Grand Illusions

My younger son wanted me to take pictures of his toy Camaro so it “looked real.”  Okay.  I had no idea how to take pictures of a toy so it looked like a real car, so I ignored the request, thinking it would go away. Hahaha.  Funny.  The request not only didn’t go away, it became more frequent and urgent.  Finally, after about a week, I took some pictures of it in front of their toy firehouse.  The bright primary colors of the firehouse didn’t scream “real” and the carpet under the tires, though dirty, wasn’t real enough.  So, we took it outside.

Yes, we took this prized toy Camaro outdoors.  I set it in the street, stretched out on my belly and began my photo shoot.  We took pictures from many angles…doors closed, doors open, back view, side view…you name it, we did it.  Cars drove by.  I’m sure people thought I looked strange, but I don’t care.  My son was beyond excited.

He wanted his car to look like something it wasn’t.  I can think of periods in my youth where I was the car.  I thought the right clothes would make me popular.  A different hairstyle (or a hairstyle at all) would make me likeable.  I wanted my outward appearance to cover up who I really was:  a shy, insecure girl who felt her personality wasn’t enough of a draw.

I’d like to say that image creating stopped with adulthood.  That’d be a lie, though.  I clean the house when I know someone is coming over.  Yes, I work, parent the kids, and my house is clean, too.  One of the kids experiences behavior issues (they tag-team this one).  Everything is going well.  Yes, the kids are good.  When someone asks how I am, I say fine even when I’m not.  Do you really want to know that I feel like crying right now?

I find it interesting that we all struggle, but we guard our troubles like a poker hand.  We don’t want to admit that we can’t do it all.  We refuse to acknowledge we could use a hand.  We don’t discuss the weak links in our lives.  Instead, we perpetuate the myth of control by projecting a false image.  Imagine how much more at ease we’d be if we allowed our flaws to see the light of day.  If we saw others struggled just as we do, wouldn’t we be freed from the pressure of living up to their image?

At least God knows where we are broken – we can’t hide that from Him.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been by refuge, a strong tower against the foe.  (Psalms 62:2-3)

 Have a beautiful Sunday!


My Weakest Link

After I became a mom, it was glaringly obvious that a very important gene was absent from my DNA.  Until that time, I had hoped it was there, but just sat dormant until I had children.  If you’ve read many of my posts, I bet you’re thinking, “Lady, there’s a lot that’s not right with your genetic composition.”

Growing up, I was the one who squealed, while covering my eyes, during the shark attacks in Jaws.  If I opened my eyes too soon and saw the murky red water, my stomach lurched and I immediately regretted eating an entire package of Red Vines.

In high school Biology class, we watched a film of a hip replacement surgery.  Well, I mostly doodled in my notebook, glancing up occasionally to see what made my classmates utter, “cool” and “check that out!”  I regretted my surrender to curiosity and skipped lunch that day because the pizza looked too much like what I saw on the video.

I feared having children because I sensed I wouldn’t be able to tolerate their grossness.  Just the thought of cleaning up whatever came out of either end made my stomach curl into a ball and do a somersault in my belly.  Imagining the appearance and smell caused my throat to constrict and my gag reflex to show off its superhuman strength.  Other mothers, including my own, assured me that “it’s different when it’s your own children.”

I’m here to tell you (nearly nine years after the birth of my first child): they all lied.

Maybe “lied” is too harsh – but they certainly were wrong.  The ability to handle all things disgusting is missing, which is a HUGE disadvantage, considering I’m a mom to two boys.

On Sunday, my older son wasn’t feeling well.  He came into the living room and announced, “I don’t feel good.”  My hubby knew the translation: the floor’s gonna get it in 2.7 seconds.  He ordered our son to get to the bathroom, but sadly, it wasn’t soon enough.

So, on Father’s Day, my hubby got to demonstrate the true meaning of love by cleaning up our tile – twice.  I stayed outside of smelling or hearing distance, but my stomach still revolted.  I’d like to believe my queasiness was the ultimate show of motherly empathy, but I know it was just me being a wimp.  In my defense, I did ask my son if there was anything I could do for him.  Does it still count even though I stood around the corner with a towel over my nose?

