Monday, January 31, 2011

Dream A Little Dream Of Me

As we reach week five of The List, I am going to do some reposting. If you have already read these, go have a donut. If you're new here, read on pretty please. Either way, consider getting involved in the adoption option. It will change your life for the better. It did mine.

5. Adopt a child.

When we first decided to go forward with adopting a child, things were very clear and simple in our minds. We had three great little boys and wanted to add one sweet little baby girl. We talked for days about how incredible it would be to have a daughter to love and raise as our own. It had been a topic of conversation on and off for several years and finally, it was going to be a reality.

I remember how, early on that Monday morning, I called adoption services in our state and informed them of our desire to adopt a baby girl. I'm sure I sounded positively giddy. Our lives would never be the same from that moment on. The social worker took a little information from me and then kindly but firmly let me know we would never be given a baby girl. We already had three children and baby girls rarely went up for adoption anyway. If we were interested in older boys she could help us out right away. Of course, she let me know the children would be delivered with lots of baggage and not the kind that come in pretty colors. I hung up feeling shell-shocked.

Not one to quickly surrender, I began looking into international adoption. Two years later, all we had to show for all our efforts were two adoptions that never materialized and a loss of thousands of dollars. As I allowed the sadness to go deep within me, it began to bring up thoughts and feelings from when I was small. I remembered something! I had wanted to adopt a little girl. She was always Mexican in my mind and her name was always Rachel.

That night when I sat down with my husband, I told him of my memory. Surely this must be God's way of telling us to go to Mexico and find our baby girl. Bob was tired from the last two years and less than enthusiastic. He wanted to wait a bit before we spent any more time, money or emotion on the whole adoption thing. The sadness hit me harder than before.

Several weeks later, a friend of mine called. Jean was a birth mother, a foster mother and an adoptive mother. She said she had just come from a meeting and had seen a picture of three little girls the agency was trying to place for adoption. They were sisters, all under six years old and of Mexican descent. She had thought of us immediately and really thought I should call and ask about them. I thanked her but told her there was no way we were going to adopt three older children. I never mentioned it to Bob.

That next week, I was miserable. I couldn't eat or sleep. I was having trouble concentrating on anything but those three little girls. I began to dream about "Rachel" just as I had when I was ten years old. I finally explained the whole thing to Bob and his first response was "Call!" I was shocked by his change of heart but didn't wait around to ask questions.

I called the agency and explained who I was and told them we were interested in the girls. The social worker was friendly and talkative asking questions about our family for almost an hour. Finally I heard her say, "Well, those three little girls have been placed for adoption." I immediately began to cry. She then continued, "However, I have two other little girls that I think would fit perfectly in your family." I felt as if my heart had stopped and I wasn't breathing.

Arraignments were made for Bob and I to take our three boys to the agency the following Monday. It would be a two hour drive for a one hour meeting. We went with more excitement than could be contained, literally. The meeting was a nightmare. Our boys, who were normally fairly well-behaved in public, had lost their little minds. They were noisy and wild, fighting over toys and acting sillier than we had ever seen before. We left there knowing this was probably the end of the adoption trail for us.

The next day the social worker called to ask if just Bob and I would come back up the next afternoon. She wanted to spend some one-on-one time with us. Being thankful for another chance, I told her we would be there. That meeting was much quieter to say the least. We learned the girls were four years old and ten years old. The younger was of Mexican/African American heritage and the older was of Mexican heritage. She gave us their records to read. It was brutal reading what these two little ones had been through. She warned us of all the typical things you hear about with older children. They may not bond with you ever. They may have serious emotional issues. There could be hidden health problems. On and on she went until our heads were swimming with what ifs. Finally she handed their pictures to us. As Bob and I sat next to each other holding those photos, we both began to sob. Something entered the room at that moment. It was the same something that had been there when each of our boys was born. I don't know what to call it other than it is that thing that happens when you first see your child. That overwhelming, all encompassing emotion of your past, present and future being laid in your arms. These girls were our babies. Though we had never held them in our arms, our hearts had held them for years.

Sylvia, the social worker, asked us to come back again the next afternoon. She wanted us to meet the girls and they wanted to meet us. The next day we arrived almost an hour early. When the girls walked into the room the feeling was overwhelming. We spent thirty minutes in the office talking before Sylvia suggested we take the girls out for a few hours. As Bob and I helped buckle the girls into the car, our oldest daughter looked at me and asked, "When you adopt me can I change my name?"

That was twenty years ago. Her name today? Rachel.

Me and my girl, Rachel Patrice Hansen-Gerber

and the story continues......

Sunday, January 30, 2011

If Only I Could

It’s been almost a week since I have written or read anything. I can’t think right now. Yes, I am working a new job, ten hours a day and obviously have to “think” during those hours but the truth is, I am on auto-pilot while there. Everything looks fine on the outside, but on the inside, I am numb, silent, frozen.

Thirty-three years ago, I was barely twenty years old, married for two years and pregnant with our first child. Two months before Matthew was born, Bob and I moved four hours north of our family, to a very small beach town where my mother was born and raised. All my maternal family was still there so it was really like going home for me. One we settled in, I realized that although I had tons of aunts, uncles and cousins, I had left all my friends when I moved. I began to wonder how I would ever meet people my age in such a small town when I could barely walk with my huge baby belly. I didn’t have to wonder for long.

