Category Archives: Life’s Travails- Big and Small

Zoom Zoom Zoom

2014-12-25 18.44.56Sometimes, when we expect things to be really difficult, they’re worse. I knew my time between Thanksgiving and New Years would be challenging, since I had all of the usual holiday obligations and activities, plus our county’s annual booksale, plus our son’s move out of our house into his own house, but there was more! On Thanksgiving, the very first day of holiday festivities, my mom fell and broke her hip. It was almost eleven o’clock at night, and she just turned to get up from her chair, and over she went. We followed the ambulance to the hospital, where the staff very kindly ignored the fact that some of us had obviously been celebrating quite a bit and were wandering aimlessly around the emergency area. Everyone was fine by the time we left at six in the morning, and we all spent much more time over the next few days than we ever expected at the fabulous Parkridge Hospital (Resort & Spa?) while Mom had surgery. Seriously, I have never seen a hospital this gorgeous, with marble floors, fountains, and firebowls in the pools. Mom is still in rehab, but she was able to come home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for all the festivities. Here she is on Christmas night, snoozing after a big day.

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Our county’s annual book sale took place two weeks later, and all the normally sedentary librarians had the experience of standing, walking, and carrying 450,000 books on a concrete floor all week long! We shared naproxen sodium tablets and tips for easing muscles. I began a love affair with Blue Emu. For those of us in administration, it was a fun time of customer service. Who doesn’t love a huge building full of readers?

2014-12-21 15.33.35Our son was happy to move into a new townhouse, and his realtor’s wife was happy to have a December closing!* His move was somewhat more stressful than anticipated, though, and was delayed several days. Here is a Public Service Announcement: When you buy a phone from AT&T and ask to make payments, they open up a $5000 line of credit for you! Our son did not know this, but his lender found out the day before closing. Even though the new phone was paid for, he had to produce a document that proved that the credit line was closed, and that document had to cross numerous desks before he closed. Because of that, he ended up moving the furniture in the middle of the week, when all of his helpers were at work. However! He now has a lovely townhouse located right near the city—just where he wants to be. First order of business: Get that NC State Christmas tree up with just a week to spare!

In the meantime, I now have a guest room and a craft room! We moved all of Michael’s furniture out of his office, along with three truckloads of furniture and stuff from the garage, and then we started cleaning. I took every single book off the three ceiling-to-floor bookcases, dusted them, and placed them on the floor. When each bookcase was done, I wiped it down, and then David pulled it out and vacuumed behind it. Then I put every single book back on the shelves. Ten thousand squats! I could hardly walk the next day. We cleaned up an antique chest of drawers and moved David’s grandmother’s dining room table in there. It had been in the garage for three years! Murphy’s Oil Soap is a wonderful invention. I spent some of the Christmas money I received from my mom on art supplies and moved all of my old art supplies and my sewing machine into that room. While I was looking for old paintings, I found a substantial length of dark red fabric, so I turned it into window treatments and a matching seat cover for the chair. I rounded up some favorite mugs and repurposed them, too. Here are some before and after photos.

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Like most of you, we also spent more time than we would ever want staring at the television screen, stunned at the news. People were in the streets in Missouri, New York, Paris…. The mind boggles.

Even with all the undecorating and return to work, we did find time to grill salmon in the dark,

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make the best New Year’s Day pork roast ever, thanks to Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead cookbook,

Make It Ahead and sip tea in our new teal tea pot,

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also compliments of my mom. I’ve spent some time on resolutions and plans, which I will share with you in another post, coming up soon. Here’s hoping for a nice, dull 2015.

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*Note: For those of you who didn’t know, my husband was our son’s realtor.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books and reading, Family, Life's Travails- Big and Small

Yew Might Be a Redneck…

2014-12-07 18.53.49We’ve spent two days here trying to get a respectable Christmas tree up. First came the fluffing of the branches: assembling my mom’s old artificial tree, with bits of greenery snapping off as we go along. We have a whole grocery bag full of detached fake spruce segments now. After that, it was pretty late last night when we were trying to string the lights. I said, “If we can just put the lights and the garland on, we’ll finish decorating tomorrow.” Michael was at a birthday party by this time, and David’s and my Christmas Spirit tank was on E. Plug in first set of lights: half-dead. Second set: ditto. We threw away three sets of lights.

