Thursday, May 31, 2007

Last Day of Kindergarten

Today is the last day of school for Nathan. Kindergarten is over and first grade looms just over the horizon. Trevor went to the award ceremony on Tuesday where Nathan received his Kindergarten diploma, art award and an advanced reader award. He was so proud to have his daddy there and Trevor had some interesting stories to tell about the other parents who attended.

Apparently, our town's white trash population has exploded in recent years. There was one mother there wearing an informational t-shirt that let us know that "If you lick it slow, it will last longer."

Yes. You read that correctly.

This is the sort of person raising the children with which my son is attending school. Trevor could not believe the way most of these people were dressed. Not everyone can afford name brand clothing (myself included), but as my dad says, everyone can afford soap. You don't have to have money to be clean and presentable in public. This goes right back to my blog at Easter about how our society has become so informal and casual that people have no clue as to what is appropriate any more.

I long for the seemingly bygone days of straightforward etiquette regarding clothing and behavior that was the norm instead of the exception. Days when flip flops and dirty t-shirts were not acceptable attire for a school awards program. Days when people bathed and wore shoes before going to the grocery store. I realize that I live in a rural community, but come on! Unless you are purchasing snuff at the country store from the movie "Where the Red Fern Grows", you should be wearing shoes and a shirt when you go out in public.

Any, I digress. After Nathan's program he and Trevor went back to the classroom where they found a really wonderful laminated booklet that his teacher had put together for each of the kids. It was a compilation of all the major events through the year complete with pictures of Nathan, artwork and handwriting samples. I thought it was a really thoughtful thing to give the parents.

So today I am attending an end of the year family picnic with Nathan. I will stop and get a Happy Meal from McDonald's and I have a blanket for us to spread out on the ground. He was exciting about the picnic this morning but I think he was more excited that I was going to be there. There are so many events that he has had this past year that I was unable to attend, so it's always special when one of us can get there.

So, the year comes to a close and I can see such a difference in Nathan. When he started Kindergarten, he was a bit of a discipline problem. He had trouble staying in his seat, following instructions and keeping his hands to himself. But after a year with Mrs. Brown, his behavior is right on par with the other kids and he has learned so much. He is reading on a first grade level, and his writing is legible. I am amazed at how much he did in Kindergarten compared to when Trevor and I were in school, and I am so proud of him.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Praise You In This Storm

In recent weeks I have seen things happening to my family and friends that have been difficult and sometimes tragic. Four women that I know have miscarried early in their pregnancy. A good friend of mine lost his job, a woman in my Sunday School class unexpectedly lost her mother and my grandmother broke her hip. So many situations that are filled with grief, pain and uncertainty. Yet as I watch it all unfold from a distance, I can see God's glory in it.

It's difficult to praise God when things seem to be in a downward spiral. We know that as Christians we should, but we are human and we tend to get caught up in the moment and in ourselves. We want to complain and wallow in our pain, asking God over and over again, "why?" Sometimes He reveals the "why" to us, but more often than not we never see the ultimate plan that God has. Sometimes our suffering is for our edification and growth, and sometimes it is for someone else.

I love this song by Casting Crowns called "Praise You In This Storm". Every time I hear it I am reminded that storms come and go in our lives and all we can do is cling to God and trust that He will take care of us.

I was sure by now
That You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls I barely hear
Your whisper through the rain "I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry
You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You

As the thunder rolls I barely hear
You whisper through the rain"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Piano Diagnosis

I am so excited about our "new" piano! Claude came out yesterday morning to take a look at it and his diagnosis was "old but in pretty good shape" (it was built in 1914, after all!). It's 1/2 step off pitch and he will be coming back to tune it, adjust the action and retune it on the first visit and then he will do another tuning in about 3 months. I was really nervous about his diagnosis and am glad that I didn't purchase a complete piece of junk. He said that we could realistically expect up to 50 more years of life for basic home use and piano lessons.

I can't wait to play it once it's tuned! I've been amassing hymnals and music so that I can get back into shape with my playing. On the way to work this morning, I was daydreaming about this Christmas. Ever since Mama and Daddy moved away, the only time we are able to sing around the piano is when we go home. Now we can sing when they come over here and Christmas will really feel like Christmas again!

Several years ago, Patrick and I put together a spiral bound book of favorite hymns for Mama. So many of our favorites are in different hymnals and there were never enough copies to go around. There was also the fact that the print in some of those books must have been intended for sprites or wood elves and the older we all got, the harder it was to read those teeny tiny notes. So anyway, we enlarged the music and had 5 copies of this book bound and that's what we use to sing around the piano. Patrick is sending me the disc so I can go to Kinko's and have my own copies bound.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day: A History


Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow;
I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain;
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush;
I am in the graceful rush.

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.

I am the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

- Mary Frye (1932)

A Brief History of Memorial Day
It was 1866 and the United States was recovering from the long and bloody Civil War between the North and the South. Surviving soldiers came home, some with missing limbs, and all with stories to tell. Henry Welles, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, heard the stories and had an idea. He suggested that all the shops in town close for one day to honor the soldiers who were killed in the Civil War and were buried in the Waterloo cemetery. On the morning of May 5, the townspeople placed flowers, wreaths and crosses on the graves of the Northern soldiers in the cemetery. At about the same time, Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan planned another ceremony, this time for the soldiers who survived the war. He led the veterans through town to the cemetery to decorate their comrades' graves with flags. It was not a happy celebration, but a memorial. The townspeople called it Decoration Day.

In Retired Major General Logan's proclamation of Memorial Day, he declared:

"The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."

The two ceremonies were joined in 1868, and northern states commemorated the day on May 30. The southern states commemorated their war dead on different days. Children read poems and sang civil war songs and veterans came to school wearing their medals and uniforms to tell students about the Civil War. Then the veterans marched through their home towns followed by the townspeople to the cemetery. They decorated graves and took photographs of soldiers next to American flags. Rifles were shot in the air as a salute to the northern soldiers who had given their lives to keep the United States together.

In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and soldiers who had died in previous wars were honored as well. In the northern United States, it was designated a public holiday.

President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Waterloo the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, 100 years after the first commemoration. Every May 30, townspeople still walk to the cemeteries and hold memorial services. They decorate the graves with flags and flowers. Then they walk back to the park in the middle of town. In the middle of the park, near a monument dedicated to soldiers, sailors and marines, the Gettysburg address is read, followed by Retired Major General Logan's Order # 11 designating Decoration Day. The village choirs sing patriotic songs. In the evening, school children take part in a parade.

In 1971, along with other holidays, President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday on the last Monday in May.

Cities all around the United States hold their own ceremonies on the last Monday in May to pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service of their country.
The modern celebration of Memorial Day is similar to the original celebration, but today we have expanded upon the original idea. Today, Memorial Day is a time of the year when people come together to honor their close friends or relatives who have died. It is still very much about honoring America's fallen soldiers, such as in gatherings at places like the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia to visit such moving memorial tributes such as the tomb of the unknown soldier, which represents "everyman" who with bold patriotism laid down their life for this country.

But in addition to this, Memorial Day is about celebrating all people, all of our ancestors and forefathers who have created the world we live in today, who have paved the long road we walk down into the future. It is a day to celebrate and thank all these people who died to create what we have today. Church services, visits to the cemetery, flowers on graves or even silent tribute mark the day with dignity and solemnity. It is a day of reflection.

(Text taken from articles on about.com and dcpages.com)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

We Have Tomorrow Off!

The call came at 8 am this morning. Chris found a note on his office door asking if I could teach Sunday School today because Noelle (my co-instructor) wasn't going to be there. So, the call asking me to teach came an hour and a half before Sunday School started, and I was still asleep in my soft, warm bed. Did I mention that I had not even reviewed the lesson yet?

The ironic thing about it was that Chris and Ali were over for dinner last night and we were discussing what a shame it was that I wasn't teaching this particular lesson since it was about a subject that I am very passionate about. The theology of election is something that I struggled with for several years before I was finally able to wrap my brain around it. I was glad to have the opportunity to present this point of view to the class.

So, I grabbed my Bible and the teacher's study guide and spent about 45 min hurriedly studying before I had to get dressed. I made it to church on time, and the lesson went well in large part because most of the class agreed that the bible teaches unconditional election.

After church we came home and had leftover chicken and sausage gumbo and then proceeded to fall into a carbohydrate coma on the couch. The phone roused me just after 2 pm, so I got up and tackled the mountain of laundry that had been accumulating all week. I went between the laundry room and the couch all afternoon until it was time to go to church again at 5 pm. When it's a holiday weekend, you don't have that sense of urgency that usually accompanies Sunday afternoon. With the prospect of a whole other day off, you can afford to move slow and not get much accomplished.

Evening worship was really nice because it was a special service where we sang hymns instead of praise music. Nathan enjoyed singing with us and it was good to hear all the old songs. We were so excited about the singing that we came home and sang at the piano for a little while. I use the term "sang" loosely not because we can't sing, but because my piano playing skills are a bit rusty and I've never been good at hymns anyway. The more I play, the better I get (go figure) so some songs were better than others!

Now it's time to think about going to bed and I am enjoying the anticipation of an extra morning to sleep late, enjoy my coffee out on the deck and just generally be lazy. We've invited Trevor's family over for Memorial Day lunch as well as Chris, Ali, Nate and Calvin. It will be a full house, but lots of fun.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Forgotten Lives

I love books. I love reading them, collecting them, browsing for them and looking through stacks of them at secondhand stores. I found myself at such an establishment yesterday afternoon on the way home from work. I was searching for a hymnal or two and maybe some old sheet music or songbooks to expand my music collection for the piano.

This old store has one row of books and to see them you have have to reach overhead and turn on a dim light. There is minimal air conditioning and the air in this aisle smells of dust and slowly decaying paper. The books are loosely organized by topic, but I still feel compelled to search each shelf just in case a treasure was overlooked and filed in the wrong place.

I must have spent an entire hour poring over one section in hopes of finding what I was looking for. What I found was what I always find when I am looking through old books. Lives. The lives of the people who owned the books before they ended up on a dusty shelf in an antique store. Most of the books have inscriptions and dates...who are these people? Why are their books here instead of on the shelf of a child or other close relative? Were they excited to receive the book for Christmas or their birthday? Was the book read over and over again with passages memorized over time with each reading, or was it pushed to the back of a bookcase and never read?

I found receipts and poems tucked away between the pages. Just the sort of thing I would do...using a scrap piece of paper as a bookmark. But in one of the hymnals, I found a poem taped to the back cover and I almost wept when I read it. It was a poem written not for winning hearts, but for breaking them. It was a poem of goodbyes and sorrow. I wondered about the woman who might have received that poem from her lover. Was her heart broken or was she expecting such an act?

There were so many unanswered questions, and my own mortality got up close and personal with me. What will I leave behind? Will there be someone in a secondhand store 75 years from now looking through my books wondering who I was? In spite of our best efforts, we leave so little behind. Not just in terms of the physical, but also the essence of who we were. Once those who knew us are gone, and there is no one left to remember the sound of our laughter or the smell of our skin, that is when we truly die.

Our life here on earth is too fleeting to waste it on things that won't matter in eternity. Just a few deep breaths, and we are finished. So I choose to live my life for Christ while I'm here. No reward or incentive in this life can compare with the glory that waits for me in heaven. My heart is in heaven.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

I was surfing the net last night and found a book that looked really interesting. I am planning to go to Barnes and Noble this afternoon to purchase it for Nathan.

(Side note: I did indeed get this book and I cannot put it down! It is entertaining and has all the information a boy could want about making bows and arrows, treehouses and things with which to scare a little sister.)

Here is a review from Dr. Albert Mohler:

"What do boys need to know? That question led brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden to write "The Dangerous Book for Boys", and boys of every age will love it. The book took Britain by storm last year, and arrives this year just in time for summer reading. A boy armed with this book will have a very fun summer indeed.

The book instantly recalls the great Victorian era of books for boys -- books about boy heroes, adventurers, soldiers, and naturalists. Those books, often recognizable in their ornate cloth covers, were read and read again by boys as they grew older. "The Dangerous Book for Boys" is a worthy successor to that tradition.

This book will tell a boy how to read cloud formations, make a battery, make a periscope, and construct "the greatest paper airplane in the world." Boys are told of the essential gear of boyhood -- including Band-aids. Young adventurers will also learn of famous battles, the history of artillery, and how to understand girls.

On the subject of girls the authors warn that young females are likely to be "unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Morse Code." Boys are also soberly warned that girls, as a general rule, "do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do." This is important to know.
On the other hand, boys are told to help girls who need assistance. Take this sage advice, for example:

If you see a girl in need of help--unable to lift something, for example--do not taunt her. Approach the object and greet her with a cheerful smile, while surreptitiously testing the weight of the object. If you find you can lift it, go ahead. If you can't, try sitting on it and engaging her in conversation.

That advice will help a middle school boy greatly. It just might help a good many college-age boys, for that matter.

The Iggulden brothers believe that boys need to get away from the computer screen, go outside, and learn to enjoy the world and make their way in it. "Boyhood is all about curiosity," they advise. Boys need to know how to build a treehouse and how to find north in the dark -- and they need to know that they know these things. As the brothers explain:

"How do latitude and longitude work? How do you make secret ink, or send the cipher that Julius Caesar used with his generals?
You'll find the answers inside. It was written by two men who would have given away the cat to get this book when they were young. It wasn't a particularly nice cat. Why did we write it now? Because these things are important still and we wished we knew them better. There are few things as satisfying as tying a decent bowline knot when someone needs a loop, or simply knowing what happened at Gettysburg and the Alamo. The tales must be told and retold, or the memories slowly die."

Boys are introduced to Shakespeare, coin tricks, spiders, and "Latin phrases every boy should know." They learn how to waterproof fabric, juggle, and understand rugby.
The book's runaway sales in Britain surprised the publishers, but not the authors.

Here is how Conn Iggulden explained the book's success:

"In a word, fathers. I am one myself and I think we've become aware that the whole "health and safety" overprotective culture isn't doing our sons any favors. Boys need to learn about risk. They need to fall off things occasionally, or--and this is the important bit--they'll take worse risks on their own. If we do away with challenging playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up with safer boys--we end up with them walking on train tracks. In the long run, it's not safe at all to keep our boys in the house with a PlayStation. It's not good for their health or their safety."

Expect the book to catch attention fast in this country as well -- and for the same reason. Iggulden gets to the heart of the book's attraction to boys and their dads:
You only have to push a boy on a swing to see how much he enjoys the thrill of danger. It's hard-wired. Remove any opportunity to test his courage and they'll find ways to test themselves that will be seriously dangerous for everyone around them. I think of it like playing the lottery--someone has to say "Look, you won't win--and your children won't be hurt. Relax. It won't be you." I think that's the core of the book's success. It isn't just a collection of things to do. The heroic stories alone are something we haven't had for too long. It isn't about climbing Everest, but it is an attitude, a philosophy for fathers and sons. Our institutions are too wrapped up in terror over being sued--so we have to do things with them ourselves. This book isn't a bad place to start.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, there are now over 400,000 copies of the book in print. The publisher now expects to sell as many as four million copies in the United States. Reporter Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg explains:

"The unapologetic message is that boys need a certain amount of danger and risk in their lives, and that there are certain lessons that need to be passed down from father to son, man to man. The implication is that in contemporary society basic rules of maleness aren't being handed off as they used to be."

The book aims to correct that. It does so with a pretelevision, prevideogame sensibility, and also by embracing a view of gender that has been unfashionable in recent decades: that frogs and snails and puppy dogs' tails are more than lines in a nursery rhyme, and that boys are by nature hard-wired differently than girls.

But "The Dangerous Book for Boys" is also aimed at boomer dads, who nostalgically yearn for a lost boyhood of fixing lawn mowers and catching snakes with their fathers -- even if that didn't really happen as often as they think it did.

Predictably, the book has detractors as well. Some feminists are unappreciative of its approach, its title, its intended readership, and the fact that the word "boy" is in the title. HarperCollins editor Matthew Benjamin is unmoved. "We initially thought that men nostalgic for their boyhoods would be the buyers, but people are also buying it for 12-year-old boys," he said. "This book teaches them its OK to play and explore."

A rival publisher took the book home to his eight-year-old son, who promptly jumped up from in front of the television and talked his dad into testing paper airplanes long after bedtime. "That's the good news," the dad said. "The bad news is that he now expects me to build him a treehouse."

Jane Friedman, Chief Executive at HarperCollins and herself the mother of two sons and two stepsons, is sticking by the book. There is no plan for a girls' version, she said. "Boys are very different," she observed.

Yes they are, Ms. Friedman, and that is why books like this are important. Boys want to be taken seriously as boys, and taught how to become men. To reach this goal, they will need far more than the fascinating lessons found in "The Dangerous Book for Boys" -- but this is a good place to start.

So put this book in your boy's hands and turn off the television and the PlayStation. Then get ready to watch the paper airplanes fly and the water bombs burst. And, to be honest, it wouldn't hurt to keep a few Band-aids handy . . . just in case."


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Shocking News

Trevor called this morning to inform me that he was not going to China until June 1.

Shocker.

While I am glad to postpone his departure for a few more days, I wish that it was pushed back by another week so he could be here for Gracie's 3rd birthday. We are having her party on June 2, and I hate to see him miss a milestone in her life. The bright side is that Gracie will not remember his absence and she will be so busy with all of her little friends that the day will not be marred for her.

I guess what bothers me about the whole situation is that we will not be sharing the day together. We were both there the day she was born, and to think of him half a world away on the anniversary of that day is a little depressing. Maybe things will change (again) and he won't have to leave until the following Friday.

Speaking of being bothered (don't worry...it's not a rant this time!), the director of the Cancer Center where I work was fired yesterday. She is one of the most competent, respected members of management here and we were all shocked and appalled at the news. I've mentioned the take over by Memorial Hermann before, and this is just another chapter in the saga that is our reality these days. People are being fired, reassigned, moved and generally tossed around as the giant gears of the mega-hospital system unyieldingly turn. We will all be glad when the merger is final and the dust finally settles so that we can stop living with that small knot in our stomachs wondering if we are next.

After all, if they got rid of Marilyn, then no one is indispensable. Scary thought.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Education vs. Entertainment

I am mad at our school district. It has nothing to do with the education that Nathan is receiving or with the quality of the teachers that are employed there. It has everything to do with creating opportunities all year long to make working parents feel even more guilty about not being able to spend time with their kids. I have enough self-applied guilt, thank you very much, without having someone else create some for me.

Nathan has field day today, and then the day after Memorial Day he has an awards ceremony. For what?! He's in Kindergarten for goodness sake! I mean, I'm proud of the progress that he has made this year, but is it really necessary at that age to have a ceremony? I'm one of those people who think Kindergarten graduations are the most ridiculous thing ever. Ughh. What did they accomplish, really? They learned to walk in a line, be quiet in class and (hopefully) the Golden Rule. Is a graduation really in order?? I think not.

All year long I have been amazed at the number of activities the elementary school planned that required parental involvement. There was family picnic day, kite-flying day, Thanksgiving party/activity day, and Christmas party day. For each of these events (and so many more that I do not have the time or energy to list here), a flyer was sent home with pleas for parents to come and be with their child. I took off work to help out with the Christmas party and I sent sandwiches (in the shape of little turkeys) for the Thanksgiving festivities. Trevor took a day of vacation to go on a field trip with Nathan's class.

But we were unable to take off every time a flyer was sent home requesting our presence. We both work at least 40 minutes (or more) away from home, and to attend a one hour event requires that we take either a half or whole day off from work. If we had actually taken off every time that Nathan had something going on at school, we would have spent all of our vacation days for the year. It's ridiculous and our absence caused Nathan to feel left out which really made me mad.

For instance, on kite day I asked him if he got to fly his kite. He shook his head and said, "No, I didn't have anyone to help me." It broke my heart (and pissed me off) to think of him standing there unable to do it himself, and being excluded from the fun because of our inability to attend. If they are going to have these ridiculous activities, that should have enough staffing so that children are not left out.

And don't even get me started with the ridiculous "Red Ribbon Week" or the 100th day of school festivities. (Do children in Kindergarten and 1st grade really care what day they are on??)

OK....too late. The Red Ribbon Week was designed to heighten awareness about drug use. This is commendable. I am glad that the school is taking an active interest in educating our children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. However, I do not think it is necessary to require the children to have an activity every day of said week. Let's see, there was crazy sock day, wear camouflage day...oh I forget all of them, but suffice it to say that it was a pain in my behind and of no educational value at all to the kids.

I think that the school sets itself up for failure when they feel as though they have to give the kids a reason and incentive to come to school. Whatever happened to going to school, sitting at your desk quietly and learning what you were taught? I'm not suggesting that we didn't do fun, age-appropriate things when I was in school, but those activities were few and far between. I didn't go to school each week expecting to be entertained. I went to school expecting to learn and to be disciplined when I didn't live up to my potential.

If kids think that they are entitled to this sort of environment, what are we going to do with them when they are older and the stakes are higher? To what lengths will the school district have to go to keep them interested and engaged at school? I want Nathan to attend school to learn what he needs to know to graduate from high school and then to go on to college. I don't want him to be entertained...I want him to be educated.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Art of Compromise

Trevor set up a new itinerary for his trip to China. He will (supposedly) be leaving May 29 and returning on June 8. We'll see. He has been trying to make this trip since the beginning of the year and I've lost track of the number of times it has been cancelled. I'm seriously just ready for it to be over and done with so we can mark it off the list of things to do. It's hard to plan anything because those discussions always end with, "assuming I'm not in China, of course."

