Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Knew I Was In Trouble When I Got to the Gas Station Without a Screwdriver and Other Tales of Recent Woes

     Well, not exactly recent "woes" because that sounds so self-pitying and whiny. Now, to be honest, I can be self-pitying and whiny, but desire NOT to be. So, let me clarify: woes should be characterized as "hardships." Sounds more biblical, huh? So, onto the screwdriver part. Our newer used car Tim and I recently purchased I call the "Wannabe Lexus Camry" because it has fancy Lexus hubcaps but is a dented and scratched up 12 year-old Camry. It had very low mileage and we were thrilled with the deal we got. We needed the car to save gas and wear and tear on our almost 9 year-old Suburban and because Elena will be driving independently soon. So, I made the painful discovery several weeks back that the lever next to the driver's seat does NOT open up the gas tank door and neither do my keys jammed into it. I needed a screwdriver to jam the door open. I had put one in my car, but couldn't find it and forgot about it besides. When I realized, with an empty tank of gas, that I needed a screwdriver, after having gone out of my way late at night to get gas, I was NOT HAPPY. I was also too embarrassed to ask the gas station attendant if he had one. So, off to my house on fumes I drove. I did get gas the next day and all was well. I have since discovered that if I stick a tube of lipstick to hold the lever up then I can open the gas can door just fine. Who would have thought how many uses I could get out of a tube of lipstick?!
At the beginning of the semester....
     And then there was the situation with my Sadistics professor....Yes, you read that right. Let's just say that this paragraph could be titled, "I Knew I Was In Trouble When I Arrived At My Statistics Final ON TIME and All Nine of My Classmates Were Already There Getting The First Part of A Two Hour Lecture That We Would Be Tested On Later That Night." Let me add something about a picky professor who seemingly delights in tormenting people, my utter exhaustion, and him failing me on the spot. I will say, in a word: injustice. I had so prayed that I would pass this class and, even though I cried on all three trains on the ride home from that nightmare final, I felt a peace that God would come through and that I would be awarded the paltry "C" I had rightfully earned.
     And I was. After two e-mails and many prayers, my Statistics professor called me 2 days before Christmas to inform me that I had earned a C. He had some negative remarks about my class work the last three weeks of class, too. I pressed him on my most recent test scores and they were an A and a B. I bluntly told him that I felt I had done rather well recently. There was one area, and in his mind THE MOST IMPORTANT part of statistics that had confused me. Whatever. He also thanked me for making the class enjoyable. Yes, I was a bit of a class clown because that man tormented us at times with his teaching style and making jokes and good-natured fun of HIM was a coping mechanism. He happened to like it. Good for me. Good for him. He was actually rather sweet on the phone. I hung up, relieved and grateful that God had come through for me.
....at the end of the semester
     And then there were the windstorms. This paragraph could be titled, "I Knew I Was In Trouble When  News Reports Indicated A Prediction of DAYS Without Electricity, 'But We're Working On It.'" The cold, the DARKNESS, the groping around, the discouragement of life being interrupted, the struggle to figure out where I was gong to charge my iPod and my phone, the rotting food in the fridge, the expense of eating out, trips to the laundromat, and on and on and on. Not to mention needing to study in a quiet, warm place with lights. Where was I going to study?! That was a pressing question and I had a hard time getting in the studying that I needed to do. I think it did affect my grades. But what was I going to do? It was challenging to be without power for 5 days. We had never been without power for more than 12 hours or so. There's a first time for everything, right?
     But the lights and the heat and the power sources did come on. There was something awe-inspiring about seeing that line of massive Edison work vehicles slowly making their way through the streets to restore power. It was cool, even as I waited for heat.
     And so, the Christmas season has just about passed. It was a strange season. I don't think I wrapped one Christmas present. My girls did all the wrapping. I was the least excited about this Christmas than I had ever been. I don't know why. That was kind of discouraging. Yet, I enjoyed the hymns and Chistmas carols at church more than I ever had. Perhaps my focus is cleared and the "fluffy" things of the world are less appealing?I'd like to think so.
     So I have a week or so before the New Year begins. Time to rethink, re plan, regroup and ask God for a fresh vision and a new supply of grace and encouragement. I know he won't disappoint me. I just need to ask Him.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Madonna & Child and a Covered Belly

     I was in Costco this morning having my groceries rung up for me when the man standing in line behind me says, in a thick foreign-born accent, "You look like a madonna." I looked at him and said, "Well, I do have six kids."
     Shocked, he replied, "Madonna has six kids?!"
     "No," I replied, "I have six kids. You know, like a 'Madonna and Child'"?" He looked at me, puzzled. I went on to explain, "You kow the portraits from centuries ago with the mother figure holding a baby? She was called a 'madonna with child.'" Both he and register clerk looked confused and puzzled. I dropped the issue, mumbling, "I was trying to deflect the compliment."
     Not that looking like Madonna is a compliment. I don't even think it's true, except that I do have a hair color and style that is similar to some pictures I've seen of her. That woman changes her hair style and color so frequently that I have no idea what she currently looks like. She also, at least in the past, would frequently bare her belly. I DO NOT bare my belly. It isn't attractive to view stretch marks, cellulite, fat, and extra flabby skin on a 41 year old woman who's had six big babies.. That is the view you'd have of me if I pulled a classic Madonna wardrobe attempt. Even if it wasn't immodest (which it most definitely is), it would be gross.
     In fact, I had to tell a disappointed Tim that, despite all my weight loss, the belly flab is here to stay, short of liposuction. Part genetic inheritance from my mom and grandma, bearing lots of big babies, and too much weight gained over the years and you have my unsightly belly. Oh well. I don't really care. I have shrunk it with MUFA's (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) foods described in the Flat Belly Diet and I certainly do care about the health risks of belly fat. I do abdominal exercises everyday. There's nothing more I can do. So, it is what it is.
     It triggered a weird memory, though. While waiting for my doctor during my 38th week pregnancy appointment, I got up to pick up a magazine. While reaching for it, I heard his "tap, tap" at the door. I put the magazine down. As my doctor entered, he picked up the magazine and said, "Do you want to read about Madonna?" On the cover of Vanity Fair that month was, you guessed it, Madonna. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "No." Because really, I didn't. He tossed the magazine on top of the others and said, 'Yeah, who cares." Oddly enough, she was an OB patient of his for both of her pregnancies! I suspect she returned from London just to see him again for her prenatal care with her second baby. What's ironic about that scenario is that he is one of the few non-family people that she should have bared her belly to! Anyway, I am positive that he cared about Madonna Ciccone, the patient, but not really Madonna the celebrity. And I certainly did not look like her then, nor have I ever tried.
     Weird. Really weird.
Madonna - the real one

Me, the real me (Yeah, I didn't think so. Perhaps the guy was new to the LA area and was on hyper-alert for celebrity look-alikes.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Smoothing Out A Rough Start

