Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fond Farewell to Paul Newman

Delighted Husband and I were with the kids eating burgers and ice cream at Sonic this Saturday afternoon when I heard the news of Paul Newman's passing. My first words were "Ohhhh bless her heart. Joanne has just lost her friend and lover and partner of 50 years."

Besides his professional legacy as an artist and philanthropist, when I think of Paul Newman, I think of one of the longest lasting marriages in the movie industry. I have immense respect for that. For this reason, my ears were quick to listen tonight when we happened across a rebroadcast of Paul's interview on Larry King Live.

Larry asked, "What is the secret to a lasting marriage?"

Paul's answer: "Lust, respect, patience and determination."

Wise words. My deep condolences to Joanne and their family. My profound respect to her husband.

May we all weave lust for each other, respect for each other, patience with each other and determination to stay together into the fabric of our marriages.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sweet Breeze on My Face

Sense of touch and hearing today went straight to my heart, my friends. Sweet breeze filtered through tall trees and touched my face while this song was playing on my phone. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can I get some backup here?

Folks, I have to tell you, the topsyturvyness of my life lately has inched past the tipping point of overwhelming.

My job ended Thursday just in time for me to help Delighted Husband prepare our home for the storm. This leaves unanswered questions for me because I had hoped I could launch by the time the knew-it-would-end-eventually-job was completed and that would become my new job and I could be a WAHM again. At this time the site's not quite ready for launch and my new job has become being the unpaid Construction Manager for my house. I never thought I'd wake up one day and be Bob the Builder. But I must restore my home so I am flying by the seat of my pants learning a new job the quality of which will determine what kind of house my family and I live in for the next umpteen years. No pressure!

I camped with my inlaws for a few days which was a blessing. Like any sleepover, after several days we were ready to be home in our own place again. It's only natural. During our stay at MIL, DH and I made 2 visits to our house in the dark trying to grab a few clothes by flashlight. Much stumbling and bumbling about shuffling along in the dark carrying a heavy load. I cut my hand on something in the dark and I continue to find blood dots on the floor where I dripped without knowing it.

During the time I was camping at my inlaws house, I got what appeared to be wonderful news about my fiction writing then really horrible news right on it's heels. I rode that emotional rollercoaster, doing a serious gut check in the process. If God is proud of me for telling the stories that are in my heart to tell is that good enough? Can I stay proud of me and my work even though other's signifcant opinion may rise and fall?

I spent much of the day yesterday pleading my case with my mortgage company. When I received my claim check from the insurance adjuster, it was made out to me, Delighted Husband and the mortgage company. I called the customer service for the mortgage company and asked them if I could take the check to a local branch to be endorsed. They said no, it had to be shipped off to Atlanta where it would be endorsed and sent back to me. I called yesterday to check the status since I had traced the package and knew my check had arrived. The customer service person who answered that call told me I should have taken the check to my local branch for endorsement. Mlehhhh!

This is more than just a hassle. Seemingly everyone in Houston needs a new roof. So finding a suitable roofer and contracting them before their dance card becomes impossibly full is a big big deal. I tearfully told Mortgage Lady In Atlanta, "you have no idea how frustrating it is to have good men sitting across from you at your kitchen table and not be able to hire them because you don't have any money to pay them because your money is hundreds of miles away in Atlanta where it doesn't belong!" I went on to explain to Atlanta Mortgage Lady that because I got my check early from the insurance company, I have a parade of vendors coming through my kitchen wanting to be hired. But every single day I do not hire said vendors they drop out of the running because somebody else does hire them and next thing you know I'm on a six month waiting list. I cannot live like this for six months! Atlanta Mortgage Lady apparently has a heart. Because she volunteered to email the mailroom, have them find my check (the one in the great big overnight pack) and she would walk it through the endorsing process and Fedex it back to me sometime this week. None of the other talented able and available contractors will touch my house until the new roof is complete. So Delighted Husband and I are scraping together the cash to hire and pay the hiring downpayment to the roofer so he can get it done so by the time the Sacred Check from Atlanta arrives we can reimburse our household checking account, and pay the rest of our bills. (including our mortgage hows that for irony?) Most importantly, we will then have the money to hire wallboard and ceiling and paint and attic insulation contractor who is talented, ready, highly recommended and willing to start once that roof is in place. (pant)

Once Talented Ready Recommended Contractor is done with the reconstruction upstairs, we can get Carpet Guy to replace, clean and reinstall the various carpet upstairs. Once the upstairs is done, we can move downstairs to the Showdown at the OK Corral where Insurance Company says rotten wet hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished and they'll be all better. Riiiiiight. So my hope is—y'all pray about this too, okay—my hope is that by the time Various Contractors are finished with the upstairs that Insurance Company will have agreed with Flooring Expert that sanding and refinishing is a waste of time and money and will have coughed up the bucks for a replacement hardwood floor. (gasp)(pant) So then we can be done with the lion's share of the downstairs repair. Except yesterday I found wet wallboard and peeling paint downstairs that I hadn't noticed when Insurance Adjuster was here last week. Mlehhhhhhh!

So my job today is to sort through all manner of belongings that were pulled down from the Stinky Attic. Delighted Husband, brave man among men, hauled this stuff down the attic ladder and laid visqueen all over the Guest Room and neatly spread Water Damaged Grossy Belongings all over the Guest Room. I moved the biggest HEPA filter in there and it still smells like, well like nothing I've ever smelled before. So today my job is to sort through and photograph and document the Lost Stuff, take it out of my house, send photographs and claim forms to Field Claims Office to hopefully get more money to buy replacement stuff. Some stuff can't actually be replaced...) And then my job is to reclaim and rebox the Keep Stuff, taking time to launder the baby clothing and baby sling and other babyish stuff that I'm not willing to let go of yet because I might get to be a mama again if we adopt. (more emotions stirred up over that topic).

Oh and I don't get paid for any of this. But what else can I do but repair my house and hope that the store goes live soon and the second income is restored to our family? Y'all can pray about that one too if you want to.

So yesterday, I was on the phone with Beloved Out of Town Friend Sue who is uniquely equipped to comfort me because not being a Houstonian she is not in the same boat. I was sobbing and in between sobs saying nearly inaudible things like "I'm really doinnnnnng pretty good. I thing I founnnd a cahnnnntracterrr todaaaaay." Among other comforting things, Beloved Out of Town Sue said, "I think you're doing extremely well and if you weren't crying by now with all the things you're dealing with, I'd wonder if you were actually human. So you're human. So you're crying. So that's okay." Dontcha just love her? Gosh, I do.

So I thought it would be okay if I let y'all know that I'm human and that this ordeal is very hard for me. And if you wanted to love on me and say nice things, that would be okay. Lovely even.


PS Talented Recommended Contractor told me he found a 2 foot by 2 foot nest of Unidentified Living Creatures in my attic. Eeeeeeeeeeeeek! (shudder)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Deal with the stink in the attic

God has been teaching me so many heart lessons as I deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. As you know from my previous posts, the shingles on my roof never bonded so they peeled apart and flew away oh-so-easily. The ridge vent also peeled away and my roof leaked like a sieve. The attic in my house is full of wet, stinky, mildewy stuff. Gobs of matted pink insulation that used to be fluffy and odorless now is clumpy and stinky. Eeew.

Meanwhile, down in the second and first floors, HEPA air filters are chugging away, trying to filter the stink from the air I breathe. And they're helping. To a point that I can tolerate living here. But nothing's really going to clear the air until I deal with the issues in the attic. I am SO not looking forward to that. Along with a contractor to remove all the stinky wet insulation, and put in fresh insulation, Delighted Husband and I will have to sort through all our stuff and cull out the water damaged pieces, photograph them and submit them for replacement and throw them out. We'll then have to decide what stuff is worth keeping and rebox the keepable stuff in undamaged new boxes. This is gonna take a while. It will be sweaty, stinky, so-not-fun work.

Lucky for me I have a bit of a reprieve because we can't deal with any of the stink in the attic until a good boundary is restored between our house and the world by having a new roof installed. But eventually, we must deal with our stinky stuff.

Wow does this remind me of therapy.

I could spray air freshener in my house every day, but until I deal with the rot in the locked-off room in the attic, ain't nothin' gonna change.

I suppose this is why Jesus said he was empowered to bind up the brokenhearted, to tear down and to build. Because tearing out the rot and brokenness is the way to get wholeness and healing. Bring it on.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

My first SexyMamaMoment

When our first child was born, he spent the first few days of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital. Delighted Husband and I were there with him nearly all the time. This was before my awakening so sexy wasn't usually on my radar. I had not yet cultivated my worldview that I was a sexy woman. But I had this moment. And I want to share it with you.

Beloved Child was a bit premature, and fussy, so the pediatrician suggested I open my blouse and give my baby skin-to-skin contact. They had these beautiful pale yellow privacy shades they placed around my rocking chair. Feeling a little awkward but hungry to hold my baby and let him know mama was there, I unbuttoned my maternity blouse, unwrapped my little darling (he looked like a little burrito in that white hospital blanket!) and laid my sweet baby against my abdomen and covered us both with a blanket. He was jaundiced, so he looked so foreign next to my skin. But in his face he looked just like me and in my heart he felt like mine! mine! mine! It was a peaceful, quiet moment amidst all the beeping chaos of the NICU.

Then I looked at his father.

Delighted Husband was looking at me and Beloved Baby like we were all that was precious in the world. And then I caught it..that quick tiny sparkle in his eye. Just like that, I was lost in the tractor beam of Delighted Husband's gaze. Without words, we remembered what we did to create this child. A blush crept over my cheeks and I looked at Delighted Husband with this self-aware heat in my eyes. My eyes said, "We made love. It was fabulous. You made me pregnant, and now I have this amazing little person nestled up against my skin. Oh my God."

In that moment, Delighted Husband snapped a picture.

And in an instant, the moment was over. The nurse walked up to draw blood from Beloved Child and crying and chaos pushed in and drowned out the moment.

Weeks later, I went to the store where I had gone for the film to be developed. When I got to that SexyMamaMoment photo, I was elated. Standing there in the pharmacy all disheveled and sleep deprived, I looked at that photo and thought, "oh my God, is that really me?" and it was. I didn't feel sexy there in the store. At all. At all. At all. But in my trembling hands I held photographic proof that my moment had really happened.

I put it in the photo album, along with all the other photos of Beloved Child's first six weeks. When friends from church asked to see baby pictures, I didn't think twice about handing over the photo album while I went to go boil some water for tea. I don't remember what he said, but I remember one of our church friends coughing and looking at me in an embarrassed putdown way and swiftly handing off the baby album like it was contaminated. I was flooded with embarrassment. I didn't have much confidence then. And I was Southern and here was a guest in my home offended by something I had given him. I was seriously infected with the disease to please. When our friends went home that night, I took out the picture of my first SexyMamaMoment, and I tore it up. To this day, there is a blank spot in that baby photo album. And oh I would fill it if I could. I have searched for the negative and I cannot find it. I have tears in my eyes just remembering what has been lost. How I would love to see that picture today!

There's a lesson here, my darlings. Don't let anyone look down on you for owning and recognizing that you are a sexual being. Don't let others erase your beautiful defining moment or put down your identity as a beautiful sexual creature created by God. Hold on to the good in your life. Hold on tight! Stretch marks and mortgages and fatigue and soccer leagues and teacher meetings and client meetings and HOA meetings will try to push in and take those moments from you by encroaching on the time those moments can occur. But hold on tight!

Looking back, I realize that man was an illmannered prude and I was a naive woman who gave away her validation card quite too easily. Not any more.

Like most of my aha! heartfelt moments, this was inspired by another blogger who generously shared their heart in a post. So thank you Mama of Romance for your beautiful post Feeling Beautiful: It's Up to You.
She says, "Because I feel like I am beautiful, it shines through.
It's so much easier to enjoy sex, to be passionate, and to love making love when you feel beautiful.
Being a woman is an incredibly powerful thing.
The curves, the soft skin, the feminine features.
Giving birth, having a baby, motherhood - it's all a beautiful thing.
Mother's are beautiful."

Amen, sista!

I would add: when you do have a moment when you feel beautiful, don't let anybody talk you out of it. Nobody but you and God have the right to decide whether or not you're beautiful. And God has already voted Yes.


My shingles never bonded together—why eroticism is important in marriage

Yesterday a roofer came out to inspect my roof and put up a tarp to prevent further damage. When he showed me one of the shingles that had blown off my roof, he told me my roof was not bonded properly and the whole roof would have to be replaced. Bonded properly? What does that mean? Well I'll tell you.

A roof is made up of hundreds of shingles that overlap and together protect the underlying plywood from wind and rain. Each shingle is made of tarpaper bonded to granules. Each shingle has a stripe of tar that acts as glue to bond each shingle together. Now, when the shingles are being stored in a warehouse or on their way to the site, the roofer doesnt' want the shingles to bond together then. If they did, instead of a package of useful shingles, the roofer would have a great big brick of melted together shingles. So, the manufacturer puts on a protective plastic strip over the strip of tar to prevent the tar from sticking to the other shingles in the package.

When the roofer is ready to nail the shingles on the plywood of someone's home to make a roof, the protective plastic strip is removed from each shingle, exposing the stripe of tar that will bond the shingle with the shingle it overlaps. The heat of the sun melts the tar and bonds the two shingles together.

When my roof was installed a few years ago, the roofer who installed my roof did not peel away any of the protective strips from the stripe of tar on my shingles. My shingles were individually nailed down to the plywood, but my shingles never bonded together. So when the storm came, they were much more easily separated from each other. They peeled off and blew away, leaving my plywood exposed and allowing water to pour into my attic and into my home.

Wow does this remind me of marriage!

I've said for years that sex is the glue that bonds a husband and wife together. It's true that love is a choice and the value of an allies-till-death committment cannot be downplayed. But as my roof analogy shows, it takes both commmittment (nailing down the shingles to the plywood) and sex (allowing heat to bond each shingle together) to make roof that can stand up to the storms of life.

I think about my roof. For years I looked at it, and it looked just fine. All the shingles were in neat rows and safely nailed down. But under the surface, they were not bonded. Each shingle was holding something of themselves back. Not allowing heat to melt a part of them and fuse them together. For years, my marriage was like that. I had the nailed down committment but I had not allowed the heat of marital eroticism to melt me and bond me together with my husband in such a deep way. Oh, we loved each other! We were committed to each other. We had a good marriage. But in order to experience the bond we have today, I had to peel away the protective layers around my heart and allow my body and soul to experience the heat of eroticism with my husband. Bonding cost me something. I had to allow my self to get hot enough to get to the melting point. Experiencing truly hot eroticism takes some personal growth. David Schnarch's book Passionate Marriage taught me that. And there's a beautiful healthy balance. The entire shingle is not gluey tar. Each shingle is still an individual. That's differentiation. When two healthy separate individuals choose to nail down their marriage with committment and also allow the heat of erotic love to melt them and bond them together, the storms of life won't easily separate them.

Here's to being hot, committed and bonded!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Home again

I'm back in my house. Power was restored and the air conditioner, dehumidifier, and HEPAfilter air purifiers are all chugging away. Hopefully the stink of wet carpet, wet wood floor and wet sheet rock will eventually be removed. The smell in the attic makes me gag. I tremble inside at the thought of sorting through the keepsakes and memories and stuff that were stored in the attic.
I thought of something yesterday as I was wiping out all the eeewy muck out of the bottom of the deep freeze after I threw away three trashcans full of food. Something about letting it all go and starting fresh.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Good Humans in Houston

I am in awe of the men in my family. The way they plan ahead and take care of their family. The way they show up and get it done and take care of others.

And on a larger scale, I'm so moved by the way good humans in my city are showing up and getting it done and taking care of others. Yesterday when I drove Delighted Husband to the hospital where he was serving on a relief team, I kissed him and told him I was so proud of him. As I walked around the shagmobile to get to the drivers seat, I saw a group of nurses walking toward the door. They looked tired. Mussed hair here, wrinkled scrubs there. Something stirred in my heart. I walked up to them made eye contact and said, "Girls, I"ll tell you the same thing I just told my husband when I dropped him off. You're making a difference in the world today." They started to cry then grabbed hold of their composure and said "Thank you. I needed to hear that today." For a moment, we stood there with tears in our eyes, just being good humans.

A note of gratitude. When we bought the shagmobile, it was very important to Delighted Husband and I that it have 4 wheel drive. We had to wait several days longer to get a vehicle with 4 wheel drive. Lemme tell you folks, the shagmobile was worth waiting for. Driving Delighted Husband from MIL house to hospital and myself back to MIL house, the 4 wheel drive kicked in several times to make it there and back. I am so thankful we held out for 4 wheel drive. I believe that was God stirring our hearts to wait and not take the other more easily available 2 wheel drive vehicles when we bought the car. God knew we would need it.

I miss my Delighted Husband. He's working eating sleeping on site while he serves on the relief team. Hopefully he'll be able to come home in a few days. Whether home is MIL house or our house I don't know. If the power comes back on and we can get some dehumidifiers going, I think a lot of things in our house can be saved.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ike prayer request

Please pray for strength and protection for Delighted Husband. He will be working around the clock on a relief team for the next several days. I will be working with my laptop from MIL home managing the claims process and home repair project.

Storm update with my love and gratitude

Beloved friends,
We all alive and uninjured. All night long I was sustained by the feel of Delighted Husband's hand in mine and by the loving emails and text messages I received from all of you last night. Service was a bit wobbly, but I had internet on my phone most of the night. I lay there in the pitch darkness reading little bits of love in the gmails on my phone. Bless you all. I was surprized and grateful at the requests I received from some of you asking how you could donate to help us out. I tinkered around on PayPal for a few minutes and I think I found a button that will work. Please let me know if it works or not. Buttons and code are not my special talent. :)

There was times that Delighted Husband and I were sure a tree limb or flying 2x4 would plunge through the plywood and window into our bed. The wind was so loud I could not hear the beep of the phone keypad when I pressed the keys...with the phone just inches from my nose. It was loud! In those scary moments, I would pray hard, and I felt the peace inside, as though God spoke into my thoughts "it'll be okay, go back to sleep." and I'd catnap for another few minutes. Sum total we maybe slept 2 hours out of 18 and I'm grateful for every minute. The only "safe room" that was interior room with no windows was the master bathroom downstairs, so we wanted our son to be there. Where to put him? I smile at remembering that the solution that presented itself was to clear all shampoo bottles, bubble bath, etc. out of the shelves surrounding the garden tub/shower and put the Liberator Zepplin pillow in the garden tub. We tucked a queen size fitted sheet around the Zepplin and he used the Liberator throe as a blanket and his normal pillow from his bed upstairs. He loved it! He was very cushioned and cozy and he asked me to close the shower curtain and he was in his own little world. This way Delighted Husband and I could still use the potty and sink while Dear Child slept.

We were up and down all night. Around midnight we lost electricity. Around 2am, we went throughout the house doing window checks to see if towels were needed. We heard drips in the upstairs hallway and found water leaking out of the attic door. Delighted Husband went up the attic ladder and brought a strong flashlight. I stood at the bottom of the attic ladder to see the soaking wet plywood panels of our roof moving in and out buckling and bending. This of course scared the crap out of me and I urged him to get the hell out of there and quick. He looked around one last time and saw there was water all over the attic plywood floor. All the bankers boxes of stuff stored up there acted as sponges soaking up the water. This is the reason we still have a ceiling in the dining room and kitchen. The water leaked out through ceiling fans on the second floor and dripped onto the floors and beds upstairs. We put out pots and pans and bowls everywehre we could find to catch the drips.

We called Delighted Husband's parents who live in the central part of town about 30 miles from our house out in the burbs. Their house was unharmed and they told us they had a generator going and invited us to come bring our food from our fridge and deep freeze to avoid losing several hundred dollars worth of groceries. Around 10am after cleaning up breakfast of pasta I had boiled on our gas stovetop, we moved the groceries from the freezer and fridge into the 4 wheel drive shagmobile and took off for MIL's house. This was a Godsend because I take an injectible medication that has to be refrigerated and we knew the cooler we had packed it in the night before was

Amazed and grateful,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Comfort with your touch

Like many of the moms who live along the gulf coast, I'm preparing for a storm. As I'm assembling bottled water and canned food and candles, I'm thinking of all the other moms who are in the same boat. It's on my heart today to remind us all to comfort with our touch. The next few days may be pretty scary, but we have the power and responsibility to offer love and comfort to our families by simply offering our touch. So snuggle your kids, nestle your head into your husband's shoulder. Squeeze your husband's arm, ruffle your son's hair, place your palm on your daughter's cheek. Speak the physical touch love language, even in times of trouble. Especially then.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Orgasms are great for pain relief

I sprained my ankle last Friday, on the very day we were preparing to go out of town to a conference/family getaway on Labor Day weekend. Delighted Husband hadn't been home ten minutes when he asked with concern how my ankle was feeling, I gave him a mischievous grin and said, "You know honey, orgasms are good for pain relief". And they were! By lifting my pelvis up with our Liberator wedge, it was easy to keep my knees and ankles up out of the way. By the time we were done, I forgot I even HAD an ankle. Much less a sprained one.

When I talk about our slogan "promoting pleasure for wives and the husbands who love them", sometimes people assume it's all about wild nights hanging from the chandelier. While special amazing nights and afternoons do happen, I think it's more important to redeem almost-missed opportunities when headaches or sprained ankles could keep you from having great sex, but they don't.

I had forgotten about this story even though it only happened a week ago. (What can I say? Sometimes I have a short attention span!) But I was reminded of this lovely pain-relieving event when my friend Shannon shared her story on Facebook talking about how an orgasm with her husband made her headache go away. She asked if anyone had had a similar experience, and I thought with a grin, "Yeah, I have!" so I shared my story. Sometimes we need to be reminded of our own good stories. Sometimes we need the spark of an idea to remind us to reclaim good things that have been brought into our lives and to remember them with gratitude. In our often crazy, bumpy road world, it's so important to cling to what is good and to smile at a happy memory. So often, a friend helps me do this.

I'm so thankful for community. There is this marvelous dynamic of 1+1=3 when we share our hearts with another. Yesterday, I prayed about a situation nearly all day and the big turnaround came when I called my girlfriends and prayed together. Today as I read my friend Shannon share her story, it brought to mind stories of my own that I needed to be reminded of. Yes we have to own our own heart and take care of it. Some personal choices mean the world to us. Yet, as the same time, when listening to other people share their story evokes something in our own heart, they are influencing us for greater good. I've been noticing this dynamic a lot lately. Sending out my love and thanks to Cristin and Sue and Shannon. The way you offered your heart yesterday made me a better woman.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sometimes our feelings lie to us

I have a skinned knee. It got banged up pretty bad when I took a spill last Friday. Torn ligaments on the right and skinned knee on the left.

I noticed something this morning and I believe it has a deeper meaning. My knee hurts. It hurts nearly all the time. At night, when I go to bed, just the touch of the sheets touching my knee is painful. And it has happened every dang night. And I found myself starting to think in a whiny tone, "Well daaaang it's never going to get any betterrrr. It still hurrrrrrrts!". Then I looked at my knee. This morning, I took a good look at it, and there is a ring of fresh new pink skin all the way around the scab. It IS getting better! Healing more by the second. Sometimes our feelings lie to us. Whether it's our sensation feelings or our emotion feelings, they don't always tell us the whole truth.