Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To resolve or not to resolve... that is the question!

Resolutions... do you make them? Do you laugh at them? Do they only add more stress in your life once you've written them on the tablet of your heart and vowed to be successful in your endeavors?

I usually make resolutions, and I usually don't accomplish them. Well, I can't say that I have ever accomplished a resolution in my life. But just this morning, I read a blog post by a writing agent who has the notion this year that she will just make a list of the way she wants to feel this year and use that as her guide instead of making specific empty goals. Because that's usually what our goals center around anyway, isn't it? The way we want to feel.

So.... how do I want to feel?

The first word that comes to mind is light. I want to feel weightless. I want to defy gravity. I don't want the weight of the world around me to affect me on the inside. None of it. Not stress about money, bills, kids. Not the way other people think or feel about me. Not the size of my jeans. I want to be motivated by my insides, my soul, by the depth of my love for my family and my Lord, and by the plan that my Lord has for me. I want to soar above the earthliness on wings of an eagle.

"... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40: 31

I also want to feel love, loved, full of love. Not love as in, "Oh, I love Hershey's kisses!" But love as in 1 Corinthians 13. Real love. For my husband, for my kids, for the lady who rings up my groceries at Publix. Love through Christ for all who cross my path. Love to the fullest and without limits. I want to accept and feel the love God beams down upon my soul, and I want to reciprocate it to those around me.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7

Maybe I could combine those two words and blend the thoughts into one word... freedom. Freedom in Christ. That's how I really want to feel. Free in God's love and mercy. Released from the past and living in the today. Free from resolutions. Free from the world.

So here's to a new year. Here's to feeling light and loved and free from all the crap of the world that threatens to swallow us up. Here's to stepping into a new year full of hope and promise. And not just for me, but for all who read these words.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another come and gone...






Another come and gone. More presents that had been carefully wrapped and placed under the tree carelessly torn open and tossed to the side. More sleepy smile, bedhead pictures on Christmas morning. More memories. More to be thankful for. Maybe the last all-children-in-the-house-still-believing year. More family moments you could have done without, and even more you're glad you didn't miss. A couple more calories than you should have eaten. More Barbie shoes to step on. More chargers in the household to keep up with. More clear candy plastic canes filled with M&Ms. More ornaments to add to the collection and put in the attic for storage. Another come and gone. And now almost another year to begin...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The ghost of Christmas past...

I was visited by the ghost of Christmas past on Sunday.

I hit the rewind button on Sunday morning as I sat down to put my makeup on for the day at my mom and dad's house celebrating Christmas with my two brothers and their whole families. I was so excited for us all to be together. It usually only happens once a year, but there have been several years that one or two of us couldn't make it, and this year promised all Tew-related folks to be present.

A year ago... a year ago. My mom had just been to the doctor, and we had been informed that her cancer had returned. It wasn't common knowledge, though. We had decided to wait until we had all the test results before sharing the information with any and all. So it was this weight in my soul, on my heart, on top of my shoulders, and in the very tips of my toes. My mom's cancer permeated every fiber of my being and thought. A year ago, I couldn't help but look forward in terms of her illness. What would the next Christmas look like? Would she be well? Have hair? Be able to fret about and prepare the meal as she enjoys so much? In the inner most part of me was the most awful question of all, one I dared not utter aloud, but pondered it in silence instead... would she still be here next Christmas? I'd be lying if I told you her leaving me never crossed my mind. The fear of and the pain in asking myself that question forced me to put it in the back of my mind, but it emerged from the dark corners every now and again haunting me like the ghost of Christmas future.

Last Christmas... I wouldn't relive it for the world. Even though in my home it was the best Christmas yet. My children had one of the best years they had ever had. The excitement level was off the meter, but the stress in my heart was unbearable. My mother was sick again, though she didn't look sick or act sick. The cancer was back, and it was threatening more than just her life. It was threatening my ability to live in the moment, to appreciate the present day.
This year, the joy bubbles over in my heart. My mom is still here. She's still alive, here to enjoy another Christmas. She still has all her hair, was still able to fry the bacon for our brunch, was still able to do all she wanted to do. By the lovely grace of God, my mother is still here. He is amazing.

This Christmas, I want to live in the present. In the today. Not in what may be next year or what was last year. In the now. In the beautiful gift of life we have all been given. It's more than just my mom... it's my two beautiful, healthy children, it's the miracle if life growing inside my best friend's womb, it's another year of marriage with my husband, it's one more smile from my aging grandparents. God's grace and mercy and blessings that He's spread across my life never cease to amaze me. Perhaps I am more aware of them here lately than I have ever been in my life.

So here's my Christmas verse for all who are reading this post...
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22-23

His love. His compassions. His faithfulness. They are perfect. They are just what I need in the moment. They never fail. And today, I praise Him for His blessings on my life. And I want to live in them today knowing full well all I have is this one day. No need to worry about tomorrow or yesterday, either. Just today.

Merry Christmas friends!

Friday, December 17, 2010

In the quiet moments...

In the quiet of this morning, my eyes still heavy from sleep, I heard two little voices in the dining room at the base of the Christmas tree.

"I wish it was Christmas day..."
"I wish it was Christmas Eve cause then we could open these presents and then Santa would come..." (Being nine, David is a little more savvy on the logistics of gift receiving around here.)
"Oh, yeah... then I wish it was Christmas Eve."
"But guess what? We get to go to Gammie's on Sunday and open presents there."
"We do? David, you're gonna love what I got you..."
"Is it a toy?"
"Oh, yeah... it's a toy and it's something you're gonna really like!"

I could go on, but I fear my transcription of the conversation doesn't really do it the justice it deserves. Hard to convey the gently sweetness of their voices talking back and forth in the stillness of the morning about what they picked out for each other and for me. Hard to convey in words the excitement in their hearts. In that moment, it was even harder for me to believe that my children were old enough to get themselves out of bed and wander into the dining room and have a coherent conversation with one another. Seems like just yesterday I was feeding them their bottles and wiping their spit-up of their chin or my shoulder. How has it come to be that they sit and discuss their anticipation of Christmas?

There are so many moments with children that are stressful. And, at Christmas, the stress seems to multiply with the worry about what to get them, how to make ways to fill their dreams, answering the questions about how many days left and how many presents and when we'll be opening them over and over. Sometimes, for me at least, the joy of my children is overshadowed with the earthly reality - the reality of taking care of, disciplining, homework, laundry, wiping up spills, preparing snacks and meals, getting them up and out the door in the morning. But there are these beautiful moments, quiet and still, that happen when you need them most to remind you of the pure joy of your children. That they do love you and each other. That they are still simple and innocent. And they are mine. God gave them to me. Some days, I'm ready to give them back, but this morning, I cherished for a moment just how blessed I am to have them in my life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

So why in the world am I blogging?????????????

Wow. In case you haven't heard, CHRISTMAS IS NEXT WEEK. LIKE ONE WEEK AWAY. And what you haven't heard yet is that I am TOTALLY ABOUT TO LOSE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was already behind. As most households have to do, I was waiting on that December 10th paycheck to get out there in the masses and finish up the present searching. Problem is our one and only paycheck for the month was delayed until the 13th. So that put me back a few extra days. No biggie. Had the thing to do at David's school scheduled for Tuesday, so I had planned to spend the day shopping yesterday sans children. Here's where we insert THE FLU.

David walked up to me Tuesday night around 6:30 saying his head hurt... a quick press of a button and beeping sound of the ear thermometer alerted me to his 102.7 fever. GREAT. I couldn't get him into the doctor yesterday morning, so I drug him out with me. In my defense, he really doesn't feel all that bad. As long as I keep the fever at bay, he's good. Not 100%, but good. So we got a few things accomplished, but for obvious reasons there were a lot of things I couldn't purchase with him with me.

So, here I am, just a matter of days away from Christmas, and I have one of the longest lists of things to do this close to the actual day than I have ever experienced. My family thing is this Sunday, so there are those obvious things that have to be taken care of for that. And the not knowing of who will be next in the household to be stricken gives me the extra shot of anxiety to get out there today and spin like a tornado until all is done. Thankfully, Scott is off today and can take care of sick man and allow me to run the streets. Hopefully he will keep him jacked up on Motrin and Tylenol so his fever will stay down. I am sure I will have to leave written instructions.

So today, I will leave us all with a Scripture that I need above all others:
Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6

I think I will repeat this verse in my mind today as I bustle about...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A day with fifth graders...

I had never been so glad to be done with anything in all my life as I was when I stepped out of that classroom yesterday afternoon after nearly seven hours on my feet in not-the-best-choice footwear.

