Monday

Communication is Very Fragile

This is a phrase I heard at least a bajillion times -- give or take a million -- as a senior in high school. I went to a Christian high school and had Bible every year as an academic class. My senior year the entire class was about marriage. We had many different topics and assignments, but this phrase stands out more than any other: "Communication is very fragile."

Think about it. The WAY you say something can change an entire meaning. "Thanks a lot!" said sincerely with a smile invokes warm fuzzies. "Thanks a lot!" with an eye roll and sneer shows you honestly didn't appreciate my input at that moment.

You may have heard me say I struggle with migraines. Obviously, in the middle of a horrible migraine, not only do I not think very clearly, I don't express myself well. I try not to make any big decisions or business decisions, but when migraines start piling up, sometimes life has to carry on no matter what.

Last night we had a laughable miscommunication. When you have one party with a migraine and the other party happens to be a 13 year old boy, chances are good that communication will break down at some point. I made myself some dinner then crawled back to my bed. Trying to tell Riley to put my leftovers in the refrigerator, he evidently heard "throw them away" (it's a long story, but something was to be thrown away, too... just not my dinner). Communication is very fragile.

Things like this happen so frequently in relationships: marriages and/ or friendships alike. I'm still grieving a friendship to someone who understood me to mean one thing at one point when I meant something entirely different -- and let it go almost a year before I finally asked what the problem in our relationship was. At that point, a few more things had built up, and the relationship is beyond repair at this point. Communication is very fragile.

Ask. Clarify. What I usually say to Riley, when I don't feel as if my head is about to roll off my shoulders is, "Tell me what you understand you are to do." Then he will repeat to me what he thinks his task is (throw my food away) and we can clear things up then. I am thankful when people believe that our relationship is worth the asking and clarifying.

Very early in our marriage, leaving the house on a Christmas morning, I was complaining that the only pictures one ever takes of me was on Christmas and my hair was stupid that day. The way I worded made it sound (to Troy) like I thought he was being an insensitive oaf at the moment. Communication is very fragile. And I was so thankful he said something!

Oh -- and texting and emailing: throws a whole level of potential snafoos into communication! Ask and clarify. Ask and clarify. Communication is very fragile.

Relationships that are worth investing in don't just happen along. If you have any in your life: friendships, family, or a marriage, don't let a miscommunication trash it. Ask and clarify.

Wednesday

I Have Seen The Clutter Monster, And It Is Me

originally in Abilene Families

Just as every home has a monster in the dryer that eats the socks, my family has a clutter multiplying monster. Maybe it’s the same monster, because dirty socks seem to show up in the mix quite frequently.

I am amazed at how a candy wrapper that falls to the floor can suddenly grow a companion pair of dirty socks. Soon a dirty dish and glass will join the mess as if the harmony of the clutter beckoned them. Left alone for more than a few hours, yesterday’s paper finds its way to the party.

Before the sun has set, an episode of “Hoarders” is being filmed in my living room.

I take full responsibility for allowing the clutter multiplying monster to have his way with my home. I can be absorbed in something -- writing this column in my head, perhaps -- and can step over and around and through clutter and never see it... until the doorbell rings. Then I break a sweat and start yelling for the kids to pick up all of that junk that I never saw until that minute... like my shoes, my purse, and my laptop.

We have a dog, which brings a whole new level of clutter into the home. She is too old for the little toys and bones that used to get littered about the floor, just waiting for a bare foot to find the soggy material on a midnight trip to the bathroom.

Now she simply reclines about my house depositing her hair all over the house. If I get to come back as an animal in the afterlife, I want to be her.

I simply don’t understand how one animal can leave so much hair all over my house and still have any left on her body. We don’t have dust bunnies at our house. We have dust puppies, many of them resembling Chewbacca from Star Wars. It’s a constant battle to eradicate those little creatures before they form their own nation, demanding representation in the UN.

Then there is my purse. I really shouldn’t be trusted to carry a purse, but I’ve never lost a child permanently so they let me have one. ‘Cause, you know, heaven knows I don’t have enough clutter lying around my house. Now I need some to sling over my shoulder and tote with me in case I am ever without.

