Category: women


I must admit, I was absolutely convinced that after 33 days of trial and only 10 hours of deliberation, Casey Anthony’s jury would hand down a guilty verdict.  Yesterday afternoon, sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office with my Mom (who fell and broke her shoulder over the weekend), I was absolutely stunned when a ‘not guilty’ was announced on the more serious Murder 1, Murder 2, and Negligent Homicide charges.  Facebook posts went through the roof, Twitter was all aflutter, and every cable channel except Disney and Cartoon Network provided up-to-the-minute commentary.  One newscaster offering her own particular flair for drama was practically salivating over the assumed guilty verdict just moments prior to the live announcement.

After hours and hours of research over the last two weeks about filicide – the deliberate murder of a child by a parent – I have learned that approximately 400 children under the age of 5 are killed in the United States every year.  That’s more than one child every single day!  And the large majority of these precious little ones are killed by a biological parent – not another family member, foster or adoptive parent, daycare provider, or stranger/predator.  Those we are born to trust the most are the very ones who have viciously, violently robbed these babies of life, liberty, and the simple joy of a frozen popsicle on a hot summer day.  If you increase the age of children to 12, the numbers go up even more.  In fact, the most life-threatening risk to a child under the age of 15 is their own parent.

Right about now, you’re probably sitting at your computer or holding your iPod shaking your head, wondering what happens in the mind and heart of a parent to move them from the normal, everyday frustration of parenting to not only thinking about but actually carrying out the murder of their own flesh and blood. This can’t even be stretched to ‘mercy killing’, where a parent might possibly argue that death was an act of kindness. No, not by any stretch.  This is the cold-blooded, premeditated, planned and rehearsed killing of a defenseless human being.  Now, if your blood pressure is rising and you’re starting to squirm, keep reading.

In 2008, approximately 1.2 million abortions were performed in the United States.  More than 50% of those abortions were performed on women between the ages of 21 and 25.  Cold-blooded, premediated, planned and paid for killing of a defenseless human being.  As much as we cry out for justice on behalf of little Caylee Anthony’s murder, had her mother opted for an abortion anytime prior to the birth of her daughter on August 9, 2005 we would call it ‘a woman’s choice’.  Caylee was murdered and callously tossed away in a garbage bag before she could celebrate her 3rd birthday with cupcakes, lemonade, and girlfriends.  But over a million little Caylees die every year in legal abortion clinics throughout the US before they ever draw their first breath.

For all the outrage Casey Anthony’s verdict has brought to the surface, it would do us well to recognize that until we as a people put inestimable value on human life – all human life – we will continue to reap what we have sown.  Selfishness will prevail.  And we will grieve the heart of God who knit us together in our mother’s womb.

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This past Friday evening I had the privilege to walk the Survivor’s Lap during the opening ceremonies of the Cherokee County Relay for Life.  My daughter’s best friend, Meghan, had joined a team from her middle school to raise funds for the American Cancer Society – the “Official Sponsor of Birthdays”.  When we arrived at the high school hosting the event, it looked somewhat like the inner circle of the Daytona 500.  Brightly colored tents everywhere, loud celebratory music blasting from the speakers on the stage, and a huge inflatable birthday cake covered in blow-up candles.  It was a long drive to the school, the traffic was terrible (go figure – Friday afternoon at 5pm), and it was one of the first really hot days we’ve had here in the area.

I was wearing my “The Chemo Made Me Do It” t-shirt with a pink breast cancer ribbon on it.  The kids and I walked around from tent to tent admiring all the creative ways people show their support and raise funds for cancer research.  Rachel and Stephen excitedly pulled me in the direction of the Survivor Wall of Fame and helped me sign it, adding their own personal touch to my autograph. 

To say that I attend these events with mixed emotions is an understatement of epic proportions.  It is with a deeply grateful heart and tremendous pride that I call myself a ‘survivor’ and I have gained laser precision accuracy at spotting others in the same camp.  There’s something a little different about us and unless you are one, there’s no way to explain it.  We simply know each other.  But I have to admit, there is an indescribable pit in my stomach that rears its ugly head when I see a man, woman, or child walking around with the telltale ill-fitting baseball cap.  It forces me to remember.  It smacks me in the face and screams, “I almost had you, too”.  And as proud as I am to be a survivor – as strong as I feel every day – it is my ghost whisperer.  An unexpected ache or pain or an unusual lack of energy always provokes the inevitable “what if it’s back?” in the deep recesses of my mind.

Thankfully, my kids were with me and Meghan was happy to introduce me to her classmates/team members.  The emcee for the event called all the survivors to gather around the stage and after a beautifully patriotic national anthem, we all sang Happy Birthday to each other.  Rachel and Stephen were on either side of me and before we started the first lap we heard a couple of stories from other survivors who had joined the celebration.  One young man was diagnosed with colon cancer barely a year ago and shared about his treatments and prognosis.  His young wife and son were sitting on the grass as close as they could get to the front of the stage, obviously proud of their warrior husband and dad who was fighting hard and winning his battle.

