Monday, September 24, 2012

Every Woman

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary.  On September 25, 1976, I made the best decision of my life and married my darlin’.  You’d think, thirty-six years later, that watching wedding shows would be a thing of the past.  But you’d be wrong.
I am addicted to Say Yes To The Dress.  It must be some nod to the romantic young girl still living inside me.  Or maybe it’s just a sigh inducer because I wore a borrowed wedding dress when I said “I do.”   I didn’t have the luxury of trying on stunning styles in front of admiring eyes.  We got married on the cheap when church weddings were the norm and guests were happy with mints and wedding cake at the crepe paper adorned reception.
Eleven years ago we renewed our vows in front of friends and family, dressed to the nines in formal wear and sparkle, and then flew across the pond for a two-week honeymoon twenty-five years overdue.  It was fantastic.  We have wonderful memories and photos.  You’d think I’d be over weddings now.  And . . . you’d be wrong.
I guess fairy tales never die.
So what’s so compelling about this tv show? Well, there’s mama drama and bridesmaid envy and not a few diva tantrums.  Now and then a sweet thing brings a charming entourage, and then even the sales girls shed some tears. Actually, girls cry a lot on this show.  So do their moms.  See, ‘tearing up’ is the sign everyone looks for as dress after dress falls to the floor while the bride tries to decide which one is The One.  It’s almost more important than deciding if the guy is the one.  And if the bride cries at her reflection and her mama’s mascara melts watching her daughter parade in front of the mirror, then everyone knows that bride will say “yes” to the dress.
It might sound like I’m making fun of this show, but I’m not.  Every time I watch it I listen in fascination as brides are interviewed, revealing their insecurities (“I was always called the ugly duckling,” one said this morning), their highest dreams (“He’s the most wonderful man in the world,” they usually say about their fiancĂ©s) and sometimes profound disappointment—such as when a mother comes to the dress appointment only to try on MOB dresses instead of supporting her daughter.
But the staff is experienced, part sales professional, part therapist.  They know how to handle difficult mamas and insecure brides.  It’s a study in human nature. What fascinates me the most about the show  is the way it reveals our DNA as women and our desire to be beautiful, whether we walk down a church aisle or meet a friend for lunch.  And sadly, few of us know how beautiful we really are.  Society and culture have spent our lifetime telling us we don’t measure up, convincing us that we never will.
So kudos to TLC for making me cheer on two thousand dollar wedding dresses that make a daddy cry and a mama smile and a fiancĂ© swoon and a girl’s esteem soar.  I’m still in favor of weddings, even if times have changed and budgets exploded.  And I wish them all thirty-six years plus of knowing they married the most wonderful man in the world.
But most of all, I wish us each to know—fashionista or not—every woman is beautiful.

(Photo courtesy of zoetnet's photostream on flickr.com)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wendy's Journey

 
Her story is compelling.  The facts are startling.  Her resolve astonishing.
I have admired few people the way I admire this woman.  I have been passionate about few issues the way I am about this one.
I have never feared more for the future of my family and this country as I do right now.
This is more than one woman’s story. 
It could be yours.
  
“Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to speak. My name is Wendy Thomson, I live in Michigan, and I am here representing Freedom to Travel USA. We have members in 47 states and Canada. . . .  I was urged to tell my story with the advice that you need to hear this.

I have an artificial leg. I have joint replacements. I have metal plates. I am cyborg. I used to fly a lot – in my original comments you can tally the 21 airports I have used, many more than once, between 2001 and October 2010. Those dozens upon dozens of flights introduced me to being stripped down to my pantyhose while screeners were asking themselves whether they would require me to get totally naked, all while we were in a makeshift lean-to in Concourse A.

I have had hands down my pants. I have had my breasts checked after the MMW screener called out “check her thigh.” I spent 2-1/2 hours in Dallas once insisting that TSA agents could check only what alarmed. Dressed in a similar fashion as I am today, I finally turned and left after the TSA insisted they needed to check my breasts because my right knee-to-ankle set off the metal detector.

I have been so groped and molested in so many ways that I am now properly traumatized. I was actually going to take my leg off at this point and set it up here on the dais, but I am hoping that such an extreme level of theatrics will not be required to garner your attention. I actually did that for several years: before I had these metal plates and joints I figured out that if I merely took this leg off and placed it on the conveyor belt I was not harassed.

Leg on: breast and butt fondle, hand swabs, the whole nine yards. Leg off: none of the above. So now I’m thinking that I would need to take this leg off and hop on over to the AIT machine, stand there like a total criminal as the machine tried to figure out what to do when there is someone who doesn’t have two feet to spread their legs.

Spread their legs? Think about that phrase for a minute. Totally disgusting.

I cannot even think of traveling by air without losing sleep before and after. I become so enraged with the humiliation and egregious violation of my personal space and body that I have been known to pace all night. Now, being that I travel by train, ship, and car, I still lie awake crafting my response if I were to encounter the TSA at a train station.

I will tell you now that I will not submit. I will not consent. Exactly how I do that is still being formulated. I have walked away from flights before. I will walk away in all cases. And if it comes to me not being able to take any public transportation at all without being physically assaulted, I will see the TSA in court.

I have been attacked twice in my life. One resulted in broken furniture and blood splattered on my bedroom walls. I cope with those experiences by controlling who, when, and how anyone touches me. This is my body. I decide who touches me. I decide who sees me naked. I do not grant that privilege to any of you, nor any of your employees. The coercion and duress caused by TSA current policies and procedures have made me avoid them at all costs. And I mean all costs — such as my former $250K-per-year career.

I understand that by most measures I am a remarkable person. As a handicapped single working mother I managed to raise my two sons, took in a ward of the court, and got all three of them bachelor’s degrees. I was a navigator on a freighter, sang my way across Italy on a concert tour, raced sailboats, made over $4 million along the way, garnered a couple of patents, joined Mensa, and even rode a bicycle around Mackinac Island twice.

I am very determined. I have managed to navigate this world and culture my own way, perforce on my own terms because I have had to create solutions when nobody else could.

This leg? I designed it. It is one of a kind, specific to my particular needs, and it was 15 years in the making. That’s because I am so outside the bell curve on so many parameters that I am the only one I have ever found who can effectively solve my problems.

Then along comes the TSA. I must admit, you have given me a hard nut to crack. I will take my still-spending travel dollars and direct them away from the industry that supports all of you. That’s unfortunate, but you have only the TSA to blame.

Why you believe it’s fine that you have turned “Driving While Black” into the no more acceptable “Flying While Handicapped” escapes me. Why you have not come up with a way to capture institutional knowledge about harmless people with medical devices escapes me. Why you have decided to make anyone with a medical device a second-class citizen escapes me.

I can assure you of this: demographics tell us that your current model is unsustainable, since more and more people will be taking advantage of these medical miracles. You will simply be swamped.

By the way: these birth defects of mine? Caused by my father’s secondary exposure to radiation from being stationed as part of the occupying force in the Hiroshima valley. Two months after the blast. 53 days of exposure. Radiation can cause birth defects. I would strongly suggest that you keep your screeners away from the 4-1/2 feet on either side of the backscatter machines. I read the NIST and Johns Hopkins reports. Those are danger zones.

Studies have concluded that there’s a reasonable argument to be made that TSA policies have diverted so many travel miles to freeways that you have been responsible for more deaths in the last 10+ years than 9-11. I don’t think you also want to be responsible for causing birth defects.”


Wendy Thomson is a co-founder of Freedom To Fly USA, an organization whose mission is to change the TSA's procedures to honor our nation's underlying principle of innocent until proven guilty and to end the assault on citizen travelers' rights to bodily privacy.
She gave this speech two days ago, September 18, 2012, before the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) at its second public meeting in Arlington, Virginia.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hear Hear!

It’s risky to trust. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.
If you relax and are yourself around me—if only a little bit—that trust is a gift.  It’s a foray into exposure, like the way I dip my toes into warm pedicure water before I commit to the whole foot.  Lobster feet are never what I had in mind. And a lobster blush doesn’t do much for my face, either.
It’s not easy to take off my masks.  Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m wearing one. Or two. And if I give it a shot only to see that familiar “You’re Such An Idiot” look on my confidant’s face, chances are I’ll put that disguise back on with superglue.
We’re not very good listeners, most of us. I’m not talking about the actual listening part as much as the necessary shutting up part where I let you talk and drain off whatever is going on in your life without judging or rescuing you.  It’s my opportunity to say with my body language that I’m a safe person for you to talk to while you sort it all out. It’s a gift to you of respect.
Listening is tricky.  Good versions of it are skillful. And when you risk talking to me you are saying you believe, as you tell me your story, that I will be careful with your heart.  That I will let you use your own words.  Trust assumes I can hear you out without diverting you to a side issue that leaves you feeling misunderstood or interrupted. And it says that when I summarize back to you what I heard you say, that you are the authority on how you feel and I won’t defend what I thought I heard you say.
Trust asks me to listen.  It does not give me permission to try to fix you. A skilled listener knows you can discover your answers and helps you believe that, too.
In their book Can You Hear Me Now?*, Dr. Dallas and Nancy Demmit point out that “through listening, you can also invite others to listen to you so that you have a safe place to discover and receive God’s healing touch, too. We need each other.” They say that through listening you can:
·         Reduce stress
·         Show love
·         Minimize misunderstanding
·         Relieve anger, fear, loneliness and pain
·         Clarify direction
There have been few women in my life who know how to listen while simultaneously making me feel accepted and validated.  There have been multitudes of others who have sent me home after ‘heart to hearts’ with bruises.  Sadly, I’m sure I’ve done the same. Usually it’s unintentional and from a genuine motivation to help.  The problem is when I, as a listener, try to fix someone who just needs to be heard, my savior imitation just judges them as more broken than me.  But how can I possibly know what will make another person heal?  At what point have I lived in their skin, suffered their wounds, worn their scars?
Most of the time what others need is for me to put my own agenda aside, save my stories for my blog, and just listen. That’s when the magic happens.  When people feel genuinely heard, they begin to genuinely see, and healing isn’t far behind.
Who knew I could accomplish so much by saying so little? 

He who has ears to hear, let him be listening and let him consider and perceive and comprehend by hearing.  Matthew 11:15


*Can You Hear Me Now? Copyright 2003, by Dallas and Nancy Demmit, Gilbert, Arizona
(Photo courtesy of vagawi's photostream, flickr.com)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

An Ode To Odah

Can I be real here? 
I.Am.No.Good.At.WordsWithFriends.  It shocks all my friends when they  discover that, because some of them call me a wordsmith.  But it makes me a pretty good opponent—you can almost always beat me.  I think I’d be great at this lousy game if I were a linear thinker.  But I’m not.  Nor do I have a natural sense of direction. And, somehow, playing jigsaw puzzle with letters that go up and down messes with my true sense of north and gives me low scores.  See?  I’m a good foil for Scrabble wizards.
But I do have a trick.  A system. A game plan.  I just move letters in and around, click ‘submit’ over and over again on my smart phone, and eventually I stumble onto a word that’s worth at least three points.  It’s not a lot of points, but it’s a play.
Tonight I stumbled onto a real gem of a word—“odah”.  In Scrabble it’s worth 8 points, but in WordsWithFriends it’s only worth 7, unless you play it on a triple letter and a triple word and then it’s worth 27 points and significant suspicion.  My favorite nemesis, who normally throws me a bone once in a while and still wins against me with over 400 points, challenged this one’s authenticity and my rare 27 points.
“Use it in a sentence, please,” she requested.
Well . . . in its anagrammatical form it is “hado” spelled backwards, I told her.
“Of course it is,” she replied.
So I looked it up. 
Wow. Wait til you hear this.
Dictionary.com says “odah” is a noun with two syllables, offers a pronunciation guide, a plural form, and absolutely no definition.  Weird.
So I moved on to UrbanDictionary.com.  They said it refers to “a state of uncertainty or pensiveness, if you will.”  They state that “one may mutter this word during a fairly important social decision whilst in the presence of the certain person asking the question.”
What??
Never mind.  Finally I turned to Scrabblefinder.com who threw up their hands in confusion and wrote, “No definition of 'odah' found - It's still good as a Scrabble word, though!” 
It’s a word that doesn’t mean anything, but it’s worth Scrabble points. Now, doesn’t that sound like the definition of a government job to you?  And that, naturally, makes me think of the TSA—which is an organization that doesn’t accomplish anything but is deemed worthy of our tax money by the U.S. government.

