Tuesday, December 25, 2012

If the Wise Men were introverted, suffering from PMS and slightly obsessed with One Direction

Christmas lights and sounds and crowds make me weary. My breath comes slowly and I feel hot and sticky in the holiday shops and endless lines. I prefer to watch it all from the fringes, appearing for a bit and retreating quickly to solitude.

The holidays are busy: a drive to my parents, peppered with conversation, a stop @ Cracker Barrel where Baby Girl laughed so hard root beer spewed across the table, and jazz on the radio. Pops and brother played guitar; Nana walked to and from the kitchen; Baby Girl and Teen Niece straightened hair; husband and Little Nephew conversed intently about Star Wars. I watched, half immersed in a book, enjoying the familiar.

Christmas Eve @ husband's family: the winding country roads and the smell of lavender to keep the motion sickness @ bay. Food and people. Baby Nephew excited in all that is wrapped and waiting to be opened. Baby Girl new here, still--like her mother--stays close throughout the day, venturing to play only as night is falling. There are dogs; one so massive and alive, he is better suited to the pages of Narnia, but gentle. His head as big as mine nudges my hand for attention, his heft against my legs.

On the way home, we pull over and watch deer for a moment...a sight still thrilling for those of us in this new country.

As Christmas sneaks in, Baby Girl is fast asleep, husband wraps the last of the gifts, and I lie watching him. I search my essential oils guide for cramps find two that came free with the starter kit. "That's how to get husbands to buy in. Treat PMS." Husband laughs when he says it.

Christmas morning there are gifts, cinnamon rolls, a 100 piece puzzle. Baby Girl asked us if we said Happy Birthday to Jesus. She facetimes with Pops. It is our first Christmas day apart-bittersweet because we miss them, but know they're happy for our family.

The day lazes on; there are books, leftovers (jambalaya from husband's uncle, Nana's BBQ), naps, the documentary concert of One Direction.

It is a quiet Christmas. Unremarkable by most standards. I wonder if I'm failing with no tree, no decorations, no traditions.

Baby Girl wears a trail telling me that the One Direction calendar has all the birthdays marked (Harry's is February 1). She raves over the cinnamon rolls and jambalaya. Pouts when her wallet can't be found. She shows off her new shoes and headbands, downloads songs to her IPod. She is quick witted, sometimes sharp-tongued, curious, confident turning flips or doing turns on stage, yet so shy we couldn't sing Happy Birthday to her until she was four. It is her heart I see today; her letting Baby Nephew help tear open her last gift, her teacher commenting how she was one of only three girls that refused to get involved in a tween girls' dispute, and today counting out dollars and coins that she had saved for almost a year to fund drinking water for someone else.

Husband took photos, modeled his new shoes, and a belt too big. He took a nap, made the absolute best sandwiches, and silently matched Baby Girl's donation dollar for dollar, never telling her. It has been a year since we married. He is more confident, able to stand up for himself better, and laughs more. He quadruple wrapped some of Baby Girl's gifts after he caught her peeking through the paper. She laughed at being foiled; he pleased that he could foil her.

And I with my little family. Laughed at the pictures taken, tackled pieces of the puzzle, read a book as husband napped, enjoyed chips and salsa. In this, my first year of marriage, I find I have to defend less, enjoy more, and am happy to have someone to depend on.

I think of the Wise Men. Their flaws? Did one want to lead, but was forced to follow? Did one begrudge bringing the gift of gold to a child? The shepherd? Did he doubt? Was he irritable? A loner? And Mary. Sweet, sweet Nana reminds me how hard that donkey ride must have been for her. Who could have blamed Joseph had he left? We know so little of this man, but I marvel at what he must have been, for God entrusted him with the earthly raising of His Son. The cast of characters that makes the first Christmas was not dressed in finest linens, did not hold the highest office of the day, did not attend parties in the fanciest of places. They were integral to the Story because they were searching for the KING.

So today, we are celebrating Jesus birth. It was low-key, a little unconventional, surrounded by the people who are closest. And so was our Christmas, our flawed cast of three, enjoying one another and following the KING.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mary, did you know?

Tonight there were no AR goals, no make-up work, no organic/nonGMO meals, no labor budgets, no mortgage payments. There was Wendy's (her choice), preview of the new jazz dance, plans for a friend's party tomorrow. Tonight, I combed her head and greased her scalp--something she has deemed herself grown enough to do for over a year. I never imagined her magic moments, all those long days she grew inside me. I could not have envisioned her laugh, quick wit, sensitivity to others, and her fierce protection of her mama. Nothing can prepare you for the love, joy, pride, the worry. If I knew the outcome would I still have wanted the ride? Mary, did you know? The betrayal? The cross? Even knowing Sunday was coming, could you have carried the burden of Friday? How much God loves us knowing the end and sending His Son? How much Jesus? Their heart breaking on Calgary? Tonight, for the mamas who lost their babies, there aren't words. But between mothers there don't have to be. Mary, did you know? And for the rest of us, belief in the One who does.

Monday, October 1, 2012

31 days to a less lazy me...

I love to do as little as possible, at least some of the time.

Lying on a couch vegetating in front of a L&O marathon while googling whatever pops into my head (does anyone else remember the 80s sitcom that starred 7-ish siblings whose name all started with J...which presidents were bachelors...the name of Booby Goren’s brother?) is my ideal day.

