How Do Mom’s Survive Recruiting?

12004008_1229294673762843_1963274122960026051_n“Gentlemen, it is better to die a small boy than to fumble this football.” -John Heisman

Football, football, football…

It’s all we talk about in the Keller house besides Jesus and cheerleading.

That’s because it’s recruiting season of my son’s senior year. And truthfully, it’s not as much fun as I thought it would be. It’s actually hard work and I’m not even the one playing a full contact sport.

Recruiting is stressful and nail-biting. Your kid get’s an offer from a school(s) and you feel so blessed. But then there are these “reach” schools lingering around dropping seductive hints. And they are the “wow” schools that dazzle and woo, but they don’t pull the plug and offer until they have to.

These are moments where you throw up your hands and say “screw that school” only to get a phone call from the coach fifteen minutes later to affirm their interest and then you love them all over again.

It’s like a bad dating relationship. You wait by the phone and they call just enough to get you all hot and bothered.

Okay, I know, I talk about my kid and recruiting in “we” terminology. Clearly I self-identify with my child. I took the helicopter parent test and failed. So now I just own it. Truthfully, I think every football parent heavily invested in their child thinks in terms of “we” instead of “he”–but that’s another blog.

The Unofficial Visit

So, this weekend my kid has a recruiting trip planned.  It’s officially unofficial.  So the university can only provide us with tickets to the game and other “free” amusements. Sadly for my kid, I’m coming along with his five-year-old sister. We are like the antithesis of cool.

When I asked my son what the game day will look like, he said it involved:

  1. A tour of the campus possibly hosted by sorority girls (come again?)
  2. Time meeting the players and coaches
  3. Maybe a side-line pass?  (One for mom and little sis too?)
  4. Seats  (hoping for 50 yard line)
  5. And finally…”maybe some of the players could take me out after the game and show me around…please mom?”

Clearly, they are trying to woo the son not the mother because I’m thinking more along the lines of:

  1. Campus Crusade for Christ ladies school tour (Hottest is modest, baby!)
  2. A time to talk discipline and study plans with the coaches
  3. The football team job placement program after graduation
  4. After-party worship concert praising Jesus for a big win.
  5. Free Kool-Aid and cookies served to potential recruits

Oh boy, who knew when I signed up my kid at age 7 for tackle football I would be here?

But honestly, the hardest part of recruiting is not the reality of sorority girls and parties, or the waiting, or the endless college applications, it’s the constant reminder of minutes slipping by.

Every time a coach calls (nightly) I am reminded my kid is leaving soon.  Some parents “Yee Haw,” but I am more of a “Boo-Hoo” mom.

I confess I am happy and sad.  I’m anxious for me but thrilled for him.  Sometimes I want to shake this kid and force him to seize these crazy opportunities and go to the Ivy League, even if its far away, and then I change my mind two seconds later. I’m up and I’m down emotionally depending on the day. I lie in bed at night and hear him downstairs studying and I silently weep, knowing this little boy who changed my life and made me a mommy is packing up his room soon–and I can’t possibly take down the adorable football fathead of him.  I can’t.  I just can’t!

How does this joy and sorrow live side by side?  Hey kid, thanks for getting a football scholarship and saving me money, but maybe I could pay to have you a little closer to home?  Just kidding.  Not.

How do mom’s do this?  Is there a support network?  I want to hold onto him forever but know he’s ready to go and would resent me if I tried.

AHHHH!!!  Letting go sucks!

When I take the time to pray about this and surrender to God I am reminded of a few simple things.  Here is the cry of my heart…

The Football Mama’s Prayer

Jesus, help me let go!  I know I am merely a steward of this amazingly athletically gifted child who is about ready to launch into adulthood. I thank you for every minute with him.  For the tantrums and blond curls, chubby cheeks and endless stinky football pads.  I trust that I raised him to the best of my ability and it’s time let him go with a smile and an “‘atta boy!” and let you take over.  The best school for my kid is the one that you lead him to–not me.  I pray for wisdom in his choice.

I pray that football will be an outlet and a joy–not a job or a chore–because it’s been his passion since he can remember. I pray he stays sound in both body and mind and that you protect his physically, emotionally and spiritually. I also pray he meets a nice girl who loves you (and oh by the way, who grew up on the West Coast).  I pray for his professors and peers and dorm mate, and that he is challenged to grow and push past his limits. I ask for courage and strength for my boy as he faces adversity and meets them head on. I surrender this young man to you Jesus and I thank you for football because this game changed both our lives.  Amen.

Any advice or prayers, either on recruiting or letting go of my kid is welcome! 

–Samantha

 

When did Naked go out of Style?

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A few months ago as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I noticed an article on the role of sexual power and male/female demographics.  Since Tim and I write on this stuff, I clicked.

Two seconds later I realized I had been redirected to the Playboy website.  With cheeks flaming red, I furtively glanced around, hoping no one at Starbucks noticed where I had landed and then inhaled the info at high-speed so I could exit the site incognito.  In truth, the article was a well-written piece but Playboy is not my usual stomping ground.

