Thursday, December 31, 2009


I was flipping through channels awhile back when Gone With The Wind came on television. It’s one of those movies I just can’t help but stop and watch for awhile. I love the accents, the way they dressed and carried themselves, and the outrageous way they treat each other.

I always loved watching Scarlett because she was so foreign to me… so bold and brazen and unapologetic. I couldn’t get enough of her. It was the same for me when I acted on stage and got to play a back-talking Anne Frank, or a sassy Hot Lips Houlihan. Getting to experience someone whose qualities go against your nature is just so liberating. Watching Scarlett was so entertaining and simple… while she had layers to her character, she certainly wasn’t hard to figure out.

But the character in Gone With The Wind who really intrigued me the most, the one who made me stop and think and ponder decisions, was Melanie. Kind, gentle, soft-spoken Melanie. I would often watch and admire her, and think to myself that no one could actually be that good. She looked beyond the surface to see the truth in people, even when they didn’t want their truth to be discovered. Even when they didn’t know the truth about themselves.

Melanie was more confident than Scarlett, even though she didn’t seem to be. Scarlett was louder and attracted more attention, making her seem so self-assured, but it was Melanie’s comfort in her own skin that allowed her quiet strength to dominate. She wasn’t easily insulted, she didn’t jump to conclusions, she gave without expecting in return and loved without condition.

There were times I would watch and think she should have stood up for herself more… that she allowed herself to be a doormat. But the more I watched, the more I came to understand that she didn’t feel the need to stand up for herself because she already knew who she was and knew what was important in her life. She wasn’t a doormat. A doormat is when someone steps on you against your will. Melanie saw all that happened and understood why Scarlett acted as she did. She accepted her, she loved her and she chose to be her friend.

Melanie was gracious.

I want to be like Melanie.

The last few years, rather than make resolutions, I’ve chosen a one-word theme for the year. I first heard of this idea through Ali Edwards’ blog and fell in love with the concept. I certainly had no idea how much I would learn about myself through it.

The first year, my word was “maintain.” I was always pushing too hard to try to be like my old, healthy self and would often get into such health set-backs that life turned into one big rollercoaster. That year I decided to use “maintain” as a way to remember not to push… to be content in the simple and appreciate the abilities I still had. I was seeking the status quo.

That year, there was no option for me to maintain. My health was out of my hands and my body took about 10 steps backward… not because of my activity level, but because the disease has a mind of its own. My goal was to maintain, and it was in that year I learned how to let go. I learned that it’s not up to me to make decisions about how my life will proceed… it’s up to Him. While I started out wanting to maintain my health, I learned to maintain my faith and trust.

Last year, I chose “devotion.” I wanted to be devoted to reading the Bible every day, keeping in touch with friends, doing my physical therapy, keeping up with the blog. I wanted to be intentional in these things. Then life happened. Cushing’s happened. I was immobile, in crazy amounts of pain, migraines made it impossible for me to read, I was too weak to think of things to write about and pain kept me from the computer. Everything I was going to be devoted to was out the window, because my means of keeping up that devotion were stripped from me. I learned to be devoted only to my faith and trust in God.

You can see why I’m a little nervous to pick a word this year. It’s like praying for patience, and then finding your path bombarded with happenings that require you to use that patience. But I’m going to give it a try anyway.

My word, like Melanie, is gracious. defines it as:
     1. pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous
     2. merciful or compassionate: our gracious king
     3. Obsolete. fortunate or happy

I want to be gracious in all I do. I want to see people’s true hearts and intentions, even when their actions prove otherwise. I want to be open to people and not jump to conclusions. I want to give people space to be themselves, to accept them for who they are and ride the journey with them as they discover themselves.

I want to give without expecting to receive. I want to help more than I am helped. I want to show mercy to people who hurt me, and not in a way where others notice and give me credit. I want to love for the sake of loving, give for the sake of giving, believe for the sake of believing. I want to love people for who they are, who they may become and who they are trying to be.

I also want to be gracious with myself. I want to give myself the space to be ok with the fact that I can’t keep up with things as well as I did before. I want to learn to love who I am as my body goes through this constant rollercoaster … even in the times when I look in the mirror and I am nowhere to be found. I want to be gracious enough to let others help me when I need it, and not tell myself that I’m being a burden. I want to make sure my hand is always open in giving to others, and also make sure it’s not closed when others want to open their hands to me.

I think it’s too bad that the third definition is listed as obsolete. Gracious should be defined as fortunate or happy, because I think both are by-products of giving grace. The less I think about my life as my own and instead think of it as means to be gracious to and for others, the more fortunate I feel. The more happiness surrounds me. The more joy is the key component in my life.

This year, my focus is on being gracious.

What’s yours?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blog Peep Questions: Round 9

blog peeps logo

How often do you groom Riley?

Simple answer? Anytime he starts to look like this:

When his hair gets long I think he looks like a grumpy old man, which means he gets away with less because he loses that cute-innocent-puppy look. It benefits both of us when his hair is shorter because he gets away with more, and I find myself laughing at him more. :)

I used to have us on a schedule [which is probably sad to admit, but I think I missed having obligations so I tried to schedule the mundane in my life], so I would alternate months for our haircuts. May, I’d cut my hair… June, I’d cut Riley’s hair, and so on. That’s out the window now, though, and I get out the scissors for one of two reasons. Either it’s because I have some energy or it’s because one of us looks so shaggy it’s unavoidable!

Sometimes that unavoidable shagginess occurs when I have no energy and the result is how he’s looking right now. Because I can only stand for so long, or my hands can only work the scissors for so long, Riley ends up getting haircuts in stages. Right now, he has an almost-complete cut as I have yet to trim his front legs.

In other words, he looks silly and ridiculous. I thought about taking a picture for you, but since he asked for his dignity back after being seen in the Snuggie I thought I’d better not. :)

If you could have one thing for your house [decorative, not practical] what would it be?

Usually I have instant answers in my head when I read your questions, but this one I really had to think on for awhile. Logically, if I really wanted to dream about something in my house I’d have to add on a room because there’s no space left to put anything else!

One thing I’d like to do is figure out an easier set up for painting canvases, like putting in a tall center island I could stand at, or an architect table that could tilt. But either option would require me getting rid of my dining room table, and it is pretty convenient to have a place to sit when company comes for dinner. :)

If I’m thinking extravagant, I’d take up all the carpet and put in dark, hardwood floors. Then I would use Flor carpet tiles to create large area rugs… that way if Riley marked anywhere, I could pick up that piece of tile and clean it or replace it! But now that I’ve written that out, I realize that DEFINITELY has a practical purpose behind it, so I’m not sure it would apply to this question. I’ve often thought I’d like it if my woodwork was painted white, or if my kitchen cupboards were darker and more interesting, but in truth I’m not dissatisfied with anything in my condo, really. I just like to daydream about those kinds of things.

The ideal scenario would be to have Nate Berkus show up at my door, tell me what HE thinks I should do, and then let him go crazy!

I think I may have just come up with the perfect scenario for a reality show… Nate could re-do my condo while the Dog Whisperer whipped Riley into shape, all while Ellen DeGeneres hosted her talk show at my house and surprised me with all of her 12 Days of Giveaways prizes…

… never let it be said I don’t know how to dream big, people!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter L


Hi. My name is Sara, and I’m directionally challenged.

In other words, I’ve spent most of my life [L]ost.

I grew up on an acreage outside of a small town of about 5000 or so, and I could drive from our home to school, friends’ homes [sadly, some friends’ houses I’d get miserably lost every time], my mom’s work, church and McDonald’s. Beyond that, I was and still would be useless. And if you asked me for directions to get to my parents’ new home today… I’d have no ability to tell you how to get there.

I wish I was exaggerating.