I can be a great starter: emptying an entire closet with plans to clean out and organize, unload a kitchen cabinet with plans to clean and put down new shelf paper.

I can also be a great avoider. If I leave the laundry in the dryer, I don't have to fold it.

My husband says that I'm not lazy (Of course, he knows the husband mantra of being right or happy.).

I can't even pretend to agree.

This morning when I learned about 31 days, I knew I was supposed to do it.

It came to me later on what.

"Go to the ant you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?"

Proverbs 6: 6 & 9a

Wolfie II, my frequent partner in all things sloth

My hope/prayer is that the next month will be a time of learning, honest reflection, and encouragement with and from the Lord.

Goals for today:

1. Don't put on pajamas until at least 9 pm. It is OK to change out of scrubs, but wear something you can take the dog outside in, run to get baby girl at dance in, etc. (Ants are dressed and ready for the task at hand or the one that may arise.)

2. Don't lie down on the couch before 9 pm! You will not get up. Don't pretend that you will. You won't. No matter what. Don't lie down, not even for a minute. Got it?!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

9 things I learned as a stay-at-home mom

1. It would be easier to infiltrate a foreign rebel military than the PTA.

2. When people ask what you do, they usually do not think laundry, cook, clean, volunteer, chauffer is not enough to fill a day.

3. You will eventually find an episode of Law & Order: SVU you have never seen.

4. $11.76 a book adds up quickly on your smart phone.

5. Volunteer groups do not readily accept help or suggestion, usually.

6. Your retired parents are always out doing something when you call in the day.

7. Your husband means “the house has never looked cleaner” as a compliment. You are still not speaking to him.

8. When no one compliments the dinner you made (mostly) from scratch, you are angry that you cannot fire your family.

9. The mom who is color-coordinated, packs homemade vegan, gluten-free, organic (I know, I do push the organics) lunches, is the chair of the PTA book drive, has 5 children (all born naturally at home with her husband singing softly and marveling at the power of her uterus) is NOT the best person to compare yourself to, unless, of course, you see a memo she wrote and it contains there instead of their. THEN YOU OWN HER!

Hats off to all of you!

Ezekiel 16:44

"...As is the mother, so is the daughter." Ezekiel 16:44

My mother was a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). The late 70s, early 80s...took me to ballet, mission friends, swimming, preschool at the local church, delivered meals-on-wheels, and I got to get the cold milk cartons from the Styrofoam container. She was up and dressed with breakfast on the table every morning, made cooked lunch, cooked supper. She did it all. (Note: my dad is a great guy. He worked hard, mowed the yard (in slacks [you'll laugh if you know him], pitched in around the house. But we were a gender-traditional nuclear family.)

With both of her kids in school, Mom stayed just as busy: volunteered with a pregnancy crisis center, was PTA president, taught Sunday School, car pooled.

I was home sick one day in jr. high (I was a brat, worse I was a book-smart brat. My apologies to everyone who knew me before I turned ummm....35) and was well-enough to be bored and watch her (note: not help with) her day-to-day routine. I remember telling her, "I could never do this all day every day. It is awful! How do you not go crazy?"

School started over the past few weeks. It was my first day as a SAHM without baby girl at home. Laundry on, floors swept and vacuumed, bed made, and then I scrolled through Facebook and saw it. An old friend, we had worked a summer together at a Christian camp, posted "Lord, help me to remember there is a season for staying home, that S___won't be young forever. Help me to remember there is a season too for teaching again one day. Thank you for this season."

My camp friend is smart, sweet, loved by everyone (those I can testify to); from her Facebook page she seems to be involved in her community and church, engaged with friends and one incredible educator. She could be anything she wanted. She was choosing to stay home.

I never realized that my mom chose it too. My mom is brilliant: salutatorian of her college class, still speaks enough Spanish to get by in most any situation that may arise, she will annihilate you in any game involving trivia or memory. She is funny, articulate, kind. She could have been anything in the world she chose. And she chose to be my mother.

So to the jr. high girl who couldn't see it then: pay close to attention to your mom and her "routine" day; even if you choose to have a different one, you can learn a lot from her.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Man Plans, God laughs (borrowed from an episode of Frazier)

It had been a good day, some house cleaning, leisurely reading, baby girl “making” scented lotions (Each use is $1 if you’re interested.) Late afternoon, we went shopping: shoes, back-pack, shorts. And by then, nearing dinner-time, she wanted to make the hour drive to the mall.

I vetoed the outing, saying we could go tomorrow: more time to shop and better weather. And then her face grew long, lips pursed, and I felt my irritation rising: she is too old for this; we spent the whole afternoon shopping for her.

A breath or two. A different approach. “Baby girl, did I say we couldn’t go to the mall at all?” She shakes her head side-to-side. “Didn’t we do several things you wanted today? So why the sour face?”

“I wanted to do everything that I had planned.”

Oh she is my child!

Her face, her hands, her very quick (and occasionally ill-timed and inappropriate) wit, and her wanting it all—her way, just as she planned.

Lord, is this how I am with you? If something doesn’t go just so, do I want to chuck it all? Why do I overlook the joy that I’ve already had just because something is different than I imagined it would be?

Why do I throw in the towel when something doesn’t go my way? Help me, Lord, to let go of my plans, to be accepting of whatever it is you have planned for me.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord." Jeremiah 29:11

I feel my irritation subsiding. The lesson here is not only hers to be learned. How amazing it is when the Lord uses our children to humble us.

