Three Crazy Things That Happen When She Becomes the Initiator

My husband and I do marriage seminars, in a few flavors to meet the needs of the local audience. But no matter what style of seminar we are presenting, the facts are the same. In general men initiate sex more than women. Men everywhere are having a moment of silence for this sad fact. In general, women will be shocked that it even matters. At the end of the day, it may not matter much as long as sex happens. On the other hand, most men get a thrill out of being the one pursued once in a while. It’s not without danger and risk though. Some crazy things can happen when women initiate sex.

1. She often becomes a dictator. When a woman initiates intimacy, she sort of skips that gentle flirtation mode and goes straight for the “we’re doing it right here and right now” mode. It’s a good thing that this is usually a turn on for men, after they catch their breath from being surprised.

2. She stands her ground. Sometimes a couple will agree to an intimate encounter out in the beauties of nature, but women generally crave security and privacy. This means she will decide where she feels safe and she won’t budge. If she decides a nice soft spot in between some trees is perfect, she may not be seeing your view – looking over the cliff’s edge. But she’s going to stand her ground for this safe place for her and you’ll never forget it.

3. Her “rules” don’t apply. Basically, she exercises the right to redefine previously set sexual boundaries when she is the initiator. Perhaps he has been wanting to try a new position, but she won’t budge until the day she takes over and initiates. Then she decides it’s worth a try. At this point, guys can get frustrated that the rules don’t apply to her, or be grateful that it happened. The good news is that sometimes after she rewrites the rules for herself, she’ll sometimes rewrite them for him as well.

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How My Co-Worker Got Three Heads!

Myself and two other ladies manage the front desk for six physicians. We try to be that friendly face behind the counter when you check in to see the doctor. But sometimes….

In actuality, its really quite simple. We just need a simple form filled out – front and back. The first dirty look comes when the patient doesn’t want to have to fill out the form. When we kindly point out that they missed the back side – they look at us as if we had two heads.

But today was the winner. One patient’s caregiver jerked the form back from my co-worker and glared at her – for merely indicating the back side needed to be completed. It was clear to see that this woman thought my co-worker was a three headed monster!

Being sick isn’t fun, and we try to serve with compassion the patients that come our way. Please don’t hate us for doing our jobs. You see, you may have had a relationship change and have a new emergency contact instead of your ex-boyfriend. If your test results show a major issue, we want to contact you right away! It’s a good thing your paperwork is up to date so we call your new emergency contact if we can’t reach you – instead of your estranged ex-boyfriend.

What if we quit treating people that ask a little from us as if we were banished to a penal colony? What if we respected people who did their jobs with thoroughness, instead of cheap, low quality work? What if we didn’t get angry with those who greet us warmly and connect us to vital healthcare?

Truly, we are not three-headed monsters!

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The Heretofore Underappreciated Value of a Complete Sentence

I had considered being a doctor as a child, but never a nurse. I just wanted to come into the room with all the answers and knowledge. I was never interested in giving shots or sponge baths. But somewhere along the way I fell in love with words and decided to explore writing and communication.

So when my mother-in-law, Edrine, broke her ankle and I was the only relative in near proximity and with a more flexible schedule, I ended up paying a visit to Georgia to assist her a little as well as my father-in-law, Klaus, (both are in their 70’s) in their primary caregiver duties to Edrine’s aunt.

Aunt Luella is 101! That’s quite an accomplishment. But age has taken its toll on her and she struggles with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some days when you walk into her private wing at the end of my in-laws’ home, you never know what to expect. She’s latched on to a few words that are repeated over and over again along with a sprinkling of intelligible words. You have to understand that sometimes a gibberish word is standing in place of the other word that her mind can no longer get her mouth to say.

It took a couple of days for Aunt Luella to get used to me in the room assisting with care instead of my mother-in-law. I tried my best to follow instructions and keep to the exact same routine so as not to aggravate her. She spoke mostly to Klaus, but sometimes she would look at me and say a string of gibberish.

One day, as I cleared away her morning meal and brought her a nutritional supplement, Aunt Luella suddenly looked up at me and said, “I really like that shirt.” I was stunned and overwhelmed. I finally smiled and thanked her for her kind words. To hear that 101-year-old woman speak in a complete sentence was uncommon, but especially to someone new she was still getting used to. That simple sentence, a compliment about what I was wearing, is something I will treasure forever.

So here I am, full circle, realizing that I never wanted to be the one to do the sometimes nasty jobs of personal care on someone who couldn’t do it for themselves, yet that’s exactly what I was doing for Aunt Luella. Was it fun? No! I got peed on once and in one of her dementia aggravated moments, she thrashed and tried to get her diaper off – leaving quite the mess for us to clean up. But having that one interaction with her made it all worthwhile!

When someone speaks to you, take the time to listen. It may not be evident on the outside just how much it is taking them to speak in a complete sentence to you. Maybe it’s a child that is afraid to admit that they broke something. Maybe it’s a relative that has been distant for some years and is struggling to say that they want to be involved in the family again. Take the time to appreciate the value of a complete sentence.

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7 Ways to be a Better Santa Claus

So there is going to be a lot of gift giving during the Christmas season, right? Some will be doing so out of a sense of obligation, others out of love and connection. There are still others who just get caught up in the holiday spirit and shop till they drop. God bless their hearts.

Most of the time, we make a really lousy Santa Claus. Why do you think there are so many “Ugly Sweater Parties” at Christmas? The secret to being a better Santa? Well this is a blog about staying connected, so yes the answer is being connected. Take the time to know people and be a better Santa Claus. Here are 7 suggestions.

1. Get to know your neighbors better. They may not like fruitcake. Their house is already full of calorie laden gifts. Maybe they have a son in college that they miss very much. Stationery and stamps may be the best gift.

2. Get over the gift card. First of all, you’re paying taxes twice. You get taxed when you purchase the gift card and they get taxed when they buy something with it. If you must get a gift card, at least find out what their interests are and get one they’ll absolutely love!

3. Find the reasons they “don’t” do something. Have an aunt that used to bake all the time, but doesn’t anymore? Assumed she just got bored with it? Ask her way. Maybe it’s her arthritis, and mixing is difficult. Get a standing kitchen bowl mixer for her. You’ll be giving her two gifts in one, because she’ll also be getting back her love of baking.

4. Stop avoiding scrooge! Have someone that just isn’t into the Christmas spirit? Find out why. There could be a painful memory associated with the holiday season and each year they are reminded of a great loss or never ending battle. A gift that pays tribute to a lost loved one or a gift that says “I’m on your side,” could change everything this Christmas.

5. Give yourself. Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to give. Invite a friend or family member to spend time with you in a way that both of you would enjoy – a sports event, a concert, manicure, local community theater – and throw in a meal to make it even more meaningful.

6. Touch the saint’s heart. Is your family’s hippie driving you nuts about all the consumerism and commercialism at Christmas when people are going hungry? Pick a charity, pick a need and take them shopping for items for those in need. Not the shopping type? Visit http://www.adra.org and their really useful gift catalog. You can buy a goat for an impoverished family that will change their way of life, and you can have it done in the name of your friend.

7. Support and Encourage. Don’t know what to get that coworker for Christmas? Go to their kids’ school Christmas program and present a small gift to the child for a job well done. Grandma always works so hard to put on the great big family Christmas dinner, consider a personalized serving platter, “Grandma’s famous Christmas Dinner.” Give gifts that encourage people in what they love!

All these tips have one thing in common – taking the time to connect with people. The best way ever to be a better Santa!

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The #1 Enemy of Being Connected

Relationships require connection. You may pass the same newspaper guy on the street every day on your way to work, but there is no real connection, no relationship. However, if you always wave when you walk by, even if you don’t purchase a paper, there is some connection. Something is happening. Some form of recognition and awareness between two people.

Connection is important in all relationships from coworkers and distant, extended family to your best friend or your children. Because we are human, there are so many ways we can break that connection. We fail to stay involved in our kids’ lives then hit the roof when the principal calls and says little Susie is part of a bullying clique at school that caused another student to drop out of school. We don’t take the time to ask our coworkers about their families or how their weekend went and then wonder why they don’t invite us to their get togethers with other coworkers. Then there are the really horrible ways we break connections, like abuse, neglect and slander.

Painful as all of these are, they’re really not the #1 enemy of being connected. That “honor” is reserved for a false sense of security. Some may argue with me and say that couldn’t possibly be a contributor to broken relationships, but that’s their opinion. When you screw up, you pay the consequences. But what happens when you don’t even know you screwed up because you’ve been floating on the “I have arrived” cloud and stopped investing in your relationships?

It sneaks up on you like the iceberg on the Titanic. You’ve worked hard on your relationships and that hard work has paid off, so you just sort of check out and think, I’m done. I can just rest on my laurels now. I’ve arrived and now all I have to do is coast. Reminder, when you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.

