December 23, 2009

Have a Blessed Christmas

I wonder who wrote "Deck the Halls"? I tried to Google it to get the information, but apparently, no one on the internet knows who really wrote it. I did learn, however, the carols were initially ancient Europe's equivalent of rap and the church initially disproved of carols until it could subvert them to holy purposes. The reason I wonder who wrote that particular carol is because of the line "'Tis the season to be jolly." Really? There is a season for jolliness? Why should we be jolly? After all, for those of us living north of the equator, it is a few days away from the shortest day of the year. For those living in the northern climes, it is usually cold and sometimes dreary and the only colors you see in nature are white/grey/black snow or greyish-yellowish-brown dead grass and stark, leafless trees, with only a little color provided by evergreen trees and yellow snow, thoughfully provided by dogs. Maybe that is why so many people put up Christmas lights, just to add some color to the year.

Furthermore, Christmas time can be the busiest time of the year with gifts to buy and wrap, cookies to make, cards to send out, parties and church events to attend and/or host. There can be very little time to rest up until the "big day". It is usually the days between Christmas and New Years that are the most pleasant for those who don't have to work retail. Then again, I wonder if all of this stuff is a problem that the modern world created. In Tomie DePaola's book, "An Early American Christmas", he shows how people prepared for Christmas even before Thanksgiving, which is when most of us start preparing these days. Therefore, there wasn't as much of a rush of doing and they could really be jolly and thankful and maybe even ponder the wonder of a God who would send His Son to the world as a helpless infant to a poor, young, uneducated couple in a backwater town for the sole purpose of reconciling us to Himself.

I have also thought about Advent a lot this year. Advent is not at all about jolly times, but about having to wait for the Christ to come. Waiting is hard and most people do not think it is pleasant, much less jolly, even if there is something wonderful at the end of it. Isreal had to wait 400 years from the last prophecy of God until the birth of their Savior (which is about the same length of time they had to wait in Egypt until God brought them out of slavery. Coincidence? I don't think so.). So Christ came somewhere around 2000 years ago, which IS a cause of celebration because it meant "God and sinner reconciled". But He is supposed to come again to set up His kingdom, which will have no end and will be completely free from death and pain. Talk about jolly times! And yet, it hasn't happened yet, which means we are still waiting. So I do believe that Christmas should be a time a great joy and celebration, not just of the worldly presents, but the gift of forgiveness and life and renewal that Christ's birth promised and it is a time of waiting--a lovely, bittersweet time.

Joy to the world! Our Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room.

October 23, 2009

A day trip to Sedona

I have the greatest husband in the world. An old college room mate called a few months ago to tell me that she would be within a day's drive and would like to meet me at a halfway point. My husband took a day off of work to homeschool our kids so I could go to meet her. He sacrificed one of his few vacation days (as he just started a new job five months ago). I left on Wednesday evening and returned on Thursday evening.
One thing about driving from Phoenix to Sedona is that getting out of Phoenix is roughly half of the driving time, especially in rush hour traffic which is not nearly as bad as Chicago rush hour traffic. Really! Also, Arizona is an awesome place to drive because a lot of the highways have a 75 mile/hour limit once you leave the city. However, there are no road lights, so once night falls, 75 feels pretty fast. It also means that you see nothing except what your headlights illuminate in front of you. So when I drove into Sedona at 7 p.m at night, I didn't see any mountains. Inky blackness extended beyond all the shops, galleries, hotels/motels/inns/resorts and restaurants. Sedona could have been one big valley as far as I was concerned.
However, this is what I woke up to:

Isn't it breathtaking?! The mountains seemed to form layer upon layer. You would get past one layer and find a whole new set of mountains. We got to "rock and roll on a very bad road" to see the ruins of an Native American pueblo built into an awesome cave. There are so many trails to hike that I could spend a week there and still not have explored them all. However, if I had formed my opinion based on what I had seen in the dark, I would have passed it off as merely a tourist trap (which it also is) and missed the glory and splendor that God created. It also made me wonder, however, if the residents of Sedona, the people who wake up to these views 365 days a year ever say to themselves, "Oh yeah. Another beautiful day to look at mountains (yawn). BORING!", or even "Mountains? What mountains?" I mean, really, if you had an awesome view to look at every day of your life, wouldn't it become ordinary and commonplace? Would it lose the luster? You might have to go to Detroit, Michigan (which I did visit once and was not impressed) or Rockford, Illinois (in which I lived for three rotten, no good years) to be able to renew your sense of wonder at your hometown and really appreciate it. At this point, I will leave you develop all the emotional and spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from this insightful insight.

My girlfriend and I had fun chatting about all sorts of stuff, taking a couple of hikes, and shopping, which, because I wasn't hunting for something in particular and because it didn't involve noisy malls, it didn't inspire anymore stanzas to the Malls--How do I hate thee? poem. We had lunch at a western themed restaurant with a fabulous view, too. I think it was the same one at which our family ate when we visited Sedona almost five years ago. I also had a vision for what to do to fill up the shelf high above the dry sink: buy a few, funky, tall, glass vases of different colors and shapes and put one of those rope lights behind them to turn on at night. However, I won't be buying them from the shop in Sedona which inspired my vision, considering one of them was about 1/3 of the cost of a small car.
All in all, it was a wonderful, lovely day in which not one conversation was interrupted by a child's need/scream/question/comment. Thank you, Eric. You are my knight in shining armor!

October 14, 2009

A trip up Pass Mountain

One of the many highlights of my in-laws trip was an early morning hike with my two daughters and niece up Pass mountain, part of the Usery Mountain range. Pass mountain has really cool, cream colored "scar" running near the top. It is volcanic tuff--rock formed by ash. It glows orange in the evening when the sun is setting. Our goal was not to make it to the top of the mountain, but to see the Wind Cave, a section of the mountain carved out by the wind. Actually, you can go on, but there was a sign that said that the path became very dangerous and I really didn't feel like doing something dangerous with pre-teen girls.

We started our journey in the wee hours of the morning. I woke my neice and daughters up a little after six a.m. and loaded up the camelbacks, some fruit, cheese snacks and stuff we might need on the trial, like bandaids and hand sanitizer. I also remembered the camera. Woo Hoo!. With one extra long stop at Dunkin' Donuts for sugar and carbs and a bathroom break, we started on the trail somewhere around 7 a.m. Part of the delay is that I had to return a second time because the donuts that M and I had chosen were so horrible tasting, I had to return them. What is the point of consuming a thousand calories in fat and sugar if you don't enjoy it? I wouldn't recommend that particular Dunkin' Donuts to people. Note that in the first picture, the girls are wearing jackets. Yes, sixty degrees IS cold if you are in Arizona.

Wind Cave trail is a 1.6 mile trail with an 800 foot elevation gain. We started out with what looked like a dry river bed on one side. The reason it looked like a river bed is that it was a lower area and had a high concentration of Palo Verde trees whereas we were surrounded by various cati and scrub brushes on the other side of the path. In Arizona, trees don't shed their leaves in the fall, they shed them in the summer, when drought conditions do not give them enough water to be able to photosynthesize. Also, most trees have small leaves in the desert to minimize transpiration, which is the trees breathing out moisture with the carbon dioxide. As we passed by palo verde trees, I saw tiny, cute leaf buds emerging from the stems. It took us about an hour to climb to the wind cave. The fact that it is a cave should tell you that we didn't reach the summit of the moutain. There were a couple of times when the path turned sharply and we started going the wrong way. Fortunately, the wrong way soon became impassible, which caused us to look around for the real trail. A few times, we walked over large bolders that served as a bridge over a little crevice in the path. With the way they were tumbled together in just the right way to support each other, I wondered if this was engineered by the park service or an act of God designed to help hikers. The wind cave is part of the tuff, so that when we approaced the cave, we got to see the it up close and personal. There were bits of granite "marbles" embedded in the tuff as well as large tracts of...lichen. We made it to the wind cave in about an hour. We spent some time resting in the cave. Basically, it is an indentation carved out by the wind. We didn't stay long because there was some evidence of a bee hive formed in one of the crevices, which made at least one of the girls nervous. We ate the cheese and started walking down. Even though we carried camelbacks, which hold at least 64 ounces of fluid, one of the children had gone through most of her water on the way up. Therefore, I had to share some of my water on the way down. It took us about 45 minutes to get down, mainly because we took fewer breaks. By that time, the kid's camelbacks were all drained, which meant a stop at the potty before heading back home. We were home by 9:45 a.m., ready to go to bed, or at least rest ;-). The hike was made possible by Nana and Poppa, who had brought my boys with them for a sleep over the previous night. Otherwise, the hike would have been a bit more daunting, especially with a four year old. I think I will wait another year, or maybe wait until I have another adult, to go on this trail with my youngest.

The only thing that I was hoping to see was a little more wildlife. With cooler temperatures and the early morning hours,theoretically, we should have seen a lot more animals. However, with four chatty females acting as an early warning system for the animals, the only thing we really saw were birds, other hikers, and one baby rabbit. However, the rainbow made up for the lack of fauna. It "rained" that morning, and by "rained" I mean that water fell from the sky, though very little of it actually touched the earth. Seeing the rainbow as we started our descent was very inspiring. It was as if God were blessing our hike that morning. It must have worked, too, because, for once, my youngest daughter did not cry and whine at all about being too tired to go on. It was definitely an awesome hike!

October 11, 2009

What I did on my Facebook Vacation:

When I moved from Illinois to Arizona, I was just getting into Facebook. That is to say, I would be on it about a once a night and maybe skip some days. When I moved to Arizona, however, Facebook became my primary lifeline to my friends back home, whom I was sorely missing. I started checking Facebook multiple times a day. I started viewing my day as what would make a good Facebook status. I started spending a LOT of time commenting and reading and taking quizzes of all kinds. I knew I was spending too much time on Facebook when my kids started developing a daily mantra of “Momma’s on Facebook again.” or “When are you going to get off of Facebook so we can play, Momma?.” Ouch! However, just like an alcoholic starts having a hard time saying “no” to alcohol, I started having a hard time walking away from FB. I HAD to get my daily, I mean, hourly, fix. Finally, God basically told me that I had to cut WAY back or else He would have me shut it down. Therefore, I took a two week vacation from Facebook. I planned the time carefully because family was visiting us for one whole week. That was the highlight of my two week FB fast. What else happened? Here are more highlights, in random order:

1. I had a fabulous time with my wonderful father-in-law and his wife, who is a dear, sweet lady, and my fun loving niece. The highlights of the stay was spending time with Kathy, hiking up Wind Cave Trail in the Usury mountains with my girls and niece, having alone time with the boys, dinner with in-laws sans kids, and playing Bananagrams.
2. I started making a Thanksgiving wreath using an embroidery hoop and many different colored ribbon. I finished it tonight watching a pre-recorded episode of “FlashForward” which I have not decided if I like or not. Too much cheesy dialogue. Too much like “Lost.” And is Joseph Fiennes really that gruff-voiced or is he intentionally whiskey-voiced to add to the gloomy ambience and keep reminding us that his character is a recovering alcoholic?
3. I played with my kids more—really. I also paid attention to them more and talked with them more.
4. My husband and I talked more. Any more information is really none of your business.
5. I read about making paper mache, which we are going to need in order to make two different Halloween costumes for the kids.
6. I finished one blog and wrote a second one.
7. I found my book _Waltzing Australia_ under a pile of kid's books and read another chapter in it. Well, technically, one of my kid's found it for me.
8. I read other people’s blogs.
9. I prepared more for the homeschooling week and found ways to make history come alive, mainly by impromptu acting.
10. I planned trips to take with my niece and children.
11. I shopped for the kid’s Halloween costumes, though that wasn’t all joy and bliss as my last blog will testify.
12. I slept more. It’s boring, but much needed.
13. I wrote a blog for “RealFolksUnited” about why I homeschool. I was inspired after reading that President Obama plans to increase the number of hours in a school day AND extend the year in the hopes that our children will become smarter than all the other world’s kids in spite of the fact that we already log in more hours per year of school than the children in countries who spank us in test scores. Every problem is a nail and the government is the hammer, apparently. Or is it a sickle? I know, it’s both! (Tongue in cheek humor, here. For those of you who support President Obama, keep in mind that at least I am not hyping an energy drink with a cocaine theme).
14. I started investigating things to do in Sedona for the one day that I will be there with an old college roommate.
15. I searched for potential camping places for my daughter, who wants to camp and fish as well as wrack my braid for a free weekend in which to take her.
16. I called a couple of people I normally would only facebook. BTW, can "facebook" be used as a verb now?
17. I baked a little more. It was in the 80's last week. Woo hoo for cooler weather! (please refrain from nasty comments from those of you in northern climes, I can't help it that I live in the desert!)

The one thing I wish I could post as an activity is that I spent a lot more time with God, both in prayer and in His word. However, I was a little sporadic in that area. One week was totally awesome and the next week was bad. Therefore, I can't blame FB for problems in that area, at least.

In general, I did not experience any withdrawal symptoms from Facebooking activities, though I was a little worried that one or two of my pregnant friends would give birth while I was taking the vacation and thus miss the announcement. Unfortunately for them, they didn't. Girls, you can now go into labor! I'm back! :-). I did miss all the little updates on my friends lives, but I will have to go on with my life with a blank spot in my computer generated memory. And I will be only going on FB occasionally during the week, because I don't want to status my life away.

October 9, 2009

Malls--How do I hate thee?

I am preparing for Halloween. I hate spending money on something that is used once or maybe twice, if I can find it the next year, so I try to create a costume from clothing that the kids can use after they go trick or treating. The problem is that to accomplish this, I usually need to find clothing of a specific color and PLAIN--i.e., free of all embellishments, patterns and egotistical phrases. Ay, there's the rub! To try and accomplish this feat, I decided to go to the mall with all four children in tow because, after all, malls have the highest concentration of stores and, theoretically, I should be able to find what I need in ONE store? The end result is usually me needing the remainder of the day in quiet solitude to recover. Returning today from the latest venture in frustration, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem, "How Do I Love Thee?," inspired me to write one of a contradictory theme.

Malls, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the height and depth and breadth
of all my senses, which are constantly assaulted
by loud music from the numerous stores and halls
and gaudy displays of women and men
in provocative clothing and/or poses.
I hate thee for the TVs that are strewn about the mall
and congregating in the food court showing music videos
of women wearing a preponderance of tight, glossy leather,
or bikinis, promoting them as everyday, casual clothes.
I hate thee for the multitude of total crap
that you try to convince me and my children to buy,
useless trifles packaged appealingly
and appealing to our egos and vanity,
stirring up in us ingratitude for God's many blessings.
I hate thee with a hatred that re-emerges
every time I step through your doors
trying to find what I need and instead
being offered what you think I should have.
And, if I could choose, I would shop always
in the quiet and solitude of the internet
until God brings me home in a heaven free of malls.

I realize that I may sound a bit puritannical in this poem; however, it is actually quite appropriate since we are studying the Pilgrims now (tee hee). You also need to know that shopping is not enjoyable for me. I am not the stereotypical woman who views shopping as therapy. I hunt for what I need and get frustrated when I can't find it. And the more specific an item, the harder it is to find. Plus, being highly visual and very auditory based person, I have just realized that the mall totally overwhelmes my senses. I feel the same way as I do when all four children try to talk to me at once, or at a party when there are two interesting conversations going on within earshot. Finally, my children usualy devolve into whining, wild things at the mall if I spend too much time there, which continues past our time at the mall.

In an attempt to end this on a positive note, my kids are dressing up as Black Beauty, a princess (but not Princess Buttercup), a cowboy (because he really wants an excuse for me to buy him boots) and a pterydactyl. The horse and pterydactyl will involve the kids learning about paper mache. I am looking forward to the whole process and its imperfect finished product. I just hope that the horse and pterydactly are moderately recognizable.

September 26, 2009

Homeschool Update

Bridgetender School is currently in session with three grade school children and one pre-school. We started on August 17th, 2009. God has truly been blessing me in getting contacts in the homeschool groups here. The Arizona Homeschool Convention was held in Phoenix in July, which helped me find a couple of friends. I have also found homeschoolers in the church and who are friends of neighbors.

Once again, we are studying history and science as a group. This year, we are learning about the colonization of America, the Revolutionary War and the Constitution and American government system. We started by talking about some other documents that inspired the developers of the Constitution, like the Magna Charta. We also discussed some of the explorers of the New World, like Leif Ericsson, Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. Every other week we are getting together with a retired homeschool mother who is teaching us basic colonial skills like washing wool, dyeing it, and, soon to come, spinning and weaving it. We have also planted seeds, which the smart colonists would do. All of our gardening this year will be container gardening. So far, we have planted tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce and several herbs and spices. Science is a continuation of the Apologia curriculum covering flying animals. We are starting with birds and what makes them fly and some of their behavior. We will be starting to establish a bird journal which will . We are also going to set out bird feeders with different seeds and see which one is preferred by the birds. Apologia recommends some homemade suet as one alternative, but methinks that suet would melt in Arizona temperatures.

For math, Kris is continuing using Math U See. Elizabeth is almost finished with the third book and will be starting the fourth book, which will cover fractions and all the wonderful things you can do with fractions. Jessica is starting to learn multiplication and Kyle is starting addition. I think that they are all telling John math facts because he is starting to memorize certain facts.

For literature, I am using material from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, specifically related to literature. We are reading _The Princess and the Goblin_ by George MacDonald and talking about basic story elements, finding alliteration, similies, and metaphors. This also, we are doing together.

We are managing to do grammer a little bit together. I am using "Grammer Rock" to introduce topics, use the Bafflegab game to create sentences and then analyzing them, based on their level. Kyle is learning about subject/predicate, Jessi is having the basics parts of speech re-inforced and Elizabeth is learning about direct objects and will be learning about indirect objects. When President Obama gave his speech to Congress in regards to health care reform, I printed out the text and had the children take a paragraph and look for something, either subject, noun or verb. The kids like playing Bafflegab, in which they are given five words and have to come up with a sentence or two using as many words as they can manage.

Kyle is starting penmanship and Jessi is starting cursive writing using "A Reason for Handwriting." Jessi and Elizabeth sometimes will have copywork or dictation exercises. They also will sometimes be assigned writing activities. Most of the writing activities are short, but I did give both girls a biography to write and then verbally report to the rest of the school. Elizabeth did a great job and I will publish it soon. It was too much of a stretch for Jessi, though, even when I broke it down for her a little bit.

Outside activities include PE club called SportskidzAZ which meets Monday, art class, which meets Wednesday afternoon. The art class is another one of God's blessings. I found it by missing the turn to get to Usery mountain. I passed a house that looked like a castle and as I was pointing it out, I saw a sign indicating that someone was having art camp. I eventually wrote down the web site and found out that a local artist is teaching kids art in the area. He has been letting them make sculpey creatures, make wooden structures and is starting them on oil painting. Wow! The girls are also taking music lessons, Kyle has become involved in Cub Scouts and Jessi and John are taking gymnastics. Elizabeth has also become involved in the church youth choir and is taking horse riding lessons, which meets her P.E requirement. Her volunteer opportunity is helping her teacher, a college age girl, take care of the horses for an hour after her lesson. We meet once a month for a homeschool support/fellowship group and once a month for the group's playdate. Once again, God's grace is obvious because many of these activities involve more than one child at the same time, so that I don't have to be constantly in the car, though it does feel like it. We are currently evaluating the gymnastics day that Jessi and John are attending because it is already very busy.

I feel priviledge that God is still allowing me to learn so many things through my kids, not only stuff that I should have learned in school (reference to "Whaddya Know" program out of PBS--WI), but also how my kids "tick" and how to give gentle critism of their work. The best thing He has taught me is to recognize when I am being too tough on the kids, expecting their work to be high school level. When I catch myself in the middle of this train, I jump the tracks by saying, "Well, this is okay for a sixteen year old." The kids laugh at this and then I start "guessing" their real age. When I guess correctly, I tell them, "Well then, this is awesome for a ____ year old." And we hug. I am currently reading a book by Cynthia Tobias called _How They Learn_, which is a great way to have discussions. I am looking forward to learning more from Him and from my kids. I am amazed at what they can do.

We took a short break when a friend from Illinois, Denise, visited us, which was a LOT of fun. We will be taking a short break from all but the basics in October when we get a visit from Papa, Nana and cousin/niece Emily. We are really looking forward to seeing them.

September 19, 2009

What is true compassion?

If you have ever watched VeggieTales’ “Jonah”, there is a point in the movie where Pa Grape defines compassion as this: when you see someone who needs help and want to help them. I looked it up in Webster’s Nineth Collegiate Dictionary and it used fancier words for the same definition. I love VeggieTales! Who would think that that such a simple definition would be in the center of so many arguments? Some people say that abortion is showing compassion to those women who are in a bad situation whereas other say that the truly compassionate deed is letting them experience the joyful bundle that comes out of bad situation. Some people argue that giving everyone health care insurance is showing compassion to the poor, whereas others argue that eliminating the huge debt we owe to other contries is showing compassion to future generations. Can we say “Ni Hao?” Sure, I know we can and possibly will. As a conservative, I have sometimes been troubled that the liberals seem to be more compassionate toward the poor, the downtrodden, the forgotten. Every time there is a national debate about health care reform, housing reform, etc., they talk about the plight of the poor and weak and that those people need help. I think George W. Bush must have felt the same way because he coined the term “compassionate conservatism” which, at the end of eight years ended up being neither, in my opinion. However, I come back to the issue of helping the poor and think, “Am I really being hard hearted toward the poor and weak and defenseless?” Jesus talked a lot about the poor and weak, didn’t he? Wouldn’t Jesus want us to help them? Would Jesus be telling me to support security blanket programs like Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and a public health insurance option?

Somehow, I don’t think so. All those programs, and the proposed public health insurance option, allow us to keep the poor and needy at a distance, someone else’s problem, without letting them become our neighbors. After all, if the government is helping the poor and needy, we certainly don’t need to concern ourselves with them, do we? We are showing that we love them indirectly, by allowing money we earn to be taken from us by the government and given to the poor. Boy, does my conscience feel better now. And I still have money to buy my daily venti caramel machiatto and cinnamon scone at Starbucks and amuse myself with my iPhone as I plan my next vacation to Disneyworld!

If letting the government take care of our neighbors is true compassion, then Jesus needs to re-write some of his stories, too. The guy who goes to his neighbor’s house to borrow food for an unplanned guest will be told by his neighbor, who is shouting through the closed door, to go three miles to the government office for food stamps so he can get the food free (Luke 11:5-8) or maybe he wouldn’t have gone to the neighbor in the first place. In addition, the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus told in Luke 10:30-37 should be re-written too. Instead of the Samaritan stopping, caring for the wounds, bringing the injured man with him at the inn, taking care of him through the night, and paying for the man’s continued convelescence there, Jesus would have the Samaritan stop by the local government office to tell the people working there about the wounded man. “Yeah, we know about him,” the government official would say. “You are the third guy to tell us about him. There was a priest a couple hours ago and a Levite an hour ago who told us about him. The problem is, that we have had to take care of so many people, we haven’t been able to pick him up yet. My guess is that he will get picked up and taken to the local inn for care in the next hour.” And they all went on their way completely justified. The end.

For those of you who aren’t into the Bible, there is another, very familiar story that no longer has relevance if letting the government take care of the poor and needy and uninsured is the right solution. It is as much of the Christmas tradition as is “The Nutcracker”, presents, and Christmas parties: It is a play that is run throughout the country based on a book written by Charles Dickens, called A Christmas Carol. It would become the shortest book ever because of the two gentlemen visiting Scrooge at the beginning of the story to ask him to give them money to help the poor on Christmas Eve. Scrooge asks whether or not the debtor’s prisons, the Union workhouses and the Poor Law had been dismantled—the government plan for taking care of the poor. When they assure him that they were still in place, his comment would be “I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course…I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.” Then the gentleman would say, “Oh that is right, the poor ARE taken care of. Why are we even doing this?” And they start talking to Scrooge about the best way to invest their savings. The end. Scrooge wouldn’t be described as a “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone..a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,clutching, covetous old sinner.” And he wouldn’t be visited by his partner, Jacob Marley, who at one point, wouldn’t be crying out in the hopes of changing Scrooge, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” The book would be approximately 50 pages at the most, unless he decided to add other events justifying Scrooge’s position because, after all, he did get paid by the word those days. By the way, the Poor law was the way the English government decided to help the poor. They required communities to develop buildings to house and feed the poor, in exchange for work. If you want more information on these poor houses, you can either read Oliver Twist or check out In the interest of context, Mr. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol nine years after a new Poor Law was established to supercede the old Poor Law, which apparently wasn’t working.

So this is my concern: if we, as individuals decide to let the government “take care” of the poor, will we become a nation of Scrooges, or at least a majority of Scrooges? Maybe we have poor people and uninsured people so that we can carry out our God-given responsibility of looking them in the eye when we are taking care of them. Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is this: “To love our neighbor as ourselves.” This means that we need to love our neighbors, the poor and not-so-poor, up close and personal, not let someone else throw money at them in the name of love. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan right after highlighting the second greatest commandments in response to a person asking him the definition of “neighbor,”. Since the Samaritan encountered the injured man on a road and didn’t know him personally, Jesus’ definition of neighbor isn’t necessarily limiting the word to the person who lives right next door. Loving your neighbor, however, is REALLY tough. I just moved from a neighborhood near Chicago and was recently reminded how long it took me to get to know my neighbors and how tough some of them were to get to know. Now I get to start all over again. Yippee. Family members are also no picnic to love either. For that matter, it takes a lot of concious decisions to love my husband and my kids at all times. I am sure some people feel the same way about me. And yet, I would not give any of them up for all the safety net programs in the world.

So now that I have realized that liberals are not necessarily more compassionate than I am, I can sit back, with my concience cleared and think about jumping in the pool with my husband and kids. And yet, there is still something tickling my concience. It is the thought that God does not bless us so that we can wallow in those blessings, like Demi Moore wallowing in money she received in some movie with Robert Redford. He gives them to us so that we can pass it on to others in some way. It doesn’t have to be money, but it does have to show love to someone else that He puts in our path, whether it is an old friend or a stranger. And that I should be encouraging people to be more personally liberal with the blessings God has given them so that the government doesn’t steal our God given rights to care for our neighbor. How about it? Why don’t you take the time to go somewhere where you aren’t comfortable and start getting to know someone you don’t know and may not have any common interests?

August 16, 2009

Tribute series resumed--Momma Sue

Because it has been a while since I have written a tribute, I just want to make sure everyone remembers that I am doing this so that people know how much I appreciate them before they die. I'm saving the best for last.

Momma Sue is wonderful because she is incredibly diplomatic and has a very long fuse. I know this because she and I have different views in politics and religion and yet, we can discuss things without getting into a heated arguement. This is more a reflection on her than on me, who can get excited quite easily. I think God is trying to get me to be more like her in that area. This has also served her well in her blended families.

She is also judicious in her advice, meaning that she doesn't give much unless you ask her. The ability to hold your tongue when you are itching to be helpful is a rare and wonderful quality in a person. At least it is for me. Maybe she doesn't really struggle with the desire of giving advice. I have also appreciated her advice as the only woman in my extended family who has raised more than one child at a time (my mom doesn't quite qualify because her two kids were eight years apart, which almost makes them two only children). She is a living example that you can survive having more than two children close together with your sanity (mostly) intact. She has helped me keep things in perspective many time.

On thing I have really enjoyed is seeing her goofy side come out over the last few years. Granted, she has to compete against a hopeless goofball, but she rises valiently to the occaison and seems to completely enjoy participating in absolute silliness.

Finally, she is very generous in many ways.

Momma Sue, thank you for being a great mother-in-law.

July 29, 2009

"How are you dealing with the heat?"

This is the number one question folks back in the Midwest ask me when I call them. Before we left, my dad, who lived in Scottsdale tried to tell me about how miserably hot it gets in the summer. And he is right. Those folks who say, "But its a dry heat" fail to mention that it is an incredibly intense heat that feels like it is instantaneously burning through ten layers of skin. In fact, I would say the phrase, "It's a dry heat" applies up to ninety-five degrees. It is not overly hot and because of the low humidity, sweat evaporates instantaneously. Above that temperature, it really isn't comfortable to be outside when the sun is up. Given that, I would still take Arizona heat over high humidity heat of the south (or near south). I still call Missouri the "State of Misery" because the summer temperatures are in the 90's with 70 to 90 percent humidity. Everyone walks around constantly wet, unless you have air conditioning. By the way, one of the heat index calculators on the web said that 95 degrees with a 75% relative humidity feels like 128 degrees F!

One way we "deal" with the heat is to go in our pool. However, even that is not as refreshing as it once was because the water gets pretty hot and the parts of you that are above water are still having to cope with 100+ temperatures. It is hard to play in the pool.

Another way to "deal" with the heat is to go out as early as you can. We just go out in our backyard and play a few games, taking frequent water and air-conditioning breaks before heading out. By 9:30 a.m., however, it is too late. One day, I tried going on a hike with the kids at 9 a.m. at the Usery Mountains. We were out 30 minutes climing up a trial and heading right back down. The kids were flushed and I think I got hit with a bad case of heat exhaustion. I slept most of the afternoon, letting them play and watch TV.

The last way we are "dealing" with the heat is by keeping our living room free of furniture so that we can run around and use the gymnastics mat. We have been playing a lot of tag in the house. Actually, a final way to deal with the heat is to say, "We will be able to play outdoors from September through May because it will still be warm" Most people around here deal with the heat by leaving and going to higher elevations. We are talking about a trip to the Payson area to enjoy a river, hiking and maybe fishing.

In other news....
Things are getting better, slowly on the home front. The homeschooling convention connected me to three women that were really friendly to me. I literally walked up to the one woman I who was in the last seminar with me and asked her if I could have lunch with her and her friends. We all had a great conversation together! She has four kids about my age, most of them boys (Thank you God!). Another woman in the group and I have already gotten together to talk. Her kids are much older than mine, but like good homeschooling kids, played well with mine :-). They moved to the area three weeks after we did from Massachusettes. We have settled on a church to focus our efforts of "assimilating". Our final decision will be made in the fall and will be based on whether we can find a small group with whom to fellowship. The girls have become good friends with a neighbor who has twin daughters that are Jessi's age. I have been freed from the tyranny of Bejewelled by finally getting a score above 100,000. It has freed up my time to write a little bit more. My kids are stomping at the bit to start school at this point and I am working to figure out a schedule, with God's help. It is trickier with three kids, even though I am having them do a lot of subjects together. There are a lot of subjects, based on age, that we can't all do together. In general, God is good, and He is living up to His promise in Joshua 1:9--"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be timid. Do not be afraid. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

The next topic will continue my tribute series.

June 14, 2009

My first six weeks of looking for new churches

Recently, God has chosen to move us 1800 miles away from a church I really love and all the friends, who are as close as brothers and sisters to me and my family. The process of finding a new church is daunting, especially since the church we left is the ONLY church in which I have been a member and the ONLY church I have attended with any regularity. I am acting on faith that God will bring us to a church where we not only feel comfortable and loved, but will also be a church where we can do His business in our own, unique style. Until then, we are left trying church after church and gaining experience as “the new people”. As I go to each church, there are a myriad of etiquette questions I am trying to figure out, and I thought I would share with you the questions that have come up so far:

1. Do I really have to fill out a card with my personal information if I am really just visiting for the first time? What if I decide after filling out the information that I really don’t want to attend the church again? By that time the information is in the offering plate and can’t be taken back! The church knows where I live!
2. What do I say to the people who are following up with a call to see how I liked the church if I really didn’t like it? Jesus was gentle and humble in spirit. Yet he also engaged the Pharisees in a “Whose yo’ Daddy?” debate. So if I have just been to a church where no one except the Children’s Ministry workers said a word to us, should I mention that fact if they ever decide to call me back?
3. If the follow up call is made while I am gone and the person leaves a message, and I have no intention of darkening the doors of the church ever again, do I ignore the call or call back and say, “Please remove our names from your list. I don't think your church is a good fit for us.”.
4. What do I say to the friend of a friend, who invited us to her church which she really loves when I didn’t share her rapturous experience? Can we still explore potential friendship if I handle it right?
5. Why would a Children’s Ministry worker ask us at the beginning of the service if we want to permenantly sign our children on their roster when we have just told them that we are first time visitors? This happened at one church which required you to sign your children at each location, rather than having a central "processing" area. When we dropped each of our four children off in their respective rooms, we were asked that question each and every time, so I can only assume that it is a standard question in their repetoire. Puh-lease! How many people know within the first five minutes of stepping into a church that this is the church for them?
6. If the girl just assigned to be “friends” with your child rolls her eyes and sighs as she drags her feet over to where your child is standing, is it proper etiquette to turn to the teacher in charge and say, “Could you please find a new ‘friend’ for my child because this one seems defective?”
7. How can new people give clues to the regular attenders of a bigger church that they are new and would like somone to come up and start up a conversation short of stepping right in front of their path (or tripping them), smiling widely as you hold out their hand and say “Hi. My name is ______. I am new here What is your name?”. Apparently making eye contact and smiling isn’t enough these days. More people than I care to admit have looked me in the eye, smiled and walked right past me without saying a word. Today, I tried holding the special gift bag that I received as part of being a first time visitor VERY prominently so that someone would notice and maybe come over and start a conversation. It didn’t work. At my grandmother’s church, when you sign in as a visitor, they put a little sticker on your clothes so that people can tell the difference between the regular attenders they don’t know and visitors. Many people have come up and spoken with me without my grandmother dragging me over to them. I call this the “tag-and-bag” technique. I have visited other churches in the distant past where the regular members wear name tags which simultaneously let them know that you are new and let you know who they are so you can go up and say “Hi Bob! My name is _____ and this is the first time here.” To which Bob would reply “I know, because you aren’t wearing a nifty name tag like me. Welcome! How are you?...” I call this “The Country Club” approach. Both are ways of making someone feel welcome, if maybe a little conspicuous. However, none of the churches I have attended have implemented either of these techniques. I am thinking about making shirts emblazoned with the following sentence on the back in 50 point font: “Hello. My name is ______. I’m a first time visitor. Please show God’s love for me by saying ‘hello’ and starting up a conversation.” I have Hallmark Card Studio AND iron on T-shirt paper, so it can be done! I know what you are thinking, that maybe we should try to attend smaller churches because they are most likely to notice new people (like our old church, sniffle). We are trying to find them, but I think that in our area of the country, all of the small churches have been swallowed up by the bigger ones.
8. Is it REALLY okay to let the offering plate pass you by as first time visitors? That is the philosophy that our old church espouses. First time visitors are guests and don’t need to contribute to the church. That is the regular member’s joy. Sometimes it does feel weird to let the plate pass and I wonder if the people surrounding us know that we are visitors or just think we are welching on our commitment to the Lord?
9. If I don’t intend to return to the church and they have given me a “goodie bag” for being a first time visitor, should I return the bag or consider it as payment for making it through the service?
10. What has happened to the “Before you sit down, why don’t you turn to greet your neighbor.”? I thought that was standard church reptoire, but I guess in my new ‘hood, the churches haven’t heard of this “new” way to welcome people. Or maybe their time schedule doesn’t allow for it because they have to get the first group out the door in time to prepare for the second group. The “greet” system may sound corny, but it is a way to ensure that someone new will have someone say “hello” to them and acknowledge their existence sometime between entering the chapel and leaving it. As an added bonus, it ensures that the regular members talk to someone else at least once during the service ;-).

If anyone has advice for me other than "let it go and keep searching for the church that God has divinely appointed for you.", I would welcome it. We actually have been attending a small church plant meeting in the evenings that has possibilites. At least most people say more than 'hi' to us and the kids have become very friendly with our kids. That is a big plus. If you read this and are a praying person, please pray that God will either give us the green light with this church or help us find His divine appointment soon.

And if you are a member of a church, whether it be big or small, please make sure you seek out people you don't recognize and say "hi" to them on the off chance that they are visiting for the first time.


May 18, 2009

Elizabeth's sestina

Background: This is the sestina that Elizabeth has been writing for the past week. I will warn you, though, it is morbid. Before you all tell me to take her to psychiatrist, please keep in mind that in the last month, she has experienced the following:
1. She has moved away from all the friends she has ever known.
2. Her great-grandmother, "Granny" Kloos, died recently. She and Jessi came with me when I visited Granny a few days before her death. Granny looked very different from the person she had seen a month earlier. She looked like she was close to death and didn't react much the whole time we were there. Two days before we started the trek to a new home/life, she attended Granny's funeral.
3. Charlotte is a guinea pig who died two years ago. When she died, we buried her in our garden in Grayslake, Illinois. She was very disappointed to know that we would not be bringing Charlotte's remains with us when we moved.
In summary, she has been dealing with a lot of loss and disappointment. She also chose words to use that can not help but create a morbid poem. Rest assured that if she continues talking about death and dying and grief six months from now, I might have her talk to a counselor, okay.

Charlotte’s Death

Our dear Charrlote was a gunea pig,
In our garden is where she lays.
We are very sad of her death.
Her sudden death left us in grief.
When we moved on, our hearts did weep.
Her death left us in sadness.

The rain washes away the sadness.
Her friend Sarah is also a gunea pig.
When we found Charrlote dead in her house, a long time we did weep.
We buried her in a garden near the front door, and that’s where she lays.
We do school to hide our grief,
We think Sarah grieves her death.

When I reach my death,
Our family will be encased in sadness.
They’ll do fun things to hide their grief,
But not like a gunea pig.
Charrlote’s in her grave, that’s where she lays.
When I am dead, my relatives will weep.

So when life is over, everyone will weep.
Death draws us to it, and we are drawn to death.
The dead man lays in his grave, that’s where he lays.
His reletives are clothed in sadness.
We are all like a gunea pig.
Everyone dies with grief.

In grief we die, in grief they die, everyone dies in grief.
In our life time, we will have to weep,
Even the gunea pig.
Everyone, everything, anything is doomed to death.
Everyone, everything is doomed to sadness.
In sadness we lay, in sadness they lay, in sadness everything lays!

Oh, she is dead, and there she lays!
Like all other people, we all die in grief.
And like all other people, we all die in sadness.
We weep when we die, like all other people we weep.
We fall into sadness, and into a trap, and the trap is death.
Pigs fall into the death trap, and so do every gunea pig.

In sadnness we live, in sadness we die, all around us sadness lays.
The gunea pig dies in grief.
In death we weep, and such a sweet sorrow is death.

May 16, 2009

Tom Thumb is not as easy as it looks

This morning, we all piled into the van to climb Pinnacle Peak. Unfortunately, the trail was closed on account of swarms of attacking bees (no, not the killer bees, just really irritated bees). However, the warden was very helpful and told us about another trail nearby that went up to the top of "Tom Thumb", a really cool rock formation. If you have watched Veggie Tales' "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Movie", the area looks a little like the rock monster island with more sand poured over the rock formations. The boulders are all metamorphic rock (thanks H.A.M.I.C. geology studies!). To get to the start of Tom Thumb trail, you have to go on a dirt road, which reminded me of Kyle's newest song, "Rock and Roll on a Bad Road", beecause that is what we did. I think Eric had fun driving on it, though we had to be careful of washouts and huge dips that still caused us to bottom out a few times. The kids were great. At the beginning of the trail, John told a guy passing us, "I will never get tired." He changed his tune. Trail statistics: It took us 90 minutes to hike 2.6 miles with an elevation gain of 700 feet (thanks to Eric's GPS program on his phone). We saw lizards, a hummingbird (I think), lots of ants and lots of little flies that reminded me of the little flying bugs in "Cars". The flies were annoying, but at least they didn't bite--just tickle. The trail had places with loose gravel that made it tricky to go up and even trickier going down. On the way down, Elizabeth slipped and fell once, Jessi and Kyle each slipped and fell three times and John slipped and fell too many times to count (I think he liked it because Eric was holding his hand and didn't let him get hurt). John also confessed to getting tired at one point. We did not make it to the summit of Tom's Thumb. Our water was half gone, the kids were really tired, and a couple on their way back said that the trail got pretty steep near the end, which made us decide to turn around with Tom Thumb's peak in site.

The views were fabulous, both up close and panoramic. Unfortunately, we did not bring a camera, so we only took a couple of pictures with Eric's camera. All in all, it was a great adventure. Who needs to be in "The Amazing Race" when you can create your own road blocks :-).

May 11, 2009

A Moving Sestina

Background: Elizabeth and I are studying poetry. She has developed some haiku and mastered the limerick. She has memorized "The Rainy Day" by Henry Wadworth Longefellow. Recently, I found out that the Homeschool Legal Defense Association is sponsoring a poetry contest. It has to be a sestina poem based on a quote from Mark Twain. I'm not sure if she will enter the contest, but I thought it would be a good way to introduce another poetry form. If you don't know what a sestina is, go to She has started the first of seven stanzas today writing about her beloved dead guinea pig, Charolotte. When she finishes, I will post it. Because a teacher should lead by example, I have also written a sestina inspired by our move.

A Moving Sestina

My husband’s lost job forced us to move
Into a new state, a new climate, a new adventure.
But moving means friendships are broken
Our way of life must form a new pattern
Our way of thinking renewed.
A total re-boot

My atitude also needs a re-boot.
As God is prodding me to move.
So that I can be renewed,
Serving and worshipping in a new pattern.
As I allow my heart to be broken,
I feel adrift on the edge of adventure.

Flung into the abyss of adventure,
Ties of comfort have been broken.
New instructions to come after the re-boot.
God is on the move,
Weaving new people into my life’s pattern.
Uncharted relationships are being renewed.

My faith is being renewed
On God’s great plan of adventure.
To experience it, I must move.
Old cookies smashed in the re-boot.
Glorious light shines throughout the pattern
As stumbling blocks are being broken.

When comfort zones are broken,
Joi de vive can be renewed,
New growth results in a re-boot,
Hearts beat strong and fast during the adventure,
Beauty is found in a new pattern,
Peace and contentment are found in the move.

Good things come from a move.
We get to review our life in the re-boot.
Old friendships need not be broken
And in heaven, all friendships will be renewed
Wisdom and knowledge are expanded by adventure.
Flexibility comes with a new pattern.

I now relish my re-boot which brings with it adventure,
Experiencing God’s shuttle move into me a new pattern
Because some threads are broken, my tapestry of life is renewed.

May 8, 2009

Overtoom talent "show"

This blog is dedicated to my talented kids. Elizabeth managed to make "guitars" out of K'nex, complete with guitar straps and K'nex picks. This has encouraged "Song Night at the Overtoom Apartment." Elizabeth, Kyle and John make up their own lyrics while Jessi sings great old hymns. I have been able to capture E's and K's lyrics, but not John's.

Kyle has a pretty simple song. He chooses a sentence and sings it repeatedly but in a way that is fun and not too monotonous: "Rock and roll on the very bad road." He sings this with a fake British accent.

Elizabeth came up with a more extensive song she calls "Together"
Let's work together to get the job done
Let's play together everyone!
Fly like bird
but please don't get absurd.

When you see some one that's hurt,
help him; Say "Hey are you hurt?
Oh no! You broke your leg!
Let's get you to the hospital.
Let's work together.

If you want to help someone,
Say, "Hey, here's $5 for a gift.
"Hey, thank you!
Hey, I'll go to the zoo!
I have enough clothing,
I have enough food.
So, I'll go to the Zoo!


Together! Together!
We worked together!
If we work together,
we'll get the job done extra fast
and relax.
Teamwork is great!
We worked together.


I hope you enjoy reading them as much as Eric and I have enjoyed listening to them.

May 5, 2009

Random thoughts on the first week

The first week can be summed up as follows: when we weren't throwing up, we were doing school, checking out playgrounds and swimming in the swimming pool at our apartment. So far, the stomach flu has claimed John, Eric, and Elizabeth as it's victims. Kyle threw up on Saturday evening, but that might have been sympathy puking (or is it synchronized puking?) with Eric as he never had a fever and never had a repeat. As my SIL, KT says in her blog (, great times, great times. I have been working hard to keep the germs at bay by cleaning sheets from beds after the victims have recovered, cleaning bathrooms after episodes, and sleeping on the sofa while Eric was feverish. Here are some other random thoughts as we have been discovering our new home:

* Ninety degrees feels better in Arizona than it does in Chicago. It may have been the fact that we were in the pool, or that we are getting really nice breezes. It may also have something to do with the heat index of Chicago, in which makes 90 degrees feel hotter. Of course, as one woman at a park commented, "This isn't really hot, honey."

* The three bedroom apartment is pretty nice unless you have a sick child which requires the other children to stay in the apartment all day while the sick child sleeps because there is no play area other than the pool. The cooking equipment stinks and I am missing a bunch of spices that I usually use. I didn't pack them because the van couldn't "take na more, captain!"

* Gymnastics places here don't have open gym times due to liability issues. This was one of the activities I was hoping to do as a way of checking out gym facilities.

* It is really nice to be able to make a local call without having to dial the area code (only those of you who live or have lived in the Chicago area will appreciate this.)

* I love mountains. Even small, cute ones like those we have surrounding the Phoenix area.

* I really hate the sound of retching. Dry heave retching is the worst! The only thing worse than the sound of retching is cleaning up the after effects.

* I am looking forward to camping in the Payson area. It is absolutely beautiful. And ten to twenty degrees cooler than Phoenix.

* I am missing the ability to use a library to check out books. We won't have that ability until we move into our new house and can prove residency. :-(.

* Between the stomach flu and random spills, the carpeting has been "anointed" many times. great times, great times.

* I cannot call any old friends or my family after dinner anymore without the threat of disturbing their sleep :-(.

* I have been able to get together with family from whom I have been long separated since I always lived in the Midwest and they always lived in Arizona. :-). This will be the first time the girl cousins on my mom's side will be in the same area ever!

I do have to keep reminding myself through all of this that God IS blessing us and we WILL make new friends (but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold) and we WILL find a church that feels like home again. And the greatest blessing is that Eric has a job that he enjoys. Thank you, God!

April 21, 2009

The journey

The packing is done, the movers are gone, the old house is as clean as Eric and I can possibly make it and all the good-byes have been said. Though moving is incredibly stressful, there are a lot of good things that come out of it:
* A clearer perspective on what is truly valuable. It took us two months making several trips to Goodwill, gifting things to friends, Freecycle and 1-800-Got Junk, not to mention six weeks in a row of overfull garbage and recycling bins.
* An incentive to get much needed house projects done. Thanks, Eric!
* An incredibly clean house, that is totally devoid of objects on the floor that will hurt your feet when you step on them in the middle of the night.
In the end, the house was much prettier, but also more unlivable and less homelike than what it was.

Now we are on our journey to our new home and our new life. This is much better. Yes, it does involve a lot of driving, some of which is in a vehicle where the odor of guinea pigs and their output is very strong. However, the kids have been good so far, especially considering that they have been up late most of the weekend. However, this is also a period of ambiguity. We don't have a permenant address and we haven't finalized the deal on the new house yet (hopefully in a few days we will know) due to inspection findings. In a way, it is totally freeing (as freeing as it can be with four kids). In another way, I feel totally unanchored, like a boat out on the ocean with no sail, no rudder and no oars. At least I DO have an anchor:
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last. (hymn written by Charles Wesley)

If you want to know the details of the trip, go to my husband's blog which you will find link on my blog site.


April 4, 2009

The Importance of proper perspective

About thirty years ago, Canon had an ad campaign with the slogan "Image is everything" with some current tennis star as their spokesperson. It was a creative campaign that managed to send two messages at once--"our camera takes the best images" and "how you look is most important". The second message, can be contrasted by what the Bible says in Isaiah 16:7 and in Matthew 15:18, in which God says that what is in our hearts matter most.

God has been revealing a certain uncleanness in my own heart one morning while Eric and I were hiking up the Echo Summit Trail on Camelback mountain. The trail description said that this trail was for "experienced hikers" only, which definitely does not describe me. At this point in time, I am not in shape at all. However, we reasoned that we could always turn around before we reached the peak. As we walked up the "steep" incline from the street to the start of the trail, I was already huffing a little bit and thinking "Wow, we aren't even on the trail and this is steep." The beginning of the trail was very steep series of steps made to discourage erosion and "help" people walk up. After a very brief level section, the trail turned and become extremely steep. Throughout it all, I managed to make it up each section. Then came the "Holy Moses!" section of the trail, which was divided into two parts. These two sections required you to use a handrail to get up because it was so steep and there were very few toe holds/hand holds to help propel you up. By the way, I gave these sections the name "Holy Moses!" because that is what you said (or some other variation) when you saw them. After mastering these two sections, we walked a brief gently rolling section until we came to the "Wall of Boulders" that seemed like a slightly smaller version of the "Cliffs of Insanity" that Wesley scaled in "The Princess Bride" (okay, I am exaggerating here a little bit). When I reached the top of the boulders, my legs informed me that they were getting REALLY tired and that if I wanted to return (alive) to the car, I should turn around without delay. As in NOW.

So, after a brief rest, Eric and I turned around and climbed down the small hill of boulders, down the two steep handrail hills, down the pretty steep section and the fairly steep steps down to the gentle incline to our car. Did you notice the change in description? Well, my atitude definitely was different on the way down than on the way up, and it wasn't because going down steep hills are any easier than going up them. My legs shook from the exertion because they were so tired already and had to work hard to stay in a controlled descent. However, I had managed to get through each section, so it wasn't as daunting the second time. My perspective had been altered. At this point, God started talking to me about the move and how I have been reacting to it. He showed me how I have been so focused on all the work that has to be done to get ready for the move and all the friends that I have to leave behind that I have forgotten that He is taking me from a place of blessing to a place of blessing and that He is coming with me and my family. I know that God is okay with my grief at having to leave my friends and family and move away from a home I have grown to love. However, it's not as if I have to purge my friends in Illinos (and Indiana, Kentucky, etc.) when I move to Phoenix. I am still grieving because I am still going through the process of saying "good-bye" to people. However, I am trying to train my thoughts so that I remember what a great place we will have in Phoenix and look forward to all the new "hellos" that I will be saying in a short time.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. " 2 Corinthians 10:5

March 23, 2009

Dedicated to the memory of Julie Kloos

Today, Granny Kloos passed to the other side of the Jordan and was re-united with her husband, where I know they will be forever very happy.

I look forward to seeing them both again.

March 21, 2009

Death and Moving

Doesn't that sound like a great title for a really bad horror flick with a Freddie Krueger-type persona terrorizing all the hosts on the HGTV home decorating shows as well as Martha Stewart? However, both of these things are imminent in my life right now.

My Granny Kloos is entering the final stages of life. She is no longer eating and her lungs are filling up with fluid. After living as a widow for over twenty years, living with fibromyalgia and other worries, she is finally starting to let go of this world. I visited her on Wednesday, right before seeing my brother, and my heart broke because she looked like someone entirely different from the feisty go-getter that I remember. I can only pray that God takes her quickly so that her suffering is minimal. I would like to spend a lot more time at her side so that she isn't alone much in her last days. She has two daughters and a grandson nearby who can be with her, too, but only for limited times. The rest of her grandkids and her two sons live far away and can't necessarily come. I have one huge obstacle preventing me from fulfilling my desire: the fact that we need to be in the Phoenix area before April 27th, when my husband starts his new job.

That's right, we have only a month to get the house ready for sale, find a new house in the Phoenix area, figure out what we need to pack until we move into our new house and say good bye to all of our friends and family. It is a little overwhelming. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who is doing most of the painting, finalizing other home repair projects and dealing with my emotions, which are a little unstable now (no comments from the peanut gallery about the overall stability of my emotions, please!). Also, I have a great God, who tells me to take one day at a time, helps me figure out what needs to be done and helps take away any guilty feelings I have for (simultaneously) neglecting my grandmother/friends/kids/husband/house and reminding me that this job and this move are truly a blessing from Him and that, even though there is some heartache in moving away from one set of family and friends, we are moving closer to another set of family and will develop a new set of friends. He also reminds me that even when no one person is with Granny Kloos, He is there, comforting her and helping her make the journey to Him in heaven, where He can "wipe every tear from (her) eyes" and "where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain." (Revelation 21:4). Below is a hymn we learned in January that I have learned to love, in spite of the rather depressing title: Come, Ye Disconsolate.

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts,
here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate,
light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent,
fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter,
tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot cure.”

Here see the Bread of Life,
see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God,
pure from above.
Come to the feast of love;
come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heaven can remove.

March 10, 2009

Kitchen update

In the middle of painting the upper part of the wall, Eric and I decided that the green I had originally picked is too dark, especially with the potential moving issue. I went out and got a lighter shade of the color. We are currently trying to figure out whether or not to re-paint the wall above the cabinets to be the same color as the wall below the cabinets and we would like your input. I am including two pictures of the kitchen--one with a flash and one in natural light. We are setting up the polls to be run Illinois style so you can vote early and vote often. At stake is Eric having to move the refrigerator to paint behind it again. BTW, would anyone like a gallon of herb green paint?

March 3, 2009

My husband's work

My husband, like his father and grandfather, doesn't like to sit around much. He has to be doing something. Fortunately, he has a long list of "home improvement" projects that require his attention. He is definitely working hard. He is in the final stages of painting the cabinets in the kitchen. By next week, the cabinets will be done and the kitchen painted. Below are some pictures from the kitchen. Please ignore the clutter. The first picture shows the last little bit he has to do. Now that we have the cabinets painted, the faux butcher block countertop doesn't look quite as bad. Next week, we will have pictures of what the kitchen looks like with a new coat of paint.

Eric started on what we thought would be a quick, "clean up" job of re-cauking the shower. It turned into more work than he expected when he encountered black stuff behind the tile. Today was demolition day, where the sounds of his hammer and chisel could be heard most of the day throughout the house. Below are pictures during the demolition. We filled eight bags total with moldy tile and dry wall. The irony is that I spent a couple hours one day scraping soap scum off of the base so that our shower would "look" new. That seems like time well spent now that we will be replacing it. We will probably be replacing the floor tile, too, which means that I can carry the blue of the bedroom into the bathroom. Woo Hoo! Only the sink will bring back memories of the 70's now.

Here is Eric after a hard day's work. Advil will be coming next!

Lowe's may get stimulated by our family in a couple of days when we buy a new shower surround and base, along with the accoutrements needed to install it.
We hope you have enjoyed this segment of "Home Improvement"
For those of you who are wondering, Eric is also finding time to look for a job in between house projects. No offer has been made as of yet, nor has he been called for any interviews.
Have fun everyone!

February 21, 2009

lessons learned from my son

I thank God that He continues to teach me things about my kids when I really sit and listen to Him. I consider my oldest son to be "challenging", which is another way to say that sometimes he and I butt heads over issues. I have already figured out that he is a very slow adaptor. I learned something new about him on Febrary 20th. That night, he and I had a "date" night sponsored by the park district. I thought that I had told him that there would be sports, but I used the word "games" which made him think that we would be playing board games. He kept insisting on getting "dressed up" (sweater and brown shoes) even though I told him that we would be running around playing games. Needless to say, he was very disappointed when we walked in and he was given a choice to play basketball or hockey, neither of which he has played much in the past. As I saw his face drop, I pulled him aside and we started talking about what he wanted to do, since it was obvious he had no intention of playing either sport. We decided to stay and watch hockey instead. As I watched Kyle, I saw him observing the game closely and how they used the stick to move the ball around (a nice soft squishy ball). I realized that he is totally a visual learner and must observe for a long time (being a slow adaptor) before he will participate in a sport because he doesn't want to fail or even to play badly. I tried to get him to play a little later, but he declined. After dinner, everyone else switched sides. In the meantime, I had found scooter boards they were using to make basketball fun. Instead of joining the group, we found an empty area and used a hockey stick to pull and push each other around on the scooter. Eventually, it became almost like a dance. We had so much fun doing our own thing and that is all that matters, isn't it?

In regards to my own personal development, I have learned to like dodgeball.

February 18, 2009

The Tribute Series Continues--My brother

My mother remarried when I was five. Fairly soon after they married, I remember asking her if she would supply me with a brother or sister. She said that we had to wait for a while until my dad graduated from college (another reason to admire him). I had to wait until I was eight and a half to get the brother I dreamed of having. However, because of the age difference, most of our lives have been spent apart. He was about 10 when I left for college. I totally missed his high school years and all of his football games. I didn't meet his future wife until the time of my wedding. However, there are two things about my brother that I really admire.

First of all, he is so kind and loving. When he was younger, I saw him help out his friends and defend them. I think if he had been older than me, or at least closer to my age, the people who teased me would have had to deal with him, too. He makes friends easily, probably because he is a good listener as well as a good conversationalist.

He is also a very calm person. I have seen him upset a few times, but it is a quiet anger and he can quickly shrug it off and deal with the situation. I wish I had his calm, cool demeanor when my kids start arguing and whining. Both of these qualities will make him an excellent father.

He is the little brother I always wanted and I am glad for the times we have had together and for any time we can spend together.

I love you, Bill!

February 5, 2009

God provides--Part II

My husband wrote a blog a while ago titled "God Provides". This is my follow up.

Six months ago, my husband was promoted. This happened right about the time that Motorola was announcing big problems and a plan to spin off it's cell phone division, which is when God said, "Stay here. I will take care of you." However, his promotion paperwork somehow got "lost" and he never received the pay increase that went along with the promotion. This was brought to light as he reviewed his layoff package. Human resources acknowledged their mistake and agreed to give him back pay and adjust his severence package. So, we didn't get the extra money when we didn't really need it. However, the extra money coming in now means that Eric doesn't need to fret about trying to find a job immediately. God already is providing. Read his blog to see what he has been doing during his first official week off of work.

Praise God!

January 20, 2009

My daughter can fly

Here is proof that she can fly. Look at those arms, getting ready to flap. Look at how much air there is between her feet and the ground. Of course, it helps that she is on a very springy floor, literally. This is the only picture I have from my daughter's meet. I have lots of video, but my dh is working on it because I video taped all the girls on her team. My daughter took 3rd place in her age and level. This is better than she has placed in the past. She did a beautiful job on floor and vault. She fell once on the beam but recovered beautifully. She did not do great on the bars, which continue to be her weakest event. I am continually amazed at the things she can do, however, and I know she has good coaches who will help her overcome obstacles.
For those of you wondering, I am still working on continuing my testimonial series, I have just been delayed by other issues right now. One of the perks of having a child on a sports team (I am sure it is any competitive team), is that you have to help raise money for the team. I am in the middle of doing that right now, gathering sponsors to help our gym to host a meet on February 22nd. I am also seeking direction as to who would be the focus of my next testimonial.

January 16, 2009

What is your definition of "safe"?

In The Princess Bride, (the book, not the movie), as Wesley leads Buttercup into the "safety" of the fire swamp, Buttercup thinks that Wesley must have learned a different definition of the word "safe."

I think Paul must have had a different definition of the word "rescue", too. In 2 Timothy 3:11, after talking about all of his trials as an apostle, he says "but the Lord rescued me from all of it." It sounds great, doesn't it? Until you read 2 Corinthians 11:24-25, when he describes how he was scourged (whipped) 39 times on five different occasions, beaten with rods on three different occasions, shipwrecked and stoned, which does not mean getting high on drugs, but means literaly having people throw stones at you until they think you are dead (though you might be only mostly dead). There is pretty good evidence that Paul wrote 2 Timothy in his last days on earth, so he was remembering all these events when he says that he was rescued. It's not exactly my definition of rescue.

Yesterday, my husband was laid off of work. We knew things weren't financially good at his company (or should I say his former company? Not yet, he is not totally off company payroll). When things first started looking shaky, we asked God if it was time to leave. "Not yet. Stay where you are", He replied. We had confirmation after confirmation after confirmation that we were to stay where we were. He promised us that He would take care of us. So is God welching on the deal? Are we, like Inigo Montoyo (you killed my father--prepare to die) and Fezzik (you ARE the brute squad), up against impossible odds to storm the castle without a true hero to help us? Hebrews 13:5 promises us that God will never leave us or forsake us. So that means that his definition of "take care of us" is slightly different than our definition, but that He is trustworthy. It means we are still right where God intends us to be and that is a very peaceful place to be.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! Praise him all ye heavenly host! Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

January 9, 2009

The Tribute Series--Add your memories

I just want to encourage family members to add their memories as comments to my tribute series. Obviously, each person has a unique perspective about the people in my tributes. I also am not printing an exhaustive list of good qualities, just what God brings to my mind. My only request is that your comments reflect their good qualities in following with Phillipians 4:8:
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Your comments will be moderated by me, but I won't make any changes as long as they meet the guidelines stated above.

January 8, 2009

Tribute Series: Granny Kloos

Anyone who met my Granny Kloos would describe her as "feisty". Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary defines feisty as "full of nervous energy: fidgety" or "being frisky and exuberant" or "having or showing a lively agressiveness: spunky".

All of these definitely fit Granny. She would be moving around constantly in her house, making sure everything was neat and clean. She would hang out the second story window cleaning the outside of the window. She was always quick to laugh and she let me give her the rasberries on her neck everytime I asked for "one last hug".

She would also let me know when she was displeased with me, like when I left the entire contents of Aunt Cynde's Barbie collection scattered all over the living room floor. She was always quick to share her opinion.

Once all of her kids had grown up, she went back to work at the American Nuclear Society until a few years after her husband died.

I also remember that she was a great servant. She would always be getting up at family gatherings to make sure everyone had what they desired. When Grandpa got sick, she nursed him until the end, getting occasional help from a hospice worker when he could no longer walk or take care of himself.

Thank you, Granny for teaching me to be "feisty".

January 5, 2009

Tribute Series--Nana Lambert

When I started this series, I said that I wanted to praise the people I love before they died. It has occurred to me that one person, in particular is close to death's door, so I should hurry up and write about her. My Nana, Phyllis Lambert, was diagnosed two years ago with an aneurism in her aorta and was given a year to live. Currently, she is residing in the Alzheimer's ward of a nursing home in Tuscon, Arizona.

Nana was the most imaginative person I knew as a child, apart from her father. She and I would pretend a lot when I would visit her. In the car, we would pretend we were police officers chasing down speeders and other bad guys. I made her be the guy and I chose a name taken from a kids TV show. She was also a great storyteller, just like her dad.

She also had an eye for beauty and could make halloween costumes, dresses and shirts that were works of art. I still have some of them. I had said that when I got married, I wanted Nana to make my wedding dress. Unfortunately, I waited too long and she was too old to do the elaborate work she used to do. Her work was always top quality. I remember her spending time teaching me how to finish seams and such. I am not near her equal.

She was also very proud of her children and grandchildren. She praised us effusively. Words like "marvelous", "wonderful", "absolutely marvelous", "precious" "absolutely darling" were sprinkled liberally in her conversations, especially about us. To hear her talk, you would think the lot of us came into the world just like Jesus, begotten, not made and with all of his heavenly characteristics (for those of you who are still under that impression, I assure you that it never was true). Once the cousins got together for a birthday party celebration and started sharing stories Nana had told about us. We were totally amazed at how ordinary we really were :-).

Thank you, Nana, for making the ordinary extraordinary!

January 1, 2009

The tribute series continues--Grandma Carmichael

My Grandma Carmichael turned 80 years young on December 30th. Basically, she is a young whippersnapper compared to Eric's surviving grandparents and my other grandmas. Because it is her birthday, I would like to point out the tremendous impact she has had in my life.

First of all, Grandma is the person who sat with me in her pastor's office as he led me in the Sinner's Prayer, inviting Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, which happened when I was twelve. She was there becuase she, along with Grandpa Carmichael, introduced me to living a life for God: they prayed before every meal, they had devotionals in the morning and any conversation on any topic would, invariably, lead us back to the question of "What does the Bible say about it?". It wasn't because they were "Bible thumpers," hammering anyone at any opportunity. They lived for God and considered the Bible as a reference manual for all decision making and all opinion making, so it naturally showed up in conversations. It was quite a different way of thinking of things, yet it somehow made sense. I have to say that the ten minutes I spent in the pastor's office, with Grandma joyfully watching, has had the biggest impact of my life. Without God, I wouldn't have the life I have now and I would not be the person I am today.

She is also a testament to how to make it through tough times. She grew up during The Great Depression, she suffered through a bad first marriage and endured criticism for divorcing her first husband, even though she was biblically justified. She saw her only son do self destructive things and was only able see me, her only grand-daughter a few times during my life as a result of her son's divorce. Her faith in God never wavered during her trials and she is still quite a prayer warrior, encouraging me to do the same.

Lately, I have also seen how she pulls herself out of pity party when she starts to think about all the "might have beens", "if onlys", and "I'm all alone nows" by focusing on how God has blessed her with a wonderful second marriage to a godly man who truly loved her son, a wonderful family who has helped her through tough times, and good friends who make sure she is still alive and well. She has been a widow five years now and is starting to slow down, just a bit.

She also taught me how to lose at card games, mainly by making me experience it so often :-).

Thanks, Grandma C. for all the blessings you have given me!