“Baby girl, is it worth ruining the rest of the evening just because we’re not doing something exactly the way you want it? Or is it better to have had fun doing some of what you wanted today and some more tomorrow?”  Her look softens. “Or even if we didn’t go to the mall tomorrow, isn’t it better to enjoy what we did today?”

I don’t know if she is surprised by the lack of a mom speech or agrees with the logic, but the long face is lessened. And she is OK with her plans being changed.

Lord, help me to be OK with mine being changed as well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

OK With the Now

I love to be right. Not only knowing that I am right; I want other people to know I'm right and admit that they are wrong.

I am not good at slowly letting people come to their own realizations. I push. And push. Relentless until they see the error of their ways or until I am furious and frustrated, or both.

And I want others, not necessarily involved to tell me I am right too.

Is that too much to ask?
(I Think we may have discovered one of the beams in mine own eye!)

But what to do when you are at an impasse?

Is it Christian to agree to disagree? How do you respond when they are too angry? Angry enough to hurt others with words because they want to be right too?

I told my husband I don't want my attitude to be sinful. But I have no idea what that means. Or how to start if I did.

So I stopped pushing. I quit talking or texting the other party, long before I wanted to. And I asked the Lord what I needed to do and admitted I already had my own ideas. And I didn't try to rally others to my side too terribly much.

And I saw I was keeping score.

Take 2.

Ok. Do I have to/need to let them spend alone time with my kid (and future ones, if it happens)? Is it wrong to curb relationships if you feel genuinely insulted and belittled? And how do you explain it to the kids and the other party?

Is not being sinful synonymous with ignoring your own feelings about serious issues (values and morals)?

Or is it OK to proceed cautiously? Understanding that right now I don't have a comfort level? And that it’s OK not to. Being a Christian does not mean you are OK with everyone all the time, even if they are Christians too. And knowing it is OK to say “No” or “Enough. It is our family. Let us do it our way.” doesn’t make you any less in His eyes, even if it is hard for others to hear.

But I don’t think it is a final answer. I have to be open to change in the future? Knowing that we all change and grow. But knowing I want THE END, a resolution, RIGHT NOW? But learning to be OK with the now?
It is new for me, but I am trying. Learning it is OK to stand up for myself without beating someone else into submission…..and being OK with where it takes me…..that is what I’m learning today.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My mother, Ann Voskamp, and the Lord

My mother told me about this book she was reading, a farmer's wife with six children and finding joy in the every day. She couldn't remember the author's name but was really enjoying it. And I jumped on the bandwagon, downloading Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts to my phone and read it in one sitting.

And it was poetic, lyrical. And moving. So right there I started my own list. Even though admitting I was moved by something popular and culturally relevant was hard. My ego still longs to be a little special. I'm working on it, and God showed me this was one bandwagon to be on.

I've been keeping my list, marking beautiful moments in the everyday: my husband's bare shoulders next to me in the bed, my daughter's belting out Disney's latest when she is in the bathroom and thinks no one can hear her, the feel of our air conditioner as soon as I open the door from the 100 + degrees.

Focusing on the joy, the gifts, has reduced stress in ways I could never imagine.

Not to say I haven't struggled. There have been moments, more than moments of worry and question. But those are diminishing. And I am seeking to replace those moments with new blessings.

I don't think it is time to move on yet...I think I need to stay where I am, learning and enjoying. So this is where I'll be if you need me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My house is on fire and a dark knight

I had new resolve. Vigor. Prayer. Sleep.

So I made a list.

1. Call Book Mart about using cafe for weekly church Bible study
2. E-mail John, Laura, and Hubs
3. Selection for Bible study
4. Assignment 1, Part 1
5. Assignment 1, Part 2
6. Paper 1

Work was interspersed throughout the day.

@ 3:18 my phone rang. My dad, who was the ultimate professional all those years, never called during work hours. Except once. Over 10 years ago. He had cancer. He is healthy today. Thoughts run to my mother. She is healthy too.

I am too cheerful when I answer, as if that can ward off whatever evil it is he has to tell me.

The house hubs and I own, six plus hours away from where we actually live, that is rented out to a great tenant was struck by lightning and is on fire.

IS on fire. They are on their way.

Husband and I wait. My phone calls the thirty miles away to his job, his building. No answers to tell. Just wait.

Call to the rental management company. Preliminary insurance phone calls.

Finally, the call from my dad.

No one home.
Fire was contained and extinguished. Extensive damage to two rooms.

Thank you, God. Maybe a little at first, that no one was hurt. But not much more.

The deductible on the insurance (not thank you God, I have insurance that pays all but what I spend on eating out in a month)

Does it nullify the lease (not thank you God, your provided us with a tenant these past 6 months)

I have three assignments due in 30 hours (not thank you God that I am able to go to school, have a family that supports me)

I am trying not to be DONE.

I am proud of myself that I finish (with some help) 5 of the 7 pages of my paper and 3/4 of one of the other assignments, that I contact the realtor, the disaster cleaners, the insurance agent, that I actively engage with my husband and daughter for a good thirty minutes.

I am proud of myself when I go to bed.

And then I wake up to the news that a dozen people were killed at A MOVIE.

Someone there had probably finished a summer school assignment to go; someone was taking their baby to spend more than thirty minutes with them.

And suddenly I wasn't that proud anymore.

