Thursday, October 31, 2013

Snap


I am going to snap if I hear one more person say how wonderful it is that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has lost some of its funding and is giving people less money, and therefore pushing them to do more to get more income instead of living off the government. Apparently these people don't know that perhaps many people they know receive SNAP benefits. Perhaps they don't have a concept of what this program, designed to assist with the purchase of food, not pay for all the food for the family, really is and does. Maybe they have their heads in the sand as to the reality of most of the families in need of help putting food on their tables. 

I've heard of people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or who visit food pantries referred to as "Those People." Scary Mommy's" post this morning really hit the nail on the head - I encourage you to read it.  No one should be referred to as Those People. I could be one of Those People. Your sister, your son, your best friend, your neighbor, your co-worker ... they could ALL be one of Those People. 

I have heard it assumed that SNAP provides one hundred percent of the food for the family. It couldn't be any further from the truth. It is a supplemental program, not a meet-all-the-family's-food needs program. A family I know currently receives approximately $3 a day per family member for food. That's $21 per week per family member for 21 meals plus snacks, assuming they don't have any other money for food. If they spend one dollar per meal on food, there's nothing left for snacks. Nothing. What type of nutritional meal can you make for a dollar that will sustain a person until their next meal?

But that's not all. As of November 1, this family will now be receiving $2 per day per person. That's about 66 cents per meal, without snacks. $14 per week per person. Even doubling that, which happens to be approximately the average person's new SNAP benefit (less than $1.40 per meal per person), is probably far below what you spend per week on your groceries for yourself. Just think of what kind of Thanksgiving this family will have. 

And although I mentioned that this is a supplemental program, not meant to cover all food costs, the reality for some families, even those working two or three jobs, is that their income isn't enough to pay for a roof over their head, clothing, school or homeschool supplies, medical costs not covered by insurance, gas, vehicle upkeep, car insurance, electricity, heat, and the list goes on - basic necessities - nevermind food. This means SNAP is their food budget. This means families go hungry. Families that work, pay taxes, volunteer in their communities, and do all those things we're all "supposed" to do. Families just like yours.



But there are food pantries, you say! And yes, there are, but some families can't get transportation or afford bus fare to get to their local food pantry. Some local food pantries are in another town. Some have food allergy issues or medically indicated food needs in their families that preclude them from taking much of what is offered in food pantries. It is uncommon for a food pantry to offer fresh fruits and vegetables and meats, which are the healthiest and most expensive foods. And even with what food pantries can offer, with the reduction in SNAP benefits, it most likely wouldn't be enough to get by. 

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

And when you judge someone for needing help - maybe you do that to Him, too.

So please, don't judge. Get the facts. Donate to your local food pantries. And check out these links...
http://feedingamerica.org/need-help/snap-arra.aspx
http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts.aspx (take the quiz!)
http://www.scarymommy.com/thanksgiving-2013/ (please help if you can)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hallo-Weaning


We often celebrate beginnings - pregnancies, births, new homes, new jobs - but there are times in life to celebrate endings as well. There was An Ending here not too long ago. To celebrate that ending, in true Alia fashion, we had a Hallo-Weaning party.



Great preparation went into this celebration, from a Haley-baked gluten-free graveyard cake, to creepy potion and internal-organ containing jars and bottles, to a graveyard in our own yard.


There were costumes, a pinata, a yankee swap, a rawther halloweenish movie, and a round of This is Halloween Dance Party on the Wii.


There was silliness and laughter. Lots of laughter. 


It was a wonderful Ending. As I sat back watching my most recent weanling and her sisterfriend enjoying their day together, my mind wandered back to the first moment in my life that I brought a baby to my breast, over fourteen years ago. 

My expectations were practically non-existent. My fears of negative feelings relating to my history of abuse outweighed any possible benefits in my mind. It was one of the bravest things I've ever done, putting my firstborn to my breast. The bravest and the best. 

That moment of attachment, of connection, of looking into my child's eyes as he nursed from my breast was the moment my soul started piecing itself back together. The transfer of not only milk, but of my love for this child taught me more about God's love for us, God's children, than any amount of Bible reading ever could. 