The first time I became embarrassingly lost, I was in high school. I was going to visit my sister Laura on the western side of the state. Dad was giving me directions and he said, “You turn at the four corner intersection in Humboldt. You know, like when we go see Steve at college.”

I totally knew exactly where he was talking about. What I didn’t realize was he meant for me to turn right at that corner, not left like we did to visit Steve… on the eastern side of the state. I drove two hours in the wrong direction before I realized what I’d done and turned the car around. I called my sister to tell her I’d be late and swore her to secrecy… but as my visit went on I quickly realized everyone knew by the way they tried to stifle their laughter. I don’t think I’ve lived it down to this day.

I still blame it on Dad and his directions, though. He should have known better than to assume I knew which way to turn. :)

As hard as it is to believe, that wasn’t the worst example of me getting lost. And again, it totally wasn’t my fault. I’m sure you’ll agree with me on that point by the end of the story. :)

When I was in college, my friends Nicole, Heidi and I were all in a GenEd Nutrition class together.

I didn’t have a photo of all three of us handy, so here is me and Nicole:
me nic

and me and Heidi:
me heidi

We discovered while talking during class [not that I would ever do such a disruptive kind of thing] that we all had good friends who attended Notre Dame. Over the course of the semester we found a weekend that worked for everyone and decided to take a road trip to the Penn State/Notre Dame game. [ND won by one point at the end of the 4th quarter. The crowd rushed the field and tore down the goal posts… it was so exciting.]

Anyway, I borrowed my brother Steve’s car and, since I would be in charge of driving, we decided whoever was in the passenger’s seat would be in charge of navigation. Did you all read that? Take a mental note: I was not in charge of navigation. We had to stop and buy maps of Iowa and Indiana since the only one in Steve’s car was of Wisconsin. We made it to Notre Dame by the skin of our teeth, not because of directions, but because we hit downtown Chicago at rush hour in the middle of a freaking blizzard. Getting through a storm like that should have been our biggest obstacle. Sadly, that was yet to come.

But we made it, we saw our friends, we went to parties [at which I discovered I was by far the least intelligent person in every room… I would never have made it at Notre Dame]… we enjoyed the football game and met up again for the long car ride home.

As it turns out, it was a bit longer than we originally anticipated.

It was the weekend before a big test, so while I drove and Heidi navigated from the passenger’s seat, Nicole was quizzing us off of note cards from the back seat. Unlike the blizzard on the way there, it was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, we were chatting and listening to music and… oh yeah, studying… when Nicole piped up from the back seat:

Uhm, guys? Are you noticing a lot of Wisconsin license plates?”

And just then, we noticed a sign for the Wisconsin Dells. And realized that most of the truck stops had huge wedges of cheese on their signage. We were heading back to Iowa… from Indiana… via Wisconsin.

I have seriously never laughed so hard in all of my life.

We stopped at the truck stop with the huge cheese wedge and fought for the one-stall bathroom because we all were about to pee our pants laughing. It only got worse when we realized that we needed that stupid Wisconsin map after all! Making the best of it, we put Nicole in the passenger’s seat to take over navigation duties and decided to take the map’s designated scenic route home… we figured if we were going to be driving for hours, we might as well have pretty trees to look at.

I hate to even mention that I almost missed the exit for our college when we were minutes from home. Because that part of the navigation would have totally been my fault, unlike the rest of it. :)

That is still one of my favorite trips of all time, and it absolutely bonded Nicole, Heidi and me for life. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the three of us have been together where laughter wasn’t the main component. We’ve celebrated their weddings and their babies, new homes and new jobs. And while I think we would have been close regardless, I’m pretty sure that moment in Wisconsin sealed the deal on our friendship. Which is why I think always knowing where you’re going can be overrated.

Sometimes life’s best moments happen when you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time with the right people. I’d get lost with them again any day.


a to z

Alrighty… don’t forget to leave a comment with an [M] topic for next week’s post.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Real Story

When I think about being little and hearing the story of Jesus’ birth, I remember being amazed at such an important baby being born in a manger. I even remember being amazed that Mary said yes to the angel without a second thought. But mostly I remember having a romanticized version of the Nativity in my mind.

I pictured Mary serene and sure of herself. I imagined her smiling and joyful because such an amazing thing was asked of her. My mind saw her as she was in all the pictures and Nativity scenes… lovely, peaceful, wearing spotless garments, draped in blue and hair perfect. The barn looked clean and lovely, and the manger seemed as though it was always meant for a baby.

If only life were truly that picture perfect.

A few years ago, when The Nativity Story came out in theaters, I wanted to see it so badly. It looked like such a real depiction of the events, but I wasn’t able to go see it and honestly forgot about it shortly thereafter. This week I noticed it running on TNT, so I sat myself down to watch it and got lost in the story.

The real story. The one where their lives were full of the worry of work and taxes and what neighbors think of you. The story where Mary says yes to the angel, but walks away with questions and concerns. The one where Joseph needs coaxing to believe in Mary, the one where her parents want her to stay home from the census to protect her, the one where their neighbors shun them for what is perceived as their sinful ways. The story where Mary and Joseph admit their fears to each other but continue on their journey because they answered the call to do what was right.

They didn’t just peacefully travel to Bethlehem on a donkey, as we see in the story books. They struggled. They ran out of food. They nearly lost their footing crossing a river and Mary prayed aloud that God would help them find a way to get through their journey.

She didn’t ask for a chariot. She didn’t ask for their way to be made simple. She didn’t ask for God to reveal His plan to all so she wouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation. She didn’t ask for it to be easy. Mary simply asked for help and strength. And she was given both. Sometimes it seems natural for us to think that life is supposed to be easy. Or, if we’re on the right path, that it should be made smooth for us. But if we can learn anything from Mary and Joseph, it’s that we should forge ahead doing right for right’s sake. Whether the journey seems impossible, or it seems we deserve better … we need only remember that God’s own Son didn’t have an easy way into this life. Or out of it. But He was given the same help and strength that was given to His parents. The same help and strength that is offered to us every day if we choose to look, not beyond our circumstances, but in the midst of them.

Mary and Joseph didn’t wait until they were in a cozy home to be grateful that God had pulled them through. In the midst of the rough circumstances they found at the stable, they recognized the gift that had been entrusted to them. This Christmas, as we think about what didn’t go quite right or how we may have wanted things to be easier, stop and remember that just as Mary and Joseph found all those years ago, we too are always given blessings in the hay.

It’s so easy to get distracted by the difficulties instead of the joy, but today – and every day – should be about remembering why we are here. Who gave us life. The struggle He had to go through just to be born. The faithfulness of Mary and Joseph, not to be rescued and their burdens eased, but instead to fulfill what God asked of them.

We are here because He was born.

How blessed we are.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ha! Ha! Ha! Merry Christmas

I tend to go toward the funny/sarcastic side with my Christmas greetings. Trust me, I don’t lose sight of the reason we celebrate, and I love all the heartfelt Christmas letters people send out. They are lovely and meaningful and I so appreciate the chance to catch up on people’s lives.

But I don’t have one of those lives you want to rehash in a Christmas letter. Illness and pain don’t exactly scream, “Joy to the World!” And since I don’t have cute kids to put on a photo card, I go with next best thing:

Riley, of course.

riley 2009-2

See? He’s always good for a chuckle. :)

I’ve seen this video floating around Facebook lately, and I thought it was brilliant as well. If you need a little stress reliever in the middle of all your holiday planning and hubbub…  watch these Silent Monks:

I’ll be back to wish you a Merry Christmas on Friday, but for now remember to take a breather in the midst of the chaos and enjoy your moments!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter K

3498855095_6edeb0a7c1_o[I think this is my favorite crazy-letter picture yet…]

I love that a number of you chose the word kindred for your [K] topic, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about so much lately.

Kindred spirits.

And how easy it would have been to miss them.

I never cease to be amazed how, in every stage of my life, God has opened my heart to so many friendships. I love that I have friends who make me laugh until I cry. I love that some of my friends are so shy, until they get comfortable, and then they shock the life out of me with things they say or do. I love that some friends are intellectual and planners. I love that other friends go totally on emotion and spontaneity abounds. I have friends who are so much like me I think we may be the same person, and I have friends who are so opposite of me they keep me looking at life from different angles. I love that God knew I needed all of it and placed me right where I needed to be to find each and every one of them.

I just put up new Christmas photos on my “friend door” and smiled at the diversity. Friends from high school, friends from college, friends from church, friends from blogs and twitter. My Compassion friend, Tsegaye, from another world altogether. Some of those faces I talk to everyday, some I twitter with endlessly, some I haven’t seen or spoken to in way too long… but my heart smiles at the sight of them. I am alone 99% of the time, but I walk by those faces and am amazed by how many people I have with me in my life.

Sometimes I wonder how many I have missed. How many kindred spirits were put right in my path, but I walked by and didn’t pay attention. Because they were different than me. Because I was too busy to stop and pay attention. Because they were too loud or too quiet or too needy. Because I was too tired or too nervous or too insecure. Because they might not have fit into the life I was creating or because I was afraid I did fit into theirs.

I feel like this blog has given me a second chance at meeting kindred spirits I might not have otherwise. There are so many people I never would have been in touch with if it wasn’t for technology. Facebook has brought old friends back into my life I’m sure I wouldn't have spoken to again. Twitter has opened a door to friendships I never could have created in my imagination… people who keep me laughing, people whose stories make me cry, people who ask how I am if I’ve been quiet too long and people who feel like next door neighbors even though we’ll never meet.

And then there are all of you. Real friends. Real kindred spirits. You are all as diverse as the people in my world that came before you… funny, sarcastic, kind, searching, timid, loving, generous, hopeful, discouraged, compassionate. I want you to know that I treasure each and every aspect of each and every one of you. Christmas is as good a time as any to make sure you know you are valued and appreciated. And trust me, you are.

I’m getting quite excited, because a week from today… as long as the weather permits and they stay healthy… I’m going to get to hug a few kindred spirits in person. Jessica, Matthew and Elias have become like family to me, and even though we’ve never met in person, I feel like I’ve spent hours hanging out on their couch and experiencing life with them.


But now I’m going to get to do that for real! They are taking a detour on their way back to Nashville from Wisconsin to see me. Little ol’ me. And here’s the thing: even if the weather turns nasty or they all come down with colds or some other act of fate keeps them away next Monday [which would suck, just to clarify], I have had so much fun just feeling the anticipation of seeing them. Enjoying the thought of welcoming new friends into my home who feel like old friends I just haven’t seen in awhile. I’ve been overwhelmed that they are making such a huge effort and am giddy that I get to kiss Elias’ cheeks until he can’t take it anymore.

Mostly, I’m just very blessed. Blessed with old friends and new friends and friends yet to enter my life.

Kindred spirits. The beautiful gift that keeps on giving.

a to z

Ok, you all know what to do… leave me a comment with the [L] topic of your choice and we’ll see what it inspires for next week’s post. :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flashback Friday: Breath of Heaven

In an effort to get back into our Flashback Friday routine, I thought this post was a great one to revisit during the Christmas season. Hope it helps put you in the frame of mind for what Christmas is all about. This song does it for me every time.


Breath of Heaven
[originally posted 12.8.08]

Since my first day at college, I was involved at St. Stephen the Witness Catholic Student Center. I loved that place and the ever-evolving community. As a freshman I had upperclassmen who took me under their wing. I had friends my age who were going through the same ups and downs of college life. And as I made my way through the years, I eventually mentored others and took them under my wing. While the community changed, the environment didn't. It was a place of love and support and acceptance and learning.

All of those things are still in that building for me. I haven't been able to be there to celebrate Mass or join in activities for a long time, but I can close my eyes and see the details, smell the essence, hear the trickle of the baptismal font and feel the closeness of the air that hugs you into a sense of serenity. I loved worshipping there.

Mostly, I loved singing there.

I'm not the best singer in the world, but it is, hands down, the thing I loved to do the most. I don't read music so I would meet the pianist for our practice session carrying a mini-recorder to tape the songs. Then I would take it home and play it over and over to have the music ingrained in me until I could sing without thinking.

I would stand up to the microphone on Sunday morning and see a sea of faces who were there for something so much bigger than us. And I would do the same thing each time... silently pray the Memorare and ask for Mary to send one of the angels in the choir to sing for me that day. I would ask that whatever message was supposed to be given would be heard, and then I would concentrate on the words and the meaning and trust that the notes would come out right. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't, but regardless I always felt a connection with the community.

One year around Christmas time I had recorded a radio jingle for our local airport... it was the corniest jingle ever, but the studio I was at gave me a deal on some recording time. I had enough money from the jingle to be in the studio for one hour, and I recorded eight songs back-to-back. Each song had one take... no going back to fix it if I hit a wrong note or ran out of breath. I took the opportunity to record the songs I had done most often at St. Stephen's to share with the people it meant something to.

The song I still have people tell me they miss at this time of year was a song I would have sang today on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception... Breath of Heaven. So, for all of you from St. Stephen's that read the blog, and for all of you new friends of mine, I'm going to share my recording of it today. I know others have sang it better, but I hope you get as much out of hearing it as I got out of singing it for so many years. Just click the play button on the player below and wait a second for it to start. And remember I'm not a professional... just a person who loved the experience of sharing the moment.

07 Breath of Heaven  by  gitzengirl

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peace & Quiet

It is blissfully quiet in my house. Would you like to know why?

Because this:


and this:


and these:


and these:


have all finished doing their jobs. And, oh my soul, those little green fans were LOUD… and constant… for six full days. But my walls are dry, the ceilings are dry, the carpets are dry and have been re-stretched. The fans and dehumidifiers have been removed and the carpet has been cleaned.


Now I just have to wait for the carpet to dry from the cleaning, get my furniture off the styrofoam blocks, have Dawn come clean on Friday, wait for my lungs to start working again and then


Well, my version of normal, anyway. But it will be my bizarre and unpredictable normal in a completely normal home. :) Funny how having my condo back to it’s previous state can feel like a Christmas present in and of itself!

The next thing I have to do is start taking down my Christmas photo cards from last year:

Am I the only one who leaves them up year-round? I don’t even like removing last year’s until I have a good number to replace them with, because I hate to see my “friend door” look so incredibly bare. Maybe I’m losing it from being in isolation so long, but walking by all those smiling faces makes me feel like it hasn’t been so long since I’ve seen everyone. I’m a bit sentimental that way.

So, I’ll be saying goodbye to them:

IMG_8169 IMG_8162 IMG_8164 IMG_8167

and anxiously awaiting my [hopefully] overflowing mailbox. I’ll just let that be my open invitation for anyone to send me a photo card. You can be sure it will be appreciated all year long. :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter J


If I have learned one thing in this life, it is that God will not tie my shoes without me. - Doug Boyd

When you all suggested Joy for today’s [J] topic, this quote immediately came to mind. I know, there’s no mention of “joy” in it… but there is a message about how to go about achieving joy.

I’ve obviously written about joy before. I’ve defined it for myself and written at length about the fact that I consciously choose joy rather than waiting for it to find me. But just like joy has to be chosen, I also have to put some work into it before the choice is available. Hence, the quote. God gives us the tools, the opportunities, the situations… but it’s up to US to do something with what He provides. He’s willing to stoop over and guide our hands, but we have to be willing to put in the effort to tie our own shoes.

