Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's a new dawn...It's a new year...It's a new life, for me...And I'm feeling good

Dear Family and Friends, 
My blog has been down for quite a while.  It is currently under a remodeling process, of sorts....and hope to figure the process out quickly so I can be up and writing again soon. Blessings to all as you begin your new dawn & new year, 2016.  Talk to you all soon!
Love Jodes 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

She's Back....and I Have SO Much to Tell You All.....

June 2011? Seriously? That was the last time I posted something to my Blog? Ok.... well, today has to be the day I finally fix that!

Fix? I have to Edit. Yep....EDIT! I said I would never, ever edit. But I was looking back two years and I had a couple of issues with my last post titled "The Fight Club," dated June 8, 2011. Number one, Lance Armstrong is a total sham! I refused to keep the picture of the bracelet with the name of his former Foundation as the header for my Blog post.

In fact, when his whole scandal hit, I tore my bracelet off in a rage thinking about him, and how he was now in the ugly category with all the other famous people who are hyprocrites, shams, ....just big ole loser farces...such as a particular former leader of our nation, other political figure heads, more beloved & talented athletes, celebrities, and so forth. I had a collection of those bracelets I threw into the trash, and also had to clean up the Blog post I'd written where I'd used the name of his former Foundation, and spoke of wearing those bracelets during loved ones earlier fights with Cancer. I had to erase the connection. Even though I did wear those bracelets, I will no longer wear them or have my name or Blog have any connection, whatsoever, with that whole ugly scandal. Therefore, I felt I had to edit out the photo and all my references to the bracelet and it's name.

Another issue I have now, is I am reminded of how I try to be a family friendly Blogger. Back when I wrote the original Blog entry, as some of you may understand, (and if you don't, that's ok too)....I was obviously quite shaken by the news of my husbands recent CLL diagnosis. That frame of mind left me without all my sensibilities in tact, and I was screaming through my writing, crying through my typed words, and not all of them were representative of the language I use in my normal everyday life.

However, I was quoting what I thought was a wonderful (& cute, if you will), story about another family's struggle with Cancer, and how two sister's coped through the posting of little notes on each other's cars as they traded shifts at the hospital caring for their dearly loved Mother... at the time undergoing Cancer treatment (Shawna's Mom Pat, the one who miraculously BEAT CANCER, from my 6/08/2011 post).

I wanted to get into my Blog and just edit the language by putting in symbols so the Four Letter "F" words I'd typed were not completely spelled out. I still wanted them there to be true to Shawna and her sister, and the notes they left on each other's cars as this was the whole start of my story that day. These are people who love deeply, and were doing something for each other, to uplift and try to help each other stay positive through what the Doctors had told them was the end of the line for their Mother. In a time such as this, words, language, all of that is meaningless to you. I have been there. All you care about is finding a way to keep your loved one alive. Profranity and/or swearing often comes easily, or surprisingly.... to those who don't typically use this in their normal everyday speaking. Lots of surprising things happen to you when someone you love deeply is thrown into the Ring. I know. I've been there a few times.

"Thank you God for being all knowing, and reminding us Doctors are human, and prone to error. Thank you for Pat, and her miraculous recovery. She is here today, loving life, her family and those two sisters continue to be thankful to you for your guidance with her health care and their lives, because she is here with them. Thank you also for your Abba Patare love, that unconditional Father love. I matter how far down I fall, or how poorly I do in life, you are still there, waiting to pick me up and LOVE me, no matter what!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Fight Club (Edited 8/20/2013)

When Shawna Pierno posted “F*&# Cancer” as her Facebook status I knew it was because her Mom, Pat had miraculously defied the Doctors and beat the Cancer she wasn’t supposed to survive. Thank you God! I cried with joy when I read the post. I cried for Pat, and cried for Shawna, Bob, Amelia, and for everyone else that loves her. It was a day to celebrate for their entire family.

Slowly, inch by inch, Cancer has crept closer and closer to my life. Not long after Shawna’s famous Facebook post, on a cold and dreary afternoon in January 2010, I learned about another person who was going to have a “Throwdown” with Cancer. A beloved husband, cherished father, son, brother, uncle, nephew, son-in-law, brother-in-law, co-worker and friend to many. In the past I’d thought, the evil conniving Cancer had gotten too close. Stage 4 Throat Cancer gave David Callejas the scare of his life during a routine tonsillectomy. Then, Skin Cancer dared to nestle in next to my Daddy’s only good eye, downright cruel and unforgivable after he’d already triumphed over a heart transplant.

“All these tests look good” said the Nurse Practitioner as she examined my husband Ken. We were starting to breathe a little easier and relax a bit. This wasn’t anything to worry about. It was all smiles and laughter. Until the Doctor came in and brought the news that Ken has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, also known as CLL. “I … ha…have… Leukemia?”...stammered my stunned, crushed, dearly beloved husband. There was NO “I’m sorry,” there were no hugs, there was not any tenderness from Hematologist/Oncologist with Zero Feelings. Just a smile and a nod. I guess this is "all in a days work' for her.

Those first few days we barely spoke. We are both the same when it comes to the scary & sad things in life. It took a few weeks to come back to life and figure out our plan of attack. I immediately thought of Shawna; "F*$# Cancer is right!

We are a team, Ken and I, married now for 25 years. This is quite a mountain WE are going to climb together, a fight we will be fighting together - every step of the way. Thank you again DAVID & KAY MORRISON, for once again being role models for me in this arena!

We needed some private time to plan our course, and find the best treatment facility before sharing it with family and friends. We were blessed and so fortunate to find UCSD Moore’s Cancer Center and become a patient of Dr. Kipps, one of a handful of highly regarded national specialists in the CLL field today. And God Bless him, he has FEELINGS, and he HUGS Ken every time we go in for an office visit. We are in the hands of someone who really cares about PEOPLE. It’s a scary and uncertain time for us, and those hugs say a lot and mean the world. Thank you Dr. Kipps.

We’ve also been looking at our life to see what changes we can make to optimize Ken’s health and reduce his stress levels. It’s a blessing, especially now (!!) that I am a stay at home wife and mother and have supportive, self-sufficient adult-aged children so I can focus 100% of my attention on helping my husband stay healthy. If it means staying home rather than attending events so we get more rest, or so Ken doesn’t have to do more stressful driving in traffic, that’s what we’ll do. I’m a Trainer now. I have to keep my top athlete in fighting form. I have to be selfish for both of us and say NO to a lot right now.

Ken is already in the Ring; gloves on, bravely fighting back. He’s throwing punches and ready, like many of you who have already had to go in, so brave, before he has. My Auntie Ferris Bevins, David Callejas, The Rev. Gwen Ehrenborg, Connie Herrick, Keith Myers, David Morrison, Shawna’s mom Pat, and....Pat, Brian & Emily Saia, and anyone else who is a member of "The Fight Club." There is a dear friend who fights anonymously and wishes not to be listed; I do not forget you.

There are so many I know I have not listed, or have no knowledge of your fight. So, I have a favor to ask. Please use the comment section to tell me about how Cancer has touched your life, or a loved ones life. Tell me how you or your loved one got into the Ring and how you or they fought. Tell me so Ken and I can rejoice with you and be uplifted by your stories of strength, courage, resilience and perseverance.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ole Roy

Roy is just another one of the many terms for the upcoming Jodes-isms Dictionary. The elusive Jodes-isms Dictionary I keep talking about posting and still haven’t finished. I had gone back to work on my Jodes-isms post and was working on the “Roy” definition when I realized it was one of those definitions that went out in so many different directions it left me scratching my head wondering where I’d even began. Potty (also in the Jodes-ism Dictionary) and I call that…What was the question?

It was years ago and there were a bunch of us gals riding out to Palm Springs for a girls weekend getaway. We were pretty wound up and had the radio blasting. We’ll call a friend we had along, “Mrs. Mom Gone Wild” because she was always the wild and crazy life of the party…forever the one to have us laughing hysterically. Mom Gone Wild was not letting us down either; she was bouncing around to the music and had even flashed a military convoy. This was obviously a Mom who needed a weekend getaway.

Mom Gone Wild, having so much fun, bounced so hard in her seat that when we hit a rut in the road, went crashing down between the seat and the door, landing on something sharp and obviously quite painful. Up she flew, screaming, a hand shoved into the crack in her fanny yelling, “MY ROY, MY ROY, Oh God, MY ROYYYYYYYYY!” Concerned about her screaming, and seeing her hand in her panties, we weren’t really sure what to do. We didn’t know what “My Roy” meant either.

It took a while for her to calm down (ish), and then we had to translate from her thick southern drawl while she was laughing, crying and stammering….. “Ah hay-yave a bee-yahg paaahl of hay-yam-a-royyyyds, a-yand ahh jus layn-ded on a bee-yahg ole paaaahl of em.” Shall I translate? Mom Gone Wild had car danced like a loon, fallen and landed on her Roy’s. Crack Prunes. Hemorrhoids. The Horror! The poor kid. No wonder she was screaming. If you haven’t ever had a visit from Ole Roy and a bunch of his wrinkled up and swollen cousins, you are so lucky. Even better if you haven’t been dancing around in a car and you unexpectedly fall on your pile of Roy’s and they all take a painful stab. It’s all bad. Men can just translate that into a painful fall onto their um, hmmm trouser…. soldiers.

I’ve had my own initiation with Ole Roy and The Gang so I had an idea of the kind of pain she was going through. The thought of car dancing and crashing onto some sharp car part and landing on Ole Roy and The Gang makes me hyperventilate, so I can outright respect Mom Gone Wild’s hysteria and tears that day.