A few days later, my husband mentions to me that he accidentally clicked on a link off Facebook and it went to Playboy.  He fessed up early because he knows I get an e-mail once a week with his browsing history.

How awesome is my husband?

So why do I get this  e-mail, you ask? Am I one of those freaky paranoid wives hiding in the corners and spying on her man?

Uh…no.  Although that would make for a good story.

Tim asked me to be his online accountability partner a while back and I am notified once a week if there is any questionable activity.  My husband initiated this self-audit–not moi.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I never have anything to razz him about.

So when he mentions Playboy, I know I can mess with a little.

Husband: “Oh, uh, yeah…so there was this really cool article on Facebook and I clicked and I didn’t know it was on Playboy and…”

Me: “Yeah right, you just clicked on Playboy for the articles?”

Husband: “Yes, I mean, I know it sounds bad, but it was so innocent and I totally freaked out immediately.”

Me: Now dying laughing at his awkward attempts to explain this.  I poke a bit more and then fess up.

Me: “Hey babe, I read the same article.  I know you are telling the truth.”

And he breathes a big sigh of relief and then comes over to tickle me for busting his chops.

………..

When I saw the breaking news on Tuesday that Playboy will no longer post nude pictures it got my attention.  I guess it’s okay to read Playboy at work now.  Men for the first time ever CAN  truthfully claim they read it for the articles.

Playboy explained the drastic move away from their lusty roots citing that nudity is now “passe.” They will instead focus on writing and increasing their readership based on different parameters.  Because of the internet and easy access to porn, the “felt need” for nudity or what some would call “soft porn” has disappeared.  Apparently, twelve-year-old boys could care less about sneaking dad’s mag now since their iPhone is easier to take into the bathroom.

Wow.  It’s hard to believe nudity is so overdone now that iconic brands birthed on a provocative paradigm have transitioned to a less is more slant.  When Abercrombie and Playboy drop the sexy, it’s clear the titillation of a naked body is that of a bygone age.

Call me old school, but I want naked to mean something.

I want to get hot and bothered by my naked man.  (Just to be clear, I’m talking about my husband here folks)  I don’t want to live in the land of rampant sexual inundation where naked is the new norm.  Have we become “so numbed out by porn” that Playboy isn’t sexy anymore?

Am I the only one who wants to struggle a little bit at the mall as I walk by Abercrombie when the half-naked ripped young man  is at the front door.  I want to have the freedom to choose to avoid the men’s underwear aisle because I find toned abs attractive and every package sports a six pack.

I’m the girl who didn’t see Magic Mike, not because I’m not tempted, but because I choose to honor my husband.  But darn it I want the freedom to choose right from wrong.  I don’t want to just assume our culture is perverse and stop caring.

I want NAKED to mean something.

It allows me to FEEL something called temptation. It means I get to choose to stay or walk away from enticement.

I’m bummed that sex on Tinder is given out so freely that it’s lost its sacredness.

Way too many young people are now so jaded that sex is like flossing. “It’s just sex”, they say.

But it’s not just sex and it’s not just naked.

Naked is beautiful and sex is a gift.  Our good God created them.  They are not passe.

This may sound bizarre, because I’m not supporting naked men’s mags, but I grieve the fact that we are so far gone on porn that a gorgeous naked centerfold doesn’t cause teenage boys to go bat-poop crazy anymore.

I heard a Playboy rep say, “The twelve-year-old me is sad at this move.”

Well buddy, the 43-year-old me is sad too, because in our overly saturated sex culture, naked isn’t very naked anymore.

–Samantha

 

 

The Bucket List

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The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity – Dorothy Parker

Twice a week, for the entire summer, my girls and I drove to the meca of cheer land–OC All Stars–for Faith’s J Serra JV high school practice.

And twice a week, for an hour and a half, little Kolby and I tried to kill time.  We hit up all the chick magnets within the near vicinity–Target, Old Navy, more Target–and then ran out of money.  Eventually we found ourselves back in the giant gymnasium, bored out of our gourd, with no air, forced to listen to a repeating cacophony of Demi Levato, while breathing in the stench of a thousand sweaty girls.

One day, during the endless cheer torture, I had an idea.  I asked Kolby if she wanted to go on a little date with me to Starbucks and write a bucket list of fun things to do over the summer.

“Does Starbucks have air-conditioning mama?” she inquired.

“Yep and chocolate milk.”

“Let’s go!” Kolby proclaimed.

Once we arrived, we ordered drinks and found some barstools.  I pulled out the notes feature on my phone and we got down to business.  I explained the premise of a bucket list and how it worked.  I also explained how sometimes people make these when they are sick or dying, but ours was a list for savoring the goodness of summer.

And, oh by the way, my very last summer with my son at home before he starts college and Kolby starting kinder…tear, sob, hiccup, deep sigh.

Kolby’s and Mommy’s Bucket List 2015

Play in Sprinklers

Water Balloon Fight

Farmers Market

Bubbles, bubbles, and bubbles

Watch Outdoor Movie

IMG_2291Beach

Duffy Boat ride

Flying Kites

Merry go round

Fishing

American Girl Store

Ladera Ranch Bucket Park

Pool and more pool

Ballet Lessons

Aquarium

Sleep in a Hotel

Climbing Trees

Camping

IMG_2154Guitar Lessons

Paddle Boarding

Movie-Inside Out

Vacation Bible School

Mini-Cheer Camp

Mani/Pedi’s

Go to a Play

Make Cookies

Roller Skate

Bowling

Get Ice Cream

Scavenger Hunt

Lemonade Stand

IMG_2295Hang out in a Bookstore

Mother Daughter photo shoot

Go to Jewel Mountain with Daddy (ask Siri for directions)

Finger Paint

Make Mud Pies

Pick Berries

River Rafting

………………….

3 months later

Here’s what I learned after checking off the items one by one.  We completed all but 4!

1. It’s not really about the list–the bucket list is simply an excuse to be together in companionship and relationship. 

 2. The little  things were just as fun as the big-ticket items.  The lemonade stand was a comical riot!  Girls vs boys with the boys terrorizing the girls via go-carts and trying to derail their business.  Girls still won!  Yee haw!

3. Setting intentional time aside to have fun speaks my kids love language.  It shows I am willing to invest all of me in her interests.

4. One on one time matters!  Ironically, the best part of the bucket list was simply making the bucket list week after week at Starbucks.  The twice-weekly date with the most adorable girl in Starbucks was a kick.  Every second basking in her goldilocks and giggles with a grande Americano in hand is a treat for this mama.  Normally she competes for my attention with two other siblings and a daddy.  This time I was all hers.

5.Savor Every Minute!  I have become so wistful and nostalgic as I prepare to release my son into adulthood.  It’s made me deeply appreciate the last days of little with my youngest child, the long days of teenager with my middle daughter and every sacred minute with my boy-man before he launches off to grown-up land.  I can’t stop the clock but I can sure make the most of my days.

Do you need to make a bucket list with someone special?

 And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln

The Irreverent Project

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“Hey mom, I need to work on a group project tonight,” grins my seventeen-year-old son sheepishly.

Ding. Ding. Ding.  I suddenly sit up straight at the dinner table.  Oh bad, bad word! I hate group projects with a vengeance.

I think of vacations ruined by supposed “friends” who dumped all their work on my kid, who then dumped all their work on me.  I remember the Palm Springs trip where our entire family stenciled, cut and pasted presidents onto a behemoth poster board instead of frolicking in the pool.

“What is your part?” I inquire with dread.

“I have to make a Vine about Mother Teresa. I need the girls to help. Give me some ideas mom.”

“How about dressing up little Kolby and having her feed a homeless man with leprosy in Calcutta.  Then he can get up and dance.”

My freshman daughter moans, “Mooooom….that is so not funny.”

Kyle strokes his mini-beard deep in thought.  “Its a start mom, but I need to embellish.”

My pride pricked by my daughter’s snarky rejection, I throw up my hands and stomp over to the sofa. “Fine, I’m out. Make sure to finish the dishes when you are done with the video.”

The kids run off.  I hear giggles from the front porch.  Kolby rushes by enveloped in a black tablecloth.  I get bored, give up my mini-fit and end up clearing and washing all the dishes anyway–further confirming my enabling mothering status.

Finally, after an hour plus of filming, I get Kolby ready for bed and tuck her in with stories and kisses.  I hear Kyle downstairs grumbling and editing his masterpiece.

In the morning I ask to view the Vine.

Let me get this straight.  Mother Teresa (aka Kolby) gives wads of cash to a homeless farmer from central Mexico wearing a sombrero.  And then he Whip, Nae, Naes.

It’s so wrong, it’s right.  Irreverent? Stupid? Hillarious? Check, check, check.

Ok, kids…that’s funny.

Of course he get’s an A on the project.  I think even Mother Teresa would laugh at this one.

Into the Hole of Stage Parent Shame

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Over the tips of skyscrapers and a slight OC haze, little Kolby spots the artificial snow of Matterhorn Mountain, “Mommy, is that Disneyland?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” I reply.

“Mommy, I need, I want, I muuuuuust to go to Disneyland. I’m the only kid in the world who’s never been.”

I look in the rearview mirror at her peaked little face and feel a minor prick of guilt. For a year, I took her older siblings (who are now teens) to the happiest place on earth every single stinking weekend with our mega access passes—which is why I now avoid the place like the plague.

(And just for the record, the measles outbreak gave me another good reason to put it off)

Kolby’s bow shaped mouth turns downward and then tightens into a pout. I tread lightly with my response because she’s not feeling well and EVERYTHING is irritating her.

I think hard. We are on our way up to an audition in LA for a commercial for a kids shoe company. I am doing pulling out every trick in my wheelhouse to transform a grumpy and feverish five-year-old into a friendly and outgoing kid actor/model.

But my lullabies and packed cooler full of organic Cheetos and chocolate almond milk are not cutting it in light of her Mickey Mouse depletion.

“Baby, let’s try and book a job this summer and then maybe we can go to Disneyland. It’s pretty expensive.”

Kolby nods. “Ok, I just have to be happy at the audition, right?”

“Yep, just do your best darling.”

The car goes silent. She leans back in her car seat and closes her eyes. The rest of the drive we play “I Spy” and find letters on license plates.

We drive into West Hollywood and I navigate through the crowded roads to the casting agency. Of course there’s no parking—because I always wanted to make a sick child walk a mile to wait in a crowded room for another hour.

I spot a Starbucks and we head around the corner to prep. Inside the store bathroom I change her into a little white floral dress and brush out her long golden locks. On top of her head I gently place a flower crown and sigh with delight.

Her attitude might be a wee bit sour but she looks like a dream.

I grab a drink and we head back over to the audition.

It’s the usual scene—about 50 kids with nannies and handlers and clueless grandpas juggling headshots, iPads and combs. Kolby starts talking with another little girl and I make a mental note of the room.

They are lining up the kids down a hallway. Some go in with parents and some without.   When Kolby’s name is called the lady in charge says the casting agents want to see the kids alone.

What? ALONE?

Many bad words come to mind.

Kolby’s eyes grow big and teary. She grabs my leg.

“I don’t want to go in there alone, mommy.” Big tears threaten to slide down her face.

She sets off the other kids in line.

It’s a group MELTDOWN worthy of an Oscar.

Now no one wants to go in alone. The lady glares at me.

The door opens and I grab little Kolby’s hand and push past her.

We walk into a mini American Idol type setting. There are three scowling casting directors behind a table. A hip but harried photographer motions for her to stand in front of a backdrop.

I give her a little encouraging pat and she walks over.

“What’s your name?” the lumber-sexual photographer inquires.

(Oh great, he’s got a beard. My kid is terrified of men with beards)

My little lamb looks at the ground and whispers, “Kolby.”

“Kolby, can you smile for me. I’m going to take a few pictures.”

And my dear child who is generally my biggest ham forces a pained grin that looks far more like disgust than joy.

I want to crawl in a hole.

“Can you give me a big smile?” he cajoles.

Kolby tries again. Now she looks constipated.

“Can you jump?” he asks.

Kolby looks at him and lets out an exaggerated sigh. Her body language screams, I don’t feel well and my mommy dragged me here and now you want me to freaking jump.

I can see the future teenager seed rooting.

She gives a half-hearted leap.

I crawl deeper into the hole of stage-parent shame.

The photographer grabs the shoes and asks her to try them on. She slips them onto her feet.

“Do you like the shoes?”

Kolby pauses. “Not really, they are too big.”

Her tone is pure annoyance.

The casting elite illuminati give me the look—the “You’re wasting our time look and I grab her hand and we shuffle out.”

She smiles the second we leave,

“How did I do Mommy? Can I go to Disneyland now?”

“No baby, I said we needed to book the job first remember? Anyway, you weren’t very friendly sweetheart.

And my five year-old turns on me and yells loudly down the street, “Other kids don’t have to get a job and go to work to go to Disneyland. Anyway, you told me not to talk to strangers and they were scary!”

And I am left both ashamed and stumped at her pre-school logic.

The two buff men heading into the gym in front of us choke up and try not to laugh, but I can hear their snickers and eyes on me as I duck into the car.

And I know it’s one of those mom moments. Make it or break it time.

I feel pulled between caring for my kid’s emotional wellbeing and teaching life lessons to a small person who may not have the ability to hear me in this moment.

How do I explain to my kid that I’m trying to fund her college tuition with her ridiculous cuteness? How do I teach her the value of a hard work ethic and the beauty of delayed gratification as she saves towards a goal? And most of all, how do I teach her to do hard things even when she feels like quitting?

And I realize while those are all things I want to teach her, this is NOT that moment.

I pick her up and cuddle her. “Today was tough. I’m proud of you for trying even though you were sick. Next time if you smile and act friendly even when you are scared mommy will give you $5 to save for Disney.”

I think some more.

“And if mommy introduces you to the person, then they aren’t strangers and it’s ok to be nice.”

She puts her little arms around me and we both sniffle and cling to one another.

Over the next few weeks Kolby works hard on introductions. She learns to say, “Nice to meet you” and hold out her hand for a firm shake.

She practices smiling and posing. We play the casting director game and take turns asking questions.

A month later Kolby books her first modeling gig.

When I share the news with her she screams, “I can’t believe it! Mommy, we are going to Disneyland!”

And I am humbled. The lesson I tried to force she learned all on her own.

This time I will be proud to wear the Mickey ears because I know how hard we both worked to get them.

 

How do I explain this Crazy to my Kids??

My friend is at the airport on her way to Hawaii.  Her family is pumped because they are heading to the Disney Island Resort of Mickey awesomeness.

But, six hours is a long time with three kids on a plane, so she herds her adorable brood of blond tots to the potty for one last go.

And this is what she encounters…

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Text from Friend: “How do I explain this to my kids?”

I won’t treat you to the text I wrote back because it’s politically incorrect.

But I will say this.  Be very careful near airports!

There are apparently uniboob half-skirted creatures walking around with surly expressions and no one can stop them from making weird faces and peeing in this airport bathroom because the government says you can pick your gender and expression.

I must confess some confusion over the peeing part.  If you are a dude and you get a sex change, do you lose or keep the unit?  Some do and some don’t right?

(In all honesty, my parent’s wouldn’t let me see the “Crying Game” which I’m sure would have explained some of this.

Do they have fake vajayjay’s?  And how do the doctors re-pipe?  Anatomy didn’t cover this and I’m afraid to Google it on my work computer.  It’s like Jr. High again.  I laughed with all the other kids about the “69” graffiti on the wall but I didn’t actually know what it meant until college.

So how do mommies and daddies explain trans-gender to the kids when we are clueless too?

I know there are a few TV shows on the Family Channel now to help us make sense of our changing culture–“I am Cait” and “Help..my dad is turning into a woman.”  But, strangely enough, I haven’t found compelled to watch.

So, here’s what I’m telling my kids.

Mommy doesn’t personally understand the motives to move towards trans-gender, but she does understand brokenness and its ramifications.  She know sadness and loneliness and the extreme measures people will go to find the elusive happiness that eludes them.

Your purpose and meaning go far beyond your sexuality.  Your identity is not in your maleness or femaleness or even in ambiguity.

Your identity is in Christ alone.  But  culture is sending a very different message to you.

The world says we can choose our identity by choosing our gender.  Mommy disagrees.  

Male and female God created them.  In God’s image.  We are all a reflection of our creator.

Our identity is in CHRIST ALONE.

I believe Trans-gender is throwing us all for a loop but it doesn’t have too.

It’s pretty simple.  Our job is to love God and love our neighbor.  And yes, that means the trans-gender neighbor-even if it’s awkward and confusing.

The truth is we are all in some type of bondage to the lies of culture.  Some of us just wear the chains on the outside and it’s more obvious.  I too have bought into the lies of sex, beauty and materialism equaling my worth.  Only a belief in something bigger can deliver us.

Trans-gender is complicated and messy and its’ really hard to explain to kids. But it’s a conversation we all need to initiate because it’s not going away. 

I hope you wrestle with this dialogue too.  Let me know what you think and how you are explaining it.

 

–Samantha

And please, I’m cool if you disagree but keep it clean. Only grown-up comments please.

 

 

 

 

Ooops…I lost my Tolerant Bumper Sticker

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I haven’t posted much this summer.  I’ve been writing up a storm, but not much has made it past putting down the words.  I keep asking myself why?

Why am I gun-shy?  What’s going on my heart?

After a summer of crazy headlines causing massive polarization in our country, I think I feel a little worn out, frazzled and defeated.

Is anyone with me?

Every day it’s a cacophony of doom and outrage–rainbow flags and Confederate flags, the Charleston Shooting, the warning of impending annihilation to Seattle from a catastrophic earthquake and tidal wave, the Greek banking failure, baby-parts for sale and Iran nuclear deals…and on and on it goes.  Benghazi and terrorism, ISIS and missing airplanes.

More BAD news.

But even worse is having an opinion about the BAD NEWS.

And as a writer it makes me SAD.  I’m grieving.

We are losing the fundamental freedom to express ourselves as extremest minority voices amp up their scare tactics to wipe out ANY voice of dissension.

How dare I disagree with anyone these days because I will be immediately labeled a bigot, a dumb-ass, a racist, anti-Mexican, intolerant, a religious fanatic, old-fashioned, pro-life and a million other slanderous titles.

Since when did everything become so black and white?

Is it possible to love people–all people–gay and straight and different colors AND the un-born?  I think so.

Is it possible to support the tax-paying people of America, the soldiers who fight for our freedom so we can whine like babies on safe soil and the police officers who risks their life on a daily basis without getting slammed?

Why do we need someone as brash as Donald Trump to speak up regarding border protection and scream in frustration because our economy is dangling on a precipice of debt and a falsely inflated dollar?

Why?  I believe it’s fear.

I don’t agree with everything the Donald says(and I sure hope he doesn’t go independent), but at least he has the balls (or enough money) to not care about the aftermath.  At least he’s speaking up about the things many of us are afraid to articulate.

I have never been a conspiracy theorist but it feels like something is about ready to blow…

…and I think it might be us–we, the American people.

I’m a student of history.  While many of you studied business and engineering in school, I buried myself in dusty books of the past.  And while I’m no Nostradamus, the signs are clear–our country has peaked.  We are on the downward slope.  It’s the classic rise and fall of an empire.