Today, refreshed and renewed, we bought lights and all three of us gathered ’round. The lights and the garland are now on, but just as I pulled out the first package of balls, my son said, “But Dad! Shouldn’t we try to put it on the stand before we go any further, since the clamp broke?” Me, shrilly: “What? What clamp? What?” David, calmly: “No problem. I’m going to duct tape it.” And he proceeded to do just that, as you can see. Here’s hopin’.

However, decorating has come to a complete halt, since we carefully removed every hook from the decorations last year and sealed them neatly in a zip-lock bag. If you happen to see a zip-lock bag full of hooks, please let me know. We’ve searched all the way up to the attic, but my living room floor is still fully decorated with hookless ornaments.

Merry Christmas.

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Filed under Family, Life's Travails- Big and Small

Call Me Eowyn

House of HealingThis is probably the longest stretch between posts that I’ve ever had! We have been holed up here in the House of Healing for the fall. I returned to my doctor last week to receive a clean bill of health, although I have to remain on Nexium until the Saturday before Thanksgiving. If I have problems after that, it’s swallow-the-light time. However, I feel so much better that I hope for good things.

TrubioticsRight now, I am on a kick in which I eat everything with good bacteria in it, since I have effectively killed every bit of bacteria I ever had with nuclear doses of antibiotics. Eating bacteria on purpose has never been a goal of mine before, but now I can direct you all over the grocery store for gut-gratifying foods. The pharmacist recommended a 30-day course of TruBiotics, the One a Day brand probiotic supplement, so that was step one. I already eat Fage yogurt every day, and I decided that I would also drink kefir, since I used to drink that in my ‘70s health food days. GoatLet me just say that the fruity—obviously sugary—kefir that I drank then was much more pleasant than unsweetened kefir, which is a serious assault to the taste buds. I’ve tried sweetening it up with different things that are acceptable to diabetics, but , well, *shudder*. Sauerkraut that is found in the deli section, as opposed to canned sauerkraut with vinegar, is also filled with busy little creatures.  The hot dogs I’ve eaten it with are probably not so healthful.

A few weeks ago my son went in for some minor surgery, so we’ve been worrying over him and helping as much as we can. We are all getting better here! We have had flu shots! We have excellent digestive health—barring any unexpected Ebola outbreaks! Soon we will have our fireplace tank filled with kerosene, and we will be ready for the snowy winter forecast!

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Filed under Family, Food, Life's Travails- Big and Small

That Little Burn Might Be Telling You Something

FlamesC.S. Lewis, writing in Mere Christianity, says that a person who seems to be a grump may really be someone with a bad digestion, whereas we may believe that we are “nice,” when we actually just enjoy good health. None of us know what’s on the inside of another person, so we shouldn’t judge. At the end of all things, we will see each person without earthly complications:

All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.*

How true it is that a bad digestion can change your perspective on life! A few weeks ago, I started feeling some mild heartburn. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but people on low-carbohydrate diets don’t get heartburn. This is a well-kept secret, but it’s true. My husband used to suffer from heartburn pretty regularly, but when he eats low-carb, he never does. Try it. You’ll see a change pretty quickly. However, it is difficult to go to the doctor with mild heartburn. She’ll look at you blankly, tell you to take Tums, and think that you’re wasting her time. But it had been years since I’d felt this burn, so I worried that something was wrong.

About two weeks ago, the heartburn exploded into fire. We had had a tailgating dinner on Saturday, with stuffed jalapeños and chipotle hot dogs, but I only had mild discomfort. On Monday, we had leftovers for dinner, and there really weren’t that many, so I thought I’d be fine. A few hours later, I was in intense pain. Around ten o’clock, I couldn’t sit down any more, and I paced the floor until four in the morning, with breaks to look up symptoms of “heart attack in women” and “gallbladder attacks.” It was awful. I actually got to sleep at about 8 AM, sitting up on the sofa.

Urgent CareNow, a normal person would go to the doctor after that, but I put it down to spicy food and decided I’d be fine. For the rest of the week, I just had that mild burn, but it was there all the time. On the following Saturday, I woke up feeling as if I’d drunk scalding hot soup, and it had scarred my esophagus all the way down, and all the way up into my sinuses. We went to urgent care—for hours. One of the first things the doctor said to me was, “You thought you were having a heart attack, so you went on the internet?” Hey, I am a librarian. That is how we roll. Every problem can be solved by research and reading. After doing an EKG to rule out heart problems (thank goodness), he handed me this little cup of nasty pink stuff that made me feel as if a dentist had anaesthetized me all the way down to my stomach. It was horribly lovely. He did a few more things, and then opined that it was an ulcer, and that I should go to my regular doctor for a blood test for h. pylori bacteria.