Okay, maybe that was a bit of a stretch, but if WordsWithFriends can accept a word that doesn't mean anything and give points for it, then there's nothing wrong with me connecting the dots between nonsense and security theater.

Come to think of it, that’s no stretch at all.


(Photo courtesy of incase.'s photostream at flickr.com)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

With Eyes Tightly Closed

It took me a long time to think Florida is beautiful. 
I thought only the mountains deserved that description, and there aren’t any mountains in the Sunshine State.  There are barely any hills.  Sometimes, during the ten years that we lived on the Gulf coast, my husband and I would drive an hour to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa for a little elevation.  I just couldn’t figure out why God made Florida flat. 
But now I see there are many kinds of beauty. We took a drive today in the early morning, deep into the heart of this tropical state.  A heavy mist hung over verdant green pastures where the stark white of egret wings waved a friendly ‘good morning’. Cows grazed beneath groomed oak trees draped in Spanish Moss, and we made eye contact with a family of deer who paused mid-munch to watch us drive past.  Serenity drew our eyes into the distance, following winding creeks back to a palm-lined horizon. All along the way, life teemed above and around us in this Southern version of ‘where the wild things are’.
Why did it take me so long to realize that I love this state? That my heart is at home by a salt water bay? That a walk on the beach after dark is almost better than chocolate?  Maybe I was afraid of being unfaithful to the  heights which always feed my soul.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with landscape loyalty.  There are, of course, just as many people who can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would choose to live in a Sonoran desert.  Sometimes I am one of those people, even though that’s where my zip code resides.  Mostly, though, that’s only each June 28th, when I haven’t seen rain in five months and even my bougainvillea is throwing in the towel.
Why is it so hard to think everything created by God is beautiful, including people? What makes some prefer blondes to the exclusion of every other hair color? Why is it hard to be kind to the elderly while we lavishly smile at youth?  What is it about extra weight on a woman that causes us to harshly condemn?
I realized once that all physical beauty is about three days from disintegration—from cut flowers to corpses.  I can’t even make my foundation last a couple of hours before it begins to melt off my face. How futile to believe that true beauty is what I can maintain perfectly on the outside. Gravity, time and hardship are devastating allies.
There must be something more. 
There is.
There is your heart.  And there’s where you’ll find the real beauty of every woman.  In her tender caring or outrageous laughter, as she listens intently or speaks from her passion, in the touch of her hand and her touch in her home, she offers a fragrance of loveliness.
How rich is the one who breathes it in deeply—with eyes tightly closed.

(Photo courtesy of photomatt28 @ flickr.com)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Summer of 'With'

“As you can see, everyone,” the voice crackled over the intercom, “we’ve been circling here for a while.  There’s a storm below with high winds, so we’ll be in this holding pattern for a few more minutes.”
The unwelcome news broke through my thoughts like the stubborn sun which currently emerged between angry clouds outside the window.  Cramped and tired after a four and a half hour flight—my fifth trip to Florida in six months—I didn’t want to be in a holding pattern tonight.  We’d been in a ‘holding pattern’ for weeks, two thousand miles away from the normalcy of our lives, and now we couldn’t even put our feet on the ground.  It seemed like another parallel to the “life without control” where we’d lived most of this summer.
Suddenly, a collective gasp sounded from the left side of the plane.  I quickly looked out our window and saw, moving over the right wing of the plane, a rainbow, slowly sweeping across our perspective until it vanished from sight.
My heart lifted a little.  Rising up into the clouds again, our pilot did his best to make us dizzy, flying donuts in the sky while we waited for the “all clear” below.  A silent calm engulfed the cabin as we rose and fell, staging in the sky. Then another excited murmur spread along the left rows of passengers as the rainbow made an encore appearance.  With each loop de loop of our flight, we tunneled through the center of this colorful, persistent arch, miles in the air.
Face to face with a rainbow—37,000 feet up.  Who needs a pot of gold when you’re encircled by the promise of God?
Eventually, our plane was cleared for landing, and our holding pattern ended.  It was the final poignancy, mirroring the end of a months long holding pattern in our personal lives as well.
Throughout the storm of a family illness, we searched for hope and purpose in heartbreak. We begged, pleaded, wept and desperately tried to understand the silence of God. We never doubted His love or wisdom or goodness.  No storm changes Who He is. But as day followed day, I struggled with our circumstances.  Finally in the trial of this last year, I began to see that God’s answer is His promise to be Emmanuel – God With Us.  And having God with me is enough. Just as our pilot never left our plane, Jesus never left me or my family.  We just kept circling through angry clouds together until we could see God’s promise again. 
On the last time around, in a stunning finale, the clouds were parted by a double rainbow.  A double promise.
“For God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not leave you helpless nor let you down (nor) relax My hold on you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)
“I will be with you always, even to the end of the world,” Jesus said.
Even to the end of a life lost.  Even in the face of financial hardship.  Even in the silence of a holding pattern.  Even to the end of the world, Emmanuel is with us.
Because He promised.

(Photo courtesy of oclipa photostream at flickr.com)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Birth

The pangs of childbirth.  I remember them well.  I’m not supposed to, of course. It’s a pain I was told I’d forget. At least, that’s what my mother said.  Maybe she had stronger drugs than I did.
In my case, the pangs began weeks before the baby actually came.  Braxton Hicks and all that.  Then there was trouble breathing as the growing little one encroached on my personal space.  I ate less, moved less, slept less, all in preparation for the final debut.  A few days before each of my children’s unveilings, labor began in earnest and, seventy-two hours later, we both had our freedom.  It was time.  Each baby needed his freedom, I needed them to have their freedom, we both needed our independence.  And when they arrived, we were so proud.  Everyone offered us their congratulations.
Insert twenty plus years of childrearing here.  Then imagine a few years of ‘birth pangs’ before they each staged their next debuts.  You can label those ‘the teen years’.  Little by little, our kids grew into the adults they were always meant to be, stretching the limits and taxing our patience in preparation for their launching.  Each kick against the goads of our restraint was an uncomfortable reminder that they would soon be capable of the unimaginable—living on their own, independent of us.  The more painful the pangs, the more we all longed for them to have their liberty.  And when it finally happened, it was time.  Our children needed their freedom, we needed them to have their freedom, we all needed their independence.  We missed them, but we were so proud of them.  And we offered them our congratulations.
I thought that was the final birth story.  But I missed one. 
I see now that death is the final birth in life.  It seems unimaginable at first.  This time, it’s me who kicks against the goads of an uncontrollable event set in motion against my will. I don’t want him to leave us.  I can’t imagine this world without him. The void will be so big, so alien, so. . . lonely.  But this time, this revealing—his debut as the new man in Christ he’d already become in spirit—this is the true freedom.  The more painful his pangs, the more we all longed for his liberty. He needed his freedom.  We needed him to be free. And so . . . it was time.
His independence day came.  His ultimate birth.  His resurrection. His welcome home party.
We’ll miss you, Dad.  You fought the good fight. You ran the race. You finished the course. You held fast your faith.   And now you’re free. We’re so proud of you. 
Congratulations.



I have fought the good and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have firmly held the faith. As to what remains, there is laid up for me the victor’s crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me. . .  2 Timothy 4:7-8 (Amplified Version)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Power Lines

I looked around at the dirty sidewalk, overflowing trashcans and peeling candy bar posters in the plate glass window.  In the background, diesel trucks pulled in and out of overworked gas pumps and tired travelers put empty wallets back in their pockets.  Miles of bleak powerlines punctuated the dusty sky.  It all seemed like a metaphor to me.

This rest stop wasn't very restful.  The food for sale wasn't nourishing. The Texas souvenirs weren't even from Texas. In general, it was a sub-par representation of life.

So I wiped the sweat from my forehead as I went looking for a bathroom with invisible pestilences, and I did what I always do.  I griped to God.


Me:     "So, God, life is hard and often unhappy."

Him:    "Some times."

Me:     (Trying to find a spiritual rainbow.)
           "I need to remember the world is imperfect and not to put
            my hope in it."

Him:    "Good advice."

Me:     "And that the good life is with You, right?"

Him:    "Yep.  You just need to hold everything loosely."

Me:     "Yeah. . . what does that really mean?"

Him:    "I don't know.  I read it on Facebook."


It was the first laugh I'd had all day.



God will let you laugh again ~  you'll raise the roof with shouts of joy. . .   Job 8:21



(Photo courtesy of Jess and Colin photostream at Flickr.com)