Thursday, November 29, 2012

Days 22-30: The Little Things

I had intended to post every single day this month.
I didn't, obviously.
I'm not going to sweat it though.  
It doesn't mean I'm not thankful, it just means I'm not good at posting every day.

On Facebook, an old friend from high school suggested these last two days be filled with the small things we are thankful for.  
I hope to hear from you, regarding the small things you are thankful for as well.

Hot coffee with creamer and sugar-first thing in the morning

Dog kisses

Cat lap (those of you with cats will know what this means)

Frost on plants when the sun first hits it

Raucous laughter from my children


The steamer in my shower on really cold mornings

Eric letting me put my cold feet on his warm feet in bed

Feeding the deer every morning

Temperate winters

The smell of the earth in the spring, as I'm readying my garden

Lunch with girlfriends

Sharing popcorn, a soda, and Jr. Mints with Eric at a movie

The sun on my face on a cold day

The one tree on my property that changes color in the Fall

Inquisitive Wrens-my favorite bird

Eggs from my chickens--over medium with toast

Prayers before bed with the kids

The smell of an orange being peeled

Chickens, scratching, wandering, and eating

Visiting with folks in the kitchen at church

Chocolate chip cookie dough

Giant old oak trees on my property

My dogs, playing and chasing wildly

Kisses and hugs from my mother and father in-loves

My swimming pool after mowing for 2 hours

Toast with cinnamon and sugar

Coke Zero

Squirrels picking through the chicken scratch I put out for my chickens


That's a very small list, but a beginning.
What about you?
What's on your list of small things?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 22: Abundance

Thanksgiving Day, 2012

Our menu for today:
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Cranberry Relish
Roasted Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, and Beets
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

We all ate our fill and then some.
Grandpa and Grandma took home enough leftovers to last them a couple days.
We, at home, have enough leftovers to last us a couple days as well.

We used the nice dishes, glasses and silverware.
That means we have two sets of tableware.

We ate our meal in the dining room.
Which means we have two dining areas in our house.

We filled our dishwasher with dishes and hand washed the special stuff.
That means we have an abundance of water.

Grandpa and Grandma parked two deep in our driveway.
Which means we have more than one car.

I am so very lucky.  So very blessed.
As silly as it sounds, I'm thankful that I am aware of my good fortune.
I can't imagine taking all these things for granted.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 19-21: Health Insurance and My Soapbox

Preston and Katie
Halloween 2012
Yesterday, Preston had his wisdom teeth out.  What would have cost nearly $3000, cost us $300.

Eric and Quinn went to the Dermatologist yesterday.  I have no idea what their first time patient + office visit costs, but I'm sure it was something----something we only paid a portion of.

I do know that they both came home with prescriptions that are evidently so expensive, that they came with rebate cards.  What's interesting/sad, is that when I read the fine print on those cards, I found out they are only useful for folks with insurance.  Seems counter-intuitive.

On November 10, 2009, Eric broke his femur while mountain biking in Arizona.
Rescue, Ambulance, Surgery, Hospitalization---all covered by our insurance.

On November 16, 2009, Jenna went into the hospital with what was likely a problem appendix.  She was even admitted and surgery was scheduled for the next day.  Luckily, the doctors weren't feeling a rush to use the knife, because they ended up deciding it wasn't her appendix after all.

Those two incidents right there, could have put us in debt for the rest of our lives, had we not had insurance coverage.

In 1992, 1994, and 1998--Years my children were born.  All in the hospital.  Uncomplicated births.  The bills that came with "insurance portion" and "your portion" were staggering.  

In 1993, I had a precancerous condition that had to be addressed.  Minor day surgery.  No anesthesia needed.  Just a portion of my doctor's time and a few fancy tools.  The bill was for over $3000, and I paid my little co-pay of $25.  

I take medication every single day.  Stuff that I need to be healthy.  Meds that keep me OUT of the doctors office.

