Sunday, December 14, 2008

Donald Eugene Lofton

Sean-Martin and I stopped home briefly yesterday afternoon between busy Saturday afternoon errands to drop off some things before heading out again. I was listening to a couple of messages on the answering machine when I noticed that my cell phone had been buzzing in my purse. By the time I got to it, it had gone to voice mail. The area code was 417, so I knew it was my dad. I was glad. We hadn’t had one of our marathon-phone conversations for a while. It had been at least a month and a half since we’d spoken, in fact. Too long. Behind me, somewhere in Sean-Martin’s brief case, his cell phone started ringing. I didn’t know what zipped pocket he’d stuffed it in, and by the time I wrenched it out of the bag it, too, had gone to voice mail. 417 area code. My dad was calling through the list of numbers he had, and I was missing him every time. I laughed and looked at the house phone. This time I would be ready! Sure enough, it rang and I pounced on it.
“Hello!” I answered, expecting to hear my father’s voice greet me with his usual, “Hello, darlin’.”
It wasn’t his voice.
The voice I heard was kind and calm and told me that my dad had passed away that morning.

My dad never scolded me. He never put me on restriction. He never made me eat my vegetables. This is because by the time I met my dad, I was married to my first husband and pregnant with my son. I heard his voice for the first time that I remember on my 24th birthday. Geoffrey’s father and I were living in Cape Girardeau then. We were just walking out the door to go to dinner and then to our first Lamaze birthing class. The phone rang, and I picked it up.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Hello, darlin’,” he replied. “My name is Don Lofton.”
“Dad?” I couldn’t believe it. It was the most amazing birthday present I’ve ever received. I told him, “It’s my birthday! You called on my birthday!”
He said, “I know, honey. I haven’t forgotten.”
The following spring, we took our new baby, drove west across the state of Missouri and met him in person. My grandparents, Jon and Billie, were with us then. I met my Uncle Ronnie and my sister, Georgi. I loved them all instantly.
My dad told me that he had been stationed in Thailand when I was born, and he’d received a telegram from the Red Cross, which read, “Baby girl arrived. Mom and baby doing fine.” He told me he’d gone into town to celebrate. That may have been the first time, in fact, that I’d ever heard the phrase, ‘three sheets to the wind’, which was how he’d described his condition. He bought me a tiny, little Thai outfit and gave it to a pilot, I believe, who was coming home. He asked that soldier to send it to me when he got stateside, but it never arrived that I’m aware of. I hope that when I am reunited with my father again in Heaven that he greets me with a hug and that little outfit. I want it. I wish I had it now. It was my first present from my father.
Since then, my father has given me many presents. The best of which are answers. I look like him. I have a string of feistiness that runs through me that, admittedly, pales in comparison to his. After all, I’ve never stood up on a bar top in a rowdy, rival Kansas bar and started a brawl by screaming at the top of my lungs, “KANSAS AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT A BUNCH SUNFLOWERS AND SONSA BITCHES!”
He grew up late, and I grew up young. I would tell him stories of my students in school and how I handled them when they were naughty and how I got them to behave. He would laugh and tell me, “You don’t even know why you act the way you do. But I do. You’re just like me.” He, in turn, told me stories of how he dealt with his kids on the bus he supervised. Each story seemed like one of my own fingerprints. I started to understand my own relationship with my students. Every time I talked to my dad, he would give me another little piece of the puzzle of my life. It was comforting to finally have some explanations as to why I was the way I was. Growing up, I didn’t look like my family. I didn’t want the same things. I always felt different. Meeting my dad reassured me that I wasn’t different—I was like him. It was a series of little gifts that he gave me every time we connected.
He told me stories of the war. Of having to make a trip into Vietnam once a month to salvage parts for the airplanes he worked on. I thought he’d stayed in Thailand—I hadn’t known he had to actually go into Vietnam. He explained, “Well, honey, when they shoot those planes down, it’s not like they bring ‘em back!” He loved the History Channel and even expressed a desire to return to Vietnam and Thailand to experience it in a more positive light. He talked about the times when the rain would suddenly burst out of the clouds and every soldier would stop what he was doing, go get a bar of soap and strip down buck-naked right where he stood to shower. It didn’t matter if they were eating, relaxing, or working. He laughed at the poor schmucks who were still lathered in soap when the rain stopped as suddenly as it had come.
He asked every pilot how he felt about his mission before he allowed the plane in the air. “Are you feeling good about this one, sir?” he’d say. The soldiers would almost always say, “Absolutely! I’m coming back.” Only once did he have a man say, “You know, I don’t have a good feeling about this. I don’t think I’m gonna make it.” My dad grounded that plane. He “found” something wrong with it. That soldier didn’t fly that day. It’s how my dad coped. He spoke reverently about the bravery of the men he’d met. He said when his tour of duty was over and he flew home, there was no fanfare. No flags. No banners. Wrong war. His parents were waiting for him at the airport along with my mother and me. He talked to me about my mother and how he had loved her. I’d not been told that. Another gift for me.
When Sean-Martin and I got married, we were thrilled that Dad and Barbara, whom I call ‘Mom’, were able to come to our wedding. I treasure the fact that he walked me down the aisle and gave me away. He stole the show at the reception when he caught the garter and proceeded to cut the rug in celebration. He was quite the dancer!
Even thought our relationship was one of continual discovery, I know there were things we didn’t tell each other. We both kept things from each other, and I think we both knew it. I think he knew there was much I didn’t tell him. I wonder if he knew that I was aware that there was more he wasn’t telling me. Neither of us would have ever given the other any information that would have been burdensome, so we held that to our chests. The past was the past. We spared each other the details because we loved each other. He’d suffered enough, and so had I. He carried with him certain regrets concerning me. I think I will carry them with me now.
Today, I am grateful. I’m grateful that I was able to know him for the eighteen years that I did. I’m grateful that I knew my grandparents. I’m thankful that I have an uncle and a sister to love. I’m thankful that he gave me Barbara. She gave him the greatest joy of his life. She was his gift, and he was proud to share her with me. To have missed out on knowing him and the rest of my family would have been the tragedy of my life. But that didn’t happen. I got that phone call on my 24th birthday, and I heard that now-familiar greeting, “Hello, darlin’.” It changed my life forever.
I thought I would hear that greeting yesterday when I saw that 417 area code, but I will look forward to the day when I hear that greeting again. It will be in that glorious place where no one will ever cry. No one will ever leave someone they love. He’ll be waiting for me.
He’ll smile and say, “Hello, darlin’.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I learned from my little experiment…

