I see that now for what it's worth

So as some of y'all know, I am a regular contributor to my church blog.  A large-ish sort of publication that stands a 50/50 chance of me writing something I'm proud of or that could embarrass the you - know - what out of me once a week.  And really, I'm still surprised every time I see it published.  And then I laugh a little bit like I think a bank robber may, running away with a giant bag of money - knowing full well he doesn't deserve that giant bag of blessings.  

It's a blog - not so much about Christian things - as it is a blog by Christians who write about regular things.  Sort of a collection, if you will, of normal Dallas people, telling stories of our daily experiences as God believers trying to live out the call of Christ in our community.  

I am thankful to be a part of a church that teaches, not preaches.  A church that accepts, not rejects.  And a church that welcomes both our questions and doubts about faith as well as celebrates our professions thereof.  

So what made them invite me to be a contributor?  Who the heck knows.  But I'm both proud and humbled at the same time that they trust me to weekly share my brand of wit and wisdom with such a beautiful community of faith.  

And I love that I got to be the one to share my simple thoughts this past week on Thanksgiving day, the final post leading us into the season of Advent.  Here it is.... mostly a little storied detail about our day, but I also think a good introduction to this first week of Advent, the week of Hope.  The week that we don't wish and hope specific things for ourselves, but rather a time to invite and accept the Hope of God into our lives to do as he has planned.   Looking back on previous Thanksgivings of mine growing up, I had no idea the plans that lay in store for me.  But the hope of Christ prevailed.  Insert Hallelujah chorus here. 

  Thanksgiving so far....

Overheard this morning already are two things that stand out in my mind.  And I will commit them to my forever Thanksgiving memories due to their remarkable insight, though debatable if either was right or wrong.  But I applaud the declaration of both in all assuredness and confidence of manner. 

The first comment being this,... by my oldest, and shyest of fellas in the world in the art of giving compliments and/or general show of affection... He said, and I quote, "Mama, why does your hair look so good today?" 

And I could've taken that as an underhanded insult disguised as a compliment about my good hair day, really meaning that he thinks it looks good today because most days he thinks I look a mess.  But I didn't.  I did not, may I repeat.  I accepted the compliment, looked in the mirror to preserve an image of that very moment, and said, "I have no idea. Now take my picture so we can document my good hair for Thanksgivings yet to come." 

The second thing I heard today came from my youngest, in reference to both brothers, I believe, yelled out loudly in the middle of an XBOX football game, when he told his brothers that they have evil souls, or maybe it was that they have souls of darkness.  Anyway, it turned into a conversation of how his teacher is encouraging him to expand his vocabulary and he is simply practicing such on this fine Thanksgiving morning.  I love a good student always putting his lessons into practice. 

I was in the kitchen cooking everyone's requested favorites for the big meal, and David was waiting his turn for the oven as he is in charge of the turkey.   And we made it most of the way through the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, trying to commit to certain traditions that make this day each year somewhat unique from the others.  And I feel sure there will be some front yard football in our future, maybe some driveway basketball,  and everyone will sweat and add to my pile of holiday laundry that never ceases no matter what the calendar says. 

But today we're all here.  And I am more and more aware of how few of these days we have because of busy schedules and just the plain truth of growing up and out of our little family unit.  I see today with eyes that recognize change as a matter of fact, a simple truth, and a bit of sadness to see it moving toward us faster and faster as the kids grow up. 

But I am thankful for that little edge that knowing brings.  It allows me the vision of doing without.  And it gives me a beautiful appreciation of the now.  It's just the 5 of us this year, at home together.  I remember feeling sad about something my mom always said to me about our holidays growing up.  I never had a single childhood holiday with just our immediate family.  She thought of that as us just sitting around bored and staring at each other.  Yes, that was really said.  And that thought hurt.  It hurt to hear that our together wasn't special enough for a holiday.  It hurt to know that my company wasn't enough.  So we gathered in larger places with distant relatives that we saw once or twice a year, to fill the day, not celebrate the day.   