The experts say that no fad diet is going to help someone lose weight, it has to be a lifestyle change. It’s the same with relationships. No little relationship booster is going to fix it for all time. Investing in your relationships is a lifestyle. This sneaks up on spouses the most. They think all is fine and suddenly they realize they don’t feel connected anymore. They stopped investing in their marriage.

This can be overwhelming to think about. You mean I have to invest myself in all of these relationships, from coworkers to my kids? Yes. That’s too much! It can be. That’s why you have to prioritize and decide which relationships you will connect with at a bare minimum level and which will you connect with at a much more involved level, such as your spouse or your children. You value what you invest in. Don’t stop investing in relationships. Make it a lifestyle and stay connected!

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Seven Disgusting Things about Moving

I’ve been unconnected! That’s what moving will do for you. Now that the settling in to my new domicile is beginning to take shape, time to get back to work! In this entire process, I didn’t find a single person who said they love moving. It seems to be a universal necessary evil. So here you have it folks. Seven disgusting things about moving!

1. Two times the work. Anyone who has ever moved knows this is true. Most moves don’t happen overnight, especially for a family of five like ours. Just because you turn in your two week notice doesn’t mean that you can slip into coasting mode. It doesn’t work that way. It would be lovely if you could wait until the last day of your current job before tackling paperwork for the Human Resources department of your new job, but again, it doesn’t work that way folks. Everybody wants a piece of you.

2. Packing in General. Really folks, where do you start? Unless you work for a place that will hire people to come in and pack your stuff and load it onto the truck for you, packing is a never ending nightmare! No matter how organized you are in your plan for packing (I had a four-phase plan on a spreadsheet), something will come up. See number one.

3. The house hunt! This is time consuming and frustrating. Again, refer to number one. You can’t house hunt at your new potential community for three months before informing your current employer you are resigning. They will eventually get suspicious of all the frequent trips out of state. This means most of us get stuck in a very short time frame of when we have to be out of our old house and into our new home. Some companies will pay for a few weeks in a hotel, but unless you go ahead and leave your family behind until you find a home, the hunt is a lot of work in a very short amount of time.

4. Boxes. Just what we need, pieces of cardboard everywhere to make us sneeze! Homes being packed start to smell like warehouses. It used to be that local stores were more than happy to get rid of their boxes to folks who were moving. As companies have become “greener” as well as leaner, we see more stores breaking down their boxes immediately and even recycling them. Have no fear, your local home improvement stores and even discount stores now sell moving boxes. That’s right, you have to pay for this torture! Then there are those, like my husband, who saves most original boxes for things we purchase. Up to the attic we go to get the boxes that still have the original packing material in them for everything from our large screen TV to an inexpensive set of champagne glasses. At some point, you have to wonder if those boxes smell too old and look too damaged to safely get your valuable possessions to their new location.

5. Change. Of course there is going to be change, it’s a move, right? You expect change. If you’ve had an opportunity to do a little bit of research ahead of time, you may have a good idea of what changes are coming your way. You poor deluded fool. You have no idea how many changes you’ll face. There is no way to be prepared for all of them!

6. Getting Reconnected. On this end, your phone provider tells you just transfer your service when you arrive at your new location. Upon arrival, you learn that your phone and DSL provider in your previous location can only offer dial up service in your new location. Dial up service? Seriously? It’s a great day when the lights are on, the electric is on, the internet is hooked up and life is good again.

7. Money Matters. Moving is expensive. It’s a pain. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have a nationwide bank that will be happy to issue you new checks with your new local address. But if you are moving to somewhere other than Dallas, New York City or Chicago, chances are you have to find a new bank. Each bank has its own rules, like a nine day holding on all new accounts. Then there is all that last minute stuff you just threw out, telling yourself you would buy new ones later. Of course the new house has things the old house didn’t and these have to be added in to the budget. Personally, I’ll take that extra cost for additional bathroom supplies. It’s worth it to have another bathroom in the house!

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Why I Spend More for Less Ice Cream

I’ve been accused of being from out of town. After all, who else would have an app for all the local grocery store chains and be able to shop savvy in the middle of the only incorporated town in all of Marion County, Texas? Yes, I’m that kind of person. I like to save when I can.

Am I an extreme coupon clipper? No! I did research on that and found out that part of the way they get their coupons is by getting online, finding coupons that are being used for a particular market for introduction and evaluation and changing their zip code to match so they can download that coupon. In other words: that $2 off coupon is only good in the Northeast where they are doing some market research, but if you change you zip code to a northeast zip code, you can get one of the coupons. My ethics won’t allow me to do such things. So, I save where I can and budget and do my best. I play the balancing game between how much my time is worth, how much gas would be spent going to different stores compared to the amount of savings I would get. It’s what you have to do when you’re on a budget!

So when in the world do I spend more for less ice cream? The answer is simple. I love my daughter.

Greta is going through that puberty phase where some girls get rail thin and others get pudgy and round. She’s going for pudgy and round. She’s also emotional, thanks to ADEM, so she gets attached to foods she loves and is sometimes a stress eater. Let’s see, her brother left for college and we are relocating to Mississippi. Nope, no stress in this household. On top of it all, Greta is dealing with habits and appetite binges she developed when on a huge dose of steroids to save her life during ADEM. She’s got a lot of things going against her right now. She needs all the help she can get. So I buy more expensive ice cream.

I’m not talking about buying the generic store brand versus those that claim to be the best ice cream in the country. I’m talking about spending more to buy those prepackaged ice cream cups. Greta loves ice cream! It’s a love language for her and it helps to calm her down in the middle of one of her ADEM mood swings. But I can get much more ice cream for my money if I just buy a half gallon of it and everyone scoops their own. That’s the problem. Greta scoops out way too much. Actually, we all do!

So I’ve come to the point where spending more money, to get the smaller and already packaged cups of ice cream is the best thing I can do to help Greta learn portion sizes with the treat she loves so much and gives her so much comfort. If you’ve ever been through a life threatening situation that leaves you emotionally scarred, you’ll understand how important it is to have a comfort item in your life. So yes, that’s why this budgeting and saving mom spends more for less ice cream. I look at the heart of the matter – a little girl going through so much at one time and I decided she’s more than worth it!

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What Tools Should You Have in Your Toolbox?

If you hang around neuro-psychologists long enough, you just might pick up a couple of their phrases. Going through the evaluations, various testings including follow-up MRI’s and so forth with Greta’s Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), we’ve spent some time with a great neuro-psychologist. One of her phrases that we love -Tools for your Toolbox!

Basically, this doctor, who is a favorite among all the kids and parents because she is just so awesome, says her goal is to make sure Greta has enough tools in her toolbox to handle dealing with ADEM in day to day life. Now nearly three years after that terrifying ordeal of seeing my little girl hospitalized and hooked up to all kinds of things, I realize that tools in the toolbox can apply to any of us. I’ve also seen that we’re a lot happier when we embrace this.

I’m getting ready to send my firstborn off to college. He has his own issues that he deals with, like being an intense introvert and being addicted to his routines. Seeing him being forced by circumstances to change his routine is like watching ants that have lost the line. So yeah, I’m a little nervous for him, but I’ve taken on Dr. Harder’s mantra and I’m doing everything I can to make sure that Michael has the tools he needs in his toolbox to deal with life as a college student hundreds of miles from home.

So what tools should you have in your toolbox? That’s easy, the ones that help you cope and deal with life – in addition they should be legal, moral and ethical. That usually helps. While there will be similarities, there will also be tools that will be different for each person. Greta, being very literal now and decreased math skills due to ADEM, needs tools to help her remember to ask people to help her when she doesn’t understand something. She needs to tool of asking others to slow down and help her until she gets that joke, because she’s so literal.

Michael, the extreme introvert, knows he would rather do just about anything before talking on the phone to anyone. So a tool in his toolbox is going to be a good friend willing to make a phone call when he can’t.

What tools should be in your toolbox? Find those things that help you cope with life and deal with the day to day stresses that living on planet Earth serves up on a regular basis. The amazing thing is, you’ll usually find tools for your toolbox in your family, church, community and friends.

 

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The Four Piles for the Prospective College Student

Denial.

I think the first phase of grieving my oldest son’s leaving the house for college is beginning with denial. I’m way too young to have a child leaving for college, or at least I’d like to think so.

In the process of helping Michael clean his room (which he shares with his younger brother) and sort out what’s what, we had to come to an understanding. I told Michael there were four piles for his stuff and he needed to made decisions and put things in the right pile, and these piles have different sizes as well. They are as follows.

Largest pile – toss that junk!

Next largest pile – pass down to younger siblings or donate to charity

Medium pile – stuff he’s actually taking with him to college

The smallest, tiniest, almost microscopic pile – things he’d like us to store for him while he’s getting his first degree

Of course when I was telling Michael the parameters of the piles, I made sure that he realized the last pile was only out of the goodness of our hearts and he needed to be extremely grateful. I know he’s going to miss my sense of humor when he’s gone.

