Friday, October 9, 2015

Bud

His greeting was always the same, “Hey, Little Bit”, followed by a big bear hug.  I guess I was “little bit” to him, standing five foot tall (on tippy toes) next to his six feet.  I thought of him more like a dad than a friend.  He became such an intricate part of our family that the kids thought of him as Grandpa Bud. 

We could always count on Grandpa Bud to be in the cheering section of every sporting event for each of our kids (even though he didn’t know a lick about sports).  Grandma Carol, on the other hand, loves sports and made valiant efforts to instill a love of sports in Grandpa Bud.  She claims she gave up after Bud asked her one day while watching an NFL football game, how many of the guys had last names of “Riddell” (the helmet manufacturer). 

Bud entered our lives when our kids were little and remained with us as our family grew and grew with foster and adoptive children.  It is fitting that our children were in his and Carol’s wedding as flower girls and ring bearers (God knows we had enough kids to make up two bridal parties!).  The circle of life came full circle when Bud and Carol represented the grandparents at our daughter’s wedding. 

He always made each of our kids feel special and loved.  He was a man of few words, but he never missed an opportunity to speak encouragement at the dance recital or the graduation.  His gentle kindness won the trust of Nurjahan, our little girl from Bangladesh, who was terribly burned by acid.  In her culture, it was forbidden to be alone in a room with a man who was not a relative.  Over time, she would sit on Grandpa Bud’s lap while he read her stories. 

If I were asked to come up with one word to describe Bud, it would be gentle.  He was always gentle and kind.  I never heard him raise his voice or utter a mean word to anyone.  He was also fun. 

For a man his age, he was up for anything.  We’ve been on camping trips, hiking in mountains, tubing and canoeing.  I’ll never forget the time he was canoeing with my daughter, Jennifer and the canoe tipped.  Carol and I were not very compassionate as we laughed our heads off!  Then, we realized Bud couldn’t swim, and his hat and hearing aids were floating down the river!  All was not lost, though and we managed to rescue Bud and his belongings. 

I have so many wonderful memories of Bud.  I feel so blessed to have had him and Carol in our lives all these years.  He lived a good, honorable life.  He loved his country and served in the military in WWII.  When he wore his WWII veteran hat, he was often approached by strangers that just took the time to say, “thank you.”  I want to take the time to say “thank you.”  Thank you, Bud for the joy you brought into our lives.  Thank you for your loving ways.  Thank you for always being there for my family.  Thank you for teaching me that gentleness and kindness are a sign of great strength of character.  You will be greatly missed and always treasured. 

Someday, I hope to hear that greeting again, “Hey Little Bit!”  Until then, rest in God’s arms my dear friend.


In Loving Memory
Bud Treiber
April 1, 1922 - October 8, 2015


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bathing Soup and Sun Scream

Something magical happens when “grandma” appears in your name.  Actually, in my case, the name is “Nana”.  To some, nana conjures up images of an old lady sitting in a rocking chair reading books and singing to a content toddler in her lap.  Not this Nana!  This Nana is very busy indeed.  There are the few times when a good book and a comfy rocking chair serve their purpose for a few seconds.  But when three-year-old Devyn is in the house, we’re more likely to be rocking and rolling than rocking and dozing.

Magically, Nana’s knee finds a way to keep up the pace.  My energy level gets a boost out of nowhere and I can Nay Nay and Whip my way into a frenzy dancing to Janis Joplin on the old record player.  There is no slide too tall nor fort too low for Nana.  The super-human strength even holds up when Devyn suddenly has to ride on Nana’s shoulders during the longest hike into the pasture to find the elusive crowing rooster. 

What is it about being a Nana that brings out this “magical” vigor?  I think it is a mixture of bathing soup and sun scream.  Every time Devyn and I are together we laugh.  We laugh our way through Miss Devyn’s Whip and Nay Nay dance lessons.  We laugh as we sail over rough seas in our homemade couch yacht.  We laugh at bubble bath beards and edible cow pies (Devyn’s favorite imaginary snack).  There is nothing too crazy for Nana and Devyn: between finding the hippopotamus hiding in the closet to dragging the giraffe out from under the bed, we laugh our way through the day. 

When I was a kid, I used to spend summers at the Jersey Shore in Atlantic City with my grandmother.  We’d spend hours on the beach making elaborate drip castles - just me and grandma.  It seemed that time stood still during those hours that we let the sand drip off our fingers creating beautiful castles for imaginary princes and princesses.   Sometimes we talked, sometimes we just dripped our castle - no words necessary. 

