Family

To Write–Perchance To Dream

I spoke at a homeschooling convention yesterday.  Part of me was wowed by the fact that I had been asked to speak at the convention that, in years past, had been the iconic Homeschooling Event Of The Year in these parts.  The other part of me mitigated that with the fact that, facing competition with other conventions, it has become a much smaller affair.  And the fact that I was only doing an exhibitor’s workshop.

So it wasn’t like I was a keynote speaker or anything.

But I was still thrilled.

In a vague attempt to fool myself into not thinking too highly of myself (because, come on, seriously.  We all do.), I had myself convinced that I would probably attract three or four attendees, and I pictured us pulling our chairs into a circle and having a nice Socratic Dialogue about the topic.

After all, I was representing Classical Conversations, so that would have been fitting.

It turned out to be standing room only, and they turned people away at the door.  Small room, so maybe 40 or so people.  I had made only 10 copies of my handouts.

But it went well, I think. It seemed well-received.  They laughed at most of my jokes, anyway.  I probably told too many – I usually do. But a couple of people stayed after to ask questions, so it couldn’t have been awful.

When I got home, the 14 year old asked me how it went.  I told him how amazed I was that so many people attended.  He looked thoughtful, and then asked me what my topic was.  So I told him it was “How Do I Teach All These Children And Still Get Dinner On The Table?”

He rolled his eyes at me.

“Mom, of COURSE they wanted to hear about that. You should have booked a bigger room.”

It was at this point that it really started to dawn on me that after 17 years of homeschooling, I might know some stuff that people need to hear.  Because while, in my mind, all those articles have already been written, it occurs to me that there is a whole new crop of homeschoolers who aren’t likely to dig through back issues of Home Schooling Enrichment Magazine for the answers to their burning questions.

So I have decided to start writing again.

Soon.

As soon as I get my curriculum chosen for the British Lit. class I’m teaching in the fall.

But right after that.  I am TOTALLY going to start writing again.

Bug me if I don’t. (Although, if you do, you may want to stand ready to duck, because if you have chosen the wrong time to nudge, like, say, when grades are due, I may throw something).

Categories: Blogging, Education, Family, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Diagnosis Diabetes: After a Year

025It’s actually been a year and almost three months since the 12 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  A year and three months of shots, insulin, blood testing and Those Infernal Glucose Test Strips scattered all over the floor.

He swears he puts them in the trash can.  But there they are, on the floor, stuck to the bottom of my shoe, under the couch.  I have even found them inside my book bags. And of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, once in my salad.

Our floor has also been carpeted this year with the paper seals from insulin pen needle cases, and the little green caps from pen needles (which, just for the record, hurt JUST as bad as a LEGO if you step on them barefoot), and occasionally the needles themselves (I think we have already established that those hurt worse than LEGOS).

We had some real fun back in August, when the 12 year old left his insulin pen in its case on a bench at an outdoor mall, and five minutes later, when he ran back to get it, found the case, but no pen.

At least it didn’t have a needle attached to it, so whoever took it couldn’t have given him or herself a shot, because that could have been really, really bad, if not fatal.  But seriously, what kind of person takes an insulin pen that they find on a bench?

A month ago, the 12 year old was finally put on an insulin pump.

<pause for heavenly music and rainbows>

No more pen needles!  Only one needle every three days instead of 5-6 shots a day!

The blood testing remains a constant, however, 5-6 times a day.  So the Infernal Test Strips are still the bane of my existence.

The pump gives him a steady supply of insulin throughout the day, as well as delivering extra when he reports that he is about the eat carbs, so overall his blood sugars have been much more manageable.

Everything is wonderful.

027Well, EXCEPT FOR the times when the pump doesn’t work.  It can be bubbles in the tube, or the catheter (infusion set) not being set correctly, but when the pump fails to deliver insulin, it gets very bad, very quickly.

