In My Van

A floor covered in cookie crumbs, School papers stuck in bubble gum,

Legos covered in Cheeto dust, exploded pens and pizza crust

Glittery slime trapping coins in the cupholder

Apple juice stain on an important work folder

Electric bills and paper clips

Sweaty hats and moldy Fun Dips

Ten fast food bags still wet with grease

A toy left behind by my niece

Collections of rocks, and a bottle of glue.

Soda cans and play-doh too.

Winter sweatshirts AND summer goggles, the mess making my mind boggle.

Candy wrappers and scrunchii hair ties.

Surprised my van doesn’t have flies

Alright childern, time to clean out the car

They roll their eyes and say it’s too far.

We have our backpacks, they are heavy enough!

Our day at school, it was way too tough.

The groceries in my arms are pulled up high.

All the kids can do is sigh.

I’d rather do it once on my own.

Then take a second trip into the van zone.

The January Effect

What? You mean it’s only the 19th of January? We still have two weeks left of a month that is famously long, drawn-out and dull? Two more weeks of dry, cracked, bleeding skin that has put holes in all the heels of your socks. Two more weeks of bundling up the kids in scarves and poofy winter coats for the below freezing morning, only to have them sweating in 60 degree weather when it is time to pick them up from school. Two more weeks of coughing, sniffling, and praying to God that we won’t get the flu. After a holiday season full of excitement and joy, we go back to our daily lives. Kids all over the country are back at school instead of looking for the elf on the shelf. Parents are sifting through the Christmas bills, dreading tax season. The radio is blasting Monday, Monday instead of Jingle Bell Rock. I have seen the January blues everywhere. I experienced it when I took down my Christmas tree. The end of a fun and happy season made my heart heavy every time I carefully wrapped an ornament and placed it back in it’s box. All of the excitement and happiness drained from my body and spirit with every sweep of pine needles into the dust pan. The cold, gray January skies matched my inner thoughts. Anyone else experience this?

Thinking about the effect this month has, I wondered about the Last Supper. This was a celebration followed by a very sad day. Did the smell of the Passover feast still hang in the air as Jesus’ followers mourned him. The Bible says the sky grew dark as Jesus was crucified. Did it stay that way? Did it reflect how others were feeling? Was there a horrible shadow replacing their custom that celebrated deliverance and hope? The disciples were in denial about Jesus’ betrayal and shocked over his washing their feet, so I wonder if they inwardly criticized him and felt he was “putting a downer on the party.”Is this why the disciples still couldn’t grasp what Jesus was about to do for all humanity?

Jesus said: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
John 14:28‭-‬29 ESV.

Jesus warned the disciples ahead of time and told them they should be rejoicing even in the wake of his death. But they were in the world, much like we are. They let their fears drive them into hiding. When sorrow is abundant, we yearn for a breath of fresh air and look for happiness in all of the wrong places. Of course the weeping and dark days did not last very long. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, and there was a new reason to rejoice and celebrate.

There are two houses on either side of my street, still clinging to Christmas cheer by refusing to turn off their lights. It makes me smile. I believe in hanging onto the magic. I believe in keeping the Spirit of Christmas all year round, but this world does not make it easy. It can be difficult to get back into the routine. It is easy to put all of our energy into a big celebration and crash immediately afterward. Especially when we fail to see the good in every-day life. I don’t know everyone’s story. Perhaps you didn’t even put much energy into the past few months because you had a difficult year. Perhaps the gloom of January only emphasizes your hurting heart. God never promised that life wouldn’t be hard, but he did promise that those who call on Him are never alone.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27 ESV

You heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’
Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV

Jesus speaks to us even now, to tell us that we should rejoice. His word is filled with messages to not give into the doom and gloom. January may be long, but if God is forever and God is love and joy, then gladness and peace can be for us all.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalms 73:26 ESV

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Philippians 4:4‭-‬7 AMP

The Disney Remake and A Little Girl’s Dreams

Forgive me for stepping out of what is my usual writing style. I have hit a brick wall with my writing for so long, that I just had to publish something. Every writer knows, if you hold things in and don’t write down what is on your mind, the brick wall will transform into concrete and you will stay stuck in the prison of writer’s block. Opinion pieces are not really my cup of tea. I usually view opinion pieces as an excuse for someone to just hear themselves talk. And, yes, for this blog about Disney re-makes, I admit I may come off as silly and/or mindless. My goal is not to enforce my opinion on anyone or start some kind of Disney Golden Age vs. Disney Millennial Rumble. So here we go, time for some babble from a stay-at-home mom, desperate to keep on writing.

