Sunday, January 1, 2017

Confessions of a Christian Control Freak

CHANGE - I love it!  No - wait... I hate it!  Well, I like it when I can control it!  If it's MY idea and I feel good about it and it makes me immediately happy and...and...and that's almost never how it works.

Hello.  My name is Amy and I'm a control freak.    I like change on MY terms.  My ideas, my wants, my perceived needs and at my pace.  HOWEVER, by age 46, I've learned it doesn't always work that way.

Awhile back, there was a popular saying: "Let Go and Let God..."  Wow.  Let go.  Just...let go! 'Cause I can do that!?!  (Sarcasm at it's finest.) Here's a little peek into my head with that!

Me: LET GO?!  But that takes the control out of my hands!
God:  (snickering) HAHA!  That's cute, Amy.  Real cute.
Me:  OH!  Hi, God.  Uh....meaning... I never really had the control to begin with?
God:  Do you actually WANT it?
Me:  I don't know.  I think I do, but then I wonder if I would choose what's best for me or just what I think would be easy, comfortable or fun.
God:  Good thing I always know what's best for you.  For whatever it's worth, I also like making you happy.  Sometimes, though, you have to be patient and wait for what will make you truly happy.
Me:  Patient?  Me!  Now it's MY turn to chuckle.  See, I'm not so good at waiting.  Not one of my God given -- er... know...
God:  But I'm giving you lots of opportunities to trust Me and to wait on My timing.
Me:  Gee thanks.  Oh, sorry - guess sarcasm with God isn't very reverent.
God:  Eh, it's ok.  You're being honest with me and I like when we talk.
Me: Well, I SAY that I want to learn to wait and trust you, but sometimes, I don't really mean it.  I just want all the answers right now and to have you wrap things up in a big fat bow and I can sit back and smile.
God:  I don't really do "big fat bows."
Me:  I don't know - that parting of the Red Sea thing was pretty close.
God:  Yeah, but they had to wait a long time to get to that moment.
Me:  Good point.  Good point.  But, change can be scary.  What if I don't like the new change?
God:  Well, then you learn to adjust and then something will change again and maybe you'll like that better.  The good news is, you're NEVER alone and I am always in your corner working FOR you, never against you.  I have sent that message through a lot of people, including My Son, to let you know that, "I've got this!"
Me:  You mean like.. Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
God:  Sure!  That's a good one.  And how about  "Cast all your anxiety on Him" (that's Me, remember) "because He cares for you!"  And I do!  More than you can grasp - I love you!
Me:  I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that you are the ONLY one who's seen and been a part of every second of every moment of my life with me.  That's pretty cool.  I love you, God.
God:  Now...I'm not done with you yet.  We've got more to do....
Me:  Could I just have control over a couple of minor things --
God:  -- AMY!
Me:  Yes, Lord.  Sorry.

While there are some weirdos out there who LOVE change of all kinds (and I still love you odd people with the love of Christ), most of us only want things to change if it's OUR WAY and we feel like WE are in charge, a very popular illusion for people like me.  It's taken me a long time to accept that while I CAN control the way I react to the changes in my life, I cannot prevent change or even control events that happen, but I can trust in a MIGHTY God who is with me every single step of the way.  Every day, every breath, every decision.  He is there and He is in control.

So, I suppose I should change my tag line.   My name is Amy and I'm a recovering control freak.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for being with me every step of the way.
Thank you for loving me in spite of my crazy attempts to be 
in control of things I can't control.  I do trust you, God, and 
want to lean on You in everything I do.  I will continue to
try and follow You and Your timing and remember that 
You are the Lord of my life and be reassured in that promise.

Copyright 2016
Permission to use any portion
of this blog should be obtained 
from the author. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Once Upon a Time at the DPS

This is a true story.  Well, it's based on a true story.  It perhaps has an exaggeration or two, but...well, it's a mostly true story.  (Cue the "Law and Order" music - DUN DUN!!!!)

My daughter finished Driver's Ed and had been driving with her permit for about a YEAR and we were ready to take the FINAL road test and get her license.  Now, I remember going at lunch time ON MY BIRTHDAY when I turned 16.  I took the test and still had time to go through the Arby's drive thru on my way back to school.  No joke.   But, as parents always like to say...."Times have changed since I was a kid!!!"  What follows is my rendition of our trip to.... the Department of Public Safety or as I will commonly refer to it - Hades.

