The first wink wins

Entering the dating scene after twenty-five years of marriage was sort of like going for a swim in the ocean ten minutes after watching Jaws. You know there are sharks in the water, but surely you can find a small space of water that is safe. After a short relationship and several dates, it’s more like, you’ve lost a leg, but giving up now would just be silly. Everyone said it was scary out there, but I kept thinking, it can’t be THAT bad. Holy crap.

After my divorce, I immediately got into a serious relationship. That’s not what this blog is about, it deserves it’s very own story. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. I was genuinely heartbroken. He was a man in the little town we lived in. I knew there wasn’t any other viable option for a date in our small town and I was trying to put a band-aid on my rejection. After some prodding from a good friend, I decided to join This journey culminated in a marriage that is a gift from God. The adventure to get there is too bazaar not to share. And it’s all true. I couldn’t make this up.

Let me start by saying that Ken was the first man to ‘wink’ at me on Match. When you are interested in someone on this site, you send them a ‘wink’, an emoji doing just that. This is sort of the equivalent of the note you passed in 5th grade…

Do you like me?

Yes       No

Circle one

I received several winks. I got one from this handsome man in an orange shirt, standing up straight with his arms crossed and grinning. I read his bio and he talked a lot about riding his bike. I noticed he had this really cool watch on with all the bells and whistles. Your picture and bio are meant to portray as much about you as possible in as little space as possible. What Ken’s information said to me was that he was a health nut. His watch had a little stop watch on it. He was out riding his bike come rain, shine, snow or sleet. Nope. The last thing I wanted was to have Lance Armstrong riding along behind me noticing how big my butt was and feeling sorry for the bicycle seat on which I was sitting. Time to move on.

The first date I went on was with a man who actually lived in the next town over. He worked at the Steel Mill. I have a really good friend who also works at the Steel Mill, so I called him and ask him about ‘Rob’. He assured me he was a good guy with a good job. Rob’s children lived with him and he was all about family. Ok! This sounds promising. I winked back at Rob to get the ball rolling. We made a date and I anxiously awaited, feeling really good about this.

So, on Friday night I was ready and waiting on my date. We hadn’t made any definite plans, we were just going to play it by ear. Kennedy was home and we came up with a plan. If I wasn’t having a good time, I would send her a blank text and she would call with an emergency. That would have been awesome, except my phone died about fifteen minutes into the date. About fourteen minutes after I sent Kennedy my SOS.

This man was full of himself. He was also stuck in 1979. Dark blue wrangler jeans, shiny red button down (think black button down in Saturday Night Fever only blood red), pointed toe black cowboy boots, pinky rings (both pinkies), enough gold chains to melt down and make a gold-plated disco ball. The most attractive part? His bald head. Like Kojak bald. It was obvious by the spots he missed around his right ear and neck, that this was something he did to himself. Our conversation? How much money he made. How much his Harley cost, How much his Camero cost. How much his house cost. How much his daughter’s prom dress cost ($89.00…?). I didn’t say thirteen words all night. Eleven of those words were, “I have to work tomorrow, I’ve really got to get home.” I delivered said words at 8:15. I finally got him to take me home around 9:30. When I got home, the kids and some of their friends were there. I told him not to walk me to the door, I was so embarrassed. I walked in the house, said hello to the group of kids in my living room, went to my bedroom, laid down on my bed and bawled. Kennedy came in and talked to me. She made me feel better, as usual, and I quit feeling sorry for myself.  It was only one date. I didn’t ever have to see him again and the next date would be better.

No. The next one wasn’t better and I couldn’t get Rob to leave me alone. He called constantly. I just declined the calls. So he texted. With the ferocity of a fourteen year old love-sick boy. He missed  me. After one date? He really thought this was a good ‘love connection’. Holy crap. We had talked about my previous relationship and the heartbreaker’s best friend also worked at the Steel Mill. Rob actually sent a text to me telling me that he had talked to the best friend and the heartbreaker and I were never getting back together, so if that’s what I was waiting on, I could forget it. OMG. Then he quit being nice?, I guess nice is a good word. He began to get vulgar. After one particularly horrible text, I sat down at the kitchen table and cried. Kennedy came home and found me like this.  I showed her the text. She FLIPPED out. She decided she was going to take care of this. She sent him a text telling Rob that messing with a Soden was a mistake. If he didn’t believe her, he should ask around. She told him that if he sent me one more text, she was going to have someone break his thumbs. Thumbs, Kennedy? Of course, those are what you text with. Funny? Yes. Scary? Also yes. He left me alone. My sixteen year old daughter scared him. If only I’d known!

The next few dates were awful. I went out with a man who had recently finished his treatment for cancer. He was very health conscious and spent most of the time we were out talking about ‘getting healthy’. I admire that. I think living a healthy lifestyle is commendable. However, when I ordered a pop to drink with our pizza, I got a lecture. He asked if I meant to order water. Maybe I was just so nervous that I needed a pop to calm me down. After berating me until I ordered a water, he ordered a beer. Seriously? I’ve got work in the morning. I’m going to need to go home early.

Then….there was the guy who Kade scared. Kade and Zach were dressed up for a stunt they were filming. This was nothing new to me. I was used to their insanity. They came busting through the front door, dressed in Daisy Duke shorts, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. They were dying to tell me about their latest exploit. They had talked the new policeman in town into letting them get on top of the police car, in their present get-ups, and dance on the top of the car. Pictures and video were taken. As I started this post, I went looking for the evidence on various Facebook pages but I couldn’t find it. My date sat there, eyes wide and clearly uncomfortable. He left shortly after. He made up some lamo excuse. Look, these kids are nuts, but they are my nuts. Seeya.

Then….the big burley guy who worked for the railroad. We spent a lot of time texting and calling before I agreed to go out with him. He was recently divorced and was as out of the dating loop as I was. He was actually pretty promising. Until we had the date. He talked incessantly about his ex-wife. She had helped him pick out the outfit he had on for our date. They had gone out for dinner and shopping together the night before. They belonged to a supper club that they still attended together. Ok, yes, this was peculiar. Maybe I was just being too touchy. Then the clincher. He asked me if I liked pedicures. Well sure! I think every woman likes to be pampered. What a way to relax! He exclaimed ‘I do too!’ Ok. I know guys do this, telling myself to quit being so judgmental! Then he flipped his shoe off and held his Fred Flinstone foot up for me to see his…zebra striped toenails. I swear on my blond hair, I snorted my drink out my nose. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Neither would be appropriate but at this point, did I even care? He told me how he loved to have his toenails done and then wear flip flops to show them off. He got on Pinterest and pinned different ideas because he liked to get something different each time. ‘I’m sorry. I have to work early tomorrow. I really should be going.’

I QUIT!! I will be single the rest of my life. No amount of encouragement from family and friends was EVER going to get me to go on another date. I knew this was going to be hard but holy cow!

During all of this dating hell, I had been texting back and forth with Ken some. We had exchanged numbers but I didn’t see this going anywhere. Another health nut. I like POP!! My Mother came for a visit and I was having a pity party about the dating insanity and how I was going to be alone forever. During her stay, Ken and I talked a lot. She wondered who I was on the phone with all the time. I told her some guy who rode a bicycle! Like I was going to go out with someone who rode a bike everywhere. That wasn’t ever going to work. She talked to me like Mothers do. I can’t give up…There is someone out there for me….God has a great blessing in store for me…blah blah blah

So I went out with Ken. I was so leery. I was totally prepared for nipple piercings or for him to ask to borrow my panties. You name it, I thought about it. He picked me up and we went out for pizza (Our restaurant situation is horribly lacking in Jackson County). I knew before the pizza got to the table that if it were up to me, this wouldn’t be our last date. In short order, he met my family, I met his and we were hooked.

Ken was a slow-cooker prayer. I had to go through all the other ‘dates’, to use the word loosely, to be able to appreciate him the way he deserved. I had to learn. I had to take all of the pop-quizzes so I could pass the final test. Ken is funny. He makes me laugh every day. He is kind to my children. He is empathetic and sympathetic. He is always cheering me on, no matter what hair-brained idea I come up with. He goes through the medical craziness and supports me fully. He loves me. He not only tells me, he shows me. He will do anything he can to make me happy. And the man let me have seven dogs. That in itself speaks volumes about his drive to make a happy woman out of me. When I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, we had only been together about three years. I told him that I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t want to do this. This isn’t the life he signed on for. I felt like I was saddling him with something that would limit every part of his life. He wanted someone to actively spend the rest of his life with, not someone who will likely end up in a wheelchair. He got so mad. He has repeatedly told me these last two years, that we are in this together. He even found a wheel chair for me that is sort of like an all terrain vehicle. It looks like something out of Star Wars. I know that with all the uncertainty of this disease, Ken will be by my side to help me live the fullest life I can.

All those horrid dates were totally worth it. And there is no way this man will ever come home with zebra striped toenails. Oh, and the bicycle thing? It was a Harly Davidson Motorcycle. No bicycling for him. He isn’t a health nut! He tells everyone that if you see him running, you should run too, because something bad is coming. He does try to get me to eat healthier. That’s because he loves me and he knows the benefits would be huge. Then he will eat an oreo with me. I win.



