he is living a life filled with compassion for all and he is leading by example.  He is a living and breathing embodiment of what I feel religions should do, lead their followers and believers to live a life of compassion and understanding.

Most often, though, religions fail miserably at leading by example.  Wars are begun over religious differences.  Hate-filled speech is spewed forth by a few over zealous "believers" who think there is only one way to believe.  People are persecuted and damned in the name of religion.  I don't think a God who created such a diverse and beautiful world full of diverse and beautiful people would try to cram a one size fits all mentality down our throats.  Sometimes, to me, religion is a sad and pathetic anti-testament to how were are supposed to live our lives.  But I'm pretty sure I can follow Pope Francis' example.

You might not agree with me in what I'm saying.  And that's fine.  But, to me, if gays and lesbians want to be in committed, monogamous relationships sealed with a blessing from clergy and family, why shouldn't they be allowed to?  And truly, what does it matter to anyone outside of their relationship whether they are allowed to marry?  Shouldn't the two who are in the relationship be the ones to make the decision whether to marry or not?  Why should anyone be allowed to pass judgment?  Pope Francis says he's not here to judge.  So why should anyone else be here to judge?

I can tell you, I'm definitely not here to judge.  It's never been my place to judge.  I just want to live a good and honorable and decent life.  It'll be up to the man (or woman ~ blasphemy, I know!) upstairs to pass judgment on me when my time comes.  In the meantime, I'll work hard to teach my kids it's not their place to judge either.  There are plenty of others out there who will pass judgement enough times over for everyone.  My kids don't need to join them.  I'd rather they join forces with Pope Francis.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

That Won't Get Me a Good Eulogy

Yesterday I received a gift that I wasn't expecting.  Have you ever had one of those days that you start off dreading but come to realize was something you needed to have happen in  your life?  That was yesterday for me.  I had to attend a funeral.  Not exactly what any of want to do, but I came away from the service feeling  blessed that I was able to attend the funeral of a very well respected man.  I had never met him.  I know that may sound strange, thinking myself as blessed for being able to attend a funeral for a man I had never met, but it's true. I was blessed to be there in the congregation helping to celebrate the life of a man whose life was well lived and who was beloved by a those who knew him.  Yesterday was one of those days that I hope will stay with me forever.

I play tennis with this man's wife.  She is one of the kindest souls anyone could ever hope to meet.  Through all of the years I've known her, she has been dealing with her husband's declining health.  She is one of those women I hope to emulate.  Throughout his illness, I always saw her with a smile on her face and a brightness surrounding her.  Her words to all of us, her teammates and her opponents, have always been kind.  I've never heard a snappish or harsh comment come out of her mouth.  She cared for her husband morning, noon and night and never complained.  She talked about his illness and the difficulty surrounding caring for him but her stories about life with her husband were never laced complaints.  She never said, "Woe is me.  Life is so hard." She exemplified her marriage vows..."for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live."She is a woman to admire.

It was at the funeral where I realized how blessed I was to see the entire picture of her life. The how and the why to who she is.  Yesterday I was given a huge gift.

I listened intently as two of my friend's three boys eulogized their father.  They spoke with reverence and respect about the man they called "Dad." But it was how they spoke about their father with admiration and love that was my gift.  I sat wondering what kind of eulogy my own children would give me and it made me pause for a minute.  Would I be eulogized with such love and respect?  Would Stan?

It made me realize how important it is to live each day for someone else.  I don't mean that morosely, nor do I mean that we should become doormats for another.  I mean it in the most basic of ways.  The eulogies showed me how important it is to live your life honorably, with love being easily given and received.  Yesterday I realized there are times in my life where I've behaved in ways that won't get me a good eulogy.

I told Stan some of the stories from the eulogies.  The story that impressed me the most though, and the one I stressed the most, was the story of how my friend's husband was always there to help her if she needed. All she had to do with call him and he was there to help.  It struck me how easy it for us, married or not, to forget how to help someone else.  After I finished telling my story Stan, jokingly, asked me to scratch his back. He's forever asking me to scratch his back.  Some days it's multiple times in a day that I'm asked to scratch his back.  And some days, I just don't want to be bothered.  Some days I want to pull my hair out when I hear the request for the fifth or sixth time.  But yesterday, even though he was joking, I got up from my chair and scratched his back.  Yesterday, just for a moment, I lived my life for Stan.

After the whole back scratching request and talk of the funeral had died down a little, one of the kids came into the kitchen.  I don't remember who it was or what exactly happened, but Stan snapped at whoever it was for whatever it was they were doing.  He looked up at me and said, "That's not gonna get me a good eulogy, is it?"  My response was a concise, "Nope."

I hope to always carry the gift I received yesterday of how to live my life honorably and with love so that when the time comes for me to go my eulogy will be a good one.  I won't be able to come back and write my own so I better make my life a good one.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Blue Suitcase

Lightning cracked over head, thunder boomed and the wind lashed the windows of the old stone house.  The sky was an ominous green and after living in Kansas for so long Emmie knew to listen closely for the shrill warning of the tornado sirens.  As the storm swirled dangerously outside of her windows, Emmie’s heart felt the sharp sting of the wounds she had carried for so long.  She sat quietly on her bed staring at the blue suitcase just under the window in her master bedroom.  She had to wonder how much longer they would let her stay in her borrowed house.  She felt like a fraud, living in government quarters without her husband.  But for now, he was classified as missing so she was allowed to stay in the old house she turned into their home at Ft. Riley, Kansas.  A bolt of lightning lit up the sky, illuminating the suitcase and her heart told her it was time to open it.  Emmie knew it would be one way to keep her connected to her husband of 23 years.  Her heart ached, not knowing where he was and if he was OK, but if she could just find the courage to open the blue suitcase she knew she could find some solace.  The thunder crashed loudly against the walls of the house just as she stood up to go and find her heart.  
Emmie sat down gently in front of the suitcase and began unlatching the leather straps holding it together.  Her fingers trembled as the latches came undone.  The zipper was unused to being opened and it took a little coaxing to finally get it unstuck.  Emmie’s heart pounded in time with the lighting strikes overhead as the lid of the suitcase revealed her life lived in letters.  The first one to catch her eye was addressed to her from Captain Nick Reynolds.  Emotions flooded through her as her fingers lightly traced the curve of the letters of her name written by her husband so many years ago.  
She’d been brave for so long now.  The visit from the chaplain six months ago seemed like a lifetime away.  Every day since that day she worked to get up, put her feet on the floor and keep moving, always moving.  She has had to stay strong for the kids.  As an Army wife, she knew what she was signing up for, but she never thought she’d have to face the reality of knowing her husband was missing somewhere in Afghanistan and may never come home.  For the past six months, she’s blocked that thought from her head, but lately Emma has been feeling less and less connected to Nick.  She knew as long as she felt connected to him, he was out there somewhere, alive.  She needed these letters to talk to her and tell her everything would be OK.  She needed them to tell her that Nick would come home to her and their two kids. 
Her hand shook as she pulled the letter from the stack and opened it.  Her eyes flooded with tears as she read what he wrote in September of 1996, his first deployment after having kids.  

Dear Emmie, Jenna and Blaise,

Well, I’m here, about 1,000,000 miles away from you guys and it really feels like it.  I know this has to be the hardest thing about being in the army.  Being away from your family is really tough and much harder than I thought it would be.  I think it’s a combination of loneliness and tiredness that is really magnifying my emotions.  But I’m not going to die.  And I know that every day from here on out is one day closer to being together again.  
On the upside it’s going to be great once you all finally get to come to Germany.  Downtown Wurzburg is beautiful.  I can see us spending a lot of time there, strolling around and seeing the sights. And the post is great too.  It’s small and compact and has everything we’ll need. 
I’m headed to my sponsor’s house for dinner tonight so I’ll fill you in on what housing is like.  But remember, it will only be a two bedroom so don’t get your hopes up for a three bedroom.  
I have no idea what the deal is with the deployment.  It sounds like we leave mid-October and no one knows what the return date is.  The unit there now has been there for a year.  I really hope that doesn’t happen to us, but we’ll see.  You know how it is, everyone is speculating about when and how long but nobody is basing anything on fact.  We’ll just stick to our plan and remember that it won’t be forever. And then we can look forward to being together again soon.  
I bought a calling card so I can call you.  It costs $1.54 a minute.  There is a plan that has something to do with a ring back system to the US.  It’s only 37 cents a minute but I think you have to have your own phone to have it and I don’t have one yet.  
I’m going to close for now.  Give lots of love to the kids for me.  I love you to the moon and back, times infinity plus one.  I’ll keep writing as often as I can.  

