Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Week Before Christmas

'Twas a week before Christmas, and all through our house,
The boys were on iTunes, choosing music with a mouse.
And Dale in his red shirt and I with some treats,
Were headed to a party to hang with our peeps.

When out on the front porch the doorbell did ring,
And the dogs started barking, and growling, and things.
"We won't let them in here, You will come to no harm."
Thus said Duke and Liberty, our burglar alarms.

The boys looked through the peephole, but nothing did see.
So they opened the door thinking "Package Delivery!"
It was a package, indeed, but not from Fed Ex.
It was shiny and pretty, with a note nonetheless.

"It's a Christmas miracle" said the note, so sweetly written,
The boys were wary; protectiveness kicked in.
They carefully opened the package that night,
Checking for bombs, anthrax, and other such frights.

The next day they told us of the mystery gift.
From what they were saying, we thought something amiss.
Sure enough, it's a gag gift from a few years ago,
And it's really quite creepy, as the picture does show.

The gift had been passed at a white elephant party,
It was mocked and made fun of; the laughter was hearty.
But it had special meaning to one of the girls,
Seems she'd had one just like it in her growing-up world.

We'd long since lost thought of that silly decoration,
We'd heard rumors of its demise in a small conflagration.
So when gifted to us, we were quite taken aback,
The boys wanted it thrown into a large garbage sack.

But the friends we suspect of this dastardly prank,
Are ones we hold dear, and to them we say, "Thanks."
You'll get back this angel, this fun Christmas gift,
And we will be laughing--we'll keep the power strip!

*My sincerest apologies to the family of Clement Clarke Moore (no relation) for the misuse of his classic poem.*

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Military Mom, Part Three

NOTE:  This is third in a series of sporadic posts about this military thing happening in our family. How many military mom posts will there be?  No clue.  But more than three.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Whole Weekend

I had a lot of work to do over the weekend.  Dale had a lot of work to do over the weekend.  Dale's company holiday party took place this weekend.  My coffee/support group held a Christmas breakfast this weekend.  And the first of the stick-to-the-ground snow fell this weekend.  This was not a good weekend to have to make a trip and sit through meetings.  It's just the wrong time of year to try to add one more thing into our schedule. (That's not really fair, because it's rarely a good time to add to our schedule.)  But this was the weekend of the Yellow Ribbon Meeting for Spencer's unit.  (I assumed this meant we would receive a yellow ribbon to tie around our tree for Spencer's deployment.  Sometimes I'm really dense.)

NOW my understanding of the Yellow Ribbon program is that it is a series of meetings (some before deployment, some after they get home) for Guard and Reserve soldiers and their families.  We sat through 2 days of briefings about insurance, VA benefits, PTSD, spiritual health, and resources for counseling, care for exceptional children, and legal and tax issues.  I took pages of notes.  Which is funny, because the majority of what was talked about does not apply to us (Spencer is single with no children, and we are not eligible for 99% of the benefits they offer), but I am now a walking encyclopedia of information for families of soldiers. 

In addition to the vast amount of information thrown at us all, I feel that I learned so much this weekend.  In no particular order, here are a few of the highlights:
  • I am sucker for free stuff.  Pens, notepads, books (especially books).  If they are handing it out at a booth, I feel a need to have it.  I missed out on getting the patriotic stress ball, which kind of bummed me out, but I am going to score big on books, so it's all good.
  • Although I can get quite a bit of work done in the van, I can get much more work done in the middle of the night in a hotel room that is not moving lickety-split down the highway and blasting loud music.
  • The Duncan Air Band is the best. Don't even try to compete.
  • Even high-ranking personnel pass notes when the meetings get long (this made me feel WAY better about the game of hangman a few folks at our table played).
  • I am so darn proud of my soldier. (I already knew that one.  I just wanted to say it again.)
So, I learned a lot, some of it quite useful.  I also got to see some boys act pretty silly, as only brothers can do.  And I got to wake up and tiptoe past peacefully sleeping young men and thank God for letting me borrow them for awhile.  The clock is ticking as Spencer prepares to leave.  I'm cherishing every moment.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Adventures in Grocery Shopping

    I am a gifted shopper.

    I have my favorite grocery store.  It is not the store closest to me.  In fact, I drive right past one store (owned by the same company, no less) to get to my favorite store.  (This drives Dale crazy.)  I pull into one of the quite spacious parking slots.  I grab a cart. It doesn't matter which one--none of them have that irritating wheel that wants to turn the wrong direction or wobble down the aisle.  And none of them have that cart alignment problem.  You know, where you push the cart down the aisle and it travels somewhat sideways while still moving forward (kind of like how a German Shepherd trots back to you after retrieving the stick you just tossed, or the rabbit it just caught).

    One of my favorite things about my grocery store is the presence of a Starbucks just inside the door.  Don't judge me.  I am aware of the dangers of rampant consumerism.  I know an empire has been built upon the addicitons of the masses.  I know that their profit on a cup of coffee must be in the 4000% range.  But I also know that an Iced Passion Tea Lemonade or a White Hot Cocoa can push a trip to the store past dreaded status and straight into I'm-so-glad-I-came status. 

    Because Starbucks is right at the front with the produce, I do my fruits and veggies shopping while I wait. I love picking through the stuff that's seasonal as well as gathering the stuff we eat consistently. And I religiously buy more bananas than we will eat before they go bad.  Seriously, it's like I'm a banana collector.  And, yes, I know the trick about putting them in the freezer and using them to make banana bread.  I stopped doing that when our freezer died and I threw out no less than 30 bananas.

    When I leave the produce area, I round the corner to the bakery/peanut butter area where I buy the LARGE can of peanut butter and numerous loaves of bread.  I don't honestly know how to describe the amount of peanut butter that has been consumed by my guys through the years.  Let's just say this: No peanut butter has EVER gone bad in our house, we very rarely even see the separation of the oil and cream, and the most commonly heard phrase around here is "Mom, we are out of peanut butter again."  Once I get past the peanut butter and bread aisle, I am in fully committed shopping mode.  There is no turning back.  This is no quick shopping trip just to grab a few things.  I'm not leaving there without spending at least $200.

    The seafood guy smiles and waves as I quickly bypass his corner while holding my breath.  He knows, from experience, that I rarely cross over into his world, much to the dismay of the rabid seafood lovers in my home.  (This is why there are restaurants with Crab and Lobster and Catfish in their names.) As I enter the kingdom of meat, the butcher smiles and waves.  He knows, also from experience, that I will purchase enough of whatever is on sale to allow him to take his wife on a cruise. 