Receipts, stray gum and breath mints, broken pens and gum wrappers are all normal clutter for a purse, but there is the kid clutter, depending on the age of the child. It could be a lint covered pacifier, a baggie of crushed goldfish crackers, a superhero action figure (minus an arm, making it not-so-super), or happy meal toys.

There might be movie ticket stubs, the stub to a football game where the child caught a touchdown pass, rubber bands for braces the child no longer has, a program from a band concert, a taekwondo belt, glasses missing a lens, a mouthpiece for an instrument, a broken earring (possibly my own, but likely not), medications dating back to the Reagan presidency, and a collection of hair accessories.

I drag my purse clutter-container to my car, yet another haven for clutter in my life. At least this is a portable clutter. One must be prepared for everything and have chairs and blankets for the soccer field in the trunk and a tissue box floating in the car.

How quickly the clutter multiplying monster grows those few items into a pile of jackets, floating straw wrappers, and stacks of school papers crammed between seats. I do enjoy a good West Texas car clean out: open doors on either side and let everything blow out. Frowned upon by the pollution police, of course, but where were they when we were all drowning in pollution inside my own vehicle?

I would love to say that this clutter comes with the youth in my house and will be gone in a vapor just like the wet footprints down the hall after the shower. Sadly, I am aware that much of the clutter is mine from simply not paying attention to what piles up. It has occurred to me that perhaps I just may be the Clutter Multiplying Monster.

Tuesday

Marriage Is For Grown Ups


I don't think I've shared a blog with you that Trey, constant champion of marriages, pointed out to his blog readers: Show Up Naked With Food. Yeah, it's as fun as it sounds.

There was a post yesterday about the food side of loving your spouse. Y'all know me -- you know I am NOT advocating loving anyone solely on food and junk alone. HOWEVER: the post brought up a great point about the mere act of preparing the food and caring for another person. Truly, the love that comes from that.
I would encourage you to read the post because she says it better than I will try to stammeringly sum it up, but if you don't, just read this paragraph:

"I have a friend who HATES cooking. She has other talents and capabilities but this is just not her thing. Her husband fends for himself every meal. The unfortunate part is that he works and she does not. She figures out ways to snack and feed her children though out the day and when he gets home he feels like the absence of dinner for him means he is not on her radar. He has shared with me how he feels sorry for himself and she has shared on me how she hates to prepare meals. They spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars extra a month because of constantly eating out. They rarely sit down for “family time” and have a meal together where they can talk about things and enjoy one another’s company. From this dynamic the husband, unfortunately, uses his “neglect” as an internal excuse for why he isn’t that helpful with household chores. She in turn tells herself, “he doesn’t deserve me fixing him dinner when he isn’t that helpful himself!” It’s funny how couples feed off of each other for their justifications."

My question to the friend is: what are you going to tell your kids when they tell you that they don't want to clean their rooms, or put away their laundry, or do their homework? Because, I am here to tell ya -- cooking dinner and doing laundry EVERY day is my go-to "Oh, yeah? Well, I don't want to do THAT, either, but I do, because it has to be done. So, go clean your room." I'm sure that cements me as the most heartless mother on the planet to you, but it's the truth. Yes, I feel it, yes, I say it.

I don't like to cook. But I can. And I should, especially when my job is as flexible as my writing is and I am home in the afternoons.

That whole situation made me think of a time that a couple came to my parents to seek counsel and it turned into a "but she does this" and "but he said that" and "nyah, nyah, nyah!" fest. My dad finally just told them, "You have to understand that marriage is for grown ups, and both of you have to choose to be the grown up."

Sometimes it can be hard when you're in the thick of it -- "but he made me mad first!!" Yes, yes he can. Die to self. Lay it down. Remember when you were crazy about him? It just isn't that big of a deal. No doubt, cooking EVERY night -- I do not enjoy it and that is a drip, drip, drip of an annoyance that can build up and build resentment IF I let it. However, I have chosen to see it (most of the time) as a way to bless my family with a healthy meal (that they may or may not hate).

And? my favorite time of day comes after I cook dinner: we sit down together as a family. There is no greater reward for my efforts than the 4 of us gathered around the table. It doesn't matter if it's "fancy sandwiches" (that means you melted the cheese on the bread) or Filet Mignon (never served here) -- as long as it is us, I am happy and my efforts are rewarded.

