Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Falling Forward to Something New

Hi Friends!  It is September!  School has started, fall has come.  The weather the past few days has been glorious, warm but not too warm, sunny and beautiful.  This morning I was up early enough to see the sun rise but not so early that it seemed crazy.  I love fall, the weather, the sunrises, the back to school routine.  To be clear I love summer too but I think fall is my favorite.  In a few more weeks the leaves will begin to turn beautiful colors, I will get out my sweatshirts and sweaters, we will have evening bonfires at my brother's house (hint), and get excited that maybe this year the Vikings will pull together a great season.  maybe.

And a month or so ago I announced that this fall I would be moving all my brilliant thoughts from this blog to my other blog "From Homemaker to Working Mom".  To start off the fresh new start I have already written a couple things there this month and have a couple more ideas to continue the momentum!

After a year of complaining to all of you about my lack of inspiration, the struggle that this past year has been, I literally (yes literally) feel like something just popped together in me this past month and I am back to normal.  I feel free and fresh and my mind is off racing in a million directions once again. I was just feeling so much like, well...ME this morning. So today I praised God, thanked Him and worshiped Him for this amazing refreshing of my soul with arms raised high and joy in my spirit (alone in my house with my family sleeping so that nobody could see me of course.)  I feel great!

So although I will miss this blog it just feels like the perfect time to say good bye to it and hello to the new one.  I am not going to lie to you.  I am finding word press to be a little trickier than I would like it to be and although I thought I had figured out the email thing apparently I have not.  So I am still working on that.  And it doesn't automatically publish on my facebook page so I will have to manually do that for now.  But I am getting there and now that I have my enthusiasm for...everything! back I am sure I will get it worked out.  And I really hope you all follow me over there.  I promise to still write in my same conversational and slightly self depreciating way as I share my observations about life.  I don't plan to share quite as much personal family information.  This blog was about parenting and my kids and family.  And as it has been read mainly by family and friends it has felt like a safe place to slightly over share. :)

With the new blog I still want to share my heart and life but my main goal is to encourage women as they return to work or remain working.  As I returned to work 3 years ago (!) I struggled to find much in the way of support and understanding in the transition.  Especially in the christian community.  I had gotten so much support as a homemaker but where are my web sites, books and conferences for the working christian mom? I found a couple things but it is definitely a market that needs a voice.  And I hope that I can very casually but lovingly share my story and with it encourage and support other christian working moms who are trying to maintain faith and family as high priorities while still working and building a career.  OK, I am not going to lie, that last sentence makes it sound sort of boring.  It won't be, it will be fun!  Because life is fun and transitioning to a new thing is fun (new thing!).  And some days if you don't laugh at the circumstances of your life you have to cry.  And I choose to laugh most of the time.  It is hard and challenging too but together as a community we can support, encourage and pray for each other and as a result make the whole thing worthwhile.

So follow me over to the new blog, it's OK, I promise.

OK a few start of the school year pictures for you.
First day of 4th Grade!

Back for his final year of undergrad work at the University of Minnesota

It was our 24th anniversary on Izzy's first day of school.  We all had a great day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Celebrating 24 year, who we were and who we are

It's our 24th anniversary today.  We are celebrating with our usual trip to the State Fair and dinner out.

It is amazing to think it has been that long.  Seems like just yesterday we got married.  But then you start looking back at what has happened in 24 years and suddenly it seems exactly like 24 years.

When you look back so much has happened and we have become different people.  And it would be easy to look at John or for him to look at me and say, that is not the person I married.  Because I am not.  And John is not.  But every day we determine to walk this path with the person we married, love them for who they have become and dream and plan with the person we are with today rather than the person we married years ago and the dreams we dreamed before life really began.

Certainly 24 years ago I would not have imagined that John would be in school at this time, that our son would be married or that we would have a 9 year old.  I wouldn't have imagined that I would be in real estate.  I might have imagined that we would be living in a little condo but not because we sold our house. Because we never got off the ground to be more (we were 19 when we got married after all, not everyone had my vision for future financial success at the time.)  I never would have imagined that we would have taken our family on a mission trip to Kenya, John would be a firefighter, I would spend 17 years as a homemaker (when we got married I was going to be the one to work and support the family believe it or not).

When we got married I had a couple specific hopes related to our future life.  I hoped we wouldn't have to raise our (multiple, close together) children in an apartment building because we couldn't afford a house and I hoped i wouldn't have to spend the rest of my life in this frozen tundra enduring the frigid winters.  And I hoped that I would finish my college degree before I was 30.  Hmmm, seemed like we were on the right track with the first one but the rest...

I'm glad I didn't imagine this life.  Finding and discovering it together has been part of the fun. Learning to know John more and help him pursue his dreams and passions.  Getting to know ourselves, at 19 I really didn't know who I was and hadn't really grown into my own skin yet.  Choosing each other over and over again as we grew and changed.  The good and bad of all that we have endured, celebrated, journeyed over and through.