Just days after moving into one of my cousins rent houses, a darling wood cottage painted red with a killer view of the ocean, there was a knock on the front door. I waddled my way over to answer the rapping and was pleasantly surprised by the blonde woman on the other side. Elsa was just a few years older than I was and lived across the street. She came over to introduce herself and to bring homemade treats. We spent about an hour talking and then walked across the road to her home where she fed me lunch and fed my soul with friendship. I will never forget her for that.

The next day my cousin dropped me off at home after taking me to my doctors appointment. As I walked up to the door, there was a jar of homemade blackberry jam sitting on the front doorstep. I picked it up and went into the house smiling, assuming it was from Elsa. It wasn’t but an hour later that Lori knocked on my door. She introduced herself as a friend of Elsa’s and asked if I had found the jam she had left. I quickly invited her. She had her two year old boy with her and we spent a wonderful afternoon visiting and getting to know one another. Meeting Lori that day changed my life forever.

For the last thirty-three years, Mike and Lori have been more than our friends. They are our family. We have been through births and deaths, parties and partings, girls nights and boys weekends, couples vacations and times of pure vacancy. When we moved to Oklahoma sixteen years ago, one of the most difficult things for me was leaving Lori. She is my sister, my kindred spirit, the person most like me in every way imaginable. I love her and her husband Mike, beyond words. When I think of Lori, I think of laughing until we are crying and crying until we are laughing. That last sentence really sums up our relationship perfectly.

This week, Lori sent me an email. I won’t go into it all because it is deeply personal. I will only share this one line:

“…..he only has months to live.”

Of course, I immediately called and spoke to Mike for a minute and then Lori for much longer. I wanted to be encouraging, to laugh with her, to tell her things that would bring her comfort. I couldn’t so instead we cried together. A lot. I am still crying. Bob has had to wake me up from crying in my sleep as I dream of Lori and Mike. I cried all through worship at church last night. I have cried in the bathroom at work and on my way home. When I am crying, I am also pleading with God for an answer, a miracle, for peace and comfort for Mike. I am pleading for the same and more for Lori and their family. I am also asking Him to teach me what it means to be a friend in the face of such incredible pain for the people I love.

Only months, possibly weeks to live. I can’t understand this. My heart won’t allow me to. I want to go home. I want to live in that little red beach cottage and find blackberry jam on my stoop. I want to stay up all night laughing with Lori and the other girls in our group while the guys are off backpacking with all the kids. I want a do-over. I want more time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The List Goes On

Well, here we are heading into week four of The List. Mind if I do a little recapping? Too bad because I am going to, like it or not.

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

Our three week Daniel fast ended yesterday. I am completely amazed that Bob and I both made it through 21 days of fruits and vegetables only. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of that guy I am married to. I have watched Mr. Meat and Potatoes, Mr. I Hate Veggies, Mr. Don't Ever Try To Make Me Try Something New Or I'll Throw A Hissie, transform into a deeper, more focused, more open individual than I could have ever imagined. Believe me, Bob has always been a wonderful person, my best friend, the kindest soul, an amazing kisser. I think even the kissing has improved. I'm just saying. But really, what we gained over the last three weeks was worth every bite we gave up. I am truly thankful for the experience.

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

We have received our home study package and will be spending the next few months getting everything done on their list. When we first made the offer to Deaconess regarding inviting a pregnant woman to live with us, the thought of a pregnant teen never crossed our minds. When they asked if we would be willing to foster a pregnant teen we were reminded of our goal to be open this year to wherever God wants to take us so, time will tell where this road leads.

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

Like I said a few posts back, the opportunities to do hospital visits have been there and quite positive. I have another friend in a physical pickle that I will be stopping in to see this week also. I may just take some balloons with me. Have you done it yet? Have you taken balloons or cards or flowers to strangers in the hospital or nursing home? I'd love to hear your stories.

That brings us to week four:

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

I went to an orientation at the City Rescue Mission last Monday night with my daughter Bel. We signed up to be mentors to women in the Bridge program there, which is their AA meeting. We were told we should hear something this week so here's to the crazy Hansen women waiting for the next adventure.

Bel and I had dinner this evening and I can honestly say I am really excited at the thought of taking this challenge on with Bel by my side. She is such an amazing girl. At 25 years old, she has made the decision to focus on things bigger than herself and has moved into a renovated warehouse across the street from the Rescue Mission. Where she lives is called The Refuge. This once abandoned warehouse was a well-known hang-out for drug dealers and prostitutes. It now houses men, women and families with children who all have a desire to change the world one broken soul at a time. These people all have jobs and lives and they live them well. I love stopping in and visiting, getting to know such amazing young world-changers. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of my little girl. She amazes me.


As I drove home after dinner, I couldn't help but smile thinking of the conversation at her kitchen table tonight. It was Bel, her roomie, another neighbor and myself. I listened to Bel speak about her outreach to the homeless women that hang out in the parking lot wanting to talk to her when she gets home from work. She truly loves them and you can see in her face that she will be one of those people that will mend a heart along the way because of that love.

Her neighbor told of her upcoming move to Uganda with a group of young people. They are going there to bring hope and help to the hopeless and helpless. When I asked about the danger, she admitted they all had faced the reality of their decision and still felt called to go. It was hard to look at her and not want to hold her and cry motherly tears.