There are days I wish that I could gather up those grains of sand and turn them into seconds.  If I did, I bet I would have enough seconds to fill up another lifetime with my grandma.  She didn’t watch the clock worrying that we were frittering away our time.  Even though she had arthritic fingers, she never once told me that we needed to stop building drip castles.  She knew the secret of grandma strength - laugh, dream, imagine and love.

Today, I was getting Devyn ready for a day at the beach with Nana.  As we were gathering up our pails and shovels for our drip castles, Devyn reminded me that she needed to get her bathing soup on and that I need to pack the sun scream.  I laughed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fractured

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of the moral decay of our country is the abhorrent practice of selling baby body parts by Planned Parenthood.  The recent videos released by The Center for Medical Progress spotlight the callousness by which Planned Parenthood’s representatives describe the procurement and distribution processes as though they are describing collecting and retailing auto parts. 

We, as a nation have a moral obligation to awaken from our self-induced stupor, shake off the inertia and do something to stop this atrocity.  We are becoming a nation enslaved by the radical few espousing all things disparate to Judeo-Christian values. 

Americans don’t need to look very far into our history to find one of the radical few.  Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, is a perfect example of a fervent radical who pushed her beliefs on our society.  She radically restructured the conscience of this nation while the majority of the citizenry slumbered. 

Margaret Sanger enthusiastically embraced eugenics.  She referred to blacks as “human weeds” and “reckless breeders” and espoused racial purification.  In her writings, she frequently stated that she wanted to, “protect society against the propagation and increase of the unfit.”  She was diabolical in her pursuit of eradicating “bad stocks” (poor, minorities, physically and mentally challenged).  Today she is hailed as a great women’s rights advocate. 

I wonder how advocating for human rights has warped into the grotesque practice of harvesting and selling baby body parts?  We hear time and time again from supporters of Planned Parenthood how the rights of the mother are paramount to the rights of the unborn child.  They choose to overlook to overwhelming evidence of Planned Parenthood’s illegal practices.  Meanwhile, the majority of Americans who do not support these appalling practices, remain silent.

So, how did it happen?  How did a great nation that believes in God, liberty, the unalienable rights of citizens of all ages become a nation dominated by the radical few?  I’ll tell you how - divide and conquer.  Margaret Sanger knew this.  She knew that she could never convince our great nation to engage in eugenics, so she divided us into two groups of men and women.  Then, she appealed to the women and made birth control an issue of “rights”.  She convinced women (especially minority women) that it was their “right” to end the life of their child.  Absurd isn’t it? 

Enemies of America fully understand the divide and conquer strategy.  They understand that a fractured society will collapse.  That is what is happening to our country.  We are fracturing into a million pieces - and selling the pieces of our babies!  What is wrong with us?

If we don’t wake up and stand up for what America has always been - a great free nation founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs - then what will we become?  

The Constitution of the United States starts with the phrase, “We the People” - not “we the fractured”.  When Benjamin Franklin was leaving the constitutional convention, he was asked by a woman what the outcome of our Constitution will be.  He replied, “A republic, madam. If you can keep it.” 

Can we?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Lost and Found

God made me who I am.  I am a radical thinker.  I am a dreamer.  I am a visionary.  I am a mother.  I am a wife.  I am compassionate.  I am fiercely loyal.  I am a fighter.  I am a voice for the voiceless.  I am stubborn.  I am mean.  I am proud.  I am angry.  I am lost.  I am found;  lost again and found again.  Found and lost.  Lost and found.... a vicious cycle. 

I’m on a vicious cycle. 

I’m in a vicious cycle. 

Lost in the world: Found at home....

Home is where the heart is, after all.   Home is where the soul belongs.  Home is where it all starts and where it all ends.  Lost can be many places, it’s really hard when lost is at home.  Found can be many places but it’s great when it’s at home.  Found is where I need to be.  I need to be found.  I cannot be lost anymore.   God, find me - please.  Find me and never lose me again. I am too tired to be lost.  I am too lonely to be lost.  I am too afraid to be lost.  I am too cool to be lost.  I am too smart to be lost.  I am too....What?  Too far into a journey?  Too far down the beaten path?  Too far gone?