All my friends had given me SO MUCH wonderful advice on Facebook.  Seriously - I love my online friends and they had great advice.  Somehow, Friend A just "walked on in" to this office and was out in 20 minutes!  Friend B arrived VERY early to the SUPERCENTER, and was one of the first 10 "Walk-ins" so they were in and out quickly.  Apparently, I am everyone's Friend C because I didn't have this happy-happy - joy-joy- skip- into- the- office- with- a- basket- of- goodies- and- come- out- with- a- shiny- new- driver's- license- for- my- daughter experience.  Let me tell you about it.

It began on the phone - not talking to anyone mind you - just listening to ringing, busy signals and a WONDERFUL system that tells you to press this and press that and then transfers you to an office in Botswana that is only open on Thursday mornings when the moon is full in a leap year.  Soooo... I decided to follow the lead of one friend who took her daughter to the small town of Gainesville, TX and just do a walk-in test.  Sounds so easy, right?

We drive the hour north, just below the Oklahoma border and find the DPS office.  We go in and every chair is full with people stacked on each other like fish in a barrel.  Well...perhaps a slight exaggeration.  We take a paper number from the number machine and lean against the wall, trying to look casual with everyone facing you looking as bored as if  - if they were at the DPS office!  Finally, a lady comes out with a clipboard!

Now, I am a HUGE follower of clipboards.  I believe that someone with a clipboard = someone with authority.  I LOVE when I, myself, have a clipboard.  POWER!!!!  So I, of course, went up to clipboard lady and asked if we were in the right place to wait for the road test.  "Oh, we don't take walk-ins anymore," she says with a cackle in her voice and an evil gleam in her eye!  I think I even heard snakes hissing behind the counter in agreement and pleasure at my chagrinned face. 

She then tells me that perhaps a 'third party tester' would be better for us, i.e. pay $100 and let someone else do the job the government trained her office to do. 

I smile - probably the fakest I've ever mustered - thanked her and turned to walk away.  I could feel tears of frustration already coming and my daughter was great, telling me it's all good, I don't care, etc.  After a few choice complaints about "The Man" holding us down, we left to drive the hour back home.  On the way, we called the Garland SUPERCENTER and listened to the outgoing message.  

The recording asked if I wanted to get in line over the phone so I didn't have to wait at their office!  HERE was the happy-happy-joy-joy!!!  I could wait at my house (or in this case, driving back through the top of Texas) and they would let me know when I should come up!  HOORAH!!!  (This is sarcastic foreshadowing, folks.  Any literary scholar can tell you that.)

I kid you not, here's the recording to get in line:
If you're calling for directions or the address, press one.  If you're calling for information about vehicle registration, press two.  If you are calling to obtain a first time driver's license, press 3.  With sheer, triumphant elation I pressed three like nobody has EVER pressed three before!!! 

The recording then said  (and I SWEAR I heard snickering from the recording..) Thank youThere are 82 people in line ahead of you.  Your wait time is approximately 140 minutes.  We will notify you as your time gets closer.  Yep.  82.  But 140 minutes wasn't bad!  We could drive home, pick up my mom and still make it to Grand Prairie to the SUPERCENTER in time for our arrival at the supreme DPS Royal Court Area of Licenses.

So...we drove to Grand Prairie and I realize I never pressed one to get the address.  We pulled off the highway (because of course, I'm demonstrating GREAT driving to my almost-independently-driving-daughter) and I called back.  This time, I press one. 

It's hard to describe the utter feeling of gloom that swept over my entire being as I heard the recording NOT say SUPERCENTER in Grand Prairie, Tx, but instead, GARLAND, TX.  OH SWEET MERCY!!!!  I have mixed up the "G-A-R"s in the name of the city and in my frustration, didn't listen closely to the location.  We are close to Six Flags and the Texas Rangers' own ballpark.  The SUPERCENTER is not.  It is far.  Far away in another land.

Once again, my daughter tries to soothe me and tell me we can do it another day.  I know, however, she's nervous and just trying to get out of it and by now, I'm more determined than ever to get her to the DPS office!  The recording tells us we still have 45 minutes and my GPS tells me we are only 34 minutes away. Off we go!

It's somewhere around DFW airport that the laughter begins to take over my body.   I sound like a cross between Jack Nicholson in the Shining and Snoopy and I just can't stop laughing.  Tears begin to fall down my face and my mom, from the backseat, says to my daughter, "Uh-oh...I think you're mom's slipped over the edge."  My daughter looks at me like only a teenager can - you know the look - as if someone just asked her the square root of 5,467 and she doesn't want to do it.

SO  - we go the 34  minutes - a little longer because of course by now, we were running out of gas and had to stop - and we finally arrive at the GARLAND SUPERCENTER Texas DPS.  I see rays of sunshine shooting out of the roof and hear John Williams-esque music loudly playing in my head.  We're HERE!  And we are IN LINE!!!!

We all three walk in the front door with the confident air of your average peacock and walk up to - you guessed it - a man with a CLIPBOARD!  Recognizing and bowing to the power of the clipboard, I smile up at him with the hope of a newborn baby with the future ahead of her.  He looks at me and says in a low, menacing, 'James Earle Jones gone bad' voice, "Are you in line by phone?"  I look at him with utter pride, stood up straight and said... "YES!"  "For what?" he says. 

"Please sir...if it pleases the daughter wishes to obtain a license to drive." And he literally looks at me with more pity than I deserved (because remember, the extra trip to Grand Prairie was totally my fault) and says...."We don't take walk-ins."

"WHAT?!"  I shriek, turning a few heads.  "But...I pressed THREE!  I pressed it perfectly!  I pressed it with panache! I pressed it with FLAIR!  It said it was for first time driver's licenses!" 

The man looked at me as one would look at a victim of a shark attack and said "That's for permits, not licenses."  I didn't hear much of what he said after that because as my mom had foretold - I was over the edge.  The SUPERCENTER did not live up to it's name.  It was NOT SUPER.  I'm not sure it was even an actual CENTER of anything!

As I worked to hold back tears of so many emotions I couldn't count, he was saying something to me about doing "third party testing" just like the lady in Gainesville.  It must be a phrase that's part of the Clipboard Training Program they attend.

Well, in an effort to shorten this up a bit more, I'll summarize the next parts of the saga.  We got a call from one of the many numbers we had tried , saying that they had a cancellation for the road test and would we like to take the spot?  I said "Yes!" not even caring when it was, so we went the next day and paid $ a third party tester.  I TOLD you the power of the Clipboard, prophesy and all!

Even taking the test in the RAIN, my daughter passed with somewhat flying colors (parallel parking is a challenge for most humans in history).  The next day, we would go BACK to the DPS to obtain the actual printed license.  I shuddered at the thought.

THIS TIME, wise to the schemes and plots of the DPS underworld, I told her we'd be getting up at 6:00 am to get in line.  She looked at me again with that same look, but didn't argue.  We took our lawn chairs and were at the door of the local DPS by 6:20 am.  Alone.  We had some nice chat time and watched the sun rise over the government building that held the final quest for the driver's license holy grail. 

The next people arrived at 6:40, then 6:45 and we all began to chat and bond over our various reasons for sitting on a sidewalk waiting for Hades to open its doors.  By 7:55 before it opened, there - and this is NO exaggeration - were about 75 people in line!  I felt so brilliant!  I felt so wise!  I felt like perhaps I had earned my very OWN clipboard of power with my decision to camp out. 

I leaned over to my daughter and whispered, "When we go inside, it's on the second floor.  You break right, I'll break left and one of us will go the right direction.  We can't let ANYONE get in our way of this final quest."  (Cue 'The Look' again.)

At precisely 8:00 am, the hope to which I had clung for two days began to peek out again as the security guard came to unlock the gates of The Unknown.   Before allowing us entry, she said in the voice of an angel, "If you're going to the Driver's License Department, turn left at the top of the stairs."  LEFT!  LEFT!  We didn't have to race, split up and strategize.  She was giving us our final challenge!

I am proud to say that I did NOT run over anyone, push any children or yell anything to anyone as I briskly walked up the stairs and remained the FIRST ONE IN this now enormous line.

And I tell you.... after a little paperwork, a fingerprint scan and me paying a little more money, she handed my daughter her license.  I looked at the clerk with the look of a parched man seeing a mirage.  "Really?"  I ask.  "That's all?"  I wanted to climb across the desk and hug her, but I remembered the hissing snakes behind the desk in Gainesville and figured they probably had their own security team somewhere, so I simply said "Thank you."

I walked out into the morning light, only 18 minutes after we'd walked in. It was glorious.  We had succeeded.  We....were...victorious!  I could swear I heard the John Williams-esque theme song to our escapade start up again and thought about how I was DONE!  FINISHED!  NO MORE!  

Then it hit me - like a ton of bricks.  I have another daughter.  To quote the great theologian, Yoda, "There is another."

So I called and scheduled her road test appointment for March, 2021.

Copyright 2016
Permission to use any portion
of this blog should be obtained 
from the author. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

And He will be my Savior.

In 1978, I got to sing it in children's choir with the adult choir singing, too!  My mom was the children's choir director and my granddad was in the adult choir.

In 1988, I got to sing it in youth Choir with the adult choir singing, too!  My brother sang with me, our mom was the youth choir director and our granddad was in the adult choir.  (Mom was in high demand - or more probably, no one else wanted to put up with us teenagers.)

Today, March 20th, 2016, I got to sing it with the adult choir finally - and even better, my 11 year old daughter was in the children's choir that sang it with us.  Some would call that "full circle."  It was a song that stayed with me through the years.  

It followed me through college.  I would hear it in my head and sing it when I missed home.

It rang in my head through each bout I've had with depression, helping me to remember WHOSE I am and WHO I have to turn to.

I sang it quietly after my granddad died and I realized he would not be there for me to look across the choir loft and watch his animated face or hear his booming baritone voice.

I heard it in my heart when I dealt with the loss of a friend to suicide.

I literally sang it full volume all alone by myself when I faced business and financial hardships.

These words have managed to weave their way into what the Pixar movie "Inside Out" eloquently called my 'Core Memories' and as I sang them this morning, I realized it was more than just a tune I can't get out of my head.  It was more than the memory of my childhood and the security of my family's arms.  It is truly God's love and presence in my life felt through a song.

Surely it is God who saves me.
I will trust in Him and not be afraid, 
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense
And He will be my Savior.

The song is called the First Song of Isaiah and was composed by Jack Noble White in 1977.  The words are from Isaiah 12:2-6.  These beautiful lyrics are, to me, the epitome of strength and courage.  Words to remember whenever you need to feel comfort, safe and loved.

Surely it is God who saves me.
Not MAYBE it is God.  Not 'I THINK' it is God.  Surely. Confidently.  Positively.

I will trust in Him and not be afraid.
Trust, fully and know that He's got this - whatever it is.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense
The dictionary defines 'stronghold' as a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack. He is our ultimate protector and is our SURE, complete, trustworthy defense.

And He will be my Savior.
He has already died for us all because He loves us more than we can ever fully grasp.  You can't take a step outside of your house or turn on the tv and not see clearly that we all need a savior.  He is there - holding out His humble, beautiful, loving arms to wrap us in His love forever.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Memories of the Plinko Jesus

I took a deep breath and called my brother.

"Scott...I have some news....they put a HOUSE on Plinko Jesus."

There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment and then he simply said, "It is the end of an era."

Childhood.  Does everyone else have such a strong drive to feel like a kid again as often as I do?  I seem, particularly more lately, to CRAVE my childhood.  Don't get me wrong - my life is great.  I love my kids, my husband and what I do, but I so miss the days of "kid Amy" and the fun that went along with it.

So, I suppose I should explain "Plinko Jesus" before I lose readers ... Each Christmas, there were certain things of which my brother and I could be certain.  We WOULD have ham on Christmas day, there WOULD be a tangerine in the toe of our stocking and our granddad, at least once in the season, WOULD take us to look at the Christmas lights at the house on Hill St.

To say that this homeowner put up Christmas lights would be akin to saying that Jennifer Lopez has a few dresses.  This house was not big - probably only 1 or 2 bedrooms - but he had a vacant lot next door that he decorated to the HILT!  He had wooden figures painted like Muppets, Peanuts characters and superheroes.  He had built dollhouses with light up interiors.  He had illuminated Santas, sleighs, reindeer, ice skaters and giant Christmas candies - all lit up - and encouraged people to get out and walk around the lot.

And then- at the back - soaring high above the trees, he had created a Jesus out of lights, not the baby in the manger Jesus that we all associate with Christmas, but a lifesize Jesus, if Jesus were about the height of Danny Devito.    Below Jesus' feet, the homeowner had added strings of lights streaming out at angles in each downward direction.  It resembled, as my brother was quick to point out, the famous Plinko board on the long running 'The Price is Right.'

