5 Things to Know About Turning 40

group Jen's bday

I celebrated another friend turning the big 40 this week.  We went out on a  Duffy boat, danced in the Newport harbour and laughed and loved and affirmed our girl Jen. 

And it made me think about what I really wanted to tell her (if I was honest) about hitting this big milestone -now that I’m an expert nine months in.

Dear Jen, and all my peeps nearing 40,

Things happen to you when you age –sneaky things, weird things, and terrible awful surprises.  And when you are in your thirties NO ONE TELLS YOU the whole truth.

There was a movie out recently –This is 40.  And while funny, it wasn’t honest.  Because 40 in all reality and not Hollywood land doesn’t look like that.  In fact, I would suggest Hollywood makes us all feel MORE OLD because without a team of surgeons and trainers and LASIK, the rest of us look –well…40.  The real 40.

Jen

So, I’m letting the cat out of the bag. 

Here are the top five surprises to hitting middle age.

1. Spots.  Are you scared yet?  It’s true.  Red spots, brown spots, more freckles, random dots.  In fact if your kids are bored give them a pen and let them connect them for a fun car game.  It’s like your dermal layer checks the time map, notes that you crested over the hill and BAM, a little age fairy tip-toes into your room at night and get’s out the markers.  When I asked my dermatologist about it he claimed it was due to hormones, genetics and sun damage.  He also mentioned he would be glad to laser them all off for a small fee comparable to my mortgage.  (I’m guessing the tanning bed in my late teens was a very BAD idea)

2. Your metabolism hits the Sh*tter.  Those cupcakes on the weekend –straight to your ass-ter-kosher.   Margaritas’ and chips?  You will pay.  All of those years when you could indulge over the weekend and then be good on Monday are now OVER.  Your vehicle is burning fewer calories and the high-speed octane days of the 2:00am Del Taco run are a distant memory.  Unless you are eating A LOT less and training more, your body will change.  Depending on your fortitude and state of mind you may want to fight this inevitable battle of the bulge or embrace the middle age spread.  Good luck!

3. You become a SANDWICH.  Did I throw you off on that one?  By sandwich, I mean you get to deal with aging parents, teenagers and because so many of you waited to have kids until your late thirties –diapers too.  You are hitting hospitals, prom and play dates all in the same week.  You get to fight with your teen about innapropriate parties, search for the lost pacifier and manage your parent’s finances and healthcare all in the same day. 

And the stress coming from every angle will make you a little CRAZY, which is why you will…

4. Adopt bizarre coping mechanisms.  Like floating underwater in the bath and pretending you are in the Caribbean (until you get repetitive ear infections and your doctor confronts you), or you notice your husband disappearing to the mancave/bathroom for long stretches of time –and you know he’s not pooping that long and must be playing an online poker game. Maybe you become obsessed with a drink at Starbucks, indulge in the mommy sippy cup of wine or a nice meal out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Maybe you pull your hair out, dress your kids in matching outfits to self soothe through image management or sit on the floor and cry because your house is a mess.  However you deal, avoid or succumb to the overwhelming feelings of chaos –life just seems to get more complicated as we age.  

5. Your uterus tanks.  I’m aware this is a female issue but this affects the dudes too.  All of a sudden, instead of being so careful to not get pregnant and using birth control, you are forking over hard-earned cash for IVF and Chlomid to get one last shot at a baby.  You used to buy condoms now you buy ovulation predictors.  Your OBGYN is on a first name basis and you know all the ladies on the pregnancy forums and chat rooms –even if you never officially log in.  And when did sex become so stressful?  (Because when it’s go time –it’s go time)

(I also want to give a shout out to laugh lines, well-loved but sagging breasts, and random whiskers that appear on your chin.  I don’t want to forget the beer gut, thinning hair, bald patch, and lowered levels of Testosterone for the guys.  But, I couldn’t cover it all and it’s too freaking depressing anyway. )

So here’s to 40!  It’s messy and challenging and wonderful.  And there is no better way to celebrate than with your friends! 

card

–Sam

Twice Lost

lost: Unable to find one’s way: a lost child.