I kept the two oldest grandboys this week. They are eleven and thirteen. I forgot how young men acted. I raised three boys but I haven’t had them at home in three years. I have girls home now. Although Kennedy lives on campus, she is here all the time and of course I have Belle. The only thing I got right this weekend was the food. I bought a ridiculous amount of food, snacks, orange pop, candy and chips. I totally nailed the food thing. Everything else, well, you’d just have to ask them….

Belle takes at least three showers a day. Throw in a long hot bath, hair time and makeup time and she is in the bathroom every twenty-two out of twenty=four hours. When all the girlies come and stay, I always buy the newest Bath and Body or Philosophy. I have bubble bath and a bath bomb or two. I always buy a new candle for the bathroom and I ALWAYS have new socks. My girls all love new socks. Especially holiday socks. I buy flavored coffee and green tea. As I’ve been writing this, I think I always do the above things for my now grown boys. They like the spoiling I do for the girls and are more than happy to partake. They usually get new pajama shorts instead of socks, but pretty much everything else is the same. Any time they stay, I always try to make it an event. That’s why everyone wants to stay at Birdie’s house.

This week I had a new teen and pre-teen boy. This is the first time I have ever kept them like this. They usually come with Ginnie and they all stay. Um…she wants the spoiling too! Of course she stays! This weekend, however, it was just me, the boys and Belle. I am ashamed that I was a bit lost as to what to do with them.

We have all the toys that watching the television has to offer. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, On Demand, every channel we are offered. The girls and I don’t watch ‘real’ TV. We watch older shows that are offered or movies. We are movie hounds. We like movie series. There is nothing better than spending a day watching Harry Potter, piled up on the couch with all of the dogs with a veggie or fruit platter! And ice cream. Always ice cream. Ken watches the History Channel or Nat Geo. I love Nat Ge but I totally know more about Hitler than I could ever want to know.

They boys arrived on Thursday and I asked them what they wanted to watch. Let me pause here for a moment and clarify something. I am an outdoor person. We live on a lake. Any other time we would have taken the boys out on the boat and fishing and turtle hunting and all that good stuff. But it’s HOT here. Like, dangerous hot. I can’t do hot anymore. When I do, I have a flair or relapse and end up in the hospital. No heat and humidity for me. Ok, anyway, I asked the boys what they wanted to watch and we agreed on all of the Back To The Futures. I was thrilled! I love those movies! That was where the group television activities started and stopped. Sports, stupid humor movies, SCIENCE shows! I hate science shows! Belle retreated to her bedroom to bask in all of the Gilmore Girls glory and I was stuck in here with adolescent boy humor.

Also, boys fart. A lot. Now I know this. They keep farting when they grow up. Ken and my boys can rattle the windows. They don’t, however, fart on the dogs. Or try to decide what the dogs have been eating based on their farts. Or time their farts on the stopwatch on my iPhone. Farting was a big part of this week. I forgot that. I’ve burned every candle in the house. Last night, in an act of total desperation, I sprayed raid in the house. Sure, it burns your eyes, but not like the fart smell does.

There seems to be a breakdown in communication between the boys and I about cleanliness. I know they brought clothing with them. They each brought a duffle bag. I know one of the bags contained a game system, but I am assuming there are clothes in the somewhere. I have repeatedly laid out towels and welcomed them to take a shower. The only time they have been wet this week is when they went swimming. Maybe they are playing ‘outdoor camping game’ and took some soap with them to the dock. I didn’t smell soap. Not that I necessarily smell body order either. I’m not all that comfortable asking them if they have washed themselves so I’m going to let their mom figure it out when they get home. They are in one piece, they have no broken bones and we haven’t had to have stitches. I’m going to consider this a success.

We have seven dogs. Old, young, big, little and really little. I have asked them to stay out of Willie’s face, you’re going to get bit. I have asked them to be careful and not toss the mini doxies around, they will scare or hurt them. I have warned them about wrestling with Sam and Tag, I’m afraid the boys will get hurt. I suddenly stopped last night and realized that the dogs were having a ball and so were the boys. They like to get all of the dogs howling and they howl with them. I was never this paranoid with my own children. When it’s your grandchildren, you will have to explain the wounds and missing teeth and the hunk of hair that is gone from the side of their head. It’s much more stressful!

I raised three boys. They were ornery boys who kept me on high alert most of the time. I miss having them here all the time. The two that live in Arkansas come up every Sunday. That’s our family day at the house. I used to cook every Sunday but it’s hard for me to do that these days so Kade has taken over Sunday dinner. I love it when they are here. I’m glad they have grown up. Well, for the most part. I miss the stunts that make you want to cover your eyes. I miss the epic shaving cream battles and the Light Saber wars. I miss the Skateboard tricks and the bicycle tricks and I dont’ miss the 4-wheeler tricks. I can live three lifetimes without ever seeing any more of those. My favorite times now are when everyone gets together. I hope these boys will grow up and still want to come to our house and hang out. I hope they grow up and want me to fix them their favorite foods and they still want to come over and watch Back To The Future. Won’t it be great when they bring their girlfriends, then their wives and families and come up with all the other kids. I will always keep silly string and remote control cars. Little boys grow into big boys that still like to play.



