Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The 2nd Weaning

Emotional tears ruin disposable contacts. Just FYI.
What is prompting this contact lens melting tearfest? Children.

My oldest is expecting her fourth child sometime in the next six weeks. You'd think I'd be accustomed to welcoming a new grandbaby and watching my only daughter go through the process, but there's still a lot of fear and worry and anxiety involved.

My oldest son left today on "an adventure." That means he's hitchhiking his way through the southwestern states. This, he says, is a "short trip." It's something he's always wanted to do, which none of us understand, but my ancestry research indicates it may be a genealogical aberration he inherited. While I blubbered last night over his impending departure, he came in and explained all the research he's done, all the thought he's put into this journey, and today he posted a Mark Twain quote to mark the start of his walkabout. How can I argue with that?

My middle son got married last weekend. It was a beautiful wedding, I love his new bride, and I'm so proud of the man he has become. I very nearly didn't make it through our mother-son dance at the wedding without a complete come-apart. They flew to Jamaica today for their honeymoon. (Yes, I live-tracked their flight on the Internet from take-off to landing... I have a problem.)

My youngest is a senior in high school and is playing football for the first time. He's first string on defense, offense, and special teams. I'm ridiculously proud, and afraid I won't be able to watch him play the same way I wasn't able to watch him wrestle last year because it triggers horrible anxiety attacks. They should sell booze at those events for the paranoid parents.  

To sum it up, I'm a stressed-out mommy, despite lots of prayer.

Maybe it's because I had them so close together, or because I homeschooled them, or because we lived in a rural area and they were home, with me, ALL THE TIME, but this transition to adulthood is hitting me hard. About as hard as weaning them was the first time around, only this time it's harder on ME. I don't remember it being hard to wean my babies... they basically weaned themselves, or they got teeth, and that was the end of it. Bite me more than once, I cut off your food supply, pretty simple. They were all late teethers, so they all nursed for at least six months. Kiddo #2 for almost a year.

We once had cattle-ranching neighbors. Every year we would hear horrible, heart-wrenching sounds of distress from across the road. When I asked what was going on, I was told the mother cows were bawling for their calves, who had been separated from them for the first time. (The calves, I suppose, were just fine.) This wailing continued for several nights and was loud and distressing enough to make me close our windows despite our lack of AC.

Today, I'm that momma cow... wailing for her young'uns. Wishing they were all back home, wearing their footie jammies and small enough to pick up and cart off to their beds for the night.

The second weaning is for the mother, and it's much more difficult than the first weaning.

It may come with a kid going to college, getting married, heading to the mission field, moving out to his/her own apartment, or going on a "walkabout." But it will come. It's normal, and natural, and healthy. So is childbirth. Unfortunately, no one is hanging around offering me an epidural.

I know I'm not alone in this season. I also know there aren't any instructions, manual, or game plans for this stage. There are no Dr. Spock or "What to Expect" guides for us. It makes it extra difficult.

So, for all you mommies and daddies who dropped off a baby at college with fear and trembling, put one on a plane for a missionary journey or an educational course, kissed one and passed them into marriage, watched one head off for basic training in the military, helped one cart furniture into a third floor walk-up, or hugged one good-bye before he tromped off with his backpack and longboard, all alone, into the wide, wide world... I'm with ya. I'm praying for yours, and I hope you'll pray for mine. May they find their way, may God lead them into His best and highest for their lives, may they find favor and grace and mercy wherever they go.

And may we, their parents, not get stuck in this limbo-land between the season of parenting and the season of LIVING. May we find our way into OUR next seasons as easily as our children find their way. Don't cling to what was (or worse, what you wish had been). Look forward... what's next for YOU??? What do YOU want to do???

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Are superheroes real?

That was the question my 4-year-old grandson asked me this week.
You must understand, we've bonded over the Avengers. We go to see all the movies together. Yes, I'm vicariously indulging my own childish obsession with comic book heroes.
So the question, asked in all seriousness, set me back.

Are superheroes real?
How do you answer that question?
In the midst of a socio/political climate that resembles a bad SNL skit; when real-life horror stories are taking place around the world every day; when it looks more and more like we might actually NEED the Avengers and their ilk to rescue us from certain doom; how does one answer a 4-year-old's honest question: ARE superheroes real?
Bereft of easy answers, I resorted to the power of the definition: What makes a superhero a superhero?
(NOTE, asking this kind of question is how I raised a houseful of anarchists, so before you apply this method, beware.) 
The conclusion?

It's not the superpowers... it's the motive. 
It's not the mutated genes... it's the intention.
It's not the fame, or the fortune, or, thank heaven, the outfit... it's the heart. 

