Featured at Patheos.com


I just had a piece published over at Unfundamentalist Christians’ Patheos location. The short essay is called Getting over “Get over it” which deals with empathy and somewhat with recovery following time spent in a religious fundamentalist cult. I invite you to click on the link and share it with your friends. Feel free as well to comment at the Patheos location. I consider it an honor and delight to be part of the UC family at Patheos and at our Facebook and am glad to be a part of what it is they do.

Mission Improbable


 

mission impossible.

Once upon a time, I wrote a weekly column called Miss Mom. It appeared on a community web blog called the Spartanburg Spark. I thought I’d drag some of my favorites out of the archives.

The other day I was watching a young mother making a purchase at the store. She had a baby on one hip as she was trying to pay for her purchase. Her other child, a lively little girl, was making fast circuits around the checkout area, running as fast as her little feet could carry her as she giggled loudly with delight.

That scene made me remember my days of shopping with my kids when they were young. This is a task undertaken by moms for generations. Shopping with kids at times could be like an epic adventure or one of those thrilling television shows. There was excitement, adventure, danger, suspense. Don’t believe me? Then sit back and enjoy what I will call Mission Improbable

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Good morning, Mrs. Phelps. Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is as follows. You must take the following list and make purchases found on that list. You must do so within budget and try to use the coupons provided. Your team, if we may call it that, are young, inexperienced and will depend completely on your guidance. It is your job to take them on your mission and keep them safe and content until you all return to base safely….

You will take yourself and your charges to the grocery store. After you unstrrap the toddler from his car seat and shout at the seven-year old to not run out into traffic you enter the facility, beginning at produce.

Why is grocery shopping with children such a mission improbable, you ask? Because to kids, stocked aisles full of foodstuffs with colorful packaging is nearly as appealing as an amusement park. There are all sorts of interesting displays, and things to touch, despite what moms repeatedly tell them. There is even a thrill ride in the form of the grocery cart. While the little one sits in the seat in the front of the cart and tries his darndest to pull things out of your purse, the older ones will take turns hanging off the sides or beg you to push the cart. Their pushing the cart, if they are still not quite tall enough to see far down the aisle, is just asking for trouble. They will either run into every obstacle they can’t quite see or repeatedly run into your ankles while you are comparing prices of spaghetti sauce.

While the oldest is imagining he’s the next star demolition derby driver, and eyes the pyramid of cracker boxes at the end of the aisle, the middle one is trying to sneak in four boxes of snack cakes into your cart when you aren’t looking, or is simply taking off items off the bottom shelf to see if she can fit into the space she just made. This will take about 12 seconds, or as long as it takes you to find the coupon you had brought for paper towels.

When you get to the back of the store, or the furthest point from the nearest exit is where the greatest possibility of tantrums occur. This is usually because the toddler is upset because you took a box of mac and cheese away. She just doesn’t yet understand why she wasn’t supposed to gnaw a hole in it. Sometimes the tantrum comes from an older child who is mad because you aren’t buying that super sized box of sugar bomb cereal that they just HAD to have. Reports of mom’s making hasty retreats with children literally in tow in such situations have occurred, leaving full carts of groceries behind. Resisting the tantrum maneuver is recommended but can difficult. Bribing the temper tantrum throwing child is one way of dealing with this danger, but it often causes long-term ramifications. It is best to find and use other methods to diffuse that volatile situation if it arises. You need to be prepared to use a variety of tactics to end the situation as quickly as possible. Retreat is certainly an option as was already mentioned.

After your list is complete, with only 14 extra items added to the cart, at least that you are aware of, it is time to begin the process of ending your mission and you head to the checkout line.

Depending on the time of day you choose for this mission, the checkout process can take a while. That is when your team can go into whine mode. They will complain of being hungry, bored, or tired and ready to leave 5 minutes ago. This is often one of the prime times that they will suddenly and without warning have an urgent need to use the bathroom, right now. It is wise to familiar yourself with the locations of every public restroom in a three state area. You will be surprised how valuable that information can be.

Now you approach the checkout station. Patience on your part is paramount at this time because you reaching little kid nirvana, or the candy display all people must pass on the road to the cash register. This display is set right at eye level for any child under the age of ten. Use all your skills to dissuade your team from persuading you to purchase, gum, candy, mints, or some cheap toy displayed. Your team has means of persuasion that could render the most hardened criminal mastermind into giving up his darkest secrets. They will attempt to use their persuasion skills on you. Use diversionary tactics to try to take their attention off of that tempting candy display. One suggestion is to do what you can to channel their energy into helping you unload the grocery cart instead.

Finally, when you have made your purchases, take all the bagged groceries and load the kids and bags back into your car. Go home, unload everything, (and everyone), give the kids a snack to hold them over till dinner and put your purchases away. You will have just completed a successful mission.

Should you choose to not take this mission, or convince your spouse to do it instead, we will not hold it against you, while applauding your delegation skills. Just try to talk him into taking the kids along.