I love that my daughter chose to have a Hallo-Weaning party. Not only does it fit her personality, but my mood at this time of year.  It is on All Hallows Eve that I take time after all the costume-and-candy craziness to remember those who not only touched my life, but left an indelible mark on it for the good - those who, by the way they lived their lives, reflected God's light to all they met and in all they did. Just as God's light was reflected in the eyes of each of my new-from-God nurslings the first time they latched on to my breast. 


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Camp Waitwhatreally

With vacations come vacation photos. Our weekend at Camp Calumet seemed to produce an overabundance of odd and wacky photos. 


Zack tipping

Surfin'CCL?

In shorts and a t-shirt
In a lake in New Hampshire
In October ... hence the winter hat

Fire conjurer

Just monkeying around

Monopoly. 
We own this game. 
They never play it. 
They played it several times at Camp. 
I don't understand. 

Golfing? At Camp Calumet? You bet!

It's a brick ...
heart. 
It's mighty mighty. 

A hornet nest hat. Why not?

He (on right) has the right idea. 
She (on left) has lost her mind.

Too Tall John (on left)
Too Too Tall Alia (on right)

And last but not least, perhaps the scariest photo of the week. 

Really. 

This creature was in the woods 
making strange noises as we hiked.

It snuck up on the hike leader 
and gave him a bit of a surprise. 

Its fangs were especially nasty. 




Perhaps at some point I'll get a chance to tell you more about our amazing adventures at Camp Calumet on Columbus Day Weekend...but for now, this will have to do. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reunion

It was like a reunion of the long-lost in a motion picture drama. She squealed his name and ran into his embrace. He scooped her into his arms, exclaiming how wonderful it was to see her again. I'm not sure whose face had the wider smile, whose face lit up more, Sammy's or Alia's. The pure joy they both radiated in that moment will stay with me forever. Love in its purest form - each heart celebrating the existence of the other, rejoicing in the ability to share a moment together. Hoping for many such moments. 




Her first question when we set out for Camp Calumet was if Sammy would be there. Uncertain of the answer, we made no promises that we'd see him. Her love for him perhaps multiplied during our absence from Camp. Her joyful reaction did not stop at their reunion - even after two days, it was as if she was reliving that moment each time she saw him, joyfully leaping into his arms at dinner and inviting him to share another meal with us. When asked, "what was the best thing you did today?" she didn't say kayaking, riding on the pontoon boat, carving pumpkins, or myriad other wonderful things we did that day. Not Alia. Her response? "When I invited Sammy to dinner!" Now that's love.

Sammy's love for Alia is just as evident. A little more reserved, he makes no grand gestures, but you can read it all over his face; you can feel the love radiating from his smile. During the closing gathering, his answer to what his favorite part of the camp weekend included Alia, "especially Alia."

When it was time to make our way home, you could tell neither wanted to let the other go. 



Over the course of the following week, Alia held Sammy close in the sharing of her Camp memories and in her prayers. She talked about him every day, told others about him repeatedly, and even used him as an example of someone she knows who is honest and fair for a Girl Scouts assignment. When asked what makes him honest and fair, she replied that he tells the truth about the bad stuff that happens in his country and prays for everyone there, especially the people to are hurting other people. If that isn't honest and fair, I don't know what is.

The memory of that movie-like reunion - Alia running gleefully and tearfully into Sammy's arms, will forever live in my memory. 

Why are they such good friends? Alia's answer, "We make each others' souls sing." 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

So It Seems


What an amazing, miserable, glorious, crazy week! 

I'm alive - so it seems. For a while there, I wasn't sure I was going to make it out in one piece.

Sunday found us at Camp Calumet, enjoying a spiritual day sharing meals with friends, at worship, in the middle of a calm lake on a kayak, and spending lots of quality time with my family, as well as old friends and new. It was the last full day of a wonderful weekend. 


Monday found us packing our van, saying teary goodbyes, leaving the people and place we love so much ... and battling hunger and traffic on the way home. We splurged on a dinner out, complete with a magnificent homeschooled waitperson, for whom we left a rather generous tip. After stopping at home to drop off the van, husband, and three kids, my two Confirmation students and I hopped in my husband's car and hightailed it to church for class. Haley, having complained about upper abdominal pain throughout the day, said it has worsened by bedtime. Opting for sleep, she had a peaceful night.