A week after he got the pump, there were bubbles in the delivery tube, which meant he wasn’t actually receiving any insulin. His glucose number was so high then the meter couldn’t read it. That means it was over 600.  Normal is 80-150.  Very bad, very quickly.

Although we gave him an injection of insulin and brought it down right away, he ended up with such bad stomach cramps at 6 a.m. the next day that I called 911 for the first time ever.  By the time the ambulance and paramedics arrived, the stomach cramps had lessened enough that they let us drive him to the ER instead of giving him a $1000 ambulance ride (phew).  And by the time we got to the ER the cramps were pretty much gone, so after some tests, they sent us home.

But still, the neighborhood appreciated the excitement early in the morning.  I know this because the 8 year old from across the street called me, much to her mother’s chagrin, in the middle of the excitement (no fewer than 9 people in my tiny living room) to ask me why the ambulance was outside our house.

And then there was the other day, when he rolled over in bed at 6 a.m. and knocked the infusion set out of his side, and then shoved it back in (all the nurses reading this scream “Noooo” in unison) and taped it in place with medical tape. He got up at 8:30 a.m. and told me “Oh, Mom, by the way, I don’t have any infusion sets left,” so I called the pharmacy, only to be told us we couldn’t get any more that day because the insurance company wouldn’t pay for more until the following Monday, six days away.  Just then he came out of his room and said, “I guess the infusion set isn’t working right after all, so I’m not actually getting any insulin, because I just tested my blood sugar and found it was over 500.” Well, that’s just an example of spectacularly bad, very quickly.

Diabetic supplies sharing the table with Halloween candy... the new normal.

Diabetic supplies sharing the table with Halloween candy… normal around here.

The day was saved by Shelley, our rep with Roche, the pump manufacturer, who drove over here that afternoon, in the RAIN (again, a big deal, here in So Cal this year), to drop off a couple of infusion sets to get us through the next few days.  Luckily the 14 year old had just baked some gluten-free cookies and we were able to share some with her.

All this to say, if you are diabetic and are considering a pump, we highly recommend the Accu-Chek Combo System.  Especially if you live in Southern California, because then you might get the World’s Best Rep, Shelley, who delivers miracles with or without cookies. 🙂

And that if you do get a pump, check for bubbles in the tube.  Often.

And also, that even with a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, life goes on.  After a while it stops being the “new normal” and just becomes “normal.”

And that life with diabetes is nothing, if not interesting.

Categories: Diabetes, Family | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Excuses

I must be the meanest Mom around.

First of all, we didn’t watch the Rose Parade.  Well, we couldn’t, because we don’t have a TV.  Halfway through last year, realizing that the only time we watched the thing was, well, on New Year’s Day for the Rose Parade, we moved it out to the garage and reclaimed a nice chunk of the family room for more important things (i.e. a bookcase).

Besides, I really dislike parades.  I don’t much like firework shows either.  And I’ve never been to a baseball game. This year I plan to apply for U.S. citizenship, and I truly hope these facts do not impinge upon my application’s acceptance.

059I did make donuts this morning, so I’m pretty sure my kids didn’t really miss the parade much. I would like to report that I put the proper amount of salt in my batch of donuts, but the fact that I accidentally doubled it, given the 14 year old’s unfortunate misreading of the same measurement last night, is completely inexcusable.  Fortunately I noticed right away, so I was able to fish the extra salt out of the bowl.  Most of it, anyway.

The 14 year old completed our nutritionally bankrupt meal this morning by deep frying some bacon.  Big pot of oil, just the right temp… how could she not?

Once I had them all sugared up on donuts, I dropped the bomb.  We would be doing our school work today. My resolve stayed flinty, even in the presence of heartfelt wails of injustice. “But it’s a HOLIDAY, Mom.”  “But even the BANKS are closed today, Mom.”  Nothing moved me.

I happen to know that both of my younger kids are quite a few lessons behind in their math, among other things. I also happen to remember hearing multiple promises of “I’ll catch up over Christmas break” in the past month or so. So I put my foot down and pointed out that if they hadn’t taken little personal holidays on days when there was no excuse for not doing their school, they wouldn’t be doing school today when everyone else had the day off.

