Saturday, December 31, 2011

Melanie's Must Read List #5

I think I bought this book for myself for Easter.  I like to buy devotion books at that time of year.  My sister had it and was raving about it and I had heard others say good things so I picked it up.  All the hype you have heard, true.  It is fantastic.  It is written like Jesus is talking to you and probably the biggest negative I can say about it is that I am afraid I will start quoting it like scripture.  I want to memorize a line or two practically every day!

I think the biggest theme I have noticed is Jesus calling us into his presence.  To be aware of His presence and live our lives accordingly.  It speaks to me every single day as if it was written for the specific moment and issue I am having in my life.  Amazing.  Then she adds 2-4 scriptures at the end to back up the theme she has written for that day and that is where I have gotten some of my guiding scriptures these past few months.  They give legtiamacy to her writing and create an even richer time sitting in Jesus presence.

I love a good devotional book.  One that is short and leads me to some scripture that I can then meditate on and further discover God's truths on my own.  And this book meets those requirements.  Plus there is a devotion for every day of the year, 365 devotions, so you won't have to find another great book anytime soon.  As a writer I often think about the time and work that must have gone into coming up with 365 different yet wonderful ideas for this book.  I am in awe of it.

In case you aren't quite ready to commit to a year long devotional book I also really loved "A Journey into Spiritual Growth" by Evelyn Christenson.  I have to admit that in the book store that title probably would not have convinced me to take it off the shelf but my sister had in on the shelf in her guest room so I started reading it and somehow it mysteriously jumped into my suitcase on the way home and I looked forward to my time with God every morning just to read this short devotional and prayer.  Like with Jesus calling I often felt each devotion was written just for me and couldn't believe the power of God to cause a woman to write a devotion years before knowing that I would be sitting in my gazebo reading it at the exact moment it was relevant for my life.

2 more books to check out.  I will add that I have added links to the books so you can click and order them if you want.  Or not, either way.  But I noticed you can get the Evelyn Christiansen book used for 1 cent which is not as good a deal as stealing it from your sister but comes pretty close.  I will make about .0004 cents on it so you will be helping build my empire.  One brick at a time.  Or in this case a tablespoon of the mortar to attach the bricks once I get them.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Take Action!

"The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word and sustain the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." Is 50:4

I had a day off the week before Christmas.  I had a lot to accomplish and only a day to do it in.  I just prayed God would take care of all the details and launched into my day.  One of the things I knew I really wanted to do was spend time with the Lord, I probably should have started the day that way but couldn't wait and so I didn't get there until later in the afternoon.  I made myself a pot of tea and situated myself at the table where I could see my beautiful Christmas tree in front of me while my slightly mess kitchen was to my back.

I have to admit when I plan to spend time with God and listen to His voice I don't always hear anything.  I force it too much.  But that day God was there.  I had given my day to Him and he was ready in the time I had promised Him.

One of the things I prayed about is what this next year will be about.  What am I to do going forward?  I also wanted to spend time really praying about how to proceed with this business I want to start.

Just the day before I had written what one friend called my "caffeinated" post trying to figure out what my word of the year should be.  Yet once I sat down to listen to God instead of my own caffeine crazed thoughts it was so obvious and simple.


I have been doing nothing the past 6 months but release.  And in the past couple months I have started having ideas but wasn't sure what to do.  But now God says, "Act".  I can take action in pursuing my dreams to have an online business and work from home.

But this word came with other words, "listen", "learn", "obey".  My action is to come out of those things.

God led me to the scripture at the top of this post that day. "The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word and sustain the weary."  OK I am interpreting that to be my writing.  God  has given me something to say worth saying. An interesting thing god revealed to me in this space was my insecurity with doing anything that might bring attention to me.  Of course I am afraid to fail and so classically want to give up before I start.  But I am also afraid to pursue something God is not leading me to do.  I often thing God just wants me to be happy where I am at and I shouldn't pursue more.  But in my time with Him I felt a strong nudge to go forward.  To not use him as an excuse.  So I go forward believing that God has given me this plan and preparing to walk forward together.

"He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught."  Most of what I write here comes out of my time with God.  My ideas and inspiration are all from Him.  So He asks me to "listen" and "learn" each morning with Him.  And then "obey".  Do what he reveals to me.  Take Action.

And if I have learned anything in my years with the Lord it is that when he tells me to do something I need to obey, to "Act" on it.

So that is what I am doing this year.

Look out 2012 here I come!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

You're not bored, you're boring.

I hate the word "bored", as in "I'm bored". (I know, I know, I posted about being bored at work yesterday.)Sometimes the correct word for a situation is bored but I don't think any child has even a clue what the word means yet uses it so often you would think they spent their days sitting in the middle of an empty room with plain grey walls unable to move.

When Jake was little I had a friend who would tell her children, "boredom is the beginning of creativity".  So I used it on Jake a few times.  One time he came out of his room a little while later announcing, "creativity has arrived!"  But that only happened once.  However, he wasn't nearly as fond of the word as Isabelle is.

John has taken to telling Isabelle, "you're not bored, you're boring" and sending her to figure something out.  Yesterday she told me she was bored so many times I announced that from now on when I hear the word she gets a sad rock. (happy rock/sad rock is our behavior reward system.)

Why can't she just learn to entertain herself?!  We have a house full of options!

I shared about my outdoor childhood recently yet when I tell Isabelle to go play outside she looks at me like I am crazy.  What will she do?  Outside is boring too.

Now I fully realize and remember telling my parents I was bored when I was a child so I don't want to diminish the reality of children and bordom but, do you think technology has made our children more incapable of entertaining themselves than previous generations?

I think it might be time for some screen time limits at our house. 

Things I am thinking about.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Do I have ADHD or am I just Bored?

I have never lived in anyone else's brain so I can only speak for myself but I get bored easily.

Recently I sat in my desk where I must sit all day long regardless of whether I have anything to do or whether the work I have is of any challenge to me or not and I thought about my son.

Back when Jake was in elementary school he was a little wild.  And although he was doing very well academically his teachers decided there was something wrong with him.  Had to be ADHD.  I acknowledged that his behavior wasn't always appropriate for the environment but just did not believe ADHD was the problem.  Turns out I was right.  What I discovered was that he was just bored.  Like me he had to sit at his desk all day long and listen to the teacher and do the work regardless of whether or not it was of any challenge to him.

I remember pointing out his extremely high test scores to his 3rd grade teacher hoping to get some understanding of what to do with a child that was so bright.  She literally set the scores aside and said they were nice but...behavior.  I turned out to be right and the behavior was linked to his high test scores and boredom and I pulled him out of the lovely school that could not see beyond his boredom and he grew and flourished in an environment that challenged him.

