Thursday, November 10, 2016

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

Twenty-three years ago when our tiny family visited Washington, D.C., as we were headed to visit Arlington Cemetery, we were stopped in traffic as the Presidential motorcade approached. Pete groaned audibly, because he really did not appreciate the way President Clinton had handled his first year in office. Lots of changes and unpleasant assignments for the military left him rather jaded as a young soldier. But as that black limousine with American flags on either side of the hood came into view, Pete put the car in park, opened his door, stood facing that limo and saluted. He held that respectful salute until the other limousines in the motorcade passed, then got back in the car and sighed.

At that time, I wasn't impressed; I was somewhat angry. I was young and arrogant, and I  knew that the passing President would never have been the wiser if Pete had let his car pass without acknowledgement. I expressed my displeasure with my just-barely 22-year-old husband for giving respect to someone I felt didn't deserve it ... and was then taken to school. He told me he didn't express honor to a MAN, but rather he extended the honor of his salute to his Commander-in-Chief. He had zero respect for Bill Clinton as a person, but nevertheless, this was the man who had been chosen by our countrymen to hold our nation's highest office. Pete's was not a political statement; it was the response of someone who understood that those in authority are due honor and respect because of their position--not whether we like them or agree with them.

It didn't take me very long to grow up after that humbling lesson.

It's a lesson I've seen repeated several times over the years, including when President George W. Bush visited Fort Stewart to speak to the 3rd Infantry Division upon their return from Iraq in 2003. These were the soldiers who had been sent to spearhead the invasion--and some of them very much disagreed with his reasoning for ordering that invasion--yet thousands of soldiers saluted him that day; they stood, they held their tongues, and they respected their Commander-in-Chief because of the office he held. Because of the respect due his Office.

In the last twenty-four hours since Donald Trump was announced as America's President-elect, our country has lost its collective mind. Violent protests, social media firestorms calling for his assassination, threats against those who voted for him, and a ridiculous declaration that he will never be "their" President are filling the news broadcasts. We are being bombarded with the vitriol from the "losing side", lashing out and insisting that anyone with a differing point of view be removed from their lives. What is this insanity??

Differing opinions and disappointment are a given. In any election, there is a winner and a loser. But this? This shows that our countrymen have lost a fundamental respect for authority. The President isn't just a figurehead. The Office isn't an award given to the most popular celebrity. Our President, and by default the President-elect, holds a position that commands respect. Like it or not, it will not be changed. We go through this every four years. A good number of people are going to be disappointed no matter what the results. But folks, it's time we trained our children to recognize authority and to RESPECT that authority, regardless of the person who wears the badge, returns the salute, or occupies the Oval Office. There is a time to disagree and express opinions, but at some point, there also has to be a time to concede respectfully.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I'm too young for this.

Today is a good day. Tomorrow might not be, but today is a good day, and I'm going to enjoy it while I've got it. The last ten days have been anything BUT what I now call "good". Funny thing is, my "good" now used to cripple me--before I met my new alter ego, the Fibro Minion.

Several years ago, I started having pain that doctors couldn't explain. It started in my back, which of course was dismissed as "mom fatigue"--bending, stooping, kneeling, lifting, carrying, all that rough-on-the-back stuff that I'd done with seven children. I had headaches for weeks; not migraines, but just incessant, unrelenting headaches that wore me down. I chalked that up to eye strain, because the older I was getting, the more the sun was bothering me, and being outside almost always left me feeling the wrath of my optic nerves.

The game changer was my bout with histoplasmosis. For almost six months, I felt like I was getting the flu--body aches that made me want to curl up in a corner, night sweats, and fatigue ... oh goodness, the fatigue. Thanks to my immune system's little temper tantrum fighting an infection that most people never really even know they have, I ended up having major surgery to remove part of my lung that had developed fibrosis and was dying. Lovely thought, that. I thought that was the end of my pain and malaise, but when my pulmonologist could not find any reason my symptoms had reappeared despite the lack of infection, he referred me back to my doctor to discuss the possibility that something had triggered the onset of a nemesis I never knew I feared--fibromyalgia.

All my labs revealed that, other than feeling like I have the flu all the time, I'm pretty healthy! Even my blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar is within normal ranges. The only thing my labs pointed to was a severe vitamin D deficiency. The physical exam, on the other hand, made me understand what is meant by the term "trigger points". Oh, WOW!! Just shoot me across the room, why don't you?? I left the doctor's office that day knowing what I was diagnosed with, but not knowing what it meant. It took a long while to understand that I have a new reality now--and it's one I continually struggle with. Too many months, I find myself falling into a slump of exasperated depression. I just don't like this. At all.

I used to be able to do so much. Being exhausted was earned; there was a sense of accomplishment behind sore muscles and a worn-out body. Now? Well, now I wake up exhausted. It takes at least half an hour just to get out of bed. I don't mean just tired from not sleeping well--I mean exhausted like you haven't rested in days. Most days, upon waking, I have to spend at least ten minutes waking up one of my limbs because it's painfully numb. Don't understand how numb can be painful? I'm glad for you, truly. I honestly don't remember the last time I woke up feeling rested or refreshed. Fibromyalgia took that away from  me. It took away my ability to complete tasks I use to do without even thinking about it. I pay dearly for physical exertion.

Never, in my wildest nightmares, had I ever thought I'd feel like this at 43 years of age. I know 80-somethings who don't deal with chronic pain, yet here I am, in what should be my middle age "prime," barely making it through each day. I must admit, this one fact is humiliating. I want to be able to do so much more, but when I attempt it, I suffer for days afterward. What's even harder is keeping tabs on the depression that creeps up alongside the pain. I don't want to take medication, but I want to feel better. I want to do more, but I don't want to be "rewarded" with pain. I just want my life back. I'm too young for this. There are days--those awful "bad" days--when I'm overtaken not just by pain, but also by hopelessness. It's not surprising that suicide is the biggest killer among those fighting fibromyalgia. The thought of enduring another 30 years or more of this pain is too much.

The only option worth considering is to take life one day at a time.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why Didn't You Warn Them?

Earlier this week, the news of yet another tragedy hit social media, and it didn't take long for people to start wielding blame like a poison-dipped sword: A man-made lagoon should be safe; tourists shouldn't have to worry that a dangerous reptile will come out of the water and steal their toddler away, why wasn't it safer?? Why weren't there signs warning that alligators *could* be present? Surely if these Midwesterners knew the danger, they'd have been more cautious!! It's Disney's fault; they were irresponsible!

No ... this isn't another Disney-bashing blog post. It isn't another shame-shaming post either. I just can't help but think that there is a much larger lesson here that could be learned. I feel nothing but sorrow for the family of that little boy whose life was snuffed out by a tragic accident. I don't think it does them or anyone else ANY good to go on and on about what they--or Disney--could have done differently. I just want to take this a different direction for a minute.

What if I knew that there was a danger lurking just out of your sight, one that could steal your family away from you; a monster that could destroy everything you love; one that could take your life away from you?

Now what if I just sat back and didn't say anything ... I just let you go on thinking you were completely safe going about your business without a care in this world?

Would you think then, knowing that I was willing to let you be destroyed, that the monster was ME? Would you think I didn't care about what happened to you? Or would you feel that because I left you alone to enjoy your carefree time, surely I loved you more than someone who wants to oppress you with rules and warnings?

We KNOW that the loving thing to do when someone is in imminent danger is to warn them; to go out of our way to get them to realize what is threatening them.

Yet ...

"Don't tell me how to live my life!! Don't judge me!!"

I would be spitting in the face of my Savior, who left behind His throne to become the payment for the sin that threatens all of mankind, if I neglected my duty. There is danger in the darkness. There is no safety in ignorance! It can destroy families, steal joy, and bring about an eternity of suffering. Denying that this danger exists may not lead to tragedy today, tomorrow, or in a year ... but it will. This danger--the sin that separates us from God--is unavoidable, and it is as certain as death.

This life is so short, and there is no guarantee that any of us will have even one more minute to turn away from that danger. It won't make this life any easier--we still live in a world where humans have free will and bad things still happen--but paying attention the warning sings and doing what is necessary to protect our souls will insure that we have the hope of a perfect, flawless home with Almighty God after this life has ended.

The answer to the question "what must I do to be saved" hasn't changed since the first time it was asked almost two thousand years ago. Sure, we can place our hope in the cheap life preservers that man offers, but isn't it best if we are seeking God's answer that we go to His Word?

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
--Acts 2:38

Don't ignore the warning signs. Sin isn't harmless; it is deadly.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Shiny Squirrels and Rabbit Holes

What did we do before social media? No ... really, what did we DO?

Can you remember life before Facebook and Twitter? Can you recall being witness to something amazing that you had to recount from actual memory instead of being able to do a quick search to find it uploaded onto YouTube from someone's cell phone just a few hours later? Do you remember being OH so impressed that the first super-awesome DSLR camera you scrimped and saved to buy had such clarity ... and now you have more megapixels in your phone's camera than in that bulky behemoth you hang from your neck?

Just last week, I stumbled across one of those Facebook "trending" article things about how people were posting about life before Facebook. Things like using real photo albums, displayed on the coffee table, or having actual conversations, or reading lengthy newspaper articles, magazines, or ... wait for it ... BOOKS. It's been part of our every day lives for SO long that we are starting to recognize it has literally become integrated into our LIFE to the point that other things are being pushed out. Sure, there are people who, for one reason or another, haven't sold their soul to social media let it take over their lives, but there are far too many of us who are ... stuck. Yes, stuck.

I'm going to be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It's a fun way to stay in contact with family members and dear friends who we don't get to see often enough. It's a wonderful way to reconnect with people I'm thankful to have back "in my life", even if just through cyberspace. But Facebook (and Twitter, YouTube, etc.) has a dark, sinister side to it. Social media is a thief. It steals time from relationships, motivation from those struggling with laziness, and contentment from those who allow themselves to be tempted by covetousness or pride. Every possible temptress--every sin known to mankind--is given an open forum right there in the palm of our hands, and we just keep on clicking, scrolling, and tapping.

I happen to have a rather short attention span. It's been known to get me into a lot of trouble, because I tend to forget BIG things when I am scattered between fifty little things. If I'm completely honest with myself, social media exacerbates that problem. Got two minutes? Pick up the phone and see what people are up to. Thing is ... it's never just two minutes. With social media, you're constantly flipping through tiny little stories; it's an ADHD nigtmare, because you can quite literally lose yourself in 30 different things, right there at your fingertips, and the next thing you know, you've wasted not just two minutes, but thirty.

Back when my middle schoolers were toddlers, there was some awful preschool show on with bright colors, lots of dancing and repetitive music, and to be honest, it annoyed the stuffing out of me. I remember telling my hubby that it stunned me to see how the girls could become engrossed in that show, sitting for a full half hour without even moving with their little eyes glued to the screen, but I knew why. The show never had a "spot" that lasted more than 90 seconds. It was always changing. That was the draw; that "oooh, SHINY!" reaction happened over and over again, and it moved quicker than they could lose interest and be distracted. Y'all ... it's no different with us on social media. It's a continuously-changing black hole of rabbit trails to follow.

The sad part? The connection with our real-life social groups is now interconnected. To give up Facebook, we would have to cut off an entire segment of communication that is actually useful. We'd give up so many of our treasured friends. For us introverts, we'd have to give up the only "safe" interaction we can have with the extroverted world. It's just easier to be with people when you are within your own four walls.

There has to be a middle ground. I'm told that foundation is something called "self-control". I wonder if that comes in size ADHD?

Is it shiny??

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Does Fibromyalgia Feel Like? (Midnight edition)

It's just past midnight and I'm hopelessly awake. My body is exhausted, yet there is no rest to be had. I have worked my mind into a frenzy these last two days, culminating in what was both a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and the crashing of a wave of stress all at the same time this evening.

My jaw is clenching, and now my teeth are hurting. The muscle spasm in my back at the biopsy site (from three years ago) is causing me to contort to one side, and the burning thigh on the other side keeps me in this odd quasi-fetal position that is becoming more painful by the minute. I'm both sweltering hot and freezing all at the same time. The soft whooshing of my hubby's c-pap machine is starting to make my ears ring. I can scarcely keep my restless legs still, but every movement feels as though the skin is being peeled back. I've tossed and turned so long that my nightshirt has bunched ... and every wrinkle feels like wadded up cardboard. There is a grain of sand, certainly from a shoe or kitty paw, somewhere under my left leg, but I cannot find it. I can, however, feel it, and its jagged edges seem to be grinding into the flesh mercilessly. My neck muscles are spasming now, and as another heat wave hits me, I toss the covers back off of my already-icy legs to try to gain some relief.

Every night, to some degree or another. Every night, this is my norm.

This is fibromyalgia.

There is little rest, when the still silence magnifies every tiny little twinge into a complete nerve explosion. Pain can't be rated on a scale anymore, because there are so many different kinds of pain. Some, by necessity, I've created a mental block to. Others, like that silly grain of sand, I can't ignore. It seems ridiculous, really, like some sick exaggeration of The Princess and the Pea.

But it is the new norm. And now, it's half past midnight. So I stretch my stiff legs out, straighten the nightshirt, try once more to find that sand ... YES!!! It's gone now!! Maybe now I can sleep, between the neck and chest spasms, the burning thigh, the restless legs, the hot flashes and freezing feet ...

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