Monday, February 27, 2006

Mmmm...what's that smell? JFK Jr!

Thanks to all of you cool bloggers for playing along with my spur-the-moment, quirky little gig and writing some great poetry for my amusement and pleasure. William Butler Yates isn't the only guy who can write poetry afterall.
So, just for your time and effort involved, I will make good on my offer and send each of you something fun in the mail. Just email me ( your address and I'll get to work on the something to send you in the mail. Deal?!
For those of you who didn't play along and are here looking for some great blogging I offer you this little snippet of my life from years past. I guess maybe someday my kids will want to know this about me. Maybe not...but it's here in writing now.
Early on when my husband and I were a young married couple we were strolling through the Men's Cologne Department looking for a bottle of something both he AND I would like. [Why is this such a hard thing to agree on?] Anyway, a lady walks over to where we were sniffing different scents and says, "Can I help you find something?" I looked up at her and smiled and said, "Yes. I want something that smells like what I think John F. Kennedy Jr. smells like."
I don't remember what we ended up purchasing that night...but I still think it's a good story. I have no idea what type of cologne or body spray John F. Kennnedy Jr. used to wear before he died- but I'll bet he smelled good. I'll bet he smelled the kind of good that makes-you-want-to-just-hang-out-with-him-and-be-friends-because-he smells-good-all-the-time good.
Now I know it's not a nice thing to judge people- especially those whom you have never seen or met...but to those of you who only know me "cyberly", I pose this question.
What one thing do you think is true about me (that I haven't already stated here in writing) based only on reading my blog. You can list your answers in the comments...and I may just go back and list them in my next post and add "True" or "False" next to your guesses. It'll be like a pop-quiz for you about me! Might be funny to find out how much {or how little} you really know about me. Good luck!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How long has it been since you wrote a limerick?

There once was a blogger who thought...
"I wonder how many comments I'll get?"
If I write a poor limerick,
And post without thinking quick,
Just how many people'll think I'm nuts!
Yes, I know it's not perfect limerick form- but it's been years since I've written one- and that just came from nowhere! So, if you have a witty reply- you know the drill...leave me a comment. And I just might pick one of you and mail you a handmade, "Thanks for reading Nitty.Gritty. card". Now I know the comments are gonna fly in! Have a nice Saturday night!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Raspberry~Lemon Shortbread Tart

Yay for Rachel Ray!

I am under no obligation, nor do I receive payment for any of the products, services, religion or politics I endorse on this blog.
I simply state my opinions and views, and you are welcome to believe them, try them out for yourself or heartily disagree. This one I think you'll like.
I picked up Rachel Ray's Everday Magazine off the rack at the last second before purchasing my groceries and by yesterday afternoon I was very happy with my spontanous little splurge. As a scrapper/designer/paper lover type person, I admit it was probably the colors that made me pick it up more than anything. I've watched 30-Minute Meals and $40 a Day for a couple of years now and I always love Rachel's simple style and fun attitude- so that was the other part of my impulsive grab at the checkout.
So, yesterday as I paged through some of the recipes and articles I kept smiling and thinking what a great person I was for spending a few bucks on such a worthy little magazine. The recipes sound tasty, fairly simple- both in ingredients and ease of replicating the dish- and to top it off I actually had items in my kitchen to make something out of the magazine without having to go out and buy ingredients. I loved that!
I was drawn to this dessert- Raspberry-Lemon Shortbread Tart. It's almost the same rescipe as making Lemon Bars...but it's made with raspberries and looks gourmet when it's finished. I am happy to post the recipe and picture of the way it turned out when I made it myself. I plan on making more of the recipes in this issue- and you may find me bragging on those in the future on this site too. If you make this recipe, I hope you enjoy every bite!
Recipe for Raspberry-Lemon Shortbread Tart
Ingredients: 3 cups of frozen raspberries (about 1 lb), 1 stick plus 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 large eggs, zest and juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup), confectioners' sugar for dusting
Directions: Drain the raspberries in a strainer over bowl as they thaw. Preheat oven to 400. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, combine the butter, 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1 1/2 cups of the flour- blend together til coarse crumbs form.
Spread the mixture into a 9-inch springform or cake pan (I used a regular, square glass baking dish) and press down evenly to form a crust. Place in oven and bake crust until lightly golden- about 20 minutes.
Remove shortbread crust from oven and reduce heat to 325. Scatter drained raspberries over the baked shortbread crust.
Beat eggs with remaining 3/4 cup of sugar until thick and pale yellow. Whisk in lemon zest and juice and remaining 1/4 cup flour. Pour lemon cream over the top of the raspberries and bake tart until the custard is set- about 30 minutes.
Let cool and then dust with confectioner's sugar.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hair product and Heaven~ again!