Please God let me find joy and thanksgiving in everything, even those things I think I can't handle. Let me delight in them because my true joy is in You.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The World Was Made Wrong

There is a picture somewhere of my great, great aunt. (I think that is her branch on the tree.) She is straight mouthed and wrinkled, her white hair pulled into a bun. The caption underneath reads simply, "The world was made wrong. -Mrs. Smith" (Please note: my great-grandmother from this side was nick-named HIPPY GIANT. And with good cause. Despite this they are a wonderful family. Hello Mom and Aunt Jane.)

The world was made wrong.

And that was my day yesterday. A morning MD visit, lunch with the most handsome man in the world, and then an afternoon of self-pity, procrastination, and blahs.

No particular rhyme or reason. Just fleeting thoughts that in a couple of weeks I will have no job! That I will be covered under another person's health insurance. What will I be then? Graduation in 3 weeks. Assignments due tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

I finally told my husband I was quitting school (please refer two lines above where I say that I am graduating in 3 weeks), not cooking, and.....

"And?" he said.

The words stuck. Huge statements caught at the back of my throat. "I'm tired and overwhelmed."

There I had said it. There went my pride.

No one came and took my superwoman bangles. My mom card was intact.

And my ego was a little smaller.

Prayer (which I had failed to do all day), sandwiches from Lenny's, help with a spreadsheet, and asleep before 10 all conspired to make the day end on a brighter note.

Lessons learned from Day 1 of stress-free week: Do things early. Get up and do something, anything. And sharing the load really makes it lighter.

Here's to a cumulative effect!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Do they make a pill for this?

Ahh, stress. My life-long frenemy. It is my public persona (some of the time) that I remain cool and collected even as your breath tickles the back of my neck.

"It's not stressful. You just take one thing at a time." Smile. Speak slowly. Solve problem.

Maybe it isn't the stress I like, but the feeling needed?

Or that I just have bad habits to cope with the stress?

I was going to try this week after I leave my job, but I decided cheating really isn't conducive to the Spirit of 7! And really, how stress free is a week of no work, kid at summer camp, watching whatever (Law & Order, Mentalist) marathon USA has on!

So, this week, I'm trying to really decide what things help me find my happy place

1. Prayer and spending time in God's word (currently I'm reading through Acts)
2. Watching stand-up comedy with my husband
3. Having baby girl curl up next to me
4. Resting on my husband's chest

And some things that will probably help me de-stress, but that I may or MAY NOT enjoy.
1. Exercising 15 minutes three times in 6 days (please, please don't send me any pictures of you running a marathon or 10k or 5k or to the mailbox)
2. Admitting when I'm overwhelmed and overwrought, no matter how much it is going to hurt my pride

And at the prospect of the above, I. Already. Don't. Love. This. Week.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jesus had a step-dad

I know how much I love baby girl; it is something visceral, almost animal-like in its intensity and ferociousness.

I try to imagine if I would or could feel that way if I had only known her a year. Would I open myself up to her? Set-up at times for rejection and failure? Would I joyously go back time and time again, slowly chipping away at the walls she built? Would I take her to school and summer camp every morning? Would I bring her a bouquet of flowers or mail her a card because she worked hard and accomplished a goal? Could I love her because I was in love with her parent?

I don't know what kind of step-mom I would be.

But watching my husband diligently and quietly go about the business of parenting a little girl he met just 18 months ago tells the story of what kind of man he is.

Step-parenting is sitting through a Selena Gomez movie and teaching a giggly eight year old how to use chop sticks. It is making homemade popcorn and watching Wizards of Waverly Place, over and over again. It is playing Just Dance, checkers, War and Garbage. It is praying for her, taking her and her mother to church. It is turning the other cheek when a nine-year-old is trying to push you away. It is setting boundaries when you know she needs them. It is doing the right thing when she is watching and when she is not. It is loving her mother and loving her, even when they are not at their most lovable.
She has taken to raiding our closet, rummaging through his t-shirts, finding just the right one to wear. I warn him they may get ruined. He tells her to take anyone she likes. Morning after morning, his stack of memories dwindles, only to be returned covered with fingernail polish and glitter. Once he held up his college orientation shirt and said, "Did they slaughter hogs at camp today?" She wore yet another t-shirt the next day.

Success in step-parenting is an ebb and flow. There doesn't seem to be that one "Eureka" moment. It is a little forward progress, a step back, and resolve to push onward. Victory is the moment baby girl tells her friend, "L__ is fun in the pool, but he is so hairy. It's gross." It is the glance she gives him when she burps so loudly for the second time at the dinner table because she knows he will be a little amused when I am not. It is her waiting for him to open her car door because she has learned that, that is how a man should treat a lady.

I don't know what Joseph thought of being a step-dad. But I can imagine that worry crossed Mary's mind. How could a man love her child enough, if it wasn't his? Though I know Jesus was, by far, not the ordinary stepson; I believe God knew that in His plan we would encounter a similar situation...that families would blend. And though, the Bible doesn't tell us much about Joseph as a dad, it tells us he and Mary were worried when they couldn't find Jesus. "Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." Luke 2:48

Both worried.

There have been so many moments of my life I wanted a do-over, to make baby girl's road easier, better. Wishing her earliest years had been more traditional, less of my mistakes. And though in her early years she was fortunate enough to have my dad as a surrogate, I wonder if the perils I read about girls with absentee dads or split-up parents will befall her?

And then I remember that Jesus had a step-dad. That God knew centuries ago that He needed men to raise His children even when they didn't father them. And that being called to be a step-dad is not a consolation prize, but a role that the MOST HOLY GOD allowed in the life of his Son.

Being a parent is hard. Being a good step-parent, I imagine, is much more so. And I am thankful for the Josephs of the world, my husband especially, who father children that they didn't make.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Whip backs on concrete

It was a Memphis street, a tourist destination off of Beale, a boy of 11 or 12 sets out a large yellow bucket and proceeds to flip down the concrete. Back handsprings, back tucks, whip backs...at least a dozen in a row. Stopped now, grinning and sweating, in the thick 90+ temperatures.

People applaud and approach, drop change and loose bills into his bucket. Ask for more flips and off he goes. Baby girl and I watch, amazed. "Momma, it's a whip back on concrete!" And then, "What a cool job." Her stepdad hands her a ten and she shyly tells the boy that his flips are awesome and drops the money in the bucket.

I try to explain that it is kind of a job, that he is helping his family earn money and that because he is too young to work in any kind of store that this is what he does.

Then because I am a cheer mom and sometimes dumb, I quickly launch into my "Baby, you can do most of those tricks...you should get out there with him. It will be fun! Please. Pops can get some picture. C'mon"

"Will you give me money, too?” Ahhhh, greed.

She relents under the promise of $2. Does some back flips. The young boy comes and tells her she is awesome too.

Her stepdad hands her $2, and we find an air conditioned store and begin to pick out t-shirts.

"Momma, I'm going to go back outside with Nana." I only ask if she wants a t-shirt, mug, something. "No, ma'am. I'm good"

20 minutes later, husband and I are back outside, bags full of shirts we may or may not wear. I hear applause; the boy and his bucket are still working the street.

Baby girl sits on the curb, watching. My mom is misty-eyed, looking back and forth between them. And I know she feels badly for him.

She smiles, though, when I approach and whispers. "Baby girl gave him one of her two dollars."

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Ode to Johnny Paycheck

"Take this job and shove it....I ain't working here no more."*

I grew up listening to classic country....this song was old 30 years ago, and it has been playing in my head all day.

Though I hope my resignation was more professional and demonstrated a little couth....the end result is the same. In roughly 45 days, I won't work there anymore.

I have prayed about it, talked about, cried on my husband's chest...unsure what in the world to do.

I knew I was unhappy. Hubs knew I was unhappy.

But I was worried. We would be cutting our income by exactly 50%. I have always worked had a career, which made me feel important. I helped people. I was in charge of people. I made good money.

And I was tired. Tired of phone calls, budgets, complaints. I craved my home and my family.

But we NEEDED my income. (Why is it always about money?)

So it was 2:30 on the morning of my 36th birthday. My husband sound asleep, baby girl off visiting grandparents. And I lay awake, asking the Lord what He wanted me to do.

Though I believe in the burning bush and am fully convinced the Lord could call me via my Android device if He so chose, I was stunned when he answered my question.

That food pantry you can't find, the one, you want to volunteer in. START YOUR OWN.

So, I e-mailed my husband (yes, we do actually talk, out loud and face-to-face, but it was almost 3 am at this point), outlined the whole idea, got up, got dressed and went to work early.

Because my husband is the best, he brought me a birthday breakfast to my office.

The card he gave me read,

"I would be happy to serve with you and the food pantry in any way."

So today was it.

Take this job....or rather "It is with mixed emotion that I must tender my resignation..."

Either way. (Pray for me. Pray for us.) I am almost unemployed!

*Johnny Paycheck. "Take this Job and Shove It"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Making change

"Jesus said unto him, 'If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, then thou shalt have treasure in heaven and come and follow me.'" Matthew 19:21

Oh, how I like money or, at least, the comfort of knowing I have some money if I need it. I like knowing we could feasibly eat out most every meal, buy new clothes when we like, pay our bills, and save a little. I like giving...buying a meal here, a shower gift there, a little to this group, a little to that. I do envy people who I perceive have more than I do or seem to work less for having about the same.

But I have never known what it is like to not have. Never.

My mother told me one of the most humbling experiences of her life was having a wallet full of cash, checks, and cards but standing on line at the Salvation Army waiting for diapers during Hurricane Katrina. Money could not help her then.

So why do I think it can help me now?

Save a few weeks here and there, I have essentially been on-call 24/7 for the last ten years. My phone rings almost every night and every morning, multiple times. I get called away from home, trips, and birthday parties. I don't want to sound ungrateful...that career allowed me to (mostly) support my daughter and me all those years alone. But now, now is different; now I'm different. Is the money worth the trade?

I'm not that woman I was 10, 5, even a year ago.

So why is how I look at, what I do with, and what I sacrifice to get money the exact same?

I don't know either. Spending/money week is continuing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

TMI, CRAP, and what the Lord showed me

I thought clothes week was over. Really, it should have been appearance week. Make-up, jewelry, clothes..But I thought it was over.

My husband kissed a sleepy me bye this morning; he left early to set up the sound booth and perform sound check at our church (which meets in a movie theater and is a loving, come-as-you-are kind of place), and I dozed back off.

Phone rings.


It is a young lady I invited to church. She and her husband are there. Where should they meet me?


I'm running a few minutes late. I'll be there in 15 minutes.

Quick call to the husband. Please find them and make them feel welcome.