And now I am sitting at my desk and while I have the maturity not to do anything inappropriate my brain is going in 20 different directions at once and I have to keep from distracting everyone around me who is actually working.  And honestly, I have never  had a job where this wasn't a problem.

So I am understanding my 8 year old son even more than I did when he was 8 years old.  And I hope I can find a solution for myself that is as wonderful as the solution I found for him.

(Do you like how I have subtly implied that I am brilliant in this post?)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Light and Hope

We had a lovely Christmas and enjoyed both Christmas eve and Christmas day services at our church.  I love it when Christmas falls on a Sunday!  As I sat listening to the Christmas sermon something caught my mind and sent it down a path.  I was thinking about how Christmas is really about hope and new life; the birth of Christ and the fulfilment of the promises of God.  It made me think that we should be celebrating Christmas in the spring when everything is fresh and new and summer is coming and the world is full of hope and new life, not the middle of winter!  But then I immediately realized we celebrate Easter in the spring and that is even more about hope and fresh starts and redemption and it is more appropriate in the spring. 

But do we really need to celebrate Christ's birth right before we head into the coldest and most depressing time of the year?

Then I remembered something I had been excited about earlier in the week.  The winter solstice.  From Thursday on I get a little bit more sunlight every day for the next 6 months!  It will be a few weeks before the sun is still up when I leave work but at least I am headed in the right direction.  The thought that will get me through the next couple months.  It was bringing me a great deal of hope and joy this week.  And there, in the middle of the Christmas service, I realized why Christians decided to celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year.  We are moving into the light.

I am amazed at how the subtleties of what God created can be used to magnify His glory.

So often those who do not want to acknowledge the Christ in Christmas will talk about how this is really the celebration of the winter solstice and we just stole the celebration.  I have never been clear how that diminishes the fact that Christ was born in a manger, God became man, so that I might have eternal life.  But now I find that it is even more God ordained a time.  And maybe this time wasn't chosen to eliminate the celebration of the winter solstice but instead to magnify the one who created the moon and the stars and set them all spinning.  And every December he causes the sun to shine on the earth more and more each day and we celebrate the Son coming to the world to shine His light on us.

And God said, Let there be light." and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." Gen 1:3

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent living

We have been in Advent for weeks now and I feel like I am just getting to it.  Advent is a season of waiting before the celebration of the Lord's birth.  We are waiting both for Christmas, the celebration of Jesus coming into the world, and thinking ahead to the anticipated return of Jesus in glory.

I have been thinking this week about the business I want to start yet something (Christmas) seems to be getting in my way of getting started.  As I realized I need to wait until after the holidays to really start anything I realized how bad I am at waiting.  Waiting is a skill to be mastered not an innate ability.

We have lots of gifts under the Christmas tree right now.  And it is killing Isabelle!  Especially the one she wrapped up for me.  I don't know what it is, I suspect she wrapped up something already in the house or maybe it is a painted picture she made.  But almost every night she begs me to open it. She brought home something she made in school all wrapped up and would not move on with her life until I opened it.  I managed to get her to wait one night but that was it.  I thought it would have been nice to enjoy her wrapped gift under the tree a few days but there is no anticipation in her world.  We live in an instant gratification society and my daughter is definitely a product of that world.

But while I know how to wait for Christmas presents to be opened I am not much different.  When I get an idea I want to start it NOW.  And I want to be at the end of the process immediately without going through the steps and building things slowly.

Last spring right before I started working I blogged about waiting as well.  As I re-read it I feel very similarly, like something is about to start but right now it is all on hold.  I am no longer waiting for John to start school or me to start working.  We are no longer waiting to see what happens with John's dad's cancer but are now waiting for him to die.  We will be waiting for John to finish school for several more years yet the action of doing it makes it seem a little less dramatic.  And in the midst of Jake heading toward the end of his life in my home I really want to throw on the brakes more than get it over with.

Now I am waiting to start the next stage in the transition from homemaker to working mom.  Of course today is the 23rd of December.  Only 1 more day left of Advent and then we move into the season of Christmas and the celebration of Christ's birth.  Once I felt released from my need to "release" I wanted to immediately move into the next stage and get to work but I see now that I am in a waiting stage before the new year and I am going to try to embrace it.  I am spending time with the Lord, letting Him prepare my heart and mind for what is ahead, and celebrating the gifts He has given me through His Son.

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope." Ps 130:5 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The next stage; the unnamed stage

I have been thinking lately about how going back to work is a lot like having a new baby.  It takes up all your time and energy yet in your mind you think you should be doing all this other stuff and so are frustrated.  You feel like you will never accomplish anything ever again.  You look at other moms accomplishing things and are positive you are doing something wrong.  But then one day the baby sleeps 5 hours in a row and you can't believe how fresh you feel and how clearly your mind is working.  And then it does it again and pretty soon it does it all the time and slowly, one day at a time, one task at a time you begin to pull yourself together and find your way through this thing called motherhood.

I have decided these past 6 months have sort of been my newborn baby stage.  I have been amazed and frustrated by how much time and energy this task has taken up both physically and mentally.  Have been forced to release things I really loved because I just could not make them happen anymore.  And I wondered if I would ever be able to go out in the real world again.

But my body is slowing adjusting to the early morning schedule and the work of the day.  And I have learned my job to the point where I don't have to think quite so hard all the time.  I am finding myself with more energy and creative thoughts returning.

And now I enter the next as yet unnamed phase of my work transition; the adding things back in stage (which is not a good name so I welcome suggestions for naming this stage.)

I know I want to work on building an online business; I don't mind my job but I know that this is not a long term solution for me or my family. (I am experimenting with the semi-colon today.  I read about how to use it recently.  Forgive me for over using it in this post.)

I stepped on the scale tonight to discover that I weigh 10 pounds more than I did when I started working 6 months ago.  Not. Good.  So I know I want to/need to re prioritize exercise and healthy eating into my life.

I also know that my life does not work if I don't start with prioritizing God and so I need to make sure I not only don't loose that but find ways to strengthen that relationship as I add things back into my life.

And of course I still want to spend time with my family and find ways to engage regularly with Jake, Isabelle and John.

Plus a million other little things that could easily over take my top priorities if I don't take an intentional approach to adding things to my schedule and life.

I have the day off from work on Friday.  A floating holiday I didn't qualify to use until Dec 1 and will loose on Dec 31 if I don't use it.  I thought about taking it while Isabelle is off school but decided instead to take a planning day; a day to pray, write, get in a little shopping and prepare for this next stage of working. (not sure if I used it correctly in this sentence.)

Of course just like parenting I know that 6 months from now I will be in yet another new stage but also like parenting I will bring with me the skills I have accumulated as I have gone through each stage and will be stronger and more prepared for what is ahead. 

