Friday, February 26, 2016

Random Facts About Me. Just for Fun!

            I think this will be the last post I write.  (I’ve said that before, so we’ll see.)  But I’m ready to be done, except for posting and responding to any comments and occasionally adding things to this list and my “random thoughts” list. 
            This blog was a way for me to work through a lot of depression and faith-struggles I was going through (still am, to a degree), to share important lessons with my kids when they get old enough to finally read it, and to vent so many things that I have wanted to say but couldn’t.  It has served its purpose and I am thankful.  But I need to get back to life now.  I realize that if I keep writing, I will just be repeating much of what I’ve already written because this “depression funk” just keeps cycling.  So it’s time to be done.
            So I figured for my last post, I would share a whole bunch of random things about me.  Just for fun!  And mostly because it amuses me!  Some of these are found throughout my blogs and some are not.  Some are serious and some are funny.  And some are embarrassing because . . .well, that’s the kind of mood I’m in.  Besides, it's time to lighten up after all the serious, deep-thinking posts.  (Friends or family members or fellow church-goers who respect me and hold me in high regard might not want to read this.  And this post is the most "improper" post on my blog.  The rest is perfectly safe and proper, I assure you.)  Anyway, here goes . . .

1.  Did you know that I once got spit on by a clam?  I was swimming in a lake as a child when I found a clam with my foot.  I thought it would be cool to get a pearl out of it (hey, I was just a kid!) and so I tried to open it.  I pulled on it with all my might and was only able to open it just a smidge.  Since I couldn’t open it to find a pearl, I thought it would be funny to fill it up with water.  So I quickly dunked it back under water, let it fill it up, and then let it close.  But when I picked it up to look at it, it spit a stream of water right in my eyes.  I am the only person I know who has been spit on by a clam.

2.  I once fell headlong into a garbage can . . . in front of my whole class.  It was about 3rd or 4th grade or so, and it was the first time I was given the honor of leading the classroom out to the buses.  I was so excited and proud, and I walked with a bounce in my step and my head held high.  And I also walked right off the top of the 3-step staircase that I failed to see or remember that we had to walk down.  So instead of gracefully descending the staircase, I ended up tripping, losing my balance, and basically running down the staircase to keep from falling before I flipped heels over head straight into the big, black, plastic, garbage can against the opposite wall.  And as the whole class filed past me, no one helped.  They were too busy snickering and laughing at the naked pair of flailing legs connected to the naked thighs (which were exposed because of my flipped-up Catholic, school-girl skirt) connected to the girl inside the garbage can.  You know what they say . . . Pride comes before a fall!  I just didn’t think it was meant to be so literal!

3.  I streaked naked in front of my neighbors once.  We had been in our house for a couple years and hadn’t yet met the neighbors across the street, a young couple like us.  But one day, shortly after my second son was born, I was taking a shower.  When I stepped out, I realized that all the clean towels were in our bedroom across the hall, waiting to get folded. 
            For a moment, I tinkered with the idea of popping around the corner and joking with my husband, “Look, I’m naked and standing in the hallway” or singing a song about being too sexy for my clothes.  Or something like that.  But I decided against it. 
            Instead I simply walked naked to our bedroom to get a towel.  No sooner had I entered our room when my husband came in and said, “The neighbors came over to introduce themselves.  They are sitting on the couch.” 
            A couch which has a clear view into the hallway! 
            “What!?!” I shrieked.  “Why didn’t you tell me sooner!?!”
            “Because they just got here a couple minutes ago,” he said. 
            Thank God that I didn’t pop around the corner and sing a song about being naked in the hallway!  That would have been some introduction.  As it was, I am sure that a floppy-stomached, breastfeeding-boobed, post-pregnant woman sauntering naked across the hall was introduction enough. 
            When I came out of my room to introduce myself, I apologized for streaking naked across the hall.  They politely smiled and said they didn’t see anything.  Big, fat liars!

4.  I have never had a manicure or pedicure.  And I never wanted one.  I would rather have my hands in the dirt than get a manicure.  And I really don’t understand every other woman’s fascination with fancy shoes.  I’d rather have comfy, functional shoes.  I’m so plain and simple.

5.  And I’m a slob.  Truly.  I would leave a wrapper two feet from the garbage can.  I would even look at the garbage can and think, I should walk two steps over there and throw this out.  But then I would think, But I’m already headed in the other direction.  So I would just drop the wrapper on the counter, intending to get to it later, along with all the other wrappers and papers that I let pile up there.  To my crazy, slobby mind, it seems efficient.  It’s like, Well, there’s already one piece of garbage on the counter and I have to clean that up eventually, so I may as well just put this new piece of garbage next to it so that I can pick them both up at the same time.  It makes sense in my mind and I have the intention to be clean and efficient, yet somehow I don’t seem to get around to doing it anytime soon.  It’s really pathetic.
            A little while ago, I was walking through the house, griping in my head about how messy it is with four young boys at home who have a “slobby mommy.”  And when I walked into the kitchen, there – crawling across the floor – was a slug!  Made my point for me!  (In my defense, he must have hitched a ride on the gardening shoes that I had just worn in the garden.  I hope!  ‘Cuz I’d sure hate to think that he had been exploring our home for awhile, going, “Gee, this place looks just right for me and my slug babies!”)
            (While I am messy with papers and clothes and wrappers, I am extremely cautious about food garbage and about coming into contact with food that’s been left out.  When I cook, I know exactly where the clean spots are on my counter so I know where I can safely put plates, cups, utensils, pot lids, and stirring spoons.  But to everyone else it looks like sheer chaos and like I’m playing a game of “Let’s see who can catch salmonella first.”) 

6.  I always wanted a tattoo and a nose ring.  My husband vetoed the tattoo way back when we were dating (it would have just been a little butterfly on my lower back), but I almost got the nose ring one day.  It was sometime after I had two or three kids, and I had finally talked myself into doing it.  And so we walked down to the tattoo/piercing parlor one fine Monday morning, $40 in my pocket.  But when we got there, the door said, “Closed on Mondays.”  As soon as I saw the sign, I didn’t want the nose ring anymore.  It was like, Well, I was ready to get one and I would have gotten one if it was open, but simply having been ready to get one if it was open was enough to satisfy my desire for a nose ring.  And while I still love seeing them on other women, I haven’t really wanted one since.

7.  I went skydiving once when I was in college.  It was amazing to climb out of airplane, hang onto the wing, let go, and glide back down to earth suspended by a ball of air trapped under some fabric.  And when they asked me to pull down hard on both toggles to come to a “stop” in midair, it felt like I was swinging from a cloud.  I have never experienced such silence and peace and solitary-ness. So glad I did it.  Would never do it again.  Hope my kids never want to do it! 

8.  My mom thought about having an abortion when she was pregnant with me as a teenager.  I’m glad I'm alive to be thankful she didn’t.     

9.  One morning this past winter, before the family woke up, I thought I felt a spider run across my thigh.  I freaked out and began to brush my thigh and the sheets around me, looking for a bug or beetle or something that might be running around the bed.  Then I wondered, What if it got inside my underwear? 
            So in the pitch blackness of a winter’s morning, I grabbed a flashlight and peered inside my underwear, just in case.  And that’s when I heard a small voice coming from the dark hallway, “Good morning, Mom!” 
            It was freakin’ 5:30 in the morning and one of my sons was standing in my doorway, peering into my room to say good morning, just in time to see a spotlight shining down his momma’s underwear.  I mean, seriously, what else is there to see in a pitch-black room but the thing that the flashlight is illuminating?  Just one more reason for therapy when he gets older and one more chapter for his “Scarred for Life: Memoirs from My Childhood” book.

10.  Yes, I am a rock-solid Christian, but sometimes I just want to do bad things.  I want to say bad words and watch bad movies and listen to bad music and drink bad things and be all mean and cranky toward annoying people.
            But what I usually end up doing is just watching my 80’s movies, listening to my 80’s music really loudly, drinking no more than an ounce-and-a-half of mildly-alcoholic hard cider (because I really don’t like alcohol . . . honestly, I drink no more than one bottle of hard cider a year!), muttering bad words under my breath, and telling my husband all of the whip-smart, snarky things I wanted to tell others but didn’t think of till it was too late. 
            And it’s a good thing that I don’t think of all the smart-mouthed things until it’s too late or else I might end up saying them out loud.  Because while I am a buttoned-up, walk-the-line, stoic, straight-arrow kind of person for the most part, I do have a really snarky and sarcastic side.  I enjoy off-the-wall, slightly improper, and semi-disrespectful kinds of things (not disrespectful toward God but toward mankind and life things in general).  I can’t stand political correctness.  (Not the good political correctness, but the annoying, overly-picky kind of political correctness.)  I love to go against the mainstream “herd mentality.”  And I would love to rattle nerves and “stick it to people” if I had the guts and wasn’t so concerned with being nice. 
            [See, kids!  Mommy’s human, too.  Even though I want to do bad things sometimes, I choose to do the right and proper things (most times) and treat others the way I want to be treated, no matter how much they “deserve” it.]
            But my snarky-ness does come out in the metal signs I have around my house.  Signs that say things such as:
            “Do I look like the maid to you?”
            “I've got Crabby Mommy powers.  Don't make me use them!”
            “Some people spread joy . . . I can't stand those kinds of people.”  (I love this one because of the ironic-ness of it.  You see, I love to spread joy.  I am one of those people.  And yet sometimes, it’s hard to be the “joy spreader” when you feel so blue inside.  Sometimes, I hate the phoniness of “joy spreaders” and just wish we could all get more real with each other.)        
            The next one I want says something like: “Sorry, kids, but Mommy's tired.  Go play in the street.”
            What I love most about many of these signs is that they have pictures of the perfect 1950’s mom/wife alongside these snarky sayings.  I love it! The oxymoronic-ness of it.  The ideal, proper woman with a dark streak!  A beautiful rose bush with nasty thorns! 
            But I do wonder what my super gentle, sugary-sweet friends might think.  Or what my pastor would think if he came to our house and saw my sign that says something like “Believe it or not, I don’t give a sh…”  Actually, I taped a piece of paper over the last word so that it now reads, “Believe it or not, I don’t give a fig!”  (Honestly, that’s how I feel much of the time lately.  And sometimes, when I care too much about something, it's how I should feel.)
            I also have a fridge magnet of Ralphie from Christmas Story (Best Christmas movie ever!) with a bar of soap in his mouth and the famous line about how he didn't really say "Fudge."  
            Maybe my pastor or more “proper” friends would be offended to see even hints of bad words posted around my house.  I don’t know.  But I love this magnet because I see humanity in it.  We all end up sitting on a stool with a bar of soap in our mouth at some time or other because we all make fugdey, little messes of our lives in different ways.  So we should all have compassion on someone else when they mess up because someday it will be our turn.  I guess the magnet reminds me of that.  That we are all human and we will all mess up.  That it’s okay and we should all be a little more gracious!  And that the person sucking on the bar of soap is more important than the bad word they said!  I really do like this magnet, and not just because I mutter “Oh fudge!” under my breath too much.  (Only I'm not usually saying “fudge.”  Hey, I'm not saying I'm proud of it or that it's acceptable.  I'm just being honest.) 

11.  Not only do I have an improper, snarky side, but I also have a slightly demented, improper sense of humor.  (I blame my mother!)  We once went bowling and saw this really old woman carrying a bowling ball up to the line.  And as she stood there, the weight of the bowling ball overcame her and she fell over, while still standing straight up-and-down.  Like a tree being chopped down.  She ended up face-down on the ground, still holding the bowling ball. 
            Everyone else around her was sympathetic and jumped up to help, “Oh my goodness!  Grandma, are you okay?”  I, however, began shaking like a leaf from trying to stifle the giggles that were erupting from deep within.  And when I looked over at my mom, she was shaking, too.  Tears of laughter streaming from her eyes.  We were shameless as we convulsed in a fit of giggles in our seats. 
            We also had a good laugh at a story she told me about driving behind a truck who took a left turn too fast.  And when it did, the passenger door whipped open and a large pre-teen boy came flying out and began rolling down the un-busy road. 
            “Nicky, Nicky, Oh Nicky ... Are you okay?” the parents called as they ran after the boy.  As my mom shared this story with me, we were laughing so hard that we were crying.  And we used the phrase “Nicky, Nicky, Oh Nicky” for years!  Just for fun!  (The boy was fine!  Just a little scratched up.  I wouldn’t be laughing if someone was really hurt.  At least I hope not.) 
            As I said, I blame my mom for my demented sense of humor!  It only happens when I am with her.  (Seriously, people who know me probably don’t want to know what goes on in my head half of the time.  And I also warned you that people who hold me in high regard – if there are any out there - should not be reading this!)

12.  I think the most disgusting sound ever is when my sons slurp up their applesauce or the peach juice from their sliced peaches without a spoon, just using their mouth to suck it up right from the bowl.  It sounds like they are slurping up a big pile of snot.  And now that they know how much it grosses me out, they do it on purpose.  I once saw a cat sneeze out a big blob of snot.  And then it proceeded to eat it.  I was horrified.  And that’s what I think of when I hear them slurping up the snotty juice or applesauce.  That which has been seen cannot be unseen!

