/> Raising Angels: July 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Special Gift

Tomorrow we leave for the beach to spend a week with Nelson's family. This has been a tradition since before I was even in the picture. Every year it seems to get a little better.

This year my in-laws invited my parents to come along. How great is that? My in-laws like my folks enough to include them on their family vacation. My parents like them enough to agree to come.

Consequently, my children are going to be going on vacation tomorrow with both sets of their grandparents. That's not something that happens often. It is a gift and I'm so looking forward to it...right after I finish packing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy 9th Birthday Aiden!


You had a banner birthday this year. We hope that what you take away from all the wonderful activities is that you have a family who loves you. It may not always feel that way, but it will always be the truth.

We love you for who you are more than what you do or say. You are Aiden and that is the best person you can be. I appreciate your curiosity about life (even when it wears me out). I love one on one time with you. I love watching you read The Action Bible. I love watching you playing sports, swimming or just running around outside.

I have no doubt God has big things in store for you. Stay close to Him and He'll let you know what those things are when the time is right.

Happy Birthday!



Friday, July 13, 2012

Wisdom of the Ages

Last year I turned 40. There, I said it. Of course, it's taken turning 41 for me to admit it out loud. As the big one became imminent, I made two things clear:  1) I wanted to cross something off my bucket list and 2) I didn't want any presents, I wanted a party. I decided that I was not going to let this age thing get me down. I wanted to celebrate and celebrate BIG.
I have wanted to go skydiving for forever and turning 40 seemed like a reason enough to go for it. A few months before my birthday, my brother and dad arranged a trip and took me along for the ride of my life.
 It was scary and fun and exhilarating. The scary part was when they opened the side of that plane and suddenly I thought, "Who in their right mind jumps out of an airplane?" Of course the other scary part was when it was my turn and my tandem partner stood up and said, "Let's do this!"
I said, "I'm scared. I'm SCARED. I'm really, REALLY SCARED!" As if he didn't hear me the first time. I'm sure he heard me but that wasn't stopping him. And quite honestly, by the time we reached the edge, he was shouting instructions in my ear and before I knew it we were tumbling out of the plane at a rate of 120 miles per hour.
 Here's a little fact that will come in handy if you ever try this: it's really, really hard to breathe when you're falling at that rate. So as I was plummeting to earth I was thinking more about trying to catch my breath while following instructions than I was about the possibility that I could die.
Once the parachute was open, it was smooth sailing. It's unbelievable how peaceful it was floating back to earth. I smiled so much my face hurt. The landing was perfect and it was a high that I held onto for the rest of the day.

The thrill of the skydiving itself combined with the fact that one very big bucket list item had been checked off, left me feeling totally empowered and I loved it.
And that feeling of empowerment is how I decided I would embrace turning 40. This was part of the reason I wanted that big celebration. I refused to feel sad or depressed about this birthday. Age, after all is only a number right?

After 40 years of life, I realized a few significant things: 1) I could no longer include myself in the group called "the younger folks" 2) That was okay by me.  With age comes experience and wisdom and a self-confidence that is truly wonderful. I know who I am, what I like, and what's important.

My wonderful husband planned a big surprise party for me at one of my favorite local places. My birthday happened to fall on a Tuesday, a day that this particular place is not even open (which I didn't know). Did he let that stop him? Of course not. He simply talked to the owner, a friend of ours, and arranged to rent the place out...just for me.
 So there I was surrounded by people I love. There were people I grew up with, people I run with, people I've been friends with most of my life, people Nelson works with, and family. I felt loved, really, really loved and honored...very, very honored.
 And seeing this photo while remembering this one really drives home the fact that I use my hands to do the talking....even when I'm holding a drink and a purse. See, self-knowledge.
I am fully aware, at least as fully aware as I can be here on earth, that I am a blessed woman. I have led an incredible life so far filled with bounty, grace, miracles, experiences. I have a family who loves me and who I love fiercely. I have a husband I adore and children who have taught me more than I learned in all my years of school. I am in great health and good shape. I live in a beautiful home and have more than I need. I have nothing, and I mean nothing, to complain about.
 Forty was a good number for me and I've been on that wave all year long.