One thing hit me today.  As I have been thinking specifically this past couple weeks about what kind of online business I want to start, how to make money blogging, and etsy ideas, I have been both excited and overwhelmed.  When I do carve out time for it I don't know what to do first!  What I realized is that while my enthusiasm is good it is also filled with a feeling of rushing, a slight panic.  Like I only have 6 months to build a business.  If I lost my job I could probably build a business in 6 months working full time but I am going to build a business on evenings and weekends while also spending time doing many other things.  Yes I will have to say no to some things so I can work on the business but I also know I will need to say no to the business some times to watch my son wrestle, have lunch with my daughter or even just go on a run.

Then I remembered the quote I keep repeating as John walks down this long educational path, "most people over estimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10 years."  I probably can't build a business in 6 months or a year that would equal what I am making right now but if I keep working, one day at a time, one weekend at a time and stay focused on the task I just might be able to accomplish my goal in 2 years or 3 years.  Each day I keep working gets me one step closer to my goal.

And so we begin:  Working, the adding in stage.--Do you see how this is not working as the name of this stage?  The addition stage?  Moving forward stage?  I was releasing so am I now "collecting"?  Maybe I should just not refer to this stage with a name.  I could just call it "part 2".

I would also like to add that I accidentally ordered my $2 Caribou hot drink today without saying "decaf"!  And so it is 11pm and I am still a little buzzed from my 1pm drink.  This is what happens when you have been off caffeine for 15 years!  I seriously want to run around the house yelling ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  But that would probably be wrong.

I should probably just end here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Go wash your tires

Most days I drive to a park a couple blocks from my work and spend my lunch hour alone relaxing in my car.  I know it sounds a little weird but I am not the only one.  There are always several other cars in the parking lot with people just sitting in them.  Some have the seat reclined taking a nap, some are talking on their cell phones and some are just reading a book.

This fall as I was sitting in my car I saw one guy get out of his, calmly walk back to his trunk, pop it open, pull out a spray bottle and a rag and beging wiping down his tires.  At first I laughed because this action seemed so crazy, why would you clean your tires in a the middle of the park just to drive off and get them dirty again?  Maybe if they were obviously dirty like he had driven through a mud puddle but they looked like every other tire on the road, dusty black.

Then as I sat relaxing in my car watching him I noticed something else, he seemed so relaxed.  And it made me wonder if maintaining his vehicle was a stress reliever for him.  While the car was not new it did look like it was very well maintained.  And I started thinking about friends who would bring knitting or quilting work to gatherings when they were stressed out because it helped them relax.  And I thought about how relaxing I find it to fold laundry or take a run.

So often when I am tired or stressed I think the answer is to lay on the couch and watch tv, do nothing.  I know I am not along in thinking this is the answer to that problem.  But I have to admit I have never felt refreshed after a night layng on the couch watching tv, it tends to suck me deeper into my lazy rather than energize me.

When I am in one of my low energy periods I constantly say in my head, "a body in motion stays in motion".  I don't need to do much but just keep moving and I will feel better, and I always do.

When doing any type of exercise training they have what they call "active recovery".  After I run really hard for my 2-5  minutes I want to stop or at least drop to walking but instead I move to a slower run.  At first my body and mind continue to scream out that I should stop because I can't go on but within another minute or so my body really does begin to recover from the hard run and the nice easy pace becomes exactly that, nice and easy.

One of the things I have learned about myself over the past 6 months is how active I like to be.  I always thought I was lazy at home but now I realize I just had so much more time to be productive that I could get a lot done and still squeeze in some lazy.  But there is a lot to be done in my life right now and not much time to do it.  I am not finding my lazy time to be relaxing or enjoyable at all, it needs to go.  And that is good because I am putting together quite the to do list and am excited and energized to make it happen.

Stop sitting around!  Get up and find something that truly relaxes you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Melanie's Must Read List #4

I mentioned this book earlier this summer after we built our tree house but I thought an official entry in my must read list was also necessary.

I grew up in a house in the "woods".  My parents bought a wooded lot to build our house and wisely did not remove all the trees. At the back of our lot was a drop of about 200 feet to a railroad track.  It wasn't a cliff but a very steep hill.  The lot next to ours was sort of land locked and owned by the railroad and so was never developed.  We were at the end of the road, not a cul-de-sac but a true dead end and for most of my childhood the road gave way to a farmers field, although I don't remember him ever planting anything near our home so it was always just a big grassy prairie.  That was my childhood playground.

In the summer we lived back there.  There was a tree on the side lot that had started up growing right on the edge of the hill and at some point had fallen over.  But it's roots managed to find their way back into the ground and so this tree continued to grow, bud and spring new leaves every year.  It was quite large by the time we found it and was the perfect place for a child to spend all day climbing, exploring and dreaming. 

The hill down to the railroad tracks was also irresistible and we climbed/slid down it many summer days to lay pennies on the railroad tracks and wait for a train to come.  Then we would run back to the hill and be hanging on somewhere halfway up the hill while the train came rushing by.  It was never safe as the track was curved where we lived and could easily have snuck up on  us, even as a child I knew it wasn't safe but it was so wonderfully thrilling.  Then back down to find our flattened pennies.  My brother spent an entire summer building a tree house next to a tree growing out of the hill.  Complete with stairs and paths dug into the hill to get there.

While we didn't spend a lot of time in the grassy field we did run through it regularly enough to beat down a path.  I remember one time running barefoot through the field and seeing a Gardner snake quickly crawl across the field right in front of my feet.  It was terrifying and fascinating and while I did keep going I wore shoes out there a little more often after that.

There was also poison ivy.  I spent many summers in misery with the bubbling blisters of poison ivy rash.  I even remember missing school one time because it was so bad.  But it never stopped me from going back.  We had beat a path through the woods and eventually learned to stay on it.  You would think I would be a master at identifying poison ivy after that childhood but sadly I am still not always sure if something is poison ivy or not.  But I tend to err on the side of caution now that I am an adult.

It was the best kind of childhood.  I didn't spend my summers off watching tv, I was out living life, experiencing, exploring.  Those summers playing in the woods are part of who I am today.

And that is why I could not resist reading "The Last Child in the Woods".  Because I had noticed that there aren't that many woods anymore and the ones we do find don't seem to want to let kids off the path.  But while the paths are nice it is off the path where you truly experience nature and life.  This book was all about the important role that nature plays in a child's development and encouraged me to seek out opportunities for my children to play and explore the way I did as a child.  I wish I had found more but I know my kids have loved every moment they have spent in the woods and I hope they will continue to find joy in nature throughout their lives.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wicked and Upright

When life gets hard there is just one place to go, to the Word, to God. And I found a few verses I was enjoying last week including this one:

Ps 32:10 "Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him."

I came across a couple verses with this idea of the Lord's love surrounding us and it just felt like a verbal hug from God which was just what I needed.