My day began at 5:45, a time that in my humble opinion is too early in the day to do anything, especially when it's 12 degrees outside and still dark. Too early to be fighting the battle with the shower trying to find that perfect balance of hot and cold water. A hair to the right, too cold; a hair to the left, too hot; somewhere in the middle of a hair and another hair, just perfect. I also fought a battle the entire time before leaving for school with David - he had run a low grade fever the night before, and woke up with it that morning as well, and though he was under the 100.9 mark of real fever as defined by the Shelby County Board of Education (his was 99.7), the mother in me struggled with the notion of sending him to school as his cough sounded much like that of a large male seal looking for his mate in the crowd. Off we went, though to face the day, and I was glad when I arrived and realized that several volunteers were not able to attend due to their children's or their own illness.

We started the day discussing the concept of an entrepreneur, and we did an activity in which the children were divided into groups, given a topic, and asked to work together to form a business idea and create an advertisement for their business. I was amazed at how the students totally got into this activity and how creative they were. One group had the medical topic card, and they decided they would start a business to research and create a medicine that would enable humans to live forever. How imaginative is that? Another group did a car designing company, one an amusement park, another a football/cheer leading training facility. They were so smart and intuitive. And they kept asking me questions like, "Do we have to do such-and-such?" My answer was always, "You can do whatever you want to do..." Their eyes were bright with wonder at the notion that there were really no rules... and no grades...

I had this one little boy, however, that just wasn't having it. He didn't like the activity, he didn't like the group he was in, and I was beginning to think he didn't like life in general. How sad to be only 10 or 11 and not like life already. What on earth does he have to look forward to? What will he be like when he has to start paying bills and raising kids? I was amazed at his disposition as I had never been around a child like that, and I set out on a personal mission to make him smile. For the second activity, we played a game board, and he refused to join any of the groups. So I sat in the floor and played with him and finally got him to grin when he won the game. He really was a smart boy, just belligerent and grumpy and unwilling to cooperate with anyone consistently. Later in the day he told a fellow classmate that his dream of playing football for the University of Alabama was stupid. I was floored, and I was very glad that his teacher stepped in to discipline him for that one. I tired to explain to the children that you should dream big and work toward your goals, and I even shared with them that I am currently pursuing my dream of writing a novel.

There were five activities in all, and the final was an absolute nightmare. It involved a large spool of string, 29 children, and my desire for a shot of tequila or two or three. And I don't even shoot tequila - never have - but if there's anything that will make you want to try, I promise it's a 8,000 feet of white string, one belligerent, aggressive boy, and 26 other fifth graders. Just sayin'.

I was glad I had the opportunity to do it. Very glad, actually. It was so interesting to see all the different types of children in one classroom. Early on in the day, one of the kids looked at me and asked, "How come you are so nice? How is that possible?" So I answered him as honestly as I could by telling him, "Because I don't have to be here everyday..." And the poor things - well, their teacher is pregnant, due in April, and carrying so low that I am guessing she won't it out of the month of March. She can't be comfortable, and from what I saw, she's a no-nonsense type of teacher. Don't get me wrong, she was kind. But she certainly had a tight handle on the classroom. Very tight. I am thinking the students are looking forward to her maternity leave.

On my way out, I told the volunteer coordinator for the elementary schools that I want to do Madalyn's class. How fun... the little kids are so much fun. They are still pretty happy to be there, so it's a totally different experience from the poor fifth graders that actually thought I was nice because I came in there and saved them from their workload and allowed them to play games all day. Wow - I do sound pretty fantastic when I think about it that way...

Monday, December 13, 2010

What the heck was I thinking??????

Several weeks ago, I answered an email from David's 4th grade teacher entitled EMERGENCY NEED FOR VOLUNTEERS. What good stay-at-home-mom of two school aged children wouldn't? The need for volunteers centered around a non-profit organization, Junior Achievement, that goes into the schools and provides information about jobs, skills, and finances to children. Of course, Junior Achievement relies on the support of volunteers for the actual classroom instruction time. So, I replied to the email - sure, I can volunteer. What I didn't realize is that David's school participates in a program called JA in One Day where an entire five week curriculum is presented in one day.

One day. A full day. As in 7:45 - 2:45. Like, I have to be up, dressed, ready to go, alert and alive, and remain in that state for an entire day.

When that realization hit me, I made a pledge to myself to delete all emails in the future with subjects similar to EMERGENCY NEED FOR VOLUNTEERS without even opening to read it. I will not be duped again.

Being the professional procrastinator I am, I have spent the past two and half hours tearing apart sheets and sheets and sheets and sheets of perforated games cards for the various activities we will be engaging in tomorrow. I really had no idea that the bulk of my prep time would be spent tearing apart card stock instead of reading over material. All game stuff is separated, in individual bags or envelopes, and ready to go. Me, on the other hand, not so much ready to go...

It's the week before Christmas. My list of things to do is far longer than the list of things done. And I will be spending an entire day in a class of 5th graders talking about jobs, job skills, and globalization - things of which I know nothing about since I haven't worked in ten years or completed college. I can hear myself now, "You know, students, had I completed college and actually began a career in any field other than motherhood, then I might have a list of job skills such as those we are discussing today."

I know what you're all thinking, and it's not true. I am not downing myself when I make the above statement. Just stating the obvious. The volunteer booklet that outlines the curriculum tells me in several locations to use my career, education, and expertise to exhibit the key points on the lesson. Hmmmmmm. I'll have to be creative with my delivery.

So tomorrow, you won't find me at Walmart completing the shopping list or in my living room floor wrapping gifts. You'll find me in a classroom of 5th graders discussing the relevancy of job skills and entrepreneurship. Can I instead discuss the need for the boys to pick a profitable field so that they can support their family, and stress with the girls to look for that certain fire in the eyes of a man that shows he has the determination to make something of himself one day and support you to stay at home with your children?

I think I better stick to the script...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa Shop...

I volunteered to work the Santa Shop at Madalyn's elementary school on Tuesday and Wednesday. Of all the things I have volunteered to do over the years, this was the one thing I looked the most forward to. I couldn't wait to see what the kids would pick out for their loved ones, and I practiced the phrase, "Oh... they will definitely LOVE that..." without laughing over and over again in the mirror to prepare myself.

There's something about children. Simplistic minds. Pure love. On the first day, a third grade girl was immediately drawn to a car washing kit similar to the one pictured below. As though drawn by magnetic force right toward it, she honed in on it and said to me, "I'm getting that for my dad!" I believe she had $12 with her, and the kit alone was $7, so I had to work with her to help her find the rest of the gifts she wanted to buy and still be able to get that car washing kit for her dad. She wouldn't budge on that, and I thought it was so sweet to watch her process through all the things she needed to get and manage it all with only $12. I could tell she didn't live in a home of abundance, and yet her joy was no different from the children who had more money to spend.
One of the things that was so difficult for me was seeing the wide ranges of economic status. Some kids came with $40 plus, while some children brought change and a couple of dollar bills. Since we were not allowed to give cash back on the check, the children whose parents wrote a check (and most were for $20 or $30) were required to spend the entire amount. So some children struggled to spend all they had while others struggled to get everything with what little they had. Both were equally as heartbreaking. Watching a child fret over having to pick something off the table that they didn't really want or need was just as upsetting to them as it was to the child who had to put something back on the table because they didn't have enough funds to purchase. I had never seen the pain of having too much and too little displayed in such a manner right before my eyes. I have always believed that the middle is the place to be, and my time at the Santa Shop confirmed that.

Yesterday, we had a little boy that came in with an envelope that had two $1 bills and $4.75 in change. I could tell that it was probably all his mom had to give him. We all worked with him as he picked out something for his mom, his grandmother, and of course a little something for himself. He kept coming up fifty cents short, so I threw it in for him. And then there was this other sweet boy who had $5. That's all he had, and he said all he needed to buy for was his daddy. That broke my heart because I had to wonder why he wasn't buying for mom. He was drawn to a $3 measuring tape, but he also had a little red fire truck in his arms that he wanted for himself. And you know the mom in me told him I wanted him to have it even though he didn't have enough. I threw in the $3... how could I not? It was heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking.

In the down time, one of the PTO board members told me that there were around 30 children in the school that were considered homeless. Granted, our school is large - around 950 children. But it's kindergarten through third grade. These kids are young, way too young to be worried about not having food or a warm place to call home. This morning I received an email from our home owner's association saying that we will be collecting food items or money to help the children in need at the elementary school make it through the Christmas break. My heart can't handle it. I can't help but wonder if I saw any of those children some through the Santa Shop in the two days I worked.