A few weeks ago, I posted a status comment on my Facebook page that ignited a certain amount of controversy: “Daisy is confused. If faith is the opposite of fear, then why do those who claim to be people of ‘faith’ peddle the most fear? Daisy is not afraid. She believes in God.” This post was the result of having been poked and poked and poked by those of my own faith who disagreed with my political views and called my faith into question given my “wayward political opinions.” I often opt not to respond to these insinuations, these carefully worded innuendoes, because I do believe what Tyler Perry says, “It’s not what people call you in this world that makes you who you are—it’s what you answer to.” In light of that wisdom, I have often ignored the subtle, personal attacks and judgments in regard to my relationship with God by those who claim to know Him just a little bit better than I do and who, let’s face it, are apparently just a little bit smarter. Those who have not been “deceived” by a liberal media (like I have—always the underlying meaning) have felt compelled to inform me of the “correct” opinions that are closer to the heart of God and, therefore, the ones to which I should adhere if I truly claim to be in tune with His Holy Spirit. The fact that I cuss, drink, and flash my boobs on occasion CERTAINLY does not help my case—this is the very folly that hammers every frivolous nail into my hell-bent coffin. I fully concede that fact. The fact that I have no intention of modifying a gosh-darn thing in that regard (because I believe the whole lot of it to be the most petty of issues) gives everyone who sits in the pews with me on Sunday mornings all the justification they need to disregard every single syllable I utter. I get it. To them I probably sound like the adults on every Charlie Brown cartoon special we’ve ever seen: “Wa waaaa, wa-wa waaaaaaa-wong-waaaa wa-wa waaaaaaaaaaa.”
I posted that statement to turn the tables. I chose to publicly post a statement that would bring into question the very faith of those whose political opinions were the opposite of my own. Honestly, it was about 10% retaliatory because I was tired of getting poked. But about 90% of the question was meant to turn the situation around out of sheer curiosity to see how others would react if I called their faith into question because of their politics—the way my own had been. In so doing, I pissed off pretty much everybody. The response I got was… OK, I’m just going to say it… boringly predictable. People who act with any measure of predictability are boring to me. Can’t help it. They do not compel me in any way. They are uninteresting. I think that’s why I pursue knowing Christ like I do. He’s unpredictable to me. I can’t figure that Guy out. He just seems so… beyond me. He intrigues me like no one else. For those who have figured Him out so completely, I stand in complete and total awe of you. How wonderful that must be to know exactly what He thinks about everything. I guess you truly are smarter than I am—more “in tune”. Hey, good for you. That’s great that you’ve got Him all figured out. Maybe someday I’ll be on the same spiritual level you are and stop flashing my boobs. The responses to my status comment ranged from patronizing to hostile. Some posted on my wall—others grilled me privately. Regardless of the intensity of people’s responses, one theme was universal: “Don’t you DARE question MY faith in God!”
Hmmm? That’s kind of how I felt when people were doing it to me. Of course, I’ve invalidated myself due to my unapologetically, irreverent, and frolicsome antics so people who know better have every right to judge me accordingly and go tearing into their prayer closets on my behalf, in fact, breaking the sound barrier on their way to intercede for my deluded, rebellious, backslidden soul who votes with the devil and his angels.
It’s enough to make me want to walk down the street buck-ass naked. Believe me, it’s only the shark-bait white skin, the muffin-top tummy, and the stretch marks that prevent me!
So what am I taking away from this little social experiment? Well? How about… Don’t ever stand up and exercise any kind of ability to think for yourself in the midst of a bunch of Christians—it’s JUST not the arena for such shenanigans. LIKE THIS IS BIG NEWS! No, there’s got to be something a little more earth-shattering than that! Let’s see… What have I learned? Keep my damn mouth shut? Hmmm. I think everybody knows THAT’S not going to happen. Truly? There’s probably nothing new under this rock. I’m no Galileo, but I’m pretty sure that my world is not flat. I’m pretty sure that God is bigger than my hard questions. I’m relatively convinced that He’s bigger than my opinions. And I’m absolutely POSITIVE that the predominant subculture of American Christians is no sanctuary for someone like me. I think. Therefore, I am, right? I’m not sure what people are who subject themselves to a subculture that does not encourage thinking, but rather, tells people what to think. Oh, surely, God gave us a free will and, in this country, we have the right to speak freely. But many of us have had to pay for what we say, so it’s only free for SOME people, I suppose. The rest of us? Not so much. Where do I send my penance check?
I’m not going to throw any more provocative questions into the conservative arena. That whole thing amounted to nothing more than throwing popcorn into a lake to a bunch of hungry carp. Most don’t take the time to truly look into my life. I can’t be worried about it. My Father looks into my life, and that’s all I need. He breathes into my life. He’s not afraid of how I vote. He’s not afraid of the questions I ask. He’s not worried about the momentum of the moral majority, and frankly, I think He could care less about the f-word, a good chardonnay, or who has seen my boobs. He sees my heart, and I am grateful.
I have a couple of options here, I think. I could ignore those who judge me and piss me off and call my faith into question. I could just continue like I have been, going about my Father’s business without the validation of my peers—feeding hungry children who need something to eat, giving something to drink for those who are thirsty, inviting strangers into my life, tending to those who are sick, and visiting those in prison. I could just leave it at that, right? As long as I keep cussing, drinking, and flashing my boobs, I don’t have to ever fear being lumped in with that “holier than thou” ensemble whose job it is to judge everything that swims upstream against the groupthink, which is just A-OK WITH ME! After all, I wouldn’t want there to be ANY CONFUSION!
Or, I could do something unpredictable. Something very un-boring. I could learn to show compassion to those who stand in judgment of me. Of course, I would have to stop comparing Christians to carp. I could start there. I could “…BE the change I want to see in the world.” Oh, wait, Ghandi said that. He wasn’t a Christian, so nobody has to listen to him… UGH! There’s that sarcasm again! I’ll have to work on that, which sucks because I’m REALLY stellar at it.
But, ultimately, I want to be stellar at being compassionate rather than being sarcastic and zinging people back who pop off to me. To tell you truth, I am slightly particular about who I show compassion to. I mostly show compassion to my kids and my inner circle and those I believe DESERVE my compassion.
How predictably boring.
I’ve been told I don’t have the guts to take a stand for Jesus. Literally. I’ve been told exactly that. I haven’t minded much, though, because my retort has always been that my accuser doesn’t have the guts to stand up in his own subculture and think for himself, whereas I’ve already proven that I do. And besides, with so much to do, who needs to be “standing” around? Whatever. Bygones. Who cares? My confession is this. As it stands right now, I do NOT have the guts to embrace those who judge me. My confession is, I am boring. I am predictable—as much as those whom I have judged for judging me. I was poked, and I poked back. Once again, I told God, “Hold my purse!” while I fought my own battle. Every time I do it, I come up empty. It’s always a wretched thing to do, and it never works out the way I fantasize that it’s going to in my mind. The 10,000 never, ever fall at my right hand. I’ve got to daily remind myself of Switchfoot’s advice:
Let it go
Daisy, Let it go
Open up your fist
This fallen world
Doesn't hold your interest
It doesn't hold your soul
Daisy, let it go

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Ministry of Spam-A-Lot

Since when is spamming a bona-fide ministry?
People believe the Internet to be the latest and greatest vehicle to spread their own personal convictions to the masses—the gospel according to… THEM! How easy it is! They never have to face anyone. They can throw the rudest and most accusing thoughts out into the universe without ever having to hear a retort or see the look of incredulity on the face of someone who might know something different. There are no social repercussions. They don’t have to cite their sources or have any proof for the claims they make or worry about that annoyingly trivial little thing called accountability. Logic can go completely awry and no one has to pay the piper. One simply has to click the send key and walk away feeling like he has helped make the world a better place in some small way. World War II reminds us that people don’t believe the little lies as easily as they believe the big ones. I’ve recently read some whoppers. Most of those whoppers use the tried and true tools of manipulation: intimidation, ridicule, and fear. Fear is the POLAR opposite of faith. Yet, what I’ve witnessed in the last few months are many who claim to be people of faith peddling the most fear.
I have a place on the Internet where I post my opinions. It’s called a blog, and I think it’s the greatest thing since peanut butter fudge with chocolate drizzles. I invite people to click on the link to my blog, but I do not copy and paste its contents and send it to everyone in my address book. On it, I state my opinions. And I’m not even gonna lie—it feels pretty good to vent. It’s an amazing feeling to put something out there and proclaim, “THIS IS WHAT I THINK, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYBODY ELSE THINKS!” But I keep my rantings all in one solitary place. My reckless abandon is contained! I do NOT circulate my opinions and convictions around the Internet because I’m just not that arrogant to believe that anybody gives a shit as to what I think about anything. People can tune in or opt out. The only source I can cite for this wisdom is my own brain, so I could never presume to claim any legitimate credibility. People can agree or disagree. There is a place for comments where my readers have done just that—agreed and disagreed. How insulated and safe it all is, even when someone does disagree. If I’m afraid that someone might, in fact, have a differing opinion, I have a nifty little filter that allows me to preview any message before I post it. If I don’t like how people respond, I can simply delete their posts and go make myself a sandwich. (Incidentally, I have never even thought about filtering or deleting any response to my blog. Ever.)
What if we were forced to go back to a time when, if we felt compelled to throw our opinions into the ring, we had to actually face people? What if we had to actually look into the eyes of another person and say what was on our minds? Would we take such a strong, adversarial stance then? Would we do a little more research and make sure we knew what we were talking about before we stuck our necks out? Because now it seems that we don’t have to stick our necks out at all. Would we be as condescending? Would we still have the hutspa to be as rude and as glibly self-important as the Internet currently allows? I think we should have to look people in the eyes when we speak, acknowledge what we do to them with our words, and take responsibility if we insult them with the gratuitous “sharing” that we convince ourselves is simply the truth. I think we should have to consider the distinct possibility that if people are not receptive to what we say, then PERHAPS we could contemplate a little self-reflection? If that reflection leads us right back to our convictions, then PERHAPS we could rethink the delivery?
If compassion were an actual requirement, would we be kinder? Would we force ourselves to THINK, not only about WHAT we would say but HOW we would say it before we allow the words to come out of our mouths? Would we be more thoughtful to others if we were forced to physically absorb their reactions to our opinions? Would we be slightly more wary about how we spoke to people if we knew they could beat us up? Would we give someone else a chance to talk if we saw their face contort into confusion in response to our proclamations? Would we listen to them or just wait “politely” to stop talking so that we could have their strict attention again before we resume our tirade?
No, I suppose that’s too hard. It’s much easier to click furiously away at the keyboard and delude ourselves into thinking we’ve contributed to the world in some significant way.
I want to say a couple things here ON MY BLOG:
#1 Check your facts. Emails that have been spammed out across the globe are not the voice of God above. If it sounds ridiculous, it probably is. Stop forwarding the “whoppers” that history has taught us so many are susceptible to.
#2 Look people in the eye with whom you have differences and embrace them. It’s hard to hold anger in your heart when you’re holding someone in your arms. After all, people don’t care what you really think about anything. THAT’S the truth, my friends. That is, until you’ve shown them that you really do care about them. Invite someone to dinner who voted differently than you did or prays to another God. Don’t try to convert them. Just feed them. That single act will do more to heal our land than convincing even one person that you are right and he is wrong. After all, how many people do you need to piss off before you find that one needle in the haystack? And remember, people listen a lot better on a full stomach.
#3 Do your best to develop that ability to perceive how others perceive you. This will prove most helpful in your quest to win friends and influence people. Start by realizing this: If you are one of those folks who clicks furiously away at that keyboard and e-shares with the masses the opinions that have been so enlightening to YOU or forwards every piece of Internet fodder that comes into your inbox, you should probably stop and consider one thing. At least a good portion of the population thinks you’re an idiot. They’re not listening. You can’t put something in someone’s hands if they are clenched into fists. People who want to punch you make fists. Stop making people want to punch you. Love them, be kind to them, and they will open their hands. It’s very simple. If you’re reading this and you don’t care that people think you’re an idiot, and you’re resolved that you’re going to continue to bombard the rest of us with your never-ending two cents’ worth (in the name of God or your own conventional wisdom) you ARE an idiot! Come visit me as soon as you can so I can put my arms around you, look you in the eye, and tell you to your face.
If you come a long way, I’ll feed you dinner.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Empty Nesting...