So I was reviewing this section of scripture at lunch when suddenly the first part of the verse struck me in a new way. I always read these verses with a sense of the wicked vs those who love the Lord but that day I realized we were ALL the wicked but some of us choose to trust in the Lord. "Many are the woes of the wicked". We are all wicked and we all have many woes. "But the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him."

Several years ago I was in this bible study and the question of original sin came up. We asked ourselves if the bad things of life are the result of original sin. I was going through infertility at that time and mis understood the question a little and talked about how when bad things happen that does not mean you sinned, I wasn't infertile because of my own sin. They all agreed and we moved on. I don't know if everyone mis understood the question or if they were too nice to correct me but the following week I saw the question again and realized my mistake. It wasn't a question of whether each of our personal sins causes our own bad things to happen, but whether or not Adam and Eve's sins brought bad into the world of which we are still affected to this day.

It is really a fascinating question because it allows me to wonder, would anyone suffer infertility if Adam and Eve hadn't first sinned? Would there be pre-mature death? Or what about economic turmoil which causes you to loose your job and your house? Think of all the evil and problems in the world and wonder, would these things exist if Adam and Eve had not sinned?

But then I wonder something else. If Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, wouldn't someone else along the way have done it anyway? Because, we are all wicked. And our morality didn't rest on whether or not Adam and Eve made the choice, we all have the opportunity to make the choice and we all fail. The question is, do we turn back to God and trust Him? Do we allow the Lord's unfailing Love to surround us despite our sinful nature or do we turn our backs on Him and ultimately perish?

So really, the sin in this world is probably a combination of both Adam and Eve's sin and our sin. They let it in but no generation has ever been able to get free of it. If I was in the garden, I suppose I would have done the same thing.

I am wicked and many are my woes but I trust in the Lord's and am surrounded by His unfailing love for me. The Psalm ends with:

"Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

And, thanks to Jesus, that is me too!

Monday, December 5, 2011

December is Here!

I think I have said before but it is worth repeating, the low points in my life are the beginning of the up swing.  So I started getting sucked into the black hole last week.  I had been releasing for the past 6 months and I think I just released a little too far.  Into nothingness.  But I don't do lay on the couch doing nothing very well it turns out so one or two nights like that was enough for me to realize it was time to re-assess.

And what better time to re-assess your life and where it is going than in December?!  This is my planning month.  Isn't that what I have told you in the past?  Because I love new years resolutions!  Actually I usually like to plan in August but I was still releasing back then and nothing really came together.  But now, during the busiest month of the year, God has released me from releasing and it is time to start figuring out what my life is going to look like for the next few years.

I have a few ideas but nothing I am ready to share.  Instead let's take a few minutes to reflect on what I have learned so far:

I still love Mondays!  Today is Monday.  And it is a fresh start to life every 7 days.  Even if I am at a J-O-B (what I call paid employment) as opposed to the work I did at home or actually paid work from home.

If I am going to get anything done I need to put boundaries around my time.  When am I going to accomplish tasks?  Spend time with the family?  clean, shop?  Relax?

This is hard but hard is good.  It makes me stronger.

I realized that the plan before us takes vision.  And I found my new favorite quote, "Most people over-estimate what they can accomplish in a year and under-estimate what they can do in 10 years."

It isn't worth rebelling against God.  My last breakdown was a rebellious fit against what I wanted vs what God was doing in my life.  Learning to trust, listen and wait for His timing.

And recently I wrote on my new "home to work" blog about how we never stop transitioning.  While the past 6  months of our life may have held more transition than the average day the fact is that we will forever be transitioning and life is full of changes.  And learning to manage as we go through those transitions is the real trick.

I have also been blessed by encouraging friends and family, kind co-workers, and this great outlet to express myself these past 6 months. 

Now that I am leaving the "release" stage of this life change I am excited by what is ahead of me.  It is going to be a great month of planning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Escaping the Black Hole

This morning I couldn't get out of bed.  Yesterday I could barely drag myself out of bed.  It is dark and cold when my alarm goes off which clearly signals to my body that I need to continue sleeping.  Hibernation.

I knew this would happen when I started setting my alarm 6 months ago.  It is easy to spring out of bed at 6am when the sun is streaming in through the windows, the house is a comfortable 70 degrees and your whole life is new.  It is fun to go on a run just after sunrise but not so much in pitch dark.

Still today it felt like more.  It felt like a black hole.  I had spent the night before laying on the couch watching tv, then I went to bed before 10pm and I still can't get out of bed.  It felt like my life was being sucked into a black hole.

This is what happens when you loose your focus and don't have goals.  Nothing.  "What is it?" they asked in the Neverending Story. "The Nothing".  Do you remember that movie?  The nothing was taking over their land.  Now it is taking over my life.

OK, ok you know I have goals.  I always have goals.  But somehow I got off track and forgot what they were, stopped pursuing them.

So this morning when I woke up there was nothing to spring out of bed for.  I hadn't planned to go on a run, had no blog post thoughts, hadn't really sat down for an extended time with God in weeks and so it seemed like there was just no reason to get out of bed early.  I didn't care if the laundry needed to be caught up, the kitchen cleaned or the check book updated.  It would all get done when it had to be done and I just couldn't be excited about it at 6am when I knew my house was cold and covered in clutter I couldn't take care of in an hour.

But finally I got out of bed and started at the beginning.  Not the beginning of the laundry pile or dirty dishes but the real beginning.  I spent and hour with God.  My mind wandered a few times, it does that, but overall I managed to feel a little more hopeful than I did when that alarm went off.  Nothing life changing but the peace and hope that comes from the love of God which wraps its arms around me whenever I am feeling a little disconnected.

"Many are the woes of the wicked but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts Him."  Ps 32:10

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Anybody can write a post about what they are thankful for on Thanksgiving.  Boring.  I decided to wait until Sunday to tell you about all the things I am thankful for.  It was a busy week:

Number One:

My "41th" birthday was 2 days before Thanksgiving this year.  Isabelle came up with the idea to do a cornucopia with what they are each thankful for about me on each fruit for my birthday poster.  Loved it.

Which completes the birthday poster wall.  I don't normally have them up all year but somehow never got Isabelle's poster down after her birthday and then John and Jake's birthdays came right on top of each other and then it just seemed like I had to leave them up until my birthday.  But this is where the Christmas tree goes so they are gone now.

The day after my birthday I got a HUGE gift.  I won this contest:
Family Circle's Orlando Vacation Makeover Contest

"Write your travel challenge and you may be one of three families to win a customized Orlando dream vacation makeover with more than 100 experiences to select from. Each Grand Prize consists of a 5 day / 4 night trip to Orlando, FL for each winner and up to three (3) guests including RT airfare, hotel, attraction admissions and more."

I couldn't find a picture since the contest is over but here is a link to an article that looks like it was written about last years winners.