Bel's roommate is focused on bringing girls out of the sex trafficking industry that has become rampant in the USA. She is determined to see the organization she is a part of, open more safe houses for these young girls. She is absolutely fearless in the face of this atrociousness.

 Looking at these three young woman tonight, I prayed for three things: for their safety, for their success and for their fierce determination to spend their lives well to spread like wildfire to others, including myself.

That's all for tonight. I started a new job today and will be in training 10 hours a day all week. I'm tired and thankful and satisfied with all that I have been given in this life. I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Goodnight ~

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sundays In My City

A few months ago,
this blew through on a Sunday.

Welcome to Oklahoma

Be sure to visit Unknown Mami
to see what's happening
in other cities around the globe.

Unknown Mami

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Love Meeces To Pieces

Have you ever thought about the important place mice hold in our hearts? Take for instance, Mickey Mouse. That delightful fellow and his sweet companion Minnie have brought the world nothing but joy and harmony for decades. What would the world be like without these two amazing mice?

Then there are the darling mice of Beatrix Potter fame. I mean really, could they be any cuter? Plus, they sew. I could use a few of those around the farm.

Speaking of sewing mice, who can forget Cinderella’s pals? That little Gus was part of the charm of the entire movie with his fat tummy and ill fitting clothes.

What about Speedy Gonzalez? Te quiero Speedy como un niƱo gordo ama un pastel. No, seriously.

Who can forget afternoons spent laughing and playing with this guy? Without him, our kids birthday parties would have been cheap, easy and over in an hour. Thank you Chuckie for the amazing memories of hard earned money quickly spent.

And Ratatouille. Now there’s a movie for ya. A kitchen filled with filthy rats cooking food that will then be served to unsuspecting human beings. Human beings that were simply trying to live their lives and enjoy their dinner out.

But can they enjoy their dinner out? NO! Because they know, waiting at home for them is a colony of these. That’s right, all the aforementioned mice apparently have relatives that decided Hollywood and the big city life wasn’t for them any longer. So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Oklahoma. Our house to be specific.

Aren’t they just freaking darling? So cute I could just squeeze em until their little eyes pop out. Oh, yeah I said it. Go ahead and beg for mercy you stinking little rodent.

I thought about getting one of these because our two precious kitties are simply too busy to be bothered with helping us out with this little problem. Yeah, our cats have other more pressing concerns like eating the cat food in their bowl until they are so fat they have to roll themselves over to their fluffy little bed and nap in front of the heater.

I have decided to put my anger and anti-PETA sentiment aside and play nice with our new houseguests. See the sincere, animal loving, PETA supporter smile? I am so sincerely sincere. Would I lie?

Dinner is served fellas. Invite your family and friends. There’s plenty for seconds.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Disclaimers and Full Disclosure

Some readers have reported changes in behavior, agitation, and depression when attempting to digest this blog. Butts and Ashes may increase the chance of serious skin reactions or stomach and intestine problems, such as rectal bleeding and ulcers.

Sleepwalking, overeating and desiring to drive over a cliff after reading this blog have been reported. If you experience any of these behaviors contact your local mental health provider immediately.

Reading Butts and Ashes may cause you to fall asleep without any warning, even while doing normal daily activities, such as tending chickens. Hallucinations may occur and sometimes you may feel dizzy, sweaty or nauseated upon reading this blog. Butts and Ashes has also been linked to amnesia and gambling addiction.

Readers are urged to avoid pregnancy before, during, and one month after reading Butts and Ashes.

Reading this blog can decrease the activity of your immune system to fight infections. People reading Butts and Ashes may have an increased chance of getting serious infections. Some infections in people reading Butts and Ashes have become serious and in rare cases these have led to hospitalization of the reader and their pets.

Butts and Ashes likely increases the risk of getting Progressive Courtney Love Syndrome, a rare brain disease caused by a virus which usually results in severe bad hair. Other serious side effects experienced by readers included new or worsening psoriasis, new or worsening arthritis, and nervous system disorders.

You have been warned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Duck, Duck, Goose

So I am sitting here warming my toes by the fireplace as Foghorn Leghorn croons Neil Young love songs to me. Did I mention he likes to wear his jammies when he croons to me? Did I mention they say Chicks Dig Me all over them? Did I also mention they are covered with roosters? Yeah, this guy I am married to is one class act all the way. I am seriously in love with him. Ok, the Neil Young songs don't hurt but even without Neil, I'd still dig him because I too am a chick.

Speaking of chicks, I would like to introduce you to one of my all-time favorite people in bloggy land. The Duck Herder is someone I would like to live next door to other than I have a feeling next door would mean 20 miles down the road. She hails from Canberra, Australia and is the real deal earth mama. I mean, the name alone of The Duck Herder should have given you the first clue. The gal raises fowl, has bees, makes her own hooch and even the wild critters hang with her. I must warn you, she does have a tendency to have a nip or two of that hooch now and then but still, even a drunken Dr. Doolittle is still pretty darn cool in my book. Take for instance this comment left recently:

The Duck Herder said...

oops, too much wine this evening. And even in this state I could see there were way too many spelling mistakes......

try again......

thats you on the left, right?

and, can we PuRLEASE use the correct terminology - a "bed" should always be referred to correctly as one's "personal power center", OK? Get it right lovie.

one withdraws to one's personal power centre. One never just sooks in bed.

loving you.

did they really lock you out?

there, I think that is slightly more coherent.

Now, I am not totally sure what sooks means but obviously it is something I shall never want to do in my personal power center. I am forever indebted to TDH for pointing out my fopaux.

Oh and lest I forget, she talks really, really funny too. Just take a peak at this comment.

The Duck Herder said...

Would you just stop making me cry already!!!!!

You are living berloody in ya face kick up the whoopah proof that it is the stupid little free things that make the difference - stuff that costs nothing except a little time and a little random act of kindness or compassion and just being slightly present to someone's pain.

Marla - the avalanche of love.

Again, I have no idea what a whoopah is but apparently I have one and you don't want this avalanche of love up in your face kicking yours so get on over and have a cup of tea with The Duck Herder. Just be careful if she brings out the homemade hooch. Things could get jerrabomberra.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week Three of The List: You People Are Sick

Two weeks of my journey on The List are down and rolling along smoothly. I am going to the City Rescue Mission this evening. The plan is to attend orientation although some days the thought of moving in there doesn’t seem half bad. Oh relax, I am just pulling your leg which by the way is better than pulling your finger. That is just wrong. Anyway, onto week three.

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

I didn’t need to ask anyone because as such is life, two people I love ended up in the hospital over the last two weeks. I won’t go into details because they are their details to share or not. I know, it’s so unlike me to be so considerate. Even so, I was able to go in and visit with both of them. To be able to hear the challenges they faced and pray with them was a real gift to me. I am very thankful for both of these friends and am happy to say that all is well.

I do have another story to tell you in the hopes of throwing a challenge out there to anyone willing to take it. Ready? Ok, here it is.

A few years ago, I worked for AOL as a rewards and recognition program manager. It was quite exciting and I seriously loved my job. I was a glorified party planner and got to give things away and make people happy. I’m telling you, Santa Claus had nothing on me. It was awesome. Anyway, after one of the big events I had put on, there were close to 50 balloons left over. These were not just any old balloons. These were super fancy mylar western balloons. They were big and in the shapes of horses, cowboy hats and boots. Roy and Dale would have been drooling over these things.

At the end of the evening, Bob and I and another manager loaded our three cars with all the leftover balloons and headed to the hospital. The plan was to drop them off at the front desk for the pediatric ward. When we all walked in carrying the ginormous balloons, the little gray haired lady manning the front desk told us to go ahead and take them up to Peds. Finally, we made it to the nurses station and let them know we were donating the balloons. Several nurses had gathered by then and we were told to go ahead and knock on each patient’s door so we could personally make the deliveries.

I will be totally honest here. All three of us were scared. Not one of us wanted to go any further. I have no idea why we were such cowards but we were. When the nurses kept insisting, the decision was made (behind my back, I might add) that Bob and Rick would hold all the balloons and I would be the spokesperson entering each room with the single balloon. I was freaking out but just wanted to get it done by that point.

As I knocked on the first door, my heart pounding in my chest, I heard a mother say, “Come in.” When I opened the door and stepped in, I saw two very worried parents standing by a sick toddler in the bed. All three of them looked at me, then looked behind me at the sea of balloons before finally staring back at me with a big question mark. I nervously explained I was from AOL and just wanted to drop off a balloon to wish them well. That’s when the tears started to flow for the parents as the little one in the bed took the horse and smiled. I quickly walked out and fell apart.

Of course, after seeing what happened, Bob and Rick wanted in on the action, to which I said, “No way! Hand over another balloon,” and booked it to the next room. Each room was pretty much the same scene. I cannot even begin to tell you the feeling of seeing sick kids smile because of a balloon and parents crying over seeing that smile. I will never forget that night. Never.

So, here’s the challenge. Go buy a few balloons, head to the hospital and knock on a few doors. You will receive more than you give. I promise you that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sundays In My City

Oklahoma City Food Bank

Making A Difference Every Day

Looking for an opportunity
 to make a difference?

Call your local Food Bank.
You'll be glad you did.

Be sure to stop by and visit Unknown Mami to see what's going on in other cities around the world.

Unknown Mami

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Assembly Required

The last two days have been very quiet with just Miranda, our 12 year old, and me in the house. Bob is in New Mexico helping those turncoats get settled in their new digs. Not that I care or anything. Anyway, last night was ok. I let Miranda and all 5 dogs sleep with me. That should teach people to leave me in this house all by myself. Well, except for the 12 year old that is.

When I got up this morning, I decided I needed to keep busy in order to drowned out the deafening silence that has settled into this morgue of a house. So I got back in bed and slept until 9:30. That kept me busy. Then I dropped Miranda off at Rachel's so I could go have breakfast with my friend Jana. We met at the little local diner, ate and talked and I even made her cry. Yeah, I'm gifted like that. Then I went and picked Miranda up so we could head over to the Food Bank.

I was a bit nervous, having never been there before. That passed quickly once they stuck us on the assembly line. Miranda was in the middle of the line, filling bags with food items that would eventually be placed into backpacks. The backpacks are then given to low-income school age kids to take home on Fridays. Many of these kids would have little to eat on the weekends otherwise. Miranda and I were talking about how great it felt to help people. She suggested getting our entire family together and going back to the Food Bank to volunteer. Sounds like fun to me.