I was twenty-two years old the first time I lost my brother. Eighteen years later I have lost him again.

The first time he disappeared my parents left me in charge of the twelve-year-old squirt while they vacationed in Europe. I came home from college one Spring break to care for him and failed miserably in my first attempt at pseudo-parenting.

One afternoon he took off a skateboard to play with the neighbor kids and didn’t return for dinner. After searching door to door and calling all his friends, I finally contacted the police in desperation. Close to midnight, I stood in the darkness outside of my parent’s home and with tears and sobs and groans of utter despair -I begged for God’s mercy.

Something overtook me then–something holy and mystical –a presence of sweet and utter peace. And I knew God heard me.

Two hours later, after the police combed the neighborhood with dogs and helicopters, my brother was found. He had fallen asleep on the floor of the next door neighbor’s house in their third floor playroom. Somehow in the panic of the search and managing their own five children, my brother had slipped by unnoticed by the neighbor’s and only woke with the roar of helicopters.

I took my bargain with God seriously. The next day was Good Friday and I stood up at the altar call and officially sealed the deal with my Savior.

It’s almost twenty years later and in a weird twist of irony it’s Easter weekend again.

And once again my brother is lost.

It happened in the blink of an eye. He started using drugs. He lost his job and girlfriend. The highs became higher and the lows became lower.

On Palm Sunday my father called me from the hospital and choked out the horrific details.

In a violent and vicious drug rage, my brother attacked our parents and almost killed my step-mom. He was arrested for felony assault to elders and incarcerated.

My father, suffering from dementia tried to protect his wife and call 911 as he was forced to defend himself against his own son throwing blows at him.

I’ve never felt more helpless, shocked and honestly –ashamed. I wanted to hide and tell no one.

Good Friday came. And once again I stood and lifted my arms to God. When it came time to write out my sins, I sat there in my chair and scribbled one word –UNFORGIVENESS.

If my heart ever felt hardened to a human this was it. Love and hate intermingled with betrayal.

I dragged my feet up to the cross and slowly lifted the hammer to nail it in. And I forced myself to remember how much God has forgiven me through each thump of the hammer.

It’s been a long week of picking up the pieces of a family blown to bits by evil. My step-mom has multiple fractures in her shoulder and arm. She is bruised from her chest to the tips of her fingers. My father is dissalusioned, sad and scared. And even though the physical wounds are painful, the bruises to their spirit are far deeper.

To make matters worse, my brother was let out of jail on Thursday by an accidental clerical error. The charges had to be re-submitted. Once the warrant goes out he will have to be re-arrested. He was defiant upon release and showed no remorse. Although there is a restraining order, his instability doesn’t leave my family feeling secure.

In the meantime, he was spotted wandering through a trailer park high and incoherent.

Easter hit me like a ton of bricks.

The resurrection we celebrate on Easter morning means everything to the followers of Christ. We base our lives and hopes and beliefs on it.

But the resurrection means EVEN MORE to the wandering souls who reject him although they may not know or care; because in the worst of times there is always the possibility of hope and a return to the father.

Our God died for us while we were still sinners and he continues to pursue the lost until they are found. And even in trailer parks and prisons and to the ends of the earth, I believe God will pursue his lost son.

It’s not easy to share this story. It’s still raw and prickly, but I believe there are many families out there just like ours battling for their sons and daughters (and brother’s) hearts. The one thing I have learned by tentatively sharing and asking for prayer is that I am not alone in this. Please don’t isolate –reach out to your community and church for support. These tragedies are too big for you to handle alone. If your family member is suffering from an addiction and has turned abusive or violent, please find help.

–Samantha

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ Luke 15:22-24

 

Photo Source: google.com via Ashleigh on Pinterest

Profound Lessons from Aspergers Syndrome

isolation

Image by Norma Desmond via Flickr

It was the night of the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at our church.