Empty Nesting…
I have made absolutely no bones about the fact that I am in the market for a good therapist for next August when my baby leaves for college; not to mention the fact that a good anti-depressant is CERTAINLY not beneath me.
Having said that, let me say that our trip up to Moscow to preview the University of Idaho was wonderfully encouraging. First of all, you may or may not be aware that Sean-Martin is a Vandal alum. (That would be the University of Idaho Vandals.) He had such a great time showing Geoff snapshots of his past. Geoff had a great time contemplating the possibilities of his future.
Mommy was just trying not to leak spontaneously out of her eyeballs.
The day began with a tour of the campus. Beautiful. The Vandal Preview was strategically planned for an extraordinary fall day, before the onset of ice and snow. The financial aid meeting was most reassuring. FAFSA is our new best friend. If your children are still tiny, you may not have been formally introduced to the huge stack of paperwork awaiting you and your tax return, which determines how much free money you are entitled to. We will be finding out in a few short months what the price tag will be, so we’re doing our best now to confess ALL our sins. Neither one of us has said the f-word since we got home and are in church every single time the doors open up. It can’t hurt, right?
Since Geoff is such an amazing artist, he gave serious consideration to the College of Art and Architecture. We tracked down a very generous Dr. Brian Clevely, who spent at least thirty minutes talking to the three of us about the department he heads up: Virtual Technology and Design. Geoff wants to be a virtual architect. The program was amazingly impressive and reminded us of Randy Pausch and the phenomenal work he was able to do with his virtual reality students. (YOU MUST YOUTUBE HIM! RANDY PAUSCH—THE LAST LECTURE!) Geoff didn’t stop smiling from that moment on. It was so reassuring to see our son in this element. His element.
He is so ready for this.
The university must have hidden all the students who may have been struggling or unhappy in any way because every single, solitary student we came across, whether he or she were on campus or enjoying a beverage and snack on one of the sidewalk cafes in downtown Moscow, was thrilled and delighted to be attending the U of I. We came across a delightful little group of students, rolling their own cigarettes, who recognized our potential Vandal right away. The cutie-patootie named Robin, whose dreadlocks were just starting to take off, struck up a conversation.
“So, are you thinking about coming to U of I?”
“I am,” Geoff answered.
“Are you cool?”
“I’m pretty cool.”
They laughed approvingly and lifted their glasses in welcome. It was another reassuring snapshot.
A year from this moment, Geoff will likely be venturing out on his own path. Sean-Martin will be mowing the lawn and picking up Sofie’s poop without his #1 guy, and I will be in counseling.
Perhaps. Perhaps not.
A colossal part of my heart is absolutely thrilled for Geoff to have this chance—this chance that he has earned—to be in a place where he can learn and grow and become everything he was meant to be. We are so proud of him. What a gloriously delightful, intelligent, comical, artistic, talented, and kind gentleman he has already become. He deserves this. I am more than willing to push him from this nest—even though it might seem empty when he’s gone.
And, let’s face it. It’s not like it sucks to be me. I don’t know what women do who, #1 Do not like their husbands anymore and #2 Who do not know who they are apart from their mothering. I’m not saying it isn’t heart wrenching to have poured my heart out into the life of my son, only to leave him standing in his dorm room with his mini-refrigerator and X-Box 360 (he has more games than jeans, for God’s sake), knowing that he isn’t ever going to live with us again while concurrently and equally mortified if he were to ever try. I’m grateful, though, in the midst of my conflictedness, for my husband’s humor and his ever-present calming effect. My life is very full—apart from my mothering. I’m grateful, too, that Geoff is ready to fly.
After all, this is just one step closer to grandbabies, right?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Bucket List

Things I want to do, in no particular order, before I kick the bucket…

1. Front a band that does cover songs for inebriated people outdoors on warm, summer evenings
2. Find two other people to sing hymns in three-part harmony for no one but ourselves
3. Finish writing my romance novels
4. Get published
5. Become a real, bona fide motivational speaker
6. Teach college
7. Sit in a tavern with people I've never met, drinking cervezas and laughing hysterically, talking long into the night--in Spanish
8. Have dinner with Sean-Martin in several different countries
9. Go to Africa in some Bono-like capacity
10. Snuggle with my grandbabies

What's on your Bucket List?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Daisy by Any Other Name...

Do we or do we not wrack our brains for nine months to decide the perfect names for our children?
Sometimes we want something unique—different from anyone else. The movie stars really have this dialed in right now with names like Apple, and Honor, and Sunday. However, from the moment the celebs christen their little ones with such distinctive names, hundreds of thousands of little kids will be monikered thus, rendering these inimitable names common. Kind of takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it?
Sometimes we want to give our children family names. Geoffrey’s middle name is Scott after his father. Sean Eugene Martin is a fifth-generation “Eugene”. Five generations is nothing to sneeze at! That name goes back hundreds of years. If we’d had another son, his name would have been Something Eugene. Incidentally, Eugene is my father’s middle name, Donald Eugene Lofton.
We want our children’s names to mean something significant that will hover over them like a protective banner throughout their lives. Geoffrey means “Heavenly Peace”. Not only has he been a source of “Heavenly Peace” to me and those he touches, it has always been my wish that his name would do its job: hover over him and provide “Heavenly Peace” whenever he needs it as he goes throughout his life.
My Grandma Polly’s name hovered over her, but not as a banner of protection. Polly means “Great Sorrow”. Her middle name, Ann, means “Gracious and Merciful”. Her name defined her perfectly. She was the most gracious and merciful woman I have ever known, whose life was afflicted by great sorrow.
So, be careful when you name someone.
In writing fiction, I never name any of my characters until I’ve consulted with www.babynames.com. That website has every name you could think of, the origins and the meanings. Look up your own name and see if your life has lived up to your label.
On September 4th, a little after 9:00 AM, my name was legally changed to Daisy. Many have asked how I got the nickname, Daisy, in the first place. It was a Scrabble game, to tell you the truth. I worked at Applebee’s for several years and… OK, so I dated the general manager for about two years, which is not kosher in the restaurant business, so no one really knew about it. Another blog. Anyway, I was playing a game of Scrabble with him and his mom, Betty, whom Geoffrey and I loved dearly—may she rest in peace. Now, I’m pretty decent at Scrabble, and I was already winning by no small amount. I attached the word “daisy” to another word and put it on a triple word score, shooting ahead almost another hundred points. Then on my next turn, I put “amaze” with another word on ANOTHER triple word score and just about blew the two of them out of the water. The next day at work, I had someone make me a nametag with the name “Daisy” on it, and I wore it around just to rub it in. When my boyfriend/boss saw it, he simply replied, “Amazing.” As I wore the nametag, people began to call me Daisy. I decided I liked the sound of it and continued to wear the nametag. People started calling me Daisy even when I wasn’t wearing it. I liked the sound of that too. A manager from another store asked me to come tend bar for her on Friday nights, and I went over to her store as “Daisy”. When she liked me enough to ask me to open up another restaurant for her and be her daytime bartender, I was Daisy from the very first day, and I’ve been Daisy for the last fifteen years.
People have asked me throughout the years if I would ever consider changing my name legally. It’s strange, but I always said no. I don’t know why I said no, other than the fact that when people don’t think something is really an option, they tell themselves they don’t really want it. But recently, when my dear friend, Diedre, told me how easy it would be and that she would make it happen for me if I really wanted her to, I discovered that I wanted it so much it hurt. I literally began to cry at the possibility that I could change my name.
Why would I cry?
When people call me by my old name, it’s as if they are calling my old self. That girl has cried buckets of tears. She had a reason to. The good news is that when I speak of my old self, it seems to me that I am literally speaking about someone else. Like a phoenix, I have risen out of those ashes to fly to heights beyond anything I could have ever thought or imagined. I shed my former self like snakeskin and emerged a new person. I left behind everything but my name, and now it’s time to leave that behind as well. I’m crying for joy. There is no longer be anything that tethers me to my past.
Daisy simply means flower. However, when I looked a little harder, I found a very old meaning: “Day’s Eye”. Someone, eons ago, probably looked out over a meadow filled with daisies and thought they looked like eyes peering up toward the heavens, seeking all that the day would bring.
For a middle name, and I’ve discovered that it is somewhat bizarre to name yourself, I have chosen Rain. In this moment, every one of you thought to yourself, “Daisy Rain”. At least half of you thought I should have grown up in the sixties. But let me explain this so you’ll really get it. First of all, I wanted a one-syllable name. All “Daisies” have one-syllable names that come after: Daisy May, Daisy Sue, Daisy Jane, Daisy Lou… Daisy Chain! It just SOUNDS good. I also wanted my middle name to be a noun. Daisy is a noun—Rain is a noun. And the fact that Rain is a nature-noun works for me as well. But the kicker in my mind was this: According to the babynames website, Rain means, “Abundant Blessings from Above”.
I am Daisy Rain Martin, the girl with her eyes toward Heaven every day, seeking all that each day will bring, and knowing that every blessing in my life has come from above.
Thank you, Jesus, for making me a new person. Thank you, Diedre, for making it legal. I love you both more than…

