Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

Why I walk: Happy Sweet Sixteen to my March of Dimes Baby! ~ Rae

16 years ago on this very day, March 10th,  I almost died.

I know that may sound dramatic. Usually if asked, I tell people my first pregnancy was a little rough and my baby was born a month early.

BUT, 16 years ago I did almost die.

My pregnancy started off perfectly. I did everything right; I formulated every last detail. I had dated my husband for 3 years before we married. We then waited another 3 years for our first child. I planned my delivery for April, the perfect teacher pregnancy schedule, because I would be able to get 5 months off with the baby. I even gave up my one vice, soda, for my child’s well-being.

I had it all figured out. If I had a girl, she would be named “Audrey Rose” because of my admiration of Audrey Hepburn and my love of reading (there is a really twisted book titled Audrey Rose- don’t judge me!). My potential boy’s name would be “Blake Edward” after my father.

I wonder if God chuckled at all “MY” plans.

I was determined to be the toughest pregnant woman ever with no complaining or whining. I was not going milk my condition, because women have babies every day. So, I read all the books; I quietly bore the Charlie Horses; I endured the strange cravings. When I had to pull over on the freeway and open my door to hurl or dash frantically from my classroom to the bathroom, I never grumbled. I did everything the doctor told me (although someone could have warned me about the first ultrasound visit with the wand- YIKES!). I tried not to get frustrated when the sonogram was inconclusive about the baby’s gender even though I really wanted to know. As long as the baby was healthy, I took it in stride. I fully accepted all that came with being pregnant.

I never griped at the doctor’s office either, which is why my condition almost went unnoticed. My 22 week appointment started as usual. The nurse dutifully recorded my blood pressure and weight. The doctor measured my belly and in 5 minutes we were finished. As she walked me out, she asked how I was feeling. I exclaimed everything was great…except I was a little swollen. She told me that was normal but for some reason she decided to check how much. She took me back into the exam room and really looked at me.

You know those super cute pregnant women with adorable bellies and fashionable clothes? YA- soooo not me!  I gained weight everywhere. I am not kidding! My ankles, my face, and even my fingers became enormous. In addition, my 1998 fashion forward maternity overalls were not kind to the Pillsbury Dough Boy look alike I had become. By the middle of my pregnancy I was uncomfortably huge. I began wearing my husband’s sweatpants and tennis shoes with the laces removed.

It is never a good sign when a doctor gasps as mine did when she noticed my legs. She consulted my chart and actually read my results. My blood pressure was off the charts high and I had gained 10 pounds in 3 weeks. She had me come into her office (again not a good sign) and informed me that I was suffering from Preeclampsia, commonly known as Toxemia. She put me on bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy. I nodded my head like I understood what she was saying. Preeclampsia meant that the baby would probably need to be born early to prevent a stroke she explained.. I nodded again and went home in a stupor.

Actually, the rest of my pregnancy became one long daze as I worried about my baby’s well-being and progress. Here are a few highlights I remember: I had a sonogram every week and never once could the baby’s sex be revealed (the BRAT!). I continued to gain weight and looked like a character from Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor movie. At 24 weeks, I had to register at two hospitals for delivery- my local hospital and the hospital nearest me that had a NICU capable of dealing with a baby born before 32 weeks. I recall each week being a milestone: 24 weeks meant the baby had a 50% chance of survival; 27 weeks meant a 95% chance of survival with intense medical support; 30 weeks meant the risks of birth defects, vision issues, and cerebral palsy decreased, but lung development would be an issue.

At 30 weeks, my blood pressure remained high and I had immobilizing headaches. My pregnancy brain felt like it was filled with fog from San Francisco. I remember thinking I should pack my hospital bag, but since I could barely function- that never happened. On two occasions I was nearly admitted to the hospital for inducement. Yet, every day the baby was allowed to stay in utero was another day of much needed development.

Suddenly, on March 9th there was no more waiting. I was losing consciousness and Magnesium Sulfate was no longer keeping my blood pressure under control. I was on the verge of Eclampsia. My platelets were so low that if I started to bleed, I would not clot. The baby was 36 weeks old. I was admitted and my labor was induced at 3:00 pm on a Tuesday afternoon.

