Wednesday, November 28, 2018

On the Subject of TOO MANY STUFFED ANIMALS

So here's a lighthearted post, and a Christmas Break idea for my friends with kids. I love stuffed animals. My younger friends can tell you about Schnurgle, Eyelash, and Radar and their escapades. My kids can add stories about Pax, Dinglehopper, Radar's Minions, Slurpie, the owls, Dwibbles… yeah, there are a lot of stuffed animals in this house. Heck, I have a heating pack shaped like a stuffed owl! My kids like to BUY me stuffed animals, because they're awesome kids that love to get things that their mama likes. But I don't need more stuffed animals. Because reasons. And space. And downsizing. So about a year ago, I decided that I'm going to hug the stuffies at the store. That way they know they're loved and not forgotten, before they find their forever homes... but I can leave them there, rather than bringing them all home. And this works for my kids, as well. Now when I'm out, I'll detour through the toy department to hug any stuffie that looks like it needs a little love. (I DID mention that I love stuffed animals... RIGHT?!?) I was at the store a week ago getting dog food, and hugging every plush puppy when a younger boy asked what I was doing. So I told him quite honestly that I was giving the stuffies hugs so they wouldn't feel unloved! He asked if he could help, and his mom 'rounded the corner to see her son hugging stuffed animals with a crazy 40-something woman. She asked what we were doing, I explained my ENTIRE reason, and SHE started grabbing stuffed animals! There we were, strangers, in the toy aisle, sharing love with inanimate objects... so we wouldn't have to bring them home and clutter our homes further. We hugged every critter in the store, wished each other well, and left happier. With nothing added to our carts. It was a happy moment. That cost nothing, and unexpectedly brightened two other people's days as well. It is worth repeating. Possibly every time I buy dog food. And just maybe, it's worth sharing with my friends. Because reasons. Or space. Or downsizing.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Word of the Year: Stretch

(We have had months of various internet issues lately, so I'm posting a few VEEERY late posts.)

Last year's word of the year was Psalms. I read them, studied them, wrote them out, (still working on that - my hands are worse than I'd expected) listened to them, colored them, embroidered them, (arthritis again - I finished ONE piece, not 12!) drank from a mug covered in them... and by July I was wholly and utterly tired of them. It's not a flattering truth, but while I knew that many of the Psalms were more plea than praise, I hadn't actually thought through the fact that a full HALF YEAR of Psalms would be spent absorbing a plaintive, oppressed, pleading David. Did I enjoy my year in the Psalms? Yes. Did I learn and grow? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes, but not like this. From now on I will take my Psalms in manageable chunks. Lesson Learned. 

For this year, my new word is something that has been embedded into every aspect of my life lately. For 2018, my word is stretch. 

It's not an obvious word for someone who is constantly trying new things and lives with a genetic disorder whose calling-card IS hyper-flexibility... but yes, this year I need to STRETCH. 

In my faith I am developing and stretching new muscles. After more than 25 years of working with young children, I am being led to work with adults; younger women, and newer mothers. This is not my comfort-zone. This is not what I have "always known" and this is not where I have trained since I was 10 to work. But this is the direction I am being led, so I will become more flexible as I learn new ways to share.  

Within my family I am no longer the Amazing Mama who is needed for bandaids, bedtime snuggles, lessons in long division, or how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Nor am I a "retired" mama whose hatchlings have flown the nest. I am both, and I am neither. I am the mama who is helping her daughter learn to work from home as her body is falling apart faster than we can keep her together. I am the mama whose son works 5 days a week, yet can't remember to check the temperature before heading out the door in layered pants and a winter coat on a 50F day. There aren't parenting books for this, so I am breaking my own path as I stretch to fill the new needs of my children. My husband is beginning his fourth career path. His hours are painfully long, and he comes home having stretched physical muscles that haven't been worked since his school years. We are all stretching to fill the gaps that his new career is leaving at home. 

And with my health - yes, I need to stretch more. Arthritis and joints that now dislocate 30-60 times each day (lately as often as 30 times in as many MINUTES!) are leaving a once hypermobile mama with increasingly less ability. I cannot eat what I have always eaten. I cannot walk as long as I want. I cannot bend to tie my own shoes, let alone lie on the floor and scratch my chin with my toes looped over the back of my head. I am not who I used to be, and the new me is in constant pain. So I will learn new ways to stretch. I will flex new muscles. I will grow in different ways. To quote a favorite television show...
Last year we completed two 5Ks. I now know that I can "run" 3.1 miles in one hour with my wheelchair. THIS year, along with another 5K, (or two) I will be completing a 10K. My goal is to "run" a 10K in two hours.

It's a stretch. But I was literally born flexible. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ducky Day

This year we decided to have a Ducky Day on the third anniversary of my mother's death. Starting this year, we're choosing to turn the day into an annual celebration of all things rubber duck.

(The books in our seasonal book basket tell the story of the original shipping-container ducks that our duckie-release is inspired by.)

We created a few simple decorations to brighten the house; a simple wreath from an old bath scrubbie and an embroidery hoop, floating miniature ducks in our mason jars, and a tiny paper garland for the fireplace. In the dining room we placed a sailor-duck (in honor of Mummy's time in the Navy) in our lantern along with four baby ducks.































This year's Willow Tree is called My Sister My Friend. The darker figure appears to be an older woman guiding and standing behind a younger woman... something that is quickly becoming a new chapter in my life, but also who my Mummy was to me.


















Our ducky release was kept very close to home. Four little duckies paddled their way down Rice Creek - a tiny stream less than a mile from our home.


Heavy rain, cold weather, and tummy troubles  caused us to re-think our epic water battle plans. However we are enjoying our quieter-than-planned day all the same.  We will be playing a few duck-themed games including one of the kids' favorite games by Bart Bonte - DUCK and having a light lunch with cheese and "quackers."


While today might not be quite as wildly celebratory as we'd planned, I think Mummy would approve. 





I even remembered to buy us new socks!


 






















Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Second Grade Goals

When I was in second grade, my teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her I wanted to be a mom and a philanthropist. She told me that wasn't good enough, I needed to choose a REAL job.

While I don't remember the words, I remember the indignant rage that awarded me a trip to the principal's office that day.  It STILL resurfaces when someone suggests that motherhood isn't a "real" job today!

I was filing paperwork this morning, and realized that while it's not much, we're supporting SIX different nonprofits this year. SIX!!! That's before I consider things like thrift store "donations" since that's simple common sense to me. Sure the donations are small, but doesn't every charity loudly claim that "every penny counts"?

Three years ago, my husband lost his comfortable white-collar job of sixteen years. We were struggling to make ends meet, and our only donations were to our church. Who would have thought that three years later with a blue-collar, MUCH lower family income, we'd be thriving enough to help SIX different places that we hold dear to our hearts?

As a stay-at-home recently graduated from homeschooling mom, I consider motherhood my true career. While I may not have millions to donate, I feel that our small donations count towards a cumulative impact.

In my mind, I have reached my second grade goal. And it feels very real.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My "Stupid Little Blog"

Bloggers and ANYONE who believes in small businesses, I need your help.

I need your help spreading the word about how much an enormous company DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU.

Backstory: after five different modems and a dozen technician visits in fifteen months via Comcast, (the only local option for cable service) when a Century Link (the only local option for DSL service) salesman came to our door we chose to switch our phone and internet service. We were promised better faster service, for a lower price. We voiced our concerns about past issues with Century Link, and were vehemently assured that ALL of those issues had been addressed and that Century Link was now a dependable, honest company that we could trust.

We have now had “service” through Century Link for exactly one month. Here is what has happened during that month.

On the day of installation a technician came to our house, and couldn't get the modem that Century Link mailed us installed properly. He then tried a second and THIRD modem from his truck, and after four hours of standing in my house arguing with his own technical support team, I finally had internet service. Yes he was here for FOUR HOURS, just to get us connected!

After he left when I went to call my husband and tell him we were online, I found the telephone cord dangling free... he had not connected the telephone. When my husband got home he tried to connect the phone himself, only to find that our modem DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A PHONE JACK! He called Century Link, and after 90 minutes of being forwarded to four different people and relaying the same issue each time, he was told to purchase a part from Target and fix the issue himself. Yes, we paid to have our phone and internet connected... and THEY NEVER CONNECTED OUR PHONE!!!

Two weeks later we called in to ask why our phone had not been working properly. Every time the phone rang it was being forwarded to a voicemail-box that we were neither told that we had NOR how to access after 1 ½ rings. We found this out after a second service technician was sent to our house. Yes, THEY SET US UP WITH A PHONE WE COULDN'T POSSIBLY ANSWER IN TIME!!!

Now yesterday afternoon our internet went out. We called to ask what had happened and when we could expect our service to resume, and after a full hour and being forwarded to four different departments we were told that we would not have service for 12-48 hours and that OUTAGES HAPPEN ALL THE TIME! I can agree with that, but FOR DAYS AT A TIME?!? When my husband, rather frustrated at the sheer number of problems we have had in JUST ONE MONTH, asked what could be done about our lack of service, we were told that if we wanted they would reimburse $1.33 of our next bill. Yeah, all those troubles were worth less than $2. Now VERY frustrated at the apparent lack of concern for a brand new customer, my husband said that this was unacceptable. After dozens of interruptions and insistences that this was the best that could be done for us, my husband said that I am a blogger and would be sharing our story. He was told,


I feel that being called little OR stupid is out of line, and I HIGHLY resent the implication that just because I am not worth billions, my voice does not matter. Rather than call back and yell myself hoarse for nothing, I am begging for your help.

If you find this as unacceptable as I do, would you please share this? Because I AM just one little voice... but with your help I KNOW my voice can carry and that if it's shared enough it CAN matter, EVEN to a 60 Billion dollar company!

Please, would you help this “stupid little blog” spread the word about how little Century Link thinks of you?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Colorado dreams

Have you ever had a Bible passage speak to you, directly? I don't mean convict you of something that's been gnawing at you... I mean that reaches out and talks about what's on your heart specifically?

Psalms 37
Colorado

Many years ago, my husband and I began daydreaming about moving to Colorado. Our joints move more freely there. We breathe more easily in the thinner air. Our allergies are better there. Yes there are painkillers available there, that aren't yet legal here.

Several years ago, I started hunting for a house that would work for us in Colorado; a smaller, universal design that we could afford. I have looked at over 10,000 floor plans at this point, and we've fallen in love with a specific design. It's been the house we measure all other options against for two years now. And... it's half the size of our current small-to-modest sized house.

Yes, tiny houses are currently extremely popular, but when we started hunting in 2006 people thought we were crazy. When we finally found THIS house, we were told we're insane. A family of four adults? With 540 square feet of ground-level living? With enough open space to accommodate a WHEELCHAIR?!?

This year, we began saving in earnest towards our house. It is no longer a dream, it's our goal. The floorplan is on our wall, where we can write on it whiteboard-style as we brainstorm how we'll fit everything we want to bring with, into its tinier space. We've marked out a miniature pantry on our living room floor, to visualize where all of our canning paraphernalia will be stashed. And we've prayed, long AND hard, for years.















 


Today I am catching up with my Psalms readings, and I finished the 37th Psalm... and it covered every reservation we've had about our move.

Psalm 37:7a - Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him... One of our biggest issues with our plan, is the several-years of waiting and saving it will take to be able to achieve our goal while downsizing our financial needs. Be still. Again, be still and wait patiently. How many times must we read that patience is a virtue?

Psalm 37:16 - Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. To be able to downsize our house, we have been downsizing our belongings. As we've struggled with how many bookshelves we can fit, we've been slowly learning that the more we let go, the more free we feel.  Now even the Bible is preaching the virtues of owning less! What more do we need, to know that we're on the right path?

Psalm 37:34a - Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land... Land. To own our own land. To see our dreams come true.

Wait for the Lord
and keep His way,
and He will exalt you to inherit the land.
Our dream, written about by David, thousands of years before we were born.

Awesome.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How NOT to Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day








I would like to share a few things, before the Chicago river is dyed green and absolutely everyone claims Irish ancestry. If you choose to celebrate the life of one of Ireland's most famous, please consider the following:

St. Pat - no, no, NO! You are celebrating the life of a man named Padraig. If you must shorten his name, please... it's Paddy, never Patty or Pat. If you prefer, his birth name was Maewyn Succat. He didn't become Patrick until he was a priest. In our house, we celebrate who he was before AND after his priesthood... the entire man.

Green Beer - this is not a thing. The Irish think this is crazy, since they are known for their love of pubs. What would an Irishman drink? Guinness, or whiskey. I've heard that both are divine.

Corned beef - this is not Irish. It is American. Enjoy it in honor of Irish immigrants, but know that it did NOT originate on the Emerald Isle. Ireland has never had many cows, and therefore beef is extraordinarily pricey there. Would you like to try true Irish fare? Colcannon. It's amazing, and served up year-round in our house. You can also try: barmbrack, champ, boxty, or a shepherd's pie, just to name a few personal favourites.













*** Booklist for Baby Sis: 
This is Ireland, by Miroslav Sasek
Patrick Patron Saint of Ireland, by Tomie dePaola
Patrick Son of Ireland, by Stephen Lawhead
The Confession of Saint Patrick, and Letters to Coroticus 
101 Things you Didn't Know about Irish History, by Ryan & Amy Hackney
Irish Cook Book, by... YOU!
Celtic Myths & Legends, by Publications International
Spring, by Gerda Muller
Spring Story, and Poppy's Babies, by Jill Barklem ***

Being a redhead - believe it or not, only half of Ireland's people have red hair. The other half have DARK BLACK hair! I was born a ginger, meaning my heritage is visible. I cry when my dark-haired Irish friends are told they can't be Irish because their hair is the wrong color. It's the dark-haired Irish who inhabited the island FIRST!!!

Irish for a day - please, seriously? If I were to claim I was Somali for a day, how would my melanin-blessed friends react? That would be wrong. Why then, is it socially acceptable for people to claim they are Irish for a day? Why isn't this JUST as wrong? Some of us are very proud of our under-recognized heritage. Please. Let us have JUST ONE DAY when we can be proud of who we are.













When you're a Cornish Welsh Scot-Irish (aka: Celtic!) woman, there aren't many days to celebrate your ancestors. Saint Patrick's day is a Catholic day of remembrance, that has been adopted as a day when those with Celtic roots can claim pride in their heritage. Please, use the day to learn about Ireland. Wear green. Visit a pub. Go to a parade. Swap limericks. Learn about Mr. Succat - the Roman nobleman, turned slave, turned priest. Try something genuinely Irish. Invite yourself to my house for colcannon and apple cake while listening to Celtic Thunder, and The Chieftains. (No, really, feel free to come over! I'll make plenty!) But please remember... this is a nationality being celebrated, not a joke.

Ireland is a tiny little island. To this day, only HALF of Ireland is independent... and yes, there are resistance groups who STILL fight for the freedom of Northern Ireland. For a tiny country that can't even claim their own land, having a holiday taken over by those who aren't Irish... stings, at best.

How do the Irish celebrate Saint Patrick's Day? By going to church.