Tomorrow we start our 25th year of marriage.  We are excited to near that milestone and plan to celebrate all year long.  25 years on the 25th of every month.  Feel free to send us your celebration ideas because one of the things we have learned in 24 years is that our ideas are great but our follow through/creativity is slightly off...But we embrace that about ourselves too. :)

And for your viewing pleasure, a little visual of how it all started:

The little boy in the background of this pic just had twin girls this summer.  Which is a sign you have been married a long time!

This cake design was one of John's main contributions to the wedding planning.

I think it is safe to say we are the quintessential 90's wedding look here.

Happy and in love after 24 years.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Caffeinated Late Night Musings

Random trivia about me.  I am really sensitive to caffeine.  I do fine with decaf and if it is early enough in the day I can do green tea.  But any caffeine after say 3pm pretty much guarantees my brain will still be in overdrive at 1am.  I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking how weird because you can drink a regular cup of coffee at 9pm and sleep like a baby.  I know how that works.  In my 20's that is how it worked for me too. So if I may just have a health food moment aren't immune to the effects of caffeine, your body is just so toxic with it that it doesn't react properly to it anymore.  Once you detox from it, suddenly it works very well. Sometimes my body will be literally buzzing from the drug.  I also sleep better than you and have less stomach issues.  Just saying.

So anyway, we went to caribou tonight and I ordered iced berry white mocha, decaf and soy but he accidentally made it with 2% instead of soy and so quickly re-made it and I think he missed the decaf the second time around because it is 2am and I am positively energetic right now.  Can you imagine if I detoxed from sugar and then drank a caffeinated, sugary coffee drink?  I think I would be buzzing so much I might literally explode.

I should probably just get dressed and go into the office now so I can come home at 4 or 5am when the buzz usually wears off and sleep in.  Or go for a nice evening stroll in the cool summer air. I live in a safe neighborhood. Or...write a blog post.  Since my mind is working so sharply and clearly right now.

This has been a good summer.  Not a relaxing, vacation kind but a slowing down kind.  I told John tonight it felt like the long, slow run kind of summer.  No races, no speed training or endurance drills.  Just a relaxing long run.  We haven't stopped running but it is a stress free kind of run this summer.  We are beginning to gear up for the fall training sessions.

John goes back to school this fall and after a couple different meetings at the U with his regular advisor who proposed a plan that sort of would work but we didn't like, someone in his degree department who confirmed that he did not  have to take a class at the U that he had already taken at Normandale (I know it sounds obvious but apparently it isn't), a visit to the admission office to confirm an addition to his transcript and then a bunch of research by me to put it all together and create a real plan and then a few phone calls and emails to get permission to take the classes he wanted to take, we are on track for him to graduate at the end of next summer. (Piece of cake.) Would have liked a spring graduation but it would mean him taking an unhealthy number of credits each semester which would have to include 2 lab classes at once and a senior project in his major.  That just seemed silly.  So he will add a couple summer classes and be finishing up his degree a year from now.

As we start this 4th year of full time school I think we finally are starting to figure things out.  Every semester we look at his schedule and try to plan the times he will study and times he will work.  Tonight I said we should plan the times he will prioritize the family.  Because he will always find time to prioritize homework but we often slip through the cracks. And I don't say that hurt or like I don't understand. We are just learning that we need to take a different approach.  One that doesn't assume that every free moment will be spent with us and he will plan his study but the reality that every free moment will be spent studying and he needs to plan his time with us.  Live and learn.  Save yourself a few fights.  (This is one  of the moments of clarity I had tonight while my brain was working in overdrive.)

In a way it is a shame that just as we are really starting to perfect this crazy schedule he is going to finish up. (This is one of those crazy things you say when your brain is working in overdrive.)  Of course then we have grad school...but somehow I suspect all the rules will change once we get there.

Topic Change.  (When your brain is in overdrive you go flying from one thought to the next.)  Let's go deep.

I am currently reading in Matthew.  I have had a lack luster quiet time most of this past year and was about to give up on it for a while but whenever I don't know where to go I read a gospel.  It just feels foundational, gets you back on solid ground.  Everything else in the bible is growth agent but it all has to start in the gospels.  Foundational.  I don't know that Matthew is my favorite one but it is the first one and the fact that I am reading it because it comes first should tell you a little bit about the amount of effort I have been interesting in putting into my quiet times lately.

I have had a few thoughts as I have read but when I try to write them down it turns out I just have thoughts but no points.  "Huh, interesting."  But nothing else.

Today I think I might be on to something so we will try it out tonight with my extra stimulated brain.

Storms.  I read 2 stories about storms. You know them.  The wise man builds his house upon the rock, the foolish one builds his house upon the sand.  The rains came down and the floods went up and the sand house came tumbling down but the house on the rock stood firm.  If you were in sunday school in the 70's you are singing in your head now.  sorry.  Story two is of the storm that came up in the boat while Jesus slept. The disciples were afraid and they woke him up because they just didn't understand how he could sleep at a time he should be terrified with them.  And Jesus rolled his eyes, calmed the storm, wondered when they would figure out what was really going on and went back to sleep.  You have the part about him rolling his eyes in your bible too, right?