13.  I have had my fair share of injuries as a youngin’.  I was probably a mother’s worst nightmare.  I broke my arm twice in the same spot, once from a cheerleading stunt gone wrong (they threw me too hard) and once from being pushed while on roller skates.  With that one, my arm actually had a big arch where it’s not supposed to have an arch. 
            Another time, I jumped off the back steps of the same roller rink where I broke my arm and landed right on a metal pole that was sticking out of the ground.  I could tell something wasn’t right, so I pulled my sock down to see.  And when I did, I saw a bunch of skin all mushed up in a place it shouldn’t be.  So I pulled my sock down further and saw no skin where skin should be.  Apparently, the pipe ripped the skin off of that big boney-bump on the inside of my ankle.  And instead of seeing skin, I actually saw the boney-bump.  It took 26 stitches to sew me up.  Eight on the inside, eighteen on the outside.  It was my thirteenth birthday party!  (I also got a pony for my thirteenth birthday!  A real pony that I got to walk from the barn to my backyard so I could give my friends rides.  So cool!)
            I was knocked unconscious during another cheerleading stunt when they threw me in the air and then failed to catch me!  What the heck is that about!?!  And to make it more interesting, I was knocked unconscious on the gym floor, in front of the whole school as they waited for the pep rally to start.  And when I woke up a few minutes later, I saw that my skirt was up and everyone could see my spankies (that “underwear thing” that we wear under out cheerleading skirts).  No one fixed it for me during the several minutes I was unconscious in front of the whole school.  Thank God we didn’t have cell phones with cameras back then! 
            And I was electrocuted really badly once.  As a teenager, I worked at an ice-cream shop that stored the ice-cream in giant freezers.  And while I was looking into one, I reached over to grab the handle of the other.  Apparently, there was a leaky drip pan in one of them which caused the freezer to be “electrified.”  So when I grabbed onto both handles, I completed a circuit between the two freezers and the electricity coursed through my body. 
            And there’s a lot of electricity in these freezers.  They are so big that you could fit like four or five bodies into each one, if you wanted to.  Not that I ever wanted to shove some bodies in a freezer.  I’m just sayin’ that if you were playing a game of hide-and-seek, several people could fit comfortably in each of these freeers.  But, really . . . who would hide in a freezer!?!  That's just stupid!  (Wow, this took a weird turn!) four or five full-grown cougars into each one.  [I’m not talking cougars like “older women on the prowl for younger men,” I mean like real cougars.  But I guess I really don’t know how big a real cougar is (the animal kind), so maybe it can’t really hold four or five.  They look kinda smallish when you are watching them on a small television.  I bet they are bigger in real life.]  You know what . . . let me try it one more time . . . let’s just say these freezers can hold a lot of ice cream.  So it takes a lot of electricity to keep them cold.  That was my whole point.
            It was actually like one of those cartoons where someone is stuck to the electrified thing.  As hard as I tried, I could not pull my hand off of the handles.  I screamed “DON’T!  TOUCH!  ME!” to my coworker who was standing there terrified (wouldn’t want her to be electrocuted too), as my face was being all contorted by the electricity. 
            As I pulled with all my might, I could see my hand slowly coming off of one handle, like a slow-motion dream sequence.  When it finally came free, I was thrown back against the wall and crumpled into a sobbing mess. 
            And yet, being the responsible kid that I was, I stayed and finished my shift.  No one took me to the hospital or called the doctor (just like no one did when I was knocked unconscious).  But I wouldn’t touch two things at the same time the rest of the night.  I worked with one hand tucked behind my back. 
            (My husband says that because of this electrocution, I now have some sort of ability to screw up electrical or motor devices just by using them.  Seriously, it seems like the car only has electrical problems when I am using it.  I would love to use my powers for good, but it seems to lean more towards a “super-villain” kind of havoc.)
            I also once almost lost an eye.  I was on a swing that was hung with a plastic rope.  And my step-sister-at-the-time decided to twist me up as much as she could so that I would spin really fast when she let go.  As she kept twisting me, I could hear the rope starting to make crackling noises and I told her to stop, but she wouldn’t listen.  A moment later, the rope broke and began to unravel really fast, whipping me in the eye.  When I got up from the ground, my step-sister freaked out at what she saw.  I ran inside and looked in the mirror and saw that the area around my eye had swelled up into a giant black-and-blue ball and my eye was swollen shut. 
            I had to wear an eye patch and look like a pirate for a while, but a couple weeks later, it was fine.  Thank God!  But I could have lost an eye or my vision that day, all because she wouldn’t stop twisting up the stupid swing.  (She’s also the same person who pushed me when I was on roller skates and made me break my arm.  I stopped going over to their house shortly after that.)  
            Those are some of the bigger accidents I have had, besides the several smaller times I’ve fallen out of the trees I loved climbing or fell when running across the road and ripped my face up.  It’s no wonder I am the kind of mom who now yells, “Stop doing that or you’ll get hurt!  You’re going to crack your head open!  Get down from there or you’ll fall and break an arm!  Don’t stand on that or it will flip out from under you and you’ll fall and break your neck!  Don’t run on the driveway or you’ll fall and rip up your face!”
            I know you may think that’s an overreaction, but let me tell you one more story.  When my friend’s husband, Jon, was a kid, his mom used to tell him and his brothers not to run on the sidewalk or else they could fall and break their wrists.  Well, one day, Jon’s brother was running on the sidewalk, and Jon reminded him not to do that.  And then in an over-exaggerated, mocking demonstration of what not to do, Jon ran down the sidewalk saying something like, “See, we’re not supposed to run down the sidewalk because we might . . .” and then he fell and broke his wrists.  Both of them!  See, we mothers do know a thing or two!  (And, Jon, I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, I love that story!  Sorry for your wrists, but it is so poetically sit-comish!  A classic!)
            [Did you ever notice how if something is crossed out, you are almost more curious and determined to read it than you would be if it wasn't crossed out?  Instead of going "Oh, that's crossed out.  It must be no big deal so I'll skip it," you go "Oh my goodness, I have to read what this says, even if it means struggling to read it with a line running through the middle."  Come on, you know it's true!]

14.  I used to get the dirtiest looks from people when I would push my twin brothers around in a stroller.  I was 15 years old when they were born, so people would assume they were mine.  And I tell you, the judgmental looks some women gave me were enough to make me feel ashamed.  And the babies weren’t even mine!  I should have made a t-shirt saying, “I’m just the sister, so keep the judgments to yourself!” 
            (With five younger brothers, people always stared at us and made comments when my family would go out.  I am sure my mom loved it, but I hated it.  I always felt like a circus freak show whenever we went anywhere together.  It was so embarrassing to me.)

15.  But I did once make a t-shirt after my fourth son was born which said: “Actually, I’m THRILLED ... I wanted another boy!  So save your sympathy for those who need it!”  I intended to wear it when I was out with all my children.  It’s amazing how many people would express pity and sympathy because I had four boys and no girls.

16.  The three times that I remember disobeying as a kid and the one time that I cheated in school, I got caught. 
            I once wanted to cut out a picture of Rick Springfield from our TV Guide.  And I asked my mom but she said no, so I asked my step-dad and he said yes.  I got in trouble for that.  Another time, I wanted to make a cradle for my doll and I asked my mom if I could use a box.  She said no.  I can’t remember, but either I took it anyway or I asked my step-dad and he said yes.  I got caught then too.  And then once I asked my mom if I could add some Kool-aid packets to the grocery cart.  She said yes.  But when she wasn’t looking, I added some more.  I got in trouble then too.  Those are pretty much the only three times I remember deliberately doing something wrong (I was a very obedient, compliant child), and I got caught.  Figures! 
            And then in school, I once cheated by not reading the book for the book report.  Instead, I read the back cover and first and last pages, and then I wrote the report, thinking it would be good enough.  But as I read my report in front of the class, the teacher said, “You didn’t read the book, did you?”  I was mortified and had to admit that I didn’t. 
            How did she know?  I said that I was doing my report on The Call of the Wind.  But the book is really called The Call of the Wild.  I blew it just because I didn’t even read the title properly.  It’s probably a good thing I didn’t cheat or disobey much.  Apparently, I wasn’t very good at it.      

17.  Things you might say if you have young boys at home:
            “You made an electric chair for your brother!?!”  One day, I went upstairs to find my three older boys “throwing the switch” as their youngest brother sat in an “electric chair.”  They had strapped him into an old booster seat, tied his arms down, put a “helmet” on his head with wires coming out of it (a pair of underwear with strings), and then they would throw the switch and their brother would pretend to convulse and shudder in the throes of a horrible “electric death.”  Don’t worry, he was having a grand old time!  They usually have the most fun together when they are doing something slightly demented.  I blame my mother and her sense of humor!  It’s genetic. 
            “If you fall and crack your head open, don’t come crying to me!  I told you not to do it!”  I said this one to my third son, Ryder.  He’s the wild one who will try just about anything.  And if I say he shouldn’t or can’t do something – as in “it’s not possible” – he will find a way.  I believe I said this one because of some stunt he was pulling on the swing-set.  Thankfully, he never fell.  He’s got skills!
            “No, no, no!  Don’t hang from your bunk bed in a laundry basket!!!”  This was Ryder again.  I went upstairs to his room one day and found him sitting in a laundry basket that he suspended from a tiny coat hook that my husband screwed onto their bunk bed.  He had made a pulley-system with the belt from a robe to raise the laundry basket up and down as he sat in it.  He was only about 6-years-old or so.  You can’t really turn your back on him for too long.
            “Oh no!  Not smart!  Don’t suspend a toy house four feet off the ground and then sit in it!”  Ryder again  He took a large section of a plastic toy-house/swing set that someone gave us for our yard – about 25 pounds or so – turned it sideways, attached it to the swing-set with a rope, and raised it up so that it was about four feet off the ground.  I was doing dishes when I looked out the window and saw him sitting in it like it was a jet that he was flying.  And I was there just in time to grab the rope as the knot gave way and the thing fell while his brother sat in it.  If you have boys, learn this prayer:  “Dear God, please protect them from themselves!”
            “Stop farting on the birds!  You know it bothers your brother!”  The boys have to leave the table if they need to pass gas during meals.  Well, the birds are in the next room.  And one day, after being told to leave the table to pass gas, my second son, Hunter, said, “Fine, then I’ll go fart on the birds.”  But since these birds unofficially belong to Ryder, he got really upset.  Since then, it’s been a battle between them every time one of them leaves the table to pass gas.  We keep telling Hunter to stop it because he just does it just to irritate Ryder.  And we keep telling Ryder that the birds can’t really smell it and don’t really care because they sit in a cage full of their own poop anyway.  Yet the battle continues!  Leave it to boys!
            “Do not ‘fart zombie’ your brother.  He gets really upset!”  My boys invented a game called “Fart Zombie.”  (Only boys would think of this.)  When one of them farted, they would begin chasing the other boys in order to tag them and yell “Fart Zombie,” thereby turning them into a “Fart Zombie.”  Well, at the time, Ryder was still young enough that a fun game of tag soon morphs into a terrified game of “I’m being chased by horribly violent people and they'll rip my guts out if they catch me!”  So while this game always started out with everyone running around wildly in fun to not get tagged, it wouldn’t take long for Ryder to start running in sheer terror, screaming and crying, “I don’t wanna be ‘fart zombied!’”  We had to ban “Fart Zombie” soon after.    
            “No, I’m sorry, honey.  But we can’t drive home from vacation just so you can use our potty at home.  We are not leaving this bathroom until you poop.”  (Thank you, self-flushing toilets, for scaring the daylights out of my child and making him terrified to use a public bathroom!)
            “Seriously!?!  Why would you throw a golf club right at the window?  What were you thinking!?!”  (“What were you thinking” is a common phrase you will use around young boys.)
            Never throw bricks over your head and then run under them!  What were you thinking!?!”  [Yeah, Ryder again!]
            “Why would you run right for the swing-set glider when your brother was gliding on it?  You could have smashed your teeth in!  What were you thinking!?!” (I’ll tell you what he wasn’t thinking – that while he ran towards it, it would swing back towards him and meet him full force in the face.  He said he just wanted to be by his brother.  But I always thought it would happen to one of the younger boys who wasn’t paying attention, not to the oldest one who ran right for it!)
            “Where are your pants?  Would you just go put some pants on!?!”  (Every single day!  My youngest son, Jackson, will be stripped out of his clothes the moment our guests shut the door behind them as they leave.)
            “Would you just go put on some pajamas, please!  It’s freezing out and you are making me cold just looking at you.  You can’t just wear underwear to bed in the middle of winter!”  (Every single night!)
            “Stop asking me for more food or snacks!  You just ate lunch!  You haven’t even finished swallowing it!”  (Every single meal!  And every half-hour between meals!  Young boys think of only two things:  Food and Video Games!  All day long!  When my youngest was about 2-years-old, we were on vacation in Wisconsin Dells and he couldn’t fall asleep the first night because all he could think about was going home and playing video games.  He was in bed actually singing to himself for a long time about “I’m gonna go home and play Mario . . . on the Wii . . . Mario . . . on the Wii!”  Cute and sad, all at the same time!)
            “I am not coming in there to wipe your butt!  You are old enough to wipe your own butt!” . . . (ten minutes later) . . . “Did you wipe your butt?  Why didn’t you wipe your butt?  I’ll do it for you this time, but next time wipe your own butt!  Do you want to be the only kid at church who has to have his mommy in the bathroom with him to wipe his butt?”  (This also works with tying your own shoelaces, getting your own drink of water, finding your own shirt to wear, finding your homework, zipping your jacket, etc.  The possibilities are endless.)

18.  I could listen to Disturbed’s version of “The Sound of Silence” over and over again.  It’s freakin’ amazing!  My husband is the same way.  As soon as I heard it, I ran out to buy the album, just for that song.  And I even paid way more than I should have because I found it at Barnes and Noble.  But that song alone is worth every penny!

19.  My idea of heaven includes being on a secluded, super-quiet beach and taking a really long, uninterrupted nap while hanging in a hammock.  I also envision being all alone in a really huge garden with a small studio where I can paint pictures.  Because in heaven, I will have the ability to paint.  (Do I sound like an introvert or what!) 

20.  I always wished I could play guitar.  But I can’t get my hands to do two different things at the same time.  I can’t even tap out two different rhythms on a tabletop with my fingers.  They always end up in sync.  Another wish: I wish we could have chickens, but we are not allowed to where we live.  Bummer. 

21.  You know what’s a weird thought: You get to decide tons of stuff about how you live and what your life is like, but one major factor about you gets decided by someone else – your name.  You get to pick your clothing style, your decorating style, your hair color through the miracle of hair dye, your job, where you live when you get older, who you date or marry, what you eat, etc.  But you get no say in what your name is.  You get stuck with the name that someone else liked and that they thought would fit you.  How might things have been different for you if you were named Bunny instead of Helen?  Or Bartholomew instead of John?  Or James instead of Peanut?  Or Cowboy Carl instead of Doctor Dan? 
            Although it’s probably a good thing that little children don’t get to pick their names.  If they had waited to ask my opinion, I probably would have chosen something that only a young child would like, such as Princess Sabrina. 
            I was thinking the other day about what name I would chose now as an adult, if I got to pick.  And honestly, I couldn’t think of any other name that seemed to fit me better than Heather.  So maybe my mom had it right. 
            [Although, thanks to the movie Heathers, most people think of Heather as being a ditzy, superficial blond.  However, I am much more like Janeane Garofalo’s Heather from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, minus the cussing (at least out loud).  I wish I could be a super-sweet, floral, feminine type, but I am more of a spicy, cynical, sarcastic tomboy.  And I guess in that way, “Heather” seems too fluffy for me.  So maybe I should have been named something more like Toni or Jerri or Rizzo, something a little less feminine.  A little more salty.]

22.  If so much as one drop of toilet water splashes on me, I have to take a shower.  If I even think that one microscopic drop might have splashed on me even though I’m pretty sure it didn’t, I still have to take a shower.  And if it happens in a public bathroom, all I can think about until I get home is I have to take a shower as soon as I get home!
            And I can't use the first squares of toilet paper in a public bathroom.  I have to tear them off and throw them away because all I can think is They might have touched the floor or someone else's filthy hands! 
            And I always set my jacket over the head-rest of movie-theater seats.  Because if I don't, all I think through the whole movie is The person before me might have had lice and rubbed their head all over the head-rest.  
            (You're welcome, fellow anxiety sufferers, for new things to worry about!  Helps take your minds off of the things you normally worry about!) 

23.  I have a bit of claustrophobia.  It’s not terrible or anything, but I have to sit on aisles at the movie theater or in a seat that has no chairs in front of it.  I avoid events with huge, moving crowds, like Black Friday shopping.  If I go to a parade, I sit in the back.  And we have started sitting out in the “overflow” section in church, watching the service on the TV while sitting on couches.  It just gets to feel like too many people around you in the sanctuary and everyone is sucking up all the oxygen and making it all hot in there.  I like open, cool spaces, breathing room, and solitude.  Not too long ago, I went to a seminar and the only seat left was in between people in the middle of the room.  I sat there for about ten minutes before getting so hot, anxious, twitchy, and suffocated-feeling that I had to get up and take a chair to the back of the room where no one was sitting.  I probably looked anti-social but at least I could breathe.   