 As the pastor’s wife, I am generally required to attend these sorts of things with the unspoken expectation to always smile, be nice, and glow with the joy of the Lord, even if I have to, dare I say… fake it.   I was running late that evening, overwrought with juggling three kids, sports practice, and a cranky baby. My plastered on smile thinly hid tears of frustration leaking out my nose.  As I stood and perused the room full of familiar faces, the tension in my spirit only clogged my throat more.  I felt like an intruder interrupting a play in the second act. The crowd was engaged in conversation and gaiety and I felt like I was barging in with a bag full of awkward.  I stood on the outside, trying to find the right moment to break into the group, but none seemed to be forthcoming.  Then I saw him, a boy with an apparent disability, obviously struggling to find his place, and something in my heart connected, his outward instability mirroring my own inner turmoil.

I sat down next to him and smiled, possibly the first of the evening with any emotion behind it.  The seats were close and our shoulders brushed when I scooted in my chair. He looked up at me and frowned, his large eyes expressing scorn at my presence.  In a cheery voice, I stuttered, “Hello!

Instead of “hi” in return, he groaned, “ughh,” and rolled his eyes, disgust dripping from his every breath.  Stunned, I could only laugh.  Peals of tension rolled away in a glorious moment of self-deprecating humor. Not that I would ever show it, but I too, have moments when I want to turn and run the other way from people. His complete transparency was a treasured gift.  There was no guile or charm about him, just raw emotion spewing from his soul.

His mother jumped in and apologized profusely.  “Our son has Aspergers Syndrome” she whispered in explanation. Both the mother and father appeared exhausted and overwhelmed.  I noticed they had two little boys sitting next to them as well.  Their weary faces told a story of resignation and personal agenda’s relinquished that I couldn’t even imagine.  My little pity-party quickly faded in the light of their self-sacrifice in caring for a child with special needs.

I nodded my understanding, but was determined not to leave, even though I could sense her apprehension regarding her son’s erratic behavior. Just then, one of my favorite ushers sat down on the other side of the boy. He started to talk to him, just jabbering really, anything to try to help relax the boy’s parents. He told the boy that I was the pastor’s wife and that I used to volunteer with High School Students.  The boy covered his ears.  He went on and shared with him how I had helped start our church with my husband.  This time the boy yawned. My usher friend shrugged his shoulders and looked sad, but somehow I knew I wouldn’t break through his walls with an assortment of credentials.

The boy turned and faced me. “So what do you do now…right now?” he asked.

His question caught me right in the middle of bite of pasta, which slipped off my plastic fork and landed on his right foot.  “Well,” I said, willing to throw caution to the wind, “Sometimes I like to throw noodles.” And I launched another one at his left foot.

The boy burst into laughter along with the rest of the table and a gentle wave of release rolled over us.  His protective walls came down and he suddenly he began to chatter away, allowing us for a short time, to enter his world. He told us all about his love of McDonald’s desserts and how Korea had the best dessert menu of all.  His mom jumped in and shared that he had memorized every McDonald’s menu in the world, country by country.  Clearly brilliant, opinionated, and passionate, the boy seemed to have exaggerated mental gifts juxtaposed with irrationality.  He was both at once delightful and overwhelming. But for a brief moment, his mother relaxed and let go of her tension, sitting back and joking with his two younger brothers.

The boy’s father came back to the table with an enormous piece of carrot cake for him.  He gently placed it in front of him with a plastic knife and fork and smiled at him.  In one fell swoop, the boy inhaled half the cake. The fathers smile quickly disappeared.  “Slow down bud!  Use your fork and knife!”

But the boy did not like to be reprimanded and he grabbed the knife like a dagger and stubbornly resisted his father. In a battle of wills, the boy reluctantly cut the remaining piece in two and shoved them both in his mouth in rapid succession.  Trying not to tremble, the knife only inches from my face, I dared not move an inch.  In lightening speed his father grabbed the knife, cleaned up the frosting smeared all over his face and sent him off to explore the church. His mom trotted after him, glancing back with an apologetic look.  The father collapsed into the chair and rested his head in between his hands, exhausted and embarrassed. 

