Monday, August 29, 2016

FANTASY FOOTBALL FRENZY - A SHORT STORY


It had arrived:  What I had yearned for throughout the monotonous winter, spring and summer…NFL Fantasy Football season!!!!!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


This year I was going to be fully prepared. I was going to have the team of teams. I was confident my husband would understand my need to watch the NFL live draft in April without interruption and more than willing to stay home for those two critical days, watch the kids AND pay for my hotel and room service. He would also appreciate the importance of hiring a live-in housekeeper/nanny/cook for the month of August while I pull up two years worth of player performance records, create spreadsheets, graph results and watch all pre-season games, monitor trades, cuts, and acquisitions.


Now, it was obvious to me this strategy was totally workable; however, my husband evidently didn't understand the intricacies involved in this endeavor. Relegated to mundane domesticity forced me to squeeze in prep whenever I could. I sincerely apologize to the man carrying the hot cup of coffee that I ran into while watching the NFL draft on my cell phone at the dry cleaners. I didn't mean to walk out of the grocery store without paying. I got a tweet about some shocking news regarding a contract dispute, and it could have involved one of my team hopefuls. And to my bridge group - I didn’t mean to say I couldn't play because I had a rare form of migraines that only attack in August and necessitate the need to stay indoors, alone, in the dark to keep them at bay.

As for my husband, I do not apologize to him for having to repaint the interior of our house on evenings and weekends. While intensively studying stats, I must not have heard the kids mention “walls” when asked if they could draw something with magic markers. Had he been more accommodating, that would have been avoidable along with the all the meal delivery costs. It wasn't safe for me to be around open flames and sharp utensils at such a crucial phase of my fantasy career.


 
DRAFT DAY

"Battle stations! It was time for me to put all my painstaking preparation into play. I was successful in convincing my husband that after draft prep and draft day, my dereliction of domestic duties would cease. He reluctantly let me use his office which housed his beloved antique oak desk, but most importantly, his state-of-the-art high-speed computer with quality video conferencing capability...how could I possibly be victorious with a five-year-old, slower-than-molasses laptop in the all-important player selection process. He even said I could lock the office door.


The time is drawing near...the combat environment needed to be perfect. Remove husband's paperwork from the desk and shove in a drawer - check (they weren't in any specific order, right?). Curtains closed – check. Phone ringer off – check. Computer on – check. Sweatband on – check. Jersey and jeans on – check. Draft analysis list – check. Note-pads – check. Handful of pencils with erasers – check. Bottle of wine, no, two bottles of wine – check. 2-pound bag of M & M's – check. Box of tissues – check. Portable toilet (just kidding)..., last but not least A prayer for guidance – check. Now don't go off on me about that last step, it is absolutely appropriate asking for divine intervention.


I hugged my kids, kissed my husband and with the fearless demeanor of a quarterback facing a six-foot-nine, four-hundred-pound defensive end, marched into the office. The door closed - lock clicked. I had arrived - fully entrenched in my private draft strategy fortress. As Harry Connick Jr. said in Independence Day, “Let's kick the tires and light the fires”!


I stared at the screen, watching the commissioner pace nervously waiting for everyone to announce themselves … Worthy adversaries all. A white-board on the wall was pristine, except for black lines that created the draft chart. There were twelve columns and sixteen rows. Each column will show the team name.

Let me digress for a minute ... Before the season even starts, everyone involved tries to come up with a clever team name. I'm not one for cute nor am I one for something that has “mature” content. I wanted my name to spawn fear in my opponents, something that described my fantasy prowess. Yep, that's what I wanted but in a "mom" moment I thought it would be a bonding experience if I allowed my children to select the name. For crying out loud....what was I thinking? The Scoobydooers – really? Be afraid, be very afraid.

