“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

“A Boxer’s greeting is a joy to behold. They jump into the air in such a jubilee of delight, it’s as if your return to hearth and home were the most noteworthy event of the century when all you’ve done, say, is walk to the mailbox and back. Return after an hour or more and you’ll get backflips, trumpets and a procession of drum-beating pageantry befitting a king.” —Thom Jones

Last year, when our beloved #HollyTheBoxer turned 13, I penned the following blog that really says more to me right now than I’m capable of saying: https://cassidyscommentary.com/2018/09/04/for-the-love-of-a-dog/

Holly was diagnosed with an unknown kind of cancer just a few days after her fourteenth birthday (14!!!  That’s unheard of for a boxer.)…Her hips and legs had become weaker and weaker, until last week, we finally knew that it was time to say goodbye.

On Friday, I gave her the last bath, and did her nails for the last time. She had trouble standing, and I found myself having to hold her up by one arm while I scrubbed with the other (it’s been rainy, and she had the muddiest paws–I swear, it’s like she packed some in from the outside to save for wallerin’ later on!). I sang her silly songs & used the expensive shampoo for once.  I lifted her out of the tub, and of course, she shook off the displeasure of the watery inconvenience; I couldn’t even complain. I just laughed at her, because at least this time, she waited until AFTER the bath to shake, as opposed to doing it midway through.

I dried her off, clipped her nails, and let her walk out with her usual post-bath annoyance…except this time, it was far more subdued than in her younger days, almost as if she had finally come to terms with the indignity of the fact that she’d had to endure such a scrub-down. That’s one of the things I was always rather proud of: David had trained her to follow commands, but I trained her to let me give her a bath and to do her nails. I always thought of it as our girl-bonding time. 🙂

On Saturday, we did one last photo shoot as a family, at Suson Farm. I know David didn’t want to do it; there’s something really intense about the bond between a man and his dog, and I could see that he was struggling. Also, Holly had lost a good part of her hearing, and did some uncharacteristically-disobedient things that we were not expecting….like, run off and try to get a drink out of the lake…except she couldn’t keep her balance…and David & Holly both almost fell into the lake, on a cold, November morning. I knew we would laugh about it later, but at the time, it was scary and sad. Our girl would NEVER run off like that…then again, she’d also NEVER drink out of the toilet (that started a few months ago) or pee on the floor (that started a year ago….we’re going to deep-clean the house over the next few weeks, yikes) or bark in her crate (that started a few weeks ago). She was declining, and neither David nor I wanted to admit it…until we had to, and Saturday was that day.

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We took pictures as a family, because that dang dog was a huge part of our family for 14 years. I was NEVER a dog person–I was a confirmed cat person–until David brought her home right before our first Christmas as a married couple. She made me a dog lover, and now I can’t pass one up without scratching its head. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my weekends….Every weekend morning, since I got to sleep in, she’d come around to my side of the bed and put her head under whatever body part I had dangling off (usually my hand, but every now and then, she’d get my foot and I’d jump out of my skin!). Every night, she’d sit at the “L” juncture of our couch, right where I couldn’t get out of my seat without her knowing. I missed her so bad last night that I sat there watching “Great British Bake-Off” and bawled my way through three episodes. I miss my friend.

At our photo shoot, I dressed her up in a pink tutu that I’d bought for the occasion. When I bought it, I didn’t know it would be for the Last Pictures, but it seemed perfect. I dressed her up in my favorite vintage pearls, and a costume jewelry necklace that I’d put on her for her 12th birthday. She looks thrilled in the pictures, LOL, but given how many times I’ve made that poor dog suffer the indignity of girlie accessories, I felt like we had to give it one more go.

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Our vet was amazing…I (for some stupid reason) didn’t think our son would be as upset as he was. He was DEVASTATED, and let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than a kid that’s about to say goodbye to the dog they’ve known their entire life. He didn’t know what to do with himself; one minute, he was crying and scared; the next minute, he was telling the vet a cow joke out of a book he’s reading. He made all of us laugh at the worst possible time, but again, that’s something we’ll laugh about later. I’m glad he did it.

Our vet (who was amazing) took the time to tell Jericho that dogs are a creation of God…and that He loves all of His creation. I firmly believe there are dogs in Heaven (I mean, why not–there’s horses, right? That’s what my Mama pointed out to me many years ago, and it makes perfect sense). I also believe that Hannah-girl has her dog back.  David told her that Holly would be “her” dog, and now they’re together.

It still hurts, though.

Just 6 days ago, we celebrated (weird term, loose interpretation) Hannah’s 13th birthday. 4 days after that, we lost our dog. This is a difficult season, and I’m struggling with feeling overwhelmed with everything…work, grief, loss, social requirements, parenthood…I feel like I failed my son by not giving him enough credit to understand the loss of our dog.  I feel like I failed my husband because I’m the one that made the veterinary appointment. I feel like I failed my dog because we had to let her go…it’s the second time in my life that I’ve had to make the decision to let someone I love go, and I know it’s different when one is your child and the other is a dog, but those decisions are incredibly, intensely, intimately painful and foreign, yet familiar…Holly was family, and now she’s gone. I’ve never lost a pet like this before. I’m alternating between feeling cried out, and chastising myself for not having it together. It’s hardly the worst thing I’ve been through, but dang…

We loved that dog.

As she was getting sleepy from the first shot, I picked her up and put her head on my shoulder, and held her like a baby (like I’d done until she got too heavy for my old-lady back). When we laid her on the table, I put my head on her head, and whispered to her…The last thing she heard us say was that we loved her, and that she was a good dog. I hope that she understood…I believe (I want to believe) that she did.

I read a blog where a guy wrote from his dog’s perspective, as his dog was declining…it broke my heart all over again, but it’s so beautiful that I’m linking it. Don’t read it if you don’t want a good cry…

This will take some time to heal.

“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.” – Robert Wagner

 

“Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us, and make our lives a little brighter, and they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.” – Dan Gemeinhart

 

 

 

 

13…

Every year around Hannah’s birthday, I Google things that girls her age like. I’m not sure why; I think because it helps clarify what she might have been like, had she lived. This year (today, actually), she’d be 13, so I looked up what a 13 year-old girl would like. I’m now convinced that I’m secretly still a teenager, because EVERYTHING on the list is something I like!!! 🙂  Seriously–a mini Polaroid camera? A tie-dye kit? Bluetooth headphones? YES, PLEASE!

I can look back on myself at 13 and remember what I liked (Lisa Frank EVERYTHING! Flamingos! Pink notebook paper!).

lisa frankI have to laugh–it was such an awkward time for me. I was all neck and legs, big puffy hair, and glitter. I was finally old enough to wear makeup; I was too tall for the dress code; and I was still wearing the Coke-bottle plastic frames that everyone wore in the late-80’s/early 90’s. I was in the 7th-&-8th grades; I was a dramatic, hormonal mess; and I had deep, deep hatred of hairbrushes (my hair had just decided to be curly, and it was a shock). I blogged recently about what I’d say to myself at 15; I think it’s totally different than what I’d say to myself at 13, because the drama level at 13 is A LOT. I think I barely survived that year. 🙂

Back to 2019…Thirteen year-olds today are VERY different than 13 year-olds in the 90’s. The threats they face; the exposure they get; it’s more than I can comprehend at almost 42. I don’t have a CLUE about how they make it, or what kind of parents they have to have. What would David & I be like, if she were here? Would we ever let her out of our house?!?!  How does anyone let a teenager out of their house?!?!?!?! I’m considering installing invisible fences. 🙂

I’m kidding, of course…..of course…..well, mostly…..

My little girl would be 13 years old…almost grown. And as much as I want to sit and reflect on what she’d be like, I’m finding that I can’t. There’s been a tremendous amount of healing that has happened over time, but when I try to fill that hole with what might have been, I realize that although I have a fantastic imagination, it doesn’t stretch that far.

I have no idea what she would be like.

I don’t want to sit here and say that it’s “okay” that she’s with Jesus. That will never be okay, if I’m honest, because I will always miss her, and I will always wonder why she died. The longing and the wonder will never go away, and I don’t think that I need to justify that. It’s not a sign that healing hasn’t or won’t continue to progress. It’s a sign that I am a mother that is missing her child, and that it’s unnatural for us to not be together. Moms want their babies, period, whether they’re 5 days old or 50 years old. We’re created to be with our children, and when that is taken away, there’s a hole. The only thing that can close that gap is Jesus, and even with that, the scars are sensitive. After 13 years, it’s a “tolerable” grief, but it’s still grief. I miss her.

I don’t have answers when I get asked questions like, “why?” All I can say is that I believe she’s with the Lord, and that one day, I will be, too. I can tell you with all sincerity that I believe in Heaven and in Hell;  I can tell you that I believe one day in His presence is like a thousand years on earth, and that what I feel like is a lifetime, is a split-second where I know my daughter is at. I believe in Jesus, and in His will, even when I don’t understand it. Faith means believing when we don’t see. We don’t see things clearly on earth; we see them once we’re in eternity. I can rest when I put my eyes on Jesus, and let Him sort out all of the details. He knows what He’s doing.

Tonight, before we get home, Jericho & I are going to stop and get a little cake (or I might bake one, depending on how I make it through the day), and he’s going to goof off and make me laugh, and I’m going to tell him a little bit more about her. I might show him some more pictures, and he’s most likely going to ask some uncomfortable questions–that’s totally okay. More than anything, I want him to understand that we’re grateful for the time we had with her, and for the impact she made. I want him to understand that Jesus brings restoration and healing, even in the midst of confusion and questioning. I don’t know what kind of situations our son will face in his future, but I know that if we can impart to him the undeniable love, compassion, and plan that God has for his life, then we’ve done our job as parents for both of our children.fb_img_154071595978315789262.jpg

I was reminded the other day that my story is His story. I can’t tell the story of Hannah’s life, or of our life before, during, and after her loss, without starting and finishing by pointing everything back to God. We’ll always miss our daughter, in this life. We rest securely in the knowledge that Heaven is real; we also have peace in knowing that salvation through Jesus Christ is possible, and that He can redeem any person and any situation. Grief is temporary (temporary is a relative term); His love is permanent, and Heaven is eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Grief doesn’t win. Death doesn’t win.

Love wins.

And it’s because of His Love, that I can still say, “Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle!” I can know that she is loved and cared for, and that I have such hope:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” –Revelation 21:3-4

 

Raising Rainbows

I know, it’s been a while since I sat down and wrote anything. Life is BUSY, and it’s hard for me to discipline myself enough to focus on the monitor! So, to catch up—

The last blog was all the way back in July! It’s been over a MONTH?!?  What the heck?!? In August, we had some childcare crises to navigate, so we were running all over the place to make sure we were covered. My challenge for the school year is to find a new summer care program for my son, because he just didn’t seem to be as happy at the one he’s been in. I need to figure something out—I’m taking suggestions!

School started mid-August, and Jericho started the First Grade. He has a new teacher, and a new routine, and he seems to be settling in well! I also signed him up for Cross-Country!

I never did sports in school; I was always a music/drama geek, so the concept of team sports didn’t really come my way until I “played” volleyball in college (I use the term, “played,” VERY LOOSELY. I sucked.). My family did martial arts, which is a solo sport—well, solo, until they throw you in a ring and you have to either beat someone up, or get pummeled. I didn’t do so well there, either. J Either way, I believe in athletics and teamwork, and I’m really glad his school is so supportive. I was a nervous WRECK!

It was a million degrees, and I was mostly afraid that he wouldn’t finish the race, but HE DID, and I don’t even know if he came in last—I didn’t pay attention to that. He FINISHED!!  I was so stinking proud (and stinky—did I mention it was a million degrees?!?!)!  The first thing he said to me was, “Did I earn my Taco Bell?!?” Yes, baby, of course you did.

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And then, he proceeded to eat everything on the menu.

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As he gets older, one of the things I’m learning to work with is the endless list of questions. He doesn’t stop asking questions, and I try to answer them all; sometimes, I get overwhelmed and have to make him give me five minutes of silence, but normally, we have some pretty great conversations. He’s known for about a year now that he had a sister, and that she was a baby when she died; he’s now at a point where he’s asking pretty intense questions.

I’m learning to navigate.

He’s learning about germs and bacteria. His sister died of Late-Onset Group B Strep with Bacterial Meningitis, so the fact that a bacteria caused her death is fascinating to him. Yesterday, he was asking me about the technical aspects: “how did it kill her?” “What did it do?” “What kind of germ is it?” “Why couldn’t the doctors fix her?”

I don’t ever want to lie to him, or gloss over something. If he asks the question, I’m going to answer it in the most matter-of-fact, non-emotional way that I can. Working in healthcare for as many years as I have, I’d like to think I can be pretty good with divulging clear facts without emotional interference. It’s a compartmentalization kind of thing. He asks, “how did it kill her?” My response is, “Well, it got into her brain, and it made her brain stop working.” I leave out the other parts that will always hurt to remember…but I do remember, and it does hurt, and I can’t put into words what it’s like to say something so simple but to have such a complicated, graphic memory in my mind.

There are things he simply cannot know, but that I remember in vivid detail.

And there are moments of hope and love in the middle of those painful details…there are even moments of humor…And someday, when he’s much older, we’ll discuss the way Jesus wrapped Himself around our hearts with love and friends, and with memories of people who kept us lifted up in the heaviest of times…

But for now, I will stifle those emotions and those memories, and I will stick to the scientific facts that a six-year old boy is fascinated by.

When you’re raising your rainbow baby, there are no manuals for how to jump these hurdles. There’s nothing that tells you what to say when they ask you the hard questions, and he’s just getting started. Right now, he’s into the science of a germ that takes the life of someone. At some point, he’s going to get into the questions of faith, and healing, and “why didn’t God save her?” “Wasn’t He powerful enough to save her?” “Didn’t He love her? And you?”

I’m not sure how I’m going to answer those questions when they come—especially when sometimes, I can’t even answer them for myself. I’m past the point where the self-doubt, the accusations of the enemy, and the guilt Satan tries to throw at me over her death, sticks. It took YEARS to get through that part, especially since guilt over everything tends to be my go-to reaction when bad things happen. But I’m through it. Medically, I understand there was nothing we could have done. Physically, I understand that we did everything by the book. Because of that research, I am free from all of that.  Spiritually, sometimes I still struggle. It’s hard for me to pray for healing for other people, because that one time, it didn’t happen…

But the Bible says that we still pray for healing…We still pray for others, even when doubts tap in the corner of our minds. So, I pray, and I trust God to use His wisdom to do what He will.

I’m a pretty Type-A kind of person when it comes to life. I have lists, I have outlines, and I have step-by-step methods by which I keep things organized in my office (I try at home. It’s kind of pointless). I like to have questions and answers, and if I can’t answer it, then I FIND an answer for it. It’s been very difficult to come to the place where I let go and I trust God that He has all of the answers. I don’t understand, and I never will in this life, why my daughter died. I don’t get it, and when my son asks me “Why?” I don’t know what I’m going to say.

My go-to answer is that we’re not entitled to answers. We’re not entitled to understanding all of His whys and hows, but what we’re promised is that He knows, He cares, and He loves. How He chooses to love is up to His discretion, not mine, so I have to sit back and trust in Him.

I’ve been very candid to explain to Jericho that had we not learned the things we learned during Hannah’s birth and death, he would not be here. I want him to grow up being thankful for the sister he never knew, and for how God used such a sad thing, for His glory. I want him to understand just a smidgen of the miracle that he is.

These questions are TOUGH, and I wasn’t necessarily prepared for how they would start to be asked…but he’s asking.

I think that as long as my answers continue to point to the redeeming grace of God, even when we’re talking about the science of it all, that we’re on the right track….

And as I learned yesterday, the track isn’t necessarily a fun one to be on….but as long as we run the race, and we don’t give up, there’s a tremendous amount of glory in finishing it and in completing our mission!!!…

#MeToo verses #IAm…AKA, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark…”

Luke 12:2-3 “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

Everything in darkness will be brought into the Light…isn’t that an Obvious Truth that we should all be familiar with by now? We get away with NOTHING in the end…or sometimes, in the middle.

When I was a kid, I swore that God had some kind of hotline to my mother. She KNEW, not from the look on my face, but by the tone of my voice, if I’d lied about something. It was the craziest thing, and now, as a parent, I get it. We know our kids better than they realize. Yesterday, I picked my 4-year old up from school, and he said in a little, panicky voice, “Have you talked to Miss Leslie?!?” I hadn’t, but I didn’t need to, did I? I knew from the look on his face and the tone of his voice that he’d behaved badly (it couldn’t have been too bad, because she would have messaged me). He told me exactly what he’d done, because he knew I’d figure it out, eventually.

Society needs to get that point: It ALL gets figured out, eventually.

Headlines were made recently when our governor was outed as having had an extramarital affair back in 2015. He had already dealt with it internally with his family, but now the media had a hold of it, so it’s being excavated all over again. Apparently, the husband of the woman he had the affair with, was getting pestered by the media to dish the dirt, so he came out with the story, and now the governor has to address it…as does his wife. Even when we’ve been forgiven, sometimes the consequences come back years later to haunt us….

But should they?

The internet is full of headlines about men behaving badly (and some women). The #MeToo movement has grown wings, and women everywhere are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment. Many of these are just that—stories—and cannot be corroborated as anything more than he-said-she-said. In fact, once an accusation is made, a career is seemingly over. This strikes me as overkill, but before you eviscerate me, let me explain:

Find me a woman on this planet that has never, EVER, had a man make an inappropriate comment toward her.

I don’t know of a single one, based on how far-reaching I’ve seen some of these stories.

Being forced into a physical encounter is one thing. Having a guy catcall you as you walk down the street is another. Both things are being labeled as “sexual assault,” and without any further explanations, accusing someone of such can be easily misconstrued.

As a young woman (in Bible college, of all things), I was nicknamed “Hoots” by a member of the basketball team, who felt the need to comment at any given opportunity about the size of my breasts. This was demeaning, rude, and embarrassing. Should I name him? Should I name every other guy who felt the need to comment about my body? Should I talk about the shame I felt? Should I talk about the confusion I had, wondering why in the world this was “acceptable” behavior? I guess I could. I guess I could track him down, I could track down the others, and file suit. I could write articles naming them, and bring them embarrassment and shame like they brought me. Would it be justified? Maybe?

It’s been 20 years since I was in college. Those guys have families. I have a family. I’m sure those guys are all different men, and if they’re not, well, that’s on them. God can take care of them. I’m not going to be their judge and jury, and forgiveness has long been issued. However, I can take that experience, and use it to educate my son (when he’s of age) that you don’t treat a woman that way. It’s a learning experience that is not lost on me as a mother of a boy.

Over the course of the past 2 years, I’ve gone to several people affiliated with my alma mater and discussed their culture of sexual harassment. My alma mater has repeatedly hid their head in the sand about several stories of harassment and assault. Rather than acknowledge the past, they’ve simply remarked that they will try and improve in the future. This is not the best solution, and I don’t accept that it’s “better than nothing.” However, I do believe that per the verse I quoted in the beginning of this blog, truth will out, and our stories will be told. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

My point in sharing my stories with my alma mater has not been to punish the men in the past who made poor choices. The goal in sharing #MeToo with my college is to teach women that they do NOT have to wait 20 years to speak up against sexual harassment. They can speak NOW, and they do not need permission to do so. Leadership cannot harbor the people who do these things, be they male or female, and ignoring a culture of harassment encourages MORE harassment. I don’t feel that names need to be named, in the stories of 20 years ago. However, if that story from 20 years ago helps the girl who was groped by a student in the back of the classroom YESTERDAY to go to leadership and have the offender punished, then YES, tell your #MeToo and shout it from the rooftops. Stop making people feel ashamed for what others have done to them. It’s time to make the current harassers feel ashamed. It’s time to make the people who cover it up, feel ashamed. It’s time to STOP CREATING A CULTURE THAT SHAMES VICTIMS. It’s time to encourage people to speak up when they have been victimized, instead of 10, 15, 20, years later.

That being said, I do not believe sexual harassment is a reason to end someone’s career. I don’t feel that telling the story needs to be in such a way that a crime from 20 years ago ends a life that’s been built today, unless there is corroborated proof. Anyone can say someone did something from 20 years ago that affected your life. Naming names without proof, however, is a dangerous thing, and I think it’s something that is going to have some serious backlash. I can say that Joe Snow attacked me in a parking lot 20 years ago; I can publicly out him, but there is absolutely no shred of proof. It brands him; it makes him guilty until proven innocent, and I think as a society we need to be extremely careful in doing that with any kind of criminal. Joe Snow (not a real person, of course) might be a jerk. He might be a reformed family man. He might be any kind of a person, but he doesn’t deserve to be punished for a crime he may or may not have committed based on unsubstantiated words. Michael Douglas came forward recently, stating that he had been contacted by a reporter that wanted his comments regarding an accusation of sexual misconduct (that can be SO broad-sweeping, right?!?). He decided that rather than comment, he would come out and directly make a statement prior to the running of the original story. He stated the accusation, denied the accusation, and made some really great points in explaining his side of the story. Do you think anyone will hear HIM? Or will they see, “Michael Douglas” + “Sexual Harassment,” and make their choice that he’s a miscreant? It’s thin ice for the accused, and we have to be careful.

Again, I believe in sharing the stories of 2, 10, 15, 20 years ago. I do not necessarily believe in sharing the names, unless you have absolute proof of something that has been done. It’s far too easy to create this movement that’s full of unsubstantiated claims, and then cut off your own feet because of hyperbole. It’s what the #MeToo movement is in danger of. It’s a trending topic that should be much more than a trend, but without substantiation, that’s as far as it will go. It’s time to make real change, which can only come from facts.

People need to live in a culture of understanding that things done in secret will be brought to light. The harassment of 20 years ago will come to light. The affair of 2 years ago will be brought to light, whether you’re an ordinary person, or a governor, or a President. We live in an age of technology where everything is archived. Everything is accessible, we have a footprint, and it’s aaaaaaalllllll out there. Nothing is secret, and in today’s world, that’s truer than ever. We have to be accountable for our actions, and because God is Who He is, we have to be accountable to Him above all. Even without the cyberworld, God is God.

Jeremiah 23:24  “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.

He sees us. We have to live an exemplary life, so that when the past tries to haunt us, there’s nothing there to trip us up. If there is, there’s forgiveness…but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t consequences. Our dear Governor is seeing this truth today—he’s forgiven by his wife and by God, but the State of Missouri may not be so kind, and his reputation is tarnished.

He’s just like the rest of us. I don’t want my high school hijinks coming back to haunt me. I don’t want the inappropriate things I’ve said, to come back to haunt me. Could someone accuse me of inappropriate behavior? I don’t think so, but I guess in today’s world, anything is possible? We’re to live our lives in such a way that when such accusations come against us, they’re immediately disregarded, because of the standards by which we live. That’s a difficult thing to do, but in today’s world, it’s more necessary than ever. Daniel, in the Old Testament, lived a pretty great life as far as standards go: “Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” Daniel 6:4

“No error or fault was found in him?!?!?!?!” No one could say he had any skeletons rattling around in his closet! That’s pretty amazing. That’s The Gold Standard. And that’s also where grace and mercy come in, for those of us that fall short.

There’s room for grace and mercy in the #MeToo movement. There’s room for awareness, for positive change, and for education. There’s room for FACTS in the #MeToo movement, and I encourage those that support the movement to reiterate the importance of such. My biggest hope for the movement is acknowledgement, education, and improvement….that boys and girls would be educated that they are valuable and worthy of respect…that we would learn the beauty of boundaries, and the sacredness of these bodies we live in. There’s more to the #MeToo movement than the media portrays, and it all starts with viewing ourselves as unique, amazing creations of a God Who values and loves us. Once you understand your worth, you understand that you are worthy of protection, and that those around you are worthy of honor…I want to see this restored in our young people. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit…we were created by a God Who loves us with all of His heart, who gave His only Son for us. We are individual reflections of Who He is.

I don’t want to be a #MeToo.  I want to be an #IAm:

I Am loved by God.

I Am His unique creation.

I Am His child.

I Am who He made me to be.

And to that, I would like to hear an entire generation of young men and young women echo back, #MeToo.  

 

I’m a “Parenting Expert,” and So Are You…

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/parenting-experts-agree-kelly-clarksons-view-spanking-210541633.html?.tsrc=fauxdal

This.

Is.

National.

News.

WHY, people?!?!?!

A mom, who happens to be a celebrity, is disciplining her child in order to prevent said child from hurting herself or from behaving badly, or basically from growing up to be a narcissistic sociopath.  WHY IS THIS NEWS?!?  WHY IS THIS NATIONAL NEWS???

Last night, I watched a Facebook Live video of Elliott Davis of Fox2News outside of a local homeless shelter that was turning people away on a fairly chilly evening. A young woman discussed how she’d been turned away repeatedly from shelters, as she was neither a mother nor a “currently”-battered woman. THIS is news. Our city and our mayor decided that apartment property values meant more than helping the homeless, and shut down the only 24-hour shelter in the city. THIS is news.

I read an article where a 5-year old child is dying of a rare cancer, with a picture of her grieving grandfather next to her hospital bed. THIS is news.

Kelly Clarkson, mother of 2, stepmother of 2, sweet Southern girl, OG American Idol, helluva singer, and wife to the son of none-other-than Ms. Reba McEntire, is NOT news because she chooses to discipline her child. She is NOT news because she (& presumably her husband) choose to raise their child according to Biblical principles, to classical principles of “sparing the rod and spoiling the child.” She is NOT news because she & her spouse would rather not add to the national malaise surrounding parenthood, where we rely on teachers to play doctor and dole out prescriptions, and tablets and video games to play teacher so our kids learn to read. She is NOT news because she takes a normal, everyday Midwestern/Southern approach to raising her child as hands-on as possible as a working mother, and in making the tough decisions to PARENT as opposed to beFRIENDing her child. (Sidebar: I’m not knocking children that legitimately require medication in order to succeed physically or academically. I, however, do not believe in the increasing practice of teachers having to be the ones who “diagnose” a child’s need for such medication. A parent that is involved in their child’s life is aware of any issues and takes care of their kid. I see many, many children that do not have an involved parent, and THAT is pathetic. Teachers are not doctors, and they’re not parents, yet in today’s world, they have to be both. It’s not right.)

It’s easier to be our kids’ friends…until it’s not, and we realize we’ve screwed it all up & created pandering little narcissistic snowflakes that can’t be disciplined enough to do their homework OR TO HOLD DOWN A JOB.  And then, when our little snowflakes do something stupid, like publish videos of people who commit suicide in Japanese forests, and become national embarrassments like Logan Paul? Then THEY become National News.

People are really skewed on what “news” actually is. Mr. Trump keeps hammering away at the slogan, “fake news,” and he’s got a point: When the news media would rather focus on nonsensical stories such as Ms. Clarkson and her decision to properly raise her child, instead of on major issues such as homelessness, or drug addiction, or the suicide rates in our young people, then we really do have an issue with “fake news,” and it needs to change. There are much bigger issues in the world.

There are parents in the news on an almost-daily basis for abusing their children….for abandoning their children…for choosing drugs over their children.

That’s news.

Swatting or spanking your child because they’ve been disobedient?

NOT news.