Unfortunately for them, I possess the ability to compartmentalize doom for days, even weeks at a time, as long as there are enough fires that need to be put out and other deadlines that need to be met.  My last deadline was Boxing Day, when we visited with my side of the family to exchange gifts.  It took exactly five days of not having a deadline looming on the horizon for me to realize how many things I had been letting slip for the past few months.   I had my crisis yesterday, while they were at the movies enjoying The Hobbit.

Today it was their turn.

They will thank me later.  Like, next Thursday, when they get to their respective Classical Conversations classes and actually have something finished to turn in.

As firm as my resolve is today, given the freshness of my Biannual I-can’t-do-everything-I’m-supposed-to-do Meltdown, I sincerely hope and pray that it will continue, at least until the end of this semester.  Because I know myself too well to think that this one foot planting itself firmly today is going to remain that way without major changes being made, not in my kids’ hearts and attitudes, but in mine.

And I know how I am.

For example, my husband found this workout program in a drawer the other day, unopened.  I bought it at least four years ago.

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At least I can use this with my Brit Lit students as a good example of the concept of “irony.”

 

 

 

Categories: Education, Family, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Filter December – Day 31: The Final Day

No Filter December has come to an end. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of blogging under the No Filter title so much, I may just declare next year “No Filter 2015.”  Let’s just consider it that between ourselves, though, so I don’t have to preface every title with it, because frankly, that got tedious this month.

041At any rate, it’s New Year’s Eve. Time for the Traditional Schmidt Household New Year’s Bash, a rollicking good time wherein we drink Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider and do a jigsaw puzzle.  Sometimes, if we’re feeling daring, we light a fire.  This year we added a pot of chili to the mix AND were treated to gluten-free donuts made by the 14 year old.  (There was a slight misunderstanding about the difference between 1/2 tsp and 2 tsp when it came to the salt measurement in the recipe, however, so we didn’t actually eat the donuts.)

When I was young and single, I did my time at New Year’s Eve parties. I remember one in particular, a rather large one for the Singles group at a popular church.  After a painful hour or so, a friend and I, having recognized a certain desperation in each others’ countenances, politely sidled out without drawing undue attention to ourselves. As soon as we got to the sidewalk, we ran, yelling “Aaugh,” down the street.  Yes, we literally yelled, “Aaugh.” It was that bad.

We ended up at a party at the home of a friend of his. It was a handful of people, and we sat around and played quiet games and chatted and I do believe it was the best New Year’s Eve party I have ever attended.

That was the last year I attended a big party.

A quick look at my Facebook newsfeed tells me that I’m not alone in enjoying staying home on New Year’s Eve, so either I’m getting old or a lot of people have come to the same conclusion as I that large New Year’s parties are overrated.

So to those of you who are joining the loud, the frantic and the raucous this evening in your celebration, I tip my hat.  To those of you who are joining me in staying home, I lift my glass of sparkling cider to you and offer you a quiet and understanding grin.

And, since I spent some time with this little guy earlier today while his mistress and my daughter were riding bikes at the beach, I also offer you a Happy New Year grin from Sam.  No, he’s really grinning. Really.

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Categories: Around Town, Blogging, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

No Filter December – Day 30: iPhone Christmas

It was an iPhone Christmas around here this year.

It all started back in October when my LG Extravert gave up the ghost.  Or rather, when the slide-out keyboard started having sticky keys, which is a problem that phone tends to have. This was our 3rd or 4th phone, between my daughter and I, and every single one of them has degenerated into sticky keys within 6-9 months.

030cropThis resulted in texts that said things like, “I cannnnnnnn commmme to the performmmmannnnce,” and after a while, even your best friend starts to lose patience (and text back things like, “donnnt mmmake funnn of mmme,” especially if you have made reference to a typo she has made).