24.  I can’t breathe when I am changing the dryer lint trap.  Once when I was a teen, a friend and I stuck our faces down by a black-light to look at each other and see the creepy color the light made us.  Well, we giggled for about five seconds before we both stopped and got a horrified look on our faces at the exact same time.  What we both noticed was that the other person was completely covered in fine dust.  It was on our skin, in our eyebrows, on our eyelashes, etc.  We both immediately ran to take a shower (separate showers, in a friend’s house where we were staying for the weekend) to wash off the layer of dust. 
            Since then, all I can think about when I change the dryer lint trap is all the tiny particles of dust that are floating around the air and seeping into my lungs.  I literally hold my breath and cover my nose until I am about 10 feet away from the dryer.  Uck! It grosses me out to even think about it!  Makes me feel like I can’t breathe and like I need to take giant gulps of fresh air and hold it in my lungs for a few seconds.

25.  You know what’s funny to imagine?  That the person riding past you on a bike is riding an invisible bike.  People would look funny if bikes were invisible, just pedaling there in midair, gliding along as they hover above the ground, sitting on nothing.

26.  I am a bit of an anxious person.  Okay, I’m actually quite anxious.  (It’s not debilitating, just bothersome.)   And I remember discovering a new “horrible idea” when I was shopping with my newborn.  (Don’t read this if you get anxious easily, too.)  I was in the parking lot and had loaded my groceries into the car.  And then I strapped my son into his car seat and was pushing my cart across the aisle to the cart corral when this thought hit me, If I get hit by a car right now or knocked unconscious, no one would know that my baby is strapped in a car all alone.  And while they took me to a hospital, he would die of starvation or heat.  Terrible how my mind works, isn’t it?  (And I warned you, fellow anxiety sufferers, not to read it.)    

27.  I wet my pants ... in eighth grade!  I was 13 years old.  We had a special day called “Field Day” where we played games outside and had a picnic and just had fun all day.  Well, I was way at the farthest corner of the yard eating lunch when I realized that I had to go really bad.  I guess I ignored it for too long, but it would not be ignored any longer.  So I got up to run to the building when pee began to run down my leg and soak my sock.  Since I was wearing a Catholic-uniform skirt, my friend could see it running down my leg and began pointing and laughing. 
            Unfortunately, I had nothing to change into, so I had to wear my pee-pee skirt the rest of the day.  And it wasn’t much of a problem (since we were outside all day) until it was time to line up and go inside.  I was mortified since we were all crammed really close together and had to walk up a staircase, which meant the people behind me were “butt-level.” 
            As we were going up the stairs, the boy who was behind Beth who was behind me said out loud, “Man, Beth, you stink!”  I knew it was me but couldn’t admit it.  So I just turned around, wrinkled my nose at Beth and gave a little “Yeah, she does” kind of look. 
            I was a bad, bad girl!  Poor Beth.  God bless her heart, she never spoke up and said that it wasn’t her, that it was me.  And no one ever found out.  Not until now when I admitted it myself.    [In some ways, I considered it poetic because Beth had stolen my plastic charm necklace years before and never admitted it, even after I pulled her out in the hallway and told her that I knew she was wearing my necklace.  I never got it back.  But I guess I was repaid when Beth didn’t rat me out for being the one that smelled like pee.  Thank you, Beth.  And sorry!]

28.  Did you ever notice how you can say almost anything about anyone when the words “God bless his/her heart” are attached?  I don’t do this, but I did notice it. 
            “She’s just the meanest, most gossipy person I know.  But God bless her heart, she’s had a hard life herself.”
            “He always thinks he is so right and that he is the smartest man out there.  God bless his heart, he just doesn’t know how wrong he is all the time.”
            “I know she means well – bless her heart – but she’s always interfering and putting her nose where it doesn’t belong.”   
            “That’s the ugliest baby I ever saw.  Bless his little heart, he looks like a drugged-up, wrinkled, old man.”
            [It also works with “I’m just sayin’.”  As in “That dress does kinda make you look fat.  I’m just sayin’.”  Or “He’s not the smartest tool in the shed, is he?  I’m just sayin’.”  Or “That baby’s head is too large for his body.  I’m just sayin’.”  It seems you can get away with a lot if you’re “just sayin’.”]

29.  Things I’ve actually had to say:
            “I'm sorry, but I don't think I can carry his baby.”  I wasn’t asked to hold my brother-in-law’s baby, I was asked to lend him my womb to carry his baby.  It was probably one of the most out-of-the-ordinary things I’ve been asked to do.  And it was my father-in-law who asked me.  Talk about awkward. 
            He had come over to visit me and my two sons when my husband (his other son) wasn’t even there.  And I noticed that he seemed to be hanging around a little too long, like he was hemming-and-hawing about something.  Just as he was getting ready to leave, my friend stopped by with her son.  And as my father-in-law was walking out the door, he turned and said, “Would you like to carry a baby for your brother-in-law?” 
            I am almost never speechless, but no answer would form in my mind.  I sat there staring with my mouth open until my friend spoke up and said, “Oh goodness, I don’t think I could ever give away a baby that I carried.”  And I just stammered something like, “Yeah, I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing that either.” 
            While others might be okay doing it, I wouldn’t be able to for many reasons, not the least of which is that I had a c-section for my first child and would be afraid of having multiples and putting stress on my incision scar.  Plus, if there were multiples, I wouldn’t allow them to do a “selective reduction.”  Plus, I can’t stand tampering with nature.  (I don’t even dye my hair or eat MSG.)  So taking a bunch of hormone shots would be out of the question.  Just too many reasons that made me say, “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t.” 
            “You’re making homemade potato chips for the first time while I’m having a baby!”  I had a c-section in a hospital for my first son.  And then I had three drug-free homebirths.  You could tell that it was rather commonplace for us by the third homebirth because when I was almost to the point of giving birth in our bedroom, I could smell the strong scent of coconut oil.  (But I think we freaked out one of our church-friends who came to pick up my older sons for a play-date with his kids.  When we told him that I was in labor on the couch in the other room, he couldn’t get out of there fast enough.) 
            I said “What the heck is he doing?  Why do I smell coconut oil?” to the nurse and doctor who were in the room with me, waiting for the baby to come.  Not even a couple minutes later, we called my husband upstairs because it was time.  And when he came into the bedroom (rather nonchalantly), I asked him why I smelled coconut oil.
            “Oh, I decided to try making potato chips in a pan of oil.  And I noticed the coconut oil and thought Why not?
            “You decided to make potato chips for the first time as I am upstairs getting ready to give birth to our baby!?!”
            “Well, we’ve been through this before and we know what to expect.  I figured I had time.”  (They weren’t even very good potato chips.  Don’t use coconut oil unless you like coconut-flavored potatoes.)
            “We really need to throw out that placenta that’s in the freezer!”  Yep!  In homebirths, they make you keep the placenta until you dispose of it.  And since I had no desire to plant ours under a new tree or to have my husband dig a hole in the backyard to bury it with the neighbors watching (try explaining that one to the neighbors!) or to send it off to be made into pills that I could take like vitamins (it’s totally true that some people do this), we kept ours in a sealed bucket in the freezer until we could dispose of it.  Right next to the ice cream, ground meat, and frozen veggies.
            See, the problem for us was that we had two homebirths in the heat of the summer.  And I wasn’t about to throw a placenta into the garbage can in the heat of summer and have some animal dig it out. 
            Could you imagine what the neighbors or garbage man would think!?! 
            It would freak them out and they would call the cops to report the body part that was strewn across the ground in front of our garbage.  And then think of the work they would have to go through to figure out which body part it was and who it belonged to.  That’s a line of questioning I just didn’t want to deal with.  So we kept it in the freezer until winter when it wouldn’t thaw out and draw animals and suspicion.  But of course, we would forget about it for way too long.  (Partly on purpose.  Because who wants to deal with a frozen placenta!) 
            [Note to women who have never had a baby before or who are pregnant with their first child: There is almost nothing glamorous or dignified about having a baby except that fact that you have brought a new, little life into the world.  The rest of it is just gross and embarrassing!  Yet no matter how gross or embarrassing it is, you will still want to talk about it with others mothers, and even with their husbands.  Because you know they've been there too.]   
            “So, Honey, do you think we could take a baby tomorrow if they don’t want her?”  I greeted my husband with that line one day when he came home from work.  A family member had a baby and wasn’t sure if they were going to keep her or not.  And my mom called me up in a bit of a panic, wondering what would happen to the baby and who could care for her.  And I said I would talk to my husband about taking her.  We knew we could never turn away a baby (especially a family member) that needed a home.  Thankfully, though, they decided to keep her and are doing good.
            “Could you please send a cop over to my mom’s house to check on my brother because he said he would jump from the balcony to get away from her, even if it meant suicide!?!”  My mom and second-step-dad were in the middle of a messy divorce.  And my mom wanted to take my preteen brother somewhere, but he didn’t want to go.  So he called me and told me that he didn’t want to go and that he would jump from the balcony, even if it meant suicide.  I didn’t have a car to go over and get him, so I called the cops.  They said they couldn’t do anything because it was a family thing and that my mom had a right to take him wherever she was going.  But when I told them that he mentioned suicide, I heard the dispatcher sigh.  And she took down my mom’s info and sent a cop over.  And my brother never jumped and he didn’t have to go with her.
            In a call to 9-1-1:  “Yes, the guy who lives in the basement of our apartment just pulled a gun on my roommate.”  This is true.  I was in the basement, looking for something in storage for a trip I was taking the next day, when the creepy guy who lived in a makeshift-room in the basement came in and began making small talk.  He was totally drunk and introduced himself over and over again.  After a few minutes of talk, he went upstairs and began banging on the door of the guys who lived across the hall from us.  He was mad because their thermostat controlled his heat, and he wanted them to turn the heat on.  The he came back downstairs to the room where I was, and he shut the door behind him. 
            One of my roommates knew that I was downstairs and that Creepy Guy was down there with me and that he had a gun.  She had seen it through our peep-hole as he banged on the door across the hall with it.  And she decided to come down and check on me.  When she opened the basement door, Creepy Guy spun around, whipped out the gun, and aimed it at her head. 
            “Oh,” he said, “I thought you were the guys from upstairs who wouldn’t turn the heat on.” 
            I am so glad she wasn’t, and I am so glad that he didn’t have a twitchy trigger-finger.  But I had to call 9-1-1.  And they evacuated us from our apartment.  And it took them hours to get him out of his room, where he apparently had a stockpile of weapons and a gun like the one I described, which was loaded and had the safety off.  We made it back into our apartment an hour before we had to leave to catch a plane.  It took all night for the SWAT team to get him out, finally having to resort to pepper spray to do it.
            [Incidentally, just a few months later, my brother was robbed at knife-point at the place he worked.  But it turned out that his coworker had staged it with the robber.  So, thankfully, he wasn’t in any real danger at the time.  Kinda.
            And not too long ago, my step-father was fixing up a rental home at night when two guys (who were high on something) violently attacked him.  To them, he probably looked like on old, easy target.  But this guy is freakishly strong.  He ended up pummeling both guys, grabbing one by his long hair so he couldn’t get away and punching the other guy in the stomach with the drill he was still holding, a drill that had a nice, pointy, long, drill attachment on it.  Ouch.  They ran, but I think the cops eventually found them.  I bet they regret taking on that “old man” who was working in a house at night all by himself.
            Sometimes, I wonder if my mom’s side of the family had been cursed somewhere back in the day.  Things just happen with that side of the family.]
            “I gotta go over to my parents’ house to make sure they didn’t commit suicide.”  Like I said, it was a messy divorce.  And suicide by one of them was a real possibility.  I had to go over one day to make sure that this parent was still alive.  I seriously expected a body to be swinging from the rafters of their log home.  When I got there, they (not saying which one) were laying totally still in their bed.  I scanned the dresser for pill bottles and watched for breathing.  Finally, their chest moved up and down.  Thank God, it was just a nap.  While it was a difficult change and there were lots of negative consequences from it, it was a total relief when that marriage ended.                              

30.  I threw up in the car on the way to the reception on my wedding day!  I hadn’t slept much or eaten much in the several days before the wedding as I did last minute preparations.  And then it was 95 degrees on our wedding day, and I had to go in and out of the air-conditioning to the heat to the air-conditioning to the heat.  And then, I got carsick since I was sitting in the backseat of the car.  And since I wasn’t feeling well, we stopped by our new apartment on the way to the reception to take a small break.  However, I forgot that they had just painted it.  So it was hot and sweaty in our apartment and it smelled like paint.  But I stripped out of my way-too-tight wedding dress and laid down for a few minutes anyway.  And then we got back in the car and drove 45 minutes to the reception.  At this point, the exhaustion, hunger, heat, paint fumes, tight dress, and car sickness got the best of me, and I began to throw up in a small plastic baggy that I had with me.  And then, we had to stop at a gas station so that I could run to the bathroom and throw up.  Unfortunately, the bathroom had a separate entrance on the side of the building facing the road.  So I am sure it gave all the motorists quite a laugh to see the sick woman in her wedding dress making a bee-line for a dirty, public, gas-station bathroom.  And now when we pass that gas station, we say “See, kids.  There’s the bathroom where Mommy threw up on her wedding day.”

31.  And then at the wedding, I was so sick during dinner that I couldn’t even eat the champagne chicken I had been waiting for.  Instead, when I got up to go to the bathroom to pat my face with a wet paper towel, the wedding coordinator took one look at me, grabbed me by the hand, and said, “You are going downstairs to rest in my office.” 
            I was too sick to resist.  And she led me to her cool, darkened office and shut the door behind me.  And I loosened my dress, laid down on the cool tile floor and rested there in the blue light that was coming off of the “security camera” television, while my guests and new husband all partied at my wedding reception, one floor above me. 
            I never even told anyone I was going down there, so I don’t know what my new husband thought when I never showed up to eat my dinner or to go around and greet the guests with him.  And if the guests tapped on their glasses with a spoon to get the bride and groom to kiss, he would have looked around and found no bride.  He’d have just stood there like a rejected “king of the nerds” with no one to kiss.
            About a half-hour later, my new husband finally found me.  As I laid there with my dress undone and my face on the cool floor, I saw the door open and a pair of feet come walking in.  (It’s all I could see from my face-on-the-floor angle.)  And then he knelt down by me and gently rubbed my back and we just sat there in the quiet, cool, blue light for awhile.  And that moment is honestly my favorite “wedding day” memory.  (If I could go back and do it again, I would elope.  No joke!  Just grab some nearby strangers as witnesses and get married on a beach somewhere.)              