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pouring Out My Thoughts to Warren

Well! I just got done pouring out my thoughts to my good friend, Warren. I thought I'd post this e-mail in its entirety. Just processing here...

Hey buddy! So sorry I bailed last night. I didn't even get HOME until 5:30! The whole day was just one big fuster-cluck. I'm working on what to do with my brain when parents are complete idiots and they have so neglected to parent their children that their children are now totally out of control, traveling down the wrong road as fast as they can possibly get absolutely nowhere. They come to school and suddenly get hit with expectations to be respectful and cooperative enough to get something out of this free education they are offered by people who sacrifice a great deal to provide it for them and what happens? They get bent that someone has stood up to that little sense of entitlement of theirs and go home with accusations that we have mishandled the situation somehow. Instead of giving us one SHRED of confidence, instead of taking pause to ponder whether or not their children are representing us even REMOTELY as we truly are, they come down to the school and demand explanations of us as to why we handled their child the way we did. Most of the time, the child has left out gaping amounts of pertinent information, skewing the whole scenario favorably for themselves. But sometimes, as was the case last night, the child has completely fabricated some ridiculous notion right out of his ass. I can't tell you how often this happens! You can almost BET on the progression: kid won't do what he's asked, parents are called, cooperation seems forthcoming, kid gets home, kid tells lies or partial truths, parents come down to call YOU to the carpet. I want off this merry-go-round. Don't get me wrong. I want to teach. God has lead me back to this profession. I don't doubt that. But I want to pull myself out of that particular cycle and don't know how. Maybe I should just chalk it up to the job and learn to expect it. I try to thicken my skin, but my mind just obsesses over each and every incident like this for at least 24 hours. I keep replaying it over and over in my mind because I'm just so devastated by the injustice of it all. Why do parents rush right in, locked and loaded? When does someone give me the slightest benefit of the doubt? When is someone going to have the foresight to think, "Hmmm? Has my child ever lied to me to get out of trouble before? Could he be lying now? MAYHAPS I should reserve judgement and get the whole story before I act rashly?" But it seems like parents who process in that way have kids who rarely get in trouble! Go figure.

Many of my kids live in wonderful homes with parents who have parented well, who have made good choices for their lives and take responsibility for the little lives they've brought into this world. Many of my kids live in absolute squalor, but their parents still love them and do not neglect their children's needs. It's not about whether you grow up in a 2500 square foot house or a broken down single-wide. It's not about how much your parents have, but how much your parents give from themselves. Sure, I sacrifice plenty to do what I do. I pour my life into these children. And many parents do the same and make great personal sacrifices to see that their children have a great childhood, even if it is without all the amenities. But it just seems like there is a certain section of parents who have taught their children to blame everyone else but themselves for their circumstances and situations in life. They've taught their children by the example of their every day lives. These are the parents who come in and make it OUR fault that their children act the way they do. You know what combats that mentality? Ironically, it's education. Perhaps I am the enemy? In attempting to provide an education for their children, I innately challenge their ability to remain victims?

Well, that's all well and good. Glad we figured that out. Now how do I remain unaffected? How do I protect my own psyche and my own spirit? Because I'll tell you something, Warren, it crushes my spirit every single fucking time I have to go through this shit. And I have to take responsibility for that. I can't afford to keep an "Emotional Emergency Pack" on hand at all times. I would definitely have a bottle of Reisling, a coupon for an hour-long, full-body massage AND a pedicure (for which I'd have to make an appointment anyway! I'm not like the parents who come in demanding to see me right this very second--I have the capacity to understand that the world doesn't revolve around me, and I MIGHT just need to wait for an opening!) I would have some Jim Carrey or Chris Rock DVD in there to make me laugh. I think it occurred to me for the first time last night why people smoke pot.

I left teaching because I was in a very dark place. I don't want to go back to that place. And I don't want to become one of those teachers who commiserates with any other Negative Nelly who is stuck in a job she hates and doesn't even like children anymore, counting the days and hours and minutes until she is able to break free from the oppression and retire. I have seen those teachers and judged them. Today I wonder if, at one time, they were as passionate for children as I am. I wonder if, at one time, they willing sacrificed and gave of themselves without question the way I do now. I wonder if they just ran out of themselves to give anymore.

I wonder if, someday, that will be me.

I believe that one of the keys of happiness and success is gratitude. We've talked about this before. To be grateful is powerful. I believe it defends a person from many of the great ills of the human condition. And I am grateful. I'm grateful to be teaching again. I'm grateful for every eager face that is ready to learn. One strategy that teachers, many teachers, have used is to simply give to those students willing to receive what is offered and not going out of their way to reach the more reluctant children. Today, that is as tempting to me as sucking down an illegal substance for a few moments of frustration free happy time. I'm not sure I'm willing to do either one. But I know that I have to change the way I internalize this phenomena of education because these situations are not going to go away. Period. I can't break that fact. And I can't continue to break myself against that fact.

When I worked in Vegas with hard-to-reach kids, I experienced great success. Obviously, I didn't reach every child, but I affected many, many lives and gave them hope. I have story after story after story of how some of my toughest kids were able to turn their lives in a more positive direction. And you know what I had there that I don't here? Free reign. I had free reign to say what I needed to SAY to kids without mincing words because I had parents who trusted that I was the teacher and knew what I was doing and wouldn't dream of harming their children in a million years. There was trust. There was freedom. Sure, occasional misunderstandings would pop up and have to be dealt with, but there certainly was no pattern of accusations against teachers. I do not have that here. I miss that.

But, this is my situation. The past is the past. I can't go back, so why ponder?

John Steinbeck's theme of "THOU MAYEST" in his book, "East of Eden" offers my best strategy, I think. I just need to go into work every day and be excellent and compassionate. I will offer my efforts freely every day to every child regardless of anything that happened yesterday. Will every child receive it? They MAY, or they MAY NOT. I have to relinquish some of these control issues. I can't control any other human being save myself, and I can't crack every nut. That has to be OK with me at some point, out of sheer self-preservation. If I don't work to preserve my own spirit, my own heart and mind, my own emotional well-being, then my students CAN NOT receive what they need. I don't offer my children an education. I offer them the opportunity for an education. Most want it, and they understand they need it, so they are willing to work for it. Will it be enough for me that I've done my due diligence? Or will the ones who don't want the opportunity or who are so immersed in their own unhealth or the unhealth that has been handed down to them continue to haunt me for the rest of my life? Because that will suck the life out of me, Warren. I have to be present and engaged when I come home to my own family. Why should my loved ones have to pick up the tab for the seeming hopelessness that smacks me in the face every day? How do social workers cope? How do police officers cope? How do teachers cope? We are too often faced with the depravity and ignorance of humankind.

But teachers also get to share in joys that would bring the greatest cynic to tears. I've been cynical for too long. Warren, I just feel like I have to pour into those willing children more. I don't want to prioritize with CHILDREN, for God's sake, but I don't know how else to change my perspective! Maybe I should just admit that without the strategies available to me that were effective in Vegas, I don't know what to do with the kids who will not listen, will not comply, and will prevent others from learning so they can be in the Cool Kids Club. I need to protect my eager learners from those who would rob them of being able to live up to their potential. Am I giving up on the ones who need my help the most? Maybe I am. And maybe I'm doing it because I'm just spent. I'm over it. I don't know what to do. And this doesn't even begin to answer the question of what to do with their angry parents when I send these kids out of my class. How do I stop the tape-recorder in my head? I'm not sure that, "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on," is the most healthy of ways to distance myself from the situation. Maybe you have some suggestions?

Lord, how long is this post? I've poured out my heart, and there's still so much to say. Anyway, all that to say, I'm sorry I couldn't meet up with you guys last night.

I do love you.
So much.

Love,
Daisy

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This NEVER Happened in Vegas!

So. Last night I was sitting out on our little front porch that Sean-Martin built all by himself. It's a serene place to be in the evenings with a nice glass of pino grigio and a cheese platter. Two wicker chairs, huddled up to a round glass table, stand on a sandstone patio behind a Japanese maple that can’t decide whether or not life is worth living. The sun sets behind our house around 9:15 at night, so the front porch is shaded and cool, and the temperature is perfect. It’s lovely. Or, rather, it WAS lovely.
I was on the phone catching up on the latest goings-on with Devin when I glanced over across the street and down the way a bit. There, standing just inside his garage watching me, was our neighbor BUCK-ASS NAKED with his dick in hand, GOING TO TOWN WITH IT! We’re talking full-frontal, broad daylight, standing just twelve inches inside his garage with the door wide open, and not even TRYING to hide behind a car.
Now, you know when your eyes are in a knock-down-drag-out with your brain? Yes, I know that I am seeing this! No, you’re NOT seeing this! Yes I am! No you’re not! Yes I am! No you’re not!
“Oh my God!” I shrieked.
“What’s wrong?” Devin knew from my tone that something was happening, and that protective bone kicked in from 2000 miles away. My silence certainly did nothing to reassure my brother. “Daisy! What’s going on?”
Not answering, I ran inside the house and called upstairs to my husband who was watching Michael Phelps blow away the competition in China’s Water Cube. “Sean-Martin, can you please come down here for a second?” I knew he was up there rolling his eyes and thinking how that one sentence was never, ever good.
“Daisy!” Devin continued his rant in my ear. “What the hell is going on?”
Poor guy. I just let him hang. He heard me tell Sean-Martin, “Look out this window.” I pointed to the open garage across the way.
“What is it?” they both asked.
Finally, Devin was going to get his answers: “Is that our neighbor standing in his garage, totally naked, tugging on his dick?”
“WHAT?!” both men exclaimed in simultaneous stereo.
“You’ve got to be shittin’ me.” Sean-Martin pulled the horizontal blinds apart and peered through. Sure enough, there was our neighbor yanking away in front of anybody who cared to look.
Now, for the record, none of the three of us are morally opposed to people showing themselves a little affection. In fact, I have what they call a “Silver Bullet”, except mine is purple. And let me tell you, that thing’ll gitterdun! “Mommy’s Little Helper” is what Daddy calls it. But we CERTAINLY don’t use it in the FRONT YARD! It’s hiding in my underwear drawer, and we only break it out behind a CLOSED AND LOCKED DOOR!
I saw the conflict ensue between my husband’s brain and his eyes as he jerked his hand back from the blinds and let them snap shut, not believing what he had just seen. He leaned his head to one side as the confusion took over his face. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Sean-Martin was internally arguing with himself: You didn’t just see that. Yes I did. No you didn’t. Yes I did. No you didn’t.
He looked again. Yep! The neighbor was still plucking away! Devin wasn’t getting any answers out of me so he told me to give the phone to Sean-Martin.
“Yeah,” he reported. “He’s jacking off right here in front of my wife. Standing right there, watching her.”
Devin must have offered some creative suggestion because Sean-Martin replied, “Should I take my shotgun?”
Dear God.
“Well, I’m going over there. Here’s Daisy. She’ll give you the play by play.”
Out the front door he went. Of course, I wanted to hear every word so I followed him out and took my usual place on the veranda. With any luck there would be yelling and Devin could enjoy the exchange as well. When the neighbor saw my husband coming, he ran into the house. Sean-Martin was not dissuaded in the least. He walked right into the garage and called him outside.
Can you believe the guy came back out?
“What the fuck?” Sean-Martin began.
Now, I never heard one word from the neighbor. Devin and I only heard one side:
“What were you doing?”
“I saw you! My wife saw you!”
“BULLSHIT! We saw you!”
“Who else is here then? What other guy is here?”
“Then it was YOU! What the fuck?”
“That’s my WIFE! That is my WIFE!”
“It wasn’t you? Then who was it?”
“You don’t speak English now? How about I call the police? Will you speak English then?”
“Oh, so it WAS you?”
“Bullshit! Too many beers, my ass!”
“No excuse! No excuse!”
“You and me? No mas! No mas! We’re done! We are NOT friends! No amigos!”
Finally I heard very faintly, “Don’t tell my wife. No police! No police!”
“You stay away from my wife! You stay away from my house!”
With that, my hero came walking back, red in the face and shaking his head.
“Well done,” Devin offered before we hung up.
Fifteen minutes later, this guy’s wife pulled up to their house with their grandson and went inside. We hadn’t moved from the front porch and kept our eyes sharp.
“He’s pooping a twinkie right now,” I speculated.
Not two minutes later, both came back outside upset as we continued to stare them down. The guy, fully dressed now, started walking up to our house.
“No!” Sean-Martin lifted a finger to point him back in the direction he’d come. “No, no, no! Get away from this house!” He kept coming up the sidewalk, and I retreated into the house. I’ve had my fill of perverts for this lifetime.
He stopped finally and asked Sean-Martin, “You have my pants?”
He’d apparently misplaced his pants and thought Sean-Martin might have taken them.
“I don’t have your pants. Get away from this house.”
He turned around and started back to his own house. His wife had gotten back in the car and pulled up to our house as her husband walked away.
“Sean,” she called. “What is the problem?”
“Talk to your husband.”
She motioned for him to come up to the truck and talk to her. Sean-Martin didn’t budge from the chair.
“Talk to your husband. Your husband can tell you what he did.”
Finally, without her answers, she pulled away. She turned around and stopped in front of her own house. He got into the passenger’s seat, and they drove off. That’s the last we’ve seen of them.
I can't imagine that he will tell his wife what happened. After all, how does a guy form the words, "Well, honey. I got caught waxing my carrot in front of the neighbors." If his wife, whom I love, really wants to know what happened then she will probably come and ask me. And don’t think for a minute that I won’t tell her every last detail. I will. I’m not sure I should break my neck to run right over and let her know either, even though it’s kind of ironic that I have no problem putting it out on the Internet. I might also mention here that calling the police is still not totally out of the question either.
So, what are your opinions? Should we spill the beans to the wife or not? And what’s your opinions about involving the police?
A post-script here: We really do live in a very nice neighborhood.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Friend Brian

I have had the good fortune to be reunited with a good friend from college, Brian Conklin. I saw his profile on a mutual friend's Facebook page, and I decided to drop him a line. I'd heard he's been in Iraq, galavanting around the countryside, but I didn't know in what capacity. He added me to his Facebook page, and I e-mailed him with four questions:

#1 What are you up to?
#2 What in tarnation are you doing in Iraq?
#3 Who are you voting for in the Presidential election and why?
#4 What is going on there in Iraq that we don't know about?

Here are his unedited responses. SERIOUSLY copy and paste these links to your browsers and see the amazing work that this guy is doing! I don't know why we're not privy to this information here in the states. I don't even want to THINK about why that might be. I'm just doing my part to spread the word of the astounding endeavors of our troops and USAID workers across the sea. And, if you think about it, could you say a prayer for this guy? He's the guy standing in the brown, bullet-proof garb with helmet, second from the left. (Brian, it's just occurred to me: You're the first person in my "Heroes" series that isn't a chick!)

Here's Brian:


Hey Christian ! (can I do that once? :)

Okay - Daisy from here out. It's just been so long that I want to reach out, give you a hug and say "hey there." Wow.... what a blast from the past. I'm still just sitting here stunned. I don't even know where to start with my questions. And wow..... I've got more than a few of them.

Where are you? Who are you? :) (just kidding). What in the world has been going on in your life? I just caught a glimpse of your blog, so I'm getting a small sense of things. Are you still singing? You have to catch me up on the last..... god, how many years has it been?

Okay - for me, I'm all over the place. My name has stayed the same, and I'm still doing music, but that's about it. Long story short is that I joined the diplomatic corp as a foreign service officer about a decade ago. I've been overseas for the last 12 or so years - Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ukraine, Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and now Iraq (ugh!). Most of my work has been with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) - doing humanitarian / economic development work.

I was recruited for this job in Iraq. It's a bit off the normal diplomatic track. I'm attached to a Brigade Combat Team (2/25 Infantry Division) northeast of Baghdad in a place called Taji. I've been here for 10 months and have two more to go - just trying to get out of here in one piece.

I'm part of the Brigade and running what they call an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team - basically overseeing all the reconstruction, economic development, essential services and humanitarian issues in our 1,400 square mile area. It's been a tough year. I'm out every day with the soldiers that are assigned to my unit, working face to face with my Iraqi colleagues and doing my best to get everything back on track. Here's a couple of articles that popped up recently. The first one is from Vanguard and has some cool pictures. Here are the links:

http://www.vanguard.edu/uploadedFiles/Alumni/Magazine/Spring%202008%20-%20Rebuilding%20Iraq.pdf

http://www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/May08_FrontLines.pdf - scroll down to page 12

http://iraq.usembassy.gov/prt_news_05162008.html

Anyway - I'll let you read up on the "what." I volunteered for the assignment, and believe strongly in what we're (the US) is doing here. I'm outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and felt from the get-go that the war here was a bad idea. As a president, I think his foreign policy (don't even get me started on his domestic policy) is an abject failure. The thing is, we dismantled this place and I really believe we need to stick around long enough to help it right itself. I get really frustrated with folks in the States that commit us to a course of action that radically impacts the lives of others, and then wants to bail on it when confronted with the complexity and responsibility of dealing with the problems caused by our actions.

Getting back to your question, there is so much that isn't being covered by the press. When I first got here, I was thrown into the thick of things. I came in with the military's surge and a few months of training with the military. That said it was really tough. We were being hit (either by mortars, IEDs, or sniper fire) on the average of about 360 times a week. It was a battle just to get out the front of the base. Being rocketed at night while living a small tin trailer wasn't my idea of a good time - I lost some friends and and members of my team from IEDs while out on the road. About a month into things it changed drastically. The Sahwa (reconciliation movement) began to happen. A number of our Sunni Sheiks came to the table, quit fighting us and we sprang into action - setting up local government councils, getting the water, sewers and electricity going, working to get the irrigation canals flowing, rebuilding schools and medical clinics, and working on a plan for economic revitalization. All of it in partnership with the local sheiks and the Iraqi government. You wouldn't recognize the place today - it is truly an amazing transformation - and for all the time I've spent with reporters from the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times, it's not a story anyone seems interested in. It's a hard blow to come back to the US and no one has any idea what's going on out here. Damn, I've risked my life on a daily basis, and poured untold hours and hours, sweat and tears in this place - really my whole heart into it and no one has any idea. I don't get it.

I watched the Democratic Primaries in amazement. I love Barrack Obama - but the guy doesn't have a clue about things here. It took us 40 years to rebuild Germany and Japan. In two short years we've made dramatic progress (thanks to General Petraeus and his strategy) - we continue to build capacity, expand our influence and draw down our troops. It will take another couple of years but we're so close to doing the unimaginable and all I hear about are these idiotic ideas that we're going to pull everyone out of here and go home. I really don't get it.

On the personal front it's been tough. I've been apart from my wife and kids for a year and a half. I left in in Jan '07 to work in Zimbabwe and then from Zim to Iraq last summer. While things are going well here, and the success is evident, things still happen. It was a real blow when a team member and friend was killed a couple of weeks ago. I believe so much in what we're doing, but I want to come back safely to my two little girls and my son. My friend's death has just taken every ounce of heart I had for this place. To add to things, I found out tonight that we just doubled our area of operation and I'm taking over a dangerous section just north of Baghdad. Somehow I need to reign it all in, and get it done. Two months.....

I haven't decided who I'm voting for. I'm surprised to see myself saying it, but McCain "gets it." At least he gets what we're doing here. I've lost some of my idealism this year and I want someone who is grounded and not afraid to say or do the right thing - even if the press and the American public haven't caught up with it yet.

Wow.... It's 1:00 am and I've only flown into Baghdad a little earlier today. I'm sorry for going on like this. Writing you has really stirred up some of my feelings about being back. I still have a couple of days to get to Taji - jumping on blackhawks at night and working my way back out to our base.


So - that said. I've got a wife (her name is Dawn) and three kids. Kyle (15), Kaylee (10) and Elysse (8). They've lived most of their lives overseas - most recently South Africa. We're headed to Uganda next. Dawn and the kids are moving there ahead of me to get started with school. I'll join them in October when I finish here and do a mandatory month in the US.

What about you, my friend?

Last I heard you were in Vegas. I saw the Platters on TV a couple of weeks ago and thought of you. How's that for coincidence? You seem happily married (from your blog) and that life is going well. Tell me what's been going on.

Drop me a note.

Take care,

Brian

Monday, July 7, 2008

Catching Up!

I should really catch up with ya’ll. Honestly, my blogging has suffered with all that I’m doing for my book project with Donna. Today, however, I have a few moments, so I thought I’d spend them writing a post, since many of you have let me know I haven’t posted the entire month of June. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! And thank you for being interested in reading my stuff.
Stuff.
I don’t let my kids use the word “stuff” in their writing. Or “thing”. Or too many “likes” which drives me absolutely nuts. If you haven’t heard through the grapevine already, I am going to have the opportunity once again to teach kids NOT to use those words in their writing, as I have accepted a position back at Sage Valley, the same school I left two years ago. I’ll be teaching Reading and Language Arts to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
Ah, the irony of life.
I am thrilled for a couple reasons. First, I am thrilled to be back in the classroom again. I have missed all that is good about that, and that is no small amount. Second, it really, really seems to have been Divinely directed, (read previous posts) and anytime that happens, we should probably be pretty excited. After all, when the Creator of the universe takes time out of His busy schedule to let you know that you ARE His busy schedule, it tends to inspire, don’t you think? And third, it’s nice to be settled. I haven’t been settled for a while. Don’t get me wrong! I loved being spontaneous and FREEEEEEEEEEEE for the last two years! I’ve loved the restaurant, most days, I’ve loved my schedule, and I’ve loved the flexibility of my life. And now I’m loving the fact that I’ve probably found my niche, am reuniting with the kids I love, and will be contributing regularly to my retirement fund.
Yesterday I was blessed with about five boxes of books for middle school students. Novels, novels, novels! Classics, old and new. I had given much of my collection away two years ago. Yesterday, out of the blue, my sweet friend Kellie Hannum set me up with a new set of books to fill my empty shelves. I’d been thinking about those empty shelves and regretting that I’d cleaned out my stash. It seems that God said, “Oh, did you need some books? Here you go.” Only, it came out of Kellie’s mouth, God love her. Little, daily miracles. I think they’re everywhere if you just look.
I will keep you posted on the goings-on of my coming year. I am hungry, though, to hear about the goings-on of YOUR lives and want to hear all about your little, daily miracles. We’ve been happy to receive some company this summer and are looking forward to more. Sean-Martin wants to have one of our big parties very soon. We’d love to have you all spend $1000 on gasoline or airline tickets and come up for it! We’ll let you know when!
Until then, we love you and miss you more than we can say. Post a reply and let us know what you’re up to!
Much love,
Daisy

