Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Eight Cow Wife

Have you heard the story about the eight cow wife? I'll paraphrase it here for those who haven't.

Once upon a time there was a girl. She wasn't a beautiful girl. She wasn't even a pretty girl. At least, she didn't believe that she was. Her self view was reflected in the way she presented herself to the world. She slumped her shoulders when she walked and hung her head whenever she thought someone might be looking in her direction. There was, however, one young man who saw what she didn't. He loved her.

Now in the fishing village where they lived, brides were purchased with cows. Yes, I said cows. It seems ridiculous to me but that's probably because I don't like cows very much. Don't ask me why I don't like cows. Or why my dislike of cows apparently bothers me more than the fact that the fictional dads were selling their daughters... I've gotten far enough off track already. Ahem. So for whatever the reason, cows were the currency for wife shopping on this island. A pretty girl was generally worth two or three cows. An extraordinary girl could earn her father four or even five cows.

The young man in our story offered eight cows to the father of his beloved. EIGHT! It was unheard of! Especially for a girl that no one else in the village felt was worth more than one.

Later, a traveler visited the island and heard all about the foolish transaction the young man had made. It turned out that the traveler had business with the same young man. While they discussed whatever business they had, the young man's wife came in to serve refreshments. The traveler was amazed. She couldn't be the same girl that he'd heard about in the village! The woman before him was striking. The grace and poise that she carried herself radiated accomplishment and dignity. When he questioned the young man about it, the groom replied that he paid eight cows because he wanted an eight cow wife.

The story implies that the respect that you show someone will, in turn, help that person gain self respect. I believe that to be true. Not always of course. There are some people who suck in every ounce of respect you offer and still continue to wallow in shallowness. But this isn't about them. This is about a young man who helped put a broken girl back together.

My self esteem had bottomed out by the time I met my husband, but even so he was able to see something in me that I couldn't. Over time, his love and patience has helped me become the person I am today - someone who knows with every fiber of her being that she is loved. As a father, he has taught our children, by example, that relationships should be based on mutual respect. He has shown that a husband and wife should value each other. He has given them a stable home life that they are able to grow, learn and thrive in.

So on this Father's Day I want to say Thank You to my wonderful husband!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Heaven

The sun was drowned.
Its ashes fell down
Smothering all of her world
Unable to smile
Unable to frown
Emotions were quietly furled

Dreaming had ceased
Hopes had been fleeced
Emptiness weighted her crown
Steep was the cost
Her path had been lost
She dared not to dream she’d be found

Pathetic, isn’t it?
I don’t mean the flow. I kinda like that. It’s the gloominess that makes me cringe. There is another verse, but it doesn’t fit quite right yet. I’ll finish it… eventually. The event that inspired the beginning of this particular poem took place over 20 years ago, so I figure that it shouldn’t take more than 20 more years to find the ending.

Reconnecting with someone from my past (isn’t Facebook fabulous?) and having the memories of that dark period brought back anew inspired those verses. I worked on it for a bit then put it aside and forgot about it for a while. It simply wasn't a place that was relevant to my current life.

What made me think about it again was a conversation with my son. He wondered if people in heaven are able to visit other places. I could tell from his tone that he was bothered. If you’ve read my post Life With Derek you know that this is the child who, at age three, told me that he was in heaven before he was born and that he actually got to choose our family. He doesn’t remember telling me that but it’s not something I’ll ever forget. Now that he is older and has heard what other’s think about and teach about heaven, he is worried that it might be kind of dull.

There was a time when I had the same worry.

Trying to explain everything that factored into my getting to the place expressed in that poem would take far, far too long. Instead I’m going to assign an experiment. Yes, today I’ve writing an interactive blog!!! Come on…play along. It’s easy. Grab a small piece of paper – receipt size will do but make sure that it’s something that you don’t mind ripping apart. Now grab both ends of the paper with each hand and pull. What happened? Nothing? Good. Now, cut a small slit in the top middle of the paper and pull again. HA! I told you to use a paper that you didn’t mind ripping!!!

Paper isn’t the strongest substance on earth, but it is usually able to withstand a little pulling – until you cut a slit in it. Give it a bit of a start and it rips completely apart.
The beginning of this tale is a bit like that.
There came a point in my life when a cut that should have been small enough to heal with time, opened the way for a greater tear. Hurts that had been pushed aside for a long time began to overwhelm me.

I wanted nothing more than to stop the pain. And that’s what I got.

The “nothing” came in the form of a bottle of little white pills that my doctor prescribed. The hurt and sadness faded, but so did everything else. With no joy, love or happiness of any kind left, I saw no point in existing. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not been given such a strong foundation of faith in childhood, I would have ended my life at that point.

But faith did not save me in the way you might assume. What halted me was the fear that my only afterlife choices were 1) everlasting pain in hell or 2) everlasting boredom in heaven. I didn’t want to be on earth any longer, but neither afterworld option appealed to me either. Now this is where my non-believing friends would point out the third option of simply ceasing to exist. That’s exactly what I wanted, but the problem was that I simply couldn’t be positive that it would occur. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not much of a risk taker. I needed to know more before making a decision (because in my mind, it was a very rational thing that I was considering) so I turned to a theologian.

I also stopped taking those little white pills.

The priest counseled me well.
The effects of the antidepressants wore off.
Life did not magically become wonderful – but it did become bearable.
After a few more stumbles, I met someone who helped me put myself back together.
(I’ll write more about him in my next post.)

Fast-forward twenty + years to me trying to explain what I now believe about heaven to my son. Since I haven't been there yet, beliefs were all I was able to share. There have been books written by people who claim that they have visited heaven and then returned here, but I can't say that I fully believe any of those ones that I've read. Actually I couldn't even finish the last one I started. His description was just too...boring. Naturally that wasn't what I wanted to express to my son.

Being wrapped in the tangible love of the Creator might sound amazing to many of us, but I can see how the idea might be lost on a 10 year old boy. Reconnecting with the souls of those I’m apart from now fills me with a longing that I can barely contain, but Derek’s friends are still a phone call away.

What did put a spark in his eyes was the thought of our spirits being able to fly.
Exploring the universe and discovering wonders that we aren’t able to even dream about now all sounded good too.

Was it wrong to liken eternity to the powers of a superhero? Perhaps - but at least it isn't boring.

Medications have come a long way in 20 years. My personal experience with a particular antidepressant that is probably no longer even on the market should not dissuade anyone else from following a doctor’s advice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waking Up

My eyes kept involuntarily closing. I didn't want them closed. The Bishop was speaking and I was both interested and impressed with the message he was delivering to my daughter's Confirmation class. And eyes keep closing. Each time I that became aware of the fact that they were closed, I would force them open only to be shocked at how bright the world around me was.

It's not like I was falling asleep. I mean, sure I was tired, but I've been tired for a long while now. Fighting fatigue has become a daily struggle. I'm not exactly sure of how to explain it, but it's not the same thing as being sleepy. Every night I get sleepy and I fall asleep. That's normal. The ever present fatigue was not. There came a point when I told my husband that I sort of felt as though I was floating back and forth between two worlds. That didn't really fit though because it wasn't that I could truly sense another world, I just knew that I wasn't completely here in this one. I wanted to be here, but try as I might, no amount of will power would tear away the heavy veil of exhaustion that had draped itself around me.

Back in March, I confessed my lack of energy during my annual GYN appointment. I wondered if it was a normal part of peri-menopause, which I suspect (wishful thinking?) I've begun. At that point the tiredness was only just starting to slowly descend on me and while I didn't want to make a big deal over it, I felt it was at least worth mentioning. He noted that it had been more than a few years since my last blood work up told me to schedule a lab visit. The lab work showed that I had a vitamin D deficiency. That surprised me because, well, this is the South. You can't avoid the sun here. What's more, I'd been spending more time outside than usual. Lots more time. Still, when the nurse read off the list of symptoms that can occur with vitamin D deficiency, I had to admit that I was experiencing nearly every one. I remember that I actually teared up with relief. There was a real reason for the way I was feeling! It wasn't in my head after all!

Remember - that was back in March. It's June now. Despite taking the prescribed vit. D supplements faithfully, everything kept getting worse. Part of me considered making an appointment with our family doctor, but the idea of telling a physician that I'm in his office for no other reason then that I'm TIRED just seemed silly.

Ahem...well....actually, I did do that once - more than a decade ago. The doctor walked in and I sheepishly admitted that the only reason I was there was because I was tired. That was it. Just tired. His quick response was that I should start antidepressants. I vehemently refused. My intense reaction to his suggestion was due to a past experience. The first (and last time) a doctor put me on antidepressants was...horrid. I'll write more about THAT in my next post.

Once the doctor saw that I wasn't going to happily accept the sample bag of mood altering drugs he offered, he decided to run a few tests. Lo and behold, it turned out that I really was sick. I had mono. He cautioned me about drinking after others and in return I informed him that I'm fanatical about not drinking after anyone (something that I've hopefully instilled in my children.) So where could I have gotten mono? Then I remembered. There was that one time, about a month before my sole symptom appeared, that I DID drink after someone.

A lot of someones.
In Church.
I've never taken the wine at Eucharist since.

Speaking of Church, I guess that I should get back to my daughter's confirmation. There I was, sitting in the pew, unable to keep my eyes open for longer than a few minutes at a time. As I listened to the service, a feeling of needing help began to fill me. Would anyone sense that I was slowly fading away? Please God, I prayed, send healing in whatever way You choose.

