Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Team Hardacker

Has anyone seen the show "My Name is Earl".  Of course you have, it is on in re-runs about 20 times a day.  For those who have lives and don't catch every show ever made: There is a guy named Earl who is going around trying to make up for all the bad things he has done.  He has a brother, Randy, who follows him around helping him make amends.  In one episode he decides Randy needs to get a job and stop being so dependant on him all the time.  So Randy gets a job and Earl finds himself trying to help someone he has wronged in the past.  He just has to pick up some guys mother, buy some donuts and bring them both to visit the guy in prison.  But there are several road blocks to doing that and day after day he cannot get it all done before visiting hours end.  He starts earlier and earlier each day but still can't make it.  Finally Randy has a day off and goes with to help.  They get started at the crack of dawn and race through each task to find themselves sitting at the prison BEFORE visiting hours start.  Turns out that while Earl couldn't do it on his own, with Randy's help it wasn't very hard at all.

Today was a snow day.  Isabelle started school 2 hours late and because John was plowing and Jake ended up helping I stayed home with her and went into work 3 hours late.  Can I just say it was heaven?  Of course, as is our life, nothing goes smoothly.  So the snow all came down around 4am after John had finally given up checking and went to bed for the duration.  He was so tired that when I asked him at 6:30am if he would be home for Isabelle's late start it didn't click with him that it had snowed and he should get up and plow. (And since he came to bed so late I thought he had already been out plowing)  But when I went in to ask him to clear the end of our driveway so i could get out for work it all came together.  Well, sort of...The plow broke while he was clearing our driveway and as he is trying to fix it the phone starts ringing.  John, unable to problem solve a broken plow and a needy client basically tells me to tell her "too bad".  Luckily I have better problem solving skills and get the teenager out of bed and heading in the direction of her house with a shovel in the back of the van to rescue the stuck client.

John was able to get the plow fixed and while this has been a very full day he was able to get everything done. 

As the day comes to an end I am thinking about that episode of "My Name is Earl".  Lately our life has been like that.  I am working and John is working but I can't help him and he can't help me and it just seems like separately neither of us are really getting anything done or going anywhere.  We are a team.  We need each other.  His success is due in part to my involvement in his business and personal life.  And I can't get anything started without his support and encouragement. When we are both focused on surviving our own thing we end up going nowhere.  Today reminded me of that.  Being able to help him problem solve in a crisis, switching the laundry he started the night before and cleaning up the kitchen before leaving for work so it was clean when he started diner this evening.  Life is smoother when we work together.

Over the past several weeks it has become clear that our current working arrangement is not working for our family.  I have been talking about starting my own business for a while thinking i would work full time until I got it started but it has become clear that I don't have the time or energy to start a business and keep my priorities in order while working full time.  And our family is suffering.  So we are looking at and praying about other options.  We continue to be fully committed to John staying in school full time but believe there are other options worth exploring.  Options that give me more flexibility so that we can work together to accomplish our goals rather that being torn apart and going nowhere.

I don't know what will happen next or when but a plan is formulating and I am excited to once again feel like we are a team.

As we recently learned Thomas Edison might say, this has not been a failure, we have simply discoverd one of the ways that supporting John while in school does not work.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cleaning Uniform

It is so important to have the proper attire for any task.

And if you look good, you feel good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I was wrong

This past week was tough.  I was hormonal while a couple of challenging things came up.  On in our home life and one in my work.  It did not go well together.  I spent most of the week feeling angry, stressed and tired.  I wanted to release all the negativity, pass it to God and trust Him with my life.  I tried, I really, really tried.  But I just could not look past the circumstances of my life long enough to see God holding out his hands and place my troubles in them.

Until I finally did.

Sometimes we just like our anger too much to let go.  But eventually my anger wore me out and I was ready to be done.  I was tired of hearing myself complain.  I started 3 posts explaining the injustices that had befallen me but couldn't come to any conclusions beyond being angry and bitter.  And who wants to read about that?