I see that now for what it's worth.  It became a good lesson for me to hold the ones that I am most thankful for, closer than I hold anyone else.  And in the middle of that holding and keeping, to make room for others that need to be held, too.  Yes, it's just the five of us here today.  But more than anything I'm thankful for enough love to go around for as many people as wish to show up. 

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving weekend as we close the door on the festivities of one celebration, and step into hope, awaiting the light of the world.   

That's a really long time to sit on a turkey

Thanksgiving so far....

I took the boys to a little amusement park place yesterday with my friend Debi and her kids.  And the kids played and we moms sat there and talked for so long that I could feel myself getting tired and more tired.  And I yawned a lot and then I remembered that I forgot to eat.  Which for me is bad news because I have some extreme moody reactions to fasting.  Even for a few hours.  And I'm sure I nodded a lot to whatever Debi said to me there toward the end, to look like I was really listening.  But she's a nurse and I place all confidence that she could save me come what may. 

Here's part of our conversation that I remember:

Us:  random chatter about our kids, other people's kids, and mostly other people's bad kids. 

Her:  I hate you right now

Me:  silence.  Waiting to hear why she hates me right now.  But I felt a small heart palpitation thinking that she met me at the go kart place to break up with me and not be my friend anymore because I ignored her ever so kind invitation for a recent road trip to Natchez.

Her:  I hate it because the kids act like crazy teenage zombies and then eat each other's souls.  Or something like that.  I don't think those were her real words.  But by then I had realized that she didn't say she hated ME, she said she hated the middle school stage of life.  So I was happy and didn't care about the rest. 

Then she taught me how to make a turkey. 

Me:  Fireman Dave is cooking the turkey.  I pretty much don't have to do anything but act like I don't know how to cook a turkey.  But I told him he needs to make it come out not dry.  Because all turkeys are dry and that's the big reason people secretly don't like Thanksgiving but out of tradition we keep doing it anyway. 

Her:  You have to make a brine..... (and without hesitation she started to tell me how to make Turkey Brine ala Debi - because my eyes were glassy from hunger and I was yawning every 5 seconds, she must've read my body language as please teach me how to make turkey brine.)

Me:  Can I just bring you the turkey and you do it for me?

Her:  It's easy!  Because I'm a super cook and you are not.  But I will share my secrets with you because it's a holiday and we're sitting here waiting for our kids to use up all their arcade tokens and we need to talk about SOMETHING. And I don't hate you. 

Her:  You take a little pepper, lots of salt, some other things, ....  pour it all over the turkey and then sit on it overnight.

Me:  I have to sit on it?  That's a really long time to sit on a turkey.

Her:  NO!  I said put a skillet on it.  To weigh it down while it swims in the brine.  Let's just go to the store and I'll get you all the things you need.

So I said yes.  I said yes to turkey brine and friendship and the grocery store but only if I could get some food for my children and a bite or two for me because I was really in no condition to drive.  

So the boys and I went through a drive through chicken place and started gobbling as quick as we could grab the bag from the hand of the sweet young man dressed as a Christmas elf  in the drive thru window.  Drive, eat.  Drive, eat.  Then the boys asked me where their drinks were and I told them I left them behind at the restaurant and blamed it on Forgetful Low Blood Sugar Syndrome.  We also forgot napkins and I had nowhere to wipe my greasy fried chicken fingers so my wonderful boys offered me their pants legs to use as napkins.  With these words,... Mama, sometimes you have to act like us.  We do it all the time.    

Then I met Debi at the grocery store and honked at her repeatedly trying to get her to see where I was in the parking lot.  And the boys said I was embarrassing them honking and yelling out the window like that.  And didn't I teach them that honking was only for emergencies.  Then we left our kids locked in our respective cars because they're old enough to know not to talk to strangers in parking lots.  But not old enough to know not to kill each other while there is no parental supervision so we had to shop fast.

Then the boys and I went back to the chicken drive thru, claimed our forgotten drinks and the young elf remembered us and called us by name... You're Coke, Dr. Pepper and Root-Beer, right?  And I felt acknowledged and comforted by his great service.  And then we went home.

Happy Thanksgiving day to you.  Let's talk thanks and blessings and all things good soon. 

The one in which I tell you how frustrated I am about lots of things

Last week Kid 3 got kicked in the head at football practice.  Without a helmet.  Then he got his head slammed in the car door by Kid 1 along with something else awful one brother or another did to his finger.  Which is exactly why sometimes I go in my room and sleep till forever the next day and hope the house is still standing when I wake up.  

No one ever told me when I had three boys that one day, one would slam another kid's head in the car door and not feel a lick of sorry about it.  Those are things they just don't tell you when you're out there  preparing for parenthood by stocking up on onesies and diapers.

Also this past week my shower broke while I was in there and I couldn't turn off the cold water.  So I had to leave it showering while I called Fireman Dave at work and told him I had an interesting sort of problem.  And can he come home and turn off the shower please?   So the shower sprayed out another million gallons of water while I waited for him to leave work and be my first responder plumber.  If you would like to be on my speed dial list of handy men,  and can fix things like runaway showers and fit throwing tween boys, let me know.  I'm taking applications.

Last week I also called 911 about 3 times in a row about a man wandering the middle school campus who appeared to be out of his mind.  Out of his mind and wandering aimlessly toward children.  So I may or may not have prevented a terrible fate.  Or maybe he was having a medical crisis like low blood sugar and dehydration and falling all over himself on the way to get lunch.  Sometimes I look like that after teaching 4 classes.  Please don't call the police on me.

We have one kid doing pretty well in school, one kid doing kinda well in school, and another that doesn't believe me when I tell him that summer school isn't going to be fun.  It's always our biggest battle.  And that battle led to the tantrum of the century over the weekend which made me wish we had a safe room built underground to hide in.

I'm frustrated.  And part of me is angry about how much I want my kids to care about things and each other..... and basically, anyone other than themselves.  I took them shopping to fill our Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child boxes this week.  And in my mind, I hoped they would walk around the store and think about the things that a boy in another country would like or need.  And at the same time, have it finally make sense to them that they have so darn much.  

For each gift, we got a soccer ball and pump, school supplies, new toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap.  Soap.  Y'all, I wanted my boys to say, Gee, we have all the soap we ever need.  Or maybe, Hey, I never thought about where my toothbrush comes from but sometimes a  new one just appears in the drawer.  Or even a small prayer thanking God that they get more at Christmas each year than a soccer ball and a toothbrush in a shoe box.

But I didn't see recognition.  And I didn't see what appeared to me as the excitement that we should feel when we're really giving from the heart.  But I have to admit that I don't usually feel that too  much at Christmas either.  I mostly feel like yelling for the store manager to turn off the #^%$ Christmas music or I'm never shopping here again.  So I kinda understand the disconnect my boys feel or don't feel when mom takes them to Target and tells them to buy a gift for a boy they don't know, ages 10-14 in another country.  We can't create feeling that isn't there.  Only God can work in a hardened heart and make it soft again.   So we packed up our boxes, ready to ship... and I have to trust that one day the boys will remember that we gave.  And think that maybe it will be a good thing to give again.

Y'all, I think a general rule of writing is to not do it following a temper tantrum by a 12 year old.  I think the rule also says not to write on your blog immediately following your 14 year old announcing that he won't change his bed sheets like you asked him to because he plans to wait for the maid to do it.  We don't have a maid.

Sometimes families are just hard.  Sometimes our family is hard.  This week my family was hard, meaning not at all soft with no comfy place for a frustrated mom to land.

Of course tired comes into the mix.  Last weekend I gave up on all responsibility at about dark thirty o'clock, left the rest of my workload undone, and woke the next  morning at 10:30.  My body rebelling against math problems, teacher conferences, and grocery trips.  And I got fed up with the once acceptable shabby chic bedspread over the old chair in my bedroom and threw it out along with the rest of my eBay sales pile that I can't ever get around to selling...and my new pajamas that maybe I should've given a little more thought to before throwing out.  Now I need new pajamas.

And I got mad at husband.  Because he said something hurtful to me in a way that only someone who knows you really well can.  He went right to the heart with this one ...... telling me that I leave every time things get tough around here.  Granted, I had my purse on my shoulder with plans to go out and shop for pajamas instead of listening to Kid 3 throw his fit, so maybe he has a point.  