Unless you've been following this blog from the beginning, or you know me in "real life", you probably get the feeling that I am hair-obsessed. Truth is I am a really low-maintenance person. I mean, think about it...4 kids at home, ages 7 and under. How much spare time do I really get for my own personal grooming? In fact, I've decided that a good, hot, steamy shower in the morning is equal to an extra hour of sleep to me. That's how some of us moms flourish in life. We adapt and compromise and trade off certain things for others- depending on our personal needs.
If you're a crazy, frazzled mom, I would love to hear what it is in your life that equate sleep with. I know you do it too!
Anyway, back to my non-hair obession that appears to actually be an obsession- here I am with Isabella, post-purple hair color. I thought it would be nice of me to post a current picture so you can see that I'm back to my near-normal, note I didn't say natural, haircolor. And there's the product that I love pictured above too.
I realize that I dogged on products yesterday, and I'm not bipolar or confused in saying that I love certain products. I can have favorite stuff that makes me happy- but I don't have to get sucked into the advertising and the lies that most products are trying to "sell us" in their messages. Does that make sense to you? Maybe you are a person who is easily swayed in your thinking by seeing a hunky, bald cartoon guy smiling in the background of a kitchen while a well-dressed make-up laden woman is wiping her counter with a scrub pad. (I'm referring to Mr. Clean here- in case you still don't get what I'm talking about...) Here's the deal. I buy stuff. I even swear by the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser- but I don't buy that my house will sparkle and I will be grinning and glowing as I scrub the crayon off my walls. It's just embellished advertising. What I do know is that my worth and happiness and ability to hang in there when life gets a bit messy comes not from a product that can "fix" my mess- but from God who promises to me a future in Heaven- joy for all eternity. That's why I hang in there. The author of the book I recommended yesterday ("Heaven, Your Real Home") puts it this way..."True contentment means asking less of this life because more is coming in the next." It's one of my favorite quotes. It helps me to realize that all the mundane activities, all the struggles and heartaches will be worth the glory I will experience in Heaven. And I believe that the troubles that we go through in life will make the joy we feel in eternity that much sweeter.
So, as I go through life and all that comes my way- the good, the bad, and the purple-streaked hair, it prepares me for the future that awaits me. I'm just working on living that out so in the end I will be worthy of my place in Heaven.
One more thought today. I was just looking at the picture of me and Bella here and noticed the striking resemblance she and I share. Wow. The eyes, the hair (hers is natural), the way we smiled and tipped our heads...she's a lot like me! I hope she loves being who she is in life. And now I know why I say she's a stinker and a cutie all rolled into one...she's just like me!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Eternal destiny and luminous toothpaste

Do you realize that life your "life is but a blip on a eternal screen"*? That we are all just a mist that apperas for a little while and then vanishes? I don't intend to frighten you or sound depressing- but the material I read states it bluntly at times, and I'm just passing some of it on to you.
I think often about the meaning of life, people who came before me and what will happen to me in the future. I'm not scared about it, but sometimes I wonder if I'm spending my time wisely. Afterall, each day we are all one day closer to the end of our lives- and I want to make sure that I am being the most I can be while I'm here on Earth.
Maybe that's why I disdain advertising- it just doesn't "speak" to me. Do I really care how white my teeth can get? And even if I have really, really white teeth, will that make people like me more? And if people like me more because I have such terrific white teeth, do I really want to be friends with them anyway? [Can you see how I can drive my hubby nuts while watching tv?! I go into this kind of reasoning for other products and services too. Do it yourself sometime and see if you really need that syrup. Or face cream. Or 9-blade,self-cleaning-radio-anti-fog-for-a-shaving-experience-unlike-anything-you've-ever-had-in-life-before razor. Oh yeah...the advertisers just love people like myself.]
I'm not sure how all this blogging fits into the scheme of eternity and whether or not it's really me making the best use of my time, but for now I'll keep posting and thinking about it. The point is this- that every minute of life is worth more than we realize, I think. I still plan on doing crazy, fun, relatively meaningless stuff- like belting out classics to the amusement of my family in the car. And I hope that I'll be leaving some sort of legacy that's worth remembering.
*If you're looking for a great book to focus your thoughts on the eternal perspective try this one...a favorite book of mine- Heaven-Your Real Home by author Joni Eareckson Tada. Note:If you happen to be talented in blogging and can teach me how to link to another website from a post- I'd love you. I've tried the blogger help steps and haven't got it worked out. I'll keep trying.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Don't you just love it

