Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Joy in quilting

For many years I would speak of how I wanted to quilt but... it was not the season. A few years ago I entered the season where time allowed me room to begin to quilt. It was a slow beginning, but a blessed one as my friend Laura instilled in me many details and techniques to help me learn precision- a key ingredient in quilting. Precision is not my natural bent so I am always having to slow myself down and check and double check my work. My first wall quilt took over a year to complete as I only worked on it with my friend. After I moved I then managed to finish it alone. Since then I have tried a few new patterns and projects.

This past week, being a quiet holiday week I took up my quilting tools again. I finished a rather large wall quilt- for my stairway. It is almost a twin size, not quite, but almost- my largest project to date. With leftover fabric I pieced a small lap quilt and a smaller mis-mash wall quilt. Today I "quilted" the two smaller quilts, using my new quilting table that attaches to my sewing machine. It was a gift from my bear for my birthday and was kind of a whim desire for me, to venture into unknown, but after todays usage I am so pleased to have it. The space for me to elevate the fabric to be quilted is much larger than with just the sewing machine alone. It made it easier to plan the quilting path and manage the fabric in movement. I am sold.

It is exciting to me to see a quilt come together. From the pull of a fabric color and design then the adding of complementary patterns and shades to the planning and cutting. Next its on to sewing, trimming, pressing and trimming and soon it is a quilt top. Now I am realizing the joy of machine quilting and the completion of gifts and decorations and blessings to be shared with others.

So, as I venture into this new season it is with a joy in creating. I am learning to use the fabric to its fullest- "scraps" turn into more blocks and spare blocks now turned into trivets and potholders adorn my kitchen. I am excited about what I am in the midst of and what lies ahead. yeah for new seasons of life! yeah for colors and designs and the creative nature that God built into us that comes out in so many expressive ways.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

character growth through life

The past few weeks have been interesting at our house. Unexpectedly we were thrown back into the world of stress from unexpected and unwanted home repairs. I know that if you have followed our toneylife story you are saying we should expect them, yet, me being the eternal optimist, I dont. All that to say, we found ourselves again n the midst of changes and upgrades and repairs.

We have all rejoiced in the toilet upgrades that occured last week after the previous one did not do its duty and Dad had enough. there is joy in knowing that we shall soon pack away the plungers and flush without thought. We have come to appreciate the simple act of turning on the hotwater knob on the sink or shower, as for now ours is not working. Yet, even in that I have learned that perseverence has its benefits. We have had ongoing communication with the home warranty folks and finally see some resolution in the works- yeah!

I have weathered the new series of leaks with mixed response. At this point I think I am in resignation phase- as there is nothing to be done until something is done. I had a phone call that made me wonder what would occur and then another call brought word that the chimney will be reflashed- properly and I believe that will solve the present leak issue. When asked I am honest in sharing my weariness yet also understanding that it is not an issue that can be solved when it is cold or wet as the pitch is steep.

It has been a month of trial, for this patient weary soul. I dont feel that I have weathered all of the storm well- as i have cried on the phone in frustration more than i ever want to- which is never. yet maybe the folks on the other end needed to hear the tears???

I have gained insight that it is easy to be outside a situation and not ever get the depth of the struggle that is occuring within the folks in the situation. I never fully understood the challenge of being without hotwater until ours was not readily available. a slide show at church helped me to realize that having running water at home is a blessing so my perspective has shifted to gratitude for clean running water.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

FPS and me- NOT!!!

Tonight I attempted something new. A few days ago my bear stated that the kids would love for me to join them in their favorite FPS game- Call of Duty 1. I thought about it and decided that maybe I would give it a try sometime. Tonight I was again invited to join in and so I chose to do a new thing.

My dear husband set me up for sucess- the game was set up on the computer, headphones and instructions given and so I sat down to battle it out. First, I realized that thanks to my bifocals I needed distance so my eyes didn't go totally wacky so I backed away from the screen. I found that there is alot to do all at the same time, lots to see and lots of movement to consider.