     On the last day of August school began with a bang for all of us, except Tim who started at his new school several weeks earlier. Among the eight people in our family, five of us started at new schools. Being math minded these days, I calculated that that is over 60% of us making adjustments that have been, well, rather rough at spots. Daisy, new to kindergarten, has fared well. Camille, surprisingly at Pasadena High School this year, has also adjusted remarkably well, too. She has new friends, is doing well in her studies, and has said, "I'm so glad I was home schooled for as long as I was, but I'm glad to be in school now." However, the rough spots for her were managing a sticky locker, a really crowded school with long distances between classes, and figuring out that she can't eat small snacks throughout the day like she used to at home. Having an ornery, mean English teacher who scolds students for sneezing too loudly has been an interesting adjustment as well. Her Spanish teacher is an absolute blast, however, and her stories of his off-the-wall ways have me in stitches. (I think I might need to bring him home - or ban him.) All in all, she loves school and I'm pleased with how diligently and responsibly she has approached her school work. She's also made some really nice friends which has been a source of comfort and encouragement to her as well as relief for me.
     Tim has had some rough times with his new job location, although he did pick up an extra hour of teaching and extra pay. Thank you, Lord! He's had an adjustment to his classes, too, which has proven to be better overall. I am at Los Angeles Trade Techincal College in downtown Los Angeles just blocks from Staples Center. I think I've had the roughest adjustment in figuring out traffic patterns, length of commute, parking, location of my classes, and pick-up and drop-off arrangements for my girls, childcare for Julia, and overall time management regarding when I can carve out time for studying. I've struggled with anger and resentment at how hard it's been to adjust to all the changes and the tremendous stress and pessure I have felt. I had to acknowledge that my bitterness was towards God and that I somehow blamed him for these difficuluties. As much as I felt he directed me into my current season, I also made these choices. All that being said, I'm confident I'm where God wants me.
     For starters, I love being away from home for a couple of hours a week and away from dishes, laundry, errands, and monotony. I cherish the academic learning environment because for so many years that intellectual part of my brain was on a bit of a break. I also feel envisioned with specific, measurable goals and a loose time frame that brings comfort, anticipation, and ambition. I have lacked a clear vision for so long that part of me struggled with depression and discouragement. And yet, being home and having babies for the last 16 years has brought me to the place I am and has made me the woman I've become. Those precious, challenging, beautiful and trying babies have been the change agents God has used to refine me and mold me and bring about the vision I feel he's given me. Those years and my precious daughters, along with my hardworking husband, are undeniably the most important people in my life and will always hold front and center in my heart. Most of my ambition comes from a desire to serve them, provide for them ,and be an example for them.
    Lastly, Julia has started pre-school two mornings a week last week. She loves it and is so excited to go. This pre-school class is taught by a wonderful, experienced pre-school taecher in an affordable co-op  situation. Two mornings a week I have almost three hours to myself to do...what else? Study at the library. (Although I must confess, I have gone on a couple of shopping trips, too.) Julia needs an environment with her same-age peers for her speech therapy and I need a block of undistracted time to study. It is nice to know, though, that I can run errands, clean house, go out to lunch with a friend, go to a doctor's appointment, or do "whatever" without Julia while giving Elena plenty of time to study.
     Regarding Elena, her physics class is very rigorous. She also had intense lifeguard training the first few weeks of school which resulted in her certification as a lifeguard. I was so proud of her! She will be applying for a position at the Rose Bowl in the next few weeks.  Also in the next few weeks she will be starting her driver's license classes and training. It is a very full season for her as well. She remains a tremendous helper to me.
     And....drum roll please...I finally have Julia's speech therapy sessions scheduled at the girls' elementary school which coincides perfectly with me being able to help out in each of my three girls' classes. Amazing! Astonishing! Everything has fallen into place so beautifully! Yay!  
      Now that I've been in school for over a month and slugging my way through Chemistry and Statistics, I've felt more settled with my school routine. Now I just have to persevere through the semester and finish well. So, at this point I'm ready for a nap!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Growling Belly and Gurgling Bubbles

     These last few weeks of summer have been challenging and amazing in a variety of ways. I'm almost at the end of my 20 day fast with the Lord's Table II and I've lost just under 15 pounds. Wow! I'm thinner than I've been in 6 years and I feel so much better. It hasn't been without its unique hardships, however. Planning meals and cooking for a family of 7, and having the audacity to try new recipes...what was I thinking?! And yet, I was told they were tasty. Hearing the *crunch* *crunch* of my little Sunday School students munching their Saltines almost made me grab the whole sleeve of crackers and inhale them like Cookie Monster does with cookies on Sesame Street. I refrained, however. Or lying in bed at night and hearing my belly growling and churning and finally surrendering to sleep despite the discomfort. Oddly enough, waking up not so hungry, though. It has been a juice and smoothie fast, so I haven't struggled with low blood sugar. In fact, I've had more energy than normal and have been able to get in a fairly rigorous swim workout every morning.
      Ah! The return of my first-love sport - swimming.
Before: July of '10 just before starting The Lord's Table I
     I swam competitively as a child. I have vivid memories of weekend-long invitational meets and waiting for my race to be up. I remember the nervousness as I got to those blocks and then *pow!* the gun went off and so did I. I wasn't a fast swimmer or particularly talented at any stroke, but I enjoyed it. In high school I began to swim competitively again. The exercise throughout my high school years was so helpful to me. I still wasn't a very fast swimmer, but I had fun.
     And so now, in my early 40's I've found a way to start swimming again and oh, how soothing and invigorating it is! I delight in watching the bubbles I exhale in the water gurgle up to the surface as I pull my arms through the water. One particular and lovely memory I will always cherish occurred last week. I was in an outdoor pool and doing back stroke kicking with a kickboard. I stretched my body out as straight as I could and pulled my tummy muscles in. As I kicked, I felt myself floating and gliding through the water. I gazed at the gauzy clouds above and the blue sky and breathed in a sweet, enchanted breath. "Oh, Lord, how beautiful the sky is this morning!" I sensed God looking down at me and smiling, keeping close watch over every breath I took, every move of my muscles, every wet hair on my head swaying in the water....and lovingly enjoying my pleasure in the beautiful morning he had created for me.
     Oh, what a glorious and precious Creator who calls me by name!
After The Lord's Table II - August '11 - 40 lbs. lighter

Friday, August 12, 2011

Funny People Should Be Banned or Move in With You

     Let me explain the title. This last week, I was observing one of my daughters' swimming classes. Her instructor is F*U*N*N*Y. His energy is over the top. In the spring, Daisy had this same instructor and I remember hearing him clear across the pool. I then saw him run around in circles on the pool deck yelling, very loudly, "Okay kids! Let's jump in!" and then seeing him jump in the pool with a loud splash. He would enthusiastically teach the kids their requisite swimming skills and his instruction was very thorough, enthusiastic, and energetic. Daisy later called him "crazy" because he "runs around and then jumps in the pool." I thought he was a great instructor. He got Daisy swimming her "scoops" with her head face down and not holding her nose. Yeehaw!
Daisy's swim teacher "coaching" her class on their win!
     Fast forward to a couple of days ago. The instructors and students of several classes joined together for a rambunctious, splashy game of "sharks and minnows." He carefully instructed his "Advanced Tiny Tot" class to stay near him against the wall so that his whole class got safely across. He then proudly and loudly exclaimed, "MY WHOLE CLASS GOT ACROSS!" When one of the other instructors made a move to tag one of the instructor's students he jumped on her and dunked her in the water. She came up laughing as all of his students made it across. I couldn't help but laugh at his antics. That just scratches the surface. There are various other amusing things he does and says that make me chuckle. His energy and sharp wit combined make an entertaining person to watch. In fact, he would be fun to take home. He would probably have our whole family laughing on a regular basis. And wouldn't that be a scream?
     But, of course, how would I explain the 25 year old man who suddenly started living with us? He's our family comedian that we feed so that he'll make us laugh? No. That wouldn't work. And what 25 year old man would ever want to live with our crazy family of girls and Tim's quirky ways? Yeah. I didn't think so. That would be too weird. I don't set out to be purposely weird. Really. I don't.
     The next option would be to ban him. When someone is that funny they shouldn't be around. It's too hard not to see them on a regular basis because the laughter becomes addictive, sort of. I remember one person years ago who had me in stitches on a regular basis. I don't see him anymore and quite frankly, I miss him at times. He should have been banned way before I met him because I don't like missing people. It hurts my heart in this raw, gushy spot.
     My sister's boyfriend, Dave, is another very funny person. His humor is d...r...y... and quick. He says the wackiest, funniest things so quietly and quickly, that if you're not paying attention, you'll miss it. I usually catch it and am laughing myself an aerobic workout. He hasn't moved in with us, but he comes over regularly enough so that it keeps me in a funny fix. I make sure I feed him tasty food so that he keeps coming by.
     I don't know why I like funny people so much. I just do. I appreciate the intelligence behind many styles of humor. I don't know many people who are funny without being very intelligent and perceptive as well. Perhaps I so appreciate a good laugh every now and again because it offsets the gloom I feel at times. Or, perhaps I sense it's a foretaste of what I know eternity will be like. And how how I long for that day at times. People erroneously say that hell will be fun because they will be partying with all their friends there. No, not even close. Heaven will be that deliciously wonderful place filled with laughter of all different kinds; the kind of laughter that bubbles from your mouth and fills your entire being with deep, penetrating JOY and magnificent delightIn fact, when I think of those I love that have passed on, I remember their laughter quite clearly. And of course, I then miss them. That's why they've been banned. And at the right time, I'll move in with them!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Soothing Swinging and Seasons of Life

     I went out to my backyard tonight to swing. Yes, you read that right - swing. In my childhood years my mom had a hammock swing hooked up in our family room. She would swing me so many times one way, and so many times another way. It was "vestibular therapy" to straighten out the crossed wires in my brain, or something like that. I don't know how much benefit was gained, but it was fun! Throughout my childhood, I loved to swing on swings. In my adolescence I would swing on the swings at the little neighborhood park down the street from my house. One particularly sad Christmas night stands out now as I'm reflecting back. I was lonely on Christmas night, so I walked down the street in the dark and swang for about an hour or two. Quite a sad sight....but the swinging was therapeutic - once again. Somehow, strangely, I didn't feel so lonely anymore...
    A tense, painful conversation tonight-
    Embarrassing, yet tempting, glances I noticed earlier today (for crying out loud! What's wrong with you?! I'm an old lady with 6 kids! Please do NOT look at me like that young, handsome boy-man!)-
     And the loneliness - still there....different expectations, different situations, different people....same feeling
     And so, off to the swings I went to cry and pray and talk to my Friend. As I swung higher and higher and relished the dark night sky and bright, white stars, my soul was stirred and drawn to Jesus, my BFF - truly and amazingly. I discussed with him various things, I cried, I felt my tears drip down my face and wondered what my makeup looked like now....The swinging was so soothing to my jerked up, raw emotions.
     It seems to me that swinging can be quite helpful to many people. I think it might hearken back to the moving, rocking and calming sensations a baby experiences in its mother's womb. At night, as I would lay down for the evening, my babies -all of them -would become wakeful and start moving all around. The lulling movement of the day had ceased for a considerable period and they were now awake! Yee ha! And I was trying to settle down for the night. Preparation for that newborn period I'm sure.
     Maybe, just maybe, the loneliness and struggles I face at times are the stilling period of the night during various seasons of my life. Perhaps God is calling me to "stir" during those periods toward Him, toward his word, his promises, his truth. A birth is impending, perhaps into a new season, perhaps into a new life that he is preparing me for. Babies need healthy muscle tone and all that activity in the womb prepares them for health and vitality after their birth. Perhaps my night swinging and praying, crying, "having it out" with God is preparing me for this next season. Okay....so who knows? I seem to liken so much to pregnancy, childbirth and mamas and babies that perhaps I'm taking the analogy too far. But I can't help but wonder if those pictures and correlations are how God speaks to me....how he knows the language I understand....

Friday, July 22, 2011

With Sympathy....

     So, there I was. I knew I couldn't put it off any longer. My stepbrother, oh so tragically young (not even 50) passed away this week. Tim and some of our girls were heading out later that night for the long drive to where the funeral would be taking place. I needed to purchase a card to express our condolences. My plan was to send it in several weeks when perhaps the initial flood of cards, flowers, meals, and calls had lessened. I wanted my card to be one more reminder that there are relatives who cared and were sorry for their beloved's loss.
     In the greeting card section at Target, I warily started looking through the cards. Sending wishes your way that you find comfort in knowing how they are in a better place now.... or So sorry for your loss, words can't express how much he meant to us... and I'll never forget his smile, his laughter...it will live on in our memories... There were cards that were religious, like With sympathy...praying that you feel God's comfort in this time of loss. I definitely wanted a card that included that I was praying, not just wishing, that they would find God's comfort, not just "comfort." How do you adequately express how sad you are and how much you want to bring them some measure of comfort, even with a silly card?
     As I browsed through card after card, finding one or two I liked, tears bubbled up and trickled down my cheeks. I was so relieved that I was alone in the aisle. I couldn't help but feel the stinging sadness, yanking at my heart, of losing my stepbrother. I imagined the effort it took for  his wife and kids to sort of momentarily put their grief, shock, and pain off  in a corner in a massive box labeled with a jagged and precise pen that said: GRIEF-OPEN LATER AND WRESTLE WITH AND PROCESS FOR YEARS AND YEARS ON END. In my troubled spirit I couldn't push away an irreverent desire to find a bold, brutally honest card that read something like this:
With Sympathy...

Death sucks!
I hate it!
All that is wrong with the world has to do with death!
I'm so mad that you lost this man you so loved, A man that had one of the kindest hearts ever!

And when you feel angry, too, or just want to cry - I'll be here for you
     Something to that effect. However,  Leanne showed up after several minutes of my card-perusing and popped a card into my hand. "I like this one," she declared. That Leanne of mine has such a perceptive, discerning mind that as I looked at the card, I noticed it was one of my top choices. I immediately placed it into the cart and off we were. "Mom," Leanne inquired, "why were you crying?"
     "Oh," I muttered, "just because." I really need to get better at explaining things.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's All Those Q?U?E?S?T?I?O?N?S !!!!

     Want to know what one of the most wearying parts of my job is as a mother of six girls ages 2 to 15? All their questions! Yikes!  I actually try to give intelligent, thoughtful, educational, and appropriate answers to each one of them, mostly out of habit. Sometimes I find myself muttering, "I don't know....Huh? What was that you said?"
      My youngest child says, "WHY?!" to everything.
     "Julia, please come here for your bath."
     "Because it's time for your bath. You need a bath tonight."
     And then I have another daughter who notices EVERYTHING and feels the need to comment on my decisions in question form.
     "I thought you said we would go to the mall today. Aren't we going like you said?" and
     "So and So and So and So took the last of the M&M's and you told them not to. Are you going to do anything about it?" and
     "Didn't you say we were going to have pizza for dinner tonight? Why are we eating chicken?"
     I have yet another daughter who is uber-curious. I've just answered the phone and am engaged in a new conversation. "Who is it?! Who's calling? Who's on the phone?" To which I answer with irritation and a harsh whisper, "So and So! Now stop interrupting me!" Sometimes I find myself purposely not answering her questions because she never stops wanting to know everything there is to know about anything and everything that is going on around her.
     And there is the frequent line of questioning that goes something like this: "Where is my purple thingy?"
     "What purple thingy?"
     "You know - the purple thingy that we got last week at that place we went to?"
     "What place?"
     "Oh, never mind!"
     Yet another oft-heard conversation in our house: "Where are my shoes?"
     "Where you left them."  
      I have yet another daughter who will say something like, "Why is the moon white?" to which I reply, "Go ask your Dad!" Tim has lots of questions referred to him because he is Mr. Smarty Pants, really and truly.