    Not far from there is the ketchup aisle.  Since Spencer moved into his own apartment, the ketchup consumption at our house has decreased dramatically.  But, at peak use, I bought 2 HUGE bottles of ketchup, and we would run out before the next week's shopping trip.  This is not an exaggeration, as can be verified by any of our friends or relatives who have seen Spencer eat ketchup.  Really, the fries are superfluous other than for their ability to carry ketchup to his mouth.

    It's usually about this time in my trip when I run into someone I know.  I realize there is a Murphy's Law about only running into people you know when you look your worst, but (and I'm just being honest here), I can't recall even one time when I have looked good at the grocery store.  And I feel like I need a sign around my neck that says "Hey, all of this meat and non-vegetable stuff is for my guys who all have the metabolisms of hummingbirds.  Do you see the bag of organic salad in the cart?  That's mine.  Plus some chocolate." (This is why I don't wear signs around my neck--I'm way too wordy.)

    I hit the pasta aisle, the baking aisle, the breakfast aisle, the oh-crud-we-are-out-of-this-thing-we-usually-buy-at-the-discount-store-but-it's-not-worth-a-trip-to-the-discount-store-even-though-it-costs-significantly-more-here aisle. All that's left now are the frozen foods and the dairy section. I am brilliant, I think smugly, because the really cold stuff will be the last in my cart and the first to be bagged, and nothing will melt.  My flash of brilliance quickly fades when I remember that I need to go to the pharmacy counter to pick up a prescription.  And when I get to the pharmacy, there is almost always a customer there who does not understand the concept of personal space combined with the pharmacy attendant who speaks a little too loudly.  "You do know that one of the side effects of this medicine is that you will randomly grow extra appendages and possibly have nightmares and most likely your digestive tract will be profoundly changed.  But, it also makes your nails grow faster.  Do you have any questions?"  This is usually when I run into another person I know.  And, yes, she heard about the side effects.

    I finally extricate myself from the pharmacy counter and make my way to the checkout lanes.  In my 20+ years of grocery shopping for my family, I can only think of 2 times I have had a legitimate right to be in the express lane.  Twelve items or less?  Really?  I had more than 12 items in my cart before I rounded the first corner.  Nevertheless, the clerk in the express lane tries to motion me over to her lane.  I assume this is because it does not make sense to her that she would stand there and do nothing while a line starts forming in the "big cart" line.  I tell her it is too stressful to me because someone ALWAYS shows up in the express lane with fewer items than suggested by the sign above the express lane, and I spend all of my time apologizing for following the direction of the store employee (who I assume, by the way, will save my life in the unlikely event of a water landing and MUST be obeyed).  It's just easier to stand in the long line.

    As I pile on the $200+ of various goods onto the conveyor belt in neatly organized sections that also suggest the most logical way to pack them (frozen foods together, snack drawer items together, etc.), I hear the funniest thing come out of the clerk's mouth.  "Did you find everything you needed?"  I look at my groceries, not all of which will fit on the conveyor belt at one time.  I look at the clerk.  I look back at my groceries. There is enough food here to feed a ravenous football team (or 3 teenage boys). "I can't afford to do a better job of finding what I need.  I came in here for bread and milk."

    We chit chat about the weather, local sports, and why the cash register in lane 10 does not like to read my checks.  (I am nothing if not a champion chit chatter.)  I secretly hope that the friendly banter will throw them off their game and that they will not ask me if I want drive-up service.  Now, I know this is someone's job and that I am depriving them of somethning to do and possibly contributing to the demise of their employment by not accepting this kind offer to load my groceries into my van.  I also know that there will come a time when I will have no choice but to allow this assault on my independence.  But that time is not yet here.  Besides, I've had a bad experience with drive up service.

    It was raining and cold, two things that make my knees hurt like nothing else.  I had purchased fancy food for a special dinner I was making for company.  In a moment of weakness, I said yes to drive up service, believing the lie that this would be easier than trying to wrangle the groceries on my own.  As I drove up under the canopy, I remembered the horrible state of the back of my van.  My stomach sank.  The cheerful teenager, who had been so sweet and nice while bagging my groceries, opened the hatch and looked accusingly at me in the rearview mirror.  With great horror, I jumped out of the van and ran to where he was standing. 

    "Oh, I am so sorry about this.  I totally forgot about the paper I was taking to the recycle center.  And those bags of clothing are just in here so they don't get put back down in the basement before the next charity pick-up.  And that cooler had Gatorade in it for the football game and I just forgot to have someone take it out of  here.  And ... oh, nevermind.  I'll just leave the van here and drive the cart home." Cheerful bagger turned into sullen eye-roller.  He had no interest in my van.  Or my humor.  (Or lack thereof.)

    So, I politely decline drive up service.  That should be enough.  I should stop there.  Sadly, I don't.  What comes out of my mouth next is such an incredibly stupid thing to say, but I can't seem to help myself.  "What I really need is someone to come home with me and help put all of this away."  Really, it does not matter which checker it is--this is not an appropriate thing to say.  The 17 year old kid who goes to school with one of my boys?  Scary.  The 58 year old man who has been married for 40 years?  Awkward.  The 40 year old mom?  Actually, she gets the joke.  But she's the only one.  I should really learn to not say whatever pops into my head. Story of my life.

    The awkwardness of that moment is usually abated by the amount of awe that creeps into the checker's voice when he or she, with great flair, circles the rather large number on my receipt that shows how much money I saved using my discount card.  (Back when the economy was better, before pay cuts and work cutbacks, I would write myself a check for that saved amount and deposit that into our savings.  We've paid for vacations that way.)  Now, I just bask in the respect of those in the know--it is quite an accomplishment to save 30% on your grocery bill (my average).  It's amazing when you save 69% (my all time high). 

    I somehow eventually manage to make it out to the van, get the groceries loaded, push the cart back to the corral, get in the van, remember the dog food on the bottom of the cart, go back and get the cart, bring it to the van, unload the dog food, take the cart back, get back in the van, realize the tailgate is still up, get out of the van, shut the tailgate, get back in the van, and drive home.  When I get home, I discover that the belt of my raincoat was shut in the door and has been dragging on the wet streets the whole way home. 

    As I review the events of the previous hour, as I think of the Herculean task before me of unloading and putting away this mountain of food, I have one thought:  THANK GOD I STOPPED AT STARBUCKS.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    That's the Night That the Lights Went Out in Kansas

    Last winter we had a power outage.  It wasn't storm related.  It must have been a grid thing, because the electricity was on for the houses across the street from us but not for the houses behind us.  It only lasted about an hour and a half, so it really wasn't all that inconvenient.  But I learned a lot in those 90 minutes.

