The Upside Down

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Season 2 of Stranger Things just debuted on Netflix. I haven’t had the time to watch it yet, but as I sat down to add the next entry into my Power Point Series, I was reminded of the Upside Down.

For the uninitiated, it’s basically a world underneath the one we live in. What is in the Upside has a sort of distorted reflection in the world of the Upside Down. It’s a scary place and it reminded me of one of the nuggets of wisdom I passed onto my kids, because this one is particularly scary, and many people never give it a second thought.

Anything you can get down here can, you can get up here. (Imagine a circle around the genital area, followed by a circle around the mouth area.)

The dangers of unprotected sex are well documented and widely known, particularly when it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STI). What is often left out of the discussion is the possibility of contracting an STI from oral sex. Yep, you can get cauliflower on your junk, and in your mouth. No amount of cheese sauce can make that thought appetizing.

There has been a lot of focus on the value of abstinence, as it relates to coitus. Unfortunately, there has been little to no attention given to the risks of oral sex. Many teens that want to remain virgins until they are married don’t consider a little oral contact with the land down under to be sex. Since you can’t get pregnant from it, it doesn’t count, right? And that is true, you can’t get pregnant that way, but you can contract a serious infection with life altering repercussions.

There are ways to diminish the risks associated with oral sex. I made sure to discuss those with the kids as well, but let’s face it, who really, aside from someone in the sex industry, thinks about the need to glove up before heading to the Upside Down? Hopefully, now those versed in the Power Point will.

So, dear reader, beware the Upside Down.

Zip Lines Aren’t Just for Kids

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A friend of mine lost his mom, Terri, a few weeks ago. She was 84 and one of the most vibrant women I’ve ever known. She had an infectious smile and a warm hug for everyone she met. Instead of a funeral, she asked that her family throw a celebration of her life. They did just that with the help of their church family. It was a blessing to be able to join them on that Sunday afternoon. (And to be reminded that a Baptist potluck is the best kind of potluck.) I walked away full in more ways than one.

As we enjoyed the lovely spread there was a video montage on loop. In it was Terri’s smiling face. Pictures of her with family and friends. Pictures of her visit to a farm. And a video that is still stuck in my head. It was video of Terri on a zip line – last year. Yep, at the age of 83 she climbed a tall tower, donned a helmet, got strapped in and then jumped off the zip line platform. Hooting, hollering and having the time of her life as she zipped through the piney woods of East Texas. No fear, just joy. Pure, unadulterated joy.

Hearing the story of how Terri passed from this earthly life into the next was even more incredible. There is a Christian camp in East Texas called Pine Cove. I’ve been there more than once on retreats myself. It is possibly my favorite place in Texas, something I had in common with Terri. Turns out Terri was at Pine Cove with her church friends when she passed. In fact, she was signed up to take a turn on the zip line the afternoon she died. Yes, at age 84 she was looking forward to another adventure with her friends. She lived life fully, right up until her last breath. I left her celebration full of food, love and inspiration.

When it’s my time, I want to go out like that. In a beautiful place, with people I love, preparing to embark upon a challenge. I also want to live life fully until then. I want to say yes, not no. I want to look fear in the face and jump off the platform of a courageous life. I want to love people, and spread joy. I want to leave this world better than I found it. All things Terri did. She continues to give now as she donated her remains to the university hospital, because not even death could keep her from an adventure. What an incredible legacy.

An old Gatorade commercial coined the phrase “I want to be like Mike.” It referred to Michael Jordan and his incredible prowess on the basketball court. Terri may not have been famous, but she made an impact on the lives of everyone she came into contact with. She loved life, people and Jesus. For all those reason and many more, I say forget Mike; I want to be like Terri.

Living My Best Life

IMG_20160405_175341509Social media seems to have taken over the world. There are some great things about it: connecting with old friends, staying in touch with far away family, sharing funny videos, etc. But it definitely has its downsides as well: lack of face to face communication, spiteful posts, vitriolic rants and discussions, just to name a few.

When we post, the vast majority of us only post the good things that happen. While I like to focus on the positive, it can sometimes be a little discouraging to see how “perfect” someone else’s life is. Here’s an example:

Betty baked a gorgeous chocolate bundt cake that came out of the pan perfectly. She decides to post a picture of it on Instagram. Betty takes a very carefully curated picture of said cake, being sure not to show the mess left in her kitchen, the mail piling up on the kitchen table, the kids’ backpacks and dirty clothes strewn about the house…

If you were to look at that picture on Instagram, you might think that her house is spotless and beautiful. The assumption can be that she has it all together and is rubbing her perfection in your face. And if she added #LivingMyBestLife it would be even easier to feel badly about the state of your own life compared to hers.

I see that hashtag a lot, particularly in Christian millennial posts. Here’s just a few examples of actual posts:

  • “Enjoying the morning outside with my hot coffee and a little Bible time: #LivingMyBestLife.” (Insert artful pic of open bible and mug of coffee.)
  • “This girl always brings the sunshine into my life. So blessed to have her: #LivingMyBestLife.” (Insert pic of girl in floppy hat slyly smiling at the camera.)
  • “Found the perfect scarf to wear as I lead worship on Sunday: #LivingMyBestLife.” (Insert pic of scarf draped over a hymnal.)
  • “Can’t believe I get to do life with these people: #LivingMyBestLife.” (Insert pic of small group of people laughing and smiling for the camera.)

It’s nice to see others happy and doing well, I just wonder sometimes how authentic all those posts are. Not to mention how much time and effort is put into framing each picture and editing the tagline. Like me, most people I know are just trying to survive on a daily basis. Honestly, I don’t have time to spend artfully creating a post. If by the end of our day my family is all still breathing, I consider that to be #LivingMyBestLife.

In an effort to combat the inauthenticity of many social media posts, I’ve decided to put my own spin on #LivingMyBestLife. Some of these are the product of my imagination and some are merely a list of things I, or members of my family, have done. I’ll let you decide for yourself which is which.

  • Forgot to set the coffee pot timer and had to wait for the coffee to brew instead of it being ready when I got up. #LivingMyBestLife
  • The puppy managed to sleep all night long. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Led worship today and I stunk. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Deeply diving into my Bible to keep from committing homicide. #LivingMyBestLife
  • All I had for dinner was beer and Doritos. #LivingMyBestLife
  • The dog pooped in my shoe. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Got to work and realized I’m wearing two different shoes. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Had a huge fight with the husband on the way to church. Time to plaster on a fake smile and play usher. #LivingMyBestLife
  • My kid threw up all over my favorite shirt just as I was dropping her off at the babysitter’s house to go on a date with my husband for the first time in three months. #LivingMyBestLife
  • My son decided to cut his own hair the day before school pictures. #LivingMyBestLife
  • I burned dinner. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Forgot to pay the electric bill again. Yay for scented candle addictions! #LivingMyBestLife
  • Ran over a skunk on the way to the grocery store. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Just took my first shower in four days. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Fell down walking up the stairs at the park and put holes in my brand new jeans. #LivingMyBestLife
  • I have nothing in the pantry but a bag of tortilla chips and a can of beans. Mexican food is my fave! #LivingMyBestLife
  • Came home to find my daughter’s favorite Barbie doll dangling from the dog’s mouth. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Had a mammogram today. #LivingMyBestLife
  • I declare chocolate a food group. #LivingMyBestLife
  • Woke up Monday morning and realized I should have done laundry over the weekend. Good thing my underwear is reversible. #LivingMyBestLife

So there you have it, a little glimpse into my reality. I hope that this list inspires you to go into the land of social media and join me in #LivingMyBestLife. Our authenticity may just make someone’s day a little brighter.

 

 

 

Blender or Blunder?

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I figured it’s been a long time since I expanded my Power Point Series, so I’ve got a new entry for you.

Navigating a romantic relationship is fraught with detours, roadblocks and the occasional IED. Add the complicated emotions that come with adolescence and even the smallest misunderstanding can lead to rivers of tears and a coffee table full of empty ice cream containers.

Nothing about romance is easy. It’s even harder to try to guide your kids through it. To help, I gave my kids a simple piece of advice. When you face conflict in a relationship it’s helpful to remember the following:

Boys are stupid and girls are crazy.

I know, I know, that’s sexist. And judgmental. And stereotyping. And (insert your objection/offense here). But it’s also mostly true.

Generally speaking boys do/say things without thinking them through. While girls have a tendency to overthink all actions and conversation. When you put a boy and a girl in a relationship, these two divergent operating systems can lead to a cataclysmic disaster over the smallest of misunderstandings.

To add insult to injury, during adolescence and the early 20s, our brains are still growing and developing. The frontal lobe, that helps us navigate the pitfalls of life and relationships, doesn’t reach full maturity until around 22-25 years of age. Men take a little longer than women to grow fully functioning brains. (Sorry guys, that’s why it sucks to be a freshman; all the girls your age are ready to date seniors.)

Here’s a snapshot of the situation:

Two immature brains

One underthinks (I am a skilled neologist. Just ask my spellcheck)

One overthinks

Tidal waves of hormones are coursing through both brains

Uh oh. No good can come of this.

There’s a scene from the Steve Martin version of Father of the Bride that perfectly sums up this issue. Steve’s daughter comes home from college engaged. While in the midst of wedding planning, the young couple celebrates their 8th month anniversary. When she returns from their night out, she is in tears and tells her dad the wedding is off because her fiancé has given her a horribly inappropriate anniversary gift. Steve looks in the box and is surprised by what he finds – a blender. Through the course of their conversation it comes to light that she is afraid her intended is expecting her to be a 1950s like housewife, instead of the architect she dreams of becoming. Why else would he give her a blender? When her fiancé shows up, horribly distraught, he explains that he bought her the blender because he knows she likes to make banana milkshakes.

At first it seems easy to blame the girl for being a little cuckoo because it really was a little crazy to assume that her fiancé was signaling his desire to chain her to the kitchen. However, considering they are about to be married, it’s safe to assume he had some inkling that she might be wrestling with her new role and that a household appliance might not be the best gift. (At least one would hope they had discussed something of that magnitude.) Of course, he didn’t stop to think about anything other than a banana milkshake. He didn’t think it through and she overreacted. Boys are stupid and girls are crazy.

I’d love to tell you it stops after the early 20s, but not so much. If I sat down and tried to add up all the times I have made a mountain out of a molehill, I’m pretty sure I’d run out of numbers. And I’m sure my husband, if you twisted his arm, would admit that he’s done some pretty stupid things over the course of our 25-year marriage. A few of our more memorable fights involved, backseat driving, dishwasher loading and underwear folding. Yes, underwear folding. Didn’t you know the way you fold underwear is a sign of respect and it expresses your desire, or lack thereof, to make your spouse happy?

So why is this gem important enough to earn a spot on my Power Point? Because it’s a quick way to check your standing in any argument with your significant other. Considering the truth usually lies somewhere between her side and his side, a gut check is always a good idea.

Her: Did he really do something stupid or am I just being a little crazy?

Him: Is she being crazy or did I just do something stupid?

It’s an easy way to gain insight into motivations, reactions and even determine if it’s worth a confrontation. Honestly, if I was better about doing this gut check before reacting to my husband when I’m upset, we’d have a lot less conflict.

I definitely could have used this knowledge during the Great Burger Meltdown of 1992. Not long after my husband and I were married, we had a death in my family and needed to head to California for a funeral. The day we were set to fly out, my husband went to grab us some lunch at a local fast food burger joint. I asked him to get me a cheeseburger with no onions. In his haste, he ordered a cheeseburger, hold the cheese, with extra onions. He came home and handed me my burger. I opened it and could smell the onions. It was an instant fight. How could he not have remembered after almost three years together that I don’t like onions? How could I be so upset when he was trying to do something nice? It was bad, and utterly ridiculous. He could have paid better attention to what he ordered for me, and I could have refrained from flying off the handle. It was one of the stupidest fights we’ve ever had. Although, he has never ordered me anything with onions on it since, so I may have come out on top of that one.

I am hoping the teaching my kids this concept now will save them from unnecessary turbulence in their romantic relationships down the road. When they find themselves in conflict with a loved one of the opposite sex, I hope my kids will remember what it took me years to figure out. Lots of upset can be avoided if you take a minute to remind yourself of this one thing: Boys are stupid and girls are crazy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Today World

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I awoke this morning to the horrific news out of Las Vegas. The act of one evil man has robbed at least 50 people of their lives, injured 500+ concert goers and impacted the lives of countless others. And that’s just the beginning of this story. We will know the true toll exacted by this man’s act of terror in the coming weeks and months.

Nowadays, it seems that every time I turn on the TV, there’s another reason to be upset. Politics, natural disasters, wars, threats of war, terror attacks. It never ends. And social media is only worse. Not only is the news of the most recent tragedy splashed across my feeds, there are the commentaries and arguments that inevitably follow. Everybody has an opinion about everything. It’s almost enough to make me want to bury my head in the sand and disconnect from the world – either that or lose all hope. Almost.

Instead of allowing current events to lead me into a pit of despair, I have decided to focus on the good I still see in the world. Even in the midst of tragedy, there is hope. In the midst of division, there is altruism. In the midst of loss, there is new life. Until the world stops turning, there is a new day around the corner.

I decided that today, I am going to list just a few of the things that bring me hope and remind me that life is still worth living, that there is more good than bad out there, and that there is joy to be had. I hope it brings you a little hope today.

  • My coffee pot went off on time this morning, permeating my whole house with the aroma of the elixir of life before my feet hit the floor.
  • My girl and her dog had a safe trip back to school.
  • My father not only battled cancer, and a resulting stroke, he has regained his ability to drive, returning a piece of his independence we feared had been lost forever.
  • A friend of mine was one of the hundreds of volunteers that took their own boats down to Houston to rescue people impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Another friend was able to get his sister and her children out of Venezuela.
  • I live in a country where I am free to speak my mind. Protected by individuals that willingly place their lives on the line to ensure my continued safety and freedom.
  • I have mocha chip cookies, made by my son, in my kitchen.
  • My house smells like fall thanks to my handy dandy wax melters.
  • I got to enjoy a walk in the sunshine this morning with my dog. And she didn’t poop while we were out.
  • A friend does not have to move to Arizona, thereby keeping her close.
  • I have witnessed my neighbors helping one another out continually on the neighborhood Facebook page.
  • I get to see my son perform on stage again in a couple of weeks for the first time in a long time.
  • There is a group of people praying for a friend’s friend (whom few of them have met) as she recovers from a very difficult surgery.
  • Cooler weather is finally in the forecast.
  • I woke up feeling better today than I did yesterday.
  • I woke up today.
  • My husband still makes my heart beat faster.
  • My rolodex, I mean mobile phone, is chock full of people that will come running if I need anything.
  • I get to share a pot of tea with a friend this afternoon.
  • God loves me. There is no greater joy or hope than that.

Because of these, and countless other, things I remain hopeful. And when current events try to rob me of that hope I have one response: Not today world, not today.

 

 

 

 

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