“You know you are doing a great job, don’t you?” I said.

His eyes filled with tears and he whispered, “I don’t know.  He’s better at home. He feels safe there” 

Our eyes met, acknowledging a difficult situation at best, recognizing that sometimes there are no words.  I could see his fierce and unconditional love for their first-born son mixed with sadness, disappointment and struggle. His wife came back to the table and the little boys ran off to play and care for their brother, another reminder of how their whole family was affected by Aspergers. 

“Does he ever get lost?” I asked, noticing how he would become entranced by an object and take off at full speed only to have his attention caught elsewhere a moment later. 

“Not usually”, they said in unison.

His mom laughed, “Then again you don’t see us exactly running after him.” They smiled at each other, an inside joke perhaps, all the tenderer to the observer because of their apparent love for each other. “But he always comes back,” she said in exasperation and acceptance.

Then we took communion together, a group of broken people…acknowledging our Savior’s sacrifice.

 I watched them pack up the boys and head home.  Neither of them had been chosen as one of the volunteers to be publicly affirmed in front of the crowd that night, but then their offering to the Kingdom and the church wasn’t a loud one.  It was a quiet and daily surrender, a desert journey of faith that these two humble Saints had said “yes” to.  In the light of their obstacles, I was amazed that they even showed up to volunteer more. 

And, as I gathered up my own little flock for the night, my heart encouraged and challenged by the sacrificial love of this family, my burdens didn’t seem quite so heavy anymore and my church felt like home once again.

The big bad yellow bus…

Front of a yellow school bus.

Image via Wikipedia

In another initiative to over protect our kids and alleviate any modicum of self-reliance, a suburban Chicago school district has outfitted their students backpacks with a luggage tag size GPS that monitors when the student gets on and off the bus.  While I can appreciate the concern of parent’s for their child’s welfare, this whole concept of micro-chipping our pets and kids has an ominous big brother tone that is eerily playing out before our very eyes.  But more importantly, from a developmental perspective, navigating the bus, with all its relational drama and intensity, is a rite of passage for a child. This is where we learn to stand on our two feet, set good boundaries and survive in a world without mom and dad. It’s where both good and bad decisions are made, and kids actually learn from natural consequences.

 This takes me back to my own bus story as kid, a defining moment in the spectrum of childhood adventure. It also makes me wonder how many kids will we emotionally handicap by never letting them screw up, get lost and find their way back home.

The year was 1977; I was seven-year old 2nd grader, taking the big yellow school bus home for the first time.  Apprehensive all day, the momentous occasion had finally arrived.  There I stood, in my rainbow knee socks and straggly pig-tails, taking in what seemed like an endless row of busses.  My parents had told me to take the bus that went to South Huntington Beach but I could only see black numbers on the side of the yellow behemoths.  Starting to panic, I asked one of the drivers where they were going.  He looked down at me, scratched his scraggly chin, and said, “Honey this bus is going to Huntington Beach.”

Well…that seemed close enough, so I skipped on up the stairs, and settled down into a seat near one of my classmates that I recognized.  We drove off and I settled in to what seemed like an awfully long ride to South Huntington Beach.  After all the kids but one had gotten off the bus, it started to dawn on me that something was terribly wrong.  Timidly I approached the driver, “Sir, I thought you said we were going to Huntington Beach?”

The old driver cackled, “I just drove through the whole damn town.  You lost kid?”

“Yes sir,” I warbled, my eyes filling with tears.

“Well this bus is going back to the yard and I got plans. You gotta get off at the next stop cuz I don’t have time to deal with you.  Go with that other kid and call your mom.”

“Ok,” I said, more scared of the bus yard than being abandoned.  I envisioned a field of empty yellow buses with no mommies for miles.