    First, our parents were serious when they told us to keep emergency candles and matches handy.  I have long since used my emergency candles for other emergencies ... like a birthday cake.  We found some Yankee candles, however, and my bedroom ended up smelling like oatmeal cookies and cinnamon toast.  Which, of course, made us hungry, but we couldn't cook anything (see comment about lack of electricity above).  That's when I learned Lesson Number Two:  Always keep emergency food on hand.

    Now, granted, we didn't actually move into starvation mode.  No one started looking at our dogs longingly or thought wistfully about the plate of dinner they didn't quite finish.  No one made rash statements like, "I will never push to the side or sneakily toss my lima beans to the dogs."  But we did talk about how we might try to not take for granted the many blessings we have.

    Lesson Number Three came in the form of quietness.  Somehow, when it's dark, it's also quiet.  We found ourselves speaking in low voices.  We broke out the guitars which were strummed softly.  We shared memories, we shared hopes, we shared some dreams.  And it was there, in the quiet, with candles burning and music softly playing, that I was reminded of the most important lesson of all:  My family is my biggest blessing.

    We're not perfect; most times we're not even awesome.  We struggle, we argue, we get knocked down a bit.  And, honestly, there have been times when I've wondered if I was really just too messed up of an individual to have a family.  But there, in that gift of quiet darkness, I could see and hear so clearly. I wouldn't trade my life with this man and these boys for anything.

    It comes as no surprise that our electricity came back on.  Appliances started humming.  Voices resumed their normal volumes.  Everyone scattered from our bedroom and resumed their normal getting ready for bed routines, and I felt just a bit of disappointment that our forced quiet time together had come to an end. 

    I've thought of that evening many times.  There have been a few events since then that have made me very thankful we shared that special evening.  And today, as I experienced the first snowflakes of the season, I thought again of that winter's night, and it made me smile.

    There's a part of me that silently hopes we have another power outage (a short one, with no harm done to people or food).  And just in case, I'm going to round up some candles and matches.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Lost, Found, Repeat

    Jesus told a few parables of people searching for what was lost: a sheep, a coin, a son. The lessons are about how God passionately pursues us, and how significant we are to Him. Recent events have made those lessons more clear to me.

    It's that special time of year when we find ourselves spending our weekends doing outside chores.  Yes, we enjoyed the shade of the trees through the summer, but now those leaves are falling at a much faster rate than we can rake them into bags.  In addition, water hoses need to be stored, the lawn needs to be seeded, and the window units need to come out of windows where they worked overtime keeping the sleeping occupants cooled in rooms the central air conditioning just couldn't quite reach. 

    On a recent chilly weekend, Dale got out the ladder and set his sights on those window units. (A note about chilly: A 53 degree day feels much more chilly in October after a long summer than does a 53 degree day in March, in which case we would break out the summer clothes.) It wasn't long before Dale sent out a "Help, please" as he encountered a window frame that had somehow been broken without our knowledge.  Hmmm.  Welcome to the world of raising boys.

    Not long after that, another distress signal was issued.  This one was serious.  Dale had lost his ring.

    Please understand that, in the great big scheme of things, a ring is not life or death.  It's a possession.  A thing.  It's not as important as one of our children.  Or anyone's child.  But this ring was special.  It was a ring that belonged to my dad, and my mom gave it to Dale.  It is a beautiful, probably expensive ring, but it means so much more to Dale than that.

    So, we looked.  We raked leaves.  We got down on our hands and knees.  We rented a metal detctor, which we have promised to do again because one boy was completely distracted by the potential millions of dollars worth of treasures buried in our yard (at least that's what the metal detector led us to believe).  I even got out the binoculars and risked life and limb hanging out the window to look for the ring.  After a few hours, when all hope seemed to be lost, Dale swept back some leaves we had poked through numerous times and found the ring. THE RING WAS FOUND!!!

    Immediately Dale handed me the ring and told me to put it away.  He didn't want to risk wearing it and losing it again.  He confessed he was thinking of what he was going to tell my mother and how nice it had been to be part of our family for 23+ years, but he didn't hold out any hope that he would be allowed to stay in the family.  (He is so silly.  He would have to do something way worse than this to get kicked out of my family--they really, really love him.) I put the ring in my camera bag and promised myself to take care of putting the ring up until such time as I can get it re-sized to better fit Dale's finger. 

    In my defense, EVERYONE in this house KNOWS not to trust my memory.  While I can still recall the phone number of a friend from 6th grade, I cannot seem to remember more recent things.  Like when to return a library book.  Or what I named my children.  Or where I put the ring after removing it from my camera bag.  Yeah, that happened.  I put it in a safe place. I'm sure of it.

    A few weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about that ring.  I started looking for it in all of the "safe" places I generally place things.  I found a secret stash of chocolate, a key we had misplaced, a movie ticket stub from several years ago (Thank God I found that!), and a jewelry-making tool I'd been looking for.  But no ring. 

    I searched the camera bag again.  No ring.  I searched every jacket pocket, pants pocket, and trash can.  No ring.  I started thinking of worst-case scenarios like maybe I did leave it in the camera bag and it fell out when I took pictures at Calder's football awards.  Or maybe one of our dogs ate it and I needed to again rent the metal detector to find the ring in the backyard, if you know what I mean. 

    And I started to panic.  As silly as Dale was to think he could get kicked out of the family for losing that ring, I'm not quite that silly.  I KNOW I would get kicked out of the family for losing that ring.  How would I tell my mom? Start with the good news, and then sneak the bad news in? "Hey, Mom, your grandson's broken leg healed perfectly, everyone is getting good grades, looks like my work load is picking up a little bit, and I lost Dale's ring."  Maybe she wouldn't notice?

    After two days of frantic searching and BEGGING God to please help me find the ring, I looked in the least logical place.  And that's where I found it.  It was in my purse.  You know when you've been searching for something and then you find it and you think, "Oh, yeah, now I remember putting that there"?  Well, I have absolutely no memory of putting that ring in my purse.  None.  I really have no idea when that happened.

    But it did make me think about how we pursue what is lost.  I have done some pretty stupid things over lost relationships and lost dreams.  I have done some pretty brave things to find lost children (the ball pit in McDonald's Play Place is not for the faint of heart).  I have searched successfully, and I have searched fruitlessly.  And I have found this to be true: the more significant the loss, the more passionate the search (and the bigger the celebration, or at least the bigger the relief).

    Draw your own life lesson here, but I'll tell you what I've learned.  I make mistakes ALL the time, and I need to take responsibility for them.  But the next time I'm feeling lower than worm sweat because of something I've said, or done, or thought, I'm going to remember that I am significant enough to be pursued.  Passionately.  Like someone would pursue a treasured ring. Or a sheep.  Or a coin.  Or a child. "Rejoice with me: I have found what was lost!"