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Heroes: Lori Zanoni

I didn’t get along with this chick from the first day I clocked in over a year ago at the Red Robin in Meridian, Idaho till about the third month I was there. Two alpha females squaring off daily—the winner never quite rising to the top. She is a worthy opponent, I must say.
But I’ve found she’s a much better friend.
I love her. It took me a minute, but I love her. Madly, truly, deeply. Lori Zanoni. She’s the heartbeat of our Red Robin and a beacon of light in my life. She is one of the best mothers that I know, and it is with great admiration and respect that I write this tribute to one of my most beloved heroes.
I’ve always said that the greatest accomplishment of my own life was being a mother. There are wonderful women who have garnered my utmost adoration in the endeavor of motherhood: my Hollie Rae Carroll, who cherishes her children with such breathtaking sacredness; my Donna Wallace, who delights in her children as God delights in His; my Katie Wiese, who treasures the children she now holds tightly with such astonishing gratitude; my Sherry Ganley, who heals her children with such amazing grace and wisdom; my cousin, Cindy Salazar, who has poured her life into her own four children and astonishingly enough, has found time to pour her life into her students as well; my sister-in-law, Mia Ricci, who manages hearth and home and career, yet holds her children soundly above all else and counts them as her greatest success in life; my Paula Paul whose trust and reliance upon God to father her children has made her family whole and her children extraordinary; my Stephanie Sportsman who has blended her family with remarkable honor and compassion and completeness; my Veronica Marshall whose love reaches beyond the world that we know, and my own JoAnne Farless, who has taken in many children, even grown children, who have been abandoned and needed loving arms to make us feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
God gave three precious gifts to Mama “Z”: Stephan, Brock, and Blake.
Stephan , Lori’s eldest son, is nothing short of a grown man with momentary lapses of adolescence. He is an extraordinary young man, a brilliant athlete endowed with an exceptional ability beyond his years to hurl a baseball into his teammate’s mitt across home plate, sending baffled batters back to the dugout disappointed. His priorities are family, school, and sports. He does well in each of these arenas. Sometimes life forces us to step up and take on responsibilities before the proper time. Life has called Stephan to do just that, and he has done superbly, even for a young man of thirteen. And let’s not forget that behind every good man is a good woman.
Brock came a few years later for just seventeen minutes to say hello to his mother and then goodbye. Lori holds him just as dearly, just as closely as the two who were destined to remain with her. We know Brock because Lori has shared him with us. We love that little boy just like we love his mother and his brothers.
And then we have our Blakie. He is precious—the very light his mother is. Because he couldn’t wait to take his place in this world, he came so early that he has shouldered the physical effects for all of his eleven years. Thankfully, he belongs to Miss Lori. Blake’s physical comfort and happiness are reverently preserved in her most capable hands. Lori packs Blakie up and they all go out to the ball field to watch Bubba embarrass the opposing team.
To say that Lori has done right by her children is colossally understated. When Blake gave us a scare a few months ago, I sat with her in the hospital along with several others from Red Robin, whose employees are bonded together like family. We watched in helpless wonder as Lori paced the spectrum between fearing the worst and resting in the peace that passes all understanding. The doctor treating Blake did not want to perform the surgery he needed to live and tried to persuade Lori to allow “nature to take its course”. A mother’s love knew better. The surgery was successful, and Blake continues to light our lives with his sweetness and joy.
Every mom wants to give her children the best hope of having a purpose-filled life. My Lori has given of herself in every possible way so that her boys can capture the very best that life has for them. She would tell you that the love they give in return provides her with all the strength she needs to do what she does every single day without fail--without hesitation.
Lori, my friend, you have discovered the joy that does not come from this world, and you know that this world can never take it away from you. I love you. Thank you for lighting my path and the paths of others with your laughter and strength. You remind us not to sweat the small stuff, but instead to be grateful for every day we are given. Each day is a precious gift. I shudder to think that we almost didn’t connect, for you have been a tremendous blessing to me. I am most grateful to have you in my life.
Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Heroes: Donna K. Wallace

Anais Nin said, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
Meet Donna Wallace. She represents a whole world in you, a world you never knew before you knew her, a world that you never would have known without her. Many a troubled and weary traveler have I introduced to my friend Donna, and many a traveler walked away refreshed and healed, continuing on with a new and hopeful perspective about their journey and themselves.
I usually just drop them off with her and then go find Jaime to talk about new music he’s found, or find Cierra and Spencer and hang out with them for a while. I am confident that my friend in need is with a friend indeed. I bring them in black and white, and they leave in high-definition techni-color.
How many people have I brought to her throughout the years? I’m not sure. It’s not in the hundreds or anything. But they come away distinctly different after they meet her. Envision a conveyor belt with flower pots going along with dark, droopy flowers with their hanging heads down low. Imagine them entering the Donna Machine and coming out on the other side so colorful, vibrant, and full of life with their petals reaching up to the sunny sky.
That’s what Donna does to a person.
I don’t know how she does it, but she does it. I remember her upstairs in my loft with a good friend of mine. Donna was working her magic—I was doing the dishes. My friend flew downstairs with tears streaming down her face. She said, “You remember this day, Daisy Martin! You remember this day!”
“Why is that, darling?”
“Because this is the day that I had a Comin’ to Jesus moment with Miss Donna Wallace! This is the day that I became a different person!”
“That’s kinda what she does…” I replied knowlingly.
I have another good friend who lamented with me about hurdles too high for her to overcome. I said, “I know a gal…” We made a road trip to Bozeman for a much needed dose of Donna. My friend came back with those hurdles dropped down to a most manageable height.
I thank God every day for my proximity to Donna. The world that was expanded in me when I met her was intimacy and health—her specialties. She commands a certain transparency with people. She knows when you’re lying, and she just laughs. You’re not lying to her, after all. Only to yourself. She’ll gently remind you of that and your whole demeanor will change because now you can admit that you had really known it all along. The transparency that she brings out in you quickly lends itself to healing and peace. With one compassionate touch and an economy of words, she opens up a whole new world for you and sends you on your way.
Donna is my hero because she has honed the craft of compassion to perfection. Safety is certainly my love language, and I know my friends are as safe with her as I am—impenetrably. She reflects a mere image of God, but He is as clear in her as I’ve ever seen and to look at her is to look at Him. Jesus said that we would do greater things than even He did. Knowing Donna has given me hope that such a crazy notion is even possible.
Donna, my friend, from your heart flows an eternal spring of hope for the broken hearted. You are a sanctuary for me and for all those I care about. I love you. Thank you for pouring your life into those of us who needed to have our worlds opened up.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"Daisy" by Switchfoot

"Daisy"

Daisy, give yourself away
Look up at the rain
The beautiful display
Of power and surrender
Giving us today
And she gives herself away

Rain, another rainy day
Comes up from the ocean
Give herself away
She comes down easy
On rich and dead the same
And she gives herself away

Let it go
Daisy, Let it go
Open up your fist
This fallen world
Doesn't hold your interest
It doesn't hold your soul
Daisy, let it go

Pain, give yourself a name
Call yourself contrition
Avarice or blame
Giving isn't easy
Neither is the rain
When she gives herself away

Daisy, why another day?
Why another sunrise
Who will take the blame
For all redemptive motion
And every rainy day
When she gives herself away

Let it go
Daisy, let it go
Open up your fist
This fallen world
It doesn't hold your interest
It doesn't hold your soul
Daisy, let it go

Let it go
Let it go
Let it go
And you let it go, go
Let it go
Let it go
Let it go, go
Let it go
Let it go

"Daisy" - Switchfoot

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Stellar Week!

The week in pictures: Jeff Wilhelm, The Wiese Babies, and Barak Obama. What a stellar week it’s been!
Let’s start with Dr. Jeff. Where DO I start with Dr. Jeff? He’s right here at Boise State, but I actually knew who he was when I worked in Vegas for the Research Queen herself: Sylvia Tegano. When Sylvia found out we were moving up here to Boise, she said, “YOU MUST SOMEHOW FIND A WAY TO WORK WITH DR. JEFF WILHELM! I’VE READ EVERYTHING HE’S EVER WRITTEN ABOUT INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING AND DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION! I WOULD MARRY HIM!” Because of Sylvia, really, I became huge fan of inquiry-based education, and Dr. Jeff is THE inquiry DUDE! He is a literacy guy. And I’m a literacy gal. What’s more, he’s a Writing Project guy. And I am most definitely a Writing Project gal. PLUS, he’s written about motivating boys to read, and my own thesis was “Motivational Issues Among 7th Grade Hispanic Males!” I would imagine, however, that more people have probably read Dr. Jeff’s research than mine.
Dr. Jeff is the Michael Jordan of literacy and inquiry-based learning in education today. When I found out that my good friend, Debbie Moore, who works with me at Thomas Jefferson Charter School works directly WITH Dr. Jeff, I about peed my pants. Kind of makes you believe in Divine Appointments, doesn’t it?
This Thursday, I met Dr. Jeff and took this picture with him. He asked if I’d been through the Boise Writing Project yet. I told him no. He asked, “Are we going to change that?” Well, you know we ARE!
I told him his picture would be on my blog site very shortly and asked him, “Have you been on my blog?”
He told me no.
I asked, “Are we going to change that?”
Maybe he’ll visit soon. ☺
More great news this week: The Wiese Twinners have arrived! Miss Emma and Master Caleb came two days ago, and we are wound up sideways about it! They were about five weeks early (all fourteen pounds of them) and, according to mom, not a moment too soon! Big brother Ryan called to tell me the good news! Thank you, Ryan. You’re a good boy. Aunt Daisy’s going to buy you something. ☺
And, finally, to top off my stellar week, Geoff and I got up at the butt crack of dawn this morning to attend the Barak Obama rally!
Sean-Martin went fishing.
We found a parking space, and when I say that Geoff and I walked a mile in the snow, this is not hyperbole. We walked a MILE in the SNOW just to get to the end of the line to get inside! The Taco Bell Arena holds 12,000 people, and I’m quite sure we passed about 11,997 just trying to find out where we should stand for the next hour and a half in the freezing cold. I was unaware that there were that many democrats IN the fine state of Idaho! Apparently and refreshingly, there ARE! The picture shows our view from the stratosphere where we sat. We were happy just to get inside where it was warm. I think you can see Mr. Obama’s feet. You kinda have to look close.
Geoff is really annoyed with me that I didn’t give birth to him earlier in November. He missed being able to vote in this election by only 20 days. I just wasn’t thinking ahead, I suppose. He’s trying to figure out a way to go with me to caucus on Super Duper Tuesday. Not gonna happen, unfortunately. I reassured him that he’ll be old enough to vote for Obama in four years when he runs for his SECOND term in office. Geoff said he’d be happy with that. ☺