I laughed until I cried as I messed up again and again as I attempted to move and play. Slowly I started to move with the buttons rather than try to turn around by turning the mouse in circles. I found my hands switching weapons with the roll of the mouse dial, too quickly to use one before I found that I was holding what i didnt mean to have. Slowly i wandered the landscape and started to run and shoot at things but i kept finding that there were men down, and as I passed i did not want to look. From the headphones I found noise of battle began and again i found it was not something I wanted to hear as it evoked thoughts of war and battle.

Sgt. Klutzo came along and "rescued" me and helped me to begin battling for real- well kind of. I died several deaths and was too quickly revived with touch of a button. Yet I found that it was overwhelming, too much action, movement, too much reality in the midst of "play". My soft emotional heart found it too hard to seperate the reality of violence, death and shooting from the thought of real people and the reality of such action in real. I found my self laughing as I made mistakes but soon the laughter turning to tears. too much, too real, my soft tender heart could not play well, try though I did.

My bear was gentle and saw that it was too much. we laughed and hugged and I left Sgt Klutzo in charge of my battlefield as I sought out a safe happy place. I gained a few brownie points for trying and they gained laughter from my attempt to join their world.

I came away with the reality that FPS is not for me. That I am not wired for such activity and probably never would be. I am woman, I am soft and gentle, and bugs are my limit for death. Mice and small animals I avoid when found dead, calling upon children to care for them post mortem.

Men seem to be wired for FPS- must be the conquerer in them, the protective warrior that rises up. I am thankful for that protection and care, I am thankful for the way guys are wired. I am thankful that I have permission to not be tough and warrior like. I am thankful for the experience and the awareness of a limit.

Monday, December 15, 2008

water, water and more water

We finished October with a sigh, the house work was done and we had a sense that we could settle in to a season of rest. Ahhh, it was nice to walk through November with ease and only some unpainted drywall calling to me for attention.

That changed two Fridays ago. As I returned home from a day away I noticed a wet spot on a package below the water heater. Drip, drip, drip. Hmmm?? After surveying the hot water heater it was found to indeed have a leak- not common for a tankless hotwater heater. Home warrantee company called and end result is a new one is being shipped from CA to be swapped out. Yet the requirement to upgrade propane gas line came with the "gift". We have now completed that requirement and are awaiting the return of the plumber. Life here now means twice a day we turn on the water to the heater, fire it up, shower and do dishes and then shut it all off until the evening. We are thankful to have found a way to use it amidst its problems.

Following the hot water heater we had some fair days of weather and then a roof testing blustery windy rain storm. Hope was the roof would sail through it without our attention. Not to be, yet the seepage seems to be in the areas of caulking and flashing, not shingles. The first visit took care of the poor caulk around the roof mounted satelitte dish- yes someone (us) still has a monster dish - and we use it! Terry also properly reseated the exaust stack over the hotwater heater that had been moved for the reroofing. Another good seal it appears. The worst leak- as in streams of water down the wall, is in the boys room. The wall has turned black in one place which makes us think that it had been moist for a while. Terry tried one locations, but moisture came back. He was out again on Saturday to try again at stemming the leak.

I am told that roof leaks are common. that many people experience them. I believe that to be true, yet find it hard to fully accept that it is common to experience so many over and over again as we have. I have become a bit "gun shy" maybe even a bit fearful, or maybe just weary. As I spoke to the owner of the company he mentioned that he knew I was worried about my walls. I corrected him to say, not I am more weary. Tired of having to call, wait and hope that the water will stay out. Tired of looking at dark spots on the ceiling that will need to be repaired. Now as I look at the boys room there is enough damage that at least one piece of drywall will need replacement. The roofing company may pay for it, they might not- I am not sure. Until the leak is stopped I will wait and hope.

So water, water and more water has been involved in consuming time and energy in our lives. Saturday we had the revelation that the upstairs shower pressure was greatly diminshed. My dear husband, who is even wearier than I began to seek answer- hoping to not spend more $$ as the gas plumbers were there working and that was enough for one day. He found several large mineral deposits, but still not the pressure needed. He disassembled and reassembeled in multiple ways the pressure regulator and valve. I visited the water turn off multiple times. Finally from the depths he found and removed something that caused the obstruction and the pressure is back. A day spent on water again.