The first column of the draft board will hold the name of the team that won the coveted first-round draft pick (Please God, have it be me), the second for the second pick, etc. The order of the draft will be determined very scientifically. A neutral observer will pull a team name out of one hat (laughing hysterically when seeing mine) and out of another hat, the draft position. The process continues until all twelve of us are assigned. The carnage will then commence!  Each one of us in our assigned order picks one player for each of the sixteen rounds. It's time consuming, gut-wrenching thus the need for vino-fortification.



All combatants were finally present and accounted for. I sat quietly, perused my list of champions, and said a quick prayer, asking God for the first round draft pick. I know I should have just said, “Thy Will Be Done”, but this is football. Vino fortified, I grabbed a handful of M&Ms and shoved them in my mouth. The observer took the hats, reached in and called out the first team and position. There was no laugh, so I knew it wasn't me..fifth round. Whew! Still in the running. He continued this six agonizing times.  The first round pick was still somewhere in the dark recesses of the hat. I was still in contention....my hands were shaking, I took in more vino-fortification. He reached in again....chuckled and announced, “Scoobydooers." My heart skipped a dozen beats; I mumbled another quick prayer....draft number.......1. I almost fell off my chair. I jumped up and accepted my award. I thanked God, my husband, my children, my parents and my first-grade teacher (huh?).

There's only a brief celebration...the time of discernment had come. While the remaining losers got their measly draft numbers, I readied myself for the all-important first pick. I went to grab the meticulously prepared list that was going to send me to victory and hit my bottle of wine. My vino-fortification turned into the grapes of ruination, obliterating every neatly written name and position. (note for next year - white wine). I let out such a primal scream my husband almost broke down the door. I assured him everything was fine (sob), explained I was just a little emotional. Yeah, emotional More like doomed.  I took a deep breath, relaxed and trusted God would help me mentally reconstruct the list before the draft begins. For good measure, I asked Him to forgive me for calling all the non number-one draft pickers losers.


The white board glared on my computer screen, the dry-erase marker in my square...the first square, as I am number one.... (mwahaha). I scribbled down names that I could remember (thank you, God). Then I heard, “Scooby, you're up!” yep you guessed it, now I had an abbreviated stupid name. Oh well, no time for vanity. I sat straight up in my chair, and with a commanding voice, declared my first choice....a highly respected running back that broke all the rushing records the year before. I heard groans coming out of the speakers, yep, got a good one (nanner, nanner, nanner)! Now I had to wait for the other eleven to choose. 


I was wringing my hands and sweat beaded up on my forehead (you were wondering why I put on a sweatband, huh?) The next guy picked a quarterback. A QUARTERBACK? No one EVER picks a quarterback in the first round. How stupid can one person be? Okay, I know, name calling is immature, and I planned in advance to address my draft attitude at reconciliation the following Saturday, but a quarterback???? Not just any quarterback either, he took MINE. Now, what? I knew I had another on my list but couldn't for the life of me remember his name. I resigned myself to the fact I would remember it when I heard someone else selfishly scoop him up. (sigh).

 
The selection continued and fortunately the others I remembered from the list were still up for grabs. Being the fantasy guru I was, I selected another running back. No moans this time, did I miss something? Was I supposed to get a receiver? More sweat, my jersey was sticking to the chair. I was going to indulge in more fortification but didn't want to chance it...I hadn't even cleaned up the mess I had already made - there was no time for that nonsense...one does have priorities. This excruciating selection process went on for hours. I won some and lost some. Along with my magnificent running back I was able to get some decent receivers and a formidable defense. My tight-ends were questionable. I drew a blank on the names. They drowned in that river of wine, so I had to wing it. One of my quarterbacks I had wanted for back-up ended up being my primary ...but that's the way the pigskin bounces. I finally had a team, the mighty Scoobydooers. One week to showtime. 



TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

I got up from the sweat-soaked chair and started the clean-up. That's when I saw it. The STAIN. A big blotch of red wine soaked through the oak. It looked like the State of Florida with the bottom of the state at the edge of the desk...the edge of the desk???? I looked down and there on his plush white (I warned him) carpet … A red stain, not looking like the rest of Florida; more like a red starfish with uneven legs (are those things called legs?). I saw my life flash before me. I knew my husband would kill me, or worse yet, make me quit my fantasy league. I quietly unlocked the door; it was dark in the house; thankfully everyone was sleeping. I foraged underneath the kitchen sink to find a magical potion that would miraculously sweep Florida off the map. Brillo pads were out – so were the remnants of bar soap (why do we keep those?). The only workable item was the heavy duty carpet spray. I tip-toed back to the room of destruction and began sopping up the remains on the desk and carpet then surveyed the damage. Again I said a prayer for a miracle.


The carpet cleaner worked (thank you God - and also my husband for going first class with stain guard). Expelling that little piece of evidence gave me a lift until I looked at the desk. Florida was still there, and maybe that's where I should head before morning. I then had a thought... if Staples or Office Depot was open twenty-four hours I could buy a nice, expensive desk cover as a surprise for my husband. Reality check - someone would hear the car starting, and I'd be exposed. Maybe I could move the printer....it would be more work-friendly having it closer to the monitor, right? What if I just put his stack of papers on it and when he discovered the blemish I could blame the kids? Red wine – cherry Kool-Aid....hmm. Then it happened.  A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I looked up and told God I got the message loud and clear.



I mustered up courage and climbed that long dark stairway. I summoned all the tears I could and woke the sleeping giant. He saw my tear-stained cheeks, along with the drenched sweatband and jersey. That sweet man grabbed my hand and said, “Honey, what happened, is everything all right?” I just stood there, letting the tears flow and snot drip out of my nose...then I opened my mouth and blubbered out the fateful words  .... ”irunedrdesk."

I wanted to get it out as quickly as possible. He stood up, quietly went down that long dark stairway and into the violated space. I was at his side with my head down like a scolded child. I didn't dare look up to see the blood pulsing through the veins on his forehead, a sure sign of dire consequences. His head shook from side to side and then he turned to me. Here it comes. I braced myself and said another prayer for bravery in the face of uncertain retribution. His forehead wasn't bulging out as expected. His eyes weren't glaring either. He surely must have been in shock. The silence seemed to last longer than the draft. Then he took my hand again (yep, he's throwing me out) and I heard him say in a calm, sweet voice, “I know you didn't do it on purpose, accidents happen, I'll buy a nice desk cover tomorrow.” At first, I was angry because he stole my idea, but that feeling was tempered by the relief of me still being alive, in my home and able to continue my championship season.


We walked out of the office hand-in-hand, turned off the light, went up the staircase to our bedroom. After we said our nightly prayers (mine included a massive amount of gratitude) and crawled into bed, I rolled over, laid my head on his chest, stroked his cheek and said, "Honey, we both know I've been distant lately and neglecting you. I think it's only fair that I make it up to you." I snuggled closer and whispered in his ear..................




"I'll share my winnings because I finally got a top-notch running back and I'm gonna kick butt!” I then rolled over and fell into a deep sleep ~ with dreams of the Superbowl.


What did you think I was gonna say????  Shame on you!






Saturday, August 27, 2016

Thirty-three hours of enlightenment


Doe Zantamata once said, “Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.”  Those ten words best convey a recent cathartic experience. 
 
Last week, I spent some quality time with my brother and his family and attended the wedding of my great niece.  Months prior, I perused all the usual on-line travel sites for flights to Oregon.  Reviewing the schedules, I shuddered thinking about being on a jam-packed airplane with no leg room, having to share an armrest and snacking on stale peanuts for the three and a half hour flight.  I booked a flight, but only one way.  Instead of flying home, I decided to do something I’d never done before …. take Amtrak in a roomette.
 
All I can say about the “long way home,” is it was the most enlightening thirty-three hours in my life.  I shared meals in the dining car with other passengers, but the majority of time was spent in my cozy retreat, staring out the window and reflecting (along with taking a gazillion pictures and posting them on Facebook). 
 
The past few years had been full of challenges, to say the least the loss of my parents, and a close friend, and a betrayal by someone I loved and trusted.  To combat the heart-break, I did what I always do … keep busy to avoid feeling.  Every once in a while, a few feelings would slip out, but I am adept at plugging the dam before it collapses.
 
That game ended in the solitude of the roomette.  All the pent up emotions came to the surface.  Tears of grief, righteous anger and anguish poured out.  It was a baptism of sorts….my soul cleansed and my mind cleared.  The veil of darkness lifted, and I was able to see the sun (or should I say “Son”).  Denying the pain delayed my reaching acceptance and seeing all the goodness and blessings in my life but most of all obstructed my feeling the love and compassion of God.   













Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Resisting the Replay







We are all sinners; we are human, after all. Turning back the hands of time to reverse our words or actions is impossible.  All we can do is make amends and ask for forgiveness.  That’s all well and good; however, how many times do we receive forgiveness from God and others yet still wallow in guilt by recounting the transgressions in our minds?  Why is it so easy to give forgiveness than to accept? 
 
Being an overachiever in the mistake department, I struggled with that acceptance for many years.  Why?  Because I could not forgive myself.  No matter how hard I tried to move on, I continued to browbeat myself unmercifully ... avoiding, out of shame, the person(s) harmed and isolating from God ... feeling unworthy to be in His presence.
 
Now, whenever tempted to dwell on past transgressions, I play a little mind game.  I picture Satan with a DVD of my failings.  He’s cackling and sneering while continually hitting the replay button …  an evil attempt to imprison me in guilt and remorse, separating me from loved ones and distancing me from God.  Seeing that image puts everything in perspective and puts a smile on my face. I'm able to laugh and say,  “You’re playing a blank disk, Satan ... God already hit the delete button.”


 Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. 
I said, “I confess my transgression to the LORD,” and you
 took away the guilt of my sin.
(Psalm 32:5)
 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Hope for Victims of Depression - Special Guest Post by Diana Manley Rockwell and Giveaway!


The Bible has much to say about depression as I recently discovered reading Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson.  Hope escaped me during an early time in my life, I suffer from chronic migraine headaches and from depression. In Chapter 1,“This Thing Called Depression,” I am not alone since 9 million women are suffering with depression and it is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide per Dr. Michelle Bengtson. 


Dr. Michelle Bengtson is a certified clinical neuropsychologist with over 25 years of experience diagnosing and treating patients with mental health disorders. She treats depression but then can you imagine telling your own story, she suffered with severe depression.  A quote from her journey, “Only when I started to understand what depression does to us spiritually. As well as what it cannot do, and then started to cooperate with God did I finally begin to experience the chains of depressions falling off?” 


Beloved do you suffer with depression, feelings of sadness and despair?  One of the sad stories in the Bible is of King Saul.  King Saul’s depression is from the Lord removing his Spirit from him in his disobedience as we read in 1 Samuel 16: 14, “Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.” (NLT) 


King Saul terrorizes David and many of the psalms that are penned by David speak of depression. Psalm 40:1-3a, 4a (NLT) certainly describes despair and yet an answer to prayer. “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground…He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.” King David says in Psalm 31:7, (NLT) “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my trouble (affliction) and you care about the anguish of my soul. 


This book give us hope for depression. Hope Prevails shares “A Letter to My Depressed Self “ and when one is finished reading this list of our identity in Christ, the chains of depressions are falling off. Beloved, we are treasured. Really the book could just end there. This book is endorsed by Dr. Neil Anderson and this treasured list of scripture of who we are in Christ is amazing.  

Suffering to this day with chronic vice-gripping migraine headaches and at one time depression crippled me. You see the room becomes dark on my left side, an aura, lights begin to twinkle in my peripheral vision as the light and my vision returns, and another migraine welcomes my morning as I try to start my day.  Reflecting back all I wanted a head transplant a vicious cycle of pain and a feeling of hopelessness.  All of these feelings of hopelessness over the years gave me feelings of worthlessness so as I read the book I am encouraged. Dr. Michelle said, “If you want freedom from depression you have to decide you are ready to dispel some myths and lies and replace them with truth God’s truth.” 


In Chapter 8, “Know Your Worth,” I found myself being helped the most in this book as I struggle with self-worth due to chronic migraine headaches. In this chapter, Dr. Michelle talks about how God is 100% for us. Yet we have an enemy who is 100% against us and it is one of his primary purposes to bring us down and demean us and distract us from living the victorious life God provides.  Dr. Michelle said, “Depression doesn’t define our worth, and God delights in us as his masterpiece.” Through reading this chapter, I realized just how much I have allowed words of others to determine how I feel about myself and when Dr. Michelle said, “Tragically, we allow words, attitudes or actions of others to influence how we feel about ourselves” I was so blessed when I read that “the only one that has the authority to speak about my worth is Jesus.”


Dr. Michelle Bengtson says, “I wrote this book to offer hope: a hope that sustains, a hope that is real, a hope that prevails.”


Beloved, King Saul could have asked for forgiveness and been healed just as King David found healing. I am learning there is always hope, God’s hope.  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13 (NIV)




Hi!  I am Diana Manley Rockwell, I love Jesus. My testimony is from Psalm 103: 2-4 Praise the Lord… who forgives all (my) sins and heals all (my) diseases, who redeems (my) life from the pit and crowns (me) with love and compassion. I am a daughter, my father Troy is a pastor. I am married to my high school sweet heart Doug, I have two married sons Randy and Dale, two amazing daughter-in-law’s Rayann and JoAnna. Six grandchildren Christian, Seth, Ethan, Hunter, Sabrina, and Emerson. I am a nearing retirement as a Hospital Case Manager working as a nurse utilizing compassion daily. I am a blogger and recently started calling myself a writer. My blog is Redeemed By Christ…Living Free. http://www.diana2rockwell.com I volunteer at Proverbs 31 ministry as a small group bible study leader and Love God Greatly. I am prayer administrator for Dr. Michelle Bengtson. In my spare time I sew, walk, and love to read. I have been on two mission trips one to Israel and one to Hungary. Teaching children and adult women bible studies in the past including being a Bible Study Fellowship Discussion Leader gave me a solid bible appreciation. Last but not least, I have a faithful writing companion, she is a West-Highland Terrier named Tory, and she proof reads my work so if there are any mistakes please blame her. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stunned Security and Maintenance Mayhem - An Adventure at Barona Casino & Resort

 



Two nights ago, my friend, Susan Holberg, celebrated 32 years of sobriety.  To commemorate this great achievement, we decided to have a girl’s night out at Barona Casino and Resort. 




We always go our separate way on the casino floor as our tastes in one-armed bandits differ, but get together for dinner.  After our delicious dining experience (she – ribeye steak, me – prime rib) we returned to the casino agreeing to keep in contact via cell phone when one of us gets tired (or runs out of money!) and heads up to the room.


I was on a roll on a particular machine when my cell phone rang.  It was around 1:15 a.m. and Susan said she was tired and calling it a night.  I told her I would be right behind her and cashed out.  That is when our adventure begins….



Upon arriving at the room, I pulled out the pass-key.  The door didn’t open.  My mind wandered back to my Dallas trip (previous post), and I wondered if the “other” Patti Smith was at this hotel too.  I knocked on the door … no answer.  After double-checking the room number, I called Susan’s cell.  My dear friend was at the cafĂ© having just picked up a late night snack of blueberry crepes.  (What a gal).  Instead of going all the way to the front desk, I decided to wait in the hallway.

Early morning snack in hand, Susan bounded down the hallway.  She put her pass-key in the lock it didn’t work.  We both shook our heads and proceeded to the front desk.  The night desk agent promptly provided us a new key with a sincere apology, and we went merrily on our way….ready to snack before grabbing some zzzzzzs.  The key didn’t work.  What?????


I waited in the hallway, this time, holding up the wall and guarding the crepes while Susan returned to the lobby, this time, escorted back by a security officer with a master key.  The key didn’t work.  Arghhh!  He apologized for the inconvenience and quickly contacted maintenance, thinking it was a minor technical issue.  Meanwhile, Susan and I were fading fast from exhaustion and dying to dig into the crepes (not particularly in that order). 


A kindly maintenance man showed up and attempted to open the door to no avail. Another maintenance man was summoned.  He advised the Security Officer they would need to get the “E-Card,” E meaning Emergency.  By that time we were in the presence of two security officers and two maintenance men…in the hallway of the hotel, nearing 2:15 a.m.   (People passing by could have been thinking we had been busted for breaking into a room and messing up the door in the process – except for the fact we were all laughing.)  “Our guys” could not believe this was happening and informed us this had never happened before. 


While waiting for the life-saving E-Card, we had a nice chat with the guys and one of the security officers even went back to the lobby, bringing us back cold, bottled water.  The magic access card arrived and guess what?  Yep, you got itIt didn’t work.  At that point, it was decided to get a little device that slid under the door to grab the door handle (similar to a slim-jim).  So, one of the maintenance men trekked back to wherever they store their tools.  Guess what?  The door was too low to the ground….no matter how hard he tried, he could not lift the door up enough. 


At that point we had three choices:


  1. Have a security officer enter the room next door which had a connecting door (“sorry folks, just passing through”).
  2. Take an axe to the door (shades of “The Shining”).
  3. Go around to the back of the hotel and try to enter through the glass sliding doors (we were on the first floor). Susan had left the glass slider open a bit but locked the screen.
     
    Obviously, #3 was the only valid option and guess what?  IT WORKED!!!!!  Sadly, because the screen door was very secure, it couldn’t be pulled off the track.  It had to be cut to access the lock. 
     
    We were in!  “Our guys” were so apologetic and sweet.  We were offered an upgraded room since we wouldn’t be able to come and go but by this time it was nearing 3:00 a.m. and we would be checking out in a few hours. All we wanted to do is dig into the crepes and crawl into our beds.
     
    I’m sure Susan will never forget her 32nd sobriety celebration (I know I won’t!). Our adventure was a source of laughter which dissolved any feeling of inconvenience.  “Our guys” worked feverishly to resolve the issue, and we can’t say enough about how special they made us feel. 
     
    By the way …. The crepes were worth the wait!



Monday, August 8, 2016

The Eulogy



Next month, I will be speaking at a memorial service for the unborn as part of the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children.  


Although not a stranger to public speaking, this event will be heart-wrenching because I’m, in essence, giving a eulogy for Matthew and Sarah, my two aborted children.  How does one find the words?  It’s not like a eulogy for a child who passed away from an accident or illness.  My children are gone because of me. 


It is times like this when “stinking thinking” starts.  I recall how Abraham Lincoln described hypocrisy – “A man who kills both parents then asks for mercy because he’s an orphan.” Once again fear rears its ugly head, causing me to worry the audience will be thinking along the same lines as Mr. Lincoln. 


Then I start to smile…yes, smile.  I remember that through the grace of God, the person allowing Sarah and Matthew’s death no longer exists. I remember the verse repeated so often while attending a healing retreat, 1 John 1: 9, If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing,” and I need to remember “Be determined and confident. Do not be afraid of them. Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6


Through God’s mercy, I was given another chance, and it would only be hypocritical if I squandered that chance … which is why I will be speaking. To honor not just my babies, but all lost to abortion.  To ask everyone to lift their voices to Heaven, proclaiming these precious angels matter and are loved, and commit ourselves to do all we can to end the culture of death in our society.