Sometimes we win. The Scramble for the Kids on Monday was a great success. I have not finished adding and checking off my lists but it looks like we'll be in great shape to match our highest fundraising year. Woo. Someone asked me how I got it all done. I told them I didn't - an amazing set of 50 volunteers, 100 donors, 3 fantastic charities and 120 willing golfers get it all done. But it is such an honor to be a part of this much fun that helps so many vulnerable kids. You really haven't had a win in your life until you've helped someone else. Winning is fun.
Sometimes we lose. I am an atrocious bowler. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I have crazy loose joints. My wrists twist in creative ways and the balls typically end up in the gutter. Or maybe its because I sometimes get distracted right as I'm letting go of the ball. At any rate, I'm the low score here. My husband ended up doubling my 71. Sigh. While my bowling score doesn't really matter it is a visual reminder that sometimes the odds stack up against us. Those losses can hurt. Sometimes we lose.
Sometimes in life we drink coffee. Seriously, most of my life is not made up of the times when I've scored a success or the frequent occasions I'm hanging my head. Most of my life is made up of ordinary moments. Showers in clean water. Picking warm blackberries off the bush. Smiling at photos of brides and babies. Checking spelling. Coloring. Car rides and sunsets. Pizza. Whispered prayers. Cleaning up crushed crackers. Texts with friends. Chats before bed. The precious parts of life don't tend to be in the wins and losses. Its in the grace we give. Live well.
Like most kids, I had chores growing up. For awhile one of my jobs was taking out the garbage. I hated taking out the garbage. It took about five minutes. One summer I negotiated with my mother and traded my taking out the garbage chore for being in charge of the family laundry. It was a fierce negotiation.
I was very excited about my new job. I made myself a sign that I attached to a hat that said something about laundry queen. I learned how to sort. I learned how to use the machines. I folded. I even put away. This whole process took hours. I told people all about my coup at home with the laundry and garbage tradeoff. Somehow I thought I’d come out ahead. Clearly I had a lot to learn. Let me give you a piece of advice. Do not go up against my mother. You will lose. She’s charming enough though that you may think you won.
Yesterday I let my daughter wear a brand new white back to school shirt to church. This was not a problem. I then let her wear the shirt to a birthday party. Still not a problem. Then in a delusional moment I let her wear the shirt to help me pick blackberries. This was a problem. One of the ripe blackberries fell off the bush and hit her shirt. It was beautiful. Looked like a perfect stamp of a blackberry.
I grimaced, took off the shirt and headed to the laundry room. I rinsed out the blackberry and was about to rub the shirt with a stain stick when the resident chef peered over my shoulder. He said “you don’t put stain stick on a wet shirt. Just use detergent”. He handed me a bottle of detergent left over from when he actually purchased the stuff. He makes his own usually. Naturally. He then quite unwisely left me alone to my own devices.
Anyway, I stuck my finger in the detergent bottle and promptly pushed the pour spout into the bottle. Oops. I squished my hand up and stuck it down inside the detergent. I reached as far as I could and hooked the pour spout. I realized that I had become the monkey in that parable about how to trap a monkey with a coconut. There was no way to get my hand out and the spout out at the same time. So I shrugged, put the lid back on and put it in the cabinet. I didn’t tell. This is where a blog is a little dangerous. We get to find out if my spouse reads my blog.
I scritched and scratched and scrubbed. The blackberry stain would not move. I finally wadded the shirt up, left it in the sink and walked away. About an hour later I walked back in and was amazed that the shirt was clean! The stain was gone! I must be a miracle worker in the laundry room. My husband walked in and looked over my shoulder. “I got it out, the bleach worked”. He walked out. I was deflated.
I have taken a new vow to stay out of the laundry room. Maybe I learned something about negotiation from my mother after all.
This story did not happen to me. It feels like it did though. It happened to my sister. She and I share an odd sense of humor, a strong will and a pitiful history where PE is concerned. So my little sister had a goal. (One I had too but didn’t actually achieve). She wanted to finish running the mile in high school PE and not come in last in her class. Totally reasonable goal. One day, she gave it her all. Ran like the wind. Finished ahead of someone. Looked up to heaven and closed her eyes to pray and to thank God, promptly tripped and fell flat on her face. Sigh.
I must point out here that another thing my sister and I share is a willingness to self-deprecate in order to have new blog material. She did in fact give me permission to throw her under the bus.
You know how in high school they try to talk you into buying an extremely overpriced coat so you can display your proudly earned letter? I had a letter but frankly wasn’t interested in wearing it. I’m not sure that Pep Band really qualifies, especially when you play the flute. The flute is designed for a symphony not a marching band. You can’t hear it over cheering football fans or a cadence from the drum line. Don’t get me wrong. I loved band. I just didn’t want to hear about it from all the sports people. I had a couple pins on this letter too…one for Honor Society and one for the Math team. In college, my debate coach thought it was hilarious to tell people I was on the math team. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that debate fell in the same category as competitive math.
My sister signed up with me to do the Warrior Dash this fall. Partly I think it was because she felt sorry for me because I came home from Rwanda with TB and she didn’t. Partly I think it was because it’s fun to surprise people and do something out of character. Partly I think because I’m the big sister and she’s used to sometimes doing what I tell her to. At any rate, we’ve been running for about two months now. We’re running at least once a week together just to stay accountable. The rest of the time we’re begging others to keep us in line and have acquired a couple of good coaches who push us. One of them is pregnant. I find it difficult to believe that I have a really hard time keeping up with the pregnant person. Sigh. Our other coach just finished this year’s Portland marathon. Starting running for the first time last spring and ran the whole thing. She’s my hero.
We all spent all last week eating. Decided yesterday we were ready for a “hard run”. Three Miles. Faster pace than normal. Really Really big hill. All three of us had to walk the last push of the hill. It’s a big hill. My friend said it felt like someone had ripped out her lungs. Clearly we all need a bit more training. Funny thing was when we finished the hill, the next bit was pretty nice. My sister had her best run ever.
In 2004 I did the Portland Marathon. I ran 1/4 of each mile and walked the other 3/4. At mile 15 or so I was feeling great. Mile 20 I was starting to get tired. Mile 21 my IPOD battery gave out. Mile 22 I was worried. At mile 25 with only one mile to go I had nothing left. I saw a little man shuffling ahead of me. I told myself “I’m going to try to run by this gentleman, maybe if I can encourage him, I’ll be able to finish”. So I ran in step with senior and said “You can do it, only one mile to go”. He said “This is my fifth marathon. I know I can do it. You can do it too. Don’t give up”. Okay then.
I did in fact finish all 26.2 miles. When I crossed the finish line, my mother burst into tears. She said she had a picture of me running a race in life and crossing the finish line into heaven.
I really don’t like to exercise. Not crazy about running. I do however like that my pants fit. I also like the extra energy when I’m faithful to run. I really don’t like much of what constitutes balance and discipline in life. Balancing my checking account, taking out the garbage, having those oh so hard conversations to iron out misunderstandings, saying sorry, getting out of bed even when the snooze button is calling me, devotions with my daughter, praying for friends, tackling the big hills.
Its easier to do anything with your sister at your side. And I know that it’s all worth it in the long run.
We spent most of last week camping with a pile of friends out in the high dessert of Eastern Oregon right next to Mount Jefferson. I am a huge fan of Mount Jefferson. Great backdrop for impressive sunsets.
The campsite was just over the bluff from Lake Billy Chinook which hosts speed boats, inner tubes, kayaks and the occasional party boat. We are of the party boat clan. One little guest called it the potty boat. Pretty accurate since its the one place on the lake you can convince littles to go.
I am frankly not a competent camper. I like cruise ships and hotels with room service. First evening of camping I hauled the kids and piles of cleanish clothes and my makeup bag over to the showers. Groaned when I realized that my toothpaste lid had failed and blue sparkly toothpaste now covered every item. I washed and dried and threw out the toothpaste. Ugh. Took more pictures of the sunset.
My youngest is a colorful one. She is a fan of rainbow t-shirts, fancy headbands and watermelon. She ate a lot of watermelon.
Some of my favorite colors are these blue eyes and sunkissed freckles. My girls chased bugs and found rocks. Road bikes and watched geese. Pointed at deer and watched the stars. Earned Jr. Ranger badges and rolled in the grass. Giggled with friends and cuddled in at night.
We had one stormy afternoon. At one point you could see the moon, a rainbow, lightning and these amazing clouds all at the same time. No filter. I think God was showing off.
Next morning I hauled my filthy children and my makeup bag to the bathroom to change. Dropped my makeup bag. Are you aware that fingernail polish is much harder to wash off than toothpaste? I wasn't fast enough and as a result my hands are now chapped from polish remover and stained slightly pink. It took quite a while to pick out the glass shards. Threw out my toothbrush. Who takes fingernail polish camping?