THAT is what I want to impart to my progeny... the motive, the intention, the heart of the superhero.
And what is that?

Mercy. Love. Justice. Honor. Faith. Commitment. Selflessness. 
Those are the characteristics of a superhero. Whether he's been frozen for a few generations, is a genius with too much money and an anxiety disorder, or if he turns green and smashes everything in sight when provoked. No one said superheroes were perfect.

SO... back to the grandson's question.
Are superheroes real?
Absolutely. In fact, they're everywhere. We just need to open our eyes.
I know plenty of superheroes.
They've adopted children from another continent.
A lot of them wear uniforms labeled Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines. Or they are deputy sheriffs, police officers, and firefighters. 
They're standing up against oppression and injustice by defending the weak and broken among us.
They're going to dangerous places to share the Gospel.
They're feeding the hungry, tending to the sick, and building houses for the homeless.
They're devoting their time, money, energy, and talents to change the things that are wrong with our system.
They're taking care of their loved ones who have dementia or other chronic ailments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
They're battling chronic pain and illness every day with a smile and encouragement for the rest of us.
I could go on...
The good news? I can tell my grandson superheroes ARE real.

Who are your superheroes?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Facebook, I might be done with you...

I think it's the toxic onslaught of Jenner-related posts in the last few weeks, but my time on Facebook has not been pleasant lately. I won't be tweeting Mark Zuckerberg with my whining complaints, or sending nasty comments. It's not Facebook per se (What IS Facebook? Is it software? Is it an app? Is it a website?) it's what's ON Facebook. I love the IDEA of Facebook, and I've endured its multiple new algorithms without giving up and jumping ship to Twitter (I'm not pithy enough), or *gasp* Instagram (I'm not cool enough).

But Facebook is getting on my nerves. If you know me you know that's pretty much a first. I don't know if my FB friends have become dramatically more annoying or if my post-hysterectomy hormones are making me crotchety, or if the latest algorithm is pushing the most irritating posts to the top of my feed, or if I've suddenly become hypersensitive to what I read, but for the last few weeks I just feel perturbed by Facebook.

Oh, I'm not talking about the new baby pictures from my friends, or the funny memes, or the birthday greetings, or the "I got a new job!" updates or the posts from my friend who married the wine merchant and travels to Paris multiple times a year... yeah, she's my jealousy test. (Can you REALLY rejoice with those who rejoice, or are you just faking it?) I don't even mind the "this is what's for dinner" posts or the "I just exercised" posts (I'm guilty of the latter, it keeps me accountable).

Seriously, I like (no, I really LIKE, not just click on the button) your memes, and your recipes, and your weather reports, and your accomplishments and weddings and new babies, and your vacay pics. (OK, the vacay pics might make me jealous, but that's not your problem, it's mine). I like your updates on your pets and your kids. I like knowing you're out there, living your life, while I'm here, living mine. It makes me feel connected, and that's nice.

I don't even mind when you share your failures and struggles. Those times when the excrement has hit the fan and you need prayer. When life dealt you a lousy hand and you just want someone to notice. Yeah, I understand, even though sometimes it makes me cry, and sometimes it makes me angry on your behalf.

It's the onslaught of copied and pasted knee-jerk reactionary posts tha are poisoning my Facebook feed. Not just the "I have such and so opinion" posts... those are fine. It's the manipulative opinionated posts that are driving me to click that X in the upper right-hand corner. You know the ones I'm talking about... they're specifically designed to get a reaction, to twist your emotions, not just to share information. Here are some examples:

1. If you like (fill in the blank... veterans, soldiers, the flag, the National Anthem, yoga, Jesus, frogs, whales, stray dogs) you must share or like this post. No... no I mustn't. Don't tell me what to do! I avoid those posts even when I agree with their message, just because they are so manipulative.

2. If you believe in (fill in the blank) you MUST share this post. This one is particularly aggravating. I believe in Jesus, but I don't have to share some meme on Facebook to announce that. To borrow a fiction writing rule, SHOW don't TELL. If you want to share your faith on social media, come up with a better method, please.

3. Political posts, of all genres. Seriously... are you sharing that post about the Kardashians (or anyone remotely connected to them) because you are genuinely concerned about their eternal souls, or because you want to jump on the bandwagon with your valuable opinion about big butts... Oh, wait, is that not the latest big Kardashian money-maker? See how that works? I know, I'm a cynic. Seriously, if you're that distraught over the moral condition of humanity, get off "the Facebook" and go pray, or send "good vibrations" like Pope Francis suggested, for those who don't pray.