Some of you avid bloggers must feel the same way I do when you click over to a favorite blog and there is a new post. Don't you just love that!? Like getting mail that you actually want to rip open and read. I try to update this page reguarly and I usually have lots of material. I call it "blog fodder" when it happens to me. Good stuff. Funny stuff. Stuff that other people need or even don't need to know about.
I had lots of material today as we entertained 8 boys plus our own kids at a local bowling alley for Brock's birthday party. I could tell you about how I jammed out in the front seat of the car on the way to the bowling alley- reminding my husband about the rollerskating parties I used to go to as a kid- I belted out part of "Centerfold" {remember this one? Na na na na na na, na na na na nana na na angel is a centerfold} and Michael Jackson's "Beat It" as well as "Abra, abracadabra- I want to reach out and grab ya." Yep. Those should take you back a few years. I don't listen to stuff like that anymore- but I sure made me kids laugh when they watched my flashback routine.
I could blog about all the other stuff I did today- like bathe four kids, bake muffins and small loaves of zucchini bread, knit a few rows of a scarf I'm working on, wash and fold a couple of mega-loads of laundry, in addition to that 1st grader birthday party. Oh yeah. it's been a busy, but fun day. And I updated this just so some of you could be happy that you stopped by.
For the record...I take suggestions as to what you would like me to blog about in the comment section- or feel free to email me. I also read back through my comments on occasion just to stay on top of any comments that are left a few days or even weeks after the posted date. What can I say? I guess I care what you all think. Truly I do. Or I just don't have enough "real-life" stuff to keep me busy. Oh yeah. One more thing to let you all know- my hair isn't exactly purple anymore...more like a whitish-gray in spots. I can live with it for a bit. And thanks for all the nasty comments that you kept to well as the few nice ones you felt led to share. I appreciate the thoughtfulness! Now, if you're lucky I'll post something new and exciting tomorrow- which hopefully won't include any 80's hit lyrics!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

From zero to seven-

Yesterday, Feb. 18th, my oldest kid at home turned seven. Tomorrow we are hosting a birthday party at a local bowling alley...Star Wars cake and icecream, "Pin the Lightsaber on the Jedi" and a round of bowling to boot. Should be festive and fun- and noisy...that's what boys are good at!
I pulled out the baby pictures of Brock and was remembering back to Feb. 1999, when we welcomed him into our lives. He was so small [6 lbs.1 oz.- actually he was one of my "bigger" babies- I tend to have small babies, I know, I know, Lucky me,], and so soft and perfect. His features definitely "looked" boy and he was an easygoing, content baby. I had so much more energy when he was born compared to my first. Maybe it was the warm, Florida climate in February- I don't know, but I loved everyminute with him and Teagan.
I'm still trying to figure out how time can move so quickly. I still remember those early days- 7 years ago- as if it were not that long ago. I guess it's another reminder to me- to enjoy, treasure and take lots of pictures- because time does indeed pass us all by too quickly.
As for Brock, he is still easy to have around on most days. He loves GameBoy, Star Wars, anything sweet, including his Mom =), and he dreams big. A few weeks ago he and I were discussing what is involved with becoming President of the United States. After citing things like you have to be a US citizen, at least 35 yrs old, etc. he decided he could do it. He talked a little bit about what he would do if he were elected and then stopped and looked at me and said, "What happens if my cousin Aly wants to be in the same election? Who will Grandma and Grandma vote for?" I guess we'll have to wait and see when that time comes! Happy, happy birthday, Brock. I love you!

Friday, February 17, 2006

I should take my own advice!

For those of you who stop by this blog to be encouraged, inspired or otherwise think I am some sort of superhuman- this post is for you! Newsflash** I am just an everday, "normal" human being -lest you need proof of that beyond all the other posts I've written, today I present to you pictures.
I do crazy things a lot of times, but most of the time they are done purposefully. This one happened to me inadvertantly. I should have taken my own advice from several days back when I talked about what we all need a little bit more of in this world is contentment. Then I wrote a few day later about image and how we should accept ourselves as we are and love our flaws- although it's never wrong to work on self-improvements. That's where I found myself this morning.
I normally color my own hair and typically it turns out just fine. Or I end up liking it- even if it wasn't exactly what I had imagined my hair color to ultimately be. I was going for the "Extra Light Ash Blonde" look...which as you can see on the model on the front of the box of the haircolor {that I blurred the product name for so as not to cause scandal}, is a lovely shade of glossy blonde. I expected from previous episodes that my hair would look much like the picture- only shorter. I realized that.
However, as I rinsed I noticed that the hair hanging down in front of my nose was almost purple. I rinsed thoughroughly again and again, and then I grabbed a towel and started drying my hair. When I pulled back the towel I realized that it was indeed purple. Teagan would have loved it! However, she's not here and I don't exactly have a lot of clothes in my closet that match purple. I blow-dried it and still my hair looked purple. I used my favorite styling product [Pureology Texture this stuff!! If I posted the picture I wouldn't blur the name on this one...], and as you can see in the above picture of me and my youngest daughter, Ava, it still looks funky.
So, there you have it. The lesson here is that maybe I should have just let my hair grow out it's natural color (which I don't even know what that is anymore), and lived with dark roots and streaks. Instead, I've aged myself at least 10 years from the first picture of myself taken on Feb 15th to my purple-blue hair picture taken today. 10 years in 2 days! Maybe that could get me another appearance on Oprah! If I ever do go back on the show, I know one thing for sure...I won't be coloring my hair Ash Blonde the day beforehand!
Finally, if you have something nice to write besides, "{snickering at your purple hair}" in the comments section, please leave them here for me. Thanks for your support. And I'll be sure to post a new photo if I recolor my hair- just so you can see what happens.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rounding out the meal

Guess I should have posted all these pictures in reverse order. Start from the previous set and work your way back up here if you want to see our dinner from start to finish. As far as I'm concerned, it was all good!

