July 7, 2016

July Adventure

Having boys means that almost everything can turn into an adventure.  I've learned a lot about adventure and exploration from Tommy and Jacob.  On the 4th of July this year, we met up with Todd's long time buddy Richard and his family out at a campsite in Kerrville, and spent the day in the sunshine on the river where adventure was waiting for all of us. 
 
Both Tommy and Jacob thought tubing on the water was pretty much the best thing ever.  That is until Richard took out his canoe and they got to ride in a real live boat and rowed down the river together.  Jacob acted like the captain and directed all of them on where they needed to go.  Tommy spent the day scouring the shallow waters for treasures like rocks shaped like the Millennium Falcon and lost snorkels.  He held tiny frogs in his hands and tried his hand at skipping rocks.  I'm not a huge fan of rivers and lakes and swimming with living creatures, but my boys don't seem to mind the fish or slimy mud.  I had to let myself relax as they tripped over rocks or nearly fell out of tubes and realize that all of the falls and scrapes that come with days like that are part of adventuring.
Part of the day was spent at the pool which is more my speed with it's clear waters and lack of living things and all.  My oldest will now get into a pool since he's tall enough to walk in it, and was brave and put his head under the water several times.  Teaching him how to swim and being patient with his fear of deep water is an ongoing challenge, but I can see where he is trying and he wants to break through and figure out how to do it.  And my other son was angry that I wouldn't let him go into the water on his own, completely unaware that he needs to learn to hold himself up.  He was jumping off the sides of the pool into our arms and takes on the pool with fearless abandon.  They continue to be completely opposite in personality and my mother's heart hopes that as they continue to grow up together tat they will learn from on another's fears and struggles, goals and accomplishments and build each other up.
We ate hot dogs and got a little sunburned, because sunscreen, no matter how many applications, still loses to south Texas sunbeams in the middle of the summer. 
 And of course, a 4th of July celebration wouldn't be complete without a little saber fighting.



On the way home, we found this cute car shop that had an old time gas station out front for fun photo-ops.  Never one to miss a photo-op, I asked that we turn around and get a few fun pictures.


July is notoriously hot in our neck of the woods and after a full day in the sunshine, we opted to watch fireworks from our living room sofa in our pajamas and the comfort of air conditioning.

Perhaps every year that we celebrate the birth of our nation, don our red, white and blue outfits and pop fireworks, I grow more grateful for our country, our freedoms and the blessings we have because we live in America.  I'm thankful that our day included long time friends, sunshine and adventure.

June 22, 2016

Short Stories

YARDWORK HARDWORK.

In all of the years we have been married, I have never helped with the yard.  I'm pretty sure it's partially because I was traumatized as a child by having to pick up smelly, rotten pears in the backyard anytime my dad needed to mow.  The only thing I hated more than picking up gross pears was when I had to scrub out the cat pan.  Ew.

But, Todd and I had a pre-marriage agreement, that all yard work and grass mowing was in the husband department.  I would make sure he always had clean underwear and dinner to eat and that occasionally I would dust things.  But killing bugs, taking out the trash and anything to do with the yard was his domain.

However, with how awesome I've been feeling lately, I offered to help Todd with some front yard maintenance.  We needed to weed out our shrub area and wanted to plant some new bushes to spruce things up a bit.  Tommy even helped and we got to reinforce lessons about working hard without complaining and having a good attitude.  I heard myself say all of the things that my dad would say to me when I had to pick up those damn pears in the backyard of my childhood house.  Full circle moments.

We worked and toiled all day - taking some popsicle breaks and a nap right in the middle of our project, because it's blazing hot in June here which is probably why do what we did in a sensible month like March.

But it felt good to help.  To move my body and dig and lift things and sweat along side of my husband.  Not because I had to, and not really even because I wanted to.  But because I could.


BETTER.

Someone called me "tiny" the other day and it felt weird.  I am far from tiny.  I am still overweight.  But I am smaller and can officially buy clothes on the "normal sized" parts of the store.

For me, the most drastic thing hasn't been my waistline or weight loss.  It's been in my health - how my body feels, how I am moving it, and what I am actually desiring to eat.  I want vegetables.  Pizza has lost its appeal.  I eat fruit for dessert on purpose.  When I have a sweet tooth, I eat a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and it's completely satisfying.  I've been working out - walking and attempted jogging.  Light weight lifting, crunches, squats and lunges - trying to both strengthen and push my body.

I've had several compliments on my appearance.  Some of that feels good, and some of it doesn't.  i try to filter things and let them roll off of me as any mention of my size in the past whether positive or negative has been triggering for me.  I've heard things like, "Wow, I know you went through a hellish ordeal this year, but man, you look fantastic!"  And I just say thank you.  Because yes, I did go through a hellish ordeal and I do look a bit fantastic.  But, how I look isn't even the point.  It's how I feel.  It's how much healthier I am now.  It's about my changed perspective and how I'm finally caring for my body with better nutrition and exercise.

Yes, I look better.  But I feel better.  I eat better.  I move better.  I am better.


FACES IN A CROWD.

We sat in a new church on Sunday morning.  There were chairs instead of pews and they had fun flashy lights when the music played and there were silly videos for announcements.  Our boys had a great time in their classes and Tommy is already asking to attend their VBS program next month.  My skeptical eye looked over their statement of faith for any potential doctrine issues that we don't agree with.  Other than one set of familiar faces, we were surrounded by strangers.  We were greeted as visitors and met with kindness.

But I sat there feeling sad.  Wondering if this place would be or ever could be home for us.  Recently, we made the decision to leave our church body that has been home to us for nearly seven years.  Things happened as they always do, and we have chosen to keep our reasons private.

Nevertheless, we are finding ourselves in this new space of starting over again.  We keep in touch with some of the friends that moved on and left the church before we us, and some of those friendships are long and lasting.  But they have and will continue to shift and change as life does with relationships and communities.  It took us over three years at our church before we really made friends.  At our peak there, we did life with several families and it was glorious.  We felt like we were wanted, like we belonged and had a purpose.

Now, we are new again.  We feel a little lost and quite alone, hoping to meet some new friends and families to do life with again.

But for now though, we are mere faces in a crowd.


PHONE CALLS AND HOSPITAL STAYS.

"You're calling me?" Sarah said answering her phone.

"I think we should probably know by now, that if we are calling each other instead of texting, something is probably wrong or we have bad news." I said choking back tears.  Remembering my call to her last December when I was sick and new something was terribly wrong.

"Uhoh.  What's up?" she asked.

It's funny how accustomed we are in this day in age to text.  For me, it's weird for anyone to call me unless it's my Grammy or my 74 year old boss who doesn't believe in text messages. And especially with Sarah and all of the life we have known together in the last several years, phone calls usually mean big or serious news:  Engagement.  Pregnancy.  Cancer.  Death.

We had some scary news on Father's Day.  Todd's dad went to the ER having difficulty breathing. As it turned out, he had some large blood clots in his lungs and for two days straight, we really didn't know if he would even live.  We were all nervous and scared and preparing ourselves for the worst.  He is planning to retire this year, they are building a new house, and his daughter (my sister-in-law and one of my best friends) is getting married.  It's a big year for him, for our family, and we don't want to imagie any of that without him.

Thankfully, it looks like he is on the mend and blood thinners and doctors did what they do best and were able to heal the scary things that were threatening his life.  The doctors are calling him a walking miracle because a clot of that size that passed through his heart into his lungs should have been fatal.

Sarah came to sit with my boys the evening I called her so I could go up to the hospital and take dinner to my family who hadn't eaten all day.  I sat with my mother-in-law and told her some silly stories about the boys while she ate her dinner so she could have a break from her tears and worries.  Todd took the week off of work and has been up at the hospital as soon as I have gotten home from my job.  It's only Wednesday but it feels like the longest week ever.