Then we heard from a young lady (barely 19 years of age) who is preparing for surgery this week.  She has had FOUR cancer diagnoses in the last few years.  Four!  She is a beautiful young lady, full of energy and a positive spirit.  She talked about her cancer as if she were sharing with us her volleyball schedule.  I felt some very familiar emotions start to rise as she shared about the support of her family and friends, and the daily conflict of emotions.  She even made a statement that I remember jokingly sharing upon my initial diagnosis, “I’m too stubborn to let cancer beat me.” 

As I was standing there I met two other ladies, Donna and Laurie, who less than a year ago were photographed at the lake together enjoying each other’s friendship, their families, and life in general.  And here they stood this night, both diagnosed within weeks of each other, currently in treatment, and bald.  I briefly shared my story with them and introduced them to my little hero (Stephen) and my private nurse (Rachel).  We chatted as only survivor sisters can and then Laurie looked at me and said, “can I ask you a question?”  “Sure. Anything.”  She looked at me for a few long seconds and asked, “Is that your real hair?”  I smiled.  “Yes, every single strand of it.”  Smiles.  Hugs.  Hope.

We walked the survivor lap, my children and I, arm in arm.  To see several hundred people standing on the inside track clapping, cheering, and waving was incredibly moving.  Tears.  I couldn’t speak, and my kids don’t see me like that very often.  Rachel held my hand a little tighter.  Stephen put his arm around my waist.  And then I rounded that last curve and looked up.  Meghan was standing there with her team, clapping and cheering like crazy.  It got the best of all of us and as I started to run to meet her, she and the others broke away and ran right towards us.  We met in a huge circle of hugs and cheers and smiles.  And we walked that final stretch together.   I turned around and looked back through the crowd of other survivors.  A few paces back, Donna and Laurie were walking arm in arm surrounded by their circle of friends.  Our eyes met and we exchanged a ‘thumbs up’.  New friends.  New heroes.  And a fresh reminder that beauty is often found in the most unexpected places.

Sitting in front of my computer last night, catching up on emails, and reading a detailed online article about what an “After Rapture Party” is (for those who remain after May 21st), I saw a new ‘friend request’ on my facebook page.  I recognized the name and clicked on the picture to enlarge it.  Sure enough, it was one of my daughter’s classmates from school.  She and another friend had posed wearing spaghetti strap camisoles holding wine glasses up to their lips with what appeared to be white wine in their glasses.  I can only hope it was apple juice or sparkling cider. They were clearly trying to convey a seductive look (as much as a 12-year-old is capable of) and pass themselves off as older, sexier, and ready to party.

Mortified doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction.  This little girl (and yes, she is still a girl) is advertising herself on the internet very much like some of the ads you would be able to find on the back pages of any edition of Creative Loafing.  At first I was angry and reached for my phone to call her dad and tattle on her.  And then overwhelming sadness replaced the outrage.  I remembered that she’s had ‘boyfriends’ all the way back to fourth grade.  She was given a cell phone long before any of the other kids her age and has privileges at home that are part of the reason Rachel is not allowed to spend the night at her house. She’s a sweet, smart girl who refers to me as Mrs. Mom and runs to hug me every time we see each other.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons her facebook page bothered me so much.  If she were a ‘bad seed’ or a bully or just plain mean maybe it would be easier to write her off.  But she’s not. 

She’s one of millions of girls in our society today (yes, my daughter included) who are being blatantly told by the media, TV, music, and movies that the only thing they are good for is sex – and they better look the part.  It’s everywhere, in every form of communication.  Hip-hop and rap music seem to take it to an extreme but don’t be fooled.  It’s in country music, too.  And top 40.  And rock.  Pop artist Rhianna, who became the poster child for domestic violence about two years ago has now released a song containing the lyrics, “sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and chains excite me.”  What?!?!?  And my kids say the same thing to me that I said to my parents: “I don’t listen to the words. I just like the music.”  Yeah, right – as they sing every word to every song on the playlist.

Our county’s school system has a dress code.  Not uniforms mind you, but a certain degree of standards that must be adhered to during the school day.  And I’m happy to say they are quick to enforce it.  I’m also sad to note that I’ve actually heard parents complaining about it.  Yep.  Parents.  Dads griping because their daughters can’t wear ‘booty call’ shorts and Moms whining about the fact that their daughters’ midriff must be covered at all times.  Really?  You, as a parent, are incensed because the school system is requiring your daughters to be modest?  Who’s drinking the Kool-Aid now? 