As we gradually filled up one bin of stuff he’d like to keep forever, just not take with him to college, I saw once again the importance of memories, milestones, and souvenirs. I also saw how personal they are and the sentiment attached to these things are only understood by the rightful owner. You can pass down a favorite old toy, but you can’t always pass down the sentiment as to why that faded, beat up old thing is so special to you.

Things that stood out: DVD’s and t’shirts from his class at church, notes from his sister (they really do love each other!), and a page that represented the most awesome semester of history class he ever experienced. It was very interesting that some of these precious things were buried under a layer of clutter and multiplying dust bunnies. Thanks son, for teaching me that there are great things to hang on to in life and I need to get rid of the junk that’s covering them up. I wouldn’t have traded helping you clean out your room for anything, because I needed to go through this journey along with you. It would be expected for me to say that the experience will soften the blow of losing you around the house each day. But can anything really make this transition more bearable?

One late night, when my eyes are puffy and red from crying from missing my firstborn so much, I’ll probably sneak into the space we’ve allocated for his keep forever box, open it up and spend a few moments with things that are treasured by the one who took a piece of my heart with him.

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How Perspective Defines the Unthinkable

One of the things my husband and I enjoy presenting at our marriage seminars is the fact that the differences men and women find fascinating about each other at the beginning can become frustrations after they are married – but there’s hope! We teach people how to reignite understanding their spouse and give them tools to turn those frustrations back into fascination about the person they love!

The funny thing about these principles, and many others, is that they can be applied to many relationships, not just marriages. So we found ourselves having yet another discussion with the oldest regarding the youngest of our offspring. Here is the scenario.

Greta was told to wash her hands before handling a book. She went to the kitchen sink that was full of the dishes I had just used to make breakfast, instead of either of the other two sinks in the house that were completely free. Michael was dumbfounded. Why would she choose the  most difficult sink to wash her hands in? That’s easy. For Greta, she just wanted it done so she could move on to the next thing and the kitchen sink was the closest to her. She went for it.

After discussing it further, we came to the crux of the perspective problem between the two of them. Michael finds it unthinkable that someone could care so little about a situation. We then assured him that it was equally unthinkable to Greta that someone would care so much!

We interact with other people on a daily basis and perhaps we even judge them because of something they have done that we find unthinkable! But we must bear in mind that the unthinkable is molded by our perspective. Let’s give others some grace that their perspective may be different than ours and therefore their actions may not be as unthinkable as previously thought.

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The secret to my super duper peanut butter & honey sandwich

I just didn’t get it. Why did Matthew only want peanut butter and honey sandwiches that I made? How in the world did very simple and straightforward a+b=a peanut putter and honey sandwich become so much in demand?

Karl didn’t get it either. He knows how practical and “let’s just get this done,” I am and he was also bewildered. He had technique in making a sandwich and he took his time with the attentions to detail, but my sandwich got the ranking of super duper and only mine was good enough for Matthew. How could this be?

Then one day I ruined it all. I showed them how I made the sandwich.

I think at this point, there are not enough words in any thesaurus to convey the amount of disappointment, let-down and “really, that’s all there is to it?” As far as technique goes, Karl’s scored way more in the artistic area. Me – I just slapped down two pieces of bread. Put peanut butter on one. Squirted honey on top of the peanut butter, so that I didn’t have to use a knife or anything to spread it – too much fuss – then slapped on the top piece of bread. Done. Eat. You’ve been provided for.

After the “great disappointment” as to my secret method, we were able to ascertain that since I didn’t blend the peanut butter and honey together artistically with a knife like Karl did; and since I didn’t put the honey on its own slice of bread like most amateurs (it starts soaking into the bread immediately and losing its potency) that somehow my simple method allowed for light airy layers that tantalized Matthew’s taste buds.

But it was no longer called the super duper peanut butter and honey sandwich.

Since when did something, simple and perfect just the way it is, deserve to be ostracized from the super duper? Why does something have to have tons of steps, like Common Core math, or lots of bling (lifeystyles of the rich and famous)? If something is good, perfect even, and simple – why can’t it also be super duper?

It’s not the first time. We human beings have a way of rejecting the simple and perfect, because we’re expecting something spectacular and flashy. If we like it, if it’s good, well then of course it has to be over the top – right? It couldn’t possibly be simple.

I still make peanut butter and honey sandwiches the same way, even if they’ve lost the title of super duper. Nothing has changed in the sandwich itself. It is just the preconceived ideas and expectations of the recipient. Time to do some inventory. Are there things I’ve been given that are perfect though simple, that I refuse to call super duper just because it’s not super flashy? Time to call all the blessings, gifts, people and things that I love what they are: super duper!

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Scrapped Rights and Duties

Everyone wears a seat belt. That was the rule laid out by mom and dad. When my sister and I were driving the family car, everyone riding with us had to wear their seat belt. Failure to follow this rule would result in loss of driving privileges. Pretty simple and straightforward.

A lot of life and living took place between my young driving days and my oldest son turning 16 years old. Let’s get Michael his driver’s license! Rite of passage just like I went through at that age. But it wasn’t that easy in the great state of Texas for a 16 year old to get a driver’s license. I had visions of Michael driving himself and his two younger siblings to school each day. That would take a load off of Karl and I. We were looking forward to it. But someone told us that wouldn’t work and we looked into the rules about driving in Texas. Things had changed a lot since I was sweet 16 and driving the family car!

Somewhere between my parents and their rules and my son being of age for a driver’s license; there were a whole lot of parents that began scrapping their parental rights and duties. Instead of being their child’s parent, they gave in to the popular notion of the time (that is still floating around out there) that their primary objective was to be their child’s best friend. Really? So if your parent is your best friend, who do you go to when you need a parent? Look no further, big brother is standing by.

This is how it works. Parents put restrictions on their offspring when new privileges are granted. As the young person proves trustworthy, the restrictions are gradually lifted. Parents have been parents. Young people have learned trust and accountability and the roads are safer. When parents quit parenting, the government steps in. It may be local, state or even federal, but when parents stop parenting someone has to be come the parent. So now the state of Texas is the parent for all young drivers. There is no way to determine if they have been trustworthy or not, so specific ages are set down. Regardless of how wonderful your little darling is, the law has specific restrictions and limitations until they reach a certain age. It’s what happens when you govern the masses.

It was so much easier and more gratifying when parents held those duties and responsibilities. It was intimate, something you achieved under the watchful eyes, cheering and support of those closest to you. Now it’s a number in line and the same rule applies to all universally – no matter how safe of a driver you are.

Will parents ever take back their rights and duties? I’m hoping so.

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Movie Bites

We took a family walk this evening and I gave the order to my youngest son – nothing that comes from a movie please!

I noticed it this morning and commented on it; that everything he said was little sound bites from various movies, TV programs or computer games. Was it cleverly done? Of course! Was he right on the mark? Absolutely! But I wanted to be able to have a conversation with him without having to visualize the movie he was pulling bits and pieces from.

This led to the family challenging each other to various levels of “screen-free” days. Matthew’s response was, sure, but you need to give me something interesting to do instead.

Isn’t that the problem? You have a bookshelf full of great books, shelves full of great science project games, art supplies, science gadgets, games, challenges and Legos. And you need something interesting to do?

And so it begins.

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Culture Becoming Anti-Social?

We’ve all been there, at some sort of event or even just a nice dinner out with your spouse and someone’s cell phone rings and they start conducting business right there – ruining the atmosphere you came to enjoy. Then there is Facebook. Are we fast becoming addicting to all of these electronic devices and mediums that our culture is becoming anti-social as some of the experts suggest?

I’ve seen a funny picture, posted on Facebook of course, saying our culture has become anti-social. But the picture isn’t of a modern day subway car filled with people ignoring each other using their iPhones and Droids. It’s an older picture of passengers on a train and each one is being anti-social to his neighbor because they are all reading the newspaper!

I don’t see it as an anti-social culture. I see it for what it is: a practical demonstration of how this culture longs to stay connected. Can we try to hard to maintain one connection that we damage another? Of course! But that’s been happening for centuries and has nothing to do with mobile devices or Facebook.

Let’s accept that we were created to be social beings and that we long to stay connected. Then let’s work on balancing our connections. Each one of us needs to find out what our priorities are. Sometimes we just get distracted by one connection for a moment and forget the connection in front of us that is more vital to maintain. We’ll figure it out. We’ve done it before. Because we like to stay connected.

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Jumping Ahead

When you are used to being active and involved in everything, being sidelined is almost a fate worse than death. So you can imagine my anticipation and eagerness after a corrective surgery to get back on my feet and get back in the game. Oops, a little too soon and a little too fast.

The good news is that the evil adhesion mass has been removed and once I fully recover from the surgery, look out world here I come! I’ve longed to do so much that my hunger and thirst for it drove me harder, faster, more – and just a little bit of overdoing it.

There are things I’ve promised myself – no more sitting around and doing nothing! Getting out and doing things again and saying yes to more invitations. But I’ve come to realize that being sidelined has an impact on more than your physical ability. It creates new habits, new routines, new ways of doing things. I’ve already faced a couple of situations where activity was available, but the habit of staying home and drawing into myself reared its ugly head and sometimes won out.

