Monday, November 30, 2009

A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action ~ Part Two

Just like clockwork, the front door to our home opened at six in the evening announcing the love of my life was home. From the moment I met Bob, when I was a mere fourteen years old, I knew he was the person I wanted to grow old with. He was, and remains to this day, the most honest, loving, loyal, decent man I have ever met. I am blessed. When I heard the front door open that night, however, the thought that I may not get the chance to grow old once he saw Ann and her son, flashed through my mind. I should have known better.

Walking into the kitchen, Bob looked from face to face, starting with Ann’s and ending with mine. He was not smiling. I quickly walked over to him and wrapped my arms around him, burying my face in his chest. I heard Ann get up from the table and walk out of the room.

“Marla, we need to talk.”

“I know, I know. Please don’t get mad. I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to do.”

We both walked silently to our bedroom and closed the door behind us.

“She needs to go. I don’t want her here. I have to protect you and the boys regardless of what anyone thinks. She has to go!”

I knew he meant what he said and that he was right about one thing. He was the best protector and provider for the boys and me. I desperately wanted to honor Bob the way he had always honored me, but I also felt helping Ann was the right thing to do. I felt like crying because I had created such a mess of things. I asked Bob if Ann and her baby could stay for dinner since it was ready and maybe we could figure out an alternative plan for them during our meal. He agreed, out of his love for me, not because he thought I was right. I am sure of this.

As we all sat at the dinner table, Bob said grace and we ate, silently at first. Eventually, Bob began to ask Ann questions about her little son’s health and her life in general. By the end of the meal, everyone at the table was laughing and talking at the same time just like our usual mealtimes. As Bob helped me clear the table, he leaned over and whispered, “You win. Where are we going to put them?”

For the next twelve months, Ann and her son lived in our home as a part of our family. Her boy gained weight, played with my boys and slept in his very own bed. Ann also did really well. There were moments she would slip up and make a bad choice but she always came back to center because she had found a safe place to fall. She had found the Lord.

When Ann’s baby was born, I had the great privilege of being her labor and delivery coach. I was the first to hold her newborn son, the first to give him a bath and feed him a bottle and the last to hold him before placing him in the arms of his adoptive parents. Ann had decided adoption was the best option for this little one she loved so much. It was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. I could only ever imagine what it was like for Ann. I remain in awe of her for that act of love.

A few months after the birth, we found an apartment close by for Ann and her first son. My girlfriends, who had all circled the wagons around Ann during her pregnancy, once again showered her with love and kindness. The day she moved into that little apartment, it was completely furnished and had a stocked pantry not to mention broods of people stopping by with treats and well wishes.

Was this an easy journey for me or my family? Not always. Would I do it again? Today! I would do it again today.

I will be arriving back home in Oklahoma in a few short days. I have my daughter-in-law, Amy with me. You know, the one that is as crazy as her mother-in-law. We are planning to visit the local crisis pregnancy center while she is visiting to see what can be done to complete #2 on The List. Last night, I heard Amy asking her husband, my son, what he would do if she brought home a pregnant girl to live with them. I didn’t hear his response but I saw his face. It was the same face I have seen many times on the man I love, his father.

I couldn’t be prouder!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action

I did a short stint as a counselor in a crisis pregnancy center way back in the day. I went through extensive training, attended debates hosted by the local University and read every book I could find from both sides of the issue. I also spent hours upon hours hashing out the details involved with friends who had chosen abortions. What I came away with was this: I still believed, as I do today, that abortion ends a life and harms women. I also believed then and now that each person has to choose what to do with their life and then live with their choices, good, bad or indifferent. The biggest thing I came away with from that experience though was this. Picketing peoples homes and offices while showing pictures of aborted babies (count me OUT on this one, then and now) will rarely if ever change a persons heart or mind. Usually, it just throws gasoline on an already smoldering fire. This is the story of my journey through that fire.

I received a call early one morning. It was from the crisis pregnancy centers director. There was a woman in my town scheduled for an abortion in a matter of hours. She had called in, wanting to talk to someone before she went through with the procedure. Would I go speak with her?

As I drove the few, short miles west to meet Ann Baker (not her real name), I prayed for the wisdom to really listen and the right words to say. I wasn’t interested in convincing anyone about anything. I was more concerned about seeing someone hurting and finding the best way to be there for them. This was exactly the attitude that had kept me from remaining long in the center’s office but it was the only one that I could live with and have a clear conscience.

When I finally arrived at my destination, I found a woman, almost thirty years old, holding a very thin, unhealthy looking one year old baby boy. Ann carried her baby out to my car, where we sat and talked for a very short twenty minutes. She explained that she had already had multiple abortions before delivering the son she now held on her lap. She didn’t really want to have another abortion but felt there were no other options. She was a drug addict who prostituted for drug money. The man who owned the house I was parked in front of had agreed she could sleep in his car in exchange for sex. I felt sick to my stomach. How could this be true in the town where I lived? As I sat and listened to Ann tell her story, I prayed to God for an answer. That’s when this thought went through my mind.

“People say they are Christians everyday. BE a Christian.”

I knew what I had to do. I told Ann, if the only problem she was facing in going through with her pregnancy was food and shelter, she could come live with us. I told her I was married with three little boys and we could rearrange rooms so she and her little son would have their own room. I also explained, we wanted nothing in return other than to see her and her children healthy and able to stand on their own. I was honest about our house rules: no drugs, no men, no drinking or smoking inside. What she did outside the house was her business. I was not going to be her mother or her warden. What she did in my house would be my business, however. Ann looked at me like a scared rabbit. She said she would think about it and got out of my car. As I watched her walk back into the house, I felt my heart sink deep into the pit of my stomach.

Driving home, I just knew I had said all the wrong things in all the wrong ways. I really wanted to BE what I said I believed, I just wasn’t sure what that should look like. Thirty minutes after arriving home, the phone rang. It was Ann. If I was really serious about what I said, she and her boy would move in. Could she come over and talk about a few things first? I said yes, gave her my address and hung up the phone shaking. I immediately called my husband and told him what I had done. He was not happy to say the least. For the next fifteen minutes we went round and round, having our own private abortion debate.

“I don’t want some strange drug addict moving into our home. Marla, be serious! What about the boys?”

“Bob, the boys will be fine. Are we Christians or not? I don’t want to beat people up who are different from me hoping to change their mind. I want to be the one that is different and really love people right where they are. Please understand!”

Bob stood firm and said “NO!” in a very clear and definite way that could not be mistaken for a maybe. Before I could argue my next point, as if I had one, Ann knocked on our front door. I quickly ended the conversation with my fuming husband and ran to answer the door.

As Ann and I sat and talked she asked me some very direct questions, some which made me laugh out loud.

“Are you in some kind of cult and you're going to try to brainwash me?”

“No, Ann, we are not in some kind of cult and we hadn’t planned on brainwashing you. Were you hoping to be brainwashed?” I don’t think she laughed at that, if I recall correctly.

“So what do you get out of this?”

“ We get to see you and your children happy and healthy. That’s really it, I suppose. Isn’t that enough?” She didn’t answer.

Ann and her son spent the entire day at our house, just hanging out, eating lunch, playing in the backyard and starting dinner. I had a wonderful day with them other than the nagging thought of the awful dilemma I had created. Bob would be home any minute. I didn’t have a clue what to do.

To Be Continued ...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Funkadelic Happenings

I am in a funk. I should not be in a funk but I am anyway. We have been traveling for over a week now. Our journey has brought us time with two sons, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. That alone should have me euphoric and most of the time it has. Then there is the funk time, late at night when everyone is sleeping and it’s just me and my thoughts. That’s when I start missing my mom and dad and dreading the holidays and wishing so many things in life were different.

I think I may have expected too much too soon. My dad has only been gone one month. I want to feel better and forget all the sadness but it just won’t go away. When I am holding my new grandson or playing with my youngest granddaughter, it seems to be gone. When I was with my older grandson and granddaughter in Alabama, it didn’t come around all day either. It’s the dang nights that are so hard. If I could just sleep. I don’t think I have been able to go to bed before 1:00 am once since CFC died. I think it’s the dreams that are driving me to stay awake. I am so tired of dreaming about him dying. So there, late at night, lies the funk, ready to grab me and hang on night after night. I am starting to get irritated.

Speaking of irritated, don’t you just love Thanksgiving and the family drama that shows up uninvited every year? Yeah, me too. We had an awesome Thanksgiving in Florida with our middle son and his family. Amy, our daughter-in-law, prepared an absolutely beautiful table filled with delicious offerings. Then, just when I thought I had experienced the near perfect drama-free holiday, I got the bright idea to call one of my sisters and wish her a Happy Turkey Day. So, how did that work out for me, you ask? Don’t ask! Thank you, Lord for holidays that only come once a year. Amen!

I truly am thankful for so many things including your comments. Thanks to all of you great folks for your suggestions regarding my measly $35 offering. I think I have a winning idea. I will let you know how it works out next week when I return to Oklahoma.

Now, about this week and #2 on The List. I actually already did this one years ago. I plan on doing it again in some form if possible when I go home next week. Until I get home, I think I'll tell you about the first time. It’s a long story that will need editing since I LOVE to talk/type so check back on Sunday for the condensed version. Until then …

Monday, November 23, 2009

Number Two and Other Crap

Week one has come and gone leaving fasting behind me, for now anyway. Somedays it was easy and some days I did not do so well. The great thing is, my eyes have been opened to so much through this experience. Let me tell you about a few things I realized, if you don't mind.

The biggest thing I came away with is this. I have a choice. Yep, that one little word says it all to me. I have choices in my life. So many others don't. I chose to fast. Others have that choice made for them due to lack of food and funds. I could decide to eat at anytime unlike so many others. I could also decide what to eat, when to eat and where to eat. So what's the eye-opener in that? I realized how blessed I am. Being blessed isn't the end, it's the beginning. Being blessed means I get to pass it on. Being blessed means I am able to make the choice to share my blessings. The possibilities are endless because the blessings in my life are endless. So now what?

Like I promised, I have $35.00 set aside from fasting. I have been thinking and praying about how to pay it forward in a way that will touch a hungry life. I want to actually see it go into the hands of another in a tangible way. I am seriously thinking about purchasing $35 worth of Thanksgiving groceries, knocking on a door and making the delivery face to face. The question is, "Who's door?" So, you all have two days to offer up whatever suggestions you might have regarding how to "invest" the $35 into someone else's life. I will consider all opportunities presented. Help me figure this out. I'll be forever thankful.

Right now, I am in Alabama visiting my oldest son, Matthew and his family. I leave in the morning for Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my middle son, John and his family. John's wife, Amy, is a wonderful young woman. I love her very much. She has a bit of a crazy side to her much like her mother-in-law does. She also loves God, much like her mother-in-law does. She has offered to be a part of "doing the list". I believe I will take her up on that in the next few days.

One other thing about hunger I noticed this week. It's not just people that suffer from hunger. Traveling from Oklahoma to Alabama, we saw more packs of skinny, stray dogs than I remember ever seeing before in my entire life. I love animals a lot. I love people more. I do not love people who dump animals and allow them to starve to death. This is just plain wrong. I told Bob I think I may become an animal control officer so I can legally shoot some bad people. He just shook his head. He does that a lot when I'm talking. Anyway, next week I'll post what I did with the $35 and whether or not I shot anyone as an animal control officer.

Now, onto week number two:

2. Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.

Oh, yeah!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

Ok, I wanted to slap Sally Fields when I first heard her say that years ago, so if you feel the same way about me, it’s all good. That said, I was bestowed with my very first ever, and who knows maybe the last, award! Yippee, go me! Sarah, who writes one of my fave blogs over at, had a lapse in good taste and gave me this wonderful award. I accepted before she could change her mind. Yeah, me again! Sarah, you are the best and I sincerely thank you for this vote of confidence. I won’t let you down. Well, actually I will eventually, so deal with it.

The catch for this award is to tell seven things about me that people may not know. (I am not sure if they have to be true statements but that never stopped me before), so here goes:

1. I have seven children, three birth and four adopted. I cannot, however, remember which are which.

2. I took three years of piano and can only play one song … and not very well … at all.

3. I took three years of Spanish, got straight A’s and still cannot speak a word of Spanish to this very day. Do you see a pattern here?

4. I have been known to jump off the roof into the swimming pool in my younger years. I have since developed brains.

5. I love public speaking which is one of the top ten fears of most normal people. Keyword: normal.

6. I love to cook and host parties. I am especially entertaining after approximately 3 ounces of red wine.

7. I do not want to be rich or famous but I do want to write a book that others will read and beg for more. I suppose, I just want to be heard. I guess it really is all about me!

Now comes the hard part, passing this award to another deserving writer. There are so many great writers out there that choosing just one is not easy. I guess the best way to do this is to just do it….so, after much deliberation and 3 ounces of red wine, the new owner of this fabulous award is Monkey Man who writes a deep, funny, moving, thought-provoking, great blog over at Be sure to check out his site. You’ll be glad you did. Congrats to you, Monkey Man!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vomitus Enufftus Alreadycus

I was trying to remember how to say, “stop puking already” in Latin then I remembered, I don’t speak Latin. I was just sure with all the years I sat in the pews of Saint Helen’s, I would be able to speak Latin. Now that I think about it though, I am pretty sure Father Kelley never mentioned barfing, even in Latin.

I had a long conversation with my little sister yesterday. She has started her next round of chemo. I think that makes for round 13,471 or something pretty close to that. Seriously, the woman is amazing. I would have been dead ten years ago from just thinking about what they were going to put me through. Not her. She is rough, tough, mean and determined. When they told her people don’t survive long from this rare form of cancer, I could see, “Oh yeah! Just watch me!” all over her. She’ll do it just to tick them off. No, seriously! That’s one of the things I like about her. She’s a rebel.

So anyway, seems she decided to “change up” the way she was told to do her chemo, the way she has done her chemo successfully for the last few years, the way she KNOWS she is suppose to continue doing her chemo. That change sent her into what she described as “Exorcist vomiting”. Lovely mental picture, don’t you think? She was crying and wailing about being miserable, wanting to die, wanting mom, who is dead by the way, and other uplifting comments along those lines. Me being … well, me, I quickly sized up this animal and grabbed it by its gnarled horns.

“Listen up. If you were with mom you would be dead, get it. I can’t do another dead relative so soon, so knock it off. I need at least a year between dead people. One other thing, Einstein. YOU made this happen. Stop pretending you’re a doctor and messing with your chemo. Jut because you watch General Hospital doesn’t mean you can really write your own prescriptions, knucklehead. Take your chemo, in order given, by your doctor! Got it?”

That seemed to calm her down a little. Then, when I told her I had fallen and have a black eye and broken glasses, she really cheered up. When I told her I thought maybe the spirit of Dad … no, I don’t really believe in ghosts … had pushed me down because when I fell, I thought I heard my Dad say, “Blog about this and see how YOU like it!”, she laughed so hard she almost felt healed. Amazing how a knock upside the head seems to work miracles in our family.

Now, about fasting. I have a confession, sort of. We went to the show last night and I did eat popcorn. The great thing is, I felt ok because I did fast from dinner and spent that time seeking wisdom as I have determined to do. I can be such a black and white person that I often hold myself to very rigid rules. Then when I fail, as most people who are rigid with themselves do, I feel miserable and stupid and like a complete failure. Not last night. I felt great! I have gone three full days fasting from dinner and seeking the Lord regarding what He would have me do with my life, which is His. I can’t wait for what’s next!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Notes To Self When Fasting

~ Do not go grocery shopping at 5:45 pm at a SuperCenter Wal Mart. Even the dog food aisle is not safe.

~ Do remember dryer lint, even when it is pink, does not taste like cotton candy.

~ Do not bite people’s heads off just because you think you are hungry. That is cannibalism, which is highly frowned upon in Oklahoma.

~ Do remember why you are fasting in the first place which was …

~ Do not hope you will at least drop 30 pounds this week. That is not why you are doing this.

~ Do not waste time arguing with yourself. That only proves your sisters are right and you really are crazy.

~ Do remember to be thankful for all the valuable lessons you are learning from this experience, like learning to trust God with the details of life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Food For Thought

I have a black eye. No, Bob did not hit me although I am sure, after living with me for thirty-three years, it has crossed his mind a time or two. Believe it or not, I ran into a wall. Isn't that what they all say? Seriously, I did. It was about midnight and everyone had gone to bed. I was locking doors, checking the fireplace and listening to my stomach growl. As usual, my mind was running a million miles a minute as I walked down the hall. Somehow, I managed to forget how to walk, tripped over my own clodhoppers and fell face first into the wall. I broke my glasses, bruised my hands and knees and got a black eye. My parents must be so proud of me right about now!