The Lake House

My fondest memories are of the time I spent on Little Barbee Lake in Warsaw, Indiana. My Grandparents owned a cottage there. I have nothing but good memories of that little cottage. There was no fighting or fussing. No worries. We just went and had fun.

It took a little less than two hours to get to The Lakes from my Grandparents house. That’s how we said it. The Lakes. It was a treat. It was important. Like Disney. You don’t say disney. My Grandparents and Mother would plan for our trip. They would come to our house and get us. Mother bought us little suitcases when we were small that she would pack all of our things in. There was always great excitement when we got to go. We usually stayed a week. It was never long enough.

The cottage was on a back street. It sat on the lake. When you pulled in the driveway, you were at the garage in the back. The cottage was gray with white trim. When you walked in, you entered the kitchen. The kitchen was small, there was a little table and chairs and then you were in the living room. My Grandma has a scratchy couch in the living room. When you came inside with your bathing suit on and sat down, the material always scratched my legs. There was a small bookcase that my Grandfather had built that mostly held books written by Billy Graham and National Geographic magazines. The top of the bookcase was also something my Grandfather had made. He and Grandmother had traveled a lot and collected coins everywhere they went. He took all of those coins and set them in an epoxy, I guess, and that is what he topped the bookcase with. It was as if the coins were floating in water. There were two bedrooms off to the left, one was my Grandparents and the other was where Jeff and I would sleep. Or if my cousins came, we took turns between the beds and that scratchy couch. The closets were cedar. Our clothes would smell like ceder while we were there. That’s on my wish list for our home, ceder closets. The bathroom was small. The front of the cottage was full of windows that looked out over the lake. There was a little black and white television that we watched Lawrence Welk on. Out the front door was a fenced-in front yard. It wasn’t very big but it was always well-kept. We  had a double hammock in the yard. That was my favorite place. I loved to lay there in the sun and sway slowly back and forth. I read books laying out there, listening to the lake sounds and smelling the lake smells. It was cool in the evenings quite often and grandpa would make a fire in the little stove. I love that smell. When ever we have a fire here at home, it mixes with our lake smell and I am homesick for Little Barbee.

The dock was right in front of the cottage. It was here that the boats slept. A boat for rowing. A speed boat that skipped and jumped across the lake with incredible speed, making me squeal with delight. A pontoon the whole family could fit on. I would sit on the edge and dangle my legs in the cool water. I hated the seaweed that grew in the lake. It wrapped around your arms and legs when you swam. It scared me. I ways always afaid it would grab onto me. As I dipped my toes in the water, I was very careful not to let the slimy tendrils touch me. Also secured to the dock was my Grandpa’s sailboat. That was my favorite. When Grandpa asked if you wanted to go on a sailboat ride with him, you were in for a treat. There was only room for two people, so it would just be him and I. He would explain how everything worked. The boat was smooth and slow. A lot of times, there wasn’t even any conversation. It was peaceful and meditative. Although I didn’t know what that word or concept meant at the time, I was aware that it was a special time. Now, I relish any time I get to have time to myself or with someone who appreciates time spent just that way.

We had very few rules at the lakes. The rules we did have were strictly enforced. When you are in the lake, if you scream, you better really need help. We would get carried away playing and yell and shriek. That would get you a seat in the house for the rest of the day. Grandpa wanted to be able to discern whether we needed help or not. We also weren’t allowed to bother the ducks. No teasing them. No throwing things at them. The only time I ever remember getting in a lot of trouble with my Grandparents, Jeff and I broke one of the duck eggs. The ducks made their nests around a light pole right outside the fence. We were picking the eggs up and inspecting them. That was a HUGE no-no. I dropped the egg and it broke. The only reason I didn’t get spanked was because I went and found Grandma and told her what I did. I cried. Not because of the trouble I was in but because Grandpa told me that the Mother duck would be missing a baby now. Oh! I was heart-broken over that.

The lake house was my favorite place to be when I was young. My house is my favorite place to be now. It reminds me of when I was young. The smells, the sounds, the feel of everything around the water. I love the loons singing. I am happy when the pelicans come for their short visit. I love being on the water. Ken fishing while I take pictures. It’s quiet between us. It’s that comfortable silence that I get to share with only a few people. Ken reminds me of my Grandfather. He is quiet and sure. Easy yet firm. Safe and secure.  I am blessed every day with some sort of surprise from the lake. The sunrises and sunsets. The turtles that come up in the yard to lay eggs. The heron that perches in the tree down by the water. It’s what my Heaven is like.


