Dec 30, 2016

New Year's Eve Eve

As I'm getting my house ready for our New Year's Eve festivities and guests I find myself reflecting on the year.
I think about our family's triumphs and struggles, joys and pain, the ones we loss and the ones we gained. Then I think about friends and family and their celebrations and mourning.  It has been a busy year for so many people in my life.

All this reflection reminded me of my favorite version of Auld lang Syne.  It is called "For all that you have done" by Rend Collective.  
Below are the words.
They resonate in my heart and I will make them my prayer.

Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my source forever song
My story and my light

From mountain top to valley low 
through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God 
Will follow all the years

For all that you have done for us
for every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm

For all that you have done for us
for every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless your heart

For all that you have done

You can listen on youtube here

Dec 18, 2016

A few days ago I was texting with a friend about how quickly it seems Christmas has come upon us this year.  My house is decorated, the well thought out gifts are purchased, I've been playing Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving, but still Christmas seems to have snuck up on me.
My friend wrote "I'm having a hard time being in the spirit of it all."  I could definitely relate. While I have accomplished all of the exterior trappings of Christmas, I lack the interior decorations - my heart isn't prepared for Christmas this year.
After I read her text, I set my phone down to start chipping away at Mt. Laundry and I quickly got lost in my thoughts.  A few minutes in to the folding a very clear thought snuck into my brain, and into my heart.
Not feeling the spirit of Christmas is exactly why we have Christmas.  That is why God sent his son to this Earth, to be our hope for the times when we can't rally hope on our own, and to give us light when our moments are dark.  God knew that times would come when we wouldn't feel like celebrating, where joy would be fleeting, where pain would be overwhelming and so he sent us his son to be the "wonderful counselor mighty God everlasting father prince of peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
Maybe sometimes the "spirit" of Christmas is just thankfulness that at the end of this season of lights and gifts, traditions and parties, Jesus will still be here for comfort and peace.  He doesn't need the yule log or twinkling lights, he only needs us to turn to him.

If you have a moment, listen to this beautiful song by Kim Walker Smith Tell Me the Story of Jesus 

Dec 15, 2016

Every once in a while I make the 90 minute journey down to Olympia to take care of some errands in my old haunt.  I didn't want to find a new doctor, dentist, or hair stylist up here so I try to strategically plan visits with friends, and stops at some of my favorite shops, in conjunction with the appointments.
Yesterday I had quite the list of things I wanted to accomplish while down there: Dutch Bros., pharmacy, drop off a Christmas gift for my renters, find a birthday gift for a friend, swing by Costco for two bouquets of flowers, head downtown to Archibald Sisters for lotion, stop by the meat shop for Matt's favorite salsa, meet the friends at 5pm and grab a Dutch Bros coffee on the way out of town.  Now that I type it out like that it really seems ridiculous to try to accomplish all of that in a short amount of time.  I didn't even start the trek down there until 2pm!
Things started off just fine, I got the coffee, had my prescription filled and swung by my house to drop off the gift for the renters, but then the birthday gift hunt went terribly wrong, I somehow lost $20, I didn't have time to make it to the lotion shop before dinner.

I started stressing over the $20, the horrible wrap job on my lame birthday gift, and the fact that I wouldn't be able to get the lotion in time for the gift I had planned on giving to another friend.  I was so frustrated, disappointed and already trying to figure out how I was going to resolve some of the issues.

With 5 minutes left before our dinner date I queried the family to see if anyone re-allocated my $20, no luck, but I was able to quickly grab Matts salsa and call the lotion shop to find out they would be open late and would have my order ready for pick up.

I arrived at dinner like a tornado.
Really, I think the people at Red Robin were wondering what in the world was up wth the crazy woman who flew in the door with gifts springing out from her winter coat.
I sat down and delivered the birthday gifts, laughed about my horrible wrapping skills and then enjoyed a lovely time catching up with two good friends.

I drove downtown and made it there just in time to wander through some of the shops down there that also stayed open late for holiday hours.

With my to-do list nearly complete I stopped by Dutch Bros on the way out of town.  I just love those people.  Unfortunately, one of the girls in the hut remembered me from earlier and I immediately felt shame.  Yes I rolled through DB twice in a period of 5 hours.  This is a new record for me.  Not one I'm proud of.  As I was trying to justify my double stop at Dutch Bros I had a fun conversation with a few of the people working there.  I'm confident we all brightened each other's day through the conversation and encouraging words exchanged.

As I was driving home I was feeling so much joy.  Then it occurred to me that had everything gone right, I wouldn't have felt such victory about things turning out well in the end.

The past month has been crazy.  Between going out of town, having house guests, deaths, funerals and tooth-breaking, we've struggled with the boys on different issues, Matt's been working late, I have a laundry pile that could rival Mt Everest, and things just aren't feeling very Christmasy.
My usual self would probably be pretty frustrated and depressed about now, but for some reason that isn't how I'm feeling at all.  Somehow the fact that I can smile at the end of the day makes getting there even better.

It is cliche and downright annoying, but the difficult journey makes the arrival so much sweeter.

Dec 7, 2016

That's My Boy

The following screenshot was taken of a conversation with my oldest a few weeks ago.


He really is smart.  I swear.
Just not in the logical sense.

Dec 4, 2016

A week ago yesterday I held the hand and kissed the face of my grandmother for the very last time.
Unfortunately, she had already died by the time I arrived at her home.
In any other moment of my life I would have thought it appalling to sit by a dead body for a few hours, but for some reason last Saturday it just seemed like the thing I should do.

My grandma had a stroke on November 15th.  As soon as I heard the news and could get on the road I headed up to Bellingham to see her in the hospital.  It was such a heart-breaking time.  She lost her ability to speak, and she was clearly frustrated and probably scared.  Tears ran down her cheeks as she tried so hard to utter words that we simply couldn't understand.  I took the opportunity to pray over her and specifically ask God to give her peace.  I spent a few hours at the hospital and then gave her a hug and a kiss, told her I loved her, and headed back home.

You just never know when the last goodbye will be.

Over the course of the week and a half from the hospital visit, she had many ups and downs.  Though she never seemed to be teetering on the verge of death, she had some rough days.  I checked in with my cousin the night before I headed back up to visit and she said that grandma was doing really well.

I packed a bag with a change of clothes just in case my aunt needed me to stay the night and help with my grandma.  I also grabbed my iPad so I could show my grandma some funny videos I had recently watched online and show her the pictures of our Thanksgiving getaway.  I hoped to dig out some of her old pictures and go through them as we passed the day, but wasn't sure how that would go since she couldn't really tell me anything about the photos.

Eli and I were on our way up to see her Saturday morning, about an hour from her house I got a phone call telling me she died.

It was pouring down rain.
The skies had opened up and released the floodgates.
I was crying, and trying to drive.
I was so sad, and so close, and it was raining so very hard.
Eli was beside me and silent.
He didn't ask questions, he didn't offer help, he just let me be.
And I drove the longest hour in the heaviest rain of all time.

When I got to the house I gave my aunt a hug and made my way in to my grandma's room.
And there she was.
94 years of life on this Earth.
And then she died.

I didn't have the privilege of growing up near this grandma, so I don't have a lot of childhood memories with her, but I treasure the many opportunities I've had to spend time with her over the past four years of living in Washington.

A few months ago a friend asked me to help her come up with an pen name for an article she wrote.  I told her I have no idea what her fake writer name should be, but if I ever needed a fake name I would use my grandma's.  Joyce.
She was adventurous, courageous, and loyal.
I hope that those characteristics live in me.

As we were getting ready to move from our house in Olympia up here, I dragged Matt out to the garage to sort through old Army stuff.  We opened a box that had a bunch of letters and cards.  We sifted through letters from me, various parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and friends, then we came upon a stack of identical notecard envelopes.  In each one was a hand-written note on a notecard with an American flag on the front. 40 letters.  Every Sunday for the duration of Matt's deployment to Iraq my grandma wrote him a note, and mailed in on Monday.  No other person was more faithful in sending Matt encouraging words and prayer filled notes.

Someday I will tell her story as best as I know it.
Her trials were great, her adventures were many, and she laughed a lot.

My grandma... she lived courageously, chose adventure over fear, and was undeniably loyal.

Nov 29, 2016

"Even the most skillful tailor couldn't hide a seam once a cloth was torn in two."  

I recently read this line from the book Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman.  As soon as I read the words I felt the need to read them again to really let them sink in, and eventually found a scrap of paper to write them down on to make sure that I never forget them.

I'm sure the words evoke a different mental image for each person that reads them.  For me, I pictured a yard of flowing silk, flawless with the exception of an unsightly seam that runs straight down the middle of the otherwise perfectly smooth cloth.

