Monday, September 25, 2006

Anger Management

Have you ever been sitting in church listening to the message and thinking, "Yeah, that's nice and everything, and I'm sure it will come in handy some day, but right now it just doesn't apply to me"? Then, a few days later something comes up and that message you heard just smacks you in the head!
It's been one of those days.
The service yesterday was on anger... Fun, right? I know I have a problem with anger because when someone does something that I get mad about, it can be a long time before I get over it. Well, the pastor was talking about how anger is kind of like food left in a fridge: If it doesn't get cleaned out before it expires, then it just spoils and rots and gets nastier and nastier. It's just like if you hold on to something that made you angry, like if someone hurt your feelings or let you down, the more you think about it, the more it starts to spoil inside of you. You get all bitter and resentful, and maybe you even forget why you were mad to begin with, but you're still mad. It's eats you alive, like cancer.
So, at the end of the service the pastor encouraged us to think about someone we need to forgive and to pray for God to help us to let go of our anger. I couldn't think of anybody.
Then, today happened. Now that I think about it, if I type it all out it's going to make me angry ALL OVER AGAIN, which is kind of counterproductive to my blog entry...
The Bible says: In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. (Ephesians 4:26)

It makes so much more sense than just being angry all of the time. It gives me one less thing to worry about- one less thing to eat me alive. It's really hard, but I revoke my "privelidge" to be angry at this person. (By the way, it isn't ANYBODY who ever reads this blog.) Not because I'm such a wonderful, forgiving person, but because many of my own "screw ups" are fresh in my mind right now, and I can not live without forgiveness myself. The hardest part for me is going to be not to complain about this person anymore. I'm probably going to screw that up too, but that's ok, because sometimes you have to decide to forgive someone over and over for the same thing, and sometimes you have to ask God to forgive you for not being forgiving.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:29-32

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I am Woman. Hear me ... Choke?

So, I've been in this major rut lately. I just keep doubting myself: my looks, my smarts, my talent. It's a real bummer. All of a sudden, I care how other people see me, and it's driving me crazy. It's been little comments made by friends that have gotten under my skin and into my brain. Comments like : Are you trying to put on weight?
So, I worry about calorie intake and diabetes and I change my clothes 3 or 4 times in a morning. I obsess. But it's not just that one area that's got me on the Fritz. It's also this conducting class I'm taking. After the vocal catastrophe of 2005 when I had a semester of deployment, depression, and Dr. Schultz to deal with, I now seriously doubt my musical talent, as in whether or not it ever actually existed. And now, as a conducting student, it is my responsibility to teach, correct, and conduct a choir for a grade and I can't help but think, why should a group of students, including many music majors far more talented and better musically equipped than I, listen to me? What do I have to offer? And the answer just comes up as: BLANK.
I feel so utterly vulnerable and naked before a society which values a certain type of physical beauty and virtuosity that I do not posses. So, why do I all of a sudden feel this need inside of me to try to live up to these impossible standards? If I were ten pounds lighter and sang like Kathleen Battle, I would not be any more content, because there would always be someone prettier, smarter, and more talented than me. Or perhaps I would not be happier because joy does not come from looks or talent or fame or knowledge. No matter how hard I strive for each of these things, I find myself just as empty and discontent as I was to begin with. So, what's the solution? What's the point? How can I be happy? Perhaps it is time, once again, for me to stop trying to live for myself. I need to fill that emptiness with One who won't leave me empty again.

Does the world seem gray with empty longing
Wearing every shade of cynical
And do you ever feel that
There is something missing?
There's a God-shaped hole in all of us
And the restless soul is searching
There's a God-shaped hole in all of us And it's a void only he can fill

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cross a Woman? Then Stand Back, Watch Smoke Come Out Her Ears

Ok, so I know I'm not a mom, but this got sent to me and I thought it was funny, so I'm sharing it with y'all.

SHORE DUTY Archive: Cross a Woman? Then Stand Back, Watch Smoke Come Out Her Ears
Sarah Smiley 2006
There are three things about which most women are highly sensitive: their weight, their hair color, and their children. If you want to see smoke come out of a woman's ears (and I strongly advise against this; these types of dangerous experiments should only be left to a trained professional — such as the woman's mother) try telling her something like, "Wow, little Suzie is just now starting to walk? My Johnny took his first steps when he was 11-months-old." Or, if you really want to be daring, try telling her that you not only smashed and pureed your child's baby food, you grew the sweet potatoes, green beans and bananas in your back yard. Then say, "Oh, and your hair looks orange."
You can tell a woman that her cookies taste like cardboard and her living room carpet smells like urine, but God forbid you should suggest that she's put on a few pounds or that her son isn't developing like the rest of his peers.
For centuries, humanity has believed that politics and religion are taboo subjects. Apparently no one asked the females of our species. Because if they had, women would have said that the subjects such as homeschooling and pregnancy weight are mine fields that can destroy even the best of friendships.
Judging by the emails I receive and the conversations I overhear at Spouse Club meetings and so forth, the most likely offenders of these delicate subjects are (1) other women – mostly, new mothers, (2) family – either the kind you can't deny because you look just like them, or in-laws, whom you theoretically can deny but it will make Thanksgivings and Chistmases a living…well, you know, and (3) well-meaning but hormonally flawed husbands.
Heaven help the man who comes home from work and tells his wife, "So-and-so's wife does an educational craft with her children every Wednesday. Isn't that neat?" First of all, anyone named "so-and-so" is not to be trusted. Secondly, a mother can SAY she does an educational craft with her children every Wednesday, but define "educational." And last, any husband who foolishly comes home and says such a thing to his wife deserves to have his Xbox bound and gagged with construction paper and glue.
I was reminded of this phenomenon recently when I was almost — but for the hair of my chinny-chin-chin — dragged into a parenting debate with someone who is not even a mother yet. (Oops, let's add that one to the list, preferably up high The number one offender: women who don't have children.) Now, I'm a reasonably sane person who's somewhat in control of my emotions (Really! I am! Just ask Dust…no wait, ask my mom … no, better ask Leslie … or … oh well, just trust me). But when my parenting skills were analyzed by someone who hasn't lived with a 5-year-old boy yet, I went ballistic.
Then I calmed down and realized I also had grand ideas before I was a parent. I remember saying I'd never bribe my children with food or toys. Last week I spent $20 on toy trains to encourage Owen (3) to use the potty. Before I was a parent, I said I'd never let my children eat junk food. These days it isn't a stretch for me to assume that ketchup and Pop Tarts are completely wholesome.
Which reminds me of a great "Everybody Loves Raymond" episode, "The Angry Family." Ray and Deborah are called in for a parent-teacher conference after their son writes a story portraying his family as angry. Deborah tells the teacher, "until you have lived in that house with all of them … day after day, week after week, year after friggin' year, you are in no position to judge me!"
And, this basically is at the heart of every woman's sensitivities. Until you've had two pregnancies in two years, don't criticize another mother's weight. Until you've had a bad dye-job and had to bleach and then dye your hair again to get it to a "normal" color, don't judge another woman's orange hair. And until you've lived with a child who throws a temper tantrum just because his underwear is too lose or his shoes are the wrong feet, don't judge another mother who's flipping out in the middle of the mall.
If we could all keep our advice and commentary to ourselves, and follow these simple little rules, the world — or at least its women —would be much happier. And, no one would have to see another mother's head turn around and shoot smoke out the ears.
Smiley, 2006
Sarah Smiley is the author of Shore Duty, a syndicated newspaper column that reaches more than 2 million readers weekly, and of the memoir GOING OVERBOARD: The Misadventures of a Military Wife, which was recently featured in the New York Times and Newsweek, and on Nightline, The Early Show, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
Smiley's life rights were optioned by Kelsey Grammer's company, Grammnet, and Paramount Television. A half-hour sitcom is now in development for CBS based on Smiley's book and columns.
Read more about Sarah and subscribe to her newsletter at
If you'd like to see SHORE DUTY in your local newspaper, write the managing editor of your daily paper and request it!

