Friday, February 26, 2010

Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned


Bob Marshall, a Virginia delegate (R-13th District), had this to say about the reason women have disabled children...

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first-born of any, Nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first-born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest, and with the knowledge they have from faith has been verified by a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University.”

Huh, I am not even sure where to begin with all that is wrong there, so I’ll change the subject.

I got baptized in the Spring of 2008. As part of the process at my church you have to meet with someone and talk about your understanding of baptism. I was asked what I expected would be the result of my baptism.

Considering that God had made it very clear to me that he wanted to me to get baptized (why else would I stand in a water tank, chest-level deep, in front of a couple hundred people and profess my commitment to him), I was convinced that there would be a dramatic change in my life. I expected to come up out of the water a new person, connected to God in a new way.

Just a couple weeks after my baptism, I found out that the baby inside me had a major heart defect and would require life-saving surgery by 6 months old. Oh, yeah, and it likely had Down syndrome too. Not exactly the baptism blessing one might expect to receive.

In fact, a girl might start to wonder if God was punishing her for something. Because after all, aren’t disabled children a burden? Don’t they suffer and cause those around them to suffer? Isn’t the scorn and hate people heap on them because they are inherently wrong, a mistake of nature, perhaps even Nature’s vengeance?

I am so glad God prepared me through baptism for the birth of Kimani. He knew that soon I would walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He knew all the things I might think, all the fears I would have. He knew the barrage of contempt and ridicule complete strangers would hurl at me.

And he also knew that when it was all said and done, I would know I had been honored. I have given birth to a child that has given birth to me. There is no greater gift I could ask for. Kimani has cemented my faith in God and she has woken up my creative heart.

Thank you God, for in spite of my many sins, you have richly blessed me.

(Oh, and Mr. Marshall, shame on you for saying such an ugly, hurtful lie.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Learning When to Laugh

I love stand-up comedy. I can't tell you how many times Eddie Murphy has cracked me up... “You don't got no ice cream.” I grew up with no ice cream and I could still laugh at that skit. And Damon Wayans describing his cheese-eating math teacher... ROTF LMBO.

I could have been a comedian. And I might have if only I hadn’t been so slim. (Oh, come on, you know there is a weight requirement when it comes to being a successful girl stand-up comedian.)

I love to laugh. And I am my favorite target. I make jokes about things that were hilariously embarrassing, scary, or painful only a few years (weeks, hours) ago. I make jokes about my marriage, my sex life, my weaknesses, my crazy childhood, my colorful pre-Jesus years...

Because laughter is therapy... it feels good. Laughter heals.

But not when it’s ugly... like the time I was in the back seat of a car with a friend-of-a-friend driving... and it was raining and there was an obese girl walking down the sidewalk. The driver deliberately drove faster into a large puddle alongside her and splashed her with the muddy water. The guys up front laughed like hyenas. I was horrified. Ha ha ha, not funny.

I pink slip people who make fun of others in a cruel or demeaning kind of way. I consider it a fatal character flaw, and with all the people I can choose to spend time with why would I pick someone who gets a belly laugh out of humiliating someone else?

Yeah, I knew when to laugh and when not to. Then Kimani was born and the line shifted.

Damon Wayans doing “Handi-Man” isn’t quite so funny anymore. And yet, one night when my husband and I were talking about Kimani having Down syndrome I said to him with a grin, “Last one out’s a rotten egg.” And then I burst out laughing (and ended up crying. It was all a little raw still.)

If you made that joke I’d wipe the mud off me and hand you your walking papers. Is that fair? She’s my kid, she’s my egg... it was my guilt. So yeah, it’s ok that I could make that joke. (And it's ok if you laughed at it, or gasped and said, "That's horrible.")

I hope Kimani inherited my sense of humor. I hope she learns when to laugh. I hope when she hears a joke about squeezing her pet rabbit to death... that she gets it, and that she cracks up over it.

(And, I am already proud to know that she will never get her laughs by hurting someone else.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stone Me

A while ago I went with my aunt to see The Stoning of Soraya M. It was a hard movie to watch.

Soraya’s husband no longer wants to be married to her so he arranges for her to be accused and found guilty of adultery. According to Sharia law, she must be stoned for this. Her own father and her two young sons participate in the stoning (along with her husband and most every other male in the town).


I wanted to close my eyes, to turn away as the rocks flew into her face. But I denied myself that out because I knew it was a true story, and because she could not turn away, I would honor her by watching what she went through.

I felt so connected to her. I live in the same time period as she did. I have a husband and two young sons. I have committed sins much more worthy of a stoning.

I, too, have been condemned to die for my sins.


But as I await the fulfillment of my sentence, I hear Christ’s words, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

Though no one steps forward, the weight of my own sins still holds me down in that hole like the convicted prisoner that I am. I realize that I am alive today simply because I was born in the USA instead of Iran.

Picture credit: I doctored the dvd box art. You can click it to see the original.
'TUC in the Ground' by Artist Anaa.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

100 Reasons Why

usWhen you first fall in love, it seems so easy to list the reasons why. It took me maybe a half hour to come up with a hundred of them, printed out on textured grey paper, rolled into a scroll, tied off with red ribbon.

A decade, four kids, and many trials later, it gets a little tougher.

Oh, I know I love him... I just can’t always remember why as I move through this endless pile of laundry and glance at that sink full of dishes. And I am vaguely distracted by a distant memory of life before him, when freedom meant being able to wake up a world away with no return ticket.

So I sat there staring at a blank screen wondering if it was at all possible to conjure up a new list without peeking at the old list.

I love you because...
Panic sets in. Do I even really love you still?

My fingers type... 1. Those beautiful blue eyes. 2. You never complain. 3. You root for my Giants. ♥

Before I know it, I am on number 15. You can find anything I lost. Then zing... 23. You let me sleep late... often. 39. You make a lot of sacrifices to get things for me. And 48. Any roller coaster, anywhere.

63. You’ll eat almost anything.
64. You take the dirty jobs.
66. “Honey can you get me a...” Always a yes.
67. That little dance you do.
70. You are kind to living things.

Oh, I am on a roll now. Elizabeth Barrett Browning ain’t got nothing on me.

74. You are generous.
75. You drove through the heart of Chicago during rush hour without getting us killed.
79. You like to make up and don’t stay mad for long.
88. You always remember my birthday and our anniversaries and every other special day. ♥

Huh, this isn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Did I really think I hated you just yesterday?

93. You agreed to more children.
95. You let me warm up my cold parts on you.
96. You forgive my imperfections.

And finally, 100. For thirteen years you have loved me completely and unconditionally and I hope you will continue to do so forever more. ♥

Done. Another list tied with another red ribbon. Happy Valentine’s Day love.

(Oh, my dear blog reader, you want the unabridged version? Look me up on EBay... I’ll sell you a copy, cheap ;-)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

STFU Sarah

I’ve been a little too busy for the past couple of years to form a solid opinion of Sarah Palin. My mom loves her, my auntie despises her... It really has a way of ruining an afternoon tea at my house.

She just hadn’t ever done anything right enough or wrong enough to sway me either way. But that has all changed now.

You see when some apathetic big shot throws around the big R insult, Sarah’s opinion on it gets heard. Me, I write my heart out, leaving my blood and guts on the page and maybe a couple hundred or so people see it... a good 90% of whom are in the choir I am preaching to. But what Sarah writes on her FB account gets national coverage.

This woman is in a position to change things. She is in a position to stand up for Trig and for Kimani, and for all the intellectually disabled. Wow, what I wouldn’t give to be in control of her Twitter account for five minutes.

And so what does she do? She kisses Rush Limbaugh’s buttocks at the expense of her own child’s dignity. “Oh what Rush said? That was just satire, ha ha, and when you reference my retarded child using satire, well that’s ok.”

Here’s some real satire for you Sarah. Hope it breaks your heart like it did mine.

Friday, February 5, 2010

It Wasn’t Meant That Way

(If you landed here after an image search, this post is better for you.)

It's time for a little etymology lesson. There seems to be great confusion about the proper usage of the word retard.