I love how this article talks about “parenting experts.” I posted on Facebook that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “PARENTING EXPERT.” They’re like, NONEXISTENT. I’m going to run full-on into a flippin’ UNICORN before I run into someone I consider to be a “parenting expert.” Every parent is different. Every CHILD is different. Until you can tell me you’ve mastered every possible personality and interaction, don’t call yourself any kind of “expert” on this race we call human, unless you’re the One Who created us all.

You can study kids all you want. You can study adults all you want. You can study the kids until they grow up to become adults, and then you can study them some more. You’re not any more of a “parenting expert” than I am. We know what WE KNOW. We don’t know all of the variables that make us, or that make our child, or that make other people’s children, who they are. I think I know my kiddo pretty darn well. However, I can’t tell you WHY he does some of the things he does (Why does he lick the shopping cart?!?!?!?  WHY?!?!? Can you tell me that, “Parenting Expert?!?!?”). I can tell you what I think, what I see, and how I want to attempt to change what he does. I can try every method I know, and occasionally, I can ask my friends or read a book to get advice. I can tell you that I definitely pray every single day to be a better parent, but I make mistakes, as does my husband. Tempers run short, and days can be stressful. Sometimes, the noise level in my house makes me want to rip my ears off (and that’s with just ONE KID). We are all constantly in the process of learning how to live, and of learning how to be better human beings.

I am grateful for people like Kelly Clarkson who discipline their children and help shape them into better little people, that will eventually become better adults that can make this a better world….and THAT is NEWS.

Discipline is so important. We don’t spank our children in anger–that’s where spanking becomes reactive, and potentially abusive. In our house, there’s a lead-up: Redirection–>Warning–>Time Out–>Spanking. Generally, that’s how it goes, unless he’s doing something that will cause him imminent harm (taking off in a parking lot, which he knows is a HUGE no-no). I kind of think of discipline as a labyrinth game–you remember, the one that had the maze you had to use the knobs on, to get your marble through the maze without letting it fall through the holes? Image result for labyrinth game

That’s life. We have this little marble, and we have to mold and shape and direct him to go through life without falling through the holes. We have to set up barriers to keep him safe, and create paths for him to go through, and pick him back up again, if he falls through. Those barriers and paths are created by discipline and by encouragement, and we have to commit to it. We have to be consistent in it, which is hard when you’re a tired, working parent. We have to be disciplined to maintain discipline, and it makes everyone in the house a better person…

But it’s not easy.

Like I said before, it’s easier to be your kid’s friend, especially at this age. They’re fun when they’re in a good mood, right? And when they go in Time-Out, or get that spanking, they get crabby and whiny, right? And whining SUCKS. But what do we do? Give them whatever they want, and feed the snowflake mentality? We have a generation of kids that can’t take the heat of discipline. They can’t take the barriers, and all they want is encouragement…they’ve fallen through the holes of the labyrinth board, and they’re LOST. It’s the saddest thing, but hey, at least they’ve got their participation trophies, right?

Stop it.

My son doesn’t get what he wants all of the time. Money is tight, and that’s a good reason to tell him “no” on a material level. He should get used to not getting what things he wants, because that creates financial issues. He keeps screaming at people when he doesn’t get his way. That doesn’t work for me. He’s spending a lot of time in a corner, and he’s getting privileges taken away. At some point, it’s going to stick, but we have to be consistent with it. “Son, you can’t scream at people when you don’t get your way.” Every day for the last 4 days, I’ve had to remind him. Every day this week, he’s had something taken away for his behavior at school. I remind myself that we’ll get there, eventually. He’s 4. Every day, there is discipline. Every day, we discuss what happened, what he did well, and what he can improve on.

We are making an adult that will have a global impact.

Every parent is making an adult that will have a global impact.

My goal as a parent is to direct my beautiful child through this labyrinth called “life,” leaving global impact behind him, and an eternity with Christ in front of him. My success as a parent is marked by that one goal: Jesus.

Every Time Out.

Every spanking.

Every privilege that is taken away.

Every encouraging word.

Every reward.

Every gift.

Every day.

It starts and it ends with the only Parenting Expert that matters: Jesus.

If the end of my journey as both a human being and as a parent is marked with Him, than I’ve done it right. And if society thinks that discipline is the wrong thing to do, then that further solidifies my belief that I am on the right track, because I’m not raising a child who goes along with society. I’m raising a man who has the strength and the courage to defy it.

We parent with love, with encouragement, and with discipline.

We create world-changing human beings that have an eternal impact.

THAT.

IS.

NATIONAL.

NEWS.

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and the Blessings of “Boring”

Christmas cards, postage, etc., COST. So, in the interests of saving our budget, we greatly reduced the number of Christmas cards that we physically sent out this year. Besides, everything–EVERYTHING–is online. Also, the only stamps I have left are either Harry Potter or Disney Villains, and NOTHING says “Christmas” like a Cruella De Ville stamp. 🙂 That being said, here’s our OFFICIAL Christmas Card/Letter for the year:

Christmas Card 2017

Christmas, 2017

One of the doctors in the clinic stopped by my office the other day, and commented on how sometimes, people need to learn to be happy with “normal.” I’m a big fan of “normal.” As a society, we’re told we need to “thrive on chaos,” and to “work well under pressure.” That’s all fine, but I think we’ve lost the luster of celebrating every-day life.

Wake up at 4am. Get ready for work. Drive—a lot—and maintain your Christianity in the process. Do your job—and maintain your Christianity in the process. J Drive some more. Pick up your child from school, head home, make something edible for dinner, and crash in front of the television, read a book, play a game, etc., until it’s time to do the whole day over again. There’s a schedule, and the days tend to flow into one another in some kind of monotonous blur…Or do they?

I’m definitely locked into my routine; I know I can hit that snooze button 3 times before I’m at Critical Rush. My closet is organized so I can spend 5 more minutes in bed, and I usually pack my lunch the night before. I’m as streamlined into my routine as I can possibly be, all in the name of a few extra minutes under the blankets. Do I look forward to every single day? Heck, no. There are more days than not where I fight a major battle just to put one foot on the floor. It’s for medical reasons, it’s for mental reasons—My “expectation” for the day is honestly just to get it over with. I know that sounds like absolute drudgery, but I also know it’s more common than some people realize. I think that’s part of why when something exciting happens, it’s so much more dramatic, because HOLY COW, WE HAVE BROKEN OUR ROUTINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you know one thing that breaks any concept of a “routine?”

Love.

Although the first part of my day is routine, as soon as I pick Jericho up from school, it’s really “anything goes.” I know I’m going to get him, maybe talk to his teacher, and we’re going to drive home, have dinner, and talk about his day. I know he’s going to go to bed somewhere around 7:45, and that I’m going to bed at the same time. What I don’t know, is what he’s going to say…what he’s going to do, or what new skill he’s picked up. It seems like he grows every day, and before we know it, he’s going to be starting Kindergarten. Impossible. I know that when he says something sweet, that on the outside, I’m going to remain calm; on the inside, my heart is going to turn into confetti, and my brain is going to replay the memory a thousand times over the course of the next “routine” day. When he stops everything and hugs me, I know my heart is going to go full-on Grinch, and grow 3x in 30 seconds (it does that a lot). It’s a brand of love unlike anything I have ever known or can describe, and it’s mind-blowing. I don’t understand the love I have for my son. I don’t get it—where does it come from? How does it just keep getting bigger? How is every day with him so amazing? I mean, yes—he’s 4.

Four has tested us in ways we never thought we could be tested in. Everything everyone said about the “Terrible 2’s” or “Terrifying 3’s” is a load of garbage, because FOUR?!?!?. Four is insane. Four means we occasionally have a Tiny Tyrant who is dead-set on voicing his own opinions, on doing is own thing, and is NOT dead-set on simply accepting “DO WHAT I TOLD YOU TO DO!!!!” as a viable reason to do what he’s told. Jericho is feisty, opinionated, determined, and incredibly creative. He is also very loving and very sweet, most of the time. There is never a doubt as to what he is thinking, and I can’t help but to think that he comes by that honestly. J

He’s decided he wants to be a foot doctor, a chef, and a police officer. He’s working on his handwriting; he’s able to read lots of words, and his spelling is pretty impressive. He’s in Pre-Kindergarten!?!?! School has been very good for him, and it’s definitely been a year of transition. He’s just a typical 4-year old boy. I celebrate that.

David’s “routine” day is a little different than mine; he gets Jericho ready for school every day and takes him in. Jericho wakes up ready to punch the day in the face! His day starts with YELLING, “I’M READY TO GET UPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!” over and over and over again, until David finally goes into his room and turns the light on. The child is persistent. I’m not sure how David deals with the volume level of the morning, but on the weekend, it makes me a little buzzy. J I’m used to absolute silence in the morning when I leave, because everyone is still asleep. It’s a culture shock on Saturday morning!

David’s still working with MetLife, and if there’s any “routine” to his day, it’s that he’s going to be busy. Between hurricanes, floods, storms, fires, and crazy drivers, he never knows what kinds of claims he’s going to be dealing with (or what kinds of excuses he’s going to hear). We each have to maintain certain amounts of confidentiality with what we do, but when he does tell me a carefully-redacted story, it’s always jaw-dropping. People are hilarious.

I continue to work with the Center for Eye Care at UMSL. My favorite part of my job is working with our Mobile Eye Van to provide vision services in underserved schools. A proper diagnosis of a vision issue can change a child’s life; that’s exciting, to be a part of making that change. I also continue to work with contract negotiations, compliance, and credentialing. The laws change constantly, and my biggest challenges are being made aware of, and of understanding, these changes. I appreciate the “simplicity” of just being “Mom” at the end of the day, and of not having to worry about government regulation enforcements! J I also continue to do freelance editing when I have time, and “officially” launched www.CassidysCommentary.com over the summer.

We’re a completely “normal” family. We’re a Dad, a Mom, and a child, who start each day, work and learn each day, and go to bed each night. But when you look at that sentence, there’s a lifetime of hope and of love in each comma. There is no happier moment of my day then when Jericho crawls up into my lap, and sits with me. I’ve never known a fulfillment like I feel when we sit there, doing nothing. I’m so thankful for that little boy, and so grateful for the love I see in him. He’s such an answer to prayer, and such a daily testimony to David & I…

I remember that feeling of waking up on Christmas morning when I was a kid—the anticipation, and the expectation. I kind of feel like that every day when I pick Jericho up from school. J Even though it’s “routine,” it’s the best time of the day, full of the excitement of seeing his face and of hearing about his day. It’s a beautiful “normal,” and I am so in love with having it in my life. We are both so grateful to God for these “typical” moments…

For this Christmas season, I hope that you & your family find the gratitude and joy in whatever your “routine” may be. My prayer for all of us is that the drama we are so affected by on a regular basis, go back to being out-of-the-ordinary. My prayer is that the “routine” would be calm and joyful, and that as a society, we would learn to appreciate the beauty of the mundane. Celebrate “normal” this holiday season, and enjoy the peace of the Holy Spirit in your families as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Merry Christmas!!!!!

Love,

David, Cassidy, & Jericho Cooley,

And Holly the Boxer, who is very, very old….

Reckless Love

To be a woman is a wonderful thing. We live in full color, full, intertwined, sometimes blurry, sometimes crystal-clear COLOR, & it’s an intensity that is unique to our perspective.

Or maybe that’s just me, and maybe my crazy is showing.

It comes with drawbacks, this intensity. You feel everything so deeply: love, hate, joy, rejection. You have to learn how to control how much you let certain things affect you. When someone loves you, you reciprocate with your entire heart…but then you realize they’re witholding, & you’ve overplayed your deck. You don’t feel s….l….o…w…l….y. You loveFastAndFuriously.

And sometimes,

You break into a million pieces.

You heal…and then you do it again…and it happens again…and you heal again, maybe a little more slowly this next time….and it happens again…and you…heal…again….a little more slowly….yet again…more slowly…

And the scars meld together.

People love with such reservation…but we don’t want to,  because we’re not MADE to. The world preaches love in the light of narcissism: You will love me MY way. We don’t know how to love someone outside of ourselves, so we are selfish in how we give and in how we receive love. And when two people in a relationship only focus on how they receive love, and forget to ask the other person how THEY receive love, dissonance occurs.

It’s like living in a household playing an endless loop of the audio of nails running down a chalkboard.

You’re endlessly annoyed with each other. You bait each other. Course jesting takes the place of conversation to the point that you can’t even look at each other, and your relationship becomes governed by the remote control and your calendar of events, where you will smile & look lovely, but internally contemplate an impactless life together. Is this all there is?

And the scars meld together.

Marriage is an institution with the possibility of incredible impact. Two people who love Jesus,  and love each other? They can send thousands to flight, and change the atmosphere of a nation. Satan knows this, so he destroys marriages.

Just because you live in the same house, doesn’t mean your marriage isn’t destroyed.

However…

As long as you are in that same house, there is hope (unless there’s an abusive situation—then get the heck OUT. DO NOT try to salvage an abusive relationship without intensive professional help!!!).

Now, this blog isn’t about marriage (maybe it is); rather, it’s about LOVE, and how as women, we desire so strongly to be deeply, deeply loved.  I don’t know much about the uniqueness of men & love. I would like to think that my husband believes I love him, even when we’re spatting about something (which we currently are). I feel like he’s much better at letting things roll off of him, whereas I will stay angry for a week (which I currently am). Along with that, though,  when I say nice things to him, he also lets THAT roll off of him, so it can be very, very difficult for me to know what I’ve said to him that’s registered, that stays with him. I think that finding out HOW to communicate ANYTHING to your spouse is a lifelong struggle for men AND women, much less, finding out how to LOVE them. And the two go hand-in-hand.

I am not the type to tell someone directly what I want for Christmas.  I prefer to drop hints, to see if they listened. It’s manipulative, really: I will judge how well  you know me by the accuracy of your gift. I’m being really, reaaaaaally genuine here. I’m not saying this is a good trait–it’s probably not. But I listen & I watch, & I put a great deal of thought into gifts, because the accuracy of how well I know you is in that little box. I am pursuing your affections by showing you how well I have paid attention to you, and I expect the same.

There’s an example of narcissistic love.  I love how I want to be loved. I love with communication, with an attention to detail, and that’s how I receive love.

But maybe my husband isn’t that way.

And that’s not a bad thing…but it is a mystery I have to unravel, & I have to have patience in the pursuit of that process.

I can’t give up on figuring out how to love him, even when I come to a frustrating standstill.

God never gives up on loving us, on pursuing us, on chasing us down and relentlessly fighting for our affections. He never, ever stops.

I get frustrated. David gets frustrated. We bicker, we spat, we volley for control. We can’t stand to be apart, but we hurt each other when we’re together, but we’re best friends/frenemies, but we really do love each other, but we will never be separated, because God put us together, but that doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing, but it doesn’t mean it’s NOT.

But

He

Never

Stops.

I’ve told David before that I’ve been frustrated to the point of thinking about taking a break. What I actually meant is that I want to be PURSUED. I want to feel worthy in his eyes of being pursued again, like I did in those early days….pursued with romance,  with words. That didn’t happen, but again, that’s a narcissistic love. Security generally means there is no NEED to chase; there is only a WANT to be chased, so why ask your spouse to play games?

I will say this, though, with such absolute joy: Our Jesus never stops pursuing us. He values us, He covets our love, and He relentlessly, recklessly, past the point of reason, deeply pursues us to pursue Him. “Further up, and further in.”

We keep singing the song, “Reckless Love ” at our church.  It’s a popular one right now,  and I am here for it. It’s everything I want in a relationship–it’s the pursuit of the Beloved and how He never stops.  He’s not side-tracked; He isn’t blocked. He faces no obstacle in how He chases us. He is CONSTANT. He’s not like us as people…He isn’t detoured by emotion or mental state, or bad hair days, or financial crises. HE LOVES US, and He never, ever stops.

Like, I can’t wrap my head around it. Everything I need as a person, as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, is there in His reckless pursuit of me, and of you.  There’s no communication breakdown that takes it away,  there’s no “writer’s block” that stops it from coming. His love is a runaway train, and when it catches you?

You’re shaken to your core.

You’re undone.

I’m undone.

I can’t process what He does, or Who He is…it’s like getting shattered into fractals, it’s like the sun exploded into your brain…it’s like every circuit that makes you who you are, overloads and short-circuits into a trillion galaxies.

It’s like a molecule of Heaven blew up in your brain.

That

Is

The

Love

Of

God.

And it chases after ME.