Monthly Archives: January 2014

Brandy

“A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double.”
– Toni Morrison

Have I ever mentioned that I have an 11-year-old sister?

Yep, it’s true.  My teenage children have an 11-year-old Aunt Brandy.  I know, crazy, right?  (And you better believe she tries to use that fact when they’re arguing over something…”You HAVE to listen to me, I’m your aunt!”…)

familysibsNow, Brandy’s not my only sister, mind you.  I’m actually the oldest of a clan of six.  My mom and dad split when I was just a baby, so I’m the only biological child they had.  But then my mom remarried and had my three sisters and one brother.  My dad, on the other hand, didn’t get around to having any more children until much later in life when Brandy came along, so now he is the proud father of two daughters….24 years apart!

Well, recently I’ve started to notice something.  I’m thinking this whole ‘writing’ thing may have come from my dad’s side of the family.  Because that little 11-year-old has some seriously mad skills with the written word.

Here, let me show you something.

Sleepless

No dreams. No rest. No nothing. Night after night of restlessness. Night turns into day, and day into night. Over and over again. No sleep. Sleepless.

I lay awake on a cold, rainy night. Looking out the window and seeing all the lights off I think “Ah. So many people can get sleep. But, why can’t I?” The windows are as cold as ice. Touching the window made my fingers numb. But, I still feel that lifeless cold against my fingers as I look out into the darkness. No sleep. None.

Sleep well, my friends. Because there are those who are sleepless night after night…

Umm…hello!?  Did I mention she’s ELEVEN YEARS OLD?  Look out, missyspublicjunk, I think brandysbetteratthisthanmissy is on your tail!

Or, how about this one?

Hard To Love

Have you ever felt like you can’t be loved or you can’t love anyone? Truth is, everyone in some way is hard to love.

Maybe it’s that little anger issue you have. Or you cry so easily that your friends tease you over it. It could be that you won “Miss Drama Queen Of The Year.” You could like nerds and geeks. You could have likes and dislikes far bizarre than others’. You might put up a wall between you and other people. And there’s still over millions of other things that make people hard to love! But we all are human beings. We have our flaws. We are who we are. You should be proud of yourself for all that you’ve done!

So next time when you feel unloved, remember, you’re not the only one. EVERYONE is hard to love.

Again.  ELEVEN.

How about this line from a poem she wrote entitled “I Am From”:

“I am from darkness, with pieces of heaven falling down…”

I am just absolutely blown away at the talent this little girl possesses.  I wonder if she knows that?  I’ve told her so, but I wonder if she really knows it, you know?

My dad told me that she has been reading my blog.  He thinks that seeing what I have written has influenced and encouraged her to write.  Wow.  How proud I am to have influenced something so great.

mebranSee, I used to be eleven, too.  I used to sit in my room writing feverishly in my little trapper keeper.  Poems, stories, journal entries.  You name it, I wrote it.  And I didn’t show anyone.  What if they didn’t like it?  What if they made fun of me?  But not this 11-year-old.  This girl is putting her writing out there for the world to see.  Thank goodness she has that kind of courage.  It took me over 30 years to find it.

This girl is going to go places.  And I hope she knows how proud of her I am.

Thanks for letting me take the time to brag on my little sis.

***

“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”
– Marion C. Garretty

Scary Stuff

“In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
Bertrand Russell

If you’re my Facebook friend, you’ve probably seen my posts related to the fact that I was sick last week.  If you’re a blog reader who is not a Facebook friend, then you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been somewhat AWOL for a while.  Well, let me give you a run down on why that is.  (And stick with me now…I’m not just whining about my ‘illness.’  There’s a point to this, I promise.)

[Although, feeling sorry for me about my illness is totally acceptable.  Welcomed even.  And, hey, if you want to swing by and cook me dinner one night or have some flowers sent to me or anything, I’m cool with that, too.  *Ahhem.*  Ok, continuing on…]

Early last week, a slight dizziness I had previously started to notice suddenly and unexpectedly went full force on me.  It got to the point where I could barely stand up without needing to hold on to a wall.  I went to the doctor on Wednesday (a new doctor, by the way, because of my new location – not my previous doctor…This info is important, so remember that…), and after a thorough exam and no findings of any inner ear infections (which I had suspected) or anything of that nature, I was diagnosed with BPPV.  That stands for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which basically means unexplained vertigo.  So, given this diagnosis, I proceeded to take the prescribed anti-nausea and motion sickness medicine, and work on some physical exercises that were supposed to help me regain my balance.

Well, nothing worked.  In fact, I only got worse.  And worse.  And worse.

It got to the point where dizziness was the least of my concerns.  My right arm started at first to just tingle (like it was asleep), but then to almost get to the point where it wasn’t functioning at all.  I caught myself reaching over with my left hand to move my right arm where it needed to go.  And then, it started affecting my legs.

My legs.

I’m a runner, for goodness sakes.  And suddenly, in a matter of a week, I went from being a runner to barely being able to walk.  Nothing “hurt” really.  They just wouldn’t work.  It was a crazy feeling…it was like I couldn’t concentrate and think well enough to tell my legs to move like they were supposed to.  I was terrified.

I went to the ER.  Twice.  They couldn’t find anything wrong with me.  NOTHING.  My heart was fine.  My brain was fine.  (Ha!  The quacks…) But seriously, nothing was showing up on any tests.  My body was falling apart, and there was no explanation whatsoever.  One of my Facebook contacts referred to me as a “drama queen,” and while it thoroughly pissed me off (you go from being an avid runner to practically not even being able to move in a week and let me know how ‘dramatic’ it feels to you, pal!), I was starting to think he had a point.  I felt like death was imminent (not much exaggeration there, trust me), and there was no discernible reason for it.

I was losing my mind.

So, there I was, huddled into a ball on the bed on Friday night when I got a message from my sweet friend Iman asking how I was doing.  There are some people in your life who ask that question and you reply, “I’m fine.”  Then there are the people in your life like Iman.  The people who know better than to ask that question if they don’t really want the truth, because they’re about to get it.  So, I told her.  I told her how bad it had gotten and how desperate I was feeling.  And how scared.  She immediately tried helping by asking all the questions that the doctors had asked.  What are my symptoms, how long have they been going on, have I tried this, have I tried that, am I on any particular medications….we went through the whole nine yards of questioning.  And then…

She asked a question the doctors hadn’t asked.  And one that I had never even thought to mention.

Have you recently stopped taking any medications?

*Ding ding ding*

Now, I’ve been told I have a wide reach with this blog.  And that I have more of an influence on people with my words than I may even realize.  So, I guess you could say this blog serves as my soapbox.  Or, my platform, if you will.  And with that being the case, I’m about to utilize that in a way that I think is very important.  I’m about to talk about the thing that is supposed to be kept secret.  The thing no one is supposed to talk about in polite company.  The thing I should be ashamed of.  The thing some people (including members of my own family) look down on and think less of you for because it admits ‘weakness.’

That thing?  Depression meds.  Yep, I was on them.

That’s right.  Me.  The girl who writes these uplifting blogs.  Who always sees the bright side of things, the underlying lessons in the hard times, the silver lining…blah, blah, blah.  Yep, that same girl has been on depression medication for the past few months.  (And guess what?  It wasn’t the first time, either.)

About 3 months ago, I went to my family doctor over a sore throat.  While I was there, I described to her how ‘low’ I had been lately.  I wasn’t interested in my usual things anymore (running, theatre, writing…) and I was very snippy.  Not only at home with my poor kids and boyfriend, but also at work.  I just seemed to be on edge all of the time and there was no apparent reason why.  So, we discussed my taking a low-dose depression med, and I agreed.

And it helped.  It really did.  In no time, I felt my old self coming back.  I just needed a little jump start.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I caught myself skipping a pill here and there, and at this point I realized I had already missed about 4 days in a row.  So, I thought, I don’t need this stuff anymore.  All is well.  So, I stopped them altogether.

Well, guess what?  You’re not supposed to do that.

I had heard that you’re not supposed to stop those meds cold turkey like that.  That you’re supposed to wean off of them with a doctor’s advice.  But psssh.  In my usual Melissa way, I ignored that and just did it my way.  And buddy, let me tell ya, I suffered the consequences.

Immediately after Iman’s suggestion, I googled the side effects of stopping these meds.  Everything matched to a tee.  Apparently I was having severe withdrawal symptoms.  My new doctor didn’t catch that, because when asked if I was on any medications, I said no.  I didn’t think to mention that I had stopped one a few weeks ago – didn’t think it mattered.  (Lesson learned.)  So…I immediately dug them back out, took one, and waited to see what happened.  I woke up the next day feeling some better.  Took another, and woke up the next day feeling 100% back to normal.

Just like that.

No dizziness, no nausea, my legs and arms worked.  No more confusion, no more mood swings.  Just like that – I was ‘healed.’

Wow.

Now, why am I telling you this story?  Two reasons.

pillsFor one thing, I wanted to let everyone know that I’m human.  I mean, I know my superior awesomeness might have had you doubting that fact, but alas, ’tis true.  No, seriously, I wanted to make this ‘confession’ of sorts.  The primary reason for this blog is to talk about things that people can identify with.  If you are someone who has had to take this medication, why be ashamed of it?  Why is a chemical imbalance more embarrassing that a cold?  It’s silly.  It’s a sickness, and if you need medication, you need medication.  That’s all there is to it.  Just be careful to research the type that you’re on and make sure it’s the right one for you.  Discuss the side effects with your doctor and especially pay attention to the procedure with coming off of them when the time is right.  (Which, by the way, is for you AND your doctor to decide.  Not just you.  Even if you’re ‘superiorly awesome’ like me.  I know, I’m shocked too….)

But the other reason?  The other purpose for this blog?

I wanted to tell the ones who aren’t on this or other similar medications a few things.  First – to the ones who think you may need to be but are too embarrassed to seek help.  I have some deep, philosophical words of wisdom and advice for you.

Stop that crap.

Seriously, just stop it.  Medication is there for a reason.  If you need it, you need it.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  You don’t have to go blog about it or anything (I mean, come on, that would be stupid), but you don’t have to keep it a secret either.  You know?  If you need help ask for it.  Chemical imbalances and general overall sadness can wreak havoc on your life.  You have a choice:

strong

Continue in your misery, or seek help.  It’s that simple.  Really.  I promise.  It’s that simple.

And secondly, to the other set of people who aren’t on this medication and are certain that it’s unnecessary and that it’s a sign of weakness (you know who you are).  My message to you is the same.  Stop that crap.  Stop it.  YOU are not the smartest person on the planet, contrary to what you might believe.  You don’t know everything about everything.  Medication is there for a reason.  It’s necessary.  And it’s not your place or my place or anyone else’s place to judge whether or not someone chooses to accept that help that is available to them. Until you’ve been there, you don’t understand.  Trust me on this.  Got it?

Seriously.  Just stop it.

Let’s just love each other.  Okay?  When we need help, let’s get it.  When someone we love needs help, let’s support them.  Be smart.  Research.  Do what the doctor says.

The mind and spirit needs just as much attention as the physical body does when it comes to keeping healthy.  I’ve always heard that if you have your health, then you have everything.  After my scary week last week, I get it.  I soooo get it.

So, to summarize.  If you’re on medication for depression –  awesome.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  Take them like you’re supposed to and, please listen when I say this, don’t stop them cold turkey.  Talk to your doctor about when the time is right for you to come off of them and do it the right way.  Now, to those who are not on them but think you might need to be – go talk to someone about it.  Seriously.  Go.  You’ll be amazed at how different you feel.  Like the quote said above, making yourself miserable or putting forth effort to make yourself strong both take the same about of work.  Choose the smart route.  Get help. Ok?  And, finally, to those who are not on them and think badly of the people who are?  Stop it.  That’s it.  Just stop it.  You’re being a big jerkface.

We clear?

Ok.  That’s all I have to say.

And now, I’m off to run.  (And thank God for it….)

***

“To keep the body in good health is a duty….otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
– Buddha

Kindness

kindness

Something happened at work a few weeks ago that I still can’t seem to shake from my mind.  It wasn’t anything earth-shattering.  It wasn’t something that would normally make any kind of long-lasting impression.  And yet – for some reason – it has stuck with me.  And for a writer like myself, that means I probably better sit down and let my fingers and the keyboard figure it out for me.  So here goes.

First of all, I’m a real estate paralegal.  Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that in this blog before, but there ya go.  That’s what I do in my real life.  You know, so I won’t starve.  Basically, I do the legal paperwork for people as they buy, sell, or refinance their homes.  Now, I’ve always worked for attorneys, but I haven’t always specialized in real estate.  My first job right out of the gate was for an attorney who handled a variety of practices, including domestic relations.  That was the department I worked in.  I would sit in and listen to the depositions of people who were going through divorces.  I would field the phone calls of irate exes who wanted this, that and the other and wanted it no later than yesterday.  I would see tears fall as people came by to pick up their final divorce decrees.

In other words, it was depressing as crap.

So, as soon as I started working more in real estate, I decided that was the way I wanted to go.  There were MUCH less tears shed over the transfer of ownership of a building than there was over the transfer of people’s children and marital statuses.  So, a real estate paralegal I became.

Now, for the most part, I made the right decision.  There was definitely less drama here in this side of the legal field.   People selling a house were usually happy.  They got money.  People buying a house were usually happy.  They got a house.  People refinancing a house were usually happy.  They lowered their payments and got a better rate.  So yes, the real estate field was a relatively calm and happy place to be.

But then?  *sigh*  Then, there was the real estate crash a few years ago.  And things just aren’t quite so black and white anymore.

Refinances?  A nightmare.  To get a loan to go through, people have to give everything shy of a pint of blood from their oldest offspring.  I’m not exaggerating much, trust me.  And sales?  A lot of times we have sellers who are actually bringing money to closing in order to get their property sold.  Yep, you read that right – they have to pay to sell their house.  We see that way more often than you’d think.  And don’t even get me started on the foreclosures…  Just take my word for it, this real estate stuff is not all sunshine and lollipops anymore.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, here’s why.

In the course of a normal business day, I try my absolute best to maintain a friendly demeanor.  I really do.  (Well, with clients, that is.  Not with my co-workers…I’m not that good of an actress…)  But sometimes?  Well, sometimes it’s just hard not to slightly snap back when I’m on the phone with people who are getting snippy with me.  Especially when the person on the other end of the line happens to not even be our client.  When doing a purchase transaction, oftentimes the buyers and sellers will retain separate attorneys to represent their interests in the sale.  Most of the time, I’m handling the buyer’s side of things since I’m doing the closing paperwork (the buyer’s attorney is the settlement agent – meaning we conduct the closing).  Now, I’m telling you all this boring mumbo jumbo because it’s important info for you to know in order to understand this particular incident that won’t leave my mind.

So, here I am, in the midst of working on a closing that is scheduled for later the same day.  As is par for the course these days, I’m down to the last minute working on the stressful details to try to wrap things up so the closing can be completed.  I’m waiting on a signed document from a seller who, like I explained above, is not our client, when an email pops up from the realtor representing said seller.  The email states:  “Melissa, there may be a delay in receiving the settlement statement from the seller today.  Her husband just passed away this morning.  She will get you what you need as quickly as she can.”

Wow.  Her husband just died?  What a tragedy.  Knowing the circumstances now, of course, we are very understanding and will accommodate in anyway possible.  A delay in receiving her signature?  No problem at all.  Totally understandable.

And then, the phone rings.

No sooner had I clicked off of the email than I heard the seller’s voice on the on the other end of the line asking for me.  Now, although she introduced herself, she did not once mention what had happened to her this morning, and probably didn’t realize I knew.  She just immediately started…how do I put this?…complaining.  Every single thing on the settlement statement that she needed to sign was wrong.  I didn’t do this right.  I didn’t do that right.  Her property taxes were already paid and I was showing that they weren’t.  (FYI – They weren’t paid.)  She went on a tirade about all the things that was wrong and that I needed to fix IMMEDIATELY.

Whoa.

So, let me tell you how the Melissa who had not just received that email might have responded.

“Ma’am.  Your taxes are NOT paid.  I called the county tax office to confirm and they told me so themselves.  Would you like their number?  I’ll be glad to give it to you.  Any and all other concerns will need to go directly through your realtor or your attorney – we do not represent you.”

The end.  (And you can rest assured that there would probably be a little snip to my tone of voice as well.)

But the Melissa who had just read that email?  The Melissa who now knows that this poor woman has just lost her husband this very morning?  Well, here’s how she responded.

Ma’am, I’m sorry there are so many problems.  Let’s deal with them one at a time.  As for your property taxes, I understand you’re from Florida and the way Florida and North Carolina pay their taxes differs and may be what is causing the confusion….”  And so on, and so forth.

Because I knew what she was going through, I softened my tone (and my attitude) and helped her to understand what was wrong.  Together, we went through each issue item by item and came to an understanding and an agreement.  By the time we hung up the phone, she sounded much more pleasant and even somewhat relieved to now understand what she had perceived as issues.  She never told me what had happened to her that morning.  Not once.  She provided no explanation whatsoever.  She was just a somewhat frantic, understandably distraught woman trying to take care of necessary business that had to be attended to in the midst of unthinkable sorrow.  And I knew that because I had received that email just prior to her call.

But what if I hadn’t?

And how many times have I spoken to people just like her without receiving an explanatory email beforehand?

Yep.  Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

Now, believe me, I’m preaching to the choir with this one.  I need this lesson as much as you do, probably more.  But I’m asking you to do what I’m going to try to do from now on…treat everyone as if they’re fragile.  You know?  Sure, maybe the hateful person you’re dealing with has no excuse whatsoever to be acting the way they’re acting.  Maybe they’re just a jerk.  Maybe there’s no sad, heartbreaking explanation for their horrible attitude.

But, then again. Maybe there is.

Maybe there’s more to the story than you know.  Maybe they’re under a stress that you can’t even begin to imagine.  Maybe they’re hanging on by a thread.

Maybe they just lost a loved one right before speaking to you.

We just never know, do we?

Something to think about.

***

If we knew each others secrets, what comforts we should find.”
– John Churton Collins

 

Aaliyah

“I run because I can.  When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they’d give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them.  I know they would do the same for me.”
– Unknown

Hey there, Blog World.  I would like to introduce you to someone.

Ladies and gentlemen: meet Aaliyah.

Aaliyahblog2Is this not the most gorgeous little soon-to-be-5-year-old you’ve ever seen?  And now, I’m going to tell you the story of Miss Aaliyah, and how she came into my life.

As some of you may know, I’m a runner.  If you’re new to my blog, you may not realize that fact since I haven’t really talked about it in a while.  I just ran my second half marathon in November (after running my first in May), and have been a bit of a slacker ever since.  As I’m sure a lot of runners will understand and relate with, I was having a bit of a post-race slump.  But as the New Year approached, I started to remember some promises I had made to myself.  One promise, in particular.

Last year, I insisted that 2014 would be the year I ran my first marathon.

I even started a training plan and had a race picked out for April 2014.  Well, I’ll just be quite honest with you…that idea fizzled.  If you’ve never trained for a distance race, let me explain what happens.  Pretty much everything in your life has to take a backseat to training.  I’m not kidding.  Even when you’re not running, you’re thinking about running.  The things you eat and drink change, the amount of sleep you get changes (or at least you stress over the fact that you’re not getting enough), your weekend plans have to revolve around your ‘long run’ day.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  And I only know all of this from training for a half marathon.  Training for a full marathon?  Yeah, double all of that.  It’s a commitment.  A big one.  Because of the holidays and the cold weather and the release of the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, that contains my story (woohoo!) and all of the hoopla that went with it, I decided I didn’t quite have the time to devote to training for a marathon just yet.

And then, I found Aaliyah.

irun4A few months ago, prior to my running slump, I stumbled across the Facebook page for a community called IRun4.  After I started doing a little research, I found their website and got pretty excited about the whole idea.  Basically, this is a program that ‘matches’ runners with children with disabilities.  You strike up a friendship with the child’s parent and you dedicate your logged miles to the child.  It’s really a way to motivate both sides.  The parent and their child (if they’re old enough to understand) know that there is a practical stranger out there in the world who cares about them and what they’re going through, and the runner is provided with a reminder of how blessed we are to have the health and ability to do this thing we love to do: run.  Another benefit?  It increases awareness.  Awareness of some of the illnesses we’ve never even heard of that these beautiful children (and their parents) are living with everyday.

Well, yesterday, after an almost 3-month spot on the waiting list, I received notification that I had been matched.  With beautiful little Aaliyah who lives in Texas with her mommy.   After speaking online with her mom, I was introduced to a disorder that I had never heard of.  Little Aaliyah has what is called Rett Syndrome.  The best way I know to describe this is to use a phrase I have found on many of the websites I’ve researched:

Imagine the symptoms of Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy and a variety of anxiety disorders all rolled into one little girl.  That’s Rett Syndrome.

This is what Aaliyah has to battle every day of her life.

Now, this is all new to me.  All I know about the disease is what I’ve read since hearing the term for the first time yesterday.  I don’t live with it every day like Aaliyah and her young mom do, so I don’t really know what life is like for them.  But I plan to learn.  And I plan to do more research and I plan to become more aware of what little Aaliyah’s life is like.  And until I can find another way to support the disease itself, I will do the only thing I know to do here in my little world half way across the country from her – I will run for her.  Each time I put on my running shoes, I will say a little prayer for Aaliyah and her mom and send good vibes and love their way.  And I will hope that they feel them.

AaliyahblogAnd….I will start searching for my first full marathon somewhere this fall.  What better reason to go the distance, right?  First on the agenda:  training for another half marathon in early May (the same one I did as my first half last year).  With Aaliyah’s little spirit cheering me on, I think this is going to be a successful running year.

So, little Aaliyah in Texas – I am going to do my best to not let you down.  I will earn the distinction as your running buddy and will do all I can to promote awareness of what you are going through.  I will keep you in my prayers and in my heart and will remember you and your mommy and hope that you know that each step I take from this moment on, is for you. 

Because, after all….

Aaliyahblog4

One little girl out there in the world is going to know that she is thought about and loved.  I won’t let you down, kiddo.

Here’s to a 2014 filled with running successes and wonderful new friendships.

***

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” 
– Albert Schweitzer

Jesus

jesus

Yep.  That’s the one.  You did, in fact, read that title right.  This blog is about Jesus.

Now, don’t worry.  If you’re not religious, I’m not going to preach at ya here.  Believe me, I’m the last one to do that.  I’m not sure I fall in the ‘religious’ category myself (whatever that word means…).  To be honest, I’m not sure what I believe at all, so I’m sure as heck not going to tell you what to believe.  I just want to tell you about something that caught my attention yesterday.  And maybe, just maybe, it might mean something to you, too.

First, a little background.

I was raised in a Baptist church.  Southern Baptist at that.  For most of you, no further explanation is needed here.  For the rest of you:  let’s just say that it is thoroughly ingrained in my brain that pretty much everything I do is going to send me straight to Hell.  And with that being the case, it’s also ingrained in my brain that I better have my heathen butt in church every Sunday morning in order to atone for everything I’ve done throughout the week, and to plead and beg for the Big Man to reach down his big, scary, arm of fear to alter my Hell-destined course at least long enough for me to make it back to church the next Sunday to start the process all over again.

You follow me?

Ok.  So, as you can probably tell from my veiled bitterness in that last paragraph, I’m sure it’s needless of me to say that some of that ‘teaching’ is starting to fade a little as my adult mind starts to mature somewhat past all this (somewhat).  In fact, I have turned into what some (read: my grandma) may refer to as ‘rebellious.’  Pssssh.  Innocent lil ol’ me?  Rebellious?  But alas, ’tis true.

And yet.

Yet, rebellious little heathen mind and all, I still feel that incessant pull to go to church.  And, most of the time, I still heed to that pull.  Why is that, I wonder?  Eh, that’s a topic for another blog, I suppose.  The point is this: even though I don’t do the “resolution” thing per se, the New Year still comes tapping on my shoulder every year reminding me that it’s time to reassess and maybe work on a few things here and there.  And, in this case, 2014 seemed to be reminding me that it was time to get back to attending church.

Now, as luck would have it, Richard and I finally found a church that felt like ‘home’ to us a little over a year ago.  Even though we’re not the most regular attenders there ever were (see above: I’m working on that), we still both feel like we’ve found a place that feels a little more comfortable to us than most.  They just seem to be focused on that whole “love thy neighbor” stuff, rather than hell fire and brimstone, and we both seem to like that.  We like that a lot actually.  And, since our kids loved going to Sunday school, we even managed to find our way into our own adult Sunday school class.  After a somewhat prolonged absence, we all trudged back yesterday to work on this ‘regular attendance’ thing, and were greeted with hugs and a genuine collective “welcome back” that made us realize how much we had missed it.  (And, incidentally, there were no “Where have you been?”s at all.  Imagine that.)

So, there we sat in our Sunday school class, studying the book of James, when something seemed to absolutely jump out of the Bible at me.  (Me! Heathen rebel and all!)  Sitting right there in the second chapter was this phrase:

“…mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13, NIV

Wait…what?  Did I just read that right?  Mercy?  You mean that whole “It’s ok, I understand that you’re human and you’re going to make mistakes” thing?  THAT is going to win over “You messed up chick, pack your bags for your trip to Hell?”  Surely not.

Yet there it was, people.  Right there in black and white.

Now, granted, these weren’t actually Jesus’ words.  But they came from James, who was Jesus’ brother.  And by brother, I don’t mean “brother in Christ” or whatever.  I mean, brother.  Brother as in, “Moooom!  Jesus turned my water in to wine again!  Make him stop!”  That kind of brother.   James actually grew up with Jesus.  Physically grew up in the same house with the guy.  So, if I were a betting woman (which I’m not, betting is a sin…), I’d say that James probably knew where Jesus stood on things.  Wouldn’t you say?  And according to James, that’s how it works – mercy TRIUMPHS over judgment.

So, why did that affect me so much?  Here’s why.

Most of you who know me, know that part of my…um…issue with church, the Bible, religion, etc., lies in the fact that some people tend use this book as their weapon when suppressing the rights of some of the people I love most in this world.  Who am I referring to, you ask?  Oh, I’m so glad you brought up that question. [*drags out soapbox*]  My gay friends, that’s who.  I’m not sure why gay rights is such an issue to me…I mean, I’m not gay.  As far as I know, my children aren’t gay.  No one in my immediate family is gay.  And yet, for as far back as I can remember, I have felt such a stirring in my soul that gay people are not “sinners” and therefore, should not be treated any differently than me.  And yet, how could that be?  The Bible says so right there in black and white that they are.  How could I have been brought up the way I have, and yet still feel in my gut that something somewhere isn’t right with all of that?

Well, there you go.  Maybe James just answered that for me.  Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was not sent to judge us.  What?  No judgment?  Maybe he was sent to show mercy.  To ALL of us.  Maybe he was sent to remind us that it is NOT our place to make rules or judgments on people based on what ‘sin’ they are or are not committing.  In fact, maybe it’s not up to us to hypothesize on what is or isn’t a sin at all.  Whether you are a firm believer in the Bible, or the biggest atheist that ever walked the planet, either way you HAVE to admit that there are inconsistencies in that thing.  Right?  Come on, don’t lie.  You know they’re there.  One page will say one thing as plain as day, and then you turn the page and there’s the exact opposite.  And you’ll have people say that the inconsistencies just lie in differences in ‘interpretation’ and blah, blah, blah.    Ok, I get that.  But I don’t think James left much for interpretation, do you?  Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

To me, not only does that mean that’s how God will treat me, but that means that’s how I should treat everybody else.  It is not my place to judge.  It’s not your place to judge.  It’s not the government’s place to judge.  Why is that so hard to understand?  Could someone explain that to me, please?  What am I missing here?

If you still fall in the category of belief that homosexuality is a sin, then that’s fine.  You believe what you believe.  But let me tell you something.  As for me?  This girl is a Sinner with a capital “S.”  I mean, I’ve sinned a BUNCH.  I mean a friggin major TON of sins.  I could fill this blog for YEARS with all of them.  But you know what I get to do?  Marry the man I love.  One day (yes, maybe against his will, but whatever…), I’m going to marry Richard.  And no one is going to stop me.  Scarlett “S” emblazoned on my chest and all, I will still get the chance to say “I do.”  And it is so incredibly unfair that my gay friends have to travel to other states to be afforded that same courtesy.

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Man.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone lived by that part of the Bible?  Oh hey – since picking and choosing which parts to go by seems to be the norm these days, is it too late to cast my vote for this verse?  I’m straight so I still get a say in the matter, right?

*sigh*

I know, I know.  My SPF 250 is packed and ready to go….

***

“Let’s make a law that gay people can have birthdays, but straight people get more cake–you know, to send the right message to kids.”
– Bill Maher

2014

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
– Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I sit here overwhelmed with the feeling of joy and happiness that this first day of the New Year has brought me.

kiddos1I rang in the New Year with a group of friends that I am blessed and privileged to have come to know in the past few years.  We have shared a stage together, and now, we share our homes and our lives.  Our children have become friends, which warms my heart to no end.  In fact, after ringing in the New Year, we brought a group of them home with us for a sleepover.  As I type this, four teenagers are playing outside in the vast backyard of our new home (after promptly informing me, mind you, that my breakfast was awesome because they had to eat ‘healthy stuff’ at their homes.  Heh.  Oops.)  I finally live in a community where I actually know people well enough for our kids to have sleepovers together.  This may not sound like that big of a deal, but to a roaming nomad Army brat such as myself, finding a place that feels like ‘home’ is no small feat.  I have found it.

I also woke up to this email this morning:

email

My heart is full as I realize that something I wrote touched a heart in Saudia Arabia.  Saudia Arabia!  This world just isn’t as small as we think it is, is it?  Months ago, I sat with a cat curled on my lap and the man I love made a comment about it.  And now, because I took the time to turn that into written word, it has touched a heart across the world.

Wow.

Really.  That’s all I know to say about that.  Just…wow.

Tomorrow, I will head in to a wonderful good-paying job that I worked hard to work my way up to.  I will then leave work, and I will come home to a man who loves me with all of his heart, and I’ll know that just by looking at his adorable little dimpled face and seeing that smile that lights it up when I get home.  I’ll also know it by watching him chop wood to bring in to build a fire in our wood stove.  I’ll know it by watching him tinker with my car to make sure everything is in working condition.  singing1I’ll know it each time he picks up a guitar and asks me to sing with him, and making me feel like I’m good enough to do it.  I’ll know it by accepting the glass of wine he hands me after a long, stressful day, or by sitting down to the wonderful meal that he has cooked for me.  I’ll know it by feeling his hand reach out across the table and slip into mine and squeeze it before we begin to eat.  I’ll know it by the kiss he plants on my forehead before we slip off to sleep in our big, warm bed.  I’ll know it because…well.  I’ll just know it.  Because I pay attention.  Because I look for it.  Because I believe it.

I am a blessed, happy, healthy woman.  And I intend to spend 2014 continuing to see and appreciate those blessings that surround me, and will try my best to not take a single moment of this precious life for granted.

Won’t you join me?

Happy New Year, my friends.

***

“Write on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson