Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Honeymoon in Duluth

Hi friends.  Remember earlier this summer when I wouldn't stop talking?  And now I am just eaking out a post a week.  Do you miss me?

I had intended to do this post last Wednesday for our 20th Anniversary but didn't have the pictures.  John and I completely forgot to bring a camera to Duluth with us but we would never leave home without a phone.  We weren't the only ones who forgot the camera and were trying to take pictures with our phone as we wandered Duluth.  In fact we traded phones with one couple to get a shot together.  They took our picture and we took theirs.

In Duluth along the shore

At the Glensheen Mansion

At the beach across the lift bridge.  You can't see it very well but that is all of Duluth in the distance.  It was a beautiful view.

All day I kept trying to get John to do this pose and match the picture from our honeymoon that stands out in my mind the most. We only took about 5 pictures on our honeymoon, and without a camera about the same this trip, and none really memorable so I guess this is what stuck. This picture might lead you to ask my husband questions like, "why are you wearing short shorts?" or "Is that an ankle bracelet?" The only real answer to the questions is of course, "You had to be there."

He is so good to me.  And even better looking than he was 20 years ago.

Our original idea for the anniversary was to see the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.  Since it didn't work out to tour the largest home in America we thought the largest homes in Minnesota would have to do.  We highly enjoyed our tour of Glensheen which was owned by the 2nd richest family in Minnesota.  After we returned home it seemed fitting to also visit the home of the richest family in Minnesota, the James J. Hill House, which we did last week.  While the tour wasn't quite as good as Glensheen it was still fun to see another beautiful old home.  Something we love to share together.

Monday, August 23, 2010

That is Marriage

A couple years ago I was working in a childcare center.  One morning I had a rotation into the quiet baby area with a young mom who was also working there and we had the opportunity to chat while bouncing babies.  We soon discovered that we shared the same wedding anniversary although many years apart.  She was coming up on her first anniversary as I was approaching my 18th.  After sharing a desire to make her marriage work despite the example of her mother's 3 failed marriages she looks at me and asks me how I did it.  What is the secret of being happily married for 18 years?  She then stops talking and waits for me to impart some great wisdom upon her.  No pressure.  Just sum it up in the next 15 minutes before we rotate to different parts of the room. 

I have thought often about this young woman in the past couple years and her question. What is the secret?  How do I answer that question?  Why do some couples stay together, sometimes despite huge obstacles, and others give up without even trying?

This week John and I celebrate 20 years of marriage.  More than half our lives have been spent together.  Every significant thing that has happened to us, every insignificant thing that has happened to us since we were seniors in high school has been experienced together.

I have been thinking about our wedding vows; for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  Check, check. Check, check. Check, check.  In 20 years we have experienced it all. 

There have been wonderful times of joy, the births of our children, fun vacations, and just moments of happiness simply being together, laughing and experiencing the dailiness of life.  But there have been bad times, dealing with infertility, job loss, car problems, parenting frustrations, big and small fights over things that mattered and things that didn't.

We have been sick, I have complained over my many health issues until I wanted to kick myself to the curb.  John has suffered through many injuries along with sickness and discovered why his wife didn't go into the medical field.  We became experts on the subjects of ear infections as we spent much of Jake's first year at the doctor.  And we can tell you far more details than your health teacher ever thought to share about exactly how babies are made...or aren't.  But then we all experienced improved health together through nutritional eating and dairy free living.  We ran together, hiked and biked together and were able to be more physically active during the second half of our marriage than the first half.

And while some days it seems like we have only experienced the poorer side of our marriage the truth is we have had both.  We certainly started at the bottom but we aren't there anymore.  We have made some very good choices over the years and some very bad choices.  We are better off than we were 20 years ago and look forward to making more good choices than bad in the next 20 years when we will find ourselves facing retirement.

It is life.  It is our life.

This weekend John and I went away to celebrate our anniversary.  We love to get away and have gone several times over the years having a wonderful time enjoying each others company without having to worry about our children or the responsibilities of life.  This year we went up to Duluth where we had spent a couple nights on our honeymoon.  The first time we were broke so while we walked along the shore of Lake Superior and enjoyed watching the lift bridge go up and down we really didn't do anything else.  This time we were able to tour the Glenshen Mansion, eat at Grandma's restaurant and still walk along the shore of Lake Superior.  We really did have a lovely time.


John had worked almost non-stop in the days leading up to this trip literally working all night long 2 nights in a row.  While I voiced my concern he would be no fun because of how exhausted he was he assured me if he could sleep on the drive up he would be fine. We were both looking forward to the trip and decided to pretend that was true.   And for the most part he was fine.  But we had a hard time really connecting because the truth was that he was tired.  And I didn't sleep well so then I was tired, and then there was hours of traffic, and somehow the second day was not quite as lovely as the first day.


That is life.  That is marriage.  It is hard to look at a woman who has been married for 1 year and express to her that they joy of 20 years comes from both the ups and the downs of a lifetime together.  That I look back and cherish the bad as much as the good.  Each experience, good and bad, goes into making a marriage.  It isn't about any one moment but about every moment coming together.   And as we go through it we become more and more a part of each other.

Not every trip is wonderful and has us floating home on a cloud.  I would love it if they were.  But then how would we ever learn that when John has been working 48 hours straight the best thing to do is stay home?  Plus you can't anticipate everything that will happen.  How could we have known that it would take us 3+ hours to get out of Duluth on Sunday afternoon because of very poorly organized road construction detours?  Life happens.  Some days you choose to make lemonade and some days you just suck the lemon.

Through it all, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the joys and the sorrows I am so glad I stuck it out and so glad to have married a man willing to stick it out with me.  There is no one else I would rather experience a lifetime with than John.

And as we look forward to our anniversary tradition of attending the State Fair (another thing we did on our honeymoon) I will be sure John gets lots of sleep in the days leading up to it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shuffling with the family

Do you ever just want to toss your TV, x-box and computer out the nearest window?  Or is that just me?  They are the great divide in our house.  We go to our separate corners and live our separate lives.  I complain but do nothing to change things which makes me as much a part of the problem as the rest of the family.  It is the never ending struggle to come together as a family in the midst of life and the many distractions surrounding us.

Enter a weekend unplugged at a friend's cabin.  Sort of like camping in the woods but with a roof over my head, a bed, toilet and kitchen but still no phone, TV, computer or even radio.  My idea of a perfect camping weekend.

We spent time together as a family just hanging out.  No big plans, no organized activities we were simply together.  One night as Isabelle was teaching John "go fish" and I was teaching Jake cribbage I realized something terrible, I have completely neglected teaching my son the valuable life skill of shuffling cards.  How has he made it to 16 without learning this skill?  I was horrified by my neglect and endeavored to correct this travesty immediately.  He didn't master the skill this weekend but by the end of the night was showing signs of improvement.

A life skill I kept telling him.  As I taught I started thinking about where I learned this life skill, at my grandparents cabin.  I thought about the summers I spent at the cabin sitting around the table just like Jake and I were doing and playing cards.  UNO was a favorite and learning to shuffle that huge deck of cards was a challenge.  I loved watching my grandmother and her friends shuffle the cards and worked very hard learning to shuffle them together and then do the bridge just like they did. They were always patient, helpful and encouraging as I worked at it.

I thought about all that time spent at the cabin as a child away from real life and just being.  While we didn't have the level of electronic distractions when I was a child as we do now there was still a lot to pull our family in different directions.  But at the cabin we were one.  My sister was my best friend.  My parents were fun people who took us on boat rides to get Dairy Queen.  My grandma was the one who let us drive the 3-wheeler in the woods.  Even my little brother wasn't as annoying at the cabin.  We were all together, we only had each other and that was all we needed.

This weekend with my little family we experienced a little of that.  There was still time for our own thing, reading, hiking and just watching the river roll by but there was also time to be together having fun, playing cards, canoeing, sitting together around the camp fire.  Even when Jake and I were turning the row boat in circles trying to paddle up river and then barely able to beat the current when we finally found our rhythm we had fun.

We had a great time together and even though we have retired to our seperate corners now that we are home I don't feel quite as distanced from them as I did a couple weeks ago.  Sometimes it really is good to get away and unplug.  And apparently family games really do bring a family together.

Even on the way home from the cabin the fun doesn't end.  We had seen more species of bugs than our bug book could keep up with, a deer swimming across the river and a woodchuck run under the deck but the big prize came as we were driving away:

Hi Mr. Bear. 

What a great weekend.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The de-stress list

As wonderful as summer is and as low pressure as it can be, it never lasts.  That is probably good because otherwise I might never get anything done.  I really love sitting in the heat and reading magazines or watching Isabelle run around the yard.  But eventually you need to do something.  With fall coming I am starting to think about what exactly that should be this year.

Last spring as I was busy with church responsibilities, keeping up with Jake's busy schedule and taking care of my family and our home I was feeling a little stressed.  Since I usually figure things out by writing them down I decided to create a list I titled "Things creating stress in my life".  I articulated some of the things stressing me out.    After each stressor I wrote down one or two things that could be done to alleviate the stress.  For instance I realized that I was very stressed by the amount of time I spent cleaning up for other people in our home.  I realized that while at one point in time it had made sense for me to be the sole housekeeper in the family that as Jake has aged, Isabelle was added and my outside responsibilities have increased, it has become more of a burden than a simple task.  Under that stressor I wrote down the obvious answer, it is time for our family to be more accountable for the messes they make. (And yes I realize that it is life skill which needs to be cultivated by the teenager anyway.  He knows he is spoiled.)

So this week as I begin to think about school starting, having another child in school and how to best utilize my 2-1/2 hours each morning I realized I was feeling a little stress about how it was all going to play out.  Remembering how helpful my stress list was last spring in the midst of stress I thought it might be a good idea to create the, "things I am stressed will make me feel stressed" list along with a simple game plan to try to get on top of it before I loose control.  Some of the things on that list include:

 School Lunches

Although I realize Isabelle won't have to bring a lunch this year I am stressing a year in advance realizing she doesn't eat anything worth packing.  Plus, trying to figure out if we just continue to shell out alot of money for Jake's lunches or try to get him to pack a lunch. Add to that the fact that my husband usually skips lunch because I keep no packable lunch food in the house and you see where I am going here.

Actions steps I am considering:
  • weekly lunch menu
  • a lunch drawer to quickly pack a lunch without digging stuff out of every corner of the kitchen
  • starving Isabelle for a couple days until she realizes she does love things that are green.

I have been exercising in the mornings for years and this past year have taken classes at 9:45 three mornings a week.  By the time I drive there, take the class, get home, shower and dress Isabelle will be getting off the bus.  Not exactly how I want to spend my 2-1/2 hours of free time this year.

Possible solutions:
  • Working out in the afternoon or evening
  • Only taking one morning class a week just because I enjoy the friendships in the classes.
  • realizing that I am not training for a triathlon so I can ease off the pressure of working out 5-6 days a week and just be thrilled with 3 30-minute workouts each week over the winter.

Varied Schedules

While I want to get my family more involved in the housework as per the spring stressor list, I know that Jake and John have different schedules than me.  Neither of them are home before 5pm during the week and then there is homework and one of us usually has a commitment somewhere in the evenings.  So bottom line, when I want something done they are rarely around to do it for me.  I don't really have a cleaning schedule to plug my family into, I clean more by gut, feelings or necessity.  How do I get them to see the need and act rather than stepping over things until I give the word?  And how do I give the word when they aren't around to hear it?

Ideas I am considering:
  • Writing down everything I do around the house for a week and making a list which I can then delegate off of.
  • Evening clean up duties so that we start the day with a clean house which always makes my day happy.


Not a job but all the stuff I do outside of homemaking.  One of the things on last springs list was "taking on too many simultaneous responsibilities".  What can I say?  I like to be involved, I like to do things and I like to help.  I already have several things in my head I want to do this fall and I need to keep myself in check and really  look at what I have time for and what my priorities are going to be.

Current thoughts on the solution:
  • Scheduling a day a week or time of day to work on particular commitments.
  • Considering the full commitment I am making before agreeing to something and seeing how it will work in my schedule.

That is what was on my list today.  With school still a few weeks away I am sure to add to it as the time gets closer. 

In my world the first step to relieving stress is naming it and making a plan.  The second then is follow through and management. 

Step one complete.  Step two in process.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nothing to say

Isn't funny.  I go to a writer's conference, come home feeling excited about writing and then proceed to write nothing for almost 2 weeks.  My mind is blank for blog post thoughts.  This morning I went on a walk hoping to get my mind flowing as I have come up with many of my posts on runs.  While it was a lovely walk I had no deep thoughts during it.

Truthfully I do have a few thoughts but I just haven't had the time or energy to put them together and express them.  Hopefully soon.

It is the end of the summer and I think the heat has turned my brain to mush.  But in a good way.  I am enjoying these last weeks of busy activities, warm weather and time at home with my children.

Last weekend we did sneak away for a family trip to a friend's cabin.  It was wonderful and eventually I will do a post about it.  In the mean time I finally took some pictures of folly and crisis to put on my blog header.  However, after spending a couple hours trying to figure out how to stitch a group of pictures together like my SIL did on her blog and then finally getting something decent created it was so large it didn't fit on the page.  So when she returns from her family vacation I will be bringing my laptop over for a little help.

In the mean time here are the pictures of wonderful children.  My inspiration for each day.

This is the collage I made.  Aren't they cute?  It is perfectly sized here but gigantic when I put it up top.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Independent but not alone

Raising children is always an adventure.  You never know what God will give you.  When I was young I never would have imagined that God would give me two only children and the unique challenges and joys that go along with them.  However, I probably should have imagined that God would give me very independent children who tend to go off doing what they want and solving their own problems at a very young age.  My mom often tells me I raised myself and certainly I can look back and see an independent spirit within myself throughout my life so I do understand my children a little.

I am drowning in stories of how number one would run off on his own, at times right under my nose.  Of trying to walk up to the corner store at 2 wearing nothing but jean shorts and mac and cheese chest hair.  Or at 4 taking off when I turned my back to write a check at the mall.  He made it across the entire second floor of the mall, down the escalator and into the Disney store where he was finally discovered by the staff when he brought his item up to purchase but couldn't exactly tell them where his mom was to pay. 

This weekend my sweet mid-life crisis exhibited her own independent streak while I was gone.  While she isn't prone to wander off as Jake was she certainly spends alot of time assuring me she doesn't need my help.  Getting up before her brother on Friday morning she noticed it was raining and decided she needed to rescue her new baseball glove.  So out she went pulling the still locked door behind her.  No need to panic.  My barefoot, pj clad daughter simply walked down the alley to her favorite friends house and knocked on the door.  It is so wonderful to know your neighbors when you have young independent children.  After giving a vague explanation of being locked out of the house, mom being on an airplane and brother being asleep, she was fed breakfast, given some dry clothes and was off to play with her friend while our neighbor called the house.  Of course big brother was asleep and doesn't answer the phone anyway so she could only leave a message.  Luckily the neighbor happened to have my husband's cell number and decided to give him a call.  He does answer the phone.

As it did everytime for Jake, it worked out just fine for Isabelle.  But I can't help but think of the poor family that recently had to defend their parenting to social services because of an independent wandering child.  In the middle of the night their young child got up, walked out the front door and was found by police wandering near a busy road.  I hear that story and imagine being the parents waking up in the morning realizing your child is gone.  The panic, the running around searching the house and finally realizing this it is real and you need to call the police.  That feeling in the pit of your stomach.  I imagine the relief when they tell you they have found your child.  Yet they were not allowed to take their child home.  Social services took their child instead, they were judged for having a wandering, independent child.  Yes, it was a horrible and potentially dangerous situation but did they do anything wrong?  As parents we are allowed to sleep in the middle of the night.  Right? 

Was it wrong that I was doing the dishes the day Jake wandered to the corner store?  Was it wrong of me to turn my back on my 4 year old to pay for an item at the mall?  Was it wrong of Jake to still be asleep Friday morning?  Should I have anticipated my 2 year old leaving his beloved PBS program and walking away, should Jake have anticipated Isabelle locking herself out of the house?  Should this poor couple have known their child would walk out the door in the middle of the night?

Thankfully everything worked out and the child was returned to his family.  And gratefully when I found Jake at a bus stop with strangers moments before the police officer they called showed up, I was allowed to take him home.  Isabelle's friendship with the neighbor girl allowed her to get out of the rain.

When we raise children potential dangers lurk around every corner.  Everyone of these incidents could have had tragic results, taken by a stranger, hit by a car, lost and cold in the rain.  Gone forever.  It happens. 

The hope, the peace, the only thing that gets me through the many doubts and fears that come with parenting, is knowing we are not raising them alone, there is someone who loves my children even more than I do.  The ultimate parent, God.  When I am sleeping or doing the dishes, or writing a check or whatever task or distraction takes my eyes off my children, God is still watching.  He is taking care of them, guiding them, protecting them.  No matter what happens I know my children are never alone.

Monday morning, home from my conference, I taught my daughter a new and important lesson.  How the lock on the back door works.  Just like I have learned to check the door after locking myself out one morning, she now knows to do the same.  Yet another lesson on her journey to adulthood and independence.  Yet my prayer is that as she becomes more independent from us through the years she becomes more and more dependent on God.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Going with the Flow

Someday when I am a famous writer and speaker I will be tell the story of my first writing conference.  I will share how nervous and unsure I was about going.  I will share how I wanted something new to wear so I could look confident even though I wasn't.  I will tell how I scraped together a little money and found a new top on clearance for $7 to wear.  I will share how the day before I left I realized that my flight home left a 10PM not 10AM and I had an entire day to kill without a car or a hotel room.  I will share how my hairbrush broke at 5 am the morning I flew out to the conference.  How I had forgotten, even though the rule had been in place for years, that you couldn't carry any liquid over 3oz on a plane and had to toss out half my toiletries at the airport.  How I planned to get there early and have time alone in the hotel room to pray and relax but when I arrived discovered my room wouldn't be ready until shortly before the conference started.  And I wondered what God had in store for me since clearly my plan for the weekend wasn't the same as His.

None-the-less, I had a wonderful weekend on God's schedule.  Before the conference I kept asking myself what I was thinking yet while there I never once thought to myself, "what am I doing here?"  I knew why I was there.  I don't exactly know what God's plan is but I know God is leading me on a new adventure and he was equipping and inspiring me through this conference, the ministry of Proverbs 31 and it's speakers.

I learned alot, got encouragement, confidence and inspiration.  And I made a few new friends like her and her and her and her and her and her.  While everyone was at different stages on their writing or speaking journey it was refreshing to realize that we all have the same fears and doubts and dreams and desires.  Still we step forward in the calling God has given us and wait in anticipation to discover what he will do next.

I think some of my highlight take aways are:
  • Pray, Pray, Pray
  • God does amazing things through people who simply listen and obey
  • Write every day
  • Don't let your ministry get ahead of your family
  • You can't get published if you don't submit anything.

My friend Jen.  That is my $7 new top by the way. 

Cheri Keagy.  She led the music this weekend.  She has been at Hearts at Home a couple times and I really like her music.  She ended up sitting at our table at lunch which was fun although she was too far away to chat with.  Still I asked for a picture afterward as if we were now best friends.

Lunch.  OK I brought my little camera and it just isn't the same as the SLR., this meal was actually delicious but looks sort of gross in this picture.  Note the tea.  Instead of water everyone had sweet tea at their place.  Definitely the south.  One meal even included grits!

Since I had plenty of time to kill after the conference Sunday morning I got in line to get my picture taken with Lysa Terkeurst who started Proverbs31 and the She Speaks conference.  It would have been nice if I had bought one of her books to sign but I decided to just be tacky, ask for a picture and leave.

It was a wonderful weekend and I look forward to taking all that God has given me through it and seeing what He has me do next.