Sometimes we get lucky and joy just knocks us upside the head. We can call those moments “slipper joy” since we just slide right into them and there is no tying required. It’s cozy and comforting and we sometimes take for granted that it will always be available and waiting for us at the end of a hard day. But more often than not, joy is hidden in the cracks, in the unforeseen places God builds into our hardest times.

The example that comes to mind for me has everything to do with my physical situation this summer. When I had discovered earlier in the year that being homebound was going to be a permanent lifestyle for me, I had given away some things that I knew I wouldn’t ever use again… things like purses and coats and dresses. This summer, when I got so sick and started blowing up from the Cushing’s, I looked at my summer clothes and realized what a waste it was to have them sitting in my dresser. Clothes I knew I wouldn’t wear this summer for sure, simply because they wouldn’t fit me, but it also felt like a reminder of all the places I wore them, and all the places I would never go again.

Sure, I could have saved them to wear around my house, but that thought didn’t bring me joy. It’s like all my past fun times of going out with friends in those cute clothes suddenly got confined to my house with me. So I had Susie come over to go shopping.

I could have just given her boxes of clothes and been done with it, but I honestly want to squeeze joy out of every little moment I can. I miss shopping, helping other people pick out clothes, figuring out what outfits they could put together from their closets. So I made Susie try on every single piece of clothing and we talked about them just like it was a shopping trip. And I had fun. Giving brought me joy. Shopping in my own house for someone else brought me joy. Later, when Susie would tell me she wore something of mine out to dinner with friends, it brought me joy. It made me feel like a part of me was still there with her, still having fun, still participating.

That joy was sitting right there in my drawers. It could have brought me sadness and longing, but instead I chose joy. I put the work into something sad and made it happy. God gave me the material and then I tied my own shoes.

Speaking of shoes, I just did the same thing about a month ago when my mom and dad were here. We had Dad working on a few honey-dos around the condo [sorry Dad, no husband means you’re stuck with my honey-do list for life] while mom and I went shoe shopping in my closet. She had said they might stop at Von Maur on their way home and I realized I could save her a fortune! I started handing her shoes and she started putting them in bags… and that’s when I had to explain the rules. There was no taking unless she tried them on and showed them off for me.

I’m so demanding.

But, because I’m demanding, what started out seeming like another honey-do task of packing up shoes turned into an afternoon of shoe shopping, figuring out outfits, telling stories and having fun. We could have filled those two garbage bags full of shoes [yes, seriously, two garbage bags] and I would have been happy to have had the opportunity to give. But I don’t think that happiness would have turned into joy if we hadn’t put a little work into it. We made the effort to find the joy in the moment… we tied our own shoes.

It’s just something for you to think about as you go through your day today. Stop and take in your moments. Look at them from another angle. See where God may be bending down to assist you if you would just reach down and grab the laces.

Joy is sometimes in the most unlikely places. You just have to put in a little work before you can find it.

a to z

Alright, peeps… this only works if you participate. :) So leave me your [K] topic suggestions in the comment section and we’ll see what I can come up with for next Monday!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm Irish. Where's My Luck?!?

Settle in, folks. This is going to be a long one…

You know how they say lightning never strikes twice?

Apparently flooding does. And it may be good I can’t ever walk outside again… because if I was in the general vicinity of lightning I’m pretty sure it would hit me each and every time. :)

So, if you read my previous post, you noticed that I had an accidental flood in my condo a few years ago when a washing machine repairman failed to hook up a hose before he left. Thankfully, back then, I was still able to get out and about. The solution was to park myself in a hotel for four days while they dried out my place and cleaned my carpets. We all know that’s no longer an option.

That became in-my-face apparent when my condo flooded again in the wee hours of Saturday morning. [Hi, my name is Unlucky. It’s lovely to meet you.] I was just getting into bed around 1:30am when Riley started FREAKING OUT. I’m talking jumping off the bed, barking, ready to take on an intruder. An intruder I was pretty sure didn’t exist considering I couldn’t hear a darn thing. Of course, I scolded him and tried to get him to stop barking… to no avail. I finally got up to show him no one was in the condo when I walked into the other room and heard a weird noise myself.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my utility closet to discover it had been raining in my house. There are two reasons that was confusing to me. One, I don’t live on the top floor so it couldn’t be a leaky roof. And two, it wasn’t raining.

Yeah, I’m quick like that.

I tried calling one of my neighbors that I’m friends with because I knew she wouldn’t mind me waking her up in the middle of the night, and because I knew her husband would know what to do. I assumed that a pipe burst or something in the condo above me and no one knew because the girl had moved out. [You remember her… yes, it’s been peaceful since she left.] When they didn’t answer, I tried my friend Candace, who lives right above me on the third floor.

Poor Candace. That’s when I found out her hot water heater had burst [literally, there was a hole in the side of it] and she had water everywhere. She had a friend coming to help her, so I did the only thing I knew to do in the middle of the night. I called my friend Susie to see if I could borrow her husband. :)

Bless Mark’s heart, he showed up at my place at 2am to help me with the water. When I first opened the door to the closet, I tried to drag out the bag of dog food and dog litter, and in doing so put myself in enough pain to know I wasn’t going to be doing anything else. So, while waiting for Mark to come I sat on the phone with Susie while watching the water pour on all my stuff. I think the term for that feeling would be helpless.

It was then that I noticed it was raining from the ceiling above my fridge in the kitchen. And from my ceiling by my front door. And then I walked by the bathroom to see it raining from the door frame and the floor covered in water. At that point all I said was, “Uhm, Susie? Please tell me not to panic.”

She obliged, and I stayed pretty calm. It probably didn’t hurt that I have to take a ridiculous amount of nighttime medication in order to go to bed, including heavy duty muscle relaxants, sleep aids and narcotics. I don’t think I had a choice to be anything but calm.

Here’s the fun part: right before Mark got here, the furnace/air conditioning stopped working. Which means my air purifier stopped working. And about 20 minutes later, my lungs stopped working very well, too. I lost my voice, started coughing and could barely get any air. So at that point I started adding Benadryl to my arsenal of previously ingested medications.

Good times.

Mark worked his butt off until the water stopped coming in at about 3:30 in the morning, at which time I sent him home to hopefully salvage some sort of sleep. That’s also about the time I was debating what in the world I could do to prepare for the next day… which I knew would be a doozy. I really didn’t want to wake someone else with a middle-of-the-night phone call from the sick girl, knowing that would immediately cause panic. But I was also afraid that my meds would eventually knock me out and I wouldn’t be up to call for help in the morning. So here’s how it went:

Dad:Hello?” [panicked voice]
Me: “It’s me. I’m fine. Don’t worry. But my house is flooded.”
Dad:How? What are you going to do?”
Me: “Call you and tell you to come in the morning.”

Yep, that’s how I problem solve. I call Dad.

So, Mom and Dad show up at 8am and I promptly send them upstairs to make sure Candace is ok and give her a hug, because her parents live out of state and I figured she could share mine. :) I had already called the people who installed my air purifier [which had standing water in it] and they were so helpful, showing up within an hour of my call. They knew how much it had helped me and didn’t want to leave me without it any longer than they had to.

They totally just made my Christmas card list. Now I just have to make Christmas cards.

The dude fixed my furnace, then fixed the air purifier, and I stopped just short of kissing him and promising him the first born I’m never going to have. Mom and Dad came back down and brought Larry, the guy who was going to be drying out Candace’s condo, so he could take care of my place as well.

It was at that point that we had to explain how sick I am, my disease, and the fact that I can’t leave the house during this process. That’s when Larry became my new best friend. He set up dehumidifiers and fans and equipment to dry out the place, but didn’t turn the heat up to 92 degrees like he did in the other condos, so I could isolate myself in a back room that was unaffected, pump in air from the air conditioner and not feel like I was in a sauna.