I found myself out loud in prayer this week, pleading with God. Asking Him for another miracle, another blessing, another place for Him to please come through and make things go our way.  I don't always pray out loud - I mostly journal and talk to Him through my writing things down.  But, just like Sarah answered her phone and she knew I was calling because I probably had bad news, God was right there to pick up and listen.


THE GIVING TREE.

It is my favorite childhood book.  I can remember sitting on my Grammy's lap listening to her read with her warm, soothing voice.  I would reach up and touch her cheeks and call her skin "fluffy."  Something about the story and those quiet moments with her put me at calm and rest.  Those sweet moments of story telling are some of my favorite memories of her.

Last week, she came over with the book as a gift for me, knowing the treasured memories we had together.  And I asked her to read it to my boys because I wanted them to have the same memory of her - her fluffy skin, her easy voice, the kind of calm that settles over you when you hear the tale of The Giving Tree.

And for a moment I was five again.

I've had her apples and swung from her branches, and she's given me so much to build a life and home of my own.  Grammy was and is and always will be, The Giving Tree.

June 13, 2016

Big Days

Some say that your wedding day is the biggest day of your life.  And it is a big day.  It's the merging of two lives into one.  A huge commitment of forever to another person without any kind of real guarantees for the future except for invisible promises and a faith in God that He will hold you together.  You say your vows in hopes that you can live up to them.

It's been ten years since our big day.  Ten years feels like a milestone.  An accomplishment.

Like we made it to double-digits in marriage and we need a trophy, or a blue ribbon, or at least a Target gift card to replace wedding gifts that have broken or are rusting and worn out.

Before I got sick this year, our plan was to take a "tennymoon" road trip to Colorado, just the two of us.  Stay in a cheap hotel and see the sights and go on some grand adventures in the mountains.  But because of medical bills and missed work, and you know, LIFE, our big together trip didn't get to happen.  We ended up splurging what we had in savings for a weekend beach getaway instead.

We got to eat in restaurants like grown ups without having to pour salt on the table for our three old to eat to keep him quiet (and yes, we really do this) and we got to have conversations outside of the subject of all things Star Wars.  We ate shrimp and took "fun" naps and went shopping and walked on the beach and made out in the pool.  I read a book and drank a coke ICEE and wore a dress for the first time in a very long while.  We celebrated each other, our love, our making it through so many bad things and so many good things.


Looking back I would say that some of the biggest days of our lives had nothing to do with our wedding day.

The day we found out we were pregnant with Tommy.  Buying our first home.  The birth of our first son.  When I stepped out in faith and quit my full-time job.  The day I decided I didn't want to end our marriage.  The day Jacob  was born and our hearts were so full we thought we might explode.  The time Todd left his job in North Dakota and we stepped out in faith once again about what life was going to look like.  The life-changing sickness I went through this year.

And those are just the monumental things.  Because there are a thousand day-to-day things that make up a beautiful life together too.  Like dinners around the table as a family, the date nights that end at the grocery store, the knowing glances we share when our boys bring us joy.  Nights spent around the fire pit talking and making s'mores, playing outside in the rain and countless light saber fights in our living room.

Our wedding day wasn't the biggest day of our lives.  It was the beginning of something.  It was the prologue to our story which has held so many big days.  And even more smaller ones that has somehow made up one very big something.

Happy Anniversary sweetheart.  Here's to the next ten!

May 18, 2016

The Family that Sings Together, Stays Together

I come from a singing family.  I mean, we are basically the modern day Von Trapp's, except there are more of us and we a lot more showy-offy.  Every last one of us is musically inclined in one way or another, and for as long as I can remember, our family gatherings have almost always included music and a time of singing.  Some of my most favorite family memories are tied to music - times spent in worship around a guitar, watching musicals together, or sponteanously breaking out into harmonies together.  In the past, we have even put on family Christmas concerts where we all sang together, in trios or duets and invited people to hear us sing!  See?  Showy-offy.

Over a month ago, my cousin Aimee had the brilliant idea of hosting a family karaoke day, where we could all get together and sing our favorite songs from Broadway musicals.  Because we are a singing family, we have all grown up with a deep love for musicals.  Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, West Side Story, Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Carousel, Grease, The Sound of Music, The King and I, My Fair Lady and Calamity Jane are just a few family favorites.

We all got together over the weekend, to show off our musical chops and sing together.  Some of us had practiced pieces and others were done off the cuff. And when I say some of us had practiced, I most definitely mean myself.  It was a hilarious, sweet, precious, fun time together.

My Poppy is the patriarch of our family.  I think we all see him as the cornerstone of our extended family and all of us have been shaped by him - his faith, his character, his correction of us, his love, his spiritual guidance.  And of course, his musical talent.  He is 82 and still has an incredible voice. He started us off with a performance of Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific.
And then he sang When I Fall in Love (not from a musical) to my Grammy and we all teared up at the sweetness of the moment.
And then we cried our eyes out when he started dancing with her.  Almost 60 years of marriage together....
The day was sweet.  Reconnecting with family and enjoying one another without the distraction of a holiday or a birthday.  I loved it.  I sang Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera and perhaps won the award for loudest-singer-ever afterwards.  And Tommy and I had rehearsed Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music and sang it together.  I got a little choked up with emotion - seeing where my Grandfather's legacy is being passed down to my own children.  And Tommy can sing for real ya'll.  I was so proud of him.

There were plenty of shenanigans on Saturday.  My sister knows every single word and lyric to Officer Krupke from West Side Story by heart and impressed us all with her incredible theatrics.
We all took turns, singing, laughing, entertaining.  I wondered how we had never thought of doing something like this before!  One of the highlights was singing Summer Nights from Grease all together as a family and then listening to my cousin Jon and Poppy fumbling through the words of Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' from Oklahoma!


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We ended our time together in worship.  It felt fitting to close like that after a day of fun and silly together
Days like that day remind me of how grateful I am for my family.  We aren't perfect and we certainly all possess our own measure of dysfunction.  But, we all know the Lord and our hearts are knit together in a special way - much because of the music we enjoy. 

Karaoke day 2.0 will happen again in December when my Aunt and Uncle and three cousins can join us for Christmas.  Time to start practicing!

April 26, 2016

A Story of Rescue

Since I was a girl, I have struggled with food, my weight, and various eating disorders.  Over the years, I have tried and failed dozens of diets, started up and canceled gym memberships, gotten personal trainers, seen doctors with medical programs, and tried various pills and shakes a hundred other crazy things to get this weight off of me.  I have been through countless sessions of therapy to process through every facet of why I am the way that I am.  Nevertheless, I have been scarily obese for a long time.

My body has been incredibly sick.  Last year, I gained more weight than I had in a while and I was nearly at the point of no longer being able to find clothes in a store in my size. My blood pressure and Rheumatoid Arthritis were becoming increasingly problematic.  I felt like a ticking time-bomb and was living with this great, unspoken fear that I could die from a stroke or heart attack because of the severity of both my weight and inflammation due to my RA.  I remember teaching my son how to dial 911 on my cell phone and how to give them our address in case anything happened to me or Todd.  I taught him this mostly because I was scared something could happen to me.  I felt stuck in a body that I didn't know how to care for and in desperate, desperate need for help.

I have cried out to God about this for most of my life.  I have prayed, confessed, prayed some more, and tried to do whatever it was that I thought He was leading me to do. But to be honest, I have always felt like God turned a blind eye to me in this place.  I felt abandoned by Him, left to figure it out on my own.  He has felt silent and quiet and all the years that I would cry out to Him - even for the strength to do anything in Christ like we read in Philippians 4:13 - it felt like He wasn't there or  wouldn't give me whatever it was I needed to have to stick to a healthy way of living. 

Last year as my fear over my body, my RA and my overall health began to mount, I began begging God to rescue me.  I asked Him to heal my body, to do something and get some of this weight off of me somehow.  These words are in my prayer journal:

Please God, I need Your rescue.  I don't know what else to pray about this anymore. Just please step in and rescue me!  Do something. Intervene.  Save me!  I beg you, please!  I need You.  I am so scared.  Please, rescue me?

And months later, He did.

It started on December 20th when I was hosting a Christmas party for some friends.  I was having some abdominal discomfort and began running a fever.  Two days later, my pain was so intense I decided to go to the hospital.  I was diagnosed with diverticulitis and sent home with medication.  However, my particular case turned out to be an infection of epic proportions.  Several ER visits later and a transfer to a different facility, I ended up in the hospital for 27 days to treat my infection and an abscess that had formed.  Once I was finally sent home, I was still ill and was treated with IV antibiotics and a liquid diet.  I then awaited a second surgery to remove the bad part of my colon that had been the most infected.

These five months have been both awful and wonderful all at the same time.  It seems as though when we go through something difficult, that there is joy and beauty to be found from the people that come to love on you and be the hands and feet of Jesus. 

I have been in intense pain and have experienced an equal amount of comfort from family and friends.  I have been out of work and our finances could have been in shambles.  But God provided all we have needed and we haven't gone without a single thing.  I went 27 nights without kissing my boys good night and tucking them in to bed, but they were loved and cared for in my absence.  My mother-in-law did my laundry and washed my dishes and vacuumed my floors and kept my home running when I couldn't.  I cried a thousand tears for all I knew my husband had to shoulder, and was blown away by his ability to hold and handle all of this with strength and grace.  Friends brought meals, watched our children, took down my Christmas decorations, came to pray, brought gifts and wrote cards of encouragement.  I have never been more humbled in my entire life by the love and support I was given during this time.

It is now the end of April.  I have now had the second surgery and I am almost back to normal and routine and work and ministry and doing the things I enjoy.  But, it was at the end of February when I was home sick when I finally realized what was happening.  This was the rescue I had prayed for.  He was doing what I had begged of Him.  It was happening and it had come through this awful bout with diverticulitis.

I feel as though I've been given new eyes to see.  My perspective has shifted on my body, on food, and on self-care.  My taste buds have changed because I have had to go so long without solid food.  My thought process behind eating is different because I want to nourish my body and care for my insides by what I put into them.  I realized that all of the time I dieted and felt as though I was missing out on something, I really wasn't.  Missing out is when you're bed-ridden and can't do anything for yourself.  When you can't live, and love and work or play with your kids - that is missing out.

So far, I've lost 75 pounds. While that loss has come with great cost and it's been the worst way in the world to lose weight ever - it is evidence of the rescue that I so desperately prayed for.  For the first time, I finally feel like I can keep going and lose the rest of what I need to be at a healthier weight.  My surgeon who went above and beyond to repair my broken body, offered to monitor my weight loss and continue to see me for maintenance.  She has been such a gift to know and has made me feel safe, comfortable and confident in her care. 

Over the weekend, Todd and I took a day trip to the coast with the boys.  It was our first really fun outing since before I got sick with the boys and we all needed it.  The beach is my most favorite place in the world.  I've always felt like I could almost reach out and touch God with my fingertips because  it feels as if He's just past the edge of the horizon.  As I sat there on the shoreline watching my boys play, basking in glorious sunshine and listening to the waves crash one on top of the other, I began to cry.

Thank you.  Thank you for all of it.  Every blown IV.  Every morsel of food I couldn't eat.  Every pain, every tear, every night I spent alone in the hospital.  Every face and friend and loved one that held me up.  I am so grateful.  You rescued me.  You've changed me.  You did this thing and I don't know what else to say but thank you. Thank you!  I praise your name!

And because I hear God speak to my heart.....

I love you.  I worked all of this together for your good. I am with you and I am for you - I have ALWAYS been.  I make all things beautiful in My time.  I love you.  I AM.

I don't know why it took so long to get here.  I don't know why God felt silent for so many years in this place. Perhaps He was waiting for me to come to this place of utter desperation.  I don't know why He chose to rescue me with diverticulitis or to answer this specific prayer in the way that He did.  But, I do know that this was His doing.  I do know that He showed up and rescued me here. 

My heart, my faith, my body, my life is forever changed by it.  Oh, may it ever be so.

March 31, 2016

Easter is my Favorite

I often catch myself saying things like:  Christmas is my favorite!  Thanksgiving is my favorite!  Independence Day is my favorite!

And what is actually true is that holidays - holidays are my favorite.  I am a natural partier.  Celebrating things is my jam. 

And Easter is no exception.  After all, Easter is my favorite!  Much like Christmas or Thanksgiving or Halloween, we have our own set of traditions for Easter as well.  Egg dying, church, barbecued things, silly pictures.  Easter fell in between my two surgeries and I was grateful to be present for one of my favorite holidays.


We dyed eggs with our friends.
 
We had cascarone wars - which apparently is a total San Antonio thing.  If you don't know what a cascarone is, it's a painted eggshell full of confetti  You smash them over people's heads for no good reason other than it being fun.  I get cartons of senseless fun every single year.
We went to our church play on Good Friday and watched the story of Jesus' life play out before our eyes.  His birth, His life and ministry, His death and ultimately His resurrection.  It is still my most favorite story.
 I scaled way back on Easter baskets this year getting much smaller baskets and fewer items.  I bet you can't guess which one is Tommy's!
And where I come from, Easter isn't Easter without barbecue.
 We took a lovely family photo.
And our favorite Easter traditional photo where we wear Easter eggs for noses.  We started this years ago, and we do them every year.  My boys will be grown and I will still make them do this. They have no choice when they have a partier for a mom who's favorite holiday is all the holidays.
We hope your Easter was full of the same kind of family fun! 

February 29, 2016

A Very Thomas the Train Birthday Party

I've been working a little backwards tonight on ye old blog.  My sickness from earlier in the year consumed so much of my energy and brain power and every ounce of creativity that ever existed in my being.  I still feel as though I have this huge chunk of my life missing because I was in the hospital for a full month and almost a full month at home recovering.

Thankfully though, by the end of February, I had enough energy to muster up a small party for Jacob's third birthday

This boy lerves Thomas the Train.  He loves all the trains.  If the island of Sodor were real, he would live there and kick Sir Toppamhat out of his position and completely take over.  And naturally, being the theme party-thrower I am, it seemed to be the natural party choice. I didn't get to be as creative and crafty as I usually am with my parties, but this year, I was just thankful to be upright.

A few fun highlights....

My mother-in-law painted this awesome Thomas the Train cardboard cut out, because she is amaze balls.

 He thought being sung to was the best thing that has ever happened to him.

 


Our Jacob is a passionate boy.  He's a deep feeler like his mama and wears his heart on his sleeve.  While he can have a temper and has definitely been more of a challenge to parent at times, he continues to bring a light into our home and our lives that wasn't there before he came into it.  He still loves to snuggle and be sung to at night.  His favorite possession is his blue baby blanket that he calls "Night-Night."  He loves to play with trains and anything that his big brother has - which means he is the biggest three year old Star Wars fan you've ever met.  Donuts are his most favorite food.  He is silly and goofy and loves to make us laugh.  And he's loud - oh so loud.  I have no idea where he gets this from.
Oh my sweet boy, I love you so.  Happy, happy, happy birthday.