What of My Brother Murdered By the Police?!

The first ten years of my life I was an only child, but I grew up without a lack of playmates. My mother and her sister had always been very close, and they raised their children together like families are supposed to do. Indeed my boy cousins were like brothers to me, and I called them such. We fought like siblings do, fiercely, but we loved each other just as strongly, even after arguments over who spit on whose Van Halen poster.

Even today I call my first-cousin by the title of brother, and I would do the same to my older cousin if he were still alive. But he is long dead, murdered by the police.

I have strong opinions on things like war, and have never been a fan of fighting at all. I desire peace on earth, and goodwill to all men. Guns honestly scare me, and the thought of taking a person’s life, no matter how evil, causes me to cringe.

But none of this stopped me from joining the military, and making the commitment to fight for my country. Even if it meant to the death. Because although I am anti-war I am realistic about the world in which we live. I know that without our strong military presence the bad people on this planet would destroy everything that I hold dear. I know we need policemen and marines to protect us.

It’s the actions of the good people, with pure motives that keep everything in balance. And that’s who I decided to be when I enlisted. I wanted to fight for freedom, integrity, and the overall good of mankind. Sometimes you must fight, and stand firm for good.

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In my thirty-seven years on this planet I have met many wonderful people, but I have also met horrible, evil people. I have looked them in the face.

This world is not bad, but I now realize bad people reside among us, and these are the ones who make it a sad place to live. I’m reminded of a video I once saw of a slaughter house. A blurry man kicked a baby pig over and over, and he seemed almost joyful to hear its pitiful squeals. As I watched I was sickened, but I knew enough of my fellow man to realize that not all people who worked to process animal meat for human consumption were heartless monsters.

There are monsters among us in this world, and I think they gravitate towards jobs where they may practice their evil stealthily, and be more likely accepted despite cruel behavior.

When my eldest, first-cousin, my brother, was in his early twenties his life was cut short. Due to circumstances of his own choosing he found himself drunk in police custody. Due to his state of inebriation and inability to submit completely to authority he was beaten by the officers who had taken him into custody.

He was beaten badly, so badly that when I saw his body later I did not recognize his face. His jaw was not as it should be, and memories of it haunt me still. My mother and his own, well, I can’t imagine the grief they endured, and still do.

While he was wrong, he did not deserve to die. He did not deserve to be beaten to death. The policeman who instigated this heinous crime was an evil man, but I do not blame the police. I blame evil.

The police in this world are not bad. People are bad. And sometimes bad people become policemen, just as they become workers in meat processing plants, teachers, military members, and nurses. Evil, bad people practice their poisonous deeds in all vocations, wherever they may cause the most harm.

One thing I have learned thus far in my journey of life is that evil cannot be combated by more evil. It can only be beaten with justice, and good. Killing cops won’t make the bad officers disappear, just as burning a church won’t banish hypocrisy.

If people think that looting and murder will justify wrongs then they are sorely mistaken. Two wrongs have never made a right; they only compound the wrongness. They only multiply the sadness, grief, and indecency of it all.

There’s a right way to do things, and a wrong way. Sometimes we mistakenly believe that if we have been wronged then we have the freedom to do wrong also, but history shows that this will never solve anything. Standing firm for virtues, and what is right will triumph in the end, and while that may sound naively optimistic I do believe it to be true.

My cousin’s murderer lost his position in law enforcement, he suffered ill health, and I would not wish to be where he most likely suffers at this time. And while those of us left alive still grieve my brother’s untimely, and unfair passage from this world, we take peace in the eternity that awaits us all as believers. We know no suffering or evil will be there.

I am troubled by the anger in today’s society towards professions of authority and honor such as law enforcement and the military. As a whole we chastise these individuals, yet celebrate women who “break the internet” with photos of their greased-up, naked bottom. You have to wonder what kind of world we are leaving for our children when policemen are murdered, but teen moms get their own TV show.

This should not be so, and when you find there is no one to protect you from terrorism at your doorstep or looters breaking into the family business I want you to try and call on a reality television star to save you. You might then fondly remember the safety and security the good people in uniform brought to your country. Your free, safe country.

That is all.

He Didn’t Go to Jared!

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Open mouths, satisfied smiles, and soft snores filled the dimly lit living room. I grinned softly as I gazed at my four year old in a yellow tutu, sound asleep, with her halo of blond hair splayed across her father’s chest.

This is it. I thought. This is what’s important.

As my heart swelled with pride for the father of my children, for the man whom I loved, I remembered a commercial on television from the night before. At the same time I absently glanced at my left-hand, ring finger, and I knew He didn’t go to Jared.

The scenes from a Zale’s commercial I had seen the night before flitted through my thoughts as I made morning coffee, and although many advertisements on television are eye-roll worthy in my opinion, this one took the cake.

It had shown young, handsome men nervously describing the stresses of picking the perfect engagement ring, describing it as the most important thing imaginable, as if the weight of the very proposal rested on what diamond they chose. They all agreed that this monumental decision required the best piece of jewelry one could imagine to satiate the woman they wished to wed.

As I rounded the couch again and saw my snoozing spouse my heart filled to overflowing as it usually does when confronted with the wonderful father my children possess. And I was also reminded of the gift I have in a spouse who equally shoulders the responsibility of childrearing with me.