And then came 41. After all the hoopla of turning 40, I didn't give much thought about my birthday this year. That no thought, well, it kind of back-fired.
Warning: This is going to be totally honest and humiliating but in an effort to share some wisdom, here goes...
Yesterday I suddenly realized I had no plans for my birthday. My mom offered to cook dinner but other than that, my day was totally open, an unusual occurrence for a birthday. I made a few calls to the sweet ladies I share my birthday with to make lunch plans only to find out they already had some.
There I stood, in the middle of my kitchen, with the phone in my hand suddenly overcome with self-pity. Instead of thinking how great it was to have a whole day with no plans, I thought, "Why doesn't anyone want to have lunch with me?" Silly I know, but it didn't stop me from feeling bad.
 My mind went to all the birthday lunches I had been invited to for other friends. Instead of basking in the knowledge of how much love I felt last year, I wallowed in the pitiful-ness that no one wanted to celebrate with me this year. Why am I not the friend that gets asked out to lunch?

I brushed off those feelings a few minutes later in the full knowledge that what I was feeling was a bunch of baloney. I stood my ground in all that wisdom I acknowledged gaining merely a year ago and got over it.

Last night, as I was brushing my teeth, Nelson came into the bathroom. "Happy Birthday!" he said, as it was after midnight. Then he took a kind of meek tone and said, "I have to go in to work early tomorrow, so I can make you breakfast, but I'd have to wake you up really early and I'm not sure that's what you want on your birthday."
"How early?"
"I want to be at the office by 6:30," he said apologetically.

"Yeah," I don't think I want you to wake me before the kids are up," I admitted, having risen for an early run that morning. He apologized and I told him it was fine. And it was.
Except that it just added to my earlier feelings of nobody celebrating with me. When he left the bathroom I realized that the toothpaste was tasting pretty salty because tears were rolling down my face. Then I was mad at myself for being such a big baby. I'm 41 after all. None of this is a big deal.
But no matter how I tried to pep talk myself out of those stupid tears, they kept rolling down my cheeks anyway. I knew in my mind that this was crazy. I knew in my heart that I was wrong. But no matter what I tried my emotions continued to ride the wave of self-centered pity. I wiped and wiped and wiped the tears but my eyes were on a mission of their own. I blew my nose and made the simple acknowledgment that I was in a particularly emotional part of the month...ahem, I was hormonal and I knew it. No amount of knowledge, self-talk, frustration or wisdom could stop the flood.

I looked at my red, puffy eyes in the mirror and after giving up the whole "let's pull it together girl" failed speech, I gave in. I moved over to the "let's cry them all out now so when I wake up, I can be over it and enjoy my birthday" camp.

Then I heard it, that still small voice that has given me every single bit of wisdom and grace I've ever received, that voice that calms and comforts and calls me forward.

"It is by forgetting self that one finds."

This comes from the Prayer of St. Francis, one I love and pray almost daily. I knew exactly what God was telling me. In fact, it was what I was trying so hard to tell myself. Somehow, when God said it, I listened a little bit better than I do to myself (thank goodness!).

It was going to be a challenge to forget myself on the one day that is kind of centered on me but I was willing to take a stab at it. It had to be better than dehydrating myself via tears.

I woke up the next morning and was wished a happy birthday by each of my beautiful children. I had a phone full of sweet texts, the first of which said, "Have a glorious day with the Lord!" God was driving His point home.

My mom called and sang to me and offered to take me and the kids to lunch, "...unless you get a better offer." What better offer could I have than to have lunch with the person responsible for me having this birthday in the first place? I chose a place the kids adore and we all had a wonderful time. We followed that up with a visit to a local nursery so I could pick out a plant I wanted for my porch.

The rest of the day was full of phone calls, hugs, cards, emails, Facebook notifications and texts all from people who stopped long enough in their busy days to wish me a happy birthday and tell me how much they love me. Each one of my brothers called and sang to me. After dinner, every person at the table honored me.

By the end of my birthday I once again felt overwhelmed by how good my life is and how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many people who care about me and love me very much. I went to bed content, peaceful, grateful, humble and a tad bit wiser.

Here are some things I learned:
Lunch invitations do not equal love.
It is normal every once in awhile to feel like nobody likes you.
It is not okay to believe those feelings.
Feelings are just that, feelings, they are most certainly not facts.
With age, comes the ability to do a little self-analyzing and lose a little bit of self for the sake of your own greater good.
I am loved, very, very loved by lots and lots of people, most important of all God.
If God was the only one who loved me that would be enough, but it sure is nice of Him not to make that the case.
Do you see my face up there? Do I look sad or depressed or lonely? That right there is a picture of the
face of a woman who is confident, happy, and loved. That was exactly how I felt that night that I turned 40 and at 41 I expect to feel no different.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Lake Murray in Pictures

I talked about how wonderful this little excursion was here, but I thought the photos might help you understand my love for this lake life better.

First you need to know that lakes in general hold a very special place in my heart largely due to this wonderful man. Growing up, we spent every summer I can remember on Lake Martin in Alabama. My uncle had a little two bedroom, 1 bath cabin that we all piled in. We slept on the floor and never complained. I'm not really sure how we managed all of us with only one shower but I do remember my aunt throwing my cousin a bar of soap as he jumped into the lake so that could explain it. Whatever the case, I have nothing but good, warm, wonderful memories of our times there.

Each morning on Lake Murray began with a flock of geese walking through our yard. It was so very sweet to watch the boys watch those birds.
This boy swam over 1,000 meters without any flotation device at all. He was simply amazing.  

 Of course, all that swimming did wear him out...for a bit.
 This little guy was happy as a clam to just float around. Even though he has learned to swim this summer, he's not all about doing it where he can't touch the bottom. This was fine for me because he required very little watching in this amazing jacket that is on its fourth kid.
 Of course the hottest day of the year required lots of sunscreen and hydration. Not one of them ever complained about how hot it was that day.
 Even the big kids liked the floats. He was also game for raft freeze tag and the jump or dive game we played off the dock. Little brothers rock like that.
 This was me after my first big open water swim. I swim so much better than I run. Well, at least it hurts a lot less.
 Lakes, I am convinced, bring people together. Everyone on a lake is friendly. Seriously, when you're on the water, what do you have to worry about?
 And after a full day in the sun and water, more water was just what this guy wanted. I know he may hate me for this picture one day but he's just too stinkin' cute not to include it. It's only a matter of time until he's too big for pictures like this, but for now he was totally content with a tub full of water and a rubber ducky.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Here's a little something we've been working for the past few weeks. The neighborhood 4th of July Talent Show has become somewhat of a tradition with my kids. I know this because every year I try to get out of it they remind me about it right before the people in charge call me and ask them to perform.

Lest you think I am a creative genius, this year I decided I wanted them to do something a little different so I googled funny talent show ideas for kids and found this little ditty and it brought tears to my eyes. That may have been because I found it after hours of searching and it was probably around 2 AM when I came across this idea.

I love that the kids are so willing to do this in front of hundreds of people (although Max got a little gun shy...you should have seen him in rehearsals!). I am amazed they're still willing to work together in their act. I am also very, very proud that no one was hurt in the rehearsal of this number (meaning I didn't kill them and they didn't kill each other...seriously, you trying getting an 11, 8, 7 and 4 year old to do this!)

They did great and I'm going to love showing them this when they have their own kids.

Happy 4th!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Lake Bliss

Thursday afternoon, I did something somewhat spontaneous...for me anyway. My brother sent me a message. He was vacationing at a nearby lake. Did I want to come with the kids?

After I made sure he wasn't intoxicated when he sent that message, I decided to take him up on it. Why not? We all needed to hit the restart button and getting out of our usual environment seemed as good a way as any. 

I packed a bag and we headed to the store to purchase some floats, essential equipment for lake dwelling. We stopped by Happy Hour (ahem, at Sonic of course) and got out of town by 4:15 or so. By 6 we were all happily floating in the lake. We splashed and swam and jumped off the dock. We stayed in the perfectly warm water until we saw the moon rise and smelled the sausage dogs my brother was grilling. 

The next morning we had a healthy and hearty breakfast. We were suncreened and in the water by around 10 and other than a lunch break, that is where we stayed until oh, around 7:30 or so. Seriously, raft tag, diving and jumping contests, water ball, chasing floats all over the place and an open water swim of 1500 meters for me and 1000 meters for Dawson (that kid can do endurance). It was as near a perfect day as I could hope for. 

My brother had to leave early but said, "Why don't you guys go ahead and stay?" Nelson was out of town for the day so...we did. We made dinner out of every single leftover in the place. Apparently swimming all day induces intense hunger. 

After packing up the next morning, I walked around the place taking photos of everything, with a firm resolve that come what may, we are going to get one of these things. One hour and fifteen minutes from home, 5 minutes from the local town, and endless opportunities to wear out the kids in a totally wonderful way. 

It was just what we needed to get us right back on track.