Of course, that led me to the internet. According to WebMD, 80-90% of all ulcers are caused by the h. pylori bacterium, and half of the people over 60 in the United States have h. pylori bacteria in their stomachs. It is the most common infection in the world. The discovery of this bacterium’s role in stomach ulcers is very recent: the 2005 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine went to the two physicians who established the link. Think of all the years that people used to spend drinking milk, avoiding spicy food, and trying not to be stressed! Spicy food and stress can stir up your ulcer, but the ulcer has to be there in the first place. More dangerously, untreated h. pylori infections can lead to stomach cancer.

h pylori bacterium

An h. pylori bacterium

When I went to my doctor on Monday, she did the blood test, but also sent me to a radiology clinic for an ultrasound of my gallbladder. I had never been to our new hospital or the surrounding medical plaza, and it is only five minutes from our house! Considering that we live in the hinterlands, that is incredible. I was impressed. The technician told me that she would not be able to give me the results, so I just lay there and watched the screen. Did you know that your insides are always moving around? It’s like a sci-fi movie in there. As I watched, I became concerned at the dark spots I could see, but I didn’t want to ask. Eventually, just before the end of the exam, I said casually, “So, what are we looking at?” She cheerfully answered, “This is your liver.” In my mind, I screamed, Oh, my gosh! My liver is full of holes! I must have some kind of parasite that’s digging holes into my internal organs! Then she continued, “And these dark spots are your blood vessels.” Whewwww!

After waiting several days for all of the results, my scan came back clean. I now know that my liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and right kidney are in great shape. That knowledge is somehow very satisfying. Not that we need to know all those things all the time, but the state of our internal organs is generally a mystery. The h. pylori test, though, came back positive. The definition of h. pylori sounds like a third-world disease that one contracts from living with swine. However, as I said above, it is astoundingly common. The cure is a nuclear bomb of two separate antibiotics at 3000 mg. per day, plus Nexium. Plus, for women, fluconazole and lots of yogurt. This combination has curtailed any activity outside of my house, which means that I’m working from home and not walking in the park.

NexiumAfter hanging out in my pharmacy for hours last week, I learned quite a bit about Nexium, which I will share for your edification. The urgent care doctor had called in a prescription, and the co-pay, after my very excellent pharmacy insurance, was $85. Yikes! The pharmacist told me that Nexium had recently become available over the counter, so I bought that for $20. It didn’t do much. Five days later, when the nurse at my doctor’s office called with test results, she asked me for the strength of the OTC Nexium, which was 22.3 mg. The prescription stuff is 40 mg. Even doubled, though, the OTC price is still half of the prescription price, and Wal-Mart sells it for $3 less than the drug store. Now that I’m taking the right dosage, it is my heartfelt belief that Nexium is a beautiful thing. No more pain; just a continually full feeling and the sensation that what I eat (mostly pills) is not getting all the way down. The weirdest side effect of the antibiotics is a nasty taste in my mouth in the morning, and I’m not sure if it’s the drugs or rafts of dead bacteria washing ashore on the back of my tongue. Bleh.

You may have noticed from the blog that I’m getting a lot of reading done. It’s amazing how much more time you have when you take away the getting dressed, packing lunch, driving to and from work time. I’ll keep on posting the reviews! In the meantime, I’ll try to remember C.S. Lewis’ advice and never again dismiss stomach troubles as no big deal. As a matter of fact, I keep telling my husband, “Don’t make me stressed, now. Remember that I have an ulcer.” He rolls his eyes.

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*There are so many editions of Mere Christianity, but in my 1952 MacMillan paperback copy, this quote is on page 86. It is Book 3, Part 4.

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She’s Still Waiting. Here’s Why.

Zora Off to Kindergarten

Zora Carlin’s First Day of Kindergarten

Remember the battle we all fought last spring to legalize cannabidiol (CBD) extract for the children suffering from intractable epilepsy? Remember how exhilarated we all were when the governor signed the bill into law on July 3rd? We thought that was the end of the story, and now the children could line up for their medication and their lives would blossom into health and hope.

Well, the devil is in the details.

As soon as the bill was passed, amendments were added that required clinical trials at our local university hospitals. Now, that is not a bad thing in itself, as trials are important to establish the efficacy of new medications, but pilot studies and clinical trials are expensive, and the hospitals were reluctant to front the money. Doctors, with an eye to legal entanglements, were reluctant to prescribe a medication that had not passed tests. It’s a Catch-22. There has been a trial in New York using a European brand of CBD, but only the children in the study are able to access the drug.

The salient point for the families of children with intractable epilepsy is this: even though CBD is now legal in North Carolina, it is not available! Three hospitals are supposed to participate in a broader trial in a few months (UNC, Duke, and Wake Baptist), but the total number of patients tested will be 40—worldwide! Furthermore, this trial will be limited to Dravet Syndrome patients only; children with other forms of intractable epilepsy will not be part of the study, and will not have an opportunity to receive the drug. After the trials are over, there is no guarantee that the FDC will approve the drug, and even if they do, it could take years.

Unfortunately, synthetic variations of CBD are being manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. These synthetic CBD preparations do not have the success rate of the natural substance, and some unscrupulous companies are actually selling “watered-down” CDB oil as the real thing, as you can read in this article. However, there is just so much space in Colorado for growing Charlotte’s Web, the hemp strain from which CBD oil is extracted, and it is illegal to grow it here in North Carolina.

So, how about the kids? What was this all about, anyway? Did we pray, write to our representatives and senators, have difficult conversations with young congressional staffers, and relentlessly push all of our friends and relations to do the same so that doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies could hem and haw, worrying about their legal fees and their bottom lines? No! We wanted these suffering children to get help, and it turns out that those who were supposed to help them have suddenly realized that it is much easier to talk about saving sick children than it is to wade through red tape or take legal risks.

Charlotte's Web logoHowever, we are not without hope. Realm of Caring (RoC), the non-profit organization in Colorado that has been growing Charlotte’s Web and processing CBD for the past few years— as well as staging its own clinical trials and publishing the results— has established a liaison with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), and Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia) to introduce a federal bill to legalize Charlotte’s Web. The goal of the bill is to establish what has been shown in state legislatures to be the simplest way to legalize cannabidiol: refine the definition of marijuana so that industrial hemp and cannabidiol do not fall under the current marijuana laws, since they are both just plant products that do not have psychotropic properties. This bill is called the Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014, and is now H.R. 5226 in the US Congress. If the bill passes, it will be legal to grow and process cannabidiol anywhere in the US, greatly increasing the supply and availability. I won’t even begin to discuss the boon this would be to agriculture everywhere. Dwindling tobacco allotments? Not a problem anymore.

The Realm of Caring has posted the bill online and created a way for you to send a message to your federal representatives. Please click on the link for the bill above and let them know that you are in favor of getting this medication to suffering children all over America. After letting them know your thoughts, you can track the bill here. Can you see that it has a low expected success rate? That’s because not enough people have responded. Even if you drove your state representatives crazy with all of your phone calls and emails, your representatives in Washington, D.C, know nothing about this issue and will need lots of education. They need to know that their constituents care passionately about a topic that may seem esoteric to them. Don’t worry about bothering them; from the state of things, it doesn’t seem that they’re busy accomplishing anything else.

As you can see from the photo at the top, Zora has started kindergarten, with help from a wonderful team. You can follow Zora’s journey on her Facebook page. Thank you so much for caring.

Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed are just that: opinions. They are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any of the families of children with intractable epilepsy.

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Filed under Dravet Syndrome, Life's Travails- Big and Small

Spartan Up, Y’all!

As you know if you’ve been here for a while, David and I lost weight a couple of years ago by walking on a treadmill—and starving, of course. Well, the treadmill broke and twenty of the thirty pounds that I had lost have come creeping back. I’m not saying which of the three people in this house broke the treadmill, but I will say that it took me by surprise when I went to walk on it one day and nothing happened. We kept on meaning to fix it, but it needed the entire electronic console, and the treadmill was so old that they didn’t make it anymore.

Spartan Up

Yes, that is a duct tape spine.