Bless Mom and Dad for staying over night with me on Saturday night, because at that point I was in enough pain, hadn’t had any sleep and was not doing great on the breathing front. My body had started to go into shock with me getting cold, not being able to stop shaking and my teeth chattering uncontrollably. That’s happened before so I wasn’t overly concerned, but it sure was nice to have people to cuddle on the couch with.

Yeah. So, this has just been really fun. My voice/breathing is still affected by all the crap in my house, but it is so much better than it would have been if they hadn’t got the air purifier working again. Don’t get me wrong, there are major blessings in all the madness, like the fact that I was able to stay in my condo. But I, my parents, my sister and my friends are all constantly saying… “So, we don’t have a Plan B. What’s the Plan B?” Meaning… should something catastrophic happen and I have no choice but to leave this house… what in God’s name am I going to do?

I’ll let you know when I get that one figured out.

In the meantime, I’m still in the back room and they are still working on getting the moisture out of my walls and ceiling. And, just for fun, I didn’t have a phone or internet for the past 24 hours due to weather issues.

See, we’re having a blizzard. They’re talking a foot of snow and 45mph winds. But on the bright side, my phone is back, my internet is back, my house is drying out and I have Riley the wonder dog to keep me company.

What can I say? I have the luck of the Irish. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

You Need to Prepare for this One…

Ok, so I had a weekend that I’m pretty sure any soap opera would reject as a storyline for being too far fetched. I haven’t been feeling quite well enough to sit down and write the story for you yet, so I thought I would republish an old post to help get you prepared.

It has to do with luck. And my lack of it. And don’t be worried… at this point in my life I laugh about this stuff rather than cry about it, so rest assured they haven’t had to haul me off to the loony bin yet.

Then again, considering I can’t leave the house I’m not sure that would be an option anyway. :)

Here’s the “background” post … I’ll be back with the crazy tale in a day or so.


In the Immortal Words of Jack Nicholson…
[first published: April 30, 2009]

Jack-Nicholson-Photograph-C12148072 I’m B-a-a-a-a-a-a-ck….

Oh, peeps… I’ve never been so happy to get a FedEx delivery in my entire life! If I would have gone one more day without my own laptop I was going to so closely resemble Jack in that photo that someone would have insisted on doing a remake just to utilize the expression.

From here on out, anytime I let myself get a little down about being homebound I’m going to remember how much more confining it would really be if I didn’t have this amazing technology that lets me be a part of the world while not being out in the world.

I’m lucky to live in the age of technology, people.

And while I’m blessed with technology, I also happen to be the person that causes technology to self-destruct. There have been times I have actually wondered if I give off some sort of electrical vibe that wreaks havoc on appliances.

This time it was the computer… which I knew was dying a slow death, but I was trying to live in denial for as long as humanly possible. The cd/dvd burner had died off awhile ago, prompting me to get an external dvd drive. I had also been using an external hard drive for awhile [photos take up a lot of room] but even with that, the computer kept running slower and slower… sometimes taking up to 20 minutes to restart. Not a good sign. But when the monitor went black, I closed the curtain on this production and went in search of a better alternative.

The craziness happened when I borrowed a friend’s monitor to hook up to the laptop so I could make sure I saved all the important documents. I was working away when I heard a ‘POP!’ and then saw and smelled smoke coming out of the electrical cord. I grabbed the cord to unplug it and – dude – it was HOT. So even though I had already closed the curtain, I still got to see the death scene, and it definitely had my heart racing!

But even that excitement is nothing compared to the worst technology month in history I had a few years ago. It was May, my birthday month. A time when all should be sunshine and flowers, and it was instead full of swear words you’d rather not have me repeat here...

It all began with me being cooped up for months, dealing with pneumonia. I was finally starting to get up and around, and decided I was going to try leaving the house [this was back in the day when I was still driving]. I showered, put on makeup and cute clothes, and was ready to go… only to get to my garage and discover a car that wouldn’t start. A few winter months in the garage led to a dead battery and a seriously disappointed me. But I was determined… I got the car jumped the next day and went out for attempt number two.

Only to get to the end of the parking lot and realize that my tire was nearly flat. Which means my first fun outing in months was to sit in the waiting room at the tire place right after I paid to replace the tire. I was off to a great start…

Until I threw my comforter in the washing machine the next week, and it got caught in some mechanism that caused the rim of the tub to break. I was feeling like a winner at that point. So I had the repair man come fix it, only when he did the repair he failed to hook one of the hoses back on correctly. After he left I put in a load of laundry, went in the other room to work on the computer, and didn’t realize until the water had seeped through the walls and into the room I was in that my house was being flooded.

I’m not talking about a little bit of water here, people. I’m saying when my friend Meg and her son Ben came over to check it out he was having a ball because he could jump in the puddles on my carpet and watch the water splash all about. We waivered between panic and laughter about the ridiculousness of the situation… but mostly we panicked. So, I spent four days at a hotel [days which included my birthday, thankyouverymuch] while a cleaning service set up huge machines to dry out my walls and carpet.

You think that’s the end of it, right? If you do, then you haven’t known me long enough. :) No, after that I got back home, went to use the bathroom and the handle to flush literally broke off in my hands. That prompted me to send out an email to everyone I knew, stating: “My life is seriously going down the toilet. I just wish I had a handle so I could flush it.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pain and Suffering

My friend Tam had a quote on her blog the other day that keeps popping back into my mind:

“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.”
                                                                            – Paul Claudel

It has me thinking about the distinction between pain and suffering. They are obviously closely related… even the dictionary overlaps their meanings. And they are certainly put together in every courtroom drama I’ve ever watched. But I think, in terms of our lives, they don’t have to go hand in hand because the physical can be separated from the emotional.

Not all the time. Especially not when we are trying to get through hard times on our own. Sometimes it’s a process, but when we are open enough to step out of the way and let God fill it with His presence, it’s a whole different ball game.

And it requires us to trust with everything we are.

I think I’ve written for long enough now that everyone knows pain is a constant part of my daily existence. I honestly can’t remember what it was like not to feel every joint in my body. I walk with my walker in my dreams… when I’m having a dream where I’m outside, I’m usually panicking and asking someone how I can get back indoors before I stop breathing. It’s just who I am now. My friends have gotten used to the fact that I wince and utter “ouch” and sometimes stop talking mid-sentence when the pain makes me catch my breath. I barely notice I’m doing it. I’m so accustomed to the pain now that I don’t consider it suffering as much as I used to.

But there are physical moments when the pain causes real suffering. The moments when it escalates and is unrelenting to the point of making me sick. I physically suffer. But when I let Him, I am filled with His presence in my spirit and I can feel strong in the middle of that weakness.

Emotionally, it’s called a pit of despair for a reason. A hole can be dug inside us so deep that it seems everything good has been excavated from our lives. We all have different ways that happens… I’ve lost abilities and freedoms and the potential for many things. You may have lost someone you’ve loved or found yourself in situations you never dreamed of facing. A pit is dug. And despair is the first visitor that wants to knock at your door.

It’s in those moments when I pray for God to get me out of His way. It’s those moments when I stop praying for what I want and start praying for Him to change my heart for what He wants. I pray that I can be aware of His opportunities. It requires me to trust Him completely. That doesn’t change my physical pain. It doesn’t change the loss. It doesn’t improve my earthly situation.

But it does change the suffering.

It allows me to not answer the door to despair and instead invite His presence into the pit. The pit that looks jagged and deep, which turns out to be a God-shaped hole in the center of our beings. A hole that is dug by circumstances and choices, and is filled with His grace.