The biggest battle I face now may no longer be physical pain, but the kind of life I accepted while I was in so much pain and whether or not to continue coasting along. God give me strength to no longer find coasting along as acceptable!

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Filed under Community, Healthy Lifestyle

I Am NOT Cute!!

I love it when you do that, it’s so cute.

I’m not cute!

Karl and I had this argument many times in college during our dating years. To me, cute means it made me go mushy – completely unable to resist. Karl would accept any other words, but not cute. He did not give me a reasonable explanation other than “guys aren’t cute.” So I learned to avoid using that word, even though I never understood why.

Flash forward 22 years and my 12-year-old son is able to put into words that make sense why this evil label of “cute” is so demeaning to a man. Matthew explained that cute is usually something that is helpless, like a newborn kitten. It is so adorably cute because of how much care it needs (just saying that sometimes men do behave like they need a lot of care). His tween wisdom was given, full of passion and determination, more than his father, to never be called cute.

Dealing with two generations of Leukert men, I finally understand why the word is so offensive to masculinity. While it is still true that women don’t limit the word “cute” to the helpless and needs care definition that men do; I will refrain from using that word to describe in any way the men in my family. I respect them enough to appreciate their definition of the word and use it appropriately around them.

Today, I’m grateful to finally have the mystery solved. To finally know “why” the word is so offensive and to make sure my words always express to my husband that he is “the man” in our house!

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Filed under Family, Marriage, Parenting

Counting the Cost

Having just finished a lesson study on Discipleship, I find it interesting that friends of mine are expressing frustration with the burdens they carry – especially at church. Maybe you got asked to serve as a deacon one too many times. Perhaps you got stuck with the (fill in the blank) program that no one else wants.

Take some time to count the cost during this struggle. Deep down we all know that anything worth having is worth sacrificing for. Look at Jesus. For Him the salvation of the human race was worth having, so He sacrificed Himself for it.

Don’t get angry at yourself for struggling. Consider it a time to count the cost. Everybody has the freedom to choose. God doesn’t force. Perhaps serving in some capacity at your local church isn’t a part of God’s plan for your life right now. But count the cost of choosing to follow Jesus – wholeheartedly. Take your time. This is a matter of great consequence. Jesus likened it to taking up a cross. You just have to ask yourself – is it worth it?

Life forever with no more sin, sorrow and pain. The ability to enjoy this Earth that way it was originally created to be enjoyed – forever! Is that worth a few struggles and hiccups over the course of a few years now? Forever. A few years now. Go ahead, count the cost.

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Filed under Spirituality

Saving Supper

For the past 13 months, pain has been a way of life for me. During that same time period, picking up the slack and taking care of me has been the way of life for my husband. But it’s nothing new. I picked a winner.

Karl and I attended a small Christian college in central Texas where the cafeteria hours were unmovable – even if it conflicted with a class. Seeking a bachelor of arts degree, I had to take foreign language and I chose French. It just so happened that French class got out five minutes before the cafeteria closed – and it was on the opposite end of the campus. Enter the hero – my boyfriend who became my husband.

Karl would eat supper then go back through line and get a tray for me, he arranged it with one of the cafeteria workers he had befriended. The entrance door would be locked, but I could knock on the exit door and Karl would let me in and I got to eat supper. For someone with digestive problems caused by Crohn’s Disease who has to eat three regular meals a day – no snacking – this was a lifesaver.

My husband continues to be my hero. I am grateful.

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Filed under Crohn's Disease, Family, Marriage

Considering Your Destiny

One of the fascinating sequels in the Bible is the book of Jeremiah, followed by the book of Lamentations. The first book is all about Jeremiah’s pleadings, on God’s behalf, for God’s people to come back to Him. The book is full of recollections of God’s many attempts to get their attention and remind them that they had a covenant. He would be their God, provide all for them, and they would be His people, faithful to Him only. But they didn’t listen. To put it delicately, they pretty much decided to flaunt their unfaithfulness in God’s face. So then comes the book of Lamentations. All God’s warnings ignored, the desolation came. Now begins Jeremiah’s laments over how none of this would have happened, if God’s people had just been faithful.

Tucked in the first chapter of Lamentations is an interesting concept in verse nine. God’s people didn’t consider their destiny.

Think about that for a moment. They were so wrapped up in the here and now, instant gratification that they forgot about their ultimate destiny as God’s people. Remember that ultimate destiny? They were never to lord it over others. God simply chose them to be the ones to share His love with all the rest of the world. They lost sight of that destiny and became an exclusive club for snobs instead. God’s original plan was to save every single person on Earth. The people He blessed to share that good news with others – they failed, because they didn’t consider their destiny.

What is your destiny? Are you so caught up in the here and now, hand to mouth, daily grind and all of that – have you lost sight of your destiny? Is your marriage something you’re just surviving today, or does it have a destiny to be great? Can you hardly wait until the kids are of legal age and out of the house, or does your parenting have a destiny?

Life isn’t just about today. God created you for greatness. You have a destiny – don’t lose sight of that. Today’s decisions affect tomorrow. A score of tomorrows becomes your destiny. Have you considered your destiny today?

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Filed under Community, Marriage, Parenting, Spirituality

Sex Begins in the Kitchen

Karl and I find ourselves on road trips often, so we take advantage of the time on the road and talk, listen to music, share dreams or listen to a podcast. We’ve started investing in various marriage ministry materials to peruse and share on our marriage website. Check it out at http://www.unashamedmarriage.com.

Dr. Kevin Leman’s “Sex Begins in the Kitchen,” is our latest audio book we are enjoying. I like the way they start it, with a snippet of one of his live presentations so you can see what a dynamic and humorous speaker he is. It helps to set the tone as he reads through the chapters of this book. He covers personalities, birth orders and just the most logical thing ever: timing. He’s right, sex often does begin in the kitchen, if it doesn’t die there.

Karl and I could laugh as we remembered going through the stage where we often killed sex in the kitchen. If we had it to do all over again, there are many times he would have walked in the door, seen what I’d been through that day and said that’s it – we’re going out to eat. You need to get out of the house!

If you are looking for good books for your marriage – regardless of whether you are desperate to save it or wisely investing in your marriage – please consider Dr. Leman’s book. You’ll be glad you did.

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Engineering Hug

I saw this meme on Facebook about this being National Hug an Engineer Week. Hilarious! I can laugh because my oldest son plans to study engineering in college this fall. The grimace on the engineer’s face in the picture says it all. You are in my space!

Thankfully, Michael gives and receives hugs from most members of the family. His little sister is still questionable as she is way too “fun country” for him and her hugs end up being a total invasion of his personal space. I recently learned more about how much Michael protects his personal space when I confronted him about his apparent fear of rain. “It’s only water,” I would often say. “You take a shower after all.”

Michael’s response? “But I know where the shower is aiming and I can control it. Aha! Breakthrough in understanding my son. It’s not the water itself that bothers him, but that he’s not controlling where it’s going and he can’t control it getting into his very defined personal space.

I do plan on hugging my future engineer, but I also accept him for who he is and what he needs – personal space.

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Home Alone!

We have entered “that stage” of parenthood. Depending on which way you look at things: it’s either a foreboding warning of things to come or a brief oasis just in time in a barren desert. That’s right, the kids are all gone this weekend!

Matthew and Greta took off this afternoon with their Pathfinder Club for the Bible Experience competition this weekend. Michael leaves early tomorrow morning for two days of choir performances. Their laundry is still here. Their places at the table are here, so it’s not a truly empty nest by any means, but Karl and I are home alone for the weekend!

Truthfully, we will both miss all three of the children, terribly. But equally true will be the welcome of the time alone together, no distractions and interruptions from the offspring. Schedules have been crazy with the kids lately, especially Michael as a senior this year, so some alone time to catch our breath will truly be a blessing.

I do plan to learn from the experience, however. If I find myself bored or not sure what to do, I need to start making a list of some of my hobbies and so forth that I have gladly set aside while raising children was top priority. It’s our first foray into all three children being gone on outings at the same time, without us. There is a little pain, actually, that this is an experience they will have that we won’t be a part of, but it is as it should be – some day. But not yet.

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You Never Know

Karl picked up a sale item the other day – a paper airplane kit. He thought the kids would enjoy it. It has an instruction booklet and designed paper so you can make a “shark plane” that reminds you of the ferocious paint jobs on WWII planes. Those fighters were serious!

It sat around for a couple of days until it was finally utilized, by Greta and two other girls from the neighborhood. It wasn’t the boys that went after it, it was the girls! They were making plane after plane and testing how well they flew, correcting any errors they may have made. I mentioned they needed to save some of the papers for the boys, but Karl just shook his head and said he could always buy another one if needed.

Maybe the one little neighbor girl, who made the most planes and was the most fastidious about the whole process, will grow up to be involved in designing planes. No one at this house told her she couldn’t do it because she was a girl. You never know.

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Tag! You’re It!!