CRAAP. Why did I fall back asleep? Why didn't I get there early?

Shortest shower in history. No time to shave my legs. CRAAAP.

My toenails have only the remnants of a teenage mutant ninja turtle green pedicure baby girl gave me 4 weeks ago!

No time to wash hair.

Dry off. Throw on a dress. There is a spot from our father's day (I wore this two weeks ago!!!) Mexican fiesta that didn't come out in the wash.

A little hair spray, a few strategically placed bobby pins, the stained dress, my husband's flip flops (don't ask. they are only a size too big and were the ones by the door), torn-up pedicure, and I'm out the door.

CRAAAP. 10 AM and 95 degrees in the car. A quick trip down the road, a check in the mirror. Eyebrows (and lip) in need of a waxing. Dark circles under the eyes. Hair a little wanky.

I'm only 10 minutes late. Hug my co-worker, squeeze my husband's shoulder.

I made it!

But the guest of honor was already there. He had been there long before.

He didn't need my legs to be shaven, my toes to be painted, my eyebrows waxed, my face painted. He didn't need me to show up at all. I had done my part, a passing invitation to a hurting heart. I had been in scrubs when I had done that, sweaty from 104 degree temperatures looking for something in an outdoor supply shed.

How vain, how arrogant to think that anyone came to this little theater to see me. Or short of arriving naked, would notice my appearance at all.

Lord, let them not see me, ever. Lord, let it be all about you.

If you think of me this week, pray that I am reminded that God looks on the inside. That my goal is not a pleasing appearance to others, but a pleasing heart to Him that made all parts of me.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Where does the money go?

What exactly do I spend my our money on? 

Remember? I only made it through one week of adding how much we spent eating out.

Just yesterday, I went to buy one new pair of white scrub pants (truly necessary after getting rid of the half dozen pairs that no longer fit) and came away with two stethoscope IDs, two scrub tops, and no pants. I find money in the bottom of my purse, in pockets of uniforms, on the bedside table, on the kitchen table. Not much, but dollars and cents add up.

My husband is better at controlling spending than I am. Frugal, but in a good way. Bless his heart (If you're not from the South....anything can be said about any person without offense, as long as it is followed by Bless his/her heart. Comes in handy. Try it.). He recently booked hotel rooms for us and my boss on a business trip. They were 44.95 each. My boss' reaction, "Are we renting by the hour?" The owner of the company had him send out the hotel info., so everyone has to stay there from now on!! Frugal. Frugal.

But like most men, he strives to give baby girl and me everything we could ever want. So frugal doesn't always apply. Without him though, I always lived paycheck-to-paycheck, even though I had an above-average income. Together, we are saving, paying off debt, learning new habits.

So starting today, I am writing down every cent I spend until July 31, 2012. I've done this before, and the results made me shocked, nauseous, a little proud, and very spoiled.

Shameful spending habits to follow!

Friday, June 29, 2012

With Thanksgiving

Even at the near-lowest volume, the TV seems so loud in  the middle of the night.

Baby girl, in her room down the hall can sleep through anything after sharing my bed all these years I've been on call. No ringing phone, no converstion, no movement wakes her up. My husband, in the next room over, stirs at the slighest movement, fully awake with any noise.

I can spy on her withot ninja skill. Just stand next to her bed and touch her cheek, how much I love her, literally stops my breath in my chest, so that I shudder a little when I finally exhale. How God made her, so perfect for me, is only one of his many miracles. Proof that God can bring light from any depth of darkness.

Watching him requires more stealth, minimal movement, all the while waiting for him to raise his head and open his eyes. Loving him was effortless. Believing that he chose me, that he saw the woman I could be, not the past I had, that he loved me, took all my faith and all his patience.

But here in this house, in the hot pink and zebra world that is hers and under the bedspread that he picked out for us are the gifts that God has given me. One year ago, I could not imagine being a wife, could not imagine that my child would share her mother with anyone. But the Lord gives us the desires of our heart, even when we don't realize we have them.

Lord, remind me when I am tired, when I am lazy, when I am angry that you gave me the chance to be her mother and his wife and that no other earthly position is more important.

Money, money, money, money!

I was eighteen years old when I got my first credit card, a college sophomore, living an hour away from home. It came to my PO Box in the campus mailroom. It was blue. It gave me $5,000.00. I was hooked.

I could, can,spend money with the best of them. That little blue card...I eventually got several more of them and debt in staggering amounts. So staggering that I had to ask to have them paid off twice because I could not even meet the minimum payments. All those cards and all that money and I had absloutley nothing to show for it. I was storing up what I thought were treasures. But they were meals out, clothes, shoes; and they came at a very high price.

Spending should have been last week, but my first bout with real dental issues, a root canal, have left me on the couch for the better part of five days. So I have wallowed and whined and missed a week of my life somehow.

I like to look at our bank account online. I like that there is money in not one, but two, checking accounts. I am comforted by our modest savings account.

I am so wrong to put my faith in finace.

I know that no matter how much we ever accumulate, money won't buy my family health, happiness, safety. So why do I think about how much money we can save? So why when I really want something does saving money never enter my mind? Why do we not use more, some, any of these incomes the Lord bleesed us with to help someone? Shouldn't our giving be more than just our tithe?  It is cliche, but we can't take our money with us.

Lord, what is it you would have me do? Why do I place such emphasis on money? I'm afraid of what I need to learn from this.