This quote is a metaphor for shattered relationships.
Sometimes the tear is so great that even the skilled tailor cannot return the cloth to its original beauty.

Nov 28, 2016

Gabe was pummeled at school today by a woman on a mission.
He was walking through the hall and a girl t-boned him, knocked him down, and his face hit the concrete.

I'm not sure where this girl was going in such a hurry or how she managed to stay standing while Gabe was on the ground, but that is apparently what happened.  She walked off and didn't even bother to help the kid up.

Highly durable middle school flooring vs front tooth
The victor was the flooring.
Gabe's tooth broke.

Like imagine a toothpick that you crack in half.
It didn't get knocked out, it totally broke off.
I didn't even know teeth could do that.

Gabe called dad, dad calls me, I call my mom, I call Matt, Matt calls Gabe, and it was decided that we needed to get to the dentist as soon as possible.
This would have been easier if we actually had a dentist in this area but the last known dentist was our family dentist down in Olympia.  While I don't mind driving down there for some quality dental care, we knew this was not going to be a one-stop trip to the dentist.
So Matt, the hero of the day, finds a local dentist, picks Gabe up from school, takes him to an emergency appointment and brings the sad, injured kiddo home.

I got home in time to make it to the second dental appointment of the day, this was an endodontist.  The plan was for the endodontist to do a little something and then go back to the dentist to craft a fake tooth for my poor baby.

We waited with Gabe as he got a root canal.  He asked me to stay in the room with him.  I don't advise watching that procedure.  It was disgusting.

Finally, at 5:30 we leave the office with prescriptions to fill, an appointment for the following day to repair the tooth and one very sweet 12 year old.

We got in the car and were heading home and Gabriel said "thanks".
You read that right.
He said "thank you" to us for taking him to the dentist to get his root canal.

Love that sweet boy.

Nov 8, 2016

November 7, 2013
Eli was asleep in his bedroom and wasn't awakened by the phone ringing at 6am.
It took me a while to gather my whits.
An aircraft from B. Co 5/101st was shot down in Tikrit, Iraq.

Life came screeching to a halt.

Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of one of the days that shook our family and changed us forever.  It is the day that Matt and Tom were flying together on a mission in Iraq and landed safely while Mika and I were back at my house in Tennessee starting our day off as usual.  It was the day that four of our soldiers did not land safely, their aircraft was hit by and RPG and their wives and children did not get to jump into their arms months later at a hangar on Army base in the middle of nowhere America.

Yesterday I awoke with an immediate realization that it was once again the 7th of November.  I shed a few tears when I said the Pledge of Allegiance at school, and I cried when Matt and I raised a glass of Jack Daniel's to honor the Crew of 431.

I played through the events of the day in great detail. The relief felt by my family was the polar opposite of pain and loss for the families of the fallen.

Last night I sat down at the computer and wrote a detailed account of that day.
Then I wondered if I have written this before.
I looked back a few years and found one I wrote on the 10th anniversary.  There may have been more, I didn't care to look.  The words I wrote yesterday were almost exactly what I wrote three years prior.  The details and the emotions are just a vivid today, yesterday and three years ago as they were 5 and 10 years before that.

I hope it always will be so clear.   I hope I never forget the sacrifices made by the Crew of 431, the families of the fallen, and the comrades were broken by the loss and yet loaded into an aircraft the next day and continued the mission they were called to complete.

To the Fallen.
Rest in Peace.

Nov 7, 2016

New Assignment:
Special Education Writing.

I have totally enjoyed my substitute journey so far.  I have worked at 10 different schools in the district ranging from Kindergarten to High School.  I've worked with general education, special education, English language learners and been a test proctor.  I have worked a crosswalk, a playground and a lunchroom.  I don't like those tasks, thankfully I did very little of each of them.

Typically I go on to this handy website and look at what jobs are available for subs, at what locations and then decide where I want to work.  I've only been called at 6am for a random surprise job once, everything else I knew about in advance.  I try to work different positions at different schools so that I can get a better idea what is out there in this district and maybe narrow down what I would like to do full-time when/if that comes up.

Twice now I have been offered a full-time permanent job and turned them down.  And twice I have been requested as a long term sub and passed on those as well.  I love the flexibility and the ability to be picky with the hours, jobs, and locations that I work.  

A few weeks ago I took a random sub job at a middle school as far away from my house as possible without being in a different school district.  I took the job because I didn't see anything else better on the list, and I didn't have anything pressing going on in my life.  So even though I had no desire to drive the full 12 miles from my house, passing at least 10 schools to get there, I took the position.  I always take notes about the schools and positions I work so that I don't accidentally take a job that I hated.  I noted that the school and teacher I was working with seemed nice, the job was helping in a remedial writing class, the kids were well behaved and the hours were super convenient.  Leaving 20 minutes before school gets out makes a big difference in getting out of hectic parking lots and all the way across town to take the boys to their after school activities.  

About a week after I subbed at this particular school, I got a call from the woman I subbed for.  She was planning to be out again for a few days and the teacher she works with asked her to please call me and see if I could work for her.  I was available two of the three days she needed and returned to the school this past week.  While I was there the teacher made a comment that if she had her way she'd be seeing a lot more of me.  I told her I wasn't really looking for a full time position right now (especially at the furthest school from my side of town) and that I was enjoying subbing.

This Friday I received another call from the woman I subbed for.  She asked me if I would be interested in subbing for her in a long term position.  Her husband has been battling cancer for the past year and at this point it has become clear that he will not recover.  Doctors have given him a few months to live and she would like to spend those days with him.

My heart broke for her and for the first time since I quit my last full-time job, I felt a "green light" to commit to a long term position.  I'm a little sad that I'm giving up my flexibility and freedom to do whatever I want, especially with the holidays coming up, but I also feel really great about stepping in to this position.  I've committed to the job through this calendar year and I'm open to staying there until the woman returns.

I'm going to miss the thrill of not having a clue what I am doing when I walk into new schools, classrooms, and positions each day.  I'll also miss meeting new people every day. I've met so many interesting people over the past few months, its been like speed dating for a job, except I don't really know that because I've never speed dated.  But thats what it seems like.
And finally I will miss the gratitude.  It is so weird, I went to work each day for 3 years at my last job and nobody ever said "thank you" for simply coming to work.  Don't get me wrong, I had a sweet gig at my last job and my team definitely appreciated my role, but I'm talking about people saying "thank you so much for coming today",  like just thanking me for coming to work.  That is super fun.  In a regular job nobody thanks you for just walking in the door.

So here I go, same place, same people, same job for the next few months.
Time to dive in and make some connections with these kiddos and the teacher.

Nov 6, 2016

Sometimes I feel so bad for public speakers, teachers, and pastors.  Their lesson or speech may include a few thousand words and my brain only clings to about 100.
I have no good excuses for it.  I just tend to walk away with a nugget instead of the entire chicken.  I think on occasion I get the whole thing, but usually not.  I just grab my little nuggets and go.

Today was the same.
The pastor was talking about pressing on.  Specifically he was reading from Philippians and speaking about Paul's encouragement for people to forget what is behind and press on.  I have read the verse a hundred times, and heard in quoted just as many.  Forget what is behind, press on to the goal, run the race, win the prize, get the crown.  Got it.  But today in the midst of the reading and speaking the pastor said something I had never thought about before.
I'm pretty sure every message I have heard surrounding this passage has leaned toward forgetting all the bad stuff you did, the mistakes you made, the loss and hurt that has been in your life, and looking forward to the great prize-filled future that God has for you.
But there was a new little twist on this passage.
Forget about the good as well.
Pastor spent a few minutes, maybe even just one, talking about how we should not stay hung up on the glory days of the past.  We shouldn't go to the memorial stone, remember the parting of the Red Sea, and say "ah those were the days.  If only God would part the Red Sea again".  We don't need the Red Sea parted again.  That work was done.  As awesome as it was to walk through dry land with the water raising up on both sides, there is something new for us.

The little nugget was tossed my way, I reached out and grabbed it and then thought about it for the rest of the sermon.  I have no idea what else was spoken.  The nugget was where I stayed.

Letting go of the good times in the past is hard for me.  When I left Tennessee I remember being so sad, I kept looking back at the good times we had there with our friends.  It took about a year for me to quit looking back long enough to realize that I had some amazing people right there in front of me in Virginia.  Our life changed dramatically in Virginia and we saw good things there, different from the good things we had experienced in Tennessee, and then the same thing happened when we moved to Germany, we never found the same "good things" of Virginia but we had a whole new serving of blessings.

At this particular time in my life I don't have what Tennessee, Virginia or Germany brought me, and here in Issaquah I don't have the good things I had in Olympia, and as retirees we don't have the good things we had as a military family.  I find myself looking back again at those "glory days', not allowing the past to be the past.  I find myself longing for those things to happen again.  For some reason I feel complelled to let my current people know "we were a military family" or "we lived in Germany".  Why? Because what I have right now is somehow lacking but what I used to do/have/be was awesome.