32.  When I was 17, I went to Russia for a week on a mission trip.  And we got to stop in Germany for a day. 
            Then when I was 21, I went on a mission trip to Papua New Guinea for the whole summer.  We had no running water or electricity or anything.  It was the most primitive I had ever lived.  It took us a day’s ride in a canoe (with a motor) to get to the village we stayed in.  [I had the most interesting “bathroom” experience on that canoe.  If you had to go to the bathroom, you put your rain poncho on and had someone on the canoe hold your hands while you hung your rear-end over the edge of the canoe to relieve yourself in the river, while 30 or so other people watched and thoughts of crocodiles chomping on your tender rear filled your head.]
            We washed clothes in the river water, bathed in the filthy brown river, caught rain water to cook with, cooked in a “mud oven” (a metal box surrounded by hardened mud with an opening underneath for the fire), slept in tents.  It was amazing!  I loved every minute of it!
            Except for the grub I ate.  It was a special gift from the village people (not “YMCA” Village People, but the people of the village Nain).  They had roasted them over a fire on a stick and graciously presented this delicacy to us, and we were all expected to eat one.  I jumped first to grab the first one on the stick, and I popped it in my mouth.  I tasted like tough, dry beef-tongue (which I tried when we were going to Russia).  Like eating chewy cardboard.  No big deal!  But I am so glad that I grabbed the first one, the one on the end that got cooked the most.  Because the rest of the team told me how theirs wasn’t fully cooked in the middle, so when they bit into it, it exploded into goo in their mouths.  I’d have been throwing up if I got one of those.  Thank God for my “Just get it over with” haste!    
            And then we got to spend a week in Australia at the end of the summer.  (If I had to live it any other country, it would be Australia.)  That trip was one of the highlights of my life.  (I wrote about it in the first chapter of my life story, Child of Mine, on my other blog.) 

33.  I once ate a bunch of ants, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  I was a teenager and had gone to sleep at a friend’s house overnight.  Her mom set a plate of cookies by the window for us.  After awhile, my friend and I began eating the cookies.  And I stopped mid-chew when I noticed that my cookie was moving.  When I looked closer, I saw that it was completely covered in tiny ants that had come in through the window.  We both freaked out, ran to the sink, and began rinsing and rinsing our mouths out.  And the rest of the night, we were both certain that we could feel tiny ant-heads and legs stuck between our teeth.

34.  In college, I once hiked 55 miles in a week on a mission trip through the Smoky Mountains.  I wore a backpack on my back that felt like it weighed as much as I did.  I have never been so tired and sore in my life.  And then at the end of the trip, I found out that the other teams hiked only 25 miles or so.  They put the tiniest girl with the shortest legs (me – 5’1”) on the team with the tallest people who hiked the farthest.  Not fair!  (I cried as I hiked the first couple days, out of sheer exhaustion.  So glad that no one turned around to see me whimpering like a baby.) 

35.  I love spiders!
            I got a picture of me holding a giant spider in Papua New Guinea.  Sad thing is, I held it before I really knew for sure if it was poisonous or not.  I tried to ask the village guy who was putting it in my hand if it was poisonous, but he just nodded and smiled because he couldn’t understand a word I was saying.  But I took it anyway because I was just so anxious to get a picture of me holding it.  As a 40-year-old now, I am horrified at my foolishness.  Stupid, risky 21-year-olds.
            And I once kept a jumper spider in a small tank as a pet.  You know those small, ½-inch, black, hairy spiders that look like tiny tarantulas with a white (or orange) dot on their back?  They are my favorite spiders.  They are the largest jumpers by us and amazing to watch.  I will sit down by one I find in the garden and just watch it as it watches me.  And I can often be heard saying, “Beautiful!  Freakin’ beautiful!  You're a gorgeous spider!”
            Well, I decided to keep one as a pet once on a shelf in my kitchen.  (And I kept a praying mantis once, too.  They're cool.  And, yes, they do bite if you grab onto them really hard when they're running up your arm.  My oldest son learned that one the hard way.)  I caught bugs for it to feed it.  And I even put another smaller jumper in with it to “give it a friend.” 
            Never give your jumper spider a friend!  They eat their friends!
            While I love these spiders, they freak my mom out.  Just a short while before I began keeping this spider as a pet, my mom was bitten by a brown recluse.  And so even daddy-long-legs scare her. 
            [She ended up being bitten twice by a brown recluse while she was working among wood piles in her yard.  The first time, she got a huge, swollen, lemon-sized mass of dead tissue on her neck.  However, she failed to warn me that she had this giant growth on her neck.  It was a holiday and we had just come to visit.  And I go into the kitchen to say “Hi” when she swings around to look at me.  And this giant goiter is just hanging there, like a tiny, shrunken head emerging from her neck.  My eyes bulged out in shock, and she explained the spider bite.  Not even a few seconds later, my husband comes walking into the room.  And she turns to him to say “Hi,” and so does the tiny, shrunken head.  And I see his eyes bulge in horror.  As she goes over to the fridge for a moment, he hisses, “Why didn’t you warn me!?!”
            And the second time she got bit, she said her entire body from the neck down turned black-and-blue.  A third time will most likely kill her.  To this day, I am nervous and cautious when working among wood piles.]
            I didn't always like spiders.  But I remember the day I began to really enjoy them.  I had found a giant Orb Weaver on our yard swing.  And it freaked the daylights out of me.  But it was too big to kill because it would leave a giant blob of goo.  (I don't smash any bugs that will make a popping sound or leave a big blob of goo!  And I hate smooshing the kind where their legs fall off, like a house centipede.  Because then the legs are just there, twitching all over the place!  Ugh, it's making me sick to my stomach to think about it.)  And so I caught it in a jar and decided to research it so I could know if it would kill me or my children while we sat on our swing.  And as I researched spiders, I began to see how fascinating they are.  And how beautiful and helpful!  And I have loved them ever since.  A little knowledge can be a good thing!

36.  In general, I try not to kill spiders because I respect them and enjoy them.  But I did have to kill one daddy-long-legs once which seemed to be possessed.  I was in my mom’s rental house in the middle of nowhere at night when this daddy-long-legs came walking up the bed toward me.  I brushed it off.  No big deal.  Just a daddy-long-legs.  (That’s a weird name to say over and over again if you think about it.  Daddy-long-legs . . . daddy-long-legs . . . daddy-long-legs.) 
            Anyway, a couple minutes later, I noticed it walking the exact same path, up the edge of bed, right toward me.  So I brushed it away again.  A couple minutes later, there it was, making a bee-line straight for me.  So I smashed it.  Something was just not right about that spider!

37.  I got really upset once when I chopped into a giant toad while I was gardening.  [Ryder, my son, do not read this one!  It will make you sick.  (He loves frogs and toads more than I do and gets really upset when they get hurt.  It also really bothers him that the overuse of pesticides is harming the eco-system and frogs and toads, so please don’t use chemicals on your lawn.)]
            Anyway, I was digging in the garden bed to turn the dirt when I noticed that the shovel would not go down all the way.  I thought it must have been a tree root, so I stomped on the shovel more, over and over again, and yet it resisted. 
            Finally, I dug down with my hands to find this root, but I found a giant toad instead, about the size of a grapefruit.  I was horrified.  When I picked it up, I could see that his leg was disconnected from his body  so it just hung there all limp.  (It’s probably where I was trying to push the shovel through.)  And he had a giant slice in his belly skin which exposed his stomach muscles. 
            I knew he wouldn’t last long, but I couldn’t bring myself to put him out of his misery.  So I figured Why not let nature take its course and let him be a meal for something else?  So I threw him (I actually did throw him – like a baseball – because I didn’t want him to land near me where I might see him get eaten) into the woodsy area behind my yard.  Poor guy! 
            And I was so sick to my stomach that I couldn’t eat dinner for two days!  Every time I tried to eat anything even slightly meaty, my stomach turned.  And even to this day, I get a sick feeling if I think about it.  Worst part was that I had once prayed that I would never hurt a toad or frog when I gardened, because I knew how much they loved to hide in the soft dirt of the garden bed.  Man, that sucked!
            [Ryder loves frogs and toads so much that he got a “frog habitat” as a gift once and we are now waiting for the tadpoles to arrive by mail.  $14 for two leopard frog tadpoles!  And I guess they can live for up to five years!  Ugh!  He better enjoy them and take care of them, that’s all I’m saying!]

            [A few other gross stories:
            Once my husband had a big, fluid-filled blister on his finger from a burn.   We were making PB&J sandwiches, but we had to open a new jar of natural peanut butter.  So he opened the jar and mixed the layer of oil back into the peanut butter.  When he was done, he looked at his hand.
            “My blister’s gone,” he said.  “It popped.”  We both looked at the peanut butter.  And then we threw it out.
            Another time, my neighbor was making homemade sauerkraut.  He asked my young son to come over and stomp on the cabbage in a big crock like people used to do (did they really?).  I know that my son has filthy feet because he’s always outside, so I cleaned him up as best I could.
            “Are you sure you want his feet in your food?”
            “Oh sure, he’ll be fine,” he said.
            So I sent him over to stomp in my neighbor’s food, shaking my head the whole time.
            Well, when he finished the job and came back home, I looked at his feet.
            “Wait a minute,” I said.  “Didn’t you have a big scab on that foot?  Where’d it go?”
            I figured it was best to not tell my neighbor.  He later gave us a jar of sauerkraut.  We never ate it.

            When I was a pre-teen - this story haunts me, I still feel bad for him - a neighbor boy came over to mow our lawn.  The grass was kinda wet that day and was sticking to the underside of the mower.  And so the neighbor boy reached under to brush the wet grass off without turning the mower off. 
            It was at this point that I heard a knock on our door.  And when I went to answer it, there was the neighbor boy standing there in a bit of a daze.  And since he was too stunned to talk, all he did was show me the two fingers that he was holding which were attached by only a flap of skin.  (If they were even attached at all.  I didn’t look too hard.)
            I screamed for my mom, who rushed him to the hospital.  And as far as I know, he is fine today.  But I think of the image of him holding his two fingers every time my sons mow the lawn now.  And I don’t totally relax until the job is done and the mower is off.]

38.  You know that prank that people play sometimes called “Snipe hunting.”  They send someone out at night with a flashlight to go “snipe hunting,” but the joke is that there is no such thing as snipes.  Well, I’m here to say that, yes, there is such a thing as snipes.  There is a bird called a snipe.  And I know this because it once got caught in the netting in my garden.  I had never seen a bird like it (I really should have gotten a picture), but I got a good enough look at it as I set it free to identify it as a snipe when I looked it up in my bird book.  Joke’s on you, pranksters!

39.  My hair is prematurely gray silver!  Actually, only about half of it is silver, in like chunks and speckles around my head.  So when I put my hair in a ponytail, there are stripes on the side of my head.  My biological father was completely silver by the time he was 30, and I guess I take after him in that way.  (Figures!  I also have his “hermit” tendencies.)  I would love to have nice dark hair again, but I have read too much about hair dye and the risks of cancer.  And as I have gotten older, I have become much more concerned with doing things naturally.  It just seems safest and wisest and the most common-sense-y.  So hair dye had to go. 
            The way I see it, many of us will end up with cancer or an auto-immune disease of some kind when we are older.  And if I end up with something like that, I want to know that I did my best to not invite it.  (If I was stronger, I would cut out sugar completely too.  As it is, we eat way less sugar than most people.  But still!)  I don’t want to shave off several years of my life or health just for hair color.  I want to be as strong and healthy as I can for my children and future grandchildren.  So I let it go silver and wear it “proudly.”  (And I avoid mirrors as much as possible.)
            Oh, and can I just say one thing?  Proverbs 16:31:  "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life."  (I'm just sayin'.) 

40.  If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be Stars Hollow.  (Gold star on your forehead if you know what I’m talking about.)  I have been watching my Gilmore Girls DVD’s religiously since it came out years ago.  It is my favorite show and I feel at home there, which is strange because it’s an imaginary place that I’ve never been to.  But I would love it if I could find a place just like it.  I love that small town charm, where neighbors actually mingle and live life together.  I, however, got a neighbor that reports you if your lawn gets too high and calls the fire department while you are enjoying a small fire in a manufactured fire-ring in your backyard.  (We had a permit and it was perfectly legal, but the fire engine still had to come check.)                 

41.  I can see ghosts!
            Oh my gosh, no!  Totally kidding.  Just seeing if you're still paying attention. 

42.  When I was growing up, we had all kinds of pets.  Cats, dogs, lizards, horses, sugar gliders, a mynah bird that said “Fudge you!” (only he didn’t say “fudge” either), three orphaned raccoon babies that would crawl all over you and the couch.  My mom kept a baby deer in the kitchen once (after I had moved out) that she “rescued” because she thought it was orphaned.  And we had a monkey, the kind that tips its hat and takes a quarter from you. 
            At first, the monkey was so cool to have.  It was sweet and diapered and it sat on your shoulder and hugged around your neck and cooed and chirped when you talked to her.  But then she went through puberty and got really mean and turned on everyone.  She attacked my grandma when she saw my grandma hugging someone in the family.  She sneak-attacked my boyfriend, leaping at him from out of nowhere and attaching herself to his arm so she could chew it off.  (He threw her so hard that she slid across the whole floor.  If she had been inches over to the right, she would have smashed into the cabinets and gotten really hurt.  My boyfriend was sorry he missed.) 
            You couldn’t trust her so she wasn’t allowed out of the cage.  It got to be quite sad for her.  I was one of her favorite people – she would go into a crazy, chirpy fit every time I talked to her – and now I didn’t even want to go near her because she wasn’t diapered anymore and was filthy.  Although my mom did what she could, there wasn’t much for her to play with but poop and old food and poopy-old-food-covered-toys.  (I mean, the monkey played with poop and old food and poopy-old-food-covered-toys, not my mom.)
            One day when I was watching my mom’s house, I had to feed her.  But I didn’t want to go anywhere near the cage.  So I stood back a few feet and carefully tried to wedge some food in between the bars.  But when I leaned forward to press the watermelon slice through, the monkey made a lightning-fast swipe for my eye (or maybe she was going for my glasses).  But she actually cut my eyelid a bit.  I was horrified as I searched for antiseptic because all I could think of is what kind of disgusting disease or infection I might get from a poopy, rotten-food-covered, monkey paw.  You always had to watch yourself so you didn’t drift too close to the cage because she would slash you in a heartbeat.  Lightning-fast, razor-sharp, yucky, monkey-poop fingers!
            As mean as she got to be, it’s sad now that she’s gone.  She had to get put to sleep because she had breast cancer.  RIP, Holly!
            Did you know that monkeys can get offended?  They know when they are being laughed at.  One day, my grandma came to visit.  She hadn’t seen Holly in a long time and didn’t know that Holly had grown great big monkey-boobs.  (I was actually embarrassed for her - boobs all hanging out, nothing to cover them.)  But my grandma was petting her on the back one day.  And when Holly flipped over, there was a giant pair of monkey-boobs.  And my grandma started laughing at the shock of it. 
            Well, the instant my grandma starting laughing at her, Holly went from a smiling, “I’m so excited that I’m being petted” look of pure joy to a sour frown with her lips all pursed out in a “I hate you, why are you so mean to me” look.  She knew she was being laughed at and she didn’t like it.  I thought it was funny! 
            (Nowadays, I only have two birds and tank of fish!  And even then, I look at the fish sometimes and wonder, When are you just going to DIE!?!  I don’t think I’m cut out for pets.)