Now about the fast. Yesterday was much easier than I thought it would be. I did have an "aha" moment however. For breakfast I had two eggs, toast and coffee, yogurt for a snack and a sandwich for lunch. No, I did not eat a 12 inch Subway sandwich, just a normal, homegrown kind of sandwich at my kitchen table. Later that evening, I made a great dinner for the family and even sat down and had coffee with them while they ate dessert. It really wasn't hard at all.

Like I said, I had an "aha" moment earlier in the day that put things in perspective for me. About three in the afternoon, as I was planning out dinner, I started to stress a bit over not eating with the family. Monday nights are family night with the girls and grandkids. How was I going to not eat? That's when it hit me like a lightening bolt. My breakfast and lunch added up nutritionally in one day to more than billions of people get in an entire week. All of a sudden, not eating dinner felt like a simple sacrifice to gain this new understanding. Thanks, God!

Do you mind if I talk about eating for a minute? Eating, for me, is about more than feeding my body. Eating means love. That sounds really bizarre but it is the truth. In my family, people did not say, “I love you” when I was growing up. They did love you but you just had to figure that out for yourself. You had a nice house to live in, toys to play with, private school, new clothes, vacations and food. What more did you need? Well, I needed to hear it. I love you. Would it have killed you people to say it once in awhile? I think I may be slipping into the anger stage of grief again.

So what does this have to do with my torrid affair with food? Food meant happiness, love, good times, laughing, and family. My mother loved to cook. No wait. I think my mother really liked to cook. What she loved, was feeding people. My aunts were the same way. They could have just told you to go to hell, but then they were going to make you sit and feed you until you were ready to explode. I guess being forced into a food induced stupor made you forget you were sentenced to hell per your aunt’s request. Many of my favorite childhood memories are of sitting under the table with my cousins and sister at my parent’s home or at one of my aunts homes, listening to the adults argue and curse at one another, as an aunt or uncle slipped another piece of salami to the bottom dwellers.

It only got worse as I got older. When my heart was breaking, my mother fed me pie. When I was angry, she took me out to lunch. When I was a major disappointment to her, she wouldn’t speak to me for weeks. She would however show up at my house with ten bags of groceries including ding dongs, frosted flakes and ice cream. She may not have liked me, blankedy blank blank, but she sure as hell was going to make sure I ate. Does this make my family sound like evil, hard people? Well, they weren’t. They were the best. They were everything I am and more. They even learned to actually say I love you in later years.

I am hoping and praying I will learn a lot this week from fasting. I am hoping I will care more for the hungry people of this world. I am hoping I will learn to feed my own soul in some new ways. I am hoping for no more black eyes. A person can hope ~

Monday, November 16, 2009

50 Ways To Be A Good Neighbor

Here is the full list, just to keep me honest.

1. Fast for the 2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

2. Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.

3. Ask your pastor if someone on your church’s sick list would like a visit.

4. Join an open AA meeting and befriend someone there.

5. Adopt a child.

6. Mow your neighbor’s grass.

7. Volunteer to tutor a kid at your local elementary school. (Try to get to know the kid’s family.)

8. Grow your own tomatoes–and share them.

9. Ask a small group in your community to meet regularly for intercessory prayer.

10. Build a wheel chair ramp for someone who is homebound.

11. Read the newspaper to someone at your local nursing home.

12. Plant a tree.

13. Look up the closest registered sex offender in your neighborhood and try to befriend him.

14. Throw a birthday party for a prostitute.

15. When you pay your water bill, pay your neighbor’s too (they’ll let you… really).

16. Invest money in a micro-lending bank.

17. Ask the next person who asks you to spare some change to join you for dinner.

18. Leave a random tip for someone who’s cleaning the streets or a public restroom.

19. Write one CEO a month this year. Affirm or critique the ethics of their company (you may need to do a little research first).

20. Start tithing (giving 10%) of all your income directly to the poor.

21. Connect with a group of migrant workers or farmers who grow your food and visit their farm. Maybe even pick some veggies with them. Ask what they get paid.

22. Give your winter coat away to someone who is colder than you and go to a thrift store to get a new one.

23. Write only paper letters (by hand) for a month. Try writing someone who needs encouragement or who you should say “I’m sorry” to.

24. Go TV free for a year. Or turn your TV into a pot where flowers grow.

25. Laugh at advertisements, especially ones that teach you that you can buy happiness.

26. Organize a prayer vigil for peace outside a weapons manufacturer such as Lockheed Martin. Read the Sermon on the Mount out loud. For extra credit, do it every week for a year.

27. Go down a line of parked cars and pay for the meters that are expired. Leave a little note of niceness.

28. Write to one social justice organizer or leader each month just to encourage them.

29. Go through a local thrift store and drop $1 bills in random pockets of the clothing being sold.

30. Experiment with creation-care by going fuel free for a week – ride a bike, carpool, or walk.

31. Try only reading books written by females or people of color for a year.

32. Go to an elderly home and get a list of folks who don´t get any visitors. Visit them each week and tell stories, read the bible together, or play board games.

33. Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Then, each time you eat that food, pray for those folks who helped make it possible for you to eat it.

34. Create a Jubilee fund in your Church congregation, matching dollar for dollar every dollar you spend internally with a dollar externally. If you have a building fund, create a fund to match it to give away and by mosquito nets or dig wells for folks dying in poverty.

