Saturday, August 25, 2007

¡Felíz Cumpleaños, Me Negra!

QUELine Thomas & I met our freshman year at Connelly High School (Go Cadets!) in Wakko, TX. This makes her my "oldest" friend as she's the only one I've managed to stay close to for more than a decade. We had a couple of classes together, but the one where we really bonded was our Theater Arts class. Our teacher, Mr. Moore, was kinda weird & resembled a sausage link. I'm sure he's really a great person, & as an adult I'm sure I'd get along great with him, but when you're 14, you're sort of expected to be cruel.

Anyway, we only spent our first semester in Mr. Moore's class & seized the opportunity to jet out of there second semester. We decided to join Jr. ROTC (Air Force) in it's place. ROTC was fun, but to be honest, the class was a joke. There was a little store where we could buy junk food to eat during class; we watched a lot of videos; we talked about everything under the sun but airplanes, the military, & aerodynamics. Every Wednesday we wore these rad air force uniforms - everyone else only wished they looked as cool as we did. It was awesome.

Our friend Priscilla was very superstitious & Jackie & I would frequently walk on either side of her so she would be forced to split with one of us when we passed poles. You're supposed to say "Bread & Butter" to avoid the bad luck pole-splitting brings upon you, but we told her the saying was "Bread & Water." I know it sounds lame now, but it's was fantastically funny to do this to Priscilla. She often told us, "I hate y'all!" when we did it.

Jackie & I also had Spanish together with Mrs. Lopez, AKA Señorita Satan. Jackie couldn't roll her r's. A few of us would roll r's in front of her just to drive her crazy. I recall a conversation with her several years later, well after high school, when she told me on the phone that she could roll her r's now. She was so excited & made me listen to her achievement. Congratulations Crackie!

Lisa Ramirez & I would bite into popsicles with our front teeth around Jackie too. She hated that! It was hysterical to see her cringe each time - it never got old.

We were inseparable. Best friends. Then I moved away to Maryland the beginning of our junior year, but we kept in touch & remained close for long after that. Over time though, it seemed we grew distant, but at each visit, we just picked up where we left off. That's a good solid friendship :)

There were so many stories & memories made during the course of our friendship, but not enough hours in a day to share them all.

Well, Jackie, I've been so blessed to call you my friend & although we don't talk often, I'm glad to know you are always there. You will always be me negra & I will always be tu blanca. Happy birthday!


(P.S. You really need to move to Baltimore....)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Though It Was Fun, I'll Never Do It Again

It was pretty cool being at the Price Is Right set. It was even cooler not being at work & still getting paid.

First I stopped at my work to pick up my co-worker Ellen & from there we dropped Solomon off at daycare (the place doesn't open until 6:30am, so I couldn't take him before hand). Ellen & I drove about a half an hour north to Bellflower to pick up Norm & Maria. Maria had the pleasure of driving the rest of the way to LA - thank God.

We arrived sometime between 8:30 - 8:45am & stood around outside while the rest of our group slowly trickled in. We had a bunch of plastic horn rimmed glasses (like Drew Carey's) which Maria & I picked up at a costume store, courtesy of the VIP of Sales at our company, that were handed out to everyone. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow us to wear them into the studio (Ellen only had hers on the top of her head, sort of serving the purpose of a headband, & they made her take them off). Party poopers.

Then we had to sit on metal benches & they handed out these cards to fill out with numbers on them. We had to stay in this order for the remainder of our visit.

Five grueling hours later, all of which were spent sitting in the heat (& even a good amount of humidity in the air, as surprising as it may sound), they led us into the glorious studio. Alternating curtains in pink, blue, orange, yellow, & green were covering the walls, adorned with these retro-style floral chain-like objects. Each plastic (or cardboard - it's hard to tell just by looking at them) flowery shape had a light bulb at it's center. We were instantly warped back in time to the 70's. The studio was much smaller than it looks on TV. I remember watching it growing up & it always looked so massive.

Finally the show began. There was sooo much clapping; near the end of the show I had to stop because my hands were stinging & sore from clapping for almost an entire hour. They make you clap for everything!

One guy from our group got called up there & managed to win a camping set & a picnic set. He didn't make it to the Showcase, but not too shabby. You don't have to take the prizes; you can opt for the cash value so if you don't want the crap you win, you can just take the money.

On the way out you have to give your little ticket stubs to the employees to retrieve your phones & other electronics. It was the most chaotic system I'd ever seen. You would think that CBS could think of a better method of distributing out phones. You hand them your ticket & they literally dig through a plastic bin of nearly 100 phones to find the matching ticket, which was earlier attached to your phone with a rubber band, prior to going in. All the while, the very large employee is wiping the sweat off of his face with his bare hands in between handing out phones. Gross.

Now I can tell people I've been to the Price Is Right, but I never want to go through that again.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I am going to The Price Is Right tomorrow! I am PUMPED!

Monday, August 13, 2007

This simple but convicting thought, that I've never considered before, crossed my mind recently: by me not acting as a servant at all times is the same as saying I am above Christ. Christ was the ultimate example of a perfect servant. He even said Himself that He came to serve, not to be served. He was interruptable; He would stop whatever He was doing to aid another brother in need.

Who am I to feel so entitled that I should be served & never take the time or energy to serve others? I see this attitude of entitlement in my daily life. I feel that I should never be wronged & that I should be considered & respected. Funny how I expect that from other imperfect human beings yet I don't pay the same homage to my Creator, the only One truly worthy of such admiration.

One of my favorite mewithoutYou songs (January 1979, which I've quoted before) says, "If I could become the servant of all; no lower place to fall." I love that line. If I could become the servant of all, then I would never have these false feelings of entitlement. I would place everyone above myself & my desires. Not to say that my desires are wrong to have; God places desires in our hearts Himself. It is just necessary that I consider others' desires over my own. I think if I could achieve this, then I would be disappointed far less. I would be filled with a greater Love for others. I would be a better example of Christ.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's Unavoidable

Yesterday my mom was talking to me about her shots she gets for her arthritis, as she just had some recently. While she was telling me about these injections, she showed me her hands & they looked awful! It took all I had in me not to look shocked or cry, staring at her swollen joints. My dad has told me once before that it is highly likely my mom's arthritis will make her hands cripple someday.

My mom just turned 50 this past May & I am well aware of the fact that my parents are aging, but for whatever reason, I still look at them as though they are 20 years younger. I don't like thinking that my parents won't be around someday.

I don't know why I am so sensitive about my parents getting old, as the thought of myself getting old doesn't bother me the least bit. I am not afraid to get wrinkles, gray hair, saggy boobs (well, okay, I'll admit it - the saggy boobs part does bother me slightly), etc. I noticed a couple of tiny varicose veins behind my knees a few weeks ago. After I got over the initial surprise of their existence, I hadn't thought of them again until now. Yeah. I still don't really care too much that they are there. The only thing that crossed my mind was concern for my health: Am a little overweight? Perhaps I should be eating better & exercising more...

I suppose I just don't want to lose my parents. Or any loved one for that matter. I don't fear my own inevitable fatal ending as I am excited to experience the crossing over from this life to the next. Not to mention the certainty of being in Christ's presence. I know my parents, & the majority of my loved ones, will be in Heaven too, but I don't want to have to endure much of my life past that. God forbid Jason or any of my children go before me.

In any case, we all die. Eventually. There's no sense in dwelling on it, really. Whenever God takes each of my loved ones, those prior to me of course, He will be there to carry & comfort me, just as He did when Josh went Home. It's always difficult at first, but it gets easier; He gives us many things to live for, so we'll be plenty busy. Until He returns, there will always be His Work to do.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Delilah Mae Stewart

Welcome home Delilah! I wish Uncle Jason, Solomon & I could be there to meet you. I saw the pictures your Mommy & Daddy posted; you are so beautiful! We love you so much & can't wait to see you (although that may be a while).

Aunt Amanda
Hallowed Be Your Name

This message was very convicting & sobering for me (if you want to listen to it, it's a little over 30 minutes long, so get comfortable). Too many times have I profaned the name of God. Every follower of Christ - scratch that - everyone should take this to heart. I do not hesitate to carelessly throw His Name around. If I physically hurt myself, it's His Name I cry out. But not in a prayerful way; more like a cursing way. When I'm driving it is by far the worst. I "damn" people in God's name when I'm behind the wheel. Our Father has every reason to damn me. I am not deserving of His Grace & Forgiveness He so freely gives. The Name that saved me is the Name I pervert. I am so disgusted with myself & feel so ashamed. Why should others, who don't know Him, revere Him when I, His own child, do not?

Thank God He has already covered these terrible sins I have committed & am bound to commit again.

God, I am terribly sorry for abusing & misusing Your Holy Name. I pray that You will fill me with the Forgiveness You give to me, so that I am more inclined to do the same for others (especially when I'm driving). I want to glorify Your Name, not just by my words, but my actions as well. Please forgive my poor reflection of You & my lack of consideration for you Holy Name.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Solomon Edward Stagno

I'm sure every new parent's story sounds the same, but to each new parent it is unique. For the past week I've been thinking about what to say about & to my little boy on his first birthday. I know it sounds cliché, but words really are not adequate. Here it goes...

Solomon, Daddy & I wanted you so badly & God saw it fit to fulfill that desire pretty quickly. For nine months I constantly thought about your well being & wouldn't stop worrying until you were safe in my arms. Now the worrying is worse. The moment I went into labor & you were well on your way, I felt a combination of excitement, anxiety, fear, & joy. Twenty hours later my tears of pain turned to tears of joy.

For the past 12 months you have grown & changed so much that it's hard to remember the Solomon we brought home from the hospital as the Solomon today keeps us very busy! You were always a strong boy. The day we came home from the hospital you could already hold your head up quite well, you were strong enough to push yourself onto your back when lying on your tummy, & you scooted across the floor a few feet by simply kicking your little legs erratically. All when you were only 2 days old! I remember your first smile; you were 6 weeks old & we were at Sea World. Your first laugh was in your sleep when you were 11 weeks old. When you first started crawling - poor Gabe! I remember your first steps (now there's no slowing you down). It crushed me the first week you were in day care. I cried everyday because I hated being apart from you for so long. When you cry, my heart breaks. When you smile, my heart melts.

There are many funny things that you do: you have to wrap your binky strap around the nipple between your lips & the plastic. You love to bounce/dance to music. You love musical instruments (you are your father's child). Any time you try a new food, you shiver. You love people & fear no one (I don't know if that's a good thing, or a bad thing...). Your favorite toys are Gabe & Lucy, although you can never catch Lucy. You use the remote & coasters to "talk" on the phone. Knocking ketchup bottles over at restaurants cracked you up to the point of tears. You love being in the water, but hate having your hair washed. You love anything on wheels & have even learned how to make motor sounds quickly. You only say 2 words at the moment - "dada" & "uh-oh." I'm not terribly offended that you don't say "mama" yet. At least you know who I am. Since the second you were born you have had so much beautiful hair & it is usually the first thing people comment on when meeting you. Everyone loves you; you are very popular at the day care & at the church nursery. Although you are quite distracting at Life Group, I know many people who would be upset if you weren't there each Thursday night. You've been in 12 different states already & have, so far, done very well on planes. You have been to both the Pacific & Atlantic oceans. You are very strong willed. You are already great at sharing.

These notations barely scratch the surface of all I hold in my heart & memory of you.

I love you so very much. Merely thinking about you stings my eyes & makes them watery as it's so hard to contain all of the emotion inside of me. Many a night have I stood over your crib, just marveling at you. I don't think I've ever felt love for another so unconditionally until God brought you into our lives. Having you has opened my eyes to a new aspect of our LORD & His abundant Love for us, & for that, I'm am so grateful.

Happy first birthday, little man. I love you.


Monday, August 06, 2007

I Miss My Little Boy

My parents, & my sister & her family, took Solomon to Palm Springs yesterday & are keeping him for another day or two. I am totally fine with him spending a few days with them; in fact, I am a little jealous as I badly wish I could be with them all as well. I've only ever spent one night away from my kid, so this is a long time for me. I remember when Maria came out to visit me for 6 days last summer & she talked about how much she missed her two sons, Holden & Larry (Pearly was here with her). I thought she was being ridiculous, but now I completely understand how she felt.

Jason's so cute. Last night when we were going to bed he said, "I miss him." We had only been apart from him for about an hour at that point. Seeing how much Jason loves that little boy makes my love for Jason grow even more. I am so overwhelmed with love for my two guys.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I Knew They Existed, But I Had Never Met One Before

Yesterday I experienced my first encounter with a real life cult. I went to Harvest Fest at the Angel's stadium with my friend Natalie. Harvest is sort of like a revival; it's 3 nights of different Christian bands/artists & Greg Laurie presenting the Gospel message. On our way in, there were these people standing outside the seating entrance with signs that said, "Laurie leads to Hell." I felt this tug on my heart to go talk to them. Of course, I decided to go listen to David Crowder first - I heart him - & enjoy the show. After their set, Greg Laurie began the Salvation message. At this point I felt an even stronger urge to go talk to these protesters outside the gates & decided it was more important to do so than listening to the message, seeing as how Natalie & I are both already saved. I leaned over to Natalie & said, "I feel like God wants me to go talk to those people outside. I don't know why, but I have to." She said, "Okay, I'm down," & off we went.

I approached this older lady & said, "Excuse me. We were just wondering about your signs. I'm very curious about why you're here." She then proceeded to bust out a Bible (I can't remember what translation it was) & said, "Greg Laurie is a false teacher; he wrote this Bible." Wrote a Bible? I think to myself. "What do you mean, 'he wrote this Bible?'" She opened it up to the first couple of pages where it read that Laurie was the editor - no where did it say, "By Greg Laurie." I asked her for some examples on Laurie's so-called false teachings & she turned to a verse in Mark (11:25), "But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too." Then she showed me one of Laurie's footnotes that read something to the effect that this verse is not implying that God will not forgive you if you don't forgive others & that God's forgiveness isn't dependent on whether or not you forgive; His forgiveness is wholly dependent upon what Christ did on the cross. I can't argue with that.

While this woman & I were debating this verse & Laurie's note, Natalie was flipping out over a pamphlet they handed her (the front of it read "The Lord KILLS" - ???). In the pamphlet it said that people who commit suicide go to Hell. That was a sore subject for Natalie as she struggles with depression & has battled suicidal tendencies in the past. I backed Natalie up by saying to this woman that there is no way for her, or anyone else for that matter, to know what happens to a person's soul upon suicide. She said, "Suicide is murder, & the Bible teaches that murderers go the Hell." I argued with her that it's impossible to know as we wouldn't know that person's final thoughts & conversation with God. They can still be repentant, but see no other option. This pamphlet also stated that the following go to Hell as well: alcoholics, bulimics, anorexics, & it went on & on. It listed about 20 or so "false teachers" too: Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, etc. Natalie asked her who she thought qualified to teach the Word of God if none of these people did & the lady said, "No one." Next, Natalie asked her, "Well, who teaches at your church?" & the lady said, "We have a pastor, but he's repented from his false teachings." These people are off their rockers.

Another one of their handouts quoted one of Laurie's books on the Prodigal Son. Laurie stated that God would continue to forgive us again & again as he is the God of second chances & He loves us so much that His arms are always open for us to turn back to. They took this as, "It's okay to sin." That is not at all what Laurie said. The handout actually said that God is not a God of second chances. What?? The fact that the story of the Prodigal Son is in the Bible completely refutes that statement. After the son had wasted all of his inheritance & returned home, the return was his second chance; the first chance was his first time at home with his family. So obviously God is willing to take us back, even after we tell Him we wish He was dead.

Eventually Natalie had heard enough & walked off, telling me she'd meet me when I was finished conversing. I stuck around & debated a couple of other things with her & after she told me I was going to Hell, I turned to her & said, "I'm sorry. What was your name again?" "Deborah," she answered. "Nice to meet you Deborah, I'm Amanda. See you in Heaven." & walked off.

If I was a non-believer, I certainly wouldn't want anything to do with their god. He apparently doesn't love me or accept me. He doesn't forgive & all he does is damn people to Hell. Screw that.

I was furious that these people had so twisted the Word of MY God & are making an embarrassment of Him. He is MY God, who I love, & they were lying about Him! I was Righteously Angry about their false teachings.

When I got home, I showed Jason all of the handouts they gave us & told him all about what happened. He said they were Satanists. I told him that couldn't be as they really were teaching God's Word, they were just taking everything out of context. He said, "Amanda, if it isn't of God, then it's of Satan." I told him I really wanted to go back to talk to them, but he said it was pointless; if they are that adamant about their beliefs, then nothing I did would change that. I said, "But God wanted me to talk to them." "You did," he replied, "Now you only want to talk to them to try to convince them their wrong." He knows me so well.

Maybe God wanted me to talk to them for me. Not to convince them, but to stir that Fire deep within my soul again. To remind me to Love His Word & His Teachings. To help me realize how important it is that I know the Scriptures intimately so that I may know Him even more intimately, just as He knows me.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I Pay Too Much Money to Put Up With This

I am furious with Solomon's day care. For the past couple of weeks, I have heard from his teacher daily that his diaper rash is bad & bleeding. While it is true his bottom has been raw & sore, I do not think it is a coincidence that over the weekend it heals & by Tuesday we are right back where we started. I see my kid for about a half hour in the morning when I get him ready & take him to day care, & again in the afternoon from about 4:30pm until he goes to bed around 7. He's at day care from 6:30am to 4:30pm each day. Who would you think is at fault in this equation? You do the math. I cannot battle a diaper rash when I see my kid 3 hours a day. Perhaps, in their defense, it is because I use Butt Paste at home, whereas they have been using Aquaphor.

In addition to the diaper rash, he has developed a mild cough the past few days. Again, each day I hear about it, as though I am deaf & cannot hear it myself. I told the teacher once already that he has a doctor's appointment next week & we will address it then. A little cough is not grounds to rush him to the ER.

As though the comments aren't bad enough, this teacher feels the need to write it on his daily sheet. Today read, "Once again Solomon's bottom was bleeding & really red. Coughing is getting worse!" Could she be any more condescending? This is a prime example of her usual notes.

I think it's quite obvious I am a terrible parent & should not be allowed to have more children.