Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grateful for Jellyfish

I listened to a podcast earlier this week that got me thinking about Thanksgiving. And jellyfish. And God’s amazing, immeasurable love for us. Stick with me and I’ll tie it up with a neat little bow for you, OK?

The podcast was underway as I found it but the topic was about speed, velocity and acceleration to be specific, and what scientists have recently discovered as an off-the-chart statistic. Acceleration is measured in “g’s,” as in “g-force” or “gravity.” When you think of “g’s” you might think of astronauts or sports cars but things a little bit closer to us, or below us, can also be measured. The speaker gave some examples. For instance, if you were to hold a pencil up and drop it over a desk, it will fall at approximately 1g.  A sports car will max out around 3g. (My Honda is closer to the pencil, for those of you keeping track.) But the sting receptors of a jellyfish (the mechanism that triggers a “dart-like” object to shoot out of the tentacle when provoked and sting the victim) move at one million g’s.

Off the charts. Literally.

So all this “hard to comprehend, off the charts” talk had my mind spinning and wandering this week of giving thanks. 

Boston, October 2017
Yes, I’m so very grateful for my family - my darling girl who makes my world go ‘round, my precious husband who provides for us in countless ways and is truly my best friend, the three grandparents my daughter has who love her with abundance and support and who are relatively healthy and blessed, my husband’s sister and her family and the cousins she provides my only child so she’s not so, well, only

PieDaddy and Calleigh, 2013

Poppa, Gamma & Cousins, December 2016

Pat and Valerie, 2002
I’m thankful I had my Mom for 30 years of my life and that she’s still with me today, just differently, and that she is able to influence my girl through photos, memories, recipes, dimples, and in innate likes and dislikes. 

I’m thankful for our jobs that provide meaningful work and financial stability. I’m thankful for the roof over our head, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear. I’m thankful for the food we have and that I, nor anyone in my family, has ever wondered from where our next meal was coming. I’m thankful to be an American and a Southerner. I’m thankful for the freedom of speech and religion and the right to bear arms. I’m grateful for our forefathers and foremothers who came before us, paving the way for the life we know today. I’m thankful for the military, past and present, who have protected our way of life and sacrificed immeasurably for our comfort. I’m thankful for pets and that I can share my home and my life with them (“dog” backwards is “God,” after all).  I’m thankful that The Crown is coming back on December 8. I’m thankful for friends — those doing well and those struggling. Those who come seeking a shoulder and those who always have a shoulder ready. Those who say, “girl, don’t even get me started.” Those who make me laugh. Those who appreciate the joy in finding a pen that writes well, a glass of wine, or some “Mommy time.”

But there is something for which I’m grateful and that without it, none of this other stuff would exist and that’s God’s love. 

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
1 John 3:1

We know His love for us is great, maybe even immeasurable, but it’s so big we truly don’t have the capacity to understand it. Think about that for a minute.

Thanksgiving, jellyfish, God’s love. There you go. I’m thankful for each of you and wish you the warmest of Thanksgivings as you eat and spend time doing what you love.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


The #metoo movement has swept across social media over the last couple of weeks, bringing awareness to the widespread epidemic of sexual harassment and assault. Here’s my beef:  those two occurrences are light years apart. Galaxies. It's not comparing apples to apples. It's comparing apples to tennis shoes. Imagine one friend saying, “I’m an apple.” And the other responding, “oh, I once was wearing tennis shoes and passed by someone with an apple.”

They’re simply not the same thing and it frankly makes me incredibly uncomfortable to lump the two together. In this iGeneration, rife with countless social media platforms and outlets, we users get caught up in movements. It’s 21st century crowd mentality and, I’ll admit, sometimes it’s fun to jump on the latest bandwagon. It’s why I posted a video of someone dumping a bucket of ice water over my head a few years ago. It’s why I posted “dirty beige” in response to the call for us ladies to all post as our Facebook status the color of the bra we were currently wearing to bring awareness to Breast Cancer. 

Have I been the victim of sexual inequality and harassment? Yeah, absolutely. I dare say I don’t know any females who haven’t. But have I been the victim of sexual assault? Thankfully, no.

Harassment comes in more colors than dryer lint. For instance, the male math teacher who told me “girls struggle more with math than boys do.” I believed him. There were the sixth grade boys who thought it was fun to pop girls’ bras and the coaches and teachers who looked the other way or shrugged it off as “boys being boys.” At the age of 23, newly married and in my first real-world job, I asked for a raise at my review. My male supervisor acknowledged that I had met all my goals, gone above and beyond, and was a terrific asset to the team. But I was denied a raise because “your husband probably makes pretty good money so y’all are fine.” That was 1998. After working tirelessly on a presentation and leading the team who developed it, I was told at the last minute that a male teammate would be leading and giving the presentation as the client “has a bit of a boys’ club vibe and we think it will sell better coming from Ted.” And, last but certainly not least, is a pervy little squirrel I worked with who offered free workplace shoulder massages and tried to kiss the top of my head. Strangely, after bringing this to the attention of our boss, one of the owners of the company, he realized our profits weren’t meeting the annual goals and there were layoffs, including my position. Stranger still, pervy squirrel was unaffected. 

Yes, pay equality and the wage gap are a real issue. Creeps like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein exist and so, too, do the nameless, faceless cohorts who abide, turn a blind eye, and enable. Am I a feminist? No, I’m not. In fact, I’m much harder on women than all of the men in my life. What I am is a female with strong opinions that I mostly keep to myself until I’ve had enough and, this time, I felt like I had to set the record - and the facts - straight, because Alyssa Milano didn’t*.

* The #metoo movement began when fairly inconsequential, typical liberal actress Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to encourage women who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted to Tweet the words “#metoo.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bonnie Mangrum Obituary

MANGRUM, Bonnie — (~February 2000 - 21 June 2017)  Bonnie Mangrum (nee “Ginger #2) passed away surrounded by family on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. She is survived by humans, Thom Eagan and Jason, Valerie and Calleigh Mangrum, fellow canines, Joey Eagan and Bailey Mangrum, felines Figaro and Bobby Mangrum, and Pickles the Hedgehog.

We don’t know when Bonnie was born or exactly how old she is. A rescue pup, she found us at an adoption outfit out of PetSmart called “Abandoned Angels” in September 2000. After waiting for our chocolate lab, Brinkley, to outgrow his puppy stage and after countless chewed pillows, comforters, door frames, baseboards and half of one unlucky couch, our vet suggested two options:  a lifetime of anxiety medication or a friend. We chose the latter.  Living in a small starter home, we knew our second fur child should be smaller in stature and we set off that day to bring home a beagle. 

Brinkley was in tow and each prospective candidate we introduced him to went a little more badly than the previous. As we were leaving, the woman running the adoption clinic told us to stop back by the next time they were going to be there as they would have new animals from which to choose. As we spoke, I looked behind her and there were a handful of dogs in crates, locked up and not being paraded around like the others. When I inquired who they were and if they were already adopted, she laughed a dismissive laugh, waved her hand and said, “oh, those? They’re not the most adoptable. They have issues of one kind or another.” That’s the first time I saw Bonnie, who was labeled “Ginger #2” as there was already a Ginger who was sporting a bandana and being walked out front on the sidewalk. 

Bonnie's adoption picture, 2000

I asked if we could see Ginger #2 and the woman shrugged and reluctantly opened her door and pulled her out. The deal was done. My heart melted immediately, Brinkley didn’t try to eat her, and they were getting ready to pack up for the day. We were told that Bonnie had been brought to the shelter under some unknown or better-not-discussed circumstances and that she had likely been the victim of some abuse in her early days. We lied on the adoption paperwork and said we had a fenced in yard. I whispered to her on the ride home that she was safe, she would be loved, no one would ever hurt her again, and that she would not suffer one more day.

I held her on a towel on my lap as we drove home.

In the days and weeks that followed, we found that, rather than preventing Brinkley from making messes and being destructive, Ginger #2, renamed Bonnie, was just making her own set of messes. One night after coming home from work to find yet another pillow victim and a puddle in the floor, I called the adoption agency and said I just didn’t think this was going to work. The woman explained a schedule conflict and said she was out of town and could I give it another week until I returned her. In that week, Bonnie completed the task of completely and irrevocably stealing my heart and I felt ashamed for years to come for considering returning her. God works in mysterious ways indeed.

Christmas Card photo 2000.

Bonnie and Brinkley soon became the best of friends, vying for the same couch cushion, jockeying over positions in the bed, playing tug of war together with a rope bone, and snuggling rear to rear while napping.

We had this huge, couch-shaped dog bed in our living
room and they occasionally let humans use it.

Bonnie’s loves in life included treats, being held, kisses, eating chicken, and going for rides in the car.

Christmas Card photo 2001

Bonnie was a friend to all, accepting a new baby, the cats as they entered our lives, and even a hedgehog.

Christmas Card photo 2002

Christmas Card photo 2003

Things are about to change
July 2004

Someone new.
September 2004

After neutralizing the threat, Bonnie found this new
addition would be a good friend.

Making room for one more

Celebrating another year, 2008

After losing Brinkley in 2011 at the age of 15, Bonnie enjoyed being an only dog until rescue Bailey came into our hearts and home. Bringing a new family member home, especially one with an abusive past and trust issues, is always a tightrope walk. We learned the hard way that a slow introduction cannot be underscored enough and Bonnie wound up on the receiving end of a warning blow from Bailey over territory. The girls eventually worked through their issues, order was restored, and they became buddies.

December 2013
I think this is going to work.

No one believed how old Bonnie was, beginning around the age of 12 or 13. In disbelief, we would be asked, “are you sure she’s that old?” My answer never changed:  “no, we don’t know exactly how old she is. All I know is how long we’ve had her.”

July 2012

Bonnie loved me immensely.
She loved chicken more.

January 2015

No shame here

December 2015
Joey joins our family.

Christmas morning, 2015

Sleeping bottom to bottom

Bath time

Time to go
Bonnie was always up for a ride

Around age 15, her joints, hearing and sight all began to fail her at the same time. She was mobile up until a couple of days ago. Her sight gradually slipped away. She didn’t hear me whisper “I love you” daily for a few years.

Camping, May 2016

Saying goodbye
June 21, 2017

On Monday night, she took a turn and I watched Tuesday as her light slipped away. Wednesday, I held her on a towel on my lap as we drove to our precious vet, Dr. Lauren Wall at Hillsboro Animal Hospital. Dr. Wall helped us say a final farewell to this amazing dog. As she departed, I whispered in her ear that she was safe, she was loved, no one would ever hurt her again, and that she would not suffer one more day.

Thank you, Bonn, for 17 wonderful years of puppy love. 

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." -Psalm 4:8

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ever heard of a 'birthday basket?'

I won’t be celebrating my birthday this year. Oh, before you classify me among countless Cathy cartoons and withered actresses who refute growing older simply by not celebrating the passing of any more years, let me explain. With my birthday of April 16, occasionally (exactly six times in the past and coming 20 years - including this year) my day falls on Easter weekend. When this happens, those closest to me know I defer my observance by one week. So, you see, although I won’t be marking my birthday this year, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be celebrating my birth.

As an only child, it’s said of us that we don’t know how to share. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I know how to share. I just prefer not to. And certainly not with Jesus. Easter is one of my favorite times of year. Aside from it being the highest of Christian holidays and all contained therein, it also ushers in white clothes, sleeveless tops, warmer weather, greener grass and relief from out under the cruel, oppressive winter. There’s enough going on that I feel no need to throw something else on that day’s plate.

In an effort to be clever this year, I went in to my profile on Facebook and changed my birthday by one week to April 23. I’m serious — anyone who wishes me “happy birthday” next Sunday will be met with a polite yet distant smile and nod. I will have my heart and mind on something far greater and I want everyone else to do the same. It allowed me to update my birthdate easily enough - suppressing those known both well and hardly at all wishing me sentiments - but then once complete, a message popped up saying “just a warning…you are only allowed to change your birthday so many times.” So, for those of you playing at home, the score is Valerie-0, Facebook-1. Well played, Zuckerberg.

Nevertheless, I wish you the happiest of April 16ths and a Happy Easter. It is indeed a day worth celebrating. 

Just remember to mark down April 23 this year, too. ;)

Wondering how Easter works? It’s simple, really:

In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox.