Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A balanced diet

I debated whether or not to include these items together in one post, or create two different posts, but decided that soup and cookies really do go well together. It's a big part of what I try to do in my life- not just with food, but in every aspect of my life.
The truth is this, we all know that a 'balanced diet' is the key to a healthy body, but there are so many variables that go into that. It's easy for balance to get out of whack- that whole pyramid food guide can easily get turned upside-down in just one meal! But beyond just diets, the truth is that balance is probably one of the most difficult things to 'achieve' in life...and I have found that even on a day I may feel 'good' about those achievements, tomorrow is a new day and thus I face a whole new set of 24-hours in which to seek balance once again. It is ongoing. It is never-ending, and I am beginning to realize that that is the biggest challenge to finding balance in life.
I write so often of circumstances and choices in life, and I am learning that balance is often the key to our response to whatever comes our way from day to day.
I will not claim to be the most balanced person in life...I have strengths and weaknesses in many areas of my life, as a person, a mom, a woman...but I am beginning to realize a couple of things. For me, balance comes most easily on the days where I keep myself 'centered'. What I mean by that is first and foremeost, I know who I am. My self-worth comes most in understanding that God created and loves me and wants me to be the best me that He designed me to become. (funny...that's a lot of me's in one sentence). It makes a big difference how much I keep that reality tucked into the back of my mind (or forefront on the really tough days!) as I go about the day's activities. It allows messages from media and from the other 'voice inside of me' bounce off a little more quickly, or not stick to me as they did in my past. When I focus on being all I can be, it's like I have a coat of 'Scotch guard' sealant around me, and I am able to go through things without the usual wear and tear. For me, it is absolutely essential that I draw upon my faith and my reality that this world is not "all there is". I live with the reality of Heaven and that someday my soul will leave this earth when I die, and I will become a new eternal being. I have no fears about my eternal future, because I have been given that promise through accepting Jesus into my life and heart. Anyone can do this, and it's the most amazing free gift ever extended to everyone who has ever lived or will live. It's the basis of all I do every single day.
However, it doesn't solve all of life's problems, or guarantee me a perfect life here on earth. That comes later- in Heaven. In the meantime, I struggle just like everybody else with things that come my way. From how to spend money, to the question of love and discipline with my kids; it's a challenge to balance time with work and yet keeping marriage a priority, to establishing rules and yet having lots of time for fun and games as well.
I have a long way to go before I figure it all out, and as I said, it's something that changes sometimes from hour to hour. Anyone with a newborn baby in the house knows exactly how balance can be almost non-existent for that whole first year or more! (Not that I am trying to scare any of you singles or couples who might be thinking of adding a baby to your family.) It's just the way it is. What I do know is that staying centered is the number one factor for me to even have a chance at achieving balance. Number two I think, is being flexible. That may seem contradictory in a sense, but I think it's almost the perfect definition. The more I am willing to roll with the punches, or do things a bit differently than I did the day or week before, or simply step back and give up a bit of control, that is where I find calm and peace. I have been learning this lesson, especially in my kids. Somedays they will do everything I ask of them on the first try. (wait...I remember ONE day they did everything I asked of them on the first try...) Other times I can find myself repeating myself and raising my voice as if the louder I get the more they are going to listen to me. It seems to never work. The counting thing is working much better (you know, "I'll count to three and you better _____. 1-2...") now that my kids can actually all count to three. I think they thought they had much longer when they counted 1-2-5-7-4-6-3!! =)
What does this have to do with soup and cookies? I don't really know that it does, but I made homemade Cream of Broccoli soup a couple of days ago, and then we baked cookies yesterday and I thought I'd share my recipes with you. It's been awhile since I've posted recipes, and I guess that made me start thinking about balance and what am I doing here with this blog, and why do people read this blog, and is it a good use of my time and energy, and I have concluded that it is. It is part of my 'balanced diet' in life at this time. It may change over time, but for now, I enjoy the chance to write and express myself and share my stories, and I am looking back through my archives and I can 'see' myself grow and change in many ways, and I happen to like that.
It's about balance. When life swings too far one way or the other, or if we are putting too much time and energy in one thing and not enough into the rest of the areas of our lives, our whole 'bodies' suffer. You don't have to be a genius to see it in the lives of people all over the world. Take just about any major, politics, sex, violence, sports, entertainment, work, credit cards, name it, and the truth is when someone is so focused on one particular issue or area, or simply allows this part of their life to impact all the other parts too much, bad stuff starts to happen. Sometimes a person doesn't see it at first, and that's a scary reality. I'll choose credit cards, since it's a hot topic these days in American society. A person gets a card and maybe doesn't have a huge spending limit, so it doesn't seem like a big deal. But without first establishing a rule of spending as an individual, or like a lot of young college students often do, this person starts using the card. A few charges on a statement and it seems harmless. But the next month the balance is a little higher and this person can't quite pay it all off, so they pay the minimum. Next month there are more charges, because having a credit card makes services and goods more readily available, and the cycle begins. Not crazy out of control, necessarily, but little by little the debt piles up, the late fees get tacked on, interest adds up...and you see where we're headed. It becomes a crisis...overwhelming even, and sometimes the next choice makes or breaks this person. The opportunity is there every single day, not to make another purchase, or to get another credit card, and to start instead, figuring out how to bring this part of life back into control. It demands creative thinking, giving up things in life, and being intentional about choices.
That's just one example. But, the truth is we all have issues in life that are coming at us from every direction, and sometimes I am learning that the best thing I can do is to stay centered and focused and have goals in life, but also to be flexible and realistic, and simply be aware, that life is about choices. What I put into my mind, body and soul, ultimately affects the overall amount of balance I have/feel each day.
I'm not perfect. Sometimes I eat too many 'cookies' and I skip the healthier stuff, but I know that I'm on the right track.

Recipe for Broccoli Soup...
{This one is so easy, really. I made it with 'brocco-flower' in the picture here, and Ava had two helpings in her bowl the other night. At the end of her first little bowl she said to me, "Mmmm, Mommy. This soup is "BE-LICIOUS"! It was so cute.=)}
Cream of Broccoli Soup-
1 10 oz. package of broccoli (thawed) or cut one large head of broccoli and cook til softened (I put mine in the microwave for 5 minutes.)
1/2 cup chopped onion or shallots
1 can cream of chicken soup
Put these three ingredients into a heavy saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter and blend in 2 Tbsp. flour. Next add 1 1/2 cups of milk (use any kind...obviously the lower the percent, the healthier the soup) plus 1 cup of half & half cream (I use the fat-free version). Toss in 1 tsp. salt, stirring frequently until you heat mixture to boiling. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then combine with your broccoli mixture. Cook it until it reaches your desired consistency, and adjust flavor for salt. Tastes great warmed the next day or two as well.
As for the cookie recipe, you should be able to read it right off of the card in the picture above. Simply click on the photo to enlarge. Note...this recipe makes a lot of cookies; it's a big batch. I make a half batch and always have enough (about 3-4 dozen). Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This one's for Chip...

[For no particular reason...but for that very fact, I share publicly a piece of me with my husband today, which can, as I see it, only enhance the meaning I wish to express to him. This may get gushy, and maybe I could be changing bed linens or doing something else constructive around our home, but I have decided this simply needs to be said.]
Dear Chip,
You probably have no idea that during the middle of the night last eve, you and I shared a deep 'spiritual' connection. I was laying wide-eyed awake next to you and just have to share some of the things that were going through my mind in those wee hours. Keep in mind, the very fact that I was tired and STILL couldn't sleep means that there was some other reason behind my being awake. Rather than get frustrated with my insomnia, I asked God to give me 'rest' in spite of my sleeplessness. That's where you, Chip, come into the picture.
I first want to tell you, "I love you". Not that you don't know that or hear it or see it in our lives from day to day, but the fact is, I love you- deeply and at the center of me. {The only other to share this place is God...but He doesn't mind sharing space.}
I don't know that I can do justice with my words here, in broad daylight, but as I lay in bed and soaked you up as you slept, it hit me how much of you I take for granted, and how much of you I love- no matter what. All of you. I love all of you, and one of the things that struck me last night was that I owe you a 'sort of apology'- thus this post and my profession of love. The things I need to apologize for are maybe things that you have never even noticed or how I have washed your socks inside-out, and then thrown them in the dryer the same way. I probably put them away in the dresser many times, and you thought it was sweet of me or 'expected' (we joke about living a life like that of a 1950's family at times...hence the jab) of me; but the truth is I didn't do it with a pure heart. I washed them thinking to myself, "If he can't take his socks off the 'right way', then I'll wash them that way!" Then I go on to dry them that way, and probably let a few other 'character flaws' come to mind as I dry and fold them.
I am sorry. As I said, you probably didn't even know that this type of thing has even happened to us, but somewhere in the dark of the night, as I listened to your rythmic breaths while you slept, I had this overwhelming experience. It's been in the works for more than 11 years now...and I expect that it will continue to grow and change and mature as we do, but it couldn't have been more beautiful than the feeling that swept through me last night.
I felt a gratitude for you in my life, in so many ways. As my husband, my partner, as a Dad, as a help-mate, as a seeker, as an optimist, and so many other wonderful things and roles you play in my life. I wanted to take this space and time to make sure that you know how I feel, and that I appreciate you, and I thank God more and more each day, for bringing our lives together. I am 'in love' with who you were when we met, who you have been in and through our marriage, and who you continue to strive to be. I woke up this morning with a cold, a slight fever, a bit of a headache, but with a heart full of the deep affection I have for you. I just wanted to say it outloud... I am truly a lucky girl- for so many things. Especially that I 'get' to be the one to turn your socks right-side out and tuck them into our dresser drawer once they're clean. I love you, Chip, and I look forward to loads and loads of laundry in which I toss your dirty socks.
Thanks for being the one which my heart loves.
Unquestionably yours,

Monday, February 26, 2007

What's a girl to do?

This should come as no surprise, but this whole comment business is becoming way too big of a deal around here. The big problem? Not what you would think...that I take offense to someone judging me, or that I can't handle the 'truth', or that people start 'answering back and forth' in the comments to defend or be offensive to me...I can deal with that. Yes, it's a bit "distracting" or bothersome to a degree...
But compared to the time it takes to read all the emails you all keep sending, it's nothing! Seriously. I keep praying about it and getting emails full of opinions one way or another, and then yet another way (Andy!) and it's been making me 'crazier' than I already am. =) So, here's the deal. I've been known to change my mind on things in life- even big things- like when I made Chip PROMISE me we would never have kids the night he proposed to me. Yeah...five kids later, I guess I changed my mind on that one. Or about wearing 'bell-bottoms'. I used to laugh at my Mom's photos back in the 70's with her slacks and chunky shoes. "I'll never wear pants like that!", I told her in the mid-eighties as I pinned my jeans before heading out for school. Now my favorite jeans are 'flared' at the bottom...and I love my chunky-heeled strappy sandals.
My point isn't that I make 'poor decisions', but that I am willing to "eat my words" or change my position in life, or just be flexible and do what I have to do to keep some sort of balance at times. This is one of those times. I really don't know what the big deal has been, or why it has caused so much discussion in my inbox, but I do know a couple of things. Here they are:
~I liked the freedom of people voicing their opinions, and the comments meant a lot to many of you who stop by and read this blog each day.
~My inbox is jamming with emails, and as much as I love mail, it seems too much mail can be a bad thing. Yes...I just typed the phrase 'too much mail'. =) I love your letters and read them all, but feel even more pressure to write y'all back! That's my problem! =)
~Part of me recognizes that as much as it started out that way, the idea that Nitty.Gritty. is just my little corner of the world, is no longer a true statement. I've had emails from Canada to Australia, and hundreds of places in between...and I'm not bragging or gushing about that. It's just a matter of fact- lots of you are reading, and not that I'm some superhero as I've tried to make perfectly clear on several occasions, I simply can't deny the fact that lots of you are part of Nitty.Gritty. too! You are. Admit it! {Some of you come here more than once each day! I'm okay with that...I just wanted to point it out to embarrass you. =)}
~Because of that fact, there are voices and opinions and support and/or criticism, and THAT is what the comments section is all about.
Basically, over the last several days as I've thought about it and prayed about it and read lots of different perspectives on it, I have realized that I really don't want to 'shut down' a very integral part of what makes this whole space "Nitty.Gritty." It's forcing me to change my mind and think critically (even though I don't think of this as a 'critical issue''s still a 'blog deal' {get it a 'blog deal! I know. That was bad.}) and so I'm going back to allowing comments. The fact that anybody is reading this blog after so many posts about comments is startling to say the least...but makes me feel like I 'owe it to you' to have a space for you to speak, listen and to see other's points of view.
I hope this works out. If not, in true Nitty.Gritty. fashion, I'll simply do some thinking, and change my mind once again...until I finally find what works best for me. I mean "us". =) I think Dr. Phil would be proud.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

It's not just me...

I have read this blog off and on for awhile. The author has similar messages and truths in life to some of the things I say/do/live by. Not that we're perfect...but we're always trying to be better. I hope that some of the people that have been reading about my joy and happiness start realizing that some of us write about these topics because it is real in our lives and we want others to be able to get in on what we have. It's not something we want to 'rub in' or create jealousy out of, rather we hope it spreads.
Here's to spreading happiness and creating joy...even in when it hurts, is hard, isn't always fun, oftentimes isn't easy; takes time, effort and energy...but in the end, ALWAYS has its rewards.
Have a blessed Sunday.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Oh blah-dee, oh blah-da..."La la la la, life goes on"