But I'm more afraid of not learning from it.

Here it is my WEAK with MONEY experience.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I don't know why I have let them sit here for 2 entire weeks, a fortnight (a word baby girl sprung on us over lunch), but sat they have: the start of my clothes purge two weeks ago. [Please don't remind me that this means no one has used this chair in over two weeks, and that I could probably get rid of it too!] But today, today was it.....

After only two hours, the amount of clothes-all mine-to be given away more than tripled!

Clothes week, closed! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Don't tell my dad, but.....

I have a lot of stuff....clothes, books, shoes, clothes. And I feel like I am pretty good at ridding myself of excess now, or at least better than I was before Katrina (That's how our lives are stamped now.....everything occurred before or since.). I could have easily been a hoarder, one of those souls on cable channels buried within the piles of her possessions. I kept every piece of clothing my child or I had ever owned, every scrap of paper, video....and then one day it was all piled in the yard in front of what used to be my house.

Don't get me wrong, I am far from minimilist but I have much less stuff than I used to, and I had already lost every possession once. What was it God wanted me to learn from this week?

I knew it immediately. I was in the bed, and it came to my me, and I wanted to ignore it. But I did what I always do when something important occurs: I text my husband. (One day I will tell you our love story. But believe me when I say that God, as always, gave me so much more than I could have ever imagined in that man.) I outlined the plan in a series of 7 texts, asked him to help me, hold me accountable, and then told him what it was I felt the Lord was trying to teach me:

{Oh, please don't tell my father this. Don't call him; don't email; don't facebook....please, please do not let him know how right he was the past 30 + years.}

 If you want your stuff to take care of you, you have to learn to take care of your stuff.

I have always been a someone else will clean-it-up-fix-it-make-it-right kind of girl. I hate it, but I was am. Someone else always cleaned, repaired, "upkept" all of my stuff. Until this week.......I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a grown-up. I need to take much better care of the stuff I have, treat it like I am proud of it, want to keep it, and want it to do whatever its intended function is.

I think I wish the Lord would have asked me just to get rid of a few hundred items than confront this truth.
But he didn't, and it is now out there. If you see me, ask me if I am taking care of what I have been blessed to have. Remind me that all things take effort to maintain and that I am capable and should maintain a lot of my stuff (car, home, clothes) myself.

I am thanking you in advance!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wasn't Katrina enough?

It was covered in sewage, raw, strong, dank. The armchairs in different rooms, the refrigerator blocking the kitchen door, so that I climbed over it, like a child scaling his pillow-built mountain. No lights, no air, bugs trudging on every surface. Bloated fish bodies scattered about. My little yellow house, drowned in the waters of Hurricane Katrina. The Mississippi Gulf Coast devastated, hours/days before the levee gave way in New Orleans bringing the tragedy to national attention. In Mississippi, we still thank Robin Roberts for always mentioning on-air that Katrina hit Mississippi, that we needed rescue efforts too. I take the first piece out to the road. My friend Tammy comes to help me, brings Lee Anne, who I have only met one time. Hours we spend pulling debris from the muck only to pile it by the roadside. My baby girl's elmo couch, her toy bins all gone. There are closets so swollen that they will not open.

In the end, about 8 hours later, I can't do any more, one room is completely untouched, and it will be razed with the house. A SUV pulls up, and a lady stops to ask what she and her family could do. "We're done, but thanks." They are from some other state, came to help, offering water and food. I take it, too tired to even explain that I'm OK, I have plenty at the nursing home where I work. I just take it. She notices the child's stuff and asks how old my baby is. "Two and a half." She gives me a bear to give her. It is start her collection over, she tells me. I thank her. They drive away. Tammy and Lee Anne find something else to do while I sit in the road and cry.

I am lucky. My baby girl is safe and clean and hours away with my parents, who after nearly 40 years, lost all their stuff, every picture, every tangible memory they had, thirty miles West in another Mississippi Coast town. I have no idea how to start a life over at 29; how can they even begin at 58?

I lost all my stuff and none of my people. I am lucky.

Does God really want me to look at how I view my possessions this week? Didn't I learn this lesson, up close and personal already? I'm afraid the answers are no and yes, but not in that order.

Summer of 7 continues.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nearly Naked :)

We were standing by the front door, wating on baby girl, and my husband looked strange. At first, I thought it was the lack of collared shirt.....both of our married trips to the ER, collared shirt; hosing sick child vomit off the driveway at 1 am, collared shirt; weekend trip to the baseball game, collared shirt.

But I put my hand on his shirt and realized NO UNDERSHIRT!! This is akin to him being naked, real naked. Where is your undershirt, I exclaimed (true story, EXCLAIMED, and put my hand to my forehead in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion).

His reply, "I didn't know if it had to be counted in my seven."

Love this man!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Clothes and my man....

This will be a breeze....I'm a nurse, scrubs 5 days a week. I'm jeans and t-shrts the rest of the time.

So tell me why I lay awake for hours trying to figure out what I'm going to wear?! 5 days of uniforms is 10 pieces of clothing, not to mention 3 to 4 pairs of shoes. Weekend outfits, church, what I wear at home...

It was quiet this morning....baby girl (she's 9 and 5'2"...but my baby) asleep on the couch where she drifted off last night, hubby asleep beside me. Quiet, except for the apartment groundscrew outside the window :) And all  could think about were clothes. How could I wear the same uniform top every day? Even two? a t-shirt to church? We are casual, but a vacation t-shirt? Everyone would notice if I keep wearing the same 2 uniform tops! I would notice if they did, if it didn't match, didn't fit, had a stain.

I love my husband. He is logical, calm, a planner. He washes dishes, open car doors. He is patient when I am not. Reassures when I panic. He knows me and chose to love me anyway.

So it was no surprise that when I woke him up, out of a dead sleep, he had the best answer and didn't bat an eye when I asked would it matter if I wore the same 2 scrub sets all week. No, not at all. So why don't I want to? You care about your image. But your image isn't really how you dress.

Logical, calm. Right.

So here's my list of sort-of 7:

1. Scrub set
2. Scrub set
3. flip flops/tennis shoes
4. t-shirt (maroon with print)
5. Jeans
6. T-shirt (green with print)
7. shorts/t-shirt

Not quite seven, but limited.

This week I also will given away 14 itms of my clothing and 14 items of my daughter's clothing. I will also pare down my scrubs.....A LOT.

Building on week one....THO7: In the Rounds: 1. Brining lunch to work daily
                                                                       2. Two trips to the store, weekly budget $120
                                                                       3. Eating out one time per week (budgeted in)
                                                                       4. Volunteer at local group who runs a free
                                                                           meal service twice a month

Food and clothes??? Join us!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Crunchy Wannabe

I want to be a crunchy mama…long legs and flowy dresses. Cloth diapers hung on a line in the yard, delivering up recipes that involve the words kale, cracked, and almond; I want to can and preserve and ferment. Walking to the farmer’s market with my reusable bags, my nine year old skips ahead, examines the flowers at roadside only to turn back and wave to her step-dad and me, holding hands each carrying a perfect cherub faced twin boy in a ring sling.


Only I have existing commitments with junk food, work, and Kroger. My nine year old likes her IPod and would quite possibly snarl if asked to skip. There are no cherub cheeked twins (YET), no ring sling (do they make those in plus size?), but my husband and I do hold hands, and my mini diva will laugh and smile with us, even as she is very much a tween.

So in addition to food, I think TSO7 is about not wasting the life we have, the life we’ve been given while wanting what seems ideal to us. I think it is important to grow, to make positive changes, and strive to improve….equally important, is not missing my life for what I PERCEIVE another’s life to be. That crunchy mama, I know her. She’s my friend, and I love her. She loves me: enough to confess that my ideal isn’t really her reality (not anyone's, she laughs), either.

I will never have long legs; I do own a flowy dress or two. I have visited a farmer’s market, do buy 90 percent organic produce (at Kroger), and have reusable bags in my trunk, though more-often-than-not they never make it in the store. My husband holds my hand every chance he gets and my daughter will crawl sleepily on me, lying with me when she is ready for bed. This is the mama I am meant to be, here and now, and it is ideal.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

No Tomato, No Lettuce!

"Lord, help me to desire you the way I do a Wendy's #4 combo."

I remember it, sitting in my room at my parents' house, a teenaged junior colleger, wanting to seek God like the things I wanted most.
I believe God has a sense of humor and that He knew my heart was in the best place it knew to be, BUT

FOOD is my issue. There are lots of reasons why (another post? another day?), but even to darken the door of FOOD....a major issue.

Like I said, I believe God has a sense of humor.

People are doing TSO7: Food challenge in several ways.

I knew I could easily live off 7 foods (bread, ham, cheese, milk, tortillas, pepperoni, pizza sauce) if nutrition wasn't a concern. But what would be a challenge for me?

It started with a plan to cut $40 off our weekly (family of 3) food budget and only make two (because the deli was closed and I forgot my daughte'r milk {dairy allergy}) trips to the store.
It has evolved into an honest look at how much we I spend eating out.


It is my mind to add up the total amount spent eating out for the months of April and May. I stopped after May 12.

I haven't been unanimously victorious this week: I ran by the store for chips and paper towels. We made a drug store stop for milk. And I consoled myself with a drive through meal, but I got back on the horse. My homemade lunch is coming with me tomorrow. We've spent considerably less this week, and I feel better!

I want to carry this over to our next week: CLOTHES. Let this be The Summer of SEVEN: In the Round...never loosing the first verse just building on top of it!

Join me?

They tell me this is a blog hop: I don't know what that means or how to do it. Comment if you can help me :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

I was enough in the work force...at least I thought so. I knew my job, the expectations of my boss, the expectations of my employees. I could delegate and shoulder blame. I didn't have to be "good" at the mom and home thing; work was who I was.

Until it wasn't. Being in charge all the time is exhausting, always having to be better than you were is difficult. Being defensive, negative becomes easy.

Was it time to stop being the "work" me?

But I was "good" at work; not so much at home.

I don't love to cook; I don't love to clean (I know no one does, but....), but the internet would help me learn. Right?

The internet taught me no one I knew could cook and clean! Baking bread from scratch, homemade yogurt, homeschool lesson plans that rival my master's thesis???

Not only an I not "good" at home; I'm terrible at it!

What to do when you're waning at what you thought was your passion, but not confident in your new passion......[shaky?] or if what is new, isn't your passion?

For now, I'm breathing. Letting go of the "work" me; letting go of my version of "home" me.

trying to be just me.

He created me in His image. Me.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I'm nervous as I start this process! But, I feel the Lord has lead me to this place, and I am excited as well!