Confession: I enjoy my time alone when Trevor is in China. I get the remote, I get to choose what is for dinner, I get to read in bed for as long and late as I want to. Most importantly, I get to have the bed to myself. It's not that Trevor dominates the family when he is home and everything revolves around him. Trevor is actually very laid back and accommodating in most areas. But when you are in a marriage, everything that happens (from the seemingly insignificant to the incredibly important) involves more than one person. Everything on some level is a compromise.

What program are we going to watch on TV tonight? What is for dinner? Am I bothering him with the light on in bed so I can read? I do my best to take his feelings and preferences into account with every decision I make and when he is not home it's liberating to do everything my way. There is no one else to consider except for the kids, and that's a whole other issue entirely! When he is gone I make biscuits and gravy for dinner since it is not something that he enjoys. I watch girly movies after the kids have gone to bed and I stay up way past my bedtime curled up with a good book. I chat on the phone with my friends and family for hours and I leave my scrapbooking supplies out on the table for days at a time. And there is the anticipation of going to bed and not having to worry about bothering someone else when I roll over in the night, cough or have too many of the covers.

I could do all of these things when he is home and he would not complain (much), but I would feel bad knowing that there were other options that would make both of us happy. So, when he leaves on the 29th, I'll console myself with doing things my way for a few weeks. When he comes back on the 8th, I'll be thankful that I have someone to consider. Except for the bed thing. We seriously need a bigger bed. Seriously.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Good Trip

I am so proud of Nathan and Grace. They have finally realized that travelling from Texas to Louisiana is just a part of life and that they might as well sit back and enjoy it. Of course, the installation of a DVD player makes all the difference in the world, but they are still very well behaved in their own right. They play quietly together and generally don't whine or cry unless it's close to the two hour mark and then we stop to walk around the WalMart in Jennings. This gives them an opportunity to work off some of that pent up energy and it gives me a chance to restock the snack bag.

In contrast to the trip to Louisiana, the trip home was free from heavy traffic and we made very good time. The kids were so excited to see Trevor...it was sweet to see them running full speed ahead to the front door so they could get to him as fast a possible. The cries of "Daddy! Daddy!" were beautiful and Trevor got an armful of wiggling, giggling babies.

The piano was in place and ready to play when we arrived home. I was so excited about sitting down and getting myself used to the keyboard again. Mama let me take a whole stack of music home with me so I would have something to play. Many of them were old theory and repertoire books from when I took lessons as a child, but the rest were books that Mama didn't use anymore and I was glad to have them. It shocked me that so many of the pieces that I could play straight through perfectly in high school were difficult to get though today. Playing the piano is definitely a "use it or lose it" affair and I'm looking forward to getting it back!

I called Claude (the music minister when I was a child, next door neighbor and piano tuner extraordinaire) to see if he could come and take a look at my new purchase. He agreed to come by Saturday morning around 9 am to go over the piano with me and see if it is really salvageable or not. Obviously I hope that it is, but if it is too far gone for real repair it was only $50.

So, I am home again and enjoying the evening with Trevor. I finally stopped banging on the piano and it's about time to be thinking about going to bed. I had a great weekend with my family, but now it's time to get back to the real world again. The world devoid of sleeping late, hot coffee waiting in the kitchen and Granny's porch. But my world has two sweet babies that give the best hugs and kisses, a wonderful husband who loves and takes care of me and a relaxing covered deck to sit on in the evenings as we unwind from the day's work.

Thank you God. Thank you for all the things I cherish and look forward to when I go home. Thank you for all the things that I so often forget about in my own day to day life and help me to remember how blessed I am. It's good to be home.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Simple Pleasures

Today has been a good day. I went out with Uncle Chuck last night for a few drinks and to catch up, and when I got home around 9:30 pm Mama was still up studying her Sunday School lesson. We stayed up and talked until a little after 11 pm and then I gratefully climbed into bed. I was able to sleep in a little this morning since Mama and Aunt Gail fed the kids breakfast and it felt wonderful.

When I finally dragged myself out of bed, there was hot coffee waiting for me in the kitchen and I sat at the kitchen table and visited with Aunt Gail for a little while. She had decided to not go to church this morning since she was still recovering from gall bladder surgery, and this worked out well for me since she didn't have to rush off to get dressed. We chatted for a while, then I stopped inhaling the coffee long enough to get the kids dressed for church. They went with Mama and Daddy since they are more familiar with the people who go to church there and I was planning on attending church with Granny Effler.

Once they were gone, I sat back down for some more time with Aunt Gail and just enjoyed the time together. Catching up with Aunt Gail at the kitchen table is one of the things I most look forward to when I come home. There is usually chocolate and/or caffeine involved, and we just talk. Sometimes it's just the two of us, and sometimes other members of the family are there as well. She is funny, witty and intelligent...traits I like to think I see in myself from time to time. She is the person (besides my own mother, obviously) that I consider to be most like a mother to me and I love her dearly.

I present for your review the Foot Rubbing Incident. Aunt Gail hates feet. Let me say it again so that we are absolutely clear: she hates feet. She has passed this trait on to Courtney which led to many episodes of kicking and screaming following an "innocent" foot in the face when we were children. Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, she had come to stay with me in the hospital when I was sick years ago. The woman who hates feet (unless they are fresh from the womb and untainted by sweat) removed my socks and rubbed my feet to make me feel better. To most people that would not seem like much of a story, but for Aunt Gail to do that was to show the kind of love that only a mother could have.

I somehow got lucky enough in this life to have not just one mother to love and care for me, but two. This does not detract from the special bond and relationship that I have with Mama, but I do have a special place in my heart for Aunt Gail. I consider it a blessing that my children know and love her the way that I do.

So, after our visit I got dressed and met Granny Effler at Jerusalem Baptist. As usual, the music was terrible but worth sitting through for the sermon. Her pastor is wonderful and I always enjoy his sermons because I am convicted by the Holy Spirit every time I hear him speak. He truly has the gift of teaching and I look forward to the next time I can hear him preach.

According to Granny, Bro. Stacey always runs over and today was no exception. We hurriedly went out to our cars after the service and I called Mama to let her know we were on our way home for lunch. Mama made a phenomenal chicken and sausage gumbo and it was good to sit around the table with Uncle Chuck, Granny, Aunt Gail and my parents and share a meal. We finished up with a pumpkin cake with orange-cream cheese icing that was to die for. I'm going to have to try that frosting recipe soon.

Later in the afternoon, I went to visit Granny Traylor at the rehab center where she is staying while she recuperates from her hip surgery. She was in good spirits and we had such a good visit. We covered everything from the inappropriateness of flip-flops and tank tops in church to her complete disdain for scrambled eggs and oatmeal for breakfast. The time flew by too quickly and soon it was time for me to get back to Mama and Daddy's so they could leave the kids to go to church.

I fed the kids and got them settled outside, and then Aunt Gail woke up from a nap and I made grilled cheese sandwiches for us and we ate outside while Nathan and Grace drew on the cement with chalk. I felt such a sense of deep contentment sitting there watching the kids play and being there with family. I was so glad that I didn't have to leave until tomorrow.

So, tomorrow I will head back west to take up my life where I left off. I miss Trevor and so do the kids, so it will be good to see him again. Thank you God. Thank you for sunshiny days filled with simple pleasures. I am so blessed.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Piano

I bought a piano for $50 today. It is an old, brown upright that was being sold at a garage sale. I had gone to the Jerusalem cemetery to put fresh flowers on Gramps' grave and I was at the Trinity cemetery to put flowers on Uncle Tellius' grave. The parsonage is right on the church property and Bro. Randy's daughter and son-in-law live in a house next to the graveyard and they were the ones having the garage sale.

As I drove up, I saw about 10 cars parked along the edge of the cemetery and at first I thought that there was a funeral service being conducted. Much to my horror, I realized that there was a garage sale in full swing as I was going to visit Uncle Tellius' grave for the first time since his death. It felt as though everyone was watching me as I walked past the tables and straight to the grave. I knelt to clear out the dried out flower arrangement that someone had left and replaced it with my own fresh flowers.

As I knelt there, the people milling around nearby left my mind and it was filled with memories of Uncle Tellius. Today marks the 4th month since his death and kneeling there before the mound of still fresh earth brought his death into sharp focus. Living in Texas affords me the luxury of blurring the memories of his illness and death, and going home was like opening a barely closed wound. And as always, I felt a twinge of guilt at my grief as I remembered how much more my cousins have suffered and grieved for the loss of their Daddy. As much as I loved him (and love him still), he was not my father and as strange as it might sound I feel weirdly guilty for my grief.

There are many that knew him better and were closer to him than I ever was. Many with closer ties and more stories and a lifetime of memories to tell. But, in spite of the twinge of guilt, I still grieve for a life that didn't seem quite finished. I know that God is on His throne and in control of everything, but the human part of me screams out "Why?! It's not fair!" like a petulant child.

So, as I prayed through my tears at the foot of his grave for understanding and peace, I began to feel better. I stayed for a few more minutes and then I made my way back to the car. As I was walking past the tables I saw a sign on the wall advertising a piano for $50. I just could not pass that up. We have been wanting a piano for a long time now and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I paid for it and figured that we would devise a plan for getting it back to Texas. As it turns out, that is becoming a thorn in my side and would require an entire blog of it's own to do it justice!

I am so excited about this piano. Now the kids can take lessons, I can start playing again and we can sing around it when Mama and Daddy come to visit. I can't wait to make those kinds of memories with my kids and to see them learn how to appreciate and love music the way Trevor and I do.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Home

I woke up this morning with a sense of anticipation and joy because I am going home. Home to Louisiana, home to my family, home to the place that draws me back time and time again. I am tied to it by an invisible cord that pulls and tugs on my soul to come back and stay.

I moved to Texas with my parents when I was only 4, so it could be reasonably argued that Texas is my home, and geographically that is true. I grew up, went to college, met my husband, started a family and still live here. My house and life are here in Texas, but my heart and soul belong in Louisiana. The land of rich gumbo, sweet strawberries and spicy crawfish. The place that has been my refuge from all the storms in my life. I go home for so many reasons...holidays, funerals, reunions...but the main reason I make the journey over and over again is for renewal.

My roots go deep in Louisiana. I come from a close knit family and with few exceptions, they all still live right there. I've had the good fortune to know all of my grandparents, be close with my aunts and uncles and have cousins that are more like sisters to me. My parents moved back home a few years ago so I have the added bonus of seeing them each time I go back. When I go home, it's like time is suspended for me. Everything slows down and I am able to get perspective on the things that really matter in my life. I look forward to spending hours on Granny's porch with whoever happens to be there. I relish the anticipation of going out for a drink with Uncle Chuck and catching up with him. I love seeing my children play under the canopy of live oak branches at the old property that has been in my father's family for generations. I love that Trevor loves my family and all the traditions that we hold so dear and that he is a perfect fit.

So, I'll be headed east in a few hours with Nathan and Grace semi-comfortably ensconced in the backseat with a movie to entertain them. This evening I'll be seated at the kitchen table chatting and laughing with Mama and Aunt Gail feeling as though I never left. Because home is where the heart is, and my heart is in Louisiana.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fun at Work

It's been a slow day at work. I had very little to do this morning, and once those duties were complete I basically hung out at the machine watching the other girls work. Sam and Kasi are attending weddings in the near future and are on the lookout for a new dress to wear, so we decided to go to the mall at lunch to critique their choices.

We left the hospital at 11:15 am and went directly to Macy's and began perusing the summer dress selection. I really like the style this summer with tailored bodices and full skirts. Anyway, Kasi found several dresses to try on and looked great in all of them, but we helped her pick out two. I never actually saw Sam in a dress because I was too busy trying on a few of my own that unfortunately did not fit well.

While Kasi was getting dressed, I went back out into the store to find Mary to let her know that we were almost finished. I scanned the dress section and as I looked across the aisle, I saw her trying to sneak around the corner to look at the shoes on the sale rack. "Mary!" I hissed. "Get back over here!" Mary is a self-confessed shoe-aholic and earlier I had to hold her hand as we walked past the shoe section to keep her from stopping. She whipped around with a startled look on her face but then started laughing when she realized that she was busted. Kasi decided on a dress, but after a confrontation with a rude salesperson ended up not purchasing anything but put the dress on hold for 24 hours.

We moved on to lunch at Casa Ole' and had a good visit over chimichangas, enchiladas, fajitas and burritos....God bless Texas! Kasi was convinced that our waiter was gay, but I think he was just an exceptionally nerdy guy. He seemed like the type of guy who got picked on in PE and who was probably teased by the other male waiters at the restaurant.

After lunch we meandered through the mall, briefly stopping in a few stores all the while knowing that we really needed to get back to work but not wanting to. We had to leave the mall through Macy's and as we passed the cosmetics counters I realized that Clinique was having their "bonus days" sale. I stopped and purchased some face powder (the one I am currently using was purchased about 7 years ago) and a tube of my favorite lipstick. I started using Clinique lipstick in college after I met Ronna...I always get Pink Chocolate and I always think of her when I wear it!

We stopped and looked at the purses on the way out, but knew that we really needed to get back to work. We commented on the way back how much fun it was to hang out and to do things together. It's nice working with people whose company you enjoy outside of the job and that increase your pleasure at work instead of your stress level.

When we finally arrived back at the hospital, we went directly to the bathroom to try on the new makeup. I put on some of Kasi's black cream eyeliner on one eye, only to discover that it doesn't come off without makeup remover! The liner was so dark that I didn't want to put it on the other eye, so now I have one eye with smudged, wiped eyeliner and one without! At least I am going straight home after work today.

Thank you God. Thank you for blessing me with friends at work. Thank you for providing a workplace full of happiness and joy, and the occasional girl's lunch out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Evil for Good

It's always amazing to me (although at this point in my life it shouldn't be) how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. When we least expect it we are used in such a way to touch the lives of other people not by our own design but by the moving of the Holy Spirit. I have been leading the bible study at work for the last 2 weeks and as I was preparing the lesson for today, I was at a dead end as far as how to present the material. We were studying the last half of the eleventh chapter of John. It tells the story of how the Pharisees begin to actively plot against Jesus to bring about His death.

As I was reading the scripture and poring over commentaries and reference books, I just couldn't get my mind around the point I wanted to make about the passage. It was right there on the tip of my brain, but I couldn't draw it out long enough to see it clearly. Then last night as I was laying in bed (with no preparation done for today's study) I made the connection between the passage and the fact that God uses evil for good in our lives. As I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking of the passages of scripture that I wanted to use as reference. There was one in particular that Chris had used in Sunday School recently that really reinforced the concept of God's sovereignty.

That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other;
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the LORD, do all these things.’
Isaiah 45:6-7


When I got to work this morning I received the news that a fellow employee was being let go. This was by no fault of her own and not a reflection on her performance, but a byproduct of downsizing and the uncertainty of the future. Ever since Memorial Hermann bought out our hospital, we have had many changes for the better. Overall, it has been a very positive merger and we have been satisfied with the way things are going. But, as with all merges, there are areas of uncertainty and upheaval and the cancer center seems to be one of those areas. Our doctor is uncertain of her tenure here, the patient load is dropping with no referrals in sight and as a result she had to let Becky go.

We are a tight knit group and when something bad happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. We are all in a state of semi-shock about Becky and we hate to see her leave our little group. So, as we gathered for bible study today in the conference room I realized that what I prepared was exactly what everyone needed to hear. We are not immune to bad things just because we accept Christ. Bad things happen to good people, even Christians. It is our response to those things that sets us apart from everyone else. Will I choose to praise God through my circumstance, being sure of His sovereignty and power or will I choose to lean on my own limited understanding and be broken and hollow because of what I cannot comprehend?

I had several people approach me after the study and tell me that what I said was exactly what they needed to hear today. That made me praise God that He was glorified and exalted by my preparation and study. Thank you God. Thank you for using me even when I am unaware that I am being used. Thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit that my heart might continue to be broken and reshaped for your glory.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:16-18

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Politics and Religion

The 2008 Presidential election will be here before we know it. We are already seeing the proverbial hats in the ring and all of the political rhetoric. I watched Larry King Live (which I never do) because Dr. Albert Mohler was one of the guest speakers on the topic of whether or not religion matters in an election. Should a person's religious affiliation matter to voters on election day?

Well, the answer is yes and no. Religion matters because it gives us a guidepost as to the moral and ethical values of a candidate. It matters because it allows us to quickly evaluate if the candidate shares common ground with our beliefs and convictions. Having said that, I think that the more important issue is whether or not the candidate is a Christian, since being a member of a particular denomination (even one that is traditionally evangelical) does not insure that the person is a born again believer. That is the true litmus test for my vote, and unfortunately it is something that many people in the political arena are hesitant to reveal for fear of alienating some part of the constituency.

As an Evangelical Christian, I have yet to see a clear cut choice for 2008. I have always maintained that I although I have voted primarily Republican in recent years, voting for a Democratic candidate is within the realm of possibility as long as I agree with their policies and moral values. Beyond the label of GOP or Democratic party, I would rather vote for a non-Christian with a good moral compass and a record for pro-life, pro-family and a plan to deal with poverty than a self professing Christian who talks the talk but does not walk the walk. I think too many candidates use God as an amulet...they pull it out when faced with conservative Christians but hide it in their pocket when questioned by the liberal left.

That is not how true Christianity works. The misconception today is that if you attend church regularly and live a "good" life that you are a Christian. This could not be farther from the truth, and is in fact a dangerous trend. 80% of Americans consider themselves "religious" or "Christian", but I have to believe that number is based on a misguided idea of what Christianity really is. Going to church and being "good" is not Christianity. You must accept the gift of grace from God in the form of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This in turn means being regenerated and living all areas of your life for the glory of God. This change goes hand in hand with becoming a Christian. If you believe (and I think many candidates do) that you can separate your biblical convictions as a Christian from how you cast a vote in office, then you might need to re-evaluate your relationship with God.

This is such a touchy subject because America is a country of religious freedom, and not all faiths have the same beliefs as Christianity. I agree with Dr. Mohler that the candidates should be straightforward regarding faith and convictions. I want to know about the convictions of the person I am putting into office. I want to be able to compare in a useful way the pros and cons of each candidate. Without all of the information, I cannot make a truly informed decision. The left would scream that religion should play no part in our decision to elect the President, but they use religion just as much as the conservative right does. For them it is the thing that makes them not vote for a candidate, so how is it any different?

For better or worse, this issue affects how we vote and all I can do right now is pray that God will work in the lives of the people with a desire to be President. I pray that they will be bold in their faith and stand by their convictions in spite of pressure and persecution.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Blessed

I had such a good day yesterday. Gracie crept into my bedroom at 6:15 am with the intention of getting into bed with me. I was on to her and pretended that I was still asleep to see what she would do. She laid down on the floor next to my bed and quietly talked to herself for a few minutes. When I rolled around to get her attention, she popped up like a jack-in-the-box and slipped between the covers with a sweet little grin.

Nathan met me halfway down the hall as I was stumbling towards the kitchen to tell me happy Mother's day. It was as though he had lain there awake waiting to hear me get up so he could be the first to say it. We had powdered doughnuts and milk for breakfast because it took the least amount of effort on my part, but the kids thought it was a wonderful treat.

Trevor had left my gift and cards on the counter the night before and I opened them with the kids. They chose a Willow Tree box with a family of four carved on the front, and Nathan and Grace both signed my card. Trevor deposited a generous sum of money in my fun account to spend at my leisure. At first I was set on getting a professional Kitchen-Aid stand mixer since the one I have is the base model and starting to show it. Then I started thinking that I might get a new digital camera. I still haven't decided, but either way it will be a good purchase.

I was outside on the deck drinking my coffee when I heard the phone ring. It was Courtney calling to wish me a happy Mother's Day. This is her first one with Jack and I was glad to have a chance to talk to her. I love it that she has a baby now and that we have that in common. We don't agree on everything, but raising kids is one thing that we both see in the same light. I am so glad that she has a great husband and a beautiful baby boy...she deserves good things and I'm glad that her life is so blessed.
Mother's Day Fun
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After church, Trevor cooked lunch and we had a relaxing afternoon together. I took a nice long nap and then spent most of the afternoon outside with the kids. We had taken Trevor's mom out Saturday night so we could celebrate with her, leaving Sunday open for our little family to spend some time together. We also felt like Charly didn't need to have a house full of people in light of her recent surgery. It worked out perfectly and we really enjoyed the day together.

Thank you Lord. Thank you for my children and for a husband who loves and appreciates me. Thank you for all those moments together as a family that draw us closer to each other and to You. Thank you for all the blessings in my life.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Love and Sacrifice

How can I take one day and attempt to show my mom how much I love her? I can't. It's like Valentines Day...if you have to have a special day to remind you to appreciate your lover, then you don't really appreciate your lover.

I'm one of the lucky ones...I truly love and cherish my mom. She's the first person I want to call when I have good (or bad) news. I trust her judgement and value her opinion. If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would ever feel that way, I would have answered with a resounding "no!" We had a tumultuous relationship when I was a child and adolescent and I hope that when my daughter starts to behave the way I did, that I will respond with half the restraint that Mama did!

I have so many memories of Mama that it's hard to decide which ones to include here. There are so many that are an integral part of who I am that it's almost impossible to explain them. They are like pieces of flesh and blood that have knitted together through the years to form the incredibly visceral feeling that I have when I think of my mom. The feel of her cool hand on my forehead when I was sick, the smell of her skin, the distinctive technique of her fingers on the piano, the comforting sound of her voice murmuring in the living room as I drifted off to sleep in my bedroom. Those things don't sound like very important memories in the grand scheme of things, but they are the ones that make my mom, well, mine.

Throughout my life she has always been there even when I pushed her away in adolescent ignorance. She always forgave me when I overstepped my bounds and said hurtful, mean things to her out of spite and frustration. I didn't realize it at the time, but she was a rich source of wisdom and knowledge. One of my real regrets as an adult is that I didn't listen to my mom more. I could have saved myself so much pain and grief if I had simply relied on her experience, but I suppose that is a regret that most people have.

I credit my mom's perseverance as the primary reason that I have a relationship with the Lord. She made sure that I was dressed and ready to go to church every week. She answered my questions about faith and God. She was an unwavering example of what a Christian should be in all areas of life. God uses many means to draw His elect to Himself, and in my case it was the love and joy that I saw in my own mother's witness.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from surgery. Mama refused to leave my side until Aunt Gail (the next best thing to Mama!) came to pry her away from me and give her some much needed rest and relaxation. At the time, I didn't really think about what a sacrifice it was for Mama to stay with me like that. Now that I am grown-up with a life and family of my own, I see what a gift that was to put her life on hold to focus on my well-being and health. If there is anyone that you want near you when you have just had surgery, it is my mom. She has this uncanny knack for knowing what you want before you ask for it.

When I found out I was pregnant with Nathan, I had no idea how much his birth would change my relationship with her. I remember laying there in the hospital holding him one night after everyone had gone home and thinking that I had never loved someone this deeply. That's when it occurred to me that Mama felt that way about me. She loved me so deeply that she would sacrifice her very life for me. This intimate knowledge about the nature of motherhood made me love her even more than I thought possible.

So, even though I can't be with my mom today my love still stretches across the miles to her and I know that she is thinking of me too. Thank you for giving me life and for shaping me into the person I am today. I love you, Mama.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“ Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:26-31

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Little Moments

I love to mow the lawn. There is something deeply satisfying about that swath of fresh cut grass behind me and the anticipation of mowing over the tall grass in front of me. I can see my progress...I am accomplishing something in a very concrete way. It also feeds my OCD tendencies, but that's a completely different blog topic.

I wish life were more like cutting the grass sometimes. It's hard to see progress in the day to day mediocrity of it all, and it frequently feels like I take three steps forward and two steps back. My life is a cycle of work, sleep and weekends. I often have the guilt that comes with being a mother....am I doing enough for them? Am I doing too much? What kind of memories will they have when they are 35?

Then there are moments when I can see the progress and realize that my life is not mediocre and that I am blazing straight forward with no backward steps. Today was one of the days filled with those moments. Watching Nathan and Gracie play outside in the bright sunshine in a beautiful yard made me thankful to God for giving us such success in our careers. It made me realize that all of the fussing and lecturing about how to treat one another was not time wasted as I saw Nathan playing gently and kindly with his sister. I had another moment as we went out for dinner with Trevor's parents for Mother's Day and observed both my children behaving politely and quietly in the restaurant.

They are small moments to be sure, but moving nonetheless. They are what keep me motivated when the day to day grind starts to get me down. They are the very essence of my life and I would do well to look for them more frequently than I do. I have been blessed beyond measure in this life and it is my duty (and desire) to be thankful and glorify God for all of it.

Thank you God. Thank you for my husband and my children. Thank you for letting me be a part of a family that loves You and that loves each other. Thank you for my job, my church and for my friends. Thank you for my life.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Grumpy Road to Recovery

Nathan was out of school for FFA day and Trevor stayed home with him, which allowed me to get to work early for once. I left the house at 5:45 am and spent the entire morning moving from project to project at work. It was actually refreshing to have something to do...our patient load is down and it's been a struggle to fill the day which just makes it drag by.

I left work at 12:15 (I just love working a half-day on Friday!) and headed home for a little relaxation. When I got home, Trevor was on the couch with a cold. He has been getting progressively worse for the past few days and it finally caught up with him. The problem is that I'm not entirely over my illness yet, and I get tired very easily. The thought of taking care of him and the kids made me a little nauseous if the truth be told. It must be said that Trevor did not imply in any way that I should take care of him. Actually, the opposite is true with him....he would much rather be left alone when he is sick and I tend to hover too much.

So the internal battle was raging....suck it up and try to make him more comfortable and keep Nathan quiet and out of the way or go to the bedroom and take a nap? I wish I could say that my heart of service won the day, but sadly it did not. I slept for an hour or so until I had to get up to go get Grace from daycare, which just made me more cranky because it interrupted my nap. I know....wah.

So, after a few hours of watching the kids draw on the deck with chalk and then watching television, here I am. Exhausted after doing only a fraction of what I normally do on Friday and irritated and grumpy because I am so tired. Poor Trevor, Nathan and Grace because grumpy=impatient and fussy. Once I am finished blogging I vow to be nicer and more human-like if it kills me.

I am also grumpy because the subject of Mother's Day was broached and I don't like having to decide what to do. Of all of the days of the year, I don't think that I should be required to plan anything. I plan all the birthday parties, the holiday gatherings, and all the things in between. I plan, cook and clean so that the day will be fun and memorable. This has nothing to do with not liking to do those things...I enjoy entertaining, but Mother's Day should be a day of rest and relaxation for me. I don't want to decide what we are going to eat or where we are going to eat it. I wouldn't even mind making food for a potluck at Will and Charly's, but I don't want to decide what to make.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but I guess the at the bottom of it all, what I really want for Mother's Day is no responsibility. For one day I don't want to be the one holding it all together. I don't expect to spend the entire day in a hammock with an cold drink and an unlimited supply of chocolate nearby (as nice as that sounds!), but I want to be the follower instead of the leader for 16 hours. So, I vow to be nicer to my family tonight in spite of my grumpiness and look forward to Sunday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Relative That Doesn't Play Well With Others

Every one I know has one. No matter what their background, education, region of the country or income, everyone has one. The Relative That Doesn't Play Well With Others or TRTDPWWO.....wait.....that doesn't make it easier to remember. Let's just go with "Mark" for the purposes of this blog. Coincidence that my uncle's name is Mark? I think not.

Mark is that relative. The one that is always late. The one who thinks he is the sun and the rest of the family are planets. The one that puts as little effort as possible into maintaining relationships, but when there is opportunity for attention (funerals...weddings) he is front and center to make a show of how important he (thinks) he is. The one who feels free to inconvenience others without a single thought but can't bear the thought of being inconvenienced himself.

Conversations with Mark are really just an opportunity for him to invite you to his own personal pity party. Nothing is ever his fault and if you dare suggest that it is, be prepared for an undetermined period of icy silence and no invitations to his home. Wait....that doesn't happen anyway. Did I mention that this man is over 40 years old!!!!!!!!!? He still behaves like a spoiled child and it's impossible to have an adult relationship with someone who hasn't matured beyond the age of 12.

I could write pages describing in excruciating detail the stunts Mark has pulled through the years. His behavior ranges from the plain ridiculous all the way up to purposefully hurtful and mean-spirited. This rant stems from new information I received about his recent behavior regarding the fact that Granny Traylor is recovering from a broken hip. This sort of situation is what the Marks of the world live for. Mark enters stage left (because all the world is a stage to him) and makes a complete idiot of himself. He postures and make grand statements about the way things should be done all the while revealing how little he knows. The problem is that he won't take direction from anyone because he perceives any help as an attack on him personally. So instead of everyone concentrating on how to help Granny, they are trying to figure out how to word something like "Can you not drop your child off at the hospital for your elderly mother to babysit from her sickbed?" without hurting Mark's feelings. (By the way...I didn't make that up.) And really, should that ever be a question that you actually have to utter?

So, I am going to pray for Mark. I'm going to pray that the rest of the family will show restraint because I don't want to visit my mom or dad in Angola. I'm going to pray that Mark will pull his head out of his posterior for once and see how he is pushing his family further and further away. I'm going to pray for a miracle.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Alexandra and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This has been a very sad day. Last night we received a call from Trevor's mom that Charly was going in to surgery because of an ectopic pregnancy. She had been having problems since she found out she was pregnant several weeks ago, and had gone in for a ultrasound to check everything out. The egg had implanted in her left fallopian tube and was about to rupture, so they had to surgically remove the tube.

The surgery went fine with no complications, but Will and Charly were on my heart last night and again when I woke up this morning. I kept racking my brain trying to figure out what I could do to make them feel better, but nothing seemed adequate. What can you say that doesn't sound ridiculous and trite the moment it leaves your mouth?

When I arrived at work my friend Kasi came into the CT room and shut the door. I excitedly asked her how she was feeling since she just found out last week that she was pregnant. What I did not expect was the flood of tears along with the news that she had miscarried the night before. She had enough bleeding early yesterday that the MD ordered an ultrasound to check things out. By Tuesday evening she realized that she had miscarried, but reading the ultrasound report this morning confirmed her fears.

My heart just broke to see her pain and tears...all I could do was hug her and reassure her that there was nothing she could have done to prevent this from happening. I helped her get out of the building so that she wouldn't have to face anyone just yet and she went home.

First Charly, now Kasi. It's hard to glorify God in the face of such grief, but that is all we can do. We have to trust in His sovereignty and know that no matter what happens in our lives, He is in control. That is reason enough to glorify Him. All I can do is offer words of support to these women that I love and be available to them in whatever way they need me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Neighbors From Hell

We have the worst neighbors. The father(David) is illiterate, I've never actually seen the mother (Annette)and the 3 boys are troublemakers. (Side note: we know the names of the parents because they are displayed prominently on the back window of their pick-up truck) The oldest is about 15, the middle child is 10 or 11 and the youngest is 8. Brandon is his name and he is the one that we have the most trouble with. I had met Brandon last summer in VBS when I worked with the 1st grade class. He was a year older because he had been held back and was much bigger than the other kids. He was a constant discipline problem, in addition to the fact that he has diabetes that he controls with an insulin pump.

When I realized who he was, my immediate instinct was to forbid Nathan from playing with him. Experience had shown me that Brandon could not be trusted and that he was mean. But Trevor and I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him come over to play in our backyard. He wasn't too bad at first...just a few problems with name calling and learning to be gentle when Grace was nearby. But the more we let Nathan play with Brandon, the worse his behavior became until we finally had to tell Nathan that he was not allowed to even talk to Brandon.

Soon after, Brandon and his brothers started ringing our doorbell and running. Trevor spoke to their dad about it and it stopped, but Brandon began to threaten Nathan. Nathan and Kaben were out riding their bikes one afternoon and Brandon told Nathan that he was going to give him a bloody mouth. I don't know what precipitated the threat, but I do know that Nathan is not a fighter and that he knows better than to engage Brandon in conversation. I made the boys come inside for a while until Brandon went away and lost interest.

Later that evening, our family was out front drawing on the driveway with chalk. Brandon rides up on his bike and announces that he wants to play too. My mother bear instinct was still riled up from earlier in the day and I told Brandon in no uncertain terms that he could not threaten to give Nathan a "bloody mouth" earlier and then come over and play like nothing had happened. If he couldn't be nice all of the time, he was not welcome in our yard.

He exploded in a fit of rage and proceeded to his own yard where he took an aluminum bat and smashed a large water gun to smithereens. He then used the bat to destroy the wood railing around the top of the red wagon they had pulled out of our trash pile and had been using. Nathan and Kaben stood wide-eyed and slack jawed in the face of such senseless destruction. I was actually glad to see that sort of reaction from the boys because it showed that they both had respect for their belongings and the idea of behaving in such a way was completely foreign (and repugnant)to them both.

It should have come as no surprise that Brandon's father was just as sneaky and underhanded. Our phone had been out for a few days and Trevor had called the repairman to come out and take a look at the line. I was home yesterday and when the line was repaired, and I received a call from AT&T to confirm that it worked. About two hours later, David knocked (and rang the doorbell at the same time). He told me that his phone was out because the repairman had run over the box. This seemed strange to me since the repairman had been gone for several hours and my phone had been working just fine. He called on his cell and set up an appointment to have the box repaired. (This is why there is no blog for Monday....it knocked the DSL out too)

A little later I went outside to examine the damage and realized with one look that David (or Annette) must have run over the phone box because of the direction that it was laying. Did I mention that he is not very bright? There was no way that anyone parked on the road could have run over the box in such a way that would leave it in that position. When the repairman came today I relayed the story to him and he confirmed that he did not run over the box and that he had the same suspicion that I did about the culprit. He took pictures of it and said that he was going to bill David for the damage.

The point of the story is that a man who would lie over such a small thing that was clearly an accident would most certainly lie about larger issues and therefore cannot be trusted. Brandon's behavior is not surprising in light of this most recent interaction with his father. The real icing on the cake was when I found out that Brandon now rides around on his bike with a BB gun. If there was ever a boy that did not need a gun it has to be this one! So, all we can do is wait. Wait for them to move away, wait for them to destroy the house bit by bit, wait for Brandon to do something requiring police intervention.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Ninety and Nine

Mama called me Friday night with news that Granny Traylor had fallen and broken her hip. She had surgery in the first hours of Saturday morning and all went well and for that I thank God. But calls from Louisiana that come at night are becoming frightening for me. In the past if I saw Mama and Daddy's number on the caller ID, I would excitedly pick up the phone for a visit, no matter the time of day. But the reality of my life is that there are many people I love who are getting older and more frail each passing day. Every phone call has the potential for bad news of illness or death, and I dread picking up the phone sometimes.

I know that sounds a little dramatic, and it's not as though my heart sinks every time my mom calls...far from it. It's just that I breath a little sigh of relief when I realize that the call is being made for the purpose of visiting or confirming plans rather than imparting difficult news.

So anyway, I've been thinking about Granny Traylor a lot in the last few days. I think of her favorite color (lavendar), the way her yard used to smell in the spring with all of the flowers in bloom, and of her alto voice blending in with mine as we sang all those favorite hymns around the piano. She sang one particular hymn to all of her babies long, long ago and she sang it again to my babies as she rocked them to sleep. This song will forever remind me of Granny no matter how old I get and I wanted to post the words today.

The Ninety and Nine

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare;
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer:
“This of Mine Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry;
’Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.
’Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.

“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way,
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.
They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

And all through the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!"