35. Become a pen-pal with someone in prison.

36. Give your car away to a stranger.

37. Convert your car to run off waste vegetable oil.

38. Try recycling your water from the washer or sink to flush your toilet. Remember the 1.2 billion folks who don´t have clean water.

39. Wash your clothes by hand, or dry them by hanging to remember those without electricity or running water. Remember the 1.6 billion people who do not have electricity.

40. Buy only used clothes for a year.

41. Cover up all brand names, or at least the ones that do not reflect the upside-down economics of God’s Kingdom. Commit to only being branded by the cross.

42. Learn to sew or start making your own clothes to remember the invisible faces behind what we wear. Take your kids to pick cotton so they can see what that is like (and then read James).

43. Eat only a bowl of rice a day for a week to remember those who do that for most of their life (take a multivitamin). Remember the 30,000 people who die each day of poverty and malnutrition.

44. Begin creating a scholarship fund so that for every one of your own children you send to college you can create a scholarship for an at-risk youth. Get to know their family and learn from each other.

45. Visit a worship service where you will be a minority. Invite someone to dinner at your house or have dinner with someone there if they invite you.

46. Help your church congregation create a Peacemaker Scholarship and give it away to a young person trying to avoid the economic draft, who would like to go to college but sees no other way than the military.

47. Eat with someone who does not look like you. Learn from them.

48. Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask them to pray for you.

49. Serve in a homeless shelter. For extra credit, go back and eat or sleep in the shelter and allow yourself to be served.

50. Join a Yokefellows ministry at a prison close to you. Remember that Jesus said he would meet you there (Matt. 25).

List Authors: Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Hartgrove

Week One vs Weak One

Well, I haven’t even started and already the drama has begun. Seems my husband is in major freak out mode. He is just positive I am going to do something stupid and get myself capped in the ass. Thanks for having faith in me, honey.

In the spirit of fairness, I will admit to having done a few things, ok, more than a few, in the past that made him go, “Hmmmm?” Like the time he came home and I had moved a woman and her baby into our house. We didn’t really know them but her “husband” was beating her up and she had nowhere to go. I was pretty sure my husband wouldn’t beat me up, even for moving a stranger and her baby into our house without asking. Then there was the time I picked up the homeless guy and brought him to our house. In my defense, it was raining, the guy was cold and hungry and I really felt in my heart it was what I was suppose to do. It’s not like I let him move in.

Anyway, we went to bed less than snuggly last night. I believe my last words to him were, “I said I won’t do the stupid list, so drop it already will ya!!!!” Well, I lied. I have to do this stupid list. I can’t really explain it but I just have to. So sue me for divorce. I won’t fight you. Just remember, you get everything … including all seven kids.

Now about the list. I fretted all weekend over this. You would think I was having brain surgery. Maybe, in some weird way, I am. That’s my hope anyway. That by doing this list, something in my brain will change and you know what they say. The brain bones connected to the heart bone … or something like that. I played mind games with myself all weekend about where to start, what I could get out of without you knowing and other devious ploys. Here is what I decided. First, I am posting the list so you will know if I am cheating myself out of one of the opportunities to change. Please feel free to smack me if I even try this. Second, I am going to start at the beginning and go down the line as much as is humanly possible. I may not do every one exactly to the letter of the law however I will do what the Spirit of it intends. Ready? Set? Then let’s go!

1. Fast for the 2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

Here is how this is going to work. I am going to fast every night for a week. This means nothing to eat after lunch. No dinner, no snacks, no nothing but water or tea. No, I am not going to carb load from morning until noon. Ok, the thought had occurred to me but I decided to be honest. I’ll also put $5 into a jar for every meal I fast from. I know this will only be $35 at the end of a week but I plan on doing something crazy with that money. Something that hopefully will make a difference for someone. More on that later. In the evenings, when I would normally be eating or snacking on popcorn with the family, my goal is to be praying and searching for how I can make a difference for those that are hungry.

My mom use to get so mad at me for doing these kinds of things. She was always telling me, “Marla, you can’t change the world.” I found out she is right, I can’t. But I learned I can change the world for one person at a time, if I try.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10

Saturday, November 14, 2009

One Order Of Crazy, Coming Right Up

Yesterday, as my sisters, family and friends, gathered in California to bury my dad, I got ready to go out and listen to GUM, a great band and one of my new favorites. Right before I left last night, I got a call from Char and Kelly. I was told how hard it was not having me there and that they really had needed me to be there. I sort of went ballistic, letting them know they didn’t get to say that to me. I really am evil, I’m afraid.

I use to be a nice person. I think I was anyway. Maybe not. Anyway, I am pretty sure I have changed, and not for the better, since my dad died. I can go from teary-eyed to raging lunatic in under sixty seconds. God, help those who have contact with me in the days to come and please heal those who have been so unfortunate as to have crossed my path in the last few weeks. I need some serious penance to happen.

A week ago, I received an amazing posting on my Facebook page. It was about fifty ways to love your neighbor. It came from XXXChurch, which has an awesome ministry to the porn community. For those of you who are still reading after that bit of information, let me explain. This church doesn’t judge people, they love them right where they are. What a concept! I know it is radical and crazy and probably a bit dangerous but I like it. I am ready for real. Real people, real life, real experiences with a real God. Is that asking too much?

So, here is the deal. I don’t want to write about dead people forever. I can’t promise that I will never write about dead people again because I probably will now and then but I am ready to move on to breathing people. It’s still about butts and ashes, loving people from end to end. Just breathing ones, for now anyway.

I am going to go through all fifty ways to love your neighbor, one a week for the next year, with two freebies obviously. My plan is to actually DO each thing suggested. It won’t be easy, I am scared and I may fail miserably. But what if I don’t? What if I actually make it through this ridiculously crazy list of fifty freeing, bizarre ideas? Will it change me? I can only hope!

Why do I really want to do this? I have asked myself that, repeatedly. Here is all I can come up with:

~ I need to make a difference in this world and it has to be with something that matters in the long run.

~ I want to leave my children something of value when I die. Since there won’t be any money, I figure acts of integrity in Jesus' name might work for something.

~ Crazy seems to make sense to me. Are you surprised?

Last night, at the concert, there was a little gal drawing henna designs on people. She gives the money she makes to the poor of this world. I sat and watched her and thought, “Why not?”

This is Chinese for courage. That's what I was told anyway.
I hope it doesn't actually mean crazy and yet I wouldn't be completely shocked.

If any of this interests you, check back on Monday. That's when I will be attempting the first way to love my neighbor. One order of crazy, coming right up ...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

...And I Feel Fine

My dad arrived safely in Cayucos today so I guess we won’t be arrested as terrorists or drug dealers after all. He will be buried next to my mother tomorrow afternoon. I said my goodbyes weeks ago, so I won’t be attending. That might seem awful and selfish, because well, it probably is, but it’s what I had to do for my sanity right now.

Burying my dad on Friday the thirteenth was not my idea. No, really, it wasn’t. I know it seems like something I would do, but my sisters get all the credit for this one.

My sisters are not handling this whole dad dying thing any better than I am. My little sister seems to want to pick fights with me and my big sister is falling apart. Now, my little sister picking fights is nothing new but my big sister falling apart is very disturbing. Char is the voice of reason, the face of sanity, the only normal sister out of the three of us. If she is coming undone, Armageddon cannot be far behind.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Going Postal

My dad is finally on his way to California. Seems Fed Ex and UPS will have no part in delivering human remains in any form. Only the United States Postal Service is brave enough to take on that challenge. So, my dad has officially gone postal.

When I called my little sister to deliver the news, I thought for sure she would be happy. Nope. She was worried. "What if dad gets lost in the mail?" I had to think about that one. Other than being mistaken for a giant box of anthrax or heroin, I am pretty sure he will make it to Cayucos all in one … well, in one box.

My sister says she does not find me funny. Oh, really? Then why do you keep laughing at my sick humor? You know darn well, it only encourages me to continue in my inappropriateness.

The fact of the matter is, as my sisters have stated repeatedly lately, everyone grieves in their own way. I am not going to tell my sisters, or anyone else, they are wrong for having a funeral, spending tons of money on flowers and crying over an open grave. They aren’t wrong. That’s just their way. That is just not how I choose to grieve. I don’t know if choose is even the right word because I don’t feel like I have made this choice. It’s just the way I am. Sorry folks!

I really am not cold-hearted and callous. I just pretend to be. I cry every time I open my dad’s closet and see that blue boxing jacket he wore everyday. I cry every time I see applesauce on my pantry shelf, the one food he insisted I serve at every meal. I cry when I smell Old Spice, or see a stinky, old man at the store, or John Wayne on the television. I cry when I think about Thanksgiving and Christmas without him. I cry without him.

So, as I sit here crying, typing this inappropriate blog, I am also hoping he makes it safely to Cayucos all in one …. um, box. If he doesn’t, somebody please call me. I know how to improvise ashes, if need be.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Have you ever done something that you knew you really should not do, but you also knew if you didn’t do it, you would always wish you had? Yeah? Me too!

A few years ago, one of my aunts passed away. It was very sudden and sad for so many reasons. One of those reasons was her husband, my dad’s brother.

When I got the call that Aunt Audrey had died and Uncle Louie had been taken to the hospital because of his heart, I got on the first available plane to California. My sisters and I were responsible for Uncle Lou since he and Aunt Audrey had “adopted” us in their will, not to mention, we loved that crazy, old couple. As I flew out the next morning, I wondered how my uncle would ever live without his wife. Eleven days after arriving in California and bringing Louie home to live with my dad, my uncle passed away in his sleep. I remain thankful to this very day for being able to spend those last days with him.

Surely, you can imagine the stress of dealing with two deaths in twelve days, not to mention having to clean out a house full of fifty years of junk. Then there was selling the house and closing accounts, notifying family and friends. It would have been overwhelming at times if my sisters and I had not had one another. Even so, we did get a bit crazy here and there along the way. Case in point:

I had taken care of Aunt Audrey’s cremation but had not picked up her ashes yet. I was too busy taking care of my Uncle Louie, who was obviously not doing well. When he passed away so soon after Aunt Audrey, I ended up having to retrieve two boxes of ashes at once. My sisters would have no part of the ashes thing, so they did all the administrative stuff. Driving back to my dad’s house with my aunt and uncle buckled in the backseat … hey, I did not want to take any chances of a Stephen King type event on the freeway … I started to get irritated. How come my sisters always get to look good, smell good and take care of the easy crap, while I am always wiping butts or driving dead people around? That’s when I began to devise my plan.

My aunt and uncle did not want a funeral. They specifically stated in their wills that they were to be cremated and the ashes sprinkled at sea. I had taken care of the cremations and my sisters had made the arraignments for the sprinkling at sea with the Neptune Society. When I arrived home and found my sisters had gone out … probably for a nail or hair appointment or some other stupid girl thing … I placed my aunt and uncle in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet and went to work.