    PS--I called my mom and told on myself.  She only had two heart attacks but is now recovering nicely, and we agreed that I won't tell her if we ever lose the ring again.  And the ring is in a safe place now.  I really mean it this time.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Military Mom, Part Two

    NOTE:  This is second in a series of sporadic posts about this military thing happening in our family. How many military mom posts will there be?  No clue.  But more than two. 

    Don't call them part-time soldiers, weekend warriors, pseudo-military, or any other "funny" nickname you've heard.  Just don't.  There is no such thing as part-time military.  They are not "just the National Guard" or "only the Reserves."  They are soldiers.  Completely, totally, 100%.

    When I was a young adult, people could join the military and spend their entire commitment never going into battle.  The kids who join today are pretty much guaranteed they will see action. They know it, and they join anyway.

    We know a soldier in the National Guard.  He has a young family and a full-time job.  He had a plan when he joined, and he wanted to serve his country in the process.    So he joined the National Guard and left for his training shortly after finding out his wife was pregnant with their first child.  While he was gone, his wife experienced some complications with her pregnancy and eventually ended up on bed rest.  He missed all of that.  Then he missed the birth of his child. And now he has orders to deploy overseas and will miss the first and probably the second birthdays of his child.  Part time commitment?  Absolutely not.

    Our oldest son is in the Army Reserves.  He also had a plan when he joined, and he wanted to serve his country in the process. When he came home from training, he attended his Drill weekends at his post as well as worked as much as possible doing contract labor.  It's not easy finding a job when potential employers know you will more than likely be leaving--sometimes, with hardly any notice at all.

    To make a long story short, Spencer's unit was given less than 48 hours notice to deploy as part of a humanitarian/peacekeeping mission to a country devastated by an earthquake.  (It takes me longer than 48 hours to get ready to go to Dale's parents' house for the weekend.)  Spencer's unit had less than that amount of time to prepare to leave for 6 months.  And take everything they thought they would need (how much toilet paper would you pack for six months?).  And say goodbye to their families.  And resign from jobs.  And one guy even had to cancel his wedding plans and do a hurry-up ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace.  And by the way, these soldiers also spent numerous hours at the post packing up stuff for the unit.  It wasn't just their own stuff they had to do.

    Spencer is single and was, at that time, still living at home.  He had no lease to break.  He didn't have a career.  He didn't have a wife or children or even a dog.  Yet we scrambled to get everything done. We went shopping for his stuff.  We packed his foot locker, got his laundry caught up, and even had some family and dear friends over for a good-bye dinner.  Other members of his unit had to say goodbye to small children or seriously ill parents.  One guy had to resign from a job he had just landed after months of unemployment. 

    Still, they left.  They travelled to another post to join with soldiers from other units.  One week into their preparations, they received orders to stand down.  One week after that, they came home.  They had to again find jobs and places to live and try to resume their lives here.   When they deploy overseas next year, they will do it all over again--say goodbye to children and spouses, resign from jobs, put their stuff in storage, sell their vehicles, hug their parents.  Part-time commitment?  Absolutely not.

    Don't get me wrong.  These soldiers are fully educated when they join.  They know they are giving over control of their lives for the years of their contract.  They know they will be called upon at any time to protect and defend the people of the United States in whatever way deemed necessary by the powers that be.  It's what they are trained to do. 

    And you know what?  They'll do it even if you don't support them.  They'll do it even if you don't agree with what they are doing.  They will do it even if you disrespect the flag they so dearly love.  They'll even protect and defend your right to do so.

    Does that sound like a part time commitment to you?  I don't see how it could.  In our experience, there's no such thing as part time military.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Q & A Concerning Dale's African Adventure

    While Dale is traveling in Kenya and having a mighty fine time, the boys and I are holding down the homefront.  In response to the numerous questions we have received, a decision was made to respond to those questions here.  Questions have been selected randomly from the question box located on my desk.

    Q.  Tell everyone how your handsome sons are taking care of you while Dad is gone.
    A.  First, that wasn't a question.  Second, I think, though I'm not certain, this one may have come from one of my handsome sons.  Regardless, my handsome sons are taking great care of me by letting me know how needed I am to do laundry, make dinner (or provide funds for dinner), get them out the door in the morning, etc.  Whew!  I sure am glad I'm not here alone!  :-)

    Q.  Are you afraid while Dale is gone?
    A.  Hmm.  Not certain what there is to be afraid of.  My two big dogs will not let anyone enter the house.  My very big God is always looking out for me.  A certain hunter is letting us babysit his favorite shotgun.  Three strong (and handsome) men are making sure I'm doing okay.  In fact, two of those men have even offered to stay home from school during the day just to keep me company.  Can you believe how sacrificial they are?  Seriously, there are many, many people, plus God, looking out for us.  We're fine.
    Q.  Um, what exactly is Dale doing in Kenya?
    A.  Well, that's a great question.  Dale works for Helix Architecture + Design, a company of innovative and skillful people who are passionate about sustainability and meeting people's needs.  David, a high school and college friend of Dale's, has a non-profit organization, Affecting Change International, and is deeply committed to meeting basic human needs throughout the world.  Together, they are working on re-purposing out-of-use shipping containers to house self-contained village centers to be used in remote and/or impoverished locations.  Education, medical attention, communication, clean water, sanitation--these are basic human needs that, when met, can change people's lives.  If you can change people's lives in one village, you can change the world.

    For better, more professional descriptions of what is going on, check out these two websites:

    http://www.helixkc.com/   The anticipated blog posts from Dale may have to wait until he gets back as he is having difficulty with wifi connectivity.  However, if you want to take a gander at some of the other great projects and great people associated with Helix, take a look.  (Be sure to check out the PEOPLE section to locate my favorite architect.)

    http://www.affectingchange.org/  Here you can see some of the work ACI has already done as well as what their plans are for the future.  Check out the media section where you can find pictures of the presentation materials Dale and David used when addressing the InfoPoverty World Conference at the UN in March.  Plus, the model concepts and pictures are just plain cool.

    Q. Is Dad bringing back gifts?
    A.  I'm beginning to see that the question box has been used for personal gain.  However, the answer to that question is that Dad coming back home safely will be a wonderful gift.  If he happens to bring me a walking stick and some great fabric, that's just a bonus.  By the way, Spencer, I'm not certain he will be able to clear customs with the lion you requested.  You may have to settle for a hat.

    Q.  Can a guy from the Mid-west really change the world?
    A.  Absolutely.  He certainly changed mine.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    What a Wonderful World

    I've been humming my favorite song all day.  What a Wonderful World was written for me, I just know it.  It was certainly written for a day like today--beautiful blue sky, nice temperature, low humidity (a gift in August in the midwest).  And I just found out one of the writers of my favorite song, George David Weiss, passed away. 

    I think the ability to write songs is such a gift. I am not a songwriter.  I wish I was.  For some reason, on those rare occasions I've tried to write a song, it comes out very 1st graderish with every line rhyming:

    I'm so in love with you,
    Thank God you don't have the flu.

    Okay, not quite that bad, but close.  Regardless, it's easy to see why I appreciate good songs.  The ability to express what others think or feel or go through to the point where it spurs them into action, or to tears, or just makes them smile is a gift.  Not everyone has that gift, but I can certainly appreciate those who do. (And, for the record, I am so in love with my husband, and I really am thankful he doesn't have the flu.)

    What a Wonderful World

    I see trees of green, red roses, too.
    I see them bloom for me and you.
    And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

    I see skies of blue, clouds of white,
    Bright blessed days, and dark sacred nights.
    And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

    The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
    Are also on the faces of people going by.
    I see friends shaking hands, saying "How do you do?"
    They're really saying, "I love you."

    I hear babies crying,
    I watch them grow.
    They'll learn much more
    Than I'll ever know.
    And I think to myself, what a wonderful world. 

    I think to myself, what a wonderful world. Oh yeah.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Weiss.  It really is a wonderful world.  Thanks for the reminder.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Dale!

    I am the president of the Dale Duncan Fan Club.  Not an easy task.  The guy has lots of fans.

    My dad, for example, loved Dale more than he loved me.  He thought Dale was incredible.  In fact, if Dale would have professed a love of country music, my dad would have deemed him perfect.  What Dad did believe, however, was that Dale is perfect for me.  My dad was right.

    My mom, who met Dale before we even started dating, thought he was perfect as well.  When I called to tell her we were dating, I could hear the smile in her voice from 1200 miles away.  She loves Dale and thinks of him as one of her children.  She recently gave Dale something that had been my dad's.  When Dale suggested that maybe one of the sons should have it, she told him that one of the sons does have it.  He loves my mom.

    Dale is helping raise 3 of his biggest fans.  These boys are blessed to have such a great father.  He loves them.  He listens to them.  He helps them.  He works hard to provide for them.  He defends them.  He corrects them.  He even lets them beat him in video games.  Isn't that right, Dale?  You are letting them beat you, aren't you?

    Dale has some fans at work, too.  It's really hard not to respect someone who works so hard, who knows so much, and who is so helpful and patient.  He enjoys helping other people do their best.  He celebrates the accomplishments of others, and he doesn't throw people under the bus.  Plus, his knowledge of 70s rock music trivia is pretty phenomenal.  Who wouldn't love that? 

    And Dale is a pushover when it comes to little girls.  Nieces, little girls I've babysat, little girls in restaurants--they could ask him for anything, and Dale would say yes.  God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us sons (and they were hard enough for Dale to say no to).  When it's Girl Scout Cookie selling time, well, let's just say I've learned to budget for Dale's inability to say no.  (Secretly, it's one of the things I love most about him.)

    I am amazed at how difficult it is for me to adequately describe this guy I love.  Let me try it this way:  Dale has a good soul.  And he's the best person I know.

    Happy Birthday, love of my life.  Thanks for being born.

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Military Mom, Part One

    NOTE:  This is the first in a series of sporadic posts about this military thing happening in our family.  How many Military Mom posts will there be?  No clue.  But more than one.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have decorated my den in Americana red, white, and blue.  Perhaps I should have hidden my tears when the Star Spangled Banner was played.  Perhaps I never should have watched any war movies with my boys. All of these things have led to numerous conversations about how this nation came to be free, and how it continues to be free.  Somewhere along the way, my older two boys came to their own conclusions that they wanted to have a part in protecting that freedom.  So now while other moms are shopping for dorm refrigerators and cute rugs, I'm saving Pringle's cans (for sending cookies overseas) and buying Bibles with camo covers.

    As Americans, these are the kind of people you want defending and protecting your country.  They believe in freedom, they believe freedom has a price, and they are willing to pay it.  They believe in it so much that you don't have to agree with them or like them, and they will defend your right to voice that.  That is a level of belief with which few of us are familiar. 

    As a mom, I don't want my boys to be in harm's way.  I don't want them to see things that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.  I don't want them to be ordered around by people who don't love them as much as I do.  And I really don't want them to miss out on life--marrying, having children, being uncles, worrying about mortgages, finding good schools, staying up late to make sure the kids get home safely, etc.  I want my boys to be happy.  I want them to be healthy.  I want them to live very long lives.  Preferrably near their mom.

    My older two boys have decided to be in the military.  Spencer has been in the Army Reserves for two years, and Tanner will be leaving next summer for Marine boot camp. (We have extracted a promise from our youngest, Calder, that he will go to college and party like a normal kid.)  We've learned new lingo, mapped out trips to graduations and celebrations, joined support groups, met recruiters, had conversations with current and former military personnel and their families, packed foot lockers, washed uniforms, and planned ways to make the most of the next several months while we still have everyone close to home.

    There have been many late nights, when everyone is asleep and the only sounds are the deep breathing of boys and dogs and the hum of the diswasher set to run in that short window between the last shower of the night and the first shower of the morning, when I think about what these boys are doing.  And I could not be more proud.  I am a military mom.

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    My. Own. Office.

    I have an office.

    Don't think glass buildings and a view of the skyline through professionally cleaned windows.  Think more along the lines of I can look out  and see when the recycling truck is here, as long as I have first cleaned the dogs' nose prints off the window. 

    It's not fancy.  It's not even pretty.  But it is MINE.  And I find myself really conflicted that I can be so over the moon about a tiny former bedroom when I've really tried to teach my children that the accumulation of stuff does not make you happy.  But here I am, in my office, with my stuff. and I'm happy. I even have a door!

    Please understand that I have been working from home for several years now.  My office has been in a 36 square foot loft outside of one of the bedrooms and then in a 60 square foot corner of our bedroom.  It's been cramped.  It's been inconvenient.  It's been, at times, quite difficult to navigate around the work projects to fall into bed for a few hours and wake up with the work projects staring me in the face again.  And, let's face it, as patient as he is, Dale has spent many years trying to fall asleep to the sound of the keyboard and the light of my monitor.

    The very day our oldest child moved into his own apartment, we moved my desk and filing cabinets. And by we I mean Dale.  He cleaned and hauled and disconnected and reconnected and made sure that I could still finish my project with minimal disruption. He brought up boxes of books from the basement.  He found tubs and tubs of all kinds of stuff  I've been saving.  He even found things like my former Wyoming license plate and my chili pepper lights which have been in storage for YEARS because they didn't really blend into the decor of any of our rooms.  Until now. 

    I know.  Not very office-like, right?  But so very me.  This room is full of stuff that would make most people gag. It's certainly not going to win any awards in Architectural Digest.   Honestly, I don't want that.  I want to look around this room and smile, and I do.  Right there is my stuffed killer whale, Shampu.  Over there is one of my dad's caps.  On that wall is a painting of a lighthouse my mom did many years ago.  Right there are pictures of my boys.  Over there is a poster Dale talked a shopkeeper into giving us on our honeymoon.  On my desk is a vase of beautiful flowers my sister sent me for my birthday.  And right there is the license plate that resided on my little Honda Civic and that saved a friend from getting a ticket one night as he drove my car to his security job:

    OFFICER: Son, you are driving in Texas with an expired Indiana driver's license in a car with Wyoming plates, and it's not even your car.  The only reason I am not going to give you a ticket is because I don't want to call in this plate and have dispatch laugh at me when I say, "That plate is One, Cowboy on a Bucking Horse, Four, Zero..."
    MY FRIEND: Thank you, sir. [Drives off laughing.]

    So, if you want to come by and see my office, you are more than welcome.  I'll show you the license plate, I'll turn on the chili pepper lights, we'll laugh over my yearbook pictures, and you can be impressed with my pink curtains.  And if you don't like my office, that's okay, too.  I do.

    Did I mention that I have an office?

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Babies Having Babies

    Recently a little red-haired girl had a baby.

    I remember so clearly the day the little red-haired girl was born.  Well, honestly, she didn't have a lot of hair, maybe three or four, and they stood straight up on the top of her head.  Dale and I were engaged when his childhood/high school friends had that little girl, and I distinctly remember dropping by the hospital that evening.  Shea Lynn was a beautiful baby.

    I've watched that girl grow up.  Just to make her parents mad, I taught her to say "Image is everything" and can still hear her saying that to me in her 8-year-old voice.  From the little girl who wanted me to watch the "Teenate Moocha Minja Minja Turtles" with her to the killer softball player she was, to the beautiful bride in her beautiful wedding, she has been wise and mature beyond her years.  Which is really funny, because she LOOKS younger than her 23 years.  She gets carded renting video games. She gets pulled over for silly stuff (perhaps because she looks too young to be driving).  It's a running  joke about how she looks too young to be married and having a baby, but at her baby shower this past New Year's Day, this one thing was obvious: Shea Lynn is a beautiful woman.

    Shea has had a very busy year, to say the least.  Among other things, she found out she was pregnant shortly after her husband joined the National Guard, sent him off for 8 months of training, quickly escalated into high-risk pregnancy status, tried to go into labor too many times to count, and delivered her baby with her parents standing in for her soldier-husband who was not allowed to come home.  There were challenges with the baby's eating.  There were challenges with her own health.  And the weather where she lives was absolutely HORRIBLE this past Winter and Spring.  Still, she's been determined to make it through and help others along the way.  Shea Lynn is a beautiful person.

    Last week, she brought her baby to see us. We were thrilled to get to see her and spend some time with her, her dad, and her little man (her husband was away at his Annual Training).  We cried about struggles. We giggled over her little boy's noises. We somberly talked about deployments and support systems.  She rocked, she played, she washed baby things, she changed diapers, she handled teething like a pro, and she was her bright, funny, engaging self.   I watched this woman I have known her entire life, and it hit me square in the face:  Shea Lynn is a beautiful mother.

    Shea Lynn, I want you to know that I don't just think of you as my little almost-niece.  You are also my friend, and I am blessed to know you.  I love you, little red-haired girl. 

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    For the Laundry in My Basement

    Well, hello big piles of laundry.  I am assuming you are all here as a consequence of the boys cleaning their rooms this weekend.  I haven't seen some of you in quite awhile.  And a few of you are new.  So, here's a little orientation brought to you by the Laundry Queen.

    If I put you into a specific pile, I want you to stay there.  If you happen to be a white sock, for example, please don't inch your way over to the pile of red clothes, no matter how desperately you want to be pink.  In this house, I am the only one who wears pink socks, and I like my socks to fit MY feet.  A very large pink sock is pretty much guaranteed a position in the dust cloth bag.  Don't make me do that to you.

    Some of you have an unpleasant odor.  This is not your fault.  You did your job.  You covered up feet and armpits and other such body parts of boys who REALLY enjoy life.  You have been through mud puddles and lawn-mowing.  You have been in running shoes and cowboy boots.  You have been the foundational layer in a day's worth of clothing changes--from school to work to home to bed.  Be proud of the job you've done.  And don't worry about your odor.  I am the Laundry Queen.

    I rule the laundry room.  The big pile of denim does not.  Yes, it is, by far, the gang with the most members.  (The Levi Strauss family still sends us thank you notes for putting their children through college.)  But might does not make right.  The denim pieces still have to go through the same process as the rest of you--no preferential treatment.  In fact, denim often endures a longer cycle through the washing machine, definitely tumbles around longer in the dryer, and rarely gets the nice fabric softener.  So don't be intimidated by the mass of denim.  It, too, will be cleaned.

    There is special treatment for my clothes.  I am the queen.  Get over it.

    Some of you Old Timers (like the towels we received as wedding gifts) may remember men's dress shirts and slacks and may be wondering where those went.  There is another laundry place, much bigger than anything you've seen, where other dress shirts and slacks go to be cleaned.  The very nice people at the cleaners do a great job on these clothes, and I am a much more pleasant person when I don't have to try to iron that nice crease into clothes which are not natually pre-disposed to having creases put in them.  The rest of you should be thankful we don't like EVERYTHING to have nice creases. 

    Don't be jealous of anything with a price tag hanging off of it.  We all age, and newer does not always mean better.  For example, older sheets and towels are much more comfortable than new ones.  You older ones have been around.  You've seen more.  You know more.  Some of you have dried off and warmed little boys who left a ring of dirt in the tub.  Some of you have been used as a t-shirt for the dad of the house and then as a night shirt for a boy, and now as a t-shirt again for guys who no longer wear night shirts to bed.  Some of you have clothed all 3 boys (some of you even more boys than that before you came to live with us).  Oh, and about those tags, don't be fooled.  I don't pay full price for anything, as you well know.  I didn't for you.  I didn't for them.

    There is a relatively new pile in the room. Some of you have noticed this pile and seem to be in awe. You seem to whisper in the presence of these clothes and exhale slightly when they are taken from the laundry room cleaned, folded, and stacked. That pile of green- and khaki-colored camouflage won't be with us this time next year. Someone else will be responsible for cleaning those clothes. Whoever that is, I hope they remember to remove the pens from the sleeve pocket, the Bible from the other sleeve pocket, and the multiple tools from the belt. I hope they look at that hard-earned rank patch and that set of wings and realize just how far that particular soldier has come. And when those clothes come back here again, we will gladly welcome them into our laundry world, and we will be thankful they are here.

    To all of you, please know that I appreciate that you clean and dry and cover our bodies.  When I get through with you, you will be clean. More than likely, you will end up back on a teenager's floor, filthy, next to the laundry hamper, destined to stay on the floor until the next Clean Your Room Before Mom Has an Aneurysm Day. This is your circle of life.  You may feel underappreciated, and I can understand that.  It may seem that you are mistreated and taken for granted.  All I can tell you is this:  When you're feeling sorry for yourself, look around and gain some perspective.  At least you're not a shoe.

    P.S.  As a kindness to all, I did not include pictures.  You are welcome.

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    My Love/Hate Relationship With my Printer

    Technology and I are not the best of friends.

    For example, I blew up a computer one time.  Not with explosives--merely with my presence.  Perhaps it preferred self-destruction over even one more day of me blaming it for losing my documents or for not doing what I told it to do.  But, in the spirit of total honesty, I must tell you that I talk to my computer and believe that what I tell it to do (using my voice) should take precedence over what I tell it to do with my fingers pushing the wrong keys.  Who decided those were the wrong keys, anyway?  And why can't my computer just understand what I want it to do without me having to tell it in the right ways?  (Did anyone need any proof that computers are male?)

    And then there's the printer.  The last time I had to buy a printer was several years ago, about this time of year.  I was ready to print our tax return when Original Printer said, "Um, no.  I'm not going to do that.  I am tired.  You don't let me print pretty things, just boring documents.  And I think that USB cord makes me look fat."  (Did anyone need any proof that printers are female?)

    So I replaced it, and Replacement Printer served me well.  I could print from my camera.  I could print from my SD card.  I could even, and this is really amazing, print from my computer.  I could make copies.  I could scan stuff.  And, by golly, it was kind of pretty.

    The Replacement Printer/owner relationship wasn't without its own set of issues.  For instance, for whatever reason,  it would occasionally re-install its own software and rename itself.  When I would get ready to print something, I had to scroll through the list of printers to see which name we were now using (we got up to "Copy 6").  And then it decided it would no longer print economically--only best quality for Replacement Printer.  Not that most people would think that disastrous.  It's just that 99% of what I need to print is stuff that will be recycled as soon as that project is over.  Oh, and do you have to feed pages into your printer one sheet at a time so that it will work?  Well, toward the end, I did.  Yes, that's how committed I was to the relationship.

    And then tax season came again.  Because I am self-employed and my office is in our home, our tax return is about 73 pages long.  Seriously?  I thought about standing there, feeding one sheet at at time through Replacement Printer, and I decided it was time for a New One. 

    I can promise you that Replacement heard me talking about New One.  Suddenly, Replacement would print more than one page at a time AND on the economy setting.  I began to doubt the whole New One plan.  I thought about how I was going to return New One to its cozy shelf at the manufacturer.  I even thought about buying a new ink cartridge for Replacement Printer--perhaps even the tri-color kind.

    And then, with no warning whatsoever, Replacement Printer resumed its nasty way of printing what it wanted to print, the way it wanted to print.  No more economy setting.  No more printing multiple pages.  In fact, it quite suddenly decided to offer me four mangled sheets of paper for every one it printed correctly. 

    Well, New One is now installed (not without a bit of difficulty, mind you).  Apparently, they are very serious about doing the installation IN THE CORRECT ORDER. Whatever.

    When Dale came home that night, I asked him to take the old Replacement Printer down to the basement, but to keep it in its upright position just in case I have to use it again.  Yes, my new printer is brand new, but you just never know.  Technology and I don't always get along.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010

    Bring it On, Spring

    I'm not certain, but I think I've never anticipated Spring more than I did this year.  I really try to not complain too much about the weather for 2 reasons:
    1.  I cannot do anything about it. (There.  I've admitted it.  I do not control everything. But don't tell my kids.)
    2.  The weather is always worse somewhere else. 

    This year, however, I broke my own no whining policy.  This year, winter lasted for about a decade.

    It's not that I don't appreciate winter.  I love snow.  I love getting snowed in.  I even enjoy driving in snow.  And, to me, there are few things more beautiful than a blanket of snow covering everything.  It's like a fresh start for life, and it inspires me in so many ways.

    And I would much rather it be cold outside than hot.  I can dress in layers for the cold.  There's only so much one can take off in the heat and still have friends.  Plus, as a woman in menopause, I find that I don't need so many warm clothing layers as I have my own furnace thing going on with the hot flashes.

    But this year, snow was about all I could see for a long time.  And we were snowed in a lot.  And not very many people here really know how to drive in the snow.  And I came down with a really bad case of it's-been-too-long-since-we've-seen-the-sun.

    By the time Spring Break rolled around, I was ready to get out of the house.  A trip to the beach would have been nice.  A trip to the Southwest would have been great.  You could have sold me a trip to just about anywhere that held a good possibility of sunshine.  Where did I go?  To a place that always equals peace for me:  the home where my husband was raised.

    My in-laws live farther south than we do, and their Spring is almost always about 10 days to 2 weeks ahead of ours.  It can still be winter at my house, but things will be starting to bloom in their neck of the woods. From the Bradford pear trees standing as sentinels along the driveway, irises poking through at their roots, to the tulip tree near the garage, to the wisteria on the fence, to the dogwood in the yard--they beckon me into their world.  It's like they are reminding me that winter cannot last forever and that Spring is imminent.  It's like they are reminding me of that thing I hold so dear: HOPE.

    Now, do I rely on the weather for my hope? Of course not. And do I think Spring is the only season where hope blooms or that hope is dependent on the weather?  A resounding NO.  But after the long winter we just had, after a rough year in this economy, after a few life-altering decisions were made, change is welcome.  This time, it just happens to be in the form of Spring.

    So, bring it on, Spring.  Woo me with your sunny days and mild temper-atures.  Beckon me with the smells of fresh mown grass and cleansing Spring rains.  Lull me to sleep at night with your cool temperatures and the breeze blowing through my not-yet-leafed-out trees.  Welcome me each day with the woodpecker in my neighbor's tree and the squirrels who are once again taking up residence in my backyard just to spite my dogs.  I enjoy you each year, but you're special to me this time.  You've reminded me of hope.

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Spencer!

    My firstborn child is 20 today.  Yikes!

    When this kid was less than one week old, he could lift his head off my shoulder and look around. In the literary world, this is called foreshadowing. In the parenting world, this should have been a clue to his parents that he would be one strong-willed child. He ALWAYS wanted to do things his way, which has made for some very interesting parenting moments. Potty training on our schedule? Um, no. Save money for a rainy day? Not a chance. Make it home by curfew? Rarely.

    By the time he was 2, the depth of his questions had surpassed my ability to answer them.  The TV remote was his favorite toy--he completely took it apart and put it back together.  And from the moment we turned his carseat around to face forward, this kid wanted to drive.  To this day, he can put more miles on a vehicle in a shorter amount of time than any person I have ever known (including truck drivers)!  Parenting this boy has always been an adventure.

    Spencer is hilariously funny, deeply opinionated, extremely bright, and has the ability to make any dog fall in love with him.  He has a definite firstborn sense of right and wrong.  He is a great older brother.  He is a teddy bear on the inside (but that's a secret, so please don't tell anyone).  He has been written off by several people during his young life, and that's pretty sad.  This kid is worth getting to know.

    Except for my tailbone (which he broke during birth) and some furniture and keepsakes he has accidentally broken or set on fire, he's pretty much been a delight to have around.  We were not surprised when he informed us he had joined the Army Reserves, and we have watched with pride (and some tears) as he graduated from Basic Combat Training, then his Advanced Individual Training, and most recently as we sent him off on a military mssion to Haiti (which was called back by our government).  Spencer has always believed we enjoy freedom in this country because of the sacrifices of others, and he has always felt he wanted to do his part.  Believe me, this is the guy you want defending your freedom, even if you don't appreciate it.

    We will again stand with pride and tears as he gets ready to depart for Afghanistan sometime within the next year.  We will go through his room and find dishes that didn't make it down to the kitchen, chocolate kiss wrappers from when he stole the whole candy jar (nearly every time it has candy in it), and some socks that no amount of bleach will ever bring back to white.  We will anxiously await his letters, phone calls, or text messages.  I will bake and send to him The World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I will pray for him daily, as I do now, and as my friends will also do--they love him, too.

    Spencer, my son, being your mom is one of my favorite things in life.  Thanks for gracing us with your presence and making us proud.  Spencer Duncan is Mommy's little pumpkin.  And I love you so.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Calder!

    Today my youngest baby turns 13. Not even possible.

    In May of 1996, Dale and I were in Orlando for his work conference.  I was flipping through TV channels when a program caught my attention.  Being interviewed was a woman who had suffered several miscarriages but was later able to carry a baby to full term.  I paid attention to the details of her story with tears streaming down my face.  Just a few months prior, I had experienced my third miscarriage.

    We came back from Orlando, and I found out I was pregnant.  I bee-lined straight to my doctor who had also been doing research on the same medication I learned about in Florida.  I began the medication immediately by way of a needle in my abdomen attached to an infusion pump I wore 24 hours a day.  Thirty seven weeks and forty thousand dollars later, we were blessed to welcome our 3rd child.

    I cannot even begin to describe the joy this child has brought to our lives.  He is witty and charming.  He is kind and caring.  He is talented and bright.  He has been adored by school secretaries, grocery clerks, dear friends, and, of course, his family. 

    And now, he is a teenager.  I am cherishing each day.  I know he will be in high school tomorrow and off to college next week.  I know this to be true because it was just yesterday that my friends would take turns holding him  because he refused to exist apart from a lap.   It was just yesterday when a doctor at the clinic peeked into the baby carrier and proclaimed that Calder was the most beautiful baby he had ever seen (and the doctor had two children of his own).  It was just yesterday, when he was 10, that he wrote "You are the bomb" on the plaque for my dad's memorial service.  It was just yesterday he handed me a note that said, "It's quite possible that you are the best mom in the whole, wide world.  May we please eat Mexican food for lunch?"

    Throughout his young life, this kid has been a peer model in school, a stroke recovery incentive for my mom, and a chick magnet used by guys in the youth group (and his very own brothers).  He is an enthusiastic participant in Daddy Date Night.  He is a budding artist.  He is a collector.  He is a joy.  I don't know what he will choose to do when he grows up, but I know what he will be when he grows up: Amazing.

    Calder, you are a wonderful young man.  You're worth every needle stick, every penny, every prayer.  If I tried to use just one word to describe you, it would have to be the word you made up when you were about 3: Mooduhbuhshay.

    Happy Birthday, my precious baby.  I love you so.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    New Year's Revolution

    I'm not making any New Year's resolutions this year. Not even one.

    Don't get me wrong.  I'm far from perfect.  There are about 43 billion things about me that need to change.  Or that I would like to change.  Or, perhaps, that others would like to change  about me.  Sigh.  And it's not that I lack resolve.  One of my favorite writers says that every morning she "wakes up one determined woman."  I know that woman, too.  She lives in me.

    Nope, I 'm not making any resolutions by choice.  Instead, I'm focusing on a REVOLUTION.  You know, like the Beatles' song.  According to Webster's, revolution can mean many things.  But the definition I have hijacked and adopted for the year is this: a change of paradigm.

    I am shifting my thought pattern.  I am throwing out old and inaccurate perceptions of myself.  I am rocking my own world, down to the fundamentals of who I am, who I REALLY am.  Not who I think I am.  Not who I wish I was.  Sounds pretty elementary, doesn't it?  Not for me.

    I have been in survival mode for some time.  Just getting through each day with every person in our household mostly intact and functioning has been the goal.  And, truthfully, it's no small accomplishment for that to take place.  But I have a little more margin in my life now, some of it self-created and some of it created for me, and I'm going to purposefully change the pattern.

    Don't get nervous or worried.  I'm not going to jettison my husband, shave my head, or sell all my possessions.  In fact, you may not even notice any change at all.  That's okay.  I'm going to notice.  It's my new paradigm. I'll give a paradigm update every now and then.  Not because I think your whole world hinges on what I say or think, but because I'm trying to be transparent in meaningful ways (part of the new paradigm). 

    This will be an eventful year.  Friends will grieve.  Babies will arrive.  My kids will grow.  The economy will brighten (a girl can hope).  And while the specifics of each of those will consistently cycle through my thoughts, I am going to live more on purpose, and less on accident.  I'm going to take steps to make Survive my fall back mode and Thrive Mode my new normal.

    And every single day, I'm going to be thankful.  Every. Single. Day.  I'm not out to change the world.  I'm just out to change my world.

    And in the words of the Beatles' song, "You know it's gonna be alright."