43.  Just after we were married, we stopped at a Wisconsin Dell’s hotel for the night on the way back home from somewhere, the kind where your door leads to outside, not into a hallway.  And we enjoyed our evening, talking, laughing, messing around.  The next morning when we got up to leave, we couldn’t find the key.  We looked everywhere for it.  Finally, my husband goes, “You wouldn’t have left it in the lock on the outside, would you?”
            Yes, apparently I did!  When he opened the door, there was the key, right in the lock, in full view of everyone who passed by our door.  Oh, the things that could have happened but didn’t.  Thank God! 

44.  Worst movie I ever saw: Rocky Horror Picture Show.  It was so horrible that I watched it all the way through because I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  I felt like I had to scrub my eyeballs with soap and water when it was over.  And then there was Saturday Night Fever which I stopped watching because it was so bad.  And Deliverance which just leaves you feeling dirty and twisted inside.  
            Why does everyone reference these movies all the time as though they are great movies?  (But at least now I understand what people mean when they do a “dueling banjos” sound.)  The whole reason I watched them was because they were referenced so much that I felt left out, like I couldn’t understand an inside secret that everyone else knew.  And I thought that if everyone saw them and talked about them, it must mean they were good movies.  They’re not!  They’re wretched.  Even the dancing in Saturday Night Fever, which is supposed to be iconic or something, was like watching a bunch of drugged zombies trying to line-dance to creepy music and lighting.  It was terrible!  
            Moral of the story: If everyone else in the world loves it and talks about it, it’s probably not good!

45.  I don’t spend much time online, watching or chatting or surfing or whatever.  Other than my blogs, I'm not involved with any social media.  I've never tweeted or pinned anything or snap-chatted or done anything on Facebook or YouTube.  I'd rather read books.  Real, paper, turn-the-page, make-a-bookmark-out-of-scrap-paper books.  If I had time, I could read for hours.  

46.  My favorite Christian band right now:
            Since I struggle with emotional funks a lot and negative thoughts, I have to be careful what I listen to.  And I found a band that has reached deeply into my soul, past all the depressing thoughts, and lit a spark again.
            Can I make a music recommendation here for when you are losing faith, when you’re barely hanging on and want to despair of life?  Get all of albums that you find from The City Harmonic.  They are INCREDIBLE!  Seriously incredible!!!  Absolutely majestic!
            I ordered their first album not too long ago.  And after listening to it once, every fiber in my being went, “I must order ALL of their albums NOW!”  And I did.  And I was not disappointed! 
            I love Jeremy Riddle and The Newsboys, too, but nothing has touched my heart and restored my faith as much as The City Harmonic. 
            Every song just speaks so deeply to life, to pain and fear and heartache, to the times that we are weak and barely able to stand, to the faithful and the faithless.  I am often brought to tears – good tears – while listening to them.  They make my heart feel like praising even when it’s hurting.  Buy their albums and listen regularly.  It will help you hang on when you’d rather give up.  (Have I mentioned that they’re incredible!?!)

47.  My two favorite words to use: discombobulated and creepy.  And I have yet to use them in the same sentence.  Well, other than this one.

48.  Other things I’ve actually said:
            “Hi, Honey!  I did something stupid.  I’m alright, but can you pick up some butterfly bandages on your way home?”
            I had just said good-bye to my husband and sons as they left for a store.  And I called out to my husband as he pulled away, “Are you sure you don’t need me to go with you?”
            But I really preferred to spend some time home alone, so I was relieved when he said, “No, I’ve got it covered.  You stay home and enjoy your time alone.”
            About a minute after they pulled away, I was trying to hang up a stupid, little, $1, plastic wind-chime.  I was standing on a log and reaching through the side of the trellis to hang it on the outer most rung at the top of the trellis.  Just as I got it into place, the log slipped out from under me and I landed on the ground on my feet.  But as I stood there with my arm still stuck in the trellis side, I knew something was wrong.  I thought I had reached through one of the diamond-shaped holes on the trellis side and that the bottom of my upper arm was being pinched in the bottom of the diamond.
            Man, this really hurts!  Why is it hurting so bad?  Something’s not right!, I thought as I pulled my arm out of the trellis side.  I had no idea what was hurting so bad as I struggled to take my flannel shirt off so that I could check under my arm.  And when I did, I saw an inch-wide, gaping gash with fat bulging out.  It was then that I realized that I hadn’t put my arm through a diamond, but through a spot that had a decorative “dagger” that was over an inch long and pointed up.  So when I slipped off the log, my arm was impaled on the “dagger.”  And that’s why I couldn’t get my arm out easily.  (It took so much force to yank my arm out - before I knew I impaled it - that I bent the metal dagger about 35 degrees or so from when it pointed up.)     
            Barely a minute after they left!  Stupid log!  Stupid trellis!  Ouch!  Ouch!  Ouch!  And all for a stupid, dollar-store decoration.  As I examined the hole in my arm, I began to panic a little.  Hospital or not?  Emergency room for stitches or treat it myself?  Call husband or wait for him to get home?  Tetanus? 
            In my panic, I began to feel a little woozy, so I laid down on the couch for a few minutes.
            My initial biggest fear was that I might have punctured that main artery that runs along the underside of my arm.  But when I saw that I was barely bleeding, I realized that I had missed it.  And I thanked God profusely that I wasn’t going to bleed to death.  (Thankfully, since my arm was nearly pointing up to the sky as I fell off the log, the dagger punctured along under the skin instead of stabbing straight into my arm where it would have punctured through muscles and arteries.  That would have been much worse.)
            My next fear was of infection.  The end of the dagger had gone over an inch into my arm, so I did what I could to squeeze some of the blood out of the wound to clean out any debris.  And I washed the open hole as best I could.  And then I tried to call my mom (who is a nurse) to get her opinion on if I should go to the hospital or not.  But I couldn’t get a hold of her.
            By this time, I was calming down.  And I figured that I was pretty safe in just treating it at home, as long as I kept an eye out for infection.  (If it was my kids, I would have taken them to the doctor in a heartbeat.  But for myself, well, I could manage.)  So I called my husband and told him I did “something stupid” and that I needed him to buy some butterfly bandages. 
            While he was applying them to my arm after he got home, my mom called.  And she agreed that I could treat it at home as long as I had antibiotic and butterfly bandages.  So that’s just what I did.  Thank You, God, for that confirmation!  It puts my mind at ease.  
            “If I have to sacrifice this friendship to help save your marriage, I’m willing to do that.”  My favorite and closest friend (and basically only friend, at the time) of almost 20 years was going through a really hard time in her marriage, to the point where she kept talking about divorce or having an affair.  They have four young boys.  And having seen how my mom’s divorces affected us kids, I decided that I had to do anything I could to help them get through this hard patch. 
            And so when it got to a very desperate time for them, I sat down and wrote a letter to them about how I won’t let them get divorced without stepping in and saying something.  I told them about how divorce affected my family, how much I love them as a family, how I know they can make it work, and how they need to be more aware of what the other person needs and how they can build them up and make their marriage safer, etc.  And I said that I was willing to sacrifice the friendship if I had to, to save their marriage. 
            But never in a million years did I think it actually would affect the friendship.  We had almost 20 years of an incredibly-deep, safe, sister-like relationship, talking every week for an hour or more.  I thought it would just sound great to say, showing them how important they are to me as a couple.  Yet, in the end, I think it did ruin the friendship.  Although she never said anything about it, her husband did pull me aside one day during a visit to their house and say thank you for the letter, that it meant a lot to him.  (The fact that she didn’t say anything about it should have tipped me off.  Makes me wonder if she never mentioned the idea of divorce to him and then I went and spilled the beans.) 
            But over the next couple months, she stopped calling and stopped returning my phone calls.  And now we talk about once a year in a brief, not-so-deep way.  Losing that friendship was one of the hardest things I have had to go through recently.  But . . . they are still married and doing well, as far as I know.  So I don’t regret the letter I sent.  I consider it a success.  And if I had the chance to go back and do it differently, I would still send the letter.  I just wouldn’t wait for her phone calls that never came.  (Sometimes, though, I do hate myself for feeling the need to speak up.  But what good are true friends if they are not willing to do the hard, important things for your benefit, because they want the best for you.  It still sucks, though.)
            (Update: I have recently talked with her, apologizing for the letter I sent.  And she told me that she was afraid that she might have been griping to me too much about her bad marriage.  I think that's why she stopped calling.  It's so sad that she stopped calling because she thought she was bothering me by "complaining" too much, but in reality I desperately needed and valued her friendship.  We lost that friendship over a misunderstanding.)    
            “Really!?!  Heroin!?!”  When my mom and second step-dad divorced, my ex-step-dad fled to another state and, according to my mom, got back on heroin (which she says he used before they married).  I didn’t believe her at first.  But when his father called me and said that he suspected heroin, too, I figured it must be true.  It’s really sad.  It shouldn’t have ended this way.  The last time I talked to him, I was five months pregnant with my now-ten-year-old.  And then he just vanished.  I think of him a lot, every time I see a tall, dark-haired, skinny guy in glasses.  So basically every day.
            “You think he robbed a bank?”  My mom also said that she thought he was the one who robbed the bank that was a few yards from his business.  I still don’t know what to think.
            “Something invisible is creeping up the bed!”  Yep!  I can't see ghosts but I did once have something invisible creeping up my bed.  This one is explained in the “Supernatural Stuff and the Armor of God” post.  And I really did say this because it really did happen.
            “Yes, I’d like two hard-shell tacos and a medium Dr. Pecker, please!”  Yeah, I accidentally placed this order with the guy behind the Taco Bell counter when I was a teenager, just weeks after I read about someone else’s embarrassing moment of accidentally ordering a Dr.Pecker and thought, Who would really do that?
            [I have a theory: Never think to yourself or say out loud, Who would do that?  Because it'll be you next.  And never say anything critical about anyone else.  Because you will eventually find yourself in that same place.  Don’t say, “Wow, that child is loud" or "He has a really large head!”  Because you’ll get a screaming Humpty Dumpty for your next kid.]
            “So there I am, trying to talk to my boyfriend, but he won’t stop playing with the monkey!”  This is what I shared with my Interpersonal Communications class.  But I had failed to tell anyone that my family had a real monkey.  And I didn’t catch the double meaning until I heard the giggles that were making their way across the room.  “No, a real monkey.  My mom has a real monkey!”

49.  If you ever want to test your kid’s hearing, do what I do ... whisper the word “cookie” from the other room.  I kid you not, I could be in the next room while the kids are watching TV and whisper the word “cookie” and they will come running. 
            “Cookies!  What!?!  Where are the cookies?”
            Or they will be in the backseat of the van and I’ll be in the front with my husband.  And the radio is on and the windows are down.  And if I whisper something like “How about ice cream” to my husband, they’ll be like “I heard that!  You said ice cream!”
            But get right in their face and ask them to clean their room and they turn into Helen Keller.
            “Honestly, Mom, I never saw you or heard you say anything about cleaning my room!”

50.  I never was good at cards when I was younger.  (I’m not much better now!)  I was in high school and playing a game with my friends called “Bullsh…,” actually let me just say that they changed it to “Bologna” for me.  The goal is to get rid of all the cards in your hand.  You discard cards from your hand and announce what you are laying down (face-down) on the table.  But you have to go in order.  So if the person before you lays down 2s, you have to lay down 3s and the next person lays down 4s.  Got it?  But if you don’t have any 3s, you might lay down a 7 and a Jack, but you’ll say “Two 3s,” meaning you claim that you are laying down two 3s.  If someone doesn’t believe you, they will say “Bologna” and check the cards you laid down on the pile.  If they were wrong, they take the cards.  If they were right, you have to take the cards back (and maybe extra cards from the deck, too, I can’t remember.) 
            Well, the person before me played their turn and said, “One 10.” 
            And I played my turn and said, “Two 11s.”
            And someone snickered and yelled, “Bologna.”
            How did they know!?!     

51.  One of the first fancy dinners I made for my then-boyfriend (now-husband) made him “Yelp” in horror.  I decided to make a mushroom-and-garlic-stuffed filet mignon.  As he sat down at the table and picked up his fork and knife, I sighed in contentment and pride, feeling good about treating him to a wonderful meal. 
            But I had neglected to tell him that I had stuffed it. 
            “Oh, this looks good!” he said, in anticipation.  And as he pressed his knife down into it to cut a piece off, it exploded open with slimy, gray goo.  He actually jumped in his seat and “yelped” in horror.  (Remember the scene from Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo cuts open the taun-taun so that he can shove a frozen Luke inside?  And the guts burst out?  Yeah ... it was like that!) 
            “Warn someone when you stuff their filet with something!” he said.  After that awful visual, it really didn’t taste good.   

52.  Sometimes, when I am at a store or in a public building, I will suddenly get the thought, What if everyone else around us in the world vanished and all that was left were the people in this building? 
            It makes you look at people a little differently when you imagine that you would have to start a whole new civilization with them.

53.  I would love to have a leg-lamp like from Christmas Story.  Maybe someday.  (Update Christmas 2020: I got my leg-lamp, a smaller version of the movie one.  And you know what's sad?  I heard of a kid the other day who saw a few big leg-lamps in windows around his neighborhood and said, "What's with all the creepy legs in the windows?"  What's wrong with 
kids these days!?!  I bet he's never seen The Princess Bride, Wizard of Oz, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure either!)

54.  I feel most alive and happy when it’s storming.

55.  And I love and collect rocks.  They are like God’s little art pieces.  I love that they can’t be fabricated or duplicated and can only be discovered.

56.  I have a picture on my fridge that’s been there for a year or two because it really makes me smile.  I found it in a magazine when I was going through a really dark, depressing funk.  It’s an ad for a Snuggie, you know that robe that you wear backwards.  There's this guy standing there in this blue Snuggie, holding a cup of coffee and doing a little “hitchhiker thumb” dance.  (Reminds me of Baby from Dirty Dancing when she’s substituting for that other lady and she freezes up during the dance and fails to do the lift, so she turns to the crowd and starts doing this “hitchhiker thumb” dance.  Cracks me up.)  And he just looks so happy.  I have never seen anyone look happier than that.  It’s pure joy.  And it always makes me smile to see just how much he loves that Snuggie.  (I laminated the picture so that it would last longer.)
            Another thing that always makes me smile: My solar-powered, dancing frog.  He looks so happy, just dancing there by himself on the shelf.  Not caring who's watching or not watching.  I will put on George Ezra’s song Budapest sometimes just to watch him dance to it.  It’s the perfect rhythm.

57.  I had an embarrassing moment the other day.  I was checking out at Trader Joes and chatting politely with the teen boy who was ringing up my groceries.  And I decided to quickly pop a tic-tac in my mouth.  But as I opened my mouth to say something (and, of course, he’s looking directly at me), the tic-tac comes flying out of my mouth and lands on the floor. 
            Well, I am mortified!  And I bend down to quickly and discreetly pick it up.  But when I do, I accidentally kick it . . . and it begins to bounce across the floor.  So there I am, bent over, chasing a bouncing tic-tac full of my mouth germs across the floor. 
            When I finally get it picked up, I try to resume my  polite conversation but I am laughing hysterically inside.  Because to a young high-schooler, a 40-year-old with silver hair chasing a bouncing tic-tac that just flew out of her mouth across the floor has got to be a sight.  I probably look like a disheveled, old, semi-lucid, bag-lady.
            I laughed out loud all the way to my car and all the way home as I replayed it in my mind.  And then when I told my husband about how I probably looked like a disheveled, old, bag-lady to a young kid, he said, “Yeah, and it was a white tic-tac, too, so he probably thought a tooth came flying out.”  (I’m laughing so hard right now that I can barely type!)   