This can go beyond so many things besides cooking. As Lindsay at Show Up Naked said, "Be the one to offer the olive branch. I turn to women, not because I feel it is your fault, but rather because I feel you are the most likely to eventuate any real change in your marriage"

Is there anything in your marriage that you don't enjoy doing that you have tried to see as a way to bless your spouse or family? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday

High School From This Side

originally in Abilene Families

If you’ve been keeping up with life at our house, you realize we started high school this year. Yes, all of us, because it takes a village to pull off this itinerary of comings and goings and events. There is supposed to be academia in there, as well. I hope that is getting accomplished at some point.

Through these beginning few months of high school I have come to realize that high school is so fun when you aren’t in it! There are concerts, parades, pep rallies, sporting events and dances just to begin with. The festivities go on and on.

I love to see all of the uniforms. From my vantage point, everyone has a uniform: band, ROTC, drill team, cheerleaders, athletes, all manner of pseudo-cheerleaders and pseudo-athletes as well. There is cheering and frivolity and parading and pepping and fun, on this side of high school.

But I vividly remember the 16 year old me who didn’t have any uniform to wear. I attended a small school that had athletes and cheerleaders. Period. If you weren’t athletic, there was nothing for you. Unable to safely navigate a crowded room without injury, I did nothing, feeling as out of place as quality merchandise in Wal-Mart.

In larger schools there is much more for students to do, but still there are students that feel as if he or she is in the wrong uniform or feel left out completely when he didn’t make the cut this year. We parents dismissively call it ‘drama’ with a wave of our hand when our children are upset to feel as if they don’t belong, but the human spirit never outgrows the need to feel a part of a tribe, or to be in community.

As a second grade teacher, I had a name tag that said what campus I belonged to, showing I was part of that tribe. Our clan wore Friday shirts, further creating community. Of course, the cool factor for a second grade teacher and her Friday shirt among the general population is negligible, but to my second graders I was a rock star, and that was all that mattered.

When I left teaching to write, I made a startling realization: freelance writers don’t automatically have a tribe. There is no name tag that says I belong at my desk in my bedroom. If I wanted a specific shirt to wear on Friday, my choices were limitless, but they didn’t connect me to a group. I was tribeless.

My children were beginning middle school at the same time and as I observed behaviors and listened to stories about school I noticed a common thread: most people just want to feel as if they belong. I began to take note of what caused tension among different groups that I was a part of in “mature” settings and I noticed a common thread: most people just want to feel as if they belong.

Never underestimate the human spirit’s desire to belong to a tribe, nor its capacity for stupidity in order to be a part of one.

I appreciate those who look for others who may feel left out of a tribe. Not everyone can be a part of your tribe, but everyone can be a part of some tribe, and you may be able to help them find which one that is.

My tribe resembles a carpooling, crock-potting, chaperoning, laundry-stacking, parade-attending, bleacher-cheering mom for this season of life. Do I get a name tag? Letter jacket? Maybe I will win the spirit stick at the pep rally this week.

Tuesday

Valentine, Schmalentine...

Just a quick stop in to say that I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day. If not great, you have at least survived. Onward.

As I mentioned in my last post, last week wasn't too super great, I wasn't able to see Troy very much over the weekend -- errands, errands, errands -- so I worked up a pretty good feel sorry for myself come Monday morning. Love and gooeyness was spewing all over Facebook and I could hardly stand it. I was in a foul mood.
Thankfully, I started my day in The Word, but still my heart was grouchy. I continued to pour out what was on my heart to God, telling Him I didn't want to have an ugly heart today.

Friends graciously gave me permission -- I'm in a tough situation, no doubt. But here's the deal: I can't cave. I have NO idea how long this is going to last. I have got to learn how to "take captive every thought" and battle back from "a mood". My family cannot afford for me to give in to such pull to be a grouch.

So I spent time in The Word, and in prayer. My prayers were that the Lord would empty my heart of me, me, me and just remind me of His love -- for me, that I may love those around me with the same love.

It was not a lightning bolt shift in my day... but things got better. I already had some fun things planned, that honestly I had forgotten. I had lunch with a dear friend -- and in some regards, she and I are walking the same road. She gets it. And she is the least judgmental person I know. Love that. Just let me pour it out there. That was that. Lots of smiles and laughs.

Then I had scheduled a walking date with another friend and mentor that I don't see enough. We don't solve a lot of our problems, but we love to hear each other out. It was so great.

Oh -- between the two, I took the truck (yes, I call her MY truck... that annoyed Troy, but believe me, if I didn't HAVE to drive it, I wouldn't be, so I will call it MY truck if I want to...) to a car wash that was advertising free car washes for red cars on Valentine's Day. Now I would call the truck more of a maroon color, so I didn't know if it would be free -- but with all the snow and oock we've had, it desperately needed a wash anyway. Whatever. Guess what? FREE! You can't beat a clean vehicle for perking you up just a little.

As I spent time with the kids, cooking and eating dinner, covering strawberries in chocolate, working on a little Driver's Ed with Ashley, I thought about something Beth Moore says in "Living Beyond Yourself": "God can not only change your life, He'll change your day!" And if anyone's day (and attitude) needed changing yesterday, it was mine!
I'm so thankful for a God that will listen to my whining and complaining -- but loves me too much to let me stay there.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30:11,12

*Pic of adorableness ripped off of the Scott Photography Blog. LOVE them. LOVE their stuff. LOVE their people.

Friday

Thank Goodness It's FRIDAY!!

I just deleted an entire venting of my week. Suffice it to say: it's been crazy and not what I planned.

The Lord reminded me again and again of Proverbs 19:21: "Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

I don't have a great verse for stewardship of our body, but He also reminded me that I can't spend 3 days treating my body horribly (not stopping to eat/ fuel up, not enough sleep or exercise or water) and not pay for it on the 4th day: migraine. Blah. I do not like those, Sam I Am. But I am VERY thankful for medications.

So, thankful things of this week: Got to (safely) travel to Ashley's last basketball game about 3 hours away. It was a GREAT game and she played SO well! So very fun. Love to watch her play. Riley, who has felt crummy all week -- we finally got him on some meds for his sinus infection -- rode with me though and he is always so fun to be around. Love that guy.

Also had some other happies in the week: forced fun with another mom who I thoroughly enjoy. We co-volunteered to sell tickets to a dance. A few other things were fun, a few more were not fun, but it is almost over.

Oh... just typical of my week: I tried to schedule my Valentine's post to post, you know, ON Valentine's day. Yeah... there it went. Yesterday. Big as life. Oh, well. Read it again on Valentine's Day. My gift to you.

After Valentine's day I will tell you about my lovely and nice package that I DID in fact manage to get off to Troy... that included a major brain fail in it. It is so stinkin' typical of me it is sad, but it also is going to cause me to quit laughing at our friend who iced the potholder into the layer cake. Yeah, it's about on that level.

Satan tries to convince me that not getting to my 'to-do' list makes me worth less. Yet I know that "I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me" according to Romans 8:37 And this week, if the kids and the dog and I are all still breathing and the house is still standing by 6 p.m. today, I am claiming VICTORY! What about you?

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday

Considering Valentine's Day

originally in Abilene Families

My family experienced some minor medical drama the week between Christmas and New Year's while traveling out of state. On one of my many trips to the drug store, I had to stop dead in my tracks. I was perusing the Christmas decorations and wrapping paper on clearance. I turned around to look for more, and was faced with a shelf full of boxes of Valentine's cards that children will use to declare love for classmates. Before the confetti of the New Year's holiday is swept up, the shelves in stores are fully stocked with hearts, balloons, and all manner of Valentine props and paraphernalia.

Maybe it's age, maybe it's motherhood, maybe it's global warming, but I don't think of Valentine's Day the same way that I did as a young, single woman or newlywed. Valentine's Day is a fun, light-hearted opportunity to lavish love on those around you, but life has shown me that love rarely looks like the front of a Hallmark card.

Love is not running along a beach hand in hand. Love holds the flashlight in the middle of the night, make-up long gone and tempers flaring, holding your tongue while your sweetie attempts an emergency home repair. Love isn't demonstrated by dewy eyes across a candlelit meal, but rather by one more run to the doctor or pharmacy when you are exhausted beyond reasonable or rational thought.

Valentine's Day lends itself to romance. Romance is wonderful and exciting, but won't take you very far when the stomach bug hits, or your "Love Shack" floods, or one of your parents is critically ill and/or dies. Romance will not be found in any of those situations, but love is there larger than life. Love brings the cool wash cloth again and again for the stomach bug, and mops and covertly repairs damaged keepsakes during the flood, and cries and holds and works and loves with an ill family member.

Love is not rose petals and champagne, but aching backs and work gloves. Love at my house never dances in an evening gown or tuxedo, but love supplies the elbow grease, the patience, the encouragement, and the clean clothes to face each day and, Lord willin' a comforting place to come home to when the day seems to come out on top. Love is holding tight when no words will fix it, and tears the only language uttered.

Love is not a polished, glimmery state. Love is messy, inconvenient, and frustrating. Love is giving up the last ounce of energy, sleep, time, or chocolate for the well-being of another. Love isn't found in romantic restaurants or destinations, but in hospital waiting rooms, the lobby of funeral homes, and kneeling in prayer next to race-car or princess beds in the middle of the night. Love is less about flowers and cartoon hearts, and everything about the value of another soul on this planet. I guess that's a little harder to put on the side of a coffee mug.

I will play along this Valentine's Day, like all the others, and I certainly hope for you to feel cherished on that day. But, later in the year when the toilet overflows while the drama at school comes to a boiling point and work causes too many demands to keep everyone civil, love will be there with a plunger, Kleenex for the tears, and hugs, pats, and kisses for all the things the plunger and Kleenex won't fix. Consider that your own Valentine's Day -- but don't look for Hallmark to make a card for it anytime soon.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Parenting Teens

originally in Abilene Families

Coming home to a trash-filled living room strewn with beer bottles, midnight calls for bail money, and ongoing dialog with school officials about juvenile shenanigans is what I expected.

As a child of the 80’s being fed a steady diet of John Hughes films such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” I braced for parenting teens as one might prepare for combat, thinking that these years would make Normandy look like a Sunday afternoon at Wal-Mart.

Last fall brought a landmark to our home: the youngest became a teen. In the midst of the celebration I realized having teens in the house is much more fun than I imagined that it would be.

Teens have arrived at an age where it’s easy to catch a glimpse of the person they are becoming. Their strengths and skills continue to grow, and it is more apparent that each person in your home is a distinct and unique individual.

My children have their own athletic and musical abilities, but we also have a money spender vs. a money saver at my house. There is an observer and a “huh?” person here.

We have someone who likes order and someone whose creative nature creates a unique version of order in that living space. There is an entertainer and an audience, a scene stealer and one content to stand in the wings. It is a joy to see how each of these things will add up to the path each will take.

While I never dreamed I would be more sleep deprived as a parent of a teen than I was as a parent of a toddler, I think I’m having more fun as a parent of a teen.

One of the most surprising aspects of parenting teens is the sheer joy I get from how embarrassing I am to them. I was able to confide in my new teen, “People tell you that children bring you joy. They just don’t tell you that it’s embarrassing the child that brings you such joy.”

Teen was not amused.

The reality is that I don’t have to try to embarrass my children. Oh, I’ll threaten: “Can I sing this song when I pick you up?” “What if I jumped up and down like this?” “Can I show your friends this kind of wave or handshake?”

I don’t have to follow through with it. They know that I am just crazy enough to give it a go. The mere thought of my actions gives me traction for all manner of chores to be done or information that I need pried out of a child. This is beneficial since everyone in the house looks down to talk to me.

At certain ages, of course, the simple fact that I exist is embarrassing. Which brings me even greater joy. Yes, I realize this makes me a sick, sick person. It is amazing power as a parent. If just existing is embarrassing, just think how little you can do to be over-the-top embarrassing to your child. Simply mention waving to them across the room and you could get the whole house cleaned for a month.

The list of “What Not to Wear” to my child’s school would make Stacy and Clinton proud, as well: no pajamas, no revealing exercise wear, undergarments worn but not visible... the list goes on. It doesn’t mention go-go boots only because no one has thought of them. I had better wear some soon before they make it onto the list.

I remember the days of Playskool toys and nap time fondly as well. I just never dreamed it would be this much fun on this side of parenting too.

It helps my joy in parenting teens that by amazing grace, my kids are generally good kids.

I’m sure I’m asking for trouble by saying that. Between writing this article and publication, my teens may have created all kinds of hooliganism, the least of which is being suspected of being the instigator in thinking the rival team’s mascot belonged on top of the school building. At which point, I will show up at school in go-go boots with my nightgown to let my children know that is only the beginning of their worries.

Saturday

Super Day of Gluttony

I try to be fairly "live and let live" on my blog. Yes, I lead an active and healthy lifestyle. I think that you will feel better if you do, as well. But I have to confess that this article has brought about a rant in me that I am going to have to let loose.

In case you don't want to click over, let me give you some highlights:

1.) Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving. (source: American Institute of Food Distribution)

2.) Sales of antacid increase 20 percent the day after Super Bowl. (source: 7-Eleven stores)

3.) There is a plea to make "Super Bowl Monday" a national holiday for fans to "recover" from the effects of the Super Bowl party.

Let me say this: REALLY???

Because two teams --that 4 weeks ago 97% of the country didn't give a flip about-- are coming together and being paid MILLIONS to do so, we are going to gather with our friends and eat obscene amounts of food, drink obscene amounts of alcohol and then have to choke down antacids and call in sick to work the next day?

And... speaking of obscene... I know MOST of you will say, "Oh, but I just like to watch the commercials..." Have you SEEN the commercials lately? With your teenage children?? Or with a youth group??? Most aren't appropriate for either.

As far as the event itself goes, I know I am not an unbiased opinion. We are not a huge football family. I know some of you need to see a game if there is one on -- somehow I gave birth to a daughter that is that way. So I won't slight anyone watching a game -- but I don't get why we have to eat ridiculous quantities of food while we watch.

I just see the WHOLE theme of "EXCESS" throughout the whole time and find it even more nauseating than all the over-indulging. Sure, about 30 years ago some friends would get together for a pizza and chips around the TV. And as TV screens and waistlines around the country expanded, so did the buffet line and elaborate dishes. It is time for someone to say "ENOUGH!!"

So: "ENOUGH!!"

Please: enjoy the heck out of the game. Catch up with some of your "old faithful" Super Bowl Party pals that you may not have seen since LAST Super Bowl Party. But there is no reason to eat yourself ill just because there are men in huge pads making obscene amounts of money on the TV screen.

Let's make feeling good the day after the Super Bowl the new normal!

Thursday

Nothin' But Snow...

I would love to have something fascinating and worthwhile to say, but we have been snowed in. I can tell you how many episodes of "The Office" are on Netflix streaming. I can tell you how cold my bedroom -- with the north-facing wall-o-glass -- gets when I have to leave the space heater in the laundry room to thaw the pipes there (actually, I don't have a specific number... let's just go with "real cold"). I can tell you the time in the afternoon that my body decides it needs to nap on a snow day. But things of value? I got nothin'.*Pic info below

This is a rare Texas occurrence and I don't mind it one bit. Of course Monday was your typical end-of-January 70*, as I mentioned. Then came the rain, then the sleet, then the plummeting temperatures, then the snow. JUST as the cooler weather was coming in Monday afternoon I was leaving the vets office. I will spare you the details, but I became aware that my dog was quite ill on Monday.

Thankfully, it was something that a few pills and a special diet for a few days will take care of. That has been the most exciting and productive thing I have done all week: cook my dog some rice and, later, after a run to the store, some pumpkin. Yes, he recommended pumpkin for the fiber. Can you believe? For the record? She prefers the pumpkin to the rice, but isn't crazy about either. Tomorrow she gets to eat real food.

So. For 3 solid days. The house. Me. Two children. Tomorrow school has already been canceled. My facebook posts indicate that some of my neighbors are hearing voices inside their head that sound like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining," and may eat their own young before the thaw on Saturday. All of us have realized we are a little too used to being able to run to the grocery store every 48 hours (yes, I skated on the ice for the milk and the dog's pumpkin... AND some sweetened condensed milk for snow ice cream! :-)

But I have learned -- among the many other ponderous things such as how messy it is when a dog eats pumpkin out of a bowl -- that food supplies aside, I am perfectly fine being inside the four walls of this house. Granted, my children are at an easily (read: electronically) entertained age, and aren't doing too many handstands against the walls (though I refuse to lie and say that none have been attempted).

But with you lovely people reading and commenting on my blog, and catching up with some folks on facebook and via text... my "cabin fever" limit is much much higher (lower? different?) than most folks.

Hands down, the crummiest part of this WHOLE deal: Troy's work was also closed all 4 days. Of course we had no way of knowing that at the beginning of the week, and even yesterday he was supposed to go in, then slid into work on ice, got his phone out in the parking garage and got his email that work was closed. Blah! So... it would have been nice to have him home, but more than anything, I'm still praying for him to get back here safe. Not sure when he's going to attempt that. Ugh.

The first day of snow, I saw this on another friend's status. So true, so beautiful:
“He directs the snow to fall on the earth
and tells the rain to pour down.
Then everyone stops working
so they can watch his power."
Job 37:6,7

Hope you are each warm and safe!
*We really didn't play in the snow, so I totally stole this pic from AP:
"Ilona Chisholm, 13 months, helps her mom shovel snow out of their driveway using a rake in Cohassett, Mass., Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Wednesday

Don't Show Your Tail

originally in Abilene Families

I was raised in the South by a good Southern momma, who sprinkled good Southern advice throughout my life as liberally as Paula Deen uses the butter. Some of it involved silverware, some of it involved marriage and babies, but the most everyday useful advice involved how to treat people.

Much of it I heard frequently enough that I rolled my eyes to hear, and little of it made sense until I lived it and experienced it. I think educators call that a kinesthetic learner. For instance: “Don’t go burnin’ any bridges.”

I did not understand this phrase. I was not prone to pyromania. Bridges were prolific in my bayou-strewn town, but I was never tempted to set one ablaze.

I didn’t fully understand this advice until I lived in a small Central Texas town and needed a temporary job. It was an awful job that paid okay, and I didn’t put my heart into it. I showed up late, did just enough to keep my job, tuned out when reprimanded by The Boss, and was thankful when it was over.

Imagine my horror when I showed up to interview for a job I wanted to find that The Boss was one of the people joining the interview process. Truly a V-8 moment. “Don’t go burnin’ bridges.”

I don’t use that same phrase with my kids -- maybe it just sounds old fashioned to me now. But I have a similar phrase they have heard all too often: “Abilene’s just too small to act that way.”

You know what I mean. We all run into each other coming and going in this town.

A friend can vouch for this. She got into a bit of a honking, shouting tousle at school drop-off. Still fuming, she pulled up at the gym for her exercise class... next to the same driver from the school. Abilene’s just too small to act that way.

A young friend thought he would test the limits of where he could go on his bicycle, knowing he was heading into forbidden territory by crossing a very busy street. A friend of the family reported it to his mom. He still has no idea how mom found out, but the short answer is, “Abilene’s just too small to act that way.”

Momma had another Southern phrase: “show your tail,” which means to act rude or unbecoming, not reflecting your proper Southern raising. You don’t want to show your tail when the town is this small. Or ever.

Children aren’t the only ones who have this lesson to learn, and perhaps we should teach our kids to act right no matter which zip code they live in. Maybe an elected official berates a fast food employee when the salad has the wrong kind of cheese? I’m guessing that not only the employee but everyone in the establishment will remember that at election time. Abilene’s just too small.

Maybe a church leader or pastor wonders why people are tuning out the message of “love thy neighbor” from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Then he shows his tail by having no patience with a local business employee, or being beyond rude and demanding with a waitress after church on Sunday. Abilene’s too small to act that way.

The world we live in is becoming smaller all the time. Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and email are allowing the world to come to your front doorstep, if not your back pocket. So, not only is Abilene too small to act that way. The world is simply too small to be impatient with your fellow man.

As I peruse the Valentine cards and expressions of love this month, I will also consider those folks who test my patience the most. Oh, I won’t buy a card. My valentine to the cashier who takes too long, the waitress on her first day, or the driver who turns in front of me only to drive at a turtle pace will be kindness, patience, and gentleness.

I won’t go burning’ any bridges. The world is just too small to act that way. Momma will be proud.

Tuesday

Marriage Monday on Tuesday

It's been a VERY long time since I've posted a Marriage Monday and... since it's late Tuesday afternoon, does this even count at all? I'm going with 'yes' because I can't make anything cute out of marriage and Tuesdays. It just doesn't work.