I am in pain. He has made sure I don’t have to suffer.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Snuggies: All the Cool Dogs are Wearing Them

Now, before you all go judging me for my Snuggie-wearing dog… let me provide you with a little background.

My condo is cold. Now, I’m not just talking a little chilly. I’m talking C-O-L-D, cold. As in, today is December 1st in Iowa and I actually ran my air conditioner.

See, I’ve been dealing with this little thing called Cushing’s. And apparently, despite the fact that my body temperature hovers around 95.7 degrees [well below normal] I feel like I’m boiling from the inside out. The last time my sister Laura was here, she went into my closet to borrow a sweatshirt and then buried herself under a blanket.

I was sweating.

On the plus side, I’m totally prepared for menopause someday.

A little over a week ago, I had a discussion with my nurse about the fact that the H1N1 rampage that went through our town seemed to be subsiding. The result of that discussion is that I’m going to be letting people back in my house after months of seclusion, as long as they have no signs of illness and they aren’t in close contact with people who are showing signs of illness. I couldn’t wait to tell Susie on Thursday after the nurse left, and on Saturday her lovely family came over for a movie night.

All four of them spent the evening curled up under a blanket, huddled together on my couch, while I turned a mini fan on myself. I’m hot, people. And not in a good way.

So, I bought my dog a Snuggie. It was the humane thing to do.

IMG_8116 “Don’t mess with me, people. I’m cold.
And a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do.”

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter I


There was an interesting suggestion last week that I write today’s post using all “I” statements. I have a feeling writing a story would be easier, but I’ll take the challenge! :)


have almost all of my Christmas shopping done. I started on Saturday and only have 4 gifts left to pick out. Two thumbs up for online shopping! I also have a way for you to do something charitable while shopping, without spending an extra dime! When you shop on, go to their site through this link: and they will donate a small referral fee to my friend Alece’s Thrive Africa mission. It’s like giving two Christmas presents in one! :) She really does amazing work.

know my mom hates it when I say this, but just this one time it’s true:

am an IDIOT. [Hey! That starts with an “I”, too! :)] I’m not an idiot all the time, but I certainly was on Wednesday. I had ordered Chinese food as a treat for Thanksgiving since I read that it is typically safe for whey allergies. I still don’t know if that’s true or not, because I never actually got to the main entree. [Here’s where the idiotic part comes in.] You know how sometimes Chinese restaurants put an eggroll in with the meal? This establishment put in a couple crab rangoon. I LOVE crab rangoon. A lot. And I took a bite. And swallowed. Yeah, well, it contains cream cheese. I knew the moment I swallowed what I had done, and then spent Wednesday night through Saturday on a lot of Benadryl trying to fight off the reaction that ensued.

wasn’t kidding when I told you I was an idiot. Happy Thanksgiving to me.

won’t ever mistakenly eat crab rangoon again. On a happy note:

discovered that double stuffed Oreos don’t contain whey! I realize that is disturbing considering it claims to have a cream-filled center and actually contains no milk, but it’s a win in my favor so I’m not complaining. :)

have found myself starting phrases with “I used to…” a lot lately with new friends. Statements like, “I used to love to dance…” or “I used to be a singer…” and “I used to be really active in my church…”

wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where it doesn’t seem odd to be living a “before and after” life.

am slightly embarrassed to admit that I bought Riley a Snuggie for Dogs.

promise I’ll post a photo of him in it soon. :)

wake up every morning thinking that today’s the day I’m going to get all my emails returned and get caught up on my inbox.

still have an overflowing inbox.

can now definitely say I’ve turned a corner with this whole Cushing’s thing.

still look more like a woman named Big Bertha than I look like myself, but I’ve stopped gaining weight [woo hoo!], some of the swelling has gone down [which means I no longer see the tops of my cheeks when looking at the television… and yes, that was annoying], and every once in a while I have moments of real energy. I have a long way to go, but I am on the road!

am currently trying to figure out a set up that would make it possible for me to paint some canvases again. Because in those moments of energy, I want to make you guys stuff. :)

just realized how long this post is getting, and that I could seriously ramble on like this forever. So, I’m going to leave you with this:

am finally in the Christmas spirit. Wanna know why? It’s not because my trees are up. It’s not because of all the Hallmark Christmas movies I watched this weekend in between football games. It’s not even because I busted out some Christmas music. It’s because my friend Shannon [known to you as the commenter named “chickadeesmama”] sent me a video of her sweet, beautiful, oldest daughter Hannah performing ballet to Come Let Us Adore Him – with a talent that is beyond her years.

might be bursting with pride despite the fact that I’m not actually her mom. :) If your heart needs to be moved into the Christmas spirit, just watch the video below. [Hannah is the one on the far left.]

I did, and…

I loved it. :)


a to z

Ok, peeps… leave me some “J” topic suggestions for next week’s post!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I’ve had people asking for the past week or so about my Thanksgiving plans.

Are you having company? How are you celebrating? Will you be lonely? Is anyone bringing you a plate of their Thanksgiving feast to share?

I’m thankful for people caring so much about me that they think about my Thanksgiving, and am so very blessed to be cared for the way that I am by people I’ve never even met. It never ceases to amaze me, although it really shouldn’t considering how invested I am in the lives of all of you as well.

In truth, I don’t have Thanksgiving plans simply because it’s not possible. My family will be at my parents’ house for a “Thanksmas” celebration, mixing two holidays into one. I obviously can’t travel, and it would be impossible for me to be around such a large group anyway because the odds of all 21 people being healthy at the same time are probably not in my favor. When I used to be able to get out of the house but couldn’t take the long car ride, I always had friends’ homes to go to, and am thankful for all the years they included me as family. But now I stay in my air-purified home and am thankful for the opportunity it affords me to breathe easier.

As was evidenced just this past Easter… I’ve never lacked in the food department on the holidays I’ve spent here alone. I often found it funny because no less than three friends, sometimes as many as five, would drop off a plate of food for me so I wasn’t missing out on the traditions… which means I probably had enough food in my house to last a week of celebrating! But this year, with the new food allergy issues, I can’t take the risk of eating foods without knowing what’s in them and how they’re prepared, so I’ll be sticking to the items in my own fridge for my Thanksgiving feast.

So, with one road block after another stopping me from the traditions of holidays past… you’d think I’d be really sad about missing out on everything. I sat down to write this after hanging up with a friend who said she was so bummed for me that I would be here alone on the holiday… because I realized that it’s really not bothering me very much at all.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

I mean, of course I’d love to be with all of my family again. Sure, I’d prefer to get out of the house and socialize with my friends. And YES, diving into mashed potatoes would have been delightful. It’s not that I prefer this.

It’s that I’ve learned to appreciate this.

I’ve learned to appreciate the simplicity in my moments. I’ve learned that being thankful in everything is more important than being thankful for something. I want to be grateful for everything in my life, not just the special moments.

I’m thankful for the years of traditions, and I’m thankful that now I get to reflect on them, remember them, cherish them. I’m thankful to know that my family will be together and my nieces and nephews look forward to seeing each other again. I appreciate hearing my friends’ stories about their family get-togethers and the insanity that always ensues. And, while I’m not in the middle of all of the festivities, I am still immersed in the blessings of my everyday life.

  • I am thankful for the system that purifies the air in my condo so I can breathe.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to live in the comfort of this condo that is so perfectly suited to me and my needs.
  • I’m thankful for the program that allows me to hire someone to do my shopping for me and clean my home, so I can live independently.
  • I’m thankful for my home nurses who keep tabs on my health so I don’t feel overwhelmed by the responsibility.
  • I’m thankful for this online community that has adopted me into their families, offering more love and support than I knew possible.
  • I’m thankful for my faith and the peace with which God graces me.
  • I’m thankful for family and friends who love me, visit me, call me.
  • I’m thankful for the abilities I’ve been able to hold onto, and I’m thankful I had the chance to experience the abilities that are no longer mine.

I’m not in the least bit bothered to be here alone on the holiday of gratitude, because it’s the same as any other day. I am simply grateful. I appreciate my life because it’s the one He has given to me, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it wishing for anything else.

Besides, I have this ornery pup for company:

IMG_1652 fixed

What more could I possibly need? :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter H


Aww, man… I was so excited when someone mentioned horses as an “H” word for this week’s post, because I know we have a bunch of photos of us with our horses growing up. I know, because I can picture them in my mind. Ones of our swayback horse Candy Candoo in the driveway, ones of Jake and Molly – yellow and red little foals – right after they were born. We have pictures at 4-H events and one of me standing on a barrel in the backyard helping my brother Jerry practice for the barrel races.

We had horses. We have pictures. But apparently, I don’t have the pictures.


Someday I’m going to have to confiscate my siblings' albums that obviously contain the pictures I can see in my mind… but I have a feeling they aren’t going to hand them over if they know said photos will wind up on the blog. :)

Most kids growing up ride their bikes with friends around neighborhoods, but we had more horses than bikes and more siblings then neighboring friends, so we rode our horses into the little nearby village of Irvington to get candy at the general store. I realize that sounds like I’m telling a far-fetched story about walking to school in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways… but we really did have horses. And a village. And a general store.

Gotta love country life…

My brother Jerry had a stallion named Kid that was the worst horse ever. He was spirited and mean and only let people on his back so he could try to buck them off. Needless to say, I never tried to ride that horse. My brother Jim got a quarter horse named Bogie for Christmas one year… poor kid thought he got seriously screwed in the Christmas present department until Dad mentioned, after the rest of us had ripped into our gifts, that there may be something left out in the barn.

Isn’t that that the coolest thing? To walk out into the barn and find your very own horse for Christmas?

My horse, Sparky, was the smartest, oldest and orneriest horse. He was a smaller, black and white horse that Dad actually had when he was younger… once you got a saddle and reigns on him, he was a perfect animal. I could literally say “right” or “left” and he’d know what I was talking about. The only complaint is that he preferred to trot more than run, which can leave a tush pretty sore after awhile.

But believe me, that horse knew how to run. We know this because Sparky was an instigator when my siblings would try and catch their horses. He would see people walking up to the fence and take off in a dead run across the field… and every other horse followed right after him. I’m thinking when mom suggested for us to go for a ride, she was probably thinking she had a couple hours of peace and quiet… not just because of the riding, but because of the time wasted trying to catch the darn animals.

Now, I know you all have read the story about my brothers going for rides on their horses and propping me up by the kitchen sink to talk to them through the sprayer. And you probably think that’s as gullible as I could get. You should know better by now. In truth, it’s trumped by the times when I was very little and they couldn’t catch Sparky. Instead they drug out a plastic, spring-hinged riding horse and told me to ride on that in the yard while they rode around on real, live, actual horses.

And being the ridiculous, youngest sibling that I was, I did it.

I’m still waiting for the old “what goes around comes around” adage to kick in, but so far they seem to have gotten away with it.

While the six of us kids may have grown up with horses, the deepest love for the animal resides in my beautiful niece, Rebecca. When she was little she wanted nothing more than to be a horse herself, and would trot around the house on her hands and knees for hours on end. [You must click here to see pictures of her bucking…]

Becca’s obsession with horses has only grown, and she spent most of her time this summer caring for her horse, Brandy.

horse becca

As it happens, the only old photo I could find was one of her mom with her horse Jenny when she was around Becca’s age. [She’s either going to think it’s fun to see both of these photos together, or she’s coming after me for posting it…]

horse laura

Like mother, like daughter. :)


Ok, peeps… leave your “I” topic suggestions for next week’s A 2 Z post in the comment section!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: Your Hair Is Pretty

Ok, so it’s been one of those weeks. Sometimes when I’m tired beyond words I get a little ornery and sarcastic… as some of you noticed in my last post. Bless Candy’s heart for thinking it was all the Benadryl, but nope… it’s all me. :) Tonight I can’t even seem to come up with something punchy to entertain you, but because I made a goal of writing three times a week I just can’t let myself skip writing a Friday post. Because that would be less than three and I refuse to take a step backward.

SO… because it’s Flashback Friday, I’m going to flashback to one of the first posts I wrote on the blog. I chose this one for two reasons:

1. It’s so old I’m assuming the majority of you have never read it.

2. It’s an ornery post about my niece that makes me laugh, so I figured it still fits the mood I’m in. :)

Here you go… and thanks for indulging me while I tell you, yet again, how freakishly adorable my nieces and nephews are. It’s not bragging when it’s the truth.


You know how sometimes you're just annoyed to death with someone but you bite the inside of your cheek for fear of saying something that will make everything worse? Or you're in the middle of a conversation and you need a great comeback but none come to mind? [For the record, not having a comeback is the story of my life.] If so, I may have an easy solution for you.

When my niece Anna was little she was the most articulate little thing you could imagine. Somewhere around the age of three or so, a large number of us were gathered at her parents' home on the weekend of an Iowa vs. Iowa State football game. Anyone from Iowa knows this is a sacred sport weekend for the rival schools, and being in the hometown of the Iowa State Cyclones meant the game was being taken more seriously than you can imagine. While a large number were gathered in the living room watching the game, a few of us stragglers were still finishing up dishes in the adjoining kitchen.

Enter Anna.

She walked into the kitchen wide-eyed with a hand on her hip, declaring the need for a family meeting. She informed her mother that she had heard "inappropriate language" (I kid you not) and there needed to be a discussion about it. Her mom, while all about open communication, knew better than to interrupt this particular game and convinced Anna to wait until the game was over. Thankfully, Iowa State won or this next part might not have been so funny or well tolerated.

When the game was finished the TV was turned off and somewhere around a dozen adults sat on couches with all focus directed at the three-year-old conducting the meeting. She made sure all eyes were on her and began...
"I was hearing inappropriate language when you were watching the game. I heard words like shit, damn and ell [meaning hell... cutest mispronunciation you've ever heard]. And in THIS family, we use loving words like good job, I love you, your hair is pretty."

At that point I had a pillow shoved so far down my throat to keep from laughing I thought I might die right then and there. And it would have been so worth it. She was the cutest little swearer I'd ever seen in my life.

And here's where I get to my point of this post. The next time someone is driving you to the brink, use LOVING words. Go ahead. Tell them their hair is pretty. I swear to God I'll never let it slip what you're really trying to say.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When All Else Fails, Sing Ave Maria

Ok, so this whole suddenly-having-a-new-allergic-reaction-to-a-random-food-ingredient-thing is a bit more tedious than I originally expected it to be. Ridiculous amounts of Benadryl later, I feel like I have nothing to write about but food allergies. Because let me tell you, whey is in a lot of food. Including milk, butter and cheese. And do you know how many products contain whey, milk or butter?

Don’t bother looking… I’ll just tell you. It’s a lot of them. Which is why I’m a bit obsessed with food labels at the moment. But that doesn’t mean you should be obsessed with food labels, so I’m choosing not to write about them. Well, starting now.

Instead, I thought I would go to my old standby when all else fails. The song Ave Maria.

Yeah, I know that’s probably not where you thought I was going with this. But that song has saved my neck many times when things have gone wrong. For example, my friend Chris’ wedding. Back when I was a wedding singing traveling fool, I showed up early for his out of town wedding rehearsal to meet with the accompanist. She was sitting at the piano waiting for me, so it was just the two of us in the chapel. And when she started to play the first song I knew we were in trouble. Because it didn’t sound like music.