A Weight Has Been Lifted

Have you ever had to forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness? Not only never asked, but continued to harm you on a mental level. I want to talk about forgiveness in this next chapter of me. There is nothing harder to do than forgive. It’s not something I accomplished over night. It was, and is, a process. It is such a necessary process. You can’t grow with bitterness looming in your mind.

I was married to my children’s father for 25 years. When I finally said enough and filed for a divorce, I perceived our marriage as a total failure. I was mad. I was hurt. Humiliated. Vengeful. I felt that the destruction of our family was something that the kids and I would never get over. I think we have all come to peace with the way things turned out, however, the road to the place we are right now was a hard  road to travel. .

During most of our life together, I was in a state of white-hot panic. I worked very hard at keeping the lid on our basket. I was a good wife and a good mother and if I just held on long enough, worked a little harder, lost a bit of weight, cleaned the house more, Bill would see the damage he was doing and stop. That’s a heavy load to carry around. Marriage is hard. Under the best of circumstances. It takes work! It takes two people. In my marriage, I was a child on a see-saw alone. You can’t get off the ground if someone isn’t helping you. You just sit in the dirt and wait. No one ever came. I just stayed on the ground, frustrated that I couldn’t go sailing up in the air.

The weeks leading up to our divorce being final were at the very best, chaotic. Bill didn’t want the divorce. My emotions were being pulled in all directions. I felt I had no choice. I had been backed into a corner too many times. I had to try to get out while I could. I had been held under water without any air and I couldn’t hold my breath any longer.

I worked for the City during this time. I was the Assistant to the Mayor. My job was demanding and I had so many irons in the fire. I was being pulled in so many directions. Add to that, Bill begging for one more chance, two of the kids fighting against the divorce and three begging me to go through with it. I was exhausted. Bill came to my office one day and asked if he could talk to me. I had been refusing to talk to him about anything. He could manipulate and confuse me and fill my head and heart with doubt. I felt like this was my only chance to finally get my life back in order. I just had to shut him out. That worked for a while, then he went to work on the kids. He talked to Kennedy and had her believing that he could, would change.  Kennedy had been mad at her dad for so many years. I never had to defend my actions to her. She saw what he was doing to our family clearly. Then he got to her. He cried and took all of the blame on himself. He had her convinced. Suddenly she wanted me to talk to him. Listen to him. The tide had shifted and I was trying to figure out what to do. So there he was, begging me to give him one more chance. Just as I felt myself weakening, giving in again, his phone rang. I could hear everything she was saying. It was one of the women he had an affair with. She was running for public office and suddenly she had an opponent. She was raging and asking him to help her. I’m not sure what she thought he could do. She was playing the damsel  in distress and he was eating it up with a spoon. He sat there in front of me, tears still drying on his face, reassuring her. He was being very vague so that I wouldn’t wonder who he was talking to, but I could hear both ends of the conversation. I sat there, sick at my stomach. Flushed with shame and degradation. Quietly waiting on their conversation to end. He brought the call to a close and turned to me again. I stood up and with a new confidence, told him I had nothing to say and to please get out of my office. He started to protest and I smiled. I gathered my purse and my car keys and just left. I was done. I suddenly felt very bold. God sends you pebbles, stones, bricks and then walls. It’s all in the listening. I had run into the wall. And walked through it to the other side. I finally had conviction in my head and heart.

I went home that afternoon and sat all the kids down to talk. I told them I understood that this was scary and hard. I told them that it would probably get harder before it got easier. I asked for their trust and support and I gave my word that I would only make decisions that I felt were the best for all of us. I let them ask their questions and we talked about all of our fears. I explained that this was a new normal for all of us and we would adjust. It was a good talk and we were finally on sure-footing. We were still a unit, just minus one. There were lots of tears and some laughter. We ended our family meeting that day with a renewed spirit. For the first time, I was excited about what the future held. God blessed me with self assurance that day. I can still recall exactly the way I felt. I finally had a little bit of my sass back. It was a remarkable feeling.

It has taken me a long time to not be mad at Bill every day. I prayed so many prayers about forgiveness. Prayers of my forgiveness towards him. Prayers asking for forgiveness when I failed. The anger I felt was sometimes overwhelming. It smothered me. What I figured out though, was that my anger was draining me. He would deliberately provoke me and I would play right into his hands. He still had a control over me. But only because I let him. That was the hardest thing, taking back my control. He pushed every button and I had to fight as hard as I ever had to not let him. It was a daily battle and I was losing. So God sent me angels.

