Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas 2007: A Photo Essay

Why, you ask?

I've been asked "Why three colums instead of two?" As for my current template being three columns, I wanted the full page of my blog to be used up. All of the blank usable space along the sides of my original two columns irritated me. If I could figure out how to make my current three columns a little wider still, I would, but when I try to manipulate the column width further, it won't work. (At least, not yet.) Additionally, you can fit more widgets and whatnots along that spare column -- it works just like the original. I now have more space for my rampant sense of self-importance! Plus, I just think it looks nicer.

I also used the information on another site to remove the unattactive pencil and wrench one-click tools from my blog. Though others couldn't see them, I could, and they irritated me. Yes, I know they (as tools) could have been helpful, but they were quite unsightly. I'm not sure why access to the same action couldn't have been achieved by a small, more visually appealing dot. It's all about aesthetics and a more effective use of space.

Daughter


"A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future."
~Author Unknown

"Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future...."
~Elizabeth Debold and Idelisse Malave

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Little Pasty


For two days now, I've been working on making my blog into a three-column layout. I've downloaded and uploaded a number of premade templates to no avail. Today, I found a great site that helped me modify a standard Blogger template, et voilà: a little code rewriting, some general element shuffing, and you've got yourself a blog with three columns. The only downfall that I see so far is the standard template I chose to modify is a little pasty, bland, and/or boring.

Off to figure out a new header to spice things up. Suggestions?

By Definition

When Zachary died, our pastor's wife came to the hospital to visit. She cried with us and held our dead baby before going home. She could understand to some degree the pain that wracked our hearts and split wide our souls, as several years earlier she'd lost a baby at the same gestational age. Something she said during her visit still haunts me. I've commented on it before, but I'm commenting again.

She related to me that when her baby died, her mother (who had not lost a baby, from what I understand) asked her if this would be the thing that defined her life, her dead baby. For her, the answer was no -- it was part of her life, but not the defining factor of her life.

I think she was telling me this in an effort to bring me some comfort -- a womanly chuck on the jaw, a Christian-y sort of "Buck up, Buckaroo." Additionally, she may have been wondering if I intended to crack under the weight of grief and would become unable to fulfill my ministerial commitments. I think her intentions were pure, and overall, she wanted me to realize there was more to me than this, my dead baby.

I've carried this edification around in my guilt baggage for the last eight months. Already, I bear a load of guilt for a luteal phase deficiency, hormone issues, and a body that won't work right for anything. I feel incompetent because of my incompetent cervix. I feel like a hypocrite by referring people to my perinatologist for a shiny new transabdominal cerclage, particularly since my post-surgery pregnancy didn't make it to nine weeks. I feel guilt for not knowing I had rights to my dead miscarried babies -- or to the "products of conception" as they were so tenderly referred to by my old doctor on his way to the incinerator.

Additionally, there's guilt for the medical bills that still chomp away at our budget, guilt for the reduction of relationships with those who have newborns (because I can still take only so much without turning into a blubbering, snotty mess), and guilt for the smudged glasses through which I see the world. Last, but certainly not least, I carry around a guilt-filled carry on for just not wanting to try anymore, of wanting to be "normal," of wanting to move forward, of being beyond all this -- though every holiday, every birthday, every anniversary day -- every day -- is filled with pain, loss, frustration, anger, sadness, and regret.

There are some days that are not a constant struggle, but those are usually days that are so filled that time dissipates before I can take notice. Normal days, every day sort of days, are still generally more hard than they're not.

She attempted to encourage me from the influence of her experience, but having borne four living children along with the one dead, her experience was vastly different from mine. For her, the loss of her baby was an unfortunate experience. For me, dead babies are a way of life. Regardless of what happens in my life -- if I by some miracle become pregnant and carry to term, if we adopt another child, or if we chuck the whole mess and move to Aruba -- I am a woman who struggles with unexplaned infertility, evidently unmanagable known fertility issues, and recurrent loss in both the first and second trimester.

In the midst of my daily struggling and not struggling, her comment has resounded within, haunting me as I think "Surely, I must me more than this, there must be more that defines me." What I've come to terms with is the fact that there is not. This is what I am. Infertility struggles + dead babies + loads and loads of guilt = Me. It is indeed the sum of my parts, and this is me, by definition.


Missing you, baby.
Each of you.
Every moment.
Every day.


To have you with us again.
Even if only for a moment.



What is this?

On my backside

This morning I was showering before church, as I generally do. I recently purchased some new Winter Care soap and was met with some particularly warm water in an otherwise cold house, so the experience was altogether lovely. I enjoyed it as best I could in my otherwise hurried state.

Now, it had not been a long time since my prior bathing experience. Night before last, I soaked and read for a good long time, and would have again last night had it not been for the Blogger layout fiasco in my home (one still to be resolved). This morning, though, I enjoyed my hurried hot shower. My hands slid effortlessly through the sweet scented new soap and I drifted away in my mind, but only for a moment. I was called back to reality as my hand stumbled across something attached to my right butt cheek.

I've not purchased new clothes recently, and I've not been given any with external labels. Additionally, I do not shop in the nude. This morning, that which called me back to reality was an "XL" sticker planted squarely on my backside, and I honestly I have no idea where it could have originally come from.

My friend recently wrote about how God is in the details, and I'm not sure that it's possible to make a New Year's resolution any more clear than that.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Officially Dead

So, my laptop is officially dead. One year after its glorious arrival, its departure is official. Today, after visiting with a Geek or two among the Squad, the funeral ceremony is set to commence. It turns out that there are likely two problems, and we'll be required to pay $89 (non-refundable) to determine which it of the two our problem is.

Option #1) The motherboard has gone out, and though James and I are both quite literate and quite capable of following directions, a motherboard is evidently not something that can be repaired by an amateur. The configuration of the doohickeys and the whatnots prevent the average Joe from getting the job done. If the brokenness relates to this option, it will cost a mere $300-400 to repair, and when considering that the whole thing originally cost around $600, it's just not a good value. Particularly when you consider that the $89 (non-refundable) will be on top of that, and the internal wireless router that went out a couple of months ago still has to be repaired at an undetermined cost.

Option #2) The laptop at some point became overheated, thus causing it to fry inside and become totally unrepairable, despite the $89 (non-refundable). I would balk at this option, except for the fact that mere moments (or about an hour) before the computer died, I carried it to the kitchen to look up a candy recipe for some coconut I've been dying to use. I placed the laptop on my otherwise safe kitchen table, though I think the fan area may have been sitting on this very cute quilted Christmas table topper. My $1 bag of coconut along with my $1 quilted Christmas table topper and my general sense of distractability killed my laptop.

Knowing the limits of our options, I think we've decided to apply the $89 (non-refundable) along with a couple of gift cards to another new laptop, one that will likely never see the kitchen or anything quilted. Ever.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Working Brakes

Today I was having lunch with my friend DeDe when James called my cell phone to say he had arrived in New York safely. "Oh, good," I said, as I stuffed another bite of salad in my mouth. "But I'm not at LaGuardia," he said. "I was rerouted to JFK."

"Oh?" Chomp, chomp, chomp.

"Yeah, evidently there was a brake problem and they thought the plane wouldn't make it on the shorter runways."

Pause. "Is it that bad -- the brake problem?"

"I guess it's worse than I thought. All the other planes weren't moving when we landed and we were met with a bunch of emergency vehicles covering our runway. I guess they thought we might crash."

Pause again. "Well, honey. I'm glad you're safe."

"Yeah, me too."

We finished our conversation with affection and goodbyes and I relayed the events to DeDe, who was so incredulous at my remaining calm. Inside, though, I felt far less calm. Inside, I couldn't believe the conversation I'd had. Though my James was totally safe, today was a reminder that he was a few yards short of being completely unsafe, of possibly being dead.

We're prepared for the absence of safety. Our policies are in order and we call our insurance guy by his first name. Because of the absolute lack of security in our lives, I'm furiously finishing my degree so that I may be more valuable if I'm called on to provide financially. (Now watch, it will be me who goes first. On my way to graduation, I bet.) We know that our days are numbered and our number could be called at any time, and so we prepare to go and plan for those we'll leave behind.

Regardless of any preparation, I'll never be ready for James to die.

He said he tried to call me from the plane. He said when the pilot let them know of the problem with the breaks and the change of course, he tried to call me while in the air. That's not a call I want. I don't want the "I'm going to die / I'm dying / I'm dead" phone call. (Even though the "I'm dead" one would be quite a feat.) I just don't know how I could be alone, and I'm not sure I want advanced warning -- though I have given him permission to call if he actually will end up dead. (Isn't that big of me?)

After lunch, DeDe and I took the kids to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium , a movie about a magical man who ran an even more magical toy store. ((SPOILER ALERT!)) When he was ready to "depart" (as in die), he planned to hand the store off to its manager, a piano prodigy named Molly. Molly argued with Mr. M, telling him he couldn't depart because she thought she couldn't run the store on account of her losing her "sparkle." He died anyway and on she went until all was right and well on the Earth, a happy ending ensued, and the plot was appropriately set for a sequel. I realized then that's alot of what I feel abut James. Beyond the obvious loving him and missing him and not wanting him to be among a wrecked fuselage, James is my Mr. M who cannot die on account of my missing sparkle. And real life doesn't necessarily come with that happy ending.

I feel like I'm missing that thing that once made me me, and I'm not sure if it's retrievable. Everything in my life feels half done: incomplete scrapbooks, an unfinished degree, an unkempt garage, an uninteresting memoir. (Haha.) If James died, I would be a very half of who I presently am. I know realistically that I could survive if James died. I'm a survivor. But I don't want to be in that position out of necessity -- making it because I have to.

I have no interest in bringing home the bacon. I prefer to go shopping for the bacon with a coupon on triple value day. If I return to the workforce, I prefer it to be as a result of a choice we make together, affording us the opportunity to share an even more valuable slab of pork, or vacation, or home, or whatever. James works hard in a job he loves and is suited to and we both enjoy my staying at home to meet our respective needs here. Years ago, I could have never imagined that I would enjoy domesiticity, but I do. James seems to enjoy providing the opportunity for me to be at home, and equally enjoys the benefits that arrangement provides him and our family.

More than that, James is an extraordinary father. He loves his children so deeply, and takes such great pride in them. He plays with them, creates with them, and spoils them quite badly. He admonishes them and corrects them. He trains, teaches, and guides them. He prays for them, prays with them, and shows them how to pray. Of children, he deserves a quiver full, which is a great deal of the frustration I feel as I am unable to provide more. As a father, he cannot be replaced.

And even more than that, he's an amazing husband. Beyond the fact that he cares for me and for our family in such a tangible way, he meets needs in me I never knew I had. As a very small example, Christmas night was very difficult for me. We'd had a houseful of people for several days, but by Christmas night, we were totally alone. It felt very empty-nester-ish seeing as how our kids were with their Nanny, and our house was quiet and babyless, though little ones had been doled out in abundance all around us. The blues were blacker than blue and the air was heavier than normal. I intended to retreat inwardly, but James, my James, called me out and met me in a comforting way. That's one time out of millions that my husband has behaved towards me in a Christlike manner.

I don't ever want the call that he's gone.
I don't ever want to walk the Earth without him.
Thanks be to the Living God for brakes that function properly.



"My beloved is mine, and I am his..."
Song of Solomon 2:16a KJV

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Welcome Samuel


My cousin Emily celebrated Christmas with a brand new son.
Welcome, sweet Samuel James!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

At her insistence...

Because Amy is insistent, here is my holiday blogging contribution.
A laundry list, of sorts.

Thursday morning, I went to a Christmas tea at my friend Randi's house. She's such a wonderful hostess, and I had a great time visiting with all the ladies. From there, I went to the school where the kids were having their parties. They gave their teachers gift cards for coffee and ice cream, as well as pink shredders that they each customized with paint and stickers.




Friday was the first day of Christmas break, so the kids and I did some housework, some baking, and broke in a new Tumbling Towers game.








Saturday, my family began arriving and we're having a great time. My brothers arrived around lunchtime, and we visited before the boys played football in the yard.



My sister and her family arrived in the evening, and we siblings went to dinner alone while all the spouses and children stayed home and played party games on the XBox. We went to Texas Roadhouse and waited in the warmth of the bar instead of outside in the freezing cold. Doesn't that make for a lovely family photo? I got carded for my beverage, which absolutely made my night. Probably because I'm dressed like a college student trying to not look like a college student.



Somewhere during this time, my laptop died -- two days after my one year warranty expired. James tried some things with the RAM, but thinks the motherboard needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, neither of us know a thing about computers, so part of my Christmas break will be spent with the Geek Squad. After dinner, we came home for a night of board game fun, playing Apples to Apples and the new Cranium Wow. We stayed up way too late and had way too much fun!



This morning, we went to a candlelight service at the church we now call home. The children were in service with us, which was quite a lovely experience.




We came home to more family time and dinner preparation with a turkey and a ham on the menu. Uncle Russell distributed new bicycles for the kids to ride while we were cooking. No wonder they love Unco Wuss-O!



The little ones are now being readied for bed, and cards are being shuffled for the next round of games. We are all having such a great time, and I couldn't be more pleased by all the air mattresses on the floor and the shoes strewn about. Unfortunately, part of the plans have changed, sending my brothers and their families home tomorrow. As a result, we're opening presents in the morning, and taking Christmas as a day off. We'll likely sleep in, see a movie, play with new toys, and catch up on rest for the remainder of the week.

Be safe in your travels,
Be grateful in your gatherings,
Be blessed as you celebrate this Chrismas season...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Joyeux Noel

The cornbread is baking, the ham is thawing, the children are sleeping, and family begins arriving tomorrow. It is time for me to bid you all adieu and to wish you and yours a very peaceful and merry Christmas.

I leave you with the telling of the birth of my Savior. Among the Christmas chaos, may you pause to consider the babe in the manger, and the extraordinary gift He is.


In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Frosty

My mom was bringing Gracie home from ballet and called to see if she could get her a Frosty. This time of year, my mind first went to a large animate snow monster, walking and talking and melting on the carpet. It actually took her clarifying she meant a treat from Wendy's for me to agree.

On Birth and Ornaments

My friend Leslie gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday that they named Anna. My cousin Emily has run out of days and goes in tonight to be induced, and will find out if she's carried a boy or a girl all this time. (How exciting, by the way! James would never consider that kind of waiting, and I don't have the willpower to resist a doctor saying, "Are you sure you don't want to know?") Though a few gestating stragglers remain, my once large posse of pregnant pals has transitioned to an equally large mob of mommies.

I was talking to a newly-mommied friend yesterday -- the one whose first son died in January. She was wondering what to do with Christmas. Their family has a tradition of sewing stockings for their children, and as she prepares to sew one for her new little boy, what does she do for the one who died? Though he never shared Christmas with them and never will, do they hang a stocking for him? We don't hang stockings for our babies, but we do hang ornaments.

This ornament is for Ainsley. We were so excited during this pregnancy, as it progressed nicely following years of trying. We conceived Ainsley on the month when I told both James and the doctor, "This is it. I'm done." I was tired of the fight. When I was pregnant, we just knew we were having a girl. We anticipated a girly-girl like our Gracie who loved butterflies and baby dolls. I bought a baby girl onesie that said "I Love Daddy" and some cute purple shoes at Baby Gap. Those things are still tucked away in the top of my closet. I've thought many times about giving them away, but I can't.

This is Zachary's ornament. We are so fortunate to have pictures of him, and I wanted his ornament to include his photo. It was difficult to find a baby-themed ornament that didn't say "Baby's First Christmas," or something similar. This ornament, though, is perfect. It's a resin Christmas tree that looks like it's hand knit. The knitting pattern and the blue on the star are identical to Zachary's baby cap.

This ornament is for our other babies who have died. We lost a baby in December 2005 before I became pregnant with Ainsley. That pregnancy, though lost, provided hope that we could conceive. We'd been trying for some time at that point, and wondered if we would ever be able to get pregnant again. Though the pregnancy ended, we had fervent hope and pressed on, trying again and again.

The baby I lost in August 2007 -- the pregnancy after Zachary -- obliterated all remaining hope, an issue I still struggle with today. Unfortunately, that hopelessness can't be compartmentalized to our struggle related to childbearing, but rather spills over into every other area of life. It is what I spend most of my study time trying to understand and regain. Along with our babies who have died, it's that struggle with hope -- the initial acquisition, the utter loss, the attempt at resurrection -- this ornament represents.

Grace In a Manger


Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer has a beautiful post on Christmas
called "Grace in a Manger."
Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Goodies Galore

Today was the day our Goodie-making began. I've been wanting to start for several days, but have delayed because though I want to make stuff, I don't want to eat it. Scratch that -- I DO want to eat it, but I don't want what the eating it will do to me, which is gain enough weight to justify an extra appendage.

Today, goodie prep began and so far, I've only eaten slightly-above a reasonable amount of sweets. Mom came over to help, which spared her the mess in her own kitchen, as well as a double batch of Christmas treats. The kids had fun helping out, though they spent about 75% of their time asking for things they know they cannot have -- as in more and more and more goodies.

Today's menu:
Gumdrop Cookies
Pretzel Kisses
Dipped Pretzels
Walnut and Marshmallow Fudge



Cutting Gumdrops

Cookie Mixing with Nanny

Holiday Treats

A College Station Christmas


We left Saturday morning to meet James' family in College Station to celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts. We got a later start than originally planned after spending Saturday morning at CareNow, and arrived in College Station a little after lunch. (That pesky fever came back, which prompted the doctor's visit. It turned out to be nothing.) We visited with the family for a bit, and got straight to opening presents. (James dad and grandma wanted to travel home again before dark.)

James' family, of course, gave the children WAY too much stuff and sent me home to examine our pile of gifts for things we could pack away for birthdays and special rewards. I can't decide on anything, so this Christmas will just be VERY generous. I say this every year, but next year, we're REALLY going to cut back. I mean it. I think.

No, seriously, we're planning to model our friends Kim and Doug and limit the kids to three gifts each from us. I need to talk to Kim about the specifics of that plan, but when they get so much, our kids get weary before they enjoy it all. Plus, no one needs so many toys or so much clutter. And we get no royalties from battery companies, so it's time to cut back. Regardless of the gift dilemma, we had a lovely visit and enjoyed our time together.

My favorite College Station Christmas Picture.
(Either she's still excited about the Wii games,
or she really loves the Chick-fil-a wrapping paper.)

After James' dad and grandma left, Uncle Jerald took us to the build site for his new restaurant. He's giving up his Chick-fil-a in Houston to operate the brand new Chick-fil-a of Aggieland (a high honor for an Aggie). Some progress has been made on construction, but it's still a pile of dirt, which bored the kids to death.

Playing in dirt = fun.
Looking at a pile of dirt from inside a vehicle = no fun whatsoever.

We toured a Christmas light display, ate at Freebirds, played with Christmas presents, and watched I Love Lucy until sleep won us over. We went out for Kolaches Sunday morning and got on the road very early to come home.

Though we had a nice visit, I have no desire to return to College Station for a while. We've been down there several times this year, and there's really not alot to do, particularly if you're hauling around a child or two and you're not a beer-drinking college student. Jerald's new store opens in March, and we're planning to make another trip to support him and celebrate with him, but until then, Gig 'em Aggies without lil' old me.

Trash/Treasure

Today's current events include a (story) where a group of skateboarders rescued a newborn baby stuffed in a trashbag and thrown into the dumpster. Despite freezing temperatures, exposure, no affection, a lack of food, and a very unsafe environment, the baby was found alive and crying and is now recovering in the hospital.

I sit alone in a quiet house thinking of throwing out a garage full of baby things, while someone else sits alone in a quiet house after having thrown out the baby. How true is the sentiment: One man's trash is another man's treasure...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Washer Woes

If there's one thing I hate nearly as much as the laundry, it's cleaning up messes made by other people. Now, after a party or a special occasion, I don't mind that kind of cleanup, but the daily stuff, I do not want to do that for others. I don't want to gather dishes from around the house. My inner Nag pops out for a visit if James leaves too many socks on the floor. The kids pick up their belongings.

Now, as a stay-at-home mom, you can imagine how my general distaste for picking up after others has provided multiple opportunities to learn about patience and grace. Kids -- especially my kids -- are mess-makers, and I have spent the last several years constantly bending and picking, reaching and putting, along with yelling, apologizing, and repenting. It was a happy day indeed when I could say to my children, "If you're big enough to make that mess, you're big enough to clean it up," and expect it to mean something to them.

Of all of my experiences of cleaning up after others, tonight is the worst. Christmas is coming, along with houseguests, so it's time to tackle the laundry. Guest towels and sheets need freshening, and James needs a replenishment of his stock of socks to dump on the floor. I have no daytime plans tomorrow and can nap at will, so I planned to stay up while everyone sleeps to read blogs and work on the wash.

I put in the first load as James was heading to bed. I washed towels and a couple of sweatshirts, and must have somehow caused the tub to go out of balance. The spray during the rinse cycle sprayed over the tub and flooded our laundry room and kitchen. James and I worked together to clean the mess, and the next load washed fine without flooding. Now, the third load is causing more flooding, and as the only one still awake, I alone have to clean up the mess.

I hate the laundry, and I hate cleaning up after others, but tonight I'm cleaning up a mess made by the washing machine while I'm doing the laundry, and that is the absolute worst.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Card

My friend Randi mentioned mail as her love language, a point to which I can relate. I love the Christmas season when my mailbox is packed with cards. Just like Randi, I rush out daily to gather the goodies, and Gracie and I admire the cards and photos and read aloud the notes. (The boys don't really care.)

Today I got one that jingled my bells. (Dumb Christmas pun, I know, but I'm trying to stay upbeat. 'Tis the season, after all.)

Buried in the stack of mail today was a card from James' friend whose wife was due a week before me. In February, we four went to dinner and a concert together and she and I compared cravings and complaints over jalepenoed nachos with ooey-gooey cheese. In April, they came to Zachary's funeral and she cried in the bathroom while I made a public spectacle of myself. In August, they brought home a daughter and I dusted a baby-sized urn. In December, they sent a card with a picture of a fat, grinning baby and I want to throw up.

School has made it easy to stay busy and avoid all that should be and isn't. Now that I'm on that winter break, I have alot of time on my hands to sit around and feel pitiful. Woe, woe is me...

They came running...

Historically, I've not been extraordinarily close to my siblings. My older sister and brother were part of the deal when my mom married my dad. They were 8 and 5 when I was born. The next year brought my baby brother. The two years following brought one teenage uncle and then another. We were a whirlwind of children packed in a trailer house with a Mom just barely an adult herself and a Dad who worked nonstop to keep the lights on.

My parents divorced when I was about Gracie's age. My older brother and sister stayed with Daddy, while Dustin and I went with Mom. He and I were close as there were many days all we had was the other. My parents had a difficult time seeing beyond themselves to provide for us. My Mom worked a lot to care for us, but she also cared for her non-working alcoholic husband and just about anyone else who had a need. My Dad wouldn't pay child support regularly or appropriately so he could teach my Mom a lesson, but in the meantime, my brother and I did without. Everybody meant well, but they meant well for themselves.

Both of my older siblings married and began their own families, and my younger brother was in a juvenile detention center, all before I was in High School. While I was in High School, my Mom suffered a head injury. Instead of bringing home a paycheck that nearly made ends meet, she brought home a measly worker's compensation stipend on which no one could survive. Dad was still teaching those lessons, and we literally had no money, so I worked nearly full-time between AP courses in school and the homework that comes with that kind of course load to pay for a place to live.

In the midst of my parent's bickering and spatting, and all of our respective crazy lives, we siblings just grew apart. We weren't fighting with one another, but there were no reasonable adults to encourage us to nurture relationships with each other.

As we all progressed with life, our relationships went through various stages. My sister and I vascilated between being close and being distant. Eight years separated us, and we were in vastly different life stages simultaneously. My brothers went through relationships, jobs, good times, and bad, and sisters didn't fit into that mix. My life was hectic too, as I went to school, moved to Europe, worked odd hours.

I had many friends who were very close to their siblings, some even living with them as adults. When I would mention my siblings to friends I'd had for a time, I would leave them stunned. People who thought they knew everything about me may have only known about one sibling or another, but rarely all three. Again, it wasn't because we didn't love one another, we did -- there were just few opportunities for us to flow into and out of one another's lives, and unless you're on a date, people just don't ask, "So, how many brothers and sisters?"

For the most part, my relationship with my siblings consisted of a Holiday Hey-How-Are-Ya before we all went our own way once again. When James and I began having children, that all seemed to change. My sister was consistently in and out, but strangely, my older brother started dropping in unannounced. From Missouri. He would come by to hang out and play with the kids, who by the way, love their "Unco Wuss-O" (Uncle Russell in Baby Gracie speak). Around that same time, my younger brother got his life together, got married, and had a daughter of his own, and he's been a staple in my kids' life ever since. The sibling relationships that have developed over the last few years truly surprise me over and over.

In April, as my pregnancy with Zachary was ending and we knew he would die, James began sending out e-mail updates from the hospital. My siblings were on that e-mail list, and I honestly anticipated no more than a call a few days later, or a card at the very best. So much of that whole experience is a blur, but I remember making sure someone knew to call Russell. I knew Mom would call my younger brother Dustin and my sister Christy, and I didn't want Russell to be left out. After I got home, someone told me they were all coming. Russell would drive from Missouri to Oklahoma to pick up Christy and Dustin and bring them to Texas. They came running to me. They wouldn't let me suffer alone. Even today, eight months later, Russell sent an e-mail to encourage my heart.

Siblings at My Side
(Front L-R: Dustin, Christy, Russell Hugging Me)

I know I mentioned my excitement that they're all coming for Christmas. I remember how fun Christmas was when our parents were married, which is what I anticipate this Christmas to be. Now, I know I won't suddenly be five again. I know we won't be peering out the window together watching for a blinking red nose, and the first person who begins caroling will likely be teased until their dying day, but to have them here is like coming full circle. It's like all of Mom and Daddy's junk doesn't matter anymore. The age differences, the life circumstances, the vast span between our paths -- all of that is irrelevant. We're coming together to as brothers and sisters, as a family, to celebrate Christ, and that makes my heart glad.

Feeling Better

Our sick little baby is getting better, and I've not seen any trace of the super-high fever the school said she had. I didn't take her temperature again when we got home yesterday because the nurse just had at pick up and it was the same as it was at the phone call. When I got her home, we immediately began all the fever reduction techniques, which quickly dropped her temperature into the normal range. The highest it got back up to yesterday was 100.1, then 99.1. All of other hourly temps were at normal or below.

Gracie slept the majority of the afternoon yesterday, and was awake for a while in the evening. I made her drink lots of fluids, take some more Ibuprofen to get through the night, and eat some crackers and yogurt. We played with a new Nativity set and watched The Polar Express until we both fell asleep. I began checking her again at a little after 5:00 A.M., and her temp has only gone one tenth of a degree over normal all day. I gave her more Ibuprofen as a precaution (and to combat a probable headache that will come from sleeping so much) and some Robitussin for a cough, but otherwise, it looks like Kix and cartoons in Mom's bed will be the cure.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Changing Plans

I really detest changing plans. That is unless James brings home dinner or takes us to Hawaii unexpectedly. Changes like that are always ok by me. Today was a day of changing plans, and none of them were so nice. Allow me to complain...

We have plans for the kids to spend the night with my mom tomorrow night, then the next morning, we're all driving to College Station for an early Christmas with James' family. As I was driving home from campus after a day of already disturbed plans, I got a call from the nurse that Gracie had a high fever and needed to be picked up from school. Right now, she's being nursed back to health as we communicate with the pediatrician on whether or not we need to be seen. In the meantime, we're pushing fluids and dosing Motrin and realizing that all of our weekend plans may be cancelled. We're ok with that, but in addition to being sick, Gracie will be particularly disappointed by the plan change. So, she'll be doubly whiny from both sickness and disappointment. Good times.

In between taking temperatures and applying cold cloths, I'm looking into a completely different school in which to transfer and revising my currently replanned Spring Schedule -- the one replanned for Gracie after the original plan didn't line up with her needs. Here's how that happened: Today, I popped into school to have an advisor force add a class I wanted to take. While there, I discovered I was at the maximum number of transfer hours for my degree plan -- where has time gone? My original original plan was to transfer this Spring, but I want access to the scholarship I have access to as a member of the Honor's Society. I can't transfer out at this moment because there won't be any Phi Theta Kappa scholarship dollars again until Fall, therefore I have to stay active where I'm at. The regular student advisor suggested I reduce my six planned classes down to one as to remain active and to essentially take a break this semester.

On that note, I went by the Phi Theta Kappa advisor's office who agreed with that recommendation for schedule reduction and further recommended a transfer to UT Arlington instead of UNT. Evidently, Arlington is far more transfer friendly, and they have more abundant Phi Theta Kappa dollars. Additionally, at UTA, I can stack a Transfer scholarship, a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship, and a Sigma Kappa Delta scholarship, utilizing all the available money at once. At UNT, I cannot stack them and I have to choose which will benefit me more. Clearly, taking advantage of all the free dollars at a school that requires fewer hours to graduate and will accept more transfer hours is the best option (which is all that UT Arlington offers).

All in all, the changes with school are good, but change is still change. All the time I've devoted to planning my educational future ultimately matters little at this point and I'm back to square one, as is the case with most things around here. I'll get it figured out, particularly since I'll apparently have so much free time on my hands. In the meantime, I'm off to care for my sick little girl.

Something I just mentioned on Tuesday:

"You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose will prevail."
Proverbs 19:21 NLT

Thankful Thursday

O, that my life may also be branded with such thankfulness...


I know we've just gone through the season of thankfulness, what with Thanksgiving and all, but as a Christ-follower, I feel admonished to give thanks in all things (Eph. 5:20, Phil 4:6). Some days when dinner's burning, kids are fighting, deadlines are looming, laundry needs washing, bills need paying, errands need running, and I need rest, that sense of thankfulness is difficult to summon. Today is not one of those days, and the thankfulness I feel overwhelms me.

"Let your roots grow down into him,
and let your lives be built on him.
Then your faith will grow strong
in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness."
Colossians 2:7



A few things I'm thankful for today:


I'm thankful I have a husband who laughs at me at the most appropriate times. One thing I loved about James from the start is that he had a great sense of humor and a real appreciation for my sense of humor. I'm the first to admit that the things that tickle my funny bone are generally somewhat offbeat. I'm really into slapstick, I love Lucy, stupid jokes make me laugh for days. The other day, I was goofing around, and James was laughing in a genuine way. I couldn't help but appreciate the fact that after nearly a decade together, we still crack each other up.

I'm thankful I feel so thankful on a Thursday (as opposed to any other day of the week), which provides such lovely alliteration for my blog title. Thankful Thursday, as opposed to Thankful Saturday. Though an equal sense of thankfulness, it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely. (Yes, I am a that odd.)

I'm thankful my little boy finally decided he might like to come visit me on his vacation when he's a grown up. Bub is in this stage where he doesn't ever want to be married and he wants to leave Texas as soon as he grows up. Though I support whatever decision he ultimately makes for his life, it's hard to not take his desire to hit the road personally -- particularly when he's so young, and so vocal about those plans. Yesterday, though, he mentioned he might like to live a little closer to me than the other side of the planet (as he previously decided, once he realized the other side of the moon was not open for habitation), and he might come visit me on his vacations (if we can go to the movies).

I'm thankful my semester is over and I'm actually taking a break. I picked up some movies at Blockbuster. I've picked out some recipes to begin baking Christmas treats. I'm planning to scrapbook and do some crafts with the kids. I may even make a Christmas jumper for Gracie and my niece from a pattern I've had for two years.

I'm thankful for my family. I'm very thankful for my husband and children, but I'm also thankful my extended family, as well. We're going to my brother-in-law's house on Saturday for an early Christmas. James' family is so thoughtful, kind, and generous, and I'm looking forward to spending time with them again.

Then, my family comes to stay with us at Christmas, and I cannot wait! I cannot remember the last actual Christmas I was together with all of my siblings. (We sometimes get together before Christmas, or not). This year is going to be fun! Though I'm a grown up and I'm the one hosting, knowing they're all coming makes me feel like a kid again. I've already stocked up on Cream Cheese in anticipation of their arrival.

I can't help but remember my sister sewing Barbie clothes for me (which, by the way, are in Gracie's Barbie box), us four singing Christmas Carols by the tree, Cabbage Patch Kids and little Pianos, Oranges and uncrackable nuts in our stockings, Whitman's Samplers without fail, and the year Dad finally wised up and just started doling out cash. At present, my family is all suffering in the Midwest ice and snow storms, so I'm dreaming of a more sludgy brown Christmas with clear roads for travel. Fingers crossed for my Christmas wish!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Silver-Lining


My semester's coming to an end. I've finished three of four classes, and have one more test to take. My plan was to begin the spring semester this Friday by taking two Wintermester courses. All told, I intended to take 25 hours in the spring, though not more than 13 at a time. It sounds hard, but I had it all planned and scheduled.

Last night, though, as I was bedding down Gracie, she asked if I was "ever going to take a break from school" (emphasis added for five-year-old dramatics). After some discussion, I promised her I would at Christmas, just like her, and began mentally shifting my school schedule and the educational plans I had made. Despite the fact that in anticipation of winter classes, all of the Christmas gifts have been bought and wrapped, most of the holiday groceries have been pantry-stocked, e-mails have been sent, and arrangements have been made, today, I shifted it all on paper, and will take that break because my little one wants to cuddle and watch Sprout.

The schedule shifting today made me think about all the things we do as a parents to provide for and protect our children -- things they never know, understand, or appreciate.

Some time ago, while in a angry moment, Bub said to me, "But you never do anything for me" (emphasis added for six-year-old dramatics). He meant I never turn on his video games (which I rarely do because that's done in Dad time), but instead of saying, "You never turn on my video games," he said "anything." That evoked a response from me where I informed him of a great deal of the behind-the-scenes stuff I do, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, bed-making, shoe-finding, nose-wiping, birthday-party-planning, lunch-packing, note-signing, and so on. The list exhausted both of us, so I stopped before listing all I do, but I think my listing made him as appreciative as a (then) six-year-old can be, even if it was only for a moment. Nevertheless, he promptly went back to completely taking me for granted and expecting the laundry fairy to deliver him some clean underpants. Sigh.

Gracie will never know what sort of shifting was done for me to meet that hanging-out need in her, just as Bub doesn't comprehend all of the things that go on beyond his understanding to make his life function in a comfortable way. They will never know, understand, or fully appreciate the work and sacrifice that goes on around them. In the same way, neither do I.

Last night as we were driving home from Celebrate Recovery, Bub was telling me about this mean boy in his class. This boy is evidently a real troublemaker and has been reacting to Bub in a violent way. At first, when Bub mentioned this child, we didn't know it was so serious. We thought what had happened between the two was just some random kick in the leg. Boys are boys, and stuff like that sometimes happens, so we just told him to stay away from this little kid when he was being mean. By last night, though, Bub was in tears from the frustration of dealing with this child.

I promised to talk to the teacher today (which I've already done), but explained that sometimes people react to problems in their lives by being violent towards others. "Maybe he has alot of anger in his heart," I said. "But he always smiles when he kicks me," he replied.

Chuckling at his logic, I again assured him that I would call his teacher, but suggested we also pray for this little boy. "But I have been praying every night," he said, "even three times, and God hasn't been answering me." It was then that I had the opportunity to explain how God works behind the scenes, making connections and answering prayers in His own perfect way. I assured him that God had heard him and was definately doing something about his bad situation, even if it wasn't yet clear what that was. I explained how we could never fully know, understand, or appreciate all that God does for us to meet our needs or to work out his purpose in our lives.

Some of that was made even more clear to me last night as we were sharing our hearts at CR during this time of transition. In an attempt to encourage those we're leaving behind, we shared Ecclesiastes 3 with them. The passage I shared with the group included some verses which were very poingnant to me, both for the group, and for us personally:

"...He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.

I know that everything God does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
God does it so that men will revere him.
Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;

and God will call the past to account."
Ecclesiastes 3:11,14,15



That passage made me think about all of the amazing connections God has made in our lives to carry us along his intended path. I've shared a few of those connections with a few close friends, but today, I've really spent some time thinking about them. There are lots of days that I want to say to God, "But you don't do anything for me" (emphasis added for thirty-one-year-old dramatics), but when I look back on my life, it is clear that God connected me with this person for that ministry opportunity, or James with that job for the eventual connection to this church, and on and on and on.

God is behind the scenes at all times working things out on my behalf, doing things that are beyond my understanding to allow me to function in a comfortable way. Even when times are hard, hearts are broken, and the storm is raging, God is at work silver-lining the clouds. May I understand Him and His ways more deeply every day.


"As I was with Moses,
so I will be with you;
I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Joshua 1:5 NIV

"And we know that God causes everything
to work together for the good of those
who love God and are called
according to his purpose for them."
Romans 8:28 NLT

"You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose will prevail."
Proverbs 19:21 NLT

"For I know the plans I have for you,"
declares the LORD,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Best Friends


Gracie has a little best friend in Rachel. They get to see each other only sporatically now, but there have been times when they would spend several days a week together. Despite time or distance, their relationship doesn't seem to change. They play together, sing together, dance together, and I can imagine in the future there will be secrets shared. (They're not quite big enough for that yet!)

It surprises me to see my girl developing such true relationships,
but I do not think she could have chosen a better friend.

The Christmas Linebacker

This is one of the videos shown during the wait
at The Church at the Cross.
It made me laugh in that embarrassing sort of way.


Check out this video: Christmas Linebacker



Add to My Profile | More Videos

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Interlochen and The Journey

The Christmas festivities continued into the evening as we drove to Arlington to tour the lights in Interlochen. I'd mentioned to DeDe we may be going over there, and she warned me about the traffic -- how it could be backed up for hours. I mentioned that to James, so he scoped out a back way in and we arrived in the neighborhood about the time the sun was fully set. The timing was perfect! It was so not crowded when we arrived that James wondered if we were in the right place, but signage indicated we were. About 6:45 traffic became thicker, but we had seen all there was to see, and drove out of the crowd towards Grapevine and The Journey to Bethlehem.


My friend Jenny told me about this Nativity experience on Thursday, and I have to say, it was one of the very best Christmas things we have ever done. This church -- The Church at the Cross -- takes this event very seriously. It was completely free, but despite that, it was clear that hours and hours and loads of money had been put behind this program.

Essentially, it was a version of the arduous journey Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem. There were Roman soldiers on foot and on horseback, Wise Men, a Shepherd Guide, Rabbis, people speaking in Hebrew, Hoardes (or herds?) of live animals, fantastic costumes, specific scripture references, and a very real looking baby Jesus. Tours left every ten minutes, and though there was about an hour's wait to get going on the journey, the wait was on padded seats in the sanctuary with entertainment (hilarious videos, puppet shows, musical numbers, etc.). All told, our "Journey" was about three hours long, but the entire evening was a great deal of fun, and something we plan to attend and take our neighbor children to next year.

Miss Pattycake

Morning came early for Gracie and I. We made plans to join our friends Bruce, DeDe, Rachel and Rebecca for a Christmas Program featuring Miss Pattycake. Miss Pattycake is a jumper-clad songstress who appeals to little preschoolers. She dances and tells stories and always has a good message. Basically, she's the female, non-dinosaur, Christian version of Barney.

Gracie discovered Miss Pattycake sometime back after a playdate with Rachel, but when she did, she was already at the top of the proposed age bracket for Miss Pattycake stuff. Regardless, she still loved Miss Pattycake, so we bought alot of the videos. When DeDe invited us to come along to today's performance, I hesitated. I hesitated because Gracie really has grown, and it seemed painful to me to spend an early morning subjecting myself to someone so chipper when Gracie is just nearly too old.


But then I thought about that fact that she's nearly too old,
not too old yet.
So, we went, and I'm glad.

We were up early and at The Waffle House for a mommy/daughter breakfast at 7:00 A.M. We arrived at DeDe's house at 8:30, and were at the church in Plano before 10:00. Miss Pattycake performed for about 45 minutes, and the show was followed by the Nativity Story, crafts of airplanes and bracelets, balloon animals, and cookies for decorating (though they ran out of icing and sprinkles, so we ate our cookies plain). Gracie enjoyed her time with her friend, and I enjoyed time with mine, and she and I enjoyed time with one another. We all went to lunch afterwards, and came home for a quick nap before evening festivities began. (DeDe has the pictures of the girls with Miss Pattycake, which will be uploaded later.)


Hanging Out in Miss Pattycake's House

Waiting for the Show

Dance to the Music!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bad Mom and the Christmas Program

Bub has been practicing for a Christmas program for a little while now, though I had no idea. I knew he'd been singing carols in music class, and we'd talked about that, but that was the end of what he told me. Tuesday afternoon, he mentioned he had a program to perform in, and I argued with him about it until I pulled out the newly updated First Grade Newsletter, where there was listed a program at 2:00 P.M. Thursday. I noted it in my planner and planned to go, though I was quite irritated by the late notice, or rather, the lack of effective notice from any adult.

Wednesday afternoon, he brought home a note that said he was in a program at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday evening during a school retail fair, and needed to come dressed in a special outfit and carrying a special ornament. The thing is, though, that we have lives and we make plans more than 24 hours in advance. I'm home more than many moms, I'm sure, and yet, I don't even have time to run out and scour the town for an outfit and ornament, and then cancel plans to watch Bub stand among a crowd picking his nose (which is what he did in the last program he was in, though he was only two years old).

I left a message for the music teacher asking why there wasn't more than 24-hours notice, and she sounded generally irritated when she called back. But this is probably the third time in Bub's year that something vitally important wasn't communicated effectively, or at all. As a result of the lack of notice, Bub couldn't perform Thursday night. I talked to him about it, and he didn't care, though our inability to go made me feel like a bad mom. With some warning, I could have gone shopping and made arrangements for him to be at the school. Oh well.

I came to the school at 2:00 (the time listed on the newsletter) and watched a practice. It was clear he had been working hard, but it was also clear the music teacher was either really stressed out or somewhat unprepared. Quite a bit of the practice was her shouting into the crowd -- which strengthens my desire to homeschool the kids. There are days that I shout, but I'm mommy -- I follow it up with a cuddle and an apology. She followed up with shouts to dismiss.

Bub remembered the songs and did the dances and didn't once seem to feel embarrassed. (Though he's rambunctious, he's very private.) His growth is clear -- singing and dancing and focusing in a crowd. He sat still when he was supposed to, and remembered multiple positions across the gym. He even held hands and skipped with a girl, and wasn't totally grossed out! My little Buttercup is growing up.

(When he was a baby, I would greet him with, "What's up, Buttercup?" My mom used to make fun of me, saying when he was a high school athlete, I'd be in the crowd shouting, "Run, Buttercup, Run!" I don't think so. I have much more embarrassing things in mind. Like pulling out these pictures. Tee Hee!)

Be a rebel against gravity: Skip!
~Jessi Lane Adams

Hi Mom!


(On a side note, when I was looking for a cute quote about skipping, I noticed the above mentioned author seemed to be the authority, offering many quotes about the art of the skip. Is that what she does for her day job? What a life!)

Grumbly

My friend had her baby (on Tuesday, but I'm late posting), and he's a sweetie! He's the funniest little guy. He spent nearly the whole time I was visiting the hospital growling and grumbling. The nurse checked his oxygen level because grunting is common for a little having difficulty breathing, but he was perfectly fine, and he was more growling than grunting. It was the funniest thing I've ever heard from someone so young!

I told my friend he was saying all he needed to say in life before going home to his four sisters where he would never be heard again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Perspective


James ran over someone once. It wasn't his fault. He was in college, driving across campus, and though he had the legal right of way, someone on a bike wheeled right out on front of him. James ran him over. Not the "ba-bump, ba-bump" kind of running over, but a mangled bike sort of running over, from what I understand. This guy's day was already ruined from the having been run over and from the loss of his bike, but to to make it worse, he got the ticket for the accident. The run-over guy got the ticket, not James. Still, James ran over someone, and I don't let him forget it.

I, on the other hand, have never run over anyone. Despite that testament to my clean driving record, James complains about my driving all the time. He makes faces and frightening noises and grabs onto that little bar on the ceiling at the inside of the car door. (I think it's called a suicide bar, but I'm not sure -- maybe that's just what James calls it when he's riding with me.) Anyway, he complains that I drive too fast and relates my methods to aggression. I, on the other hand, believe that I get us where we need to go in a timely and efficient manner. It's about perspective. I then remind him that there's only one of us who has ever run anyone over, and that person is not me. That fact trumps any complaint -- fault or not.

But I almost ran someone over yesterday, and that made me think a little more about perspective. It wouldn't have been my fault, but whatever. Here's the story: I was bringing lunch to my friend Leslie's house. We hadn't had a chance to hang out in a while, we had some coordinatable free time, and she's having a baby in 14 days, so lunch it was. I'd gone to Sonic for burgers and Diet Dr. Peppers with easy ice and a squeeze of fresh lime (Side note: I LOVE Sonic. I get to participate in such unabashed pretention). After my order was delivered, I looked behind me and began backing out. So I'm moving in a rearward direction with the white reverse notification lights informing the world that I'm BACKING UP, when all of a sudden I hear the "Skiiirk" of a car hop doing a hockey stop.

I was looking over my right shoulder as I reversed (you know, that right-arm-slung-around-the-passenger-seat obligatory rear glance), and didn't see her as she zoomed up to my left -- though I already looked that way before the backing ever began. (Seriously, James. I looked.) The "Skiiirk" sound caused me to look left again, and there was the carhop, wobbly on her skates, top heavy from her parka, trying to right her Route 44's. I observed her looking SO MISERABLE. She was a skating waitress, she was freezing cold, and she had just nearly been run over probably for the millionth time (I'm sure I'm not the only one who nearly runs over carhops, James -- the keyword here being nearly. As in not running her over, like you might have done.) Looking at her, I thought, "Ugh, now that's a job I don't want," and I was immediately aware of how my perspective has changed.

You see, when I was 14 years old, I begged my mom to let me work at Sonic. We lived in this little town in northern Oklahoma that had two drive-in restaurants. Both would employ you at fourteen, but Sonic was the coolest and most sought-after job, and it required a note from a parent approving child labor. (The other didn't -- child labor was okay by them.) Everybody who was anybody at West Junior High worked at Sonic, and I wanted to too. "You get paid like a dollar an hour, plus you get about twenty bucks a day in tips," was my argument to my mom, but she said "No," and went on about preserving childhood and made various other comments that seemed like complete nonsense at the time. Bah. I was mad. Really mad. And I stayed mad for a good six months or so until it was summer and I lived in a waterpark and came to realize how right she had been. And that's what I thought about after nearly running over the carhop -- how my perspective has vastly shifted from her job being the most amazing thing I could ever do with my life to it now being one of the most miserable things I can currently imagine.

As the day progressed and I continued thinking about perspective, I thought some about Zachary dying, and about our other miscarriages, and about the hard struggle that has accompanied our family's desire for growth. I was thinking about how I'm still so prone to shift and sway because of the influence of my emotional response. And here I will interject (can I do that in my own train of thought?):

I do not think it is wrong to mourn my children or to be frustrated by my struggle. I do not think being sad when by baby died was an incorrect emotion, nor is being sad for a long time afterward. I do not think being active about working towards understanding and personal change as a result of this catalyst in my life is inappropriate. And I think anyone else going through this deserves space and grace and time to do all that needs to be done in the way of growth and maturation. ("Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:4)

I've been honest about being wrong in some of my responses, and about my struggle to be thoroughly happy for my friends, but what I've noticed in myself is that I seem to be on my big, fat, spiritual laurels, taking a rest here on the victim bench. Even yesterday it was clear. I'm lunching with my friend who commented about her sciatic nerve and about how her baby is moving way too much for her to sit as she is, when another friend comes in to announce that she's also pregnant and is just worn out. I smile and nod in a understanding way, but inside I'm pulling out the dead baby trump card.

I know that my response is probably natural and probably still expected at this stage in the game, but I live there way too often. People complaining to me about the minor struggles of pregnancy can be equated to complaining to a homeless person about the struggles of home-ownership, and evokes very little sympathy in me. "You know how it is, homeless person: the weather gets cold, so you have to turn the heat on, and just when it gets comfortable and toasty, it heats up again outside, so you have to turn the heat back off. Living in a house is such a pain." (Discussing major struggles of pregnancy I'm okay with, as long as we're dealing with the scientific aspect of the pregnancy and not the fact that you'll be bringing home a sweet-smelling snuggly little bundle of joy. I'm never hesitant to share what's worked and not worked in the Petri dish that is my pregnant body. I can even draw you a chart, but I digress.)

I've become comfortable feeling sorry for myself. I've been wondering if God cares. I've been living in the past.

Perhaps far more revealing and helpful than the questions, "Does God know what's happening to me?" or "Does God care about the pain I'm feeling?" are these questions we each need to ask ourselves:

**Do I know what is happening to me?
**Do I care about what God desires to do in my life?

God knows what he is about in your life, but do you know what God is about in your life? Do you have an awareness of what God is doing?

Sometimes that awareness comes later, with a little clearer perspective on the past. When I look back in my life, I can see clearly how God has changed me. I've been broken, shattered, beaten, smashed, pruned, and chiseled on, and I didn't like the feeling of brokenness any more than you do. But I can tell you this -- I thank God for what he's done. Every chisel blow, every hammer blow, every cut of the knife, every slice into my innermost being, every tear, every pain, every hurt, every disappointment, every disillusionment, every moment of despair has been worth it all just to know in my heart that God has my all...Put your brokenness into the perspective of God's greater work in you.

-- Charles Stanley
The Blessings of Brokenness


So, that's what I'm doing: shifting perspective. In doing that, I feel like the wrestling match is over, and I'm not even sure who won. I feel like God and I are in a laughing heap on the ground, and we've forgotten why we were fighting in the first place. I feel like a weight has been lifted and I can stand up and stretch.

Will I tailspin again? Maybe. I am, after all, a human. I know a spiritual thing or two, but that doesn't necessarily mean I do it. I'm fallible and frustrating and completely not alone. The fact is, though, that Zachary died and no amount of complaining or reminding will bring him back again. If I really think about it, do I even want him back? Do I want to snatch him away from eternal bliss of being the neverending presence of my Lord and Savior just for another moment with fallible and frustrating me? Uh, no.

Don't misunderstand, I miss him. I miss what I think should have been in him. But more than that, I am blessed by what has been done by him -- even if it's only been done in me. And as for that dead baby trump card, I no longer plan to carry the deck.



"My child, listen to what I say,
and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom! [and perspective, in my opinion]
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. [Oh, Thank God!]
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will fill you with joy."

Proverbs 2:1-10 TLB


"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight."

Proverbs 3:5-6

Clown Revealed

James called to tell me the mystery has been solved. The clown who called out to him during the parade was a coworker whose girlfriend volunteers every year. Because of her connection, he spent his day as a banner-carrying clown. James was excited to know who called out to him, but I say "BOO" to the loss of intrigue and mystery.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Beautiful Women

My friend Marcie sent this to me today.
It's gorgeous and worth sharing...



"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."
Proverbs 31:30

Oh no, I have a problem...


My friend confessed a deep, dark secret sometime back, and I remember thinking, "Now, that's silly." I now realize I'm afflicted with the same disorder.

When she posted this, I thought some of us have better things to do than to stay up all night and read blogs. Some of us have to stay up all night and watch TiVo'ed episodes of Cold Case. But, I realize now this is merely another affliction we share. Some of you are faithful, and for that I am grateful. But some of you are lost in the bliss of birthdays and new blue jeans -- you know who you are! I need updates people, c'mon!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Children's Parade


Our morning was spent at the Neiman-Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade in Downtown Dallas. We left a little later this morning than we thought would be necessary because someone was up until 3:30 A.M. playing video games like someone is still in college, and that someone had an unfortunate response to the alarm clock when it began screaming at 6:00 A.M. (Just so we're clear, it wasn't me. I always have an unfortunate response to the alarm clock.)

Despite the somewhat late start and a brief stop for breakfast hotdogs, we got downtown in a reasonable amount of time, found a great parking spot in a cheap lot, and arrived at the parade area before it became really crowded. This was our first year to go to the NMACP, so we didn't know we could take our folding chairs. We brought a blanket to sit on (excellent for marking our our parade-viewing territory), but ended up just standing on the side of the street and still had an excellent place in which to view the parade.

The floats and firetrucks had T.V. and literary characters on them (like Clifford, TMNT, Madeline, Frog and Toad, etc.), and the inflatables were of Frosty the Snowman, Curious George, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Santa Claus, Hello Kitty, Three Penguins, and Paddington Bear. To spice up our experience, there was some kind of holiday heckler behind us shouting "Merry Christmas" at the most peculiar times.

True story: The Neiman Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade enjoys crowds of more than 350,000 in downtown Dallas, is seen in syndication on more than 350 television stations in 159 markets across the country, and has become a holiday tradition for thousands of families throughout North Texas and coast to coast. So, we're standing on the side of the road in a city where we don't live or do any day-to-day business and we're buried among this huge crowd watching a parade of loads of strangers.

About halfway through the parade, this banner-holder dressed like a clown and leading a float looks over at us, calls my husband by name, and waves to him. James shouts, "Hey," and waves back, then looks at me and wonders aloud who that was. We still don't know the clown's true identity, and don't know that we ever will. I have to say that even though we don't know who it was who said "Hey" to James, and even though it was some banner-carrying clown and not the mayor or anything, it was oddly fantastic for my husband to be picked out of a crowd of hundreds of thousands for a personal greeting. Weird, right? (Me, not the greeting. No, that was weird, too.)

Amidst the waving beauty queens, morning news celebrites, floats and floating characters, marching bands and animals were three of the most unusual parade troupes. There were three different troupes of older women just doing different dance routines. I can't remember the name of two of them, but one I recall that was particularly funny was The Red Hot Mamas from Coeur d'Alene, ID. This troupe of middle-aged to older women did a little dance number around tinselled strollers. One was even pushed in a wheel chair! There was no point to these routines at all, and there were no miscellaneous troupes of young women dancers to balance it out (save for some high school troupe dressed like the Rockettes who marched and didn't dance at all). They were so random and so funny that I intend to look into what it takes to get into a parade. Perhaps that could be a goal for later life -- to join a peculiar parade troupe and travel the world.

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