The doctor told me two “wonderful” pieces of news:
1. It could take up to 3 days for the labor to fully take hold.
2. I could have no epidural because my platelets were too low.

That was when I virtually lost my mind. No pain meds?????? UGG. I was not one of those brave women who wanted to have a natural birth. Nope, I jokingly and repeatedly asked my doctor if she could knock me out and wake me when it was over. By 6:00 am on Wednesday I was fully dilated (so much for the 3 day theory). At 9:23 am, my beautiful baby burst into this world angry and crying. There was no better sound than her shrieks.

Her head fit into the palm of my hand.

Her head fit into the palm of my hand.

My Audrey Rose was born 4 weeks early, weighed in at 5 pound 13 ounces, and was 19 inches long. She was small and jaundiced, but she was able to breathe on her own. Though this journey had not followed the map I made, the destination was nevertheless paradise.

I found out later that the medical tests and treatments Audrey and I received were developed in part by the research funded by the March of Dimes. It breaks my heart to think about what would have happened to both of us if I went through this pregnancy 50 years ago. The March of Dimes charity impacted my life without me even knowing it or asking for it. While my case had a happy ending, there are other babies and families that need the March of Dimes to continue their important work to save babies lives!

Audrey is why I walk in the March for Babies campaign. Your child is why I walk. I walk so that all babies are given a fighting chance for a healthy start.

I walk because Love is a Verb and what doesn’t kill me makes me motivated.

For more information: http://www.marchofdimes.com/

To donate to my campaign: http://www.marchforbabies.org/RaeDunn

sweet sixteen

Sweet Sixteen!

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You’re Not the Boss of me! ~ Rae

I have never seen myself as a “boss” or even a potential boss. The thought actually scares me. I feel that I am in no position to tell someone how to do their job or to get lost if they don’t do it right. When anyone asks what I do for a living I still say high school English teacher, because in my soul that IS what I am even though I haven’t been in the classroom for the last 4 years.  Officially I should say I am a school district administrator, the Coordinator of Secondary Education. Sounds so fancy right?

Whatever my title may be I see myself as a minion, a person who’s job is to help my fellow teachers with their jobs. I am comfortable with the idea that my purpose is to serve those brave teachers who battle against ignorance every day. That job feels noble and honorable.

Yet, I have heard some people say I am their boss. My friends make the joke but some teachers have said it in seriousness. It makes me shudder.

I am not sure what makes me so uncomfortable with the idea. Maybe it’s the idea that some equate being a “Boss” to having “Power”. I do not crave power nor need it. The concept of having “power” makes me think of when I taught my former students the moral of the play Antigone, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  I have had bosses in the past who were worthless and made my job harder than it needed to be.  It worries me when I work with those who seem power hungry. Being a “boss” seems to have the potential for someone to lead by fear and not example.

Power

Hmmmm —- LEADING. Maybe that is the difference between a tyrant and an inspiration – the way a person leads?  Some individuals lead by example, some lead by non-example and others lead by domination or apathy.

While I cannot see myself as a boss, I can see myself working on becoming a better leader.  And if I am to be any sort of leader I will choose to be a Servant Leader. I do not want to tell others what to do. I would rather come alongside them and work with them towards solutions or completion of tasks.

 I would rather work with a large group of individuals with differing opinions that strive to come to consensus than dictate what I, in my simple limited view point, think everyone should do. True – sometimes having too many “cooks in the kitchen” can seem tedious. However it is often the outlier who brings the most creative idea or who sees the flaws in the plans of the many. As a Servant Leader I would like to make sure everyone is heard before decisions that affect everyone are made.

I realize there are times when decisions must be made, and there are times when co-workers are not holding up their end of the job. There does need to be a boss who can make the hard choices and hold accountable all who work together. We all get that.  Perhaps it is a balance between knowing when to direct and when to listen? Perhaps it is the flexibility to move from decision maker to conversation starter?

Maybe being a decent boss is about being able to tell when to lead, when to follow, when to guide, when to decide and even when to ignore….