Until waking in severe pain at 5:45AM on Tuesday, that is. By 6:05 we were off to the emergency room. After fair warning and two doctors attempting to get blood out of my child with reluctant veins, an IV specialist was finally called and went through a fifteen minute procedure including a hot towel, chux pad, and the use of gravity to get blood and start an IV. It was when I finally got to relax a bit that I noticed the halo of pain. Several hours and a few errands later, Haley was home resting and I had a house full of kids and a full-on migraine. I muddled through the day, and through Tuesday Night Sunday School, and church choir, and collapsed into bed in extreme pain. (Haley was sent home to rest and felt better over the next couple days.)


I just couldn't wake up on Wednesday. I'm not sure if I kept passing out from the pain or I was just exhausted, but my wonderful husband stayed home to take care of me and the kids and I slept on and off all day. Rarely have I experienced a migraine of that magnitude. At one point I thought I might have to go to the ER. 

Thursday became migraine day three. I made it through somehow, managing to entertain and feed children, get some rest during naptime, and not lose my mind until bedtime. 


Friday I started feeling human again. It was homeschool co-op day, and try as I might, I couldn't get caught up with all I hadn't accomplished on the computer all week. I did manage to teach a horde of 3-6 year old explorers a thing or two and helped them discover their inner artist. Friday evening brought with it an opportunity to see a movie with a good friend whom I've seen much too little of lately, and we had a great time, even though the movie wasn't at all what we'd expected. 

Saturday I finally felt well. Tired, but well. Husband having to work due to taking Wednesday off, the kids and I decided to catch a movie at the movie theater thanks to gift cards from cousin Ken. We had a hilarious time. Most of the way through our stop at the thrift store after the movie, I started feeling incredibly ill. We limped through checkout and rushed home, where I collapsed into bed and couldn't rouse myself for a few hours. 


Then it was time to go to the Best Haunted House Ever (at Epoch Arts in East Hampton, CT), where the two youngest children and the younger teen and I were the only ones brave enough to make our way through the maze of twists and turns of the freakish display. It got a two thumbs up form our youngest, who has been loving these haunted theatrics since she was two and a half years old. 


Full circle to today. A day of conversation, worship, fellowship, planning, and dreaming. I'm exhausted, but thankful. Now to see what this week has in store. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why I Love These Women I've Never Met


A friend posted in our little, private facebook group that she's in the hospital, in the ICU, awaiting a procedure on her heart. In quick succession messages of shock and well-wishes and hope and prayers and lots and lots of love were posted. Every one of those sentiments from the heart. Every prayer a genuine plea for her health and safe recovery.

We all wanted to be there for her, do something for her, but we're scattered across the globe. Then with one little "should-we-get-together-and-send-her-something?", we were off and planning. Pay-pal was sent, a card was designed, a jewelry artist consulted, and before long a care package was in the works. As we eagerly awaited news of how her procedure went and how she was faring, we felt connected to her and each other through this act of love for our friend.

I have never met these women, but I love them and think about them every day. Bits and pieces of them are parts of my life, from the skirts lovingly sewn for me by a very talented Mama, to the tree necklace the Tree Mamas sent me, to the bag with matching change purse that has now been claimed by my eldest daughter. Among my treasures are little cards and notes I received upon the birth of my youngest child. 


Sometimes we don't talk much at all, sometimes we have several conversations going at once. With this group of Mamas, what really stands out to me is our response whenever someone has a need to mourn or a need to celebrate. We are there for each other through joys and through losses, offering empathy and love in difficult times and celebrating joyful times. 

And these beautiful souls tend not to judge. Each sorry-I-haven't-been-around is met with we-missed-yous. One's coming-out was met with nothing but love and well-wishes. Another's I'm-back-and-now-sober-and-putting-my-life-back-together was cause for celebration, support, and love, not criticism. 

Since I met these amazing women eight years and nine-ish months ago, I've birthed two babies and lost two. I've gone from being in relative good health to incredibly ill to somewhere in between. I've wandered away and come back. I've carried these women in my thoughts and in my heart, and have journeyed with them through their major life changes as well. They are friends in the truest sense - we support each other through hard times, celebrate life's joys, forgive each others' mistakes, and endlessly encourage each other to follow our dreams. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Behind on LIfe



It seems like every time I get to the point where I feel like I'm caught up on life, I take a day off and fall a month behind. I still haven't figured out the math on that yet, but I swear that's how it adds up. 

This week I'm trying to plan a homeschool co-op class, a breastfeeding support meeting, pack for a long weekend at Camp Calumet, take care of my kids, take care of other people's kids, get my regular daily stuff done, and participate in our regular activities. The problem is, I keep forgetting basic things like doing the dishes or making sure the kids are changing their clothing on a daily basis. 

You'd think this last one shouldn't be so much of a problem, but I have two kids with Aspergers who would very much prefer to stay in the clothes they have on and avoid water and soap, thank you very much. My non-Aspie teenager, when asked today whether or not he showered, had to look down at his clothing to determine if he was bathed or not, because apparently things like taking a shower don't register in teenage minds. Upon inspecting his clothing, he discovered that he, indeed, hadn't changed since Sunday. As I write this, it's Tuesday. Apparently somehow he missed Monday. The girls aren't much better - they either wear three outfits in one day or don't change their clothes for three days. 


And then there's the thing where, when I have a million important things to do, I get totally distracted by something completely not very important and go off on a tangent, which leads to not knowing what the heck I was doing or talking about in the first place and a lot of regrouping and panic and taking forever to get back on track. Take this blog post for example. I have no idea what I was originally talking about. 

Ah - yes, behind on life. Just when I think I'm caught up, I'm not. Is it due to my foggy autoimmune brain or is it just life? I suppose if I want to get caught up, I should stop typing blog posts and tick a few things off my too very long to do list. Or I could admit I'll never be able to catch up tonight, cut my losses,  take my nighttime meds, curl up with a heating pad, and watch HIMYM with my husband. That would be legen- wait for it ... what was I saying? 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Forgiveness


he
robbed her of her innocence
with lessons of most intimate fear

He
sent her an earthly angel
with an expiration date

she
lived in terror
at the same time experiencing Love

he
learned love as pain
his past predicting his future

He
blessed one who wanted to end her young life
with one at the end of young life

she
grew stronger in love
stronger still in loss

he
showed love through violence
as he had been shown

He
wept with him at love defiled
tended her heart when all seemed lost

she
tried to die
while yearning to live

he
took his own life
and with it, a part of hers

He
gave her Love
asked of her the same

she
fell to pieces
then put them back together
with help
with Love
but only after
she filled that stolen place
with compassion
and forgiveness
and Love
for another broken human being
for love gone wrong
and for herself

only then could she
put him to rest
feel His continual presence
and love another
completely
complete.

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is Love. It's God. It's Grace. It's realizing we're all a little broken and all incredibly human. It's knowing God lives in all of us, loves all of us, forgives all of us. It's looking past the person's actions to embrace God-within. Forgiveness isn't something to be earned, it's something to be given. It's not to be held over someone or to given to free someone from guilt, it's something you give to set yourself free. It's something you give to set your heart free. It's something you give to set Love free. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Beauty Feels Like

I just saw a commercial for a women's razor that asked "What does beauty feel like?" Apparently they think it feels like a smooth shave. Really?

It bothers me that my daughters might buy into any suggestion that true beauty means smooth legs or any particular way of presenting oneself. It bothers me more that my sons might get that idea. 

I think a bit differently.

Beauty feels like feeling comfortable in your skin; like knowing your strength; like confidence in your abilities.



Beauty feels like two bodies intertwined, lost in passion, connected completely by love, with no separation of self and other.

Beauty feels like that link to the closest of friends - that strong bond that cannot be broken and is only strengthened by adversity and truth. 



Beauty feels like a round pregnant belly, baby-within dancing and hiccuping.

Beauty feels like nurturing a babe at the breast; like holding your baby for the first time; like new life.

Beauty feels like unrestrained laughter, uninhibited joy. 

Beauty feels like love; like forgiveness; like unconditional acceptance; like peace of mind and heart and body.



Beauty feels like being true to yourself. 

Beauty feels like loving someone more than yourself; like putting others' needs before your own; like knowing when you need to put your needs first and doing just that without guilt. 



Beauty feels like loving yourself. 

Beauty feels like being lost in a moment; like being found in a perfect moment; like all that is good and right and holy and full of grace.

Beauty feels like love. Beauty feels like love. Beauty feels like love.