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Lovely Bones

I started the novel and gave up on it on Friday. It was so painful. I can't even begin to describe the plot beyond this: a murdered girl watches her family cope with her death. I almost didn't continue it, but the girl who let me borrow it told me on Sunday that it gets less sad I'm still waiting for that. I don't think I have ever read a book that made me feel so much. Reading it is like having a nightmare; I am wholly consumed by the oppressive emotions, yet once I lift up my eyes from the page to take in our apartment, the dirty dishes on the coffee table, the laundry I've promised myself for days I would take care of, I realize that it isn't real. It's just a book; just a dream. I wish I could write like that. I wish I could write a story that would make my readers cry and smile to themselves as they connect themselves to my protagonist. I wish I could write to make one understand the shortness of life, the importance of what you do with it, how much our small actions ripple through the lives of those around us. Reading this story makes me realize not so much my own mortality, but that of those around me: my husband, my parents, my siblings. I think of how my life could be changed without any one of them, and how crushing it would be to have to say goodbye. Next to this, small annoyances which I imagined myself to have suffered seem so small. I think of grudges I have held, and in this moment, I see both my selfishness in thinking that I myself could be above reproach. I am no better, no more innocent, and no stronger than anyone else. I am vulnerable, and glad of it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I sent this email out to family who were invited over the internet to explain why Tony and I are having this ceremony this weekend. My sister suggested that I post it on my blog, so here it is:

I suppose that this little update is long overdue.
A few weeks ago I sent out an evite to a Reaffirmation of Wedding Vows. ( ) I believe this might need a little bit of explaining, as some may not even realize that I am married and those who are aware may note that I probably haven't been married long enough to think about renewing vows. So, I would like to explain the importance of this ceremony as well as a little history behind it.
I met Jose Antonio Alvarez, AKA Tony, on June 14th of 2004. I was teaching music for the Army Chapel's Vacation Bible School program, and Tony was "volun-told" to be my assistant. About a month later, we were engaged. We assured both of our families that we were not crazy or trying to rush into anything. Tony was scheduled to be sent to Iraq at the end of the year, and we were planning to get hitched upon his return. Well, by November, we started to change our minds, and on November 24th of 2004 we were joined together in an intimate ceremony at the very chapel where we had met only months before. Because the ceremony was planned so last minute, only a few of my close family members as well as Tony's platoon were able to attend. Even so, the people who were there made the ceremony special to us.
Tony was sent to Iraq on January 11th of 2005. It was hard for both of us, as newlyweds, to be apart for so long, but God, and our families, took care of us both. One of Tony's jobs in Iraq at the beginning of the tour was to work in the internet/phone cafe, and as a result, we were able to talk almost everyday. The experience gave me a greater appreciation for military spouses who lived through earlier deployments. My mom reminded me more than a few times of how rarely she had heard from my dad when he was deployed in Vietnam, and how blessed I was to hear from my husband so often. The deployment also gave me an opportunity to grow closer to my siblings and their families, whose support comforted me on many days without phone calls.
Even on the two weeks of R&R when Tony got to come back to the states, different family members showed their support by giving us a place to "honeymoon" and making Tony feel welcome at the summer family reunion.
Tony returned from Iraq on December 26th, 2005.
We wanted to plan a wedding ceremony that his family from California would be able to attend as well as my family from all over. We picked June 24th for the ceremony; June because that is the month we met, and the 24th because that is the day in November which we had our first little ceremony.

