Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It Passed Over

The angel of death will pass over...

These words were on my heart this week with everything I was facing combined with the regular issues I have been dealing with and it being Passover Week.

I clung to them as a personal promise as I entered the welfare office for the interview with the fraud investigator.

I felt very afraid as I was told, by well meaning friends,  real stories of women being accused, charged and penalized by suspension of benefits, fines and even prison time. I had no idea how this would play out or what to expect.

My husband and I drove mostly in silence on the way there. Then we sat mostly in silence for the 45 minutes we waited for the investigator. I began to wonder if I was in the right place or I had possibly gone to the wrong offices.

We were finally called into one of the regular welfare interview booths. The investigator was wearing a sheriff's green polo shirt that had a large golden badge embroidered on her upper left hand shoulder, the around the neck ID and sparkly gold eye shadow. She introduced herself with the same firm demeanor she used when she had come to my door.  
She directed her comments toward my husband, "I am not a case worker, I am a welfare fraud investigator, a police officer. I have been investigating you since February." She reiterated how she had come to my door, that I refused her entry to my home and that I was not required to allow her into my home.

I had dressed as professionally as I could with what I had, black pants, a fitted black shirt with a built in white collar, light, fitted grey jacket and closed toe grey shoes--that were much tighter than the last time I wore them. My husband was in his standard work clothes. I handed over my documents and sat up straight. 
I remained silent through most of the interview. I did feel a little defensive when she began to tell me how I could put my children in outside school, not home school, because that was a personal choice. "And my husband's..." I said. I felt a little more defensive when she told me I could get a job or get on cash aid to alleviate some of the tension between my husband and myself. I then pointed out the discrepancy between my husband's income last year vs his current income. 

She continued to address most of her comments and questions to my husband, including giving him unsolicited advice about filing for divorce for free, lowering his child support and relieving his financial stress and tension by suggesting that I apply for cash aid. She made a point to add that all of this could have been avoided and my husband would not have had to miss work, if I had only allowed her into my home in the first place. 
I refuse to look down and lower my head but kept my gaze focused on the clock on the wall behind her with my hands folded in a relaxed manner, on the counter top in front of me. I prayed silently to myself the entire time but there were moments that I could not hold it together and tears spilled out. Especially when she referred to my husband as my "husband" least a dozen times or more.

After she dictated to us what to write on an affidavit, and sign, it was over. She ended the interview with, "You can pick up an application for cash aid on your way out, since you're here, and make an appointment."

I could not get out of there fast enough. My heels made deep clicking sounds on the linoleum. I hadn't noticed it before the interview but it was very attention getting on my way out. 
I tried to hold it together at least until I was outside.

I tripped and lost my balance a bit as I crossed the cracked concrete of the parking lot drive-way, rushing to my car. There wasn't any sidewalk where I had parked. I took off my heels and walked barefoot on the thick green grass. I opened the back passenger door, throwing my heels and paperwork into the back seat. I walked barefoot on the asphalt to the driver side door, got in, leaned my head on the steering wheel, let out a confused deep breath along with my tears, and waited for my husband. He never showed up.

I went back to look for him in the office. I drove around looking for him. I went into the office a second time. Security looked in the restroom for me and also let me use the phone to call him. He did not answer. I felt worried. I went home, but I kept an eye out for him the entire way. Maybe he had a friend pick him up? When I got home, I called him again and left another message. 

Maybe he had his sister come and get him? I called his mom but they had not heard from him. His sister sent him a text and he finally called me. "I'm walking home."

"Why, what happened?"

"Because I don't want to be in a car with you," he angrily responded.

"Why?" I was shocked by his anger.

Click. He hung up on me with out an answer.


The angel of death will pass over...

I felt a little confused, lost, defeated maybe...Mostly just confused--it was hard to tell if I could really claim victory or not...
I meditated more on this angel of death scenario...the angel of death DID pass over the Hebrews--and they woke up the next day STILL ENSLAVED! Think about that a little bit.
They were spared a plague BUT the thing they wanted most: their FREEDOM, had still not manifested. They were finally released and Pharaoh changed his mind and went after them...then they were cornered up against the Red Sea...we know what happens.
We're in this war and God is giving us promises and encouragement for each battle. These battles are NOT the big war!  The final victory IS coming--I believe. Praise God even in the small victories or in the midst of battle. 

...the plague will not...destroy you. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Follow Up to the Investigator at My Door

After the 'traumatic incident' I called the office two times, but it's an automated number. I was on hold longer than I had time for and had to hang up. Then I called my husband--he called the number on the investigator's business card she left with me. He had to leave a message, offering to provide whatever proof they needed that he does not live here. He never received a call back.

The next day...I felt afraid to open my curtains. I ignored it and called the office three times. There was an automated message stating there was an unusually high volume of calls and all lines were busy, to hang up and try again later, then it automatically hung up on me. The following Monday, I called the automated service number again, was on hold for a little while until a general eligibility worker took my call. He really didn't have any answers for me and wrote up a message for the caseworker assigned to my case to call me back. She returned my call the very next day. She was vague and evasive.

"Is it proper procedure and protocol for someone to come to my home and demand to be let in, and then threaten me that my benefits will be stopped immediately and I will be sued if I don't let them in my home?"

"Well, if you don't comply, yes."

"So I don't have a right to privacy? She didn't have a warrant."

"But you didn't let her in."

"So are my benefits cut off right now?"

"If you don't comply they will be."

"But she threatened me and said they would be right then and there if I didn't let her in."

"But you didn't let her in."

"Are my benefits stopped then?"

"Well, if you don't show up to the interview and provide the requested documentation."

"But they aren't stopped right now?"

"Well, if you don't comply..."

"So she was lying? Is that how things are normally handled? Investigators come to the door, lie, threaten and try to intimidate people?"

We went around in circles as the case worker would never directly answer my questions. She let me know that I would receive an appointment notice in the mail, listing all the documentation I would need to bring with me to this 'interview'. She also told me I could speak to the investigator's supervisor if I wanted...and that she wasn't familiar with the fraud department's procedures. (funny, the general eligibility I spoke with initially said the same exact thing!)

I received the notice last Wednesday for my appointment this Wednesday, April 16 at 9:00 am--the day before my birthday. My heart dropped. This is real.


The notice stated my husband must attend this appointment with me. I am sure his employer is going to love that. This is the list of documentation I am required to bring with me:

pay stubs for all employment
rent receipts
letter from Landlord (w/ Landlord's name & #)
school enrollment for ALL KIDS
statement from persons(s) who gave you loans or contributions
receipts from Child Support
utility bills
bank records from all accounts
automobile registration for all vehicles
Income tax statements
Income Tax from the past 2 years

This is serious. If I think about it too much I feel debilitated. It feels scary. I feel afraid at times. During the conversation with the case worker she implied that the investigator would not return to my home because it was 'unsafe' because I was "yelling" at her? That isn't true. Not at all. My kids were here--I wouldn't yell at someone on my porch with my kids here unless I or we were in serious physical danger!

That's the thing though. People can and will lie. That's what makes a situation like this feel so hopeless and helpless. It doesn't matter what the truth is, it only matters what they want to believe it is. Innocent people get charged and accused.

I want to run away. Or move away at least. Mexico is seriously sounding awesome right now...or the rapture--the rapture sounds even better. I can't run away though. This is something I must face on my own. No one can go through this FOR me. Like pregnancy and labor--there's no turning back and it's all going to happen--I can't stop it. Blaming anyone else won't help either. I refuse to even go down that path right now.

My heart is believing all will be well. My mind is recalling the stories I've heard of innocent people being jailed or penalized or sued.

I can't tell sometimes if I am under reacting or over reacting. I felt paralyzed and overwhelmed when I opened the appointment notice. I couldn't think straight. I don't know what I was supposed to do next. So I just sat there and cried and prayed and cried. I still had a life to live. Kids needed to be fed, school work needed to be done. I felt too afraid to leave my kids alone for any amount of time. I felt afraid to not have my home spotless and company ready. (which it never is!) I just wanted to go and stay in bed.

But no one is going to get all that documentation together FOR me. No one is going to feed my kids or get their {school} work-samples ready for the monthly meeting. I felt sick to my stomach and lost my appetite. My hands and feet, joints, have been hurting for weeks now and it got worse.

I fought and pushed through the feelings. My kids ate cold cereal, the sugary, sweetened, no nutritional value what-so-ever kind...and I let them. I got up out of bed and went to work out anyway. I did squats and lunges and jumps and planks and core holds, and it all felt harder and I sweated more than usual. Then I came home and sat on the couch, avoiding my bedroom to keep from crawling back into bed.  I smiled, posed for pictures, attended birthday parties and ate a lot of peanut M&M's. (don't hate!) I prayed, called others to pray, prayed more, cried and asked God to understand the prayers of my tears. It took a couple days but eventually I shook it off and was able to focus once again.

I need divine justice, as proven by the investigator's 'report', human justice is corrupt! I am trusting God in this. He is the only one who can help me-who will be reliable and faithful, who is ON my side! I know it will all work out.

I appreciate your prayers.

Friday, April 11, 2014

When it felt like history was repeating itself...


The bathroom fan was making that familiar obnoxious sound it makes when the light switch is flipped on.

"Does it always make that noise?" The tall man said.

How should I answer? I can't lie. What happens if I say yes? Will I get in trouble? I didn't know what the right answer was supposed to be. "Sometimes," I said.

He wrote a note down on the paper on his clipboard.

I felt like I was going to get in trouble. My mom was at work. I'm assuming my dad was too since he wasn't there but  I don't remember much more from that day.  Later my mom questioned me about the inspection, what the tall man said, how I answered. I remember a sense of feeling like I had answered wrongly, ruined things and our rent was not going to be paid.

We were on welfare, which included some form of rental assistance. When DPSS is paying your rent, an inspector is regularly sent to assess your home and make sure everything is in proper working order. That's how I understood it anyway. I remember my aunts would come before the inspector's scheduled appointment to help my mom make our home spotless. I mean *spotless*!!!

Like many children in the 80's, my brother and I were latch-key kids. Walking home after school to an empty house, alone and unsupervised, while our parents worked. My childhood changed drastically during the recession of that decade. I started my education at a private school, driven to and from school by my stay-at-home-mom. By third grade I was attending and walking to and from the local public school. The recession provided my dad with a string of lay-offs to add to his resume.

Why my parents thought it was ok to have their very shy, young daughter, allow a stranger, a grown man, into our home, while alone, and give him a tour, I have no idea. I had to show him every room in the house, bedrooms, kitchen, restrooms. I knew he wouldn't look in the closets though. Which was good because that's where I threw all my stuff when I 'cleaned' my room.

This incident from my childhood immediately came to mind when the investigator showed up at my door last week. I wasn't sure why. Why it came to mind and WHY I was going through something so similar as an adult. Were my children destined to relive my own painful childhood moments?

No! My childhood is not theirs! What happened last week--my children didn't have to experience alone, like I did. They didn't have to take on any adult responsibility, like I did.

I am the mom now and I am the adult in charge, facing adult situations. My children haven't been left to figure out challenges that children shouldn't have to figure out. I am there for them.

I answered the door last week and closed it behind me to shield my children. Oldest was standing next to me, but he's a grown man and I still handled it. It stops with me. My children aren't growing up with awkward memories of coming home after school alone. I'm not putting my fears on them. I'm not forcing them to face situations that I am too embarrassed or ashamed to face myself. I have not left them unprotected.

I am doing something different. I have changed their future and my past. My past is not being repeated negatively, but being used positively to shape the way I parent, which shapes the childhood my kids have.

I am learning from my parents choices and how it affected me as a child. I am applying those lessons forward. I refuse to blindly repeat past mistakes. I am learning from them. I am free and so are my children. I am not a victim of my past, destined to never escape, repeating negative cycles and perpetrating the same fears and disappointments I experienced as a child, onto my own children. I am paying it all forward, positively.

Having felt rejected--I accept my children. Having felt unloved and insecure--I reassure my children and show them my love. Having felt alone and abandoned--I am there for them and am not going anywhere. Feeling like I had to grow up too fast and take care of myself--I AM the grown up taking care of them.

I am applying these truths to every area of my life. How my parents treated each other, which trickled down to us kids, I am learning from. The good and the bad. My parents had fears and wounds they could never escape from. They unknowingly passed them on to us kids. I see this around me every day, parents, adults, repeating their own parents negative patterns of behavior. I won't do it.

Instead I choose to acknowledge the weaknesses and pray for the grace to make better choices. No, my past is not going to repeat itself for my kids. I am choosing to break the negative cycles and embrace, appreciate and pass down the positive legacies I am still inheriting from my parents. My mom was a woman of faith. Regardless of the hardships she faced or mistakes she made, she kept on believing. So will I...and even better.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why I set the table every day.

I always wanted to have sit down meals around the table but we got into the habit of eating while sitting on the couch, on the go or wherever.  My husband worked non-traditional hours, I was in school, kids had various schedules which contributed to different meal times for all of us. Not to mention, when my husband worked during meal time hours and wasn't home, it felt like it was 'time off' for me. I'd make simple, snacks more than meals for myself and family.

Not having my husband/dad in the home anymore, we obviously feel the loss. I experienced a new freedom too. I could make decisions for my family, alone. I didn't have to cater to my husband's schedule or preferences.

If I wanted us to start eating around the table, then we were going to start eating around the table. I made this change just this year. My goal is at least 5 meals together, around the table, a week. Which is usually not more than one meal a day.

I started out clearing the table completely. My oldest had been using it as his computer desk. The table was covered with a fresh table cloth. This inspired me to bring out my nice serving pieces that were always hidden away in the cupboard, brought out only for special occasions.

My children are special. Special enough to use the good dishes...everyday. I have one of a kind, vintage dishes that can not be replaced. I unofficially inherited them when my grandma and mother died. They are gorgeous. But what good are they, what appreciation is shown for their beauty if they are hidden away forever?

Accidents happen. Dishes might get broken. That is part of the learning process. learning to be gentle, use manners and not stand ON the table.

The other part to this is the healing of the trauma of not having a husband and father in the home any more. There is no better word, or a softer way of putting it than trauma. Especially if you are raising your children in a Faith based home.

There are scriptures, a standard of living we subscribe to. Dads moving out and no longer wanting to be married to moms, is not one of them. For my children, it really felt like the end of the world. I guess, to them, it truly was.

I want to reassure my children that their life is going to be beautiful, regardless. A beautiful life is not determined by or dependent on anyone else. As long as they continue to follow Christ, their life will continue to be amazing and lovely.

Yes, we all want 'dad' in our lives, but if not, and it's his choice, we can {and will} still live a beautiful life with out him.

We can still have lovely meals, great conversation, and all while using the good dishes.

Even if we are only eating pizza, YES, I still set it out on a glass cake plate. I use what I have. Yep, I've already lost a couple of glass serving pieces. They were lovely. They were vintage.

They weren't humans. They can be replaced. So what? My children can't be replaced. They are *worth* more than the good dishes. I'd rather a beautiful dish break because it had been used and enjoyed, than it fell out of the cupboard, having never been enjoyed.

 photo 89d4fd8b-ae5d-41e6-8cc2-f22b972d3517_zps9006f408.jpg
It was definitely awkward at first. We'd eat the meal and then feel antsy and ready to leave. A few months in, it's become normal. If I had gotten discouraged and given up, we'd never be able to enjoy it like we do now.

It looks a lot more elaborate than it is really. Which is why we sometimes eat pizza, or good old fashioned spaghetti. I light candles at night and sometimes in the afternoon. I believe life is romantic. We aren't disqualified from a romantic, beautiful life because daddy doesn't live here any more.

My children have needed me more than ever before, during this season. They needed a stable adult to give them hope and reassure them of their prosperous future. This is one way I can do that for them. I show my love for them by setting a lovely table. I affirm their individual value by taking the time, putting in the effort to prepare a meal and set a table as beautiful and creatively as I can.

Life is going to be painful at times. It's unavoidable. As parents, I don't think we need to shield our kids from every heartache, but why not soften the blow a bit? Childhood is preciously short. My kids have been forced to grow up  in some ways, prematurely. I don't want them to remember only trauma. I want them to remember at least one small space in their home that was lovely. It's peaceful. In the coldness of the harsh realities that can strike us unexpectedly, there is a beautiful space and time they can look forward too. No matter how busy we are, we can come together, at least once a day and reconnect. It's the least I can do.

If you are interested in creating a beautiful space to enjoy your meals, here are a few tips that make it simpler:

  • I leave the table set, every day. After a meal, dishes are washed {usually!} and then set right back out, ready for the next meal. Yes, this DOES make the table pretty much useless for anything else. I don't mind.

  • Stack the dishes on the table. Since the table does become useless always being set, I started stacking the dishes on the table sometimes if we might need the space. This is only for the plates and bowls. Cups, wine glasses and silverware are put away since they are easy to get out again.

  • I involve my kids in the process. I ask them for suggestions on table settings, meal preferences, creative input on what to include or exclude from the table. We *are* intentionally trying to make it *look* good.

  • Ignore the awkwardness if you aren't used to it. It gets better. It gets easier. My kids are now so used to it, if it's not a *family* meal time, they still sit at the table to eat. Sometimes I will use the time to share a scripture verse or prayer for the day from a book. It helps break the ice and set the tone for peace and faith focus.

  • Use what you have. I took down serving pieces from the top shelves of my cupboards. I pulled out China pieces that were being neatly displayed on shelves. I have real silverware that doesn't match. I found a whole bag of it, on sale at the thrift store.

  • Keep the menu simple. Even hot dogs look fancy when stacked on a cake plate! Water is froo-froo when you toss in lemon slices. 

  • Don't limit the meal to dinner. Choose a meal time that works for your family and your schedule. My goal is at least one meal a day and it isn't always dinner.

  • Enjoy yourself and relax.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Was Afraid to Write This Post

Oldest had just walked out to ride his bike to work. A woman approached him on the lawn. I thought she was a salesperson because she carried a clipboard and had one of those necklace style ID's. He usually knows better but he turned around and led her up the porch and opened the door to call me.

I walked out and closed the door behind me, like I always do. You can never be too careful these days. She was wearing faded jean capris, a purple shirt, and some sort of sandal.

I can no longer remember what my son told me. She waved her clear vinyl encased ID at me and indicated she was with the Department of Public and Social Services, was a welfare fraud investigator and demanded I let her in my home...

I don't know anyone who would willfully and cheerfully allow a perfect stranger into their home simply because they said you had to. She stated (in much less professional and much more bullying way) that I needed to let her into my home to prove that my husband does not live here. Ouch! Talk about adding insult to injury.

"I don't know who you are. I've never heard of this before. How is letting you into my home going to prove if my husband lives here or not?"
"I'm an investigator, I will know." {Does she have special powers? Is she going to look into my dresser to check if there are men's underwear in there? I mean, really.}

She spoke fast and with attitude. "Do you want to see my badge again? I am a peace officer and I work for the fraud department. If you don't let me in I am going to call your case worker and your cash aid, food stamps and benefits are going to be stopped immediately."
"That sounds threatening. I don't know what this is about. I never received a notice or heard about this before."
"This is a new thing."
"I don't know..."
"What benefits are you receiving?"
"Just food stamps."
"Who lives here?"
"Just me and my kids."
"How much is your income?"
"I personally, do not have any income."
"How much is your rent."
"Well, it just went up a few months ago, it's ____."
"Are the utilities included?"
"So how are you paying your rent if you don't have any income?"
"My husband pays the rent."
"Well, I need to see your living quarters."
"No, I am not going to do that. I already reported all of this. If you want proof why don't you go speak to my husband. I am sure he can give you proof of his address, utility bills with his name on it. He lives right up the street. Go talk to him."
"What is his address?"
"Let me see if I can remember it..." Under the circumstances, he's never officially given me his address. I've seen it on paycheck stubs and random paperwork occasionally. It was by the grace of God that it somehow came to mind and I relayed it to her.
"Well, you don't have to let me in but I'm going to call your case worker and your food stamps are going to stop immediately, today and it will go into affect retroactively and we will sue and you will have to pay back for all you have used in the past." She handed me her business card and walked away in a huff.

I started shaking and my eyes welled up with tears as I nearly hyper-ventilated.
"This is bull-shit! They can't do this. You don't have to do anything, she didn't have a warrant." Wow, I can't remember ever hearing my son use a curse word. I felt frantic and afraid. What just happened here?
I voiced my fearful thoughts, "I think they can do whatever they want. They have all the power and we have none because we are 'poor'."


I was afraid to post this for fear of judgment, shame, embarrassment of myself...and others. This is uncomfortable. Someone may read this and think, If you have nothing to hide then what's the big deal? Or someone may think, You are on welfare after all, what do you expect? Or maybe someone will simply make it much more personal than that and think I am lazy and should just get a job.

Then there are those that know me personally. Maybe they think I am an exception to the rule...because they know me. I am not like those other people. My family and I really need it. We are not like those mooches, drug addicts, and welfare queens who purchase lobster with their EBT cars, load up their groceries in Escalades and Lexus' sedans. But what if I was?

Do I then not have any rights? Am I not entitled to privacy? Or boundaries within my own place of residence? Was it not enough to give them all my bank account numbers and statements? Social security numbers? Driver license numbers? Birth certificates, marriage license, pay check stubs, rental agreement, title for my car, utility bills, signed affidavits declaring all the information I am providing is true and correct.

The right to dignity and respect as a human being? Was it not enough humiliation to have to go, for numerous appointments, and apply and ask for assistance to feed my family. To explain that my husband no longer lives in the home...that I have primarily been a Stay-At-Home-Mom for all my adult life, with little to no "work experience" that I can put down on paper to convince someone to hire me...or to love me fill out a stack of paperwork, at least an inch thick with every personal identifying number and piece of information known.

Now I have to allow a stranger to enter my home just because she says so. I have to endure being spoken to like I am a criminal? A liar? Dishonest? Because my household income is qualified by the government as being at the 'poverty level', it entitles another human being to try and bully and intimidate their way into my home? Into the privacy of my bedroom, my children's bedrooms?

Oh, but Katy you are different, I know a guy/woman/family that didn't even need help and were buying alcohol with my tax money!

NO! I am not different. I am quite the normal statistic. The majority demographic of those receiving food stamps are women and children. Why do you think that is? Oh but I knew a woman who was having more kids just to get more benefits. Yah, and I bet we can walk into any welfare office and find 45 more women who wish they weren't there. Who are scared, embarrassed and feel like complete failures but they have small stomachs to feed, so who cares how they feel! Right? Well, they just think they are entitled. Entitled? To what? Entitled to allow strangers to enter their home, mid-afternoon, while they are alone with their children? Are we, am I, not entitled or even allowed to feel safe and secure in my own home?

Do I not look poor enough to you? Everything I have, that appears to be a 'luxury', has been given to me. I have a really awesome life--because I choose to view it that way.

I don't have cable. I do have internet. I don't have a cell phone. I do have a home phone. My car is 10 years old and possibly on it's last leg...hanging on a wind and a prayer. It needs work right now. I ask around, we don't take it to the dealership or a mechanic. My brother sacrifices his day off to help my husband on his one day off, to remove the engine themselves to repair it, so that we only have to pay for parts. I don't have a gym membership. I go to free work outs in the park. I home-educate my school age kids. They are enrolled in a public charter school that allows them access to more than I could offer on my own, like fine art classes, music and voice lessons, and dance classes. I have a child with a learning disability. A very generous friend sacrifices her own time to tutor him privately free of charge. I don't buy books, I use the public library or score free books from amazon. I have an outdated Kindle, it's still black and white and is only used for books.

I make my own household cleaners from items that are considered food, like vinegar and baking soda. I make my own facial cleansers and make-up remover also from food items like brown sugar and coconut oil. I use coconut oil and sometimes baking soda to brush my teeth.

My family is very well dressed. How is that possible? Would you feel better if all their clothes looked like they were worn out or their shoes had holes in them? I sew many of my own dresses and skirts. I have clothes in my closet that are more years old than I'd care to admit. Friends bless my kids with awesome hand-me-downs. Yep, they are even name brands.

My family lives a rich life because I am resourceful. I take advantage of free events that expose them to Shakespeare and music and art. I take them out in nature to hike. If it appears we are doing something that would be considered a 'luxury', like visiting an amusement park or seeing a movie--it's because someone gifted admission to us.

Oh well, yah, my husband is around but has decided he no longer wants to be romantically involved with me. We have four kids together--he still pays some bills and helps with things like that. Is that suspicious? Does that make me fraudulent? I don't know how much money he makes as I no longer have access to that personal information. But I am going to be investigated?

THESE are the faces of the government's definition of poverty. 

Are we only entitled to rights, dignity and privacy, if we are paying for them?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Noah Movie Review

The trailers looked thrilling. My middle (13yo) son really wanted to see it. There was a premier showing the night before it's official release at 9:55pm. Thank goodness because I was this close ---><--- to agreeing to brave a midnight showing! I called it a mother-son night and made a go of it.

I read the controversial reviews and was fully aware. Yes, I knew there would be Biblical inaccuracies. That doesn't scare me. I wasn't going to the movies and expecting to watch the Bible. I was going to a movie, that happened to be entitled with the same name as a Biblical character. I was hoping it would be good and I was curious.

Let's get this out of the way right now; Yes, it did contain some Biblical truths combined with imagination. The writer of the film does not claim it to be an accurate representation of the Biblical account of Noah. So there is no misrepresentation there. The studio, Paramount Pictures issued a statement, also clarifying that it was not a Biblical representation of the story of Noah and urged people to seek out the Biblical account in the book of Genesis. Kudos to them for basically telling everyone to go read the Bible!

I was disappointed. Again, not in the Biblical references or lack thereof. I was disappointed in the movie over all. The majority of the movie is grey. Grey water, grey sky, grey clothing, dirty, grey animals {oh there is one large brown bear}, grey ark, dark, grey land....grey, grey, grey. There is also one green hill, where Noah's grandpa lives in a grey cave. That is a lot of colorlessness to be subjected to while sitting in a dark theater.

There is one beautiful shot that stood out. Noah steps out of his tent at dawn. His wife soon follows after him. They are cast against a stunning, sky at sunrise. Their silhouettes are back lit by bright orange and pink heavens. It is one moment of contrast against the stark greyness of the film, overall.

The 'fallen angels' of light look really cool too until they are encrusted in the dirt and rock of the earth. It also looks pretty cool the way the forest supernaturally grows suddenly. Though that reminded me more of how it would look at the moment of creation, not before the flood.

In the Biblical account of Noah, God wants to cleanse the earth with a flood because of men's wickedness and evil. In the film, the 'great sin' seems to be eating meat/animals for sustenance. There is a scene where Noah goes, at night, to the 'other peoples' camp or town. This scene was a bit confusing for me, to be honest. There is female screaming, someone screams about a baby, there are large crowds and near rioting going on. Women are being pulled and dragged against their will. The press from the crowd breaks down a flimsy fence and an animal is thrown into the crowd. At that point, I thought the people had become cannibals, because of the confusion with the women screaming. However, I don't think that was the case. It felt though, as if Noah was more disgusted by their 'sin' of eating animals, than the way they were mistreating other human beings. I am not saying that is what the film intended to come across, but that is how it looked to me. I think, the scene was actually trying to convey a gluttonous, blood-thirsty lust--and it accomplished that goal.

The earth is pretty barren from mankind's industrial progress, which is why everything is so bleak and grey. Noah's family is vegan or at least don't eat animals...It wasn't clear how they lived since there wasn't much plant life for them to survive being herbivores. They didn't appear to be starving...

One aspect I found very strange, while watching this film, was how it felt very gross and graphic at times, though it wasn't necessarily graphic, in the visual sense. Moments when I wanted to look away, but there wasn't really much to look away from. My son had the same feeling. I've never experienced that from a film before.

I was also fascinated by the theme of people wanting to hear from God. No one ever 'hears' from God in the film. Noah does have a dream and interprets it as a message about the impending flood. I liked that aspect. There is never any voice of God though. Even the 'bad guy', Tubal-Cain, prays, asking God to speak to him and questioning why He doesn't. In the end, TC gives a speech to his men, stating that they alone control their lives and death and that no savior is coming--no one else is going to save them but themselves. Aaaahhhh...the old familiar theme of pride and not needing a savior. I loved it! Well, we know what happens--they can not save themselves. SPOILER ALERT: They all die in the end!

Isn't that the basis of the Bible? Our need for a Savior? The entire point of Jesus Christ coming to earth as a human and not only the son of God but God Himself, in flesh, is to save us. But this movie is not about Christ. It is about destruction of the earth, except for some animals and one family, by a great flood.

Besides wanting to hear from God, the movie also contained themes of love, mercy and justice. They felt half-hearted and not fully embraced or explored. The writer could have done more with that. I wasn't convinced that any of those were strong enough to give this movie any redeeming quality.

If you are curious, I say wait until you can get a free RedBox code to rent it. Or at best, watch the matinee and get a discount. It was not worth full price.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

It's not a major holiday but it's another day to make it every day. In the past I would have enjoyed any excuse to bake platters full of sweet treats and goodies to deliver to my husband's job. Considering the circumstances, combined with the fact that I am practicing being gluten free during the Lenten treats were baked or delivered.

I did set the table, like I always do, but added a few drops of green food coloring to our daily lemon-water and called it Leprechaun Lemonade.

I also scored a few bouquets of fresh flowers on the way home from working out, in clearance buckets, from the grocery store. A dozen red roses for $2? YES, please!

I didn't forget how 'Jennifer' had invited us back to the convalescent center for St. Patrick's Day, after our visit on Valentine's day. I planned to make cards with my kiddos again and deliver them to residents during their party.

Like last time, it didn't take much effort or time. I picked up a pad of St. Patrick's Day themes stickers from Joann's on my way home from the grocery run that was on the way home from our work-out...Great thing about procrastinating--all the holiday items were on clearance! The book of stickers was only $.50. I also got us festive foam head bands in the shape of leprechaun hats, tiaras and a sparkly green beard! Birdy helped the most with the cards.

Here's the deal...I feel so alone, so much of the time. It's a different type of loneliness, than being surrounded by your kids all day. Many things have changed, beyond just my marital status being in a current state of 'limbo'. There isn't anything I can do about what it is either. During this season, I have intentionally chosen to look outward instead of so much focus inward and on what is missing from my life or what I desire that I don't have. Part of this healing, and coping, is to look for opportunities to serve others, and give in a way that I am not given. I think there is a principle here about giving--and being blessed in return.

My family feels needy and sometimes helpless, because a very important component of being a family is not here and we can't do anything about it. I am taking back part of that control and power we have been robbed of, by these small acts of love and kindness. Giving to others, what we desire to receive ourselves. I am leading my children, through this process by getting their eyes off of their own lack and onto trying to meet the lack and needs in and for others.

My oldest was working like he usually is during these hours so he had to miss all the elderly fun we had. haha. It didn't take us long at all to pass out the cards. There wasn't any singing this time, so there wasn't any opportunity to dance either. Maybe next time. I did see another big X in the sky (chem trails, probably) again but I forgot to take a picture.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Free Pancakes at IHOP

It was nearly 8:30pm or so when I hopped on facebook and saw a post about IHOP offering free pancakes for the day, as a charitable fundraiser. We live right across the street from an IHOP. Another why not moment?

I knew it wouldn't really be free. Of course we'd give a charitable donation plus a tip. I could whip out pancakes myself way cheaper...and probably tastier. How many times though, do you take a late night walk, on a whim, for a few pancakes? Who knows what adventure may await us?

The kids couldn't get ready any quicker. We threw on jackets and shoes and we were out the door. We walked. I figured, being so late by now, there certainly wouldn't be much of a crowd, right? I was wrong. There was waiting out the door.

But only comes once a year, though I was tempted to leave when I saw that crowd. We were seated right away--I declared we had favor as soon as I walked in and it was true. I felt like maybe the server took one look and regretted he was assigned to the mom and kids table. I am sure 'single moms' w/ a bunch of kids wouldn't be expected to be the best tippers right? He doesn't know my husband, who taught me to 'over tip'. Of course, we were there for the free pancakes. He didn't even ask us WHAT we wanted to order but said: stack of pancakes? Well, he was right about that.

No protein, not much in the way of nutritional value...but maybe there were smiles and memories...of that one time Mom decided out of the blue, on a Tuesday, to take us to IHOP for some free pancakes after dark.