When the last crisis ended, my hubby asked me what I would’ve done if he hadn’t been there to clean up the mess.  “Go to a hotel” was my half-joking response.

Now you know my stomach single-handedly dashed any hopes of med school.  What’s your weakest link?  Please share – if you don’t have one, I’ll be jealous of you; and jealousy shows the dark circles under my eyes 🙂

In the Absence of Peace, I Have Faith

Last Memorial Day, I wrote about my cousin – a Marine stationed in Afghanistan.  A lot can change in a year, but by the same token, much stays the same.  Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, over 1,500 American soldiers have died (according to stats on Wikipedia.)  By the grace of God, my cousin is not one of them.  He came home before Christmas last year.  Unfortunately, he will be in Afghanistan for another tour later this year.

In this post, I will not venture into political territory, because I am unarmed and ill-equipped to stroll through that minefield.  I also choose not to analyze past events to discern who is “right” or “wrong,” because judging is exactly what I want to do less of.  What fascinates (and sometimes frightens) me is our human nature.

Since Memorial Day is a designated day to remember men and women who died during military service, it started me thinking about conflicts throughout history.  Wars are fought for two main reasons:  to protect or gain power and defend or spread religious beliefs.  This may be an over-simplification, but that’s how my mind works best.

In college, I took a few Religions classes to round out my degree requirements, so I have an awareness of some spiritual beliefs other than Christianity.  My knowledge is about as deep as icing on a sheet cake, so I won’t claim to know the ins and outs of every religion, but I don’t remember hatred being the basis of any of them.

This is why I feel the lust for power drives most conflicts, even when defense of a religious belief is claimed.  Greed remains anonymous because no one wants to call it what it is.  The conflict must be justified – and surely God (or the spiritual leader) would approve of defending and spreading the word.

I wonder if the world would be a different (read: better) place if we were more in tune to the weaknesses of our human nature and committed ourselves to strength training.  Instead of allowing pride, entitlement and defensiveness to rule our actions, what if we gave humility and understanding a chance?  Instead of assuming a wrong was done to us intentionally, what if we gave the benefit of the doubt that the slight was accidental?  Instead of suspicious doubt, maybe we could draw on our faith and risk trust.

I know I’m a dreamer.  Thousands of years of history point to our inability to overcome our weaknesses.   No one is willing to be the first to lay down the sword (or disarm the nuclear firearm) because the consequences are too great.  The irony is, that in destroying the enemy, everyone is destroyed.

So, until my dreams of peace come true, I will continue to reflect on Memorial Day.  I will think of those families who have lost loved ones in war.  I will pray that my cousin does not become a casualty of human weakness.  I will appreciate the freedom I have to write and publish these words without fear –all because of the men and women who have fought to make this a right for citizens of the United States of America.

Child’s Interpretation of American Flag

I’d love to read your thoughts about Memorial Day and/or human nature – please feel free to share 🙂

My Journey Through Darkness

image via Google Images (

After I was baptized at age nine, my life didn’t magically get better.  In fact, it didn’t change much at all from the outside.  I withdrew further into myself, and into dream worlds that were much kinder than reality.  In the early eighties, the small town we lived in had some hard times and my dad lost his job.  Luckily, he was handy, so he found work – even if it wasn’t work he enjoyed.

Months later, he found a job that required us to move to a town that was two-and-a-half hours away.  I cried because my grandparents wouldn’t live down the street from me anymore, but I wanted to go.

In December, I started school in the new town and was crushed to discover that those kids were just as mean.  I accepted that it was my fault because I couldn’t convince myself that everyone else had a problem.  I did make one friend – Anne.  She moved out-of-state less than a month later, and I was alone again.

My parents found a church, but like the last one, they weren’t regular attenders.  I didn’t like the new church; it just wasn’t the same without my grandparents.  I missed waiting in the car with my grandpa while my grandma chatted with other church ladies for what seemed like an hour.  It helped that we made regular visits to see my grandparents, but it didn’t match eating snacks at their house every day after school.  Though I always looked forward to visits, the miles between us did put some distance in the relationship.