Throughout all these activities and interactions we try to be pleasant yet the strain comes through. I have been thinking about it a bit, wondering again what is to be learned and gained by all we have walked through with living here- no answers. I looked at a chart comparing discipline and pruning- based on John 15. I sense that this is a time of pruning in our lives. It is just hard as we feel like it is actually costing us time and energy rather than freeing up time and availability. Not sure what all is going on in the heavenlies, yet know that our lives are filtered through His hands.

So, we start a new week. It will be a rainy week. Another week for patience, or maybe a week of rejoicing. It may be a week to get hot water on demand, not twice a day. A week to see if the leaks have been stopped. A week to rejoice is stronger water flow in the shower again. Either way we are so very blessed. We have a house over our head, we have running water and the difficulties are being taken care of and resolved. Oh that we could keep perspective amidst what each day brings.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things I love about my husband, a start anyway

In recent months the buzz has been about the movie "Fireproof". I expect it is a great movie, we have yet to see it. I flipped through the book that is related to the it- the Love Dare in a bookstore while on vacation, but have yet to read it. Even just in the flipping of pages I began to understand the gist of paying attention to the spouse, being deliberate in our words and deeds and attitude, not asuming that the message of love was being understood without action.

This morning I thought about how often there are things we think about our husband or children that we don't take time to write down. How often do I or you speak of our love and delight as compared to the frustrations and disappointments? To that end I have begun a "what I love about my husband list"

Already it has been a blessing to me, to reflect upon the man who I have shared life with and continue to delight in doing say daily for the rest of our lives. Perhaps you will consider the loves of your life and the delight they are to you, and express it to them as well.

Things I love about my husband

  1. he is funny
  2. he loves God
  3. he is a hard worker
  4. he has a tender heart
  5. he is hairy, furry, fuzzy and prickly
  6. he likes his bedwarmer even when she isnt warm
  7. he loves his woobies, year after year
  8. he enjoys a good cup of coffee
  9. he reads the daily paper
  10. he can fix almost anything
  11. he has become more than I could ever imagined he'd be 27 years ago
  12. he is committed to us
  13. he is planning our park bench to sit on when we get old
  14. he loves nature
  15. he feeds the birds
  16. he is a manly, man and shoots squirrels
  17. he buids with his hands
  18. he is real people
  19. he is computer smart
  20. he surprises me with compassion towards his wayward when I am not compassionate
  21. he pokes his prickly one
  22. he enjoys soaking in the tub
  23. he remembers lessons of life and is changed by them
  24. he appreciates little things
  25. he is willing to serve his country
  26. he is generous with his time, talents and blessings
  27. he likes to mow the lawn and cut down trees
  28. he has rough hands, workers hands though he has a desk job these days
  29. he has great lips
  30. he prays with me
  31. he prays for his kids
  32. he worries when any of us are sick or ill
  33. he snuggles well
  34. he wears jeans and flannel shirts
  35. he likes the muppets
  36. he indulges his kids, even though he was not indulged as a child
  37. he is stubborn
  38. he is silly
  39. he is a dad
  40. he is mine!
  41. he is responsible
  42. he is respected by his coworkers
  43. he is loyal
  44. he has brown eyes
  45. he still has his teddybear from childhood
  46. he takes yearly pictures with each child on their birthday
  47. he likes to camp
  48. he builds campfires
  49. he smokes turkey in the woods, giving us an new thanksgivign tradition
  50. he leaves the woods in compassion towards a sick wife
  51. he keeps his work phone in the bathroom, not our bedroom
  52. he calls me before heading home, in case I need anything
  53. he loves me
  54. we have shared 27 + years together as friends, we share life history
  55. he has blessed me with world travel
  56. he has cared for me well
  57. he has always provided for my needs
  58. he helps me with my gardening
  59. he lets me be hyper and loves me when I am worn out
  60. he has weathered the "money pit" storm waves
  61. he drives a diesel truck
  62. he wears work boots
  63. he rides a motorcycle
  64. he loves my family
  65. he has a twin brother

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving in the woods

We have returned from a trip to the woods. On Wednesday we headed across the county and up to the top of a mountain to camp. I was glad to see the temperatures rising as Thanksgiving draw near. Yet as the dusk came so did coolness. It gets dark early these days so by 5:15 we were happy for flashlights and lanterns.