Be spontaneous. Take walks. Enjoy your kids.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar Party

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Why not? I've always loved watching the Oscars--of course. And someday I will reach my goal of watching all the current years Best Picture nominees. I am sure of it! I bought some decorations because I felt inspired when I was at the party store looking for something else. I can't even remember what now.

I took a few days preparing by hanging decorations from the ceiling and taping them to the walls. The boys flaked out but us girls got all dolled up for the occasion. I even rolled out a 'red carpet' for us to walk down and take pix. I used a cheap, red plastic table cloth, taped to the porch for our 'red carpet'.

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I then set the table, with an Oscar worthy spread. The main course of the evening was Oscar Mayer hot dogs, naturally. We also had sparkling cider, chips, fresh veggies, various spreads like hummus, ranch dip, salsa and guacamole. Movie favs like cheddar and kettle flavored popcorn. We couldn't over look red vines and  M&M's! I really classed it up by making chocolate dipped strawberries too.

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It's not about the Oscars, really. It could have been just another Tuesday. It's about living a life that's worth dressing up for. Worth decorating for. Worth celebrating. That is the life I am determined to live. This is the life I am creating for my family. A life that is beautiful and filled with occasions to have fun. Every day offers that opportunity. It's what I choose. Red carpet or concrete porch, it doesn't matter. Whatever this life holds for us, regardless of past or future--it will be beautiful and lovely.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Son of God Movie Review pt 2

This film was based off a series about the Bible, on the History Channel. I did  not know this until after I saw the movie.

The film was good quality. There were definitely some points that did not line up with the gospels and there were other points that were highlighted that I really appreciated.

Through out the film, Jesus is surrounded by followers, primarily His disciples. I really liked that a female was included in the group of disciples. It was quite a while before she is even identified by name, though.

Later, after Christ is crucified, she is the only one who goes to the tomb, as opposed to the Biblical account that states at least two women go.

The scene when Jesus over turns the money changers tables in the temple, excluded him going to the temple twice and in between making a rope or whip, which he returns with later. In the film, he enters and after a few minutes, he gets upset and over turns the tables. No rope or whip making. There are other missing pieces (and people) like that.

I was not expecting this film to be the Bible, so discrepancies like this did not bother me. If Jesus had been presented as something other than himself, I would have taken issue. The film does a good job of impressing the fact that Christ was/is the Son of God, Messiah, himself.

One of the most moving scenes happens when Christ gives the speech about two men praying, one being a Pharisee and one being a tax collector. He shares that the pharisee is praising God he is not like the other man but the tax collector is praying in humility, admitting he is a sinner. The film portrays Jesus saying these words as he is passing by tax collectors who are Jewish, collecting tax payments from their own people, on behalf of the government. It is made clear that they are pretty much hated for their race/religion by others and for their occupation by their own people. The disciple, Matthew is one of them, collecting payments. Jesus makes eye contact with him as he is reciting the prayer of the tax collector in his parable. You can see the realization in Matthew's eyes that Jesus is seeing right into his own sinful heart. Tears begin streaming down his face as he recites the same prayed words Jesus is quoting of the 'tax collector'. It was a stunning moment.

Roma Downy is gorgeous but looked way too young to be playing adult Jesus's mother, Mary. The film does so well in so many ares, it made the cheap choices stand out all the more. Mary, is consistently wearing the traditional shades of blue clothing. She is the only one I noticed ever wearing blue. I didn't like how the supernatural moments make Jesus look almost dreamy, as if him walking on water could have possibly been imagined. The worst were the holes in his hands and the shot of seeing through them. Eyeroll. The film was too good to lower itself to that level of cheese. Seriously.

Pontius Pilate and the Jewish Pharisees/religious leaders were represented fairly. More human that I have seen in other films. They weren't just 'bad guys'...but people driven by their own agenda and self-concerns. Pontius is portrayed as a political leader who is trying to maintain his government position as the religious leaders are trying to maintain their religious positions. There are various forces at play here, political, religious and cultural. I appreciated them being presented this way instead of flat, stereotypical 'monsters'.

All the disciples were also played as real human men. They did seem to cry a lot but I imagine if everything I had ever hoped for and wrestled with concerning my religious faith and my God, was finally coming true, in the form of flesh standing before me--I think I might get a bit emotionally over-whelmed too. The actors were wonderful. I was perplexed though, if it was the style at the time, why Jesus was the only one with long hair?

The opening scenes are from the original History channel Bible series and impress upon the viewer that Jesus is God and He was always there in all of those moments, from the beginning of creation, with Abraham and Moses and everything in between and leading up to his own birth here on earth. The scenes looked fantastic and make me want to watch the series now.

Over all, I really respected what the creators did here. The message was straight forward, that Jesus, the Messiah, is the son of God. I don't think they strayed from that, even with the Biblical exclusions they did give in to.

Phil 1:18 (NIV) But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.