Because of my cancer and the grueling reconstruction surgeries that followed treatment, my husband and I have become more than just acquaintances with my doctors.  We’ve gotten to know them and have taken the opportunity to talk about a myriad of topics other than just my particular procedures.  We were shocked to learn that my plastic surgeon’s office does breast enhancements on girls as young as 16!  My specific doctor does not, and as a whole the practice does not encourage it, but there are parents – right here in the Bible belt – giving their daughters plastic surgery procedures as high school graduation gifts.  Excuse me, what planet are you from???  It’s one thing for ‘the world’ to be telling our daughters to go to any lengths necessary to make themselves a hot mess, but it’s another thing altogether for their parents to be footing the bill.

This has been my soap box for years.  I’ve noticed even at our church – one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country – a growing number of girls and young women who obviously put a lot of thought into what they wear and how they wear it on Sunday.  And not in a good way.  It occurs to me, especially for the younger girls, that they are not old enough to drive nor hold down a job.  So who is taking them shopping and who is paying for these clothes?  Mom and Dad.  Which means that as they are walking to the car on Sunday morning (or any other day of the week) unless Mom and Dad are blind they see what their daughters are wearing – and the message it’s portraying.  I for one would have been locked in my closet for 30 years if I had ever tried to dress that way, much less leave the house.

And maybe that’s the key.  My Mom taught me – by her example – what was appropriate.  She dressed like a lady.  When we went shopping together she would let me pick out what I liked.  If something didn’t fit properly or wasn’t appropriate we would discuss the why behind the ‘no’.  And after we talked about it, 90% of the time it was still a ‘no’ but she taught me to use good judgment and good sense and to be careful what I presented to others.  But here’s the key: she didn’t hesitate to say ‘no’.  My mom wasn’t so obsessed with being my best friend that she stopped being a parent.  And my Dad didn’t use the excuse of “giving me a competitive edge” to justify allowing inappropriate behavior.

Maybe we should add a new line to the children’s tune, “Oh be careful little eyes, what you see.”  It might go something like this:

“Oh be careful, Mom and Dad, what you buy.
 Oh be careful, Mom and Dad, what you buy. 
 For the world is standing by and your daughter will pay the price.
 Oh be careful, Mom and Dad, what you buy.”

Some time before Thanksgiving last year my dishwasher went kaput.  I opened the door one morning to unload the previous night’s dinner dishes and noticed detergent baked onto the bottom of the dishwasher floor.  Along with last night’s dinner baked onto my dishes, glasses, pots, and pans.  Apparently the tube thingy that comes out of the middle to spray water everywhere had snapped.  So instead of actually washing the dishes with hot water, it simply baked at high heat everything I hadn’t rinsed off.  Note to self: Mom was right – rinse the dishes thoroughly before placing them in the dishwasher.

After fiddling with it a few times, we determined this was something a little more advanced than a do-it-yourself superstore fix.  I called a reputable appliance guy in our area and after his assessment and estimate, we realized we could replace the dishwasher for about the same price as repairing the existing one.  One problem: with my husband and I both unemployed, it didn’t matter how comparable the costs were – neither repair or replace was an option.  Now, let me say I love to cook.  I really do.  But I love it a lot more when I can stuff all the evidence into the dishwasher, press a couple of buttons, and walk away.

So it was with mixed emotions that I began washing dishes at the sink.  And let me just tell you, a sink doesn’t hold as much as a dishwasher.  It seemed like every time I turned around the sink was full again.  Yes, I enlisted the help of our kids to gather dishes, help rinse, and put away (I’m very particular about the washing part).  But it’s still a time consuming process and something about standing over the sink really bothers my lower back.  Not to mention, I have dropped and broken more dishes from slippery dish washing liquid than I care to admit (maybe a Freudian way of justifying less elaborate meals?)  Anyway, after a particularly big meal one evening – roast in the crock pot, potatoes, carrots, green beans, biscuits and gravy – Richard half-heartedly said, “I’ll do the dishes tonight.  You cooked a nice, big meal.  It’s my turn.”  Woohoo!  I was out of the kitchen before the kids took their last bite of biscuits.

A few minutes later, feeling a little guilty about taking such great delight in my mini-vacation from the kitchen, I walked back to the sink and began rinsing the growing pile of now soapy dishes and glasses.  At first we just stood there, side by side, my husband washing and me rinsing.  And then Richard, never one to be quiet for long, started making small talk.  Nothing major, simply news of the day or something he had heard on the radio or something about the kids.  The conversation started flowing, moving seamlessly between us.  And before we knew it the dishes were done.  A few nights later he helped me do the dishes again.  And so the pattern has continued.  There have been a few nights when Richard and Rachel have taken clean-up duty.  I think there may have been more soap sud battles than actual dish washing but it was great to hear them laughing from the other room.  Stephen has helped  a few times but usually ends up asking for something else to eat, making more dirty dishes.  You see where this is going, don’t you?

My point is this: sometimes the unexpected, even aggravating circumstances in our lives create an open door for us to discover a whole new way to connect with one another.  The dishwasher is still broken, and I still do the bulk of the clean-up after dinner, but I may wait a while to replace it.  That broken dishwasher has given me a new place, and a new way, to connect with my family.  And I love it.

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