My formal introduction to Ole Roy started with the birth of my first child Stephanie, and I didn’t even know who or what Roy was. Soon after the birth, a nurse came into my room carrying a frozen latex glove. Yes, The Frozen Hand, fingers and all. It kinda scared me. She said, "Honey, you need to use this." Terrified I shrieked, "Whaaaat? Whyy? I jjjjjjust had a baby! That’ll hurt! And where am I supposed to be putting all those frozen fingers?" The nurse was holding The Frozen Hand and rubbing her head in that way you know a person has a headache. I think they were honestly just tired of me; I’d already been there for 3 days due to pregnancy complications. When I had checked in I’d tried to be the first person to give birth without removing my panties or telling anyone my weight. Now I was being told to put The Frozen Hand, WHERE? I thought these people were a bunch of crazed lunatics.

When I’d checked in to the hospital, I was originally in a shared room and labored with quite a few gals before it was my turn to go to the birthing room. One gal was being checked in and being asked her weight. I’ll never forget wanting to jump off my bed, through the curtain and strangle her with my bare hands when she embarrassedly said, "Oh my gosh, I weigh 140 lbs, I am such a cow!!!!!" Yeah? What a total cow! Made a mental note to hate her forever. If you are out there cow person, MOO! 140 pounds on her delivery date? Poor cow person. I think one of my thighs weighed 140 pounds that day.

Anyway, Ole Roy. Sitting there looking at The Frozen Hand really had me scared and Nurse With The Obvious Headache did too. She said my “down there” was a big mess and had I noticed? Had I noticed? Only that sitting was a problem and honestly I was too afraid to look!! She explained I had hemorrhoids (ick!) and episiotomy stitches and lots of swelling and needed to sit on some ice. "So you mean I don't have to stick those frozen fingers……….” I asked in a moment of sheer panic. Suddenly, she wasn’t so grumpy. She started to laugh and said, "No dear, you just need to sit on The Hand.” Only slightly less creepy I decided.

So there we were. Me, my beautiful new baby Stephanie and The Frozen Hand cupping Roy and The Gang and the rest of my “down there’s.” It was weird to think about when people were coming in to visit me. But then, everything was bizarre then. I’d eventually been weighed and very unhappily liberated from my panties. It wasn’t long before another ice toting nurse came into my room (she had normal ice, YAY!). I thought Roy was getting a break from The Hand, but boy was I in for a new surprise. They had a lot of surprises there at Placentia-Linda Hospital, let me tell you. This was a Lactation Nurse and she brings ice to help with breastfeeding. I don’t want to explain where that ice goes. Let me just say OUCH again.

I just kept thinking (& wishing all sorts of bad stuff on) all the people I’d asked about having babies and about all the books I’d read and none of them had warned me properly!! Not a single word about being divested of my panties, nothing about mean Lactation Nurses rubbing ice on the most tender area of my breasts, absolute zero about having to sit on The Frozen Hand, and most definitely…..not one word about the appalling, despicable and agonizingly painful Roy Gang.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Pink Dot

Another post on Alex Blackwell’s The BridgeMaker was the question, “What is the kindest thing you have ever done?” Hmmmm. I definitely don’t like to toot my own horn. No, no and another helping of no. I find it so boring; listening to someone talk about how wonderful they are, or about the wonderful things they have done for others. My answer that day was, “Be humble.”

Sometimes not talking about the kind things you do, or have done is a kindness in itself. No one likes a self absorbed person whose only reason for doing kind things is so they can report them to a room full of people. In my mind I’m just thinking (unkindly, oops), “Watch out for your arm, you might hurt it patting yourself on the back!”

My style is talking about what we can do to spread kindness, giving people ideas to inspire them to want to go out into the world and “Be the Change You Want to See in The World,” as Gandhi so eloquently wrote. What does it mean to “Be the Change?” In group settings these days I often hear people talking about one of the same social problems; an overall lack of kindness, manners and respect out in the world today. Talking about it is one thing. If you want something to change, you have to be willing to “Be the Change” and decide you are going to fix it. “Fix it all…by myself,” you are wondering? I know, I know. Breathe. I turn into a dithering loon myself, so I know. How about starting with some thing? Or a few small things each day?

When I decided to make a conscious effort to “Be the Change” I knew I couldn’t do it all or fix it all. But, I hoped my small, independent actions would make a difference in the lives of who I came into contact with, hopefully causing a domino effect and spreading kindness further down the line. I started simply by making sure that every single person I came into contact with was treated with the utmost kindness, dignity and respect. I actually thought I was already doing that, but I decided to really pay attention to my behavior and those around me and “step it up a notch.”

You know, I tout humility and today I think I’m the antithesis of it because for the sake of the blog, I’ve got to go out on a limb and share some of my personal stories. When I’m done writing, I promise to be super extra triple humble again.

I’ve talked about being kind out in the world to those who serve you in my blog, but are you doing it? How are you doing it? What about seeing others being mistreated, the old schoolyard misdeed that you witness and standby without intervening or doing anything about? That’s a category of unkindness and it has to stop too. I’d finally had it with unkindness and decided no one was ever going to be mistreated on my watch again. I was in line at a local store and I could tell the woman in line ahead of me was obviously in a bad mood by the way she was huffing and puffing and shifting from one foot to another. It wasn’t even her turn before she started in on the cashier, spouting off her mouth and speaking unkindly to her. Ok, I was ready. I said, “How dare you. Stop talking to her like that, can’t you see she is trying her best?” Mrs. Snottypants looked at me aghast and said, “WELL! I’m in a hurry, it’s my lunch hour and I only have so much time!” I looked aghast back at Mrs. Snotts and told her, “WELL! You should go shopping when you have enough time to behave properly and treat people kindly!” She mumbled something incoherent and then shut up. Job done. It’s only an example of the kind of stuff we see all the time and we don’t respond. I’m ready now though. These Snottypants people better learn some manners.

Have you been in a group situation in a restaurant where one person in the group is being particularly rude, condescending or overly demanding of the Server? It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? I’ve been there. Friends and I have discussed this and wondered the best way to handle it. We’ve tried to be the Damage Control Group, be the overly-nice ones to make up for the rude friend in the group. Have you ever, at the end of the meal, slipped a Server extra money to make up for Customer Rudeness the Server had to put up with? I have. This is another situation that needs to stop. We need to politely stop this at the beginning of the meal so the Server doesn’t have to endure this. It’s another form of childish playground taunting that we are all sitting back and watching, doing nothing. We are adults, not on some playground, yet are being bullied, and watching bullying in action by an obnoxious, rude person because we are not standing up to a person and saying, “Hey, enough of your bullying, rude and overly demanding behavior!" The Server doesn’t deserve it, neither do we. Aren't those of us who are making an extra monetary contribution for Customer Rudeness tired of it?

Kindness can be helping to correct unkindness. Helping to correct condescending, rude, and inappropriately demanding behavior. So while you are out spreading kindness, you also need to be a troubadour and help others by correcting them when they are out of line. We need to be teachers. There aren’t enough of us out there. If you are making the commitment to build kindness, you also have to include correcting unkindness by doing something about it when you see it happening. Every single time.

What about when someone treats you poorly, what then? Aren’t you worth being treated like gold? Absolutely, all the time! I demand it in my home and I hope you do too. My circle of friends is small, but it’s that way for a reason. I don’t waste time with people unless they treat me really well. Sometimes family and friends can mistreat you and it’s your job to set the standard for what kind of behavior you will accept from them so they will understand how they are to treat you. As much as I love my family and friends, there have been times I’ve had to sit down and have serious discussions with some of them when they’ve treated me in a way I do not find acceptable. This is never easy, but doing the right thing is often very difficult and requires thought, prayer, patience and strength.

Rather than concentrating on the negative though, it’s much more fun to concentrate on the positive and the ways you can contribute to making the world a kinder, better place. One of my favorite programs which feels to me like the ultimate kind thing you can do while you are alive, is participating in the Organ Donor Program. By having the small pink dot affixed to my driver’s license, I’ve already put into motion a plan, which in the event of my passing donates all my organs to whoever needs them. I hope my organs will save the lives of many people, like the heart of Marcus Quarles whose heart gave my Dad 7 more wonderful years with us. Kindness can be donating your organs and saving lives after you pass away. What a beautiful and inspiring thought. This is the sort of “kind” that I’ll stand on a tabletop and shout it out for the world to hear and pat myself on the back until my arms are black and blue. Go Organ Donor Program. Get your Pink Dot.

So Alex, to answer your question, it’s my Pink Dot.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Recently I got stuck and all the stories I have saved in my blog folder just weren’t what I felt like posting. Nothing was hitting me right. I didn’t even feel like ranting or being funny, can you imagine? I have a whole blog post written about my Nappies coming up and I didn’t even want to post that one, and Nappies are one of my favorite things to wear in the whole world. If you don’t know what Nappies are, it’s just another reason my friend “Feen” says I need to post a Dictionary of Jodes-isms so people will know what the heck I am talking about when I speak. I say a lot of stuff people don’t understand and she thinks some of it deserves explaining. The Jodes-isms post is saved in there too and coming one of these days.

I’ve been sidetracked ever since I discovered a blog called The BridgeMaker, written by Alex Blackwell. He’s got an inspirational blog that has knocked my socks off. One Friday not so long ago he asked for responses on what people had going on that day. I’d finally had enough. He’s so awesome I just responded with something like, “You are so awesome I can’t even think of a thing to write on my own blog.”

It was a moment of being so utterly impressed I thought my blog served no purpose whatsoever and I should just suggest to anyone who reads my blog to read The BridgeMaker instead. That’s not even jealousy. It’s pure admiration. I wanted to tell everyone I knew to join me in the new wonderful and joyful thing I’d found. Isn’t it great when you come across something fantastic and amazing in your life and you can’t wait to share it with everyone you know?

It was just about that time The BridgeMaker announced his 31 Days of Kindness Project for the month of March 2011. I’ve shared this on Facebook but thought I’d take this opportunity to also share it on my blog as I have the opportunity to go into further detail here. I’ve written on the importance and need for more kindness in my blog but The BridgeMaker is taking it to a whole new level by asking us to make a commitment to perform an act of kindness every single day for the month of March 2011. Alex Blackwell’s hope is that these acts of kindness will become a habit after the 31 days of trying to think of ways to spread kindness each and every day for 31 days. Easy? Sure.

Early in the morning before you even leave your house, kindness can (and should) begin at home. Before you put on your best behavior for your boss, teachers, friends, etc., how about giving some of that at home for your family; the ones who actually deserve it? How about a note in a lunch box that says, “I Love You,” or one on the steering wheel of the car that says, “Drive safe, you are my world.” A lipstick heart in the shower, a post-it heart in a wallet, a funny note written on a piece of his/her fruit with a sharpie. My son especially liked the funny note I wrote on a banana to him. He showed everyone at work and they all said none of their Mom’s had ever written them a note on their banana before. Kindness can be fun.

When my husband gets home from work, I stand up, walk to the door and greet him along with the dogs. Sometimes I jump and pant like I’m a dog. It makes him laugh. I hug him hard, wrap my leg around him in this comical “barnacle” thing we do and make sure he knows how happy I am to see him so he knows he was missed. Kindness can be all sorts of silly stuff that makes you smile.

Am I old fashioned? Sure. I like it. He does too. In fact, he loves it. He loves that I buy all his favorite snacks so that when he comes home ready to chew one of his arms off, there are plenty of snacks to eat before dinner. Do I make his favorite dinners? You bet. The way to Ken’s heart is straight through his tummy, so kindness in his mind is right around the kitchen. I spend a lot of time there. Kindness is knowing what someone loves and always having it for them.

There are a million ways to show kindness. Thank goodness there are 31 days to talk about it since it’s one of my favorite things to talk about. Join me and The BridgeMaker, Alex Blackwell and friends and spend 31 beautiful days spreading kindness each and every day this month. Hopefully you’ll make it a habit too.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. – Dalai Lama

Sunday, January 23, 2011


“Spell it for me again Mommy,” I said. “A-D-O-P-T-E-D,” my Mom spelled out for about the hundredth time. I loved hearing that word. We had a book in my parent’s room about being adopted and it was one of my favorites.

My brother, sister and I were all adopted as infants. My parents said as soon as they adopted us, they would hold us, cuddle us, and say, “You are adopted, we love you, and you are special.” They wanted us to grow and flourish as adoptees feeling loved, cherished and wanted. We certainly have.

We were lavished with physical affection. The physical bonds they created allowed us to know we always had open arms and laps available to us. We still do. Even when my Dad was sick, I would still climb onto his lap, or tuck in next to him on his hospital bed. When I’ve been sick, my Mom has always been there 24/7, to comfort me, care for me, or just to rub my forehead. She knows just the right way.

Years ago I was at a Dr.’s appointment and he asked me about my family history. I said I didn’t have any available as I was adopted. He stopped, looked up at me and said, “Wow, who’d ever give you away?”

I’d never heard that before. My parents, in all their wisdom had raised the three of us to feel so cherished. No one had given me away, I’d been chosen.

Happy Birthday Mother. I love you and cherish you more deeply than simple words could ever begin to convey.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Box Seven

When I started to unpack the holiday decorations this year and felt the usual terror/dread/panic set in I was reminded of the earlier blog I posted about how I suck at Christmas. Some of you might have read my earlier blog posting titled “Skipping Christmas,” but if not, I’m going to re-post it below so you’ll know what I’m talking about. I was on my mission to find Baby Jesus in my massive pile of my holiday decoration boxes. This year I did pretty well, He was in Box Seven. Whew and Yay!

The dogs were going beserk with all the craziness going on (me) and stuff flying and tissue and paper going everywhere in my quest for Baby Jesus. As soon as I set Baby Jesus on the fireplace, my puppy Ava decided she needed to start chewing on Him. AAAHHH! NO CHEWING ON BABY JESUS. Oh My God. At least Darcy had the good sense to go after Santa. Chewing on Santa, now that I can handle.

Now that the house is decorated I feel only sheer terror because there is “only” shopping, baking, Christmas cards, cleaning, cooking, wrapping, parties, and 1000+ other things left to do. How do I add all those tasks in on top of the regular stuff to do and get them all accomplished with a deadline in 2 weeks? I’ve done all this for over 25 years and I still don’t have it perfected! With any other job, if you’d done a massive project yearly for that many years, you probably would have perfected it long ago. Gong! Not Jodes. Still scrambling, still up wrapping or cooking until the wee hours of the night on Christmas Eve.

I hope the rest of you have perfected it and can teach me how it’s done….other than telling me to start before Thanksgiving. That, I won’t do. I’m with Nordstrom on that one. I’m going to celebrate each holiday in it’s entirety before moving on to the next one. So there won’t be a morsel of Christmas preparation or thought until the Thanksgiving holiday is complete.

One of the best things about the Christmas decorations being done is that they hide so much dust and dirt. “Woo Hoo,” I say. I’d like to leave them up all year just for that reason. Covers a multitude of sins. Less for me to clean is always a good thing… because cleaning is just not my thing.

I’m in the mood for cookies today, so I think some of the baking will get checked off the list of 1000+ things to get done. I think it’s the beginning of leftovers and scary dinners until Christmas.

Scroll down if you'd like to read Skipping Christmas


I suck at Christmas. Most people wouldn’t believe it, but I do. I love Jesus, and the simple story of how he was born in a manger to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. But I wish we could celebrate his birth every year without any of the ridiculous hoopla that is now called Christmas.

My favorite Christmas decoration is a ceramic Jesus in a worn manger we’ve always placed on the hearth. Jesus is chipped, missing the ends of a few fingers and is wearing a loincloth Stephanie made Him when she was a little girl. The children were always allowed to play with Jesus and the manger, so they are a little beat up. I wanted my kids to know Jesus like I do; most likely very approachable, extremely kind, and someone who adored children. “Of course you may play with Jesus,” I’d tell them.

Each year as I unpack the 30+ boxes of Christmas decorations, sometime after the Thanksgiving weekend, I can feel the familiar panic already starting to set in. I’m trying to find Jesus in all this, thinking, “Where is He…where did I pack Him last year?” If I find Jesus and put him on the hearth, I think I’ll be ok. He’ll be a blatant reminder of why I’m doing all this.

There was one year, 2008, with Jesus’ birthday quickly approaching I knew I was going to have to lead my family away from our traditional Christmas, and Skip Christmas completely. GASP! Could I do it? Would I be allowed? What would my family and others say? What would Jesus think? I had to close myself in a dark, quiet room so He could drown out all the “noise,” so I could hear.

I’ve decided spending 12 glorious, uninterrupted, carefree vacation days in the company of my husband and children was the holiest thing we’ve ever done. If home is where your heart is, I was home cruising the blue-green seas of the Caribbean, snorkeling, sailing, swimming, sleeping, reading, listening, resting, staring, sunning, and basking in the 24 hour attention of my family. We immediately opened the doors to our adjoining rooms, and shared long, luxurious meals that were prepared, served and cleaned up after by others.

Those 12 days did not come cheap. Christmas doesn’t either, so we had to choose one or the other. We are blessed to have families who love us unconditionally & who wished us all a wonderful trip, possibly having broken hearts and hurt feelings. That’s love though. Our families knew I needed those 12 days of vacation, and to Skip Christmas to survive.

It had been a long haul for me trying to help care for my ailing Dad. After we lost him, I gained many new responsibilities, so many of which I had no understanding. Thankfully, I got a lot of help from my dear Godfather, and one of my Dad’s best friends, Tony Pierno, an attorney in private practice.

Towards the end of 2008, I knew I needed to get in a quiet place and listen for a voice that would give me some direction. What I heard was that I was going to heal. I heard I needed to say the words out loud that my heart was broken and I missed my Dad, who was also one of my best friends. I needed to say the words I can’t do everything, all the time, for everyone. I needed to say I was exhausted, drained, stressed beyond my breaking point and I can’t do Christmas this year. Those are not easy things for me. I am half Merrill, half Joan. Complain? Wimp out? Me? It’s not what we do!

While I was raising my children, taking care of my husband, our home, various jobs, a sick Dad, and a variety of other tasks, I was always going at 100 mph and rarely ever sleeping. Why then, was I in my quiet place, sobbing, thinking I was a complete loser because I couldn’t face a simple go-round with Christmas?

If that were someone else, I’d probably cry for them. I’d tell them to Skip Christmas and have a wonderful, relaxing vacation, they’d earned it. It took me longer to be kinder to myself and to hear His comforting words. He was offering to carry me again, and I was fighting it, always wanting to drag myself farther. I’m honestly like a 3 year old that screams, “No! Me do!”

Thank you God, my forever Abba Patare for your unending patience with me. I always want to be in control. Thank you for helping me understand how the celebration of your birth lives within my heart wherever I go. I’m still learning to let go and let you lead. I’m 49, but still just your little child.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Old Green Tent

Ken was getting ready for his annual fall fishing trip to Bishop so I thought I’d set up the old green tent, get it cleaned and spiffed up, and see if there were any holes that needed to be sewn up. While I was working on the tent, and seeing it sitting empty outside most of the day, I had some time to think about the history of the tent and the memories we’d made over the many years we’ve had it. Sweet, cherished memories.

While it might sit with nothing inside, I walked inside the tent smelling years of campfire smoke, treasuring the stains of the Sierra Nevada, hearing years of family laughter, remembering the dreams, fishing stories, a love story and whole lot more. When Ken came home and said not to bother myself with hauling the tent upstairs to sew the torn pole pockets, I told him he was crazy. I can’t bear to part with stuff with sentimental attachments; a place where I fell in love, where one of our children first lived in the “garden” of my belly, and where our little family of 4 slept under the heavenly stars of the Sierra Nevada so many times. Just toss it in the trash? No, no and no!

I think I first met the old green tent when Ken and I were dating. He asked me if I’d like to go fishing for a long weekend and I quickly said yes. I had grown up camping; but then camping to me was in a camper and a campground, so I figured why not? Ken was a serious backpacker and fisherman so he didn’t think much about the need for a campground. It wasn’t until I had already said I was all fired up to go that he told me we’d be wilderness camping. Ok. So you mean no potties? No showers? Nope, sorry Jodes. Ok, breathe. In and out. Always the adventurer, always excited for anything new, this sounded like fun. I just had one problem.

For the next week before we left I sat wondering how long I could go without peeing or pooping. Then I decided I’d have to pee but wondered how long a person could hold their poo. I’m a person who can’t even poo in a public restroom so I was obsessed and worried. All Ken had was a shovel. Oh. My. Gosh. And he had packed a lot of good food!

We left in the evening after working all day at Hughes Aircraft and drove the 5 hours to the Eastern Sierras. The first night we were just going to sleep in the back of the truck since it was so late but we’d have to pull our things out of the back. When I came around the back of the truck there was a big present on the tail of the truck bed Ken was excited to give me. “Here, Jodes. Open it. It’s for you.” It was a huge awkward box, but inside was a flushing port-a-potty. It was love. I fell simply, madly and totally in love. In love over a flushing poo parlor under the stars in the Eastern Sierra.

Now when I walk inside the old green tent I still remember the night under the stars and falling in love over the flushing port-a-potty. The next night, and the rest of that trip we used the green tent and it saved our lives from what I remember about almost being killed from a herd of killer jackasses. Ken doesn’t think they would have killed us but when I was going to run screaming in the pitch dark for the truck, he’s the one who held me down and kept his hands very tightly clamped over my mouth so I couldn’t make a sound (or breathe). Wilderness camping! It’s a good thing he brought a lot of good wine. Whew. Killer jackasses. He hadn’t warned me about that.

When I’m standing inside that old tent it’s hard to imagine how all 4 of us and our gear all fit as our little family grew. Those are irreplaceable memories; darling, sweet, tender nights falling asleep under the stars with Daddy, Mommie, Sissy and Sam all snuggled so close. If you haven’t ever camped in a cramped tent with your family, you need to do it now; there is nothing more divine. Singing silly songs, Daddy dropping fish candies into everyone’s mouths, stargazing, reading by flashlight and being lulled to sleep by the beautiful sounds of the water and the wind in the trees.

There is a romantic element to the cramped tent too. To this day, Ken and I still zip our sleeping bags together. What could be dreamier than snuggling all night, warm under the crisp, cool Sierra skies with the man you love? There is no comparison to the feelings of being loved, safe and secure and then looking over and seeing your children sleeping peacefully next to you. Just a second…elevated sniffy goo moment.

Life is always hectic and full of work, school, sports and a variety of activities. Vacation has always been an occasion for us to reconnect. So, we zip ourselves up together and snuggle. It’s always been a time for our little family of four to be cocooned as one in a simple manner of togetherness. Tent camping has always fulfilled that need for us. It removes all the things in life that cause stress and takes us to where there is raw beauty, joy and peace.

Inside the empty green tent I thought about friends asking for advice about marriage and parenting. We didn’t give our children a lot of useless stuff; we gave them a lot of our time. Good parenting is exhausting; thus the need for vacations and the well used tent. Children are always watching and soaking up behavior. Close tent quarters were a perfect time to teach by example how to be a loving and tender couple.

We’ve spent a good deal of quality family time which has enriched our children, our family and our marriage. We’ve shown our children what a family is intended to be so they have a proper model as they go forth as young adults into families of their own one day. Sadly, a lot of children aren’t getting that education. Parents are forgetting this simple task. They are teachers and role models of what a wife and husband are, in addition to what a mother and father are. Are you mindful of the way you are living your marriage in the presence of your children (young or adult) every single day? If you have overlooked this in your quest pay the bills, remodel, carpool, cook, clean, and work, it’s not too late. A role models job is never over. You might need a tent after all. You are going to be exhausted, I promise.