Let me start by saying, I am smart enough to know that Disney is a corporation quickly running out of ideas and capitalizing on as much money-making strategies as they can. I can recognize that, but I am a Disney fanatic. Ask anyone that knows me. I will sing all the songs at the top of my lungs, in character, and with sincere emotion. Any Disney trivia game, oh, you want me on your team! If I could be at Disney World every year, I would do it. When I first heard that Disney was re-making all of their movies, I was excited. I didn’t view it as a money grab or a manipulation of our childhood nostalgia. I thought it was super cool. After all, when they cast Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil years ago, I enjoyed the remake concept. The 102 Dalmations sequel though, eh, not so much. Then came The Jungle Book. The computer animation was so realistic and it shot me in the heart way more than the animated version ever did. My snake phobia stepped into high gear with what they did with the villain, Kaa. I was terrified, but impressed. After seeing it, I thought, “Okay, the remake makes sense. It shows how far we have come with technology, and I certainly enjoyed it more than the live-action version from the year 1994, that made no sense to 13-year-old me. Even though Cary Elwes was in it. The Princess Bride is my all-time favorite movie and Cary Elwes was my first crush. I just recently learned that he has a part in Stranger Things. I really had no interest until now.

Anyways, after The Jungle Book, the announcement of Beauty and the Beast hit the internet. “This is going to be SO good,” I thought. Ever since that first cast photo made it’s debut on Twitter, I was elated. I never thought the animated prince from Beauty and the Beast was particularly handsome. I remember being a child in the theater and the hanging anticipation when the fireworks clear and the beast is finally transformed. I have a vivid memory of cringing and an exclamation from the woman behind me, “Ewugh!” I definitely approved of the casting before the movie ever came out. Matthew from Downton Abbey, a superb, swoon-worthy choice. (Side note to my husband: “I still love you, babe.”) I counted down the months. I counted down the days. Then…my soul was crushed. The movie did not meet my expectations. The movie was filled with obvious auto-tuning, Be Our Guest was anything but spectacular, and I didn’t beleve the love story at all. For example, my biggest problem was the library scene. In the original, it was a huge romantic gesture, and a change in the character arc for the beast that proved his true feelings for Belle. All the scene became was, “Oh…you like to read, I guess you can have my books.” Ugh, the 9-year old Emily “fell into despair and lost all hope”. She was angry. What was with the magic time-traveling book scene? It served no purpose and didn’t really move the story forward. They would have been better off taking the stage musical and turning into a movie. At least it would have fit in with the popular Broadway to movie trend that Hollywood is currently attempting. I will admit that Evermore is a hauntingly beautiful song. My feelings for the film did not keep it off my Disney playlist. It is lackluster though because of the boring, devoid-of-chemistry storytelling. If they had used the song If I Loved Her, and included some of the Belle and Beast interactions from the musical, their feelings for each other may have been more believable. I don’t even want to show it to my kids, because I feel it is a crime to taint the classic, iconic, animated, Best Picture Academy Award Nominee any further.

Then came, Aladdin. The animated Aladdin has always been my favorite Disney movie. Jasmine is my favorite princess. I have a mini-shrine of her in one of my bookcase shelves. *see picture below* Robin William’s will always always ALWAYS be the genie to me. I went into the theater ready to hate it. To my surprise, I ended up having the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time. The casting of Aladdin and Jasmine were perfect, the songs were great, I laughed so hard, so many times, and Will Smith really impressed me.