Yesterday (Monday) I was doing all of my running around because today the sky fell in. Or... it snowed in West Texas. Take your pic, because it creates equal amount of panic and mayhem. Honestly, you would NOT believe the scene at the grocery stores. Unbelievable. It's truly not supposed to be above freezing for several days. The grocery store madness was compounded by the fact that Monday was the end of the month and payday for many people (our family included) so I was at the store, too. Of course I failed to buy the mandatory gallon of milk you're supposed to buy before a snow storm, so of course we will be out before the thaw.

I do have something on my heart about marriage that I wanted to post about. It probably means more to me than it will to you... isn't that always the way?

If you haven't been keeping track/ keeping up, you may not be aware that for the better part of the week, my husband lives 200 miles away to work at a new job that we are VERY thankful he has. The kids and I are waiting for the house to sell and pray for our family to live together as a whole unit again very soon. We have actually been living with this arrangement for almost 3 months now, when I didn't think I would survive one month. It's amazing what the Lord will grant you the peace and strength to do when called to do.

And, I do realize, this situation is far more difficult for my husband than it is for the kids and me. We have our own house, our own friends, our own support system -- you wouldn't believe the prying eyes of the neighborhood... and I LOVE it! People ask to drive the kids somewhere or can they pick anything up for me or do I need them to drop anything off when they go here or there. Love it! But of course it never makes up for having a spouse living in your home.

And Troy is very thankful that he has relatives where he can live rent-free. They have always been 100% gracious, but of course he feels like he is intruding, and is so ready to be in his own home, with his own family. And every day he is surrounded by people he doesn't know very well (though after 3 months, I suppose they are becoming closer...) while he trudges the unfamiliar territory of a new job. In short, we would really like our family to live together.

We trust -- God has given us that peace that surpasses understanding (I promise this is a post about marriage in here somewhere. Stick with me) that He will bring a buyer for our home in his perfect timing. We have prayed and listened for His guidance about the price of our home and many other things and we truly believe it is simply left up to His time. So we wait.

And the things I have learned about myself, my husband and my God could fill volumes but most of them are things you need to learn on your own. This may be one of those things.

Last week was a particularly difficult, perhaps impatient, week. I tried a million times to lay down MY will and MY way to the Lord, only to pick it up again and shake it at Him and say, "But don't you WANT us to live together???" As a side note, I do believe the answer to that is that yes, He does, but He also trusts us in this time and knows that we can learn and grow in this time, so He is not in a hurry as we are in a hurry. ("But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness." 2 Peter 3:8,9... encouraging... but not... you know?)

When Troy FINALLY arrived back "at home" -- such a weird thing, this "at home": when we live together full time again, it won't be in this home. Just weird. So, when he finally arrived here, I noticed how much more patient I was with little annoyances and inconveniences. Ever go to get in the shower just as your spouse does? I do... ALL the time. Your spouse ever park behind you or in YOUR spot? ALL the time.

Guess what? I cannot WAIT to be inconvenienced by the little things of my spouse again. And it made me grateful that I get a second chance. I know wives whose spouses are deployed who learn not to be annoyed at the little things. I have widow friends -- of ALL ages, many WAY too young to be widows -- who would give anything for their spouse to be in the shower when they want to be.

I was sharing my life lesson with a precious friend at church over the weekend and she got tears in her eyes.

"Thank you for saying that," she said. "We were just cleaning the kitchen together last night and he was ALWAYS right in front of the trash can when I needed it. I tried to tell myself, 'Well, he doesn't have to be here at all...'"

Truth.

And, heaven knows I can certainly be one of the most annoying people on the planet to live with. Granted, my propensity to burst into random song could arguably be fun or annoying depending on who is voting, but I'm pretty sure my habit of leaving a trail of dishes and shoes in every room I inhabit is beyond annoying.

So, perhaps God is leading me to one of my four words for the year: Gentleness. Because I will continue to be gentle with this wonderful blessing of a man that God has gifted to me and our children. Why would I be anything else? Because sometimes I am focused on ME and what I need and what I want and MY time and MY schedule and MY convenience. And I just don't think that's what the Lord has in mind for marriage.

Praying for more patience... and always gentleness.
 
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