I just had to post some pictures...Chip has had the laptop I normally blog from at work the past few days, so I've been unable to do so.
But, I am happy to post this picture of Brock looking grown up in his new glasses (and tie). I snapped it after school the other day; he was dressed up for saying a poem that he tied for first during a recent speech meet. I have to admit (unashamedly, I might add) that I was proud of him. He was so comfortable and at ease in front of a packed room of fellow students and parents. I hope that the confidence and smile he had with himself witllstay with him a long time. I made sure to tell him how proud I was of his confidence and his ability. I know how important it is for kids to hear from their parents such words as "I'm proud of you"...and this was a perfect opportunity for me to do so. I would challenge all the parents reading this to look for a reason to encourage or be proud of your child(ren) today. Sometimes I think we don't say these kinds of things enough...but I know it's a message that can't hurt when it "sinks in" over time.
I am proud of my little girls too...I tell them when they go potty and when they dress themselves or put toys away, or any number of other things they do "right" throughout the day. I have said it before...there are too many messages coming at us telling us that we're not good enough or pretty enough or rich enough or whatever the ad is trying to sell us or make us desire. I want my kids to hear messages of truth from me- someone they love and respect and whose opinion truly matters to them. [Sort of the very same reasoning I have turned off the comments for now.] I seek constructive "voices" in my life. There are plenty of ways to hear/see the negative ones, and my blog wasn't the place I wanted to get more of that "junk" in my life. I have seen through the outpouring of support in my email inbox ( ) that a lot of you are with me on this one. I have emailed several of you back...thanks for your encouragement and wit and thoughts and all that ...and to others, I will keep working on my replies as I find the time. For now, just know your letters have been read and appreciated. I even found a couple that went straight to my bulk mail...I didn't want to miss a note from "Anonymous" if he/she had tried to write me back with an apology. =)
For you scrappers, I posted a couple of pictures of some thank you tags that I spent some of my 'precious time' on this week. They were made for an all-day crop held at my kids' school, and I was happy to donate my time and energy for this event. I am "proud" of such a great place in which I have the ability to send my kids for a sound and upstanding education. I can't say enough about all the teachers, administrators and other families involved in making CCS a place where lessons are taught- not only in academics, but in faith and life as well. I am very grateful for this institution and support in our lives. I see more and more that the teachers who commit their lives to these kids are unsung heros in our lives. So, I challenge you here again, to tell your children(s) educators and role models in life how much you appreciate them. It may not seem like a big deal, but that's the beauty- little words, spoken in truth, have lasting impact. That's one of the reasons I blog. =)

Friday, February 23, 2007

One more comment

First of all, if after reading this comment anyone can tell me why this Anonymous reader reads Nitty.Gritty. I would love for you to email me.
I have gotten lots of emails since yesterday, in support of me for turning off the comments- even if many of you like to read them and follow their links...but this is one of the reasons why I am sticking to my decision for now. This comment needs some in true "Dooce fashion", I give you this:

A lot of people choose to remain anonymous so our blogs don't get a ton of hate mail just because we have a different point of view than all you holy rollers on here.You know what? You're the one losing out. No one says you have to read all the comments. And while we're at it...why not quit blogging? I am sure that takes up precious scrapping time or time you could be spending with your family.Maybe if you didn't have to code things, post pictures, and change font colors too, that would save time.Hell, for someone that has a nanny -- can afford to sip Starbucks whenever the hell she wants to, and spends precious time on all these "lavish" junk -- more power to you.You just use us all as a sound board, don't ya, princess?
Signed, Yet another reader you have chosen to offend by your meaningless rants and posts.

Apparantly this anonymous person has his/her own fears...namely of 'hate mail' and being found out here. I do not judge that...but I do think this person hasn't read enough of my blog. We have not had a nanny for quite some time now...and did so for awhile when Chip took his job and I knew it would demand lots of his time and energy. If having a nanny makes me a "princess", then I apologize. I guess I earned this 'luxury' in life by getting a brain-damaged daughter, who at age 4+ still couldn't walk, talk or do a lot of things on her own. I felt it would be smart for me to get a helper in our home, so that my other kids could still enjoy things like going to the park and beach in spite of having a handicapped sister. That's the reason behind a nanny. She has been a friend to us...and although she hasn't been living with us for a year, I still call her our nanny/friend.
As for Starbuck' I need to defend myself for drinking coffee? I mean really. I buy the coffee grounds and brew my own coffee in a 'free' Gevalia coffee pot each day. I know a lot of people who do spend money everyday on lattes at the actual Starbuck's locations...and I still don't think of them as royalty. This is why the world is in some of the mess it is today. People, like anonymous, think they know everything, or choose to judge or misinterpret others, or try to bring people down for whatever reason...even if it is bashing the color of fonts that a person chooses to blog in. Sad, but true.
I find it all interesting, to know that people are consumed with this type of reality. There is so much more to life than this. And how is it that "I am choosing to offend" readers with my meaningless rants and posts. Isn't that the choice of the choose to be offended? So, if there was any doubt about turning off the comments, I have put them to rest with this one here.
I told Chip that I was going to make a t-shirt that read "Don't get too close...I have fame addiction". I thought that's what people like Anna Nicole Smith had. After the last week or so of people talking about her, I can see how that ends and I want no part of it.
So, just so we're all clear here, I really don't think going out for lunch and having a car plow into the table killing my daughter and injuring the rest of my family at that time, and then having to live with the consequences of someone else's selfish decision for the rest of my life makes me a fame seeker or "princess". That's just my opionion though. I have definitely received blessings more than I deserve through blogging and sharing my story with others, in hopes that they might appreciate their own lives/family a bit more, or choose to look at their lives in a different light because of all that has happened to me. If that offends someone, I apologize. I've never intended to share my life to make others feel badly about themselves or to make myself feel better.
I blog for fun, for stories, for my family to see pictures, and sometimes for scrap-related or faith-searching reasons.

I hope my hubby isn't mad at me for this post. He said to me yesterday, "I know the truth about're beautiful inside and out." That's all I needed to hear. In fact, it almost made me feel like a "Princess"! =)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just me...

I can honestly say that I am going to miss "seeing" so many of you in my comments section here, and I appreciate so many supportive comments and lots of emails from many of you too. Thanks!

As I wrote to one reader, I am not offended by negative comments left for me, in fact they sort of 'fuel' me even more! Remember awhile back when I wrote about how I didn't really like highschool or want to "fit in"? It goes back to my core belief about my faith and how I should express that in my life everyday. Too many times I have lived not standing up for my beliefs or being "counter-culture". So, to have people responding to my blogposts in a negative light just proves to me that I am living my faith as I should be doing. One of my favorite prof/pastor once said that if we weren't causing controversy, than we weren't being bold enough in our faith. I think he is right! My faith IS controversial...especially in light of the things going on in our culture every single day. The fact that there are people watching me and trying to figure out how it is that I can live the way I do and say the things I do just goes to show their lack of faith. Somehow they see it as a 'fame addiction' of some sort...rather than for the confidence and joy that it really gives me each day. THAT is what I claim to have- not a big ego.

If I should ever develop a 'big ego', trust me, I have a husband and kids and extended family that will put me in my place a lot quicker than a few anonymous comments. =) One 24-hour day spent in my home watching me cook and clean and wipe dirty faces and dishes and other various body parts would be more than enough for anyone to realize that I don't have "fame issues". Maybe if I get a housekeeper I will start thinking I'm someone that I'm not...but that will be awhile.

One last thought about all this, and that is the other side of the issue- that I somehow can't face reality and the truth about myself. While turning off comments seems to be "shielding myself" from reality, I see it as the exact opposite. It frees me up to spend more time thinking on the truth about myself and life and not having to read about someone else's issues. I hope that my anonymous readers will see that too much time is wasted on negativity in life, and that turning off comments is staying true to who I am. I have written often about the opportunities in life to make choices and how those choices affect us in life. Well, this is one such moment for me. If someone finds that offensive or "chicken" of me...well, then, that is their choice.

I look forward to reading your emails when/if you feel led to drop me a line...and will read each one. I'm still the same old Nitty.Gritty. me...just without the opportunity for someone else to get their "Anonymous fix" at my expense. {}

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Comments=Too much Nitty.Gritty. Drama...for now.

We arrived home late last night. Safe and sound. We're all a little bit worn out from 12+ hours of driving and sitting, and now the facing the fun of unpacking 6 people's stuff and getting back to our routine of life.
Back to school.
Back to sleeping in our own beds.
Back to eating balanced meals.
Back to dial-up.
I guess back to reality! =)
By the way...had some 'comment drama' here a few posts ago. I do not need more "drama" in my life, so as of today, this will be my final post in which I will allow comments. If you have something you are dying to tell me, please do so now. I have decided that since the comments waste my time and use up energy that I could put into something scrapping pages or cleaning my closets or making buttercream icing...and they are always left 'Anonymously', then it's just not worth my time having any comments for now.
If there are thoughts or ideas or other things that pop up that you feel are worth my time and energy, then you can always email me. {} You know I love mail anytime. That way any 'Anonymous' comment-type people will have to be a little more brazen...and I will get a chance to email them back...or post their email address so that all of us can write them back at any time. Seems fair to me.
SO, that's my Nitty.Gritty. decision for now. I have been very fair and open, but as I've said before, this blog is mostly about me wanting to just share myself with myself, my family, and others who happen to find my link. I have enjoyed the two-way dialogue and have made a lot of new "friends" along the way. I will keep blogging for now. And I look forward to getting more email.
Off to do some unpacking. Thanks for all the great comments up 'til now. Leave your last one here today...if you want...and if you have wireless internet, I'd love to know who you get it through and how much you pay for this service. Just doing some Nitty.Gritty. price-comparisons. =)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

So long, farewell...

{This will be short and sweet.} We are packing up and headed back to Michigan in just a few minutes today. Thankfully the weather looks a lot nicer for this trip than the blizzard we drove through to get here. I am hoping a few of the kids will sleep for part of the trek home. They could use some make-up sleep after the hours they've kept partying with family for several days.
So, whenever I get back on my feet and unpacked at home, you will start seeing some more thoughtful and insightful blogposts. I think. =)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Eight years old.

Happy Birthday, Brock! My little guy is eight years old today. I remember distinctly how tiny and soft and cute he was the day he was born...all 6 lbs. 1 oz. of him! It's crazy to see how quickly eight years of a person's life can go by, especially when I'd like to hold on to some of these years a little bit longer.
He asked Grandma Karen to make a 'lacrosse cake' for him. She made him a happy kid with this custom-frosted cake...and his sisters helped him blow out the candles (that was yesterday). More time with family, fun and food today, as well as a Minnesota "Swarm" game which Brock, Chip and Grandpa John are at right now. (The Swarm are a lacrosse team...they are in the lead in the third period from what I hear.) Spending time with our families makes me wonder why we live so far away. We are all a bit sleep deprived because of so many activities and traveling...but happy nonetheless.
I just want to say thanks to both of our families for making this trip extra special for Brock. He will likely always remember the fun time he had and the memories he created on his eigth birthday. And I will wish I could have made them last a little bit longer.
To Brock,
I loved you with all my heart from the very first minute I held you when you were born. I still love you with that same heart and with as much love. You make me laugh and we have fun together and we learn together and we dream together. Thanks for making me so proud to be your Mom. You're the best 8-yr. old anyone could ever ask for!
Love, Mom

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Another day in Minnesota...

I should have stopped by and blogged earlier, but I was too busy having fun with family. Today was party day with both sides of our families, celebrating Brock's birthday and being able to be together. Brock turns 8 tomorrow. We had a nice afternoon together with cousins we don't get to hang out with very often. Good food, lots of laughing, catching up, picture-taking and cake. =)
In case you wanted to catch us on tv, our forgiveness segment airs on Lifetime television tomorrow morning at 9:30 Eastern/Pacific and 8:30 am Central. Here's the link online: in case you want to check it out. Catch you all later!

Friday, February 16, 2007

What I found at Mom's so far...

We are still enjoying our stay with family in Minnesota. Chip will probably make me quit blogging forever after this post though.
Jody and family..."the early years". As in Nitty.Gritty. 1979 & 1983 in the above photos. Remember awhile back when I blogged about Ogilvie Home perms? Well, that would be me with one in the second photo. I am just realizing that I grew up surrounded by people who would outright tell me lies. I remember people telling my parents that they had such a good-looking family...they were lying or just being nice at the time. Either way, I am happy to have grown up and found the Gap along the way. I am glad that I scrapped "home perms" for "Nice & Easy color enhancer". =) I do have to say that although I wasn't the cutest kid on the block growing up, I still wish I had more pictures to thumb through and laugh about and reminisce and of course, to scrap. My kids may think I'm crazy for all the times I stick the camera in their face for no special reason...but I am guessing they will thank me in the long run.
Here are some vintage Hi-Ho Cherrio game pictures I promised to post. Bella and Ava are loving this 1966 version. I am thinking it would be smart to do an Ebay search on this game and see whether or not I should be letting the kids play with this.
Next up? Despite the blasted cold weather here in MN, we are staying in and making a batch of French Vanilla Homemade Icecream. I will do my best to get a few photos of that event. Someday my kids will thank me, I'm sure!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mud Pie.

I could get used to wireless internet! In fact, it could be dangerous for a blog-obsessive person like me...multiple posts every single day. Yikes!
I just had to post dessert. I told you I loved our lunch at Panino's today. Such great memories and good food....but mostly, it's about the Mud Pie in the end. My kids all loved it...Oreo crust, mocha icecream, fudge, whipped cream and drizzled caramel and chocolate. They are smart kids in life already! =)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Grandparents give good hugs.

Lots of grandparents for my kids to love and hug and be loved and hugged by in Minnesota. There is no such thing as too much grandma or grandpa loving and hugging...especially when you only get it a once or twice a year!
That top photo? Chip and Bella at lunch today. We ate at Panino's, where Chip and I once worked. I love the menu there. Really good, one-of-a-kind italian sandwiches. I had my first one on my sixteenth birthday. I still remember that dinner. =) What you don't see pictured here is how much I enjoyed this little lunch date. Me, Chip, the kids....tired from traveling, but loving our lunch and being together!

We made it!

Happy Valentine's Day wishes coming at you live and 'wireless!!' from the Twin Cities, Minnesota! It's COLD here! But, I was born and raised this way, so I shouldn't be surprised. Anyway, just had to drop in on my blog and make sure that it works out-of-state...and to say that I will be updating as our week goes along. How could I pass up the opportunity when I've got high-speed for 6 glorious days?! =)
You can expect to see pictures- of all sorts of things...possibly of exciting things like the "vintage Hi-Ho Cherri-o game" that my kids have already found in Grandma's cupboard of goodies, and maybe even some pictures of us having fun around town. I was thinking I could pull an NBC Today Show type of gig- you know how they do that "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" thing- and do a "Where in Minnesota is Nitty.Gritty. type thing..."we'll see. Too bad the MN State Fair isn't in full swing...I could have some fun taking that place for a day! Me and anything-on-a-stick...funny.
Okay. This is what you get after 12 hours of driving, part of that drive through near-blizzard conditions through Gary, Indiana, Chicago and a bit beyond...and now having gotten only 3 combined hours of sleep. Oh yeah...and a one hour time change difference. I suppose this is as close to real Nitty.Gritty. as I get.
Off to get a hot shower and hopefully some fun pictures to kick off this week. Happy, happy Valentine's to anyone who stops by here today...but especially to my Aunt Betty (because I finally got a comment from you and Evan- thanks!), to Jacque...because I miss you- especially when I'm "home" and you're not...and to some of my other big fans, including, but not limited to: Laura Schipola, Christal, Heidi S. in Gaylord, Andy W. in NY, and my other male reader, Tom K.- you've got some Nitty.Gritty. fans i see!... all the Scrap Etc Girls, knew I'd wish you a Happy Valentine's from here!, Aunt Dori...because I know you're out there, and I missed you as we drove through Baby Jaymun and family- because I'm hoping you're still home and getting 'better' everyday! Chef Jenny- because I miss your delectable Buttercream and eating at your swanky place and just plain miss you all my 'regulars' here, thanks for reading and making me read your comments too. It's all about love and happy today.
And if you're new here and don't get what I'm blogging about, just stick around. Soon enough you'll feel the love too. At least I hope you will!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Who fills your cup?

This is my newest mug that I take my morning coffee in each day. I picked it up using a Starbuck's giftcard that my sister sent to me (Love it!) and it is a reminder to pray for her and her family as they go through personal issues in their life at this time. Not an easy time for them...and difficult for me to know how best to help them. So, I sip my coffee and ask God to direct their steps and bring them to the place I have found in life in spite of great difficulties.
Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Tom, I just had to post this picture and add my thoughts to his comment left in the previous post. He hit the nail on the head when he stated that I would be less apt to see the cup as half full or half empty, and instead place more merit on "who fills the cup". I have to say that that is exactly how I see it. The "Who" and the "what" we look to for truth or direction in life I think, makes all the difference in the world. It's the very basis of how I live my life and how I have come to a place of such peace, joy and contentment.
While having a snack with my girls the other afternoon, we were spelling our names with mini-alphabet pretzels. Bella is into spelling names lately, and after I had spelled out "Mommy" [and Ava ate it up], I proceeded to spell out "Nitty Gritty". Bella thought it was funny and helped me eat it, and as I ate it I had a 'near emotional' moment. (For those of you who wonder what that is, it's where I get reflective and almost choked up to the point of crying- but I rarely cry anymore, so it's a big deal to get that feeling.) As I was munching my pretzels, I started to think of all the other words I could have spelled out to describe me at this time. There are plenty of words out there (see one of the very first posts I wrote...asking what word you would put before your name to describe yourself...and then leave me a comment if you want to share it). I realized how lucky I am to be at this point in my life where I have such a positive outlook in life. I mean, after all I've been through, I could be looking at life in a lot different light- there's another word people often use to describe life that ryhmes with Nitty.Gritty. but paints a less than pretty picture.
Now, after the thoughts of the last few posts, I am once again reminded that I have had a long journey to this point in my life, and I am very grateful to be able to be at peace with life. I just have to share a few more thoughts in this regard. I want to be very clear to those who 'watch my life' on one thing, and that is is a CHOICE every single day, for me to be this way. I credit my strength and faith in God- which is the one TRUE source of joy and hope and peace in this world, I believe. That's the first point that I need to repeat. I don't think one can say that too many times. Especially in the culture in which we live.
It's one of the reasons I have a hard time watching tv and why I make an effort everyday to have some quiet time. There are so many 'mixed messages' being sent out to us that it's no wonder we are living in a time where people are struggling with finances and relationships and health concerns and depression. The media, I believe, paints such a distorted picture of what we are supposed to be seeking in this life...whether it's a certain body image, or type of car, house, lifestyle, job, or that you can somehow fill the deep desires of your heart and soul with drugs, alcohol, money or sex. It's the movies, on tv, in magazines and in music. Everywhere it seems.
What I have come to find is that none of that really matters when it's all said and done. When I came to the point in life where I faced death and uncertainty with my own family, it was clear to me that there was more to life than I had been living, even though I was living a fairly quiet, happy, "good" life. That was shook to the core.
Then I had a few months where I didn't know what to think or feel, and life just plain hurt so badly that I almost didn't care. That's when I began to see that life is about choices. A couple of things happened to focus the direction that I have chosen to walk in life since then. One was that the pain and grief and anger and sadness that I was feeling was overwhelming me. Chip and I were supposed to be creating a "new normal" as people would tell us, and yet each day I would wake up to heartache, or nightmares and panic attacks and Brock was having post-traumatic stress disorder and Wyndham was in rough shape...all that on top of mine and Chip's injuries and we were dealing with the legal aspect of our tragedy and it was ugly and painful. Add to that fact that Chip and I were grieving differently and handling Teagan's death feeling almost 'opposite' of the other, and so we were getting mad at one another and hardly able to be around one another at times.
It was one of those times I remember Chip and I stopping in the midst of yelling/crying and we just looked at one another. Dr. Phil could have been standing in our kitchen at that moment asking us, "How's that working for you?". It wasn't. Life wasn't working for us that way, and I remember the two of us having one of the tightest hugs we ever had before. We talked about how we didn't like anything about our lives anymore, but that what was done was done. We couldn't change what had happened. I think I needed that time to just sit and say it outloud..."Life is unfair; it's not fun anymore; I can't take anymore 'bad' stuff!" It was then that Chip and I talked about how we saw our lives being ripped apart even more than it had been, simply because we were dwelling on the unfairness, the sadness, the hurt. I had had enough, and I know Chip had had more than his share as well. We truly looked at one another and said, "Then let's not let anymore 'bad' stuff happen, and if it does, let's try to make something good out of it". It's a good thing we had that talk, and it was a moment that started moving us in a better direction...but I'll be honest with you- things didn't change overnight.
But then another thing happened- the events of 9/11. That tragedy helped to fuel in me the little glimmer of hope that life might be worth getting out of bed for from day to day. It was about 5 weeks after our own incident that I sat and watched the lives of so many other innocent Americans shattered in a similar way that mine had been. I knew the pain and grief and stress that they would feel. And somehow seeing this same injustice that I was living touch so many others made me take yet another step toward healing. Not to say that I am happy for their pain or this attack on America, but it made me "see in real life", that I wasn't alone...bad stuff happens to anyone and everyone- no matter who or where you might be.
Sure there are different degrees of suffering, but the fact is it touches us all. I think too many times people like to mope around and get dragged down by their own suffering- whatever that may be. I'm not here to judge whether or not a person is justified in those feelings, but I learned that no matter how bad I've got it, someone, somewhere is living through something much worse than I. It's another reason why I have a hard time watching tv since our incident...I get a little too judgemental and have quite a lot to say about all the "drama" I see- whether it's real or not. There is such a myth out there about what we 'deserve' in life, or it makes me sad to see people chasing such 'empty dreams' if money or a job or a bigger car or bust or a different spouse or whatever it is they think will fill the longing in their soul. To get that, they sacrifice a lot of themselves, or their families, or their reputation or their health and in the end, most people end up with a lot bigger mess than they started with. Like a pile of debt, or a broken family, or they end up addicted to something or wind up in jail, and the cycle just goes on and on.
So when I sat munching my Nitty.Gritty. pretzels the other day, and now after the comment about who/what fills your cup, I just had to preach it one more time. It's a choice. It's not an easy choice for many of us- but it's still a choice. It's why I keep my tv turned off most of the time, and why I have a daily quiet time. It's about the kind of music I listen to and the messages I tell myself when I look in the mirror. I think we live in a country, saturated with people sending mixed messages, or telling us we need more of the 'wrong things'. I ate up my snack thanking God that He has brought me out of despair and has surrounded me with goodness. And even though I can't get Teagan back in this lifetime, or change the things that shattered my life, I have seen more blessings than I deserve in the past few years. There are still ups and downs, and I'm fully aware that I'm not guaranteed a life free from pain just because I've lived through tragedy. I didn't get a "FREE CARD" to use when things get tough...and yet I don't fear what may come my way.
I have learned that no matter what happens, I will always have a choice. That reality brings with it comfort and peace and contentment. And I guess, it makes me look a little too happy sometimes...but that's just Nitty.Gritty. me.
By the way, if I go "missing" here in the next couple of days, it's not because I'm done preaching. =) Instead, my little family is taking a road trip from Michgan to Minnesota. We will be spending some time with our families and hoping to have some relaxtion and fun. SO, that's it. Nitty.Gritty. is hitting the trail, heading West for a bit. Fortunately we won't be taking a covered wagon. I'm hoping for some fun photo ops from maybe the Mall of America, or another 'famous' Minnesota landmark. If there is another one. =)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'm back...

First things, first. Go here if you love Heidi Swapp as much as I do. I made a little book for her with some photos of the two of us together and I just got it in the mail for her. Hopefully it will get to Arizona by Valentine's Day. Oh yeah. I made her Chocolate Chip Cookies today too, and the kids and I ate too much dough and too many cookies. They were very tasty, but Brock says he likes my "bigger" (I make small, thick chocolate chip cookies) cookies better. I'll have to post my recipe soon, and you can have a bake-off in your own kitchen...Swapp vs. Nitty.Gritty. =)
I guess there are a lot more people reading blogs on Saturdays than I had previously thought. =) Hi to 'Maggie' and all the rest of you who have chimed in on this one. It's really tough for me. Not in the sense that I feel offended by comments in the least. I don't normally take comments that way. I just always feel so personally 'responsible' for the way people perceive me or how they interpret my posts- even if they are misunderstood or debatable on occasion.
In light of that, I wanted to respond to Maggie's comment. I am glad that she took the time to pour out her heart here. People send me emails all the time, sharing their pain and hurts or links to other's they want me to share my story with too. It is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about 'keeping it real' here on Nitty.Gritty. I don't want people to think that I have had an easy row to hoe, because I feel part of what makes 'my story' different is that it HAS been hard, but it shows, I think, that much more of how AMAZING God is. I hope that makes sense.
I know that many of you 'feel my pain'. Others have lost loved ones and/or children and you can relate to my life on another level. And I don't fault anyone if they can't pretend to know my pain and hurt because they have never had to experience anything close to what I have lived through. That too, is one of the reasons I continue to blog about and share my personal journey in life. I figure if I can pour out my heart and someone can learn from my experiences without actually having to feel what I feel or live through what I do, well then, that is a reason for me to share my soul. Others benefit because of what I have to share- even if it's 'bad'.
However, there's a flipside to that, and it seems this is what the questions are about from Maggie. She's asking me, "How is it possible that you are full of joy and have more happiness than some of the people around me who are going through tough stuff in life too?" {I'm summarizing in my own words here.} It was asked here not too long ago in a little different way, and I tried my best to respond. I'm trying here again today. =)
It's true. I have been very transparent about Teagan's death, the pain we live with because of her death and the result of the rest of my family's injuries. I give Wyndham a shot every night- because of the injuries she sustained. I change her pull-ups and am learning sign language- because she can't go potty herself or speak- at age 6- because of her injuries. I bring her to therapy 3 days a week- because she has ongoing disabilities- because of her injuries. My point is this- EVERY single day there are multiple things I face as a result of our tragedy and I don't think there will ever be a day when that fateful day will not affect me somehow, for the rest of my life.
Through no fault of mine or Chip's, our hearts were broken, our lives were literally shattered to pieces, and our dreams were changed forever from that day on. It gripped me, especially, emotionally for months, as I had and still do on occasion, dreams and nightmares from what happened to me and my family. I picked Teagan up at the scene and laid her down and watched CPR performed on her lifeless body. That alone is enough to haunt me for the rest of my life. That's the truth. The scene of the incident that turned my life upside down is embedded in my mind forever. Or until my memory goes- if that should happen.
I think most of the people who know me or who read this blog understand that those moments and memories shape much of who I am today.
Which is the most difficult thing, or most extraordinary thing to see in my life- depending largely on the faith you possess or your beliefs about eternity, I believe. The happiness and joy you "see" on this blog I believe are real. Very real. I'm not making it up. I don't "fake" pictures of my kids smiling or tell you about the great relationship I have with my husband, Chip- when in fact it really stinks. [I could have him guest-blog again, huh? =)] I try to show my 'everyday life' of Ava pulling all the clothes out of the closet, paints all over, I even blogged about the time Chip hit a skunk on the freeway. SO, I don't think it's always pretty or 'glamorous'. I've blogged about Wyndham and Chip being in the ER and hospital. I've blogged about Bella's meltdowns at the mall and our friends' home. I feel I paint a fairly realistic picture of my life from day to day.
It's not always rosy. In fact, next to lots of middle and upper-class American people, my life pales in comparison when it comes to 'rosy-factor'. There are millions of people who have it better than I do. And trust me, I used to wish I were someone else...and I'll even admit that in that first year after Teagan's death, there were a lot of days I wished I had been killed alongside her. My life hurt so much, that I wondered if I'd ever feel "whole" again. I sometimes wondered if I would ever feel anything 'good' again. Grief and heartache consumed me, and my future looked bleak. Chip and I had moments when we would wonder how things would ever look 'bright' again...but we had our faith. God gave both of us comfort whenever we thought about Teagan's death. We never wondered about seeing her again. We missed her, yes, but we never doubted that we would see her again. Heaven is real to us, and we have the full assurance that we will spend eternity with her when we die.
It's the day-to-day living that was tough. I questioned why should I vaccuum the house? It didn't seem to matter. Why should I put up a Christmas tree? Why should we watch the evening news? Why? Why? Why? I asked a lot of whys.
What I started to see was that although there weren't always answers to those questions, and that pain that overwhelmed my heart, well it hung around from morning til night and never seemed to go away for anything...but what Chip and I did have was a God who was willing to let us cry, and scream and sob our hearts out to Him. He was always there to listen to my pleas, my anguish, my disappointments, and my whys. In all the times I fell to the floor crying out to God or pleading for Him to turn back time and make the nightmare of my life go away, He was always there. In the midst of my suffering, I always felt God. And if I wanted more than just a feeling, both Chip and I could turn to almost any page in our Bible and there seemed to be something written down that comforted us, or spoke to us in just the way we needed it too. It blew me away, time and time again. Our faith was the only thing that made sense to me when life had nothing to offer.
You can imagine then, that after several instances of "feeling God" or "seeing Him work" in our lives, that it began to be easier and easier for me to trust Him with all that we were living through. Very early on after Teagan's death, I simply began to ask God to "give me joy in life again" or "help me to see joy around me". I figured I hurt so badly, that I might as well ask for the one thing I so desperately wanted and needed (and to be honest, I never thought I would feel again)!
Do you see where I am going with all of this? It really is unbelievable. Not only to some people who read it here, at Nitty.Gritty., but to many of my friends, people in the community we lived where our tragedy occurred, and probably most unbelievable to me. I never could have dreamed, 5 years ago, that I could be as full of joy and happiness and contentment as I am in my life today. Never. You could have played a video of my life now to me five years ago and I would have looked at you and asked, "Who is THAT?" Seriously. (Just watch the segment of Chip and I on Oprah in April 2002...I don't even look like the same's true.)
That's a long answer to explain why I am happier than most people around you, Maggie. I have been in the dark valley of life, and quite frankly, I hated it there. I remember one time telling Chip that Teagan's death didn't hurt me as much as being "labeled the 'mom whose daughter was killed in the Old Depot incident' ". I was angry about having to live the rest of my life with this ugly tragedy being the thing that people would remember me for. It was one of those moments when Chip and I started to realize that we didn't have to just let life take over and control who we would become because of our circumstances. It's powerful now, when I see how those thoughts really changed and motivated us and now have totally redefined our lives in many ways.
This 'same power' is not unique to us, or something we are keeping for ourselves. It's one of the things that I wish I could go on the big screen tv in Times Square and yell for the whole world to hear. Sure. There are moments in life that we have no control over...many of them lead us in the darkest valleys of life. It stinks there! It's painful and disgusting even, and the road can be very long- whether it's sexual abuse, drug addiction, financial struggles, divorce, parenting issues, shattered dreams, health concerns, mental disorders, discrimination of any kind- you name it- life has a way of throwing everyone something at sometime. However, I am living proof that there is a God (ONE GOD), who is able to pick people up or carry them out of the hurt that life has thrown at them, and bring them into a 'new life' and change the way they see the future. That is what God has done for me. Where once I wondered why I should even get up and out of bed each day, God has given me joy and hope and purpose. Where I had only pain and sorrow in my soul for the little girl I loved and lost, God has given me comfort and He continues to provide opportunities for me to share her life with others. At the times when I was ready to run from the pain and problems in my marriage, God gave Chip and I a renewed passion for one another, and instead of adding more pain and problems with a divorce, we embraced one another, we chose to stick it out, and in so doing, we have seen our lives blessed with the births of Bella and Ava. When I couldn't see my future past the next painful moment, God gave me a peace that no matter what I would face in the rest of my days, that He would be there to guide and strengthen me.
SO, the happiness and joy you read about and see in the pictures here, I dare say, maybe it's not all real. Much of the joy and happiness in our lives comes straight from God- I guess you could say you are watching a miracle when you read Nitty.Gritty. But that kind of miracle is available to you and to all of your friends. It's one of the reasons I share my faith so openly...I want everyone to be able to have what I have inside and out. God has said that "You will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart". My challenge to you and to anyone who thinks I'm too happy all the time, or "I wish I had what she has"....I challenge you to just ask God to make Himself known to you. Start praying. Start asking for His help. What's the worst thing that can happen? That it might actually work...and then people will think you are just "too happy all the time". It's called faith. I simply try to live mine out- every single day.