58.  I have another candy story. 
            My very first counseling job was, of course, as an intern.  I was supposed to sit in with my supervisor as he counseled a reluctant teen boy.  And I was hugely pregnant with my first child. 
            Before going into the counseling room, I was passing through the office when a bowl of butterscotch candies called out to me, “Heather, you want one of us!  We look good, don’t we?  Go ahead, take one!  The baby wants butterscotch!” 
            A little voice in my head said, “Don’t do it.”  But did I listen?  No!  I grabbed a piece and popped it in my mouth.  After all, I was just going to be listening.  I wouldn’t even have to say a word.  Surely, I could just sit there quietly and suck on my candy. 
            Now, this was the first time I met this teen.  I was already feeling very conspicuous being the very large-bellied newbie and the only female in the room.  But if that wasn’t enough . . . as my supervisor was discussing the boy’s issues with him, I inhaled this butterscotch candy into the back of my throat.  Immediately, I began gagging on it.  But since I didn’t want to disrupt the flow of conversation, I sat there completely still - smiling and calm - as I sputtered and slurped, using my tongue to dig the butterscotch out of the back of my throat and pull it back into my mouth.  (I’m sure it was really creepy!)
            When I finally pulled the candy back into my mouth, I resumed quietly sitting there, acting like nothing happened.  I gave them a wide-eyed, innocent look of “What?  What are you all looking at?”  Worst part was, I never told them that I had candy in my mouth.  And I was too embarrassed to explain it.  So I can only imagine what they must have thought was going on with the motionless, creepy, smiling, pregnant woman spontaneously choking in the middle of the room.

59.  Sometimes, I wonder if I’m losing my mind (or if it’s just the natural result of being home all day with four children).  Within a couple days, all of these things happened:
            1.  I left the burner on for hours when “keeping food warm.”  (I’ve done this so many times that I made red marks on the knobs so I can easily see whether it’s on or off.)
            2.  I drove for miles at ten miles under the speed limit, but I didn’t realize it until I noticed the people behind me trying to climb up my rear.
            3.  I told my husband I would get him a glass of water at dinnertime.  And then I went in the kitchen, got some more food for the boys, sat back down at the table, and totally forgot about his drink until he got up to get it himself.  (I do this a lot.  Saying, “I’ll get it for you,” then walking in the other room and doing something completely different.  And there’s a lot of “Why did I come in this room again?”)
            4.  I’m always calling my boys by a different name.
            5.  I was checking out at Trader Joes when I noticed that some of the food in one of the bags was going bad. 
            I asked the cashier, “Can I exchange these onions for another bag?  One of them is rotten.”
            He said, “You mean lemons?”
            I looked again.  Yeah, it was a bag of lemons. 
            6.  Then I went home and was putting food away when I pulled an old bag of fruit out of the fridge and said, “These peaches don’t look so good!” 
            They were oranges! 
            (But in my defense, I was just talking about peaches, so there is a logical explanation for that.)
            7.  I went to a family gathering and was talking with someone I hadn’t talked to in a while. 
            “So how old is your husband now?” he asked.
            “He’s 41,” I said.  And we chatted a bit more.
            “Wait, no,” I interrupted. “He’s not 41.  He’s 42.  I’m 41.”  Chat, chat, chat, small talk, small talk, babble, babble.
            “No, wait!” I interrupted again.  “I’m not 41.  I’m 40.  But I’ll be 41 soon.”  I probably looked senile.

60.  I pierced my upper ear by myself.  Twice.  Just shoving an earring into it until it went through.  But it got infected and I had to take it out.

61.  I can sing every word of “Ice, Ice Baby.”  My kids can’t stand that song.  I love it!  (I'm also trying to learn the words to "It's The End Of The World As We Know It," but I can only get to "ladder starts to clatter" so far.)  

62.  I have learned the secret of being content in any of every situation.  And I’ll share it with you.  Are you ready for it?  Because here it is ...
            “The secret of being content in any and every situation is this:  It’s really hard!”

63.  You know what I think is one of life’s sickest jokes?  As women age, the hair on their heads gets lighter and grayer but the hair on their chins gets darker and thicker.  What the heck is that about!?!  And yet, while our chin hair gets darker, men's chin hair gets grayer.  What the heck!?! 
            And another one: As you age, you don’t look as young as you feel.  It’s like your mind stops at a mental picture of you at a young, cute age.  And as you get older, you still feel young inside - insecure, unsure, and self-conscious, like a teenager.  But then you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror and you’re like, “What the heck is going on around here!?!  When did that happen?”  Or else you see a picture of yourself from behind and go, “What the ...!?!  When did someone replace my body with my mom’s body?” 

64.  I had a small panic attack three days ago (May 30, 2016).  It’s the first one I’ve ever had and I don’t plan on ever having another one.  [I also once had a minor nervous breakdown during my parents’ very messy divorce.  It was so bad that the only way I could start breathing and stop crying was to flee from everything, to jump in the car with my husband and two kids and run away to the middle of nowhere for a little while.] 
            This panic attack started after a walk I took around the block in the morning  My mind was filled with thoughts of all the things that have gone wrong in life and that I don’t have control over: broken family, broken home, broken dreams, broken friendships, and particularly my frustration and heartache over the neighbor’s moldy garage which is still blowing all over my garden.  I have to cover my face when I am out there for more than a minute or two.  It’s breaking my heart. 
            [I say “particularly” because the garden was the last “sweet spot” for me, the place where I invested my heart and creativity because I felt so defeated in every other area of life, except with my husband and kids.  And then, two summers ago, we had to stay inside and keep our windows shut because the mold smell was so bad that you could smell it almost up to our house.  So I stopped gardening that year and let it all rot.  And last year, after I decided to give it one more try and not throw in the towel yet, a giant dead tree fell across my garden at the height of summer and ruined so much, especially ruining my desire for a garden and for anything for myself.  And then this year, I thought I’d try one more time, in the hopes that it wouldn’t be that bad (especially since a new person bought it) and that I could learn to love gardening again.  But the mold smell is still there and getting worse, and it just feels so defeating and hopeless and like I really shouldn’t be allowed to have joy.  It’s breaking my freakin’ heart.] 
            And so my mind was swirling with all of life’s problems and how trapped I felt by them.  And I could feel the panic rising.  I fought it off for about an hour, doing every relaxing thing I could think of, from slowing down my breathing to praying to distracting my mind with tasks.
            And then I started thinking about lung problems we could get from the moldy garage (on top of the mold from the last place we rented).  And so I started to take deep breaths to see if I had the same amount of lung space as before, to see if I could take as deep of breaths.  And, of course, in my panicked state, I didn’t feel like I could breathe as well.  So I kept trying, taking deeper and deeper breaths. 
            Well, everyone knows what happens if you take too many deep breaths.  You start to get tingly and dizzy.  So I started getting tingly and dizzy and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t get away from the problems.  And before I knew it, I was drowning in panic.  I was freaking out that I couldn’t breathe, and I felt like I needed to rush to the emergency room because I was about to throw up and pass out and die of suffocation.  I was spiraling into an other-worldly state of mind.  It was really weird, so unlike level-headed, stoic me.
            I was moments away from telling my husband to drive me to the hospital, but I decided to try one last thing.  I told my husband that I thought I was having a panic attack and that I needed him to pray for me.  And then I started sobbing about how much I hate life and how hard everything is and how wrong everything is (except my amazing family-life with my husband and kids) and how I am tired of trying, and tired of hoping, and tired of being tired. 
            And then he prayed for me.  It was a wonderful prayer.  And as he talked, I felt myself calming down and my body relaxing.  I needed him to pray for me because I couldn’t pray for myself.  I needed to lean on him because I couldn’t hold myself up anymore.  And when he was done praying, things felt a little lighter.  Still sad and disheartening, but lighter.
            But it’s amazing what a panic attack does to you.  How much it wears you down.  I was exhausted.  And the rest of the day, I shuffled around like a weak, tired, old lady suffering from arthritis and osteoporosis.  And my guts were basically liquefied and my stomach was so tight that I couldn’t eat anything.  It took me all day to eat a child-sized Subway sandwich.  And it took me all day to feel even somewhat okay again.
            Unfortunately, the next day (yesterday) I was still wiped out.  So I laid down a lot.  But one time, I woke up with a neck-pinch that I get sometimes which makes me vomit.  And so on top of being exhausted and having eaten nothing, I started vomiting.  Three or four times I threw up the nothing that I had in my stomach.  I was a miserable wretch.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t move without my neck hurting, couldn’t handle noise.  So I stayed in bed all night until this morning, when I woke up at 3:36 a.m. and ate a cracker.  And amazingly enough, I kept it down okay, along with the banana that took me hours to eat.  Slowly but surely, I am working my way back to normal.  But I am wrecked.   
            Today (the third day APA – After Panic Attack), I am still shuffling around slowly and not eating well.  And this morning, I could feel the panic tickling the edges of my brain, looking for a weak spot to come in.  I think I was misinterpreting tiredness and hunger, thinking they were precursors to panic.  But just the idea of panicking and remembering how it felt made me want to panic.  So I called a friend and told her what was going on, and she offered to pray with me right there on the phone.  I felt so much better after that, to have someone else pray for me when I couldn’t pray for myself.  Just having someone listen and care felt really good.
            I have been up and down all day today, praying very different prayers. 
            First, when I was ready to crawl in a hole, I prayed, “Lord, I’m broken.  Please, I am just falling before You broken.  Pick me up.  Carry me.  I can’t do it anymore.  I am falling apart.  Put me back together again.”
            Later on, I once again got so frustrated thinking about how we are once again subjected to mold and how there’s nothing we can do about it and how the city won’t do anything about it and how other people get to enjoy their homes but I’ve never really had the pleasure and how we are right back where we were 6 years ago when we were desperately trying to get out of a severely moldy rental and how just 6-ish years before that I was dealing with my mom and step-dad's very messy divorce and how I just can't seem to catch a break and how it all just feels so unfair, even like God Himself is being unfair.  Sometimes it feels like one problem and one health concern after the next.  So discouraging.  Makes me feel so trapped.  And so I prayed a rather unedited prayer in my frustration, “I don’t f*cking care anymore, Lord.  I don’t f*cking care about anything.  I don’t care what You do.  Do whatever You want.  I give up.  I don’t care about the f*cking garden or the f*cking house.  I can’t f*cking care about anything anymore.  It’s hurts too much!  What have I done?  Am I that bad that we can’t catch a break? I have always tried to do everything right and look where it’s gotten me!?!  No wonder the Bible says to not get tired of doing good.  Because we can get so tired of doing good when it gets us nowhere.  No wonder people turn bad and lose faith.  I won’t turn from You because I know You are real, but I don’t care about anything anymore.  Do whatever You want.  My prayers don’t do any good anyway.  I’m done!” 

            [If I didn’t have that nighttime demonic harassment happen to me awhile back, I would have lost faith by now.  I would be totally doubting if there really was a God, if He cared, if we mattered, if faith makes any difference, if I should even bother “being good” anymore because what benefit is it to you.  Thank God for that demonic harassment!  It is what always reminds me that there is an unseen, supernatural world out there.  There is a God!  And I choose to follow Him, even when He seems unfair!]

            And then a bit later on, not too long ago, it was this, “Lord, I still believe in You.  I trust You.  And I have a big problem, a neighbor’s moldy garage that is ruining my health and my joy and my heart and my mind.  But You are big enough.  And I have to believe that You care, that You hear me, and that You have a plan.  Please, Lord, I know You have a plan.  Please, do it.  Show me what You can do.  Because I can’t do anything.  And help keep us healthy and safe until then.”    

            It’s been a terrible several days.  And I know it’s not over yet, and I don’t know how it will all work out.  But I never want to go through a panic attack again.  I’ll take depression over panic any day. 

            I know one of the big effects of a panic attack is that you get afraid that it will happen again, so you over-analyze every little sensation.  I can already tell that I am afraid to take too big of breaths.  But I am also afraid to not breathe enough.  So I have to think about my breathing more.  And I feel like something broke inside, in my mind.  Like I am more fragile now and could crack any moment.  I have to be careful what I watch on the news or bad things I hear or thoughts that enter my head.  I feel like everything around me is ominous and closing in on me, from the loud sounds of the cars driving by to the fact that I am beginning to hate my own backyard to the bright, flashy commercials that are giving me a headache.  I hope this fades soon.  Maybe after I get more sleep and food. 

            Plus, I decided that everyone deserves a panic attack and a nervous breakdown at least once in life.  And I have had both of mine.  And since it took me forty years to get this panic attack, I’ll simply schedule the next one for forty years from now.  (I hope it works out like I planned.)

            Update – Day 4 APA:  I was out in the garden this morning for a few minutes gathering strawberries when I realized that the wind was blowing the other way and I couldn’t smell the mold too much.  And I prayed, “Thank You, Lord.  That is a blessing!”  (I do think it’s important to always be thankful for whatever you can be thankful for.  There is so much we overlook.)  And then as I left the garden . . . I got stung by a bee in the foot, which caused a pain that hurt all day.  I texted my husband about it, and he replied something like, “That’s the way life seems to work out, isn’t it?”

            And then just a couple hours later, as I was starting to relax and eat again and get the house cleaned for the multi-person birthday party we are hosting tomorrow, I got a call from my brother who I haven’t talked to in years.  And he tells me that my mom overdosed on pills a couple days ago, went to the hospital to get her stomach pumped, and is now on a psychiatric floor under supervision for three days.  He said she tried to kill herself. 

            Yep.  That’s how life goes sometimes.  Serving up one crap sandwich after the next. 

            [I told you this post would be “improper.”  The cussing thing only recently started, after I got too tired of trying and trying to do the right thing, only to end up constantly failing or falling on my face.  Or so it seems.  I’ll get a handle on it soon.  But for now, I can’t really care.  It’s my version of venting the pressure.  I know it’s not right, but it could be so much worse.  You know what, don’t read anything that I write.  Seriously.
            And to be clear, when I say “cussing,” I do not mean “using the Lord’s name improperly.”  While I might let a few four-letter words slip out, I am very careful about never using the name of God, Jesus, or Christ in a disrespectful way, even in something as common and benign-sounding as “Oh my God” or “OMG!”  Unless you are talking about Him or to Him when you use His name, you are most likely using it in an inappropriate, disrespectful, or “bad word” way.  And to me, that’s in a whole different camp than other “cuss” words we might use.  In fact, “don’t use the Lord’s name in vain” is in the top three of the ten commandments.  And it says that anyone who uses His name in vain will be held accountable for it.  Is it worth it?
            Also, I do not like to use the word “damn” about anything because you are essentially expressing a desire to “damn” something.  And I have always wondered about the power of our words, such as the curses that people in the Old Testament have uttered against others, and the fact that these curses seem to come true for many of them.  What if our “damning” something has an effect or opens the door to evil?  I think it’s best to not even go there.]
            Anyway, that sent me into another sobbing fit, nearly hyperventilating.  I knew that if I kept crying like that, I would go into a panic attack again.  And I CAN’T go there again.  So I gathered myself together and reminded myself that I knew this could happen someday, that I have been prepared for this moment since the really messy divorce when things got really bad, potentially suicidal or homicidal bad. 
            The rest of the day, I alternated between sitting there and staring and trying not to work up my nerves at all, praying, cleaning house, and occasionally crying, thinking of her feeling so discouraged that the only thing she could do was end her life, hurting and broken.  After having gone through the depression that I have gone through, I can totally understand and have compassion for anyone who feels that broken and hopeless.  I’d never do anything to myself, but I can understand those who do.  And it breaks my heart for them.  (I think only broken people can truly understand and have compassion for broken people.)
            Well, later in the day as I contemplated if I needed to cancel our trip to Iowa for my dad’s memorial (he died one year ago from something he wouldn’t go to the doctor for and was buried on his property in a coffin he made himself, no funeral or service or goodbye) and jump on a plane and go down to see how things are going with her, I decided to call my step-father and ask what’s going on.  (Sadly enough, no one called me to tell me that anything had happened until two days after she went to the ER.  Yep.  That is my family.)
            I really should have called him earlier because, according to him, it’s not as dire as my brother made it sound.  I thought she was basically on her deathbed but it sounds better than that.  Yes, she was completely out of it, acting like she overdosed or was drunk, but they are not sure yet what happened, if she really did try to kill herself or if it was something else, maybe something in the brain.  (She said she went on a drinking binge but they found no alcohol in her system.  Strange!) 
            She was admitted to the ER (never had her stomached pumped, though) and she was involuntarily admitted for “suicide watch” for three days on a psych floor.  And that’s all I really know right now.  It might have been a suicide attempt or it might not have been.  I would really hope it’s something other than suicide because it would break my heart to know that hers was so broken.  I am waiting for a call later when they know more.  But at least from what my step-dad says, she is not in as grave of danger as it first seemed.  She is stable now.  We’ll see what really happened when they know more.
            [To my sons who wondered why mommy was so tired and sick all week, lying in bed and barely able to smile:  This is the kind of week I had.  And it broke me.  Humans break sometimes and need a little time to get it back together. 
            And you know what?  We're all broken in some way.  If not now, then someday.  But we're all broken.  And we're all okay.]
            Update – Day 5 APA:  Well, my mom is out of the hospital and home again and doing a bit better.  Apparently it was an overdose but not necessarily intentional.  She had taken her normal pills.  But when she couldn’t fall asleep, she began taking Nyquil.  And she kept taking Nyquil when it wasn’t working.  So it was a bad combination of pills and way too much Nyquil (which would explain the drunk-like state).  The psychiatrist on the psych floor ended up adjusting her pills because one of them has been shown to cause seizures.  So who knows if that was part of it or not?  But there was no foul play or intentional self-harm.  Thank God.  What a messed-up situation. 
            But my mom is out of the hospital, she didn’t attempt suicide, the birthday party is over, I am starting to eat nearly normal again (after losing 6-8 pounds this week), and I feel pretty good.  I’m just going to chill today, sit around and do nothing but relax, pray for no new excitement, and gather my strength for the Iowa trip coming up in several days.  All in all, it’s been a good day.
            Update – Day 7 APA:  I’m not liking getting up in the morning much anymore.  I am tired and dizzy and that makes me feel like I could get panicky.  It’s still a bit of work to keep myself calm.  And I want calm to come more naturally.  I want to not have to think about it, to not work at it so much.  That counteracts the whole idea of “calm.” 
            Anyway, I was gathering strawberries again this morning, holding my jacket up to my nose, and I was thinking about how hard it is to hang in there, to hold on.  And I started to feel trapped again by all the problems and broken dreams and heartache and hopeless world problems.  And I could feel panic starting again. 
            “Lord, I don’t know what I did to deserve this.  But I know there are people who have it way worse.  They would kill for a house to live in, even with mold and construction problems.  I have it good.  I really do.   But I need help getting back to normal.  I’m barely holding on here, Lord.”
            And that’s when it dawned on me.  What am I trying to hold onto anyway?  I can’t even really identify what I am struggling to hold onto.  I guess I am holding on to broken dreams and unfulfilled desires.  But that means that I’m really holding onto nothing because they are not even there.  So I am struggling all this time to get a better grasp on nothing.  No wonder I’m so exhausted and defeated.  You can’t get a better grasp on something that’s not there.
            “Lord, I don’t even know what I’m trying to hold onto anymore.  But the struggle to hold onto it is killing me.  I’m done.  I’m letting go.  I’m going to stop trying to hold onto vague ideas and dreams that I can’t attain.  I know that the only thing I really need to hold onto is You.  But I don’t even know how to do that anymore.  I have prayed so much, pouring myself out for years to the point of tears and exhaustion.  And it doesn’t do anything.  And You still seem silent.  Yet I will trust You.  Why do I still trust You?  Why haven’t I lost faith?  Because I know You are real.  It is not just a wish or dream.  You are real and You are the only option I have.  So if this is how You have allowed things to be, I have to accept that.  Because there is no other God but You.  So I will let You be God.  Like Job, I say, ‘Will we accept good from God and not the bad?’  And ‘Though You slay me, yet I will trust in You.’  There is no other.  I need to hold onto You.  Not some dream or hope or desire.  I am letting go of my efforts to hold onto anything else because it’s just crushing me anyway.  And I am falling into Your hands.  Help me know how to hold onto You again because I don’t know how to do it anymore.”
            After that prayer, after letting go of my efforts to hold onto things that aren’t even there, after telling God that I will still hold onto Him but that I need Him to help me figure out how to do that, I felt immensely better. 
            You know, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past depressing years, it’s that faith is messy sometimes.  Faith hurts sometimes.  And we don’t have faith in God because it fixes every problem or because it’s fun or because it gives us an emotional high.  We have faith in God because He is real.  Because He is good and faithful, even when life is messy and hurts and prayers don’t work.  
            And I think our faith becomes more real and strong as we face the hard times and trials.  It’s easy to “have faith” when life is going like we want it to.  But that’s not really faith, now is it?  It’s gratitude that life is good.  It’s happiness because we are getting what we want.  And many times, it’s idolatry in disguise. 
            But when the trials come, we have to struggle with our views of God and ourselves and life and faith.  And we gradually, painfully move from a naïve, untested, “gimme” faith in a version of God that we created in our minds to a genuine, hard-won faith in God as He is - a God who is mysterious, who can’t be manipulated by us, who is far above us, who has His own plans and timing, and who is sovereign over all, knowing when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.”  Through the trials, we learn who we really are and we learn to have faith in Him for the God that He really is.  And that is a faith that helps us cling through the hard times.
            If we can’t say “Blessed be Your name” during the hardest trials then we don’t really mean it during the easier times either.  If we can’t follow Him when the road gets rough then we’re not really following Him to begin with.   
            And finally, we have faith in God because this life isn’t all there is.  There is a spiritual world out there.  There is an eternity out there.  And there are only two options: Life with God or life without God.  And I’d take a painful life with God before I’d take an easy life without God. 
            I trust that someday He will work all this mess into something beautiful.  But until then, I can’t expect life to be easy and fun.  I can’t expect God to do everything my way, fulfilling my dreams and wants and desires.  But I can expect Him to carry me through, to guide me on the right path (even if it hurts), and to make it all right in the end.  I don’t have to know what to do.  I don’t have to make things happen.  I don’t have to have the answers or know what the future holds.  I just need to hold onto Him and let Him hold onto me.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  God is good.  And because God is good, life is good.  Even when it’s not.  I’m gonna be okay.          

            [Side Note: I wanted to explain something, why I left the cuss words in this section instead of editing them out like a “proper” Christian would do.  I thought about editing them out so that I could present that good, proper front, but I left them in on purpose, for a few reasons.
            For one, it’s the truth of what was going on in my head, even in that prayer I prayed.  That might have been the first time I used cuss words in prayer.  Now, I don’t condone it, nor do I walk around using that language flippantly or out loud.  But I have been using it in my head recently.  Because it seems to be the only way to really express the depth of what I am really feeling.  (And because I am in an “I don’t care and I am tired of holding it all together” state.) 
            And I didn’t edit it out because I want non-Christians to understand that Christians are human, too.  I think sometimes we Christians try to polish ourselves up so much and “do the right thing” that we seem un-human to non-Christians, like we are not real or something.   And we are always setting ourselves up on a higher level and shaking our fingers at everyone, saying “No, no, no, don’t do that.”  But in reality, we are really on the same, level ground that they are.  We just fail to show them that.  And if we always present the “good, clean, polished side” but never the “human, raw, real side” then we might end up presenting to them something they feel they can never be.  They might feel that if they could never be that “good, clean, and polished” then they could never be a Christian. 
            But deep down, we Christians know how human and real and sinful and improper we can be.  We just never let it show.  But I wanted to let it show, to humanize Christians, to show non-Christians that we are not robots and we are not perfect.  We are broken, sinful people, too.  We hurt and we struggle and we doubt and we get angry and we do things wrong.  But God’s grace covers all that.  God can forgive all that. 
            It doesn’t mean we should flaunt sin or willingly, regularly engage in it, for our lifestyle and choices will demonstrate if our faith is real or not.  But it does mean that we are not as “good, clean, and polished” as we might look on the outside.  We are human, too.  And God understands that and loves us anyway and covers our sins.  There is grace for all of us, for the messed-up sinner who wants out of their lifestyle of sin and for the messed-up Christian who has hit a rough spot and is struggling on the journey.
            I also left the cuss words in because I wanted to “test” fellow Christians, in a way.  I think we Christians can judge others harshly for the “improper” things they do while totally overlooking their hurts and needs and humanity.  I wonder how many Christians that read this thought, Oh my goodness, what kind of Christian is she!?!  How could she use those words and call herself a Christian!?!  Shame on her!  And yet they completely overlooked the deep hurt and ache and struggle.
            Sometimes, we fail to see people’s hearts because we are too focused on “improper” externals, on if someone measures up to our idea of “godly enough.”  We make mountains out of molehills, judge the quality of someone’s faith or their value by the things that we don’t like about them or things that they do wrong.  We focus on their speck while ignoring our plank.
            Of course, a genuine Christian will be working towards godliness and will feel convicted about sin.  So if someone continues to flagrantly sin without any remorse or repentance then you would have to wonder about their faith. 
            But my point is, even genuine Christians struggle and hurt and need help.  But sometimes their attempts to reach out and be heard and get help are ignored because others are too focused on their flaws or sins instead of seeing the person in need.  So I left the cuss words in, to test the Christians who are reading this.   To challenge them with this question:  “Which did you notice more?  The heartache or the cussing?  Did you feel compassion for my pain or did you scoff because of the F-word?”  Just wondering.
            And I wonder, which would God notice?  What does He see when He looks at us?
            I think He sees our pain, our hearts, our insides.  And for the Pharisees among us, He sees past the polished surface and sees the rough, ugly, broken inside.  The polished, proper people look very much the same to Him as the unpolished, improper people ... because He sees the inside.  And He loves us anyway.  We don’t need to polish ourselves up before He will accept us.  He knows we are broken, hurting sinners.  And He loves us as we are.  And He died for us as we are. 
            And He wants us to come to Him as we are, in all our ugly, un-polished honesty.  It’s okay with Him that we are broken because He is the one who can put us back together.  He will help us grow and strive towards godliness as we walk with Him.  But never let your ugly brokenness stop you from turning to Him.  Even if other Christians reject you because of your imperfections, God never will.  Come to Him as you are.  It’s what He’s been waiting for and it’s what you need.]
            Update – Day 14 APA:  I had a wonderful trip to Iowa and haven’t felt any sense of panic or dread since last week when I let go of the “nothing” I kept trying to hang onto and asked God to help me grab onto Him instead.  I don’t necessarily feel any great ray of shining hope or anything.  But I haven’t felt any darkness or panic this past week.  Thank You, Lord.  Thank You!

65.  My idea of the perfect day is just being in the (mold-free) backyard with my family (after the neighbor’s moldy garage burns down to the ground in a freak, God-driven, lightning storm.  Wouldn’t that be nice!).  Working alongside my husband in the garden, watching the kids play, taking a walk, and grilling out.  It doesn’t get much better than that!  Unless someone else cooks the meal.  That’s even better.  And add some cheesecake.  That’s nice, too.  And maybe have some good friends pop over for a visit.  With a nice cup of coffee.  And maybe an hour or two to myself later that night watching Gilmore Girls.  Awww, yeaaahhh!       

66.  A couple years ago, I ended up having Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome for a year.  The first time it happened, I got this enormous cramp in my stomach, kind of like a super hunger pain.  So I ate something, thinking I just needed some food.  But then I threw up several times that night.
            And then it happened the next month ... and then the next month.  By this time, I noticed that it always seemed to happen the week before my period.  And then, within a couple more months, it shifted to the day before my period.  I would get the stomach cramp and then, shortly after, smells and sounds would begin to bother me.  And I would have to throw up several times and then lay down in a quiet, dark room and sleep till morning.
            I got on the internet and googled my symptoms and came up with the mysterious CVS.  No one is really sure why it happens, but in my case, it seemed to be related to hormones.  According to what I read, it is like an “abdominal migraine,” which would explain the sensitivity to lights and sounds and smells. 
            And from a few people’s experiences, I learned that the best thing to try first was to take some high-quality vitamins regularly.  I think it was Vitamin B and D that most people recommended (can’t remember for sure).  So since that seemed the easiest option to try, I went out and bought some whole-food, raw vitamins and began taking them every day.  (At half dose, though.  Two pills instead of four, because those babies are expensive!)
            The first time I took them, I vomited within the day, even though I had just had my “abdominal migraine” the week before.  But then . . . I never threw up again! 
            What vitamin deficiency causes you to vomit rhythmically, according to your hormonal cycle!?!  I have never figured that out.  All I know is that as long as I take my vitamins, I don’t throw up. 
            Sometimes, the internet is a wonderful place!  [After it scares the crap out of you by telling you about all the diseases you might have.  I could go into it looking up “pain behind my eyes” and come out with "brain tumor," “male-patterned baldness,” or “toe cancer.”  It’s really a scary place sometimes.  Never look up things “just to see.”  Don’t google symptoms unless you absolutely have to - unless the cost of not knowing is greater than the price of getting the crap scared out of you and being unable to sleep for days because you are now freaked out that you might have gangrene, scurvy, bubonic plague, or all three of them together.]