Happy Camping.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When The Customer Wasn't King

When Southern California met Nordstrom in the late 70’s we were instantly addicted. What started out as a small, successful shoe business in Seattle, Washington turned into large department stores with the Nordstrom family eventually meeting the Segerstrom family of Orange County and making a deal to bring their store to South Coast Plaza.

We were transfixed. They brought a whole new concept in customer service into the arena, unmatched by anyone at that time. I’ll admit, I am a huge fan of Nordstrom. I am a past employee of one of their stores and after going through their orientation and working in their store I am impressed.

What doesn’t impress me though, is what has happened to our nation because of what I like to call my King theory. Businesses and people are all suffering because of it.

Nordstrom was a pioneer in the customer service field and many businesses followed suit seeing their huge financial success. They had a radically lenient return policy unheard of at the time. During my orientation they addressed their theory. Nordstrom said research showed their profit margins continued to soar even while taking returns on anything and everything they sold in the store, no questions asked, no receipt required, no time deadline; no rules whatsoever. No manager had to be called to sign anything, no special keys required to open the register for doling out the cash you wanted back, you simply got whatever you asked for. It was heaven on earth, everyone’s dream store, and the place where you were always King.

Sadly, as this customer service concept swept the nation, it taught the customer that short of stealing, any behavior as the King was ok, even when it came to the way you treated employees. Wrong, isn’t it? We’ve all witnessed it. The obnoxious customer with the employee trying their best to cajole, right a situation, and the customer taking their King posture and demanding a higher authority. The supervisor or manager then responding and immediately looking to the Kings needs and wants and demanding the employee make the King leave happy. Usually followed up with the employee being reprimanded on how to better serve the King in the future; or else! It really is a disgusting display.

I love to read books written about the simpler times in American history, and small town life across America written by authors such as Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bill Bryson. Those were the days when the customer wasn’t King. If you walked down to the town department store you knew everyone. If you treated someone wrong, whoever owned the store would have probably told you to leave, behave or called your parents. Did adults treat sales associates, cashiers, receptionists or servers in the despicable manner they often are witnessed doing on a daily basis now?

People’s lives are more difficult and stressful as the years continue and the strain is beginning to show. Jobs are scarce. Real estate seems to be at a standstill in many areas. Money is tight. The list goes on. What happens? People who have lost jobs are hurting, stressed and scared. Responsible people are staying in unhappy job situations simply because they have to in this rough economy. People who overspent and lost their dream homes, trailers, boats and cars are now living within their means and not very happy about it.

I've worked in many service industries and watched and learned a lot from seeing Kings in action, the very good ones and the worst of the bunch. I didn't mind serving them because I knew they needed to feel some power, even for just a little while. My goal was to be humble and allow them that short period of time to be King. I was there to do a job, and I could suck it up. I used to call it "serving up some humble pie."

Many people who feel powerless in their lives, marriages, homes and jobs can walk into any situation as a customer and be the King. It probably feels good. They are craving a serving of humble pie because they aren't getting any in their own lives. Ministers I know tell me there is a church wide problem with volunteers getting on power trips because of basically wanting and needing to be the King. Powerless in life, they come into churches and run rampant trying to take over committees and wreak havoc on a church. That’s all we need when Christianity is needed more than ever and church attendance is down.

We sure don’t need the same power trippers who have been rude to our service personnel coming into our churches and ruining our experiences there either. Haven't we all volunteered in a variety of situations? I sure have. Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, PTA, churches, philanthropic organizations; the scary volunteers who need power are all there turning what could be a good experience into a circus and making you wish you'd never signed up. So, turn around scary power tripper. Go home powerless little person and pray, work on your marriage, family life, thank God you have a job (or get one), and start spreading kindness wherever you go.

We can all start by thanking every single person who serves us. Look them in the eye and thank them. How about putting our phones down and saying thank you, eyeball to eyeball? Taking 5 minutes to fill out the customer service form listing a persons name for good service. What about noticing someones name tag and thanking them by name? Quit complaining and say something nice. People inherently are trying to do their best.

So, you decide it’s time to go shopping, go to a restaurant, go to the doctor, dentist, buy some stamps or get your hair done. Grab your crown and your scepter, because suddenly you have been chosen King of your universe and you have the power to do good or to be King Henry the 8th. Choose wisely. And if someone else has decided to be King in your presence and they are an embarrassment to the crown it’s time to stand up and say something. We, the people need to take our power back from the power trippers who are abusing it. Put your crown on, pick up your scepter and get busy. You good Kings can take it from here.

Be the change you want to see in the world. -Ghandi