OK so, going with the idea that last year we went through a storm and applying the ideas to my life then and today.

So first of all, I always think of the rock that the house is built on as Jesus, but really he is talking about something else.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."  Matt 7:24-27

Now Chuck Swindoll likes to say, "when you see a therefore ask yourself what it is there for."

So this build your house on a rock passage is the end of this long bunch of teachings that Jesus gives, I think it is the sermon on the mount.  So a brief overview would be: watch for false prophets, ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, don't judge others, don't worry, store up treasures in heaven not here on earth, give to the needy, pray, love your enemys, be nice to each other, be salt and light, and all those blessed are..

So if we hear all he says there and put it into practice that is our rock upon which we build a house and when a storm comes it does not fall with a great crash or even a small shudder.  It stands.

What I got to thinking about was that although my house still stands, it took on some damage.  My roof has hail damage, there are cracks in the siding, I discovered a few rocks made of sandstone rather than granite after the outer coating washed off.  When the storm comes, our house may still be standing but it might need a little maintenance.  You don't get to come out of your cozy house after a storm and keep moving forward without stopping to assess the damage and make repairs.  If you don't then the next storm will make even more damage and eventually you might find that a little storm causes your house to crash to the ground.

Lets be honest, maintenance work is not fun.  Spending money to replace a roof after a storm, not fun.  Walking around the yard picking up all those broken branches, repainting the siding, filling cracks.  Tedious and time consuming.  Blah.

And if I am honest, that is sort of how I have been feeling about the whole thing this summer.  Standing outside my broken house and unsure I really have it in me to fix it.  I have done a few little things.  Walked around picking up a few branches.  Filing a few holes that seemed to need immediate attention.  But mostly just standing there staring at it.  I am unwilling to walk away.  This is where I want to be, I am just...

Standing in the boat trying to figure out what happened.  So there was this big storm and i was totally freaked out and I woke up Jesus.  In the disciples story he calms the storm.  Before hand he says to them, "you of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  But I think to myself, if they were afraid before he calmed the storm, imagine how they were feeling after!  As if the storm wasn't scary enough now you realize you are in a boat with a guy even more powerful that a very scary storm!  What do you do with that information?  (Even my hyped up mind can't quite grasp that, although at 3am it is starting to slow down so my brilliance from here on might start to wane.)

Anyway, while I am finding this story interesting I have to admit to myself that I am secretly thinking, "good story bro but Jesus didn't calm my storm."  Sometimes I think we need to pull our secret thoughts to the front so we can set them straight.  I mean this is not my first run through the bible, I know what Jesus is really trying to say here.  It isn't that he will always calm our storms but that he is more powerful than anything we have to endure and we can lean on him.

After I had that thought I responded with another thought (my thoughts talk to each other), I did not see Jesus present in my storm. And I sort of wanted to cross my arms and stick out my tongue as I had that thought.  Possibly stomp my foot.  But as I looked back at each major lightning strike in my storm I saw Jesus' presence.  Some more clearly than others, one particularly bad strike I really had to struggle to find him but I did eventually see him when I took my eyes off the bad and allowed myself to see the whole picture.  Blessings everywhere, even in the storm.

Anyway, I guess I still don't know if I really have a point to all that. I am still healing. I think I want to forget that.  I want to come out of my house and just pick up right where I left off when the storm started. I don't want to be broken and need to heal. And I think I felt a little betrayed by Jesus.  I think as Christians who know the truth we don't want to admit we are hurt by God or feel betrayed by Jesus because we know those aren't truths.  But that doesn't mean we don't feel that way and if we can't admit we feel that way we can't move past it.  So I admit, this storm may not have crashed my house but it did do more damage than I would like to admit.  However, while I struggle to find enthusiasm for the repairs most days, I am making them, I can't imagine doing anything else.

We are coming up on a year since we packed up everything we owned, sold our house and moved into my parents basement in an effort to re-structure and re-build our finances so we can complete this educational journey.  As if that wasn't enough to throw me off track, so much insanity followed.  But I think as we begin hitting some of these year marks it is freeing me.  We are feeling settled for the most part in our new home.  We bought this little condo thinking we would only be here a few years but we love it so much we might stay forever and buy a cabin or retirement home when John goes back to work instead.  And we are making some serious headway on emptying out our storage locker.  Had hoped to be out of it by the end of June but now thinking end of August will be more realistic.  Last week I found something in storage that we feared we had lost in the move.  Some pictures we have had done on our milestone anniversaries over the years.  They are irreplaceable.  We had come to peace with their loss but are overjoyed at their return. Hey that sort of makes them sound like the prodigal son!  I could do a post just around that.  But I won't because it is almost 3:30am and I don't think I have a new thought left in me.  Anyway, truth be told we have stuff in 2 other places as well.  We have a lot of stuff.  I keep asking myself how this happened.  The storage we are trying to get out of is the one with all the household stuff.  Non-essentials that I either need to let go or accept the fact that I am going to have to find a place for it in my home or pay to keep it.  You really discover what is important to you when you downsize.  I recommend the experience.