I had friends, my mother, my children. They all rallied around me and we talked and walked through all of the crap. I had to learn to do everything for myself. I had to learn that I was dependent on only me. I had to figure out how to be strong for the kids and for myself. It didn’t happen quietly and quickly. It was like falling into cuckle-burrs and plucking them out one at a time. My Mom would pray for me and ask God to let something good happen each day. I looked for these little blessings everywhere. It was sometimes just a kind word from someone. It might be my favorite cookies from our town bakery. Quiet often, it came from my children. We had always been so close, but this time in our lives cemented our bonds with each other. The kids watched out for each other and for me.  It was the beginning of the unwavering relationship we all have today.

We have all had to swim against the current of forgiving. We all reached it at different times but we have tackled it as a whole. It has made all of us better. Even Bill. I am not angry with him now. Oh sure, he will aggravate me once in a while. It’s always over one of the kids. Sometimes I want to throw something at him and scream ‘WAKE UP’. The irony in my life now is that I feel sorry for him. He isn’t a happy person. He is lonely and he misses our family. I can appreciate that. The kids try to overlook things now. We have all learned not take the hurt so personally. He has flaws. The kids have come to an understanding between each other. This is their father. They have learned to accept him and be thankful for the relationship.

I have forgiven Bill. I learned how to be a better parent, a better person, a stronger person from the life we had together. He is a good grandpa and he makes an effort now with each of his children. I had to forgive him to be able to appreciate the gifts that came from our marriage and the demise of it. Getting to the point of forgiving was like wading through quicksand. Once I wrapped my head around it and learned how to forgive, it became much less of an effort. It almost seems lazy to me. I just let go of it. God can have it and figure it out. It’s a project I am no longer in charge of. When I slip, I find myself all knotted up inside. I will have this frenzied state of mind and suddenly I will remember that this isn’t my battle anymore. It’s so much easier to release it. It’s like a cool breeze. So I let go and breathe. What a relief……

Crockpot Prayers vs Microwave Prayers

I pray. A lot. I pray for my children and my Mother. I pray for my almost children. I pray for strength. Sometimes I’m praying for the strength not to lose it and poke someone with a fork. Mostly I pray for guidance and wisdom.

My favorite spot to pray is on my front porch. It’s quiet and still on my porch. I have a comfortable chair and our front yard is beautiful. We have this beautiful old tree that I love. It’s so tall, I can hardly see the top of it. It’s strong. Even though it’s been damaged by a magnificent storm, it continues to thrive. When the wind is up, it’s almost as if that sweet old tree is talking to me. The rustling of the leaves comfort me. Bird families and squirrel families make their home among its branches. The singing and chattering of its guests coax a smile from me every time I sit and listen. This is where I like to talk to God. I feel his presence all around me when I talk to him here. I sit at his feet and praise him and ask for answers.

When I was in my twenties, I counseled with our preacher, Don McLaughlin. I was an emotional disaster. In counseling one day, we started talking about prayer. Don asked me if I prayed very often. Of course I did. I prayed the prayers of a desperate wife. I also told Don that I had a hard time feeling the connection I thought I ought to be having. I felt kind of a void. A nothingness. The conversation made me sob. I was in such a state of hurt and despair and I didn’t think God was hearing me. So Don, being the spiritual teacher to lost souls, taught me how to pray that day. It changed my life.

Months later, I had been steadfastly praying for healing in my marriage. I prayed constantly for understanding and peace. I felt God’s presence, but I wasn’t getting any answers. I had an appointment with Don and I asked him what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t God answering me? He used an analogy that day that has stuck with me. He told me about Slow Cooker Prayers and Microwave Prayers. Some prayers are answered slowly. They have to sit and cook. They are basked in warmth and love and it takes time to get them to the tender spot God wants. There are usually really big lessons in these prayers. It takes time for our mind and body to process and learn. It takes time for us to understand and soak up the lesson God is leading us to. Then there are Microwave Prayers. There are lessons to be learned here too, but they are usually prayers of relief. The answers to these prayers come quickly. God knows our minds and our hearts. He knows that we are ready to receive our answers and that we have the wisdom to accept the blessing. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes I get a Slow Cooker prayer and I’m aggravated that it’s not a Microwave Prayer. The answer in that conundrum is in the sentence above.

I had a Microwave Prayer last night. When I was praying it, my faith wasn’t in high gear. I was wallowing a bit and having a big ol’ pity party and I invited God to attend. Well he did, alright, and I got answers in waves. The blessings came in like high tide. I was bathed in comfort.

I think anyone who has a chronic illness gets frustrated. I do. I feel like a moose trampled me and left me for buzzard bait some days. Yesterday was one of those days. Actually this past week has been pretty bad. My family knows this. They watch me fall down emotionally and struggle physically. Some days I feel as if there is a wet, dark, heavy blanket on my soul and I can’t throw it off. It’s unnerving. The ‘want’ to do things is ever-present. The capability is not. It makes me mad. ‘Cos that helps…..Anger is an emotion that comes over me and swallows me whole. It’s hard to pray when you’re angry. I got mad last night. I called out for God. He popped my prayer into the microwave and as quick as you can say  ‘hot buttered popcorn’, I had an answer.

First, Kennedy came home. We laid down on the couch and talked. About everything and nothing at all. Pretty soon I wasn’t angry anymore. My children all have the Herculean task of putting my pitiful woes into perspective.  They all make me feel so mattered. They give me the drive to search for things that will make me better.

Then I heard from Ken. He made me laugh. He always makes me laugh. God gave me this incredible man who takes care of my every need. I needed to laugh and there he was. He is a mess and he can make my heart light with his wild hospital stories of things gone awry. His ability to turn even the most white-knuckled situation into a tale that will tickle me is a gift I am most thankful for.

After Ken, came my Mother. She called and we talked about my sweet cousin who was in a car wreck yesterday and the miracle of her walking away from it. We talked about how blessed we were. I hung up my phone feeling put back together. The pity party had ended and I wrapped up my night with prayers of gratitude.

Then this morning. That cup runneth over thing? Yeah, that’s me this morning. I got a friend request from an old friend. I accepted the request and we began messaging back and forth. It’s alway so sweet to catch up with an old friend. You suddenly realize that a piece of your puzzle has been missing. As we caught up on children and grandchildren and happenings in our lives, she began telling me about things that would benefit my health. The longer she talked, the more excited I got. God gave me another support system this morning.  Someone with some answers.

Microwave prayers. How precious they are. The devil plays with me. He toys with my emotions and dangles darkness in front of me like a carrot in front of a horse. I fight the desire to blindly follow that carrot. It’s a fight for my life. God wiped all of that clean for me this day. He wrapped me in security and sent my faith soaring. My prayers are going to continue to yearn for certainty, conviction and sureness. It’s funny how quickly we forget that God is in control and to let go. Holding on to our fights with such inflexible rigidness always makes the passage to what God can do narrow. Today my prayers are full of serenity. The Holy Spirit has comforted me. It’s a wonderful day for peace. Amen.




First Loves Part I

Everyone has a first love. That person who makes your toes tingle, your stomach flip. I had two. One when I was thirteen and then the real one when I was seventeen. They both left me heart-broken. For very different reasons. Here is my story about my heart. The story of my first love and the aftermath of a tragedy.

When I was young, I went to Camp Indogan every summer. Sometimes, most times, I went twice. That time carries my favorite memories of my youth. When I was in 8th grade, I met a young man named Brian Harvey. He would become a lifelong friend. After our camp session that summer, we had a youth meeting at our church. All of the other Churches of Christ in the area were invited. Of course I showed up with not a hair out-of-place and an outfit it took me days to pick out. I usually went to youth gatherings to see the boys. I think that’s pretty normal. At Lindberg Rd, where I attended church, there were a LOT of girls and just a few boys. All of us were always on the look out for a cute new boy.

I walked in the door, scouting for my girlies and I saw the most gorgeous boy I’d ever seen. He had dark hair and the prettiest eyes. I immediately ran up to my girls and asked WHO that was. The answer came easily enough, that was Brian Harvey’s cousin. Oh my goodness. The whole day, I was easily within three feet of him. We talked, very casually. I honestly didn’t think he was interested. He was 17 and I was 13, that was a pretty big age difference. I left the rally that day thinking that was the last time I’d see Kendall Harvey.

On Tuesday of that week, I was riding the school bus home and noticed a red El Camino sitting in my driveway as we were pulling up to my house. I got off of the bus wondering who in the world this was. Apprehensively I walked toward the car, and Kendall got out. Holy crap!! I asked him how he knew where I lived and he explained he had gone to a friend’s house and asked her where I lived. I was over the moon!! I was only 13 but I fell and I fell hard.

Kendall being so much older, wanted me to go on car dates with him. After a while, Mother agreed. He was so charming, how could she not? On a side note, Kendall loved my Mother. He loved her more than he ever loved me. The first time he met her, she was getting ready for a date and Kendall was visiting me at my house. Those of you who know Mother know what an absolute stunner she was. She came walking out of her bed room, in a red dress, long Farrah hair and tanned, she stopped and leaned against the wall and fixed the strap on her cherry red sandles. Kendall, gaping, said “Is that your MOM???”. I was second from then on. He gave me a kitten one time, a little gray, fluffy kitten. It was the sweetest thing. Some time later, he found a card that had a kitten that looked just like it on the front. He brought the card to my house, handed it to me at the front door, kissed me and left. I was so tickled. Ripping open that card, I saw the kitten and had a teenage ‘awe’ moment, then I opened it up. He had signed it “I love you, Kendall Harvey”. He always signed his first and last name. as if another Kendall was sending me cards or flowers. Underneath that he wrote, in BIGGER letters, “P.S. Tell your Mom I said hi” with a big exclamation point in bubble letters. I was so mad. I can remember running to my room and throwing that card in my trash can. I pouted a while, decided he couldn’t help himself and picked the card back out of the trash can.

We broke up often. I was very young and I had a hard time just having one boyfriend. I craved attention and if I was getting enough, I sought it out someplace else. He would show up and I would have a different boy there and he would storm off. Then I would call him and he would have a different girlfriend and I would throw a fit. I dated people to make him jealous. Friends of his. He would flirt around with friends of mine. We were ridiculous.

On Mothers day in 1982, he came and picked me up after church and we spent the day together. We spent most of it at his cousin’s house. They were out of town and we had the place to ourselves. Our parents would have killed us. He had just turned 18 in April and I was 15. We had no business being there, but there we were. I felt like a grown up. And I knew I loved him. We went to church with his parents that night and his Mother was so mad. It was Mother’s Day and he had spent the day with me. He had planned to come back to my house after the evening church service but his Mother wanted him home. I said I understood, although I was disappointed. He took me home, we said goodnight for a while, the way teenagers do, and he left. That was the last time I saw him.

Kendall had made a trip to the David Lipscomb Lectures in Tennessee that June. He decided to go over into Alabama to see a family he was friends with. Of course a girl was involved. He had recently purchased a 1978 Z-28. It was royal blue and had t-tops. It was stunning. He wanted to show it off and he wanted it to look it’s best. He went to the girl’s house and she wasn’t home, but he left them a note. He decided to go to the local K-Mart to get a chamois to buff his car with to make it really shine. When he came out and got into the car, there was a man in the back seat. He held a knife to Kendall’s throat and made him drive. They drove out towards the county. Eventually Kendall ran off the road, into a ditch. The man climbed out the window and ran. There was a man who was painting at a house near by and he witnessed the wreck and the man running away. Kendall had been stabbed several times in the chest and died there on the side of the road in Birmingham, Alabama.

The news started reporting that a young man had been stabbed to death and they needed to get a hold of his family but didn’t know how. If anyone was in the area, please call the police department. The young girl he was going to visit kept telling her father to call the police, her father waited because it just seemed to awful. Eventually he made the call and it was indeed Kendall.

It was beyond words.. The grief was overwhelming. I clung to Brian. He was the closest thing to Kendall. We were both devastated.

I had Driver’s Ed that summer. I had to go every day. The class started about a week before Kendall was killed. I missed two weeks but Mother called my instructor and explained the situation. I finally went back on the third Monday after the funeral. Of course, the news had spread. Every one stared. Every one wanted the gory details. I would sit in class then become overwhelmed with it and excuse myself to the bathroom and sit in a stall and cry. It was such a relief when we finally got out of the classroom and into the cars. There I didn’t have the stares and questions. Our teacher expected total concentration, even if you weren’t the one driving. I was an awful driver. We were passing someone one day and I ran off the side of the road a bit. There was mud all over that car. My instructor made me take the car to a car wash and get out and wash the mud off. I was so embarrassed. I cried the whole time. I honestly think it scared the two boys I had in the car and the teacher. It was cathartic for me. I cried all the way back to the school. all the way home and most of the evening.

The rest of the summer and late into my sophomore year, I slept all the time. If I wasn’t at school, I was asleep. I had bad dreams. I wanted to be at Kendall’s house with his parents or at the graveyard or with Brian. I slowly came out of what I now know was depression. I just knew I was sad. Amy Jo and Amy McNeely pushed me into life again. But I have never forgotten.

I have never forgotten his smile. I have never forgotten how vain he was about his hair. He would come to the house and I could see him patting and primping his hair in the door glass before I answered it. He was always having an adventure. He came over one time and his back was all covered with bruises and cuts, he had taken a canoe trip and rolled over in it. He just laughed and laughed. He loved Gene’s hotdogs. He loved my Mom’s taco salad. He had an old green car from the 40’s, I think. He called it his Green Machine. I made fun of that old car and he got so mad one time he left and went home. I had to say I was sorry about a hundred times before he would come back over. He liked cats and tolerated dogs. He loved my Mom. He loved me.

That is my story of Kendall. His death was such a loss for everyone. I feel like his parents never got over it. The sorrow ate them up. I remember all of the good things now.. I was young and the young bounce back quickly. I found myself more in tuned to the loss his parents felt once I had my own children.

My first-born was a sweet little boy I named Kendall. A few days after he was born, Kendall’s Mom came to the house with a gift for him. It was a silverware set. She had it engraved with Kendall’s name. She told me I could have given her no bigger gift.