Life. It's unfair, unequal, unforgiving. My family has faced "financial difficulty" over the past couple of years, but we've still got our home and food in the pantry. My kids may not have all they want, but they have all they need. And yet I feel they don't appreciate anything, not because they haven't been taught better at home but more because of this society of overindulgence and abundance. But how can I teach them, how can their little brains wrap around the idea that some children don't have anything to eat at home, and some don't even have a place to call home.

Today I want to focus my prayer on those innocent souls who suffer everyday. Whose stomachs churn in hunger at night. Who don't know where they'll sleep next week. Who may not believe in Santa because he never comes. I pray for them, I pray that God will wrap His loving arms around them and warm their soul. I pray that we will all look for opportunities to help these children in our own communities. And I pray that my children will be kind every day to those around them and realize how fortunate they are.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Finding God in surprising packages...

About a week and a half ago, I sat down in my chair in the living room, television on in front of me still on NBC from my morning viewing of the Today Show. I leave the TV on nearly all day long for noise even when I am not in the room or planning on watching anything. Waste of energy, I know, but old habit. It was the noon hour, and Pat Robertson was on interviewing a strange looking dude. The words below his heavily tatted body and weird countenance told me he was Brian Welch, former member of the band Korn. I've never been a big heavy metal gal myself, but seeing these polar opposites sitting across from one another discussing the Lord made me turn up the volume and tune in my ears.

Brian Welch was promoting his new book, Stronger: Forty Days of Metal and Spirituality. Beyond the long dark braids that covered his scalp, beyond the dark eyeliner, beyond the multi-colored tattoos that covered his arms, there was a light in his eyes as he recited words from the Scriptures and shared his personal testimony from when he turned his life over to Jesus. I was so amazed by his story that I went on Amazon and ordered his book. I had to read it. Turns out he's written several books. Turns out he's got some amazing things to say.

Now, before I lose some of my incredibly conservative readers, I'm not saying that you should order the book and read it. It's not for everyone. He talks a lot about his experiences with drugs and alcohol and his life as a rocker. But what amazes me the most about what I've read thus far is his transparency. He's so open about where he's been, how empty and lost he felt during those times though he was on top of the entertainment world, and how Jesus has rescued him from his personal prison of drug and alcohol addiction. He is an amazing witness to a segment of the population that a ton of stuffy, suit wearing, crew cut sporting Christians just can't reach effectively. In fact, I would rather hear a testimony like his than of that stuffy one I just mentioned above. There's something in the story of redemption from a life further gone than mine that makes me feel more hopeful. Is that twisted thinking? I don't know... maybe. But in hearing how low he's been, it makes me more confident that I can be redeemed. And I think that's just human nature.

Reading the book has also added fuel to my flame, to my desire to be a witness, for my longing to finish my story and get it out there, to the hope that lives within me for my written words to someday demonstrate God's love and mercy to all who read them. I am not banking on sitting along side Pat Robertson on the TV anytime soon - not so sure I would ever want to. He kinda creeps me out a little. I may or may not go to hell for actually saying and thinking that about Pat Robertson, but you should all know I try to be honest here. Back to the point... I want to use what I've got, my experiences, my life, my mistakes, to honor God. Brian Welch continues to do so, and I am amazed. Amazed and challenged.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bittersweet...

When I was a little girl, my Grandmother Norris, my mom's mom, would have me over to help her put up her Christmas tree. That was back in the day when no one put up their tree before Thanksgiving or the month of December, back when the mall didn't dare hang a wreath until the day after Thanksgiving shoppers arrived, back when lights were always big and multi-colored. They were simpler times, fake-bearded Santas, Polaroid pictures at the mall, stockings with names in glue and glitter on the cuff. Much less sophisticated. Just less of everything in general.

I have vivid memories of helping my grandmother decorate her tree. It was artificial, and the one in my home was always real. I recall the stringing of the lights, the placing of the ornaments, the weird smell of plastic in place of the fresh scent of pine. There was the white ceramic tree that was lit from within which my grandmother made herself in ceramics class (trend of the 70's in the South) with little plastic things resembling Christmas light bulbs that stuck into holes. I loved filling in the holes one by one, strategically placing the colors so that there were no two reds or greens side by side.

Yesterday, my kids and I made the hour drive to my grandmother's home, the same house she has lived in since before I was born, to help my mom put out the Christmas tree. Memories flooded my heart on the drive down, of all the Thanksgivings and Christmas tree nights and Christmas Eves spent in that home. Of all the cornbread dressing and turkey and Co-Cola (as my grandmother pronounces it). Of all the love. Of all the history and family inside that little brick home.

It was a much different experience yesterday than when I was little. My grandmother sat on the couch, mostly silent, watching my children place ornaments on her tree. She smiled a lot, but spoke little, and she never even stood up the whole two hours we were there. She is fading. Quickly. And my heart just hurts in knowing that one of the sweetest parts of my history will be leaving the earth soon.

I know that in years to come I will carry one of the most bittersweet Christmas memories with me... of my grandmother saying, "I don't remember my Christmas tree ever looking so pretty..." Of her sweet smile. Of her watching my children with such joy, though she can barely hear what they are saying. Of her telling me, "You just let them put the ornaments wherever they want to." It's a far cry from the grandmother of my childhood, but I've been so blessed to see her live this long. 91 years of life. More and more amazing each time I think of it.

Thank you, Lord, for such a loving grandmother who has provided me with a heart full of memories and love.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Do you really believe?

"Mama... Aaron doesn't believe in Santa. He thinks your parents go to Walmart and buy all the stuff..."

"Why? That's so sad..." I stood combing his hair in the bathroom this morning, nervous anticipation clumping in the back of my throat, trying to decide if I should cough it up or swallow it back down. Yeah, he's nine, but he's still my baby, and I want him to believe.

"Well, I told him I don't think it's your parents. I believe in Santa."

"I do, too, David... I do, too..."

I struggled a couple of years ago with the whole concept of Santa when David finally reached to age to pose questions like how does Santa make it to all the houses and how can he be at the mall and still be at the North Pole getting toys ready. I felt like I was caught in an endless trail of lies trying to explain things away. Then I opted for a different approach to answering his curiosity. I told him as close to the truth as I could... that I don't know how Santa does all he does, and that he has a lot of helpers all over the world. I mean, that's all true, right?

I honestly don't know how Santa does what he's able to do. How he manages to get all those gifts together for just our house. How he finds the time, the money, the energy, the hiding places. In and of itself, our house is a Christmas miracle. But the miracle happens year after year no matter what. And Santa does have lots of helpers all over the place who work to carry out the magic of his name and keep his spirit alive in the hearts of the young and old. They come in all forms... some with not-so-convincing fake beards, some in the shape of little stuffed toy-like elves purchased in stores that come alive and night and do funny stuff while children sleep, some who share the contents of their wallets with perfect strangers so they can have a wish fulfilled, some who donate food so that the unfortunate can have a good meal. Santa has all kinds of helpers. It's more than just one man.

The older I get, the more I realize that Santa is not so much about all the presents, though that must be the most exciting part for the little ones. Santa is more about love and the act of giving through that emotion. And the more mind tumbles the concept over and over, the magic of Christmas mimics my faith in someone else... another concept that young and old ponder the magnitude of... God. How is He everywhere all the time? How does he hear my prayers and the rest of the prayers being offered up simultaneously? How does He always know what I need and find a way to provide it no matter if I've been naughty or nice? Wrapping my brain around the miracle of God's love is kinda like one of our kids trying to get the logistics of Santa flying around the world in one night delivering toys to children's homes. It's inconceivable, yet it happens. Every Christmas morning, my children get up and find that though it doesn't make sense to their minds, Santa has come.

Every day, something reminds me that God's love for me makes zero sense. I lose my cool and yell at my kids. I gossip. I say something hurtful to my spouse. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I do and say things that do not honor the One who made me. Yet He keeps showing up for me. Every morning, I am new and fresh and whole in His eyes, and He loves me the same as He did the day before and the day before that one. It makes no sense to me, but He keeps on doing it.

Let me share a portion of my favorite Psalm. I wept when I read it - really read it - for the first time. There I sat in my chair, crying like an idiot because I was so humbled and overwhelmed by the magnitude of God.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I go from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139: 1 - 10

That's only half of it, but to me, that's the miracle of God. He's before me, behind me, over me, and under me. He's there when I make the good decisions and the bad ones. He knows where I am going and where I've been. And the glory of it all is that he, unlike most humans on this earth, understands the why of what I do. And I love how David says that this knowledge is too wonderful for him - too lofty for him to attain. In today's terms, I would think he'd say, "Wow, this is totally over my head how God does this." In other words, I don't understand how He's able to do it, but I know that He does.