NOW - I feel it necessary to add that I am a Christian and LOVE Jesus, but my brother and I just found it....creative....that the homeowner would choose to honor our risen savior in this way.  It became 'our thing' to go and see Plinko Jesus each year and run around looking at the different light displays that our unseen friend had added.  

When I graduated high school and came home from college, we made a point to drive over and see Plinko Jesus.  When we both moved away from our hometown and would come back to visit as adults, we'd go see Plinko Jesus.  It was one of the things we could cling to that reminded us of "the good old days."

Until this year.

I came to visit my extended family and decided on a whim, to go by and see if Plinko Jesus was still there.  Lo and behold, as I drove up, I could see that there is now another house on the vacant lot.  The homeowner, I learned, had passed away and his family decided not to continue the light display any longer.

How is this possible?  They didn't ask me!  They didn't consult with me on whether or not it was ok to CHANGE something in my life that should not change.  I needed to feel like some things are just the way they always were.  I needed to feel 10 years old and show my own kids the wonders of Plinko Jesus and the wooden Peanuts gang (hey - that sounds like a great name for a band!).  I needed, for just a minute, to be a kid again with no worries about bills and finances, violence and mass shootings, tornados, ugly politics and all the other sadness that the world shows us on a daily basis.  I needed to feel my granddad's hand in mine and know that I'll wake up to a tangerine in the toe of my stocking again one day.

As I called my brother to share the news of Plinko Jesus' departure, I could hear in his voice, the same nostalgia.  For just a moment, we paused, remembering a cherished time long past.

Before I bring us all to a low point only solved by a box of Kleenex and a pint of Rocky Road, there is good news!

I am building new memories and new traditions.  My own kids may not get to experience Plinko Jesus, but every year, they get new pjs on Christmas eve and set out both cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.  We have the tradition of the Christmas Trout (a story for another day) and beautiful memories of Christmas eve services together.

While I want, desparately, to cling to the traditions and "rules" of the past, I have accepted that we are now building our own memories with me as the parent and them in the coveted "Kid at Christmas" role.  I've learned I can love my Parent at Christmas job and still elebrate the fact that I have such cherished meories of Christmases past.

Maybe I'm just a big sap.  Maybe I'm the only one who misses getting Barbie campers and Pac-Man and knowing that when I go to sleep, my parents are just in the next room.

Or maybe you've felt a little nostalgic this holiday season and can relate?

Either way, I pray you have a blessed new year of building WONDERFUL new memories with those around you.   Seek out and seek to be the love and positive voices in a sea of negativity.  Surround yourself with people that build you up and celebrate life and make every crazy memory a good one.

Happy New Year!

Copyright 2015
Permission to use any portion
of this blog should be obtained 
from the author. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Weird Mother's Day Gift?

Hey Mom - You Can't Make This Stuff Up!
(And I dangled that preposition on purpose! #RebelMom)

My mom lives 14 hours away, and it's mother's day.  I wanted to give her a smile and I don't have a ton of money, but she loves to hear about the little crazy things that happen and in my life and there are a lot of them!  I have a plaque in my living room that says "Our family must be God's favorite sitcom."  When you're a bit left of center like we are, you just own it. 

So here's a story from God's sitcom for my mom.  Hope you enjoy it, too.

The chicken and dumplings at Market Street are wonderful.    Consider this me raving about them, as I'm not sure I have enough energy to truly "rave" at this point.  I better back up a bit and explain.  Let's just look at this in terms of a "Day in the Life" of this busy mom - maybe you can relate?

It's Saturday.  Ah, Saturday.  The day that, growing up, was always the most relaxing....the most fun.  As a kid, Saturday meant no homework due the next day, no after school activities, good cartoons in the morning and possibly something fun to look forward to in the evening.
But, I'm a grown-up now.  Saturdays are different.  They are usually filled with a variety of things from work to soccer games to dance activities to housecleaning.  Yay.

* Wake up at 8:30 to get ready for dress rehearsal at the high school.  I choreographed for the pop show and am looking forward to seeing their work.

* Arrive at the high school and look at the large, golf umbrella in the van, trying to decide whether to take it in or not, as the sky is a bit gray.  (Side note: None of my family plays golf, so to us, it's a "big" umbrella. Catchy name, huh?)  I decide it's too cumbersome and leave it in the car.  This is called foreshadowing, kids.