Journeys have a beginning and an end.  This journey has been a great adventure from beginning to end.  God has guided me - even when I was lost and I didn’t know he was there for me, like now.  He always led the way and sometimes I followed and sometimes I didn’t.  I caught up later.  He let me venture off, but he always came after me.  He always called me back.  Is he calling me back now?  Is he telling me to follow him?  Am I venturing off or am I following?  Such a perplexing question - am I lost or found?

All I ask, God is that you make this path, this journey, this next step clear to me.  I need to know that I am following and not lost in some chasm that is deep and dark and leads to destruction.  How do I know, God?  How do I trust that my path is right with you?  That is all that matters.  Don’t lose me again, God.  I can’t bear to be lost anymore.  Please find me.  Find me and put me where I belong.  Help me to find “it”.  I’ve been chasing “it” my entire life.  I lost “it” when I was a kid.  I don’t know if I lost “it” or if “it” was taken from me, but either way “it” left me and I’ve been looking for “it” ever since.  So, if you know where “it” is and if you know what “it” is, please help me find “it”.  Please help me to know “it” again and to never lose “it”. 

What is it?  Is it peace?  Yes.  It is peace.  It’s been out of my soul and out of my heart on some wild adventure for over 40 years.  It stops in occasionally, but it never stays for long.  It is like the wind, blowing on a wayward breeze.  It is a whisper in the darkness that calls my name as the shadow passes.  It is a tease: Come here and you’ll find me.  Okay, I say.  And I go.  I go to West Virginia.  Hah!  It vanishes.  Come here and you’ll find me...the shadow beckons.  Okay, I say.  And I go to NJ.  Hah!  It vanishes again.  Come here and you’ll find me, the voice says in the wind.  Okay, I say.  And I go.  I go to Florida.  Hah!  It hides.  It plays hide a seek with me over and over again.  It hides from me at work and at home.  It hides in hospital rooms.  It plays lost and found with me for years and years.  And I let it hide.  I let it stay hidden.  I seek, but I don’t find.  It knows where to hide. 

Where do I find it?  I know, of course.  It is inside of me.  It is right there hiding but, in order to find it, I have to look inside.  I don’t want to look inside.  There are dark things in there.  There are things that I’d have to look behind to find it.  I’d have to move abuse out of the way.  Then, of course, there’s shame in the great big over-sized box.  I don’t know that I can move shame.  There’s sadness in the corner - it’s stuck there.  So many boxes - how could I ever find it?  The darkness is great and I don’t have a  flashlight.  Besides, the negative box is enormous!  Next to the negative box is the tiny and very fragile hurting box.  The hurting box just doesn’t want to be moved.  I bet it is hiding behind that box.  Of all the boxes, the hurting box, although small and fragile, is the heaviest.  I don’t think I can ever move that box. 

I’d have to open the hurting box and take some of the things out of it in order to move it.  I’d have to take sorrow out.  Anger is in there too.  So is doubt.  The hurting box has lots of hurtful words in it.  It holds lots of regret.  The hurting box holds six babies.  I can’t take them out.  As much as I want to take them out and hold them and mother them and love them, I can’t.  They’ve been tucked away in the hurting box for many years.  They are what makes that box so fragile.  If I were it, I’d hide behind that box. 

So, here I am.  Chasing it and knowing that it lies right there.  It is within my reach if I decide to find it.  I cannot find it without moving the boxes.  I cannot move the boxes without help.  I cannot find help without asking.  So, I’m asking.  I’m begging.  I’m pleading...God help me.  God help me to move the boxes because I cannot move them myself.  Better yet, God, pick up the boxes and move them for me.  Show me where “it” is and help me to keep “it”. 

Philippians 4:6-7
 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Monday, July 20, 2015

GodSpeak

I try to tell my children that it is important to take a stand in life for what you believe in despite the consequences.  I believe that God puts certain longings in our hearts that we must pay special attention to.  Sometimes, those longings are easy to spot and easy to heed.  Other times, the message is difficult and requires great strength of character to take on.

Throughout the Bible, God calls his people to take on seemingly insurmountable obstacles - David and Goliath, Moses parting the red sea, Noah and the ark, Jonah in the belly of the whale, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego thrown in the fire and Mary asked to bear a child despite the fact that she was unwed. 

All of these stories have two things in common. The first is that these mere mortals could not accomplish any of these tasks without the divine intervention of God.  The second is that they all said, “Yes.”  Jonah had to be helped to say yes, but he eventually came around and went on to follow God’s calling.

Each of these stories were pertinent to the times - the obstacles were seen as insurmountable relevant to the day.  For instance, an unwed pregnant mother would not appear to be a huge obstacle today.  Yet, even today, we do face obstacles that still test our faith and call us to rely on God to see us through.  We Christians are being thrown in the proverbial fire of our time when we stand on our faith against things like abortion. 

I’m sure that I will be thrown into the fire for writing this piece - but I must write it because I feel called to do so. 

I prayed long and hard about what to say and how to say it and I asked God to direct my words.  I asked God to speak through me to whomever needs to hear what I am going to say.  I trust that this story will reach the people it needs to reach and touch the people it needs to touch. 

This past week there was a very disturbing news story all over the television and the internet concerning the selling of unborn baby’s body parts.  I could use the word fetus - as if that is somehow more palatable, but the parts are human and fully developed.  In a humane world, those parts would be described as human and not fetal (like a fetal pig for instance).  In any case, I forced myself to watch the gruesome video of the woman peddling body parts over her fancy dinner as if they were auto parts. The unconscionable lack of emotion and indifference for what she was trafficking was truly mind boggling and completely indefensible.  Watching that video made me cry out to God and beg Him to guide me to speak out against this wickedness.

God’s timing is perfect isn’t it?  I don’t believe in coincidences.  So, I know that opening my grandmother’s old jewelry box just a few days after I cried out to Him was His way of answering me.  Today, when I opened the jewelry box to look for a necklace, the mirror fell off the inside of the box as it has been prone to do because it’s so old.  As the mirror fell, it revealed an ultrasound that I had placed in the box 26 years ago.  It was dated February 6, 1989. 

I remember that ultrasound because I was so excited to hear my baby’s heart beating.  The technician stamped the ultrasound with my baby’s age: eight weeks and four days old.  I asked for a copy and I put it in my jewelry box when I got home - a special place for my special baby. 

Today, I was thirty-one again remembering the day that this precious life ended.  My fingers feel almost frozen right now.  What do I say next?  How do I put into words the waves of emotion that still crash over me?  I can’t.  I can’t convey to the reader the awfulness of listening the the doctor’s clinical voice telling me the baby is gone in the blink of an eye - just a few weeks after I watched my baby’s heart beating strong.  His voice sounded like it was coming from the far end of a tunnel...” skull cap might still be intact.  I’ll have to perform a D&C to evacuate the incomplete miscarriage.”  I remember running out of his office, jumping in my car and driving for hours with no destination - feeling completely helpless, completely hopeless and completely empty.

Going through a miscarriage is tough enough with people around you, but when it’s just you, it weighs you down and burdens you in ways that I cannot explain.  It was just me with my misery.  My husband didn’t understand the tremendous loss I was experiencing and he expected me to get over it quickly.  We did have a beautiful two-year-old, Jennifer so he kept telling me that I should focus on her and move on.  He kept assuring me that we’d have another child soon.

That miscarriage was followed by four more over a period of five years. I didn’t think that I would ever have another child.  I considered Jennifer a true miracle considering my history.  When I became pregnant with Katie, I assumed the pregnancy would end the same as all the others.  Carrying her to full-term was my second miracle.  Then, I got pregnant one more time and lost that baby too.  Six miscarriages was enough for me.  Bill and I decided that we would adopt children if we wanted to grow our family. 

I didn’t know at the time that the miscarriages would become something of a catapult for me.  I didn’t know that the loss I experienced would be my walk through fire so that I could give voice to the voiceless.  I didn’t know that God would use my pain to make me stronger. 

i can tell you, though that I know now why God placed this heartache in my life.  I know that God was preparing me for a battle.  I know that this battle doesn’t require super-human strength but it does require super-human resolve.  It requires super-human understanding and forgiveness. 