4. Things you wouldn't show your mother/boss/pastor/children. Because, DUH. Along the same lines, if you wouldn't say it to someone's face, why would you think it's OK to share on Facebook? And that applies to people you know personally AND people you don't know. In other words, if you don't have something NICE to say, keep your mouth shut and your fingers off the share button.

5. Super-sad news stories that don't need to be shared because sharing the tears accomplishes nothing productive. (Particularly true if it concerns dogs and small children.) I'm not talking about PERSONAL posts that are sad, I'm talking about the news story that ran six months ago on a station halfway across the country. It's just morbid. Stop it.

6. Super-scary news stories that don't need to be shared because:
A. Most of them aren't even true (please, peeps, FACT-CHECK before you share... it's the Internet equivalent of wearing a condom. Don't spread the deception disease!)
B. Will sharing this terrifying news that your lipstick is likely to kill you actually BENEFIT anyone? And, even if you think it will, has this information already circulated around the Internet six gajillion times? Just because it's new to you doesn't mean it's NEW. In fact, it probably made the chain email loops a decade or so ago and some bright individual decided to resurrect it and post it on Facebook.

Keep sharing your thoughts and your news about your day and where you went for lunch and pictures of your new house/car/iguana and interesting things you see and read, and weird stories about your crazy, wild, wonderful life, and when you're depressed or sick or ready to throw in the towel, and when you're on top of the world because you lost 10 pounds or quit smoking or won the lottery, or whatever.

Maybe we all need an Emily Post Guide to Etiquette for Facebook. For the whole Internet. Maybe that would help. I don't know, but in the meantime, I might go check out Instagram. Supposedly, it's all about the filters...

Friday, March 6, 2015

An awesome new book and a terrific giveaway!

I am so pleased to welcome my Inkwell Inspirations blogging pal and friend Dina Sleiman to introduce the first release in her new YA inspirational trilogy, Dauntless.

If you have daughters, this is a perfect book for young women... or older, more mature women... Or if you have sons... or if you can read... period. In short, this is a FABULOUS book, and I'm excited that this is just the first of three! 

From Bethany House Publishers
Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior, prepare to meet your historical counterparts!

Hello and thanks for having me today. I would like to share with you about my YA inspirational medieval adventure/romance series. Yeah, that’s a lot of adjectives. LOL. This series is pretty unique, especially in the Christian market, and so requires quite a bit of description. But let me start by sharing a little of how it came about. A few summers ago I saw a picture of a female knight, strong and courageous, bold and valiant, and I realized that somewhere in my many years of marriage and raising children, I had lost my fight. And you know what: I wanted it back!

Photo by Silly Little Sparrow
Meanwhile, I had been considering trying my hand at a young adult medieval romance series for several years, but I didn’t have a strong idea. Quite a few more months would pass before everything came together for me. I was walking and praying about a series concept, when the BBC’s new Robin Hood came to mind with its bold Maid Marian who is a crusader for the poor in her own right, its female Djaq, and its tough villainesses. That’s when it hit me. Put strong, young medieval women in legendary male roles, et voila, my Valiant Hears Series was born.

I’m so thankful for this opportunity to create strong and courageous role models for young women. I feel that all too often Christian girls are sent mixed messages. “You can be whatever you want to be, but you should be…” (insert small box of your denominational choosing here.) I want to inspire young women to be all that they can be and empower them to reach their full potential in Christ.

“What is a Valiant Heart heroine?” you might ask. A young woman who is both feminine and strong, vulnerable and tough, gentle and passionate. She is fearless, intelligent, and full of life. A heroine who contains within her both the tender beauty of a blossoming flower and the fierceness of a lioness. One who uniquely reflects her creator God and is willing to pursue her dreams with all her heart. A woman who is open to love, but not defined by a man.

Each book in the Valiant Hearts Series will feature a strong, young medieval woman in a traditionally male role as she lives out a story of adventure, romance, and faith. The series is geared toward teens, but will appeal to adults as well

Shown above is Merry Ellison, my heroine for the Robin Hood inspired Dauntless. Merry will go to any length to save the outlawed children of Ellsworth from the treacherous King John. Dauntless is available now online, as an ebook, and in local bookstores.

In book 2, Chivalrous, Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight, but such cannot be her fate, even in the Camelot inspired region where she dwells. Meanwhile, her father intends to use her as a marriage pawn. In this story that flips the Lancelot/Guinevere legend on its head, Gwendolyn struggles with issues of gender and worth as well as her faith in God. Chivalrous is available for pre-order online and will release in September.

My heroine Rosalind for book 3 (working title Relentless) has a role in book 2 as well. I'm picturing Katie McGrath from the series Merlin. She serves as Gwendolyn's handmaid in book 2, but in book 3 she will face her own adventure as she goes on crusade in search of redemption. I just started writing this one, and it will be fun to see where this story takes me.

And I have ideas for more: pirates, body guards, spies, even a quest!

I hope you will consider giving my Valiant Hearts Series a try, or perhaps purchasing it for some special young woman in your life! And please join me on my Valiant Hearts blog to stay in touch.

There is a $250 giveaway contest from Bethany House in connection to the release... Click on the link below!


Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Also look for her novels, Love in Three-Quarter TimeDance from Deep Within, and her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers. Dina serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing as well, and she loves to teach at writers conferences throughout the US.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Comes Around Goes Around

Or, as the author of Ecclesiastes put it, 
That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 NKJV
Nowhere has that been more apparent of late than in the current controversy over vaccinations. 

Here's a little history... 

The theory that immunity to a disease could be achieved by exposing a patient to a weakened or lesser form of the disease isn't a new thought. As early as the 15th century, the Chinese began to practice "variolation"—blowing the dried, powdered scabs of an infected person's smallpox lesions into the nostrils—to prevent the spread of smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases known to man. Other methods, such as rubbing the infected fluid from an active lesion into a cut,were also practiced throughout Asia and Africa. Those who underwent variolation usually had a mild case of smallpox with less scarring and complications.

In 1717, Lady Mary Worley Montagu, an Englishwoman, witnessed the variolation procedure while in Constantinople. Montagu had lost her brother to smallpox, and was herself severely scarred by the disease. She had her 5-year-old son Edward variolated in 1718, and her 4-year-old daughter in 1721, after returning to England. Interest in the procedure grew.

By the time the practice came to America, objections to variolation had begun to arise. Religious objections, for the most part. Still, even the most religious groups couldn't argue with results, and the death rates from smallpox outbreaks were too high to ignore. In 1776 General George Washington ordered mandatory variolation for the entire Continental Army after a smallpox outbreak in Boston.

At the same time, doctors in England were experimenting with ways to improve the procedure. Dairy maids never seemed to contract smallpox, and Edward Jenner suspected their exposure to cowpox had made them immune. As cowpox was a mild disease in comparison, he began vaccinating patients with the cowpox virus, with good results. Widespread vaccination programs soon followed... but not without controversy.

The Vaccination Act of 1867 deemed smallpox vaccination mandatory for all children up to age 14, and included penalties for refusal, up to and including imprisonment. In 1885 in the town of Leicester, more than 80,000 people protested the mandatory vaccinations in an organized march, including an effigy of Jenner and a child's coffin. The Vaccination Act of 1898 repealed the penalties, and included an option for parents to opt-out of the vaccinations for their children if they so chose, for personal or religious reasons. While the protests were primarily about the "mandatory" aspect of the Act, there was a lot of fear that the use of the cowpox virus would cause the recipients of the vaccine to develop bovine-like symptoms... The following cartoon is from the late 1800s.

The cow pock

America, following in Britain's footsteps, had their own debates and protests and Anti-Vaccination Leagues throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, as each new vaccine was introduced, new protests sprang up around it. And in the last 20 years, every new study that comes out generates new furor about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, some pro and some con. 

With the advent of the influenza vaccine (which is admittedly a hit-or-miss proposition in some years) the debate is renewed annually, and everyone's opinions get splattered all over social media again, right or wrong or indifferent. What I find interesting is that none of the arguments are new... even after more than two centuries of debating. The following political cartoon appeared in 1930.

Knowing the history behind vaccinations (and the controversy they've engendered for several hundred years) certainly gives a bit of perspective. And with all the name-calling, fear-mongering, and inflammatory statements being made (by all sides) a little perspective can go a long way toward soothing ruffled feathers, calming fears, and hopefully, making the world a better and safer place for everyone.

Everyone has a responsibility to carefully consider their position for or against vaccination, and to be prepared to accept the possible consequences of their choices. Vaccination has inherent risks. So does non-vaccination. As is the case with every risky thing we undertake, from taking a bath to eating at McDonald's, do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Can you take a minute to vote?

I know, I know... I'm way behind in posting. But while I'm in-between, could you please take a second and vote for my son and his adorable girlfriend? They're in a "cutest couple" contest in our local paper. You can vote once a day through Feb. 4, and you can log in with Facebook (unless you're on mobile). 

Do a couple of young people a favor and vote!