I still have a long way to go before I feel I have mastered any of that. For now I will continue to try to be a servant leader and if I ever do feel confident enough to become a “BOSS”, I pray I will have the balance and not search for power but instead search for ways to lead that inspire.  For now my heart still believes being a teacher is the calling I have no matter what title I may have.

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She is not Mine ~ Rae

she is not mine

 

When she grew inside me

I whispered to her

The great plans I had

And how I would always keep her near

 

When they placed her on my chest

I clutched her close

And swore to always

Protect her and guide her

 

When she toddled by my side

I held onto her hands

To support her and steer her

To exactly where I wanted

 

When I watched her walk down long halls

With a backpack much too big

And then sit at her first desk

I admit I cried a bit

 

When she ran off to middle school

And began to think about boys

I bit my tongue

And tried to listen more than talk

 

And now as I watch her reach for the steering wheel

I wonder where the future will take her

And what path she will take

How I wish I could pick it for her

 

But she is not mine alone anymore

She is becoming her own

And while that is a beautiful thing

My empty arms ache

 

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The Bionic Woman ~ Rae

bionic

A few years ago, I was a high school English teacher, new teacher support provider, Department Chairperson, Yearbook Advisor, wife, and mother. The yearbook company representative teased me about how much I had on my plate and asked me where my cape was. I pointed to the pink Superwoman cape hanging on my wall and said, “Right there!”  While laughing so hard he almost cried, my rep told me he had been using that line for years and I was the first one to actually have a cape.

It still hangs in my office.

In March, I had neck surgery to have a cervical disc replaced with a synthetic disc made of titanium and gel (So darn amazing!).  Now, I joke that I am the bionic woman.

There are many articles, websites, blogs, and commentaries that explore women trying to be a “Superwoman” but then they ended up being overwhelmed, exhausted, grumpy, and overextended. These articles and commentaries sometimes berate men for not stepping up to the plate or bemoan the fact that women must do it all.

I totally get it. I do that. Sometimes.

Sometimes my depression kicks in and I am a bump on a log.  

But …

What if I like doing it all?

What if I want to be a heroine like Wonder Woman? 

I learned something about myself during my time of recovery after my surgery: When my body forced me to rest and do nothing for a month, I ended up resting and doing nothing for 3 months. Now that I am back to work for the last 3 weeks, I have 15 major projects and umpteen little ones and I am almost back to my old self.

It’s as if Newton’s “Law of Motion” is like real or something!  My body and mind do tend to stay in motion once I get myself going.

My old self does include sometimes running around like a crazy person.  I am working on Power Points to present to new teachers that could really take 15 minutes, but I am adding all the bells and whistles to try to make it interactive and funny.  I am filming beginning of the school year videos
that really don’t need to be done, but they are so much more fun than the other real work I am supposed to be doing.

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I LIKE my cape. I like being busy because the busier I am the more organized I HAVE to be, which is a much better version of myself than the bump on a log. I like the feeling that I am somehow “saving the day”.

All Moms are super!

All Moms are super!

Ironically, while in the process of writing this piece, I was assigned another project.  This new project involved some heavy lifting and just about sent me over the edge. My OMG rant when like this, “I just had surgery. I can’t lift over 20 pounds. Dear Lord, what am I going to do?  I am NOT She-Hulk.”

After my internal rant, it became clear to me. I may want to be superhuman, but I must be ready to admit when I can’t be. So I asked my team for help and every single member offered assistance. It was a magical moment stronger for me than the titanium in my neck. I learned I have to set boundaries and keep everything in balance: my work, my hobbies, my family, and my time of rest.

So I will:  wear my cape proudly, take it off when I need to, and admit when I need help.

P.S. I look good in that cape.