A seven course dinner worth every calorie!

Sometimes in life I get to experience some really great things. Last night it was a sunset over Lake Michigan and a 7-course dinner with my husband and some new acquaintances. Posted are some of the pictures I snapped starting with the beach skyline and ending with dessert. If you've followed my life over the years- or have recently got caught up on parts of it through this blog, you know there has been a lot of bad stuff. I'll admit that. But you should also know that there has been a lot of good. And when the good comes my way- it's usually really good. Great even. These pics don't do our dinner justice...and if you haven't had a truly memorable meal in a long while, I highly recommend the Artisan Cooking School of Grand Haven. You cannot go wrong with this place. Home of my favorite Buttercream Icing! If you could smell these pictures, I know you would be drooling from the likes of these. Some of the other guests were making fun of me taking pictures of each course. I told them when I get old I am going to be happy to sit around and reminisce about things such as the "Valentine's Dinner of 2006". Yessiree...a dinner well worth remembering.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"Angel Mail"

Today is Valentine's Day. I've got a dozen red tulips blooming in the other room from Chip- as he learned early on in our courtship that I prefer tulips to roses. It's so sweet when somebody you love in this world shows that they love the "little known facts" that make up you. We give each other a hard time and joke around a lot- but when it comes down to it {ie. the nitty gritty stuff}, we wouldn't trade one another for the world. At least I know I wouldn't! I am a better person in this world because of him and all the ways he affects my life- good and bad. The bad makes me want to try harder and be better....and the good just rounds out the relationship! I am a lucky, loved person and wouldn't trade my life for too many other people's lives in this world.
Today always brings mixed emotions for me as I would give ANYTHING to hug, hold and smother Teagan with kisses- even if for only a few minutes. I'd take 'em if I could! So I think about her all day and imagine how she would have told me "You're the love of my heart." That was a phrase she had repeated quite often in the months before she died. Just because she's gone doesn't make my love for her go away. It's one of the hardest parts of grief to figure out, I think. I came up with a way for me to deal with this early on in a simple way- yet it touched me and others around me deeply.
Today you get in on it too. It's called "Angel mail". At one point I was struggling with never being able to talk to Teagan and communicate with her in a "physical" way, and so I took it upon myself to do it for her. I sent Chip an email telling him how much I missed him and what a great dad he was and that I'd be waiting for him in Heaven...then I signed it, "Your special angel in heaven, Teagan". If I remember correctly it made me cry more than it made him cry- but I did it anyway. I sent email cards [like Hello Kitty cards] to Teagan's cousins and aunts...signed from teagan in Heaven. It was kind of like believeing in Santa for my son and his cousins in the beginning- they really believed that teagan was sending them mail from Heaven. And for me it warmed my heart knowing that Teagan was being remembered and that I could still share her love and life with other people.
I still send and receive Angel mail on special occasions. Brock wants to know how Teagan got the magic to send him balloons last year on his birthday. I told him that Angels can do a lot of things- we're lucky that Teagan can see us and be happy for us from far, far away.
I know Teagan heard it hundreds of times in her life with us- how much we loved and adored her. I tell my kids at home that I love them everyday. I hug them and kiss them and hope they always feel my love. And to Teagan up in Heaven, if she's watching or listening, I want her to know that she is still the love of my heart and I will feel her love forever. Have a wonderful Valentine's day- with or without your loved ones. Maybe you can even surprise someone in your own life with "Angel mail." Love, love. The posted picture is Teagan and me when she was about 2 1/2.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Look closely.

Look closely. I'm a big believer in the phrase, "Things aren't always what they appear to be." I know for a fact that there are "false" images that come our way everyday. You see, I have limited graphic skills, programs and abilities and yet I am capable of pulling off believable pics- to some degree. The above photo of me wearing a "Nitty.Gritty.Have you read my blog today?" tshirt is only partially real. It's really me in the picture. But the tshirt was plain black when I was wearing it. I added the text in PhotoShop. I could have played with it more and made it curve and wrinkle where there actually are curves and wrinkles (more than I'd like to admit sometimes!), and it would be even more believable. It's a shameless self-promotion- one that I am looking forward to turning into reality as soon as the Heidi Swapp iron-ons come out in her next line of great products!
Who wants to buy and wear one of these??!!
As for the cookies. In case you keep asking yourself "Why do I keep coming over here to this blog?" and you're still not sure why, maybe this will explain it. I just made Valentine cookies for a preschool party...and in keeping with my quirky character, I made mice, cows and just so I wouldn't scare the really traditional, conservative preschool kids' parents, I made hearts too. I know I'm a little odd and it would have saved me extra time and effort to just stick to simple hearts- but I adopted a life mission statement years ago and it still surfaces at opportune times, like 9:00 pm last night when I was cutting out sugar cookies.
This is the motto, "Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary?!" There are days I don't do one thing crazy or even remotely out of the routine. But there are other times when I jump at the chance to do something a bit "out there". Yep. Living on the edge with these mice cookies. When was the last time you ate a cow Valentine cookie. Ever?
Maybe that's why you keep coming back here. To see how people live on "the other side". Have a Nitty.Gritty. off-the-wall kind of Monday. You may end up having to explain yourself or face the funny looks from the other parents or people around you, but most of the time it's worth it inside. Just knowing you're being a little bit extraordinary. Life goes by so quickly- we shouldn't get so stuck in our routine's that we miss the flair along the way!

Friday, February 10, 2006

{On a lighter note}

Whoa. I reread my statement from yesterday and feared that unless I post something a bit more upbeat I could risk losing all 10 of you consistent blog fans of mine! I have mixed emotions after yesterday's entry, but what stands out most to me is the statement regarding "this horrible woman who has destroyed my life." I read that now and realize that it is no longer true in my life. My life may have been temporarily destroyed- but I am happy to say that in just 4 short years I have a lot of happiness, joy and gratitude in life. In fact, if you met me and my family out and about somewhere, or saw us dining together or doing some other daily ritual you would probably think we were just another ordinary family. We bear very few physical scars and would probably surprise you with the amount of smiles and laughs we share after living through some horrible things. I guess I am proud of that in a sense.
That our lives were derailed for a time, but that we've gotten back on track and are living a beautiful life- makes me happy. As I guess it should. I might as well say it.
As for the lighter note...I did the above scrap page awhile back from an online class by Cathy Zielske at It's titled "Did you know? 5 Random Facts about Me". If you click on it I think you can read the journal blocks. If not, just enjoy the bright spring colors and I'll post the facts later on.
I promise to keep things a bit lighter around here for a few days. I need humor myself, as a couple of family members have had the "sickies" around here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What I said to the judge & the woman who killed Teagan...

Four years ago this week I stood in a courtroom packed with people, cameras, reporters, a judge and the woman who killed my daughter. I had prepared a statement months earlier when I first found out that at somepoint I would be able to speak in court when this woman who killed Teagan was to be sentenced. My husband edited and toned down the original statement I had written- but not the essential message. I pulled it out today, typed it up and intended to post a link to it here...but I am still a rookie at this and couldn't get my format to allow me to do so.
This will be a bit lengthy. It was written from my heart only a few weeks after our accident and death of Teagan. My wounds were fresh. My pain was immense. My life was a living nightmare- literally. I had post-traumatic stress syndrome and nightmares for months after living through our ordeal. I was speaking to the Judge- hoping that he would "see" my pain and hurt and go beyond the sentencing guidelines and give this woman the maximum sentence. [This is heavy stuff for a blog, I know...but it's a big part of my life and that's what this blog is for- for me to share my life.] So, this is what you get today. If you are new around here, I apologize and recommend that you read through some of my archives. If you want to know more of our story as it unfolded you can go to the advanced archives section at: If you search from July 29, 2001 to the present day and type in keyword "Ferlaak" you will find a host of newspaper articles telling our story in detail.
I don't know what I want you to gain from reading this post today, so take from it whatever you may. It's just a brokenhearted mother pleading to a judge and offering hope to an otherwise hopeless individual on her way to jail. Cindy Kundrat ended up showing no remorse for killing two people {my daughter and a 29 yr. old wife & mother of two}, injuring 9 others {one of which is my other daughter, Wyndham} and destroying a restaurant building. The judge went beyond his sentencing guidelines and gave her the maximum sentence which she is currently serving today. She will serve a total of ten years. I pray for her often that she is using her time wisely and that she will walk out of jail a better person than when she went in.

Here is my Statement to the Court, as I spoke at sentencing in on Feb. 6, 2002.
This is very difficult for me to do. In my wildest imagination I could never have expected something like this to happen in my life. I don’t know where to begin, but I guess the reality of this nightmare is beginning to set in, and over the course of the past few weeks I’ve started to process some of the pieces.
Most mornings when I awake and it hurts to even lift the covers off of my legs, I am filled with anger and rage. Then, when it takes me half an hour or more just to move from bed to the bathroom- the injustice of what has happened wells up inside me. At that point I want to scream and yell and somehow get revenge on this horrible woman that has destroyed my life and my family.
I think to myself, if someone could just strap her in a chair so that I could bang her head and body several times…and break eight of her ribs and gash her head open, let her feel the pain of three chest tubes and taste the bitter flavor of anti-seizure medicine…all this just so she could get a little glimpse of some of the physical pain that my family has endured.
Then I stop. Not only is this scenario not possible- because our justice system does not allow it – but I know even then I wouldn’t feel better; and it wouldn’t change anything or make my life easier. In fact, this woman has already witnessed my pain and terror as well as all the suffering and screams of the other victims involved after she caused the devastation at the Old Depot and the bottom line is she did nothing. When she heard the voice of one man on the scene yell, “We’re going to flip the car”, I watched as she reached over and picked up her purse, then opened her car door and got out. I remember even in the disbelief of the scene around me thinking, “Do something!! Don’t just sit there…and if you are in shock, then go somewhere else, put your head in your lap and get out of the way!” Instead, I saw her icy eyes stare at me. I was starting to feel uneasy just as a police car pulled up nearby. That’s when this woman started saying over and over, “I just took the corner too fast.” Again I thought to myself, “Then do something to help the people that lay dying in front of you.” But it was as though she wasn’t seeing a thing; she was unresponsive – emotionally dead.
So, as I am filled with anger from time to time and wish for a moment she could somehow feel my pain, physical and emotional, I realize that there will never come that day. It’s as though she has no feeling. As I just stated, she saw it all there that day. My little 4-year old daughter, Teagan lay in front of her, dying on the scene and she heard the screams of the other injured victims and it made no difference to her. She was so selfish and self-absorbed in her own problems, that in an instant she killed two innocent people and forever destroyed the lives of many others – whose hearts are forever broken from the deaths of teagan and Peggy.
Now what? On earth, in this place we have a justice system. It seeks to penalize selfish persons such as the woman here today. Yet there is no justice here for Teagan. And all of her dreams. They were killed on July 29th. We will never hear her laugh, or see her smile or feel another hug, or watch her run or see her ride a bike or stroke her beautiful hair. We will never experience her first day of school, or help her wiggle her first loose tooth, or hear her whisper in our ears, “I love you”. We will never watch her grow up or meet her first boyfriend or toss her the keys to the car. We will never share tears of joy as we hug and send her down the aisle in a Princess wedding gown on her wedding day, nor will we ever listen to the cries of the grandchildren she would have born, or ever feel the grip of her hand on mine as I face my own death. These are just some of the things this woman has killed.
In addition, she should be charged with grand theft as she stole my son’s best friend. I don’t know how to explain to him, at 2, that a woman with no feeling has killed his sister and now he will never splash with Teagan in the tub, or share cold milk and warm chocolate chip cookies with her, or build a sandcastle on the beach, or sit together in front of the Christmas tree and watch as it lights up this year…I could go on forever.
And 7-month old Wyndham will never even remember the sound of her big sister’s voice as Teagan would sing little songs to her and whisper secrets like, “When you grow up I’ll share my Barbie lipgloss with you”. She’ll never feel the tug from Teagan as she would have pulled her around in a circle chanting, “ring around the rosie”. Wyndham won’t even get to see the smile Teagan would have had on her face as she blows out the candle on her first birthday cake. All these moments and countless more have been forever ripped out of our future.
So this justice system is supposed to make things more fair. Well it’s not fair that this woman can think about her dreams whenever she wishes, she can sing and smile and even stroke her own hair. That’s not fair. She could be tortured everyday…but at least she could still feel pain.
It’s at this point that the only way I can get through the next minute – to see hope in my future, is to think about God’s grace. I have such horrible thoughts about this woman, and I am filled with a sense of injustice, anger and rage. But then I realize that without God’s grace I am just as horrible as this woman is. It’s hard to believe but it’s true. The Bible tells us that “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) and that “All of our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Each and every one of us, inside and outside of this room is an abomination in the sight of God. Though many of us would like to believe that we are so much better than this awful woman, in God’s eyes – sin is sin. On earth we put these sins on a sort of scale – that our justice system might make things fair. There will be no justice until the day when God’s final justice is made real and He conquers evil forever. On that day I know that I can stand before His judgment seat having full confidence that He will receive me with open arms and say, “Well done”.
I have this assurance because in my life, I have accepted God’s grace. That is the free gift that He offers us, because He loves us so much and doesn’t want to see any of us perish. I believe that part of God’s plan through this tragic ordeal is that this horrible woman gets another chance to receive this gift of salvation. I wish I could skip this next part, but I have such strong convictions that what I am telling you is God’s desire. Why would God offer horrible sinners a free gift of salvation?! He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and take the punishment of all our sins. Not just the little ones. Not just the ones that nobody notices, and not just for those of us who think we’re good people. He paid the price and took the punishment for the sins of everyone in the whole world.
Teagan’s death has given me the opportunity to feel and experience in my own life, God’s wonderful love and amazing grace. Now today, this woman has heard that in spite of all that has gone wrong in her life, the pain and suffering she has caused and the unbelieveable sins she has committed, that God still offers her forgiveness and wants her and anyone else in this room to accept His free gift of grace. He wants you to say, “I’m a sinner. Please forgive me.” When you do that, in an instant, your slate is wiped clean and you stand purified in the sight of God.
So you see, although I could stand here today and condemn the woman who killed my daughter, I am choosing to share a message of hope and redemption. That doesn’t mean that I want to hear her utter those words and be set free. But if she repents to God, and only He knows our hearts, then we will one day be able to stand and embrace in heaven. Because of Teagan’s death – and through God’s amazing grace, by His love and forgiveness I look forward with great hope and anticipation to that day – when justice will be served and I will hear my Savior say to me, “Well done” and then I will see my beautiful, sweet little Teagan and forever be united with her in Heaven.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

One opinion can change your course.

One person's opinion changed my direction during my first sememster of college. I was young and still believed that people, older or smarter or in certain jobs or a host of other experiences, knew more than me. And "knowing more" automatically meant they were right.
But now that I am in "their shoes" I am finding that I should have listened to myself all along. I skipped my senior year of high school through a "post-secondary program" and instead took all my classes at college. I only needed 2 credits to complete my high school requirements, so I jumped at this opportunity- to get out of HS early and to get one year of college paid for. It was perfect for a person like me who didn't ever fit in at school and who loves to save a buck. So, I was assigned to an advisor who looked at the credits that I needed and stuck me in a senior English class for the one English credit I needed and he stuck me in a political science class (all seniors except for myself and one other kid doing the same program I was), and the rest of the classes I took were freshman general credits.
I had always loved English- reading, writing, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, all of it. I was thinking of English as a major- but decided to not declare any major until my sophmore year- just to make sure it's what I really wanted. Here is where course in life took a turn. That one senior English class apparantly wasn't the place for me. No matter what I said or what I wrote in that class was "wrong"- according to my professor, Natalie. Looking back I wonder if she just thought I was too young and inexperienced- or if I really was that much of an idiot that I couldn't write or speak anything of importance or relevance. I wish I had some video footage- or some transcripts to document what really transpired in her classroom.
I remeber that by the third week of class I had gone from sitting in the front row, to the furthest corner seat in the back. Natalie had made me feel worthless and I decided that she must be "right". Afterall, this was her profession and certainly she had a great deal of experience- therefore her opinion of me must be correct.
Fast forward several years to the current day and I have a very different opinion. I am sad in some ways that I listened to Natalie's opinion, all but gave up on writing, and had a low self-esteem in college. I always felt like I wasn't that "qualified" to be there...and I don't think I actually pushed myself hard enough or tried my very best. All because of one professor's opinion. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it over. Don't we all have certain regreats on life in light of our experiences?
I ended up majoring in media/communications- but never thought I was that great at that either. It wasn't where I truly felt I should be-I went along with it, and I graduated in it and even ended up really liking certain aspects of it. But it hadn't been my first choice. And I think my heart knew that.
Now I get comments and emails all the time saying things like, "You should be a writer." Or "you have a way with words" and "This is what you were meant to do."
I'm working on believing all those comments. I'm trying to "erase the tapes" of negativity that I've played over and over in my mind- the ones of Natalie's criticism of my writing and my thoughts. I bet she has no idea that she changed the direction of my life to that extent. I doubt she would even remember who I am. Afterall, I spent almost a whole semester slumped down in the corner seat of her English Lit class.
I am happy that I am able to look back, reflect and now choose a new course in life. And maybe all that happened in my life for a reason. Maybe I was a terrible writer. Maybe I still am. But I am happy that my heart wants to find out for itself. I am excited to realize that sometimes the most important opinion is not one that comes from a "smarter, more experienced" voice- but instead the most important opinion comes from within. I guess I learned something from Natalie afterall.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Some of the "Nitty." in me...

My it dark roast with extra cream- amaretto, hazlenut, name it! Some of the bitty magents that I've made. And a plate too. Read below if you're wondering about these pictures. Just a few things about me.

Handwritten blogpost & everday pics...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Playdough revisited.

The other day when I posted about body image and referred to kids making something and being so proud of their creation reminded me of another playdough incident. This one will probably end up in the book I will write someday, but for now you get the story for "free". No royalties for me yet.
The year was 2001. The day was probably another one in which I was overwhelmed with the fact that my life was spinning around me and grief and pain still consumed my thoughts and activities. After the death of Teagan, as a mother, the daily routines that I had always done without a thought could bring me to my knees- sobbing and struggling to catch my breath. With each rush of tears I would beg God to give me joy in life again. I would ask Him for strenth to see beauty and to help me accept my grief and use it as a means to grow better- not bitter.
This is where I was when the following story took place. I was in between crying and moving beyond my tears- I wanted to feel "normal" again. My son Brock, age 2, had serious issues with eating, attention span, and trying to cope as a result of living through the accident and losing his older sister and playmate. Teagan had been his best friend- telling him what to do and how to do it all day long. He was lost without her and so was I. So this day I made a decision to "forget about my pain and grief" for a time and do something with Brock that would make life feel like it used to. I told him to come and join me in the kitchen and we would do playdough together. He even struggled with coming to the table- as sitting at a table caused him panic attacks. [We had been eating brunch when our accident happened, so in his mind, if you were sitting at a table something terrible could happen to you.] I finally coaxed him into coming over- he didn't sit down but at least he was standing by the table and ready to play. Just when I was thinking how great I was for doing something normal and routine again, I lifted the lids off the playdough cups and then I had to catch my breath. Inside those colored containers were Teagan's tiny fingerprints. She had pressed the playdough down into the cups the last time we had played it together. I was totally unprepared and unaware that trying to do something so innocent- such as playing playdough with my son- could overwhelm me with sorrow once again.
As I sat there staring at Teagan's fingerprints I was tempted to grab the covers and put the playdough away so I could pull it out time and time again to see Teagan's poke marks. But I saw Brock's eyes lighting up and he was reaching for the playdough and I realized that I was facing a reality of grief. I could keep tucking it away to save for later and use it to feed my sorrow, or I could accept it, cry for the moment, feel my pain, realize my tremendous loss and then live again. That is how grief has worked for me. I have learned that it will always be there. That it is a permanent part of my life and is etched in the deepest part of my heart.
I have chosen to allow sorrow and sadness to be a part of my life- but it doesn't consume my life. I am glad that I chose to play with the playdough with Brock that day. I thank God that He has given me strength to move beyond my grief and has helped me to channel some of my pain into living again. Who knew something as simple as playing playdough would be a defining point in how I might live out my life overall. I'm happy to say that I've chosen the path in life that is allowing me to "see" beauty and to feel joy and to live fully. Even with a load of grief.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

the day is coming, I know...

The day when I will climb into bed and there will be no Chocolate Lucky Charms in my sheets or plastic jewelry under my pillow. I realize that the days fade quickly and even the seemingly unending crumbs in and around my bed will be just distant memories. And I never want to lose these memories. One day I will pull up the covers and I will realize how much I miss having the "mess" of my kids in my house. And it will make me long for the day I have today. So, I am savoring it. All of it. Crumbs and all. And I hope Chip won't think I'm crazy when I throw cereal in the bed when we're old and retired- just to help me relive the "good ol' days". I hope they still make Lucky Charms then!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Image is everything!

I hope you hear me out on this one and read all the way to the end before disagreeing with my comments. As you can see in the pictures I've posted I am no supermodel. Nope. Never gonna have a chance at being one of those. Not with my 5-2" size, 100-something pound, had 5 babies, now-look-at-me shaped body. Just not what Vogue or Cosmopolitan or CoverGirl are into these days.
But that's not the point. For some reason, (maybe it was the audition of the big girl slapping her backside for Simon, Paula and Randy on American Idol last night), I was thinking of all the negative things I've said about myself through the years. I'm sure there will be more complaints as I continue to mature and age with time...and compare myself to the "beauty standard" that mainstream media presents to me in various ways. My thoughts were this. Why do I say bad things about myself? [Note: I don't do this nearly as much as I used to. I'm basically a "what you see is what you get" kind of girl now. But occasionally I comment to Chip about some less than perfect charactersitic I would like to change...]
So I started thinking about the reality in my life and I think it pertains to all of us. I believe that we are all created by God. That's the basis of my following deep thoughts. Thus, if we are all created by God, we are in the exact body with the exact mind and soul that He has chosen us to live in. I believe that we can grow and change and gain or lose weight and gain
{or lose!} knowledge and all that wonderful stuff, but we are basically bound to the overall "package" that we've been created into. Does that make sense?
Therefore, we need to accept it and love it and thank God for it. We are a "product" of Superior design. And what?! We complain that it's not good enough? Or talented enough? Or small or big or funny or whatever it is we wish for more of in ourselves. That's terrible. And it's striking. Which is exactly what I hope you will pause and think about. Just for a moment or two, and maybe it will change the way you feel about yourself for a bit. Until you start watching tv, or see a movie, or pick up a magazine or go to the SuperBowl party that your hot "friend" is at that your husband always says, "Her? I don't think she's great looking. You were the best looking person at the party all day. And hey, what did you think about those BBQ meatballs. Those were tasty, huh!"
Okay. I think what I am trying to say is that we all need to love ourselves in the personhood we are and to recognize that we are "perfect" just the way we are. Sure there are always little areas or big areas for some of us to work on, but when it comes down to it, we are great to the One who has designed us.
Have your kids or someone else's little kids ever made something with playdough and they come running to you or call you over to the table to come "see what I made!" Then when you see the lump of blue-swirled clay in their hands you smile- but you say, "I love it! What is it?" You can't tell just by looking at it, but the child knows just what it's supposed to be. A dog, or a duck or a boat. They are so proud.
Did you ever think that in a quirky sort of way that's how God sees you? Not as a swirly-mixed up lump of playdough, but as a creation that He designed and is beaming with pride for! He made you and it is precisely the flaws and unique qualities that make us special to Him. Maybe when He made you He thought to Himself, "I've never made anybody with a nose like THAT before! Cool!" I'm thinking, now that I'm in my 30's and I'm married and nobody cares what I look like anymore, maybe now I should start loving myself just the way I am. Maybe the things I dislike most about myself or wish I could changes are the very things that God hand-picked to make me special in His eyes. Wow. This got really long. I guess you decided to read it through to the end anyway. I hope you go away from here loving the "worst" charactersitics about yourself, if only for a moment. And remember, to God you are perfect in His sight. And His opinion is ultimately the only one that matters in the end anyway. See? I told you, Image IS everything...when you see yourself as God sees you!!