I know that He does. I believe. I believe He knows me, He knows my footsteps, my thoughts, my whens and wheres and whys. I believe He holds me in His right hand. I believe it more today than I ever have. And I am so thankful.

Long after I stopped believing in Santa, I still woke up year after year to a stocking full of goodies and gifts left during the night. Funny how Santa did that for me even when I didn't believe in him. Funny how my parents loved me so much they wanted me to have that joy year after year, right up until I got married. Funny how God passes down His love that way... from Heavenly Father to earthly parents. Funny how now it's gone right through me and onto my children. Funny how believing in something that's bigger than anything you can wrap your mind around can sustain through the generations.

Do you really believe? I do.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

That's what children are good for...


Children... they keep things interesting, don't they? Always keep you on your toes, never sure of what lies around the corner or under foot or in a jewelry box.

Last night, while Madalyn was in the bath tub, I was bustling about her room straightening and putting things away. You know, doing what Madalyn should have done the past two nights when I asked her to, but she didn't. Look - I am a pretty good mom, but the one thing I have always slacked on is making my children clean up their own messes. But we all have our faults, right? Anywho... I'm cleaning up her room for her, and jewelry is all over the place, as usual. When I find the jewelry all over the room, I try to put it back in its proper place - in one of the four or five jewelry boxes Madalyn has in her room.

I moved over to the chest of drawers to put some things in the little silver plated heart shaped jewelry box. I opened it to find it already full of none other than pistachio shells. Yes, pistachio shells. Not little plastic rings or beads or rubber animal bracelets but freaking nut shells. Exhibit A:

Pretty little jewelry box full of nut shells.

A few weeks ago, I did a thorough cleaning of David's room and was surprised to find close to twenty hickory nuts all over the room. They were every where. Under the dresser, on top of his TV, in his box of hot wheels. I am still uncertain what the hickory nuts were all about, and now we've added in the pistachios.

Are my children squirrels? Are they little programmed hoarders of nuts who are terrified they won't make it through the long cold winter without tucking something away? At least Madalyn feels more sure she'll eat... she just hoards the shells, which technically could be ingested in a tight spot, but it wouldn't be the most desired snack.

What is the deal with the NUTS? Forget the fact that I clean up my children's rooms... forget the fact that they are disgusting and still need to learn to clean up after themselves... what do the nuts mean? And why are the children hiding them in these weird places?

Kids. Definitely keep you wondering, you know.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Thanksgiving Hangover...

I am feeling a little hungover this morning. From the turkey and dressing. From the football. From the tree and the lighted reindeer and the ornaments wrapped in tissue and bubble wrap and tucked into boxes. From the up and down and up and down of the attic ladder. From all of it. I have done so much, yet there's still so much to do.

I'm sure Jesus is real excited that we commemorate His birth each year with hustle and bustle and lights and trees and lighted reindeer in the yard that have to be held together with little plastic zip ties because we need to use our money for gifts not for buying new reindeer. Oh, wait... that last part was entirely specific to my house. My point here is that I wish we could take the commercial part out of Christmas and just let it be, you know. Take all pressure out of it and leave the enjoyment. But what would the kids think???

Anyway. Today will be spent cleaning up from Thanksgiving and putting out the tree. In the meantime, I need to do laundry and I'd love to sit down to write a little since I haven't written in over a week. Haven't been feeling incredibly inspired lately between Thanksgiving and life in general. But maybe if I force myself to sit down and pretend to be inspired, the words will flow.

I also have an odd prayer request for any and all who are reading this. I am going to the doctor tomorrow morning - a new general practitioner - to see about my legs. For six weeks now, I have been dealing with strange lesions on my legs. Itchy, red, raised, gross looking lesions. And I have no idea why. At first I thought that it was related to my having strep back in October, but the longer it has lingered the less I think the two are related. So I am praying that I can get an answer tomorrow, figure out why I have them, and a good way to get rid of them. You know, before I scratch and claw all my skin off which would even less attractive than the spots on my legs. I would appreciate any prayers on my behalf concerning this odd issue. Thanks in advance!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In between multiple panic attacks...

In between multiple panic attacks, we successfully put up the Christmas tree. Both of them. The Auburn themed tree downstairs was done last night, and the upstairs family tree was just completed. All with the help of a five year old, no doubt.

I know I have blogged about this in past years, my lack of patience. But there's a whole other side to my lack of patience, and that would be Madalyn's personality. She's precious and funny and can be ever so sweet. But she doesn't like to listen, has her own ideas about what she wants to do and the way she wants things to look, and I find that my lack of patience combined with her personality is a lethal combination for any project. Add in my obsessive compulsive disorder (no, I have not been officially diagnosed, but rather feel I have the propensity towards such) which is brought out by spots on the mirrors and Hallmark collectible ornaments not being hung properly or their bubble wrap placed back in the box - well, as you can guess, getting out the Christmas stuff proves to be a little tricky for me and my daughter.

But we made it. And I know that each year will be a little easier. At least this year she didn't argue with me about which ornaments were breakable or off limits. She actually stopped to ask, and if I responded that they were indeed fragile, she passed them over to me with no argument. We did have some words about my vintage section of the tree; it's the area up near the top where I placed all the ornaments she is not supposed to touch even if the tree begins to fall on top of her head and she needs to protect her face with her hands. Like, seriously, if I find out that her little tiny fingers have touched any of said vintage items, she will pay. Not sure how, put I will cross that bridge when we get there, and if I know my daughter, we will most definitely get there within a couple weeks time. And I am already planning on doing a whole post about my most sentimental ornaments on my tree as I have a few newly passed down from my mom that hung on my tree when I was little.

So, right now as I type, I am surrounded by a huge mess and little artificial pine needles. I need to get things straightened up and squared away and vacuumed over so that I can turn on the lights when the sun goes down and admire the handiwork of my daughter and me. And thank God for answering my prayer for patience...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

OMG... Shutterfly Rocks!!!

When I saw one of my bloggy friends, Kristin, post that she was receiving 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly just for writing a blog post, I said to myself, aloud of course, as though I were talking to someone else, "Where do I sign up?" I send cards every year, and I'll be honest ~ I have used Walgreen's for too many years to count. Not that I haven't thought of trying another company, but I had never had that extra push to do something different. FREE, however, is the one word that can get me moving no matter what the situation.

This little promotion is a way for Shutterfly to show off of the new additions to their holiday collection. I believe there are close to 1,000 different options available on their website, so all you have to do is upload the perfect pictures and let Shutterfly do the rest!

In my home every year, I love opening up the holiday cards as they come in. I have a card holder in the shape of a Christmas tree, and when I pull it out at the beginning of the season, it looks bare and sad. But by Christmas Day, my little tree is full of smiling faces and glittery cards, some of which I have to keep for good. I believe the photo card is the best route to go for families with young children these days ~ what better way to share your sweet faces with friends and family you don't see as often as you wish throughout the year.

P.S. If you'd like to get in on the fun, click here for details...






So, I've already perused through the collection of options... there are soooooo many! I have always gone for the photo stationary card, and there are several different options I was drawn to on Shutterfly's website. This one is one of my favorites. Oh, and this one, too... But I also love the idea of having multiple pictures on the card, maybe even get mine and Scott's face on it for a change, so I am drawn to this one as well. There are so many different layouts and options, the possibilities are endless! Check out the website for all the options for stationary holiday cards.


Shutterfly also offers folded cards, which I have not done with my own photos. It's more of the classic feel of a real Christmas card, but it's totally custom! I love, love, love this design, but this one is pretty awesome, too. Click here to see the entire collection of folded cards. I honestly can't decide what I'll do this season, whether I'll go with a single photo, multiple pictures, a flat or folded card. But I am convinced that whatever I decide on will be super cute!

There's also lots of of cute gift ideas such as calendars, mugs, and even Christmas ornaments with the photo of your choice. Simply upload your photos and place a simple order for a one-of-a-kind personalized gift with no trip into the crazy holiday shopping masses! The possibilities are endless...

Be sure to check out all your options for holiday cards and gift ideas at Shutterfly! And be sure to watch your mailbox for my two children's precious faces spreading holiday cheer...

P.S. If you'd like to get in on the action, click here for details...

Thanksgiving

Today, I will spend the bulk of my day preparing the home for Thanksgiving. As I type, the oven is preheating at 450 degrees for my first batch of cornbread for my dressing. I need to clean David's carpet in his room and go over all the bathrooms.

Every year since David was two, I guess, we've done Thanksgiving at our home. In the beginning, it was perhaps one of the most stressful things I had ever done. I will never forget the first time I prepped a turkey at my kitchen sink on Patti Court in Montgomery. As I read over the instructions attached to the store-bought frozen bird, I found myself saying aloud to no one but myself, "I have to put my hands WHERE???" But I did it, and I firmly believe that every woman in the world should prepare a turkey at least once in their life. It's a rite of passage, kinda like child birth. Once you've accomplished it, life feels slightly different and you are impressed with yourself.

I also remember the stress of having to orchestrate all the various food items. How to time everything just so to have it all ready at the same time. In the beginning, I made detailed lists of what to do and in what order. Now I just kinda know and don't feel the need for writing things down.

Things have changed a lot in the last seven years ~ that's how long I've been in command of Thanksgiving. I'm older. I guess one could assume I'm wiser (though that is debatable). But one thing is for sure ~ I am a lot less anxious of a person. If it's not all perfect, well, so what. If my house is not immaculate, who cares. I used to feel inadequate that I don't know how or have a desire to learn to cook giblet gravy. Now, I don't care. I buy the jarred kind, and that's just what you should expect around here at my Thanksgiving. No doubt, the rest of of my food will be tasty enough to make up for the lack of homemade gravy. Because the purpose of Thanksgiving is not to show what you can do, how much of a super woman you are, and how good your gravy is. Thanksgiving, for me, has become the holiday my kids actually look forward to because they truly enjoy it being in our home. They love it that their cousins come to eat and play. They love the feeling of the tradition, even though they don't really understand the meaning of the word. But they feel it none the less.

So, happy Thanksgiving to all. Hope your day is filled with good food, family, lots of laughter, memories, and gravy (whether homemade or jarred).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Madalyn's Taste in Boys

With David down for the count yesterday, that left plenty of opportunity for hanging one-on-one with Madalyn. And, for anyone who's spent more than five minutes around her, time with Madalyn is never short of interesting. She's spicy and sassy, and one can never predict just what she'll say next.

Last night, Scott, Madalyn, and I were sitting in the garage (yes - I said garage; ours is like a the third living room we didn't realize we needed) with Buddy and watching football. After seeing pictures of her preschool boyfriend's birthday party on Facebook, I decided to ask her something...

"So, Madalyn, do you ever think about Sam anymore?" {Sam was her dearest friend in preschool last year, her boyfriend all throughout 4K.}
"No..."
"Are you just over him?"
"Well, I think about him sometimes. But, you know, I have a boyfriend."
"How many do you have?"
She held her tiny pointer finger up, brown eyes brimming with every radiant emotion known to man. "Matthew."
"But I thought you said Grayton wanted to be your boyfriend, too?"
"I told him no way."
"But why?"
"You know........ sad faces. He gets them all the time."
At this point, I am laughing out loud, and daddy steps in to the conversation.
"That's right, baby girl. You stay away from those bad boys. Your mama had a thing for the bad boys. She picked one the first time, and just didn't have enough. So she thought she'd try again..."

Sad faces. Who knew that sad faces on your conduct folder was a part of the boyfriend picking criteria in kindergarten, but apparently it is. My question is this: at what age does it shift? At what age will she find herself drawn to the boy telling dirty jokes in the corner and chewing gum in class and picking his nose for laughs? Hopefully never. Hopefully she will continue to check their conduct folders on a regular basis to determine if they are worthy of her adoration. Hopefully.

Madalyn is all about the conduct folder, I assure you. When I go to eat lunch with her, I get the rundown on who has been naughty that day and how many sad faces so-and-so has. She's quite serious about it, and her record is blameless at this point. And, for those who have been on the phone with me during one of her many crazy tantrums, a clear conduct record seems nothing short of miraculous. But somehow, she has managed to work the system immaculately, and she expects the same out of her boyfriend. I admire her her high standards, and I pray that they work their way on up through the age bracket with the grace of a sliding scale. I pray.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over the course if my parenthood, there have been many occasions in which I desperately wished my children came equipped with some sort of warning light. I think on the back of the back of the neck would be the perfect location. In my dreams, it would work somewhat like traffic signal. Green for all is well, yellow for sickness/accident/major tantrum up ahead, and red for down-for-the-count.

If David came tricked out with said warning light, yesterday it would have shown yellow, though throughout the day he gave no physical sign of what would come in the wee hours of the morning.

All this week, he had looked forward to attending one of his best friend's birthday party ~ a camp-out theme complete with tent in the backyard, campfire, tent, and nine other rambunctious boys. I packed up some extra clothes in case he got cold, rolled up his sleeping bag, and took him to his friend's house at 5:00. Around 11:15, just as Scott and I were walking up the stairs to go to bed, the phone rang. David yacked all in the tent. Great.

Scott headed right out to get him, and I prepared his room for a long evening. Towel on the floor, trash can with a bag inside it, extra blankets. But I really had no idea what I was in store for. At this juncture, if David had been born with that lighting system, his would have blinking bright red.

I learned something new last night ~ there are worse things to clean up than throw up. I won't get into any more detail than that. Just know that the good Lord got me through last night, and I have thanked Him over and over again for it. I am still in amazement that I didn't join David in the intestinal party he was having. At one point, I was on the verge... well, at several points.

My son can be such a little poo-poo head here lately, but last night I was reminded that he's still just a little man. And he still needs me, whether he likes to admit or not. And that I do have patience in the weirdest situations. In fact, the more strange and disgusting the situation, the more abundant my patience. Amazing. I think I can attribute that one to God as well.

So prayers for my little David who is thankfully peacefully at sleep at this moment. But I am praying that he will be able to keep fluids down when he wakes up, and that this nasty one doesn't make its way around the family on this Thanksgiving week.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In the thick or the thicket...

I'm in the thick of it right now. The thick, or should I say the thicket? The thick of life... the thirties. Seems like every which way I turn there's struggle. Weird illness, divorce, disappointment, financial strife. You name it, it's all around me. So many dear people whom mean so much to me are battling through extremely tough and life changing issues. And, if I am completely honest, it makes me question my Creator.

But in the midst of my questioning, I realize that these struggles are of the world and not of God, and that in His divine plan for us as individuals earthly strife is meant to bring forth and strengthen faith. But still, we mortals would like to believe that our faith could be strengthened equally as well by good times and the abundant life! Couldn't it????

I'm also deep in the thick of writing my first novel. I'm about two-thirds of the way through, and it's been a strange experience. Honestly, I don't believe there's an appropriate word to describe the feeling of writing. I've used this analogy in conversation ~ the feeling is similar to those first several weeks of being pregnant when no one around you can tell, yet it's all you can think about. You've got this little seed of life sprouting, growing, draining all your energy reserves, stretching your insides and changing the way you think. You certainly don't look any different, but you are different none the less. My writing has become more of an act of faith than I ever dreamed it would be. I find myself moving forward in the plot, sometimes easily, sometimes not, and constantly the little voice of insecurity is mumbling in the background, "This is so ridiculous... you're writing all this, wasting all this time... what are the odds, really, of publishing?" It takes almost as much energy to muffle the rumblings of the little insecurity devil as it does to do the writing.

All of this is coming together, I promise. I am building up to share a verse, one of my favorites:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.." Jeremiah 29: 11-14

This verse just speaks to me. I am so in love with this section of the Old Testament right now - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations. Let me preface by saying that I am no Bible scholar, simply a person who loves words and truly enjoys reading the Scriptures. I have become increasingly fascinated with God's calling of the people of Israel, how he continuously offered His love to them, His forgiveness. In my opinion, this section of the Old Testament clearly demonstrates the Father role of God, how He is trying different means to get His children's attention and draw them in to listen to Him. The same kind of philosophy many of us use as parents: Okay... let me try this and maybe my child will get it, and I really hope I don't have to go the punishment route... please get it... please.

So, this particular verse I've grown up hearing. But several weeks ago, God sent it to me in a weird way that I won't get into right now. I used to not believe in that - that God would send me a message. My conservative childhood memory of religion would not permit to accept that, but I am wising up in my old age. So God put this verse right in front of me on a day when I was feeling incredibly insecure about my direction. And I realized it's so applicable in most any situation in life. So I am trying to memorize it (not as easy to memorize these days as it was in my childhood) so that I can call on the words at any point in my life. Because no matter what we may be experiencing in life, we can all pause and repeat the verse to ourselves as a message from God.

I specifically like the last bit ~ the I will be found by you part. Not you will find me, or I will find you. I liken it to when, as a parent, we play hide-and-go-seek with our kids. We all know that an adult can easily dupe a child. We are much better thinkers than they are (most of the time, anyway). But what do we do instead? We half-hide. We make ourselves blatantly visible so that we can be found. And that's what God does for us. Even in the thicket. He's right there. We're the child playing the game, and He's begging to be found so that He can see us in the midst of our excitement of finally finding the prize.