I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth buying another Extravert, so I started looking for a used iPhone.  I figured, since my other alternative was a $20 flip-phone with phone keypad and T9 word recognition, even a used iPhone 3 would be better than that.  I quickly discovered that unless you are lucky enough to know someone with an old iPhone they want to offload, you can’t really buy one.

Well, you can, if you want to spend hundreds of dollars.  Or, you can buy one cheap, but there is no way of knowing whether you will actually receive the item you thought you purchased.  We went through that with a purchase of a “Used-Excellent” 3G Kindle Keyboard last year. When it arrived, it turned out to be WiFi only, not 3G, and was refurbished.  After a month of emails going back and forth (very slowly on the seller’s part), we sent it back, only to be told a week later that we had to prove to them that they had received it before they would issue us the refund. Fortunately my brilliant husband had sent it via Fed Ex, having foreseen just such an eventuality.

At any rate, there was no way I was going to get into a purchase of electronics from a third party or eBay seller again.

My 20 year old has had an iPhone for two years, so I asked his help.  He showed me a plan offered by Verizon where we could get free iPhones and a month-to-month family plan. We did the math and it worked out to about what we were already paying for our pre-paid phones.  The only problem was that we had to wait until his contract expired in December before we made the change.  This gave me the bright idea to get phones for my husband, the two oldest kids and myself and give them as gifts for Christmas.  For free!  What’s not to love about that?

035In the meantime, since I had an old flip-phone lying around, I used that. Three months of T9.  I should get an award.

Did you know that T9 does not recognize the word “Valentines?” It comes out “Takeouines.”  So my family and friends have, from my years of flip-phone use, gotten used to me wishing them Happy Takeouines Day on Feb. 14.

Also, the word “right,” if one of the letters was not picked up by the phone as I was typing it, would come out as the S-word, which was quite unfortunate when I was answering a text with a sarcastic “Oh, right” and didn’t notice the change before I hit send.

Especially if it were to one of my kids.

At any rate, two days before Christmas (I think I have already established my affinity for the ragged edge of disaster), my son and I were at the Verizon store signing a contract and picking up the phones. At the last possible second we suddenly realized that my husband has a phone from work, and that he really doesn’t need an iPhone however much he would like one, and that there was no way he was going to strap an iPhone to his belt next to his gigantic Samsung Galaxy every day. He’s a bit of a tech nerd, but not that bad.

Which was fine and all, but then that left me, two days before Christmas, with no gift for my husband.

Oh, but it was worse than that.  Not only did I not get HIM a gift, but I got myself an iPhone. All of a sudden my genius idea of October was turning into a very, very bad thing.

How did I not see this coming? How did I not figure this out until I was about to buy the dang phones?  That could be the topic of another blog.  It probably will be.  Let’s just leave it at the fact that this is not unusual behavior for me.  Despite the (now-expired) Mensa membership card.

I agonized over this predicament.  I had so wanted to surprise him with my foresight and thriftiness, getting us all superior phones for the same price as the throwbacks we had all struggled with for years in the name of living within our means.  I could find no easy answer for it.  My elation at finally having an iPhone — and a pretty GOLD one, at that — was overshadowed by the sour taste of Christmas Fail.

My son had no qualms about this, mind you.  He started using his phone right away, quite gleefully, and no one noticed the upgrade.  I had to keep mine and my daughter’s hidden, so they lay hidden in the bottom of my tote bag, a token of my shame.  I didn’t even want to wrap them.

I couldn’t stand it any longer and finally confessed the whole debacle to my husband later than night.  He stared at me, speechless.  I couldn’t read the expression on his face and this worried me.  Finally he sighed and said, “Well then, I guess I’ll just have to take back the phone I bought you for Christmas.”

As if it hadn’t been bad enough before.

I was saved from total despair by the realization that it was playing out like a scene out of “The Gift of the Magi.” We both had a good laugh about it, and when he lamented, “Now I don’t have a gift for you either,” I pulled the box out of my tote bag and handed it to him.  He wrapped it in front of me, chuckling all the while.