What is the battle?  I know that God has called me to speak out against the atrocity of abortion.  I know that it is imperative that I speak out in a way that honors Him.  I know that I cannot just sit back and watch the horror of the trafficking of baby parts and do nothing.  I know that I cannot have a cavalier attitude about the tremendous loss of human potential that occurs through abortion.  I know that I cannot condemn women who see abortion as the only alternative in their life.  I am asking God to direct my path.  I am asking God to speak to me and through me.  I am asking that He opens the right doors and closes the wrong ones.  I know that this is my walk of faith through the fire, into the belly of the whale to face the Goliath of our time. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What Not to Wear

I know that I sometimes don’t really consider what I have on before I leave the house.  One morning, when I had a respectable job that required me to do interviews, I inadvertently put on two right shoes (one black and one dark blue).  It wasn’t until I crossed my legs during an interview that I realized my folly - it appeared that I had two right feet and the color difference in the light was quite obvious.  My colleague, who was doing the interviews with me, noticed my shoes at the same time and we both burst out laughing.  I can’t imagine what went through the mind of the poor candidate we were interviewing.  We had to explain to her my propensity to be clothing challenged.  The interview deteriorated from there and we ended up taking the interviewee to lunch (and hiring her).  

Fast forward a few years: I not only live on a farm but I work at a worm farm, so why would I dress up to go outside to feed the livestock or go to work?  A ratty pair of jeans or shorts with an old tee shirt suit me just fine.  Bill, a PE teacher, doesn’t dress up much either.   Little did we know how much embarrassment we must have brought our children because they entered us in a contest to win a $5,000 wardrobe - each!

Had we known we’d been entered in the worst dressed couples contest, we may have made a more conscience effort to adorn ourselves in the sneakers with the most holes in them or matching armpit stained tee shirts.  I have to say, I was wondering why our children suddenly took such a great interest in photographing the two of us together when we were out herding goats or on our way to estate sales.  For at least a week, it wasn’t unusual to find one of the children hiding behind a wall trying to sneak a picture of us in our casual attire.  I had no idea what they were up to, but I was too busy to really give it much thought.  I had goats to deliver and worms to feed, after all.

The photo sessions ended as abruptly as they started and I completely forgot about my children’s strange behavior until I got a letter in the mail from the TV show, “What Not to Wear”.  It said something like this: Congratulations, you have made it to the ten finalists in the “What Not to Wear” worst dressed couples contest. 

I was devastated!  How could my own children be so callous!  No wonder they were so intent on snapping pictures - the insolent guttersnipes (it took me a long time to find that word).  After calming down, I took an inventory of what I was wearing while I stood by my mailbox: No shoes, an oversized nightshirt with “Merry Christmas” on the front (it was July) and no undergarments.  At that moment it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe my children had a point.

As I made my way into the house, I read the rest of the letter:  Should the two of you make it into the top three finalists, you and your wardrobe will be flown to New York City where our What Not to Wear staff will make the final decision on which couple will be given a $10,000 shopping spree and a complete makeover. 

Did I call my children guttersnipes?  I was mistaken - after all, they were only trying to assist their poor clothing-challenged parents.  As soon as I got into the house, I immediately did a google search of What Not to Wear’s worst dressed couples.  From what I could find, we had some stiff competition; a leather-clad duster duo with purple hair, a pair of hippie throwbacks in camo and two punk rockers.  I was not concerned, though.  After all, thanks to our little cherubs, I was photographed barefoot in my daisy duke shorts and their dad in his ripped shorts with his ever-present white crew socks.  Surely, we had a good shot at making it to the final three. 

Sadly, we didn’t make it.  I don’t even know who won the contest - although my vote was for the hippies in camo.  To this day, I wonder what would have happened had we won.  Would I be leaving the house in Avalon tee shirts to tend to the worms?  Would Bill be braving middle school PE in Milo designer shorts?  Would I long for my University of Kentucky nightshirt and pink polkadot undies?  Would I never see my husband’s farmer’s tan again? 

I guess these questions will haunt me forever...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Unbroken

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting on the porch watching the horses run.  About eight years ago, we got an unbroken horse for Katie.  We named the horse Jersey Girl. I thought I could break her.  It’s rather sad when you think about it - breaking a horse literally means, “breaking the spirit”.  When you break a horse, you bend it to your will.  It’s really hard to break a horse’s spirit.  I worked for months trying to break Jersey Girl.   I think it would be more fitting to say that Jersey Girl broke us with her “Jersey Girl” attitude!  Katie was probably not at the best age for horse breaking with her mother.  I’ve learned that teenage girls tend to butt heads frequently with their mothers.  When teenage girl attitude is teamed up with “Jersey Girl” attitude - Let’s just say that I don’t want to be in the horse breaking business anymore!

I don’t want to be in the people breaking business either, although I think that we all do some people breaking from time to time if we are honest.  Then there are the times when we break our own spirit. 