So those are my thoughts for this morning. And I am praying that all who read these words will seek Him today... He will be found by you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Miss Madalyn

Miss Madalyn has a bit of a cold. Not such a big deal for most five-year-olds... keep on moving though the mucous flows. But I knew when I picked her up from school yesterday that it had shifted her mood. She walked out the door with a look on her face that would frighten a cat away.

In the short walk home from school, we argued about pancakes. She wanted to eat them when we got home, but I specifically purchased them for breakfast, and she had already had two that morning.

"No, Madalyn... they're for breakfast."
"Well, then, I wanna eat breakfast when I get home."
"No, you can eat them for breakfast in the morning."
"Breakfast."
"In the morning, Madalyn..."
"BREAKFAST!!!!!!!!!"

Instead, she had a bowl of cereal. Not sure what her fascination with breakfast items is all about. She played outside as long as the weather would allow her, and then she started in on me when we got inside. I asked her why she was being so ugly. Did she have a bad day? What was so wrong in her little world? My beloved answers...

"You."
"Me. It's my fault."
"Yes."
"Madalyn, you've been at school all day. I wasn't even there."
"YOU!!!!"

After a minor plastic flute throwing and breaking incident in which I maintained composure (somewhat), another issue presented itself. Madalyn's stuffy nose needed a dose of medicine, and I wanted her to come into the kitchen to take it. Ordinarily, I would take the little cup of medicine to her, but here lately, each time she takes medicine, she ends up spilling it and then says, "OOPSY!" which makes me believe it's no accident at all. The Robitussin I had dosed out for her was a deep red, and there was no way she was spilling it on my sofa or carpet. War broke out, and Madalyn was fired up. How dare I ask her to walk into the kitchen especially on a day like the one she had - one in which I ruined all her happiness and not even been in her presence!

I was in the kitchen putting dishes in the dishwasher when I heard the noise. I looked into the living room to find my lamp and two pictures on the floor beside the end table, and Madalyn picking up a pillow to put it back on the couch so as to remove the evidence that she had caused the event. In her anger, she had thrown the pillow from the couch and knocked over everything on the table beside it. I was livid. So livid that I couldn't even discipline her. It was one of the few times in my stint as a parent that the voice inside me said, "Do not spank her - you may hurt her..." And so I quietly picked her up and put her in her bed and said only these words to her: "DO NOT GET UP."

This little one... this little soul. Oh, my Lord, give me wisdom, patience, strength, and faith that you have a plan for the fire in her core. Surely there's a plan... surely there's a future direction for the vigor and life in her being.

I am happy to report that she did not get up, I did not hurt her in any way, and her daddy arrived home within a couple of minutes of the pillow-throwing incident and saw the evidence for himself still laid out on the floor. My last words to her before she closed her big brown eyes and went to sleep were, "I love you, Madalyn. Even though you were a poop-head tonight, I still love you. You can be a poop-head everyday if you want, and I will always love you. But please don't be a poop-head tomorrow - I need a break."



Monday, November 15, 2010

Rumble...

In the wee hours of the dark morning, I heard the rumble, low and deep and far away. The end of rumble shook the house and rattled the windows, and I waited to hear the little pitter against the pile of the carpet in between her room and mine. Within five seconds, there she was, piggy and blanket in hand along with a stuffed dog and lamb. Without any words, I helped her up and over my body and into the middle of the bed safely tucked beneath the covers.

Madalyn is fierce and tough and sassy and loud. Until a rumble of thunder. Whether day or night, she's frightened of the noise. During the day time, she'll find me, curl up in my lap, or ask me to stay with her. And at night, she makes her way into the bed with Mama and Daddy to keep her safe. In her defense, she sleeps in the loudest room of the house. The big double window with large arch above it doesn't put much in between her and the noise of the outdoors, and the window rattles deeply with each rumble of thunder during a storm. At almost six, she still climbs in bed at the slightest sound of thunder near or far away.

I must admit that there are nights I hear that thunder and think, "Crap... here she comes..." Madalyn is a bed hog. She has the smallest body of the family but somehow takes up the most space. She wants to get in the middle of the bed, but she likes to kick at least one leg out of the covers which interferes greatly with my strategy for keeping warm. She's a cuddle-bug that likes to lay right up against you or on top of your body, and she changes positions several times during the night. So, when Madalyn is in the bed with me, I don't get much rest.

But, there are some nights I don't mind. There are nights that I lay there listening to her breathe and enjoying the warmth of her little bitty self against me. I enjoy the furry friends she brings along for the safety of mom and dad's bed. I enjoy the fact that she wants to act so big during the day when there's no thunder, when in reality she still needs me for so much - safety from the thunder as one of those things. I like it that she's still small and innocent and my baby girl.

Last night was one of the latter. One in which I enjoyed her cuddling up with me. One in which I realized that these days are flying by so fast. That I can never get them back. That one day, sooner than I think, she won't be bothered by the rumbles of thunder that scare her so now. That she won't need me in the middle of the night or the middle of the day or to fix her lunch for school. That she won't be little. That she'll be big with big problems to help her solve. Not the simple rumbling of thunder that is solved with a hug and a cuddle.

Lord ~ protect my little girl as she grows... my precious baby girl.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The girl who had to move her name...

I went to lunch with Madalyn today at her little elementary school. When I go, I don't actually eat. I've been burned a few times with not-so-pleasant choices in the lunch line, and quite frankly, if I'm gonna pay for a lunch, it better be tasty. So I usually just sit and visit with her while she eats.

Today, as the children filed into the lunchroom with their trays and lunch boxes and took their seats in boy-girl order on the little bench attached to the table, I noticed one girl crying hysterically. I mean hysterically. Hyperventilating. Shaking. Snot pouring from the nose. Face as red as the ketchup she had on her tray to dip her corn dog in. It was bad, and neither of the teachers had made their way to the tables yet. They were still helping the kindergartners get their forks and napkins and milk. So I walked over to ask her if she was okay, to which she responded, "I don't like corn dogs..." Fair enough. I guess some people don't care for corn dogs, but I couldn't understand why a food item had induced such a harsh reaction. I was relieved to see her teacher making her way over to handle the situation. She sat and talked to her for a minute and carefully pulled the breading off of her corn dog for her. She was still beside herself, and even though her back was to me, I could see she was still struggling to catch her little breath in between sobs.

I inquired Madalyn about the little girl. "Is she having a bad day?"

"Oh, she had to move her name."

Ahhhhh... had to move her name. Got called down in the class. When lunch was over, the teacher clued me in that she had written on her table in the classroom and had to move her name on the board for the very first time in the school year. And she was destroyed because of it. Devastated. I wondered what went on in her little mind. Did she think she'd get in trouble at home? Did you shudder within from embarrassment from being called down in class in front of her friends? Did she cave inside at the notion that her image was less than perfect? I was that girl, the one who was so destroyed by a single mistake. The girl who thought the world would end if anyone around me knew I was not quite perfect.

In many ways, I've been that little girl at the lunch table squawking about corn dogs when it really something quite more serious at stake. When I knew I had blown it. When I knew that my mistake, that my sin, was bigger than I ever wanted it to be or dreamed it could be. When I thought that because of my mistakes I was somehow less lovable, less deserving of grace. When I thought that my mistakes made me a disappointment. What I am glad to walk in today is the understanding that even on the days when I have to move my name, God loves me no less, He extends even more grace, and he sees those mistakes as a chance for Him to shine through me.

So, yeah... I've had to move my name a lot on the conduct board. I've made a mistake or two or 43,000. I've been the girl, red-faced, hyperventilating, in the midst of an ugly cry about corn dogs. But I am glad to say that the ugly perfectionist in me is dying down and upward springs the realist that says, "Honey, we all move our names every now and then. But God always moves it back..."

I leaned over and told that precious little girl that I hoped her day got better. She had settled down from crying, but at the sound of my words, she cranked it back up again. I felt bad for her, but I said a little prayer for her on my way home. God bless her. God bless us all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Compliment...

Saturday, my mom and I somehow managed to spend a few hours together sans kids. We don't get times like this often, mainly because, in general, once you have kids, most everyone in your life (your own mom included) would much rather spend time with your children than with you. But every now and again, me and my mother long for the days when we could actually have a conversation and eat lunch somewhere besides Dairy Queen.