The more rights we give (without a moral compass) the more rights we lose. (see Andy Stanley video below)   And sadly, freedom of expression is only allowed if you are TOLERANT.

If you don’t have the TOLERANT bumper sticker, you can’t play the game anymore.

I don’t feel safe to disagree without getting blasted and my web site hacked to kingdom come.  I have spoken out against pornography in the past and how it negatively effects relationships.  Every single day I get hate mail.  My firewall has a firewall to protect it from attackers.

Here is where my so-called radical tendencies lie:  I don’t believe porn is art.  (OOOHHH crazy stuff, I know)  I’ve seen first-hand how the industry chews up women and spits them out.  I abhor the sex-trafficking trade and the violation of women.  I celebrate women who keep their babies and choose not to abort. I volunteer with single teenage moms and speak up for the downtrodden.   I believe the church should step in and care for the widows and the orphans, not the government.  I might even be a rather liberal Christian. No one’s ever accused me of being pharasitical or legalistic.

I’m not politically conservative.  Let’s all digest that for a moment.  When the moderate feels under attack it’s a big red flag that our so-called democratic system is about to implode!

Truthfully, I think I’m numb. 

My cousin-a police officer in California-has to pack a meal or come home to eat on duty because people at restaurants will put stuff in his food.  Huh?

What is this craziness?  We poison the people who are supposed to protect us?  And we aren’t supposed to stick up for cops for fear of being politically incorrect in our “anti-cop” trending culture?

The real persecution is going on right under our noses.  The more we revere celebrity and the socially “loud” the more we drown out the still small voices of our communal integrity.  It’s a subtle censorship based on our fears of being labeled Intolerant.

Today, I’m speaking out against the loss of something I love–my right to feel safe to write whatever I want.  Big Brother has arrived cloaked in social media frenzies, Twitter wars, and catch-phrases taken out of context to destroy people’s character and business.

And I am sad…

Any thoughts?  Join in on the conversation!

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 42

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Truth–every time Taylor Swift’s song “22” comes on, I crank up my radio, sway in my seat, drive a little faster and sing along with gusto.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22 42.”

Yep, I change the words…mainly because it rhymes, it’s fun and I’m 42. Except now I’m not 42–today’s my birthday, now I’m 43.

I guess I need a new song.

My son gives me a card this morning and it says “Happy 29th for the 15th time!”   It’s supposed to be funny, but I secretly wince.  How come 29 + 15 sounds old too?

So here are my thoughts on 43…

1.  It SOUNDS worse than it is.  It’s actually not that bad.  Last week, I traveled with my son.  He looks far older than his 16 years–probably about 20ish.  I could pass on a good day for mid to late 30’s.  After, multiple days of people assuming we were a couple, I felt like a total perv, I told my son I was getting a t-shirt that says, “I’m the mom (not a cougar)”

2. Ok, I do miss the energy of youth (and maybe my perkier parts)…but that’s about it.  A few wrinkles seems a small price to pay for all the benefits of maturity.

3.  I have time now to enjoy my life.  When the big kids were small, when I was a single working mom, when we started the church and I was trying to get my writing going…all I did was hustle, hustle, hustle.  There was constant rushing and scrambling.  Now–I can relax a little bit and appreciate all those years of wiping snotty noses and working late.

4.  I treasure the wisdom I’ve gained over the years.  You couldn’t pay me to go back to my twenties.  All the emotions and turmoil of youth fade in light of parenting all the emotions and turmoil of my own teens.

5.  I’m getting way more nostalgic.  I used to set goals for myself for every birthday.  Each year was a litmus test of  accomplishments–the great grading scale of the American Dream.  Graduate college. Get married by 25.  Have babies by 30.  Finish masters degree.  Start church.  Develop ministry.  Blog.  Write book by 40. Start women’s ministry. Run marathon.

Boy have things changed…

I forgot to include divorce, and career change and loss–and all the tragedy and circumstances that mold and shape us into people of depth and character.  I never finished my graduate degree and I never ran that marathon, and truthfully, I could care less.

My yearly round-up is much simpler now.

I thank God I get to crawl into a toddler bed every night with my little girl and read her favorite books and growl and do all the voices of her favorite monsters and animals.  I thank God for letting me go back East last week on an Ivy League football recruiting trip with my son.  I will never forget laughing our butts off on the mountain roads of Vermont as we almost floated away in a hurricane in a rental car.  I thank God for my lovely daughter Faith who will be a cheerleader next year in high school (just like her mama) and has the sweetest most loving spirit in the world.  I thank God for my second marriage to a beautiful man, for the glorious redemption of having a family again and the ability to write and do what I love.  I look at the people around me and pinch myself for the blessing of friends and neighbors and family.

I guess 43 is filled with perspective.

Here’s mine–Each day is a gift.  

Fortunately, Taylor Swift is now 23–maybe we can get a new rhyme for 43?

What’s your perspective on middle age?