The rings we had chosen five years prior still rested on our fingers as a symbol of the covenant we had taken on the altar half a decade earlier, but if asked at the moment I wasn’t even sure what carat my setting contained.

It didn’t really matter. I received my ring before it was cool to post a picture of it on Facebook, and though my proposal story was pretty awesome, it also was of little significance in the grand scheme.

My marriage was so much more than a cleverly crafted proposal or the diamond that rested on my hand. Those things were wonderful, and pleasant memories, but didn’t mean much in the face of sick kids, medical bills, or car payments.

The important things couldn’t be snapped in a photo for the world to see. They were my husband’s gentle spirit, his heart for me and The Lord, and his unwavering commitment to our marital vows. His strong character and undying love were visible when I looked longingly in his eyes, but they weren’t put to a cute, choreographed video. And they didn’t come in a princess or round cut.

Indeed things like the “perfect ring” seemed unimportant when faced with the real life of a long-term commitment. The perfect ring mattered little when your spouse lost their job. Or your mother died. In fact, when you stood at the graveside grieving you noticed only how solidly he held your hand, not the jewelry that adorned it.

Whether he went to Zale’s, Jared, or Walmart didn’t matter. Not one bit. Not really. What mattered was the man behind the ring box, behind the bended knee.

As I looked at the loving man sleeping on a pallet on the floor, holding our daughter in the crook of his arm, I knew what really mattered. It was this. Not the ring, but the life that came after. That’s all that had ever mattered.

5 Ways I Know I’m Not 25 Anymore

I recently went on a marathon shopping spree with the girls. It had been forever and a year since I broke free from my children to simply enjoy myself without time constraints or concerns for the welfare of others. It was a carefree time that reminded me of my youth, shopping till I dropped.

In fact we shopped for approximately sixteen hours straight, and I didn’t get home until after 2am. While I was tired upon my arrival to the house, I was also energized with the good feelings born of such an adventurous outing.

This morning when I awoke, being unable to really sleep in late, I was reminded of something. I was reminded that I am no longer the age I once was when long shopping ventures were the norm. My body reminded me that I am not in my twenties anymore, but rather I am in my late thirties.

Here’s five ways I realized pretty quickly that I am no longer twenty-five.

1. No all-nighters allowed. I can recall many times in my mid-twenties where I partied until dawn. I could stay up all night with the ladies without a problem. The next day, after shower and coffee, I was ready to go again.

This morning I realized that I felt that familiar, yet forgotten feeling of a hangover. The thing was, though, I didn’t drink a drop. In fact if I had I probably wouldn’t be writing this. Because I would be dead.

I no longer have the ability to hang out into the wee hours of the night. Like Cinderella’s entourage I am completely useless after midnight. My saggy, soft body needs to be resting on the couch after 9pm. Sad, but true.

2. I can’t marathon anything. I knew enough to know I couldn’t run a marathon, but I didn’t realize that marathons period were beyond my scope of practice.

Today I felt like I had indeed participated in a triathlon. I was utterly exhausted, and though my pace through the shops was in line with my age, I suppose the length of time spent purchasing was not. My body is not used to doing anything for sixteen hours straight, and it’s good that I reminded myself of such. Sheesh.

3. I don’t bounce back from sickness. I’ve had the sniffles for a few days, but I saw no reason why that should keep me from going shopping. Right? I mean it’s just a cold.

I realize now, if I didn’t before, that a cold at twenty-five is far different from a cold at thirty-seven. In my twenties I could take some DayQuil and I was good to go. Not so much now.

I need vitamin C, and B vitamins, and water, and chicken noodle soup, and lots of rest. Lots of rest.

Even then, it just takes time. So much more time to recover than it used to take. Throw in a twelve hour shift at work, or say a sixteen hour shopping spree, and I wake up feeling like I have Malaria. Help. Me.

4. No sleeping it off. Before kids I typically planned these type of excursions when I knew I could sleep in the following day. I didn’t really need to sleep in much as my youthful body recovered quickly, but I had the opportunity if needed to sleep in until noon.

Now I require more recovery time, like say three days. But I am unable to sleep beyond 9am. Kids don’t care if you’re exhausted, and have no consideration for if you have consumed adequate amounts of coffee prior to their multiple requests.

Nothing lets you know you’re old like performing childcare duties when you feel like an extra from the set of The Walking Dead.

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5. I can’t just eat whatever. Or whenever for that matter. On my marathon shopping spree we chose to eat one meal in a twenty four hour period. We decided this meal would be Tex Mex. Sigh.

I don’t know about other ladies, but for myself as I’ve aged acid has become more plentiful and bowels more irritable. Nausea seems more common place, and I find myself needing to eat simply to “settle” my stomach.

I found myself taking my typical acid reducer in combination with a secondary one. I chomped Tums like candy, broke out the Zofran, and even tried taking some Midol. It seems like such a wonder drug at other times. Desperate times, desperate measures, and what-not.

After Sudafed and generous quantities of caffeine I found myself feeling somewhat normal by about 4pm. In that time I managed to do little of nothing other than bathe myself, and even then I was sure using the blow dryer would be the end of me. I felt like a complete loser for persisting in my fatigue, but I seemed unable to snap out of it. It was then I realized, as I sat soaking in a hot bath, that I am older now. I’m not twenty-five, and my body certainly won’t react like I am.