Even Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is a bit discombobulated. After all, he was only trying to vent his anger and frustration at an idea presented by a group of liberal Democrats at a weekly strategy session last August, when you know, it just popped out, “Fucking retarded.”

Once his slur came to light and was publicized as a big faux-pas, Emanuel apologized. He meant no harm to the mentally disabled. He wasn’t referring to them. He meant “retarded” in a different context... And guess what? Many bloggers are defending his use of the insult.

They say... What is with all this politically correct stuff anyway? Why are you so sensitive? Nobody calls mentally retarded people retarded... It just doesn’t mean that anymore. Everybody knows that the modern definition of it is: stupid, nonsensical, ineffective, useless, uncooperative. Golly, its the perfect catch-all for most anything that is annoying.

The word has Latin roots and by the 1400s it meant, “to make slower in movement or time,” and forms of the word came to mean to make something or someone late... think “tardy” or the French, “Je suis en retard” which translates into “I am late” (as in for a very important date.) The English version of the word is still used in this innocuous form today... a fire retardant mattress, a chemical that retards weed growth.

So how did the word travel from fire retardant pajamas to a playground insult? What is the bridge between “late or hindered” and “stupid or aggravating”?

Hmm, let me think, let me think... what is the reference of our shared understanding of the slur?

Is it...

No, no, that's not it.

Is it...

No, though that may be our shared reference for “ewww”.

Is it...

Nope, wrong again.

How about...

Ah, yes there it is. A mentally retarded person. A person who is mentally late, mentally hindered. She, and all those like her, are the reference we share in order to comprehend the meaning of Emanuel's insult, “Fucking retarded.”

There is no “other context” for the put-down. Whenever you say “that’s retarded” or “Stop being retarded” you are referencing my youngest child. You are saying that something is stupid, like my daughter. That it is useless, like my daughter, worthless like my daughter.

The medical community (uh, unlike general society) has figured out the connection between the insult and the basis for our understanding of the insult, and they have moved to change the terminology used to describe people like my child. She is now intellectually disabled.

Do you know why they changed the terminology? Because mentally retarded people are not a synonym for stupid, or ineffective, or useless, or uncooperative, or worthless. So do them a favor and delete the slur “retard” from your vocabulary.

If you are not willing to do that, then maybe it is time to admit that something in your upbringing has retarded your sense of decency.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Three Little Words

Back in my Triassic period, one of the fastest ways to get a pink slip from me was to pop out with three little words... “I love you.” Yup, premature enunciations of love would get a guy’s boyfriend status revoked. I had two golden rules... don’t tell me you love me and don’t ask me to marry you.

I love you, I love you, I love you... I’d heard it uttered in the dark by a frightened mother. I’d read it in ink-stained poetry. I’d heard those words professed by lovers, drunken men, and snakes... at times, all one and the same. I'd heard it threatened through clenched teeth and seen it hanging from a noose. I’d heard it in English, French, Italian, and even Albanian.

I’d heard it enough to know that it did not mean what it was supposed to mean. And therefore, those words did not trigger in me requited sentiments, no, no, instead they brought cold anger and contempt.

armorFor I had already learned that love is a verb, not a capricious noun made up of pheromones, hormones, and other such sweet aphrodisiacs. So the rule was don’t tell me, show me. Because if I can’t tell by your actions that you love me, then let’s just stick with like.

My husband was a quick study and he took my warning seriously. He soon figured out that to get into my heart he needed to demonstrate my three little words... blood, sweat, and tears.

After all, those actions of love were given for me by a King and I would expect no less from a husband. He gave willingly all that was needed, and eventually I proposed to him.

These words were read at our wedding, “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death;” Sgs 8:6. And while we sport no visible branding, no colorful appellation tattoos, no vials of blood worn ‘round the neck... they are there in spirit.

Now when I hear the words “I love you”, I am at peace because he has earned the right to say them.

Picture credit: Armor for Man and Horse: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There’s a Monster In the Pantry

One day I opened the kitchen pantry door and found a Lego troll, armed and dangerous, guarding the peanut butter.


I picked him up by his ugly green head and tossed him back in the toybox. Then I heard him yell out, “I’m not the only monster in your closet!”