In thinking about this phenomena of breaking one’s spirit, I believe that each person must be acutely aware of what their own spirit needs to thrive.  I know that my spirit needs to be free.  It cannot be lassoed or penned in.  My natural reaction to being penned in is to run.  In this way, my spirit is akin to the horse’s spirit. 

When I tried to break Katie’s 1200 lb. horse, I had it haltered and I used a long rope to give it lots of room.  The horse would feel the tug of the rope and respond not knowing that it was only being controlled by a five foot tall, 125 lb. weakling.  The more I reigned in the horse, however, the harder it was to control her because she sensed the shifting power.  The minute she thought that I was dominating her, she bucked, kicked and fought for her freedom.  She only let me control her from a distance and, even then, she really never gave up her independence. 

That’s me.  I’m just like Jersey Girl.  I am a Jersey Girl, after all.  If I’m not given lots of rope, I’ll start to buck and kick and do just about anything to break free.  There’s a part of me that thinks this is not good.  I must always think and act outside the box.  Yet, maybe I’m just looking at this wrong.  It’s the way God made me, after all.  It’s my spirit.  I believe it is part of why I am so drawn to the spirit of a horse. 

There are many things that free my spirit.  Perhaps the most freeing is writing.  It’s something that I love and yet I’ve strayed away from it for a long time.  I’ve reigned in my passion for writing - lassoed it with negative self-talk: “You're not a good writer.  No one wants to read your stories.  Give up.” 

So, over time, a part of me has given up on writing.  I’ve locked the creative door of my brain and thrown away the key.  I’ve allowed myself to break my own spirit.  Well, no more!  I’m going back to writing and I may or may not post the stories on my blog.  After all, my writing is for my soul and it really doesn’t matter if anyone reads it or likes it.  I’m going to promise my spirit that I will allow it to be free in as many areas of my life as I can.  As of today, I will vow to keep my spirit unbroken!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Jeremy

Jeremy grabbed my hand and motioned for me to bow my head.  I obediently held his hand and the hand of the person to my right.  We bowed our heads and Jeremy began saying the morning prayer.  As Jeremy spoke his prayer, the tears began to well up in my eyes.  I tried to stop them but I was unable to control the raw emotion that his fervent prayer stirred in my soul.  His prayer was as passionate as any Baptist minister I’d ever heard but it carried with it a sweetness that only someone as innocent as Jeremy could muster. 

When he finished his prayer, he ended it with a hardy “humph” and we all clapped.  It   was the first time that Jeremy volunteered to lead the group in prayer.  Normally, he sits quietly watching me intently for cues.  He knows prayers are done when I squeeze his hand and give him his thumbs up sign signaling it’s time to go to the painting station. 

Jeremy is a great painter.  He is skilled at his craft and takes his job very seriously.  He works diligently from the minute he sits at his station until he proudly signs his creation.  Often, I have to coax him to take his lunch break which he usually shortens by at least ten minutes.  He doesn’t stop until his bus driver arrives and insists it’s time to go.

These are all the traits an employer would want to see in a great employee.  They’d want someone with the kind of passion Jeremy displays.  They’d look for someone who exhibits the kind of work ethic that goes above and beyond to do a great job.  I’m certain that Jeremy’s willingness to learn and his ability to get along with all his coworkers is something that employers would honor.  Yet, at the age of thirty-six, Jeremy has never been employed before.

Prior to working with me, Jeremy sat at home alone and lonely with nothing to fill his days.  It wasn’t because Jeremy didn’t want to work.  It wasn’t because Jeremy was unable to do a job.  It was simply because Jeremy has Down Syndrome and is deaf.  Jeremy’s mother was unable to find anywhere for Jeremy to go during the days when she worked, so he sat at home with little to fill his days. 

Now, Jeremy is a part of our family at Exceptional Entrepreneurs.  His amazing spirit fills our workplace with a delightful joy. Jeremy not only has a joyful spirit, but he is a true gentleman; opening doors for all the ladies and helping everyone with any needed task.   We are so blessed to have him with us.  I thank God everyday for sending people like Jeremy into my life as a reminder that the most beautiful people are the ones we often overlook. 