So my nugget today reminded me that when Paul talks about "forgetting it" he is really just saying don't hang out there.  Learn, grow, weep, celebrate, move on.  Even from the good stuff.
Those days of the past are not my glory days, there is plenty more ahead, I just need to keep my eyes there.

I'm a horrible bike rider.  Like really bad.  Where my eyes are focused when I'm riding a bike is where my bike goes.  I look to the left, I head that direction.  I look to the right, and there I am in a ditch.  When I try to look back, I just crash.  I think Paul was saying that it doesn't matter if you just rode through a magical forest or a barren desert, you have to keep on moving forward, nothing good comes from trying to relive the past.

Nov 5, 2016

Did you know it is possible to burn boiled eggs?

I boiled some eggs yesterday and set a timer for what I thought would be an appropriate time to make some delicious hard boiled eggs.
Gabe loves boiled eggs and will snack on them if they are in the fridge.
I love deviled eggs.  So I will take a perfectly healthy snack and add a bunch of fat too it, and then snack on them.

The timer went off, I plopped the eggs under cold water and then let the eggs continue to cool.
A little while later Gabe went in for a sample.
What he found was a very soft boiled egg.
The white was pretty solid but the surprise inside was not pleasant for either of our tastes.

So after a quick search of the internets, I found that it would be perfectly fine to put the eggs back in water and boil them.

This time I forgot to set a timer.

The water boiled completely down until all that was left in the pot were the eggs.
I happened to walk into the kitchen and notice little toasted boiled eggs.  The outside shell looked just like a perfectly toasted marshmallow.

I suspect at some point soon my over-heated, totally hard boiled, toasty eggs were going to explode, but by God's grace I was spared that smelly disaster and instead I just had to toss my eggs quick before burned boiled egg smell infused my house.

This....exactly this, is why my first purchase with my lotto winnings will be to have a personal chef in my house.  And this, is exactly why I'm overwhelmed with gratitude when my Super Cousin Rhonda blesses me with a freezer full of delicious meals ready-to-bake.  She even writes the cooking instructions on each menu item so I don't have to use my sad little cooking brain to guess.

I destroyed our eggs last night but I killed the boxed blueberry muffins this morning.

I swear there was a time in my life that I could bake from scratch and it would actually turn out.  What happened???

Nov 3, 2016

Find Another Calculator!

Today G and I were at the doctor's office for a routine check-up.
Other than the fact that he might have allergies, he is a happy, healthy guy.

As we were waiting for the doctor to come in for the exam, I commented that the doc specialized in diabetes care.  We talked about diabetes and how some people are skinny and diabetic and others are chubby and how some forms of diabetes are hereditary while others are brought on by our own choices.  That turned to an inquiry on healthy weight.

I opened up an ideal weight calculator I found in a quick online search and plugged in all the info to get the number that was Gabe's ideal weight.  He weighs about 30 pounds more than the weight that was returned on the calculator.  As soon as I said the number he said "find a different calculator".

It made me giggle a little.
How often do I do that?
When I don't like the answer that is put before me, I just look for a different answer that makes me happier or align with my preconceived ideas.

I searched again, found a different calculator and it returned a "healthy range" which Gabe's weight fell smack dab in the middle.  He was fine with that and we moved on.

Has that ever happened to you?
Not happy with an answer so you searched further?
Think of any topic: vaccinations, teen jobs, AP classes, diet plans (no carbs, no dairy, no fatty foods, no butter, only butter, no coffee, coffee with butter, wine no wine - you name it, its out there) and just about any other topic you could come up with there is, no doubt, varying opinions on it.

It isn't necessarily a bad thing to see multiple opinions, but you know the difference deep down in your heart when you are looking for more information to make an informed decision or you are looking for justification in something that you know probably isn't wise.

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he warns against people seeking counsel from teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear.


Maybe I need to consult a few more of those BMI and Ideal Weight charts..... I may have dismissed the ones that didn't itch my ears.

Oct 24, 2016

I had a blanket for a good chunk of my childhood years.
I can't even picture it now, but I know I had one, I loved it and made sure it was with me in case of spontaneous naps or sleepovers.
Maybe I can't remember what it looked like because of that dreadful day that my family went camping at Bodega Bay.
Why does getting to the beach in Northern California require such winding roads?
I think thats where my blanket's demise began, on a highway to Bodega Bay.
For some reason I was riding with my Uncle and Aunt in their van.  Not like a cool mini-van, but one of those cargo types that are often spoken of in child abduction or murder cases.  How fitting my blankie's death was set into motion in a murder van.
So I had my blanket with me in the van, the road was winding, I puked on my blanket.  Typing this now just sounds ridiculous.  Did I really puke on my blanket?
We arrived at the campground and my vomit blanket was sequestered outside in a bag.  The plan was to wash it out when we got home or something.  Unfortunately, after my uncle and grandpa had gone clam digging one morning they saw fit to put their shovels and other clam digging stuff on or maybe in the bag of my vomit blanket.
As if a weekend of sitting in vomit wasn't already enough, the clams took the blanket over the edge that my mom wasn't going for.  My dad carried me (maybe that didn't happen for real but that's how I remember it) to a dumpster and we deposited the vomit/clam gut blanket.  I think there was a speech but I'm not sure.  That's the last I saw of my blankie.

Maybe it was the trauma of losing my beloved blanket or just the fact that cuddly blankets are awesome that blankets hold a special place in my life.  I have blankets all over the house piled in a basket, stuffed in an ottoman, or layer over the back of the couch.  And my family has also become big blankie cuddlers.  From the moment the boys were born to this day, they have always enjoyed snuggling a special blanket.  Gabe has 3 of varying sizes and purposes, Eli has an oversized twin blanket that he hauls all over the house.  Its what we do, we curl up in blankets.  We may even keep the house a little cooler just so we can still snuggle up.

The thought of taking a nap, going on a long car ride or even laying on the couch watching TV without a blanket is just unimaginable to me.  So, imagine my horror when I found my dear friend in the hospital without one.  About two weeks ago I went to the hospital to visit a friend who has been in an out of the hospital for over a month now and was transferred up to Seattle for specialized care.  I walked in to the dark room and was shocked that she was laying there in that hospital bed with no blanket!  And she had been there for 4 days.  One day, understandable, nobody had a chance yet to go home and get a blanket, but 4.  Its a crime.  She had the sandpaper hospital sheets covering her and probably one of those itchy waffle hospital blankets but NO COZY blanket.  I remember being so confused as to how someone could be in the hospital without a blankie to cuddle with.  Was her family trying to torture her?  I contemplated rushing to my local Target to pick her up something but I didn't have time to go and come back before visiting hours were over!  That night I prayed that someone in her family who was visiting the next day would remember a blanket!

Over the years I have probably purchased friends and family a few dozen blankets.  Christmas decorated blankets, cozy blankets when a friend was going to be on bed rest for a few weeks, baby blankets, you name it. I've also received some awesome blankets.  I have one that my mom and sister made for Matt and I for our 5 year anniversary, the boys have had many quilts and blankets made for them, and most recently my friend crocheted me an adult size cozy baby blanket that weighs about 20 pounds of awesome.  Apparently its an obsession of mine.

I can't put my finger on it, I don't know why, but I clearly have put more meaning into a blanket that merely warmth.

On that day that my grandma died, we saw that her time was getting close to the end.  She was laying on the bed covered with a sheet.  It was August in California after all, there isn't much need for a blanket.  I had been fine with the sheet for weeks as she was laying in her bed, but suddenly I had an overwhelming desire to cover her in a cozy blanket.  I looked to my Aunt and suggested we get grandma a blanket, and my aunt very sweetly was trying to tell me she didn't need it.  My argument was simply "but she's dying, she needs a cozy blanket".  My mom gave my Aunt a look that said "my daughter is crazy just go with it" and my aunt fetched a blanket for me to lay over my dying grandma.
I suppose she didn't really need that blanket, maybe it was just one more thing for us to wash in then end, but I needed her to have that blanket.

So I really just want to make it very clear that if I am ever in the hospital someone better make sure that I have a nice cuddley blanket there because one cannot truly heal without it.  And if I am dying, on the side of the rode or in my own bed or anywhere where a blanket can be put on me, someone better darn well grab a blanket and cover me up.

Oct 21, 2016

Today was a very rough one for my boys.
It is hard as a mom to look into the face of your children and see them challenged, in pain, or hurting.
And today was one of those days where I was forced to look into their dark eyes that filled with pain and suffering and screaming of injustice.
Truly hard.