Preston would have been just fine if he'd kept his wisdom teeth.
Eric and Quinn's lives were not in danger if they hadn't gone to the dermatologists yesterday.

However, the rest of the things I listed were things that HAD to be addressed.  
Things that, if not addressed, were life threatening.
I remember saying something to my doctor about my little surgery about insurance or not insurance.
"Wow, this costs so much!  What do women do that don't have insurance and can't afford it."
Her answer was callous and cold (Eric hated her).
"It develops into cancer and they die or they put it on their credit card."

I don't know where any of my friends or most of my family members stand on the healthcare issue that was a hotbutton topic during the last election.  I really don't understand the finer points of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

I do know, that my Dad had to choose between his medication and his groceries/heat/electric bills.

Healthcare act or no Healthcare act, I am profoundly thankful that my family has insurance.  
Thankful that we do not have to choose between healthcare and crushing debt.
We, in my family, do not have to put a visit to the hospital "on our credit card"---or worse yet, "die".

We are the richest nation on the planet. 
We, if we truly follow in Christ's example, have an imperative to take care of one another.
No one should ever have to choose between treating cancer and making a house payment.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 17-18: Quiet Moments and the Entertaining Cat

 On Day 3 of my month of Thanksgiving, I wrote about being thankful for frogs.
It sounded weird then, and sounds weird today too.

The frogs in that post live in a container (old toy box) I use to collect rain--when and if it rains.
These frogs live in my swimming pool.
Like their neighbors from the toy box rain barrel, these frogs spend a lot of time contemplating the troubles of the universe and how to fix them.
Or they contemplate what to have for dinner.
Or if they'll even have dinner.  Maybe they had a big lunch?

 Or they may be simply trying to catch a few rays of sunshine to warm up their amphibian blood.
Probably the latter.  

I do know that their quiet behavior causes me to feel quiet.  
To think.  
To mediate on how good my life is.  
They even remind me how very lucky I am to have an entire swimming pool full of water.
Some people on our earth have to walk miles each day just to get a gallon of water.
I have 45,000 gallons of it just sitting in my backyard.
 Then, just when I think I have fully understood this particular blessing, Hobbes comes along to enhance it.
He believes that frogs are better off in his belly than just sitting around, contemplating the universe.

Each day, he makes me smile--simply because he is curious and never gives up.
Each day, he stalks the frogs. 
 He's never going to catch one--unless he learns some diving skills.

So, to sum up--I often meditate on continuing to be curious about the world around me.
I hope it wasn't too difficult to follow that line of thought.
It'll be on the test. :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 14-16: Extended Family Blessings--His

Eric, David, Joel
Mom and Dad
50th Wedding Anniversary, Branson, Missouri
To say that I hit the jackpot when I married into this family would be an understatement.
I've said it before and I'll say it again--I don't call these people "In-Laws", I call them "In-Loves".

They all, in one way or another, have shown me unconditional love.
I'm also sure they all thought Eric was crazy when he picked me to marry.
He had chosen a girl that came from a train-wreck of a family.
Despite their worries, they welcomed me into their family.
They didn't judge this book by its cover.

Simply stated, I would not be the person that I am today, if it weren't for these people.
They helped me shed the lessons about relationships and family that I learned growing up.
I brought in a lot of great qualities, and they helped me shine them up a bit.

Joel, Brian, Nathan
June, 2010
Beth, Olivia, David
Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary

Jen and Nathan
Wedding Day: June 16, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 9-13: Extended Family Blessings--Mine

Do you call members of your childhood family, "extended family"?
I don't think so?
With the elections behind us, I don't think anyone would be confused if I called my childhood family, my first family. :)

I was the product of a his-mine-and-ours family.
My mom was married and had John and Nora.
My dad was married and had three girls (I have no relationship/contact with them).
They both divorced.
Then my mom met my dad, they married and had me.
Fairly straight forward.

Pictures of my dad predate the era of the digital camera.
This morning my printer isn't understanding my need to scan photos.

He died February 14, 1991 of a multiplicity of things.
I don't know what the death certificate says.
Too much alcohol, too much smoking, emphysema, and bi-polar disorder.
He also had PTSD that was never addressed from World War II.
Finally, he had a broken heart.
My mom left him when his self destructive behaviors just became too much.
I understood.  Still do.
He sounds like a train wreck, but was really a wonderful guy.
He taught me how to fish, hunt, and treasure the great outdoors.
He taught me how to train a dog and love a dog.
He loved all of us--my brother and sister, too.
I loved him. Still do.

And as Forrest Gump once said, "And that's all I'm going to say about that."

Mom, Me, Nora
My mom was the next to last of 11 children.
I think her mom was pretty done much raising kids by the time she came along.
So was her father.
In her later years, her mother told her that if birth control had been available, 
she would only have had 3 or 4 kids.
She never received the tools to nurture her children, as she was never nurtured herself.
She taught the three of us to be good, responsible, reliable adults.
She taught us to be caring and thoughtful of others feelings.
She was just never the huggy, kissy, lovey sort of mom.
She didn't come to softball games, or school plays, or choir concerts.
She loved us.  We loved her.  It just wasn't always clear.

This blog was started because of her.
Because I didn't really know who my mother was.
She never seemed happy my entire life.
Not depressed, but always like she wanted something more out of life.

She died on February 23, 2008.
Lou Gehrig's disease is a torturous way to go.
It's the worst kind of thief.
It steals your body, but leaves your mind.

"And that's all I'm going to say about that."

John and his wife, Kat
My big brother, John was a great guy.
He would do anything for anyone, all they had to do was ask.
If he had his demons, he kept them pretty well hidden.
I don't have a lot of distinct memories of him, as he was 9 years older than me.
By the time I was big enough to really be paying attention, he was out of the house and married.

That marriage was blessed with two children.
My how he loved them!  
Fondly, fiercely, totally.

He died on March 10th, 2011.

I'm not sure what his death certificate says either.  
I believe he had an anaphylactic (allergic) reaction to something, and his advanced emphysema complicated the hospital's ability to properly understand the seriousness of his symptoms.
In a matter of 36 hours, he was dead. 
I miss him.
I wonder if he's riding his motorcycle in heaven--without a helmet--because he can. :)

"And that's all I'm going to say about that."

Thankfully, the rest of my family is alive and well!

Nora and me

My sister, Nora and I are 7 years apart in age.

We weren't close when we were young.
My memories are mostly of making her crazy by being a snotty little sister.
We had to share a tiny bedroom and I was constantly in her stuff.
She moved out her senior year in high school, because we moved and she didn't want to transfer to a different school.  Who would?
We did't reconnect until I had Preston.
Being an aunt suites her.
She's perfect at it!
She has no desire to 'parent' them, only to play with them, to hang out with them.
She's funny, and silly and listens to them.
She remembers things about their childhoods that I don't.
She loves my kids, and John's kids with all her being.
She mourns when they seem to outgrow her.
She's thrilled when they get big enough to finally come back to a relationship with her.
All kids do that---just like she and I did.
We parted as teenagers and came back together as adults.

We are all so blessed that she's a part of our lives.

My kids would not have some of the values they have, if it were not for her influence.
We love her madly!


Saran and Ryan
This beauty is my brother's daughter, Sarah.  Here, she's marrying her love, Ryan.
We love him too.  He's such a great match for her, and a great dad, too!

She is smart, funny, thoughtful, crafty, practical, and the best momma I've ever known.
I still remember when she was born.  I was in middle school and we had a pay phone in the lobby.
I must have spent $10 in quarters that day, calling the hospital to see if she'd been born yet.
I didn't know it took all day to have a baby.
She was the first grandbaby on my side of the family.  She had every one of us wrapped around her tiny finger when she was around.  

Grayson and Bella
Speaking of babies, these two scrumptious creatures are Sarah and Ryan's little ones.  All I can say about them, is that they are so lucky to have such great parents.  That's not true, I could have a whole blog post (or 2 or 3) about how yummy and silly and entertaining they are.  The only bad thing about them is that they live in Wisconsin and I live in Texas.  
We're not exactly neighbors.
In late January/early February, they will have what Sarah and Ryan are calling their "tie-breaker".  A little brother or sister will join this happy little family.  
The sex of the baby is going to be a surprise.  I can't wait meet him/her!

Lastly, I have Sarah's brother/my nephew, John.
I can't find one good picture of him (eyes closed, back turned, blurry, etc)!
He is married with 6 kids.  He's making his daddy very proud in heaven, of the man he's becoming.
He's making the rest of us proud as well.
He's had a long row to how and had some struggles, but he's now got a job in the same tool and dye shop that his dad worked at forever.  A steady paycheck and benefits are his rewards--long in coming.  I'm so thrilled for him!
He's a hunter like my dad was.  I'm sure they'd have had a fabulous relationship, had my dad lived longer.  It's funny how young ones make you miss the ones that have passed on.  

And there you have it.  
My childhood family.
It continues to evolve.
Some have passed on, but the rewards of the new ones help ease the pain.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 5-8: Immediate Family, the Four Blessings

I could not be more blessed when it comes to family.
We aren't perfect.  No family is.
I have felt anger, frustration, worry, and sadness with each family member here.
Sleepless nights.
And I'm certain they have all felt those same emotions about me.
If we hadn't experienced those times, we wouldn't be normal.
Humanity was built with struggles.
How we deal with those struggles is what sets us apart from one another.

My own family was broken from the moment it began.

My parents came from families that were broken.
I don't mean, broken as in divorce.  I mean broken as in dysfunctional.
Love was conditional.
World War II
Mental Illness
Trapped relationships
Paycheck to paycheck
More children than were wanted or could be afforded

My parents did not have good roll models.
They did the best they could.
You can't build a house without all the right tools.
You can't build a family without all the right tools, either.

My dear husband, Eric was raised in a house with all the right tools.
He learned how to disagree, to fight, to make a plan and follow it through, to save money, to make money, to think before acting, to never say things he couldn't take back, to be patient, to smile, to hug, to uphold, to encourage
and most of all:
to love unconditionally.

Without him, I would not have learned the right tools or how to use them.
Tools, that he and I can pass down to our children.
Our three greatest blessings in life.

Handsome photobomber.
Our first born.  
The one we made the most mistakes with regarding eating, sleeping, travel, formula, diapers, etc.
They failed to give us the parenting manual when we left the hospital.
He's very nearly grown up.
We've had grown up problems with him.
Problems that drove us all to our knees in prayer.
They are trivial problems in the greater scheme of life.
Problems we are working on and have nearly overcome.

If you raise a child to think for themselves and do as their heart leads them, you must be prepared for the possibility that they might do just that.

The hardest job in the world is being a parent.
That said, 
We love him truly, madly, deeply, unconditionally.
I hope he knows that about us.
I think he does.

Her infant months about did us in.
She never slept.  Ever.  Except in the car.
Folks tend to frown upon parents that want to sleep while driving, so we never slept at all.
Her problem was that she was afraid she'd miss something.
Her mind was always in 5th gear---still is.
Once she began sitting up and crawling, she started sleeping (some).
We finally gave up and brought her to bed with us (ah, sleep at last).  
Stupid parenting book, what do they know?

She is a sponge for knowledge---especially when it comes to animals.
We've tried to provide for her love of animals with pets and experiences that help her learn more about the animal kingdom.

She'll leave home soon.
She's headed off to college next fall to study Biology.
Wasn't she just born?

I used to have visions of her living in one of those tree canopy research colonies in the rainforest.  Calling from some satellite phone, 150 feet off the ground.
Now I have her on the ground, at a zoo somewhere.

Where ever she ends up, it will be because of that pesky parenting thing we have where we allow our children to think for themselves and follow their hearts.

Quinnie Bear
I won't explain all the nicknames.  I'm sure I've missed a few.
He of-many-names, was such a gift for us all.
Not only was he welcomed by Eric and me, he was welcomed by Preston and Jenna.
He was their baby, too.
Preston was the king of helping to entertain Quinn when he was crying.
Jenna loved him so much that I'd have to tell her to "leave the baby alone, please".
With all of us surrounding him, I think it's been tough for him to decide who he is--who he wants to be.
He's good at so many things.
Sometimes he doesn't cut himself enough slack when it comes to learning new things.
He still hugs goodbye and kisses goodnight.
I hope that never stops.
He's kind and gentle.
He will most certainly think for himself and follow his heart.
Thankfully, we still have 4.5 years left before he leaves for college.

Then it will be back to the beginning.
Just Eric and me.
I am so very, very blessed.
Family means everything to me.
I thank God every day for sharing these people with me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 4: Thinking Before I Speak

My church has a program called Food for Friendship. 
It recently celebrated its 21st birthday.
Budgeted solely from money donated by our 50 or so members, we provide a hot breakfast to the homeless every Sunday morning.
We also have a Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas gift for each person who shows up--all free of charge.  

I've been a part of the program for about 15 years now.  
Usually, the breakfast goes off without a hitch.
In all 21 years, I think the police have been called twice.
We've probably only asked a person to leave three or four times.
It's very safe.  It feels safe.  We've know many of these men for many years.

Often, I am reminded of the instability in their lives.
Tempers sometimes flare because of it.
Many, if not most of them, have no choice in being homeless.
They might be addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Several are mentally ill.
Some are obviously physically ill--have wounds that take twice as long to heal.

One man, we think, is schizophrenic.   Goodness knows he has no choice and even less stability.
He could take meds, and sometimes we think he does.  His mood is more stable when he does.
Usually, he comes in off the street and is wound up.  
Once he gets food, he calms down and is pleasant.

Today, he was fine when he came in, but got more wound up as the breakfast continued.
For some reason, his ire was directed at our breakfast program and the people at our church.
Something about the fact that our feeding the homeless only contributed to the homelessness problem in Austin. 
 We also could do better.  We could provide more variety in our breakfast program. Expand what we do for them.

So, in a matter of minutes he completely contradicted himself.
Usually, I just let him blow.  Today, I was having a hard time.  I wanted to ask him to leave.
I was thinking, "You ungrateful lout!  If you don't like it here, our Sunday mornings would be so much more peaceful if you didn't come."

I didn't say any of it.
I finished cleaning up.  
I got in my clean, reliable car.  
I drove to a Mexican place where I get breakfast tacos. 
 I ordered what I wanted on the menu without much thought to cost.  
I sat quietly and ate without people wrinkling their noses at me and wondering why I was there.  
I drove back to church and enjoyed the service in a clean, well-lit, climate controlled building.
I ate out for lunch, again without thought to cost.
I drove home in my clean, reliable car.
I sit, right now, at my computer--hooked up to the internet.
Tonight I will enjoy my television shows on cable television.  
I will shower and brush and flush, without a thought to where the water comes from and if it's clean.
Finally, I will crawl in my very comfy, clean bed in my climate controlled home.
I will have someone to snuggle with and talk with before I drop off to sleep.

I have stability and choice.
He has neither.
I have everything.
He has nothing.

Even people that aren't mentally ill have bad days.
Today was his day to lash out at me.
Thankfully, I have learned to think before I speak.
I am so thankful for the ability to think things through before I say them.
It would have been impossible to "take it back" if I'd have said what I wanted to at the time.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 3: Frogs

I know you're thinking, "Frogs? You're thankful for frogs?"

In short, yes.

Mrs. Frog at the top of the picture, Mr. Frog below.
 As much as anything, it's about where they live and how they got there.
I've always considered frogs to be water dwellers.  They need it to survive and certainly to breed.
You'll never see a tadpole in the dirt.

I wonder if they're getting enough to eat?
 I don't know where these frogs came from.  They are just two of many that took up residence in my gardens this year.  I guess they survived by the infrequent times I watered and the 3 times it rained over the summer.  The real question remains, how did they (or their parents?) survive last summer's 90 days above 100* and no rain?

Had to take these pictures through a window, with my arm extended.  If they see me, they jump in the water.
 Anyway, if you've followed me for very long, you'll know that anything in nature makes me happy.
The fact that this young couple moved into one of my crazy 'rain barrels' makes me furiously happy.
When they begin their croaking at night, it makes me smile as I fall asleep.

I know frogs can jump, but how did they know there was water in this repurposed toy box.  
I can only assume that frogs have a special "water in there" perception.  
Makes sense, since they need it to survive.

I wonder if tadpoles will be the next addition?
I added the stick so they could do a little sun-bathing.  
Every time I walk by my bedroom window, I peek out to see if they're sitting on it.
When they are, I stop and watch------watch them doing nothing.
It reminds me to take a moment or two each day to stop and look around.  
To contemplate.
To give thanks.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Month of Being Thankful--Days 1 and 2

I am thankful 365 days a year.
Some days, more than others.
November is a month that folks give thought to being thankful because of Thanksgiving.
I've been light on blog content for many months.  Just haven't known what to say that I haven't already said.
So here is the perfect opportunity to voice my thankfulness, daily.

Yesterday was Day 1.  November 1st.

Yesterday I was thankful for the smallness of the church I belong to.

We have about 250,000+ members in 50 countries.
You would think, with that small number, that church members would not know one another outside their congregations.
The exact opposite is true.
I can visit one of our churches in any of those 50 countries and I am certain that within 10 minutes of arrival, that I would find some who knows someone that I know.  
This is made possible by the fact that we get together every three years for a World Conference.  We also have a college where folks from all over the world attend.  Lastly, we have summer camps and reunions that bring together children and families from neighboring states and regions.

So, what was it that made me particularly thankful for my "small" church yesterday?

Jenna traveled, by herself, to that college that I mentioned.
Along the way, one plane was an hour late.  She missed a connecting flight.  She spent many hours in airports.  Her bags were potentially lost from switching flights.  A fire alarm went off in the Houston airport---she was in danger of missing her last flight out if it turned out that something was indeed, on fire.
I was on United airlines website for hours--trying to figure out what her best plan of action should be.
I was on Facebook, expressing my worry and frustration.

It was on Facebook that my 'small world' church friends started popping up to help out.
One friend in Kansas City thought Jenna was stranded at the airport in KC, and not Houston.  She offered to drive up to the airport (1 hour) to either sit with Jenna until her plane came, or help her work out another flight.  She also offered that her husband might be of some assistance as well.
We aren't BFFs.  We don't vacation together.  Our husbands don't play golf. 
We have a connection because we know people who know people that we know.  

Confusing? Yes.
Unusual? No.

Later in the evening, the director of the Sr. High church camp that Jenna attends, chimed in.
He thought she might still be stuck in Houston.  He offered that he and his wife could go get her from the airport and she could spend the night with them if her connecting flight continued to be problematic.

I heard from many more church folks during the course of the day.  Many offered sympathy.  Others offered, "what can I do?".

We discovered the very same behavior when Eric broke his leg and needed surgery in Arizona.  Folks we don't really know from our church, helping us out.

And so, here on Day 2---I am thankful that Jenna made it to Iowa.  
To our little church college (3000 students).
She will be visiting with the Dean of the Science Department to map out the next four years of her degree.  
She will also be spending a great deal of time with kids she knows and loves from camp.
The small world church has turned full circle for her.