In both incidences I had technically done something wrong.  If we must split hairs I was wrong.  Fine.  There.  Now you know.  BUT...

I could comprehensively explain to you why my wrong behavior is totally justified and why the people who turned me in are petty, vindictive, bored women whose lives have nothing to offer and so have made it their life mission to torment me.  When I was done you would totally be on my side.  Truly both offenses are so petty I wouldn't even need to give you my speech.  But in the end I would still be wrong and all I would have really accomplished would be to draw you into my sin.

Our pastor is doing a sermon series on Daniel right now.  This past week was the classic Lion's Den story.  What I got caught on was what led to the lion's den.  Daniel's jealous co-workers sought to find fault with him so they could report to his supervisor, King Darius, but they couldn't find anything to report.  Nothing.

Daniel had been taken captive as a boy and been forced to live and work in a foreign land away from family his entire life.  Talk about home to work transition!  Yet he was so faithful and worked so hard he was promoted to second in command.  And when his fellow co-workers sought to bring him down they found nothing to accuse him of.  Nothing.  No stolen pens, no long lunches, no printing in color when the cheaper black and white would suffice, no checking facebook on the clock, no mistakes on reports, no forgotten assignments.  They found nothing.  And they realized it was all because of his God.  They knew the only way to get him to break a rule was to make a law that went against his God.

" 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” Daniel 6:4-5

Now that is the kind of employee I want to be, the kind of citizen I want to be.  An exemplary employee who no one can find fault, an exemplary neighbor, friend, sister, daughter, wife, mother.  It might not keep me from accusations, it certainly didn't protect Daniel, but he walked into the lion's den confident he had done no wrong before God and whether he was rescued or died he was at peace.

In the end I know a lot of my anger stemmed from getting called out on something  knew was wrong but I had justified in my mind.  It was and is hard to admit you are wrong when people calling you out feel like enemies.  But I am accountable to God and sometimes he uses people I don't like very much to do a work in my life.  So I am turning my anger over to God and learning to humbly accept the lessons before me.

I go forward not with a desire to do better and please man but with a desire to please God and to bring glory to Him in everything I do.

"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Gal 1:10

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My New Plate

I love plates, I have several sets of dishes and have fun using them at various times. My main day to day pattern is a simple white but I have beautiful wedding china with blue flowers and I have a wonderful set of antique Fire King dishes in Peach Luster, plus my Christmas dishes, which I must confess are still in my cupboard from Christmas, those have a Christmas plaid pattern. And I have several tea cups in lots of different patterns to keep it interesting. Love dishes! I love to decorate a beautiful table with them. I have a friend at church who shares this passion and we love to do the tables at church for big events.
This past year I released a lot of stuff from my life.  I remember talking to my sister in law about my time releasing.  We talked about the clean plate.  I had to release everything first so I could add things back to an empty plate rather than adding and pulling at the same time.  You don't know if the thing you added is a problem or something that you haven't taken out yet.  So that is what I worked toward last year, finding a clean plate.

Now I am trying to fill my plate slowly, one thing at a time. 

When I was at home my plate was a fresh white plate, each thing on it could stand out from the simple background, the plate would match any decorating scheme I wanted to put it in and sat in the background to let whatever I put on it shine. 

However, I am not sure that is what my plate looks like anymore.  My plate my be empty of any activities I have put on it but I no longer have a simple white plate that can do anything or go anywhere.  I have a patterned plate.  My decorating options are limited with my new plate and not anything will look good on it.  I still have many options but I am not free to do anything I want to do.  I need to look at the color and pattern of my plate and make choices that complement and enhance the look of the plate. 

But as with many things I can learn from my time decorating a white plate.  Even when my plate was white I didn't just put anything on there.  I asked myself what I was passionate about, what is God doing in my life and from there I moved forward.  I love being a woman and I loved being a homemaker and much of what I did during my years at home focused on those passions.  I also love being a mom and I love teaching my kids so at other times in my homemaking career I filled my plate with those things.  The beauty of the white plate is that I was able to change the look of the table as new things came into my life.