I'll get back to you on this one...

I have read this comment, and am working on a response.
Anonymous said...
You know what, Jody? I have been visiting your blog for some time now...and I just don't know what to make of your posts.
Don't mistake me for being BLUNT here, but I just don't understand how someone can be so happy go lucky all the time. Don't you have anything BAD to ever blog about? Or don't you just ever want to VENT about anything? Lord knows I do.
A very good friend of mine has a husband that is in jail for embezzling money from his company. Now, granted, he did DO IT, but they nailed him to the wall for OVER 5 times what he really stole. He got a hold of about 60K, and they inflated it to OVER 312K.The poor woman is alone in a city where she moved with her husband, and her family is in Canada. She's lost two of her cats this past year, one to Breast Cancer (yes, cats get cancer in their mammary glands) and the other cat was struck by a car. Her life is just a shambles, and she doesn't know where to turn.

Another good friend of mine recently had her husband DEPORTED back to Mexico. She is also struggling, making ends meet. She was evicted from her apartment due to her inablity to pay the increase in rent. She's also a severe diabetic, and sometimes goes WITHOUT medicine to pay her bills and to eat.That's just TWO people in my life that are having hard times.

I can't believe every day in your life goes as smoothly as you seem to write. I know that the death of a child is hard for any parent to deal with, but you just seem WAY too happy. I think I would still be living my life in my bedroom, waiting for God to take me as well. Lord knows, I probably would have thrown myself in the hole as they were lowering the casket.Let's hear about some more EVERYDAY things that happen.
2/10/2007 1:05 AM

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My "process" and a peek at my mess. =)

I can't blame my kids for all the chaos around my house. Here's a glimpse at my scrap room/playroom, and as you can see I'm in the middle of a little project. Just playing around and having fun- using some of my Heidi Swapp goodness. =)
If after reading my previous entry you got the picture of me sitting in a corner with my Bible, praying and singing hymns, I apologize for that. While it's true that I read my Bible regularly and have daily quiet time and I try to squeeze in some meaningful worship too, it's not like I am out of touch with the world around me- as if I live in a monestary or something. {Which I think would be an enjoyable thing to do for a couple of days sometime....}
What I was trying to say is that I make time for things that are important to me and the way that I function best. I never watch television (or very rarely watch kids watch plenty of kids' programming) and I admit that I spend a lot of time on my computer, however, I still manage to stay on top of most of my day to day activities. I work around my blogging much of the time, and will do other things at the same time. Like empty the dishwasher or change a diaper while my photos upload. Or I browse magazines (I have Rachael Ray's open next to me right now)or even glance at the newspaper. I find that there are things we all do each day, and I am learning to 'weed out' the things that I find just eat up my time. Like telemarketers on the phone. =)
I find that I can be the most hard on myself when it comes to being a good Mom and "doing enough" for my kids. I find myself feeling guilty once in awhile that I am doing too much for myself. But then I snap myself back to reality and look at the facts...I am home almost constantly for my family. I get out to grocery shop once or twice a week, and that's about it. Seriously. And I feel guilty?! What am I thinking?! =)
I find that if I am baking and doing activities and cooking dinner and have all my laundry caught up, well then that's when I'm "good". On a side note- it's been 2 weeks since we've had fast food in our family- partly from watching "Super Size Me" and the other part due to helping Chip stick to eating healthier. We're all eating better around here and I recommend it to anyone. Not that we were really fast-food hounds before this, but still, we are really watching what goes in...and it makes a difference- physically and mentally. Back to being "good". I just have to say that there really isn't a scale out there in regards to being at the top of our games- as people, no matter what you do, or where you are at in life. I am learning that society paints pictures for us...the corporate Mom who has 2 kids and a housekeeper and jets sets around and has a perfect Pottery Barn/Cottage Living white interior home....well, I love you if you are that woman or family. But the truth is that 'real life' isn't always perfect and pretty and I am practicing being content at every single moment that I have- because that is what I have. It has helped me actually 'do more', because I am less concerned with perfection or living up to unrealistic expectations.
I said it yesterday...ask my family and friends. I fail everyday. And yet somehow I still find simple joy and happiness in the midst of my shortcomings. I have lots of room for improvement- thank goodness for that. Because I think if my life WERE perfect, I wouldn't like it half as much. =)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A couple of secrets...