The important thing is that I WON THIS CONTEST!  I can't believe it.  I got the email while on my break at work and I was seriously shaking for about an hour or more afterward.  I was standing at my brother's desk when I read it and he asked me if I needed a bag to breath into!  I think I might need one right now as I re-tell you the story!  Excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Thanksgiving day we all covered the chalk board with things we are thankful for.  Guess what my second thing I was thankful for after family, yep, Orlando trip.  Anyway, we headed to my parents for the big meal. 

It was a beautiful and unseasonably warm Thanksgiving day and I HAD to get pictures of our family because I came up with a great idea for our Christmas card theme this year.  Here is a little peak, can you guess what the theme is?

We took about 200 pictures and 60 of my favorite friends and family will get a photo card with the winning 6 photos but don't worry if you aren't one (or be offended) because they just have a link to my blog where I will be doing a detailed Christmas post like I did last year.  So keep an eye out.  I ordered the picture cards and will publish when I get them mailed out.

Random cute picture of my kids and my brother's kids on Thanksgiving.  Because I adore every single one and am thankful for them all and the wonderful close relationship the cousins have and I have with both my siblings and their families.  (And, yes mom, the relationship I have with my parents too.)

Finally after going to bed before Best Buy put their black Friday deals online Thursday and therefore missing the opportunity to skip standing in line in the cold, John and I set up shop 4 hours before the store opened at midnight Friday and relaxed in our camping chairs under blankets while sipping hot chocolate from McDonald's (the only place open) and watching netflix on John's phone.  We then entered the store at midnight, grabbed what we came for and were home and in bed by 12:20 having checked Jake and ourselves off the Christmas list.

The holiday was complete.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can't wait to see what happens next...

So the new furnace is warming my house, we have stuck a  nail in the lost screw hole to fix the handle on the back door and are not thinking too much about the now totally broken garage door but are instead focussed on the snow begining to fall.  John is busy staking the edges of his plow contract driveways and getting the plow out of the broken garage.  Jake is supposed to go to a training pep rally for his Cutco sales job.  I am still in my pj's close to noon and busy washing all the bedding because while there is no evidence of lice in our home someone in Isabelle's class has lice and that just makes me want to scrub down the whole house.  I CAN NOT do another winter of lice.

Then Jake calls.  He has a flat tire.  And the spare is flat.  So I guess we can't avoid buying a new tire.  While we love our 300 I have to admit it has been a little more costly to maintain.  The tires are performance tires and you pay for them.  There is no $39.99 tire out there for this car.  Luckily while I decided to add free towing to this car when I was worring for my insurnace agent last winter.  Jake gave them a call to come get him while I made some calls to figure out where they should go.

Frugal Tip #3:  Used Tires

At first I thought I had found a deal with a coupon for buy 1 get the 2nd for $10.  Even with the $100 warranty you are required to buy with this deal it was still the cheapest tire I found.  But then John gave me the number of the used tire place.  Amazing deals, my tires for under $100!  Considering I am usually amazed to find them under $200 for this car that blew my mind.  3 new (to us) tires later (we did have one good tire on the car) and a fresh tire on the spare, Jake is ready for winter driving.  Well as ready as you can be with performance tires.  The tire guy managed to mention that this car was terrible for winter driving about 2 or 3 times.  We love it anyway.

What is amazing is how God has provided for all these expenses.  We have savings for the first time in about 2 years!  Even after all this it isn't tapped dry.  AND, yesterday with the snow coming down we had calls from 3 plow clients that hadn't yet re-signed with us.  One of them brought us 5 NEW CONTRACTS!  That will more than cover the tires.

So we continue on excited to see what will happen next and how God will take care of it.  Every step leads us closer to Him as we trust follow.

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. "

Now it is just getting funny...

So the furnace is getting replaced, the garage door has exploded and I am heading off to work.  Isabelle runs after me to get one more hug and as she grabs the outside handle of the back door it falls off in her hands.

I just laugh as I give her a hug and keep going.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And THEN...

So we are keeping warm with space heaters for the week enjoying a very sunny fall weekend while we wait for the new furnace to arrive.  John is working up a sweat outside cleaning up our fall leaves while I am working up a sweat getting the inside of the house back in shape after a week of neglect when it happens.  I hear a bang outside in the garage.  I am momentarily startled but don't think much of it.  If John was to get trapped under a pile of debris in our garage he would probably lay there for hours before I discovered him.  Poor guy.  Anyway, he was fine and continued to finish up the yard cleaning.  When he came inside he announced the new problem with our house.  The garage door is broken.  At first he couldn't get it to go all the way up and down and then suddenly it just banged down (the noise I heard) and it was over.  Apparently springs exploded and tracks are bent.  Luckily all our cars were in the driveway so while I knew I would need to get it repaired if i wanted to park inside this winter I kept my focus on getting heat in the house.  I can only worry about one thing at a time.

But then it happened.  It snowed.  And we realized something.  The plow is in the garage!  John and Jake did manage to get the garage door up and the plow out but then I heard another loud bang and John assures me it will not be going up again.  Frankly it barely went up in the winter anyway, I often had to get out of my car and help it along.  I sure hope my running into the garage door a couple times doesn't have anything to do with it breaking.

Frugal Tip #2: Sale at Menard's

I was looking on Craig's List for garage doors and there are some great deals but John found a new door on sale at Menard's as I was typing this post and we decided to go with it.  Still wondering if Craig's list might be a better way to go but the sale ends today.  Home Store Tip:  They are great about returns.  Buy now, return later.

So to be continued on what we actually end up doing with the garage door.  But wait!  There's more...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Never a Dull Moment

It was a regular day like any other.  A Tuesday.  And I came home from work just like usual.  John had dinner almost ready and I headed straight to my room to change into regular clothes.  As I was walking back to our room I made some comment about it being really cold back there.  It is fall and the temperatures were going back and forth between 30 and 60 each day.  John walks over to the thermostat and says, "that's not good."  Words you never want to hear when your furnace is over 20 years old.

The next day our friendly furnace repairman stops by and long story short red tags our furnace.  In other words, do not even try to turn this thing on.  It is too dangerous.  Suddenly understanding why Isabelle has been having headaches and feeling very blessed by the mild fall weather we have had.

Frugal Tip #1:  Order your furnace online and install it yourself

After talking to a couple friends that installed furnaces themselves we ordered a new one online for ridiculously cheap.  It arrived the Monday after our furnace went out.  Space heaters kept our bedrooms warmer than our furnace ever thought of keeping them during the 6 days in between.

The old furnace used to sit under the hood of this big duct.  John decided to take the opportunity to move it over a few feet and open up the space into the storage/work room.

The official red tag.  Actually still red unlike pink slips and green cards.

I think the look on his face pretty much sums the whole thing up.

Our friend Andy helping move over the gas line.