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Heroes: Marsha Jo Akins-Jordan

When I say the word, “Conservative” or “Evangelical”, what comes to your mind? (Keep reading, my liberal friends.) I can only imagine the plethora of images that flashed in peoples’ minds when seeing those two words. If you’re like me, you probably saw Jerry Falwell, boycotting all Disneyland properties. You probably had flashbacks of sermons about backward masking Eagles’ songs. You might have even conjured up the faces of Swaggart and Baker, tears streaming down fallen faces.
Or it could be that the thoughts which sprang up in your mind were a little more positive. Perhaps your sweet grandma, who has been a member of the Harvest Apostolic Full Gospel International Baptized Holiness Church of God in Christ of the Pentecostal Free House of Prayer & Charismatic Revival Outreach of the Potter’s New Testament Bible Church with Signs Following just down the road a piece for the last 87 years, is about the closest thing to Heaven you’ve ever met. She baked you chocolate chip cookies without the nuts for you and only you, took you to Sunday School, and taught you to say your prayers when you went to bed. The world could use some more grandmas like that. In fact, the world could use more PEOPLE like that--just in general.
I’d like you to meet my friend and the first hero of my “Heroes” series, Marsha Jo Akins-Jordan.
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.
She was pointed out to me across a crowded room of teachers the week before school started. We’d both been hired to teach 6th grade at a private, Christian school in downtown Vegas. My first words to her were, “Hello! It looks like we’re going to be partners in crime!”
She’s never committed a crime in her life.
She smiled and embraced me, and we were inseparable from that point on. She could lift my spirits like no other on that campus. She saw straight into my soul at any given time and spoke into my life on many occasions with her wisdom. Her compassion filled every child to overflowing. We were all better for having had her in our lives for that season.
And she didn’t own a pair of pants.
The woman wore dresses and skirts, never touched a drop of alcohol or nicotine, and didn’t wear make-up. Conversely, I cussed like a sailor, still listened to the Eagles, and was pretty darn proud of my boob job with the hoochie tops to prove it.
Marsha was completely unaffected.
I tried to tell her once that I had a tattoo on my butt. She said, “Girrrrrl, you shut yo’ mouth and stop yo’ lyin’.” She just couldn’t be convinced that I wasn’t absolutely and completely, earnestly and passionately, unswervingly, wholeheartedly, decidedly, and resolutely smitten and devoted to the Ultimate Hero, Jesus Christ.
That’s a pretty accurate description of me, by the way, despite rumors to the contrary.
People have hypothesized as to why, then, if the aforementioned statement is true, DO I cuss like a sailor, still listen to the Eagles, and show my $4000 cleavage? Some interesting theories have been brought boldly to my attention: I’ve not recovered from my abusive childhood, I hold bitterness and anger in my heart and act out from my angst, I haven’t been discipled, I have no spiritual backbone, I have no spiritual discipline, my conscience has been seared by my painful past, and my personal favorite: I’M JUST NOT SAVED! Mind you, I have heard every single one of these with my own ears. I’m not making this up!
I usually don’t address the murmurings. Just to add to the intrigue, I keep my reasons sealed tightly behind my ever-so-slight, irreverent, little smirk. So, listen up because this is the closest I’m ever gonna get to admitting why I am this way.
I believe that I am the way I am because I am acutely aware that we have precious little time on this earth, and I’ve wasted just about enough of it playing the “Jesus Plus” game. You know that one. All you need is Jesus. PLUS, you can’t drink or smoke or chew or go with those who do. (Ode to Jim Halbert with the “Jesus Plus” reference, pastor of Crossroads Community Church here in Nampa. Jim, I told you I’d cite you if I quoted you, so there you are.) See, I just think the “rules and regs” of the church are really quite arbitrary. People just picked ‘em, I think. I don’t know if there was a vote or what, but I just decided to pick different things. For example, I decided to choose unbridled compassion, kindness, and excellence in everything I do as opposed to keeping up with the Holy-Joneses. Who’s to say they’re not the JIM Joneses anyway? I have to admit, I’m not really a “refraining” kinda girl. I’m more into freedom. Maybe it’s because I had to live in oppression for so many years. Maybe it’s because I don’t need to be in the “Cool Kids’ Club” I like being in the “Just Jesus and Jesus Alone Club”, and so I file everything else under “idolatry”. I think I could even back that up with Scripture. What a concept. Those I do my utmost to love might retort accusingly, “From the heart, the mouth speaks!” Like what? do you mean? Like gossip, hot off the prayer chain? Like stirring up dissension among the brethren? Like sleeping with a gay prostitute and telling your gargantuan congregation you didn’t? Hells Bells! I just let the f-word loose once in a while! Much more benign, I assure you.
You know, maybe I just want to avoid all the hoo ha and get straight to the Marsha Jordans in my life. Yeah, I think that’s probably it.
Jesus truly lives inside Miss Marsha Jo, and she recognized Him immediately in me without even having to look very hard. I found her wonderfully invigorating. She is virtually unpolluted by the “Jesus PLUS” crowd. You see, she is conservative WITHOUT the judgment and the condescension, without the pride and the prejudice. She personally and, might I say, privately chooses to abstain from certain habits and attire and appearances as she works out HER salvation with fear and trembling. She refreshingly never tried to work out mine. She didn’t assume that my path would look even remotely like hers. And best of all, she had faith that God, Who began a good work in me, Daisy Martin, would also be faithful and, not to mention, quite capable to complete it.
THAT, my friends, is a woman of faith. We’re shown that men and women of FAITH is somehow connected to whether or not one drinks, smokes, or chews, or goes with those who do’s. Marsha and I have figured out that faith reflects simply what one believes about her Savior and what He can do in any human life. Compassion. Kindness. Excellence. Jesus-based and Jesus-inspired.
Marsha is my hero because she loves first and asks questions later. She is my hero because she is a living example that “conservative” people are not always judgmental or condescending. Sometimes “conservative” people are the way they are, not to make others feel less spiritual, but because they are sincerely demonstrating their love and commitment to God in a way that requires a certain measure of spiritual discipline which they have found to be right and correct and beneficial to them. There are conservative people in this world who understand that a personal relationship with Christ is just that: personal. Not all of us need to look alike. Our paths in Christ are different--our goal is the same. Marsha Jo walks her path with wisdom and compassion. All she has in this world has come from God: mercy and grace. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that all she has to give to anyone else is mercy and grace. It is all she holds in her hands.
Marsha, incidentally, was published BEFORE yours truly, God love her heart. :) Her first book is entitled “The Belmont Addition” and chronicles her life as a young teen who knew condescension and judgment quite well and overcame it all. Let me know if you’d like one. I’ve got connections.
Of course, my copy is autographed.
Marsha, my friend, you are a treasure and a divine appointment in my life. I love you. Thank you for studying to know me. Girrrrrrl, you represent.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hereos: An Introduction

As I sat in church this morning, I was inspired to start a series on my blog entitled, “HEROES”, not to be confused with the “Heroes” series on NBC Monday nights. This is in spite of the fact that we, here in the Martin home, are all “Heroes” FREAKS! None of us can wait until the writers’ strike is over and the genuises who brought “Heroes” to us two seasons ago are back at work filling our minds with superhuman, psychopathic fodder.
I do actually know people who can walk through walls, regenerate after horrifying injuries, paint the future, create fire from the energy within them, know precisely what another mind contains, demonstrate superhuman strength in times of crisis, go back and make everything right, and I even know a few people who can fly. In the days to come, I’d like to introduce you to them.
These are my heroes.