There are days as a parent when you just need to hand it off to your spouse. You give them that look that says, you take over or this child will end up grounded for three years. Greta does more than any of the other children to cause us to keep passing the baton back and forth. But what if there is no one to pass the baton to?

I know some recent single parents with young children. They have a lot going on. Suddenly they are responsible for everything to a much greater magnitude than ever before. They also desperately need that “Tag, you’re it” moment to pass the baton to someone else for a little while.

Single parents work hard and sacrifice a lot. If you know a single parent, especially of younger children, why don’t you find out if you can provide one of those moments where they can pass the baton to you for a few minutes? Offer to take their kids to the park for an hour. Find out their favorite treat and take them to get it. Find out what their parent is really struggling with right now, and find a way to reinforce and support the parent to those children during your outing.

By the way, it doesn’t matter why they are a single parent. Death, divorce, never married; it just doesn’t matter. Those kids till need mentoring and that parent still needs a moment to tag someone else to take over for a while.

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Co-Sleeping

I found this great video on YouTube about a dad that tries to comfort his infant daughter during the night by climbing into her crib with her. It works. She settles down. Then he’s trapped. I shared it with the kids and they all laughed along with me as we watched the antics of this father with his now sleeping daughter that he doesn’t want to disturb – but he wants out of the crib and back to his own bed!

As I got the kids out the door for school, I told Matthew that we solved that problem when he and his siblings were babies. I told him that we often just grabbed them and stuck them in bed with us. His quick wit response – smart choice.

Eventually the kids learned that the love and comfort of their parents wasn’t going to disappear should they suddenly awake during the middle of the night. It’s that whole “object permanence” lesson little people have to learn, which is why the game Peek-A-Boo is so popular. I teaches the baby that just because they can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I agree with Matthew, it was a smart choice. Starting the little treasures in their own little cribs let them know there was a special place for them, but comforting them and reassuring them with our presence the rest of the night also showed the kids that they could count on mom and dad. Glad we didn’t mess that one up too badly as young parents.

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Whoonu?

Last night I was the only parent in the house as Karl was out of town for a meeting. This is a big job. Speaking of our family and our personalities to some colleagues at a conference once caused them to look at us with pity and admiration. Through their laughter they exclaimed, “You must have a high energy household.” That would be an understatement. This household is hard enough for two parents to run. So I was in running in safe mode last night. Just the basic operations to get through to bed time, no extras.

Then Greta.

Then Greta asked me to play a game of Whoonu with her. I didn’t feel like getting on the floor and playing a game. I had some other projects to work on as my day before the kids got home didn’t go as planned. But somehow a game of Whoonu slipped through my safe mode. Sure, I’ll play a game with you.

You are the best mom in the world.

The rest of the evening went better because of the togetherness and fun we had as a family playing that game. Whoonu? Should have known. The family that bonds together works together. Take some quality time with your family tonight and see what happens. You might be saying Whoonu too!

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Why Should I?

One of the principles we’ve learned over the years in our experiment with this thing called parenting is to pick our battles. There may be a hundred things you wish your children would do differently, but in the end, there are just a handful of things that you would really invest all of your parenting resources into that you might correct them.

Greta made it easy for us this morning. Her defiance and the fire in her eyes as well as the attitude that seemed to resound with every inch of her, from her hair to her toenails, made it quite clear. This is a hill to die on. With how strong willed she is, this is going to be a serious battle.

Greta didn’t want to admit she was wrong. She struggles to admit when she is wrong. In her defense, the control part of her fun/control personality makes this difficult. Just as some folks have trouble speaking in public or being patient enough to pay attention to endless tiny details, control country personalities (with a touch of perfect) can really struggle with admitting they are wrong.

When we told Greta that we had observed the incident ourselves and saw that she was wrong and needed to admit it, she challenged us. Why should I? At the moment I felt like I was the smallest horse rancher ever facing the largest herd of wild mustangs bent on staying wild. The stubbornness that exuded from her could build an insurmountable wall to rival the Great Wall of China. Oh yes! This was an issue we had to meet head on.

It isn’t easy explaining to a 10 year old lives for the  moment girl that conquering her inability to admit wrong now will serve her for the rest of her life. I have a feeling that this issue will return for many more conversations. Things that seemed to be issues yesterday now pale in comparison. But Greta’s personality has set her up to be a great leader. If she can conquer this hurdle – admitting when she is wrong – she will be a beloved leader and not an arbitrary tyrant. The world needs great leaders. Greta is fearless. The world needs fearless leaders like Greta. We are currently accepting any and all prayers on our behalf as we tackle this challenge. God help us. He created Greta this way and He has great plans for her life. He must have much faith in us that we can raise her to be the great leader He had envisioned.

 

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Redemption Chocolate

This weekend I came back from the marriage seminar that Karl and I presented, to find an absolute mess in the kitchen and two boys still in pajamas. Lovely. The girl was nowhere in sight. She went to hang out with friends on the block instead of hanging out with her brothers that were doing nothing but living in pajamas all day. Can’t blame her for that one.

Last night, I was presented with a box of my favorite chocolates by the oldest. Michael made a big deal of it. I told him he had redeemed himself. The funny thing – he got the chocolates to say that he knows I’m going through a lot physically right now and he can see it’s really rough on me – yet I still do all the mom stuff. He smiled sheepishly that it wasn’t apology for the mess in the kitchen.

To me, it doesn’t really matter. Just the thoughtfulness of getting the chocolates for me. How often does a teenage boy go out of his way to buy expensive chocolates for his mom – when it’s not Valentine’s Day yet or Christmas or birthday or anything like that? I consider myself blessed. I savor every bite of my collection that includes Ferrero Rondnoir, Raffaello and Ferrero Rocher. Sweet!

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Filed under Crohn's Disease, Family, Parenting

Gettler and ISN

The youngest two and myself spent some time Sunday afternoon watching a most interesting documentary on toxicology, highlighting the life of Dr. Alexander Gettler. It was fascinating to see the science of forensics, before it was accepted in criminology, and the fight to have it respected. However, it hit home for me.

As a safety assistant for a general contractor, part of my job is researching and presenting the safety information needed for our guys to be in compliance with safety requirements. To be honest, some of the guys see some of these safety requirements as huge inconveniences that make them work longer on a particular job and end up costing the customer more. But they get to go home at night because they are safe. Watching the documentary showed me that there was a time when workers injured on the job were accused of being weak and crippled before they came and the employer had been kind to them in even giving them a job.

I shared this information with the guys and how working in dangerous environments was pushed under the rug for many years. It brought a new light to the reason why we go over dangerous chemicals and the protocol for dealing with them, including learning how many parts per million you can be exposed to before serious illness and death occur. There is a reason why we follow these safety rules and maintain our data on ISN, a safety portal for industries and their contractors.

Today, I’m grateful for the hard work of Dr. Gettler, for perfecting the science of toxicology and helping to get legislation passed to protect workers. Our guys get to go home at night to their families because they work safe.

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He Gets Me, He Really Gets Me

We are checked in at our hotel, relaxing before we do our marriage seminar presentations tomorrow. We do the normal hotel evaluation and the Leukert traveling curse is back. Hotel pool & jacuzzi is out if order.
My husband pointed to the chair by the lamp – that’s the perfect place for you to have your worship. Oh yeah, he really gets me.
I’m grateful for a husband that is not intimidated by my spirituality. It’s to his benefit. The more my spirituality is acknowledged and unhindered the same goes for sexuality.
He gets me. He really gets me.

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On Our Own

Karl and I have been working through a large organization for a couple of years now, presenting marriage seminars that are man friendly and fun! We’ve enjoyed the ability to send big stuff to headquarters and we’ve been content (somewhat) to follow the corporate rules. There were a few times where we felt we ought to go off on our own at some point, but it was just a thought in the background.

Everything changed in November when we got a phone call saying the corporate program was completely done away with and now all of us trained “local” presenters were either on our own. Now that thought in the background was right in our faces. Time to get cracking on putting our own program together! It’s a good thing we’d been working on it, piece by piece, for a few months. It will still be some time before our own presentations are completely ready.

In the meantime, we have permission to keep using the material we used before, just without the usual support from headquarters. But the game is all changed. We are having to pay the sales tax. We are having to make sure we are licensed to do business in our state and we are the ones opening a business checking account.

The process of setting up your own business really makes you appreciate being under the umbrella of a large organization. Funny how we appreciate things more after the fact. Everything is different now. But one thing has stayed the same. We are still in ministry to not only save marriages, but make them awesome!!

So, please check out our website, still under construction, and our Facebook page – Unashamed Marriage.

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Relevant

Real.

I love it when young people embrace the real. There is so much garbage mixed in with everything out there it’s hard to keep up, but each and every day young people are choosing real stuff of substance over the superficial.