The next year, I started sixth grade in another school across town.  I was still awkward and shy, but the kids were nicer.  Then, during my three years in junior high, I made a few more friends.  I wasn’t popular by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t care because the popular people weren’t on a mission to make my life miserable.  Sure, some still called me “nerd” and “geek” but that was nothing compared to what people said to me in the last town.  In fact, a few popular kids would even talk to me as long as their friends weren’t around.  I was too grateful to realize that I should’ve been insulted 🙂

The town only had one high school, so I carried a sense of dread my entire last year of junior high.  I worried that the mean kids from fifth grade would turn my friends against me.  I was scared, desperate, and didn’t want to be lonely again.  No, I resolved to not let that happen.  My teenage mind could think of only one way out.

I had a plan.  That is, until a strange conversation with my grandma during one of our weekend visits.  While working on posters for her Sunday School class, just like we had done when I was younger, she started talking about God’s view of suicide.  I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I do recall that I was freaked out because it seemed like she knew what I’d been planning. 

I remember asking her one question:  “If you commit suicide, do you go to heaven?”  I also recall her answer:  “No.”  During this conversation, we continued working on the lesson without making eye contact.  She only talked in general terms and never made me the subject.  She must have known it would’ve put me on the defensive; after all, fifteen-year-old girls aren’t the most stable creatures under the best of circumstances.

Growing up in a Baptist church, I heard plenty about the other place and “eternal damnation”- and I knew I didn’t want to go there.  I doubted the plan that I had been so sure about, so I did nothing.  God came through with more blessings:  my dad lost his job in the small town, but they lined up a transfer to Arizona.  My dad still had a job with the company and I got a shot at a new beginning.

So far, this has been the lowest point of my life.  I am ashamed that I would have considered taking my own life.  My grandma made it clear that she viewed it as a cowardly, selfish act.  By virtue of my willingness to succumb to it, I became those things. 

Although I detest this weakness, I remember it often – not to torture myself, but to make me stronger.  I do have days where I’m not happy, but I make an effort to look up to the light instead of focusing on the depths of darkness because I know what it feels like to be pinned down and smothered by hopelessness.  I will not go back.  I have faith that God won’t let me go back.

I’ll never know for sure what prompted my grandma to start that conversation – but I know in my heart that it was God.

Me Against Me (Fear vs. Courage)

Me Against Me (Fear vs. Courage)

 I’ve noticed that I’m spending more time on everything except finishing my manuscript review; it’s a pattern I’ve seen before.  When I near completion of something, my inclination is to stop and move on to another project.  Some might call this flighty, others irresponsible.  Some might figure I just don’t’ know what I want in life, while others may think I’m lazy.

But, I know it’s something worse; a secret I don’t discuss because we don’t show weaknesses, right?   I’ve alluded to issues of self-doubt in previous posts, but I’m going to identify the root of my problem right now: Fear.  Simple, right?  I’m afraid of everything.  Thoughts of failure bog me down; I’m intimidated by the slightest possibility of success; unsure of my abilities; and overly concerned with how my work stacks up against so many other people that are better than me.

Fear rules my life.  I’m confident in my work only because I’ve done the same thing for so long.  I’ve tried other things before, but always run back to what I know because it’s easier; because I can’t fail.  I stopped writing many years ago after creating a mini-graveyard of incomplete stories because the publishing world was too formidable.  Why would they publish my work, after all, with so many talented writers out there? 

Nearly two years ago, I scraped together some courage and defiantly started a novel (my personal Revolutionary War, if you will).  In January, the story was complete, with a beginning, middle and end.  Yes!  I finally beat fear…or did I?   Failure preoccupies my mind.  What if I can’t find an agent?  What if, by some miracle, I find an agent, and they can’t sell my story?  What if, by another miracle from God, they sell my story, but no one likes it.  I could keep going, but this thought process is so crippling, my fingers won’t form the letters to those words.

The goal of this post is not to whine about how difficult writing and the publishing business are; anyone who writes knows that.  My purpose is to acknowledge something that stifles me as a writer, and as a person and sabotages any attempt at change.   I know it’s going to be a daily struggle between courage and fear, but I’m tired of being fear’s pawn. 

So, today, I challenge:  bring it on, fear.  I’m ready; and I’ve got 30+ years of frustration to back me up!  (Sorry, I’m a woman; I can’t divulge the exact number of years, but can’t, with good conscience claim only 20+).