Well, last week was quite eventful. I had an annual physical that did not go well, and David had a similar experience with his physician. Furthermore, I had yet another birthday, and to go along with this whole concatenation of events, the library received the book Spartan Up!, by Joe De Sena. In case you haven’t heard of Spartan Races, as I had not, they are events in which Joe tries to kill you so that you can feel better about yourself and life in general. Seriously, the runners have to sign a waiver that states that they might die, and they need to be OK with that. This interests me not at all, but the subtitle, A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life, got my attention. I was exactly at a point in my life where I needed someone to kick me in the backside (to be nice about it), and Joe is an undisputed expert at that. He is extremely motivational, and he gives his opinion as to what makes some people winners in life. First, just plain ol’ grit, the ability to endure pain over the long haul. Secondly, the ability to delay gratification (so hard!). Thirdly, the ability to constantly change your frame of reference. That one was tough for me to understand at first, but he spent some time on it. Simply put, for De Sena, the Spartan Race is created to be so long and difficult, and to be filled with so many surprise obstacles, that your brain and body will be pushed beyond their limits. If you do this sort of training often enough, you will be so tough that you will not whine as if your life is over if the barista makes your latté wrong. Your frame of reference will have changed.

De Sena is incredibly hard on himself. He has not always been an athlete, but rather had a desk job and was bored with life and unhappy with the shape he was in. He and a friend started staging races, began researching health and exercise, and eventually founded a huge company that hosts races around the world. He spends a lot of the book describing the events, most of which I skimmed, but if you like that sort of thing, they do seem amazing. His coaching, though, is what I was after, and he is so tough! If you hit the snooze button, you’ve already lost for the day. Run first thing every morning, so that everything else is easier. He is particularly fond of burpees, which I thought was a seed catalog, but I Googled it, and they are a particularly torturous type of exercise. Look it up; I could never even do one. Maybe some day. However, his training advice covers all areas of life, not just the physical, and I have reread those sections a couple of times. Good stuff, if you need some motivation.

Skechers Go Walk

My Skechers are not pink, but these Go Walks are just so cute!

Back to the birthday. I had unashamedly asked for money for my birthday, since I have needed a new winter coat for a couple of years. I had saved up a bit, and my givers were very generous (especially my husband), so after I ordered the coat, I looked up some walking shoes I had seen in a TV commercial just a few days earlier. Skechers Go Walk shoes are supposed to be very light and lined with a wicking fabric so that you can wear them with no socks. They have a finger loop in the back so that you can just pull them on. I immediately wanted some, since I need to remove all barriers that get between me and exercise, including putting on socks and lacing shoes. Plus, it may be a Southern thing, but I love to be as close to barefoot as possible as often as possible. They had lots of styles, and I got myself a pair of Skechers Go Walk Ultimates. Woo-hoo! I had a big plan to get up earlier, drive to work in my walking shoes, and walk in the lovely park behind our office building every morning. Getting up earlier would just about kill me, but I had read Spartan Up! by then, so I thought could do it.

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Facing the TV, so I don’t have to think too hard.

Just for fun, I clicked onto Craig’s List to see if I could find anything decent in the way of exercise equipment, and lo and behold, someone had just posted a Vision Fitness treadmill for a great price! It was a gym-quality machine, which we need because some of us might put too much stress on a small, folding treadmill. Maybe. David and I counted our pennies and leftover birthday money, and we could get it without being late on any bills, so I immediately texted the seller. We met him the next day, and he even had a big van so that he could deliver it despite the threat of rain. He was a really nice guy and was interested in our old treadmill. I told him he could have it if he took it away. So he, David, and Michael struggled to get this monster machine down the winding stairs and out the door with just a moderate amount of damage to the house and their backs.

I am still marveling at how all of these events came together. We have cleaned the annual birthday carbs out of the house, and I have walked on our new treadmill two days in a row now. My new shoes should be here within a week, and I hope they are as fabulous as they seem. I will go to see my doctor again in February, and I hope to wow her with my amazing progress. In the meantime, I am going around my house saying, “Spartan up!” to pretty much any situation that’s not meeting my expectations. Since neither of my guys have read the book yet, they just patiently sigh and say, “Yeah, whatever.”

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Filed under Book Reviews, Diabetes, Family, Life's Travails- Big and Small

The Upside of Car Crashes

ImageAs many of you know, my sweet husband was recently in a car crash. He was innocently driving down a six-lane divided road around dusk when a woman coming from the opposite direction decided to make a left turn in front of oncoming traffic. Air bags, smoke, crushed metal, the works, and she says to David, “Didn’t you see me coming?” To which he replied, “Yes, I saw your passenger door in front of my front fender.”