The next day I sang at an afternoon Christmas Eve service, so my focus for most of the day was preparing for that.  With that deadline out of the way, I once again turned my thoughts toward my husband’s gift.  I still had a good 8 hours of shopping time left at this point.  The sky was the limit.

The 12 year old offered, after the service, to accompany me on my shopping trip.  There was a hardware store around the corner from the church, and I remembered Alan showing interest in a tool there a few weeks before and saying he had always wanted one, and I was confident I could remember where that tool was located, so we headed there.

It turned out to be the wrong hardware store. I knew right where the tool was in THE OTHER store.  But not in this one.

A helpful employee, noticing my aimless wandering, asked if he could help.

To make a long story short, my husband received from me, the next morning, a gift card for the hardware store with the attached note: “Apparently a ‘handheld tool that looks like a drill but isn’t one and that has a spinny thing on the end of it’ isn’t enough to identify that tool you wanted, so you’ll have to go buy it yourself.”

075So Christmas morning worked out okay after all.  He was very happy with his hardware store gift card (note to self: remember this next year), the 20 year old was ecstatic with his new phone, I was over the moon with mine, and the 19 year old, the only one for whom the phone was a surprise at this point, actually cried when she opened hers.

All the gatherings of relatives for the next two days now had a focal point. Well, okay, celebrating the birth of Christ and the spending of time with family, but ALSO, the giving of iPhone tips.

I now have an Instagram.  I’m not sure why, given that I have a blog and a Facebook account, but I’ve always wanted one, so I have one now.  I may even venture into the unknown territory of mobile banking.  I still don’t understand how the bank considers it a deposit if you just take a picture of a check, but the 20 year old assures me it’s a thing.

I have also become that woman, the one who is so focused on her phone as she walks across a parking lot that she walks right across a parking space just as someone is trying to pull into it.

Perhaps I should put increased capacity for multitasking on my list of New Year’s Resolutions.

Categories: Christmas, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Filter December – Day 29: The Rules

My friends in Mexico live in a community with a security gate.  Apparently most of their neighbors are also Americans, and although part of the charm of the place for me has been that friendly neighborhood dogs roam the streets and take themselves down to the beach whenever they feel like it, someone in the community must have become uptight about it, because signs have been posted all over the complex.

And really, since English is not the guy’s first language, he did a pretty good job, all things considered.

I went ahead and laughed at it, at length, anyway.  I have a feeling that parts of it will be quoted among my family for years to come. Especially Rule Number Three, aka “The Unfinished Rule.” It should come in handy whenever I feel chaos ensuing.

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Rules To Live By

 

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No Filter December- Day 28: Flu With a Side Of Diabetes

So, the flu hit. I took the day off yesterday, and was planning to lay low today too, but then the 12 year old made himself breakfast.

Which would have been okay, but he has Type 1 Diabetes and gave himself enough insulin to cover for waffles and syrup.

Which also would have been okay, but the waffles turned out to be freezer burnt, so he couldn’t eat them, and once he has given himself insulin, he needs to eat within the next 30-45 minutes or his blood sugar could drop too low and he could pass out and the paramedics would then have to pay us a visit.

No problem, thought I from my cozy chair by the fire, he can just make himself some pancakes.  Except it’s 3 days after Christmas and I was sick yesterday so no one has been grocery shopping, so we were out of eggs, and all the other drivers in the house were either at church or sleeping off a late-night band practice.

There was no way around it. I had to run to the store to get eggs.

The 12 year old apologized profusely and promised me that he would run in and buy the eggs while I sat in the car, but once we got there, I felt okay so I said I would go in with him.

And then this happened and I realized I really should just have stayed put.014

Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Diabetes, Family | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

No Filter December- Day 26: The Art Of The Wrap

I’ll be the first to agree that Christmas is not all about the presents.

Except, you know, let’s be honest. No matter how devoutly you celebrate the birth of Christ (and yes, He wasn’t actually born in December, and much of what we celebrate comes from a Church-power-play co-opting of pagan rituals, and personally, I celebrate his birth every day so I don’t really get all that tweaked by Santa this time of year anyway), it is LARGELY about the presents.  Especially if you have kids.  And relatives. And friends.

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My “niece” joined the tradition this year. I think she does indeed get the Ugliest Wrap Job Award.

I wish wrapping was an aerobic exercise because I would have burned ALL my Christmas food calories and then some this year if it were.  Sore feet and back (and papercuts) aside, however, I must admit that wrapping is actually one of my favorite parts of the process.

This goes back to my childhood. I love surprises.  I hate knowing what is in the present ahead of time; my family is the same way, so over the years we developed an ever-increasing repertoire of ways to disguise gifts.  We did the small-gift-in-a-big-box, the tape-toilet-rolls-to-the-outside-to-disguise-the-shape, the throw-a-handful-of-pebbles-in-the-box-to-make-it-rattle.  We even did the there-is-no-possible-way-to-wrap-this-neatly-so-it’s-just-going-to-look-like-crap wrap.

One of the fun things about wrapping is the whole secrecy thing – locking the door to the bedroom, only letting certain people in the room. It’s a little difficult when you share a room with your husband, though, and you need to wrap his gifts.  Luckily my husband is very focused on whatever is right in front of him much of the time, so this year I perfected the art of wrapping his gifts right in front of him.  I even took a little item he bought for himself right out of his hand (“Oh, cool, can I see that?”) and went straight over to the wrapping paper and wrapped it up, while asking him questions about something else. He didn’t even notice. It made for a good laugh Christmas morning.

There was one gift I wrapped for him while he was in the kitchen making me a cup of tea (I know, I know.  What a guy). I felt like living on the ragged edge of disaster right then, so I left the door open and started wrapping his main gift.  I could hear him out there, but I knew that at any minute he might walk back to the bedroom, so I tried to stay calm and hurry.

Okay, that’s just not possible.  For me, anyway.  You know those spy TV shows where the spies are breaking into someone’s safe or computer and the owner is walking down the hall and putting their key in the lock, so the spy has to hurry, and they act all cool and methodical and get the job done and dissemble completely when the person walks in the room?  Yeah.  I could never be a spy.  My hands were shaking.  I dropped the tape at least twice.  I kept doing breathing exercises and telling myself to calm down and talking myself through the process, but my heart was going a mile a minute and my brain clicked into slow-mo mode.

But you know, when you have presents to wrap for 13 relatives and about as many friends, you take your excitement where you can get it.

A couple of years ago we ended up wrapping the kids’ gifts until midnight Christmas Eve, and I was getting pretty punchy.  After 10:30 p.m. the wrapping jobs and gift tags began to degenerate.  I present here a photo-documentary of my slide into befuddlement.

Gift wrap degeneration (2)

9:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift wrap degeneration (3)

9:49 p.m.

Gift wrap degeneration (4)

10:32 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift wrap degeneration (5)

11:15 p.m.

Gift wrap degeneration (6)

11:57 p.m.

 

Categories: Christmas, Family | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

No Filter December – Day 24: Comfort and Joy

The words to Christmas carols are hitting me in a new way this year.  We sing them every year, but certain phrases are jumping out this time around and sticking with me.

Like “tidings of comfort and joy.” Wow.  Who doesn’t need some comfort?  Who among us doesn’t feel a little bit beat up by the frenetic pace of life, the difficulties of today’s economics, the greediness of politicians, the abuse of power by those who have it, the unfairness of society, or maybe just by the selfishness of those around us?  Especially this time of year, when you add Christmas shopping and holiday traffic and expectations of The Perfect Holiday Decorations/Food/Gift to the normal grind.  I’m raising my hand.  I could use a little comfort.  The emotional equivalent of fuzzy slippers and hot chocolate in front of a nice warm fire would be good just about now.