Now, I’m not saying she was just a mediocre piano player. I’m saying she put her hands on the keys and hit random notes, much like I would do because I don’t read music or have a clue how to play. But this woman was apparently a regular accompanist at the church… and that just wasn’t adding up to me. After about 20 minutes of stopping and starting and realizing that her blank stare and lack of emotional affect were a bigger problem than I could deal with, the priest showed up.

I went out to the lobby to explain the situation and he said, “Oh, I was afraid that was going to happen. She’s been caring for her ill mother who just passed away and some have been concerned about her having a breakdown.”

Really? Then maybe you shouldn’t have recommended her to play at a wedding. Where there would be added pressure on her. But at that point it wouldn’t have done much good to point that out to him, so I just stepped aside when he said he’d handle it.

The priest came in and ushered the woman out, and I had the pleasure of telling an old friend that there was no one to play for his wedding the next day. Thankfully, he’s a mortician so he had some contacts and was able to find a woman to come play the processional and recessional and a couple of the songs. The rest of the music she didn’t know, however? Me. a cappella.

Which is how the Ave Maria saved me that day. And on a few other occasions when a song needed to fill in for empty space during random church services. And today it’s sparing you from having to hear more about whey, milk, butter, cheese and food labels.

You’re welcome.

09 Ave Maria  by  gitzengirl

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life's a Roller Coaster Ride

I was never a big fan of roller coasters. When I was a little girl and we all went to the Kossuth County Fair, I watched my older siblings ride those big, crazy rides and was certain I wanted to give it a try. Mom said it was a bad idea and Dad pulled the, “Oh, she’ll be fine…”

There’s a reason why they say Mom is always right.

Oh, I was so dizzy. And sick. And shouldn’t have eaten cotton candy before the big test run.

The anticipation of the chink, chink, chink while climbing higher up the coaster started the knot in my stomach… but it was the dead drop that did me in. I knew it was coming, but nothing could have prepared me for it. I never had a desire to go on a roller coaster again, until I was in high school and we had a choir trip to World’s of Fun in Kansas City. My friend Sue Ann convinced me to go on a coaster there and it changed my mind about what I had decided long ago was a death trap… because of the upside down loops.

I still hated the anticipation, the dead drops still made my stomach jump and my head spin, but the loops… one right after another… were like flying to me. It was the part of the ride right after the dead drop that woke me back up. I was hooked.

That’s about the only way I can explain to you how I’m feeling these days. The last six months have been filled completely with the steep incline of anticipation and the dead drops that followed, with no breaks in between. But this past week I’ve started experiencing a few loops here and there. After all these months, I’ve had real moments of feeling like I’m finally waking up. Colors are a little brighter, my vision a little sharper, something in me feels a little stronger. I just might be able to call myself human again! :)

Saturday I posted on Facebook that I was hoping I wasn’t going to jinx myself by saying out loud I was feeling better, and then Sunday I had a horrible day. Yep. I totally set myself up for that one. Apparently I’ve now developed an allergy to a food I’ve been eating every day for over a year, and it took all day on Sunday to get my breathing and symptoms under control. Just when I think I know what this crazy body is doing, it takes me on a dead drop.

But here’s why I’m loving this roller coaster life again: I now finally know that an upside down loop will be coming to wake me up again. Even when the pain is too high or I hit a wall of exhaustion out of nowhere, I seem to be a little stronger than I was just a week ago. And on the days when my pain is more under control and my energy is as normal as it can be for me, I’m going to savor the moments of feeling awake and flying around those loops.

Life’s a roller coaster, but at least it’s one that gives us a good rush once in awhile. :)


Because last week’s A 2 Z post was all about Stellan, who [in case you missed the updates] is doing well after his miracle surgery, I didn’t ask for suggestions for the next “H” post. So leave some H-words in the comments that you’d like me to write about next Monday, and I’ll see what kind of a tale I can weave for you! :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Grading On A Curve

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Would you trade your medical struggles for normal health if you also wouldn’t have the lessons you learned throughout it?

I know this is going to sound crazy to a lot of people. In all honesty, it sounds insane to me as I sit here physically feeling the way I do, but I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for good health.

And I really, really would like to be in good health. I’d love to walk outside, sing to my heart’s content, dance, go to a friend’s house, travel home for the holidays. I’d love to not have to think through every single movement I make and I’d love to be blissfully ignorant of the word debilitating.

But more than all of that… I love feeling at peace, believing, trusting, accepting and being open to life as it is. And when it comes down to it, I don’t want to trade fulfilling who God needs me to be for my own comfort. People used to tell me they prayed for my healing so I could be whole, but the only thing that would make me less than whole is if I chose what I needed over what He needed from me.

At the beginning of the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan talked about how we should be in awe of how God used such diversity and creativity in creation. He talked about how we compare ourselves to each other… thinking that if we’re not as sinful as the person next to us, then we’re on the right path. But the truth is that God created each of us uniquely for a unique purpose, which means God isn’t grading on a curve. There won’t be someone standing next to us to point at and compare ourselves to when we tell Him about our lives.

When I read that, about not being graded on a curve, I sat and thought about how we all continuously try to be like everyone else. To be normal… to fit in… to say the right thing and look the right way, to have the right job, the right house, the right clothes. We all say we’d never go back to junior high and relive those years of trying to fit in, but in truth I don’t think we ever move completely past it. And it’s the exact opposite of what God created us for. He made us diverse for a reason. He doesn’t grade us on a curve because it would be like comparing apples and jackhammers… two unique things created for different purposes.

Of course there are moments when I long for a more normal life. I’d love to have a husband and a family, a career and a social life. I want to be a part of things… a real, tangible, active part of the outside world. But the truth is, I have no idea who I would be right now had all that happened. I have no idea what my priorities would be, where I would have lived, who the friends would be surrounding me. God set me on this path and lined it with blessings. I can’t presume my dreams would have turned out better than His plans just because they seem easier in my mind.

There is a sentence under one of Chan’s videos on his website that talks about how all of us are striving for a normal life, but have we ever stopped to think that maybe the goal in life shouldn’t be normalcy? That one sentence made my circumstances make sense to me. If I judge my life against others… or even against the life I used to have… if I’m grading myself on a curve of normalcy, then of course I look short-changed. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to live the best life I can with what I am given.

Obviously my life is intensely abnormal compared to others, and these past few months have been the hardest of my life. But I still wouldn’t trade it for the normal one I always thought I would have, because this is the one He meant for me to live. It’s a relief to know we’re not graded on a curve, but instead loved for exactly who we are designed to be.

And I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Living Prayer

I’ve never really given much thought to the type of things I want people to say at my funeral. I tend to focus more on how I’m living right now and hope that how I’m remembered falls in line because of it. That changed a bit this August when Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away.

In a statement by the family, they described her as "a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more."

I have to tell you, that phrase has stuck with me… to be described as a living prayer. Growing up Catholic, where tradition and posture are a part of worship, my mind went to imagining the actual appearance of a living prayer. I tried to imagine what that might look like in a tangible application, but I couldn’t. I’ve decided that kind of a life can’t be seen in a look or a stature.

What I’ve decided instead is that it would be found more in the reflection of others when they are touched by you. It would be seen in the joy that others would find contagious, in the compassion that others would feel in your words and deeds. It would be found in the empathetic nature of a stranger and in the fortitude seen in those who are determined to make a difference. The kind word for no reason, the intentional way of listening, the hand outstretched to give and to receive… the voice of encouragement, the touch of comfort, the openness to share in word and deed… all of these things must be what a living prayer looks like to others.

All we can really do in life is be open to what God needs from us, to be aware and present in our circumstances so we are available to step up when called. It’s a daily choice to make this a way of life… but I have to say that now, choosing how I want to be remembered is helping me choose my daily actions.

I want to be a living prayer.