The contrast between my attempts at coloring my life and God's joyful painting may be the point of camping. Its about being out amongst the color and sounds and smells that are real. Blue sparkly toothpaste and pink fingernail polish have nothing on sunsets and watermelon. If you are feeling cynical or stressed try turning off the reality TV (or the election coverage) and go take photos of the sky. Take a walk. Eat veggies from the garden. Count the colors.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Psalm 19:1
My friend Elizabeth is a beautiful picture of grace. I have been cheering and praying for this lovely woman as she rebuilds her life. I'm always amazed at her trust in God, her cheerful acceptance of difficulties and her open forgiving heart. She challenges me to make room in my life for all people.
A reliable dinner date
I no longer shred my cheddar cheese.
I used to buy those 2-pound blocks of cheddar and they would be eaten in a timely manner between family suppers, husband lunches and late-night nachos with friends. But the other day I found in my fridge a crusty, too-orange block of a mere 8-ounce bar of the stuff. From that day forward, I started buying bags of pre-grated, subpar cheddar for the blah quesadillas and noodles I regularly make my kids.
A bag of the shredded stuff is now a near-daily symbol of divorce to me. It’s one of a dozen small things that continually hit you upside the head, reminding you that your life is a lot different than it once was or than you had planned. I have tried to look at the silver lining around the cheddar-cheese bag: As a single mom -- heck, as a mom of two young boys -- there's not a lot of time to shred cheese. For that reason, thank goodness for bags of the overpriced, shredded stuff, right?
This month's holiday weekend escorted in another reliable reminder that I'm in singleton territory. In the married life, my husband and I always had big family plans for days like the Fourth: There were no broken divorce schedules to accommodate, and we could have a yearly tradition with extended family. I've lost that. I've lost all of the family traditions I had. I've even lost a social life we had with friends who still adore me. When you become a "mom and kids" and are no longer a man-carrying family, your event inclusion or hosting possibilities change. I totally get it: I now offer a mom-and-kids playdate vibe. Former friend-families aren't to be faulted. I have had to leave the married world and am a different puzzle piece since the divorce. Like me, some of my friends aren't sure how how I fit. (Whoever figures that out first, let me know. We’ll make nachos to celebrate. I'm on the cheese.)
Another one of the little things that reminds you that you are living in the Twilight Zone of your life is the small talk you find yourself engaging in when getting a pedicure. Suddenly, being asked if you have a husband takes on new emotion and silences the conversation. At least you hope it silences the conversation. One time, answering, "No, I’m recently divorced," spawned the question, "Did he leave you?" After I nodded yes, my nail technician commented, "Oh. You need brows done! You can’t let yourself go downhill now." Awesome. Those beauty experts have tried to get their hands on my brows for years. This one thought she had a new angle.
I didn’t let her touch my eyebrows.
Divorced people don’t just lose a spouse, deal with divorce-related kid drama and have new monetary considerations to iron out -- or new monetary considerations that leave them feeling smacked by an iron. The small, every-day things change, too. Like one’s social life and interactions. And how you buy cheese.
My boys questioned the lack of block-cheddar a while ago: "Don’t you have any you can slice?" they asked when I gave them a small handful of the grated stuff on a plate with some crackers. I must say, it looked pretty sad. What would the Oregon members of the Federation of American Cheese-makers say? A recent article by Michael H. Tunick, a research chemist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and author of "The Science of Cheese," said the federation made the largest cheddar cheese ever in 1989. It weighed 56,850 pounds (25,790 kg). And I can’t even house a 2-pound block?
Handing my boys little piles of grated cheddar to go with their Wheat Thins feels less than ideal. It is. But God teaches us that life's circumstances are often less than ideal. The Bible is full of stories of betrayal and hardship. However, the common theme in those stories is even more rich and wonderful than a block of Cougar Gold, the award-winning cheddar; God never leaves His people alone in an unfair storyline, betrayed or abandoned. And we never have to eat subpar quesadillas alone.
Bittersweet. This emotion happens when you use objects that once belonged to someone you love. It's joyful and honoring and painful. Things don't matter. People do. However, the memories that are triggered by objects are valuable. Especially when the memories belong to someone else.
This pie pan has seen the inside of an oven hundreds of times. My in-laws do dessert properly. Often and Big. This pan has carried apple pie, cherry pie and a really good lemon meringue. But apparently not the actual lemon meringue recipe printed on the inside of the pie pan. Ever. My husband said he wanted to keep this pie pan of his mother's partly because he wanted to fulfill a childhood wish and make the recipe in the pan.
My theory on why the pan recipe never happened is because the first step in the pie pan receipe is to bake the pie crust. Then the recipe is covered. Who wants to take the time to write out the recipe? Tech saves the day. I took a photo and off we went.
Lemon Meringue is scary. It's best when the lemon curd is not runny. But you don't know how you did until you cut into the pie. No take backs with this pie. We zested and thickened and measured and tasted. Hauled the pie over to the big 4th of July BBQ and cut into the pie. It was too goopy. Oops. Clearly needed more of the stirring constantly until thickens bit. We ate the whole thing anyway. I took another photo.
I take photos of everything. Receipts, lists, bills, library books, medication lists. I recognize that there are far better information storage solutions than scrolling through photos but this plan fits my organized chaos personality. It is also a great encourgement to me to tuck things I love in by things I don't like so much. It's like saving a hug in storage for when I know I'll need one.
When I'm searching through my photo stream to find my car repair receipts or the business card to the pest control company and I run across happy shots I quit frowning. I end up calling the doctor or plumber with gratitude back intact. Sitting on hold while thinking about my hunk of a husband carrying a little pink 4th of July fairy frankly makes the world balance nicely.
It works offline as well. My purse certainly carries my wallet and license and insurance and other responsible adult items but I also have a glitter covered acorn and a smiley face finger puppet. Fun tucked in.
My bathroom mirror has a colorful note from my eldest. Its joy in the morning. Some of my tough issue files at work and home have Bible verses written on the inside cover. It makes opening the file and dealing with the problem easier. Try it. Purposefully put photos or verses or notes of joy with things that give you pain.
You know those heirlooms you have; your grandmother's china, your mother's Bible, a watch from your dad ? Use them. I'm betting your loved ones would like it. Our pie pan has a great history. Now it has a new memory tucked in beside the old. Lemon and Sugar. Bittersweet.
I spent Sunday afternoon at a bridal shower for my beautiful cousin. She’s marrying my kind of man. Big burly guy with a full beard who cooks and brews his own beer and has a gentle spirit. Good choice. The bridal shower was a full formal English tea. My lovely aunt pulled out all her fancy dishes and her even fancier recipes. We were surrounded by Devonshire cream, peanut butter truffles, chicken salad tarts, cucumber sandwiches and strawberry soup. Earl Grey and Mango Passion and Peppermint Teas. Rolled butter and jam and heart-shaped scones. It was all beautiful.
I brought my daughters along even though I think technically they weren’t invited. My aunt is the kind where people who show up uninvited get a warm welcome. She hauled a familiar child’s table and chairs downstairs and unpacked a beautiful tiny tea set. I gulped a little. The table, chairs and tea set all belonged to my cousin, Annie. She currently has her tea parties in heaven. Treasures from ones we’ve lost should be treated with care.
And my two-year old is….well….she’s two.
My aunt looked directly at the little miss and said “I know you’ll be fine, you know how to be gentle”. She looked at me and said “I won’t take it with me”.
Ah yes. That lesson again. People matter more than things. Our treasures are in heaven.
I love that my aunt holds things loosely and people tightly. It’s the right priority.
The little girls were, in fact, gentle. I’m sure the vote of confidence from my aunt went a long way. I should remember this. I tend to rise to the standard that I’m treated. If I assume they’ll be gentle than it’s significantly more likely they’ll be gentle. The girls toasted each other. They toasted the bride. They ate all the sugar cubes.
After the tea, the youngest daughter hauled presents up to the bride. My eldest daughter learned how to make a rehearsal practice bridal bouquet. We told her this was an important life skill. Used significantly more often than algebra. Don’t tell her I said that. Don’t tell my math teacher friends that either. Algebra is important.
After everyone went home my sister and I stayed to help with the dishes. My aunt sent me a text today expressing great thanks for the help serving the tea and doing the dishes. It was seriously my pleasure. Standing in the kitchen yesterday with my sister and my aunt I thought about our weddings and bridal showers and graduation parties. My aunt helped at them all. It frequently required planet tickets to do so. This post is officially my return thank you. Thank you for the many parties and recipes and dishes. Thank you for the life lessons and the love. Thank you for sharing your daughter’s tea set with my daughters. Thank you for letting us love on your daughter.
Moms and daughters. Aunts and nieces.
It was priceless.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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