But if you think “real” is skirts to the floor and super long hair knotted up in a bun, you may be more irrelevant than you are real. While there is nothing inherently wrong with long skirts and hair in buns, it’s not the only “real” option out there.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some real and relevant young people and those mentoring them. Yes there is modesty, simplicity, diligence, honesty, loyalty and hard work; but it’s also colorful, modern, vibrant and lived out passionately. I love these real young people and others love them too – because they are relevant.

 

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The Real Trip

My husband organized a trip for young people from our church to go to an International conference for youth and young adults. There were many amazing experiences at Generation Youth for Christ, but more than the amazing meetings and meeting people from all over the world – there was the trip itself.

Personalities not previously seen finally become known after nine people travel 14 plus hours in a van that is packed full. One way.

Traveling back home to East Texas from not so sunny Orlando, Florida, was with the knowledge learned about the personalities of traveling companions. It changed everything. We had learned about each others’ strengths as well as idiosyncrasies. We knew what to expect of each other and how to make it work better – and where firm boundaries needed to be drawn.

GYC was an incredible experience and I’m so glad that it happens again in 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. But I learned just as much on the trip itself.

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Connecting the Dots

Few things foster bonding amongst a group of people that know each other at varying levels of intimacy than a road trip. The longer the trip, the greater the capacity for bonding. Hopefully it’s all good. No one likes that trip remembered for the one miserable soul that made the whole event miserable for everyone else as well.

We started off with 9 passengers in the van, heading to a youth convention, before dropping off our two youngest at my in-laws’ home. The seven of us continued to our destination of Orlando, Florida – family destination extraordinaire! By the time we got to Orlando, I was so the kids weren’t in the van.

Between Gainesville and Orlando, there is an adult establishment. Billboards attacked the eyes every few feet and sometimes from both sides of the highway at the same time. Silhouetted images and bold phrases that told exactly how far they go left very little to the imagination. The only other billboards blanketing that stretch of highway as much as the adult establishment’s advertisements, were for a facility that helped those with unwanted pregnancies.

After the adult establishment was long behind us on the highway, I kept seeing billboards to help those who were in a situation they weren’t planning for. It didn’t take long to connect the dots. All the way down to family destination extraordinaire, were signs of a society that boldly advertised that which destroys individuals and families and those dedicated to restoring hope to those caught in a culture of anything goes. What we reap, we sow. I’m thinking that if I ever decide to take my entire family to Orlando, Florida, I’ll go out of my way to take a different highway, hoping this one is safe for families on their way to one of the most popular family destinations in our country.

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What She Found in the Closet

Personality. My daughter has it. In fact, she has so much personality she has little time for things like cleaning her room on her own. Personality people love group activities and let’s face it: cleaning your own room isn’t a group activity. Greta loves to help in groups and will be the first to volunteer and she’s great at cheering on the team. That’s why we love personality people.

But her room is still a mess and the boys don’t wan to make it a group activity that Greta will love and help their little sister out. So we bribe them. Matthew is paid to work in the room for a while. Greta is thrilled to have company on doing a chore and the room gets cleaned. We gloss over the arguments and chalk them up to simple sibling rivalry.

The next morning, Greta came out with a huge smile and one of her recently rediscovered treasures, found deep in the recesses of her previously hideous closet. It was an envelope full of homemade cards from the kids at her school – from when she was in the hospital. She came out waving the envelope and shouting to the world:

See mommy, people do love and care about me.

Of course I responded that I never had any doubt and smiled, and tried not to cry, as Greta read card after homemade card from different schoolmates expressing that she get well soon and how much they loved and missed her. It’s been two years since our lives changed and ADEM came to our home, but those words of love and encouragement still found loving reception in Greta’s heart, and mine.

I told my class at church – I wish everyone could go clean their closet and find an envelope full of the love and encouragement folks have given them when they went through a difficult time – and remember that people still love and care about them. Go ahead, right now. Go clean out the closet of your memories. Don’t dwell on the obstacles and hurts. Remember the love and support of those who stood by you and perhaps even carried you through that time. Like Greta, hold those precious memories high and say to yourself that it’s true! People still love and care about me!

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Focus Woman, Focus!

We hit a muskrat with our Toyota Camry. Estimates are it has done about $800 worth of damage. Not fun. Christmas, taking a youth group to a big event in Florida in January and still trying to get a son through his senior year of high school – now isn’t a good time to cough up some of that green stuff to fix the car.

And while we are at it, why do we always get stuck with used cars? How come we had to get a real winner, a Camry with a damage title, and the stupid key fobs won’t work unless we invest hundreds of dollars to replace the car’s computer system? I could go on and on, but God stopped me.

It was like He was waving His hands up and down and jumping for emphasis. “Focus Woman, Focus! Look at what you do have.”

When our family needed a second vehicle and there weren’t many affordable options, someone hooked us up with this Camry for a very competitive price. The mechanic we usually take our vehicles to gives my husband a ministerial discount. I could go on and on – and this time God probably won’t stop me. I’m much happier when I’m counting my blessings instead of focusing on a few trivial bumps in the road.

It’s really simple, but it’s sometimes very  hard. Choosing to count our blessings instead of dwelling on what’s going wrong at the moment isn’t the natural choice for us folks. But that’s okay, because I happen to know Someone in the supernatural business. Through God’s grace, He can transform my life and give me a character like Christ’s. The car will get taken care of eventually. Perhaps most important is taking my heart to God’s garage for a tune up.

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Information Overload

It doesn’t happen very often, but I saw my oldest son go through information overload this weekend. Perhaps it comes from being a senior in high school and having in less than two months time the following: SAT, ACT and semester final exams. The finals start tomorrow. I’m hoping Michael recovers from the ACT in time to switch gears to finals.

There comes a point where you’ve pushed yourself too much, too far, too fast and you have to disengage. We tried all sorts of things to help Michael relax from the test so he could get back to regular homework assignments due Monday morning, but it was laughter that finally eased the tension. As the wise man said, a merry heart is like a good dose of medicine!

Overload is easy to experience, especially around the holiday times. Before your natural instincts to shut down and disengage go into autopilot – make sure you take some time to laugh. Watch some kids playing at a playground. Read a corny joke book. Watch one of the “Thou Shalt Laugh” presentations or post a joke on social media and ask others to keep it going.

The people around you want to stay connected, so take a moment to laugh instead of having to disengage. Enjoy the holiday season. Laugh!!

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You’re Thankful for WHAT???

Long. Difficult. Discouraging. My Crohn’s journey has been all of this and more. But this week, I actually thanked God for my Crohn’s Disease.

Trust me, I know you’re thinking “what in the world?” right now and I get that. I was too at first. But I’ve been studying and praying a lot about issues in life. I’ve seen how being weak and having to depend on God’s grace has taught me to not be so much thinking that I could do it all myself. That’s my personality. Just tell me I can’t do something and I’ll prove to you that I can!

I came to the realization that the convenience and comforts of this life were far more important to me than I wanted to admit. I was so focused on having a “dream come true” life right here and now that I wasn’t really planning on the eternal life spoken of so much in the Bible.

Do I wish I get could get through a day without pain? You better believe it! No more fatigue, anemia induced hair loss or plaguing side symptoms of Crohn’s Disease? Of course! But I already have that promised to me. There are a lot of other folks out there that don’t have any hope whatsoever. They look at the crazy mixed up world around us and think this is all there is. And that’s a pretty pathetic outlook on life.

So I’m going to quit spending so much time praying for healing and understanding why I have to suffer with Crohn’s and focus instead on the fact that I know of a future without Crohn’s. I know of a future without death, suffering and pain. And it’s about time I shared this hope with others who need to hear it.

Pity party over. Time to spread some good news. This isn’t all there is. You can have more. It’s yours free because of something called amazing grace!

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The Forgiven Restaurant

There is a saying that goes something like this: You fool me once, shame on you; you fool me twice, shame on me. No one likes to be snookered. Those who have been burned once often make sure they can’t be burned again. Who can blame them? I was determined not to get burned twice – at a “terrible” restaurant.

I have been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. I can assure you, that unless you lived in some “pocket” of vegetarian population, there just weren’t many options for vegetarians 20 years ago in restaurants. Grilled cheese or Mac&Cheese are good fail safes for most, but since my body can’t process cheese (thanks to Crohn’s surgery), I had even less options than other vegetarians. The last thing I needed was to eat at a restaurant that insisted on penalizing me for getting my dish without the meat.

That’s exactly what happened one day at lunch with my coworkers. I asked for a salad without the meat. I’m willing to pay the full price still, I just don’t want the meat. The server told me I would have to pay an upcharge for the change. Seriously? You guys can use that meat for something else and I’m going to pay you to do that? I bit the bullet and ordered the salad so my friends and I didn’t have to find another restaurant on our already short lunch break. But the restaurant made it on my list of places never to return to service.

About a year ago, a “Get Healthy Marshall” program came to town. Many experts came talking about the health benefits of a simpler, plant based diet. The Mayor of Marshall, Texas, was all for it as he had seen his own health issues improve after adopting a more healthy lifestyle. Several restaurants in town went public with offering special menus to be in accordance with the new “plant strong” lifestyle. And it is very popular in Marshall, Texas!

Karl and I went for lunch today. To the “terrible” restaurant as they are now on the list of establishments offering a healthier fare. I went with full knowledge that a “better” restaurant down the street was available if this terrible restaurant still tried to penalize people for being vegetarians. The options were few. Other restaurants have a lot more plant strong offerings, but it was delicious! The atmosphere was perfect for our lunch and the service was spot on. When paying for our meal, I told the owner about giving her restaurant a second chance and being glad that I did.

When she heard my story, she admitted that whoever had insisted on charging me extra for leaving off the meat was probably someone without much food service experience and who didn’t work for her for very long. She was grateful that I had given her restaurant a second chance and thrilled that we enjoyed our experience there today.

I walked out of that restaurant having no desire to carry a grudge about what had happened in the past, and thankful for grace. I gave that restaurant grace and a second chance. But God had given me grace, extended forgiveness to me when I was unforgiving toward others that had harmed me. God reminded me that I’ve had my share of second chances.

Was there a risk that I would have gotten “burned” again? Of course. Life is full of risks. But God risked everything to extend grace to me. I’m glad He prompted me to extend grace to this restaurant. Besides the beauty of forgiveness, I tasted one of the best veggie sandwiches ever!

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When Heinz 57 is a Good Thing

There was always one answer missing. No matter how hard I looked on those multiple choice forms, there was never a “Heinz 57” on the list. So I grew up filling out Iowa Tests of Basic Skills forms with resentment each year (as well as many other forms) with the plain old “white” or “Caucasian” because I don’t have enough of any one thing in me to be predominant. But then again, that’s a good thing. Like last night.

Last night was our church’s annual International Christmas Festival. We celebrate all of the cultures represented in our church as well as this special time of year. Folks are invited to dress in a way that reflects their heritage, if they so desire, and bring a food dish representative of their culture. Last year, Karl and the kids went as the Germans they are (I have a little in me) and I went as a Native American. Karl took Streusel Kuchen, and I took Native American Fry Bread. But because of our varied heritages, we were able to choose a different culture to represent at this year’s festival. Last night we went with the English-Welsh side of the family (Karl’s mother and who knows where it comes from in me).

We dressed in lady and knight costumes and served English scones with preserves and tea. Evidently English scones are hard to come by in East Texas. The leftovers were claimed, with quite a bit of demand, actually. Even the peach/apricot preserves were victims of kidnapping by the church media director. We also got to enjoy guacamole made by our Honduran friends and cassava cakes by our friends from the Philippines. What a night!

What culture will we represent next year? Well, since my DNA test came back 19% sub-Saharan African, it might be time to represent the soul side of me. This is what makes being a regular Heinz 57 of races and ethnicities so much fun. I want to proudly celebrate each and every part of my heritage. Why limit it to only one? Things have gotten better over the years on those dreaded forms demanding to know my race and ethnicity. They haven’t figured out “melting pot American” yet, so I click the best answer I can which is finally now available. “Prefer not to answer.” If I can’t claim every single part of my ethnicity then I’d rather not say anything at all.

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I Used to Dance

A friend of mine has recently done a very wonderful, yet very brave thing. He openly admitted he has recently been struggling with depression. Kudos to you friend. Not an easy thing to bring to the forefront. Most of us prefer to stay in denial.

Crohn’s Disease has taken its toll on me, but depression was one of the areas I refused to allow it to take me. But it did. So I did the only thing I knew I could do, deny it. It wasn’t easy to see at the time and I’ll admit, it is still a struggle for me. I’m not a sit on the sidelines kind of person. I’ve always been right in the middle of stuff enjoying life to the fullest. Being sidelined by a disease has been attacking me at the very core of who I am and who I always thought I was.

A patient God and a very loving husband and family have been going through this with me. Karl is actually glad that I’m finally admitting how much I had struggled during some of my lowest points with all that Crohn’s has taken from me. The best way I fight back? Finding every single way I can enjoy life to the fullest again – no matter what others think. I suppose it is best summed up in my thoughts that I shared with my friend.

When a child hears a happy tune – they giggle and dance for joy. When they get a favorite toy – expressions of happiness unlimited. When they see someone hurting they are ready to give all – immediately. Being an adult really sucks because so many people tell you to grow up. But I was much happier when I giggled and danced and gave all I had.

Crohn’s still gives me bad days, but I’m determined to giggle, dance and give like a little child, because life was meant to be lived happy and abundantly!

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Perfect Country

Everything has to be done in a certain way and there is always only one way to do it that is right. Getting the job done isn’t important. Getting all the details perfect first and doing it right (even if it’s late) is of most importance. Yes, my oldest son resides in Perfect Country. I, on the other hand, reside equally in Fun and Control countries. This really messes with Michael’s favorite vacation spot – Peace Country. I wouldn’t know much about it as I rarely visit there.

So what happens when I need something done a particular way? I humbly admit that I will get it done. That’s what control country residents do, but it may not be as precise as the job requires. I don’t ask my daughter to do it. She lives in Fun and Control countries as well. The request is made to Michael. Here, perfect country, please cut this into many pieces all exactly the same size with no crumbs. And he gets the job done, precisely.

Learning where our kids function best, what countries they are from, has helped us tremendously in knowing how to connect with them and knowing how to draw out their strengths. It seems a far more regular occurrence for parents (and teachers) to expect all children to behave in a certain way and move around in our world in only that one way. What a blessing we miss when we fail to see who they really are. What a blessing we miss in being able to focus them on their strengths and applaud them for a job well done!

Take the time to study your children. If you need some help, visit the Flag Page website where you will find more about the four countries: Fun, Control, Perfect and Peace. You can find it at http://www.flagpagetest.com.

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The Grace Covenants (Yes, plural)

Prosperity Gospel.

These words can frustrate a sincere preacher of the Word faster than my psychotic relative’s mood can change (actually, I have more than one psychotic relative, but that’s just my opinion). Sure everyone is going to sign up for your religion because all you have to do is pray to God and the blessings come!

Want a shocker? That’s the Old Covenant. Now unless you aren’t familiar with all this Christianese, let me explain as best I can. God called a people to be His special people. He would give them His precepts and decrees and He would, by His grace, live out these precepts and decrees in the lives of His people. They would serve Him and He would bless them so much that other nations would come running – wanting to know about Israel’s God. That was God’s first plan of using one people to draw all others to Himself. The Old Covenant.

The funny part is, there are many Christians today who don’t want to have anything to do with God’s precepts and decrees. After all – they claim – those were nailed to the cross. We want the new covenant. We shouldn’t have to keep some outdated law. We’re post modern! Okay, fine, take the second covenant. You know the one where Jesus says, take up your cross daily and follow Me. Heard of that one? Kind of flies in the face of that fake prosperity gospel, doesn’t it?

So we have a bunch of folks out there that want to party like the 1st Covenant and not have to worry about the rules like in their version of the 2nd Covenant. Pretty crazy, right? What am I saying? God tried it the blessings way first. He tried to reach us in the pocket book. What did we do? The Bible says God’s followers began to think all these blessings were their own doing and sometimes even attributed them to other gods. So the blessings were taken away. God’s people repented and got back in line. The blessings came back. Over and over again God dealt mercifully with this stubborn people. That’s the Old Covenant.

The New Covenant? Since God’s people wouldn’t stay on the blessings train, He brought out good works, self-sacrifice and service. Die daily to self and follow Me. You won’t have the blessings of this life, but you will have the assurance of the life to come. Others will see your good works and glorify God in heaven. It won’t be untold riches now attracting the heathens into our ranks, it’s our good works of selflessness.

Here’s the amazing part – it’s still the same thing. It’s still grace. We can’t die to self daily and serve others any more than we could keep every decree and precept in the Bible on our own. It has always been and always will be by God’s grace. Folks before the cross had to have faith in what God said He would do and those of us after must have faith that what God did is enough to cover our sins. Either covenant, either way, it’s still saved by grace through faith.

 

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The 11th Hour

It wasn’t called World War I, until after World War II. Before then it had simply been called what it was, “The Great War.” It was a costly war around the globe. Nothing like it had been seen before and all hoped that nothing like it would ever be seen again. So on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the war was officially ended.

Here in the United States, this Armistice Day became a federal holiday. Eventually it became what is known today as Veteran’s Day. So today we proudly honor our veterans and thank them for all they have sacrificed for our country.

The treated was signed with great thought put into every detail of the ceremony. This was a war to end all wars, so naturally the ceremony to end such a war had to be the ceremony to end all ceremonies. But we didn’t pay attention.

The Great War is now known as World War I, because we didn’t enforce the requirements of the treaty. World domination arose again and many more lives were lost. The atrocities that happened during World War II should keep us awake at night if we ever think we can let our guard down again.