So, this ceremony is important to us because it allows both sides of our family to come together and celebrate the Holy institute that is marriage. You are all invited, and though most will not be able to attend due to a shortage of time, money, and gasoline, you will be in our hearts and minds.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Usually I can just go back to sleep in the mornings as soon as Tony leaves for class, but I just couldn't this morning. I found out yesterday that Grandma Strickland is supposed to go to court so that it can be decided whether or not she will become a ward of the state. I'm not sure if talking about this online is "airing dirty laundry" or not, so if it is, someone tell me so and I'll take it down. I'm just feeling really upset about the whole thing.
Grandma just hasn't been the same since Grandpa died. It's like she went into this depression and STILL hasn't come out. On top of that, her diabetes forces her to always watch what she eats, her vision is not so good, so she can't drive, and she's had a few pin strokes, which I think have made it more and more difficult for her to walk. I think that all of this frustration has messed with her mind, and now she thinks that she can't do anything on her own. She has a hard time just moving her feet, which makes her fall a lot, so she's pretty much ALWAYS covered in bruises and usually pretty sore from the latest fall. Well, to make a long story short, some PA saw some of these bruises on her, plus some blister on her foot and decided that Grandma must be suffering from elderly abuse. Then, the PA kept harassing Grandma, trying to pump her for info on who was beating her or something like that, so Grandma just kind of cracked and said that she is being abused. Lord, have mercy!
So, to make a painful story less long, today they are going to decide the fate of my Grandma, and to be perfectly honest, I'm kind of scared.

If Grandma told them she is being abused and not taken care of, then they are probably going to believe that. Why shouldn't they? She looks like she's been beaten from all of the bruises on her from the places she falls. (If they would just watch her walk for a good minute by herself, they would see why she falls.) Even if she decides to tell the truth, which would take a lot of courage, I don't know that they would believe her. So, all I can do is pray.

If she becomes a ward of the state, I think that one of two things will happen. Either the people in the nursing home will do everything for her so that she never has to get out of bed or use her brain, and she will basically just rot there, or they won't do anything for her and she will be so overwhelmed by the fact that she is not surrounded by her family who loves her, and she will just give up. It's a death sentence.

What will become of this family with Grandma gone? We barely see one another for longer than a few minutes more than twice a year, and even then, some people choose not to come. My aunt and uncle are just a couple of hours away, and yet they seem so much farther, and it seems like the only thing that is keeping us together is taking care of Grandma. It kills me, because family is so important. So, sometimes we have disagreements and sometimes we do and say things we regret, and sometimes other people hurt our feelings, but in the end, we are still family.

I was watching "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" last night, and I was struck by the concept of spiritual warfare in families. In case you haven't seen the movie, it takes place in England during WWII. Four siblings are sent to the country so that they will be safer from the bombings that are taking place in the larger cities. The children somehow find themselves in another world with talking animals and a wicked witch. As the children are told about Aslan (a lion who is the rightful king of Narnia and has come to dethrone the witch, who has no claim to the throne) and how he has gathered up an army to fight against the White Witch, and that he is waiting for their arrival, one of the children remarks that their mother had sent them away so that they wouldn't be in the middle of a war. But, the children fight, and win the battle, because that battle was not a war against humans. As the Bible says in Ephesians: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
I thought it was interesting in this allegory how the white witch's deep hatred of the four siblings, who are rightful heirs to the throne, as they are favored by Aslan, is so much like Satan's hatred of humans, who are made children of God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No wonder Satan hates families. The family, by God's perfect plan, is meant to protect and nurture the individual, as we are so much stronger together than we are when we're alone. If this weren't true, then marriages would not break up, families would not fall apart, relationships would always remain unbroken, and individuals would not feel alienated and alone.

God, protect my Grandmother. Do not let her be separated or abandoned. Strengthen our family, and remind us all of the blessing you gave us through one another.

Monday, May 01, 2006

It's NOT true

I just talked to Kari. She got an email from her friend Crystal asking if I'm pregnant. I guess Crystal ran into one of the Chaplains at the commissary who told her that I am!
Well, the Chaplain has been misinformed... (unless he got a message from God that I didn't get!)
So, just in case Kari writes anything on her blog... which I wouldn't bame her for doing because the whole thing is kinda funyy... you all heard it from me: I am not pregnant. Tony and I very much want to have children some day, but now is not the most opportune moment.