I followed the sole little girl off the bus and asked her if I could call my mom from her house. She agreed and off we trotted to her home.  Her mother fussed over me like a hen, until my own mom arrived, distraught over the mishap.  I heard my mother telling the girl’s mom; “you would think a kid going to a gifted and talented magnet school could figure out how to take a bus.”

Embarrassed and yet exhilarated that I had survived a dangerous journey all by myself, I stood up a little taller and I didn’t hold my mom’s hand on the way out like I usually did.  Strangely enough, some lessons of self-reliance can only be learned by getting on the wrong bus.

Jr. High Boys and the I Love Boobies Campaign

Article first published as Jr. High Boys and the I Love Boobies Campaign on Technorati.

My twelve year old son has recently become an advocate for breast cancer awareness.  Who knew he was so compassionate about fighting cancer? He even wore a pink armband in his last football game.  And though I am excited that I can actually find him on the football field in a dog pile, his obsession with NFL.com/pink raises some big red flags for this mama.  Now call me naive….but I wonder if his sudden interest has any connection to do with the “I Love Boobies” campaign?
In a brilliant marketing scheme, capitalizing on our hyper sexualized culture, the keep a Breast Foundation folks have certainly generated publicity, but at what cost? Is an adolescent boy with raging hormones their intended audience?  Because, quite frankly, his parents hold the checkbook and it’s only pissing me off, not helping their cause.  There are plenty of non-profits legitimately raising funds for breast cancer research that I am more apt to support versus the ones exploiting boobs for cash. 
Why this campaign smells like a rat:

 
• It’s Offensive

 
First of all, our national obsession with artificially enhanced breasts has absolutely nothing to do with a cancer victim fighting to save her life.  While Heidi Montag may be the epitome of the Girls Gone Wild mentality, having boobs the size of a beach ball doesn’t evoke a lot of sympathy to a woman facing death and a double mastectomy.  If anything, it trivializes the devastation to both her breasts and the disease itself.  If I saw an infant wearing an I Love Boobies t-shirt, I might be more prone to levity, but on a pimply teen, it’s just plain offensive. This campaign objectifies a woman as a sexual object instead of a human being battling a serious illness.
Tracy Clark-Flory put it this way. “When death is truly knocking at your door — and I’m not talking about early, uncertain cases — most aren’t thinking about how much they love their breasts, they’re thinking about how much they love not being dead. They’re thinking: Chop those things off, now.”
• What’s the real message?

 
I also have two daughters at home and I can only speculate what this message conveys to them?  Do we love hurting women or just their mammary offering to society? What is the worth of a woman… her contribution to society or her bra size? And, what’s next? Do we allow our girls to run around in Juicy sweats with “I Love Colons” plastered on their little bottoms? How about an “I Love Balls” t-shirt?  Does this really heighten awareness or advance perversity masquerading as a worthy cause?
• What are the Consequences?

 
And for those that minimize this, I would argue that the battle for our sons to protect them from a lifetime addiction to pornography starts here. During the most impressionable age of sexual identification, this is another area of compromise alluring to our children.
Ron Hogan at PopFi stated, “Maybe some kids are just wearing these bands because they say “boobies” on them. But “who cares?” The bracelets are getting out an important message. Besides, students are exposed to “much worse things than breast-themed bracelets” at school every day.
Who Cares?  I do!  And while we can’t protect our children from everything, schools do try and limit their exposure to harmful behaviors. I would argue that the very same reasons why schools outlaw guns, sexual harassment, bullying, and gay bashing also motivate them to ban these bracelets from the playground.  Why would it ever be beneficial to degrade a woman fighting cancer?
Breast cancer is destructive in its own right.  Exploiting our kids in the interest of propagating an ad campaign doesn’t further the cause.So, even though I love breasts, particurally cancer free ones…I won’t be buying any of their bracelets for my pree-teen son to show my support

Read more: http://technorati.com/lifestyle/family/article/jr-high-boys-and-the-i/page-2/#ixzz132PETejm

%d bloggers like this: