My kids saved my life: A story for Mother’s Day

It is true.  My children saved my life.  Not once, but twice.

I’ve been thinking about the past, and thinking about the two incidents where my children saved my life.  I thought, since Mother’s Day is tomorrow, that I would share.

I married young.  I met my future husband when I was 16. I weighed around 110 – and that was with clothes and shoes on.  We married when I was 19.  I had gotten a little more growth in, weighed 120 pounds, which was pretty much my ideal weight for my height and bone structure.  But within the first six months or so of marriage, he started telling me that I was getting fat, and needed to loose weight.  Things went downhill from there.

Six years later, I was in a very deep depression.  I had suffered an almost daily barrage of criticism – I couldn’t do anything right.  I felt unloved.  I felt totally worthless.  I no longer wanted to live.  I was suicidal.  My friends would have been very very surprised by that, because I hid it well.  I always had a smile on my face.  I appeared cheerful and happy –  in fact, people often commented on how happy I always was.  And I would always think “if only you really knew…”

My 25th birthday still stands out as one of the worst days in my life.  I had been researching suicide for a couple of years, and had actually picked out the method that I planned on using.  And no, I’m not going to say how – it is too easy to do, too painless, and I don’t want to give anyone ideas.  But I would go to bed at night wishing that I would never wake up.  I had no hope, and didn’t want to go on.

But there was one thing in my life, one thing that kept me going.  One thing that I felt such responsibility for, such a duty for, and such love for, that I never actually made that attempt to end my life.  I had a baby.  And my first born was such a delight, such a joy, that I knew I could never deliberately leave my child.

So that was the first time my children (child) saved my life.

The second time happened a few years later.  I was driving down towards San Diego for something, it was fairly late at night, my youngest was in his car seat in the back, my oldest was in his booster in the front, and they were both slumped over, asleep.  I suddenly saw blue lights flashing behind me.  Now, I had not been speeding, as far as I knew all my lights were functioning, but I obediently pulled over to the shoulder of the road.  The bullhorn came on, directing me to go down this  off ramp, to a road that had never been finished.  There was an off ramp, an on ramp, but it didn’t go anyplace else.  But this was the police, right?  State Trooper.  So although I thought that was weird, I pulled down the off ramp that went nowhere.  And stopped the car, but the engine was running.  My sons are beginning to stir as the officer comes up to the window of my car with his flashlight.  I’m directed to turn the engine off, and about that time, my oldest son sits up and asks what is going on.

The officer, obviously startled, sharply asks me who that was.  I explain that it was my son. By this time, my youngest one is awake, and beginning to cry a little bit.  The officer says something under his breath about not having seen him, tells me to be careful driving, and leaves.

A few weeks later, a girl’s body was found in that area.  She was the sister of a friend, and I had actually met her once.  She was such a joy that I have never forgotten her –  and a state trooper was convicted of her rape and death.

It was dark, and with a bright flashlight shining in my eyes, I never got a real good look at the trooper who stopped me, but the general body build fit the person who was convicted.   I have often wondered what would have happened to me, if my children had not been in the car.  I’m pretty convinced that they saved me from a tragedy.

So, my kids have saved my life, not once, but twice.

Mother’s Day is a day when we honor mothers.  But this year, I want to honor my children.

I love you.  Thanks for saving my life.

 

We are all brothers

I have been looking at the issues of both the world and the US with a bit of frustration, worry, and fear.  It seems as if everyone is so polarized – so intent that their way is the only way, that they refuse to even consider finding a middle ground, finding a compromise that benefits everyone, even if nobody gets ALL of what they want.  America has become a land of the self-centered and selfish.  “I want it MY way, and if I can’t have it MY way, I’m going to make sure you don’t get anything YOUR way.  It is MY way or nothing!” is the message that a lot of today’s politicians and/or their followers seem to be saying.

And racial violence seems to be on the upswing; obvious incidences of prejudice and bias are apparent.  And unfortunately, the reaction to those incidences seems to mainly be more violence, which leads only to worsening conditions.

I was going through some old documents today, and ran across something that I wrote a couple of years ago.  I want to share it…

We Are Brothers
by
Melinda LaFevers
6/19/2014
inspired by “We are Africa” as performed by Foreign Tongues

When God knelt down in the dirt
and scooped up that ball of clay,
He rolled it and shaped it and formed it,
In His own image.
He breathed life into it and called it “Man.”
The Good Book doesn’t say He made a black man,
It doesn’t say he made a white man.
Or yellow or red or blue or green or orange or purple.
It just says he made man – and it was Good.

No one knows when the division of color came.
Perhaps, as people moved north and the days grew colder,
the longer nights and shorter days bleached out the colors.
Some people say it was the Mark of Cain
that separated the colors of man.
Science has proven that all women
came from one woman,
Deep dark in Africa.
Doesn’t matter what race, what color –
All women carry that same genetic marker,
making us all sisters with the same mother –
Eve, birthing the world in the cradle of life.
So once we were all dusky brown, chocolate, dark –
I’ve wondered if that mark of Cain
was the bleaching of his skin.

But still, white, black, brown, red, yellow –
Languages were the same.
Until man, working together as brothers,
built that tower to the heavens,
and God, looking down, stirred the people
and created a babble of voices.
That, then, truly separated the nations from each other.
Each went their own way, growing apart,
forgetting who we were, where we came from,
the fact that once we were ALL brothers.

And the years and centuries passed.
Mankind warred against mankind;
Put chains on each other.
Your ancestors wore chains.
My ancestors wore chains.
Not just our ancestors wore chains.
You wear chains. I wear chains.
Some of those chains are visible.
Some are unseen – but those unseen chains
wear men down just as much as heavy links of iron.
Ignorance, poverty, abuse –
Those chains know no boundaries.
They come to every man – red, yellow, black, white, brown.
Faces pinched with hunger look with hopelessness
at barren lives
And Death in the form of drugs, alcohol and violence
too often looks back.

The only way to defeat that death,
to break those chains of despair,
to bring All men to freedom
The freedom of love, of Hope, of a future…
The only way to break chains of
the past and present
is to remember
that you
that I

that WE are all brothers.

My first story sale.

For those who are unaware, I am a writer.  Now, I don’t just mean the occasional blog that I post (and I really need to post more often)

No, I mean I actually write fiction and non-fiction, and when I’m fortunate and blessed, I actually am able to sell them.  I have been writing poetry, songs, and music for decades, mostly for myself.

But a few years ago, I was inspired to write a story and offer it for sale.  It happened like this…

I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.  This is a historical recreation group that studies the renaissance and middle ages.  They hold a large event in Mississippi in March called Gulf Wars – and by large, I mean 4-5000 people or more.  Also held in March, in Memphis, is a science fiction convention called MidSouthCon.  Usually there would be a fairly large contingent of local (and not so local) members of the SCA who would present a demonstration of fighting styles, arts and sciences, and information on joining.  This particular year, however, the last few days of Gulf Wars and MidSouthCon were being held on the same weekend.  The people who were organizing the demo were desperately needing more people to attend, so they sent out a call – if you could come, you could get a hefty discount off the entrance fee.

This particular year, I was not going to go to Gulf Wars.  I had been to a couple of conventions when I lived in California and had enjoyed them.  I took a look at the MidSouthCon website.  Oh, my.  They had professional development available for teachers who attended.  They had a full track of programming for writers.  They had science and kid activities and movies and gaming and anime…and more.  And (notice I’m repeating this) a full track of programming for writers.

I volunteered.  And had a blast. And learned a lot from the seminars and panels that I attended.  And decided then and there that I wanted to come back the following year.  But I didn’t want to pay for it.  So I decided to come back – but as a guest.

Now, I not only do I do historical re-enactment, but I also do school programs.  I am on the Arkansas Arts in Education roster, Arkansas Arts on Tour, and the Mid-America Arts Alliance roster.  My two programs are “Life in a Castle” and “Life in a Log Cabin.”  Someone who knew that I liked to write, and also that I did these historical programs, suggested that I put together a program aimed specifically towards people who were interested in writing historical fiction or non-fiction, and fantasy set in a medieval type world.  I thought that was a good idea, so I had already started thinking about it.

When MidSouthCon rolled around the next year, I applied to be a guest.  Now, what I didn’t know, was I should have applied about two months earlier.  When I got the response back, I was told that I had applied too late to have my own presentation – however, they wanted to put me on a couple of panels.  So they did, and I was thrilled.

Lee Martindale moderated one of the panels I was on.  At the end of the panel, she announced an open call for a new anthology.  The title was The Ladies of Trade Town, and the theme was the oldest profession.  Everybody burst out laughing.

Lee went on to say that she did NOT want erotica, she did NOT want heavy horror, but light horror and any other genre was acceptable.  Everyone is still laughing.  Into my mind came the thought,

“That’s NOT the oldest profession.”

then,

“What IS the oldest profession?”

At that moment, I had a vision.  Adam, Lilith (who according to some myths was Adams first wife) and the serpent are all LOUDLY arguing over who had the oldest profession.

On the seventh day.

When God was trying to rest.

The story wrote itself in about 15 minutes, and became the first story I ever sold.

So far, I have sold a handful of stories to anthologies, a thin non-fiction book of self-affirmations and meditations, a few newspaper stories and features, and I write a magazine column on herbs.  I also have two or three fantasy novels and one science fiction novel in progress, and I have finished a couple of children’s picture books.  Hopefully I will eventually get them all published.

Oh, and the world’s oldest profession?  You’ll have to buy the book to find out.  It is the last story. .Ladies of Trade town cover

What ever happened to civil debate and discussion?

It has finally happened.  I have joined the ranks of those unfriended on Facebook because of a political post that I shared.

This particular post that I shared was from Huffingtonpost.  It can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-nix/an-open-letter-to-my-frie_2_b_9293694.html

The post starts out “I’m cool with you removing me from your friends list if you don’t like this post.”   Now that is from the post itself.  When I shared it, I said “If you are a Trump supporter, you don’t have to remove me from your friend’s list. But I hope you read this and think about it.”

My former Facebook friend replied “That post was full of misquotes flat out lies and hate full speak. It is too bad people have to be so jealous of successful people. And I will remove you.”

I asked, both in response and by private message – which probably went to his “other” box, since he did, in fact, unfriend me, what were the misquotes and lies in the post.  I never got a response.

I am the kind of person who, in general, likes to fact check.  I have posted things that I found out later were wrong, and I posted the corrections.  I didn’t fact check this particular article – mainly because I had seen enough video clips of Trump saying these things that I figured it was fairly accurate in what it attributed to Trump.  So I asked my former friend for corrections.  He hasn’t given me any yet.

I try to maintain an open mind, and if I’m wrong about something in a factual sense, I truly want to know.  And if you want to try to change my opinion, which may or may not be a correct opinion to have, you have to do it with facts, with good arguments and civil debate.  Name calling, unsupported accusations of lies, and misquotes will not change my mind – in fact, it tends towards the opposite.  My former friend lost his chance to show me a different side of the story.  He chose to make accusations of “misquotes” and “flat out lies” without showing the proof of those lies and misquotes.  He chose to unfriend me in a bout of emotional anger – which is actually one of the things the article says – that Trump supporters are angry – rather than to use logic, reason, and fact to show me where the article was wrong.

Unfortunately, that seems to be a trend.  People in general seem to have forgotten that differences of opinion are OK to have.  You can still be friends and not agree on certain things.  Debate and discussion about those disagreements is great – as long as it stays civil.  Far too often today, disagreements means degenerating into name calling, personalities, misinformation, lies, misquotes, quotes taken out of context, and “hate full speak.”

Too many people read something, or see something, that is taken out of context or simply a down right lie.  But if it agrees with what they want or how they feel, they will not bother checking it out, not bother putting it into context – and woe betide anyone who disagrees with what they have decided is the truth.  It is far far easier to unfriend someone than it is to truly seek the truth.  It is far easier to simply spread a half-lie than it is to fact check.  It is far easier to believe something that you want to believe anyway, even if a simple google search will bring up all the information showing both the lies and the truths of the matter.

And I have found, to my personal sadness, that some friends, even when you can show them the true facts – both pro and con – about something, will persist in believing the lies that they have chosen.  Too often, these are also the people whose debate or conversation degenerates into name-calling, personalities, angry responses,  and “hate full speak.”

So, what has happened to civil conversation?  What has happened to proper debate, with facts, not misinformation? What has happened to the idea that disagreements, done properly, can actually be healthy instead of toxic?

Simply because someone disagrees does not make them an enemy, nor does it make them not a friend.

I wish my former Facebook friend understood that.

When someone you know has lost a loved one.

Disclaimer:  My father just passed away.  He was an awesome, awesome man.  Although this was expected, it still is very hard.  So that means that I am writing this in the middle of intense grief, and am prone to burst into tears at any minute.  It also means that my perspective on things are quite likely to be skewed right now.  Please keep that in mind while reading this.

So…

Someone dies.

People, friends, want to do something for the family.  So what do they do?

They bring food.    They may or may not have asked about food allergies first.

They say things like “He is in a much better place now.”  Well, that might be true – but we want him or her HERE.  With us.

“He isn’t in any more pain.”  No he isn’t.  But we are in immense pain.

“He died at home?  That must have been so hard.”  Harder than you can imagine, unless you have gone through it yourself.  But we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“If you need anything, just let me know.”  We are too numb to know what we need, and by the time we start thinking again, we don’t remember who said that.

“Is there anything I can do for you?”  Again, we are too numb to know what needs to be done, and by the time we think of it, we don’t remember who offered.

What do we really need?

Yes, food is really great.  Sometimes we have no appetite for it. I’ve taken a pair of pants out of my get-rid-of pile because I’ve lost enough weight over the last month that they fit again. But we know we need to eat in order to keep up our strength in order to do the things that we must.  Having people bring meals truly is wonderful – it means that much less that we have to worry about.  Even with no appetite, we will eat if something is brought to us.  And the food will come – for a couple of days, maybe, and then stop, usually long before we are ready to think about preparing food again.

We need hugs.  We need people willing to sit with us and just let us cry, maybe even cry with us.  We need emotional support, not just now, while it is fresh, but for many months to come.

What we don’t tell you?

Unless you have been there, we can’t possibly explain how broken we feel inside.  We will try to stay strong, to smile bravely through our tears – and save our collapse until we are all alone, or with the family members who are feeling the same way we are.

We will say thank you for the food, and you might not realize how very very much we mean that, because we are still numb, still fighting not to cry – but fixing food for our family is one thing we don’t have to worry about now, and that is so important.  But in our grief, we won’t be able to express how important that is.

On the other hand, sometimes we will say thank you for the food, and inside we wonder where the support was when our loved one was still alive and could have seen it.

We don’t, and probably won’t, tell you how this is affecting us financially.  But often, even for families that appear fairly well off, money is a real immediate need.  Unless you are family, or a very close friend, we won’t tell you that we are worried about money.  We won’t tell you that we haven’t worked a steady job in a long time in order to be available for assistance for our loved one.  We won’t tell you that we have taken the last few days, or weeks, or even months, off so we could spend what time was left with the person we love – but those days of not working will mean that we won’t have quite enough money for the electric or phone bill this month.  We won’t tell you that we are worried about the medical bills that have piled up.  We won’t tell you if we are confused by the whole social security issues – how many older women today know that things will change when their husband dies, but they don’t know in what way?  We won’t tell you that our husband, or father, or mother was a great provider when he or she was alive, but had no or little life insurance to cover expenses after they died.  We won’t tell you that we aren’t sure if we will be able to pay the mortgage of the house that our loved one had hoped to have paid off before they died.   We won’t tell you that we are worried about how long it will take to cut through any red tape in order to use any insurance that might be in place to cover the bills, the expenses.  We won’t tell you that the credit cards are maxed out, that we have been trying to figure out which bills can be postponed, which bills must be paid now, and which bills are no longer important.

So – How can you help when someone dies?

If it was an expected thing, a known illness – be there during the illness, with meals, hugs, listening ears and respite care.

Continue bringing food after the person dies.  And for a little while after the funeral.  Don’t just make it a couple of days – food can be comforting, and sometimes we need that feeling that someone is still there who cares.

If you don’t know what to say, simply say “I’m so sorry this happened.”

Offer to help with something specific. “I know you will be having a lot of relatives come in.  I would like to help you by mopping your floors.  When is the best time for me to come over?” “I am putting my name and my phone number on your refrigerator with a note to call me when you start to go through his clothes if you don’t want to do it alone.”

Clip out the obituary notice for out of town relatives who might like to have one.

Listen to the stories about that person – It is so bittersweet, but it helps to talk about them.  I find myself talking about dad to relative strangers.  While it might feel uncomfortable to the listener, it can be very important to the person who is grieving – even weeks and months after the death.

Pay a bill.  Or part of one.  You can do it anonymously, or you can do it openly.  Bring a check made out to a utility company, or a pre-paid debit card, or a gift card. There are always extra expenses involved in a death, and even a gift of $10 or $20 can help make a difference, especially if the family is poorer or have already been dealing with financial issues like lay-offs or no-pay work leave.

If you ask how they are doing, really mean it – don’t just ask socially.  And let the person know that it is more than a social statement – that you are really interested.