Since I am such a fan, I still couldn’t escape from being a little nit-picky. Jafar came off as more weaselly than the smoothly charming villain we know and love. They made Jasmine a stronger character, which I was all about, but she was scared to pole vault over the building, and that is one of the coolest scenes in the animated version. Today, on my third viewing of the remake, I was in tears more than the previous times. The first notes of Whole New World…tears. Jasmine’s emotional solo Speechless…tears. The genie hugging Aladdin after being set free…tears. I thought it was just a confirmation of how well the movie was done, then suddenly a memory hit me. I was watching the 1992 Academy Awards and Brad Kane and Lea Salonga were really flying in full costume, high above the stage on a magic carpet, singing, A Whole New World. It was so magical to 11-year-old me to see a beautiful, animated story come to life. I realized why I loved the remake so much. It was something that the little girl inside me always wanted. I found the Academy Awards broadcast on YouTube and watched it…tears. It was a strangely comforting and soothing realization.

So, with this blog not necessarily being an inspiring or motherly encouragement piece, I suppose all I can say is that Disney has always been in the “dreams come true” business, and who knew they would still succeed by re-hashing old ideas. Call them an evil corporation if you want, but the formula of whimsical characters and stories that spark joy and tug at the heart strings, will turn me into a sucker every time. They are good at what they do. They will keep cranking out the remakes, and I will most likely keep watching them. I am not really one to hold a grudge, and even though I can be critical, I still have faith that Disney will eventually have a staff of original storytellers to create some amazing stories.

Bonus Disney Fun:

Some friends and I created some nuggets of wisdom and silliness by fusing Disney songs together, just because it is amusing.

With a smile and a song, let it go

I can go the distance, that’s what friends are for.

Poor unfortunate souls never had a friend like me.

Noooooooooooo ooooooone fights like Gaston, he’s a tramp.

So this is the miracle, that I’ve been dreaming of, love goes on and on.

Let it go, let it go, it’s home from work we go.

I have often dreamed, mister I’ll make a man out of you.

Mommy Crossroads

When you are at a traffic light waiting for the left turn arrow, do you ever have a mini-panic attack in your heart? I mean, you saw the road clearly painted left turn only. You have turned left here many times before, yet somehow the oncoming traffic makes you doubt, and you glance in your rearview mirror to make doubly sure that you are where you are supposed to be. I can’t believe this still happens to me after living in the same city for more than 30 years.

Today is the first day of Thanksgiving break. A day where I don’t have to get my kids ready for school. A day where I can cuddle my husband in the morning, but it is 6:12 am and I am wide awake, drinking coffee and reading my Bible. Here is the part where some would expect me to say something inspirational like, “God is my priority. God doesn’t take days off and neither should I”, but that does not match the morning or my inner thoughts.

My 5-year old son woke up at 4:30 with a fever. He has a terrible cough and I of course gave him some Motrin, a cool washcloth, a drink of water, a loving prayer and all that good stuff. All was well. I went back to bed and just as I was falling asleep again, he comes into my bedroom asking me to turn some music on for him. Of course, I obliged. My sweet, poor baby is sick. He needs this. I walked into his room, pushed play on my decades old CD player and music blared loudly through the dented speakers. He had turned the volume all the way up and set a trap. He giggled triumphantly. “I did that” He had pulled this prank before. I didn’t expect it now, while he was feeling unwell. Surely he wouldn’t do something like this at 5:30 in the morning before sunrise. Surely he wouldn’t risk waking his sister. Surely he knows that we can finally sleep in after weeks and weeks of the struggles and fights we have to get to school on time. Anger stirred inside me. In a strange and sleepily firm voice, I told him that was not okay, but believe me, I wanted to say way more than that. I decided there was no point in trying to go back to sleep, because either he was going to keep coughing or this prank was enough to trigger his trained school-hour mind to stay awake. So the reason I am reading my Bible?…..

This incident was dangerous, because it set me on a whirlwind of anger and guilt in my mind.

“What do I do?”