Gabe woke up, went to school, came home, showered and was in a jammie onesie watching tv curled up with a blanket by 3pm.  
How horrible is a life when you are snuggled up by 3pm with no cares in the world?
I asked him to vacuum the stairs, all 16 of them.
The strength it required to pull himself up from the couch and his tv show, was almost unbearable to witness.  
And the stairs, those treacherous stairs that were covered in the dirt from HIS shoes that he chose to wear in the house even though we have a no shoes in the house rule.
The crying, whining and pain that was in his eyes left me speechless.
Oh what a difficult life.

Equally pained today was Eli.
Same, then workout at the gym, home, shower, jammies by 4:15.
He too was snuggled up on a different couch, in front of a different tv (wouldn't want to have to share or agree on a show) with a pillow and blanket just suffering through a Friday.
Then his day came crashing in on him when I asked him to help move the couch 10 feet away so I could vacuum under it.
He actually said "I just got home and now I have to move the couch".

Oh the woes of two boys who tragically had to endure vacuuming the stairs and moving a couch.  Life is so unfair.

At this moment today I'm confident these little boys would crumble under the weight of real adversity. 
I resisted the urge to smack them with a firm dose of reality and instead rolled my eyes and prayed "Lord, open their little eyes so they can see how completely ridiculous they are and maybe God, if you are feeling it,  give them a nice sharp pain in the gut, maybe one that brings them to their knees in pain for just one minute or maybe two so they can see what real adversity is"

Their complaints were so ridiculous I didn't even have the urge to argue with them or explain how completely stupid their whining was, I just looked at those rascals and said "dinner is on your own tonight, I'm meeting your dad in town and we're going on a date". 

Mama, out.

Oct 8, 2016

Advice for New Military Wives

Over the past few years my path has crossed with a number of women who were engaged or newly married to a service-member.  I listen intently to their excitement and concerns, and try desperately to keep the thoughts that race through my head from coming out of my mouth.  It is rare that someone actually wants to hear "you need to" and "you have to" in a long list of unsolicited advice, so I try my best to wait until the door opens to share the lessons I have learned after serving for 20 years as an Army wife.

Sometimes I go through a mental list of things I want to tell these new spouses if I have the opportunity.  Today, I decided to write them down here so I can remember when/if I have a chance to bestow my wisdom upon a newly minted military wife.

1.  Not Home Sweet Home.
You will not like everywhere you live but it is your role as a military wife to make it your new home.
Start with making your house a home, a place that feels warm and inviting even if the street you live on or town you live in is just the opposite.  Then find little gems in your area.  Beautiful parks, beaches, walks, coffee shops, pubs...whatever.  And when you live in the worse place ever that truly doesn't have any redeeming qualities within the city limits...GET OUT!  I'm not talking about requesting a change of station, I'm talking about day trips out of town.  Even in the worse places that I have lived, there was some place worth going within 2 hours away.
Don't complain about where you live, complaining is poison to your own mind and to others.  I'm not saying you should pretend you like it, but just don't dwell on it.  Frustration and anger over your duty station will put up road blocks for your ability to find joy in the place you have been planted.
Your husband has a great desire to see that smile on your face, for you to be happy with where he has moved your family.  Even if it really isn't his choice, it is on his shoulders.  I have witnessed first hand the stress and frustration of a soldier who felt that he had failed his wife because the Army chose to station them somewhere that she wasn't happy with.  This is completely unfair and you should honor your husband and his service by making the best of where you live.
You never know the place might just surprise you.  And if you live it well, you will cry when you leave it.

2.  Going Home.
In a manner you have two homes.  Your home is equally where you currently reside and where you came from.  Sometimes things will get tough and you will want to go back to the home you started from.  That's ok, but it will not always be practical to do so and in today's times of deployments and training schedules at some point you are going to have to toughen up and figure out how to stay.  You are no longer a child in your parent's house, you have a home of your own and have to learn to weather the storms there.  Sometimes going home offers a refreshing re-connection with family at the same time as disconnecting you from your current life.  Consider how your husband feels when you run home instead of running to him.

2.  Embrace your military life.
You chose this man knowing he was in the military or maybe choosing together for him to join, so you must love him quite a bit.  No good will come from pushing back against the military lifestyle.  Bring it in, learn the customs, meet the people, spend time trying to understand the acronyms and intricacies of your husband's job.  Sometimes people ignore the thing they hate as some type of a defense mechanisms.  That may work for a minute or two, but it will not serve you well.  I'm not suggesting that you join all the clubs, but it is wise to become a student of your spouse's branch of service.  PCS's can be fun.  It is sad to leave the place you have come to call home but there is so much excitement in moving.  Look ahead at all the great things about the new place, join online communities in the new place to get ideas about where to live and shop and play.

3.  Yes, he will miss the big events.
I was speaking to a new Army wife a few months ago and she said "my biggest fear is that he will miss important events like holidays and birthdays".  I couldn't hold my tongue, I blurted out "oh he will, he most definitely will".  He may even miss births, deaths, family vacations... He will definitely miss the appliances breaking, the car battery dying, the tornado passing through town, medical tests and diagnosis.  He'll miss the day you thought you just simply couldn't do it for one more moment.  He'll miss the time you literally crumbled on to the floor in despair and the day you found out you were going to be an Aunty.  He will miss it.  You will survive.  You should do your best to just make the best of it.  My sister in law was without family or close friends on one Christmas morning while her husband was deployed.  She charged up her iPad and FaceTimed her husband as she opened all the gifts for both herself and him.  She said it was actually a very good Christmas considering her husband was fighting a war in Afghanistan.  It can be done.  You can still have joy in the holidays and celebrations without your husband, if you choose to find that joy.

4.  Tear Down the Wall.
You might think all of your good friends, your real friends are back "home".  If you subscribe to that, you will miss some of the greatest blessings.  When I first got married I remembered being sad that I wouldn't ever go to a wedding or baby shower again because surely I wouldn't know anyone well enough or care about anyone enough to do those things.  I was so wrong.  I met my very best friend in a town I hated, in a land far away from home.  A few months after I met her I was at her wedding and a few years later I was also there for the birth of her daughter.  I've traveled thousands of miles to meet up with friends I have gathered along the journey.  And I've had friends travel thousands of miles to meet up with me.
Maybe you can do this alone, you don't need the fellow wives around you but why would you want to?  Ask for help, the person who gives it may need a hand later and you can return the favor.  Find a community.  A mom's group, bible study, a job, a volunteer opportunity.  Find your people and be open to them finding you.  Let women who have a little more experience in the military life speak into your life.
I can't count the lessons I have learned from the many many women who have shared their lessons learned with me.  From prepping for packers to working the different systems of the Army.  Someone has likely gone down that road and it is awesome to learn from others' mistakes or sucesses..

5.  You Serve.
I was speaking to a young college student last week about Army life.  She was talking about all the glamorous things that the Army, the man in uniform, adventure... I was quick to warn her that being a military wife is so much more.

As a military wife you have a different uniform, but you are serving right beside your spouse.  Think of it like this, there are a ton of shiny ribbons on your husband's dress uniform.  He earned them.   He worked his way up in rank, completed the school, deployed  to the war zone,  and served in a manner that earned him awards.  If you fold back the uniform and look behind all those awards and ribbons, you'll find a bunch of gold and silver clasps. Army wife, Navy wife, Marine wife, Air Force wife, YOU are the pin that holds that medal to the uniform.  You are the one that holds the family together.  You are the reason he can go and do his job without worrying about what kind of mayhem is underway at home because you have the important job of keeping things together.  This is not a job to enter into lightly.  It is hard.  It is lonely.  It seems thankless.  It will wear you down.  But you can and you should do it well.

At the end of our Army journey Matt stood before the crowd of 50 people who came to honor him in his retirement and spoke these words: 
"As I tested the open sky and cloudy days, as I traveled the globe, on days I was lonely, sad or nervously awaiting the take-off, through the pain of loss and the happiness of life, smiling in the sun and splashing in the waves of love, Clarissa has carried me through it all..she was my PAR (pilot speak for Precision Approach Radar) when I needed guidance, she supported me in all endeavors, dragged my butt to more countries than I can count.  And I wouldn't have wanted to take with journey with anyone else.  It is not only me that is retiring, it us the both of us.."

Matt knew that I loved the life he was providing for our family, I made a home wherever we lived, that I could weather the storm while he was gone, and he could count on me standing firm in my faith, in my love for him, and in our commitment to service of this country and because he knew that of me, he could serve well.

I write this not to brag about how well I may have taken the journey of the military life, I write this because I want new spouses understand how vital the role of a military spouse is in the success of the soldier's life and career.

Sep 28, 2016

Today I told my student that a permanent person was hired.
He was happy until he found out the new person was a woman, then he was angry.
When she arrived I asked the student if he was ready to meet her, he said "NO"!
I pushed a little and then let it go.
I explained that he really wanted a man as his aid and encouraged her not to take it personally.
The new aid respectfully kept her distance as we finished that class and moved on to the next.
When we arrived at the elevator the student saw her enter and made a very dramatic effort to turn his walker around and huff quite loudly.
We dropped him off with the physical therapist and headed to an office to chat about the student. Unfortunately, we were following behind the student and he was unleashing the fury about how he was mad about this stupid school that couldn't get him what he wanted.
The new aid is a Grad student, studying to be a school counselor. This job will be great for her! And probably really great for the student as well.
At lunch the student continued to ignore the aid.
So it is safe to say he gave her a little dose of the not so pleasant side of himself.

As we approached the elevator I said "I'll let your new aid take you up today".
He said "no" and I said "remember you don't want me in the elevator with you, I'll take the stairs".
He absolutely knew what I was pulling, turning his words against against himself to make him welcome the new aid.
His response: "good you can use the exercise".
This kid.....

Last class of the day, my last hour with this kiddo, I asked him if he needed anything and he said "can you please write 'experiment' for me I don't know how to spell it.
How twisted is it that I had a warm fuzzy over that?
He asked me so nicely.
In my mind he said "thank you for everything, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors".

As I loaded him on the bus I told him I'll probably see him again when I sub at the school".
He said "I hope not".
I held his gaze for a brief moment and told him "well I do because I feel so blessed to have the chance to know you".

A little part of me was sad as I walked away.
Part was relieved.

As I think back over this experience, the highs are in those moments that I was able to help other students with their classwork, when my student allowed me to help him, and when teachers showed their appreciation for my work.
The lows...well no sense in hanging out there.

If I could tell my student my heart today, it would be this:

You were mean and hurt my feelings, I think I know why.  It doesn't make your words or actions less hurtful, but it allows me to offer you some grace. I know you are angry that you left you left your old school and friends and you are probably angry that your body is failing you and holding you back. My prayer for you is that you find hope and joy in the One who gives it freely and that you allow the walls to collapse around you and let people in.  So I will pray that your year gets better, that you like your new aid and that you find some joy in this place.  And you better believe that I WILL say hi to you when I sub at this school again, and you better say hi back!

Sep 27, 2016

I saw him out of the corner of my eye.
He wasn't where I left him.
I walked over to see what was up and he said calmly "I need to go to the health room".

We started toward the elevator where he informed me "I will go to a restroom that is for boys or girls, I have a change of clothes in a drawer, you will help me with my pants".

One flight down on the elevator, and 56 steps to the health room I prayed "oh Lord help me do this".

Up to this moment my role was mostly academic.  I follow him through the halls and, though he hates it, I push him in class.  I take notes, make sure his homework is entered in to his planner and as of late, I draw a lot. Why is there so much drawing in Biology?  I think he finds great satisfaction in watching me suffer through drawing animals, trees, rocks and anything else that cannot be depicted with a stick figure.
He has repeatedly informed me that I need to take an art class.  Under my breath I repeatedly say "I never thought I'd be drawing for a living!!

As we entered the health room the barrier that kept the relationship academic was destroyed.  There we were, a girl gathering strength and a strong stomach and a boy humbly asking for help.

I turned my back as often as possible and spoke just three words.
Me or you?

Pants off: me or you?
Wipes: me or you?
Pants on: me or you?

Who is more impacted by this moment?
Me or you.

There is something about soiling yourself that is so humiliating.  Its like a big giant exclamation mark on the fact that you can't control your body's basic functions.
And when you can't help yourself to take care of the cleanup...the shame must run through every vein in your being.

We said nothing about the event.
We went back to class as if everything was completely normal.

An hour later he showed his great appreciation for my professionalism in the bathroom and giving him some extra grace with his homework in math by looking straight in my eyes with his deep browns and barked to me "DON'T COME IN THIS ELEVATOR WITH ME EVER AGAIN".

I took a deep breath and asked "how do you suppose I get down then?"
He didn't care.
He was mad at me for something or more likely taking out some other frustration on me.
"LEAVE ME ALONE" he bellowed.

Until he needed to draw a deer in Biology and then he was quick to ask for help, and equally quick to mock my pathetic rendition of Bambi.

My text to Matt this afternoon:  "This kid is either going to crush me or give me a titanium armor".

The reality is he will do both.
My heart continually breaks, while my skin is getting thicker by the day.

Sep 26, 2016

Today I was jealous.
Not like the nice jealous, the angry jealous.

Over this past week I have unintentionally started making a list of the things I hate about my house.
Dangerous territory right there.
Faucets that leak around the handles, crappy sinks, bad plumbing, semi-functioning appliances, noisy garage door, the green paint, and the baseboards.  Seriously, its the baseboards that take me over the edge.
Today, as I washed my hands, started a load in the dishwasher, un-clogged the toilet, and looked down at the baseboards I was a little cranky.

Then I started my van, which made it known to all of creation that I am firing it up, and stepped on the brakes to slow my roll down the hill only to add to the beauty of the morning birds with the sweet sweet sound of squeaky brakes.
Again, cranky.

I found a great parking spot at work and went about my day, all was well for a Monday.

And then 2:30 hit and my brain turned to a green pool of jealous anger.

I was leaving the High School parking lot and my dream Range Rover being driven by a 16 year old student pulled out in front of me.  No worries about pulling in front of me.  It was that this 16 year old kid is driving a $90,000+ vehicle.  Then everywhere I looked I saw shiny new cars, some without plates yet, driving all over the parking lot by kids.  Little tots who have not worked a day in their life and yet are leaving school in these gorgeous luxury SUV's.

A deep breath.

Then I recalled that I had seen the name of the street that the student I am working with lives on.  You don't even need an address on this street, it is that spectacular.  Like all you need to know is THIS STREET and you know that money oozes from the sprinkler system.
Their grass is probably more valuable on the open market than my house.

I started to feel an anger rise up within me.
Why?  Why was I suddenly so angry?
Is it because they have mansions and fancy SUV's?
I didn't think so, I mean really what does one do with 5000 square feet?

Then I wrapped my head around it all.  The bottom line is somewhere in my brain I kind of felt like I deserved more than a crappy house and a van with 180,000 miles on it.

But the reality is, I deserve nothing.
All that I have is by the blessings and grace of God.
He has secured provisions for me here on this earth and in the everafter.
If I got what I deserved, I would have a poorly drawn sign on the corner of a crowded street.

I'm not suggesting that my jealousy mysteriously disappeared, but the angry part did fall away.
A bit.

I pray that these people who have been blessed with much have the opportunity to bless others.

Sep 21, 2016

Dropping the Ball

Today was a late start.
Every Wednesday is a late start which is awesome, for the most part.
That means two days of school then sleep in, two days of school then the weekend.

The only problem is I run around all morning feeling like I'm late for something.  It feels so odd to leave the house for school at 9:30 or 10.

I was working today at 10:30, so I planned to leave the house at 10.  I told Gabe that his bus comes at 10:10, so I would just drop him off at the bus stop.
We arrived right at 10 and nobody was there.  I said "ooh lucky you, you are the first one today!!"

Off I go to work.  I was really early, so I sat in the parking lot reading my emails and such.  I got a call from Gabe.  ALARMS starting going off in my head.  Wait a minute.  Gabe doesn't carry a cell phone with him, it stays at home.  How is he calling me??

Game's voice is cracking and he said that the bus didn't come.  I said "why didn't you wait for it?"  He said that he did but it never came and no other kids ever came, he missed the bus.  Then he said "my first class is at 10:10, the bus wasn't late."

Oh dear.
At this point I have an 11 year old boy at home, late for school.
I am at the high school and have 15 minutes until I am supposed to meet my student there.

I tell Gabe to wait at the house and I'll figure out what to do.
I call Matt, no answer.
I text Matt and tell him what happened and asked what I should do.
Be late to work and go get Gabe, or leave Gabe at home.
Matt saves the day by driving in from Seattle and taking Gabe to school.
He missed both his first and second period classes.

Best mom of the year goes to.....
Not me!!

Sep 20, 2016

Today was a rough day for my student.
Everything was going well until lunch.
Instead of bringing his lunch, he was planning to purchase the school lunch.

And suddenly I was tossed into an unknown world.
I never purchased a school lunch from the cafeteria when I was in high school, and now its all technologically advanced with all sorts of options.

I panic, asked the student if he was coming with me to get his lunch and he informed me "no, you can get it".
Great.  I asked him what he wanted to eat and he tells me: pizza, macaroni and cheese, garlic bread, oranges, spicy nuggets and some other indiscernible items.

As I walk toward the dreaded lunch line with hundreds of kids waiting and so many options at the pick up window I see a light.  A knight in shining armor if you will.  The one hope I had to navigate this lunch line business with ease.... my son.  
Though I previously agreed not to acknowledge his presence, I had to break the deal and beg, plead for help.  "Psssst ELI".  I half whisper.  "I need help.  He is buying lunch from the cafeteria and I don't know what to do!"  The words that came from my sweet first born will probably stick with me forever..... "Just go get it".

Soul crushing.

Not only was I forced to navigate the scary lunch line alone, lost, and unsure of what to do, but my own child.... the one who opens doors for old people, speaks sweetly to small children, has the patience of a saint with autistic kids and all around baby whisperer... my child hung me out to dry.

I wrote him out of my will at that moment. 
The revision is as follows
 "and my 100 million dollar fortune goes to my son Gabriel.  As for Eli just go get your own."

My poor student got a lonely sad slice of pizza.  Thats it, because that was the only thing on his huge list of options that was available and I didn't know how what new fancy lunch line worked and my oldest son was a jerk face.

After the great pizza-gate of 2016, we headed off to health class.  This class happens to be my student's great nemesis.  He hates this class.  2.5 minutes into class an announcement came across the intercom that we must calmly evacuate the building.

Fabulous.  Perhaps a little handout on how to evacuate this building with a handicap person would have been a  good bit of info to be provided with.
We decided there wasn't a fire and took the elevator from the 2nd floor to the 1st then hoofed it to the field where we were totally lost among 2300 students because apparently there is a different evacuation plan for this kiddo.
To add to the drama of the evacuation a counselor came up to my student and I and started talking about what the plan should be for the future in case of an emergency when the student couldn't use the elevator.  She suggested he have some friends from class carry him.
In was in that moment that tears started rolling down his cheek and I saw his pain.
All he wants to be is a high school kid with friends and this disability of his keeps creeping up in every single aspect of his life.
I cried a little too and blamed it on the sun shining in my eyes and then I prayed that God would be real to this kid.  Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted and I see that his heart is broken.  He is lonely, he is sad, and he is without hope.
The vein that runs through all of the troubles of his life is his disability and I pray that God will turn the struggles of his youth to a powerful positive influence to others.

We both left school a little exhausted, discouraged, and glad the day is over.

Sep 19, 2016

Lost Cause

Today I was a sub at Eli's school.
Finally, adios preschool diaper changes and Kindergarten tape origami.  This week I'm walking the halls of two different high schools.

As agreed upon in advance, when I saw Eli at lunch I looked away and pretended I didn't see him or know him.

I was working with a student with some physical disabilities.  He has some vision impairment, walking, and fine motor skills are challenging as well.  I pretty much just carried his backpack around, opened doors, pulled items out of his bag as needed and took notes for him.

In addition to his physical disabilities, (wait can I say disability?) let's just say he has some academic struggles as well.  I walked in to his Sophomore "Intro to Algebra 2" class a little nervous about my ability to recall my Algebra II skills.  But quickly I realized the class was actually "Into to Algebra" 2 as in there are two levels of an introduction to Algebra.  Whew!  Saved.

As I followed him through his day I realized that nearly all of his classes served a population of students that were also academically low.  There are two things that can gain a student entrance in to these types of classes, some type of learning struggles or behavior issues.  Unfortunately, those two very different types of students are grouped together into one classroom environment.  So you have kids who just need to be taught at a slower pace with extra help mixed in with kids that are huge behavior issues and suck the time away that the teacher has to attempt to teach or help the ones interested.

I worked in these types of classes last week at Gabe's school (he ran up to me to give me a hug and introduce me to his friends... and I quote "guys that is MY MOM") in addition to the classes today at Eli's.  One thing I noticed right away at both schools is that many of the teachers of these classes are giving the students a ridiculous amount of freedom with their phones and time to talk with their friends.

The kids see this as a good thing.  It is right?  Freedoms to play games on their phone, interrupt the class, talk with friends and listen to music.  Sounds great.  The kids like these classes and these teachers.
What they don't get is that these teachers aren't being cool, they are writing the students off as a lost cause.  They no longer care, or are willing to take the effort it requires to lay down some laws and stick to them.  I'm not suggesting it is easy, but I am suggesting that simply allowing these students to sit in class all day on their phones is telling them that their education doesn't matter to the teacher.

The freedoms may very well end up being their captivity.

As they get older and they attempt to make it in life and they can't fill out an application, do simple addition, or know basic life skills strategies, they will be slaves to whatever the government is handing out.

To be given up on is perhaps one of the most hurtful things that can happen in a relationship.  These kids don't even realize it is happening.

Sep 15, 2016

What's Sub?

My job for the past two day was to give positive verbal encouragement to a disobedient, super active, highly disruptive, little kindergartener.

The super smart people who know how to hand such little boys decided that they would create a 2ft square that this little guy would have to be in during carpet time.  He could lay, sit, roll, whatever he wanted as long as he was in the square.

I was supposed to sit next to him and tell him how awesome he was while sitting in the square.

The square was created by putting tape down on the carpet.

That lasted about 3 minutes.
At one point during the tape on the carpet debacle, the kiddo had the tape wrapped around his head, around his finger, over his mouth, over his eyes, around his neck, in his hair, and on his shirt.
After each carpet time session I would replace the tape and prepare for what creation he would come up with next.

It was bordering on ridiculous and despite my desire to ditch the tape and offer some other less entertaining boundary marker, the teacher insisted we were going with the tape.

The teacher had ridiculous expectations for beginning of the year kindergartners, she was boring, slow to move from activity to activity, and didn't actually teach anything at all in the entire two days i I was there.  There were points that I wanted some tape to see what I could do to entertain myself.

I was trying to explain to a student that he needed to raise his hand quietly and when he was quiet and raising his hand the teacher would answer his question.  He said to me "no she won't, she will never call on me".  He was totally right.  Even though I was giving her the eyes while complimenting the student on how patient he was being for soooooo looooong waiting for her  to answer his question she never called on him or anyone else who ever raised their hands.

Unfortunately for me and the little boy the teacher decided that a carpet with squares on it would be more effective than the tape on day two.  So we didn't have any tape to play with, instead the student showed off his unbelievable flexibility.  He could absolutely be a yoga master.  To have his feet behind his head while laying flat on his back in the middle of the square...quite impressive.

I'm keeping a log of the different teachers, schools and jobs that I am working so I can jog my memory if needed when approached with an opportunity to return to a position.
The notes on this job read "poor kids this teacher is horrible, tape box is crap".

In other news, as I was passing by a kid eating lunch, there was a note from his mom sitting on top of his lunchbox.  Naturally, I was nosey and read it.  It said "please wash your hands, love mom".

Sorry mom, but in my expert opinion, I can confidently say he didn't wash his hands.

Sep 14, 2016

Terrible Times in the Last Days

Tonight I went to a women's bible study for the first time in a long time.
I'm pleased to report that I actually walked away a little excited to get to know the ladies at my table.

One of the scriptures we read was 2 Timothy 3:1-4.

Here Timothy has two important messages.

The first one is that we must be in "the last days".  
How do I know this?  Because he says " the last days People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."

And that list pretty much sums of all of the behaviors of my children in the last 48 hours.
Clearly, it must be the last days.

The second lesson: Regarding the people who act in the manner listed above, Timothy tells us "have nothing to do with such people".

Therefore, I'm abandoning my children.

I'll give them a few more days to pull themselves out of Timothy's list of evil and then I might have to ship them off to Grandma's.

Sep 13, 2016

Sub World

I as I began looking for a new job in the school district in which our Pistachio Castle is located, I quickly found myself confused!
In my former district my position was "instructional paraeducator".  There is no such title in the new place, and after a while I realized that the same type of job that I had down there doesn't exist up here.  Everyone who is not an actual teacher is called an "educational assistant" and that title could mean you are instructional or general.  The difference is teaching kids or babysitting.  
I'm not a big fan of babysitting.  I didn't do it much as a teenager and I'm not really interested in doing it now.  Unless it is an infant.  I would really like to hold a baby sometime soon. Like an actual little infant not a three year old, a three month old.

So my job search was confusing and I decided to be a substitute for a while to figure out just how things operate up here.  I'm keeping a mostly open mind when looking for sub jobs.  I really do want to try different schools, different ages, and different positions to see what will work best for me at this point in my life.

Today, I was a babysitter and food preparer. 
Actually it wasn't bad.  Things are really different when you know you are only doing something for a short period of time.  
If I walked in to that room today with the understanding that I would be doing this every. single. day. I might not have had a smile on my face for long.

I worked in the dreaded preschool room.  I thought it was going to be special needs preschool but turns out it is just economically disadvantaged preschool.
I brought a pony tail holder because I have a phobia of headlice but turns out these kids were pretty clean!
We sang songs, ate lunch, played on the playground, sang some more songs, played in the room, ate again, and sang some more songs.
I was tasked with prepping the tables (clean double clean as per the food handing policy),  setting the tables, and cleaning them up.  Also, I had to participate in the family dining that was going on.  
Everyone is sits at the tables together, eats and shares conversation, practices passing the food, and using good manners, and then clears the table.
Today's meal...12 hour old chicken sandwiches, canned pineapple I think, cucumbers and milk.  Awesome.
I took 1 cucumber and 3 pineapple bits and a half of chicken sandwich.  I would play along with all the food but I am NOT drinking milk.  It turns out it was an excellent choice because one of the other teachers commented on how her milk had turned.  Precisely why I don't drink milk.
I suffered through that meal with nothing to wash it down.

We are supposed to brush our teeth after the meals, as in everyone including me gets to brush their teeth.  I said "oh I am sorry I forgot my toothbrush."  But wouldn't you know, they had an extra one for me.  Thankfully, we ran out of time and I didn't have to participate in all the toothpaste drool and spitting.

After playground time came "oh Miss C can you please help little boy in the bathroom".
Obviously it was my job to take care of the poo.
Super fun trying to change a pull-up overloaded with pre-school poo that has just been riding along in the pants for the entire playground time.

Did I mention the kid doesn't speak English?

Wait maybe I didn't mention that only 3 of the kids DID speak English.

I pulled some sweet High School and College spanish out of my back pocket.
I was darn proud when I could tell the kids to sit down, raise their hands, and wash their hands.  The washing of hands is really more about those signs in public bathrooms telling workers to lavarse las manos antes de volver a trabaja.

Things got weird when I switched to German and asked the little boy poo if "alles gut?"  

Snack time, little boy poo ate an entire cereal bowl full of oranges.  Let me just say this, I'm sure glad he got on the bus before those naranjas had a chance to make it into his diaper.

So day 1 of sub world went fine.  I lavarsed my manos muy mucho, signed for my dinero and bid those kids goodbye.  I suppose if I am bored I would go back to preschool but it isn't high on my list of things to do again soon.

Sep 12, 2016

Love Comes to Town

I can think of numerous times when random strangers have shown love to my family.
We have the Cracker Barrel guy who brought Matt and I to our knees overwhelmed by his timing and generosity and the Angel Lady in the Commissary parking lot who helped me load my kids into the van and told me that everything was going to be ok.
There was the guy in Spain who drove 10 miles out of his way to help us find our hotel, the farmer in Switzerland who gassed up our car at his dairy farm when we were unbelievably close to requiring a visit from the Roadside Assist van, the man in Croatia who helped me heave Gabe up onto the rocks to spare him from the beating the wake was causing, and that guy driving a white cargo van who kindly moved the 10inch long knife to the side of his seat so that the boys and I could climb in and be rescued from the dangers of the Autobahn.
There are probably so many more, these are just the ones that stick out.
These are just the ones I know about.
I'm sure people have done things for us that I'll never know of.

A few nights ago Matt and I were leaving a concert and stuck in a ridiculous traffic jam.
The venue was in the middle of actual nowhere.  One road in/out.

We were super angry that we had paid $30 to park in the VIP lot that would assist us in getting out faster, and yet we were at a complete standstill for 20 minutes.  Nobody was going anywhere.

As we finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel, we were approached by a young woman who offered us $40 to give her and friends a ride into town.  They had taken a taxi to the venue but found out shortly after the concert was over that no cab or uber would be coming in to pick them up.  All lanes for the venue were heading out, nobody was coming in.
I looked at her and said "we aren't going that way".
So she took this as a sign that she simply wasn't offering enough money and proceeded to raise her offer...  Matt and I looked at the group, and told her to give us a second.  Matt figured it would only take us an extra 15-20 minutes to go through the town they needed to get to so we told them to jump in.  The last offer the lady had mentioned was $80.  Her friends weren't so keen on the idea so they declined the ride.  Matt said "no, you aren't paying $80!  Give us $40 and we'll be your uber".

So they piled in.  A group of 20 somethings from outside of Seattle.
Our frustration with the traffic seemed to disappear as they entered the van and we started chatting.
I'm not sure how long it took us to drop them off but by the time they got there they asked us to join them for some table games at the local Indian Casino.

We found out that they had asked over 30 cars before us for a ride and everyone had turned them down.  Now, if they were creepy looking, drunk, or had dreadlocks (Nasty) I could see the concern but none was the case here.

They were so grateful and "wished that good things will happen as we lay our head on the pillow" that night as repayment for the ride, and were on their way to finish off their evening out.

I'm not suggesting picking up strangers on the side of the road in all circumstances...but this little lift proved to pick up our spirits and help them out a ton.

The next day I was looking at photos people posted on instagram with the hashtag of the concert name.  I was scrolling through and WAIT A MINUTE... in the first 20 pictures in the list was one that captured our four uber riders from the night before.
Something about seeing their smiling faces made me so happy that we helped them out.

I needed this reminder of the kindness that has been shown to me from strangers, and I hope that I will have my eyes opened to opportunities to reach out to others in a small way that may make a big impact.

Sep 11, 2016

Where We Went Wrong

Sometimes I look at the actions and behaviors of my children and I can immediately see where we went wrong.
Sarcasm: Matt and I are pretty sarcastic, so that follows that the kids often respond in that manner.
Yelling: Guilty.  That is all me.
Fear of Being Robbed: We had our van broken into in Italy and left with little more than the clothes on our backs.
Being Abandoned: I left lost Gabe at a park in Germany.  Pretty traumatic.
Angst Against Taking a Shower:. . . . .

Well there are some things that are completely unexplainable.  I have no idea where we went wrong to have to battle with our teenager over showering.

Tonight the elder came home from playing ultimate frisbee or something like that at church.  He was so hot and sweaty he BEGGED me to stop at Starbucks on the way home to get water because driving the mere .8 miles from the Starbucks to the house would simply be too far.
We got home and he replenished with water and then headed over to my couch to sit down.
Oh heck no!

So I said "Hey you need to get in the shower before you do anything else"
Me: um you are literally dripping in sweat and you need to shower.
The elder: "but I take a shower in the morning"
Irritated mother: "Yes and you are welcome to take one tomorrow morning too but right now you need to take a shower"
Elder: "fine do I have to use soap"

Apparently I need to add "Fear of Soap" to my list of unexplainable behaviors of this kid.

He never had any water close calls.  Game did, but he actually likes showers.
He also really didn't have any dangerous soap incidents either and yet here we are.

Matt and I were on a date last night and spent much of our drive time talking about the kids and where we went wrong.  We are pretty sure we taught them to be kind, use their manners, don't hit, say yes mom, shower, wipe their butt, flush, brush their teeth, you know the usual things.

But some days you would think they were raised by wild wolves.

Today is that day.

Sep 1, 2016

Today was Eli's birthday.
He received gifts from 4 people.
The gifts included money, an Arizona hoodie and a book about the mind game of baseball.
Shortly after he opened his last gift someone called to wish him a happy birthday and asked what he wanted.
His reply "I don't really want anything, I have everything".

I was conflicted.
Part of me was screaming "what? Ask for money toward a new phone or phone case or bat or something!"
But the other, wiser part of me was so proud.
He wants for nothing.

Later I asked why he declined an offer to send him money towards his new phone, he told me he wouldn't feel right accepting money toward a specific thing and then spending it on something else. He thinks he has enough money saved up for the phone and doesn't want to accept anymore "phone" money for fear he wouldn't need it.

It was a good day. Perhaps we are doing something right with this kid. Or more likely this kid is turning out ok in spite of all the things we do wrong.

Aug 30, 2016

Bear Bait

We have quite the variety of wild animals in our new neighborhood.

We were told that we MUST keep our trash in our garage and bbq grills cleaned because of bears.  Bears are so cute.  Unless they are strolling through your neighborhood rummaging through trash.  We've heard there are bears but so far no sightings.

The first day we moved in we interrupted a snake's nap in the sun in our front yard.
I hate snakes.

Just when the snake headed back into the bushes for likely an afternoon snack, out pops a wild bunny.  It was adorable.  Except there are a lot of wild bunnies in the yard and they crap a lot.  It isn't like you can scoop bunny poo from the grass, so there it lies.

A few weeks after we were in the house G was stung by a wasp and I realized we had a wasp nest in the front bushes.  I destroyed that sucker.  Those beasts were mean.  Numerous kids were being stung so I had to step in and empty two cans of hornet nest spray into the bush.  I'm happy to say that the advertising is correct on the can, I killed the entire family of wasps from 25ft away.

One night while my family was sitting down for dinner I stepped into the other room to grab something.  While in the front room I saw a bizarre sight and had to gather the entire family to see for their own eyes, a family of deer walking up the sidewalk.  NO KIDDING.  They were on the sidewalk.  An odd sight.  The street was empty but you know, safety first.
The deer sightings are almost daily when I'm out on a run and you know they scare me every single time.  I jump a little and then try not to make eye contact whilst stealthily moving along.

Next came the bobcat.  I nearly pooped myself when that sucker came rolling down the alley.  I was cleaning out the garage when I saw a cute cat out of the corner of my eye, but no, it wasn't a neighbor cat it was a giant bobcat.  That dude jumped over the 6ft fence like I step over a pile of legos.
Apparently bobcats are common too.  While Matt and I were on a walk a few weeks ago, we passed a few neighbors talking and I heard one neighbor say "I saw a whole family of bobcats the other night right over there where those people are walking".  Uh thanks for the heads-up before we walked into the den of bobcats.

Last night I was awakened by quite a ruckus. It sounded like a cat vs raccoon or maybe that bobcat was back.  Who knows?  
Then today when I pulled out of the garage I noticed a cat, in my bushes.  Odd little kitty.  His head was toward the fence and back to me when I pulled out.  It seemed weird he didn't startle when I pulled out of the garage.
But then I knew, that cat was dead.
Cats don't just chill with their back to the action.
And I remembered the kitty party the night before and figured I was looking at the aftermath.

I was heading out for a few hours so I told the boys to call dad and find out what to do about the cat.  An hour later they reported the cat was gone.  It got up and walked away.
Wow.  I really thought that cat was dead.

And then I came home to find the cat was moved a bit, but still in our bushes.  I tossed a pinecone on his head just to confirm he was in fact dead.
I think thats the official dead cat test.  
Pinecone to the noggin.

By 4pm I still couldn't reach any of the alleged dead animal retrieval services for the area.  I left messages for everyone to come get that cat.
There dead kitty lies, just outside my gate, inviting bears and other scavenging creatures to my yard tonight for a little snack.

I wish I had a security camera pointed to the back gate because I'm guessing dead kitty is bear bait and tonight might just be the night I have a visit from my local family of hungry bears filling their bellies for winter.

Aug 22, 2016

Last night I slept horribly.
I should have slept great because after a week of super hot temperatures it was finally nice and cool when I went to bed, but Matt had other plans for me.
Around 3am I heard muttered grumbling and then hitting of something and then a giant whooshing sound.  I jump out of bed to figure out what in the world is going on.
Matt's sleepy machine did something he wasn't happy with and next thing you know he is disconnecting, reconnecting and then swinging this tube around like Indiana Jones.  Do you know what sound a hollow tube makes when whipped through the air wildly?  Try it.  Not amusing at 3am.
So, once my heart stopped racing I attempted to fall back to sleep.
I was somewhat successful.
I no longer tossed and turned, but my brain wouldn't rest and I had an extremely vivid, scary, dream.

The family was on a hike somewhere and we approached what looked to be a natural water slide.  The slide looked fun and scary at the same time.  Matt and I decided we didn't know enough about the slide to determine whether it was safe or not.  But Eli insisted on going down.
He just jumped in.
I panicked.
I did not want to go in after him, but I also could not stand by and watch him disappear into the unknown.

Down the slide we went.  
Eli just a bit in front of me.
It was bumpier than we imagined and while it was tolerable it was scary.
Finally, we dumped off of the slide into a pool of water.
Except it wasn't a pool of water.
It was a raging river.
The current was fierce.
We were moving along down the river at high speeds and there was no end to the river in sight.
Other people were in the water, it appeared some were drowning.

I kept yelling to Eli to not to fight the current.
"Relax your body and keep your head above the water!"

Up ahead I saw a place on the bank of the river that had the possibility for escape.
I yelled to Eli and told him to move to the left of the river and get out if he could.

He was doing it, he was off to the side and he was clambering up the side of the cliffs.
I fought hard and followed him.
We grappled our way to a grassy bank.
High above the water we sat soaked, knees bleeding and thoroughly exhausted.

He looked over at me and said "I'm so sorry mom, I dragged you into this".
And I turned to him and said "Eli, a part of me will always go where you go".
I was trying to let him know that I had to jump, even knowing I could perish, because he jumped.

And I woke up.
Scared and confused.

What was that about?
I did have a recent white water rafting incident where I took on some rapids outside of the boat.  Perhaps that was still in my head.

After a few more hours of sporadic sleep Matt woke me up and asked where his shaving cream was.
What is going on?  Does this man hate me?

As I lay in bed getting ready to start this day I was overwhelmed with this dream.  Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I struggled to find why I was so upset.
It wasn't the water, or the drowning, it was my words that were bringing me to tears.

A part of me will always go where you go.

Our kids will unknowingly and unintentionally drag us down raging waters of turmoil. Their understanding of our love for them is so incomplete.  Every bad decision, every rocky path they take, a part of us is there.  Their hurt is ours, their joy is ours, their success, their failure....
Even if we say we aren't going, a part of us will be on those rapids.  Because we just cannot watch them take off from the safety of the edge and pretend we aren't right there.  We hold our breath too, or we jump in along side, or we race to the finish line hoping and praying they are coming around the bend.

In my dream, in the waters, there were two things that went right.  
Eli was prepared and he listened to wisdom.
I had previously taught him to swim, and not to fight the current.
When the waters were rough and I called out to him, he took my advice.

On my run this morning the dream was still in my head.  And I took a few miles to pray over all those mamas out there who have a kid who jumped into that darn natural water slide and found themselves in the raging waters below.  I know, you are in those waters too.
God knows that you are in those waters and he's there with you.

To those who, like me, have a younger kid who hasn't tried to kill us in a river yet, prepare them and teach them to seek wisdom.  So when they do jump in the waters they have the skills to stay afloat.

Aug 17, 2016

Old Testament Wisdom

Since moving back to the U.S., we have had so many opportunities to visit family both here and in California.  I think we have seen them more in the past 4 years than we did in the previous 16 years combined!  We consider ourselves so blessed to have been stationed here upon our return from Germany and to have been provided the opportunity to stay here with Matt's civilian job.

Last Sunday I attended church services with my family in California.  This has become a pretty common occurrence.  My kids are so used to attending services there that they just hop on over to their age appropriate activity, hang out with the friends they see a few times a year, and meet me in the lobby after church.  Although I never attended this church officially, it has kind of become my church away from church since I'm there so often.

This Sunday was kind of pre-determined to be an emotional one.  It was the one year anniversary of my Grandmother's death, the last family day at my sister's house before my niece moved out for college and it was the last day of our summer vacation in California.

Sunday's message, as expected, evoked a strong emotion in me.  
Just not an emotion I expected.
Vindication is the word I'm going with.

2 Kings 5:5 " Naaman left taking with him 10 talents of silver,  6 thousand shekels of gold and 10 sets of clothing".

Finally, I am completely vindicated in my packing strategies!
This is Biblical wisdom here.  You can't argue with that.
10 sets of clothing people!!
Thats what I'm talking about.  Options.

As I drove home on Monday, about 60 miles into Oregon it occurs to me that I don't want to go home.
It is rather poor timing as 60 miles into Oregon puts me almost halfway home.

Behind me was family and no responsibility.
No dinners to make, dishes to wash, floors to vacuum or yards to mow.

Ahead is a pistachio ice cream colored house with stinky carpet.

The worse part is that I have to pass by my beautiful clean house in Olympia in order to get to the new place.  I also have to pass by my amazingly awesome job where I got paid to spent 6.5 hours of my day with coworkers I actually love, and students who I had the opportunity to impact greatly.

With me in the van is a kid who, although nearly 12, insists upon whining and reacting like a 2 year old when things don't his way, and a high school freshman who thinks punching his brother is the most effective way to handle a disagreement.
Where did these rascals come from?  I'm pretty confident I never told them to punch people if they don't get their way and the sure fire way to get what you want is to yell loudly.

In my head is the voice of my husband, who I had a nasty fight with two days earlier, encouraging me to apply for jobs that I don't want because "we don't always get what we want".

60 miles into Oregon and I can't see anything positive ahead.  Crazy children, differing perspectives with the husband, and the Pistachio Castle.

And then I remember Naaman and the actual points of the message.
"I thought"
Naaman grumbled that he thought the healing of his leprosy would be different.  He was actually upset at the instructions that Elisha gave him to receive healing.

Maybe I am a disgruntled Naaman with 10 sets of clothes and a feeling of entitlement.  
I'm too busy thinking about how "I thought" things would go and not humbling myself and looking toward God's thoughts for my life.