My new life has a patterned plate.  There is one constant in my life that cannot be changed.  And while I may not have a patterned plate forever I am committed to this look for the next several years.   Which means even more than with the white plate I must remember to be aware that my theme needs to complement my pattern and not conflict.  So as I consider all the options before me to add to my plate I will keep my limitations in mind.  And just like when I was at home I will be careful to not overwhelm my plate and to be sure there is plenty of room for the most important things in my life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine for my Valentine

I know it is obvious but it seemed like I should write something for Valentine's Day.  Since I am unsure what to say it made me wonder about the history of the day and who this Saint Valentine was.  I thought maybe I could learn something and share the spiritual significance of the holiday.  After reading a couple accounts I am convinced that my husband may be right, Hallmark invented this holiday.  They aren't totally sure who Valentine was and there are a couple different stories, one where the government decides that single men are better soldiers and forbids marriage but he secretly marries couples anyway and another where Valentine is in prison but falls in love with the jailer's daughter and sends her a love letter signed "from your Valentine."  Thus sending the first valentine.  The general consensus is that he was a romantic guy.  And since we all love to love and celebrate love I guess it stuck.  Whatever the story, people have been sending Valentine's to their loved ones for over 300 years. 

Before Hallmark we had to be a little more creative, come up with our own verse, cut out our own hearts, glue the lace doily ourselves.  Now we just run to the corner store and find someone who has said it perfectly for us, add a little candy and flowers and we are good to go.

I was going to post a valentine for my hubby and wrote a terrible poem but decided I have too much pride to publish it so let me simply say:

I happened to be married to a very wonderful man, the perfect balance to my life.  I used to say that he made me interesting and I kept him from getting carried away but I am thinking 21 years later we may have reversed roles and now he keeps me from getting carried away.  Although I still think I am vastly more interesting because I have him in my life than I otherwise would be.

Happy Valentine's Day to the best Husband and Father a woman could ever dream of spending her life with.

I will share the poem with him because we like to laugh together.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Finding my way

During a recent lunch break I did something I haven't done in a while.  I read a magazine and enjoyed it. 

I love magazines.  I love the visual of the pictures.  I love the short informative articles.  I love all the how to articles and the list articles and the essays.  Even the blatant advertisement articles.  Love magazines.  Last January I subscribed to 3 magazines thinking I would enjoy reading each issue sitting in my living room while my daughter was at school or I was laying at the pool this summer.  Then it happened, work.  Magazines came and I didn't even have the energy to peak under the cover. I tossed issues of magazines having only glanced through them. (yes I toss old issues of magazines)  And when I would sit down to relax with my magazines I wasn't finding it enjoyable at all.  I subscribe to homemaker/mom magazines and I was feeling very distanced from that life.  Reading the magazines only widened that gap, reminded me of what I had lost.  It is really a low point when work steals the joy from one of your favorite activities.

But then it happened, I read a magazine and didn't spend the whole time thinking about how I didn't have time to be a homemaker anymore.  I dreamed of making the meals I was reading about, trying new recipes and caring for my family.  And my dream was within the structure of this life I now live rather than only being able to visualize caring for my home and family full time.  I thought about grocery shopping in the evenings, planning menus, cooking ahead.  My husband has taken on most of the dinner prep lately and I greatly enjoy coming home to dinner cooking but I know he would love it if I would just tell him what to make each night and have the food waiting in the fridge.

I also have started thinking about decorating again.  An old lamp in the living room went out recently.  Somehow the need for a new lamp turned into spending an entire weekend rearranging the furniture and creating a re-decoration plan that should keep me and any extra money that comes my way entertained well into the spring.  I find myself ripping out living room pictures and contemplating paint colors as if I am still a part of this home and I care about my surroundings.

It is like I am still my regular self.  I didn't get lost.  I may have changed course a little.  My identity may have been shaken a bit this past year but I am still standing firm, new location, same Melanie.  My passions are still there and were just waiting to welcome me back with open arms.