So, as the smoke cleared and the cars were towed away—no ambulances, thank the Lord!—we realized that my realtor husband now had no way to do his job. After a slow start, the insurance company finally got it in gear and called Enterprise. They picked him up!  Every day late last week, David walked into the house beaming at the end of the day. He’d say, “This car is so sweet!” Or, “What an awesome sound system!” We had a family reunion last weekend, and I was eager to spend some time in this vehicle.

It is a shiny, new, black Hyundai Genesis. My sister looked it up, and it costs about $50,000. Y’all, the floors are cushioned. I kid you not. It has separate air conditioner controls for the driver and passenger, and heated seats which, of course, we did not try. It drives like a dream without all the road noise I get in my little PT Cruiser. The headlights move around somehow when you turn.

2014-06-29 13.23.14But the sound system… ooooh! We gathered up all of our loudest music and played it continuously for four hours on the way to South Carolina. We sang at the top of our lungs and probably looked like Amy Farrah Fowler and Wolowitz belting out Neil Diamond songs in his car—except that there was absolutely no Neil Diamond. We skipped any ballads that came up and went with all the best bass lines and guitar licks ever recorded. I think I could live on the first note of Heart’s “Magic Man” for a week. We stopped at the South Carolina Welcome Center for necessities, and at the Bishopville Exxon for the best Cajun boiled peanuts in America, but otherwise we sailed on for four hours of sound. I arrived at my mom’s house with a dull headache, melted eardrums, and a goofy grin.

But now, after the Hyundai Genesis weekend, we’re back to the reality of a very unsatisfactory offer from the insurance company. Drat. So now we have to struggle to replace David’s car, and it certainly won’t be a Hyundai Genesis. For me, it’s back to the PT Cruiser. On the upside, my little car does have more cupholders than the Hyundai, so in that way, it is a vastly superior vehicle. Let’s focus on that. Sure.

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Filed under Life's Travails- Big and Small, Music

Victory for the Children

Families at legislative buildingNothing eloquent to write tonight. Just a full heart and the wonderful feeling of gratitude that so many individuals’ hard work came to a victorious conclusion today. Governor McCrory has agreed to sign House Bill 1220, which passed this afternoon. It gives me hope that sensible people can see the truth– if they have the right people to guide them along.

If you are one of those who wrote to her senator or representative, or who talked to his friends about it, or who called a legislator on the phone, I wanted you to see this picture of just a few of the families that you helped. Even if you just patiently listened to me blather on these past few months, thank you for being kind. And if you prayed, let’s all thank the Lord tonight– and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

God bless you.

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Filed under Christian Life, Dravet Syndrome, Life's Travails- Big and Small

God’s Not Dead Movie: First Amendment, Part 2

God's Not Dead movie posterAnd now to the movie.

If you’re not familiar with the plot line, God’s Not Dead is about a college freshman whose philosophy professor forces everyone to write “God is dead” on a paper and sign it the first day of class. He says that since that’s already settled by all intelligent people, they can then move on to the more interesting parts of the class. Our hero, Josh Wheaton, just can’t bring himself to do it, so he is forced to give a series of lectures to the class over the next few weeks, trying to prove the existence of God. (I think I was more shocked that the rest of the class said, “Oh, OK,” and just scribbled on the papers and handed them in. You have to assume that most of them grew up with enough religion to at least feel jittery about it.) I was worried that the writers would portray Josh as incredibly arrogant with all the right answers, but they didn’t. He was a wreck about it and had to study really hard. I was pleased that he fought science with science, rather than with Bible passages. However, I think that the movie will strengthen believers rather than convince unbelievers, but I could be wrong.

There were all sorts of subplots, of course, concerning relationships, suffering, death, and difficult choices. The professor was really easy to hate, and acted as if his greatest mission in life were to destroy everything these kids had learned from their families. All of the adult and student characters intertwined in many ways, and the story was absorbing and well-written with some humorous moments. One story line concerned a young Muslim woman, and another a boy from China. Great lines at the registration table:

Paul Kwo

Girl working for the university: “What’s PRC?”

Boy: “People’s Republic of China.”

Girl: “Are you serious?”

Boy: “I am always serious.”

 

And he is, too. His character is adorable.

As expected, there were some hokey parts, but not as many as I had dreaded. First of all, the Newsboys? I used to love this Aussie/Kiwi band, but few of the original members are still there—perhaps the drummer—and they have a completely different sound. They used to be edgy and fun, but now they are more middle-of-the-road, and the years are taking their toll. As my brother-in-law said, “At this point, I think we can honestly begin to call them The Newsmen.” They are still friendly and kind, though, and play an important part in the movie.

Newsboys 1990s

The Newsboys 1996

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newsboys 2012

The Newsboys 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robertsons movieSecondly, why must Christians be represented by Duck Dynasty? Perhaps they made a tidy contribution to the production. In any case, Willie and Korie Robertson, who seem like perfectly nice people, are in a scene in which they talk to a reporter about their faith. I think they’re going into a church, in which case I do not understand why Mrs. Robertson is dressed like a sl—that is, a woman of loose morals. And what’s with this beard and sunglasses thing? Is this a ZZ Top devotion run amuck? This whole phenomenon is baffling to me.

I was fascinated when, at the end of the film, the credits rolled and revealed that this movie was based on over 40 cases that had been filed by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of students who had been harassed or persecuted for their religion by an institution of higher learning. The name and a short description of each case rolled by in two very long columns. Not surprisingly, one was at UNC Chapel-Hill, and another UNC Wilmington.

UNC Chapel HillAcademia is only one arena in the startling rise in the persecution of Christians in the United States. Usually, it is subtle, although my son tells me that he had at least two professors who were virulently anti-Christian. It is generally assumed by the faculty that all well-educated people hold Christians in contempt as either ignorant or hateful. Most of us get through because we want to learn the course material, and it was a very enlightening and broadening experience for me, as I was able to see some very good hearts in action, even though their worldviews were completely different from mine. Then again, I was not asked to sign my faith away.

In the wider world, however, all people of faith have enjoyed freedom in the United States because of our First Amendment rights and our belief that certain rights have been given by our creator, not by the government, and are therefore immutable. This is no longer the case. Christians are supposed to be very quiet about their faith now. Just recently, Governor Scott Walker tweeted Philippians 4:13 [“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”]. He didn’t even tweet the verse, just the reference. Social media went nuts. People opined that government officials should not be able to use religious references, and others went even further to shriek that he was trying to take over the country in God’s name! A bit reactionary, I think. When I heard it, I thought he was probably thinking, “I can stay awake in this next boring meeting through Christ who strengthens me.” That’s about my speed, anyway.

Zoar UMCSince the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we have been hearing about the government making decisions about which churches really believe certain dogma or whether individuals belong to the right churches or groups to hold certain beliefs. All the while, we are reassured that we will be able to retain freedom of worship. Any student of history should jump at that phrase. In 1930s Germany, the government decided which were true churches, registered those churches with the state, forbade anyone from attending any other church, and assured the population that they still had freedom of worship. “Freedom of worship” means that the government will allow you to go into a specified building on your specified day of worship for a specified amount of time to worship whatever it is you worship. For the other six and a half days, though, you’re expected to act like a person with some sense: a secular citizen. That is not freedom of religion or freedom of thought.

I have a Parsi friend who told me about herself and her religion when we were first getting to know each other years ago. She told me that she had moved to the United States from India, but that her Zoroastrian family was originally from Iran, and that they had had to flee to India to escape Muslim persecution. I pictured her as a little girl, desperately making this trip in the middle of the night with her parents and siblings, arriving in a foreign land to start life anew. Oh, no. She was talking about the Islamic invasion of Persia in 651 A.D. I was stunned. This woman’s religion was such an integral part of her identity that her ancient ancestors were as real to her as her family today. It was not just her heritage, either; she is a devout Zoroastrian.*

Secularists do not understand this worldview. They act as if religion is your Sunday-go-to-meetin’ purse, which you put away after church and then use your everyday handbag the rest of the time. People of faith, though, don’t think of religion as something they pick up and put down, but rather as a defining part of themselves, like the DNA in every cell that makes you who you are and from which you act and think. It permeates you and influences your entire life. Oppression and persecution may winnow away the casual church-goers, bShhh lipsut believers will be forced to suffer in the land of liberty as they try to exercise their freedom of speech. Fortunately for the rest of humankind, their message is good tidings of great joy for all people.

“God is not a secret to be kept.”—The Newsboys (1996)

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*Her story so inspired me that I did a major paper on the Parsi for my graduate Social Sciences Reference class. If you ever want to chat about the Parsi or Zoroastrianism, I can talk your ear off.

Disclaimer: This article is designed to express thoughts from the inside of a group of people I love to those who may not be aware of their suffering. It is not my intention to hurt or offend, merely to raise awareness and perhaps to offer a new perspective.

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John Knox: Shaken, Not Stirred

Image“I meant to make a Presbyterian last night,” Michael announced one Saturday morning, “but then I fell asleep and I forgot.” Since I have positive feelings towards Presbyterians in general and am extremely fond of several Presbyterians in particular, I was quite unsettled by this Frankensteinish statement. Michael saw my shocked face and gestured to the coffee table. “It’s a drink.” Aha! A “Presbyterian” is the name of a cocktail in a recent alcohol-soaked issue of Garden & Gun featuring a chilled silver cup of Mint Julep on the cover. According to G&G, Presbyterians are made of bourbon or rye with ginger ale. Sure they are. Other offerings include a Dark & Stormy, with dark rum, ginger, and other secret ingredients, and a Spicy Shrub Paloma, with tequila, lime, and expensive-sounding things. This one looks cool and refreshing, and is topped with a big bunch of sage. Check ‘em out here. No lightning bolts required.

ImageWill Spring Ever Get Here?

I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow in one winter since we lived in Kentucky. Every year, I say that I won’t be ready to dig a garden until we have at least one snowfall. Well, I have been so ready for so long! We’ve had several snowfalls or ice storms that were significant enough to keep us housebound for a couple of days, although we have been fortunate to avoid power outages, unlike some of our co-workers.

Now that it is officially, legally spring, the Bradford pears are desperately trying to bloom, but the gray skies and cool temperatures were making it tough. We finally had an almost sunny morning yesterday, so I stopped to take a picture of these Bradfords, standing all in a row, valiantly trying to push those blossoms out. Since it is forecast to be in the seventies this weekend, I was starting to feel hopeful about that gardening.

Then I got to work and someone said: “Did you hear that we’re supposed to have ice and snow again Monday night?” It makes me want to push the blossoms back in for another week.

You Promised: No Island

ImageYes, David and I are the last people on the planet to watch the series Lost. So many people talk about it without explanations that I started to feel as if I were missing a chunk of cultural literacy. Happily, it is available everywhere, so we ordered up the first season from Netflix, but before we started watching, I asked Michael, “This isn’t one of those shows where they land on a deserted island, and people get voted off the island each week, is it?” He replied, “You’re thinking of Survivor.” So I felt better.

First episode: A plane crashes on a deserted island. Hey, wait! Michael said, “Give it three episodes.” So we did, and we really like it. No one gets voted off the island, although a few people have died, and there are surprises all the time. Each episode highlights one character’s back story, so we’ve gotten completely tangled up in everyone’s lives. We’re at the end of season one, and we look forward to season two, right after…

House of Cards! Since everyone is talking about this now, I thought we’d get our cultural literacy in a few years earlier this time. Michael assures me that I will not like it, because it has too much profanity. He’s usually right about these things, but don’t tell him I said that. I’ll let you know. For those of you who, like me, wondered if it was only on Netflix streaming, I can tell you that season one is available on disc, too. Queue up, as they say in Britain.

Turns out that our new knowledge was gained not a moment too soon. Now that there is another jet—I mean, a real jet—that has gone missing in the Pacific, everybody is talking about Lost again! This time, I can just nod sagaciously and make cool remarks. Of course, it’s like being on the other side of the television show, as if we’re the people looking for Jack and Kate and the gang. Since I don’t know how the show ends, I won’t compare too closely, but I do hope we can find the real plane.

ImageEven Boomers Are Geeks

My husband called me on my office phone this afternoon: “I’m in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and I can’t find an email or text with the grocery list on it.”

“I didn’t send you an email or text with the list.”

Silent confusion on the other end.

“I said it to you. “ Pause. “This morning. At breakfast.”

“Oh!” Pause.

Me: “Do you want to hang up and I’ll text it to you?”

“No, I guess you can say it and I’ll write it down.”

Remember notepaper tacked on to the fridge with magnets? Not any more.

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Filed under Family, Life's Travails- Big and Small, Men and Women