 

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The Road Turned, And….

kristi

Then the road turned, and…

I stopped writing.  Life got busy, and I hate writing about being busy.  All of us are busy.  We all have obligations that tear us in different directions and what reader wants to read about another woman’s busyness.  I took on a new teaching assignment, was finishing a teacher leadership program, and handling my responsibilities at home.  In order to keep my sanity, I let writing (and exercising) go.  I dug in and worked hard, and now I am back to writing on the blog with my soul sister, Rae, because writing is a part of who I am.  It helps me make sense if the world around me and it captures my life’s journey. ~Kristi

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 The road turned, and…

I was pulled over by LIFE. My spiritual PEACE officer handed me a hefty citation. Apparently, I was driving too fast, too hard and something had to give. What gave was my body. So for the past 4 months I have been healing physically (and emotionally). Fortunately, I live in an era with remarkable health care. Likewise, I have an amazing support system at home and at work that have allowed me to get out of the driver’s seat for a while and focus on my health (and sanity).  So, now equipped with a bionic neck and a clear head I am merging back onto the highway.  I hope you will be willing to ride along with Kristi and me as we maneuver through this crazy, never predictable next leg of life’s winding road.                                                                                           ~Rae

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Better than “Good” Friday ~Rae

cross

“Good” doesn’t really seem to cover it does it?

We say “Good Morning” every day. The word good is used too commonly to accurately express what today really represents.

The day that changed the universe is not merely “good”.

Think about what God did 2000 years ago: Would you? Could you?

I know I would die for my child. I would hope all parents would. As an educator I am even willing to die for your child. In a heartbeat I would be willing to sacrifice myself for others.

But could I sacrifice my child for someone else? Gulp. Would I let my child die if I knew that her death would save many others? Double Gulp.

Nope, I couldn’t. You couldn’t. We are not wired that way. My child is, well, MINE. A huge part of my purpose on this planet is to make sure both my daughters are safe.

That is what makes this more than just a “Good” Friday. That doesn’t even come close to covering the magnitude of this day. It is better than good; it is better than best (all the English teachers of the world just shuddered at my improper use of comparative adjectives – sorry my brethren).

This really should be called “Perfect Friday”, because God made the ultimate sacrifice: His adored son for me, His only child for you. God allowed His child to pay the ransom for all: Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, or Jews; straight, gay, or celibate; the believer, the atheist, the young, the old, the persecuted and the persecutor. “For God so loved the world”- the WHOLE world- the perfect sacrifice was given freely because of His perfect love.

Happy Perfect Friday!

 

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The House that Love Rebuilt ~ Rae

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I have fallen in love with my husband. That’s not to say I didn’t love him before, but this time it is different.

We were married in 1996 and our wedded life started out normally.  Fast forward 10 years to a very rough patch from 2007-2009. Things got bad. My husband started staying away from our home as much as possible and I started to be happy to see him go. The relationship had become toxic as we couldn’t have a conversation without fighting.

There was the “car incident” that revealed how childish and immature we were behaving. We were fighting and had reached the point of yelling. My husband pulled over and told me to get out in the middle of a not so nice area.  I huffed and puffed, and got of the car and off he sped. Now, I knew darn well that he would drive around the block and come back to get me, but I am the “Passive Aggressive Queen”.  So I ran to a nearby grocery store and hid. I waited, practically giddy with mischief as I peeked through a store window and sure enough I saw him driving through the parking lot. He began calling my cell phone over and over which I ignored.  I called the one person I knew who would drop everything and come get me, my crazy best friend. Nikki raced over and I went off with her on some errands. My cell phone rang persistently. It wasn’t until my mother called that I answered.  As a last resort, he had called my parents to see if they knew where I was. I assured her I was fine and would be home later as I thought, “I sure showed him.”

The absolutely worst part of this story: both my daughters were in the back seat of the car during this whole escapade.

Toxic- right?

We split for a while and he moved into our motorhome (in our back yard). We were miserable. We both visited lawyers to go over the process for divorce. We just about gave up.

Just about.

I went to a therapist. He went to a therapist. Eventually, we went to marriage counseling together. And our marriage was saved.

Just about.

We have been a work in progress ever since. We had said and done awful things that we both regretted but now made us guarded. We circled around each other on tiptoes. We kept our defensives up. We stood with one foot in the relationship and the other foot ready to run out the door.

Then something wonderful happened.

My husband shattered his right leg at work. Hold on! That’s not the wonderful part. The wonderful part was that through his recovery I was able to become a selfless caring wife. It began as I took care of him. I made him a cheesy gift basket filled with random items that he might need or want during his stay in the hospital.  He was out of work for 4 months and couldn’t even walk for much of that time. So, I packed him an ice chest with breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day. I cared for him; in return, he began to lower some of his walls.

During this time, my stubborn husband would walk when he wasn’t supposed to; drive before he should; and tried to do all his normal activities. One evening, the whole family was out in the front yard enjoying a nice summer night. My husband lost his balance and began to fall. I tried to run across the drive way screaming like a banshee to catch him! Fortunately, he was able to catch himself with his crutches and did not hit the ground. The four of us spent the next five minutes laughing hysterically at the sounds I had made as I tried to run.  As my husband caught my eye, I saw something had softened in him.  Even though I ran like a crazy person my husband could tangibly see that I cared about what happened to him.

Then something else wonderful happened.

I somehow hurt myself. Again, not the wonderful part.  From early fall to midwinter, I bounced from doctor to doctor trying to find out what was wrong with me (physically- not mentally- that would take a lot more doctors).  Finally, a surgeon determined that I need surgery on the 3 bulged discs in my neck.  I didn’t notice at first but my husband was doing more and more things around the house for me. He was being sensitive to my pain and did everything he could to make me more comfortable. He even let me sit in HIS recliner! When my surgery date was set, my husband immediately told his work that he would be taking a short leave to take care of me.

Anyone think God has been trying to get our attention over the last year(s)?

It was there. It was there even in the worst times. Love did not leave our marriage; it had just been pushed to the side by our selfishness.   I knew he would not abandon me in the ghetto.  We both could never seem to pull the trigger on the divorce gun we were waving at each other.  He moved out, but not really. It was only when we truly put each other first, that LOVE was able to fill our hearts.

  • In sickness and in health —  Check!
  • In good times and in bad – Check!
  • As long as we both shall live- working on it!

easter2013raeray

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You are such a Pain in the Neck ~ Rae

pain in neck

I wish I had a good story to tell. Maybe something like- I was bunging jumping or how about-I leapt out of a burning building’s second story window with a kitten in my arms. But no, there is no interesting anecdote; about 4 months ago my neck just started hurting.

I have tried not to be a wimp about the pain, but what really started bothering me was my shoulder blade. I had my husband repeatedly massage there but the ache would never go away. I kept thinking it’s simply a pulled muscle and it would take some time to heal. My neck and shoulder were tight all the time and sleep at night was nearly impossible. I was constantly shaky and snappy (my poor family!). Then my bicep began throbbing like it was on fire.  Yet it wasn’t until the nerve from my neck to my right thumb felt like millions of ants constantly marching down my arm that I finally went to urgent care.

 The first doctor spent a whole 5 minutes with me and merely prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxers.  When those offered no relief after a few weeks I went back to urgent care where a second doctor, who spent 10 minutes with me, added physical therapy, because he believed I had a pinched nerve. The physical therapist actually spent a fair amount of time measuring my range of motion and noticed the locked up muscle on the right side of my neck. This was causing me to look like the Hunch Back of Norte Dame (OK- OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it was visibly obvious that one side of my neck was swollen). The Physical Therapist gave me a medieval torture device (furthermore confirming in my mind that I was in danger of becoming the hunch back) to hang over the door at home to put me in traction for 15 minutes a day.

Did it work? Let’s just say that while my family quite enjoyed the show I still didn’t receive any reprieve.

So it was after months and various trips to urgent care that I finally made an appointment with my primary care physician. My doctor berated me for waiting so long, claiming it was usually men who were that stubborn. I retorted that I hadn’t wanted to be a baby that ran to the hospital every time I pulled muscle.

He ordered an MRI.

Father you were there for me when my back was against the wall

You held me up above my troubles when all I did was call

You answered every prayer

No matter what request it was

And when I asked you why you did it

You replied- because of love

The day the doctor called me to give me the results of my MRI was the 25th anniversary of my Aunt Donna’s death from a brain tumor.  I was 14 years old when she died. To be totally accurate, according to the family tree she was my second cousin, but in life she was always my Aunt. I practically lived at her house every summer and she would arrange a week long beach trip for her daughters and me
every spring break. Many of my fondest childhood memories include her in them. Her fight with cancer was my first real exposure and experience with death. I remember walking around her house after she died in a daze fully expecting her to come around the corner with her wide and ever present smile. But she was gone. I wrote the poem above while sitting in her bedroom after her funeral.

25 years later I still remember this poem word for word in my head. In my time of sorrow I wrote a poem of praise. I wish I could be like that now. Apparently 14 year old me was better balanced than 39 year old me. I think 14 year old Rae might be a little disappointed at how I have been handling life recently. She would tell me that my current sour disposition was a waste of the wonderful life God has given me even if I am in pain. She would wonder why I had stopped dancing and she would be heartbroken to know I haven’t yet written that book I always dreamed about. She might even tell me that the cause of the pain in my neck was ME and how I am handling stress.

And she might be right.

As the doctor told me the results of my MRI I found myself reflecting on Donna. If she could smile and love through a brain tumor I can surely handle the 3 deteriorating cervical discs that the MRI revealed.

So as I look forward to (probably wrong choice of words) a visit with a neurosurgeon next week, I try to keep 14 year old positive me and brave beautiful Donna in the forefront of my mind. Even if I do have surgery, I am still living a seriously blessed life. I have a fantastic family, wonderful friends, I work for the best school district and I am confident of my Savior’s love for me.

So this Thanksgiving I am going to attempt to be thankful for the pain in my neck, 14 year old me, my Aunt Donna and all the lessons that I can learn from them.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Friends

Sincerely,

The Hunch Back of Riverside

 

 

 

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“Mommy, am I fat?” ~ Rae

mommy am I fat

“Mommy, am I fat?”
My 9-year old daughter, Little K, asked me this question and it broke my heart. I don’t know how to respond. How I handle this concern could result in a healthy or horrible body image.
In reality, she is not FAT, but she does have a belly. Recently, family members have taken it upon themselves to make comments about her weight or to tell her what she can and cannot eat. She is young, but not dumb. She has started to take these comments very, very personally.

There are several complexities to address:

First, my oldest daughter is 14 and has never had to think about her weight. She was a preemie and has always been on the petite side. Now at 14, Miss Rose is tall, blonde, blue-eyed, leggy, and thin. She gets comments from family members about how pretty she is, including calling her “Barbie.” She can eat whatever she wants without issue—a disastrous recipe for sibling jealousy.
Secondly, Little K has always been in the higher size range for her age group. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Little K and she was born a healthy 8 pounds. She has always been bigger than Miss Rose. So when she looks at pictures of her sister at the same age, she can see there is a difference. I try to counter by pointing out to her that there are kids both bigger and smaller than her in her classes and that people come in all shapes and sizes.

Furthermore, weight has always been one of my own issues. I struggled with bulimia in high school and have fluctuated from super thin to 180-pounds in adulthood. Currently, I am at a healthy weight, but I know Little K hears me complain about my body and sees me weigh myself every day. Also, I have convinced my parents and brother to start counting calories as I do. They have all lost a significant amount of weight and have become hyper focused on food and calories. Both my daughters spend time at their grandparents’ house every day. So Little K hears all the adults around her obsessing about food, calories, and weight.

Little K is very active. She attends Tae Kwon Do twice a week (she is a black belt!) and takes a dance class. At school, she participates in every recess sport offered. Although at home, she loves to play on the computer and we have had to limit her time.

Likewise, she LOVES sweets (she is my child after all). If not reined in, she would eat sweets all day long. Her father and I have told her no more than one sweet a day. Her sister has no such rule, which probably seems unfair. But, Miss Rose doesn’t eat many sweets. So, we haven’t needed to make that rule for her. Little K sees this as an injustice because her sister can indulge in whenever she wants.

Considering all these factors, I am worried we are on the verge of creating a lifelong issue for her. With all this pressure put on her, in addition to the normal anxiety of puberty, she could be on the path to teenage weight issues like anorexia and/or bulimia. However, I do not want to be one of those oblivious parents with a 300-pound child. I know obesity is an issue in our country. I know healthy habits need to be instilled during childhood. I know it is my parental responsibility to ensure she has these habits.