Today we have very few living veterans of World War II, but I hope we will never forget all they have done for us. I hope we never forget the solemnity of the 11th hour. I hope we never allow atrocities and world domination to rear its ugly head again. Thank you veterans! Thank you for doing your part in protecting the freedoms of this great nation. I pray we will support you the most in doing our part to make sure there is never a World War III. We are grateful for our dedicated and devoted soldiers, but we should never treat them flippantly, by allowing war on a global scale to creep up on us again. Let us all remember the importance of the 11th hour. A war to end all wars. A ceremony to end all such ceremonies.

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Underlying

Arthritis. Yuck.

As I continue to engage in this war with Crohn’s Disease, I do end up in battles with arthritis. Crohn’s drops arthritides into the bloodstream and so my Crohnies and I can get Crohn’s induced arthritis. Not fun.

What I learned from my Rheumatologist yesterday is that the Crohn’s ulcers themselves do not have to be active and flaring in order for the arthritis to be active and giving me grief. In other words, the underlying cause of everything doesn’t have to be visibly active in order for some of its spinoffs to be actively attacking my body.

Reality check. I had no clue. I thought it was all or nothing and that I just didn’t have tons of ab pain whenever one of the other Crohn’s symptoms was manifesting itself. Nope. They can creep up at any time, even when the main culprit appears dormant. So right now I’m applying this little nugget to life in general. Hits me like a brick.

How many times have I thought things weren’t so bad because the main thing wasn’t going nuts? How many times have I put up with little relational issues that were stressful and harmful, because I thought the real big relationship killer wasn’t that active right now, so I could handle this other stuff? The reality is that even if the big bad issue isn’t “active” it is still what is feeding and prompting all of the little things.

Time to take a careful look at what is plaguing me. Time to stop jumping from one side issue to the next and focus on correcting the one underlying thing that is spawning it all. This isn’t going to be easy. God give me grace.

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Of Faith and Old Wives’ Tales

There is a big potted plant in our house, a gift from our church family for Pastor Appreciation Month in October. Thankfully, they got us a plant that is hard to kill. I don’t have a great track record with indoor plants (or outdoor for that matter).

Karl was asking the kids why it was important to talk to the plant. They knew the answer – we give off carbon dioxide and the plant uses that for its vital processes. In return, it gives off oxygen, which we then use for our vital processes. It is all scientific. But there was a time when it wasn’t all about science.

There used to be an old wives’ tale that if you talked to your plants, they would be healthier plants. A lot of people laughed, but those who talked to their plants knew it was true. They didn’t know why, but they saw the results and kept up the good work. It wasn’t until many years later that scientists broke down into vital processes and symbiotic relationships what many people had before received – simply on faith.

It’s kind of like Thomas – often referred to as doubting Thomas. He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared in resurrected form to many of the disciples. So when they began to tell him all the news, Thomas doubted. He wanted proof. He wanted a scientist to say that this is why plants are healthier when you talk to them. It’s not the talking, it’s the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen. He wanted it presented in a way that would remove all doubt.

Jesus came and showed Thomas the scars in His hands. Here was the proof. Thomas claimed Jesus as his Lord and his God. Then Jesus says something really interesting in the gospel of John 20:29.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

So I’ve learned from my beautiful new plant that I hope lasts a very long time, that faith is sometimes not knowing how something works, but seeing that it does work; and choosing to believe that it is the right thing to do, even if you can’t say why it works. Faith is like talking to a plant, before science showed us how it worked.

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Moving the Jar

A friend of mine cleans houses as a way to make a living. She has some interesting stories about some of the situations she has encountered as well as many great cleaning tips! Recently she was cleaning the home of a new client. Busily at work in the kitchen, she was surprised when all three of the owner’s dogs raced into the kitchen and stood at attention near her. What could this mean?

My friend soon realized what had taken place. In her efforts to clean the kitchen counter and wipe under various appliances, jars and canisters – she had moved the treat jar. Merely moving the jar that holds their precious treats, even just for cleaning, sent those dogs into action. Their ears so honed to the sound of that jar being touched or moved in any way meant something good was coming.

Today, I want God to have a treat jar on His counter. I want to learn by heart the sounds that are made when God gets ready to move His jar. I want to be ready when God is giving out treats of grace, patience, unexpected blessings, friendships, beauties of nature, a child’s smile, a family hug and so many more of the special treats that come from being His child.

Sometimes it seems the jar hasn’t moved in a while. Maybe the kitchen counter is cluttered and you need to let someone come in and clean it off and move the jar. Listen for it. That means something good is coming!

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What Could I Say After That?

Our assignment was to find another person and have prayer with each other. The setting was an outdoor church service on a brisk fall morning at a private summer camp facility. Everything was serene, perfect, peaceful and relaxed. No suits and ties. Worship in the green cathedral of God’s natural world.

Trying to make sure the children realized they were just as important as anyone else, I approached a preschool girl and asked if we could have prayer together. She agreed. I asked her who should go first and she said she would. She was so adorable in her prayer, forgetting my name for just a moment and having to put the prayer on pause to get it from me. Then she nailed me!

Dear God, please help Miss Sharon to hear the birds singing in the trees. Amen.

What do you say after that? I was all choked up and her pure sweetness brought tears to my eyes. She however, had no clue what she had done and after I didn’t respond right away, she reminded me, your turn. I barely managed to get out an “okay” so she would know I was still alive and functioning and I tried to get myself together and just thank God for this little girl and outdoor church.

We can get so caught up in all the things we have to do, especially as a pastor’s wife at an outdoor church service. But this little girl reminded me that more than anything else, I just needed to hear the birds singing in the trees that day. Funny, they sounded like a little preschool girl.

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My Best Set of Towels

My father was very logical and therefore practical. This combination didn’t preclude him from appreciating quality however. Logically, after all, if you bought a higher quality item at the outset and didn’t have to replace it several times over with cheaper imitation items, you were better off. He was usually right. The $60 dress he bought for me when I was a mere girl of 16 still hangs in my closet, because it was of high quality.

But when dad made up his mind to do something, practical and logical trumped any preconceived ideas. He displayed this many times, including the time he used my best set of towels. Mom and Dad were visiting us at our home in New Mexico. Dad determined that before they began their trip home to Oklahoma, he needed to wash the car. The next thing I knew, my father was using wash cloths from my best set of towels to wash the car.

When I expressed my disappointment over the matter, dad looked confused. He simply said something like he didn’t think it was my best set of towels. Dad was right. I was wrong. I wish he were still alive today so I could explain my silliness and thank him for delivering me from a life of constriction inside a self made box.

You see, I only had a few real “sets” of towels. Most of our towels in our early poor stages of marriage were old ones gathered from “the barn.” This was a family kept repository of things grandmothers had at one time owned. These rounded out my linen cabinets, but this one set, it was actually a real set, not hand me down old things. The problem was, that this set of towels had seen quite an amount of use and were looking older than many of the hand me down towels. Of course dad was right, it didn’t look like my best set of towels, because it wasn’t.

Don’t worry, we eventually got new towels and there are no longer any vestiges of the relics from the barn. But there are two hand towels from my best set of towels, that have now been set at a position of elevated rags. They remind me of how I got caught up on “a perfect set” of something and failed to realize it was worn and good for nothing more than washing a car. It was certainly not worth any damage I might have done to my relationship with my father.

Hopefully I’ve been freed from seeing “perfect sets” all the time and can be honest with myself and with others when something is old, worn and needs to be replaced. Hopefully I’ve learned to always see people as more important than things. Hopefully I’ve gotten at least a little bit of my father’s logical and practical wisdom. I’d take even the smallest amount and be grateful.

 

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Easy to Forget

I’ve written before about how grateful I am for finding someone or a group of someones who can understand what you are going through – community. It hasn’t changed. Recently I put a question to the ADEM group on “Ben’s Friends,” a website dedicated to connecting people with rare diseases, including ADEM, about helping friends understand.

The response from a man in his 50’s was just what I needed to hear. He’s been through what my little Greta is going through, but as an adult, he can express his needs a little more reasonably and in the typical “adult” manner than Greta can right now. His advice helped me a lot. His kind words to Greta were that she had nothing to be embarrassed about. All she had to do was ask people to slow down a little or go over something again, it’s not a crime to ask.

I thanked him and told him that even Karl and I can forget at times that Greta needs a little extra help here and there, because everything looks so normal on the outside. He wrote back that his wife has the same ordeal. She’s so grateful to have her husband back after he had been through and had to relearn to do that sometimes it’s easy to forget that he still struggles sometimes.

When everything looks “normal” on the outside. It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to forget that there are still things on the inside that trouble us and make us need to ask for a little bit of extra help. The problem is, we get tunnel vision. We see “normal” so much that we aren’t always prepared for the after effects of ADEM to rear their ugly head and we have to slow the train down and adjust. It catches us off guard. Because we are human and it is easy to forget.

Praying that when I’m jarred back to the reality of ADEM and the fact that life will never be “normal” again; that it doesn’t take me quite so long to adjust each time. Perhaps there are others in my community, my circle of friends that also need me to pay attention to when they need a little extra help. There are many out there that need us to be prepared for anything – not easy to forget.

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