Monday, March 28, 2011

A Vacation with a Purpose

This Saturday morning I woke up in my warm comfy bed. I was awakened with a hug and a kiss on the cheek by my husband. When I got up I took a nice hot shower and I thanked God for my nice warm comfy bed and hot water for my shower. Then the rest of the day I spent with the family doing things that we like to do together. We had lunch at a favorite restaurant and went to a movie. Simply things really. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about any of it. Just a family spending the day eating, watching a movie, and shopping, laughing, talking, and enjoying each other’s company.

If you look deeper though and think about the kind of day we had, it was a pretty special kind of day. Especially because at the end of it we got to come home. That would be the heart of it all wouldn’t it? We came home. We are fortunate because many people don’t have a house much less a home. I have done minimal traveling compared to a lot of the population. But I have been to a number of great places. I have been to the beach, I have been to Mickey’s house in Florida, I have been to Hawaii (a favorite, though I was only there once), I have been to both Carolinas, and I have shopped in the largest mall in America. They all have their merits. They all have their worth but none of those places is home and at the end of the day, I think that’s the best place to be. It’s nice to be able to get away for awhile. People always say, or maybe it’s just us, but we always say “it was a great place but we wouldn’t want to live there.” I think that’s true most of the time. While Hawaii was nice I don’t think I would want to live there all the time. I’m kind of a freak about weather and I just would not adjust well there. Also I think a lot of the time we take for granted what we have, and I would hate to live in a paradise and ever hear myself say something like “yeah it’s great most of the time but I really miss snow.” Imagine! Snow! It’s inconceivable to me that I could ever miss snow.

This year we didn’t go to Mickey’s house and we didn’t see the ocean. This year for spring break we went on a vacation with a purpose with five other families from our church. To say that it was out of our comfort zone would be an understatement. To say that it changed our perspective would be a fair assumption. In our family we spend a lot of time together, we do not however spend a lot of time with other people as a family unless it’s with family. I’m not sure why. We aren’t anti-social by any means and we are all fairly well adjusted individuals who all have friends that we talk to regularly. We have just never really bonded as a group with another family. If we get together with other families it’s with one of my friends, or one of my husband’s friends and their family but the kids aren’t bonded, or maybe just one of them is. I think it’s hard to find another family where everyone has someone close to their age they can connect with. My husband and I had children early in our marriage. Which is to say that we found out very quickly where babies come from and how they get here. So we have two kids 19 months apart then we had our son five years later. The spacing of our kids is one of the challenges in finding another family to hang out with. So we stepped outside of our comfort zones and went on a trip with five other families we barely knew.

We went to Kentucky to work with Wayside Christian Mission. It is in the heart of Louisville. On our first full day we spent our time working outside on the grounds of one of the locations they have. Our group moved dirt, loaded trash to be hauled away, filled pot holes, and painted curbs. We moved quickly and efficiently and by a few hours into our second full day those projects were completed and we were asking what we could do to help next. Aside from serving food and unpacking donated food there didn’t seem to be much else they had planned for us. So they had us folding Kroger bags for a food drive they work with United Way to accomplish.

We certainly came “home” (which was the church we were residing in for the week) tired every night. I guess you could say we had a working vacation, an at times uncomfortable vacation, a changing vacation.

In general I am quiet around people I do not know or know well. In groups I am unlikely to speak. Public speaking would make me feel faint or like throwing up. As a rule I am more comfortable around women than I am around men. I do not feel comfortable in strange places. Now on the flip side of that. If I am around people I know, I am perfectly at ease. To talk to someone one on one, try and shut me up. I suppose that’s where my children get it from. It just takes us awhile to warm up to people. As I grow older I am getting a bit better at it, but it’s still a struggle I have especially around the male species. There are only two I truly trust Jesus and my husband. I spent a week surrounded by homeless men and women. I spent a week with men and women that some of them I could count on one hand the number of conversations we had ever had, though I see them every week at church. For me this was a stretch. For me it was changing.

Our second night there we were invited to go and listen to their choir. I have listened to choirs before and I believe that we have had some men and women sing in our church that could be on the radio. But it takes something else to move me to tears. As I listened to this group of people who have been places that I could never imagine, I was struck by the pure joy they showed in singing praises to God. I listened and held back tears. It’s rare that I cry for a crowd. Their voices were beautiful. They played keyboards, piano, guitars, and violin. The violin of course being my favorite. Not one of them looking at sheet music. They didn’t need it. I listened as some of them gave their testimonies and I rejoiced in my heart for how good God is.

As I said before I’m usually quiet around people I do not know. But I pay attention. I observe and take mental notes. (then try to remember them) These are my notes. These were my observations. We went on a Vacation with a Purpose. We went to try and make a difference. We went and tried to help. But I think the difference was made in us. I think the help was given to us. I think the blessing was given to us, because I’m not sure how much help or difference we made for them. I only know the difference it made in me and I feel very blessed indeed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adventures with Linus the Cat

In our house we have two adults, two teenagers, a child, a geriatric cat Gabby and a crazy long hair black cat with a white patch on his neck named, Linus. My cat Linus enjoys sleeping on the white couch. I think he feels like he’ll get noticed more if he is there. His other favorite places to sleep include the following: on my bed, under my bed, the top of the stairs, the middle of the stairs, the recliners, and on top of my lap.

I once gave my cats a bowl of milk. They looked at it as if it were poison. They didn’t drink it and I ended up throwing it out. However, if the kids leave their milk out in the morning. Linus feels it’s his duty to jump onto the counter and see what the problem was. I like to think of him as the taste tester, he just does it too late. He sticks his face into the child size Tupperware cup spilling it all over the table and floor. *New rule: if you do not finish your milk you must put it into the fridge to be finished later or put it in the sink.

Just this week while I was finishing watching the program the kids were watching while waiting for the bus, I heard a noise. I turned around and found Linus was standing on the island. I looked at him and said “Really? Get down!” Of course, he got down. Then, after the program was over, I was turning off the lights that weren’t being used and where did I find Linus? Standing on top of the washing machine of course. Isn’t that where all cats hang out in their down time, between sleeping where you want to sit down and eating? This was a first. It was curious as the lid was open and it did take some balancing. Nothing was in the washer at the time and I wonder what he could have been looking for. I do have hopes that he will learn how to do the laundry, as currently it is a job that I haven’t delegated out. It would make up for the fact that he leaves black fur on the white couch and all over the floor all the time.

Last night everyone was in bed and I was turning all the lights off and heading upstairs. Linus was asleep in the recliner. To his benefit, I did wake him up when I turned on a light to check the doors to be sure they were locked. I then went up to bed. He followed. Which leads us to our nightly adventure. Each night the cats come up to bed also. While there are plenty of places to sleep downstairs, they like to sleep with “their” people. So they sleep at the top of the stairs, or in the doorway of our room or our son’s room where they can “stand a post” and be the good guard cats that they are. When that doesn’t work out for them or if I roll over or seem to be too comfortable Linus comes to the rescue. He gets comfortable at my feet or in the space right behind my legs between me and the edge of the bed making it next to impossible to move. If one of the children move to roll over or get up to use the restroom, they will get up, watch them, walk them back to bed, then go back to their posts.

Usually Gabby just goes along with these escapades out of a feeling of obligation. She is old. She is tired, she just wants to eat, sleep and be left alone. She is the cat version of a grumpy old lady and she will nip at you if you aren’t moving to get her food fast enough. Linus however, thinks that it is his job, nay his duty to be with all of us all the time as our guard cat. I am my mother’s daughter. My mother hated cats. I never hated cats, I preferred dogs but due to allergies in the family to dogs, I have cats. Which some people are allergic too also but they deal with it. They have to really. As the kids say these cats are not just cats, they are members of our family. Linus is like one of the kids. He reminds me a lot of my kids actually. When he wants my attention he wants all of it. When he wants to be left alone, well I leave him alone because he’s a cat. If he was a child I would only pretend to leave him alone while sneakily trying to find out why he wanted to be alone. He doesn’t ask for much. I feed him and he gives me his undying love and devotion. How many people can you say that about? Maybe that’s why we get along so well. We speak the same language.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is It Really Grey Hair Or Is It White Gold?

As I was getting ready for the day today I was doing the morning ritual of checking my hair for new grey hair. This may seem odd to you but as I know I am in need of a color job I check daily to see what new surprises await me. As I was inspecting for new grey growth it occurred to me that they really didn't look grey at all. More like silver, but wait! That's not silver at all I hear whispered, it's white gold!

Perhaps you don't have conversations in the morning with God while getting ready but I do. In fact some of our best conversations happen in the restroom because it is sometimes the only place I can go without interruptions or distractions. I don't do my bible study at the kitchen table because all I will be able to focus on is the dirty dishes in the sink. If I try at my desk the computer is there and I wonder if I have email or I see the stacks of pictures waiting to go into albums. So I do my bible study in my bedroom where there isn't anything to distract me from my time with God. I also fully believe that if He has something to say to me it's best if I can give my full attention.

So this morning while doing my morning hair inspection, I was thinking about how I was blonde as a child. I was thinking also about how as with all the children in our family our hair gets gradually darker as we get older. Mine however, got very dark after I had my second child. So dark in fact that my mother asked me what I was putting in my hair to make it look like that and to stop immediately. I was twenty five at the time and had never put color in my hair as I explained to her and she then informed me that perhaps it was time that I started. Thus beginning a decade long relationship between me and various hair colors and a love of trying new things just so people like my mother wouldn't get too attached to one particular color or style. The way I figured it was that if it was ever changing, I would never have to hear anyone say that perhaps it was time to try something new. I was feeling a bit disgruntled while looking at the sparklers in my hair when I noticed that they were more the color of my rings instead of the color of my shirt.

It occurred to me with a little prodding I believe from God, how it was that I came to earn the new found sparklers. I've been married for almost 16 years now and we have two teenage daughters and an eight year old son who is quite possibly too brilliant for his own good. My children are more valuable to me than the finest of gold or the greatest of treasures. I believe that's how God sees us as well. He gave me these treasures of HIS to take care of and I was thinking perhaps instead of thinking of them as grey hairs that are troublesome, I should think of them as white gold a sort of badge of honor.

Of course I'm proud of my badges of honor. But I'm pretty sure that God will be ok if we keep them just between Him, Me, and the Hairdresser. After all just like some gifts we give and/or are given they are best done or known about in secret. So I think I'll be covering up the white gold even if I'm proud of what they represent, there really is no need to make others jealous. Don't you think?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cappuccino or Latte'?

Today while out running errands, I decided to stop in to a local bookstore to use a gift certificate I had received for Christmas for a free cappuccino or latte'. I perused the menu and attempted to place my order. I say attempted because I don't actually know how to order the things I want to get. I'm relatively new to the "fancy" coffee world. My mother drank coffee. She would drink instant Folgers or Maxwell house coffee straight up no cream and no sugar. I tried that once. I do not like coffee. I could never see the draw. Until, once when I was visiting with a neighbor friend of mine and she asked me if I wanted some coffee I politely declined and explained that I didn't care for coffee. To which she replied that I would like it the way she made it.

As it turns out I do like coffee as long as I can't taste the coffee in the coffee drink. Or rather I like all the really fattening things that go into the coffee drinks to make them consumable. What this little lesson did not include however was a users guide on how to order these delightful drinks when out and about. I have a friend who works at the local Starbucks. I like it when she is working and I go in there because I really don't need to know how to order. I just tell her to surprise me. Of course, I like to think that she thinks I'm just adventurous. I am sure I'm not really fooling her at all. I believe she knows me well enough to know that I really just have no idea what I'm doing at the coffee counter.

It makes me think of the movie Kicking and Screaming with Will Ferrell. This movie is a family favorite in our house. While the reviewers didn't give it high marks when it came out, our family gives it several thumbs ups. We quote it on a regular basis. In the movie, Will Ferrell is coaching his son's soccer team. He is going up against his dad who is a coach on a different team. His dad's next door neighbor is Mike Ditka whom he enlists to help him coach his team. Mike Ditka tells him to calm down and have some coffee. Will's character says "I don't like coffee it's a vasoconstrictor." Mike tells him "Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions." Of course then Will's character goes to a coffee shop to order his first cup of coffee and informs the guy at the counter that he is new to coffee and wonders if you can get half of the regular kind of coffee and half the decaf kind of coffee or is that too weird?

That would be me at the coffee counter. Hello I'm new to coffee especially coffee that doesn't taste like coffee. Can I get something with all the flavor but half the fat? I'd really like one to boost my energy for a limited amount of time, taste great, be less filling, and not add an immeasurable amount of fat to my midsection if possible please. This is a bit like going and ordering a quarter pounder with cheese and a diet coke of course but it's what I do. I don't know the difference between a cappuccino and a latte' and I until recently didn't know that chai was a tea and not a coffee drink. I really don't think these are things I need to know. All I need to know is, does it taste good and will it be 100 calories or less. This may make for an exhausted coffee barista ( a term I learned from a coffee commercial. Impressive eh?) but I do eventually get what I want.

So for all those coffee connoisseurs out there, give me a break I'm new here and a nicely typed cheat sheet for ordering skinny coffee drinks that don't taste like coffee would be handy. It would just make life easier on everyone. Don't you think? Until then I will continue to go in and say "I'll have a tall, skinny, something that tastes nothing like coffee but has coffee in it. You decide and surprise me. Thanks."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Defining An Emergency

Have you ever been to an emergency room? Not have you seen the tv show ER, not did you watch Chicago Hope, Greys Anatomy, or any other show related to the medical profession. Have you actually been to one? I spent the evening there recently after slicing a bit of the tip of my finger off while attempting to prepare dinner. The ER? Is full of sick people and some of your garden variety crazies. There I said it. It's out there for the entirety of cyber space to read.

I think to fully understand we should define the word emergency. Merriam Webster defines an emergency as a. an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action or b. an urgent need for assistance or relief. I think we can define it as a. you are oozing blood from a body part that isn't supposed to do that. b. you have been in an accident and need to be checked by emergency personnel for broken body parts or concussion. c. you may be having a heart attack as you have a shooting pain down your left arm and your chest feels tight. d. any other blood related, can't breathe, vital organ malfunctioning, life flashing before your eyes kind of circumstance.

What an emergency is not a. you have flu like symptoms and are too lazy to call the doctor to make an appointment. b. you have a splinter you cannot get out. c. you are coughing and you are not coughing up blood but are just really annoying. d. you vomited once and have flu like symptoms and no blood is involved.

I think we can safely say that if there is blood, a lack of air coming into your body, a broken something, a hole somewhere there shouldn't be one or something protruding from somewhere it should not, heart issues, or any other vital organ issue THAT is an emergency. Flu or coughing cold is NOT an emergency and is better left to a family practioner.

When I was in the ER it was the coughing cold/flu brigade. Thank the Lord that the tetanus shot they gave me also included the stuff for whooping cough or we could probably just throw the towel in right now. It was crazy! All these people with face masks to cover the cough they have probably had for weeks and only now decided they had nothing better to do than go to the ER. Joy that it is! I however, had other things to do and spent over two hours out of my life there that I'll never get back. I was certain that the hotty hubby could just bandage me up and I would be fine, he on the other hand felt differently about it so to the ER we went.

To the average outsider I probably do not look like I do much. I assure you that I have many irons in the fire. Juggling them all at the same time apparently didn't work out so well recently, obviously. A short list of irons: 1. three kids, 2. hotty hubby, 3. house upkeep, 4. caring and helping out friends and family, 5. two MOPS groups, 6. this week helping with a school book fair. 7. Also this week includes two funerals. So as you see while I do not have curing cancer or any other life changing items on the list I do not have time for a messed up rotator cuff, a sore throat/cold, or cutting off pieces of flesh. So after I went to the ER I went to the doctor to verify that I did not have strep that the shoulder was not going to need surgery (Imagine!), and that the finger would heal. I called at 8 a.m. and was in at 9:45 a.m. barely read a page out of the book I had brought, when they called me back. Where I informed the doctor and nurse that they needed to fix me up, stitch me up, or give me a shot of something because while they were very nice people I did not have time for this! They laughed and said they would do their best.

It was not a complicated thing to call and get into the doctor. So consider this a public service message to all those who have nothing better to do that spend an evening watching free tv and sitting around coughing in an ER waiting room, then complaining the entire time they are back there about how slow the service is. YOU are the problem! For the love of Pete pick up a phone and call the doctor and make an appointment. That way the people who have an actual emergency can get the help they need in a timely manner and as an added bonus you don't suck the life out of those who have dedicated their lives to helping others. Thank you!