Friday, November 19, 2010

I Can't Stand It!

Ok so ya'll probably thought you'd come here to find a blog about me wigging out over something dramatic, but you were wrong. This is just for fun, it's not dramatic at all... merely factual. *cough* And dramatic.

I saw someone I admired (Chris August, one of my new favorite musicians, to be exact) in a video recently where he showed the rest of us how to make his favorite chocolate chip cookie and milk recipe. It was pretty amusing. He modeled his short video after a conglomeration of some famous cooking shows (much to my delight) but what he was making pretty much turned out to be some sort of an edible cookie-paste. I was not interested at all in trying his "recipe", but I was intrigued as his humor, and I couldn't tear my eyes away from the things that really got my goat. Not the goat out in my pasture, but my GOAT. The thing inside me that makes me do some sort of an internal grimace whenever I'm confronted with the goat-getting thing. In this instance, it was the fact that he was crumbling up cookies and the crumbs were going everywhere. That sort of stuff bugs me and I never really quite realized it until I was watching him.

So - over the course of the day I've come to realize that I have several things on my "I Can't STAND It!" list. And, I wanted to share them. Because you know you've been dying to know this stupid very interesting stuff about me.

Stuff I CAN'T STAND (in no particular order, but mostly in my kitchen)

1. Crumbs all over the place. If you're gonna munch something up, at least have the decency to hang whatever you're munching things with out over a plate, bowl, sink or garbage can. Or go outside. Yeah, do that.

2. Milk left out. Take it out, use it, put it back. It's that simple. (In the video, I noticed that Chris put his concoction in the fridge for fifteen minutes. The camera cut away during that time, but when he came back, the milk was STILL sitting on the counter. See? My goat was got right there!

3. Putting short stuff on the tall shelves. If it's short, put it on a short shelf. It's that simple. If there's a small jar of relish sitting next to the big ol' gallon of milk, I'm gonna have to do some unplanned rearranging, because relish doesn't really need that much headroom. I don't like doing that rearranging thing because I come across this next doozy...

4. Plastic wrap on leftovers. Stop that before I slap ya. Use the dadgum containers with lids. That way when you stack the bowl of refried beans on top of the corn, it doesn't fall in and swim for three days before it gets noticed.

5. Open glasses of beverages in the fridge. Seriously? The only one allowed to do that is ME. And that's because, and I promise, I'm the only one who ever cleans them up when they get hit with a plastic wrapped bowl of refried beans floating in corn and knocked over backwards to spill down the rear of the fridge, into the veggie drawer where it soaks my celery in a milky brine (for three days before anyone notices).

6. Ice cubes on the floor. Do you really think that nobody will notice? Hello people, I wear socks in the house. I will notice. It may be somewhat room temperature by the time I do, but it will happen. And  from now on,when it does happen, I will track you down and put whatever else is stuck to the bottom of my sock into your icy cold beverage. You won't even know I was there.

7. Refrigerated empty containers. You've all come across one of these specimens before. The empty juice container in the fridge, simply chilling out with nothing in it. It gives me such a sense of disappointment whenever I happen upon this type of mystery. First, I'm alarmed at who on earth would think of doing something so dreadful (since we are all about loving and serving each other, right?) Second, I'm sorely disappointed that I don't get to drink whatever my tastebuds were primed and ready for. It's a bummer. And someone around here is gonna get pizza with no toppings for dinner one of these nights. That'll teach ya!

8. Missing utensils. Where on earth did my wire mesh colander go? I mean really, can it just vanish overnight? One day I'm happily rinsing black beans, the next day I'm left to use one of those plastic jobbies with the too-big holes punched in the bottom. It's probably out dancing with my favorite slotted spoon in the mucky flowerbeds, or hanging out with my best stainless steel bowl in the rain soaked chicken yard. Who does this stuff?

For the most part, the people who do this stuff are the ones I live with. I'm pretty sure some of these people live at your house too, so please go right ahead and sound off about the MOST annoying thing that goes on in your kitchen. Is it the bread bag that never gets closed? The ice cube tray left empty? I could suggest the missing blocks of cheese. One minute it's there, the next it's gone because someone was overcome with starvation and polished off a whole container of something that was set aside for tomorrow's special potluck dish (that drives me crazy too!) One day, an entire package of bologna disappeared. I didn't even know it was gone until the next day - after I spent the whole night at my son's bedside because he was violently ill with the stinkiest vomit you've ever smelled. Can you believe he still asks for bologna sandwiches after all that? Something is wrong with that boy.

Anyway, I've about had enough of my carrying on. Thanks for listening. I hope you had as much fun as I did.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Return to Sender

I've been feeling the need to write about something near and dear to my heart, and until today I haven't had the words formed in coherent sentences enough to actually put pen to paper. I pretty much put pencil to paper in this case. It took me all of 15 minutes to finally write scribble it out this morning, and now I feel led to share it here. I sure hope I can read my own handwriting. Over the past few months I've been going through some pretty ugly stuff while uncovering layer upon layer of the hurts that have been buried deep in my soul. I am chipping away at the hard shell that has surrounded my heart, and in doing so, I'm finding that some of what I have inside that tough exterior, needs to get outside in order to soften my insides and make me the person God desires me to be.

On the subject of rejection and love...*

God's greatest command can be summed up into one word: Love.
That one word has big meaning - for sure, the word itself has a variety of different meanings and connotations in our culture, but for this exercise let's say God says AGAPE. 
Among other things: Love one another. Love the unlovely. Love the unloveable. Love your enemies. 
He doesn't say love your tacos, love your shoes, love your car or love your pizza toppings. (I'm pretty sure I DO love my pizza toppings, but whatever)

The problem with love, is that love always means risking rejection. The only thing we need to create rejection, is to have relationships with others. Rejection can be one of the most painful forms of injury to another human being. It can wound deeper and last much longer than any other type of wound I could imagine. I do know this from first hand experience. As a daughter, as an ex-girlfriend, as an ex-wife, as a former employee, as a past student, and a MOTHER, I'm sure someone somewhere can relate to the type of feeling that you used to be something that now you're not. And in the case of daughter or mother, just mention the word "criticize, ignore, or feel judged" and pretty much anyone can relate to the kinds of rejection that play out in those particular relationships.

Rejection causes us to do things we might never have considered doing before. This comes from that empty feeling that rejection causes in our hearts. Meaningless relationships, bouncing around from one addiction to another, hurting others because we ourselves hurt, the list goes on. Strong's Concordance includes the word "vacant" in the Hebrew definition of "rejected". We become open to attempting to repair our hurt with often disastrous results. We set ourselves up for failure in the name of recovering from rejection by our own means. This is how the enemy overcomes us, by destroying us with fear. 

You can't begin to believe some of the things I've done to fill the vacancy that rejection has left in my heart. Thankfully God has allowed many doors to be slammed in my face in order to reveal His plans and His glory in my life. He has allowed rejection in parts of my life in order for me to be open to reconciliation! I would have no concept of what the value of unfailing love felt like if I had never endured the failed love and failed relationships in my past. God knew what was best for me all along, but it has taken many years to see some of those things come full circle... and I'm pretty sure I'm not even all the way around that circle yet. 

The really unfortunate thing about rejection is that it causes a change in our vision. Sometimes that change can be permanent if we don't allow God to do the healing inside us. Once we become hurt in this terrible way, it's possible that our ability to enjoy and build new relationships can become very clouded. We see new people, new friendships, new love interests with a sort of suspicion. It can be quite innocent, and most of the time we rarely even know that we're behaving this way, but it shows up in our relationships in mostly negative ways as time progresses. We constantly wonder who is going to hurt us next, so we don't ever quite put ourselves all the way out there, or open up completely to those we expect to open up to us. In return, we are now the ones doing the rejecting, by withholding part of ourselves, and people we relate to can feel it. It becomes a vicious cycle. Eventually this method of self-protecting becomes like second nature, and it appears that everyone else has a problem. The rejection continues, the feelings are justified, and it simply escalates.

How have you ever been rejected in your past? Have you given your heart fully to someone, only to have that door slam right in your face? Have you trusted that one good friend to stick with you through thick and thin only to get stuck with the feeling that you're not good enough? Have you tried to please someone you loved with all your heart only to hear things like, "I don't care", or "You didn't do it right" or "I could do better"? 
Are you not pretty enough? 
Are you too thin?
Are you too fat?
Are you not talented enough? 
Have you been thrown away, discarded, passed over or kicked to the curb? 
Are you defective

Friends, I'm here to tell you that rejection, and all the hurt and pain that come from it, are NOT FROM GOD. God does not make rejects. He does not make defects. He is LOVE. He loves you and He made you just the way you are for a purpose. God commands us to love, but in reality He does allow those doors to close on us so that we may come to know His true, never-ending, unfailing love. He is sovereign. If He lets it happen, then there will be something good that will come of it. You can be sure! In this I also have first hand experience!

We must allow God to clear away the fog of mistrust, the feelings of fear, the crippling effects that rejection leaves us with. If we allow Him to take the pain that so heavily bogs down our hearts and minds, he will show you a better way to love others. 

Rejection can change the outlook of every single relationship we ever attempt to get involved with if we are dragging around this load of baggage from our past failures. Satan desires nothing more than for us to destroy ourselves, and this is how he goes about his plan. He has a will for us, and simply put, it is for us to live in constant fear. 

Let's begin to look at this with clearer vision. We love others because Christ loved us first. He didn't wait for us to accept him - HE took the first step. Guess what happened? He was rejected by his own. No, I didn't say his enemies rejected him, we already knew that, but his own people rejected him. This happens to us too. Jesus Christ was also rejected by you, and by me. How painful that must be for Him. 

If we begin to love others as God has instructed us to do - to love selflessly, without letting anything else get in the way like fear, mistrust, and pride, then the only thing people can reject is God IN us. And that, my friends, is for God to take into account. Let me say it again, It's not YOU that others may reject, it is God IN you. 

We'll be known as Christ's disciples by our love towards one another. Being rejected for that is very much an occasion to rejoice. 

1 John 3:20 states that God is greater than our hearts. How cool is that? Our big ol' sappy, sorry hearts. Sometimes they feel like they are carrying the weight of the world, but that's nothing compared to our God. He is so much bigger than our hearts. What a wonderful thought! Even the most devastating, most painful, most terrible rejection we could ever face - is covered completely by the love of our Heavenly Father. He is greater than our hearts. 

Loving others is a choice to obey. Living in fear of rejection is a choice to turn away from the gifts our Lord has given to us. It's the opposite of doing the will of God. Give your pain over to the Father, allow Him to heal you, to wash away your sad feelings and to change the pictures of the past into the new story of your future. 

Love never fails.

*Many of these thoughts were gained through the series I'm studying through by Beth Moore: Living Beyond Yourself. I highly recommend it if you have an extra seven to twelve hours a week you're willing to specifically devote to working through where the scriptures and text may lead you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Love it or Loathe it

I got myself a whole collection of sighs today. Yep, those big breathy noises we make when life is trying to suck the air out of our brains. Our family is going through one of those tiny little bits of life that will inevitably have a big impact on our future. I can't really chat it up about what's WRONG nor do I feel inclined to go on and on about what's RIGHT, but I can say that it's just weird.

It's weird that I want to stay home and not be anywhere else.
It's weird that my husband calls to talk and then I decide to argue
It's weird that I have every good intention of making the best of something and then somehow, I completely obliterate it until I can't even recognize what I was trying to do in the first place.
It's weird that the spiritual food I've been eating for months hasn't been filling me up. At all. I wonder if I'm subconsciously tossing it to the dog instead of taking it for myself
It's weird that I need more from myself. I want something deeper. I crave fulfillment and purpose. I need focus.

I miss my friends. And maybe that's something I'm lacking - because when I'm with them I feel great. When I'm alone, I feel like crap. I guess it's because my friends say nicer things to me than I do to myself, eh?

I have a checklist in my mind of things I know I want to start doing again. I also have a list of things in my life that I want to ERASE so that they don't bother me so much anymore and drag me down. Not necessarily a person, but things and duties and yes... I suppose even people.

I've was recently inspired by Marcus Buckingham. He spoke to several thousand women like me this past weekend at a Women of Faith Conference. He talked about all sorts of things that were VERY applicable to my life as it is right now, but I came away with one sure thing. I know I need to take advantage of his idea to make a list of all the things in my life, in one week, that I either LOVE or LOATHE.

Then systematically, I can pluck the things I loathe from my life, while putting more energy into those things I love. The things I do that I love, are quite clearly, my gifts - my talents - my inspirations. In those things, I can do positive work. I can be a positive person. I can SAY positive things. I want to be positive... I love it :) I'm writing down "Blogging" on my "love it" list right now. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On this day nine years ago...

...I was sending my kids off to school.
I was preparing to leave for my college orientation.
I was skipping breakfast.
I turned on the TV and was shaken to the core of my being.
I stared in utter confusion as the live coverage
unfolded before my very eyes.
Then the second tower got hit.

Praying for our beloved country and its leaders
today more than ever...


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Diagnosis is in...

Disclaimer: I cannot organize my thoughts to save my life right now. And I don't give a crud. So if you're reading, you're getting it raw and real. I'm not apologizing for nothin. Dig in!

Over the past few months I've been blogging very minimally, at best. I have no excuses. I was here, I had internet connection, I had some time. But nothing ever got through to "PUBLISH". On the flip side, I've been thinking a lot of blogs. In a way, I wished I'd actually written some of them so I could look back someday and see how far I've come. Sort of like a bookmark placed in the reference section of my mental library.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before how much I do not like to whine about myself. Oh, I'll do it all day if it's funny, or to poke fun at myself, but lately it hasn't been too funny. Also, I do not like to feel needy or vulnerable or weak. But the truth is, I am. I have gone from the extremes of feeling like I'm literally hanging on to life by a thread, to feeling so completely overwhelmed with joy that I can barely contain it. It's a strange, strange place to be.

I thank God for my family and friends. I thank Him for the blessing of fellowship with others, which has quite honestly been one of the few things to keep my feet on the ground this year. It's like medicine for the hurting heart. Only recently have I realized just how badly my heart has been injured, and it's not going to be easy to fix it, but it's the season to get 'er done. God has provided me a blank spot in my life schedule for a reason, I believe and I'm not gonna blow it.

I mentioned in a previous post that Mr Nice Guy and I are in counseling. I still say it's one of the best gifts we've ever given each other. During the "discovery" phase of our sessions, it came to light just how much trouble I've been having with anxiety. I know it's been an ongoing problem, it's just not been quite as bad before, for as long of a period of time. I guess you could say it's escalated to the point of being downright scary.

Our counselor asked me to come in for some sessions that were just the two of us, to talk through some of those things that I may not have been able to verbalize with my husband present. It's not that I've ever outright hid anything from my spouse, but I guess in a way we all keep some things to ourselves in order to protect others from feeling the same pain we went through. Is that right to do? Is it wrong? I'm not sure, but I'm not here to say it's ok or not, it's just a fact that people do it as a method of self-preservation, or to shelter those around them from similar pain. I also typically choose to keep it off my blog pages. I don't want to hurt anyone else or make anyone else feel responsible or sorry for me, but just for today (and maybe tomorrow or the next day too) I'm grabbing this page because it's MINE, and I'm just gonna write. And publish.

Needless to say, that first session on my own with our counselor was a really difficult one. As he helped me peel back the layers of my pain to help me see where it was really coming from, it felt as if he was literally tearing away pieces of me. We dug so far back that we both learned (pretty much at the same time) that not only had I been traumatized once, but twice. And these traumas weren't the type that lasted for a brief second, but they went on for periods of weeks, months and years. It was quite a moment of awakening. It really helped me to see that my current circumstances weren't what was causing my pain, or our marital disagreements, or the discord in my home, it was the past that still lingered. Unresolved. Unacknowledged. And unforgiven. I felt so child-like, so little and so very, very vulnerable. I wanted to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb. I needed someone to stroke my hair and tell me everything would be alright. In a way, my counselor did that - only he kept his hands to himself. :)

The one thing he said that made me literally melt into a pile of puddles was, "You're not defective."

I can't really verbalize how much that hit me square in my soul, but let's just say it did. When you go through life feeling like you can't measure up, and like everything you've ever done really doesn't mean anything unless it's just right, or trying to do things in a certain way to keep people from leaving your life or rejecting you, then words like that mean more than winning a kazillion bucks. To the little girl sitting in my counselor's office that day, it meant that I was good enough. Hallelujah and Amen.

I went through counseling in High School for some related issues - but I have to say that at that point when I was asked to find my "inner child", I really couldn't possibly do that, because in reality, I still was a child. Today, I get it. I can say I know that feeling now, and it's just bizarre! It's also exhausting. I hope I don't have to do it much longer. I want to grow up soon.

I'm so insanely grateful that this is happening right in the middle of marriage counseling, because I really feel like I have someone on my side to hold me through this stuff... and a best friend to encourage me and to keep me upright to get through to the other side. That other side: The joyful side of me, the side that I miss.

I believe that my inability to discuss some of my past with the people of my present, has kept those emotions and feelings buried so deep, that when they bubble to the surface, it makes a big mess. Right now, we're mopping up tears, sweeping away hard feelings, and dusting the cobwebs off of my memories that have such a stranglehold on my life. I'm looking for the positive, seeking encouragement, and holding on to the Word to show me my next steps.

I guess this is the part where I actually mention that our counselor revealed to us yesterday at our couple's session that he firmly believes I am suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. He said he'd been thinking about what I'd told him all week, and he kept going back to the neatly typed list of only 20 "eye-brow raising" symptoms that I'd been really suffering with, and he couldn't see it as anything but obvious. Obvious to anyone but me, I guess.

Insert big, long pause... because that's what I did when he told me.

Is it really that big of a deal? It feels like I got diagnosed with cancer when all I had was an itchy, little mole. "Are you SURE? It's that big of a deal?", my brains said. And actually, they keep saying that. But, I guess so. And, aside from all my feelings of needing to downplay things, I really do have to trust that our counselor, who himself lived through his own horrors in Vietnam and dealt with his own PTSD afterwards, might actually know a thing or two about what he's saying. It's very humbling, to know that I've been trying to tough this out for so long, but now here I am, laying flat on my face trying to put the pieces of my life in order and all it's taken, is someone else to glance over my "big picture" and state in plain english what I've been trying for years to pretend didn't exist.

In a way, it all makes sense. And I have to admit it's embarrassing. I can't help but feel that sensation of my cheeks warming up whenever I think about allowing anyone to view that "List of 20". Just knowing someone might even read this post to the end makes my heart rate go up, but it's all about keeping it real. And I want to do that. Even if it's not funny.

So for now, my sweet husband and I are focusing on staying far away from those things that are my "triggers", the stuff that sends me inexplicably "over the edge" and has, for years, caused him to think I'm some sort of wacko. Now, he would never actually SAY that (for fear of his own safety) but I can read his mind you know, and I'm pretty sure that's what I heard. We're also teaming up to eliminate anger, emotional outbursts and painful words from the vocabulary of members of our household - which could take a while, considering the sheer number of hormones that we are up against. But the good news is that we're already seeing the benefits of intentionally living a more Christ-like life, which is what it all boils down to. It's where we want to be. I have faith that God will heal me and I look forward to this chapter of my life no matter how painful it might be to wade through it all. It surely can't be more painful than the past. Only this time I have hands to hold on to.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School is great but learning is everywhere

In honor of my sweet daughters (one of whom has successfully made it to her freshman year of High School alive), I thought it fitting to share this list of advice. It's a delightful (yet much abbreviated version) of a piece written by Charles J. Sykes, author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves, but Can't Read, Write or Add.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Think Twice, Speak Once

Think twice, speak once... that's the title of an article I got from a Sparkpeople email today and it really got me thinking about how that kind of advice sure could prevent a lot of unnecessary trouble. The particular article ended with, "Once you have said something out loud it cannot be taken back, and rarely can it be undone even with a tremendous amount of work.

It's so ironic how I sometimes get messages like this in my inbox, either from subscriptions I ask for, or from people who get placed in my path, that are so applicable to what I'm going through in my life right now. Not very many people know that my husband and I are currently in marriage counseling. It's been a long time coming, and I'm quite sure it's the best decision we could have ever made for our future and for our family. I'm so grateful just to have an opportunity like this, and so thankful that he has chosen to come alongside me and to strengthen the bonds that keep us holding on to one another. At the same time, however, it saddened me deeply to HAVE to get to this point - as I know that God's idea of marriage wasn't for us to go all destructo on things before we both figured out it was time to stop taking care of everyone else and get some help for us.

Lately it feels like we're not the only ones in the rocky marriage boat. I'm pretty sure I'd feel a lot more happy if we were all alone on that boat, but to see many of my friends and my family aboard this not-so-loving Loveboat cruise makes me really afraid that something has gone horribly wrong. Typically I'd prefer that those I love be standing on SHORE waving at us, and encouraging us to steady our craft and keep up the work so we could be on solid ground with them soon, but instead they're bouncing around on the same rickety boat. The one that tosses it's victims from one side to the other with no regard for the little kids rolling around on deck getting trampled in the process. Not pretty.

Everyone has a different story. Some have to do with addictions that have been swept under the rug far to long, recurring problems with abandonment or rejection that stem from childhood mistreatment, abuse issues that never really got dealt with, worry, self-doubt, lack of trust in others and in God, the list goes on, but most of all there is this screwed up belief that we need to take care of SELF, and not others. 
A wise friend stated that you must first put on your oxygen mask before you can help those around you. And I believe that is absolutely true - but I think somewhere that statement gets completely misinterpreted. We don't put on our oxygen mask instead of helping others. We also don't badmouth, intimidate, lose our temper or force our will onto someone else to get them to put their mask on. We HELP them. I think somewhere along the way in marriage, the thought of helping or serving those around us gets lost in the whole idea of "I need to take care of myself first". Then the rest of the thought process, the part about helping others, drops off into oblivion and doesn't get revisited until a few anniversaries later when the pretty bride and handsome groom finally remember that they are in this thing to honor, respect and love each other as Christ loved the church. Nowhere does Christ say to "Help yourself as you'd maybe, eventually, possibly, help someone else, if you feel so inclined, and if it's not your time of the month, or if he put the lid down on the toilet seat." He said, "Do to OTHERS as you would have them do to you". End of sentence.

Quite simply put, this really just says you are responsible for making the first step. This isn't at all about waiting for someone else to straighten up and pull his (or her) head out from wherever it's stuck. It's about you adjusting your own behavior, to be more Christlike, and to be less selfish.

Philippians 2:3-4
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

To bring this point back to where I started in the first place (I do not ramble!), what comes out of our mouths must also be in the forefront of our minds as a way of caring for, and serving others. It's those words that will come back to haunt you when you aren't expecting it, because someone else remembers them. Those words etch into the brains of our children, friends, family and our mates - and those words can't be taken back. Can you go through the lengthy process of accepting and forgiving each other and getting a do-over? Sure! But is that an easy road to take? Heck no. I strongly advise taking the road of least trouble and just thinking twice and speaking once.

From my life experience, the words I heard in my past, now make up my present. So seriously, what kind of present do you want to give your family?

Totally random shot of an unknown couple who climbed on a big rock out in the surf to hug and watch the sunset together. It touched me, but...
I'm totally betting they have relationship problems too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

High School Camp

I have so many words to say about this last week of camp. I couldn't possibly fit them all into this space. Let's just say the Lord did his thing, and as usual it was loud and clear to me. I'm going to let these pictures show a little about our week - just a tiny taste. And hopefully I'll be able to come back soon and tell the story of how I got toothpaste in my eye. Or was it contact lens cleaner on my toothbrush? No, wait... it was both. Or how I got the short end of the stick and ended up being the main speaker for our Monday night session. Totally, completely unplanned... except God knew the plans all along.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Yeah, camp is good!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm glad I didn't plan anything this summer

I'm glad I didn't plan anything this summer, and the reason I'm glad is because if I had, I wouldn't have had time to do it. My summer is full. Booked up. Not much wiggle room. I'm busy!

So in case you're wondering what we're up to, I'll just give you the run down. Just a partial list. A taste...
We have:

Softball games twice a week
Practice on the other days
Baseball games twice a week
Disneyland trip for my firstborn
Painting of the auto shop
Going away parties
Open gym three days a week
A week of camp for my oldest son
A 12th birthday
A week of camp for Mr. Nice Guy and I with High School students
A rodeo
A week of camp for Princess D
Some Weeding
One week of Vacation Bible School
A long weekend at camp for my youngest
A week of camp for my Firstborn
Followed by most of a week in Wisconsin for Mr. Nice Guy
Lots of mowing and weeding
By that time, softball and baseball season will be over. We will have sent kids to youth group, small groups, 4H and orthodontist appointments each week just in time for the County Fair and a family reunion.
This will all be followed by a week of volleyball camp for the girls, registration for school and then daily doubles practice begins and all of the sudden... school! 

Wow, I'm SO glad I didn't plan anything this summer! I just don't know where I'd find the time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

In Case Something Happens...

I just want my readers to know that if I don't blog for a long time it's probably because school is coming to a close in 84 hours and I'm just about to die. Not that I'm counting down, but it's getting here pretty quick and so is the feeling that my head is going to explode. But before we get there, we first have to jump through a hundred hurdles that have names like, "Getting through the end of 8th grade and living to tell about it." That's just one of them actually. The others issues are things like, "Did you remember you had a first grader?", and "Hey, I'm your kid, do you remember me?" Oh, let's not forget about, "Are you ever going to be in a good mood again?" (For the record, NO, I'm probably not.)

My dear other children, I do know who you are, and right at the moment I even remember all your names. I think. But your sister is overwhelmed with all of the end-of-the-year crap and nobody in the whole entire household can function when she's spazzing out about everything. We love her dearly, but quite frankly, we just can't wait to be DONE with school! Even though it will only be a few hours after school gets out that she'll be moaning and carrying on and wishing she was back IN school so she could see her FRIENDS. Fat lotta good they are right now - nobody else stays up late helping her with history projects, models of monuments or the topic of xenophobia. How about dress shopping for that super important dance that has overshadowed everything else worthwhile for an entire two months? Good thing the dance turned out pretty cool - because I got some great pictures before I dropped her off for her three hours of dessert, silliness, and the dance with "that boy" that I got to hear all about on our way home.

 Summer Vacation, we are SO ready for you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The post that makes you gain a pound

So here goes. I've been on this kick for the last few months to BETTER myself, to kick the habit of drinking my all-time favorite DR. PEPPER (which I have been successful at for over 300 days now!!) and most recently I went on a NO SUGARY FATTY NASTY FOR MY BODY stuff challenge. Two weeks - that's what I was going for.

It was the longest two weeks of my life. It was terribly painful and traumatic. This is the post in which I heal from that horrid memory.

I made these today. Someone got me a birthday present and so I was trying it out. It worked goooood. (Too bad I didn't get out my REAL camera though - I just used my iPhone, bear with me)

These are Pioneer Woman's "Spreads". They are pretty easy cookie bars - and pretty easy on the eyes too. I only ate one.

At a time.

Then, since my wonderful birthday present was such a fun thing to use, I kept on going!
I couldn't stop at dessert...

Mom - don't look! Don't say I didn't warn you!!

How about some yummy yeasty delicious rolls!

Yes, they do taste as good as they look. Maybe even better. You'll have to come over and share some with me.

I didn't forget a picture of my birthday present. I knew you wanted to see what color it was :)
This is a teensy peek at my new Stand Mixer... to replace the hand-held mixer I've been using since 1994.

It's gorgeous! It makes me want to feed my family - and actually plan ahead. Nice thinking on my hubby's part, don't you think??

Monday, May 10, 2010

One great day deserves a great BIG blog post

To be classified as a good day - usually three out of six things must take place from the following list:

1. An activity or event that is not really planned, but anticipated
2. Some element of surprise - that isn't disastrous
3. Sunshine
4. People that we love
5. Good food and conversation
6. A wish comes true

To be classified as GREAT - then the number bumps up to five.
And excellent? All six.

The day before Mother's Day - in our family - is typically a day of tradition. We get up at the crack of dawn, find an outfit that is still clean, and probably not quite dressy enough, travel the hour and a half to my home town, attend the annual Mother's Day Tea/Brunch/Lunch/Whatever that the church has always put on since probably before I was born, and then we visit longer with my Mom & Dad, visit with my Grandma, and then we go home.

Usually that event fulfills three or four of my "good day" qualifications, but there's always something lacking. It's never GREAT.

I know someone will read this that knows me from way back and will wonder what kind of an ingrate I am. How dare I diss the Mother's Day Tea that practically helped me become the Mother I am today!? Well for goodness sakes, things like that have their place. They are lovely! But this year, I had more than just lovely to look for in making sure MY Mother felt honored, appreciated and enjoyed. I think we both knew that if we went to a Mother's Day Tea this year, that we'd cry more tears than we were prepared to cry, and we just didn't want to do that. Her Mom wouldn't be with us this year, and we wouldn't be able to go visit her either. How strange these first few holidays are after the death of a loved one. I'm realizing that I should be prepared to be continually caught off guard. Hmm... how to go about it?

So anyway, about my Mom, she never really verbalized that stuff to me, about how she'd probably get all emotional if she went to the annual Tea/Brunch/Lunch thing without her Mom and would rather not be there this time, but I'm pretty sure I can read her mind. (Gosh, sometimes it's scary in there) She did say she would rather do something ELSE with us this year - to which I almost TOO hastily agreed. (It's probably because I could sleep in. I'm shallow like that.)

We threw some general plans together. Nothing too detailed, but the general idea was in place and then we spent a couple days in anticipation. First, we ran into a problem. My in-laws had planned something else and we were invited. Then, the planned in-law event got canceled and we were all the sudden off the hook and back ON for our new-to-us-day-before-Mother's-Day outing. The best part about this outing? It included our whole family. Not JUST FEMALES. What's up with a bunch of women sitting around celebrating themselves anyway? I don't get that. No, wait... I do. Nevermind. *snicker*

So my parents showed up to our house around 11:00 as planned, 11:30 after a small delay, NOON because they stopped off at a place with nuts and chocolate along the way. We packed up our picnic lunch into the back of their new Chevy Uplander (yay Mom!!) and we all piled in. Our first stop was back at the haircutting place in the neighboring town where my beloved husband had left his coat behind after his haircut that morning. (I'm not the ONLY one who leaves things behind - I just prefer to leave my purse or wallet instead!)

Then, we went to a cemetery where none of our family members lived.

Yep. Umm hmm, You heard me right. We PLANNED to go to a cemetery.
After all these burials this past year, apparently cruising headstones had become somewhat of an interest to my Mother (and my kids) and they were off. I suppose if history and genealogy was something of interest, the rest of us would be doing that all the time too. It was fun actually. It was fun and sad all at the same time.

Here in this place, dozens upon dozens of people were memorialized by those who had loved them. It was touching. It was even more touching now that we'd all been there and done that too many times this last year.

The kids were fascinated by the names, we were fascinated by the dates. We tried to picture what it might have been like to be standing on this same hill in 1868. I think the one we pondered over the longest was a set of three headstones. All children. All siblings. All with the same date of death. We made up stories about what we thought might have happened. We decided, with our keen investigative skills, that it probably wasn't sickness - and for a moment our hearts broke for the family that was left behind after what must have been a most horrible tragedy.

We passed headstones of people that I knew in our community. Grave markers of the people whose names now mark streets and buildings in our little town dotted the hilltop and spilled down one side. Our interest peaked as we moved to the area of the more recent burials. Here, we came across a friend of my husband's who had been murdered when they were just fresh out of school. She was buried not more than three rows away from the young man who had taken her life. This one place, this quiet, beautiful place, held so many stories, and yet so many unanswered questions.

Then, we got hungry.

We traveled down the road a few miles to this adorable park that had been on my list of "places to return to" ever since we came upon it during a road construction detour a few years ago. I thought it would be cool to dine on the longest picnic table I've ever seen. It was constructed at one of our local sawmills out of a solid length of lumber that extends 85 feet from end to end.

That little dot at the end of the table is my daughter. I've told her not to sit on the table, but she just won't listen.This is her, pretending to be in trouble.

Which is pretty silly - considering she never gets in trouble :)

The views from this park were the kind of view I wouldn't mind having out my window or in a painting on my wall. Just beautiful. My Dad helped me compose a few...

I took one of my favorite parents (because my REAL parents aren't this much fun, right?)

After we ate lunch, played around awhile, and threw pinecones at each other... we proceeded to head towards Alsea Falls.

This is where the day moved from "good" into the "great" category. First, we parked at the campground entrance, which was about a mile from the falls, on a path that was on the opposite side of the river. No biggie, it was great weather (sunny!!) and I had on my new keds and was rearing to walk a mile. So we crossed the bridge and walked. And walked.... and walked some more. We found rushing water, but no waterfalls. About the time we came to another bridge that took us back to the original side of the river that we'd started on, we realized we had probably parked in the wrong spot. Thankfully it was only a mile back. Unfortunately, nature called and I had to hunt for a bathroom. I sent my kids further on down the path with my Mom, while my Dad hung back on a picnic table. I'm pretty sure my fast pace wore him out. (Riiiight!)

We searched around for a bathroom, but didn't have any luck. About the time the first raindrop hit my head I was already heading back down the hill towards the river to find the kids. The first raindrop was no big deal, but the next hundred that hit me a few seconds later were a surprise. (See... we just bumped up to the GREAT day category!) All the sudden, our perfectly sunny day - even according to the forecast - became a perfectly RAINY day. Not only rain, but hail. And lots of it. Bryan got the keys from my Dad and headed back for the car on down the road (instead of taking the trail on the opposite side of the river), Dad hid for cover under a tree after trying unsuccessfully to use a garbage can lid as some sort of shield, and then I slipped my way down the increasingly muddy trail toward the bottom of the falls to retrieve my excited children and my adventurous mother. By the time I got to my kids, they were squealing. I figured that like all hail storms, we'd be seeing sunshine in about 3 minutes. I wanted to get a good look at those waterfalls I worked so hard to see so I was really glad that I made my packhorse daughter haul my camera bag along.

Now at this point, you're not seeing any photos of a waterfall. The main reason is, the hail did NOT stop as anticipated. Matter of fact it began increasing in intensity and there was no way I could even get my camera out of the bag, let alone take any sort of photo that might resemble a waterfall. We all turned and dashed back up the hill (picture me dashing... try it... I dare ya). Ok, so I lumbered up the hill, while they dashed, and we all headed for cover. I tried hiding under a few trees, but fir trees with dead branches and bare limbs don't stop much hail. Wearing my sunglasses on top of my head provided some sort of protection from the bruising effects of the ice clumps falling from the sky - but they all got caught in my mess of hair.

Bryan showed up with the chariot and we couldn't get in fast enough. We were completely soaked. Nobody wore a raincoat, the boys just had on t-shirts with their jeans, we didn't have umbrellas or boots or anything even resembling protective outer gear. My light windbreaker soaked through to the front of my shirt and made it look like I was a mother to a hungry new infant - what terrible flashbacks that brought on! And what's worse is all the hail stuck in my hair started to melt. Fun stuff I tell ya! We dried off in the van with a roll of paper towels, and still the hail came down. Bryan drove us out of the hills and for a solid thirty minutes or so the hail came down like mad, the roads became covered in white, and my hair continued to melt.

Arriving home, we were surprised to find out that it was sunny as planned all day. We would have had to stay home to enjoy it. We finished off our evening with a yummy Taco dinner, our good friends the Anderson's joined us, and the conversation was delightful. After everyone went home - I sat down to practice my music for Sunday morning when one of my wishes came true. The weird part is that I noticed it in a text message. I'll save that for my next post - but let's just say I finally got to cross number three off my 101 in 1001 list and that, my friends, bumped my day right on up to EXCELLENT!

Happy Mother's Day Mom! Thanks for such a special day - one we won't soon forget.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's a Fiesta every day

This is why I haven't posted in awhile. I've been busy. I was having a fiesta. Matter of fact I have a fiesta every single day. Sometimes two or three times a day.All in all, I am in love with my new dishes.

I've also been busy doing other stuff, but that's not as exciting as my new Fiesta dishes. Are you tired of hearing "Fiesta" yet? Well I am, sooo I'll change the subject now. But if you want to see how I made that really yummy looking fruit dip, you'll have to read that post over here at the Nearly Rural Farmgirl Connection site where I contributed that little tidbit today. Speaking of tidbits, I'm going to throw out a list of what I've been busy doing, so as to remind myself when I come back next year, just how busy I was and how far I've come. (And how insane I can be, but that's another blog post entirely).

This past month:
I got to help with six of the productions of the play,  Beauty and the Beast at the Middle School (fun!)
We had Spring Break
We took a trip to Idaho and got to meet our new nephew
I judged a spelling bee and made little kids cry (oh, now that's what pressure feels like!)
I grew closer to the realization that teens really do cause insanity
I found out my brother-in-law has lymphoma
We had Easter - it was pretty low key, but meaningful.
My husband turned 39 (Woah! Teetering on the edge there baby!)
We got new chicks - and then a few more - and then just two more - because that's how it always works.
My Mom got a new car (noteworthy!) It's actually a mini-van. So she can have room for all her grandkids (I sure do love her)
I helped run a mega time consuming fundraiser at our kids' school. I learned some more of my strengths and weaknesses during that couple of weeks.
I signed up 2 of my 4 kids for softball/baseball season. I've always been a bit worried about sports that chew into summer vacation time, but I think it will work out ok.
We signed my eldest up for High School *gulp!*
I helped with the district Band Concert, which was a HUGE undertaking, but one of the most fun things in a long time. (Not counting the vomit from the kid who got sick during rehearsal.)
I helped organize my husband's new (to him) office space. I wish I had that kind of initiative in my OWN space!

And right now? I'm procrastinating on my next project. A workshop on Teens and the Internet. It's frightening, and I desperately need occasional breaks from reality and statistics. Ugh!! Maybe I'll share my notes with you in the near future. Until then, I'm off to class - oh yeah, we signed up for a class this past month too, it's on "What Makes Your Middle Schooler Tick". I haven't learned what makes them "tick" yet, but I already have lots of lessons on what makes them "ticked off". Ha!
I'm outta here... for now.

P.S. I love my Fiesta Dishes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Back Acher's Practical Guide to Weight Loss

I'm not going to say that I'm an expert, but I've been struggling with my weight long enough to declare myself "superior in the wisdom of what works and what doesn't". I've got a list here, of the tried and true ways that the weight stays off. Or at least it doesn't go UP (much), but whatever. These methods WORK. I should charge for this kind of advice. Or start a fan club.

  1. When it's time for a birthday, don't spend all day making a cake and frosting. You will consume too many hidden calories when you lick the bowl. The spoon. The spatula. And the beaters. And the front of your blouse. Instead - go out and BUY a cake. It comes with free frosting.
  2. When you share the cake, after a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to you, You live in a zoo...", you should cut the cake into small pieces. You will be less inclined to eat a large one, and then when you go back for a second piece, you will have eaten less calories and fat by having two small pieces than if you had stuffed in two large ones. You see people? It's just simple math.
  3. The day after a birthday, after you consume a piece of leftover chocolate cake for breakfast, you should throw a clean dish towel over the cake in order to keep it out of sight, and out of mind. This will keep you from downing the same amount of sugar for lunch too. Plus, it will make your dish towels taste better.
  1.  The best method for keeping meals healthy, is to eat them on the run. Running (around town in a suburban full of children) + meals = heathy. Right??
  2. Skip dessert. You probably already had some for breakfast anyway, and if you skip dessert after dinner, then you'll save yourself TONS of weight gain. If you feel the urge to have dessert, at least find something with protein in it, like peanut butter.
  3. Sit down to eat with the family at least [fill in the blank] times per week. If you lose your appetite over the dinnertime conversations like I usually do, chances are, you'll not put away so many calories. If you increase the amount of times your entire family is required to eat together, then you will lose lots more weight over the long haul. Eat with your family - it's great for your health!

  1. If you should decide to eat Cheetos for a snack, do yourself a favor and put some in a bowl, instead of hauling the entire bag around with you. This will keep your portion size down (to that of a large bowl of cereal) instead of an entire bag. This has extra benefits, in that you also won't have to explain to your children, who already saw the bag before it was ever opened, why they didn't get a single one. Keep this rule in mind: Your family will love you if you use a bowl, and so will your figure.
  2. Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that the urge for ice cream as an afternoon snack comes into play. The way to avoid this, is to just not eat it. But we know that's not reasonable, so the method that works for me is to bury it in the deep freeze. Do this the second you bring home the ice cream, and then when the urge strikes, you will be less inclined to eat as much ice cream because you can't manage to get any out of the container without a lengthy process that takes entirely too much time and energy. You'll more than likely seek some other source of comfort and calories. Hopefully you will happen upon a carrot or or a stick of celery or something else, and you'll actually talk yourself into it. Good luck with that.
  3. Peanut butter is a good alternative snack to things like chocolate cake and ice cream. But if the ice cream has peanut butter IN it, then you might as well go with the ice cream. Think of all the calories you will burn when you go out to dig it from the bottom of the deep freeze and attempt to chip out what resembles a scoop. Plus I'm sure the particular kind of peanut butter in ice cream packs as much protein and fiber as you'd expect from a jar of Jif anyway. And, to take it one step further, you are consuming a dairy product. Two birds with one stone. That's how I roll.

  1. The best drink is water. Drink lots of it. But don't drink it in the morning if you have lots of errands to run, or you'll be spending all your time running back and forth to the bathrooms at fast food joints along the way. Then, you'll be inclined to order something fattening while you're there - for fear of being judged as one of those people that uses the facilities, but never pays the rent. Also - don't drink water in the afternoons, because you need to save up bladder space for the hours you'll spend sitting and doing homework with your kids. If they catch you getting up and wandering off, chances are they will too. Then nothing will get done. Also, forget drinking water at night. Trust me, getting lots of rest is good for your metabolism, and drinking all sorts of water in the evening will ruin that. So drink water when you can. Which is pretty much never. 
  2. Avoid alcoholic beverages. They are loaded with calories and they do nothing to benefit your health. Although, they do make you look more attractive to your husband, so give him drinks. As much as he wants, so that he will do things like take out the trash because he believes you are a hot super model wife. 
  3. Have that cup of coffee. But limit yourself to just a few cups an hour. Caffeine boosts your heart rate, so you can probably get more chores done during the day, and it will help burn off that cake you ate for breakfast. Coffee should actually be listed as a health food. I'm not sure why it isn't yet. Could be all the loads of creamer we like to dump in it. So, the solution for that is to stick with the fat free kind. We all know that fat free means there aren't any calories either, so it's good for you. Stock up on it.
In summary...
Being healthy is an option. I've listed everything I can think of to help you, and if you decide to screw up and have cake for breakfast two days in a row, don't say I didn't warn you. At the very minimum, keep up with your coffee habits, and eat lots of meals with your family. May you have many healthy years to come.

Monday, March 8, 2010


It was a beautiful day
About a beautiful woman
Who had four beautiful children
Of those four beautiful children that she loved, three remain
And of those three beautiful children, 
she came to love five beautiful grandchildren
And of those five beautiful grandchildren, 
she came to love seventeen beautiful great-grandchildren
And of those seventeen great-grandchildren, 
was this young boy
who looked upon her grave 
with the utmost amount of stillness and sincerity
And it too, was beautiful

Mostly because it was the only time he stood still
for the entire weekend.
But you know what I'm sayin...


Our family had a going away party.
It lasted two days
There were balloons, flowers, and even cake.
There was music
There were heartwarming gifts, and stories about old times.
There were plenty of kids 
and everyone went home with a smile in their heart and a tear on their cheek

And it really was... beautiful

You will be missed Grandma... thanks for the lifetime of memories.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday 2 Peter 3:10

The purpose of Word Filled Wednesday is to share the WORD through a photo and a verse. 
It happens every Wednesday - but apparently I missed the boat. Or the last FEW boats. I haven't posted one in SEVEN months. Yeah, you read that right. Put away the "tsk tsk" sounds and read on...


Full sized version HERE

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 

~Ouch. If you have any doubt about your future or the coming of the Lord, I'd say this is as blunt as it gets. Get right with God. Do it now because tomorrow could just be a bit late. If you want to go to my church, there's plenty of seats. And you can wear jeans.
Or even camo.

This week's Word Filled Wednesday is being hosted by Penny Raine
Click the button below to find more inspiration for the rest of your week!

Monday, March 1, 2010

What words?

I wasn't really sure that after this past week's events, that I would have any words left to say by this morning. And I was right. I can't find my words but I have many thoughts. So I'm just going to let them tumble out and see what happens.

Our trip to California for my Grandfather's funeral service was really, really nice. We left Wednesday, and drove all day and arrived at my Uncle's home in Stockton by 9 p.m. We were made to feel especially comfortable, as usual, by my Aunt and Uncle and we all slept like rocks. Thursday morning we departed for Santa Nella, and the nearby San Joaquin Valley National Cemetary where my Grandfather was laid to rest. His service was just as a military service would be expected... spit shined and regulated. It was such a foreign concept to me, but I took great interest in the method by which they paid respects to every comrade, regardless of beliefs or opinions. I did admire that.
The bagpiper was a great touch. My Grandfather was very involved in the tracing his roots and participating in the Scottish Highland Games. This is one part of my heritage that I enjoy, and will be able to share with my kids because it was shared with me.

It was great to see my other relatives again, and pass out hugs (and kisses in this family!). The sun shone so brightly and the scenery was so breathtakingly beautiful, that it was really easy to see that God had wanted us to see and feel his presence wrapped around everything we did. After the service, we went to the top of a hill, where we could look out over the valley and see the plot where my Grandfather's remains were placed. We were not allowed graveside (again, strict regulations) until a couple hours later, but we opted to go back to the nearby town and have a meal as a large group before we all went our separate ways.

It was after the meal, as we were hugging and saying our goodbye's to most of our family that we got the phone call that my Grandma Alice had died during the preceding hour or so. I can't really express the thoughts that squeezed their way through my brains at that point in time. For one, I had a huge sense of relief that now my dear Momma wouldn't have to worry about when her Mother was going to go anymore. But, I also had an overwhelming sense of sadness that all of the sudden I had no living Grandparents and in the space of about a year both of my parents, and all of my Aunts and Uncles had become orphans.

We did know that my Grandma's hours were limited, and in a way we were hoping we could get back home in time to be with her. However, my Mother, always the logical one, had made most of the final arrangements before we even left. I think my Mom mostly worried that nobody would be there for her Mother like they had been for the ones who died before. I remember when my Grandpa Charlie was sick and dying, we couldn't chase off people away from his bedside, but with my Grandma's last weeks it was a lot different. Thankfully, she had loving people with her for her send-off. I know my Mom really appreciated that.

I am grateful that I was able to say my good-bye's on a day that I got both a huge smile and tears from her. I was so sad to let her go, she clung to me like a small child, with tears spilling out and over her frail cheeks and it was utterly heartbreaking to just walk away. Right now I'm pretty sure she's got tears running down her cheeks again, but not because she is sad. It's because she is so overwhelmed with happiness to be hiking the snowy mountains again, swimming in the ocean and running through the tall grass in heaven. Right now she is playing with all the little kids there whose parents haven't arrived yet and they are all calling her "Grandma". She always favored the children, and not just her own, but everyone else's as well. She was quite literally everyone's Grandma - and I'm delighted to have been able to share her with the hundreds of other kids who admired her and enjoyed her playful spirit during the years.

Loss isn't easy, losing loved ones hurts like heck - but in a way, this past year has been such a blessing to my life. It is one that has helped my family learn what loving others and putting each other first really means. It's showed me what being a real friend is all about. It's taught me that there is no one person who can support a whole group, but when everyone supports, the whole group can get through this.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The End of Trouble

Fourteen months ago, I lost my Grandpa Charlie. I didn't know that I'd be losing my Grandma - on the other side of the family - almost exactly three months after that. This past week, I lost my other Grandfather...

 Alexis & Grandpa CGHS Graduation 1991

Somewhere in my mind is that annoying voice that announces loudly, "Three down, one to go". Um - NO... I'm so not ready for that. But let me tell ya, I'm not the one in charge. Never have been, never will be.

It feels as though I've been sitting on the edge of my seat ever since those back to back funerals last year, dreading to see what would happen next. Somewhere in a recent post, I mentioned something about losing a dear cousin, as well as an Aunt this past year, and for a fleeting moment, I was hoping that would be the end of sad things, and missing people for a good long while. 

At times, I want so desperately to see an end in sight, not necessarily for myself, but for what this must be putting my parents through. I am smart enough to know that the only end to troubles in life IS death. I also know that if you have the Lord as the head of your life, then death is not something to be mourned, but celebrated. It makes grief easier to bear when those you love are with the Lord, but it also makes grief more difficult to cope with when you know they didn't have that focus on Christ.

My last remaining Grandparent, Grandma Alice, is still hanging in there. Her mind doesn't know us anymore, and her body spends most all of its time resting between visits from the attendants at her care facility and my Mom. Right now she's sick with a virus that someone unknowingly shared with her and it has caused Pneumonia. We don't even know if she'll make it through this coming weekend, but I'm sure that when she goes on to meet our Savior, which I have no doubts about, that we will be all rejoice that she is finally HOME and in a place that she can be free from the confinements of a human body.

On the topic of grief, a wonderful woman I know, a friend from my High School days, lost her younger sister in December. I had considered this friend and her two sisters to all be friends of mine at one time in my past, and when I heard of this death, it shook me up quite a bit. But to watch this woman go through her grief process, to see her reach out to others in her time of need has really amazed me. She never once lost faith.

Just yesterday, this friend from my past shared the shocking news that her older sister had just passed away as well. Completely unbelievable - that this precious woman of God would be dealt another astounding blow in such a short time. Yet again, within hours she was showing her faith. She was sharing the unwavering belief that God is holding her, and the family, through these dark hours. I'm not sure where she got it from, but here's what she posted this just this morning:

Faith is exactly what it takes to get through uncertainty. Faith is not necessary when you know how things are going to work out, - that's knowledge. It's in the time of unknowing that having faith is what sees you through to the other side. Faith is what gives you strength. Faith is that light in your heart that keeps on shining even when it's all darkness outside. Now is the time to keep that faith alive!

I do declare that I'm going to adopt this attitude, and start remembering just what it is that gets each and every one of us from one side of our day to the other. Thank you Lord, for using one person's grief to reach out and help heal mine. Amen.

Now it's time to get my rear in gear for our little road trip to California. Services are on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Learning as I Go

This past October, I got to meet Lisa Whelchel. Remember her? From the Facts of Life? She was that obnoxious blonde character who was always better than everyone else at everything. Ok, I should probably come out and tell you the truth. I didn't actually "meet" her, but I got to hear her speak. 

Lisa talked in such a way that I felt as if I'd actually had a conversation with her, and so today when I got an email from her, I was pretty quick to read it. Alright, so it wasn't just to me from her, but it was from the mailing list I get as a past attender of Women of Faith Conferences, which is where I met her where I listened to her speak.

She talked about focusing on discovering each others strengths and then and ministering to each other with those strengths. What a novel idea! I'd like to share a link with you that she included to help give you a rough idea of what your strengths may be. It's through Marcus Buckingham's website where you can also pick up his book: Find Your Strongest Life What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently 

Want to know another cool thing? I get to meet him this coming October. *grin*

Go take the short test here:
 (And if you're an iPhone user - there's an app for that!) I'd love to hear what you learned about yourself!

My results are as follows... a little surprising to me, though I'm not sure why because I can really relate.

Lead Role

You begin by asking:
'How can I raise the energy?'

You are acutely aware of the energy in the room, and you feel compelled to do what you can to elevate it. You do this with your outlook—you are an instinctively optimistic person.
Your best quality:
Your infectious energy
You Always:
Step in and take responsibility for the group
Be careful you:
Don’t get sucked dry by emotional vampires
Your smartest career move:
Any job where you’re paid to keep a group of people excited.

Supporting Role

You begin by asking:
'Who can I connect?'

You see the world as a web of relationships, and you are always excited by the prospect of connecting two new people within your web.
Your best quality:
Your genuine curiosity
You Always:
Trust in your web of relationships
Be careful you:
Don’t push people together who shouldn’t be
Your smartest career move:
Any job where you’re paid to speed up the connection between people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Year in Review 2009

It's about time for the annual Year in Review! We had quite an eventful 2009, filled with much happiness and grief, joy and sadness. It was like a little bundle of "Oh, I don't know what's coming next, but I sure hope it's good news" all rolled into one.

The first week of our new year, was a week that will be hard to push from my memory. I had the worst case of bronchitis ever, I was diagnosed with GERD, I resigned from the worship team that I so deeply loved, I spent four hours in a storm preparing for a flood that never happened, and reality hit that my Grandpa Charlie was dying. On January 10th, he went home to be with the Lord, and I learned what it meant to truly grieve and yet be overwhelmingly full of joy at the same time. The rest of the month was a blur to me, but I do recall Brenden started basketball about the same time Alyssa's season ended. I put in a weekend helping at High School Winter camp, and Bryan and I took the last weekend off to retreat to the coast with our friends for some much needed rest. Also, my baby boy turned six.

We returned from our restful weekend at the coast on the first of February, and had to fetch our children who had been very sick in our absence, and had managed to get their grandparents too sick to drive. Of course a sickness of that magnitude was sure to get Mr. Nice Guy and I sick as well, and it did just that. By mid-month, we were more than ready to send my firstborn to Middle School Winter Camp, and ourselves away to Brenden's Fantastic Birthday Weekend at Seaside. We had an absolute blast and he turned 9 amidst many smiles. During this month, we had to put down our dog, but we also managed to get another one. He's our family's best friend, our protector, and rarely has gas. This is why we love him.

My firstborn is now a teenager! (God help us all) Alyssa turned 13 and got her very own, most-expenses paid trip to Newport for the weekend with her friend and of course me! We ate, we swam, we shopped, we ate some more. It was fun. But I won't be repeating it. There's just some things you have to try once to see if you'd like to repeat it. This was one of those times. Mr Nice Guy went to his first Men's Retreat, and Delayna endured her 8th surgery to her ears. We had a stay-cation during Spring Break for the first time in the history of our family and during this month, my chickens began laying eggs like crazy. I began to see how having a farm could really tie you up with obligations, and I was sick again.

We began the month with a weekend at Grove Camp helping with clean up and getting things ready for another camping season. On the morning of the 9th, we got news that my Grandma Madeline was airlifted to Eugene, where we rushed to be by her side. I was happy to know that she appeared to know I was there. She died soon after. On Easter Sunday, we joined our church family for some emotional support, and gathered ourselves for the trip to Bandon for my Grandmother's service the next day, even while Delayna had Pneumonia. It was good to see all my family, but sad at the same time. Again, the rest of the month was a blur, but my husband had a birthday and I did get to attend the Women's Retreat at Camp, where I participated on the worship team. My passion for helping with worship was renewed, and I realized I couldn't give it up forever. But, I was sick again before I even got home.

I scored my award for Worst Mother of the Year when Delayna broke her foot and I passed it off as nothing but a bruise. She ended up missing a much anticipated four day field trip across Oregon and had to stay home and be miserable with me. We both lived through it and I even managed to reach my 36th birthday. We started harvesting our first homegrown strawberries and enjoyed an unseasonable warm spell that kept the kids outside more than usual. Between numerous trips to the orthopedist, the orthodontist and band performances, I learned that my Aunt Mary passed away. This was shaping up to be a miserable year - or a year where I'd strengthen my resolve and press on. I opted for the latter. We spent Memorial Day weekend at Grove Camp surrounded by friends and fun. Meanwhile our anniversary came and went, and we planted some of our garden before the month was over.

I was crowned queen! Ok, I I mean I received my first crown. Signs of middle age are peeking in, and a fractured tooth is just one of them. My step-daughter graduated, Alyssa had two teeth extracted (misery!) and school ended with much excitement. We had a few days' break before camp season began, and then Brenden got a week away, and then the girls got to go together. More planting, more sunshine, and I realized I hadn't been sick in a month!

Delayna spent her 11th birthday at camp, and since her sister was with her, we made plans to let the boys spend time with their Grandparents at the coast. This gave us a couple days to get some things done ready for the next week when Mr Nice Guy and I would be at High School camp leading worship.We followed up the most uplifting week at camp with a weekend home with the kids, and then Mr Nice Guy and I were off on our first flight together ever... to Chicago. He spent several days in a training course in Wisconsin and then we drove across Illinois, up through Iowa and spent a couple nights in Galena, Illinois. I saw my first lightning bugs, my first groundhog and simply loved my first meal (or three) at the Cracker Barrel. We got home in time for my husbaned's 20th High School Class Reunion, and then he got to spend a couple extra weeks at work while I entertained the kids at home. I realized that 10 years ago this month - is when we first met.

Started off the month with some visiting time with the kids' Great Aunt & Uncle from California. Got in some more visiting with relatives at a family reunion and anniversary celebration with my own Great Aunt & Uncle. Took lots of pictures of the family farm, reminisced and enjoyed letting the kids run around just like I used to do as a girl. We took a road trip to Idaho with all five kids (also known as the "Les Schwab Road tour", because of all the tires we went through on our travel trailer) but we got there safely and spent a wonderful 12 days together. We enjoyed being with my brother and his family, my brother-in-law and his family, and life-long friends and their families as well. We got home and our garden was pretty much a complete loss from the heat, but we had so much fun we didn't really care to weed anymore anyway. The kids went back to school, and we looked forward to September.

One of my favorite and least favorite months is September. I love love LOVE family camp during Labor Day weekend, and I love knowing my kids are going back to school and I get to spend some time with just my hubby until his classes start back up again. BUT, I hate it too, because all of the sudden I find myself all alone again! Family Camp was wonderful as usual, great friends, food and fellowship. This was followed immediately by volleyball tryouts and placements for both of my girls. I jumped in and helped with the 5/6th grade team as much as I could, as well as starting my first year as a Middle School "band Mom". Alyssa had two more teeth extracted by an oral surgeon in preparation for braces. September also included lots of prayer for our Cousin Alice. She was gravely ill. We spent another weekend back at camp for a Marriage Retreat that was simply amazing, but came home to the news that our cousin Alice had passed away. Her service was beautiful, and such a reminder that living a Godly life doesn't affect just you - it affects everyone around you. We attended a new church this month, and started getting good feelings about adopting a new church family.

Eva Marie turned 19! A month FULL of volleyball practices, line-judging at games both home and away, and 2-3 days a week working with the band at the Middle School, helping with Book Fairs, assistant to the Artist in Residence at the Elementary School, Parent Club meetings, planning and fundraisers and Alyssa's first 4-H club meetings began. If you think that sounds like a lot to do - it was! But it kept me busy, and I got to meet lots of people and build on relationships in my community that I'd been putting off for four years or so. October also gave me a weekend away with the girls from the church we had been attending previously, to attend Women of Faith in Portland. A great experience yet again, even including the bomb scare. Our family attended church a few more times, and I started allowing myself to really begin to heal from the past hurts and see that good things were to come - we even started attending a small group. We finished off the month with volleyball playoffs. Both my girls' volleyball teams won their league championships and much rejoicing was heard throughout the land.

The kids took turns being sick this month, and then we whisked them all away to Depoe Bay for a weekend of Family R&R. We did nothing but do as little as possible, and loved every minute of it. The kids were all involved in Veteran's Day band performances or assemblies and each one was beautiful and touching. Our small group ended it's 6 week series during this month, and Alyssa started a new season of basketball. Her head coach is our senior pastor - gotta love that! Delayna made the honor roll at school and then Thanksgiving Break was in full swing. We did our own dinner at home this year, and my parents were our guests for the weekend. We also made a trek to the top of Mary's Peak during that time, leaving us with some really vivid memories!

The month of busy busy! Basketball games, Christmas music Concerts and play tryouts came and went. Alyssa stretched her wings by scoring a couple parts in the upcoming play "Beauty and the Beast" and Brenden performed in "A Christmas Carol Musical" with the entire 5th Grade Class. We participated in the 10th Anniversary Celebration for our new church, and our entire family played a part in a Living Nativity on the main street through town. During Christmas Break, I got to meet, in real life, a new friend that I'd made on Facebook and was absolutely delighted to find out she was even better in person! Then, we got to spend a couple days of our Christmas with my parents and my brother's family. After coming home from Cottage Grove, we brought Eva Marie down on a bus to spend some time with while we were all at home. New Years Eve was spent home with the kids for the first time in many years. We tried to have our own little party, but my seasonal depression hit me prematurely early and I believed I had quite possibly ruined the whole night for my family and especially my husband. Thankfully I am married to a man of great hope and deep love, and he held on to me tighter than ever and we were able to begin a new year with an understanding that even though we had gone through more pains and trials than any family should have to endure in 2009, it didn't change the fact that we were, and will always be, family.