Anyway, I was at the end of the line packing the boxes. The bags were passed through the entire line and filled with different items from each volunteer. When it got to the end of the line, it was pressed with a machine that sealed it closed then pushed to the end of the table. That's where I was waiting to tightly pack six of the bags into a box, close it up and carry it to the scales where the next volunteer weighed and stacked the boxes on pallets. It all sounds quite simple, right?

It started out well enough.

Until the other volunteers got the hang of things
 and picked up the speed.

Then it was knees and elbows flying.
Ok, maybe a granola bar or two flew also.
After 2 hours, the Food Bank coordinator called for a break.

That's when I got the great idea to go outside and take some pictures for tomorrow's Sundays In My City blog post. Miranda and I strolled around for 10 minutes, taking pictures, talking, laughing about how fast the assembly line was moving and how much fun we were having. Then it was time to go back in but lo and behold, the doors were locked. No, seriously, we were locked out. Accident? You decide.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Buh Bye Fly Boy

Seven months ago, our oldest son and his family moved in with us. They were going to build a house on 5 acres we gave them. Matthew would be flying full time for the Army Natonal Guard and Molly would complete her Masters. As is the way of life, things changed, the guard job dissolved and Matthew spent the last 6 months looking for another pilot position. He finally found one last month but not in Oklahoma. So, today Bob helped Matt, Molly, Addee Mae and Mikey load up the U-Haul and head to New Mexico where Matt will fly civilian Medi-flight and National Guard counter drug. They are one year contracts and the plan is to get back to Oklahoma and build their home. Whatever. Anyway, for the last few weeks, Matt has been driving me crazy.

“You’re gonna cry when we leave.”

“Yeah. Tears of joy because the reign of terror is ending.”

“Whatever old woman. You’ll see. We’ll be driving away and you’ll be crying.”

“Don’t hold your breath bucko.”

I mean really. Why would I cry? I will finally have a clean car that isn’t filled with maniacs and Disney movies.

I can finally get to the fireplace without having to swim through sticky faced gremlins.


I won't have baby chicks in the shower.

I won't have trouble figuring out which one is the monkey any more.

I can go outside without getting buzzed by this.

I can camp in peace and quiet without hordes of goonies.

And finally, I can sit at my table and drink my tea alone. With nobody to talk to. Without this one having deep, intellectual discussions with me. Or praying with me. Or telling me how much I am loved.

Yep, it will be great and I won't shed a tear. Not one single tear. I will be smiling because they are finally gone and I can sit back and relax without having to plan anymore dinner parties or get-togethers or cheese and whine girls nights. Not one tear.

I'm going to chop more onions now. The end.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Rest Of The Story

Quite a few of you asked what happened to Ann so I thought I would tell you what I know.

Ann lived in her apartment with her son for several years. She found a job, made new friends and came over to our house every Thursday to play Canasta and every Sunday after church for lunch. Sadly, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to have surgery. She moved back in with us so we could help care for her and her son. They stayed for about 6 months. During that time, she was on quite a bit of pain medication which was necessary at first but unfortunately led her back to drug addiction. She turned away from all who loved her and was lost again for a few years. Those years were miserable and many of us tried to help but it is a hopeless situation unless the person wants help. Eventually we lost all contact.

Several years passed with no word from Ann and then I received a letter from her. Through a series of events, she ended up in a year long rehab. She wrote about her journey and the part we had played in her life. It was a raw, emotion-filled letter that brought me to tears. I still have it and will never forget her words. There was no return address so I assumed she wasn’t ready to re-connect and might never be. That was ok because I had her heart in that letter. How could I not be forever thankful for that?

Several years later, Ann showed up at our front door. I hardly recognized her from the last time I had seen her. She was absolutely beautiful, clean and sober. We spent the entire day together, laughing, crying and catching up. She was getting married and wanted us to attend which we did. Shortly after the wedding, we moved out of state and lost touch with one another. I heard through friends that Ann passed away about four years ago. I have tried to find out what happened but can’t find anyone who knows. Here is what I do know:

I have recently found an address for her son and plan on writing to him. I also have contact information on her son that was adopted. I have heard he has a lot of questions about his birth mother. I would like to share her letter with them both. Ann was a wonderful human being whose spirit was broken at an early age. So many only saw that broken spirit. I want her boys to see the heart of the woman that was their mother.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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

Originally posted 11/30/2009

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.

Well, that's the end of that story but I am sure there is a new one right around the corner. As I have been reading through the comments left, I asked myself, "Why am I doing The List? Why am I putting myself out there, telling the world my story?" I want to honestly answer those questions for myself and for anyone reading this blog.

When I write the ridiculous stuff I write about myself and my sisters and my family, it is with one purpose. I want you to laugh, to think I am funny, to be a part of the stupidly ridiculous fun that is my life. I have also written about times when I am quite down. That is more for me, to get things off my chest and be able to vent. But what I am writing now, this journey I have chosen, this is about more to me.

There are things I have done and continue to do that I will never write about. These are things that I do in secret. Why? I suppose it's because I believe what it says in Matthew: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them."

But this journey is different. I have spent much time searching my heart and praying about this before starting again. My goal is not to hear what a good person I am or anything else along those lines. My focus is simple.

""Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

That's it for me. Plain and simple. I want people to see Jesus when they see me. I don't want to preach at people. I want my life to be my testimony. I love people. I really do. It is not a chore for me to do these things. It is exciting and fulfilling and one of the greatest gifts I could ever imagine to be able to reach out to another human being and love them. I learned this from my parents. They never, ever told me any of these things. They lived it. So now, I am living it for my children in the hopes they will live it for theirs. That's it.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for your encouraging and kind words. Until tomorrow....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week Two May Make You Weak Too

This Saturday, we will be working at the Food Bank. Having never done this before, I am looking forward to the experience. Although, I seriously hope they don’t put me in charge of anything having to do with meat. Or bread. Or candy. Could you imagine me on this fast being placed in a room full of meat, bread and candy. It would be a scene right out of Willy Wonka I tell ya.

What? I didn't eat any of it. Honestly.

Anyway, as long as all goes well and I don’t completely humiliate myself, I will post pictures on Sunday. Also, Monday night we head down to the City Rescue Mission for another volunteer orientation. I am loving life right now. Oh yes I am!

So, onto week two of The List.

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

I did it. Yesterday. I called Deaconess Adoption Services here in Oklahoma City and had a grand visit with one of the adoption specialists there. We are signed up and on our way to who knows what. When Trista and I were discussing this decision, she asked if we would be willing to take an underage girl. Truthfully, the thought had not occurred to me before I called but of course I said yes. How exciting would it be to not only provide housing for a young woman but also to mentor her? I am all in baby! Through the years, I have been a birth coach for numerous woman. I really thought those days were over but now, well only time will time.

While we wait, I thought I would share a previous post on this very subject. So, I will. This was first posted 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 ...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Week Two of The List With a Side Of Tabouli

Week one of our 21 day fast is done. As I begin week two, I am pleased to report that nothing but good has come from this fast so far. I was expecting it to be difficult and it really hasn’t been. Oh sure, I miss eating certain things and I feel hungry now and then but the benefits have far outweighed any small difficulties.

A few days ago I received this email from my friend Deborah over at Fashion Plate:

Marla - why does the meal have to be vegan? Curious here in MN.

Don't forget your protein! {nag I am}

It was such a good question and had me thinking. I wanted to share my response just in case anyone else was wondering the same thing.

Good morning Deborah!

In scripture, Daniel gave up all wine and fine foods for a 21 day period in order to seek God. I suppose this has translated into vegan in our time. It is definitely a plain and simple diet to say the least. We are so thankful for every dinner we have eaten so far however it is nothing like we normally eat. I never realized how much I think about food and what a central role it plays in my life. The last few days have really helped me to think about and pray for the things that concern me instead of planning my next bite of something delicious. My focus is truly on God and doing business with Him right now.

The other thing is this: Number 1 on The List is to fast for the 2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day. This fast has really helped me in two ways where they are concerned. I have come to realize how ungrateful I am, how much food I waste and how I have no idea what it means to be hungry or poor. It has really opened my eyes and sent me to my knees for others. It has also put me on my feet and shown me the necessity of volunteering at places like the Food Bank and Rescue Mission in order to help those that have few choices in their lives when it comes to food and most everything else.

Anyway, I didn't mean to write a novel but I am so excited about this, it's hard to not share the journey with anyone willing to listen. This is a link that concisely explains the fast as well.

Have a great day, my friend. I am off to do laundry and later try to come up with something amazing for dinner that has to do with rice and butternut squash. ;-)


Yesterday, I was thinking about this fast and journey that I am on. I was asking God and myself for the deeper meaning behind this. Was I missing something? I mean, shouldn’t it be harder, have more suffering, cost me more than a meal or two? I suppose what I was really asking was, “Does this really matter in the bigger picture of things?”

Then I read this:

Isaiah 58

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

That’s it folks. That sums it up for me. I want my life to be spent. I want it to purchase something of value. I want to be someone that stands against injustice and sees people set free from the things that are destroying them. I want to share my food, my home, my personal possessions and myself with those that have lost it all. I am even done wanting. I am ready for the doing.

I don’t care if they believe like me, look like me, or lost it all because they deserved to. I deserve nothing I have. Thankfully, I have not received what I deserve most of my life. I would probably be divorced, alone or dead if I had. If this fast has done nothing else, it has clarified that for me.

So, onto week two of The List.

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

More on this tomorrow. Until then…..

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sundays In My City

Here in Oklahoma, we grow em big.

Big enough to choke a horse.

Stop in at Unknown Mami so you can visit other cities around the world this Sunday.

Unknown Mami

Saturday, January 8, 2011

If You Can't Say Something Nice, You Might Be a Casas (Repost)

After my post yesterday, I received some very sweet emails from some of you fearing I might be traumatized by my parents last words to me. Nothing could be further from the truth. I thought I would go ahead and repost the story of my mom from October 10, 2009. It should give everyone a clearer picture of how truly sick and twisted this family is. It will also explain why I fit in perfectly.

My parents, sisters and I have a rare and strange disorder. We all love one another desperately. We would take a bullet to save the other. God help the soul foolish enough to treat one of us unkindly because the others will maul you without mercy. Having said that, why in the world do we show our love to one another through insults and put-downs? Yep, strange disorder, indeed.