Then it happened. Near the end of the service, the Bishop informed the congregation that he had spoken to the class about God's gifts and then he invited those of us who wanted healing to come into the aisle so that the newly confirmed could "lay hands" on us while we prayed. I've since found out that this is something that the Bishop does at all Confirmation ceremonies, but since I haven't been to one since my own (a gazillion years ago) I didn't know that. All I knew was that I asked God to send healing and suddenly I was being asked to accept it.

Let me point out here that I'm NOT a "come to the altar" kinda person.
Doing that type of thing would mean that other people would be LOOKING at me. :::shudder::: No, no, no. I couldn't do that. But I did anyway. How could I pray for something and then just turn it away?

Now, I'm not going to pretend that a rush of energy came upon me as they prayed. In fact, I really didn't feel much different at all that night except for the new faith that I would get better. Eventually. And I am. At least I think I am.

The past couple of weeks have been far better than the two months before them. Perhaps that's due to the new exercise routine that I started a little less than a month ago. Then again, it's possible that the whole exhaustion episode has actually been a recurrence of mono (from what I've read, apparently the Epstein-Barr virus can reactive even years after the initial infection) and that the reason I'm feeling better now is simply because it's run it's course.

That's logical, right?

Regardless of what laws of nature have been at work, I feel that the faith that I will continue to "wake up" is playing a big role as well. I believe that my desperate prayer was heard and therefore my body has responded to that belief.

Have you ever felt a change in your life that you attributed to prayer?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Atlas Shrugged

"Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself..."

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Okay, so I'm a rebel. I didn't follow the rules (below) this week. I'm not currently reading Atlas Shrugged, but it is on my shelf and I was reading it not so very long ago. This particular quote was in my Facebook feed today and it just felt like the right one to share. I feel there is truth here.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Voice

There was a time when I was a very into American Idol. The good part - NOT the audition phase. If I wanted to hear BAD singing, I'd just tape myself. I still like American Idol, but the past couple of seasons have been kinda blah. No Daughtry, no Cook, not even a Kris Allen. This year ended up with two country singers in the finale. I was pleased to read, on my Facebook wall, that Scotty won, but wasn't interested enough to actually turn on my TV and watch it myself.

Now there is a new singing show that has captured my attention. The Voice. It won me over right from the start mostly because every single person that we were shown auditioning could actually SING. I liked some better than others of course, but none of them hurt my ears - or my eyes - or my delicate sensibilities. Maybe it's just me, but when I see someone stuffed into a much too tight, sequined mini skirt, making offensive gestures and lacing speech with obscenities, I just want to turn that mess off. That is not entertaining to me.

Thankfully, The Voice had none of that. Each contestant started singing with the four "coaches" (Christina Aguilera, CeLo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton) facing away from the stage. Judging by voice alone, the coaches would press a button that would turn their chair around if they wanted the contestant on their team. After gathering eight contestants each, the judges then pit two contestants against one another in the Battle Rounds. That left each team with four members each.

Team Christina
Lily Elise - Her battle round was very UNimpressive. She was LOUD, but not good. The girl she sang against (Cherie Oakley) was far, far better.
Frenchie Davis - talented? Sure. Not my cup of tea, but she has a decent fan following.
Beverly McClellan - She is described as a soulful rock singer. I find that she sounds a bit like Melissa Etheridge, but not quite as smooth.
Raquel Castro - Pretty girl. Nice big voice. Too pop for me, but she'll do well.

Team Cee Lo
Tori and Taylor - both girls are cute as a button. I really loved the singer that they battled against (Kelsey Ray) but they blend so well together that it will be interesting to see how far they get in the competition.
Curtis Grimes - For some reason, his name says superstar to me. Country superstar. I don't follow country much (okay, not at all) but he does have the kind of voice that will carry him far in that genre.
Nakia - very interesting voice.
Vicci Martinez - She was one of my favorite auditions. Her battle round was probably the best of all. Can't wait to see what she does later.

Team Adam
Jeff Jenkins - a fan favorite. I like him, but am not blown away yet.
Devon Barley - I like him and am glad that he is still on the show, but part of me thinks that the girl (Rebecca Lowbe) he battled against was just a bit better.
Casey Weston- interesting quality to her voice. Cee Lo said that she reminds him of a young Stevie Nicks. I agree.
Javier Colon - Amazing singer. At this point, the competition is his to lose. He is in my top three. Actually my top two. Can't wait to hear more from him.

Team Blake
Patrick Thomas - a country singer. That's all I have to say about that. :)
Dia Frampton - her voice has a pure quality to it that makes me smile.
Xenia - she opens her mouth and my heart listens. I hope she gets over her stage shyness by the live shows.
Jared Blake - This guy is at the top of my list right now. Love his tone. I want MORE!

So...are you watching?