The new furnace.  Not done, the big vent hood still needs to go over the back.  John is at Home Depot as we speak.

And these wires are still hanging in the location of the old furnace.  Somehow thinking that isn't very safe.  But the house is nice and toasty warm and we are all breathing deeper confident the air is safe with our new CO detectors checking things out for us.

New problem:  These chairs used to be in the location where the new furnace now sits.  I see a storage room cleaning/organizing/rearranging coming on soon...

But that is not all, Oh no, that's not all.  Tune in tomorrow for the continuing saga...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Direction

In my mind I always think I am going to plan, prepare and get all the I's dotted and T's crossed before I roll any new thing out.  But lets be honest.  I am totally impulsive and I go flying ahead without fully planning it out.  And while the other way might work well for some people this "learn and adjust as I go" method is what I know.  So here we go again.

I have been thinking a lot about what kind of web site I would like to create, many ideas have come to mind but the one that has stuck is the one most relevant to my life right now.  Transitioning from homemaker to working mom.  After doing a tiny amount of research I can assure you there is next to nothing on the subject out there.  Of course with 6 big months of working full time under my belt I am hardly an expert so I have been dismissing this idea for a couple  months but now that my brain is sort of starting to work again I have decided to tackle the topic.

I started a new blog over at here to discuss all the ups and downs, trials and errors of transitioning from homemaker to working mom and all the details that  need to be re-learned now that I work.  Intro post up, more to come.  Actually I will probably just re-write a few of the posts I have done here to start with while I do a little, teeny, tiny about of planning about what I want to write.

In the mean time I guess this will go back to being my blog for family stuff and any othe random thoughts that come to my brain.  In the past couple weeks I have really started to feel like my old self.  Which is good and bad, suddenly I am talking a lot more at work, which is bad, I don't have a good filter on my mouth sometimes.  But I also feel like I am started to re-engage at home and with friends and family more, which is good.

We have lots going on over here lately so I will try to write up a couple more posts today to publish while I am working this week.  Sorry to leave you hanging on the same post all of last week.

OH and while creating my new blog I discovered a new blog feature, email.  Now you can get my blogs emailed to your home.  How exciting!  I have a couple friends who have told me they will not go online to read my blog but if I emailed it to them they will. (These friends don't do facebook either.  Who are these people???) So I am totally signing them up!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Tomato Soup Incident

My favorite blogger I don't know in real life is over at Blue Cotton Memory.  If I was ever driving through Tennessee and had even an inkling of where she lived I would totally drive out of my way to cruise past her house like a crazed fan taking pictures and saying to whoever I dragged with on my adventure, "Look it's Blue Cotton Memory's house!  Can you believe it?!"

Have I every told you I am secretly a stalker?

Amazingly enough, she actually reads and likes my blog too, which really makes me feel special, and recently she gave me this award:

She likes me, she really likes me!  Thanks Blue Cotton Memory!  So maybe if I see her wave our her door when I am cruising by I will actually stop instead of speeding off in embarrassment.

Of course there are a few rules to go with this award:

1. Thank the person who gave you this award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic!

4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

OK first one done.

Next, 7 things about myself:

1. I am a stalker.  I shared it earlier in the post but can I still count it as one of my 7 things?

2. I desperately miss having time to sit and do my nails every week.  I actually lost this when Isabelle was born.  I used to sit down every Tuesday night, turn on Gilmore Girls and do my nails.  French Manicure, the only way to go.  I was at a mommy play date with a couple other new mom's a few months after Isabelle was born and mentioned this thinking I would get an "amen" but instead got blank stares from
the only 2 women I know who don't ever do their nails.
3. I am currently reading "Walden; or, Life in the Woods" by Thoreau and loving it.  I actually did a post a while back called, "the cabin in the woods" about how I always wished I lived alone in a cabin in the woods and initially referenced Walden Pond when I wrote it but then was afraid that my understanding of what Walden Pond and Thoreau was about might be wrong since I had never actually read it so i took it out.  I didn't want anyone to find out I just make stuff up most of the time.  But now that I have read it I really wish I had left it in because it is exactly what I was thinking and it would have made me look so smart.  I might have to go back and add it in case someone reads back several months and comes upon it.
4.  I want to write a book by the time John finishes school.  6 years should be enough time, assuming I can come up with a topic and actually start writing it.  Suggestions?  I might shortened the goal simply to getting published somewhere, anywhere.  Suggestions?
5. I used to sell Mary Kay when I was younger and although I am not clear I made money for anything other than paying for my own product, the sales training I received was so fantastic I would say I literally use some aspect of it virtually every day.  OK maybe not every day but monthly?  Everyone should sell something for a time in their lives which is why I am so glad my son is selling Cutco knives right now even though I am not clear he is making any money.
6. I do not craft.  I am not crafty, I do not like gluing little things on other things.  I am not really that neat and not a perfectionist so my crafts usually come out looking like, well...crafts.  And then they sit around my house taking up space because I don't really have a crafty decorating style and then finally I throw them away because I am not a hoarder and I hate keeping stuff around that stares at me and calls out my ineptitude.  But then I am frustrated that I wasted the time and money on it.  So I don't craft.
7. Today at lunch I put soup on the stove and walked away, my husband found it at a rolling boil spitting tomato soup all over the kitchen while I was skyping with my sister.  This is not the first time I have been distracted like that.  I  have boiled all the water out of a pan, boiled noodles to the bottom of a pan and started an oil fire after leaving oil heating in a wok for an undisclosed amount of time.  And right now I have water on to boil for my daughter's mac and cheese lunch which I am feeding her at 4pm because her and her friend have been playing together all day and this is the first moment either of them have commented on being hungry.  I wanted to say it was time for the friend (who lives just a couple houses down) to go home but then I realized her parents might find out that I have had her here since 10am and never fed her lunch.  So I have to feed her before I can send her home.  And hopefully I will finish this post, or get up from the computer, before the water boils off.  I better go check it right now...yep it was boiling.  Added the noodles so I have, what, 5 minutes?
OK now the hard part.  I am supposed to pass this award on to 15 bloggers I have recently discovered and think are fantastic.  Well, if you read this blog you know that I am not doing much new these days and so I have not had time to discover new blogs I love, although I really would like to spend some time finding a few.  SO here are the blogs I do read regularly that I really do love.  Because at this point in my life if I didn't love them I wouldn't bother.
1.  My Asian Life
2. The Pile I'm Standing In

3. So Much to say, So little Time

4. Just Breathe

5. Chasing Inspiration

6. Aslan's Library

7. Gegenwart Bewaltigung

OK that is it.  Every blog I know.  I do read a few other blogs but either only on the rare occasion that they post (you know who you are) or they are read by so many I didn't know if they would even notice the award so I am not including them.  I guess this award is reminding me to go out and find some more blogs.  I love to be inspired by the various people and topics out there and need to work that back into my life sometime.

So  now I am off to let them all know about my award to them.

(By the way, you will be happy to know I did manage to get the noodles off the stove before all the water was gone and my daughter and her friend have been fed lunch.  Now what do you think we should have for dinner?)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Where is my mini me?

17-1/2 years ago I gave birth to my sweet baby boy.  From that moment on I have endeavored to teach him about the world, instill in him a strong faith and values.  As I have grown up along with him I have tried to teach him the lessons I was learning so he would not make the mistakes I made.  In short I have been working very hard for 17+ years to create a perfect version of myself.

So you can imagine my surprise to realize as he begins this final march toward adulthood that he has a mind of his own, that he wants to make his own choices, learn from his own mistakes and do things in ways I would not necessarily choose to do.  It is almost as if he thinks he is an independent individual with a free will of his own.  What is up with that?

But I think about my own parents and how I have, at every turn, done it different.  And how my mom often has said over the years something to the affect of, "we have stopped questioning what John and Melanie are doing."  Because they have come to see that while we have done it different, we haven't necessarily done it wrong.  I can't tell you how much I have appreciated their support over the years, especially now as we look at Jake and realize he is probably going to do a lot of things different than us and see how much we need to trust him, trust what we have taught him and trust the Lord as he goes forward.

Parenting does not get easier.

Just saying.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Melanie's Must Read List #3

For several years I sort of stalked a book at Barnes and Noble called "Home Comforts: The Art and Science of keeping a home" by Cheryl Mendelson.  I loved the idea of the book, loved to glance through it but did not love the price.  Even when it went on clearance I was too cheap to buy it.  Then Martha Stewart came out with "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook: The essential Guide to caring for everything in your home."  It was even more expensive.  But I was in a homemaking zone one year and put them both on the Christmas list.  I got the Martha book as a gift and found Home Comforts at a used book store for a price I could live with and then I had both. 

(Hey I suddenly realized I could be getting pictures of my favorite books to put on these posts.  I am smart like that.)

They are both about 2 inches thick and while they have similar information they are totally different books.  The Homekeeping Handbook is written in Martha's usual detailed, informative, high brow style and has lots of photos of her various homes.  The Home Comforts book is more well...comfortable.  Its style is more like your grandmother's advice, which makes sense since the writer learned to care for her home from her two grandmothers.

I just love reading about housekeeping.  While I am hardly a great housekeeper, I call it the "illusion of clean", I like to know what to do when inspiration hits.  It helps keep the dirt and grime at bay.  Every spring and fall I think about and read lists for seasonal cleaning.  They are so entertaining.  Sometimes I actually do a couple things on the list.

Mixed in with all the tips for keeping a house is some of the history behind why we do what we do or why our grandmothers did what they did and I find that to be the best parts of these books.  It really gives me an appreciation for how hard the women before me worked and how blessed I am with something as simple and basic as a washing machine or a clean burning furnace.  I don't have to spend an entire day hand washing and drying my family's clothes and I am not left with a layer of soot over the entire house when winter comes to an end.

Now that I have read them both, I actually have read the Home Comforts book twice, they just sit as reference guides on my shelf.  Just a couple months ago it came out when Jake needed to iron his kilt.  "Mom, could you show me how to iron pleats?"  No problem I told him.  Of course I didn't really know if there was a trick or not so I just lead him to Martha's book, it was the one closest to us, and looked up pleats in the index, turned to the page and discovered a very simple method for ironing pleats.  I did have to explain to him what an ironing cloth was and then he was off to iron perfect pleats back into his kilt.

Definitely going on housewarming list for when he gets his first apartment.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the big sister

Isabelle's new little sister is a little over a week old and we got to have our first visit with her the other day.  Isabelle was so excited she got a little crazy but not so crazy that she didn't forget to memorialize the moment.  She pulled out my camera and took a picture of Scarlet all dressed up and ready for church.  I love that you can see her in the corner taking the picture.

Their first picture together.  She is loving being a big sister.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What is your hypothesis?

One of the indulgences that is keeping us going now that I work is delivered groceries.  The frozen stuff comes packed in dry ice gets turned into a fun family activity practically every time.  This week Isabelle kept insisting we add food coloring.  Finally Jake says, "why what is your hypothesis?"  Without missing a beat Isabelle responds, "My hypothesis is that if we add food coloring to the water when we add the dry ice the smoke will be a different color."

So now we had to do the experiment.

We used blue and while the water looked great the smoke was still white.

Holding up the dry ice.

If you hold your hand over the smoke and then quickly pull up it follows you.

We added a little dish soap and it quickly bubbled up.  The smoke is inside every bubble making them fun to pop.

Just another fun filled evening at the Hardackers.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Am I busy?

I am feeling so good about working these days.  I know I just had a rebellious breakdown a little over a week ago but every breakdown seems to be a break through to more contentment and peace about working.  I still think about trying to start a business and I still think the work environment is a weird/unnatural social structure to navigate within but I am feeling better about working, trusting my husband to do some of the things I used to do and just relax in my new role.

This week I was thinking about the word "busy".  I hate this word.  I hate when people give the excuse of "busy" to not do something. I may have blogged about this before because my hate of this word has existed long enough that it may have warranted a post in the past.  However, in my new life I have new thoughts on the word so I am re-visiting the thought.

I must admit that I was seriously considering re-thinking my feelings toward the word busy after I started working.  I thought I was busy when I was at home but now working I was appreciating the word in a whole new light.  NOW I am busy.  Or am I?

Now that I am working I have to "do it all" and since that is impossible I really must be busy.  When I was at home I had all day long to do whatever I wanted and while my days did fill up quickly with parenting and homemaking I had plenty of time to help out with ministries at church, in Jake's class and with John's business, etc.  I kept busy but was I actually busy?

However, I have been releasing so many tasks and emotional distractions from my life now that I practically have nothing to do except work.  So am I really that busy right now?

It really is about a readjustment of priorities.  My family is my priority.  Now that I am working I have to be even more intentional about prioritizing them than when I was at home.  And some days that can look like doing nothing, just spending the evening at home watching tv but being present.  Right now in my "release" stage of life we are all getting used to my being home less and them doing more around the house.  But as this schedule becomes our new normal I am starting to see where I might have a little time for something else in my life.  Not today but definitely in my near future.

So am I really more busy now that I am working?  Well, yes and no.  I don't have nearly as much time in which to accomplish things but that is not to say I have no free time.  I am still have my evenings and weekends almost completely free.

I think people use the excuse of "busy" when what they really mean is "I am not willing to prioritize this into my life".    Busy to me is the word you use when you aren't organized or in control of your schedule and you are overwhelmed by life.  Yes or No is what you say when you understand your priorities, what your schedule looks like and how the requested time commitment will affect that schedule.

So right now I am intentionally in a phase of life where I am saying No.  I am spending my time learning how to fit work into my life while still prioritizing my family and re-defining all our roles in caring for our home and each other.  It is coming together, we are all falling into our new roles and learning to be aware of places we can help.  Some of us are learning this skill better than others (Jake?  Isabelle?  You out there?  Can you give us a hand?) but overall it is coming together nicely.

So as I sit at my desk thinking of the business I would rather be running, the ministry I want to lead or the school field trip I would like to go on I can see the light at the end of this transitional tunnel we are in and know that eventually I will be able to work the word Yes back into my vocabulary.

For now I will continue to say "No" rather than "I'm too busy" because everyone is busy, I am just controlling how I spend my time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Positive Creativity

This week in psychology John was reading about something I had figured out a few years ago.  Our brains are most creative while doing mundane tasks.  Apparently that connection between the two sides of the brain is able to open up when we are doing something mundane and repetitive and the creativity flows.  I have always said my best ideas have come while I was on a run or in the shower.  You aren't wondering what to do so your brain is free to just wonder.

I have been waiting for this to happen at work.  Since most of what I do is fairly repetitive I am assuming my brain will soon begin to wander as I work.  I am preparing a notebook to keep by my side for the inspirations that come.  I think the creativity is getting close to returning as the idea for this post came to me yesterday.  I emailed myself the thought but I would rather write it down in the future.  And good thing I did note it because although I remembered I had an idea I had no idea what it was.

What is creativity and how does it manifest?  While at home my creativity manifested as ideas for blog posts, women's ministry, home decor, running John's business, passions for healthy living, educational philosophy and raising my kids to become the unique individuals God made them to be.  It also manifested itself in crazy thinking that started fights with my husband, created negative feelings toward friends, made impulsive, inappropriate comments and made me think general doubts about myself , who I am and what I am doing.

What should be something used for good, to help me serve God and live out the life He has planned for me, instead can be used to create misery for myself and others if I allow Satan to get into my head and control my thoughts.

As I was thinking about creativity in the mundane at work this week I looked around the building and realized that every person in the building probably had some mundane aspects to their jobs.  How was the creativity manifesting itself in each person?  It can be great, it can be the kind of thing that brings fresh ideas to a company, new products, better ways to do things, more organization, time and money savings.  John said that the employees at Google are supposed to take a certain amount of time each day to have fun and let the creative juices flow, they can work on any idea they want.  Apparently one of the things that came out of that was g-mail.

Unfortunately, some people use the same creativity to be negative, to complain and look for problems.  When they do have a good idea they use their creative energy to come up with all the reasons nobody else would care and why they are totally unappreciated.  I am amazed by some of the notes and emails I get from people about the basic functions of our office building.  Opportunities to encourage and support fellow co-workers get turned into condescending commands on how we should behave.  It seems like a lack of creativity but really it is more like misplaced creativity.

Not all creativity is good.  We have to make a choice.  Push down the negative voices and ask ourselves how we can be better, move forward, love and encourage others.  Yes there are problems in life, yes some of your co-workers/family members/friends are annoying, no the company/your family/friends won't always appreciate you.  But you are a unique individual created by God for a purpose.  Be positive!  Turn your mind away from the problems.  Don't let Satan rule your thoughts but open your mind to the Lord and let Him fill you with His creative and wonderful ideas.
How are you using your creativity today?

“So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” — Brenda Ueland

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” — Henry David Thoreau

“We have come to think of art and work as incompatible, or at least independent categories and have for the first time in history created an industry without art.” — Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (KJV)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sibling Love

On Thursday morning in Japan (Wednesday night in the US) Isabelle will become a big sister.  Isabelle's birthmother, Lauren, will be induced and give birth to her second child and become a mother for the first time.  We are SO excited and can't wait to meet baby Scarlet via skype!

This weekend I came across an open adoption forum and was reading through it.  I was reminded as I read the questions of new parents of those early years in our relationship where we were tip toeing around each other working to develop our relationship and understand this thing called open adoption that we had all gotten ourselves into.  I was encouraged by one post about siblings.  A birthmom described our almost exact situation, kids 6 years apart who are now 18 and 24, one adopted and one she parented.  She said they refer to each other as brother and sister, are both honor role students who love music (Isabelle is smart and very musical as I am sure Scarlet will be) and got along great.  That is my dream for Isabelle and her sister.

I love the open relationship Lauren and I have developed over the years.  As I read posts from new adoptive parents who were concerned about various little details of the open relationship I remembered those years when you don't know what the relationship will turn into, you don't know if you can trust the birthparents and you don't know how it will all affect your child.  And most concerning at all you don't know your child yet but after 9 months together it seems like they do.  You are full of so much fear.  None of the questions I read were really about the situation being described but seemed to really be about fear.  And in those early years one of the things you are afraid to do is ask the birthmother how she is feeling about the situation or making any comments about the adoption.  So you just keep going forward alone into the unknown.

Luckily Lauren and I are past that.  So after my first congratulatory email about her pregnancy my second one was about my fear.  What will Isabelle think about this child?  What kind of relationship will they have?  Will she feel hurt that they are parenting Scarlet but not her?  How will this baby change their relationship with Isabelle?  Will they still love her as much?  Have time for her?  Be excited about what is happening in her life?  And how should we explain this to Isabelle?

It took a while for Lauren to answer my email because over at their house they were asking themselves the same questions and were coming up with the same lack of responses.  Together we came to the conclusion that while we may not know exactly what we are getting ourselves into we can all agree that we love Isabelle and will do our best to help her understand and feel loved through the process. 

We decided to refer to Scarlet as Isabelle's sister since they really are full biological siblings and encourage their relationship as Isabelle will be as much a part of Scarlet's life as she is of Sam and Lauren's.  And I have decided to view her like another precious neice to shower with love and attention.  I have joked that while Isabelle is over here getting mad at us and wanting to go live with Sam and Lauren, Scarlet will be over there getting mad and wanting to come live with us.  The grass is always greener on the otherside after all.

What I realized as I read some of the fears of other adoptive mom's on the web site is that we all struggle with this thing called, "normal".  We get attached to what we think a family should be and should look like and somehow we forget that isn't something in our DNA but is something culturally defined.  And while we certainly live in a culture that emphasizes one type of family, Isabelle and Scarlet will grow up a family with open adoption and this will be their normal.  Yes there will be questions about why they are different but those same questions can come from any family with something different.  People whose kids are raised in divorced families, blended families, single parent families, they are all going to get the same question we will get, "why isn't our family like my friend's family?"  Actually I remember Jake questioning why we weren't divorced like his cousins parents.  As I said, the grass is always greener on the other side.

So here we sit on the edge of our seats waiting for the next chapter in our open adoption confident it will be another wonderful adventure.