When my little girl asks me “Am I fat?” I want to strangle the world that bombards women with images of super skinny models and actors. Every magazine page and every TV show glorifies the thin woman. Her own family members seem to adore her thin sister, yet pick at her flaws.

I don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to slap anyone who makes comments about her size. More productively, I have tried to help her understand that she is smart, kind, talented, and beautiful inside and out. I have shown her pictures of various family members and discussed how their bodies have all changed over time. Some who were super thin in childhood are now big; some who were chunky as children are now drop dead gorgeous; and others have gone up and down in size continuously. I tell her to worry about being healthy, not thin. I remind her that God made her and loves her. I know I should be the role model and be more active and healthy at home. I know that her father and I have a responsibility to give her the tools to deal with life. I know I have work to do to help both of my daughters love themselves and each other.

My solution for now: I will tell Miss Rose and Little K they are both perfect and hug them to me.

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When I die…

cemetary

You have probably heard the joke that there are only 2 things every person MUST do in life: Pay Taxes and Die.   All jesting aside death is a guarantee. No matter who you are, where you live, or how much you have Death will one day come for you.

Maybe you have also enjoyed the country song by Tim McGraw, “Live Like you were Dying”. I quite enjoy it. It has a catchy tune and makes one think about living life to its fullest. Yet I think the song writer might have the notion just a tad wrong.  The song is very focused on making sure “you” don’t die before “you” get to do everything “you” always dreamed of doing. It does mention a little about trying to be a better person, but still is very much centered in the individual.

According to the “CIA Factbook,” there are approximately 6,744 deaths in the US per day. Even though death is expected and promised to all, death in our society is seen as a cutting short and a time of sorrow. We grieve when someone we know dies and we say things like, “he had so much left to live for”. We fear our own death and we fear losing love ones to it.

Last Thursday, October 3, 2013 one of those 6744 deaths belonged to a man named Chuck Smith. Chuck Smith was the pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. Since 1965 he taught that the Bible was literal and he preached line by line, verse by verse. Yet at the same time he was more accepting of people in all shapes, sizes, incomes, stages of life and morality than most of the other churches of the 60s. He welcomed hippies, drug addicts and all those who were lost. One story I love about this man is that when he was being questioned by some of the older parishioners of his church about allowing hippies to come in barefooted and dirty, he retorted, “If because of dirty jeans we have to say to one young person, ‘I am sorry, you can’t come into church tonight, your jeans are too dirty,’ then I am in favor of getting rid of the upholstered pews. Let’s get benches or steel chairs or something we can wash off. But let’s not ever, ever, close the door to anyone because of dress or the way he looks.” (http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith2.htm )

He was a man who lived with a purpose of serving God and others.  And while his family will of course miss him, everyone who has been touched by his life is viewing this death a little differently than usual. We might grieve for our own loss, but we do not grieve for Chuck. I believe firmly that the minute he took his last breath on earth, he took his first breath in Heaven. I believe that when God looks at Chuck’s life he says wholeheartedly, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23). In Chuck’s obituary there should be a sense of joy. This death was not a cutting too short. This death was at the right time and instead of an ending it is rather a conclusion well crafted.   Chuck’s life while not perfect had purpose.

So now I wonder: When I die what will the world say about me? Will people say it was too soon and that I had so much left to do? That worries me.  I will die,  tomorrow is promised to no one,  but whether I die tomorrow, next year or in 40 years I ponder what my children will think of me.  I want to live a life of purpose and while my purpose may not be to preach to a congregation of thousands, I know there is a reason why I was born.

People are always searching for the meaning of life. Maybe we have the question wrong and we should be asking instead how do I make my life meaningful?

How do I make it where when I die my family and friends rejoice in having known me? How do I make sure that I will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” to me?

I have some work to do.

 

Chuck Smith said frequently, “Someday you’re going to read in the paper, ‘Chuck Smith died’, that’s bad reporting. What it should say is, ‘Chuck Smith moved.’”

 

 

 

 

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