Jeremy’s prayer may have just been a series of grunts, yet no one doubted that his prayer was heartfelt and spirit filled because it was so pure and simple. I bet that he thanked God for finally having a job, friends, coworkers and bus to get him to and from work.  Jeremy’s prayer may not have been understood by us in the natural world but I believe that God smiled because He heard Jeremy loud and clear.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Village Idiots

My much older sister, Lorraine recently moved to The Villages in Ocala, Fl.  The Villages is a retirement community for seniors that don’t act their age.  The residents of this Stepford-like community could have been actors in the movie Cocoon where the elderly residents of the Sunny Shores retirement home are suddenly rejuvenated by swimming in an alien “life force” pool.  The residents of the Villages drive around in $40,000 souped-up golf carts, play golf, pickleball, swim and do aerobics by day and party all night.  I have yet to see one senior with a a walker or wheel chair and I have never seen a cemetery anywhere in the Villages.  I’m thinking that the “life force” rejuvenation must be in the piped-in music that’s played in the village square or perhaps it’s in the drinking water.  I’m just saying...

Anyway, whenever my much older sister and I get together it seems we always end up in a laughing fit - often somewhere very public.  You would think that in a place like The Villages there would be a Depends factory or something.  I mean, the place has three zip codes and only seniors!  However, there is nothing in The Villages that screams, “old people live here!”  There isn’t the slightest hint that women with weak bladders exist in The Villages.  But, I know this is a falsehood as Lorraine does in fact live in The Villages and I could also live there despite being much younger than my sister.

I have visited Lorraine several times now since her move to FL.  I was almost certain that I would be banned from visiting after the last time.  I kept expecting a certified letter from the village police stating that I have proven myself to be unfit for retirement to The Villages due to weak bladder syndrome and some other minor problems that accompany “normal” aging.  I couldn’t help the puking in the middle of the street incident (and no I wasn’t drinking).  And it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t know the golf cart tunnel had a speed limit of 5mph and you’re supposed to use your horn and lights, but that’s another story!

Since it didn’t appear that I had been banned from The Villages, my whole family decided to go to my sisters for Easter. Thirteen people arrived at Lorraine’s house and we were all spending the night.  After dinner, Lorraine asked me to help her get the blow-up mattress into her tiny office and put the sheet on it.

“Sure,” I said innocently as I gathered the sheets and blankets and put them in the office while Lorraine blew up the mattress in the living room.

“Good God! Is Godzilla going to sleep on that thing?”  I asked as I watched the blow-up mattress take on a life of its own.

“How are we supposed to move that into your little office?”

“Oh, you’re being melodramatic,” Lorraine said, “It’ll fit just fine.”

“Okay,” I said as I attempted to grab one end of the mattress, “let’s do this.”

The mattress was at least a foot thick and appeared to be king size.  Grabbing the stupid thing proved to be more of a challenge than I anticipated.

“Why didn’t you blow this up in the room?”  I asked as we struggled to twist and turn the mattress so it would fit down the hall and through the door.

“I didn’t want to wake the baby.”  My sister whispered as the mattress scraped along the wall right outside the baby’s room.

By the time we got it through the door, I was dripping in sweat and my sister’s hair was matted to her forehead.  I couldn’t help it, I started laughing hysterically and had to wrap my legs in knots.  I quickly let go of the mattress and ducked into the nearby bathroom before the inevitable happened.  I’m certain my sister could hear me still laughing in the bathroom.

“What’s so funny?” Lorraine asked as I returned.

“You should see yourself!” I laughed. “Your hair is matted to your forehead and you’re sweating profusely and we haven’t even gotten the stupid mattress on the floor yet!”

“Well, you don’t look too hot yourself!” she retorted. “Let’s just get this bed made before we wake the baby!”

After pushing the furniture aside, we were able to just barely fit the monstrosity in the room.  I grabbed the fitted sheet and made a heroic attempt to put one end on the corner of the mattress where I was wedged in the room.  I couldn’t get any leverage, so I laid on the mattress and attempted to start at the far corner first.  While I was reaching for the far corner, Lorraine got the bright idea to lay across her end of the mattress and attempt to put the sheet on the corner diagonal to mine.  Unfortunately, when Lorraine put weight on the end of the bed, she launched me off the bed - kinda like a mattress bounce-house.  I landed under the desk in a laughing fit.  Lorraine was still laying across the bottom of the bed, panting like she had just run a marathon, trying desperately to get the sheet to stay.

As I crawled out from under the desk, I had to climb onto the mattress because there was nowhere else for me to go.  My weight on the bed caused Lorraine to roll off her end popping the sheet off the corner.  At this point, Lorraine dashed out of the room in a mad rush presumably for the bathroom.  She left me laying on the bed laughing my head off with the sheet in a heap next to me.

When she returned she joined me on the mattress for another feeble attempt at sheet control.  Surely, two college graduates should be able to figure out a way to put a fitted sheet on an oversized blow-up mattress!  Instead, we were behaving like two village idiots!  Well, after much contemplation, we devised a foolproof plan where each of us, holding one corner of the sheet, would roll from the middle of the bed to the ends of the bed.  The key to this working was rolling in tandem so that neither of us reached to edge of the bed before the other causing roll off.  Sadly, our plan failed miserably and we both rolled off either end of the bed.

I’m guessing it had been at least 30 minutes by the time the commotion drew the attention of my two daughters.  When they entered the office, they found their aunt and mother both laying on the floor out of breath and laughing uncontrollably.  My daughters could have helped.  They could have each grabbed a sheet corner.  But, no!  Instead, they got out their handy dandy cell phones and hit the record button.  They even had the audacity to suggest that we had been drinking.  As God as my witness, I had nothing to drink that night!

I could continue with this sad story of two desperate women just trying to provide a restful place for their ungrateful children.  I could tell you how the ungrateful children stood there recording the scene never lifting so much as a finger to hook in a sheet corner.  I could tell you how the baby never stirred nor did any of the sleeping men in the house!  I could go on telling how two brave women continued to wrestle the cunning sheet but, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Or, in this case, a video is worth a thousand laughs.  I’m expecting my certified letter from The Villages any day now.

PS: There was supposed to be a video recording accompanying this story, however the ungrateful child that has the video recording on her phone has been unable to upload it to my computer.  I will add the video if and when it gets uploaded.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

This is Dedicated to the Ones I Love

Before paper, the art of storytelling was an oral tradition passed on from generation to generation.  I never thought much about it until the tale of Matthew Marshmallow recently reemerged at a family reunion. 

“Aunt Betty, I think we should have a retelling of Matthew Marshmallow.” My nephew implored.  Soon, the entire gang of thirty-something nieces and nephews chimed in.  “Please, Aunt Betty.”  Chrissy (mother of three) begged.  "We want to hear the story again.  Didn’t you ever write it down?" 

Soon the room buzzed around me: “I remember a big storm...”  “Ice cream floats...”  “Who remembers King Marsh?”  “Don’t you remember Matthew Marshmallow had to travel to see Mother Rain at the top of Hershey Mountain?”  “No, the space ship door was left open!”

I thought about it for a moment and realized that the beauty of the “story” is that it was never written.  It was a story told time and time again by me to countless nieces, nephews, and their friends.  Even my younger sisters, who now joined the conversation, added their own memories of Matthew Marshmallow and his spaceship journey to visit the planet Marsh where King Marsh ruled and candy cane flowers grew. 

The cool thing about this story is that each person had their own special version of the tale.  I know this to be true because each time I told the story to one niece or nephew or sister it would change slightly to make him or her an integral part of the story.  Matthew would find a friend with the same name as said niece, nephew or sister behind a lollypop flower and they’d set out on their own adventure exploring Marsh. 

In one version of the story there would be a great storm.  In another version, they would meet a Hershey Kiss.  Every version had a lesson and, of course, every version ended with...”and that is how we got marshmallows.”

When I sat down at my keyboard today, my intention was to finally write the story of Matthew Marshmallow for my family.  However, I discovered something as my fingers began to type; “Once upon a time...”,  I don’t want to write the story down.  Putting it on paper would cause it to lose it’s charm.  It would become stagnant. 

The beauty of this story is that it’s still so vivid in so many imaginations simply because, like all good stories, it touched a deep part of each person’s soul.  If I wrote it down, I would be leaving out the soul of the story.  I’d be leaving out the parts that made it extra special to each and every listener over the many many years it was told. 

So, my dear loved ones, this story will never be written because it wasn’t meant to be.  It was meant to be the story of the crazy aunt, sister, mother who loved to tell stories to you.  Your crazy aunt told you your own personal story in hopes that you would carry it in your heart forever.  She told you your story so that you could take that story and mold it and shape it and tell it to your own children someday.  Timeless.  It is the timeless story about love.  In fact, it’s not really about a marshmallow at all.