But I argued the word, always that he chose to describe the situation.  I think occasional may be a better word.  As in, Kristi is like a beautiful and brilliantly minded bird, occasionally recognizing the exact time she needs to fly south to better climates.  

And then I cried at the table trying to eat the lasagna husband made -  that I said had too much garlic in it.  But he told me to eat it anyway, while my world fell apart.

And I say that in the lightest of ways.  Because I wish I could say intelligent and feeling things about Paris and terrorism and world peace.  But I can't.  And I don't know a whole lot more about anything other than the day to day things that I live around here.

But maybe that's exactly what I should be sharing.  My day to day.  It seems every mom blogger in the land, the Christian ones I read anyway, have been posting at warp speed about the Paris incident of last weekend.  I think we all have feelings about that and other things that make us sad.  But having an opinion doesn't make me qualified to share my thoughts on it.  It's not my job to tell anyone what I think is the right thing to do.  I can't even teach my kids to give and care and not slam brother's head in the car door.  It's my job, my opportunity, rather, to share things that I do well.  As well as things I stink at.

I have to say that I get really tired of reading angry words that people have to say to each other in the name of religion and politics.  I get really tired of hearing people defending their own beliefs and opinions to the point that they're unable to hear the beliefs and opinions of someone else.

I had to think about writing this week, wondering if I should take a week of silence to let people give thought to the bigger issues of the world.  Then I decided that sometimes taking a little break from the bigger issues of the world may be just what we need.   

Blessings to you this week as you go about your day to day.  

post script.... Here's the info for Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child  This is national collection week for packed boxes.  Next they get sorted, shipped and at Christmas,  can end up in any number of places around the world, sharing the gift of Christmas with a child that may otherwise never hear the good news.  If you would like to pack a box and participate, this is your week to make wonderful things happen.  

Oh... and Kid 3's head is just fine.  We were kinda hoping the knocks to the head this week would've rattled around some loose math knowledge in there but that has yet to be seen.  Love that kid like crazy.  

I think telling my boys about my growing up years has to come on an as needed basis

And it happened just like that.  

Kid 1 actually had a conversation with me... not once, but more than once which in mathematical terms equals an infinity of mom love for him this week and forever.  AND we went out to eat together, just Kid 1 and me, and talked. 

Now granted, it was an invitation to our favorite pizza place, and brothers were supposed to come along as well, but they had better opportunities arise than having early evening pizza with their mother. 

And on other days this week I heard about school, and football, and jazz band and of course, the usual, We have no good food in this house.  And the ever popular, I can't find any socks.  

And it gets better.... further discussion this week with another kid - who shall remain numberless this time around - was about girls.  And you know I totally jumped at the opportunity to give my opinion on the perfect girl for him.  Or for any young man, so feel free to pass this along....   A young lady should be, first of all, a lady.  She should have respect for others, but just as much so, respect for herself.  She radiates kindness, using kind words and gestures that reflect gentleness  and caring.  She is polite, well mannered, courteous and thoughtful of others.  And she's a good friend and fun to be aroundAnd, boys, being pretty is a definite plus, but pretty is as pretty does.  You may quote me.   

All that was discussed on the drive home from TARGET, which just proves that parents seriously have to take every opportunity and run with it. Especially when they're seat-belted in your car and can't get away.

But I loved this week.  I love that the boys were all pleased with their classes and only one kid missed the bus.  But the most interesting part of the week for me, a very thoughtful part, actually, was one I didn't really plan on.  But who does when it comes to deep thoughts and reflection?  Definitely not me.

As Kid 1 and I visited over dinner last night, he asked me how my high school years were.  Particularly my freshman year.  But I ended up giving him a short tour of the highs and lows of that time for me.

So here's the answer I would like Kid 1 to know about my high school days...

First, I would tell them that this is NOT a glamour shot photo.  Never had one.  This was one of my senior pictures for the yearbook, the one in which I got to keep my shirt on.... because you know how yearbook photographers always make the girls wrap themselves in some sort of cape to expose the shoulder region in an attempt at I don't know what?  I actually think it's all a big high school yearbook photographer inside joke.  And all the girls just fall for it year after year so we continue to pass on the tradition of wearing nothing but faux velvet and a smile.  And this was, after all, the 80's and we had a certain affinity for eye makeup and lots of hair gel. (So boys, as you read this one day, this was me, just waiting to one day become your mom.  But more importantly, if I ever ask to borrow your hair gel, just say no.)

I think more than anything, I would tell my kids that I loved school.  I loved my friends and my teachers and my very first job.  The job that led me to my lifetime love of fitness and the job I still do and love today.  Only now I skip the leotards, leg warmers, and suntan tights. 

I had lots of good teachers, but one that stood out to me in a very unique way. He had us write a personal journal every day.  It could be about anything and everything.  I recently found that journal in a box in the closet.  And while reading through it, Lord help me, I was blushing full of embarrassment at the idea of ever being that young and stupid.  Then I ripped out the most embarrassing parts and put them in the paper shredder.  But what I saw in there was that my teacher commented on everything I wrote -  every entry, every day.... with amazing gentleness of word and spirit, filling for me a need that he probably never realized back then.

And I worked.  A lot.  As much and as often as I could.  I started working at a local gym when I was about 16, and for my last couple of years of high school I worked every afternoon and night after school till the gym closed.  I went to work straight from school, fed myself at the cafeteria next door to the gym, and got home crazy late just to sleep and get up and do it again the next day.  

Weekends were full days of work, church, friends and boyfriend the rest of the time.  And on occasion, when all else failed and I had nowhere else to go, a couch of someone with an understanding parent, long enough to get me back to school the next Monday and start the cycle all over again. 

Because home for me was a place that didn't feel like a home way too much of the time.  It was a place that I went to as needed but had to put on a mental suit of armor for the hours I was there.  It was a place that I never knew what to expect.  So school for me was really the best place I could think to be.  I am so lucky to be able to say that about my high school days.   

So I think I was pretty independent for a teen.  And self sufficient.  And I could stretch a dollar till it screamed.  And y'all, I always found the cutest purses on clearance at the mall close to work, so I looked both smart, assured, and well accessorized.  But really I knew that staying away, and making my own way, was the only chance I was ever going have to make it out of my house pre-nervous breakdown.

But back in the day, I found that God was a great provider of people who held me up when I couldn't do it on my own.  Teachers, friends  - that came and went as I needed usually, like on-call angel messengers, I like to think. 

And what I think now is that back then, I had no idea how to pray.  How to really pray.  Do you?  Maybe we can talk about the parts of prayer someday here.  Did you even know there's sort of a prayer formula?  Much like sentence diagramming in middle school english class, but a lot sweeter and closer to God's heart than nouns and verbs.  

For me in high school, church was a place I went because it was something I had always done.  It was fun, I had friends there, and my future husband was there - one of life's biggest surprises.  Thanks be to God for my tendency toward obsessive compulsiveness that keeps me bound to routines and habits - some of which have turned out to be blessings bigger than I can count.

But what I really really really didn't know then, and couldn't even begin to understand at that age, was that every tear I cried and the exhaustion that a teenage girl can feel from running away from her day to day, and never taking time to be still in the peace of His understanding?.... was seen and heard, and collected in God's loving hand.  And held there till the time that I was able to finally see past the hurt and make out glimpses of a future.  I think I had no idea at the time, that my teachers, friends and my job were my saving graces against feeling hopeless.  

And looking back from this age and stage of life, I think that telling my boys about my growing up years has to come on an as needed basis.  So for the How were your high school years question? I would say they were some of my greatest times of growth and understanding, for me and of me.  I would also tell them that it's funny how things can change, sometimes in an instant, sometimes so slowly that we hardly even notice till someone asks us over a dinner of pizza and good conversation.

post script.... this post was started closer to the beginning of this school year.  So here's what's been happening in these short months...

The idea of young love got put on pause for a bit.  Kid 3 has lost two uniform shirts, one pair of glasses and several school ID badges.  And a couple of my sweeties would like to know if you can maybe tutor them in math because mom and dad lose every ounce of patience trying to do it.  And Kid 1, my inspiration for this post,  loved his first high school football season, he told me very last minute that he needs black pants for jazz band, and he hated the frozen pizza I cooked last night.  It's turning out to be a good year.    

For Halloween I dressed as a lady high on paint fumes and exhausted from the trip there

For Halloween I dressed as a lady high on paint fumes and exhausted from the trip there.  Translated, that means I sat on the front porch in my pajamas and handed out candy.  And that was right where I wanted to be.  

We painted our den this week.  

And by we,... I mean Fireman Dave painted our den this week on his days off.  Let's review, in a dramatic reading....

Me:  Honey we need to paint the den.  
Fireman Dave:  No
Me:  But it's been 12 years and it looks like crap.
Fireman Dave: still no

                 commence with private bargaining and swaying of opinion.....

Me: Maybe we should paint it all white like my favorite home decorating blogger because she did it and says that's what all the world should do.   
Fireman Dave:  I don't think so -  but I'll try because I'm the kind of guy that tries to please his woman.  

                commence with giant sprays of white paint on the walls.  
                                          Failed experiment.   

Me: (With an attitude of excited possibility)  ....  I don't know what color I like.  So I brought home some samples.  
Fireman Dave: OK give me the couple you chose and I'll paint a swatch on the wall
Me: No.  I have seven samples.  I couldn't decide and my new contractor friend from the paint counter at Home Depot says he understands -  Because we talked about your painting frustration and/or your animosity toward me in this situation.  Maybe he wants to marry me and paint my den walls. 

            commence painting giant swatches of multiple colors on the den walls.

Me:  I still can't decide even though we've had 7 giant paint blobs on the wall for two days. Let's just paint it beige.  I heard beige is all purpose and will make our marriage last longer.  

Fireman Dave:    Speechless.  But paints the entire den Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige that still cost a small fortune even after I gave him a 35% off coupon.   

Me:  Accessible Beige looks like the paint they use in funeral homes.  I think in the embalming room.  

Fireman Dave: Can you just live with it for a couple of days to see if you start to like it?

Me:   I'll just go over to the funeral home and sit there for a while to make sure I don't like it.   Maybe I'll lay on the embalming table to get the full effect. 

              commence repainting the room.  Back to it's original color.  

So on Halloween we were still trying to get the house put back together and  preparations made for the kids for the night.  And husband yelled at me when I told him I could see spots of unfriendly Accessible Beige showing through all over the wall.  And he was scary like a giant Halloween monster that has a paint allergy but has been forced to smell it for 5 days straight.  So I went shopping and stayed gone for 4 hours hoping the monster would eat a sandwich and get his blood sugar back up to a normal level before I got home. 

I had an invitation from my sweet friend to come over and hang with some other ladies to talk and eat and whatever other things ladies do best while the kids went trick or treating.  But I declined.  Because I'm weird and I think I could become a hermit if all things worked in my favor toward that end.   

I've always had an impairment in the friend department.  I know lots of people.  And I can be as charming as the next gal.   Maybe even more so than that one lady I saw wearing a t-shirt that said I heart hot moms.  

But then I end up kissing the guy my friend likes when we go out dancing and then she hates me.  (That was in college. But my poor judgment and need to find a new roommate still haunts me)

I think I never passed through the required developmental stages needed to form strong bonds of friendship and trust.  Or maybe it's just that I never could get close enough to anyone to let them really know me.   

I'm trying.  

But here's the good part.  I really have a friend now.  Or should I say, I have a real friend now.  One day she found me wandering the yard of the elementary school and acted like we knew each other forever. 

And I told her not long ago that she came along right when I had been praying for a friend.  Really, really praying for a friend.  Because as hermit like as I tend to be, my heart still needs the companionship of others.  And as much distance as I far too often try to put between me and others, God reminds me time and again that I'm not meant to be alone.  

And for that, I'm thankful.  

Happy November.  I swear,  I was last minute candy buying last night for Halloween and the leftover haunted treats were on one side of the aisle and the Christmas candies were on the opposite.  Y'all, as much as I enjoy a good chocolate Santa, I don't want to forget to be thankful.
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