* During 10:00 rehearsal, I receive a text at 10:53 that my daughter wants to know what time jazz is at the studio and that she can't find one jazz shoe.  I text back "11:00" and disregard the jazz shoe challenge entirely.

* We release for lunch at 11:35 and are to be back at 12:30.  I texted a friend in town for the day to see if she can meet for a short lunch.  Then, I step out of the theater and see it's POURING rain.  Sigh.  Thinking fondly of our "big" umbrella nestled in the van, I take off running.

* I go to Market Street and discover that they have CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS on the salad/soup bar!  One of my favorites!   Happy day!

* I decide to get a salad and a QUART of the chicken and dumplings to have a little and take the rest home for later meals.  YUM!

* After my hurried lunch with my friend, I get back in the car and find out that I don't need to be back at the theater after all, so I decide to head home.  I look around the car, trying to figure out where to put my quart of chicken and dumplings and actually SAY in my head, "Well....I think it will be ok balanced on the top of the cup holder, because it's heavy and weighted down."  Not only is this MORE foreshadowing, kids, this is where my husband starts shaking his head when he reads this.  I can feel  it.

* I pull out of the parking lot and call to make sure all is well at my dance studio.  It is.  Yay.  I turn left...
...and the chicken and dumplings begin to slide.  Now, I saw them start to move and everything slowed down like in the action sequences of The Matrix and I watched, helplessly, as the container slid across the cup holder and began to fly across the passenger side floor.   My heart sank a little as I saw my precious lunch for the next three days literally take flight.

* I pull the car into an apartment complex parking lot and zip into a spot, look down and low and behold, the chicken and dumplings have landed upside down...ON THE "BIG" UMBRELLA!  I am both horrified and slightly relieved as I pick up the carton that had maybe 15% of my lunch still crammed in the bottom (I filled that sucker to the brim) and pondered the rest.

* I began to think to myself...."It's an gets washed off every time it's used..." and I begin to try to use the lid to scoop the food back into the container.  Yep, folks, I'm owning this.  I am too cheap and it's too good to waste it!  But, now, there's the problem of the umbrella covered in chicken and dumplings - or is it really a problem?  It's an umbrella!

* I quickly open the car door and shake the remaining food off of the umbrella's fabric onto the pavement and say a little prayer that the pigeons and grackles will miss the irony of what I'm leaving them.  I open the umbrella, shoving it into the crack of my slightly open door.  My van now looks something like a giant pina colada with a colorful umbrella sticking out, but I'm ready to wait until the rain washes it clean!  - - And that's when I realize it's stopped raining.

* I decide to sit it out and hope the rain starts back up.  It never does.  After awhile, I do my best to wrap the umbrella where it won't get chicken and dumplings on the carpet and head home.

* 1:00 - I arrive home and carefully take the umbrella to the driveway and open it up.  It is not a pretty site.  I go inside to get a bucket of water and my daughter - who never made it to dance and attempts to direct the reasoning towards my not "telling her in time" and the loss of the shoe - tells me they NEED FOOD!   (Note: Yes, I shot down the blame game, although it will attempt to rear it's head again, I'm sure.)

* I suggest they make a sandwich and tell them that I "first have to wash chicken and dumplings off my umbrella."  Now, it's important to note here that my daughters are SO USED to my crazy antics that they do not bat an eye.  Their comment when I say that?  "Can we have ramen noodles instead?"

* I find a pitcher and fill it up while arguing the nutritional value of their diets a bit and then head back outside with the find that it's now raining again.  I laugh out loud and throw the water on the umbrella for good measure, shaking my head.

* Choosing my battles, I head back in and order the girls a pizza, throwing all nutritional conversation from earlier right into the fire.

As I sit here with a now pounding headache and some slightly questionable chicken and dumplings in the fridge, I think how much my mother would enjoy hearing this story.  Why?  Because she SURVIVED me!  I know this is a weird way to say "Happy Mother's Day," but mom - you did it!  My Saturdays were fun because you let them be.  You were ok with the couch pillow forts and painted rock art shows.  You survived all my nutty ideas and decisions and did so with a shake of the head and a little chuckle....perhaps a grounding or two along the way.  

I'm a bit of an odd duck, Mom, and I thank you for letting me be me!   I'm ok with odd.  It makes God's favorite sitcom a lot more fun! 

I love you!


 p.s.  Have any idea where one tan jazz shoe might be? ;-)

Copyright 2015
Permission to use any portion
of this blog should be obtained 
from the author. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Thanks for the Blue, But There's More You Can Do! (Oooh, that RHYMES! How's that, Dr. Seuss?)

It's another "Light the Night Blue" day tomorrow as people wear blue and put out blue light bulbs recognizing Autism, now collectively referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders or "ASDs."  This covers a WIDE variety of learning/behavior challenges from what was just thought of as "autism" to others formerly called Asperger's, Rhett's Syndrome and PDD-NOS as well.

As someone on that interesting train ride of life, thanks for the blue.  BUT - if you really want to feel connected, supportive and make a difference - LISTEN UP!  I've got a few more suggestions for ya' coming straight from a mother's heart.

I decided that every great writer (not that I am at all in the same ranks as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, or "Pepa" of Salt-N-Pepa - Yes.... she has a book out. Sigh) uses fun acronyms.   Acronyms are kitchy, catchy and well, annoying sometimes....but I'm doing it anyway.  Here goes.

(pronounced like "letter," or "elter"or...maybe "elletter" or WHATEVER!  Just remember it.)

LEARN - It bothers me when people assume things about my child based on her learning challenges.  A person cannot ASSUME something about a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder any more than you can ASSUME something about a child who's left-handed.  While there are some similar characteristics, learning patterns, physical behaviors or speech patterns, you can't assume that ANY child exhibits a particular one.  Leave the guesswork up to the "Guess Your Weight" guy at the carnival.  The end result of guessing can be just as awkward.  You want to know something, just ask.

TEACH - Teach your children that it's OK to be different.  What a BORING world this would be if we all looked, talked, walked, thought, sang, danced, smiled (you get my point) the same!  Embrace individuality, differences and even quirkiness and teach your kids to do the same.  Teach them to seek friends based on their loyalty, kindness and how they are as a friend.  Let them know that all kids don't look or act like someone on the Disney channel and that's ok.  Encourage them to make friends with someone DIFFERENT than them and to go out of their way to be compassionate towards someone who seems to need it.  And for heaven's sake, teach them that the only time to use the word "retarded" or even worse, "REtard" is when they're referring to a musical piece that is slowing down!  AND THAT'S not even spelled the same!  

THINK - Please, please, please - THINK before you speak!  We don't need you to refer to our children as slow, challenged, or mentally retarded.  We're all slow and challenged in SOME area of life.  As a dance teacher, I promise not to refer to YOU as "slow" if you can't do a double pirouette if you promise not to refer to my child as "slow" for needing extra help with math or not being able to ride a bike.  

I would go so far as to say that we don't need you to refer to our children as "autistic."  I remember while earning my Rehabilitation degree at UNT, my professors NEVER allowed us to use the adjective form of any disability.  I'd fail if I ever referred to a child as an "autistic child."  It was always the 'person first, disability second' such as "child with autism."  I thought it a bit picky at the time, but I GET IT NOW! 

If your child wears glasses or contacts, do you want me constantly referring to him or her as "your nearsighted child?"  The visual challenge is ONLY ONE PART of who your child is, so why focus on the challenge?   My child is not identified by her learning patterns and challenges.  She's identified by her given name at birth, her beautiful gentle spirit, her kindness, her generosity and sensitivity to those in need.  You want to refer to my child with an adjective or a characteristic - pick one of those!

RELAX - Just relax.  Treat my child like any other.  Encourage your children to treat her like any other.  Invite her to your birthday party and don't worry if she doesn't look as ecstatic at the party game or the favor as other kids.  I'm trying, like most parents, to teach her to be polite and thankful, but she may not exhibit the same emotions as your expectations.  Please allow that.  Encourage your kids to include her in group activities and be ok with it if she chooses to go her own way.

AND "RELAX" IS ALSO TO THOSE PARENTS NEWLY FINDING THEMSELVES IN MY BOAT!  It's ok.  Your child's new diagnosis is NOT a "label" of who he or she is.  It's only a description of a behavior/learning pattern to better guide teachers, therapists, counelors and YOU to help your child grow up meeting his or her full potential. We all want our kids to be the best that they can beDon't become so hyper-focused on a diagnosis (or even worse, the refusal to seek one) that you stand in the way of your child's success.  Allow them to flourish and thrive with trained, educated specialists who have found great ways to help children with similar learning challenges to do just that.  PLEASE relax and don't be a stumbling block to your child's potential.