“Shame on you for being mad. He is sick.”

“I can’t punish him.”

“Just let it go. He’s a kid.”

“I can’t let him think this is okay.”

“He needs to understand what he did.”

“He ticked me off.”

“I swear, if my husband comes out and tells me to go back to bed I will curse him out.”

So what do you do? I could have easily missed the fact that my son, while wheezy and feverish, still felt joy. He may be feeling miserable, but he had enough energy to laugh. Even as I am typing this, the annoyance remains and I wonder if I handled it in the best way. I suppose I did, because at least I kept myself from yelling. It is a relief that he isn’t so bed-ridden that I am awake with worry and fear over his health. Instead I chose to be awake with a determined desire for calm and repentance. I have a realization that I can turn left now, because even though anger, tiredness, and pride tried to surround me this morning, God sent me in another direction.

Sometimes it can seem that our problems are closing in all around us.

It’s okay. For I am full of pent-up words, and the spirit within me urges me on. I must speak to find relief, so let me give my answers.
Job 32:18‭, ‬20

You’re Safe. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isaiah 26:3 NLT

Turn Left. A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
Proverbs 27:12 NLT

All that My Father gives Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, never reject anyone who follows Me].
John 6:37 AMP

His Word steers my attention away from the oncoming danger and focuses my destin(ation)y. His peace keeps me from looking behind me and dwelling on negativity. It allows me to trust Him, as well as my maternal abilities and I can peacefully move on.

Beware the Auto-Pilot

I was excited for this particular dinner I was planning. This particular dinner. I confess that planning meals whip up my anxiety, because I tend to go with quick and easy meals. Planning meals comes with so many “what ifs” Will the kids eat it? Will it re-heat well? Will there be enough time between dance class, basketball practice and church? Not only was this meal different and was sure to break our dinnertime rut, it was going to provide lunches for my husband and the leftovers would lead to another meal for the week. Unfortunately, I prepared it, stuck it in the oven and 40 minutes later I realized that I hadn’t even pre-heated the oven. Beware the auto-pilot.

Auto-pilot makes us forget what we have. I have a musical background. I love to sing, but one day during Sunday morning worship, I realized that I wasn’t even thinking about the notes and I wasn’t really trying to express musicality. I know that a joyful noise to the Lord pleases Him no matter what, but it was as if I was singing with a mental monotone voice, like when I’m reading a book. A subtle joy, maybe, but if I am so distracted, that the ” thanksgiving” I offer resembles more of an “Ok, I suppose I am happy,” really, it is disguising a luke-warm heart. Doesn’t our Lord deserve better? At least enough attention to focus on the beauty that is musical worship?

My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!
Psalms 108:1 NLT

For the despondant, every day brings trouble; for a happy heart, life is a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15

Make a joyful noise into the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing Psalms 100: 1-2 KJV

I realized that I stopped singing at bedtime also. Singing was the norm when my children were babies, whether it was to calm them down, or just to smile at them while having a song in my heart. I looked into my son’s 5-year-old face, and it was like gazing at a young man. How had all this time gone by? I sang at bedtime for the first time in months. I could see the surprise in my children’s eyes as I sang. I was deviating from the routine that auto-pilot fixed into reality, night after night after night. Becky looked at me like it was Christmas morning and sang back to me. In that moment I knew that I was a slave to hurrying through the day and I vowed (at least for the present week) to continue the loving gesture that is the “Good Night Song”. We are meant to use our gifts and have joy in our gifts. Beware the Auto-Pilot that keeps you distracted. Every day we may be moving forward, which is good, and can be admirable if our daily duties are difficult, but the auto-pilot has the power to make us resemble a cyborg; bereft of emotion and staying the course without realizing the therapy that we need. Analysis, Mr. Data: I let my guard down and forgot how powerful and important music is to my life. I forgot what worship means. I forgot about an amazing God whose love lasts further than the farthest galaxies.

He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zepheniah 3:17. NLT

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; celebrate his lovely name with music. Psalms 135:3 NLT