OK lots of mind wandering happening here.  Less razer focus.  I think I might be able to fall asleep. I was just looking at my post screen and discovered 4 partially written posts that I managed to summarize in this one post. But I will not say that the caffeine helped.  It was more the time I got tonight with nothing else to do.  But it is over now. Good night.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Bloom of the Present Moment

A couple years ago when I first started working I was reading, "Life in the Woods" By Thoreau.  I was going through some old notebooks yesterday and noticed a couple quotes from the book I had jotted down.

"There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether head or hands.  I love a broad margin to my life."

I wish I could have pulled this quote out a few weeks ago when the ducks were walking through our courtyard.  It was this very idea.  I couldn't afford to do anything else but experience the bloom of that moment, watch those ducks.
But in that moment, as I was about to jump up and capture it for all to see I stopped.  Because the down side of becoming a reporter for the world is that sometimes we completely miss experiencing the moment for ourselves.  So I continued sitting still and watching these two companions come across the bridge, walk across the grass, pause on a path near a second bridge to enjoy the view.  They weren't in a hurry, seemed to have nowhere to be but here in this moment, in this place, together.  And for a few minutes I got to join them, share in their contented morning stroll and enjoy this place God put me today.  Eventually the waddled off out of my sight to carry on with their day and I had to get up and begin my day.  But for a moment, I got to stop the crazy of life with Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and just be present.

Hey!  I just quoted myself in my own blog.  Is that allowed?  How fun for me.  I am easily entertained.

Anyway...Today, don't sacrifice the bloom of the moment to work, or picture taking or rushing down the highway and miss experiencing the life God has placed before you, the people, the places, the joys and the sorrows.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spring and Summer Fun So far...

So sometime, luckily after the wedding but in the midst of getting our life organized in this new home, I lost the battery charger for my good camera.  These days my phone camera is pretty much as good as the camera although the lens leaves something to be desired.  Plus, I have not mastered putting my phone pictures anywhere but on my phone and have no organization for said pictures.  Then, being the rocket scientist that I am, I realized that I could plug my phone into my computer the same way I plug my camera in and download them into the same program I keep camera pictures and voila have my pictures accessible and organized once again.  Prior to this great revelation I had been emailing one or two of them to myself at a time so that I could then download them onto my computer from the email and then upload them to my blog.  I am sure there is an even easier way to do it, picsa for instance, but lets not get too carried away.

So with my newfound tech in place I present to you the last couple months in pictures:

Mother's Day.  I did basically have to torture and bribe her to pose for this picture.  I felt so special.  We went out to sushi with my family.  My brother planned it as this spring was drastically different from last fall.  I went from having too much free time and needing a job to being so busy I could barely keep up.  This was one of only a few days off for about 2 months and really I probably sent and email, text or answered a work related call on this day too.  That seems to be how it went this spring.  As my sales begin to close this month my bank account is thanking me for the effort.

Isabelle and I have begun going to the same hair stylist.  It is fun to share this task with her.  And I think our stylist Babbette is appreciative too.  I normally just trim my bangs at home between cuts even though she always tells me to come in for a free trim.  Isabelle, however, forgets nothing and at the appropriate time started harassing me to get in for the trim.  I will be looking better going forward with her input.

Since I did not jump up to photograph the ducks walking through the courtyard a few weeks ago, this mother goose and her children decided to come see me!  Walked right up to the window hissed through the screen door and, of course, pooped before walking away.  Very entertaining.

Our outdoor pool opened the end of May and although a little chilly for my involvement, Isabelle was excited to try it out.

We had one of those, "what should we do today?" mornings where we suddenly decided to drive up to Duluth for the day.  Our long winter and missing spring meant there was still ice on Lake Superior but that didn't stop Isabelle from wading in the lake.  She said it felt like needles pricking her legs.  We didn't let her stay in too long.  Only in Minnesota does it make sense to be wearing a tank top while looking at a lake covered in ice.  And, yes, I worked on this day from Duluth too.  Negotiated the sale of a house.  It may be busy but I love my job.  The great integration of work and family that I need.

We got a plant from a friend.  And it keeps doing this.  Then I give it water and it perks up and then it does this again.  It is like a needy child.  You feed it and then it wants more.  I don't know how many more times I can revive the thing.  Geez. 

End of school year.  Isabelle did a report on Jane Goodall.

So we have 2 storage locations for all our stuff.  Stuff that we might need again someday but can't fit in our home now, stuff that we don't need ever again, stuff that belongs to someone who does not live with us or in this state anymore, stuff that we will never need again but are emotionally attached to.  We did bring a bunch of stuff to a garage sale at my parents house a few weeks ago and have cleared out quite a bit of room in the storage space we have near our home.  However, the second space is about an hour from our home and it is packed tight.  It mainly contains items from our former garage.  We do need to sell, give away or throw away many things in there but it becomes a little overwhelming when you view it.  The pictures do not even begin to translate how full it is or how masterfully my husband can pack a storage space.

Picture one is after John has taken out a riding lawn mower, grill, car ramps, ladder and a few other misc things.  Imagine all that in the space he is standing in. 

He hung the wicker settee and bikes and anything else hangable from the ceiling. 

All packed back in less whatever it was we went to get. 

We went out to Minnehaha falls to see it raging.  The river was overflowing and this was before all the flooding rains we have had.  My cousin's band, "The May North" was playing at the bandstand.  He plays the upright Bass which a few weeks before this Isabelle randomly announced she wanted to play in band.  Not exactly sure how that will work but it is nice to know there is someone who can give her a few pointers in the family.

For unknown reasons Isabelle decided to spread a chocolate candy bar around her lips like lipstick.  I think this is that merging of the little girl and the pre-teen into one.  Still plays with food and makes a mess but now does it in a fashionable way.  I found out recently that Isabelle also set up her own instagram account so she could post these kind of pictures for her friends.  I think she knows more about internet safety than I do so turns out I had nothing to worry about.  I set up my own account too so I could monitor her but have yet to really understand how to properly use it.  However, I got into facebook for Jake so I will master Insta for Izzy.  Eventually.  Probably.

Finally school is out and Izzy is headed to a week of camp at Trout Lake Camp.  We, of course, stop for our coffee/sugar buzz on the way out of town.

Moments after we get on the road Izzy bites down on something and finally gets a tooth that had been loose for months to a point it needed to come out.  The new tooth was fully in behind it so it has become hard to wiggle very far.  She ended up becoming a bit of a moody teen as she wiggled and we pulled on the tooth the entire drive up there without success.  We got there a couple hours early and stopped for lunch at Moonlight Bay.  The weather was great, view of the lake and she sat like this.

But we are about to drop of moody for a week so we look like this!

More moody.

And then after we had gotten Moody checked in and her bed set up we walked over to sit on a bench by the lake and look at the tooth again.  FINALLY IT CAME OUT.  And it was like we flipped a switch and moody turned into enthusiastic and charming Isabelle who was very ready to be rid of her parents and bond with all her new friends.

She scored a spot in the brand new cabins they built this year.

So John and I walked around the camp alone while he reveled in the memories of his youth.

And then we were two people with no children for an entire week!  And we looked like this!  We didn't do too much while she was gone, we both had to work, but it was fun to be together and just worry about ourselves for a week.  

We picked up our happy, enthusiastic and hoarse voiced girl from camp the following week.  She had enough energy to wander through Nisswa, pose with Babe the Blue Ox and eat lunch with us before we drove back home to reality. 

And to think we are only a month into summer break.  So many more adventures await.

This week John starts his new job.  This was one of the main goals of the summer, maybe the only goal of the summer.  Get John and job and settle into the routine of it before he resumes classes in the fall.  I love it when things come together.  This seems to be a year where things are coming together for us job wise.  It seems like we have been in weird limbo land with work for several years.  Even before John started school.  So it feels good to finally see stability coming to this area of our lives.

On the same day we picked Izzy up from camp another member of our family was having a special event in his life.  In an effort to teach me to be the parent of someone in military intelligence he sends me lots of "parent pro tip" texts whenever I say too much publically.  So I am trying something new today and will tell you about him Mad Lib Style.

My_______________(family member) celebrated his_____________(number)th Birthday.  He started studying __________________________(language) last week so he can become_____________________________(occupation).  He is living in ______________________(city and state). I have been tracking the weather for the last ____________(number) months and I can tell you that it is always _____________(number) and _________________(weather condition)  All. Year. Long. apparently.  Which sounds fun in January but is getting boring at this point.

Summer is my secondary time of year to do long term planning and as my work settles into a routine I am starting to get ideas and plans in my head.  One thing I have already decided, in the fall I am going to stop using this blog.  Don't worry. I hope to continue to have a lot to say going forward but I started this blog as a homemaker with 2 kids at home and now i am a working woman with 1 kid at home.  I started a blog a couple years ago called "From Homemaker to Working Mom" at and am finding that most of what I have to say applies over there.  Also, I am starting to get a little bit of a following and want to concentrate my efforts more there.  So go ahead and check that blog out, save the link or sign up for emails (although so far that feature doesn't seem to be working, if you know anything about wordpress blogs and want to help me fix that problem please contact me).  Also, I have a facebook page for that blog which I pretty much only post blog posts on but hope to actually put some interesting content on this fall as well.  That part is still in the planning but the using that blog exclusively is pretty much a done decision.  I will be reminding you throughout the summer so you can start planning to move with me too.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Parenting the Heart

I have been thinking about my girl this weekend.

This sweet girl who we brought home from the hospital over 9 years ago.

9 years old is an interesting age.  I didn't quite get the "tween" thing with Jake he seemed to just go from kid to teenager over night.  Or at least his "tween" years only lasted a year or so.  Isabelle on the other hand is very much defining the stage for me.  She is so very much between.  And I think we are both, her and I, torn between wanting to keep her a little girl and wanting to rush into the teen years.  My girl who loves to shop, is concerned with getting her hair just right, loves pop music, and high heels yet still sleeps with a blanket, loves her dolls, disney movies and snuggling with mom in the mornings.  She isn't a teenager but she isn't totally a little girl anymore.  It is a fascinating age.

I am also noticing another difference between her and Jake.  Communication. While Jake seemed to carry on a running dialogue of every thought that came into his head at this age, Isabelle tends to be more introspective.  She doesn't always tell us what she is thinking but every once in a while she says something that tells us she is busy processing information.  And I have to laugh because when Jake was little I thought he was so much like me because his running commentary was a lot like what I was thinking.  However, like Isabelle, I know I kept it all to myself when I was little.  Figured it out myself.  I didn't appreciate how frustrating that must have been for my parents. My parents were great about leaving me to my thoughts.  Will I be able to do the same?  Can I communicate just the right amount of information so that as she processes she comes to the correct conclusion without nagging her?  I am going to be honest right now...I am not sure I can.  My parents had other children who did share their every thought to distract them from my silence.  Maybe this is why God sent me back to work at this stage, so I wouldn't hover over my girl as she processes and figures out life.

We figure so much out during the tween and teen years of our life.  And while my little girl never wants to talk about serious topics for more than 2 seconds, the half of her that is turning into a teenager is starting to listen.  She still doesn't ask questions but that fact that she is listening makes me think I am on the right track.

I have so many fears for my children, there are so many unknowns in life.  And our society is teaching a way of thinking and viewing our world that is so different than what God teaches, so far from Truth.  It is easy to want to toss them in a protective bubble and not let any of those crazy outside influences touch them.  And I am not here to criticize parents who attempt to do so.  However, eventually they have to live in the world and I am going to prepare my daughter to navigate it rather than run from it.  And that means she is exposed to things I would sort of rather she not know at this age.  And in this day and age of computers and social media, where she understands how they work better than we do, I just can't keep up with what she is exposed to.  It was just starting when Jake was a teenager, they came one at a time and we could add one at a time to our life and keep up, now it feels more like a flood gate has opened and I don't know where to look or what to hold back first.  Rather than spending parenting stopping the bad influences from coming her way, I am realizing I need to spend my parenting time teaching her discernment, to know what the bad things are and why she should turn from them when she sees them, to identify problems and deal with them.

Her heart.  This was my entire focus parenting round 1.  Jake's heart.  If his heart is sensitive to God and His will, then his choices will reflect that and I don't have to protect him from the world.  Isabelle may approach things different and I will have to speak to her heart differently but, ultimately it is still her heart I am parenting.  Directing her to God the Father for answers and love, so much more than I can ever give her.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Simple Prayers, Simple Theology

The other day I heard, I think on the radio, someone say something like, "you can tell a persons theology by their prayers."  This quote has bugged me every since I heard it.  I am sure the person was well meaning and in context it probably made a lot of sense but it felt a little belittling to me.  You see, I don't do fancy prayers.  I barely pray out loud in groups.  I love to pray with groups, I think it is powerful, but I am not one of those pray out loud people.  I feel too self conscious I suppose or confused, or frankly, I worry that what I am going to say will be slightly off topic or theologically confused.  So when I do stick my neck out to pray in a group, which I have had to learn to do as I have been in leadership positions at our church, I keep it pretty short and simple.  I stick closely to the point.

When I am home alone my prayers are not short and simple.  Just like I write, I ramble when I am with God.  And since I often write out prayers you can imagine how they go.

I didn't go to bible school, I haven't taken a bunch of theology courses.  I don't even really like to read theology books.  One of my spiritual gifts is faith.  I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God.  I believe he died and was raised from the dead.  I believe he was tempted but never sinned.  I believe he did this all for me. I believe that the bible is true.  I believe that all the details big and small that fall between are just that, details.  And I am just not that detail oriented.  I really don't care if you baptize your baby or wait until they can profess faith.  I don't know how deciding if I am pre or post trib will change any aspect of how I live my life.  And I don't appreciate the pressure of worrying that the way I pray in a group will define the depth and truth of my faith.

My prayer style started when I was in 3rd or 4th grade and our Sunday School teacher was talking to us about prayer.  She said to talk to God like he was a friend.  It totally changed my relationship with God.  Prior to that my prayers were like reading off a check list. "Dear God, I pray for..."  But she taught me I could just talk to God, tell him about my day, ask him questions, be casual and friendly. "Hey God, What up?"  And although I have come to understand my place in this relationship better and develop more of a respect for him and his authority in my life as I have gotten older, those casual conversations with a friend are still what work best for me. When I am talking to friends I don't speak in Old English, I don't generally quote scripture or any other written work, I don't follow any sort of formal agenda.  I just share what is on my mind.  Relationships are two way streets so I am aware of what he wants and needs from me and aim to give it to him because that is part of talking to a friend and being in a relationship.