     UGH! and SIGH...I'm sure I'm doing something wrong by either 1) being irritated by all my daughters' questions, or 2) raising daughters that have so many questions! I'm not sure which one it is, but I suspect I'm doing something wrong by feeling irritated. I find it mentally fatiguing to always be "on" and having to answer questions, though. When my girls were little their whining was really challenging for me. Now that they still whine, but can do it articulately, and with questions, I'm even more challenged!
     I think it boils down to the fact that I really like my own space to keep my thoughts to myself and not have demands made of me. I want to be selfish and self-absorbed and all those questions interrupt my own internal dialogue, forcing me to think and consider and attend to their inquiring minds. Sometimes I feel that they need correction for asking questions out of rudeness or challenging authority, when they should accept the situation they are faced with and not question so many things.I take some of those questions as a sign of discontent and an attitude of ungratefulness and complaining. Not always, though. Sometimes they are just curious. And being curious is a very beneficial quality that I hope they maintain for the rest of their lives.
     I myself am a curious, question-asker. There is almost no subject that bores me. I learn so much from asking people questions and engaging in fact-finding missions with complete strangers. The stories I hear! The people I meet! The things they tell me! Wow! It really is fascinating. Everyone has a story and as I listen and observe and discern the heart and spirit of a person I've just met who is sharing their story, I discover evidences of God's imprint on them, his hand on their life, or their need for his compassion and wisdom. And there I am. Sometimes I reflect his care for them , and sometimes I don't.
     Now if only I could remember that my girls have their story, too, and that I'm called to reflect his compassion, patience, and gentleness to them, too. Oh, Lord, give me wisdom, the right answers,  and mental endurance! Oh, and please, add in a heavy dose of humor, too!
     As a side note, have you ever noticed that boring people are NOT curious?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Hate Goodbyes

     I am really bad at goodbyes. I'd rather just not say goodbye and leave while the "leavers" don't notice. I don't mean to be rude, although this certainly can be viewed as quite rude. I just hate goodbyes. I'm still trying to figure out why. Last week presented an opportunity at getting better at goodbyes. My neighbors from across the street were relocating to their retirement home in Arizona after having sold their home.
     Only a few short weeks ago (almost unbelievable in this real estate market - and yet, their home is fabulous and showed extremely well), I first noticed the "For Sale" sign appear in the front yard. Tim hadn't told me he had a conversation with Tom weeks prior in which Tom had mentioned that they were going to be selling their home.
     I saw the sign. I started crying.
     Needless to say, I chatted with them throughout the weeks that escrow liteally ripped by. I kept going over the friendly conversations with Kathy, who had lived in the neighborhood for over 50 years. I recounted all the talks we had on the front lawn about various things. She was so direct, yet kind and thoughtful. She was a godly woman who was devoted to her husband. I saw her as a kind of mother, although I have never tried to replace my mom. How could I? She was one of a kind! And I mean that in the most positive way.
     I was helped in the gradual process of saying goodbye to Tom and Kathy by meeting the new neighbors. And when the neighborhood goodbye party beckoned, I went and scoialized with all my neighbors. But I didn't say goodbye to Tom and Kathy - yet. I knew they were leaving early the next morning. Sure enough, I noticed the huge moving van out in front of their house by at least 7 am. I kept making excuses as to why I couldn't go over just then to say goodbye. Eventually, as they were about to leave, I was able to get some pictures and say goodbye. It wasn't so bad. It was satisfying to say goodbye in the right and proper way.
     There have been other goodbyes this springtime, too. I had my last MOPS meeting a few weeks ago. Those women at my table were very sweet and fun to get to know. With school plans for this fall, I don't have any extra time for MOPS next fall. Besides, I'm really eager to volunteer at a nearby hospital starting in the summer. So, this was my last MOPS meeting. I was a little sad, but not terribly so.
     One last goodbye awaited me several weeks ago. I droppped Elena off to babysit near my friend Doris's home. She was leaving the next day for the suburbs of Las Vegas with her three children. Her divorce is very close to being final and she had finally found a job and a place to live. I swung my car around the corner and was pleased to see her children playing outside. I parked and asked her kids if their Mom was home. I then got Julia out and went to where her car was parked and surpised her. We talked for about 10 minutes and then I hugged her goodbye and wished her well. "I'll be praying for you," I mentioned as I departed. And I will.
     I had met Doris when our children started preschool together in the fall of 2007. When I first met her I was struck with how vivacious and beautiful she was. She was so friendly and upbeat. I would later learn of many trials she had with her husband and children in regard to extensive medical issues. (She could practically be doctor at this point!) We became better friends through my last pregnancy and then through her last pregnancy. We talked about all sorts of stuff and she always remained warm, kind and fun to be with. I am going to miss her a lot.
     And then my favorite librarian left my favorite library. Boo-hoo. It's just so sad.
     Although I relish the balmy weather and bursting blooms of springtime, there are usually too many goodbyes during this time of year. I wish I didn't get so attached to people so that saying goodbye would be easier. But I do. And it really is better to have those treasured friendships, even from afar. I felt God reminding me, ever so tenderly, "They may leave you, but I will never leave or forsake you." I was comforted. Thank you, Lord, for being that ever-ready fountain of comfort and security. Please be with and bless my friends.
     And "Goodbye Springtime!" Summer is upon us! Maybe I'll make some new friends and strengthen the ones I have.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Getting the Right Ticket This Time

Los Angeles Trade Tech



     I've been a blogger dropout lately. I've been posting pictures on my newer Happy Snaps! blog and chronicled the GREAT GARAGE CLEANING FEAT on The Domain of Delightful Domesticity. On my other blog Childbirth Cheerleader I detail new developments regarding possible schooling and career pursuits. But those posts fits with those blogs, and tangentially to this one. With this blog I share perspectives on things I experience, but rarely specifics about plans. I like this blog to focus more on my thoughts and experiences that punctuate my days. So, without further adieu...    
     I went back to junior college these last few weeks. I first went  to my local one - it had been about 23 years since I had last been a student on this campus - plus several near downtown LA. Crazy! The impacted state of these colleges is unbelievable. It does seem, though, that the classes I might be taking are at some of those large junior colleges near Downtown. I'm not eager to drive down there every week, but it looks like the only option at this point.
     The one college I was at this week was quite exciting actually. It was between USC and Staples Center. Massive construction projects were going on, some big career expo was occurring in the quad area, and I finally found my way to a very impressive, modern looking building that looked newly built. I walk in the huge doors to see students milling around near computer stations. I look at all the signs trying to figure out if I'm even in the right building. I attempt to use the computer to get some help. It doesn't work. I then see a line of students and stand in it. Why not?I arrive at the counter guy, ask a few questions, and then am handed paperwork to fill out. "When you're done with that, get back in line and I'll give you a ticket to speak with an admissions officer." I follow his instructions dutifully. He then hands me the requisite 3 X 3 inch flimsy paper ticket. Within about 8 minutes my number is up, I proceed to the admissions clerk and am given very helpful information, instructions, and yet another ticket to head up to Matriculation to clear my pre-requisites. "Third floor," I'm told.
     I proceed to the third floor and keep walking around wondering which room I need to go to. The building is so new they barely have any signs up. I walked in one door that says "Assessment"  and see a huge, intimidating sign that says, "NO STUDENTS BEYOND THIS POINT." OK. Wrong door. I go out to the hallway and enter the next door. I then realize it's the other side of the room I just left. Only I see a couple of students waiting. I whisper to them, "Do you have a ticket?" Some did, some didn't. I'm confused again and wonder what to do. So I wait. Mercifully, a short time. Some incredibly efficient matriculation lady asks about my ticket. I wanted to scream out, "Yes! I've got the golden ticket!" (I maintained my composure; I really am maturing.) She asks what I need, what paperwork I have, and then types in my vital stats into her computer and officially clears me to register for my much-needed chemistry class in several weeks. "It rarely happens this easily," she mutters. "Oh, thank you so much," I effusively respond as I touch her shoulder and ask her what her name is (just in case there are problems, you know, so that I can get back to her since we're on a first-name basis now....) She smiles and I depart towards the elevator with a much more sprightly step.
     I head back to the parking lot and notice, much to my relief, that my meter had not run out yet. Some lady was angling for my parking space. I motion to her which car is mine and, as I open the car door, I smile and whisper with great jubilation, "Thank you, Lord!"
     It had been an exhausting, albeit very providentially productive day. I am hoping and praying for many more such days to come. Whatever God has determined I will embrace as time unfolds.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Speeding To Tie Up Loose Ends

     Many years ago, newly pregnant, sick, and with two toddlers in the back seat, I drove to town to pick up 8 year-old Camille from art lessons. Only, the parking spaces were blocked off, a crowd of people had gathered, and I was promptly informed by a brusque police officer that I was illegally parked and needed to move immediately.
     "But Officer, my daughter will be coming out into a crowd of strangers looking for me, and she won't find me. There's no place to park and I'm worried about her safety."
     "You should have come earlier. Now move right now, ma'am, or I will write you a ticket."
     "But Officer, what do I do about my daughter about to enter a crowd of strangers all alone? It'll take me quite awhile to find a spot, and I have little ones in the back of the car."
     "You should have gotten here a little earlier. I'm going to write you a ticket right now, ma'am," the officer said with a cruel resolve as he walked away to his patrol car to write me up.
     "But, but-" I stammered in utter shock and concern. I waited there, filled with anger and helplessness, all the while looking for Camille to exit the art studio. Ah! There she was! "Camille! Over here." She got into the car safely and I was relieved. I exited the car and began to talk with the officer's partner, pleading with him for mercy.
     "How fair is it that I get a ticket when these parking spaces are shut down that normally aren't?! I had no idea it was movie night tonight. This isn't fair not to at least help me with this situation. I was willing to move my car, but what about my daughter?" The mean officer's partner had a kind, concerned look in his eyes, but he had to back his partner up. I sensed his reluctance in doing so, however, and for that, I was slightly comforted.
     I took the ticket from the officer and promptly drove home. I wrote a detailed letter outlining my experience with the rude officer, and then drove down to the police station to file my complaint. The sergeant on hand was very understanding and caring. Weeks went by with multiple conversations from the interim police chief, who issued an apology on behalf of the officer who treated the concerned mother caught in an unforeseen circumstance with an unfair $30 parking ticket. I was told that in a department meeting officers were encouraged NOT to treat decent citizens like criminals. I was also informed that the officer got a talking-to about how he handled the situation with me.
     I never got an apology from the officer himself. I never expected it. For years, I had been bitter about the experience. God was aware of this, of course, and had purposed to take care of this unfinished business, these "loose ends" weighing down my soul.
     Six years later, this last week, while looking at my new April calendar at my kitchen table one morning, I realized that I had an ENT appointment for Julia in 10 minutes. It was at least a 20 minute drive to the doctor's office. So, I rushed down my nearby hilly street, forgetting that I had been so mindful of watching my speeds and trying to drive more safely recently. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an officer in his patrol car watch me whiz by. I immediately slowed down and watched behind me. Was he going to follow me? Several minutes later, yes, he was.
     He pulls me over and lo and behold,  it's the officer I had the run-in with six years earlier.
     "Do you know why I pulled you over?"
     Yes, I replied. I told him I was late for a doctor's appointment. He would have been blind not to have seen my toddler in the car. As I fumbled for my registration and insurance I mentioned that I had remembered him from several years ago. "You were really rude to me. Some people you just don't forget...." I knew I was going to get this ticket.(I have never tried to get out of traffic tickets. But, on too many occasions, I have not received ones that I deserved.) He took my paperwork and walked off, having informed me that he was going to prepare my ticket.
     Of course you are, I thought bitterly. And then I started crying. This ticket will be almost $500 with traffic school and court fees. And I really have been watching my speeds lately! Of all days to be running late and forget about my resolve to slow down, obey the law, drive safely....And from him of all people! And the memories of feeling helpless and worried about my daughter and this officer's harsh, calloused treatment of me came flooding back as my tears flowed. Some memories, with their accompanying feelings, seemed seared and branded in time, unchanged by the calendar. I prayed earnestly that God would help me to do the right thing, whatever that was.
     And then he arrived at my car window with the ticket to sign. I looked at it and then looked at him.  "I want to say something to you first...." And then I began to describe what had happened 6 years ago, how he had treated me, and what steps I took to address the situation. It was evident to me that this man was enduring my speech, hardened and unconcerned. He hadn't remembered the incident. "But," I finally got to this point, "I'm a Christian and I forgive you. I wish you well and I'm sure that you're a different officer now." I avoided snide, sarcastic comments and spoke from my heart. I did wish him well. I still do.
     As I was driving away, I continued to cry. I so wanted to remind God that I had been trying to drive the speed limit and that this ticket seemed so unfair. I resolved, however, that I was going to thank God for this situation. Somehow in all of this God was at work for my betterment and his glory. "Thank you, God," I said passionately and sincerely. "I trust you." Moments later, I felt his Spirit impressing upon me that the time had come to acknowledge this bitterness, this ugly cancer in my soil, that had been festering for years over this issue. This ticket forced me to confront this man face to face and forgive him. My assignment from God, if I choose to accept it, is to pray for this man as an evidence of forgiving him, despite his lack of remorse or acknowledgement.
     I choose to accept it.
     And ironically, my doctor got called out on an emergency 10 minutes before I arrived at his office. The appointment had been cancelled. Had I entirely forgotten about the appointment till much later it wouldn't have mattered. Except to God, who obviously had a different plan for me that day.
     Thank you, Lord Jesus. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Been Awhile...

     I don't even know where I'm going with this post. I have been overwhelmed with helping Leanne and her friend, "C" work on their History Day LA poster with "C"'s mom for the last few weeks. S*t*r*e*s*s*f*u*l. The big day was last Saturday,  March 12th. I'm relieved and happy to be done with it.It was a helpful learning experience for Leanne. She was disappointed she didn't make the team to represent Los Angeles County in San Jose in May. "Oh well. You win some, you lose some," I told her. She got over it pretty quickly.
     I haven't been very inspired to write about much on this little blog of mine. Spring weather has been marvelous lately. I've been planting some flowers and bulbs recently. We'll see what comes up. I'm hopeful. Spring Break is coming up in mid-April for us. I'm planning some day trips here and there. Really, though, life is rather "ho-hum."
     And then temptation begins to sneak in like one of my kids scurrying out of my room while trying to hide their chocolate-smeared face after they found and pillaged my "hidden" chocolate stash. (Why oh why can't I find a kid-proof chocolate-hiding place?!) They think they're getting away with it but chocolate drool is brown on their white faces! "Gotcha' ya!" Most of the time, though, I find the wrappers left on the floor or in the drawer or beside the couch.
     But I digress. The temptation that I face these days is d#i#s#c#o#n#t#e#n#t#m#e#n#t. I begin researching my next career and how to get there from here after my kids are in school. Let's see....what strikes my fancy? And then I think more clearly about how much I really want to home school my younger children and see Elena and Camille through graduation from our church homeschooling academy. I think about the engaging and enriching curriculum I want to do with Leanne. I wrestle about which year I'll bring her home from school. Sixth grade? Eighth grade? Next month? No kidding. She has told me about name-calling girls at school and girls who are apparently  stealing, too. I will be bringing it up to her teacher early this week. Oh, the drama.
     And the restlessness in my soul. I really must discipline my thoughts to focus on "today" and be faithful to what I need to do in this moment. My mind wanders toward the past and ponders the future. I'm missing out on today. I know this is true. So, I must be present with my kids, doing my housework, making dinner, in conversations with my older girls or Tim.
     More than anything, though, what I think is key is to remember to keep looking to Jesus. To be honest with him. To realize I probably have the Springtime Blues. It's such beautiful weather and everything is in bloom. I should be happy. Why am I not deliriously happy? Why don't my moods match the beauty I see around me? Or something like that.
     My plan for tomorrow is to ask God first thing in the morning: "What's my assignment for today? Who and what do I need to focus on? What tasks do I need to accomplish? Which child or friend needs extra encouragement and care today? What words and gestures should I share to encourage and build up someone else today?" Nothing like looking outside myself to be reminded about what's really important.
     And it's really not about me at all. What a relief!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Curious Mystery

     So, here's a puzzling fact I've discovered. Since realizing a couple of months back that I could check my "stats" with Google Blogger, I've been very intrigued to observe a couple of trends. I've discovered that, as of yet, there are three posts on my main blog, the one you are reading now, that are the most viewed. After clicking  a button, I stopped tracking times when I would re-read a post. So, the current numbers reflect other people who have read those posts. I'm entirely aware that some of those page views might have occurred accidentally and that people who clicked on the post might not have actually read it. Still, the numbers are interesting. When I looked at the traffic sources I see mostly facebook and google leads. Not very revealing. To date, my three most popular blog posts are http://halfdozengirls.blogspot.com/2010/07/responsibility-and-restitution-part-2.html, http://halfdozengirls.blogspot.com/2010/06/formula-bag-for-success.html, and coming in at #3 http://halfdozengirls.blogspot.com/2010/12/christmas-morgue.html.
     The number one spot in this blog is my embarrassing description of my temper tantrum in Sears over the summer and my attempt at making restitution. That post still affects me in that I try to make my "sorry" mean something by making restitution when  I've wronged somebody. I'm still working on that. The second most popular post about Tim's choice of "briefcases" (a diaper bag!) was apparently quite intriguing to at least 58 people. And then, most recently, my description of the dead-looking nativity scene in my front yard seemed to be quite popular, too.
     I usually place on my Facebook page a link to my latest post knowing that that will generate a few hits. Really, though, I write this blog for myself. It's therapeutic and entertaining for me. The fact that anyone could read it motivates, inspires, and challenges me to think carefully how I present any information, stories, or feelings. I am honest and truthful in all my blog posts, but also quite careful to protect people's identities, steer clear of divisive political or social commentaries, and put forth a post that might inspire and inform, or at least amuse in some way. When people tell me that they find a particular post funny, I'm always curious as to what exactly made them laugh."What is funny to you?" I might ask. Overall, if I've even brought a smile to someone's face then I feel that all my writing efforts have been worthwhile.
     The most curious stat I've come across so far, however, has been on my least publicized and worked on blog http://childbirthcheerleader.blogspot.com/. Astonishingly, between http://thedomainofdelightfuldomesticity.blogspot.com/, Childbirth Cheerleader, and this blog, the most viewed post of all time remains http://childbirthcheerleader.blogspot.com/2010/09/writing-activity-to-help-with-closure.html. I have not advertised this post and barely do much on this particular blog.
     The post itself was helpful to write. I wrote it awhile back and really wrestled with how to make it express what I had desired could've happened around Julia's due date. I worked with quite an emotional ardor to bring forth a vision of what I truly desired for my last baby's birth. This was the therapeutic part. I then left it in my editing area to clean up.  I didn't publish it till weeks later. It is much longer than most of my posts and really and truly meant for me. I liked some of the elements in it so I decided to publish it.
     This is the mystery: why is it my most viewed post of all three of my blogs?! I find it rather curious. Who would really be that interested in a lengthy, rather personal post about what I wished had happened with my last delivery? Kind of strange. I'm thinking that perhaps my story- writing abilities, fiction writing, might be a better avenue for me to go! "This is what I imagine my life was like...." That would be far too unhelpful for me, though. I am a realist to the end.
      For those of you who read my blog, but might not know many details about Julia's birth, you would never be able to figure out where I had her or who my doctor or the nurses were. I've strived to keep all those details out of the public eye in every possible way.  I'm not quite sure why, except that I don't feel that making people's mistakes public with their names attached to them is fair or kind. It's not who I am or what I want to do. What if I messed up in a professional way? I wouldn't want that knowledge made public for anyone to see. (Unless I choose to write a blog post about it -and I have!) I have never gone to a doctor's rating site to give an honest evaluation of any of my doctors, except the Birth Surveyhttp://www.thebirthsurvey.com/ This particular sight I absolutely and completely recommend that every woman who's given birth in the past 3 years go to. It's well-done and informative. I feel that it is appropriate to inform women about birth providers in the right setting. I did put a review of the hospital in a rating review website some time ago, but left names of individuals out of the post. Again, not the right place. However, I wanted to inform people about that particular hospital. But I'm getting into an area that I reserve for my Childbirth Cheerleader blog.
     I don't think I'll get an answer as to who is viewing that particular, rather obscure post. I suspect that when people type in certain search words that are in that title, my post accidentally comes up. If the post helps anyone, other than me, then I'm glad for them. This new world of blogging is fascinating, mysterious, and international. I have people from Russia, China, and even Slovenia (where is Slovenia?) clicking on my posts. Imagine that!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Get It

     Long wait in the ER.
     Suspected broken ankle.
     Finally put in a room. Only to wait some more...
     And some more....
     Overheard in the next room over:
     "Do you know what time the surgery will be scheduled tomorrow?"
     "No, I don't. Probably in the early afternoon."
     "We have a huge birthday party planned for him."
     "I would cancel it. He really needs this surgery."
     More muffled talking and then sobs and whimpering cries from a young boy.
     "I'm sorry. I can't make your social plans for you. I have patients to see. You know, I have patients..."
     Yeah, my daughter!
     "He's really afraid of having blood drawn."
     I look back at my 13 year-old daughter lying on the tiny little exam table in the teeny closet they put us in. Waiting...more waiting...
     And then, out in the small hallway at the work station that connected three exam rooms together,
     "Ma'am-you need to get off this phone. I need to process patients and do charting. This is my work area."
     I glance out into the hallway and see the telephone caller start yelling at the nurse. "I am calling his father! I need his help in getting his blood drawn. My cell phone isn't working!"
     "I need to work here!"
     "I AM CALLING HIS FATHER! The other nurse said I could use this phone!" By now the lady is screaming at the impatient, indignant nurse. It's getting really, really ugly.
     "You can't talk to me that way!" the nurse says.
     "I can talk to you any way I want, +#$%@!"
     "I'm calling security!"
     "Go  ahead! I don't care, you &%*$)+_!"
     All the while I'm just staring at the lady, wondering if she'll notice me peeking out of the exam room and watching her cuss out the nurse. I thought that if she saw me I might be able to calm her down a bit by distracting her if nothing else.
     Stressed out mother. Overworked nurse.
     Been her. Know her.    
     You see, I get it. I get being angry and out of control. I get being totally inappropriate in dealing with anxiety, impatience, fear, selfish ambition, pride, stress, exhaustion, foolishness, etc. You name it. It's an awful reality, but it feels so right and justified at the time. I'm also aware of how ineffective people are in trying to calm down angry people.
     A gentle answer turns away wrath...The Bible says this and it's true. There are other techniques I've learned that really, really help.
    The scene got more and more charged as the nurse came back. Three security guards came and the lady and the nurse and got in each other's faces. It got close to physical violence. Dr. ER came over to calm the lady down, as well as the security guards. All the while I was staring at the whole thing transpire. I don't think anyone noticed. I didn't really care. I was tired, weary, and so wanted to get my daughter cared for so I could go home. After things settled down a bit I heard the little boy still whimpering and crying in his room with several ladies, including his vexed mother. I stepped in to that exam room to have a word with her.
     "Um, excuse me. Hi there. I was wondering if you wanted to take this dollar and make a call using the pay phone in the vending machine room in the waiting area. Maybe if you called from there you could let the nurse have her work station back so my daughter could be seen a little sooner." I was as sweet and gentle as I could muster up as I held out my tightly folded up dollar. She looked at me like I was crazy and said, "I don't need that money."
     "OK." And I went back to my teeny closet with the all-white sterile walls and teeny exam table that my daughter was half laying on. And I continued to pray and ask God for help, patience, whatever...
     About 20 minutes later the lady and her friends were about to leave with her son. She peeked her in head in my room and said, "Thank you." She was very sincere and seemed grateful. My gesture of the dollar for the pay phone seemed to  mean a lot to her. She hardly seemed like the lady who was ranting at the nurse just half an hour ago or so. I was actually surprised at her demeanor.
     Not long after, Camille was seen, diagnosed with a fracture, bandaged up and we were sent on our way. Thank you God! As we were leaving down the hallway we walked past the lady and her friends. She looked at me as I was passing by and said again, with such gratitude, "Thank you."
     "No problem," I said as I walked by and smiled.
     I get it. I really do get it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Can't There Be 25 Hours in a Day?

    Note: this is a rambling post of disjointed ideas. Bear with me if you dare....
cute, creative, FREE seed pots
This style of house is appealing to me. Go figure!
I grew up in a Craftsman style house.
       Since Julia was born I mysteriously lost all interest in television watching and movie viewing. A couple of movies look interesting, but I won't commit the 1 1/2+ hours to watching the entire thing. I can't explain why this is so. On the upside, I've developed a voracious interests in all sorts of unrelated random subjects. For example, I'm interested in learning about residential architecture (particularly Mid-Century Modern homes), jewelry making, vegetable and flower gardening using free supplies (think eggshells and 2 liter bottle mini greenhouses), baking bread with freshly ground wheat, homeopathic personal care items (if I smell funny, please tell me!), the facts regarding lawsuits and obstetricians (I've already obtained some articles about this topic), investing and financial planning, including money-saving tips on EVERYTHING, and how the internet works (I still can't wrap my brain around it).
John Piper - this guy rocks!
     But that's not all.  I have some theology-related interests as well. After hearing a man from my church tell me he's heard all 120+ sermons of John Piper's on the book of Romans, I got jealous. I want to hear all those sermons! Come to think of it, studying the entire book of Romans over a two year period is my aim. I want to really know that book because it is so foundational to my faith.
My children's bedroom will never look like this,
but I can always dream...
     I also have a curiosity about meteorology and want to peruse some books about that. I'm also interested in some home decorating ideas, particularly for children's bedrooms. I've decided that wallpaper borders do not go in children's rooms. They always seem to "peel off" right near the girls beds. Hmmm....coincidence? I'm thinking of making quilted wall hangings (think "earthquake safe") with the girls' baby pictures ironed on them (using fabric iron-on transfers, of course). I'm also keeping my eye out for playful and easy-to-do stencils for their walls, too.
Dr Biter - several lawsuits filed against him,
though he is extremely popular with patients
(although not with all, apparently)
     I've got a condensed version of Middle East politics - their history and the current situation. I really don't know what's going on in the Middle East - except that we're at war, it's bad, and I'm sad about all the horrible reports I'm hearing. I really need to have a better grasp of the facts regarding that volatile part of the world.
The President has a daunting task
regarding Middle East negotiations
     Anyway, I hope  I haven't exhausted you with all my curiosities and information ambitions. I'd like to do a follow up post over the year on what areas of info I have tackled and what projects I've completed. Most of my house and garden projects will be posted on my other blog The Domain of Delightful Domesticity.I have so many projects, and am so disorganized in my approach that I'm trying to figure out a time everyday or at least every week where I can  tackle just one book or project. I also want to figure out how I can involve my children in many of my projects.
     I really don't miss TV or movies at all.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Making Peace With the Early Morning Hours

Around 6:00 am on Christmas morning in my backyard
     I have a love-hate relationship with the early morning hours of the day. When I was a lazy, self-indulgent teenager, I  loved sleeping in till like, noon. I shudder at the thought now. I remember warm summer mornings where I was unpleasantly awoken by those *&^%$green parrots that escaped from the pet store fire like 30 years ago. They have managed to successfully reproduce and love chomping bites out of my persimmons. They find me wherever I go! Of course, all of you in the Los Angeles area know about these obnoxiously LOUD parrots. You've heard them, too, huh?
     Then there were the years when Tim and I were married without children yet. We'd groggily open one eye on a late Saturday morning and say to one another, "Enjoy these weekends of sleeping in, smoochkins (yes, that was the corny name we had for one another back then). After the kiddos come we'll be up early enough."
     If only I had known the half of it! Elena, Camille, and Leanne slept till sane- people hours soon enough in their infancy, but Chloe was a whole different story. She always has been! That bright-eyed, dimpled, springy-curled child broke me into accepting 5 am wake- ups as par for the course. It was either that, or pull my hair out in desperation. Actually, she was preparing me for the last days of my pregnancy with Daisy.
     I had gotten HUGE during my pregnancy with Daisy. Wouldn't you know it, she didn't want to come out when she was "supposed to." Days past her due date, I would fall into bed exhausted, but hopeful (will this be the night I go into labor? Oh, please God! Let it be so!), and awaken around 3 am or so with intermittent, mild contractions. I would lay in bed for at least an hour, counting the contractions and the minutes, sleepy, but wondering if this was "it." Well, I thought to myself, if I am in labor and I get up, the contractions will keep on going. So, I'd get up, go to the kitchen for a snack, and sit at the table reading my Bible. Too many mornings, the sun would rise over the field behind my house, and I would sit there with a calm, relaxed uterus - all contractions had ceased completely. The sun, bright orange and glowing like fire some mornings, seemed to be saying, "Not this morning, dear. Perhaps soon...." Those mornings, mixed with discouragement and exhaustion, were accentuated by a glorious sunrise. It was the one redemptive aspect of those 10 days I waited till I finally went to the hospital and evicted that 9 1/2+ pound child. Amniohooks have their place in modern day labor (although I think they are way overused for the most part).
     Anyway, fast forward to my current schedule. With six kids, ages 2 to 15, in various places throughout the day, and multiple demands on my time, energy, and organizational skills,  I absolutely have to start the day out with prayer and Bible reading. It makes such a difference in my day. The problem is I can't seem to get up early enough. I frequently find Daisy and Julia have arrived in my bed throughout the night and half the time I didn't even know it! If I can get out of bed by 5:45 a.m. and am very quiet, so as not to wake them, then I can help get Tim's food ready for his long days and then sneak into my office for some reading time, journaling, and prayer. Sometimes, they wake up, though, and I'm holding Julia on my lap who wants to cuddle as I read, but she really needs a diaper change. Or, she's hungry, and because Chloe is still usually an early riser (thank God now!), I'll send Julia to Chloe who gets her some cereal. I then have a couple more minutes to jot down some prayers I like to write out.
     The part of my morning I treasure the most, however, is observing the sunrise over my backyard field. I simply am in awe most mornings. I pause and look out the window in my office. Frequently, I say, "Oh, thank you Lord. Good morning to you, too. You are simply awesome!" The heavens declare the glory of God....Indeed they do. They also reveal a loving Father who rewards those who diligently seek him. He whispers to me in those sunrises, "Today's another day to experience my presence and joy in your life. I love that you love my expressions of kindness toward you. I will be with you today in all things."
     Oh how I need that reminder!
The view out of the back room next to my office at 6:30 am or so

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Conversations with "Cookie Cal" - My Friendly Neighbor

     Late last week my neighbor appeared at my door with two wooden, red-handled children's brooms. This neighbor, I'll call him "Cookie Cal" (to protect the innocent), is in his late 60's and is an upstanding member of our community. He was Citizen of the Year back in the 90's,  is our neighborhood block captain, and has recently retired from a very successful business. His first two wives have passed away, and his third wife is a lovely, svelte, jewel of a woman who, in addition to her front yard gardening projects, really enjoys the new Mercedes he bought her for her birthday awhile back. "You know, I'm a millionaire..." he has told me on several occasions. Okey-dokey.
      He's also a leftover hippie from the 60's, with a long, sometimes braided white beard and a propensity for "amusing" off-color jokes and expletives thrown into the conversation every so often. He had knee replacement surgery awhile back and so I hadn't seen him walking barefoot, shirtless (and sunburned - no surprise there!) down our street  like I had in the recent past. I also hadn't caught him sneaking through the field behind our houses to get a hot dog in town with a buddy without his health-conscious wife knowing. So, when I saw him at my door I was a bit surprised; "I've been cleaning out my garage and found these things your kids might like." I have a good rapport with him, despite some of our dialogue from our recent conversations. (These are direct quotes, too!)

Cookie Cal (CC) standing at the door holding the brooms while several of my kids, plus some neighbor friends, ran out the door eating cookies. His thick, hairy dog Zach seized the opportunity to wander into my living room: Isn't there a law against having all these kids?
Me: I don't think so.
CC: Observing the children eating their cookies in the front yard  and holding up two fingers I want two cookies.
MeOh sure. One for you and your wife?
CC: No. For me.
Me: Okay. I'll be back. I go to my kitchen, put three cookies in a baggy and bring them back to him.
Me:  Your wife is too slender to eat these cookies.
CC: That's right. I told her that if she gets fat, that's it. He puts his hand up in a horizontal position near his face and slices the air.
Me: You're a pig.
CC: Laughing, And a male chauvinist, too!
ME: I  groan and we talk about the brooms, the recently deceased neighbor and his property, the city mayor, the retreat center behind our houses, etc. At a break in the conversation he makes this comment as he's hearing the kids run around on the front lawn screaming, laughing, and playing:
CC: I don't know how you don't do drugs or drink a lot with all these kids.
ME: Oh, Jesus helps me out. He gives me everything I need.
CC: nervous laughter He doesn't like kids!
ME: Oh yes he does!
KK: more nervous laughter Yeah, you're right. And then he launches into a joke about a guy in a bar, 2  $20 bills, embarrassing bodily functions, and an angry wife. This is the second time I've heard the joke. It really is funny minus the potty humor and content. At this point in the conversation Julia comes to the door crying because CC's dog grabbed her cookie from her hand. He was now chomping on it as he sauntered through the doorway outside. She's crying and I try to calm her down. (No wonder that dog is so fat!) Cookie Cal comments on the red wagon that appeared in our yard ("I brought that down earlier"), bids me farewell, I thank him for the brooms, and he's off.

The Following Day
I answer the door bell and there stands Cookie Cal with a pile of spaghetti strap t-shirts in his hand.
Me: Back for more cookies?
Cookie Cal  nods and smiles as I wave him inside to have a seat. He proceeds to explain the valuable vintage t-shirts (I'll need a lot of cookies for these!) and several tie-dye t-shirts he brought over for our girls.
CC: Here's a tie dye one - I really hope you have at least one hippie. Someone's got to save this family... he grumbles. Tim had just awoken from a nap and greets Cookie Cal as he enters the living room to sit down. Daisy walks in to say hello to Tim and Cookie Cal.
Me: Oh, look! It's Daisy! Our flower child! We do have a hippie child in our family. I guess there's hope for us after all!
CC chuckless and proceeds to tell us about the lavish, expensive diamond stud earrings he bought his wife for Christmas last year. She didn't want them, though, and told him to return them.
Me: Oh, no! Tell her you'll give it the neighbor lady down the street instead! (The poor one with all those kids! I should've added).
Cookie Cal smiles at this as we talk about how expensive Mercedes are to maintain and general neighborhood stuff. I then make sure that he has a whole bag of cookies in his hand as he leaves. 
     He came back again two days later to drop off a large roll of white paper for the kids to trace themselves with. He commented, They could draw full body outlines of themselves. I had to irreverently add, Yeah, like crime scene pictures - all sprawled out!
      Uh-oh. I think my neighbor's bawdy, off-color humor is wearing off on me. I better stop making cookies so he'll stay away. Somehow I just don't think that will do the trick. I've given him apple pies and apple dumplings from the apples I pick from his tree that he so generously offers each Fall. He's also let me know how much he enjoys my Christmas treats each year. What to do? I'll just keep being friendly and maybe he'll be done cleaning out his garage soon. Although we really are enjoying his red wagon and the brooms....