Meet Mackey…and Smudge

Before Papa Bear and I ever discussed children…we talked about dogs. He wanted a Siberian Husky, because he’d grown up with them. But I like dogs in the house, and I am not a fan of dog hair in the house…and in my laundry…and in my food. Especially mountains and mountains of dog hair. I wanted a Maltese.

He loved me.

We got a Maltese. 

I think it took Papa Bear about .0045 seconds to fall madly in love with that tiny, pure white ball of fluff. His friends tried to take his man card, but Papa Bear didn’t care. He loved his wife, and he loved his teeny tiny little lap dog. We were a family of three, and neither of us could have been happier about the decision. Seconds later, I took a pregnancy test, and we realized that our family was rapidly growing (though we could not have guessed just how rapidly). But for the time being, the baby we named Smudge, because of his little black nose against his itty-bitty cloud-like body, was the baby…and our world revolved around him.

Because we lived in the mountains with a fenceless yard, and lap dogs are fun-sized treats for bears and mountain lions, I decided to litter box train our baby boy. The vet suggested that Smudge would do just about anything for a small piece of cheese, so we used that as his potty treat. I kept his litter box in our bedroom; and, in the middle of the night, when I heard him rooting around in his box and then turning ’round and ’round like puppies do, I’d sit up and wait for him to come to me for his reward. And he always would. He’d hop out of his box and scamper over to my side of the bed. And I’d give him cheese. Well, this continued until the night that I realized just exactly whom was being trained. Five times within about two hours, that smart little baby crawled out of his bed and ran to his litter box. Then he turned around and around and around. After about a minute, he leaped out of his box and ran to his gullible mama. And I gave him cheese…five times in about two hours.

Somewhere around four in the morning, I began to wonder what was going on. I switched on the lamp on my nightstand, and I walked over to clean out his surprisingly odor-free box. Nothing. He hadn’t used his box all night. Nope, he’d been faking it for cheese! I woke Papa Bear to share the news, and we giggled for half an hour before falling back to sleep. Oh, we were so proud! Was there a Mensa association for dogs? If so, we were positive he deserved a slot.

He grew…and I grew.

And when we brought home our other babies…he was there to welcome them. And when we brought home our other babies…he became a dog. At least to me. He was never was a dog to Papa Bear.
When the girls were a few months old, I was nursing in my bathrobe at five o’clock in the evening…living room windows open…hoping desperately to welcome the slightest July breeze. We had moved to the city to live with my parents. Their backyard was fenced, and Smudge was outside chasing squirrels.
I heard the sounds…tires screeching and our sweet little dog crying. The workmen left the gate open! My heart and my stomach switched places. I laid the girls on the floor and I ran outside, just in time to see Papa Bear rounding the corner. His little boy was still laying in the road, barely breathing, and the car that hit him was parked just a few feet away. Papa Bear scooped him up and drove him to the Emergency Animal Clinic. I waited inside by the phone.
Papa Bear returned home, a couple of hours later, with our puppy in a shoe box. I held him as he wept. I had never before and never since seen my husband so completely open…or so entirely broken. It was all I could to do watch him, in horror. I’d lost a pet, but my husband’s brokenness broke my heart.
Almost as soon as he’d buried him, Papa Bear left on a business trip. He called me from the road and asked me if I’d write something in remembrance of our first little boy. I’m finally doing that, six years later. I’m sorry it took me so long.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Smudge these past few months as the kids have been asking for a dog. About a month ago, we sat around the kitchen table and we picked out names…Mackey for a boy, in honor of Smudge who’s registered name was Mack the Knife (we love us some Frank Sinatra). But it had to be the perfect dog, at the perfect price. So I’ve been keeping my eyes open without raising the kids’ hopes unnecessarily.

Last Monday, we were in Colorado Springs, visiting my parents’ townhouse one last time before they become our neighbors (they’re moving closer to us). I grabbed a cranky Cuddle Bug and took her out for an impromptu girls’ day at the mall. And when we’re in a mall, visiting the pet store is a must.

We both, almost immediately, spotted the most precious little eight week old Maltese puppy. My brain turned off and my heart suggested I do something stupid. “Ask them if they finance!!” it screamed. And they did. But fortunately for me, the financing was a check plan, and I’d left my checkbook at home.

“We do have some older Maltese puppies,” the sales lady suggested.

I’d seen them when we’d walked into the store. They were precious, but I had my heart set on a baby. Cuddle Bug perked at the thought, though, so we asked to see the six month old in the visiting booth. Not that I was actually going to buy a puppy while on vacation! When the sales lady rounded the corner, my heart flipped. “Smudge,” I whispered under my breath.

He’d been there for months, being held and then rejected, held and then rejected. He’d probably never seen grass, and he didn’t know how to run. I talked the manager down to a feasible price (he needs a haircut and every day that passes makes his adoption even less likely). And then I was stuck. There was no way I could watch them put him back in that little cage. We had ourselves a dog.

Stupid decision?

Oh, probably.

Do I regret it?

Nope. Not one little bit.
Today, our Mackey learned how to run. And he barked for the very first time this morning. He needed us. Not as much a we needed him. But still. It’s the only excuse that I have, and I’m using it.
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This is Not an Advertisement for the Magic Bullet….It Just Looks Like One.

First of all, I don’t know what to say, Well, I do know what to say, but “Thank you,” just doesn’t seem like enough. Maybe, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I don’t know; I’ll think of something. I guess I’m here to stay, though. Or at least that’s the plan for now. I’m considering dropping the comments and going with a moderated e-mail address and Facebook page instead. No firm decisions have been made on that front, yet. I cannot tell you how much of a blessing your comments were to me, though. I don’t expect you to always agree with me, and I’m certainly not seeking your praise. But true friends…and polite acquaintances…respect other’s decisions when they line up with the Word of God. And when they don’t, quite frankly, true friends do not confront the problem in a blog comment. I’ve made many friends here, and I’m grateful for all of you. I guess I’m also supposed to be grateful for the persecution I have received from others. I’m working on it.

If God sees fit to answer my prayers for a little extra money and a couple of free days, I’m going to get away by myself (sans kids) soon and just spend some time with my Father. I’m hoping to spend some of that time journaling and blogging. I miss it. Nothing builds my faith like asking Him to speak to me and then sitting down to write.

For now, though, I have a few recipes to share. Sorry to those of you who are not interested in that sort of thing. But I promise you, all three of these are easy and goooood.


I am an official fan of Asian food. Sushi, sesame chicken, won tons, Pad Thai, anything with udon noodles…OK, now I’m just making myself hungry. I took myself out on a date last week…sushi and the most amazing seaweed salad from Song’s and the cutest little pink purse from Wal-Mart (that Tiny Dancer is drooling over)…and I decided that I’m really pretty tired of not cooking.

To be perfectly honest, we’ve eaten a lot of sandwiches since Papa Bear has been gone. I have a little less time to cook, but mostly I have a lack of desire. The kids like sandwiches and carrot sticks. They get the job done. And I’m staying pretty thin because, who wants to go back for seconds when dinner was tuna fish? But after eating real food at a real restaurant, I decided that I’m tired of being hungry.

We went to Denver as a family for Father’s Day, and we needed a quick, light dinner to shove down before spending five hours on the road. My mom gave me a big bag of raw, sliced almonds (which find their way into all three of these recipes), so I started by cooking some chicken breasts (beaten into submission and diced into cubes) in soy sauce and vegetable oil and then adding sliced mushrooms, a handful of almonds and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds.

While the pan sizzled, I grabbed my Magic Bullet and blended my famous sauce* (to use for drizzling and dipping) and cooked up a pot of white, fluffy rice. The result was one of the best lettuce wraps I have ever had.

*equal parts teriyaki sauce and soy sauce with garlic, jalapeno and ginger

When we got back from Denver, it was time to head to the farm. I bought a share in a local farm, so most of our produce will come from here…all summer long!

We’re all pretty happy about that.



“See you next week!!”



When we got home, and I laid out my share, I suddenly became extremely hungry. It was late, though, so I put everything away and headed to bed instead of cooking. But my dreams combined freshly picked kale and my leftover sauce. When the clock struck noon the next day, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

I defrosted, chopped and cooked more chicken (I made up a little extra this time), and after the chicken was cooked through, I added a little hot water and my special sauce. When the water boiled, I tossed in my chopped kale and chives (the chives are from my window sill). Oh, and I threw in some almonds too.

After a minute or two of sauteing, I covered the pan and reduced the heat. I let the kale steam for fifteen minutes while I made a pot of rice. I served the mixture over rice. Five out of five of my children ate it. Three out of five loved it!

This last recipe is probably my favorite. I’m obsessed with making salad dressings, and I rarely buy them anymore. I make a killer mango vinaigrette, but I’ll save that one for another day. With all of the fresh greens living in my refrigerator, it’s been a good week for salads and salad dressings.

Last night, I reheated my precooked chicken and more almonds and sesame seeds. While my chicken was warming and my seeds were toasting, I made a bed of fresh greens and radishes. Then, I blended my new favorite dressing. In the past month, I’ve used this dressing as a sauce for hot noddles and for cold salads…it’s been a hit both ways.

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons peanut butter (with sugar added)
*Blend thoroughly. Serves 2.
I topped the greens with the cold dressing and hot chicken and almonds.


Excuse me while I go make another salad…right now.

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If Not for Baalam…

First of all, I do know why some people have a hard time understanding why I am still waiting on a man that has left me twice. I get it. Although, I’m actually not waiting on a man. I’m just waiting on God. My brother and I joked a few days ago about what Abraham would have written on his blog. My guess is that he wouldn’t have told blogland he was going to climb a mountain and sacrifice his son. Sometimes, I wonder if I should take a lesson. But, then again, I really just try to type what God tells me to type. Obviously, I miss it sometimes (maybe more). But I don’t believe that the certainty of error is a valid reason not to try.

If you watched our show, you probably now have no earthly idea why I’m still waiting. I just got off the phone with Papa Bear, and we’re both pretty appalled by the “creative editing”. There were two elements that the production team assured us were their focus. Hmmm. It’s interesting, because both of those points were left out completely (although phrases were inserted into other areas of the story). I don’t think it was that bad of a story, really, it just wasn’t our story. Of course, the part that has me bugged the most is that they decided to completely rewrite our beginning. I did not (for the record) chase or pursue my husband. Actually, if you want to know the real (and I think it’s worth knowing) story, you can.

That’s not actually what I’m blogging about tonight, though. I’m blogging about Baalam.

You remember him, right? Personally, I think it’s the story in the Bible that proves God’s sense of humor. I mean, the donkey talks, y’all. Do you think she sounded anything like Eddie Murphy?

I guess probably not.

But here’s the thing. Since listening to John Bevere preach on the story, I haven’t been able to shake it from my mind. Well, I haven’t tried. As a result, I have a new mantra. “I don’t want God’s permission. I want His blessing.”

In Numbers twenty-two, Baalam (a respected prophet of the Lord God), was approached on behalf of Balak (the leader of Moab). He was worried that the Israelites would do to the Moabites what they had done to the Amorites (try saying that ten times fast). So, he needed a trump card, and he sent a large amount of money with a few messengers to go find Baalam. The goal was to bribe him into cursing the Israelites so that they would be ineffective in battle. Baalam reeeally wanted the money, and so instead of just saying, “You’re crazy,” he said, “Wait here, I’ll go ask God.”

I won’t paraphrase God’s response. God said, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

Clear enough?

But Balak wasn’t convinced, and he sent his men with more money. Now Baalam really, reeeally wanted the money, so he asked God again.

This time, God said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

So Baalam went with them. And if his donkey hadn’t seen the angel of the Lord, barring the way, the angel would have struck Baalam down and killed him. True story. The angel said, “I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”


So what’s the deal? Why did God tell Baalam to go (the second time), when it was clearly outside of His will? Well, it seems that God will give us permission to step outside of His will if we continually ask Him to, doesn’t it?


I Samuel 8:21,22: “When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Matthew 19:8: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

Double yikes.

I wrote it down, that night five years ago, when God spoke to my heart in almost audible fashion and made me a promise (and, of course, I’ve heard the same thing time and time again since then). I don’t feel any need to beg my way out of it. Cause, you know, I’d rather just see what God actually has planned for me. I know I could get His permission to move on. But I do not, in any small way, feel that I have His blessing to do so.

If anything changes, you’ll be the first to know.

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The Power of Guilt and Shame

This blog looks pretty much the same as it did, late last October, when Brian and Sarah Valente drove to Colorado Springs and taped this show*…

*FYI, there is adult content in the flashback scenes. 

I had planned to post this tonight, after the show had aired. Technically, I’m not supposed to talk about the show until it airs. However, my face and voice are in the current preview on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s site. So, I think it’s only fair that I let my readers in on the prank secret.

Because you know that while my blog looks the same as it did last October…

My home looks vastly different.

Last summer, Brian (we call him Papa Bear here in blog land) and I were in the strongest place we’ve ever been since “I do”. Actually, no, we were much stronger than when we said “I do”. We’d survived:

1) A military separation during the first year of our marriage

2) a set of twins shortly before our second anniversary

3) a phone call that confirmed my suspicions of a marriage ravaged by betrayal and sex addiction

4) a second set of twins shortly after our third anniversary

5) a long road of recovery

6) the beginning of our public testimony

7) a singleton (our 5th baby)

8) an allegation that Papa Bear had fathered a child around the same time as point #3

9) a DNA test that disproved the allegation

10) rumors that Papa Bear was cheating again

11) disproving that rumor through the last resort means of a lie detector


10) stepping out into ministry after four years of healing and victory

Yikes. And all that in just over seven years.

Then, shortly after our joint decision to be more open and public with our testimony, we were given the opportunity to tape our story for OWN. We agreed. And I wasn’t allowed to say a word about it until now.

That’s where the longest intro ever ends and this post actually begins.

Oh, but not before pictures! Let’s spend a few more minutes focusing on that happy little couple from the show.

 (First things first: the coolest coffee machine in the universe. I want one for my house. It grinds and brews individual cups of coffee that taste like Starbucks got saved.)
(Me, on the set, so thrilled to do my light check before hair and makeup.)


(So fake. SO FAKE.)


(The cutest little makeup girls in the world.)


(The all-important hair meeting with the assistant producer.)





(Here’s what a control freak looks like when her hair is being done by someone else.)



(Awww….that smile will melt ya.)


(He was such a good sport about the makeup.)


And, then we were ready for our close-ups.

When we first learned about the opportunity to tape for Oprah, we were thrilled. Oprah and the Valente family go way back. Well, maybe not. But we did almost meet her on one occasion shortly after we were married. And after having two sets of twins within sixteen months, “When are you going on Oprah?!” became a common opener from strangers.

I learned about the opportunity while Papa Bear was still at work. It excited me, but before getting overly excited, I waited to see what Papa Bear thought of going on television and delving, to some degree, into his past. I asked him as soon as he got home; and, I only wish there were more questions that would make his face light up like that. He was thrilled. At least, it certainly looked that way to me. I’ll never, ever forget the first thing he said after the, “Really? Are you kidding me? How cool!” was done. He grinned, “I get to go on Oprah and tell the world how wonderful you are!”

And all God’s people said, “Awwwww”. Although, I did question him about that motive and ensure him that if he didn’t feel a higher purpose, he certainly didn’t need to go on t.v. to talk to me. He assured me that bragging on his wife was just a “bonus”. That, my friends, was a lie. I don’t think that my husband knew he was lying. No, I know he didn’t. He was, however, being lied to and allowing those lies to affect his decisions.

It was a few weeks before we knew enough about the show to know it was not being taped with Oprah but rather for her new (not yet live at that point) cable network. We discussed the disadvantages of doing a show that could be edited so extensively, and I leaned toward backing out at that point. Papa Bear, however, insisted that ours was a story that needed to be told. Reluctantly, I contacted the show’s casting director and told her we were still on board.

The following is what followed from my perspective:

From that point, to the day we actually taped the show, was over a month. The interim time was filled with hours (it takes so much more work to make a t.v. show than I ever would have known) of pre-taping phone interviews in which producers asked hundreds of probing questions in hopes of finding “the story”. You know, the one that wraps up nicely in thirty minutes. During this time, I watched my husband wilt. On several occasions, I broke down in tears because the memories that were being dredged from our minds were so painful. He became more and more distant, and while I continually suspected that the cause of his new demeanor was guilt induced by the questioning, we were also facing financial trouble and moving to a much smaller home. Also during this time, Papa Bear was overwhelmed with school. Nothing in life seemed to be working, and everything could have been the cause of depression. So, when I questioned my husband about his altered mindset, and he assured me that the interviews were not to blame, I believed him.

The weekend of the taping was the best time we’d had together in a couple of months. We liked everyone on the production team and appreciated the care and time they put into our story. Almost immediately after returning home, though, Papa Bear’s depression intensified to the point that I was scared for his life. He left just a few days later. One of the last things he said to me before he left was, “I love you, but I can’t come home until I can look at you without feeling guilty.”

He said:

From my husband’s perspective (which I was not aware of at the time), he’d been faking his way through the romance in our lives for awhile. The continual guilt and shame he felt (that I’ve referred to and apologized for) had killed off all the “in love” feelings he’d once had for me. His motivation for taping the Unfaithful show was to pay the final penance for his sin and finally crawl out from under the weight of his past. In other words, he did it for me. He did it to prove, once and for all, that he was truly sorry for the pain he’d caused me. And when, post-taping, he didn’t feel more redeemed, finally healed, free to feel for me as he expected he would, depression overtook like a wave, and he left.

The Bible says:

I think that many Christians don’t understand the difference between guilt and conviction. And I think I know why. They start out much the same way, after all, with shame and sadness over having violated God’s law. But then conviction takes an exciting turn just as guilt takes a devastating one. From my own experience, conviction takes me right back to the gospel…to the time when my sins were first forgiven. Conviction reminds me that I am the chief of all sinners while simultaneously carrying me to the feet of my Savior (where I’d be better off staying, by the way). Guilt, while also pointing out my sin and my devastating humanity, holds me in that place of shame and pushes me to run from my Savior.

Conviction has incredible power because Christ’s sacrifice has incredible power. Guilt has power, too, but not the kind we want to tap into. Although, I did unwittingly participate in the inducement of guilt in my husband. I’ve learned so much over these past six months, but probably mostly, I’ve learned to let go of pain. I’ve learned that no one owes me anything, least of all my husband. I’ve learned that to expect sorrow or penance from another person cheapens and invalidates the Blood of the Lamb. If someone has wronged you, even hugely, and you’re still waiting for them to prove their sorrow…stop waiting. Sin, once under the Blood, is gone forever. Yours, and theirs.

From the very bottom of my heart, I believe that taping the Unfaithful show was a bad decision. And, quite frankly, I checked with my husband but I didn’t check with God. I also believe, though, that God is going to fix this mistake (as He’s done with all the others) for me. I cling to Romans 8:28 like a drowning man to a lifeline. This world is going down, but with Jesus’ righteousness beating in my once wicked heart, I don’t have to go down with it. And so, I’ve asked Him and I’m trusting Him to use every word spoken tonight to His glory. I’d be honored if you’d pray the same way.

Bad decision? Embarrassing since we’re not together at the time it is airing?? YES! But no guilt, not here. Guilt might not ruin your marriage; but at the very least, it will damage your soul.

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The Fifth Baby

I realize that this is another stall (please don’t stop reading me even though I’m being a horrible blogger) post. There are so many excuses for not posting when the whether is warm, I’ve found. But here is a reason for posting when the weather is warm.

You see, when you’re the fifth baby in a house with two sets of twins before you, your personality tends to be huge. And the fewer clothes you are required to wear, the more your personality can shine (in case some of you adults are confused, this principle only applies to babies and toddlers).

How huge, you ask?

Let’s let him get ready first, then I’ll ask.


Yes, I’m talking to you.
You’re baby number…?
Are you tired of me already?
That’s not your regular smile, but I like it.
And the clincher?
Why yes, I love you, too!
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Not all Good Things Come to an End

I’m thankful for the reality of heaven for many reasons. But today, quite frankly, it’s just helpful to know that a day that far exceeds any good thing I’ve experienced in life (because as close as I have felt to God, I’ve never seen Him face to face) will, in fact, go on and on and on forever. It makes those bad days (and what days are worse than those on which the good times end?) much more tolerable.

This morning marked the end of our pretty darn magical [long] weekend (Papa Bear was in town for a job). It was never intended to be the end of our separation, just a little family time in the midst of it. Still, I’m sad. But, I’m also happy. I’d begun to wonder if I was “making up” just how much I love my husband and his contribution to our family. And now I know. I’m not.

(Pop tarts and Superman cartoons with Daddy)


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