I dropped the kids off with my mother-in-law on Friday afternoon to spend the night so my mother and I could check out the Mistletoe Market in Prattville and the Southern Homes and Gardens Christmas Open House in Wetumpka. Last year, we took the kids with us to peruse the beautifully decorated trees and left with the strangest conglomeration of ornaments that the snot-noses had to have. So this year, the idea that I would not be forced to purchase a clear plastic high-heeled Christmas ornament was beyond exciting.

We started out at the Mistletoe Market, which was basically a blend of local vendors peddling holiday wares and trinkets that any good Southern lady believes she just can't do without. I mean, who doesn't need a clear acrylic soap dispenser with your monogram appliqued on front in fancy script vinyl lettering? Who doesn't need to buy their kid a marshmallow gun made out of PVC pipe? Who doesn't need a necklace made of rolled up wallpaper bits in your choice of Alabama or Auburn team colors?

As we walked the aisles looking at the various booths full of goodies, my mother had Christmas on her mind. She is about 25 steps ahead of me this year on that note - I am planning on ignoring Christmas this year until a rather large bag of money is dropped in my lap. A local jeweler had a booth set up, and we stopped to look at all the beautiful things. They had some real stuff - silver and gold and the works - and they had some everyday stuff as well. She purchased a couple of gifts for my sisters-in-law, and we walked away to continue looking. We had looked at all the booths, and my mom wanted to walk back to the jewelry for me to point out something I might like for Christmas. And so we did, and I was drawn to things that were shiny and way overpriced for my mother's holiday budget. But that's when I was smacked in the soul with a pleasant surprise...

A lady working the booth looked at me and said these words to me: "I just wanted to tell you that you are such a beautiful woman. I noticed you when you were here a few minutes ago. You just radiate a beauty, and I like to tell people when I see that in them."

I was floored. I can't say that I have ever been paid a compliment that genuine and unexpected in my life. I'm sure at some point in my life many foolish young boys have told me I was cute or pretty or hot or whatever. But for a woman to pay you a compliment, well, just seems quite different. It feels real somehow. When a man thinks you're attractive or beautiful, a woman always assumes there's some sort of ulterior motive involved.

This stranger had no idea how much I needed to hear the words. She didn't have a clue that I have gained ten pounds in the past few months and can't button any of my jeans. She didn't realize that my legs have been covered in this weird and awful looking rash on my legs since coming down with strep a few weeks ago. She really had no clue the insecurity that plagues me as I notice the little lines beginning to settle in around my mouth and eyes and the gray hairs emerging in the sea of dark brown. She was not privy to the endless dialogue of negative talk that streams my conscious thought. She just thought something - a beautiful thought about me, a stranger - and decided to share it out loud.

It got me thinking how the world would be different if we shared these thoughts on a consistent basis. If we dared to say the things that bubble over in our heart but we would typically be too afraid to speak. I mean, why not? What do you have to lose by simply saying something nice? Someone might think I were crazy, but that wouldn't be a first for me.

So, I think I have a new goal. To share positive tidbits with others along the way as the Spirit moves me... anybody else wanna join me?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Yesterday... one of the best days in a while...

After a second trip to doc-in-the-box on Wednesday, a steroid shot in the rump, and a filled prescription of a decongestant/antihistamine with the longest list of warnings I've ever seen on a prescription, I woke up feeling a little more refreshed than I had in two weeks yesterday. On my birthday. My 34th. The time is drawing nigh that I will skirt around the number, but for now, I am pretty proud of 34. I guess. But that's not where I am going with this post...

I needed my energy yesterday for on the agenda was a big trip to Ft. Toulouse with David's school. I was excited to go especially since I spent most of my childhood in Alabama just a short distance from the Fort and had never crossed through the gates. We loaded the charter bus at 7:00 and headed southeast to Wetumpka, Alabama to surround ourselves with history. I was assigned two other boys to chaperon, given a map and questions to answer throughout the day, and we were set off to explore.

I must say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Seeing anything through the eyes of three 9 year old boys is entertaining, but add in muskets and cannons firing sporadically during the day and that brings a whole other element to things. We'd be right in the midst of pioneer men starting fire with flint and iron, a musket would fire in the distance, and the three little heads would start spinning and saying in chorus, "Was that the cannon? Was that a gun? Where is it? Where's it coming from?" Thankfully, we were able to view the musket firing from close up, watched men making ammunition, a lady dying yarn, a man carving wood (and speaking in Native Indian tongue for us - fascinating man, perhaps the most fascinating one there to me), Indians shooting their handmade bow and arrows, women cooking in pioneer fashion complete with wooden bowls and adobe oven. There were lots of animal furs to handle and beg mom to buy for you - cause you know every home needs a coyote fur on the coffee table in the living room.

It was a great day, and the best part of the trip was the fact that all three boys kept looking at one another and at me and repeating this phrase all day long: "THIS IS THE BEST FIELD TRIP EVER!!!"

Shortly after I arrived home, I got the best news ever. I hadn't mentioned the fact that my mom had scans scheduled for yesterday. I had attempted many posts in the past week, but for some reason I struggled with getting my words out. When I know the scans are near, I sort of go into this place in my soul - this quiet place, this I know I shouldn't worry but I can't help it place, this place that just wants to be silent sometimes because if I don't speak it or write it then it must not be so. This time around, I just couldn't bear the thought of more spots. My personal prayer to God was please nothing new. And I am beyond elated to report that there's nothing new. No major change in what was already present, but the fact that there are no new spots tells the radiologist and the oncologist (combined with good blood labs over the past few months) that things are moving in the right direction!

My heart leaps for joy! A rush of relief went through my body and soul when my father called to tell me the news. I could tell by the tone of his voice before he reported a detail that the news was good. I am happy for my mother - that she can continue on the current treatment that has her feeling relatively well and living a normal life. I am so happy for my father who I know has been ready to hear some good news about his bride. I am just plain happy!

So thank you, Lord, for the best birthday ever! No fancy gifts, no frills and thrills, but a life full of happiness and love!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The one about Halloween...


Another Halloween come and gone. Another search for costumes. Another eating through the first couple of bags of Halloween candy only to have to go out and buy more the week of the actual event. Another ride around and freeze your booty off after the sweat has barely had time to dry on your skin from the October Alabama afternoon. Another trick. And too many treats.

Last night, we got dressed and went to our friends' home in another neighborhood along with several families from our baseball team and some other poor, unsuspecting people that were asked to join us and actually thought it would be a good idea. My friend, Ker
ri, had made chili and hot dogs, and the rest of us were instructed just to bring something. It must be 100% accurate that great minds think alike because nearly all of us invited decided to bring cupcakes. There were various icing and decorating styles, but they were all cupcakes nonetheless, and I promise that they multiplied - not disappeared - as the evening progressed.

Our friends always find a trailer and hitch it behind their truck, and we drive around the neighborhood tricking and treating and having a ball. This year, the trailer was full of little goblins who were chomping at the bit to go out and beg for strangers to give them candy. Does Halloween not go against all that we teach our children is reasonable and right? Anywho...

Madalyn looked adorable in her pretty pink witch ensemble. I did manage to get a couple of pictures which proved to be no easier for this event than normal. Why on earth would I expect it to be any different? This year, the sun was in her madame's eyes, and then she stepped in ants, and it really just went all downhill from there. And David, the bloody masked murderer, was really too cute to claim to be a murderer. Maybe he should have said he was one of those really handsome and charming serial killers - you know, the one that lives ne
xt door and no one suspects.

We made it home with the finest batch of Halloween candy I've seen to date. I'm talking about the good stuff, people, not the wax-papered peanut butter flavored chews. I'm talking Snickers, Twix, Butterfingers. I was amazed. The homes we visited spared no expense this ye
ar. One house in particular had a couple of disturbed teenagers in the front yard chasing children around with a weed eater and a shovel while dressed in incredibly awful masks. Even I
shuddered a little at the sound of that shovel dragging across the concrete. It's an eerie sound, folks, no matter how old you are or not-scared you claim to be.

All in all, Halloween turned out to be a success. For the kids. Me, on the other hand, have already gained 25 pounds just from sorting the candy and taking in the smell of all that fantastic chocolate. I also woke up with heartburn in the middle of the night last night I would assume from grazing for twenty minutes at the food table after our trick-or-treat excursion. But I wouldn't trade these good times and great memories with my kids for anything. At least, I don't guess I would...

The past few days...

I've been in a weird frame of mind the last few days. On Thursday afternoon, our little community learned of the loss of a young man at his own hand. Sixteen. The world ahead of him, and he chose to end it all. I never met him, never saw his face, don't know anything about him, yet he haunts me. As a parent, how can the loss of someone so young not haunt you?

I haven't had much close experience with suicide in my life. My ex-husband's mother took her life years before I met him. Of course the actual event didn't effect me, but the fact that he lied to me for a year about the circumstances surrounding her death was bothersome, though I understood why. And once I found out that she committed the act in the house in which he still lived, it was a little creepy to walk past the room where I knew his mother died. About six years ago, my ex-husband's oldest brother chose the same path of exit, and he shot himself behind a bar in Montgomery. Around the same time, a guy I knew through the church youth group during high school chose to end his life. Then, of course, a little over a year ago, a friend of mine was found blue and non-responsive but brought back to full capacity by the ER staff.

My friend's attempt was one of those life changing deals - one of those things you could never forget even if you tried with all your might. I will never forget the weekend I spent with her talking to her, trying to help her see that life can go on despite huge disappointments and losses. That each day can be a fresh beginning. That her children deserved a mom here on earth to hug them and love them as only a mother can. And yet she tried it anyway. I will never forget the moments beside her bed, the way she looked, sitting indian style in the grass outside the hospital with her cousin and mother. I will never forget. But I can't say that I've forgiven her yet, and that is a forgiveness that might take quite some time. It's very hard to forgive a fellow-mother for wanting to leave her children behind, though I know the Good Lord requires me to do so.

But a child... sixteen. I remember sixteen. Driving. Freedom. A lot of angst, a lot of uncertainty, but a lot of fun. And my heart breaks to know that there are little souls out there that believe there's no hope for them. That there's no freedom. That there's no driving force behind them. And it makes me want to pull both my little babies under my wings, tuck them in, and hold them there forever for safekeeping. Never let them go. But I know they would never stay. Instead, I have to wrap them with something that they aren't capable of understanding fully right now but that can sustain them if they try to accept it in their heart and continue to grow - God's love and hope and peace for them. His mercy and forgiveness.

Seeing this happen right under my nose in our ordinary, sleepy suburb reminds me of my never-ending, deeper than the ocean responsibility to my children. And it reminds me that even if I do all I can do while they are young, there will come a day when their choices and life path is out of my control.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kid Pitch

I grew up with a wax paper, Coca-Cola cup in my hand, hiney side in the red clay dirt at Goodwyn Ball Park in Montgomery, Alabama. Like literally - that's where a heaping portion of my youngest childhood memories are set. Playing in the dirt or mud (whichever it happened to be that particular day), buying Fun Dip and Slush Puppies from the concession stand, and sitting as close up to the fence as I could get right behind the batter's box calling strikes and balls in my head and comparing them to what the umpire said out loud. With two older brothers, that was my life. And it was so much fun.

I guess it was then that my love for baseball began. It deepened later in life in realized just how cute a boy's backside looked in baseball pants, especially if they were a catcher. I guess with all that up and down squatting and all, the catcher always had the nicest looking rear in the baseball pants. Granted that was at a time in my life that I still appreciated the taste of good Slush Puppy, but had traded playing in the dirt with watching the boy that made my insides swirl with delight compete on the field.

Now days, I don't make a habit of paying that much attention to the booties in the baseball pants I see on a regular basis. Most of them are under the age of ten, so that's neither appropriate or interesting to me. But I am more into the game since my little man has baseball pants of his own. He's been sporting the pants, pulled up to just below the knee and tucked into the socks pulled high, for four years now but is somehow just now finding himself playing real baseball. Kid pitch, leading off, stealing, baseball. And I love it...

Sunday, David and his Bandit friends played their first (and probably only) tournament of the fall. It was our kid pitch debut, and I was so excited to see how our boys could hold up. We've not practiced much since all but two of our boys play football. We've had two real practices - meaning the whole team, practicing all facets of the game. For the most part, we've met and done a little pitching and a little hitting, but not much full-field practice. We knew the odds of us coming out of this tournament victorious were slim to say the least. I think all the parents walked into it with an expectation of being beat. I considered it not-so-free, really organized practice.

We lost our first two games, the first one 8-4 and the second 10-6. Most runs as this level are scored by stealing, not actual hits of the ball. The pitchers' arms are erratic and unpredictable to say the least, so there's ample opportunity to advance once you've gotten on first base. Some people think it makes the game more boring, but to me it was more intense mainly because I honestly never knew what was possible once the ball left the pitcher's hand... could be a strike, a ball, a pitch right over the umpire's head, a stolen base or run, a batter whose elbow would be greatly bruised the following day from being hit with a pitch. The list could go on and on. And I never really knew what the players on the field would do, because, God love them, they've completely forgotten how to strategize the bases. We're trying to throw a runner out at second when there's one ready to steal home on third. Honestly, it's as though these kids have never played before.

Even though we lost the first two, we still showed well for ourselves. Most of our boys got a couple good hits during the day. The ordinary plays on the field looked good. It's just the mechanics and strategies behind all the other elements that have to be added in. In other words, once the days are warm enough in the spring, we will practicing baseball so much that even I will be able to try out for the major leagues.

We did pull a victory the third game, beating the poor little team we played 13-0. I was glad to end the day on a positive note for our boys' sake, because, bless them, they aren't accustomed to losing. And neither are the parents. But I felt so bad for the team we beat. They were just plain awful. Hate to sound ugly, but that's just the truth.

So, I got a little teaser of baseball. And I got to see my little man pitch for about half an inning. And, well... I thought I was about to barf the whole time he was on the mound. Don't know if I can handle him being out there or not. Luckily (for mama, anyway) I don't foresee David being one that pitches a whole lot unless something drastically changes. But we'll see. At least now I'm hoping I won't be eating nearly as much at the ball park because I'll be nervously fretting around most of the time or barfing on my shoes if David takes the mound.

Is it spring yet?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Emerging...

I am emerging from the streptococcus fog I have been under... my word. Why is it the older you get the worse strep is on your body? When Madalyn was sick two weeks ago, it took all I could do to keep her away from her neighborhood friends and stop her from eating everything in the pantry. Not so much the same experience for me.

Friday morning, I went to doc-in-a-box after a tough evening with fever and chills. I pretty much knew it was strep, and I was glad to go get my throat swabbed in exchange for the magic medicine that would make it all go away. By Friday afternoon, my fever had spiked to 103.5 despite the copious amounts of Advil and Tylenol coursing through my veins. I was pretty much delirious for the span of two hours. I remember texting Scott to let him know how high my fever was under the pretense that someone should know there was a possibility they might find me expired on the couch with a wet rag on my forehead and rerun episodes of Grey's Anatomy going on the Lifetime channel. Just trying to give him a heads up, because I really did think I was dying. It certainly felt like my insides were boiling, and we already know my brain is fried...

Saturday, I laid on the couch all day reading a book and watching football with my poor husband who had taken the Saturday off to enjoy his birthday weekend. I am very sorry there was little enjoyment in the weekend outside of Auburn's continued success on the football field and having a half-dead remnant of his wife sitting beside him.

Sunday, I did what any strep recovering mom/patient should do... I sat at the ball park all day watching my little man and his compadres play in the first ever kid pitch baseball tournament. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, though I was a wee bit grumpier than usual, and was swapping comments with another parent on the other side within the first 15 minutes of the first inning. Hey - I was on antibiotics, Cherritussin, and Advil and had sweat out 2 pounds of fluids in the previous 48 hours, so I got a little worked up. No harm, no foul. (And I promise to give the gift of a quality baseball post very soon detailing the experience as a whole... I know, you may sleep with anticipation now...)

Finally, during the day yesterday, after I thought I was going to pass out from low blood sugar, I quickly scarfed down a whole can of Double Noodle Campbell's soup for breakfast. Someone was nice enough to remove those daggers that had been stuck in my tonsils for the past few days one by stinking one, and the throat pain began to subside. And, as the pain subsided, my head began to clear (a little). And this morning, I feel somewhat like a real person. Somewhat.

I don't get sick all that often, but when I do, it's a good one. I go all out. In the midst of all fever and the body aches and the misery, I thought about the people that fight every day with their body... I thought about the few people I know that lost their battles in the last couple of weeks... I thought about a lot of really deep stuff in the midst of times when there wasn't a whole lot of coherent thinking. For many, the way I have felt over the last several days is a common thing in their life, and I honestly don't know how people deal with chronic illness that has you down for the count like that. For me, I am feeling better today and know that each day will be more and more like myself. I also know that I will probably be healthy and have no major sickness like that for another two years. But some aren't as lucky as me.

So today, I say thank you to my Lord and Savior for making me healthy and enabling my body to come back from the sickness. And I ask Him to wrap his arms around those who are suffering physically more than I can even imagine and speak to them and let them know that You are there beside them. Amen.