I’m a Daddy’s girl. From the time I was a little girl, I admired everything my daddy did, from his wonderful bowling form to his driving with two feet. When I was 14 years old, I had no choice but to drive my dad, my brother, and me home from the bowling alley one Saturday afternoon because my dad was having such a severe migraine that he could no longer drive us home. As I prepared to put the car in drive (I had NEVER driven before!), I placed my right foot on the gas pedal and my left foot on the brake, just like my daddy did. He quickly shouted, “No!” I couldn’t figure out why he would say such a thing – after all, that’s the way he drove and I wanted to drive just like my daddy.
My father suffered a stroke in August 2008, and my husband and I moved him to the Atlanta area at the end of September 2008. He lived with us for the past 15 months. Nonetheless, God decided it was time for my daddy to enter into His presence – my dad passed away on Monday, April 5, 2010, the day after Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His funeral was today, April 9, 2010.
Although I told him before he passed, I want to honor my father publicly. I told him how much he was loved, what a great job he did as a father, and that he didn’t have to worry; we’re going to be fine. He was a beautifully sweet man, quite the handsome one, very generous, and wonderfully loving. Here is a relatively recent photo of my father:
I love my father; I miss him terribly. I wish he were still with us. But he is experiencing God’s kingdom right now. And for that, I can only celebrate that my father is experiencing pain no more, and we will see him again one day.
Thank you, Daddy, for being my Daddy. It has been an honor to be your daughter.
I’m guilty. Yes, I have talked on my cell while driving. Yes, I thought I had it under control. And while I didn’t text while driving (now THAT one I don’t quite understand), I would, periodically, start a text at a stop light, stop when I began moving, and try to continue the text at the next stop light. Yes, that, in my mind, was okay to do.
So how often do we observe cell phone use while driving? In the Atlanta area, all the time. And although inherently I believed it was a dangerous practice, I sometimes felt I had to call my husband on my way home from work, or call a friend because the 35-40 minute commute was the most convenient time to have a conversation.
That was before I watched Oprah’s episode on what Oprah refers to as “America’s New Deadly Obsession,” cell phone use while driving, when it first aired a couple of weeks ago. As I listened to the stories about people losing their lives because someone, whether it was the person killed or someone in another vehicle, was using a cell phone while driving, I was convicted. And I thought to myself, “That could’ve been me. I could’ve caused an injury or death at any time.” So I acknowledge I’ve been fortunate. My angels have been looking out for me. But after that episode, I promised I would never use my cell phone for anything as I drive.
I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by not texting or using my phone while I am driving. I will ask other drivers I know to do the same. I pledge to make a difference.
I know we are all busy. We try to cram as much into a day as possible, because there are ONLY 24 hours in a day. But seriously, is phone use while driving really worth the lives we put at risk when we engage in what Oprah calls “America’s New Deadly Obsession”? Is it worth your son or daughter losing their mother or father? Is it worth losing the loved ones who ride with you each day? Is it worth taking the life of someone’s daughter or son? Rhetorical. No need to answer.
Oh, by the way, check out this statistic: we are four times more likely to have an accident if driving and talk on our cell phones. That is the equivalent of a driving with a blood alcohol of .08, the limit at which one is charged a DUI. Even worse, we are eight times more likely to have an accident if we text while driving.
Unfortunately, not too long after the episode aired, it was reported that a 19-year old man sending a text slammed into a telephone pole here in Atlanta.
I usually don’t get too emotional about YouTube videos. Yet, one of my students sent me a link yesterday to a video that he said, “gave me the chills.” For this particular student to preface his email this way piqued my curiosity, so I clicked on it and watched. And most certainly, it was very emotional for me.
The video is a presentation of “Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” what many refer to as “The Black National Anthem.” The Rev. Joseph Lowery quoted from the third verse of the song during his benediction at the Inauguration on January 20, 2009 when he prayed,
“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.”
As I watched the images, I couldn’t help but be propelled into a past that I only experienced on the surface (being born in 1964 living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin). I couldn’t help but to feel some pain knowing the injustices that were wrought on innocent people just because of the color of their skin. Yet, the video is full of images of power, in the midst of the injustices served, and in the midst of the hurt and pain I felt, I also felt proud for the progress we’ve made.
I think the video tells a powerful story. As my student shared it with me, I’d like to share it with you.
My parents had me when they were in their late 30s. As I grew older, I was always proud to talk about my parents’ age, because they aged so well. My mom always looked at least 10-15 years younger than she was, and she acted youthfully as well. She was so active, so vibrant – until she developed lung cancer in 2000 and passed away in 2006.
After my mom’s death, my father remained “youthful” (he also looked at least 10-15 years young than his age) and independent, in spite of him being diagnosed type-2 diabetic several years ago. He carried on well, keeping active, maintaining his friendships. Because my mother passed and my dad had no family in Milwaukee (where he lived for 60 years), I asked him to move in with my husband, daughter, and me last year. He has family down here in the Atlanta area (he is originally from the Macon, GA area), so I didn’t think it would be that major. But major it would be for him, so he decided to stay in Milwaukee. I explained to him that if he developed illness that required hospitalization or anything like that, there was nobody there to care for him, and it would be hard for me to travel to Milwaukee to take care of him. Nonetheless, my father said no to the idea, at least for the time being. I don’t blame him for his decision – 60 years is a long time to live somewhere, develop friendships, and then leave it to start over again in your early 80s. Talk about change!
With the exception of pains associated with getting older, my dad was generally healthy, at least we all thought, until August 8, 2008. It was on that afternoon, right before I was getting ready to go back to school and teach for the academic year, that I received a phone call from the hospital in Milwaukee. My dad had had a stroke that morning – a massive stroke – that caused whole left side weakness/paralysis. And it was that day that everything changed not just for him, but for us as well.
We moved my father to the Atlanta area at the end of September. He went into a “sub-acute rehabilitation facility” – code name for nursing home – to get “rehabilitated” at the beginning of October. The facility was supposed to get him strong enough where he could walk on a hemi-walker and function around our – and now his – home. Things took a turn, however, where his care began to decline and his condition began to deteriorate. My dad wasn’t himself anymore, not because of any depression or any cognitive failures (as the facility claimed). He wasn’t himself anymore because he was overmedicated.
I began to learn a lot about how our government and many nursing facilities do not care well for the elderly. My father experienced first-hand the lack of care common in nursing homes. I experienced the stress of not knowing what was really going on with him in the home. I discovered that Medicare benefits are limited, and if my dad needed further care beyond what Medicare pays for, he would have needed to qualify for Medicaid, which presents a whole set of more than just challenges and difficulties. To qualify for Medicaid he would have had to “spend down” the assets he has that can be liquidated before he could begin to get benefits, which means that essentially, he would have had to go broke, spending all of which he spent years working for, to get a measly benefit that guarantees him substandard care in a nursing home facility. What I’ve just described happens every day here in the great United States of America.
What I realize now is that I was completely unprepared for my father becoming ill to the point where he would need round the clock care. In fact, I would watch news reports of elder abuse in nursing homes, or reports of the difficulty of growing old, and not really see my father in that same position. Maybe I was in denial. Maybe I had always wanted to remember my dad as being the fun, independent person he always had been, and that desire to remember the good prevented me from seeing that anything could happen.
So if you have aging parents, please take steps to prepare for the possibility that your loved one could get ill, and you are responsible for caring for him or her. What are those steps? My husband, Manchild, discovered a wonderful blog, A Caregiver’s Journal, where Valerie posts about issues related to becoming a caregiver for a loved one. It’s a great blog, and Valerie provides so much great information about this so very important topic. She says, “One of the reasons I blog about caregiving is to encourage people to prepare in advance for their aging family members.”
I’d like to direct you to peruse the entire blog, but take a look especially at “Caregiving for Aging Parents Can Catch You Off Guard,” where Valerie gives us advice on how to prepare for this life changing event. It’s a great article, and provides a good place to start. Then go through the rest of the blog. Valerie talks about the issue from the perspective of one who is going through it. And she has taken the time (I don’t know how) to regularly share with her readers great tips and advice on how caregivers can provide care and take care of themselves as well. I’ve become an email subscriber so that I can get her posts as soon as they come out.
By the way, my father is doing much better because my husband, Manchild, is loving on my dad by staying at home with him during the day to rehabilitate my father to get him to a point where he can walk around the house and take care of himself (I realize this is not an option everyone can take). He said to me in December, “KWiz, let’s get him out of that facility. Let’s bring him home.” I am so grateful to him, and because of him so graciously and lovingly caring for my dad during the day (and during the night – it’s a 24-hour “job”), my father is no longer on the anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and anti-anxiety drugs the nursing home was giving him. He’s gained weight that he lost since he had the stroke. We’ve learned how to manage his diabetes where he’s down from taking four insulin shots to 1-2 shots. He’s actually down to taking only three prescription medications (not including his insulin) and vitamins. My dad has his good days as well as not so good. But overall, it’s worth having him at home. That’s my dad. He’s the only dad I will ever have.
Get ready, people! Take a look at The Caregiver’s Journal and get some tips on getting prepared to be a caregiver. Don’t get caught off guard!
As some of you know, I have a beautiful 4-year old little girl. Being that I’m home during the summer months, it is sometimes necessary to entertain her (I so admire and respect stay-at-home moms; being one, if even for ten weeks, is tremendously difficult, but joyous, work!).
One of the great ways I found to entertain her is to throw in a “Veggie Tales” DVD. If you’ve not watched “Veggie Tales,” I must tell you, the series is an absolute treat. Even my husband, Manchild, got hooked on the series of videos produced by Big Idea, Inc., whose mission is “to enhance the spiritual and moral fabric of society through creative media.” Presenting biblical stories and value lessons in the form of animated stories with vegetables as characters is indeed ingenious!
There is a segment, sort of like a commercial break, that appears in the videos entitled “Silly Songs with Larry.” Those I’ve seen are pretty silly; it doesn’t appear there is a moral behind the songs, at least not with those I’ve viewed. There is one silly song title, however, that while silly, seems to have a lesson regarding the things we love and our fear of losing them – “I Love My Lips.” I wanted to share it with my readers because, frankly, I think it’s funny! If you’ll indulge me a little, take a look at the video below.
Next time you’re experiencing some particular fear, write a song about it! Or better yet, play this video!
Our 4-year old daughter loves the movie “The Incredibles.” Because of her love for the movie, we watched it three times in one weekend. Mind you, if we could have watched it more, it would’ve been fine with her.
So our daughter has now re-characterized her family. Our daughter has renamed Manchild aptly as “Mr. Incredible.” She has coined me as “Elastigirl.” And of course, our daughter has temporarily lost her identity in the character “Violet” (although this has gone on long enough, and we constantly try to convince her that she is not Violet, but that Violet is her sister).
Identifying oneself with a superhero is one of those things children innately do, I think. I don’t think she’s doing it because she believes we need to have superpowers. In fact, she doesn’t talk about Mr. Incredible’s strength, or Violet’s power to generate a force field that can keep out all sorts of evil and danger. She definitely doesn’t talk about Elastigirl’s ability to literally stretch and adapt to problematic situations.
But as I think about this and reflect a little deeper about Elastigirl’s superpowers, I realize that she was flexible and resilient in the face of adversity. And she recovered quickly in the midst of the problem, even before the adversity passed, so that with every situation, she was able to immediately respond.
Indeed, what would it be like to have that type of flexibility and resilience when bad things happened, to appropriately respond at a moment’s notice?
And then I think to myself, or at least in this post, “How I wish I had those same superpowers!” (Now I know I can call on God at any time, and I truly have enough faith to do that, but don’t spoil my post!)
If you could be a superhero, which one would you be, and why?
Senator Barack Obama spoke today at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago for Father’s Day. During his speech, he stated “…there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers – whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.” He encouraged fathers everywhere to strive to learn to and live to:
Set an example of excellence and high expectations for our children, one that overcomes the negative stereotypes the media produces and that our young people sometimes ingest ad nauseam
Pass along the ability to be empathetic; the ability to “stand in somebody else’s shoes” and to teach our children that showing kindness and compassion to others are symbols of strength, not weakness
Tap into the hope that is inside of us all, that hope that says that as long as we believe in something and are willing to work hard for it, we can do our part to make this world better for our children
He ended his exhortation with the following:
…what I’ve realized is that life doesn’t count for much unless you’re willing to do your small part to leave our children – all of our children – a better world. Even if it’s difficult. Even if the work seems great. Even if we don’t get very far in our lifetime.
“That is our ultimate responsibility as fathers and parents. We try. We hope. We do what we can to build our house upon the sturdiest rock. And when the winds come, and the rains fall, and they beat upon that house, we keep faith that our Father will be there to guide us, and watch over us, and protect us, and lead His children through the darkest of storms into light of a better day. That is my prayer for all of us on this Father’s Day, and that is my hope for this country in the years ahead. May God Bless you and your children. Thank you.”
I’d say that while this was a great Father’s Day speech, it applies to parents everywhere, not just fathers. It applies to teachers. It applies to mentors. It applies to us all. Let us ensure that we are all setting that example, no matter how imperfect it may be, so that the next generation will inherit a world in which we all seek the good in children of God everywhere.
I’m not much on writing political commentary; there are many insightful bloggers who take that as a cause and do a fantastic job. But I do enjoy reading political commentary these days. Indeed, we are part of a historic time which the world has not experienced, and it serves us well to become part of the process in some way, if not, at the very least, to become politically informed about the issues for which we care and where our representatives stand on those issues. Nonetheless, I recently read a quote that sums up what I feel has been happening in our government for a long time, maybe during my entire 44 years of life:
“Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omission of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
My only political commentary consists of this: I hope and pray we will do what we can to usher in the change we need and elect a President who will turn up the heat to melt the ice cubes that have frozen the hearts of government to the needs of ordinary, average American citizens. Yes…
My husband, Manchild, began writing Steppin’ Out Of The Darknessover ten years ago when he himself was experiencing what he refers to as “a series of sunny-side-down days.” He wrote this inspirational story about personal leadership for seasons such as this.
I was watching a news program this past week that told the story of a town in which working, middle class families had to resort to standing in line to get groceries. Not at Kroger or Ingles or Publix or any other neighborhood grocery story. No, standing in a food line. The story told of one woman who had to quit her job because her income did not cover the gas, child support, and essential expenses she needed in order to sustain herself and her children. As I watched, I thought to myself, “That could be us.” At one point, that was Manchild.
Foreclosures are at an all-time high. Many people took out mortgages they could not afford. Many people had good intentions, taking out risky mortgages believing that in 2, 3, or 5 years their circumstances would change for the better and they’d be able to refinance their loans. Yet, the real estate market crashed, and so did the hopes and dreams of far too many homeowners who are now experiencing the devastation of losing their homes. As I write this, even celebrities are at risk. Watching these stories almost daily, I think to myself, “That could be us.” At one point, that was Manchild.
Overall, the credit markets are in a shambles, and the constituency who is bearing the brunt of the desolation are not just American consumers, but consumers of goods throughout the world. The causes of our economic situation are many. This is not meant to be a political commentary, yet personally, I trace what appears to be a crash of the American economy on poor policies and practices instituted and condoned by our current President. Moreover, big oil companies are pocketing increasing profits as the pocket books of American consumers become more empty each day. Wall Street gets bailed out while small businesses throughout the country have to fold because the cost of doing business continues to rise. At one point, that was Manchild.
We all know that things must change. Circumstances can’t change for the better fast enough. Based on daily news reports, however, times will get worse before they get better.
But there is something we can do. In seasons such as this, we can choose either to focus on what Manchild refers to in Steppin’ Out Of The Darkness as “the giants from the valley of Circumstance” or we can focus on “the Giver of Gifts” who can lift us up above them. While daily news reports may be bad – more than just figuratively – we may be embarking on a time in which God is forcing us, as Manchild says, to “…unearth the ‘forgotten dreams’ buried beneath the ‘abandoned visions’ still cluttering the ‘valley of sun-dried bones.’” In other words, what dreams and visions about your own destiny have you abandoned because Adversity struck once, twice, ten, twenty, or fifty times in your life? Might this be a time when you may need to discover “the reasons why you…fear what follows seasons of Change”? Manchild did it…why not you?
Steppin’ Out Of The Darkness is “a message of encouragement for seasons such as this.” A season in which God may be forcing you to “face your fears” and allow the dreams and visions He placed within you to finally become birthed. And as you allow those dreams and visions to become born again, expect “the ‘Giver of Gifts’ to do the unexpected when leastexpected.” The world needs you to overcome your own fears and embrace Change as we all face our own “giants from the valley of Circumstance. Will you begin your journey today?