Teacup Party Girl TherapyAnd joy, too.  I like to people watch.  It’s what I do at red lights to pass the time when I’m first in line – you get a really good view of the faces of drivers who are turning left onto the street you’re on.  So I can tell you, for the most part, people look miserable.  We need some joy.  Not happiness, which is fleeting, but joy, that deep joy that roots in your heart and can’t be budged by circumstance and situation.

So yes, some tidings of comfort and joy are just the kind of news people want to hear.  Where do we get this comfort?  Where does this joy spring from?  People want to know.  People need it.

I went to a Christmas Eve service tonight.  It was packed – the semi-annual Christmas and Easter crowd was out in full force. I wondered, though, how many of them were searching for comfort and joy in the traditions of religion and church attendance, but were not finding it because their favorite carol wasn’t sung, or the decorations weren’t like they remembered at the church they grew up in.  It’s easy enough to do – to look for the right thing in the wrong place.

The problem is that when spiritual matters are relegated to the realm of personal choice and cultural preference, as opposed to the realm of fact and truth, it is actually hard to find comfort in faith.  In fact, when faith is considered, as it is by so many today, to merely be a form of personal expression, it’s pretty empty faith.

It might feel good for a little while — along the lines of Christmas Spirit and That Holiday Feeling — but if these tidings of comfort and joy, this good news that is sung about in so many of the traditional carols, is not based on truth, then it is actually of less use than the Santa Claus myth.

Faith is not something you experience or feel.  It’s something you believe, and if you are trying to put faith in something while at the same time keeping your options open as to whether or not this thing is actually true, you will not reap the benefits of your faith.  Faith is not the thing that brings the benefits – the truth of the person or concept in which you put your faith is the only meaningful source of benefit.

The writers of these carols meant it when they offered tidings of comfort and joy.  It wasn’t just a Hallmark sentiment, like dreaming of a white Christmas. They were referring to something with which they had first hand experience.

Like this verse from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

These words were not written along the lines of Rudolph and Frosty.  These writers sincerely believed in “glad and golden hours.”  They were talking about something they were counting on.   They had experienced relief from “life’s crushing load” and wanted others to know about it.

Did they want to tell others about this because they would earn points by doing so? There are religions that foster some kind of a point-earning system, but in this case, no, these writers weren’t trying to impress anyone.  They wanted people to know because it worked.

If you were to visit a primitive tribe somewhere, and noticed that they were constantly sick because they didn’t wash their hands, would you withhold the information you had about the existence of germs because you didn’t want to influence their culture or offend them? No, you would tell them you knew a better way, because you wouldn’t want them to suffer with sickness any more.

The world today suffers under a great sickness of heart. A quick glance at the headlines of any given day will tell you that. So when someone says they have any answer that will bring peace, joy, comfort and salvation, it might be worth looking into.  Maybe that person is not just participating in a cultural ritual.  Maybe they are telling you the truth.  Perhaps their delivery is not flawless.  People are, well, human.  But even if the messenger is not perfect, maybe the message is true. Maybe it might be worth having a discussion about it with someone whose life reflects the sincerity of their belief, because if it truly works for them, it will work for you too.

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-13

A nice story to read at Christmas time or a history-altering event wherein God Himself came down to earth in order to set people free from the things that so easily entangle them? People are spiritual beings, so just as it’s worth reading up on foods that will help your body function better and exercise that will keep your body healthy, it’s worth spending time looking into the things that heal and nurture your spirit. It’s worth your time to explore tidings of comfort and joy.

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Categories: Christmas, Faith, Family | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Filter December – Day 23: Driven To Distraction

I must admit I was nervous about driving in Mexico when I went last week, but quickly discovered that it wasn’t all that bad.  Because as crazy as some of the intersections get, and as optional some of the stop signs seem to be, it all somehow works out.

After a few days of coping with Rosarito traffic, I returned to the States, and it was on my way out that I almost got in an accident.

Just as I approached the border, the lane I was in unexpectedly turned into an offramp that would take me back to the road to Rosarito, so I had to quickly slow down and cut over a lane.  Unfortunately, someone was at that moment parked horizontally across that lane, waiting for traffic to clear so that he could shoot over to the offramp.  I checked the mirror and started to drive around him on the right, when all of a sudden someone was honking me, loudly and long.  My daughter told me there was someone trying to cut around me from behind.  I stopped and let him go first, and as he drove past us I looked at him. He was a very harried-looking overweight American with a very sour expression on his face.  He looked exactly like a character in a movie about a grumpy middle-manager.

I was a little shaken and upset at first, as I maneuvered into line in the lane next to him.  We had reached the point where the border lines began, so I knew there would be no going anywhere fast for the next hour or so. I tried to catch the man’s eye so I could wave and say sorry, but he just looked away. A few minutes later, the car in front of him didn’t pull up right away when the line moved forward a few feet.  The man laid into his horn with the same gusto he had honked me.  It was so ridiculous to honk when you’re going to be sitting in line for the next hour, I burst out laughing.  What exactly did the man think he would gain by moving up those few feet right away instead of waiting a few seconds?

039While he was busy honking in the left lane, I was quickly working my way across the lanes to try to get into one of the right lanes. I had discovered on my last trip that the right lanes at the San Ysidro crossing open up two or three times down the road into multiple lanes, so they go much faster than the two left-hand lanes, which only split once at the very end.  If you don’t get into the right hand lanes right away, however, you lose your opportunity to change lanes, as the space between the lanes is filled with vendors and their carts all the way to the border. Within a few minutes, I was 5 or 6 cars ahead of the man.  Again I heard the angry honking.

“Oh no,” moaned the 12 year old.  “Is he going to keep that up all the way to the border?  For the next hour or two?”

“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “We’ll soon be out of earshot. We can just use his honking as a gauge of how far ahead we’re getting in this lane than if we’d stayed in that lane.”

Sure enough, about 10 minutes later we couldn’t hear him any more.  He had honked at least twice more before he faded into the distance, however.

All I could do was shake my head and think, “That poor man.” His honking was making no difference to his wait time. It was only fueling his frustration.  Suddenly all the stress of the incident with him, which I had realized by then was simply his preponderance for horn-blowing and not actually a near-miss, melted away. I sat back and enjoyed the wait, watching the vendors and talking with the kids.

036The vendors have a tough job, standing in the sun all day, threading between constantly moving cars, but many of them (the successful ones, as it turns out) maintain good humor.  One vendor walked in front of my van just as traffic started to move, so he quickened his pace and crossed himself with a twinkle in his eye.  They don’t let the grumpiness of the drivers get to them.  They hawk their wares, exchange pleasantries with each other and help each other out when needed.  Smiles sell more goods, and the ones who have found a way to smile sincerely sell the most.

Something clicked into place in my head that day. How many times do I get upset about circumstances outside of my control, fuming and ranting and raving about it?  It makes no difference.  Even if there is a point where my words might change the situation, those words need to be calm and reasonable, not ranting and raving.  I can be saddened by a situation, but working myself up about it — following the excitement plan, as a friend of mine calls it — does nothing but raise my blood pressure.  It’s not good for me.  It’s not good for my kids. And it does nothing for the situation.

I came back to the States and jumped headlong into Christmas shopping and traffic jams and harried people and long lines, but somehow the lesson I learned at the border stayed with me.  I keep finding myself pausing in the middle of chaos and smiling, appreciating details, giving away small kindnesses, stopping to have conversations and putting people above things.  Just as I duck under large breaking waves in the ocean, I have been submerging myself under the Christmas frenzy and letting it wash over me instead of knocking me down.

Because the circumstances come and go, and stuff is just stuff, but people are forever.

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Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Family, Los Angeles, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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