I love you,

Emmie sat quietly as a single tear slipped down her cheek.  When she said “I do” to her soldier so many years ago she knew he would be living a life that included him being put in dangerous situations but up until now, he had stayed so safe.  Was he still safe?  As a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, she clasped the letter to her heart and prayed he was safe as she drifted back in time.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Misfit Mama Who Wrote a Genre-less Book

OK, so I'm figuring it all out....

One misfit mama wrote a book that can't be placed into any one, specific genre.

So what do I mean when I say I'm a misfit?  Do I mean I'm like Aly Sheedy's character on The Breakfast Club?  

Maybe.  I'm a misfit to be sure.  I can't be pegged into any one mold.

I'm out there and strange and these are time where I definitely can be like Allison Reynolds.  I don't think I'm a basket case, but sometimes, OK most of the time, I'm a little different from those around me.

And like Allison, sometimes I want so badly to fit in to some mold, any mold that I'd be willing to sell myself to anyone who would want to make me over.  So that could qualify me for being like Allison's character.

But then there are other times where I'm like Molly Ringwald's character. I loved her character in the movie. I wanted to be her.  And now sometimes I am her.  I can be a bit of a princess.  Sometimes I can be a prude (ok, it's not often I'm a prude but I have experienced brief moments of prudishness).  And usually I keep myself pretty put together.  So sometimes I am Claire Standish. 

There are the days where I'm this side of Claire Standish.  The complete and total bitch.  These are the probably the days to avoid me like the plague.  I'm not nice on when I'm this side of Claire's character.

And then there are the days I'm a total geek.  Just ask my kids.  My daughter, Claire, (maybe subconsciously I named her after the character Claire) witnessed it yesterday on the drive home.  She just shakes her head when it happens and moves on to the next part of me and my day.

I do have my jock-like days.  If you can call playing tennis being a jock.  But I get out there, sweat my ass off and then work my ass off to win.  I don't like to lose.  Is that a jock?  I don't know, but it seems to fit.  So in this way I can be kind of like Emilio Estevez's character.  Although, I can safely tell you I've never duct taped anyone butt cheeks together like Andrew Clark did.  

OK, I have to admit, even to myself, that Judd Nelson's character is a bit of a stretch for me.  I can't really be called a criminal, unless you want to count the time I got arrested for a three dollar parking ticket.  But I can be like John Bender.  Like him I'm a survivor.  I will prevail, in the end.

It doesn't really come as a shock to me that I'm a misfit.  I totally relate to all of these characters.  I am all of these characters all rolled into one.  And in being a total misfit, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that I wrote a misfit of a book.  It has romance in it, but it's not really a romance.  It full of twists and turns but it's not really a mystery.  It's a bit of a suspense filled book but it's not a true suspense.  It's a lot like me...a misfit.  My book seems to be genre-less and un-brandable.  Like me, it's also a bit like all of the characters in The Breakfast Club rolled into one.  But The Breakfast Club definitely found it's branding and genre.  It's been a classic coming of age movie for so many years.  So maybe, just maybe, I can use this to my advantage to brand myself and my book.

I'm the Misfit Mama Who Wrote a Genre-less book.  Wait just a cotton picking minute...I am indeed a misfit, but I think I just figured out my book isn't's Genre-FULL!!!

Oh, for the love of my children....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Reading Cat: Author Interview – JD Combs

The Reading Cat: Author Interview – JD Combs: The genre of books I adore is anything with a mysterious twist. Do you find it hard to share your work? I don’t find it terribly hard to ...