First, I ran out to the front garden carrying a plastic bowl and big spoon with me. I quickly filled the small bowl half full with the fine, powdery dirt in my parent’s front planter. Next, I ran back into the house and dug through my mother’s junk drawer finding exactly what I was hoping would be there … chalk. I placed the chalk in the bowl with the soil and grabbed a potato masher out of the pottery crock on the counter. As I mashed the chalk into the soil being careful to leave just the right size and shape pieces, I literally began to sweat with anticipation. For a split second, I imagined my mother standing next to me ready to thump me upside my head in the hopes of knocking some sense into me. Luckily for me, my mom had died two years earlier or she would have killed me right then and there.

Once the bowls content was the exact color and consistency of what I imagined people ashes might look like, I grabbed three plain, white envelopes from the desk drawer in the foyer along with a blue, ink pen. Carefully writing each of my sisters names along with my own, one on each envelope, I could only imagine their faces when this was over. I then slowly scooped a few spoonfuls of “ashes” into each envelope, sealed them and placed them in the bottom drawer on top of my aunt and uncle. I laughed out loud, knowing Lou and Aundrey would have loved this! I quickly cleaned up all the evidence and ran upstairs to change and wash up.

No sooner had I come back downstairs, when my sisters walked in the kitchen door. They were happy and chatty as always and had even brought back dinner for all of us. As we sat eating in the kitchen, my older sister asked if I had picked up Uncle Lou and Aunt Audrey. When I said yes, through a mouthful of coleslaw, both their faces dropped.

“Where are they?”

“In the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.”

“Why are they there?”

“Where would you like me to put them?”

“I don’t know but somehow the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet just doesn’t seem right.”

“Ok, I’ll go get them and we can put them anywhere you two would like.”

At that last comment, they both began screaming, “No! Don’t bring them in here! Leave them there!”

That’s when I did it. I went into the dining room, opened the bottom drawer, took out the three envelopes and took them into the kitchen. I placed one in front of each of us and sat back down.

“By the way, the people at the mortuary gave me these. They are for the service on the boat, you know, when we go to sprinkle the ashes.”

As they each reached for their envelope, my oldest sister asked, “What are they?”

“They’re part of the ashes.”

Both my sisters literally threw the envelopes on the table screaming.

“Don’t be ridiculous, you two. It’s not like they had cooties. All we have to do when we go out on the boat is stand at the railing, say something nice, tear open our envelope and pour. Simple.”

My little sister sat staring at me shaking her head. My older sister looked completely horrified and made it clear, that was not going to happen. That’s when I grabbed my envelope, ripped it open and poured some of the “ashes” into my left hand.

“Look! It’s no big deal. It’s not like they’re going to bite you.”

My sisters jumped up and looked at me like I had completely gone mad, yelling, “Have you lost your mind? What are you doing?”

I replied, “Crap, now I have ashes all over me.” I then reached out and wiped my hands on the front of my oldest sister’s sweater. I truly thought I had killed her by the look of terror on her face.

Falling to the ground, unable to breathe from laughing so hard, I believe I heard “Idiot” right before I heard the front door open and then slam shut.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ashes To Ashes

My sister is literally driving me crazy. It’s almost like having my dad back. Let me just say, the two of them are definitely from the same gene pool.

Her latest gripe is, “Where is my dad?” Everyday I get this call from her, wondering when our dad’s ashes will be delivered to California. I understand it has been one week and two days since he passed away and that his ashes are sitting in a box in a funeral home here in Oklahoma. I also understand that there are rules, regulations and the usual ridiculous paperwork required for “mailing” dead people ashes from one state to another. So what does she want me to do, go downtown, slam “the box” on the health department’s counter and yell, “Listen up! My dad is sick of waiting around. Not only that, do you have any idea who you’re dealing with here? This guy was a famous boxer or something and even his ashes can kick your ass if need be.”

When I raised my voice to that mother-tone decibel and told her to knock it off, dad would get there when he gets there, she started crying. This was followed by her famous, “I have cancer and you need to tell them that.” Um, I am pretty sure the funeral home deals with cancer people everyday. Do you really want them knowing your info? It could be bad, like vultures circling. I’m just saying.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Famous Last Words

One of my sisters called tonight to ask me if I was going to keep writing this blog. I told her I wasn’t sure what to do anymore. This is when she had the great idea that I should write about her. Of course, being the baby it’s always all about her.

The truth is, she has cancer and thinks she is next in line for the Death Train. Some days, like when chemo is kicking her butt or our dad has just bought the farm, she has her ticket purchased, bags packed and is ready to board. She usually says some morbid, creepy thing like, “I just want to be with Mom and Dad.” Oh really, because you didn’t like being around them that much when they were breathing. How quickly we forget how crazy our parents made us once they are gone. All of a sudden my sister is a flaming Catholic again and thinks our parents should be canonized saints. Don’t worry, I plan on reminding her daily of the awesome things they use to do to make her life a living hell. This is going to be great. I think I am even beginning to feel a bit happy again now that I have a new mission.

In one of our last conversations, little sister was bawling her head off instructing me regarding her last will and testament wishes. I told her to knock it off because I knew for a fact she was not going anywhere anytime soon. I told her I could even prove it. So, here is the proof.

A few days before my dad died, I became very aware of what was happening. He had stopped eating, was barely drinking anything and slept constantly. He would open his eyes for a very short time, say a few words and then be back to sleep for hours again. When I realized time was very short, I grabbed my laptop, sat next to him and waited. Every time he would open his eyes and speak, I would type down what he said. I did this for several days until he eventually passed away. I found it nearly impossible to leave his side, afraid I might miss something, a last word of wisdom or love or affirmation. Even in walking with my dad to the end, I remained selfish, not wanting to lose the last drop of my dad that might be mine if I only listened. This is what he left me.

“I need a girlfriend. She can be old.” (Yes, ladies, even when dying, men only have one thing on their mind. Amazing!)

“One day I’ll die and then you’ll cry.” (My dad made up little poems on a daily basis. This one was voted one of our least favorites.)

“I wish there were more men around here. It’s nothing but women in this place.” (Excuse me for being a girl. This statement of his might explain why he told my sisters and me that he wished we had been named Joseph, Thomas and Bobo. By the way, Kelly was Bobo.)

“I bet I could beat you in a race with my car.” (Again with the car?)

“Do you feel alright? (I responded, yes.) “I do too.”

“Are you still here?” (I said yes I was here and I wouldn’t leave him. His answer?) “Me too.”

“It’s just my arm, that’s all. It’s nothing.” ( I am pretty sure it was more than his arm but I still wish he had been right.)

“My butt’s sore. I’m gonna get up and dance with you pretty quick.” (Of course, this made me cry because I wanted to dance with him like we had just a week or so before.)

Finally, he was silent for an entire day. It was brutal thinking I would never hear his voice again. I wept wanting my dad to stay with me but knowing he was leaving and then it happened. As I stood near his bed, rubbing his cheek and kissing his forehead, he opened his eyes and spoke one last time. What did he say?

“I’ll be ok. Then we’ll get that weight off you.”

What the heck!?!?!?!?! Do you remember my mother’s last words to me? Let me remind you. They were, “Well, you are fat.” Jesus, Mary and Joseph save me from this crazy family already.

Still wondering where the proof is that my sister is not dying anytime soon? She has not mentioned my weight … yet. Once she does, I figure she’s got three days tops.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wanted: One Old Person

So where do I go from here? I am completely lost ... for the moment. Do I keep blogging about my dead dad and other dead relatives? I know this may sound a bit crude but hey, this is my reality right now. Do I just quietly slip away into blog oblivion? I need to keep writing but my dad has died and screwed up everything. I think I may be entering the anger phase of grief. What do you think?

Maybe Butts and Ashes isn’t my “book” after all. Maybe it’s just a chapter. Even this idea makes me mad today. I had things figured out for once. I was going to finally get all those things I had meant to write down written down. I had plenty of time. My dad gave me daily material. It was going to be great. Well, it’s not so great right now. It sucks.

I don’t feel clever or witty or anything good only tired. I feel sad and disappointed and angry. I am not really sure who I am angry with but I have a sneaking suspicion it might be myself. I have been accused in the recent past of having empty nest syndrome. I can assure you this is not even close to the truth … in the normal sense of the term anyway. Six of my seven children have flown the coop and I am ready for the seventh to do the same someday. I like seeing my children independent and happy, standing on their own two feet.

I think I am feeling something worse than child-free. I think I am feeling butt free. I have run out of old people to care for. The older generation of this family appears to now include me. What the heck? When did this happen because I am not liking it one single bit. I have spent the greater part of my adult years caring for someone older. Now what? Several well-meaning people have said to me in the last few days, “Now it’s time to take care of you.” I have no idea what that even means. Maybe that is why I feel so angry with myself. How can you live in a body for fifty-one years and not understand how to take care of it? How is it possible to go through life for five decades and not ever figure out who you are or what you need to feel really taken care of by yourself? Maybe my sisters are right. Maybe I do need medication and therapy.

I have a great life. I have a husband that adores me and is my very best friend ever. I have awesome kids and wonderful grandchildren. I have some of the most amazing family members and friends a person could ever hope for. I live in a beautiful place surrounded by my beloved animals. I have more than most and more than I deserve. So what’s to be unhappy about?

Ok, I think I have now officially slipped from anger to full blown feeling sorry for myself mode. Somebody, please slap me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Face Only A Mother Could Love and She Ain't Here Either

It has been three days since my dad died. Three days. In those three days, I have cleaned out his closet, scrubbed his bathroom from top to bottom, redecorated his bedroom and his living room. I do not feel any better.

I have never been a sit on my rear kind of person. I get that from my parents. Relaxing to the average person is normal. Relaxing to my parents always meant building something, throwing a party for three hundred people or moving someone in need into their home. Idle hands were not allowed in the Casas household.

I really want to just curl up into the fetal position in the corner of my closet and cry until I can’t cry anymore but who has time for that. So instead, today I will be cleaning the garage, brushing down the horses and maybe I will put a new roof on the house. It’s what my dad would be doing if his dad had just died.

My friends and family have been amazing. People are bringing food, calling, and writing. The words written and spoken to me have been deeply touching bringing me to tears each and every time. I have been saving every card, letter and email knowing that later on down the road, they will bring me great happiness when I re-read how loved I am. Right now, I just cry.

I hate crying. I especially hate crying in front of people. I have seen myself cry before. No, I did not stand in front of the mirror and practice but I have caught glimpses of myself as I wept. It was not a pretty sight. I guess crying wouldn’t be so bad if I could do it and look like one of the actresses you see on TV or in the movies. They still look great. I, however, look worse than I normally do. My face contorts, the small amount of make-up I usually wear magically multiples into massive rivers of black running down my face and snot drips from my facial orifices. Seriously, not a good look even for an Okie.

The other thing that is starting to really annoy me is my loss of control. The truth is, I never really have control over my life, but I have learned to pretend I do. These last three days have brought reality crashing down on me like Dorothy’s house on the Wicked Witch of the East. I can be going along just fine, cleaning and cooking and talking to Bob or one of our flying monkeys and wham! Out of nowhere, I am bawling my head off, face contorted, black river running, snot dripping bawling. The more I try to stop, the worse it gets.

This orphan thing is not working for me.