Well...I think I've crossed from "food for thought" into "buffet of information," but I hope this gives you a peek into the thoughts of someone who will be wearing blue in honor of her kid. 

Please don't put out a blue light bulb because of pity.

Please don't wear a blue shirt for "poor little us."

Light the night blue in celebration of acceptance, patience, individuality, compassion and understanding.

Don't those words sound so much better?


Copyright 2015
Permission to use any portion
of this blog should be obtained 
from the author. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Gold STAAR on April Fools' Day!

Today, millions of schoolchildren all over the great state of Texas will gather together and STOP learning for the day.

Today, thousands of teachers all over this Lone Star State will put the educational needs of their students on hold and back burner any need to challenge their students minds and learning.

Today, from the panhandle to the big country, all the way to the Texas/Mexico border, labs will be postponed, books will be closed, field trips go unscheduled.   No creativity in the classroom is allowed.  No reading corners, story sharing, math manipulatives - no new projects or research is assigned.

All for the sake of education.

A coincidence that it is ALSO APRIL FOOLS' DAY?!

As the daughter, wife, niece and dear friend of many teachers, I have had the experience of watching the efforts behind the learning process for all 43 years of my life.  I have seen my mother and now my husband grading papers, designing projects and labs.  I have seen my mother gathering "rewards" for the class treasure box and creating storyboard projects.  I have seen my husband create a class team to build and compete a trebuchet in a "pumpkin chunkin'" competition.    I have seen students build musical instruments from scratch that can play music.  I have seen more GOOD teaching than I could ever begin to explain.

It is important to note that my husband, my mother, and every one of my friends who teach HAVE A DEGREE and are perfectly educated, trained and prepared to challenge their students.  What's MORE, each of these educated, trained professionals have supervisors to which they answer.  They are given curriculum and have other trained, educated professionals whose job it is to make sure that all of them and their fellow educators are maintaining the curriculum and continuing to challenge students on a daily basis.

APRIL FOOLS'!   Silly us!  Did we think that that was enough?!

Thankfully, there is a wonderful group of people put in place, that knows MUCH more than all these educated teachers and professionals.  WHEW!  That's a relief.  For a brief moment, I was afraid we might have to rely on years and years of combined experience, training, seminars, college classes, research and new innovative teaching approaches.  Thank GOODNESS that they came up with the idea of repeated, annual, standardized testing!

After all, standardized testing ALWAYS:

* Shows us the different gifts and strengths with which we are all born.

* Shows us a good balance of who is smarter than others, NEVER who takes tests better.

* Is a GREAT use of a teacher's and student's time.

* Is an accurate depiction of what a teacher has invested in his or her students.  We can't possibly take into consideration the students' support groups at home, resources outside of class, cultural appreciation or lack of interest in education or any other factors.  No, if the scores are not what the government deems worthy, it MUST be the fault of the teachers.

Yes, folks.  That's another thing I've learned in my 43 years:  sarcasm.

As a dance studio owner, I supervise a staff of 18 people, 16 of whom are teachers.  I find myself able to maintain a general knowledge of what those teachers are doing, teaching, choreographing and how they are interacting with our students.  I know each teacher's strengths and areas where I need to continue to hold them accountable.  I am aware of their creative strengths as well as where they might need a little assistance, and I am capable of providing it.

It was MY belief, until the STAAR so eloquently showed me the error of my ways, that principals, assistant principals, department heads and fellow teachers could do the same thing for the teachers in our school system.  I have been corrected and see now that we have the need to spend $90 million on this testing over the next 5 years, not on making sure that our teachers are well paid and that educational resources are funded to help students learn.  No, the monies are needed to MEASURE that learning in an accurate way. me out here.  After all, I didn't grow up with the STAAR testing, so I may have managed to "cheat the system" and "sneak by" all those teachers, college professors and employers.  Perhaps I am much less educated due to my lack of repeated standardized testing, and I need this explained simply to me:

It is better to spend $90 million to test and see IF the students are learning than to invest in the learning itself?

OH!  I get it!   That's the APRIL FOOL'S JOKE!

Whew - for a minute, I thought they were serious.