 

A Dad’s Best Investment

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About a year ago my husband Tim came home from a soccer meeting bubbling over with plans to join an Adventure Princess tribe with our youngest daughter Kolby.

(FYI…Adventure Princess used to be known as Indian Princess, but apparently “Indian” is politically incorrect now)

All I know is that it’s a daddy daughter group that includes games, monthly meetings, harbor cruises, camping and money invested in the process of all these grand adventures.

I confess I was INITIALLY excited for them, until I saw the schedule of trips and the fees—then a part of me felt slightly resistant and maybe a little jealous.

Where’s my eight trips a year?  Can I spend the same amount of money bonding with our other kids?  Faith and I like to shop—just saying.

So my husband embarks on this new endeavor with Kolby and they join the “Wolfpack” circle.  The first meeting they return home with purple sweatshirts and patches, crafts and fringed vests.  Kolby acquires the ability to howl and Tim seems to truly enjoy time with the other wolf dudes.

Kolby is now known as “Sparkling Unicorn Princess” and Tim is “SOARING FALCON.”

They camp, they bond and I take it all in—mildly skeptical.

It doesn’t help that a friend tells me some gossipy things about the Ladera dads and their excuse to get away and party after the kids go to sleep.  In general, I try not to listen to second-hand-info, but because it’s a group I’m NOT invited to, the juicy tidbits create a little more distrust in my spirit.

I grill my husband when he returns from his first trip but he assures me all is well.

Hmmmmm…

Unfortunately, halfway through the year my husband has emergency spine surgery and the Wolfpack activity is put on hold until daddy recovers.

And now it’s June, and the last meeting of the year. But Tim is out of town on a football trip with my son Kyle, so the pack leader suggests I bring little Kolby to the meeting.

Come again?

The Wolf Dudes want me to bring my five-year-old girl to a pool party meeting with men?

Now I’m really feeling VERY AWKWARD but my baby girl wants to go so I acquiesce.  I bring Faith with me as backup and a good book.  I wear a modest bathing suit and put on my pastor’s wife game face–the “no funny business” one.

I show up at the pool leery.  I have visions of Animal House with the little girls in a corner doings crafts while the dad’s deal cards.

But to my surprise, the first thing I see is a big jolly guy with a huge smile in a neon orange shirt schlepping water toys down to the pool with two adorable little girls.

He introduces himself as the leader and invites me to join them.  This man is like Santa—he’s so good-natured and affable.  The girls run shrieking for the pool and the leader guy jumps in and plays water games with ten little girls attached to him for the next hour.  The other dads stand around quietly talking and catching up.

There is no alcohol.  No crazy stuff.  No strippers.  Just pizza and maybe a little too much sugar with the brownies, juice and otter pops—but that’s the extent of the shenanigans.

After the pool games wrap up, the men and girls gather in a circle and each child introduces herself and her dad and they share a small story.  It’s hard for some kids, but the dad’s encourage and guide them.  I help Kolby and although she is the youngest in the group she is brave and speaks up in a small sweet voice.

Then the girls run off and play—jacked up on sugar—and the dad’s talk “ADULT BUSINESS.”

“OK.  Now it’s coming, I think.  I tense up.  This is the juicy stuff my neighbor warned me of.

Except what happens next is the dad’s get serious about planning the next camping trip.  They talk food and grills and the architecture of sailboats and sandcastles.

And I am left in my seat for a very long hour—both humbled and ashamed—as I watch these kind good men take the time to invest in their daughters and create lasting memories.  

Yes-these man boys are a little competitive and some of the wild stories of paddle board races and stormy nights scare me because of my over-protective mama bear tendencies—but I also know that a little rough and tumble adventure with a dad is what every little girl needs to feel loved and cherished and empowered to believe she can make it in the world all on her own.

I sit in my seat and pray—and ask God to forgive me for judging that which I have no understanding of.  I confess how easy it is to listen to the “bad things” instead of “believing the best” about people.  And a tear runs down my face as I think about my husband and his desire to father and love our children to the best of his ability.

Boy, I can be a real schmuck sometimes—God help me!

Kolby and I Face Timed Daddy that evening night and told him about the meeting.  I apologized for my doubts.  Of coarse, my sweet husband forgave me and I could see his relief that I was now a supporter instead of a skeptic.

Ok, so I was wrong.  (BIG GULP)

The Wolfpack rocks.  And today my husband is camping with our little girl while I write this.  On the sand, with a hurt back–probably dirty and cold.  And those two monkeys are probably loving every minute of it.

As Father’s Day approaches, and I desperately miss my own dad in heaven now, I think about how important the love of a father is.

I think about my own distrust towards men and how is husband is changing my heart AND MY DAUGHTERS one deposit of love at a time.

And I am grateful.

–Samantha

What could you do to create lasting memories with your child?

Spiritual Band-Aids

Band-aid My hands move fast, busy about the kitchen.  I cut, prep and toss bits and pieces of veggies and spices into the pan to make chili.  Frank Sinatra croons on the radio and I strain to hear Kolby’s giggle on the swing out on the front porch.  Faith is doing her homework in the next room and Kyle is about to arrive home any minute after football practice.

It’s my normal fast-paced evening as I pull double-duty with three kids while daddy works late.

Suddenly, something red catches my eye on the bowl in my hand.  It’s a bright crimson, almost like strawberry juice—a smear of blood perhaps?

I stop in my tracks.  I slow down and peer closely now.

I gasp.  The red is everywhere.

Panic rises up in my throat.  I think of dead bunnies from Fatal Attraction, psychos and ex-boyfriends.

Why is there blood all over my kitchen?

The white cabinets have streaks of sticky red on the doors on the cabinet pulls.  The china plates on the table are hit.  The fridge and the dishwasher and the cabinets all reveal stains of red.

I look down at my feet and gasp.  Red splotches leave a trail from the stove to the table and back again.  Ooooh gross…I’m walking in it.

The calm side of my brain finally takes over.

“Ok, Sam, assess the damage.  Where is it coming from,” I tell myself.

(I also look for the knives in case I need a weapon)

Am I hurt?  I don’t feel anything.

I do a body check and notice my left hand is covered in blood.

WHAT?

How did I miss that?

I run my hands under cool water and the gash appears on my index finger.  It’s deep and bleeding profusely. I grab a paper towel and make a Viva tourniquet, putting strong pressure on it.

Finally, finally…the pain comes—an intense throb, then sting and the relief of knowing there wasn’t a stalker hiding behind my cupboard.

About an hour later, after dinner, it stops bleeding and I’m able to bandage the wound.

……

My finger boo-boo is constantly on my mind—probably because I’m typing with a bandaged finger, but mostly because I am shocked that I was so oblivious to an injury on my body.

It seems a little crazy; here I am I imagining scenarios that had nothing to do with reality.  I walk around and drip, drop, drip blood and yet assume it’s something beyond me and my person because I didn’t feel the sting.

And then I think of how often I do the same thing in other areas— in matters of the heart—not physical, but spiritual wounds.  Someone hurts me and I either ignore or avoid the pain.  I gloss over it and pretend it’s no big deal—until it starts seeping out in other areas.

I get sick or I withhold from the person who hurt me.  I get defensive or shut down my heart in self-protection.

The wound finds a way of making itself known even when we don’t acknowledge the pain.

……

My husband and I sit in the counselor’s office and we talk about an issue.  It’s maybe my least favorite thing in the world to talk about but my husband digs in.

I’m uncomfortable.  I squirm in my seat.  I hate pulling out this muck from my soul.  I stall and stutter and finally he pushes hard enough and I blurt out, “It’s because you said this “thing” on our honeymoon and it made me feel ashamed.”

Bamm.  The words are out there.

The counselor looks at me wide eyed.  Tim shakes his head in shock.

“I’m so sorry,” he says.  “I had no idea.”

And suddenly I’m back in the kitchen and I’ve found the wound.  Only it’s been years and years of marriage that I’ve been seeping out the blood.

Now I’m ashamed even more for unconsciously holding onto my pain like a prized medal to beat my husband up with.

And as my husband apologizes and holds me as I cry, I finally rip off the spiritual band-aid and start to heal.

……

It’s been seven years of marriage for Tim and me—seven years of figuring this “uniting into one” stuff out.

Can I just say it’s hard?  Clearly marriage is not for the uncommunicative or the martyr—both attributes I exhibit at my worst.

But the more we dig into the cues and wounds of old—the more we can find our triggers and how to move past or avoid them altogether.

Two steps forward—one step back. A daily dance of beauty and intimacy as selfishness hovers nearby just waiting to intrude.

……

I meet a young woman at a party.  She is bitter over a divorce. 

Her words are harsh, “I married potential, I divorced reality.”

I’m shocked at first, but if I’m honest I recognize myself in her.

I have the potential—with God—to be all that he created me to be.  And I have the potential—in my own strength—to fail miserably

I will never get it all right.  But I pray my husband can see both—the good and bad—and love me in spite of it, choosing every single day to stay on the same team and believe the best about one another even when we act our worst.  

……

I know so many of you are hurting and in pain.  You are in the storm.

The blood is all over the kitchen.

And I’ve been there with you.  I’ve walked through the hell of divorce.  It’s a relational death like no other.

But I’ll tell you a secret.  It won’t be easier on the other side.  You will still take “you” into the next relationship.

And if “you” are anything like me, you still need some fixin up and hard edges polished.

Band-aids need to be ripped off so you can heal and be the best you.

I know it’s hard work. And it means letting go and forgiving beyond yourself.

But I believe God won’t leave you in the mess if you are willing to do the hard work and find the wounds.

Christine Caine puts it this way, “On the other side of every disappointment is a God appointment.”

And sometimes the greatest pain is simply a mercy in disguise.

–Samantha

Where have you stuck a band-aid on a wound in your relationship that needs healing?

 

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