My bathroom is still holding its arms out waiting.  One of these days maybe I will get excited about cleaning it again too.  It could happen.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daily Discipline

Ever since I was a teenager I loved to make goals.  I remember one time asking to use the neighbors typewriter so I could type up my goals.  I was very proud of them until someone pointed out that instead of typing "eat healthy snacks" I had actually typed "eat healthy snakes".  (Thank goodness for spell check or you might still be catching stuff like that.)

As long as I can remember I've always had a similar goal pattern.  I would want to eat healthier, exercise more and have a daily quiet time.  Then I would focus on the exercise or healthy eating for a while but get board and quit and I would try to have daily time God but fail.  It was a constant pattern of up and down with health and exercise and lackluster attempts to spend time with God for years.  But I am the eternal optimist and always created a new goal certain this would be the year it would happen.

I did eventually find my way to a healthier eating pattern after feeling sick for a number of years and I did get into a routine of running regularly and I found my way to spending time with God on a somewhat regular basis but I didn't really develop the concept of discipline in my life until I read through the bible one year.

I had never read through the whole bible before, I  had started many times, even got to Job one year, but I had never completed the task.  It was a big task, consistency for an entire year, read something every day.  If you don't keep up it quickly would become a monumental task to catch up.  But in 2008 I decided to make it happen. 

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the task but I just focused on one day at a time.  And I decided I didn't have to do anything else that year, just read my daily portion.  I wasn't in a bible study that year, didn't try to read a devotional, didn't tell myself I had to even have a deep thought on what I was reading or pray afterward.  Just had to read every day.  Some days I would have a deep thought worth journaling about but most days I just read and moved on.  I remember the day I finished Job and knew I had read further than I had in the past.  It was a mini victory that kept me motivated to continue.  Occasionally I would have to find time for a little catch up work but for the most part I read my daily portion quickly each morning and moved on.  And getting an overview of the whole bible that way, not studying each verse but just enjoying the story, was wonderful.  You get to see God's presence and his hand in the wholeness of the story.

Finishing the reading on December 31st felt great and was the perfect way to end the year.  I was very ready to move on to other ways of reading the bible that next year and have done different things in the years since but spending that year developing the habit of daily time with God has been something that has stuck.  They say you develop a habit in 28 days but maintaining it for 365 days really creates a pattern, something so comfortable you always want to fall back to it.  I definitely look back at that experience as something that has shaped my view of discipline and my understanding of what I can accomplish if I put my mind to it and keep walking forward one step at a time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

And the rest

OK Disney was only 2 days of our wonderful 8 day trip to Florida.  Here is the rest.

Our 3rd prize day was spent at Kennedy Space Center.  Yes we could have done something obvious like Sea World or Universal Studios or we could have done something less obvious like go see Blue Man Group (which was under serious consideration) but I could not resist the educational and cultural opportunity to visit Kennedy and learn more about the space program.  And we are not sorry, it was everything I had hoped it would be and more.  I thought this would be the day Isabelle complained that she was bored but at the end of the day she claimed to love it more than Disney.  I think she loves what she is doing at the moment the most but she really did great and enjoyed it.  I challenged her to learn 3 facts that she could write in her journal and share with her class and off we went to discover.  We learmed so much more than 3 things.

Here we are, first things first, accost a stranger to take a family picture.  There are a handful of buildings and some interesting sites here at the main part of Kennedy but we really didn't get to see everything here.  My mom had mentioned they had a great bus tour and the second thing we did was get in line for the bus tour.  I thought it would be like at Disney where you get on a bus or tram and drive around for 15 minutes and then back for the next thing.  Actually this bus tour was the bulk of our day.  We left the main building area and drove over to a viewing platform where we could get see the main launch area.  Then back in the bus and over to another building where we spent most of our day viewing various space paraphenelia and seeing videos about the program.  It was facinating.

This is the building where they keep and assemble the shuttles.  This is the largest one story building in the world.  If the doors were fully open you could slide the statue of liberty in.  Although it isn't obvious in the picture we could see the back end of one of the shuttles.  Since we aren't sending manned missions anymore than are in the process of preparing the shuttles to go to various museums.  One is going to Houston, TX, one will stay at Kennedy and the third is going...I forget.  It seems like just yesterday that we announced then end of our space program and yet they have already full embraced the new direction of the space program in every video and display in the place.  The new direction will focus on deep space missions and they will be privatizing the space program.  In March they are doing a launch which will be a test run for a private company trying to get a contract to send stuff up.

This is the launch platform.  They set the shuttle on it and then have a huge crawler machine that they use to drive the platform with shuttle over to the launch area.  It is amazing what they have created for the space program.  When John Kennedy decided that our goal was the moon and we could not be stopped the fact was we had never even gone into space.  Every single detail of our current space program has been created along the way.  Not just the building of the spaceship but every policy and procedure involved in a launch.  The road from where the shuttle is built to where it is launched had to be specially engineered to handle the weight of the crawler carrying a platform with a shuttle on it.  Every detail had to be thought of and invented.  What an exciting project to be a part of.

The launch site.  We didn't get to go out there.

It is hard to photograph the background and the foreground.  Especially when one is sunny and the other is in the shade.  So that little smear on the horizon to the right of Jake is the launch platform.  In person it doesn't look like a smear.  We are about 3 miles away, the closet they let people get.

Here we are in the second building, part of the bus tour.  This is the Saturn V rocket which, if I recall correctly, was the first manned trip into space, or the first signficant one.

Isabelle holding up the rocket.

We got to touch an actual rock from the moon.  It felt like a smooth stone touched by thousands of people but still it is cool to say we touched a rock from the moon.

I was really inspired by the space program and the focus and determination that went into accomplishing putting a man on the moon.  The risks, the many failures, including the deaths of several astraunauts on their first attempt into space, and finally the success.  They kept persevering, slowly worked through each problem, found answers and put man on the moon and created a space program.  It is a wonderful lesson for our life as we work toward a goal that will be full of challenges but worth it when we accomplish our goal and stand on our personal moon.

Kennedy is surrounded by a huge wildlife preserve.  Basically everything except the few buildings and launch site are wildlife preserve.  The bus drivers were pointing out alligators and eagle's nests as we drove around.  So apparently they were doing a controled burn that day which got a little out of control.  As we drove near the area on the way out we could see a small fire on the side of the road but as the day progressed apparently it got larger and more out of control.  By the time we left they were counting people and pretty much kicking them out of building.  What was about a 3 mile drive out turned into a 30 minute tour of the cities surrounding Cape Canaveral as we drove back another way because they had to close the roads.

Once back to the main part most of the exhibits were closed but we got to check out the Rocket Garden before we left.  So cool.  All the rockets of the past stand proudly as part of the legacy of our space program.  As you can see the smoke was darkening the sky considerably.

In reality this is all the room the astraunauts had during those early missions.  They sat in one place for days.

As much fun as Disney and Kennedy were Isabelle desperately wanted to spend some time at the awesome pool at our hotel.  So our last day in Orlando she was at the pool shortly after 9am and stayed until right before we checked out at 11.

How cool is that pool?  Our room was in the building behind her, 11th floor, overlooking the pool.

On this side of the pirate ship you can see a little hole which was a water slide.  It wasn't open that morning but her and John had some fun with it the night before.

My favorite part was the hot tub.  Especially wonderful on tired legs.

We had a short but wonderful lunch with friends before we left for Marco Island.  We arrived at dinner time and we whisked away to Joey's Pizza as soon as we arrived for a fun dinner.  While technicaly we ate inside the restaurant we sat next to huge totally absent windows so it was like eating outside.  It was the middle of winter and the weather was great.

The next day Isabelle was ready to hit the pool and we began our attempts at banishing our winter white.

I had my camera and started taking a couple of Jake who just went with me here.  John was feeling a little disturbed by the time we were done.

Isabelle could barely contain herself.  That is my parents place with the balcony above her head.

Isabelle is still laughing about pushing her brother into the pool.

They had so much fun together.  Jake is the best big brother ever.

We had lunch at a restaurant on the beach.  My mom picked up this long sleeved swimming shirt for isabelle after she got quite a bad sunburn our first day there.

Before we left I needed a few family pictures on the beach.  That morning John and I had gone down early to walk down the beach a while.  I could see a sort of obvious point so we headed toward it not realizing it was about 3 miles away.  We even decided to run for about a mile or so before my knee gave up.  It was a dream come true to run with my hubby along a beautiful white sandy beach the sun on my right the waves on my left.  Pinch me.

It was really the totally wrong time of day lighting wise for these pictures so they are a little dark but otherwise turned out great.  We really need to take another class on how our camera works so we can properly adjust the settings for this stuff.  

Isabelle found another little girl playing in the sand and really was not into family pictures or standing still for us.

Here are my feet saying goodbye to the sand.

Isabelle rinsing off the sand as we leave the beach for the last time.

Grandma and Isabelle drove the long 3 blocks from their condo to the beach.

The men and I walked.

I really pray we can return to Marco another winter.  Now that I have gone 2 years in a row it seems like a tradition worth perpetuating.  But both trips have been paid for so we will see what happens.  I found this trip to be so much more fun since I was familiar with everything.  I was able to guide John right to their condo without directions, I knew where I wanted to have lunch, what to do on the beach.  We really wanted to try Kayaking while we were there but finally admited that the visit was too short for another adventure and just enjoyed the beach.  We headed back to Orlando on Friday night tired but happy, spent the night in a very inexpensive but surprisingly nice hotel near the airport and began our journey home Saturday afternoon.

But WAIT, that is not all!  Our original flight had a short layover in Atlanta, just enough time to get off one plane, rush across the airport and get on another.  But my sister lives in Atlanta and I hadn't seen her in over a year and it seemed like an opportunity.  So when we checked in at the airport I asked the guy if there was any way he could bump us off that flight and put us on a later flight so we could have dinner with my sister.  Well he must have a sister somewhere too because he ended up finding us seats on a flight 5 hours after we landed.  He said he normally he was supposed to charge for the change but would do it as a courtesy to us.  And so I give a shout out to AirTran for their wonderful customer service.  If I can do London during a 7 hour layover I can definately have dinner with my sister in 5 hours.

Michele picked us up at the airport and we found our way to Lenox Mall where we met up with her husband for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.  I believe my favorite part of the visit was having her point out the transvestites at the mall as we walked through.  While I had been to the mall before it is definately a differnet place on a Saturday night than it is on a Wednesday afternoon.

The cousins loved seeing each other (the oldest just turned 13 and was at a surprise birthday party for her so we didn't get to see the new teenager.)

And it was a joy to see my sister.  When we are together it seems like no time has past.  Now the short visit is like a dream.

The men enjoyed some quick bonding as well.

And with that we flew home, John and I watched a very strange movie called "Cowboys and Aliens" on the flight, my brother picked us up from the airport at 11pm because he is wonderful and we disovered that our bed is the most comfortable bed the in the whole world.

It was such a wonderful trip full of so many wonderful family memories. Every day we commented on how grateful we were to win this trip and have this experience.  And again, as I have been doing all year, I am aware that this is likely our last major family trip before Jake moves into adulthood and begins his independence from our family.  I had written in my contest entry about my desire to have one last big family trip with Jake before he graduated and this trip was that and so much more.  I loved seeing my children outside of our normal daily life.  I wanted to make memories with my children that they could carry into adulthood, memories that would span the distance between thier ages and bring them together, memories that they will share and laugh together about in years to come and will remind them that, although it was short, they shared a childhood together.  Thank you, thank you Family Circle Magazine and Caryn at "Visit Orlando" who put it all together for making our family vacation a dream come true.