But when I was parading up and down the racks of discounted clothing, and riding the escalator through the twinkling lights of the mall I felt great! Will I do it again? I’m sure I will. As long as I feel twenty in my mind I’ll keep going. But for future reference I probably will rethink the pork Carnitas.

Why Being a Stepmom is Hard

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Today I was cleaning up my daughters’ room when I came across something I didn’t quite know how to take. My four year old, biological daughter and my eleven year old stepdaughter share a room. It’s probably not the best set-up for either one of them, but when confronted with a small space what must be done, must be done. And they love each other, which helps.

I had just cleaned the room the week before and was honestly astounded at how those two could destroy something so totally when they put their minds to it. It was a disaster in there! While I was surprised at the amount of disarray it was another finding that really took me off guard.

Hidden in the sheets I found small, symmetrical squares of torn paper. It was apparent that a paper had been folded many times, and then ripped, but as I looked at the handwriting I realized it was familiar. It was my own.

I always leave my husband a love note when I leave for work, and one morning many months ago I decided to leave one for my stepdaughter as well. In the note I told her how much I loved her, and this was the note I found ripped among the sheets. The precision of the destruction was beyond what a four year old could manage, and it became apparent to me at that moment that my stepdaughter had torn the note. What I couldn’t comprehend was why.

Being a stepmom is hard. I’m torn between wanting her to call me mom, but feeling as if I might overstep my boundaries if I do. Her mom is a wonderful person, and I wouldn’t wish to try and take her place. Not that I could.

Years ago we decided that she would call me by my first name, but sometimes I wonder if that was a mistake. My preschooler noticed, and asked me why, and all I could answer was, “I’m not her mom.” But I always second guess myself, and I fear this distinction makes my stepchild feel like an outsider in her other home, our home, and guilt stabs me.

Being a stepmother is hard because I’m always fearing that I’m doing it wrong. Loving comes easy, but as a stepmom that doesn’t always seem to be enough. I realize my stepdaughter sees how I look at my children, and how they look at me, and I sometimes catch a strange look in her eyes when she watches us together.

I always am aware that she needs to be shown that I care for her, and being at a difficult age I think she can’t help but compare herself to her siblings. I know she weighs my affections for her beside those I give to her sisters, and I know she does the same with her father.

Being a stepmom is hard because I feel sometimes like I must do more for her to show her I care, and even then I feel like it’s not enough.

I find myself being introspective and questioning my actions to ensure they are fair, but even then it doesn’t seem like enough.

Sometimes I feel like her friend, and sometimes her mother. Other times I feel like I fail miserably at either role I try to carry. And I worry that I’m wounding her as a consequence of those failures.

I know that on one hand I’m constantly going the extra mile to make her feel special, but I also realize that I too often miss the mark. I have to work at loving her harder when it just comes natural loving my own daughters, and I feel guilty even though I realize it’s not intentional.

We only get my stepdaughter every other weekend, and this makes it exceptionally difficult. By the time she becomes accustomed to the way we do things as a family it’s time for her to leave. I wonder if we all might not do better at it if we had more time to practice being a family. My four year old always cries after she leaves, asking when her sister will come back.

After I found the ripped letter my feelings were hurt, and I searched myself for something, anything I might have done to anger her. But I came up blank. I had worked the entire weekend, and realized I had actually seen very little of her at all. Perhaps a cumulative two hours, and even that was a stretch.

There had been no argument, no reason for her to be angry. I thought of myself at eight years old when my mother had remarried. I imagined my (adopted) father’s confusion when he found I had poured an entire bottle of glue in his backpack. He had been perplexed as to why I would destroy something of his. Didn’t I love him?!

He didn’t know that I did it because I loved him. He didn’t know that I ruined his backpack so he couldn’t put his things in it and leave me.

I often look at my stepdaughter and I see myself, and at that moment I hoped the fragments of paper somehow meant she loved me too.

I pray about it often, and I say, “God, this is hard.”

The only answer He gave me back today was one word. Love.

Being a stepmom is hard because even when you know you love someone they need to be shown this exponentially. You have to love them, and love them, and love them. Then you have to love them a little bit more.

I know I can work more at this. Being a stepmom is hard, but I’m determined for her to know I love her. Every morning I pray, “God, let her know we love her.” And then I try to walk in that. Even when it’s not always easy.

Love is always the answer, and that’s where I’ll start.

A Letter to the Single Ladies Looking for Love

Dear Single Ladies Looking for Love,

First off I want to apologize. I’m pretty sure you’re sick and tired of unsolicited love advice, but rest assured that’s not what I want to do. I don’t want to tell you what you should do, or even what you shouldn’t. Rather I want to warn you to be careful what you wish for.

If you’re content with your life as a single lady then stop reading now. This letter is not for you. No, this note is for the women who find themselves longing for a mate. This is for the ladies searching for their very own Prince Charming.

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I have some news for you. I truly believe God has someone for you. I believe your prince will come. But I must tell you this. Once you find your prince, well, then the fairy tale is over!

You have no doubt heard the advice to find a man who looks beyond outward appearances, and to marry the man who looks at your heart. You know you are supposed to find that fella who loves you for you.