So maybe my prayers do reflect my theology.  A very simple and straight forward belief.  Just know that my theology does not come from a lack of depth, or thought on the topic but from a desire to focus more on knowing God and  a total disinterest in details.  I figure if I start too far down the wrong path, my good friend Jesus will not be afraid to hip check me back over to the right road.  Never has been before.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What I am thinking about these days

A few friends have asked about why I haven't written much lately.  I don't really have a good answer to that but I think I can ramble on about the topic for a few minutes and hopefully when I do start writing worthwhile thoughts again someone will still be waiting to read them.

I am busy.  Now, I think I have written a post on how much I hate the word "busy".  And while my general reasoning behind my dislike of the word remains, I have a new appreciation for the phrase "I'm busy" now that I am working 2 jobs and John is in school and Isabelle is growing up.  Some days my life doesn't feel like my own anymore, I just go from responsibility to responsibility to crash.  And then back at it the next day.

I like it.  Although it is a very full schedule right now and I do occasionally crash, I am happy.  When I was in high school I always imagined I would have a career, be busy doing things, meeting people, making deals happen.  I love my jobs. Even when they are hard or frustrating. Even when they take time away from my home, family and friends.  And I have to be honest, I have never had a job like that before.  It is exciting.

I am disorganized.  Now that I am settling into my schedule and that schedule is constantly changing and not consistent every week or even every day, I am starting to see where things and people could fall through the cracks if I am not paying attention.  I used to be organized.  Used to have lists of things to do, check them off. Keep a schedule.  I have read so many books on organization you would think I must be an expert.  And if you ask me questions about organization and time management you still might think I am.  But my busy schedule sort of snuck up on me this past year and I forgot to create systems and schedules to stay on top of it.  So this is what I am thinking about these days.

My house is a mess and I am OK with it.  My house still might be cleaner than some, I require a level of order in my life.  But I don't worry about the undone laundry, the dirty kitchen or the need for vacuuming anymore.  I don't panic when the house is a mess and I know I will be working too much to clean for a few days.  Partly because I have help, John has really stepped up, and partly because my priorities are changing.

I am hanging with my family more. This summer John is not taking classes, although he is going to get a job.  And our plan is to just be together during our mutual free time.  We have decided to get in shape together this summer, winter was a little hard on our bodies.  Family bike rides and hikes are on the agenda for the summer.  Fun and free.

I am learning and growing.  I hope.  I think.  I just feel like God is teaching me things in this season.  Nothing concrete, more like I am in the middle of some growth that I can't quite define yet.  Last year was hard, painful.  This year has been a year of healing, adjusting and experiencing joy that can only be found when we put our hope, our trust, our life in the Lord's hands.

I love condo living.  Selling our house last year and making this HUGE downsize was very scary last summer.  There was so much unknown about this choice.  And giving up my house,  MY HOUSE.  The one we had spent 11 years loving, remodeling, raising children in, celebrating in.  And then we moved to a condo, a tiny condo where having one couple over maxes out our space.  But we love it.  I refer to it as our cocoon.  It is the safe place to be together as a family after we all have been out in the world.  We love the pool, the exercise room.  John and I have gone up and played 9 ball on the pool table a few times, something we did a lot when we were dating but haven't played since I can't even remember when.  We are not good but we have fun being together and laughing at all our lucky shots.  I am daily amazed at how much less stress we are experiencing this year living here.

We are still working out the financial aspect of our lives, the main reason for the move.  John has to get a job this summer.  If he doesn't he won't be able to continue school in the fall.  But he has an interview on Thursday that sounds very promising.  And 2 weeks after he finished his 3rd year of school I am nowhere near ready to worry that he won't find exactly what we need.  God did not get us this far to drop us in the middle of the project.

I don't think about things deeply much these days.  I have brief flashes of thoughts but never time to stop and develop them.  Maybe i will put into the organizational plan i need to develop a plan to carry around a notebook and jot all my brief flashes so i can return to them at some future moment when i have time to go deep.  My shift key is going bad on this keyboard and I am tired of going back to fix all the capital letters that don't happen.  so there you have it, thoughts on my life lately.  I will admit i have written several things that I am not sharing these days.  part of what i am learning and what God is teaching me.  I know it seems like i share everything but i guess there are some things that just need to be processed alone.  I still love to write and process while writing so hopefully as things begin to settle down in our life and get back to normal you will start to hear from me more.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Box of Memories

This weekend we started the big purge.  Half our life is in a 10x10 storage unit that was packed to the brim with everything that lived in the 1200 square feet we did not replace with this move.  Pretty much everything in the lower level of our house.  We have another 5x10 somewhere else with all the stuff that was in the garage.  Neither one is pretty and both are a little overwhelming.

To be honest, I have only thought of maybe 2 or 3 things that I have missed from storage over the past 7 months.  And I am comfortable with how we have arranged our space here.  I don't want to clutter it up with a bunch of stuff I don't need but can't get rid of.  So I am ready for that hard purge...mostly.

What I learned Saturday as I opened boxes before loading them in the truck for my parent's garage sale is that while I am ready to purge, it is still painful.  Letting go of things, even things we know we don't want or need is still hard.  And after about a dozen boxes I realized I needed to stop, walk away.  I had not prepared emotionally for that deep a cut, I was not prepared to go through and say good bye to all my things, special treasures from my grandma's house, pictures, gifts from friends and family.  I know I don't use them, even in the house they were rarely used, I know I can't justify finding space in my condo for a silver soup tureen that I have used maybe 6 times since our wedding nearly 24 years ago.  It has to go.

But there are other things...

We do love living in this little condo and we just might end up staying here forever, but I don't know for sure what the future holds.  And getting rid of some special memories because at this moment in my life I don't have room for them...that is hard.  And wrong.  How do you define what is worth keeping and what it is time to let go of?

Jake's old toys.  His Lego's and Brio train set.  I kept them after he had outgrown them, do I get rid of them now just because of this possibly temporary downsize?  John and I agreed to keep them.  For our grandchildren, for the memories.  I have gotten rid of a lot of toys over the years but those bins are staying.  And I think I would get an affirmation even among the most streamlined homemakers.

However, some things have no value except to create memories, and I wonder if I really need them.  I pulled out of the storage unit a box that has followed us around from our first little apartment with the bug problem to our second little apartment that we loved and on to our first and second houses before heading into our storage unit.  Never opened, never reviewed.  On the top of the box it says, "wedding cards" and "b-day cards" and indeed that is what is actually inside.

In some ways I am embarrassed to admit I still have cards from my wedding and 20th birthday.  Especially considering that cards I now receive barely make it past my trash after they come in.  I love getting them but at some point many years ago I decided there was no reason to keep them.  I receive, enjoy and toss.  Special occasions may dictate I display them for a season, Christmas, birthday, etc but once the time has past, they are gone.  Actually, I do save my Christmas cards in storage all year long and then re-read them when we get out the decorations before tossing them.  It has become a fun tradition for me.  

So, naturally, I had to re-read all the cards in the wedding box before I could toss them.

Reading the cards was like a trip back in time.  We had a pretty big wedding, my parents invited everyone they knew and they all showered us with love and blessings.  It is fun to see the names on the cards.  Many of the people are gone now, my grandparents and great aunts and uncles.  And a few people who died too soon.  Then there are people who through the passage of time and the changes of life we don't know anymore.  It is funny that most of the people we have spent our adult life with did not know us when we got married.  But a handful of friends were there and it has been a treasure to journey through life with them.

On the back of every card is written what they gave us for our wedding.  I love the ones from older family members who actually wrote what they gave me inside the card themselves!  I used the cards to write thank you notes.  I even found a thank you note for someone in there!  A forgotten thank you note for a family member who is now gone.  I must have been forgiven because nobody ever said anything.  And on one of those cards was that silver soup tureen that I have loved having but rarely used. Given to us by someone I don't remember.

This is why I keep things like this, for the memory, for the trip back in time.  It is precious.

As a bonus, I found all the letters I wrote to John when we were apart for 3 months after graduating from high school.  I think I might have the letters he wrote me in another box but these were all from me.  I didn't read them all, most of them follow this basic theme:  "I love you baby.  I miss you.  I really love you.  I love you. Love always, Mel"  An occasionally piece of news or acknowledgement of something he wrote thrown in there, and a countdown of the days until I will see him again.  Mainly the typical ramblings of a love-sick teenager.  But they also remind me of my son, his long distance relationship and the letters he was surely sending as well.  My favorite was a letter written to John when he was at camp before I left for college.  I had a fight with my parents and told him he could probably guess what it was about but if not I would tell him later and I was so upset I was pretty sure I would never speak to my parents again.  Ah yes, the memories are clear now.  The thrill to get away from the crazy people who had loved and raised me all those years.  Oh the injustice of their thinking they had any right to speak into my life.  How do we ever get out of childhood unscathed?  My parents have probably been laughing a lot this past couple years.

And I found a precious note from John's mom written to him I am guessing after he moved into what would be our first apartment but before we were married.  Actually she typed it which is funny but in it she is telling John she is proud of him, likes how the place is decorated and is careful to acknowledge both of us not just him.  I totally feel for her, the worry of losing her son and desire to say the right thing and be encouraging.  It felt like the kind of notes I have been writing lately.  She has always been special to me but so much more the past few years as I have watched my son move his affections to another.  It is something every mother expects and desires for her son but that doesn't make it any easier.

How do you toss all that away?  I am not sure I can.  I can squeeze in one more small box, right?  I will get rid of the wicker chip basket, and my grandma's lazy susan with serving bowls, and I put out the soup tureen.  But I can't give up the memories and the relationships that have been part of the making of this life and who we are today.