Now, before I go any further, I need to publicly state this disclaimer. Not all Casas familia have this disorder. Truth be told, every aunt, uncle and cousin I know on my dad's side of the family are incredibly wonderful and kind human beings. I can honestly say, I have never heard an unkind word from any of them. As a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. They are some of the sweetest people on the planet. Then there is my mother's side of the family.

Therein may lay the answer to this disorder. My mother's side of the family is loud, proud and obnoxiously fun-loving.… exactly like me! Maybe this disorderly love fest of put downs came about when my parents decided to marry and intermingle those Spanish and Swiss genes. The outcome ..... my sisters and I ...... have made for some very interesting history. Take for example when my mother was dying:

In the last week of my mom's life, she was comatose. It was really difficult to stand over her day after day hoping and praying she would open her eyes one more time, only to see nothing happen. How I longed to hear her say she loved me, she was proud of me, say anything, just one more time. I had moved into my parents home to care for my mom the last six weeks of her life. My sisters came daily to spend time loving and caring for her also. Whenever they would show up, things would always get interesting.

That last week with my mom, one of my sisters showed up early to find me standing over mom's bed crying. For reasons I am still unsure of, crying seems to be a sign of weakness in our family and is greatly discouraged by my sisters. The answer to a sobbing sibling has always been and remains to this day .... sarcasm. I admit, I am often the chiefest of sinners in the sarcasm department. That's correct. If you see your sister suffering, make fun of her. After all, it's for her own good.

So there I was, standing on the left side of the bed, crying over my comatose mother, when my sister, who was standing on the right side of the bed, starts harassing me about something or another in order to get my mind off the situation laying before me. When I started to argue with her, telling her she was wrong, my sister says, "You're a big, fat liar." I immediately countered with, "I am not a liar!"

What I am about to tell you is 100% the gospel truth. At the very moment the last word exited my mouth, my comatose mother opened her eyes, looked straight at me, and clear as a bell said these words. "Well, you are fat." She then closed her eyes and never uttered another word.

Now, I understand for normal people, these last words would be a devastating statement regarding a mothers disdain for their child. Not so, in my case. To be slammed was to be loved in my house. We might not have had the kindness thing down but we could go up against Seinfeld any day of the week. My sister and I, upon hearing those last words of our mother's, looked at each other and burst out in hysterics. We still laugh about it today, almost nine years later.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Living Large

Most of my adult life I have been on the healthy side. When I say healthy what I mean is a bit plump. Who am I kidding? I am fat and have been for the last 20 years. Just ask my sisters. They have taken great delight in pointing it out in their celery stick eating, skinny girl ways.

“Mar, should you really be eating that cookie? Have you seen yourself from the backside?”

“Why yes, I think I should. Thanks for noticing.”

Then there are my parent’s last words. No seriously, I was with both of them when they died. I am not kidding when I tell you my mom’s final words were, “Well, you are fat” and my dad’s were, “I’ll be ok. Then we’ll get that weight off you.”

Now do you understand my constant and urgent need for cookies?

Anyway, I have now lost 25 pounds over the last few months. That’s right celery stick eating, skinny girl sisters of mine. Twenty. Five. Pounds.

So today I was talking to my sister Kelly. She is heading back to Houston next month for her 3 month check up at MD Anderson. I am going with her this time. Of course, I had to tell her about my 25 pound loss.

“So, you are going to be so bummed when you see me.”

“Why would I be bummed?”

“Because I’ve lost 25 pounds and I’m eating healthy. No more making fun of me. Ha!”

“Oh please. Get as skinny as a rail. Char and I will still have plenty of material.”

It should be an interesting trip.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

God Bless Blogger With Warts and Happy Birthday Old Gal

Yesterday was my sister Charlene's birthday. I had a post all planned and ready to go however Blogger decided my writing stinks and wouldn't allow me to even type into the posting box. God bless Blogger. Anyway, I got up early this morning hoping the Blogger people might still be asleep and I could sneak this post in. I am a freaking genius because obviously, it worked. So onto a one day belated birthday post for my sister Char.

Dear Charlene,

I know you hate when people call you Charlene instead of Char therefore I shall refer to you as Charlene in honor of your birthday and in the hopes of further driving you insane.

It's hard to believe Charlene, that January 5th, 1946 was the day of your birth. I mean, it seems so long ago. Like, when really old people would have been born. But alas, it has been verified through your dentures as the actual day you arrived. Kelly and I still can't believe we have a sister old enough to be our mother. Don't get us wrong, we are thankful to have an elderly sister, you know, with mom being dead and all. You have been a fine replacement. Mom would be proud of you. Finally.

As I was thinking about January 5th, 1946 , I realized Diane Keaton was born on the same day. Boy, that gal really did something with her life didn't she? Isn't it funny how two people born on the exact same day could turn out so differently. One a successful actress and the other only having that one starring role in her high school production of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Speaking of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, you really freak Kelly and me out whenever you start singing and dancing like Bette Davis from that creepshow. I am sure you don't mean to but all the same, stop already.

In honor of your big day, here are some interesting facts from 1946. Don't think of them as just my way to get cheap laughs, consider this my gift to you. You're welcome.

  • Joe Louis defends heavyweight title for 23rd time. Imagine that. Dad would become friends with Joe Louis through his involvement in boxing and you would actually get to meet him. Who would have thought being so old would have such a cool bennie?
  • Zip-a-dee-do-dah was the big song that year. It remains one of the most annoying songs to date. What a strange coincidence. You were big news to our family that year and today, well, I'm just saying.
  • Strapless bras become popular. Lucky for you that you have those big breasts to hold the strapless thing going on. I will never forget asking you what those two scars on your boobs were. You know, where you had moles removed. When you told me that was where they had inflated your boobs, I spent my entire pre-teen years terrified of going to the doctor to have my boobs inflated one day. Yeah, you always were a great big sister like that.
  • The Philippines gained independence. What a lucky break for us. That meant that when dad was old you were able to hire that nice lady from there to live with him after mom died. Remember her? The one you had such a great feeling would be the perfect caregiver. Of course being your younger sisters, Kelly and I deferred to your wisdom because you, being so much older, can read people so much better than we can. Imagine our surprise when she informed us a year later that she had left her husband and was going to marry dad. It wasn't the 50 year age difference that bothered me. I am sure she was genuinely in love with his wallet him. I just couldn't get use to calling someone 15 years younger than me, mommy.
  • The breathalyzer was invented. That's all I'm saying.
  • Cher was born. Char. Cher. Char. Coincidence or fate? We may never know.
As I was writing this birthday tribute for you, I remembered how mom was five months pregnant with you and had no clue. When she went to Doctor Kelley because she was feeling so crummy, he took an xray, worried she might have a tumor. May I just say Charlene how very glad we all are that you turned out to be you and not some tumor. Most days.

Happy Birthday Old Gal. We love you, Char.

I love when you make this mom face. No really, it's so you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Two Days Down and I'm Not Dead Yet

Well, day two of fasting has gone exceptionally well. These last two days have presented some amazing and unique opportunities and insight. Instead of thinking about food, I have spent my days meditating on the Lord and focused on others. I have some great stories to tell in the days ahead but today I want to tell you about a blogger I found. Well, actually, she found me.

As I said, I am doing the Daniel fast with Bob and three of our adult kids.  I suppose that is making it easier however I am still the one cooking the evening meal and that's where it gets dicey for me. I love to cook. Most everything we do in this house with family and friends is centered around food and my cooking. I know how to throw on the feedbag in a way that leaves people moaning, groaning and begging for mercy. Eating healthy? Cooking Vegan? I am at a loss. I thought we ate healthy and in fact we did. Mostly. But this Daniel fast has taken it to a new level.

Anyway, today I found this comment on my blog:

I just read your post about starting the Daniel Fast and wanted to let you know about two encouraging resources:

Book: The Ulimate Guide to the Daniel Fast


I pray that the Lord will bless you richly as you hunger for Him!

Kristen Feola

Author, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast

So, I surfed on over and read about ten of her posts, watched some of her vlogs and looked through her recipes. Let me tell you, this little gal is the real deal. Even if you have no interest in fasting or healthy eating, go read her posts about a woman named Georgia. If they don't inspire you nothing will.

Thanks Kristen for stopping in and being such a great resource for us. I can't wait to read more about Georgia. Oh and by the way, thanks for having enough recipes for me to plan all our dinners for the rest of the fast. This is an amazing journey and you helped make it even better.

What are you waiting for? Go check her out. You can thank me later.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Insane Ideas: Take Two

Back in November of 2009, I stumbled across a list. This was not just any list but an insane list of insane ideas on ways to be a better neighbor. Of course, I immediately loved it and decided to live it out for a year. Here’s the original post I wrote if you have time to waste or you are a shrink trying to analyze exactly what is wrong with me.

I think I got through the first five of the fifty ideas before realizing, I just wasn’t ready for the journey. My dad had just died the month before and I was doing everything in my power to live through the pain of having two dead parents. It was much more of a brutal reality than I had ever expected it to be.

Anyway, time has passed and my heart has healed a few beats. I am ready to dive back in and take on The List. One other interesting thing that happened when I tried this back in 2009 was the backlash I received from some family and friends. There were those that were shocked and sickened by the idea that I would actually do some of the things suggested by the writers of The List. All I can say is, you might want to close your eyes because this time I am all in. I am not doing it for you. I am doing it for me as unto the Lord. I know, I’m a freak but I am an honest freak who needs to make a difference in this world. Deal with that or don’t. Either way, here goes.

This is The List. Go ahead and have a read if you are interested. If not, thanks for stopping by. If you choose to read on, I’ll tell you about the first 21 day plan later in the post.

50 Ways To Be A Better Neighbor

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

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

I am starting today with fasting. Actually, Bob and I and three of our adult children are beginning a 21 day fast today. It’s called a Daniel fast out of the book of Daniel in the Bible. Our purpose in doing this is to be reminded that prayer works, God cares and He has things for us to do this year. I believe this list is one of those things. I hope you’ll follow along if for no other reason than to just watch what happens and harass me along the way.

I will be fasting through the day until dinner, then eating a mainly Vegan diet. I’m not a Vegan and have always thought my Vegan cousins were crazy. Well, whose crazy now? I will also be calling the Food Bank and Rescue Mission to set up schedules for us to go and work over the next 21 days. Fasting is good. Prayer is good. Putting our hands and feet to it all is also good. Not that we will be putting our feet in anyone’s food. That would be gross.

One last thing. Mondays will be The List day. It’s when I will update you on the happenings of the last week and give you the info on the upcoming week. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself feeling a little crazy along the way too. Hey, it could happen.