67.  I used to trust that the government was really looking out for us and for the consumer (when I was young, stupid, and naive).  I used to think that they would never allow things into our food and bodies and air and environment that would hurt us.  Oh, how wrong I was!  After doing a ton of research into healthy eating and food-processing and the power of lobbyist groups and the shady practices of trusted government organizations (such as someone working to develop a harmful product and then going to work for the government to get it approved, or companies being allowed to research, test, and monitor the safety of their own product – say what!?!), I now have a new motto:  Buyer beware!  Research it for yourself.  Never trust the government or the companies to make a decision about what’s healthy or best for you!  
My goodness, what a fool I was!  My eyes have been opened!  [The bad side of knowing too much: Sometimes you wish you didn’t.  In some ways, ignorance really is bliss.] 

68.  It makes me crazy when people have their car windows rolled up on beautiful days.  Come on, people ... seriously!!!  You’ve got to be kidding me!!!  ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW AND ENJOY THE BREEZE!!!  It almost makes me more crazy than when people text and drive.
            Yet, there is a delicious sense of rebellion and freedom and solitude when everyone else’s car windows are rolled up and mine are rolled down.  Especially so when it’s drizzling a little bit or a cool fall day. 
            So when I see that everyone else is nestled into their little “car cocoon,” insulated from the world and from all that horrible fresh air, I roll my windows down and blast some fun music, usually something from my youth like Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby” or Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” or Pat Benatar’s “Shadows of the Night” or Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  Or maybe even The Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B” or The Monkee’s “Daydream Believer” or “Son of a Preacher Man” (I don’t know who sings this).  And then there’s Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” and Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” and Toploader’s “Dancin’ in the Moonlight.”  Or maybe it’s something more recent like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” or Disturbed’s “Sound of Silence” or Pink’s (with Nate Ruess) “Just Give Me a Reason” or U2’s “Numb” or George Ezra’s “Budapest.”  (It’s fun even to just list the ones I enjoy.) 
            [I have to be careful, though.  I always start speeding – just a little bit - when fun music is on.  My son has started calling me “Lead-foot Mama” when I am listening to this music while driving to church because I end up going 39 miles per hour in a Speed Limit 30 zone.  Maybe I should stop listening to “I Love Rock and Roll” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” on the way to church.  Yeah, I know . . . but still.  It’s a little, bonding-moment tradition for my 7-year-old and me.] 
            Since everyone else’s windows are rolled up, I figure that they are not allowed to be bothered that I am hogging the air waves with my music . . . not when they are rejecting the air and doing their best to keep it out of their car.  And so, while I enjoy my loud music and the delicious rebellious freedom of being the only one who is enjoying the fresh air, I stick my hand out the window and tilt it up and down like an airplane wing, letting it rise and fall on the wind.  Or I tap along to the music and simply enjoy the moment!
            But I do make sure to turn the music down when I stop next to another car or pull up next to old people or a family with young children.  I’m not an animal.  Personally, I think that the elderly and mothers of young children have earned the right to not have their “peace and quiet” ruined by thoughtless hoodlums like myself. 
            [You know, part of the reason I blast the music is because I like to sing along ... and I don’t want people to hear me.  I’m also afraid that I might have butt-dialed someone on my cell-phone and they are listening to me singing in my car.  But they won’t be able to hear me over loud music.  And I don't trust that OnStar thing in the car.  I was told that it never got hooked up, but I still think that green light means that they are listening.  Always listening.  So if they are going to listen to me while I sing, then I am going to blast the music so loud that it hurts their ears.  Oh, they're listening.  Probably through all your smartphone and internet-connected appliances too.  And those little cameras on your computers and phones and tablets, etc. ... they're watching you.  (I tape over all those camera spots.  I just don't trust 'em.  An even then, I wonder if there's a hidden camera I don't know about.)
            I really do love driving by myself and listening to my music.  There’s not many healthy, fun ways for a mom to really let loose, but this is one of mine.]  

69.  A little while back, my husband had taken the kids somewhere for the day.  And I decided to go to the store alone.  As I was driving, I realized that for the first time in over a decade, I didn’t have to check in with anyone.  I didn’t kiss anyone goodbye or tell them where I was going or when I would be back.  No one knew where I was or what I was doing.  I was completely “my own master.”  It was pure freedom!  Like back before I had kids or got married.  
            And then I realized ... I hated it and it freaked me out!

70.  I have the listen to music a lot, like when I am doing dishes or gardening or taking a walk.  If I am allowed to think for too long, my mind goes to dark places or griping thoughts.  And while I love my fun music, the one I listen to most – am addicted to – is The City Harmonic.  I listen to it daily.  That is, until my MP3 player broke.  Figures!  If I was listening to crappy music, it probably would still be working.  But since I listen mostly to godly, inspiring music on it, of course it stopped working.

71.  I told my husband that there is one place I want to visit when the kids are grown: Margaritaville.  However, I don’t think I’ll ever really get there because I hate alcohol.  But sometimes, I really wish I liked it.  (Just being honest!) 

72.  There is a new song out that drives me crazy, even if the tune is catchy.  I don’t know who sings it, but it’s basically about how if you are the kind of girl who likes to let some guy have sex with you but without having him commit to you in any way, then he (the guy singing it) is the perfect guy for you.  And if you are the kind of girl who won’t make some guy commit to you but will let him use your body for awhile, then you are the perfect girl for him. 
            He sings this like she’s getting the good end of the deal!  Like she should be thankful to have found such a fun, wonderful guy – one who will use her body for awhile but not commit to her or cherish her or take care of her heart.  What a pathetic lie girls are being sold! 
            Here me now, girls ... You are worth more than that!  Have some self-respect and don’t let some guy make you feel like you are only worth the sex you give him, like you are a toy to play around with, to be used for a while and then dropped when he gets bored.  Believe that you deserve to be treated better than that and that you deserve to have some guy love, value, and cherish you – the whole you, not just your body - the rest of your life.  Don’t buy into these songs.  It’s not love.  And it won’t last.
            I remember watching a scene from one of those bachelor shows (which I never watch because it gives a totally messed-up view of what a relationship is supposed to be) where one of the women got all offended when the guy didn’t pick her but told her that he really enjoyed having sex with her.  She acted all miffed, like he was wrong to do what he did.  (And of course, he was.) 
            But what I wanted to say to her was “He owes you nothing!  You gave him your body to play with and you didn't demand any kind of long-term commitment.  What did you expect would happen!?!  When you give away the goods for free, can you really expect him to cherish you and value you and work hard to commit to you?  Do we value trophies that we didn’t work for or earn?  Some people are more than happy to just take what you are giving, without giving anything back in return.  And if you make it easy for them, don’t be surprised if you end up not getting the kind of long-term love and loyalty you are looking for.” 
            Those shows are so sad and pathetic.  All the women fighting over a man . . . when I think it should be that the man is the one who should work to get the woman he loves.  Isn’t a good woman worth it!?!  Aren't you worth it, ladies!?!    

73.  Despite the fact that I have been a Christian for three decades, I am still learning how to trust God when things are bad, how to take my eyes off of my circumstances and praise Him when my heart is broken, and how to pray when the words won’t come, when I feel like it doesn’t make a difference. 
            Mostly, at this point though, I am simply learning how to sit quietly at His feet because I have exhausted all my efforts and had to let go of too many dreams and hopes.  I am learning to get up every day and do my job and carry on and live the life I have, trying to be thankful for the blessings I have and for the bad things that haven’t happened. 
            Life and faith have definitely gotten harder over the years.  But I guess that’s okay.  Because it’s humbling.  And because I look forward to a day when God makes all things right.  And until then, I let the pain drive me closer to Him, even when I don’t understand, and I cling to Him and sit quietly at His feet and let Him carry me through the trials.  And I hang in there, trusting that in my weakness, He will prove Himself strong and faithful.  (But I wish these lessons weren’t so painful and hard to learn.  It’s a bummer.)

74.  It’s no surprise that 2016 was a bad year for me.  (I am writing this Jan 5, 2017.)  It was one of the most stressful, joyless years.  But there was one area that shines really brightly for me (besides the fact that God got me through the year).  It’s just about the only thing that brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.  And I think of it a lot.  And I smile. 
            Last winter, months before everything went really bad, I was thinking about shutting down the garden for the year, maybe even for good.  I was just so discouraged by the moldy neighbor’s garage that is right next to my garden.  I was tired of hoping and waiting and wanting.
            But then the thought hit me to offer some of my raised beds to a wonderful neighbor two doors down for her to grow a garden in.  My garden is plenty big to offer her a good chunk of space to use.  And she has a yard full of shade and a giant blank walnut tree.  And you can’t grow veggies under a black walnut.  Plus, she has three young children.  And I think all children should experience growing their own food, planting and watering and watching the fruit grow and enjoying the efforts of their labors when the get to finally harvest it and eat it.
            And so I wrote her a letter one day in late winter and asked if she’d like to garden in our yard.  (I warned her about the moldy garage, but she would only be there for a short while whenever she came over.)  I totally expected her to politely refuse because she is such a sweet person that I thought it might make her uncomfortable to be using someone else’s yard. 
            But she surprised me when she said that she would love to.  She also said that she had just been reading the Little House on the Prairie books with her young kids and they had been asking to grow a garden of their own.  So it was perfect timing. 
            That summer (this past one, the terrible one), I got to see her and her young kids enjoying planting plants and gathering veggies and sampling the raspberries that I told them they could pick whenever they came over.  And it brought me so much delight, in an otherwise very discouraging summer. 
            I love sharing the veggies from my garden anyway, but now I got to share the space and let another family have the delight of growing their own stuff.  I got to see the excitement in the kids’ eyes when they pulled a ripe tomato.  I got to watch little eighteen-month-old hands stuffing ripe berries into a smiling, chubby-cheeked mouth.  I got to introduce them to the other plants in the garden, like onions and parsley and garlic.  I got to watch them discover new wonders, like the praying mantises that hatched from the egg sacs I bought.  (I even caught one and let it go in their yard for them to watch.)  I got to watch a three-year-old sigh in relief when he brought the abandoned baby worm that he found in his yard over to our garden and found it a big mommy worm to be its friend.  Letting her share the garden was a breath of fresh air for me, bringing life and joy into my soul when I needed it most.  I still smile every time I think of it, and I thank God for giving me that idea last winter.
            This year, I gave her more space.  And she’s daydreaming up plans for which plants she wants in her garden.  And I am daydreaming about spring, when I get to see little feet leaving soft footprints in the freshly-dug dirt, and little hands delightfully covered in mud as they dig holes for new baby plants, and a wonderful neighbor-friend carrying armloads of garden tools to work her patch of land and then carrying bowlfuls of beans and zucchini and tomatoes and other natural jewels back to her house later in the season, and God’s goodness and riches poured out on two families from one space.  It’s one of the greatest blessings to come out of a really rough year.

75.  There’s a meal that I’ve been serving at our house lately that’s good for the kids.  I call it “The Pioneer Meal.”  And the recipe is this: “You're gonna eat what we’ve got and be thankful you’ve got it.” 
            This is what I tell my kids when they complain about what I am serving and whine about why they have to eat it.  I tell them, “If the pioneers only had a can of beans, they ate the beans and were thankful for it.” 
            It’s good for kids to realize that they don’t always get what they want, that they can’t waste food just because they “don’t like it,” and that they should be grateful for whatever mom serves because at least they have food to eat.
            If you’ve got whiners in your house at mealtime, try this recipe sometime.  When they grumble about the disappointing food on their plate, you simply say, “I made Pioneer Dinner tonight.  It’s ‘you eat what we’ve got and be thankful you’ve got it!’”  It won’t stop the whining, but it makes it more fun for you. 

76.  Another thing that makes my kids crazy besides the pioneer meal is that I sing all the time.  I song along with my favorite music.  If they whine, I sing lines from songs about not being able to always get what you want or about how they are acting like it’s the end of the world as they know it.  When I am scolding them or telling them to pick up stuff or waking them up or reminding them to brush their teeth, I sing it.  So does my husband.  It makes them crazy. 
            I even made up a whole song called “The Pee-Pee Dance.”  My older son would wait so long to go to the bathroom that he would be squirming and dancing for an hour trying to hold it in, no matter how many times I asked him if he had to go to the bathroom.  And so I made up this “Pee-Pee Dance” song (set to the tune of “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats), and I would sing it till he gave in and ran to the potty.  It goes like this:

            “You can dance if you want to.
            You can wet your pants, that’s fine.
            But if your friends find out,
            then your friends are gonna laugh
            when they see you’ve got a wet behind.

            You can “go” where you want to;
            you don’t need to use the can.
            But if your pants get wet
            then I’ll be upset
            ‘cuz I’ll have to wash your pants again.

            You can dance.  You can dance.
            You can lose bladder control.
            You can dance.  You can dance.
            Instead of just deciding to go, oh, oh, oh . . .
            You can Pee-Pee Dance.
            You can Pee-Pee Dance.
            That’s the Pee-Pee Dance.  Hey!”

            (Oh, I crack myself up sometimes!)  It didn’t take long for him to run for the bathroom when he heard the first few lines of it. 

            I even threaten to sing Abba songs (Mama Mia) when my youngest is deliberately trying to annoy me and won’t go away.  Works every time.
            It might drive them crazy now and they scream and run away when we start singing, but I know that they will appreciate it when they are older and learn how stodgy and grumpy and yelly other families can be.
            When my kids reflect back on the mom of their youth, I want them to say, “I remember that mom was always singing.  Whether she was happy, mad, frustrated, or sad, she sang.  It drove me crazy then, but I realize now how much I really loved it.”
            I think that if you can sing even when your heart is broken and you've got tears running down your cheeks, you know that life hasn't got the best of you yet.  Sometimes, life if so sucky that you've got to just sing.  And laugh.  And enjoy one good moment.

77.  (Can't remember if I mentioned this yet, but ...)  Right after my panic attack in 2016 (#64), I had the worst summer ever, followed by three years of terrible anxiety, written about here (the update after the panic attack stuff) and here.  It's now 2020 as I write this, and we are now dealing with the fall-out of it all.  And will be for some time.  In fact, things will never be the same again.  (Not to mention all the coronavirus stuff the world is going through.  In fact, the lockdowns were almost a nice distraction.  That's how bad it was!)

78.  We left our church in May 2019 (which made me feel even more lonely during the painful years we were going through) because of the dogmatic Calvinism that was taking it over.  But the good thing is that it led me to create my anti-Calvinism blog to help others.  See my post "We Left Our Church Because Of Calvinism ...".

79.  During the lockdown, I became absolutely addicted to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (books and movies).  And it all started with this video.  (I had already started reading the books again, but this video started the obsession.)

80. (February 15, 2021)  I think our online devices are indeed listening to us all the time, even when we don't know it.  And I think this is proof:  Our online service is used for our few tablets, phones, and laptops, but we don't have smart TV's or one of those always-on units that listens and responds when you ask it questions.  Well, yesterday we had some friends over, and we got to talking about the movie "Return to Oz" from 1985, about how creepy it was.  We talked about it for just a couple minutes, maybe 2-3.  Well, a couple hours after they left, I turned on a tablet, looked at the home "news page" (through the search engine that starts with "goo" and ends with "gle") and - lo an behold! - there was an article about why Return to Oz wasn't a bad movie.  I think there's NO WAY on earth that could be a coincidence, not when that's such an old, obscure movie.  I think "they" are listening.  Always listening.  Even when we don't know it and didn't set it up that way.  Creepy and disturbing!