Continue bringing meals after the funeral, and take them out to eat once in a while – maybe not everyday, maybe not even every week.  But often enough so that they know someone is thinking of them.  Especially if the person is older and all alone.

Send a card on those special days – anniversaries, the deceased’s birthday.  Or call.  All you have to say is “I know today is probably extra hard.  I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you.”

Survivors frequently want to share stories of their loved one.  Often people are uncomfortable with that.  Listen anyway.  Ask questions.  Ask them to share a favorite memory.

Learn about the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, anger, and acceptance – and remember that we can go through them, and then back to one that we went through previously.  Some of us will go through the stages in different orders from others, and some will reach full acceptance earlier than others.

Please don’t say “You have grieved long enough – don’t you think you should be over this now?”  We will never get “over” it.  We can come to acceptance, we will eventually move on with our lives, but the death of a loved one will leave a lasting effect.

I invite anyone who has been through the grieving process to comment with tips and suggestions to help those who are newly facing this.

If you believe in God, have you wasted your life? NO!!

A friend posted something today on facebook.  It was a poster meme, with a red background, and it said “If I’m wrong about God then I’ve wasted my life.  If you’re wrong about God then you’ve wasted your eternity” Lecrae.

https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xla1/v/t1.0-0/p480x480/11205141_10152845360601179_4413137991245426747_n.jpg?oh=d39ca2df7e628e34ce01f705d1916eb9&oe=573CC105

Now, I appreciate the idea behind this thought.  I understand what this person is trying to say.  The only problem is, it is so wrong.  A belief in God, regardless of whether or not He actually exists, is not a waste.  The only way that believing in God would be a waste is if you believe that what is commonly considered “sin” is a preferred way of life.  Drunkenness, theft, murder, drug addictions, sex with whoever you want… If that is part of your value system, then, indeed, a belief in a God who does not exist would be a waste.

But I have found that a belief in God has done so much more for me.

Because I believe in God, I look for the good in people.

Because I believe in God, I have a more positive attitude about life in general.

Because I believe in God, I pray for strength – and I receive it.

Because I believe in God, I find the rainbow in the rain.

Because I believe in God, I believe that I can change for the better.

Because I believe in God, I continue to try.

Because I believe in God, I try to help others.

Because I believe in God, I stand back up, no matter how many times I fall down.

Because I believe in God, I have hope.

Because I believe in God…

I could go on and on.

Even if God does not exist, belief in Him is not a waste.  It is life.  It is strength.  It makes my life better in so many ways.

Because I believe in God…

There either is a God, or there isn’t.

My father is dying.  We don’t know how long it will take.  He has entered in-home hospice care, and needs someone with him at all times.  He is 86 years old, and is a sociologist.  He has studied humanity for most of his life, and finds the process of dying rather “fascinating.”  As a sociologist, a teacher, and a counselor for most of his life, he has read about the dying process, changes that people make, some of the things that they start doing – and now, he says, he understands why these happen much much better.

So tonight I was with my dad.  And he made the comment that he wished he had taken a class on philosophy.  I asked him why.  This is my paraphrase of his answer.

*********

Well, there is either a God, or there isn’t.  Now if you consider the law of entropy, you pretty much have to believe in some kind of creator – something that at least put the process into motion.

Once you decide there is a God, you have to ask, is he intelligent/logical or not?  With all the various things that occur in nature – like that law of entropy, how things are put together, laws of science, etc…those things all lead to the conclusion that God is intelligent and logical.

So then you have to ask yourself – is an intelligent God concerned about Mankind or not?  And if He is concerned with mankind – is that concern for our benefit, or our detriment?  Is God just some cruel entity that enjoys making man suffer, or is He a loving God, who has planned for our benefit?  I believe He is concerned with mankind, and for our good.

********

Around there he stopped and said something to the effect of “I don’t remember the rest of it. But I had it all laid out, step by step.  I’ll have to write it all down when my brain is working better…”

Simple questions.  But they mean so very much.  I hope he remembers the other questions that went along with these.  I’d like to hear them.

Is there a God, or isn’t there?

If there is a God, is God intelligent and logical?

If He is intelligent and logical, is he concerned with Mankind?

If He is concerned with Mankind, is that concern for our good, or for our detriment?

I love my daddy.  And I am so glad that, even in his last days, he still speaks of God as a loving Father, who is concerned for His creation.