Well, here’s the thing they don’t tell you. While it might take a while, and it will definitely take a lot of prayerful consideration, patience, and selective reasoning, you will eventually find a man who loves you for your heart rather than your pants size. But then life will happen.

While you experience the joys of childbirth and first time home ownership, you will also experience late mortgage payments and sick kids. You’ll get the flu, and hate the way your husband leaves his dirty clothes thrown all over the house. Your parents will grow ill, and they will one day die. Hormones will shift, and toothpaste remnants left in the sink will make you want to slit throats.

Your spouse will love you for you, but one day you will be completely unlovable. You’ll mess up, say things you don’t really mean, and be so angry that you might not even care.

Those cute, little idiosyncrasies that seemed so harmless while you dated will be magnified in the face of lost jobs and a house-full overcome by the stomach virus. The fun of making up after a vehement fight won’t be a passionate experience anymore. It will just seem like a hassle when kids have homework and your alarm is set for 4am.

When it gets real, and you are confronted with the mess that life can be when two separate individuals attempt living as one, then you will understand that no one human being can ever really and truly love you for you! They cannot because you’re an awful mess. Heck, we all are. And when your Prince Charming sees the real, unlovable side to you the birds will stop singing, and the storybook happily ever after will be put to the test.

No one can love you for you, and if that’s what you’re looking for then your story might not have a good ending. So what ever can you do?

You could start by looking for a man who loves Jesus, a man who serves The Lord. The only one you will find who loves you for you, like honestly loves you for you is Christ. Find a man who can love his wife like Christ loves the church, and then you can think about a marriage that stands the test of time.

You will never find the perfect husband. I hate to say this, but it’s true. You will never locate a man who can overlook the ugly things about you, because sometimes often times things get pretty ugly in the real world of a committed relationship. But you can find a man who loves Jesus, and that’s a heck of a start.

Job security is lovely, and a mature, commitment to bettering oneself is wonderful, but unless he can put himself, and even you second then it doesn’t much matter. When a man can search his heart seeking God’s will for your lives then a happily ever after is definitely in the cards. In fact it’s promised in eternity.

A marriage covenant is not easy, and committing to stand beside another imperfect person is more than you could ever imagine. Even unconditional love is tested on the turbulent seas of adversity born of strife.

Also important is this. When you get hit in the face with the reality of it all, and the loving is not always easy, remember what brought you together. Don’t give the little things precedence, but rather focus on the positive attributes of your mate. In other words, forget the smelly socks, and thank God for his work ethic.

In the beginning I told you this was a warning, and in a way it is. Maybe it’s a bit of advice thrown in too. Now you have been warned that dreams can come true, but they’re not always easily achieved. But also remember that the greatest dreams are worth fighting for.

You can find your prince, and though it will be far from a fairy tale, you can find your happily ever after. Especially if you base your story on a firm foundation that no man can put asunder.

Sincerely,

A Joyful Wife

The Crazy Lady in the Drive-Thru, That’s Me.

I remember as a young lady seeing women that I really wondered about; like I questioned their sanity. They would be the women I glimpsed talking to themselves (this was before cell phones), or red in the face after a minor inconvenience. They would be the ones who stormed away from the check-out counter mumbling to themselves about something incomprehensible. Looney.

I would pause in my perfectly pressed attire, with nary a stray hair in sight, and I would chuckle light-heartedly to myself. Adults are so weird! I would marvel, and then I’d stop to grab a cupcake or something from the bakery because my adolescent metabolism allowed such things.

Indeed thoughts about my weight were not an issue, unless you counted ones like, Oh my gosh Brie. You’re going to be in a size five if you don’t slow down. I could just thump my teenage self on the earlobe!

Aside from the ignorance of postpartum weight gain, I also couldn’t understand why women seemed so rushed. Like, hello? Just leave earlier! Then I’d flip my hair, and laugh lightly before sauntering off casually to watch a movie or read a novel. In one sitting.

But yesterday it all became clear.

Yesterday I went to pay some bills. I loaded up children in puffy coats and squeezed them into car seats, all the while questioning if they were properly strapped in according to the latest safety guidelines. Especially after reading horrible blogs about children flying free from their securements.

After removing winter garb, tightening straps, and putting in a movie little minds could agree upon, I exited my driveway reminiscing about the joys of adult music on the radio. I thought I remembered what it was like.

Through the soundtrack of a Pixar film I hurriedly, yet safely traveled to my destinations to pay bills by the due date stated. Naturally the due date was that day since last minute was the new on-time.

As I pulled into a drive-thru, and thanked God for such a blessed invention I realized I had yet to prepare my check. I could have done it during the 38 second timeframe that my children were preoccupied beyond my immediate attention, but had selfishly chosen that segment in time to scarf down a string cheese. I recalled reading the nutritional facts while I chewed, which was kind of like reading a novel. Sort of.

While the children screamed jubilantly for much anticipated suckers I considered stopping prior to the bank window to fill in my check, but kept going when I saw a large truck advancing in my rear view.

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Grrrrr. I felt my blood boil at the injustice of it all, and I drove straight through the drive-in window perhaps a bit too fast. I stopped suddenly at the exit of the bank’s parking lot, noting a secondary exit to my left, and I began quickly filling in numbers in blanks. I almost wept silently at the large amount that would swiftly leave my account.

Suddenly a horn blared at me from behind, and with still a signature and account number to complete I looked behind me at the large, red truck eager to conclude his business.

Suddenly an unexpected rage rose from within me, and it broke free with the worst language I could manage as a mother of two, young girls, “You big crapper!!” I yelled. “There’s another exit!!”

I threw my minivan into gear, and while peeling rubber I regretted both my angry exit and use of strong language. After all, I needed neither bald tires nor a toddler running around saying “crapper.”

Still uncertain where that word had come from, or from where such unnecessary rage had erupted I pulled to a stop on the side of the road to finish filling in the darn check. As I wrote numbers on a line I felt ridiculous. And crazy. And like a non-recipient for Mother of the Year.

I considered apologizing to my kids for my outburst, but noticed their attention seemed focused on the climax of the previously mentioned PG film. I sighed, gathered my check, along with my trampled pride, and circled back around to the entrance of the bank’s drive-thru.

As I calmly triggered my blinker in preparation of my turn, a woman pulled out in front of me, using my traffic pause to her full advantage.

In the driver’s seat of the turning car was a woman much like myself. Her appearance didn’t escape me, and I looked familiarly at her sloppy, thrown-into-a-ponytail do. Her eyes looked a tad bit wild, and I noticed she was talking to herself animatedly. I thought I lipread the word “crapper,” but I couldn’t say for sure.

I looked in the backseat, for I knew it would be there, and I wasn’t surprised when a baby in a car seat stared back at me.

Poor dear. I remembered when I was like that. Three minutes earlier. And in that moment our kinship was forged.

No longer did I roll my eyes at crazy women overreacting about nothing at all; for I knew that we were not strangers, but sisters in this quest to conquer the mundane, day-to-day business of life.

We rose to the challenge of puking preschoolers, and laughed in the face of tantrums and scraped knees. But when confronted with simple errands we were overcome by angry hormones, falling victim to potty-mouth outbursts, and abuse against innocent vehicles. Sigh.

I was no longer an outsider looking in. I realized that I was that crazy woman in the drive-thru, and she was me. And aside from feeling like I owed my Mother an apology, I was fine with it. After all, you do get suckers in the drive-thru.

The Thirty Year Old Apology

There are some memories that stay with you always. Some are tiny fragments, like a spliced together reel of happy moments from the past, while other wonderful times you never want to forget are crystal clear. But sometimes you remember something because of regret. It’s like the ugliness of the moment can’t help but stick to the stubborn banks of your memory. You can’t forget because you know you were wrong, and you’re ashamed.

It was ones of those “not so pretty,” past moments that filtered to the tip of my brain the other day while puttering around on social media. I witnessed the blatantly cruel words of another person directed at a stranger, and in my disgust I remembered a playground thirty years ago.

I was always an unusual child in my own admission, and it didn’t help matters much that I was an only child in my younger years, or that I was much too frequently the “new kid.”

Indeed, by the time I started second grade I had been enrolled in five different schools, and that’s a lot of change for a seven year old.

It probably didn’t help my case that I had an abnormally short haircut for a girl at the beginning of the school year, and although I imagined myself as a blond Pat Benatar, I look back now and cringe. Bless it.

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I was the new kid, and had always been the new kid. I was mentally prepared to be an outcast in my new school. But then something unexpected occurred.

You see, there already was a misfit. There was a young girl who everyone was picking on when we went outside to play. Her clothes must have not been that nice, and even though I can’t recall what she was wearing exactly, I do recall the other children laughing and calling her names. They pointed at her clothes and her hair. They hurled childlike, playground insults. And then they pulled out the big guns. They determined she had the “cooties!”

All the children began to run away faking fear, and calling out, “run, before you catch her cooties!”

I saw my chance, and I took it. I ran away too, but that wasn’t all. Being a medical professional at heart even then I developed a vaccine. I got a pen and made a mark on my inner wrist, and then I showed my handiwork to the others. I proudly administered injections of ink to all the children to help prevent acquiring cooties, and I was surprised to discover the misfit girl at the end of my vaccine line.

She wanted a shot too, and as she stepped forward I made a decision. I said, “Get away! This won’t work on you!” Then I screamed dramatically, and ran away, the other children following suit.

I mulled over my past transgressions as I sat stunned over present words being flung haphazardly on my Facebook newsfeed. And I wondered why we do that. Why do we say the things we do about people we don’t even know?

Then I thought of my husband. I just love that man. He has faults like anyone, but I can honestly say that everyday he manages to make me a better person. His kind heart and gentle spirit cause me to see things in a different light. I’ll give you an example. It’s the one that came to mind while memories of an elementary school play-yard drifted into the recesses on my regrets.

A few years ago I was introduced to the infamous “People of Walmart.” You know, the hilarious compilations of unflattering photos of real-life people shopping the store in pajamas and too-tight, tube tops.

I was laughing my head off and decided to share the joke with my spouse. He cracked a small smile, but then he surprised me. Often times his words from that day still pop into my head.

As he looked at the pictures he said, “Those are real people they’re making fun of. What’s so funny about that? Making fun of people?”

So while his comments may seem kind of overboard, his point was spot-on. Since when is it funny to laugh at someone who’s not trying to amuse you?

Why is it entertaining to make fun of people who dress different, talk different, or are just plain different? I wonder how I would feel if on my worst possible day someone grabbed a picture of me and flashed it across the internet? I’d be a virtual, viral laughing stock. Ouch.

People of Walmart aside, we still do this. We do it to people walking by us at the restaurant. “Do you see what she’s wearing?! OMG!”

We do this on the internet and on social media. We cowardly insult someone we think we will never have to face in person, or someone we think will never see our hurtful words.

Maybe you do this about me, and while what people think doesn’t make or break me, I’ll be honest and admit it hurts.

So why do we do it? Because they don’t talk like we do, or dress like we do? Maybe they aren’t as intelligent, or as financially stable. Maybe they were raised in a different socio-economical background. Shoot, maybe they’re just asking for it.

I see things people say, and I wonder if they would say the same thing if the shoe was on the other foot. What if that was your sister, or your brother, or your child? Would “Momma Bear” let someone hurl such an insensitive insult at their seemingly perfect child? Likely not.

Back at the playground, when I was seven I acted like I did to make myself look better. It’s awful, but honestly I was tired of being the outcast. I saw the opportunity to make myself feel better, and look better to others, and I took it! Thirty years later, and it’s an apology too late. I don’t even know her name, and I left schools again before I even knew if my actions had a negative impact over all. All I know is I was wrong, and if you’re reading this now, I’m sorry.

But doing this as an adult is even worse. You might be insulting others to make yourself look better much as my seven year old self did long ago, but today’s playground is different. To me you don’t look cool. You just look cruel.

And if you say you don’t insult people to elevate yourself then you just have to admit that you’re plain mean. Talking down about another person, especially to someone else is just despicable and sad.

I won’t go so far as to say you’re not a Christian if you do this. After all, I’m not God, and I know plenty of people who know Jesus but talk mean. But I will say this. If the object of your insult is searching for salvation they’ll be hard-pressed to find the key in your hastily formed words. Love leads people to Jesus, not judgement.

With that in mind perhaps we all could be a little kinder on this playground called life. We all could take a moment to think before we speak, and consider our actions before we proceed. A certain man from Nazareth 2000 years ago was also an outcast, but He certainly didn’t have cooties.

Maybe this is the kind of message that needs to spread, especially this time of year. Before you say something unkind about a stranger, or before you laugh at another’s misfortune think about my thirty year old apology. Because perhaps it’s never too late to say you’re sorry and change the way you treat others.

Five Ways to Enjoy Sex as a Christian

*This post is written from a wife’s point of view, to other wives, as that is what I am. But some men might find useful information here as well.

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You don’t usually see those two words together, do you? Sex and Christian. Sex isn’t typically a topic that is readily discussed in circles amongst Christians unless it is to instruct on the don’ts of sex. What I mean is unless someone is instructing you on what not to do regarding sex as a Christian then you usually won’t hear much else. This is because the subject of enjoying sex is pretty taboo. But my question is why exactly?

I believe sex to be a gift from God, and when performed within the guidelines set forth in scripture I think you can enjoy it. A lot!

You don’t have to see sex as taboo, but rather as a beautiful act to be enjoyed. Even as a Christian.

1. Realize that sex is not perverted. Let’s start with the basics. To enjoy sex you need to know that it’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

I do believe in the Biblical instructions regarding it. I believe sex is a gift for a husband and wife to enjoy in their marriage. While the act of procreation is wonderful in growing a family there is also a lot of enjoyment to be had. But first you need to remember that sex isn’t taboo. It’s beautiful.

The world has perverted sex, but sex in itself is not perverted. God created sex. The physical act brings enjoyment and pleasure due to not just emotional well-being, but also due to physiological stimulation. To put it simply, God made our bodies to feel the pleasure of sex. But sometimes a mindset that sex is taboo or perverted can prevent you from truly enjoying the act physically.

Just remember that God gave man and woman the gift of sexual intimacy. He ordained it from the beginning. A husband and wife become one flesh through this beautiful covenant.

2. Understand that sex is not a chore. What’s the key to enjoying sex with your spouse? Wanting to enjoy it.

Sex between a married couple is a way to spend time alone, intimately connecting with the person you love. It’s an act of becoming one, where your soul binds with another. And it’s fun too.

While it’s not a chore, it’s also not a weapon. Keep this is mind.

1 Corinthians 7:5

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Woman have many tasks to perform in the home. Do yourself a favor, and don’t view sex with your husband as just another chore. While your duty is to your spouse, guess what? His duty is also to you.

No man really wants their wife to just be there, enduring sex because they must. Men want you to enjoy it too. Stop faking your orgasm, and start becoming determined to have one for real.

Which leads me to three.

3. Let go, focus, and enjoy yourself! Be honest women. How many times, well after the honeymoon is over, have you been in bed with your spouse in body, but your mind is elsewhere? It’s like you’re laying there thinking about all those things you have left on your to-do list.

Do you know what your husband is thinking about? Sex. Your husband is thinking about sex. How unfair that you’re left thinking, did the trash get taken to the road? Well, stop it!

You not only owe it to your spouse, but you owe it to yourself to let it go. Let go of every thought other than the moment at hand. Not only will your spouse enjoy it more if you’re present in body and mind, but so will you.

If you focus your thoughts on making love to your spouse you will be amazed how much more enjoyable the act can be. You may find satisfaction that you didn’t think was possible anymore, or never knew existed.

4. Be sexy. I’m not just talking about going out and buying lingerie. This is not just a physical transformation, but it’s also a mental one. And it’s for your spouse too.

I want you to take the time, find the time to make yourself feel attractive. I have small children, but I still shave every day. I wear nice clothes and make-up for my husband. I do this even if I’m not leaving the house.

Do I do this for him? Well, kind of, but it’s also for me. I know my husband wouldn’t care if I was still in my pajamas. He loves me regardless. But two things happen when I take the time to cultivate my appearance. One, I feel pretty. Two, even if he doesn’t say a word, he notices. He notices I take the time to be pretty for him.

He then realizes I do this because I still want to put forth the effort to be sexy for him. He deserves that. Subsequently, I feel lovely to myself also.

But being sexy goes beyond the outer appearance. I want you to focus on feeling sexy. A woman’s aging body after childbirth may not be the world’s standard of sexy, but that shouldn’t distort your marriage bed.

Pray about this. Focus on feeling sexy when having sex. Your spouse finds you sexy. That’s one of the reasons they desire you sexually. Believe that you are. A confident woman is a sexy woman.

Also, be proactive in finding your spouse to be sexy. A man changes over the years also, but we as women change with them. Our ideals mature. Don’t let your man think you don’t find him attractive. Compliment him. You’ll find that this is a reciprocal relationship of finding one another sexy.

5. Pray about sex. A lot of you will find this odd, or you may find it uncomfortable to pray about sex. Gasp!

Remember, sex is beautiful. It’s not perverted. It’s a gift. Don’t you think God wants you to enjoy the gift of sex He has given you and your spouse?

If you are having trouble enjoying sex, focusing on the act of love-making in the midst of it, or having a disconnect with your spouse sexually then I want you to pray about it. Heck, you can even pray when you start.

Ask God to help you focus on your husband, to enjoy this intimacy with him. Ask God to help heighten your enjoyment of the act. Ask Him to help clear your mind of any outside influences from the devil that wish to take your mind off the enjoyment of sex with your spouse. Yes, the devil wishes to destroy your marital bed. Don’t let him. Pray against it.

This might sound crazy, but I want you to try it. I really think you’ll notice a difference almost immediately.

The most important thing is to remember that sex is enjoyable, and it’s supposed to be. Your body belongs to your husband, and his body belongs to you. Share this gift with one another. And the more the better!

Song of Solomon 7:6-12

6 How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights!
7 Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.
8 I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples,
9 and your mouth like the best wine.
It goes down smoothly for my beloved, gliding over lips and teeth.
10 I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.
11 Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields and lodge in the villages;
12 let us go out early to the vineyards and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love.

(In this post I am excluding any physical problems that prevent sexual enjoyment. Please feel comfortable to discuss these issues with your doctor).

Oh God, I Hope I’m Doing This Right!

On the Eve of my baby girl’s birthday I held her in my lap rocking back and forth at bedtime as we usually do. And even though she was soon to turn two, for the time being I wasn’t ready to let go of our nightly ritual in the rocking chair.

As she breathed heavily, already asleep, I continued to rock. I looked at her sleeping face, and I knew I couldn’t put her down just yet. I looked at her, and I felt my heart do that thing where I think it might explode. It’s as if my emotions become so overwhelmed that they threaten to revolt due to sensory overload.

I looked at my dreaming daughter, and I cried out to to The Lord, Oh God, I hope I’m doing this right!

And again with my chest. It felt like my heart was being squeezed, and my throat threatened to close before it was rushed with the rising emotion that had to escape my chest. I said it again, a deep, yearning prayer, Oh God, I really hope I’m doing this right, that I’m doing right by you. For her.

When I looked at my sleeping child, my precious gift from above, I was reminded of the weight of the responsibility I had taken. He had given this child to me to watch for Him here on earth, and though, thank God, I wasn’t ever alone in my duties, I desired to do my part. I wanted, I needed to do my best.

As I gazed at my little angel, lips parted, and pale, soft skin I wondered so many things. I questioned myself as I continued the comforting, rocking motion for us both.

I didn’t condemn my capabilities, mind you. I simply searched my soul honestly. For though nothing on this earth ranked greater than my personal relationship with The Lord, my relationship with the children in which He entrusted to me was a direct representation of His Holy Spirit.

How I chose to walk with them through this tumultuous world could be a beacon of God’s love, or it could be an affront to everything He called me to be. Indeed, by being a good parent I was showing my children and the world the Father Heart of God.

When she sees me does she see you, Lord? Do my actions and my words glorify The Lord, and do my children never doubt the depth of my relationship with Jesus?

Am I patient enough, attentive enough, and a pleasing mother in your sight?

Oh Lord, I pray I’m doing this right.

And I continued to rock. And I continued to gaze at such beauty laying in my lap. Had I ever even imagined it could be this wonderful, this full, this perfect? I didn’t think so.

On the Eve of my baby girl’s second birthday I prayed, and I was determined to be ever grateful for the gift of my children. I was determined to do my best in the eyes of Him, and to show my children His glory in all I did for them. As unto Him.

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Ten Things Nurses Can’t Even

There are a lot of things in my day-to-day activities as a RN that let me know I chose the right career field. Smiles from a sweet, elderly woman or an unexpected thank you. When I see a patient bounce back from the brink of death, and later go home better than they arrived, I feel accomplished. It makes my heart feel good to see folks get well. In fact it makes all the not-so-great stuff seem less.

But still. Despite the many rewards that outweigh the frustrating moments there are still some things that really grate on my nerves. These things make me grit my teeth and want to scream. They are the things that I can’t even deal with. Or at least I wish I didn’t have to deal with them.

I’m sure I could make a completely different list depending on the given day, but here’s ten things that today I just can’t even.

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1. Computer problems. Come on man! I am already eight hours behind on charting after coding that STEMI from the ER, and I’m still trying to recover mentally from the past two hours of my shift. The last thing I need is a computer that refuses to come on when I sit down to chart.

Same thing goes for a slow computer. If you can’t keep up with the speed of my tapping fingers then you need to step it up Mr. Program. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Just like I don’t have time to figure out why the correct medication refuses to scan.

I am not an IT expert. I know how to turn off the power to restart, but that’s about it. Beyond that, I can’t even.

2. Condescending professionals. Hi. Aside from being your beck and call girl, I am also a nurse. I am a professional, and I certainly deserve to be treated as one.

I cannot stand being talked down to like I am a child or an imbecile, especially if I am in the right. But even if I am wrong I don’t deserve verbal abuse. It’s not professional, and I can’t even.

3. Patient’s family drama I can’t stand drama in my own family, so I especially can’t deal with it in people I don’t know.

Yes, I think family dynamics is important to the long-term health of my patient, but right now in the critical care unit it is simply a distraction and impediment to my patient’s well-being. It’s selfish to bring outside issues into a patient’s place of tranquil healing.

Take it to the waiting room. I can’t even.

4. Double charting. Hey, let’s go paperless! I mean, except for this. Oh yeah, and this. Let’s do some on paper, and some in the computer. And in the mass confusion feel free to double chart until this issue is resolved some time in 2017.

5. People who can’t comprehend Hippa. I am really sorry I cannot release personal information to you about my patient over the phone. Really, truly I am.

That’s why when you tell me you go to church with my patient’s cousin, went to high school together, or live down the road from them I explain gently and in layman terms about Hippa, privacy laws, and why it is illegal for me to disclose personal health information without patient consent.

The thing is I don’t mind explaining it at all. Not at all. But when you then yell at me anyway it’s frustrating to me. This is not my decision, and I’m not being mean. It’s the law. I understand she’s on your prayer list, but I can’t even.

6. When I can’t. Can’t what you ask. Well, basically anything. I am my own worst critic, and when I can’t do something to the degree that I consider worthy then I get upset.

If I cannot get that difficult IV started I’m livid with myself. If I can’t remember how to do a skill I haven’t done for a while or the normal range for a certain lab then you would think my world has ended. While they’re not big deals, in my perfectionist mind it’s just awful. I can’t, so I can’t even.

7. Made-up medical terminology. You are the reason they make those lists of abbreviations we cannot use. Your determination to make up your own abbreviations adds to the already confusing world of healthcare, and the possibility of error while receiving orders.

No one knows what kind of dressing you’re talking about or what exactly that word you just used is supposed to mean. It only means something to you! And the fact that you get angry when I ask for clarification makes it even worse.

No, they didn’t teach that in nursing school. Because you’re the only person on the planet who uses that term. I. Can’t. Even.

8. 15 minute mandatory meetings. These really only bother me when they’re on my day off. It just so happens, though, that they are always held on my day off.

It’s fifteen minutes. Yet it’s mandatory information. It is information that is so detrimental that it must be mandatory to attend, yet it is so simple that it can be explained in fifteen minutes.

I’m so confused. Can’t we bunch some of these together and just make a day out of it? After getting gas and a baby sitter, I can’t even.

9. The consigning of medication administration. Now just hear me out. I totally get that certain meds are high risk, and it’s more appropriate and safe to have the dosage checked by a second RN. I get it.

What I cannot understand is how this is determined. I mean what decides which ones are really dangerous? Aren’t they all? I know that data studies and cases of medication error across the country drive the decision, but it still seems kind of hokey, like maybe somebody is just making this up as they go.

How else can you explain why I require a co-signature to administer 2 units of insulin, but I am allowed all the freedom in the world to titrate as I please the dosage of dangerous, cardiac medications administered through a central venous catheter? Think about it. I can’t even.

10. The little things. Yep. After all that other stuff it’s the little things that make me want to jump out the window. It’s like after ten hours of co-signatures, double charting, and condescending doctors I can’t even. At all.

The build-up of not being able to pee or not having the supplies I need drives me bonkers. When eleven blood sugar checks are due at 11:30 and the machine needs to have controls done, I can’t even.

When I don’t have a scheduled med available, and it’s been ordered for three days now, I can’t even.

Little things like forgetting my password (because I’ve had to reset it 1,627 times since 2004), or the inability of my fingerprint to scan, these things make me mildly irate. No, just irate. And I can’t even.

Just when I think I can’t even any longer I am confronted with the reality that my shift is almost over. So even though I will probably receive a new admission twenty minutes prior to shift change I am reminded that I will eventually leave.

I know I’ll be back, and by then I’ll be more mentally prepared, and even looking forward to practicing my skill in the field I love. But until then, I can’t even.