I was about to post a few tips and tricks when I read a recent comment from Robin asking for some of them, so I'll take that as a 'sign' to go ahead with my thoughts. Here is another picture of the girls painting- which Bella and Ava did again today. They LOVE to paint! Why does it always seem the the bigger the mess something creates, the more kids love that activity?! Like splashing in the tub, or finger-painting, or playdough, or decorating anything with frosting and sprinkles, or dumping 812 pieces of Polly Pockets all over the room...or even Star Wars Legos. You see, although I love making things and doing crafts, I'm not totally sold on creating total chaos in the process. That is the part that my kids are teaching me to accept.
If I want to enjoy them being happy, and if I want to watch them grow and learn and experience new things, well then, I am learning and gaining more patience during the process of reaching that desired end.
Sometimes I feel like it's a never-ending process. But then I take a short step back and realize just how far they have come and grown in such a short time. And one look at Bella (yes, for the reader who asked about her striking resemblence to her sister, Teagan, it does take my breath away sometimes) and it hits me how quickly this time passes. Bella is about two months older than Teagan was when she died. I remember distinctly thinking how "grown up" Teagan was as she lay in her hospital bed just before she died. I remember thinking of all the things we had done together and feeling a 'twinge of happiness' at all the memories I had to cling to at that time, and I really thought I had lived so much life with her. (She was my oldest at that time...not quite 4 and a half years old.) Now I look at Brock (turning 8 in just over a week) and Wyndham, who is six, and Bella (4 1/2) and finally Ava (almost 3), and I can't believe how young they seem and how much I dream about all the things we will do as they continue to grow. I am sometimes more saddened as they grow up and we experience things and the reality hits me of what I missed out on with Teagan. Like preschool, and losing teeth, and listening to their vocabulary grow and change. And especially watching their personalities develop and change over time. I will never fully know Teagan- until I meet her in Heaven someday...and that thought makes my heart ache from time to time. Like right now, as I type this. It really hits me that she's gone and life has moved on without her. I feel like I leave another piece of her behind me each night when the day comes to an end. That's a pain and ache I will feel forever, I believe, and for those of you who have lost a loved one- especially a child, you would probably agree with me.
But that's not such a bad thing, because on the other hand I realize that each morning brings me one day closer to that great reunion with her for all eternity! So, one of my secrets of living from day to day, and to answer Robin's question about seeming happy and 'doing it all'...well, I work hard at "staying focused" on what truly matters in my life in the scheme of things. Meaning, when I wake up, I almost always say a prayer of thanks to God for the blessings He has given to me (if I'm having a particularly hard time, I can always thank Him for sparing my life, my husband's, Brock's and Wyndham's in our tragic incident...and then thank Him for the gifts of Bella and Ava) and I ask Him to give me strength to do what I need to do that day...and the ability to do it with joy- if possible. (I ask for joy A LOT! I find that God is answering that prayer more and more as I continue to ask for it and seek it everywhere.)
I also know that I have a unique perspective, since witnessing the death and trauma of Teagan and what my family has endured. That perspective brings a whole new realm to my life. It has allowed me to "give up" a lot of the things that used to take up my time, and I have replaced those things with more important things. For example, I used to worry about money and bills, and Chip and I didn't always see eye to eye on this. But I have learned that money isn't something I want to consume my life. And to be honest with you, the less I worry about it, the less of a problem is has been in our lives. Not that I worried I wouldn't have it, but money used to control a lot of my thoughts and caused stress in my life. Now I have learned things will happen. Money isn't really a big concern to me anymore. I am learning that God will take care of me, and that He wants my money to be His problem- not mine. SO, I have gotten much better about money issues around here. And I have no more stress about it. I gave that over to God. Along with a lot of other things in my life.
Things like being concerned with Wyndham's health. Even today, Chip and I had a doctor appointment with her and her physiatrist (that's her doctor of rehabilitaion/brain injury). We had a consult about what needs to be done with her feet alignment. (She's been wearing ankle orthodics for over a year now.) One of the treatments is putting her legs/feet in a double cast. Now, this thought does not make me happy...and can even bring out the worst side of me- like the whole attitude I get about "just my life"/"as if we need one more trauma to deal with"...that attitude. But you know what? We got a 'wait and see' report today, and as I whispered, "Thank you God for that" in the doctor's office, I realized that a time may come when we deal with big concerns with Wyndham, but I just can't dwell on the "what if's". Life is too short for that, as far as I'm concerned. It takes away from living in the moment to get hung up on things that may or may not happen.
So, I have that perspective too. I basically try to live each day, doing the best I can with what I have, not getting stuck in a pit of despair and looking at life and all the ways it hasn't turned out the way I would have wanted it to...or wishing I could turn back time and have a chance to do things differently. But I seek to put a spin on everything. Sometimes I'm really good at it- after more than five years of doing it now. But even in the very beginning, I know God has given Chip and I the ability to "see the bigger picture" and to find little bits of happiness in what could otherwise break people down. Chip was better at this from the very first moments of our tragedy- he even joked with his friends while in the ER at Otsego Memorial Hospital. Since then, he has made comments like, "We throw a pretty good funeral" (after Teagan's second memorial service...I know. I know. That's sad- but it's sort of true. We had balloons and bubbles and ice cream sundaes and tried to make it "fun" for the friends and family who came to celebrate Teagan's life...we wanted it to reflect how we felt about her, and we imagined that Teagan would be proud of the way we handled ourselves- even in her death.) Chip has also enjoyed telling people his joke about losing 30 pounds while he was in the hospital- he fondly refers to is as "the drive-though diet". Maybe it sounds really morbid and dark, but our sense of humor has been one of the reasons I credit our marriage for staying together through our most difficult hardships in life.
I guess this is getting a lot longer than I had originally thought, but I have so much to say about this topic. It's truly not me, though. That's the most important thing to see when you read Nitty.Gritty. as an outsider and you 'watch my life'. Some of it is the editing. You see a lot of the fun and games here. I just don't think it would be quite as effective if I posted pictures of my laundry and the messes I clean up when my kids get sick (all the time!). You see Gingerbread houses and kids at the beach and smiles and paints and good stuff. =) Which goes back to how I try to live my life. I try to focus on the good stuff and only touch on the 'bad stuff'. Otherwise my life could be overwhelming...and probably to many of you it would be!
Mostly though, it is really God. He gives me more grace and patience and understanding and perspective than I really deserve much of the time. That's the part that I want people to know about me. He's my "secret to how I do it all". Without Him, I truly couldn't. I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. In fact, it would have taken a lot less tragedy in my life for me to want to give up- and I'd still be living my life worrying about money, or caring what people think of me and how I raise my kids, or thinking about the big house I'd like to have someday, or getting crabby about things like Pop Tart crumbs or why can't Chip and I have more family time together. Lots of stuff. I know. Life was like that for me at one time.
Now I know that I have one opportunity in this lifetime, and even then, I still don't know how much time I truly have. SO, I embrace it. I accept it. I live to make the most of it. I feel terrible about not doing enough with my life sometimes...but God is still working in me and teaching me that He has His own plans and I should just trust Him to work them all out.
In the meantime, I carve out time reading my Bible, so that I can "hear God more clearly". I also spend time in prayer and playing our keyboard singing worship songs and hymns. This keeps me grounded and really helps with any anxiety or stress my life could give me. I try to stay focused on living a life that matters- not for me, from day to day, but for all eternity. I want my kids to know that doing your best- even when it hurts or is really difficult, is still a possibility and that God is at His best- when we are at our worst, I think.
Somedays that means I let my kids paint and make a mess. Other days I blog too much and tell other hurting people that there is One in whom they can put their trust. I guess in the end, I still feel like I fall short most of the time...and I'm sure my kids and hubby and friends and family would tell you that I DO fall short a lot of days. But then I get up the next day and I do it all again. With the hope of doing it better than the day before, and with the reality that there is joy in the doing and in the hoping. And one day, I have the hope of embracing Teagan, and hearing my God and Savior in Heaven say, "You did it!"
That's a little bit about the secrets of my life.
One of the others is that I use Q-tips for the brushes when the kids paint. They make a lot less mess than the brushes...they are cheap and smaller for their little hands. And the kids love the double-tips...two colors at a time! =)