Just one more thing. The toddler’s diaper will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

 

Thank you, Mr. Phelps.


ImageI just want to take a moment to thank you for the great contribution to society that you given us. I am certain that when you embarked on your quest so many years ago, that you had no idea of the success of the mission, or how many lives that you were able to impact in such a wonderfully positive manner. You and your small group, traveled tirelessly for years teaching us, encouraging us, uniting us.

You look surprised. Do you think that your purpose on earth was really to preach hate, to tell the world how horrible they were, to take joy in other people’s pain, and to call attention to yourself and your few followers? Do you not remember that God works in mysterious ways, able to turn a human purpose into something far better suited to the divine plan for humanity?

Of course your quest didn’t come without cost. Your family is fractured, the pain there must be great. Losing family to death is hard enough, but losing them because of ideology is earth shattering for everyone involved. Hopefully they will all heal from, that which has been wrought. There were the extra tears of mourners, who learned that you had planned to send a group to stage a rally at a loved one’s funeral, a funeral for someone you didn’t even know. Yet even that has been turned into things good. Your estranged family members have themselves been beacon of positive hope, of showing us ways to turn hatred into beauty, forgiveness and hope. Those who’s funerals faced your protests learned of the love and shelter of their neighbors who rallied around them in compassion and tenacity.

Did you have any inkling that your work would shatter closet doors, and free so many of the chains of fear, shame and oppression? Did you have a clue that pastors, congregations, politicians, business owners would rethink their ideologies and therefore open their hearts, giving access and equality a honest chance to succeed? Did you have any idea, that when you started all this, that state after state would change their laws to allow greater freedom to marry?  Do you realize that you get a good deal of the credit for these wonderful things happening?

I realize that none of this was your intention, but sometimes the best laid plans take on a life of their own. Look what you taught us.

That hatred is easily countered by love

That neighbors coming together to help others make for a beautiful community

That weddings are a wonderful time of celebration.

That fear is lessened by compassion, and understanding

That forgiveness is truly healing.

Thank you Mr. Phelps for all these lessons we learned from you. I have taken them to heart, as have many others. Your actions showed us what we should and must to. We will continue on.  I truly hope that you’ve found peace, either in a beautiful afterlife, or in the rest of the cessation of existence.

Soup


homemade soupIt’s just a bowl of soup

In a porcelain bowl

Chicken noodle, his favorite.

Crumble crackers into broth

Then slurp it up in haste

As if he’d miss by lingering

On what life offers

Wide open future, laid out before him.

“Love you Mom.” He cries,

The screen door slams behind him.

 

It’s just a bowl of soup

In a Styrofoam bowl

Vegetable beef, hot, delicious.

Sit amongst the others

Then slurp it up in haste

In case it turns to smoke

Much like his life has offered

Broken promises, Shattered dreams

“Thank you Ma’am” He mutters

To the woman with the blankets.

 

It’s just a bowl of soup

In a white ceramic bowl

Mostly broth, but filling

Shaking spoon in hand

To sip it up with care

Each drop slowly savored

A memory adds to many

Life so full, life well lived

“Love you Mom” He whispers,

Her hours ebb away.

 

 

 

 

Inking the Cat


wpid-IMG_20140309_200041_406-1.jpgWhen I left my first husband, I wanted something to commemorate the break from two decades of bad marriage. I thought then of getting a tattoo, but could never settle on a design I wanted. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted one or not. I knew such a thing was permanent…very permanent. Plus, I was needing to waste my money on frivolities such as mortgage payments and food.

The idea for a little ink based art was relegated to the back of my mind, as I worked to put my shattered life back together, met the man who makes my heart sing, changed careers and gained step sons, sons in laws, grandkids, granddogs grandcats and even a grandpig. By firmly closing a chapter in my life and putting out of it a major source of pain, I have found myself exceedingly blessed and have discovered a sense of peace, and happiness I didn’t know possible.

One of the biggest reasons for this is my husband Gary. I tell him all the time what a fortunate woman I am, because of his addition to my life. He knows my first marriage was a disaster, and understands, having survived one as well. He has surrounded my heart and life with love, affection, laughter and comfort.

Maybe it was because my life is now settled, secure, happy, that the idea to commemorate a stage in my life returned. When I first thought of getting a tattoo, it was because I wanted a symbol of defiance, anger and revenge. Bill, the ex, didn’t like them, and I’m not quite sure if he ever knew that his daughters had them. I am almost certain he didn’t know I had supported their getting inked. For me to to do one more thing he didn’t like, even if he would have mostly likely remained ignorant of the fact, would have been a mental “fuck you!”

I am very glad I decided not to get tattooed for those reasons.

Today I went to a very talented artist, named Addam Duncan, and got a tattoo. He had done art on my son-in-law and my youngest daughter. So I was familiar with his work as an artist and his work is phenomenal.  I’d been thinking of getting one again. This time, I wanted something that represented something about my life that I loved. Addam took an idea from a line drawing I brought, and created something completely unique for me.

This little cat on my right ankle, represents the feline part of my soul, and the love my life is now full of because of the man who has helped make it so. I do believe I got her for the right reasons.

BooBoo, The Not Quite Perfect Gorilla


wpid-IMG_20140209_183047_770.jpgNext to my side of the bed is a glass shelving unit that doubles as my night stand. On the next to the top shelf sits a little stuffed gorilla. That little gorilla was the first real Valentine’s day gift I had ever received. I grew up not getting to celebrate the holiday, along with most of the other usual ones, except July 4th and Thanksgiving. So I’d never really gotten much in the way of Valentines related cards, or gifts until I met Gary.

I do remember one other gift, a potted plant that I had gotten from my ex. He walked into the bedroom with it, saw that I was sick as a dog with the flu, and pretty much left me alone after that. In his defense, I likely looked as hellish as I felt. I am pretty sure we exchanged a card here and there, but I was the romantic type, he was not, and the running troubles in our marriage quelled most romance. There was one other attempt at Valentine’s Day themed romance from him, but getting toasted before the entree is served at a fancy restaurant,  just killed the mood, as it so often did.

Which is why BooBoo is so special. Gary bought BooBoo for me on our first Valentine’s day as a couple. Ours was a whirlwind romance, that took us both completely by surprise. We’d both survived terrible marriages, and were initially leery about any future romantic success. Thankfully we were so freakishly compatible, despite being complete opposites, and goofy in love, that any doomed outlook was not going to happen.

Now BooBoo isn’t any ordinary stuffed gorilla, mass produced just in time for the February holiday. He’s special, as Gary quickly discovered. He was shopping for something for me as a gift. He saw BooBoo sitting with other little stuffed animals and picked it up. That is when he noticed that one of the letters written on the little heart the stuffed primate held was flawed. He put it down and kept looking.

But he couldn’t get BooBoo out of his mind.

The more the thought about that little gorilla with the faulty writing on its little heart, the more he realized he had to have it. When he got back to the stuffed animal display, he discovered that someone else was holding BooBoo. Thinking fast, he told the man holding BooBoo, that he too had considered that choice but had noticed the flawed lettering. The man then set BooBoo down and chose another stuffed animal. Gary waited until the man was out of sight, the picked BooBoo back up and headed towards the register.

He saw the man who almost bought BooBoo as he was leaving the store.

“I am glad you put that little stuffed gorilla back on the shelf.” Gary told the man. “If you had really wanted that stuffed gorilla, I would have offered you twice its value for it.”  He then told the man why BooBoo was the perfect gift for me.

To Gary, BooBoo, the not quite perfect gorilla, was a representative of himself. Not the prettiest on the shelf, sporting flaws, yet holding out his not quite perfect, but great big beautiful heart to me. He told me how BooBoo got to come home, and why. It was confirmation that the man I had dared to take a chance on love with, was the right dare, and the right man.

BooBoo will sit by my bedside for the rest of my life. He’s a representative of a love I never imagined possible and of a man who shows me, every single day, that I am just beginning to delve the depths of that love.

Welcome back sweatpants.


Every once in awhile, a nice surprise comes your way from an unexpected corner. That is what happened to me a few days ago.

As I have mentioned before, I am a part of the group Unfundamentalist Christians,  and have been since the project started. The group, the brainchild of blogger turned author John Shore,  started out as a facebook page, with us adding original content, or content of others we’ve seen, or had been sent to us. For all of us, its been a labor of love. Several months ago, we launched a blog/article space on Patheos.

We cover a lot of topic that impact religion, and society, and often the discussions in our comments section gets lively. Its educational in so many ways. We see how others approach the topics, we hear some amazing, and sometimes heart wrenching stories, and mostly we approach faith in unconventional ways.

Not too long ago, John, posted something about yoga pants on his own blog page at Patheos. The piece was essentially a retelling of a short conversation between John and his very witty wife. For some reason it reminded me of something I had written here, and I posted a link in the comments along with a brief statement.

Shortly afterwards, John contacted me about using it on our UC page at Patheos. He liked my piece, and felt it a good fit, as well as something that would add depth, and a change of pace, following a run of more serious topics. Of course I said YES.  The original piece in question was titled “Dont Cry for me Argentina Pants”  John worked a little editing magic  Happily for me, he felt the need to change little, and this morning my work got a larger audience, along with a photo of Gary and I taken during a recent vacation, sitting behind  a huge platter of some of the best Fajita fixings east of El Paso.  The piece now has a second home here.

Who knew that a little tale about oversize, horrendously horrific loungewear could help my writing obtain a little recognition. I write because I love it, I share, because, I do hope that others will like what I write and relate to it. And I’d be lying if I said, I didn’t want to have milestones of success.