Thursday, November 5, 2009

180 Degree Attitude Adjustment

Today is not starting out so well. I'm searching high and low for motivation, patience and some joy in the situation I find myself in.

I have four children at home. I have five if you count the man-sized one. I woke up today feeling utterly miserable. The reason for the miserable feeling was brought about by my fitful night of sleep. Somewhere in my dreams, that man-sized child had a big tantrum, in front of many, many people - most who I knew and were very near and dear to me. The fit that this man-sized child had in my dream was a terrible, awful fit. He ranted on and on about how he was going to quit some job he had because he didn't want to support me anymore. He complained loudly about how he was done being married because it was so not worth it, and he even said I expected too much because I needed help keeping up with the household chores and the homework of four children. Clearly, that was a job only for women, and not for a man who works outside the home, so he was done. He was finished. He was leaving. Or was he shoving me out? I don't quite remember that part because it didn't really matter. What mattered was that feeling of utter shock and humiliation. What also mattered was the fact that I woke up sad, angry and upset, and my poor husband had done none of those things, but I was still upset with him. Well, he hasn't done ALL of those things, but the part about the chores and the homework was pretty realistic. haha!

Wow. It's hard to wake up from a "for real" feeling dream like that and jump to my feet with the excitement of a new day. Especially when I walk out my bedroom door and come face to face with no less than six loads of laundry that I spent all day yesterday sorting, washing and drying so my family would have clean clothes for the next week. I was happy that I'd thought ahead this time, and spent the two days BEFORE a much anticipated trip to the coast doing the laundry instead of the day OF the trip. That's more my style - wait till the last second and then get those last items that we need washed, packed and then we run out the door.

This time, I decided to be ahead of the game and I was oh so proud of my achievements. I even cleaned up each room and cooked dinner early. I might have done more the last few days except I had a kid home sick each day and that was a tiny bit distracting. The problem with doing things ahead of time, and being proud of yourself is that nobody else notices. Instead of folding and putting away all that laundry yesterday, I spent the time between loads making quick bread, rice krispie treats, make-ahead casseroles and such to take on our trip. I don't think I mentioned it yet, but we are dirt, stinkin broke right now and this trip is in no way anything extravagant. We have no plans to dine out, or to take any side trips or do anything special. When I reserved this time about a year ago, I knew that sometime during the bleak months of Fall (bleak to me, not to everyone!) that I'd need a means of escape, and so thinking only of that, I booked this time away. All it takes is a tank of gas - and so far that's all we're planning on spending. The food is coming with us from our own kitchen - food that we'd normally eat, plus whatever goodies I could whip up beforehand. The library has loaned us a half ton of exciting books, and even a few movies the kids haven't seen in ages. Our plan is to do as little as humanly possible, and to just enjoy being together and relaxing, maybe a dip in the pool or a soak in the hot tub, but mostly NO STRESS.

Being ahead of the game this time was a big deal for me! I think there's something about Mother's needing their family to be happy when we plan a family event. Clearly, there is nothing in the rulebooks that says a Father or the kids need for the Mother to be happy though, and it's got me pretty bummed. This morning, I briefly mulled over the idea of just taking this trip by myself - since apparently I'm the only one that is looking forward to it enough to do anything about it. But then God swatted me and encouraged me to stop my stinkin' thinkin'.

Some days - I wish God could just come over and fold laundry. I am looking at my house, and realizing that all those clothes just might have to sit where they are, because all of the sudden each room is messy again, the dinner dishes are still there, and the kitchen needs cleaned up again. Didn't I just do all of that yesterday? It's really no wonder that stay at home Mom's fall into depression more often. It's a pretty thankless job.

Earlier when I thought about how nice it would be to have God come over and fold laundry, you know, something practical and "useful" for me, I got to thinking about how an ungrateful attitude really does tend to make things look worse than they are. Since when does God need to fold my laundry, when he lovingly blessed me with my own two arms to do it myself? And since when does God have to help take care of someone's house, that is lucky enough to have a house at all? My children are abundantly blessed with clothes to wear, and who has the nerve to complain about having to wash it all? Why me, of course.

My purpose of this post was to talk myself out of my grumpiness since I don't have a physical person to talk to (and if you're still reading, well God bless you for being patient with my blatherings!). I know that Satan is sitting at my door, waiting to pounce on me and he encourages me to get mad at my entire family. What is the point of that? Where's the honor, the joy, or the fun?

Today I'm going to give God a break. Instead of wishing he'd come fold my laundry, I'm going to force myself to take this day by the horns. One step at a time. Eat something. Drink something (maybe it's a good day for coffee?). Fold a load. Do the dishes. Fold a load. Sweep the floors (again. haha!). Fold a load. And somewhere in there maybe I can put those clothes away - and then pack and have things somewhat ready to go by the time my family comes home today.

This will give God the time to spend with that mother who is burying her child today, or the father who just lost his job and needs extra attention - not that God isn't everywhere, but it's really not his job to take care of the physical things in my life that I'm able to do - if I just dump the nasty mood. You can bet that I'll still need God to walk me through my day, and I guarantee I'll be asking him to help me push through (because YES, the body is in some major pain after my fall the other day!) but I'll also feel more inclined to allow him to work through me, instead of FOR me.

This thought came to me earlier, and I'm pretty sure I will print it out where I can see it all day!
"A bad attitude always wishes someone else would do the work, but a joyful heart sees blessings in helping others."

I'm off to take a vacation now... and to bless my family.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The post where I try to be like Heather

Promises are cheap. A dime a dozen around here.

A few days ago, after posting about the unfortunate events of all sorts of things including my eyelashes (which are fine, by the way, as apparently the thick mascara "splints" kept them from completely falling out altogether after they were heat blasted by my dadgum stove) I vowed, no, I promised, that I would not write another post about misfortunes, but instead, I'd post about something FORTUNATE!

Well, it's not a complete lie. But just for the record (and to TRY not to share only the bad things) I'll tell you all about how both my daughters' volleyball teams kicked some major hiney this season. My 13 yr old now has bragging rights - she is on a championship team! Undefeated for the whole season. Princess D, who is now 11, made it through her first season of volleyball on a different, yet still exceptional, team - only losing 2 games the whole season. Not too shabby I say! I'm proud of those girls.

But back to the unfortunate events. As we all know, I can't go more than a day without something unusual or blogworthy happening in my life. I just tend to keep most of it to myself for fear of making others continually worry about my safety. You see, I worry about you worrying. Does that make sense?

In my dream house, I will have rubber bumpers on each corner. Doors will not stop at half of an inch above floor level (which is precisely the height it takes to completely scrape the top of your toes off). Wood stove handles and all things that contain any source of heat will be wrapped in silicone - seven layers of it, to keep the user from burning themselves. Safety goggles will be required while cooking, as well as a silicone full-length apron to protect oneself from scorching or splashing any body parts with hot water or grease that is on fire.

Within this last year, I made a new friend. Her name is Heather. (It may or may not be a false name to protect the innocent. Let's just say her name is Heather.) So this friend Heather is a wonderful human being. She is sassy, she is strong and she is determined. She's a little bit older than me, but we're the same age in the attitude department. What I mean by that is about the time I was being conceived, she was graduating from High School, but we don't notice that part.

Heather is someone I look up to. There are many reasons to look up to her, but one of them is because she is a triathlete. Now I don't know how long that crazy idea has been in her head, the idea to do the triathlon thingamajig, but she's trained, she's worked hard, and by golly she is making other women look really bad. What I mean by that, is all those ladies that let themselves go just because they see their first gray hair are being put to shame by someone who is just starting new, exciting adventures. Heather has been busy doing a lot of training (for how to get in and out of a wetsuit, which I hear can be the most challenging part of a triathlon thingamajig for anyone over the age of 50) and she's got my vote for Most Confident and Daring Woman of the Year. But just a couple weeks ago, my favorite contender for Woman of the Year fell on a hard stone floor and injured herself.

Yes, it appears that Heather and I have more in common than our attitudes. Apparently we also like to make scenes and draw lots of unwanted attention our way. I'm many miles away from Heather, so providing emotional support and prayers is what I've been able to do. I am also able to sympathize with her, because I feel that we often live parallel lives. So parallel, in fact, that I decided to do exactly the same thing as she did. With that said, here's my letter to Heather.

Dear Heather,
I admire you, I want to have that same drive and determination when I'm well past forty to do something new, exciting and different. I want to run in a triathlon. Well, maybe not so much a triathlon, as I want to still be able to be walking upright by then. I want to be like you SO much that I am trying to mimic everything you do so that I can say I lived a life that was adventurous. Just last night, I saw that "wet floor" sign outside the bathroom at one of our favorite neighborhood eating joints. I saw the sign, I stepped around the sign, and through the doorway.

"Splat" was the only thing I heard as I went down faster than Bambi learning to ice skate. Maybe it was slower than that, because I had time to wonder if the door closed all the way before people out in the restaurant could see me flailing in mid-air, grasping for air handles. (You know what I mean, those things people grasp for when falling, but there's nothing there?) Go ahead and laugh at my expense, I'll wait.

So anyway Heather, I look up to you so much. And in that moment, when I was laying sprawled out on the hard, stone bathroom floor I looked up and I swear I saw you - giving me your hand. Not the one with the pretty blue cast on it from your recent fall, but the other one. You helped me up, while bracing your injured knee (the one that still needs the MRI - yes, that one) and you helped me to my shaking feet. You brushed me off, and gave me a little pep talk. It went something like this:

My Dear Friend,
Words just can't express how I feel (as much as my hysterical laughter can). You know you can't be just like me, so quit trying so hard. You need to learn to be your own individual self, with your own stories of misfortune. Now get into that bathroom stall before you start to cry, or notice that your kneecap is misaligned. Don't pay attention to the location of the pain. You need to go to the bathroom - that's why you're here. Go get the job done. THEN you can figure out what needs to be attended to! You could end up getting stuck in urgent care or something, and then what would you do with that full bladder. Get busy girlfriend!
So... with that wonderful advice, I drug myself into the furthest stall from the door (the one labeled "Handicapped" because quite clearly at that point I WAS) and I did what I needed to do. Then, I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket, and called for my husband. I heard muffled laughter on his end, and then a bit of actual concern, and then I hung up.

One thing I can always count on, is that he will take me seriously when I call for help. Nine times out of ten I don't call for his help, and so when I do, he knows I'm not joking. I sort of felt silly calling him, because after all I was able to be on my feet, although my right knee was starting to throb like the dickens and my hand felt all weird. However, I didn't want to flop down in the middle of the restaurant on the way out, so I figured I'd shove my pride into my other pocket and let him help me out.

I gingerly stepped across the remaining stone tiles, which were as slick as algae on a river rock, no exaggerations there whatsoever, and met my husband at the door. He, too, agreed with my assessment about the stone floor, and I felt justified that my injury wasn't entirely the result of my being a total nincompoop. (It may have been somewhat the fault of the Tylenol PM I took an hour earlier, but we'll pretend I didn't actually do that).

Heather, thanks for helping me up to my feet last night. If I'd really paused to think about it, I might have just cried like a baby, but instead you helped me laugh at myself, and realize that things like this happen - and we just have to take it all in stride, we have to let it make us stronger (more humorous) individuals, and help us to appreciate those days when we CAN do the extra things like run, swim or ride a bike. I'm still working on just walking a straight mile, but with your delightful example, I'm pretty sure I can get there.

P.S. I didn't end up in an E.R. or an urgent care, I was too sleepy to care much so I went straight home, couldn't find the ice pack and I went to sleep. I woke up this morning with very little pain, unless I'm putting firewood in the stove and have to bend my knee that certain way *ouch!* Hopefully this is the worst of it... although I'm keeping a close eye on what hurts. I learned a good lesson: Stick to taking sleepytime drugs at sleepy time and stay off wet floors lest ye MAKE a wet floor.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And then the eyelashes melted

A few days ago, we spent some hours cleaning out our little corner of the shop. Not little shop, just my little corner. It's the corner that my in-laws nag me about because it's loaded with our stuff. I'm not going to say anything snippy about it being OUR shop (since we bought the farm and all and nobody else makes any payments) it's just that the one corner is something I'm always getting picked on about because I have stuff there. Stuff. Just things that have traveled along on my life journey with me. Mine.

Long story short - when our shop floods in the winter (doesn't happen too often) but when it did last time, it was never completely cleaned out. We're always too busy after a flood to sweep the shop - it goes at the bottom of the list, know what I mean? Somewhere below wringing out goats, fluffing up chickens and mopping seventy times a day. So, the floors were left to dry naturally and whatever silt seeped under the doors made a nice dust covered floor that could possibly keep a sparse lawn in place. Some of the shop floor is raised and doesn't get wet - that's where my stuff was. So naturally, after I had about an 8 foot by 4 foot section all nice and decluttered, I wanted to make the floor clean too. So, I swept it. It was after dark, and I had only a little bit of light in there, but I could see dust - and when I swept there was no more dust. I felt so good to make a clean spot! Yay me!!

It felt good until the next morning anyway, when I realized all that dust went into my lungs and was sitting there like a gooey lump of mud. It's been three days now, and everytime I cough, only the equivalent to one dust particle comes up at a time. Steam helps - so I've been on a hot tea diet.

Yesterday was a little bit better, so I decided to keep up the hot tea diet and I went to put the pot on to boil. Now this newfangled, completely digital, touch pad display on my stove is great, if you like runway lights in your kitchen. I don't complain though because I picked it out. So I shoved the leftover pan from the night before aside, grumbling at one daughter or another who neglected to clean it up, and I started the burner for the water. I then went about composing a rather lengthy letter to a family member, knowing that my teapot would alert me when it was ready. All during the letter writing, I thought I heard strange noises. My dog alerts me to strange noises that I need to pay attention to, and since he kept sleeping, I just kept writing. Then I realized that the noise continued, and it sounded as if it were inside the house. We've had just enough critters running loose, that I figured it was worth checking out.

I would describe the noise as a popping and squeaking sound. For your reference, it's exactly the kind of noise you would hear if you were to put a partial pan of refried beans on the stove, use the turbo-boil setting, and just let it go. The popping noise was those little beans exploding and when their skins were torn off, the squeaking was their screams of horror. The pasty bean substance on the sides of the pan (because it wasn't a FULL pan of beans of course!) was burning, then crackling off of the stainless steel, and making a very potent billow of smoke at the same time. Too bad it wasn't Halloween... I had my own (do NOT try this at home) smoke machine! Wait till I tell the kids!

Covering my mouth and nose with my shirt (just like they taught us in elementary school) and waving my arms to clear the air so I could see, I made my way into the kitchen to grope for the handle of the pan. I forgot to think that maybe I should have grabbed a different piece of clothing than the one I was actually wearing to put on my face, because when I ran back and forth with that pan, trying to figure out how to get the door open without removing my shirt from my face, I'm pretty sure I flashed our neighbors. (Betcha I looked smokin'!) I finally put the pan back down on the stove, opened the door, and then went to relocate the pan outside onto the deck. On a hot pad, of course, because I didn't want to mar the surface of our deck. *sigh*

Windows flung open, fans going, air conditioner on high and doors wide open all day still did not remove the nasty stench of a near kitchen fire. I soon realized that smoke inhalation coupled with the gummy dust layer in my lungs was causing me quite a bit of grief. All self-inflicted grief, of course. Not to give in to defeat, I decided to help eliminate the smell on this fine rainy afternoon. I had the perfect solution. I'd make cupcakes! Dark chocolate cupcakes would counteract the burned bean smell and my family would be coming home happier today (instead of their usual gagging behavior). I was sure of it.

The meticulously prepared cupcakes were placed, ever so carefully, into the lower oven on my new range and I proceeded to wait the appropriate nineteen minutes. The instant that timer went off, I lept to my feet and (without spraining anything) hurried to the kitchen to see what glorious delights awaited my eyes. I bent down and quickly pulled the oven door open. Instead of seeing delicious little cupcakes, I was met with a face full of heat and steam that instantly loosened seven layers of the dust and smoke in my lungs while simultaneously clamping my eyes shut and melting my eyelashes together.

My top lip now feels like I've just got a fresh wax, my forehead is really shiny and my nose feels like I just got back from a day at the lake without sunscreen. I'm not really sure if there's more damage, as I still can't focus through my steam-cleaned contact lenses, but I'm pretty sure my eyelashes would have just dropped off my face entirely if it wasn't for the mascara holding them firmly in place. The bad news is that neither of our smoke alarms went off. That is alarming. The good news is that the cupcakes turned out just fine. From what I can see anyway.
Yay me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Last Will & Testament

To whom it may concern,

I am a few days short of dying. It's all because of my treadmill. The last time I got on it, I felt every extra part of my body scream like never before. My hips are arguing with my every step, and now my upper back hurts as much as my lower back. Since we are all aware that my death is quickly approaching (it's a shock, I know), I would like to bequeath some of my most special belongings to those who have tortured me the most that I love and cherish. Please follow the directions or you will receive seven lashings with a wet towel.

Considering that my impending death is due only to my numerous attempts to use our stupid treadmill, I would like to make it very clear that my treadmill is to go to my husband, and only my husband. It was his stupid idea to buy the thing in the first place. I know that in all of his grief over my death, he will feel inclined to get on the treadmill to sweat away his sorrows. He might even feel inclined to use the incline feature. I don't know if the incline feature actually works, because I've never quite got the idea of attempting suicide on a treadmill, but I know that once he starts using it, he'll keel over (incline or no incline) and die too - that will be my way of getting back at him from beyond the grave.

Once he arrives in heaven with me, with our new and wonderful bodies, we will no longer need the recumbent bike that sits, in all hostility, next to the treadmill. I would like the recumbent bike to go to my children. They can fight over it, and may the biggest whiner win. All of the "it's MY turn" will not be heard by me any longer, so I really don't give a care. Hopefully when someone cleans out my exercise room/laundry room/library/storage room they will come across the dag-blasted power cord for the recumbent bike so that anyone who peddles more than a quarter of a mile won't blow out their knees like I have.

Among my other prized possessions is my exercise ball. The big, giant formerly-inflated piece of junk goes to my youngest child. Since he's the one that insisted on bouncing around on it immediately after he broke a jar in my living room, he can have the shredded pieces of rubber as a long-term remembrance of how much his Mother's patience was stretched thin.

My daughters will receive my sweaty workout clothes. This is a special payback for all the damp, stinky, sweaty gym shorts and volleyball uniforms they have left for me to take care of every day of their middle school lives. I would also throw in all of my bath towels, except they probably already have 27 of them in their room, in a wet heap on the floor.

My elder son will be the recipient of my walking shoes. He can't ever seem to find more than one shoe at a time, so I'm hoping that by giving him a pair of shoes that have always sat side by side, he might feel inclined to follow suit and give his next set of parents a more harmonious home.

Sincerely,
(and while gasping-for-my-last-breath)
~The girl who's dying from treadmill abuse

Friday, October 16, 2009

I am smarter than an 8th grader

Just so ya'll know, I have never been one of those people who just wanders around outside the house in my pajamas. I've never quite gotten the reason why people can't just slip on some clothes and go about their lives and leave the pj's at home - where they belong. Now on the nights I wear pajamas (shush, I know what you're thinking) I prefer to have very comfortable pajamas. Just this past year, I actually bought some pretty AND comfortable pajamas. I love them. I love them so much I could get rid of all the others and be happy with this one set. Unfortunately this kind of thinking tends to make people want to wear their pajamas outside of the home. This case is no exception.

In the mornings at our house, it is always a lazy wake up time, followed by a rushed feeling to eat breakfast and get the teeth clean, followed by a complete panic and frenzy to catch the bus. The bus stop takes forever to travel to, but only if you're late. It's at the end of our driveway. If one kid doesn't catch the bus in time (missing shoe, misplaced homework, etc...) that kid gets a free ride to school courtesy of Mom. I don't mind doing it, the school isn't that far away (and truthfully it gives me a few extra minutes to apologize and get forgiveness for yelling at whoever is in the car for not hurrying up earlier) but it does mean that I have to change out of my favorite pajamas lots sooner than I had planned (which is sometimes a really good thing, if you know what I'm saying).

A few days ago, my firstborn asked the question. You know, the one question you've been asking yourself inside your own brain for weeks, that when someone else finally verbalizes the question, it seems to makes things completely legitimate just because someone else spoke the words? "Mom, why don't you just wear your pajamas instead of getting dressed?"

The girl is a genius. Why I had never thought of that I'll never know! I gave her some lame reason like, "Well, you really just never know when you need to be dressed in clothes when you go outside." I then proceeded to explain how one of my favorite speakers at our recent Women of Faith conference talked about wearing "Flu" pants outside to take care of a dead goat. We've all got Flu pants, she stated. The kind you wear when you're sick, and you may or may not be wearing underwear under them? The kind that, in her story, tend to fall down when your hands are occupied and you can't pull them up - but only when you're in your own field in full view of a busy highway, and it's either drop the dead goat or drop your pants? Yeah - I gave my daughter that excuse, and she just rolled her eyes. "Like stuff like that actually ever happens! And who doesn't ever wear underwear??" Ahem... carrying on...

So yesterday, we had one of those days where the kids scurry around like just-discovered-barn-rats, and as luck would have it, one of them needed a ride. Either that or I forgot to wake them up in time, I just don't recall. (Hey, it's hard to make sure four kids are actually out of bed before I've even had coffee, ok?? I see kids moving about, I just assume there are four of them.) So I don't exactly recall which school I had to visit that morning (seeing as how if three of them miss the bus, I literally have to travel to three different schools) but it was one of them, and it was a short drive, and I was really, REALLY tired. I had all intentions of going straight back to bed as soon as I heard the bus drive away. But here I was thinking of how to expend the least amount of energy possible.

So - I put the good advice of my thirteen year old daughter to use. I put my coat on, shoved my feet into my Nike's and grabbed my car keys. I gingerly stepped out the door into the carport, noticed there were no other parents driving by and proceeded to thank the good Lord that I always park with my drivers side to the field and not the road. I made a mad dash for the car before anyone, including our early riser neighbors, could spot my really loud pajama pants. There was no mistaking they were pajamas. If you saw someone who normally only wears some shade of denim on her legs wearing a flashy white and black scroll motif instead, you'd know they were pajamas from three acres away - in the fog.

I was home free. I drove my kid to school (still don't recall which one) and I watched every stop sign, left turn signal and speed limit too, just to make sure I didn't have any reason to get pulled over by one of our town's finest. I just knew it would be my luck that if I got pulled over the apple juice sitting in the furthest seat back in our suburban would have become fermented, leading to a search of my vehicle, and an arrest for open container, all in my pajamas while all the other parents who always wear clothes and underwear drove by and laughed at me. I had to make myself scarce. Fear gripped my heart.

The drive home was pretty slow - because apparently on all other mornings I don't see speed limit signs? Either that or I was just paranoid. I was so relieved to pull back into our driveway and release all that pent up paranoia when what did I see? No less than 13 farm workers had descended on my field and were busily picking lettuce. Oh good gravy, who on earth scheduled that? So carefully, I pulled into the driveway, made a big display as if I had something that burndoned me to unload from the back of the Suburban, and I backed up as close to the carport as I could get. Nobody would see me now! Of course all of my maneuvering made every one of those 13 farmer guys watch to see what I was up to, when in all reality they might never have noticed me in the first place, seeing as how they were knee deep in lettuce, kale, chard and all sorts of other things green.

My plan appeared to be working though, because there was only about two feet of space that they might catch a glimpse of me zipping by in my brilliant black and white get-up. They'd probably think I was wearing a lovely flowing skirt - or perhaps dress pants - yes, they'd think that. What with my flurry of fuzzy hair sticking out all over the place and my raccoon eyes from the makeup I'd been too tired to wash off the night before. Yeah, they'd totally go for that.

So, blissfully unaware of my surroundings, I stepped out of the car. I proceeded to gather my purse and other things I evidently left in the vehicle overnight - all while gleefully smiling at the fact that none of the farmers could see me, and I was wearing my pajamas! Neener neener! I'd done it!

Boy had I done it all right. It suddenly occurred to me that the one child I had taken to school was the one who had to arrive EARLY and that the strange noise I was hearing behind me was the brakes of the school bus pulling up, and all the cars before and behind it coming to a stop. How, in the name of all things rational, could I have let THIS happen? My raccoon eyes were WIDE open and the grin still plastered on my face as the bus driver waved at me, and I frantically waved her on by. She probably thought I was sure a friendly sort, with all the smiling and waving and such. Little did she know that right there, in that very spot, I was making new committments. I was committing to never wearing my pajamas outside the house ever again, and I was committing to never doubt the fact that I AM smarter than an 8th grader.

Now where did I leave my wagon?

Weight loss isn't easy. It sometimes gets in the way of other things, like dessert, and free time! Weight loss has to be something you really want, or you're going to get exactly what you put into it. Nothing, equals nothing. That's exactly what I've gotten these past few miserable weeks. Nothing!

I check my scale from time to time, just to see how bad things are, and thankfully it hasn't gotten much WORSE, but knowing that I won't ever move forward towards my goals unless I actually PARTICIPATE has gotten me to get back on the wagon again. I'm picking up where I left off. I'm doing it today.

Over the past few weeks we buried a family member, I suffered a really deep and sudden bout of depression, I had terrible back pain, we ran out of groceries and money at the same time, my marriage took a nosedive, and I lived to tell about it. I'm refocusing. I'm directing my gaze towards what I can accomplish instead of what I feel helpless about. (And I still haven't had hardly ANY soda since August 1st - a goal that has far exceeded my expectations and become a habit!) I'm grateful for every day that I get a chance to wake up and breathe clean air. I'm happy that my husband insists on sticking by my side no matter how obnoxious I can be, and I'm glad I am learning how to put up food for when the finances get lean. I know I can do this, it's just going to take more effort for me than most. But let me tell ya, I have a God on my side that is far bigger than any problem or pain I could ever have.

Time for breakfast... where's my wagon?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Can I get a side of Peaceful with that?

I did it again.

With full intentions to sit down and blog more, I have realized that intentions only go so far. Not a day passes that I don't have thoughts that I'd like to put into words. Unfortunately my thoughts lately are not the type that I prefer to share with many people. Particularly the thoughts of pulling myself out of this funk that I've been lounging around in for a couple months or so. I've probably spent more time thinking about how to make myself comfortable while I'm IN the funk, than how to actually get out of it. I suffer annually from S.A.D. It feels like this problem has made a grand entrance months too early this year. When I really think about it, I have to realize that my series of life events is probably the only reason I feel blue, and it has not a thing to do with S.A.D. (until today, it's our first real fog of the year, while my brain, on the other hand, has been in a real fog for months.)

My day is pretty much the same every day. I get up, kiss my husband goodbye, I get my kids going, I fuss about the condition of the kitchen, I do errands and chores all day, I spend a few days a week at the middle school helping out, I taxi kids to practices, games and events all evening, I try to make dinner (haha!), I help with homework, I read bedtime stories, I fuss about the kitchen again, I go to bed. Somewhere in there, I make occasional retreats to my husband's computer to read a blog, or play a game or respond to a lengthy email or look at our budget with wondering eyes. (Wondering how on earth we're going to make it this month, that is.)

My days are full, but in my mind, not full enough. Nowhere in there do I have actual scheduled time to sit and read, or pray, or spend time with my husband, or just do something for myself anymore. I think that I'm afraid that if I do, the floodgates will open and all my feelings of grief and loss over the past few months will come pouring out.

In January, when I lost my Grandpa, I don't think I could have imagined anything more painful or heartbreaking. People say to be happy because he's in heaven - well I AM happy about that, but it doesn't lessen the pain of just plain MISSING him. The hurt of wishing I'd been able to spend more time with him doesn't go away very easily, and knowing my kids won't be growing up with him isn't ever going to feel good.

Then in March, I lost my Grandma and all those fresh, raw feelings from my Grandpa's death never really had time to be dealt with and sorted out in my mind. My Grandmother's death was different... different feelings, different emotions and different side of the family involved. Still - heartbreaking. I can't believe how much missing someone forever feels like. I hate it. I think that if my heart was broken in half with the first death, that it got quartered the next time around. I loved her phone calls and her cheery voice. Memories I will treasure forever.

In May, my Great Aunt Mary passed away. She didn't live near to us during my life, but whenever she entered our presence (from the far off land of Virginia), it was like a grand parade. She was lively, exciting and most of all, she loved us like we were all hers. My most vivid memory of Aunt Mary was when we all attended the funeral of my Great Grandfather Ash. Her own father had died, yet here she was, hugging my younger cousin and I as my cousin wailed and I cried because she was crying. I think we were about 7 and 8 years old at the time. I don't remember Aunt Mary's tears, I just remember her making ours all better. Her death left a hole in my heart, and although it felt like a small hole compared to the other two deaths, it still leaked the same brand of grief.

Throughout all these months, things had been changing a lot at our church. My husband had been asked to discontinue one area of our ministry, which he did with a heavy heart. And then the other area of our ministry, which he enjoyed the most came to an end for both of us as well. This opened up a whole new category of grief that neither of us had really ever had to experience before. Our hearts hurt from the abrupt, and business-like loss of our passions, and our spiritual health suffered from the loss of those people who used to mentor us and care about things like that. It's really sad to learn that people are really interested in your spiritual health and hold you accountable when you are on stage, but they could care less if you're sitting in the back row. Feeling unliked, unloved and unwanted, we trudged on, trying to heal things with only our heavily damaged hearts and just the spark of faith we still carried. Our marriage then began to take hits, which is common in the middle of spiritual war. Spending time together as a couple wasn't something to look forward to anymore, because each one of us had such a large quantity of emotions to work through that we frequently dumped those feelings out on each other. I am so grateful for that spark of faith that we hauled along with us, because without it, we'd be living in separate homes right now and that's a fact.

We worked through small things and big things or we ignored issues and then we yelled and then shared tears of misery and tears of forgiveness. Then we hugged. Then we did that all over again. For weeks. Months. I'm exhausted just writing this.

Somewhere in all of this, I lost a friend or two. Or three.
I gained a new one. A few are still hanging there on the fringes waiting for me to pull my head out and come back to the party. I am grateful for those friends. I am sorry for those friends too - because they have to put up with me. Those are the ones I know are genuine, because they are still there. Maybe not as much as before, but they are still there. My husband also forced a Couple's Retreat on me, and I actually liked it. I'm really glad he's hanging in there, because I'd be so completely lost otherwise.

A few weeks ago, my cousin Alice got really sick. She's actually my Mother's cousin, but we all call her "Cousin Alice" because my Grandma's name is Alice and that can get confusing real quick. Cousin Alice has an Aunt Alice and that's my Grandma. Get it? Good. So Cousin Alice got really sick. The doctors couldn't fix her. She died on September 20th. This past Friday we had her Memorial Service, and on Thursday night - the day before - I had finally allowed myself to process some of the grief. It was very difficult. Again - I know without a shadow of a doubt that she's in the arms of Jesus right now, but sorting all the feelings out has been really hard with all those OTHER feelings still real and raw and just hanging out in my little bitty brain. I think about something, and my brain flashes to something else, and then to something completely unrelated and then people wonder why I can't ever find my car keys.

This weekend, I absolutely refused to let anything land on our schedule. The kids slept in (or maybe it was just me) the sun shone, and peace threatened to begin to take over the land of the Back Acher. I told people at our church not to expect us there, and all was well. On Saturday, the love of my life installed the new stove and dishwasher that have been waiting patiently in our carport for a week. A new sense of excitement came in with them. Where else do you hear kids fighting over who GETS to do the dishes? My daughters have already tried out the new oven and so far the brownies and cookies brought more than a few smiles (hooray for a stove that doesn't take an hour to preheat!!). Three new baby chicks hatched (2 right in the kitchen while the appliances were being installed!) and a fourth was lost on his way out. I briefly played with the idea of feeling very sad, but I knew that if I really dwelled on my thoughts, that someone would find me slumped on the floor in the kitchen, appearing to cry hysterically over an egg with a little dead chick in it, and send me straight to the hospital with the tight white jackets. I buttoned up my emotions for another time. Again.

Sunday I awoke to a sick husband. His headache was so bad that even the kids running through the house made him grumble. I showered and headed the kids out the door while whispering to my baby chicks that we'd be right back and I told them not to make too much noise. We went to church here in town - about a one minute drive away. At this church we were free from the questions and the wondering and all the unspoken feelings that we can feel even when people don't say them. We were free to just relax and let the words and the songs speak.

Peaceful. That's the word I'm looking for, and that's what I need. My prayer is that I get a good dose of that this weekend at the Women of Faith Conference (thank you to my few remaining friends for dragging me there, and to the angel who made sure my room was paid for - thanks for making me cry AGAIN).

Anyone else going to a Women of Faith Conference?


(Photo taken for my Mom - only she didn't know it)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Proud Momma




Princess D played her first Volleyball game ever tonight... made her volleyball-lovin' Momma SO proud!! She started practice a couple weeks ago, and couldn't get a serve over the net to save her life. Matter of fact even passing the ball was quite a challenge - those arms kept wanting to bend at the elbows and that little head kept wanting to turn away whenever the ball flew her direction. I've spent quite a bit of my time working with this team (I'm NOT the coach, just the mascot! haha!) and being able to see them all improve so much has been a blast!

You couldn't tell this girl didn't know how to serve a ball last week. Now, this girl's got game! She's got her first win under her belt, and a big smile on her sleeping face by now.

Not to be outdone... her older sister's game started an hour and a half later, in another town a half hour away. (Yeah, I'm crazy and I love to drive all over tarnation). I missed the first few minutes because I was cheering on a bunch of 6th Graders, but I got to see this determined little gal of mine hit FOURTEEN serves in a row! It was unreal. The opposing crowd started to look a bit embarrassed after about point number nine... then other coach called a time out to rattle our team up a bit, as well as announcing a few impromptu substitutions, but it didn't seem to phase 'em much.

Another win! Way to go girls. I'm proud of ya!


And in other news... I'm about THE WORST sports photographer ever. I'm almost sorry I even tried, but now I know to stick with things that hold still until I can get a brain transplant. *sigh*

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bribing the Kids is History

Something happened to me recently. Maybe it was that brawl with my husband about doing chores. You know, the typical male/female war about who's responsible for what when running a household? When we got married, I asked what his expectations were of me. He said, "I just want you to do what makes you happy because I love you." So, I've pretty much stuck with his line of thinking these past seven years or so, and let me tell ya, the man has changed! He is no longer ok with me just laying around eating bon-bons and twittering. I'm not sure what his problem is, but now he has expectations. I don't know where they came from and I don't like em!

Regardless of my feelings, I am a stay at home Mom now, and the guy thinks that my position involves a whole slew of "jobs" that I was not previously aware of. *Looks around* Nobody believes me when I say that. Hmph! So I've got this mental list of JOBS (that if I were to ever write them down, I'd never finish!) and it sometimes overwhelms me, to be honest with ya. Things like floors, walls, sheets, brooms, laundry, homework and dinner all tend to get lumped into one pile, and I just pick from whatever crawls out the top and looks most demanding. Or menacing. You decide.

A few days ago, I sat down with my trusty Excel program and whipped out charts for each of the four kids that live here, my husband, myself and the dog. (Don't kid yourself, it took hours) Some of the jobs are things I'm expected to have done - so I passed the joy along to my kids. (Oh come on, kids can wash their own sheets!) Some of the things are everyday stuff like BRUSH YOUR STINKIN TEETH! And then, knowing full well that the dog does a terrible job washing sheets, and yet a moderately good job at tearing apart pillows, I scratched his name off the list right away.

The kids lists are finished. They are a constant work in progress though, and I can't emphasize how much I stress the word FLEXIBLE (to myself and to them). My dear husband and I had grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of direction and the lack of motivation that our kids drove around with every day (not that they drive cars, thank goodness). We are hoping that this will solve some problems and make communication and relationships a bit smoother around these parts. I'm quickly learning, that my own list consists of doing my stuff while the kids are at school, and then following them around the whole time they are home to make sure they're getting through their lists. It's ok, it will be a habit soon, right? Right??

The lists are written in half hour increments. From the time they wake up, to the time they go to sleep, they have something they should be doing. These lists are something I would have cringed at if my Mother had shoved one to me, but strangely, my kids are not all that opposed. The other weird phenomena, is that they aren't begging for cash, or a treat, or any sort of reward, they are just moving down the list and checking things off as they go. I think their favorite part is when I actually schedule in FREE time because it means I'll leave them alone for at least an hour a day. I gotta tell you, it's a bonus for me too, because they are more inclined to move along the list faster just to get a longer free time. If they don't get through their basic chores, it cuts into free time. No bribing and no arguing, just natural consequences. It's a beautiful thing.

I have this huge problem with paying my kids for doing their chores. I'm not sure what it is exactly that bugs me, but I guess I'd get offended if someone wanted to pay me for staying home with my children. It's not that I wouldn't TAKE the money (Oooh, don't get me wrong there!) but I do it because it's the job God gave me. I am a part of this family, it's my responsibility as a family member to care for others in our "unit". I hope our kids grow up with that feeling too, instead of, "I am an employee of this family, and I will work when I get paid and I will protest and picket outside in the front yard when I do not get paid enough!"

Allowance is a tricky topic around here too. I pretty much just give the kids an allowance each month and I don't make a huge deal of it. I do it so they will learn how to manage funds, and to make them feel a sense of responsibility for paying for things that they want or need that are not in my budget (that I'd have to figure out how to pay for anyway). When we went on our cheap-o vacation last month, each kid pitched in fifty bucks. Of course I had to do a little convincing to get them to voluntarily fork it over, but they got the picture. We all helped with our family vacation. (Good thing too, since our vacation budget got stabbed multiple times by the new tires we had to buy along the way).

Our kids don't get a large allowance. I've read what the going rates are, and our family is far below poverty rates as far as weekly allowance goes. I'm more like the MONTHLY allowance type, and I move it straight into their savings accounts so no cash gets lost or spent on a whim. Just yesterday, my oldest came to me needing a chunk of cash for some volleyball gear that I couldn't squeeze out of our budget, so she got to pull it from her own account. Boy, do I like that! And let me tell ya, she'll treat those belongings a little nicer too since it was her own money that bought them.

Overall, I'm not ok with just throwing money at my kids. I do expect that they will do chores because they are asked to, and not with the expectation of a paycheck. On the other hand, I expect that they will pay me if I have to do their chores for them, and I really expect that they will tithe as well as save for the future.

Now on the other hand REWARDS are fair game. This morning, I slipped into my youngest son's lunch a mini-bite-sized pack of the smallest chocolate cakes known to man, all the while announcing (to the whole household) that he was getting cake in his lunch today because he was the only one to get his entire list finished yesterday. Boy was HE excited! And all I heard from the other kids was, "What?? CAKE??" and then the wheels started turning in their minds and I didn't have to say a word.

Halleluiah. Bribing the kids is history. (Well it is in MY dreams anyway)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

I figured I'd better get on here and write something before even more history came and went and I was left to write a book. I'm in no mood to write a book, sorry.

I've was absent for most of the last month because:

My laptop died
My camera died
My cell phone had issues
I went on a vacation to Idaho
Then school started - a week earlier than we were prepared for.

Now, I have been able to replace my phone. I caved in and let my husband talk me into an iPhone. He liked it so much that he got one too. The applications are what sold me. (The free ones anyway, I'm so dang cheap). I now have an app to keep track of my spending, an app to divy up my kids' allowance and keep track of what they owe me, an app to use any instant message available to mankind, an app for Facebook, apps to find the closest park, campground or fast food restaurant nearest to me, an app to keep bugs away, and even an app to read my bible whenever I want. Now... that could be part of the reason for my lack of blogs. It took a long time to set up that stuff! But in all reality, it's hard to blog on a cell phone no matter how snazzy it is. Well that, and I still don't have a computer.

I got my camera replaced though. Great news, I finally got that Digital SLR I've always been dreaming of. Well, it's a "starter" version, but I LOVE IT. The even better news is that I don't have to pay for it for 18 months. (Argh! Credit was my last choice, but I was going to die and my husband thought it was the only way to revive me without mouth to mouth resuscitation which would give him cooties) Anyway, the laptop is having to wait because now I'm last in line. My husband's computer still functions (see, I'm using it the second he left it for a minute) and my kids still need one for their homework, so I'm last. MOM IS LAST! That's no newsflash really. It's just normal stuff.

I think I'll try posting short blogs with my phone. But if my fingers fall off, as they undoubtedly will when I get long-winded, just check in and leave a get well card or something.

Did I mention that I went on vacation to Idaho? I'm not sure why they call it a vacation. It's more like "many days squashed together with so-called-adventures that are stressful and make you pull your hair out". But it's all good. I came back alive, and so did my kids and my husband. Barely.

We really did have a lot of fun with my in-laws, (even though my sweet sister-in-law ended up on bedrest for the entire duration, the poor thing!), with old friends, and with each other. Now I'm out of words, so I'll just show some pictures of our day at the lake, and get back to taking care of my daughter. She had oral surgery today, which went smoothly I might add, and is in need of more attention than usual.

Enjoy! I miss you blog land friends, but I'm never too far off! (Which means I read posts on my phone, but I just don't have the fingertips left to post comments on all of them!)

My youngest

My niece and her curly locks of loveliness

My son and his cousin

My niece again (because I couldn't stop taking pictures of her in all her cuteness)

Nephew - Mr Photogenic (gets it from his mother)
My nephew from hubby's side of the family
The youngest nephew of the bunch
Oh fine... I'll just throw a few more at ya.
You know you want one.

Oh yes, she's irresistable. Sorry no more pics of my OWN dadgum kids - but they're ok with that (I think.)

Thanks. Sorry it was a bit much, but there's never too much of a good thing, right? Cut me some slack already.

Les Schwab Road Tour

We've named our recent vacation the "Les Schwab Road Tour". For those of you unfamiliar with the name "Les Schwab", it's the name of a rather large chain of Tire centers in the Western States. My children are now traumatized everytime we drive by one. We used the services of FOUR of them just on the way TO Idaho. Now if you're already a Facebook friend, you saw frequent updates of our "adventures". Sorry if it's a repeat, but here's what happened (in a nutshell).

We plan trip weeks in advance
We plan to leave at 9 a.m. to pick up step-daughter in Portland on the way by 10
We plan to be at our campground by 4 pm at the latest
We leave house by11
Pick up step-daughter by one(ish)
We eat Lunch at Multnomah Falls (beautiful!)
We drive a couple more hours
Weather report from the car: 103 degrees
Shred a tire on the travel trailer in the middle of nowhere
Dance around the trailer wondering what on earth to do
Pull off spare tire and thank Jesus that it's a decent spare
Thank Jesus profusely for sending a random Les Schwab employee by at just the right time
(Thank you Les Schwab guy from The Dalles, Oregon!)
Take pictures of Les Schwab employee changing our stubborn tire
Hit the road again and drive another half hour
Shred another tire on the opposite side of the trailer
Curse
Pray for forgiveness
Call roadside assistance and find out they can only help you if you have prepared yourself with two spare tires and that they can't do any assisting
Call the next closest Les Schwab and find out they'll have someone come in after hours to help us if we hurry and get there
Park in a really strange fashion across the ditch, so as to level the trailer
Smack off fire ants from ankles
Pick tumbleweed bits out of bottoms of feet
Unhook the trailer
Go crazy from the biting flies
Say huge prayers that God will protect our belongings while we drive off, with only one of the two doors locked on the trailer because nobody knows where the key went
Get to Les Schwab in Hermiston, call pager that the manager left us a number for and wait, for what seems like forever
Les Schwab guy finally shows up and takes a full HOUR just to find the right price for our tire
Watch as the sun sets, and picture our trailer in flames alongside the highway in my mind
Pay for tire
Feed kids at a Subway restaurant inside a Walmart while my husband shops for a large jack
Visit Gas station while scarfing sandwich
Drive the hour back to our trailer, nervous as heck that we'll even still have a trailer when we get there
Thank Jesus that our trailer was left untouched
Scan for rattlesnakes on the rocks
Hook up trailer
Beat off fireants from ankles again
Yell at kids to stop fighting and to stay in the vehicle for the love of Pete
Assist tire change
Get on the road again by 10:30 pm
Drive gingerly and with much tension
Arrive at campground sometime really late
Set up camp and get this nagging feeling that one of the tires looks low on air
Argue over who forgot to pack the tent pegs
Visit the showers and get rid of the dust and fire ant guts
Asleep at 2 a.m.

A couple days later...
Wake up, load up, and get out of town
Drive to nearest Les Schwab store in La Grande, Oregon and ask for a trailer tire
Les Schwab guy inspects our tires and points out that they have no trailer tires in stock, but that we're sporting a shiny metal screw in one of our 2 remaining tires. It's the suspicious tire from the night before, of course.
Repair tire, make calls to next Les Schwab store, hit the road again.
Eat something somewhere
Arrive at Les Schwab store in Baker City, Oregon and ask for a trailer tire
New tire in place, spare tire packed back up and we hit the road again grateful to be MOST of the way to Idaho. Everything after that is pretty much a blur... or another blog post anyway :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Did you know?

...that a cow has "gutters"?

They are also known as "milkers" or maybe even "squirters" or "hangy down thingies"?

I learned this today from my farmer-wanna-be son, when trying to figure out what he meant by "cows have gutters".

I could go all sorts of places with that one, but for your sake, I'll stop. Right now. And pressure wash my brain.

*snicker*

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Confession time

Yeah, yeah... I can hear it now. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

Well it's like this. I've been all over, but I've still been here. Sort of. Ever get those times when you have so much to say that you're just not sure where to start? So then, I do what comes naturally to me, and I put off starting to say something so that I don't have to try to figure where to start and when to stop. That last part is what I find most difficult.

In the last post I left on here (3 weeks ago *gasp*), I talked about confession. Well now it's my turn. It really has taken me this long to sort through all this. I don't even know who sticks around to read this anymore, and really it would be fine with me if nobody did, because this is one of those moments that is begging for a purge. I'd really hate to get any on you. But... if you're reading, then here ya go!

All of my life, as far back as I can remember, I have struggled with my body image. I don't think I was overly heavy as a child, or particularly ugly, but I distinctly recall feeling the need to cover up and hide behind either extra clothing or a mask of humor to keep from feeling the hurt. One of the early images that sticks out in my mind in full color is from the 4th Grade. My Mom was pretty insistent that I continue to wear dresses or skirts a lot of the time, (and so was one Sunday school teacher in particular) which meant that my bare legs were left to show. Now 4th graders didn't wear pantyhose, and I don't recall opaque stockings being an option, but I had long socks. They were nice enough socks, and I always felt a weird sense of security in the fact that my socks went clear up to my knees. I thought I had huge legs so anything to cover them up was a good thing. Looking back, I often wonder what on earth I was thinking.

I hid behind those socks though, until I was allowed to wear pants to school all the time. Thankfully long socks weren't complete fashion suicide, or I might have just died. Eventually the time came that my parents were ok with me choosing to wear pants all the time. But unfortunately for me, it was also the same time that those itsy bitsy denim mini-skirts came into style. It didn't really ever matter what I wore, I always felt like a disaster. By the time the mini-skirts came around, I wasn't really into wearing them because I thought I looked good or I had body parts to show off, I wanted to wear one because everyone else did. Thankfully my parents didn't go for that. And even the one time I snuck a mini-skirt to school in my bag, and changed into it in the bathroom before the first bell, was one of the most uncomfortable days of my life. All the pulling and tugging just to make sure that all my body parts were properly in place was too much work for me. Looking stylish carries a bigger price, I learned, than just the tag on the clothes.

Many years have passed since those days, and I have perfected the art of laughing things off that hurt. In some ways it's good and healthy to be able to laugh about things and set them aside, but in some ways it means I'm not being completely honest with myself either. I am the first person to joke about my weight, and about other aspects of myself, and in all honesty I really can laugh about it. Particularly with those closest to me. But on the flipside, I also carry an intense feeling of shame and guilt over not being able to do something about it this huge burden I've been carrying around for years. It's heavy, and even though I've carried it a long time, I sure haven't built up any more muscles for carrying it than I had back in the 4th Grade.

Sometimes I think back to the times that people have poked fun at me or said something to maybe manipulate me into feeling bad in case I hadn't noticed what I looked like in the mirror. It didn't happen a lot, and it usually only came from well meaning family members trying to convince me to live up to someone's ideals of "healthy". It didn't matter if I played basketball, or volleyball, or rode my bike or rode a horse. It just mattered what I looked like to someone else. I don't like remembering those moments, because those are the times that I was hurt, but didn't dare say anything. Those are also the kinds of moments that take the longest to forgive, because the offending party most likely doesn't know they hurt me in the first place. I was always too chicken to say so - still am, for that matter. But it really hasn't changed that hot burn of shame that rushes to my face and ears when I recall those things. I have worked very hard towards letting that stuff go.

I'm going to change gears here for a bit, and bring up something that is bugging the HECK out of me. This past school year, we were given a heads up that our children would be coming home with a report card and a bonus. A BMI report. Now I understand the need for our schools and our government to feel that it's time to take a stand against unhealthy children, but I'm wondering if there isn't a more tactful way to send home a letter that tells you your kid is fat? My skinny little 9 year old is borderline. My active-so-much-I-can't-get-a-breath-EVER six year old is overweight?? What the????

Needless to say both my girls take things like this pretty hard. They are in the special years (11 and 13) where their body and their hormones are completely taking over and it adds all sorts of extra cuddly-ness in areas that they would rather not even THINK about right now, let alone get a letter sent home to Mom and Dad about. So what if they have a bummer metabolism that was handed down genetically (so sorry my sweeties) by BOTH sides of their family, and then they get a letter along with their report card that says they might be passing their classes in school, but their bodies get big F. Ugh! Puleeeeese, for the love of Pete, can't we just pat them on the head and say they are lovely, and beautiful and scoot them on through school like we do with their GRADES?? Gaaaa!!

Ok, so where was I? Oh yes. MY issues. I'll just lay it all out. It's not a rant, or a whine, it's just a reality check for me along with a call for help and for a tremendous amount of prayer and encouragement. And for (*gulp*) accountability.

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I am unhappy when I can't participate in activities with my family like they need for me to.
I understand all that stuff about loving yourself, but I do not. And I really want to.
I don't want my girls thinking of me and my size as something to fear "being like" when they grow up.
I love that my sons think I'm beautiful (and they really do tell me that all the time) but I want them to have a Mother that is doing the best she can to be a positive role model.
I am not as close to God as I could be because I feel like I'm not doing the best with what He gave me. This body is a temple, and I've ransacked it.
I'm also not as close to my husband as I could be, because of years of practice at hiding myself.

There, I said it.

Now here's where I say what my goals are before God and everyone (obviously, I've planned this ahead of time. *giggle*)

Goal number one, is to tell someone each day what my goals are.
Goal number two, stop drinking my drug of choice, SODA for 2 weeks straight.
Goal number three, six glasses of water a day. (I'm working my way up)
Goal number four, TAKE THOSE VITAMINS I BOUGHT!
Goal number five, journal my food intake
Goal number six, exercise more
Goal number seven, drop 100 pounds.

Ugh... that was so hard for me to put into words. BUT - I do have some comments to make about those goals that I just threw out there. I don't start things big time without hiding it from the public for a while (fear of immediate failure and all that) and I do want to share my success so far. Because I need to. So sit still.

I haven't been very good at telling someone every day about my goals. I'm afraid. And I'm honest about being afraid too. It took me a week just to be able to talk to my husband about it. Don't be offended.

I have not had a single drop of soda in 16 days, ever since I started this. (And I don't miss it too much either)

I have not managed to get six actual glasses of water into my mouth every single day, but I certainly am doing LOTS better, and it's becoming a habit to keep it nearby.

I AM taking a multi-vitamin (as well as an additional vitamin for eye health - thanks Mom) just about every day now. I forgot here and there at first, but the habit is forming.

I am journaling every single thing that goes in my mouth - and I'll tell you how I'm doing it here in a bit.

I am finding ways to exercise more. Took the kids swimming twice instead of sitting in the house all day. Took them to the fair and walked their legs off. Went on a hike at Silver Falls State Park and about died, but it's all good. I originally posted a personal goal of doing cardio 3x a week (after all, I DO have my own treadmill and stationary recumbent bike!), but I'm finding that a strained calf muscle that I injured at camp almost a month ago is going to slow me down for a bit. No biggie. I guess I gotta let it heal or face dire consequences - so they say.

Goal number seven? I'm six percent there. At least I was as of 2 days ago. (Only weighing in once or twice a week.) And really, I'm not on a "biggest loser" kick. I'm taking it slow and HEALTHY and have given myself 2 years to get 'er done and form life-long habits. If it happens sooner, I'm all for it!

So here's what I'm doing. And if you have ANY inclination whatsoever to join me, I would so so so so soooo SOOOOO think it was the best thing ever because I kinda/sorta feel all alone out here right now. I joined Sparkpeople over 2 weeks ago. I'm not sure exactly how I found it, or if I'd ever even heard of it before, but it's good. It's free. I like free. I'd still be doing Weight Watchers if I could afford it - that's a good program too. This sparkpeople thing is not a specific diet. I hate diets. I'm all about changing my lifestyle in bits and pieces. It's about building a foundation. On the website, I enter everything I eat (and it usually figures out the calories/fat/and whatever else I ask it to track for me- in my case sodium and some nutrients like iron and calcium I'm keeping an eye on for health reasons) then, I can follow my goals. I have my own progress page. They even have a message board with a gazillion people just like me who are there for support or to give support. Way cool. I give kudos. And free... did I mention free? I'm not advertising. I get nothing for it. But it's an idea, if you're out of ideas. And I'm on there. That's just a little bonus. Come join me. I need accountability and I need buddies like never before.

So there you have it. It's about time I fessed up, because I know some of you have been wondering what I'm up to. And now I feel a hundred pounds lighter just tellin' ya!
www.sparkpeople.com Check it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Word Filled Wednesday James 15:16

The purpose of Word Filled Wednesday is to share the Word through a photo and a verse. This is one of the guys from my own church - who was also the drummer for our worship team at Camp last week.


James 15:16 - Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
~~~~~~~~~~~

One of the BIG things we talked about at High School camp last week was CONFESSION. We talked about it, we practiced it, and we rejoiced at the broken hearts that were beginning the healing process. On one night, we opened up the microphone to allow the youth to come forward and get something off their chest. What happened - was nothing short of a miracle. Out of the hundred people at the camp, at least ninety percent of them were up front at one time. All together, in a huge, hugging, crying bunch. Staff and campers alike. Almost all of the youth had something to say - something to confess, and support to offer each other. No sooner had one young person confessed something, than another young person would take the mic and confess to having the same problem. The overwhelming amount of encouragement and support was way beyond anything we could have imagined. It was an absolutely beautiful, although tear-filled, occasion and one that nobody in attendance will soon forget.

If you have a moment, please say a prayer for strength for our youth. Now is the time that they are the most vulnerable, and most prone to being attacked spiritually. I have a few campers reading my blog today - and I want to tell you that I love you, I believe in you, and you are SO WORTH IT to me!

Please visit Extravagant Grace for more inspiring, and uplifting posts from other WFW Contributors - go right now!

You can join in too!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Talking to God

I typically don't go around photographing people having personal time with our Heavenly Father. This past week, the glory of the Lord shone so brightly on the faces of these amazing young people that I felt compelled... no, more like LED, to capture some of these moments. I do not look for comments, I just want others to appreciate what I got to get a glimpse of... open hearts and humble spirits. I love camp, and I love each and every one of the people that I got to share my week with.










Amen.

A week of Good Things

Another year of High School camp has come and gone. Another week in complete awe at how God works in the lives of those that trust in Him. This year of camp was a little different for me than before. I got to BE one of those examples this time. I put myself out there, and God came through yet again. He never fails. Why do we always doubt?

This might be a rather lengthy post because I'm holed up in a hotel room by myself for the day with no internet connection, so what else do I have to do but write? I'd take a walk, but my feet are swelled up like little watermelons and I'm trying to give them a break.

So where was I? Oh right, High School Camp... 2009. This whole camp experience came about because of some really curious circumstances. I do not believe any of the events were coincidences, matter of fact I don't think anything in my life happens by coincidence. I believe that there is a purpose for everything. I choose certain paths to walk in my life because I was blessed with free will. When I look back in time, I clearly see evidence of God's hand spinning the web of my future way before it ever takes place. Even when I choose the wrong road, I can take a glance at my history some years later and see times that even though I was on the wrong road, I eventually took a detour and found the narrow path again. It's the more difficult trail, the one God would have me take. I know it's no coincidence because it's happened time and time again. You'd think I would learn by now just to STAY on that path, but I'm just a silly girl who tends to make silly choices from time to time. Thank you Jesus for forgiveness, and thank you for the ability to learn from my mistakes.

When I was asked to help with a worship team for camp this summer, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that an inspired event was about to take place. For months prior to this, Mr Nice Guy and I went through a process of heartbreak and grieving over losing one of the outlets for our passions – worship. It's not that we couldn't worship anymore, but we were no longer able to worship in the way that was most meaningful to us – with our team at church. It felt like we lost a piece of ourselves, a piece that we were unsure we'd ever get back. The way it happened hurt too. We knew we wouldn't be doing the same ministry forever, we knew it the day we stepped into our roles. Ministries change, and people who minister grow and move on to something more challenging while someone else steps in to fill the spots we leave behind. It's normal, natural and it's ok. But then so is death. And we still cry when someone dies even though it's natural. That's sorta what we went through.

So during the process of letting go of something we held near and dear, our attentions began to focus on something else we loved. Grove Christian Camp. I grew up attending this camp, every single summer all through my school years. Each year, my faith was renewed and I gained lifelong friends along the way while building a strong foundation for my life. Occasionally the foundation would get chipped away by the wrong friends, or the wrong choices, but it has been repaired and restored and I am still standing on it!

As we discussed Grove Camp, we discussed things we loved to do and had a passion and some gifts for doing, we (I say we, because I do not really know who “thought” of it first) came up with the dream of putting together a worship band for a youth camp. At first we thought of it as just a really cool thing to do. Then we thought of it as an awesome thing to be able to participate in. Then, when someone else mentioned it, I thought it would be an amazing thing if it ever happened. It got put on my 101 in 1001 list as one of my goals in the next 3 years or so, and then something really wild happened. We actually got asked to DO it! Not only that, but we got asked to lead a worship team by the one guy who directs the same camp that I work at each year already. The SAME CAMP! Not the other 9 weeks or so, but the ONE camp that I already commit to working at anyway.

The day Bob, the director, called was a day I will not soon forget. He might not think it was that big of a deal, but too many things happened at one time for me to chalk it up as “coincidence”.

He asked if Mr Nice Guy and I would be interested in leading worship. He understood it would be something we'd need to think and pray over before we answered. I wonder if it took him by surprise when I didn't even take a day or so to talk it over with my husband. I just said YES. We had already talked it over. We had already prayed. We just needed someone to ask us. Plus I knew that if we waited, that the seeds of self-doubt and those old insecurities from recent wounds would have time to take root and it could be disastrous. Nuh uh, not gonna happen! I saw the work of God in action, and I grabbed hold right then and there.

But Bob surprised me by continuing,“Do you know anything about blogging and social networking? Could you teach a class on it?”

Um... uh... is this a trick question? Who put you up to this? Of course I KNOW stuff about it. Matter of fact I know an awful lot about it. But a class? I don't teach! I do not DO public speaking. Hello... this is the shy little girl coming out, and feeling oh-so rejected and disregarded that nobody would possibly WANT to hear what I have to say. Let alone learn anything from ME.

“Bob,” I said, “I'm gonna have to think about that one.” And so we hung up.

Then my brains took over. Sometimes it's crazy when that happens, so I'll quote myself. You might get a kick out of this:

Worship from the background? Yes. Speak from the heart? Yes. I knew it the moment he asked.

Wait... what? I didn't say yes! I said NO – I said I'd THINK about it, which means I just really don't want to tell you no yet, and I'm hoping while you wait for my answer that you'll find someone better, or more qualified or just... someone else. ANYONE else.

Yes.

No!

Yes.

NOOOOO!!

*big booming voice* JONAH!

Ok, fine, I'll think about it.

No you won't, we already said yes.

I did not say yes!

Do you love these kids?

YES! I do love them. I love them so much it hurts. I want to protect them and help them and let them see ways they can serve you and others in ways that work. I want them to not feel the pain, the guilt, and the shame of their addictions, and the worry about what other people think of them. I do not want them to feel some of the things I felt – I want them to be happy, full of joy, and excited for the Lord!

Then “Yes” it is.

*slumps* I suppose you're right. I can do this, I guess. But I'm gonna need some help.

And anti-nausea pills.

A while later, I told Bob that I'd be happy to help teach a class and the only thing I asked was that it not be with a HUGE bunch of kids in a lecture-type setting. I wanted a smaller room, everyone sitting in a circle or something, everyone contributing, and I'm sure I would make a good “facilitator” of a discussion on things such as blogging and using MySpace or Facebook. I'm not a teacher.

A few months later...

The worship team began to come together. Again, more miracles. We had a small group, just enough to know that it would be by the grace of God that things would work out. We began leaving room for miracles. We didn't have a drummer. We prayed over it. We talked about it. We knew a couple people who we would have liked to accompany us, but we just weren't sure it was the right thing to do. Then one day, my husband and I were in town, headed to the store, and we found out we BOTH could only think of one person who we really wanted to be the drummer for our group, so we decided we'd just have to give him a call and see what he thought. Ugh... what if he doesn't want to? What if he doesn't think camp is his thing? Again, more doubts.

Then it was God's turn.

We walked into the store and came face to face with our drummer.

Mr Nice Guy and I shot each other those wide-eyed looks reserved only for moments of disbelief, and then since we were getting whacked up the side of the head with a plan that was clearly not ours, but God's, we asked our drummer what he thought of helping us out for camp. He immediately said yes. No hesitation, no “I'll think it over”, he said YES. And not only that, but he looked excited!

Thank you God... point taken.

We left the store, totally and completely on the edge of our seats about what God had in store for our group of musicians... each one imperfect, and each one totally willing to give it up to God and see him work though us. We couldn't wait.

As the weeks and days passed until the first day of camp, I realized that I was not getting any help with my class. I got a little miffed that I was giving large amounts of help to my husband so he could lead the worship team, but he was not helping me with MY stuff. So, I asked my husband (you know... the TEACHER? The guy who lectures for a living?) and all he could tell me was to write an outline. GREAT, I thought, and OUTLINE. Wooooo... and how, exactly, do I TEACH from that?? I don't even know what to put IN the outline! I need HELP!

He was a pain in the rear about it. I expected more. I didn't understand why he couldn't just do all the writing, and I'd just try do the talking part. Haha! I was sure it was a sign that I was destined for failure and I should quit while I was ahead. And then random things would pop into my mind. Things that would be really NEAT for the kids at camp to hear, so I'd write down little notes. I wrote notes at the Women's Retreat when I heard something useful. I wrote notes on my smartphone while waiting in the drive up at McDonalds so I could look at them later. I even wrote scripture references on the palm of my hand (aka my “palm pilot”) when I was without paper or my phone.

Then, the outline began to come together. Sort of. It was a complete mess. The week before camp started, I included actual notes. I knew that I avoided speech in High School, and I also managed to skirt around taking an actual speech class while I was in college, so something inside me DID NOT WANT to speak in front of others. Apparently one of the reasons is that I CAN'T FIND MY WORDS when I need them!

I wrote down lots of words. And then, I grabbed entire paragraphs and moved them around until it made sense. I decided to narrow down my thoughts, and zero in on evangelism, on telling others about their experiences with Christ in a non-threatening manner. I asked my husband for help only once after that – to help me with a sentence that a mechanic might tell someone that made no sense at all to the average person. The point I was trying to make is that if you have a website or a blog (or facebook or whatever) and you're trying to convey things to a non-Christian that you need to speak the language of a non-Christian (well, not ALL of the non-Christian language... stop thinking that way!). You can't use jargon or “Christianese” because you'll just get a blank stare and it turns people off. Don't be talking all churchy – use normal words that anyone can understand. Just for fun, here's my example:

Mechanic's Example:
“The thermal dynamic expansion in the cylindrical combustion compartment is being diminished at an escalating rate as the point of plasma originating at the electron is manifesting after the optimum point in time.”

In plain english please?
“You need to have your timing adjusted”

Yeah, that was fun. I had to clear my throat and drink a whole glass of water just to say that sentence, but I think I made a point.

The class itself went over pretty well. I ended up with half the camp at a time, in a lecture type setting (wait, I said I didn't WANT to do it like that didn't I??). I got to teach my class twice on the last full day of camp, so by then I'd already warmed up to all the kids and wasn't so paranoid about feeling rejected or laughed at. Ok, so they laughed at me, but only when I warned them not to sit too close because I was feeling nauseated. I was very open about the fact that the only time I'd ever been left alone to teach a class was with five year olds at VBS, so they'd better raise their hand if they had to leave to go to the bathroom too.

The benefits I received of teaching on the last day, were that I got to reiterate points made by other speakers, and incorporate thoughts, scriptures and devotions the kids had already been going through. The best part about it, was that NOBODY was disruptive. Only one kid fell asleep (too many late nights!), and when I threw my pen at him (much to the delight of the other campers) he stayed alert the rest of the time. I pulled a secret surprise the day of my “talk” and I printed off actual real life Facebook pages of people they knew. One was a camper, one was another staff member, and the third was a former camper that I had counseled the year before. The kids hung on my every word as I literally read off what those people had on their Facebook pages, and how they were either being a good or bad example of how to live out their faith. I talked about how to not be a hypocrite, to not bring others down and to be REAL. The good examples I used were from people in attendance, the bad example – was the former camper (whose name was changed to Jane Doe, of course, to protect the not-so-innocent).

I finished up with asking how the kids (and adults too) were portraying themselves online. I'll throw my questions out there for my readers here too. Are you being fake? Are you being a hypocrite? Do you say you're a Christian, but then throw up all sorts of stuff that IS CLEARLY NOT Christian? Do you post suggestive photos? Do you complain a lot? Do you spend more time building online relationships than you do with face-to-face relationships? Are you causing someone else to stumble?

The response was absolutely overwhelming. Several kids said they were ready to dump their myspace pages (too many porn temptations) and many were ready to befriend me on Facebook so I could help them be accountable, or open a Facebook page so they could be a witness to others. One parent said he was now going to trust his daughter with a social networking site, because he saw how she could be held accountable by her Christian friends (and me – the accountability police!) and how she could actually bless others with what she would be willing to share. Many more said they wanted to go home and clean up their pages because they were not happy with how they had portrayed themselves over the past few months.

Wow.

That's all I could really think of between the smiles. I knew without a shred of doubt that God helped me speak the words I spoke. He helped me write the paragraphs so I wouldn't sound like a talking lunatic (even though I hardly used all of the words I wrote!), and he gave me peace in my heart and a calm feeling in my tummy and I gotta say... after all was said and done...

I liked it!

Gaaaaaaaa!