As we huddled around the campfire it occurred to me that we were fairly close to Jones Valley- a shopping area that is about 30 miles from home but only a few miles from camp. Being homebodies we normally hibernate at home once we arrive there so often we might think of a movie but tend not to venture out. I presented the idea to Papa and after a quick hotdog dinner off to town we went. Not our normal camp activity but just right for that cool evening, made me feel like we were tourists or on vacation. The laughter and fun of the movie Bolt proved to be a good start to our time in the woods.

Thanksgiving day began early at camp- by 6 am we were stuffing Tom the turkey into the smoker and cranking th heat up to get him smoking. Throughout the day he was checked, new wood added and he continued to smoke. It was a leisure day of walks and knitting and visiting as we slowly prepped for the soon to arrive visitors. We had invited neighbors and friends.

Around noon they began to arrive and we began to put finishing touches on the meal. As the gathering grew we handed out treasure hunt lists and teams scattered to find items of interest and creativity. After our dinner the judging began and it was fun to see what was collected and how creative some folks had been. We had parts of a dead skunk, a dead snake and a flattened, dehydrated frog with price tag all presented for a category. Where items were not to be found the pens and paper came into use as they were written out or illustrated.

Paul and I agreed that the moment that made all the work of the day so worthwhile was seeing our neighbor and her daughter (19) chasing a salamander, dancing in the leaves and smiling like little kids. It was a delight to share the day with them as "dad" is away in Iraq and having walked that path we know how hard such holidays can be.

The meal was enjoyed with words of what we are thankful for and thanks given to God for the many blessings and joys He has allowed in our lives. It was a blessing to share the day with several families with diverse traditons yet all enjoying the natural setting and the woodsmoke that warmed us

Thanksgiving in the woods is a bit different, but having gone to the woods for 3 or 4 years now i believe it is also addictive. To be surrounded by nature, away from electronic distractions and touching a bit of the pilgrim lifestyle brings out an appreciation for modern life and the beauty of the world has created for us.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Refurbishing the throne room

Today has been a day of changed plans and activity. We hoped to rake leaves but the blessed rain of last night changed that plan. Then as we were planning trips to town the word "bookstore" came up and the middle two clammored to go with us so off we went on a multi stop shopping trip.

Years ago Saturday morning shopping was the norm, but its been years. Years ago having the family all around was also the norm. I have forgotten what it is like to have 3 kids hanging about as I make decisions. Kind of crazy, kind of fun. Many of them went off on the coupon run- finding the coupon item as I did the other items. We survived and Dad endured the teasing and poking of many fingers. Memories were made, one child even suggested it should be repeated every few months.

The main purchase of the day was a new throne to reign upon in the kitchen bath. The main dancers are tired of dancing with the throne room sceptor, so the research team came up with a replacement and it was procured today. Not to miss an opportunity to share "life skill points" with any of the prodigy the princess was tapped for the job. She and the Burgmister have since been engaged in the process of removal and replacement.

Yet, not to miss out on the fun the elder princes took possession of the old throne and used it as a base for some creative photography. It has been a while since a family picture and depending upon the outcome of todays endevor it may be awhile again. yet in the midst of it all came laughter and creativity as the kinder bonded under their originality and quirky use of porcelin.

As the sun prepares to set I find myself filled with the sweetness of the day, time with children of all ages, life shared with my bear and normal tasks but made richer by the company of the day. The throne room is being restored to normal with delight in knowing that dances should no longer be held before the new throne off the kitchen. Soon we hope to shut down the master dance room and the upstairs dance hall.

The moral of the story is when building a house spend the extra for a better functioning throne!

Friday, November 7, 2008

living with the clothing clueless

We started our life together years ago with a life in the military, as such our closet was filled with uniforms, church clothes and a few other shirts and pants. The daily choice was dress uniform or BDUs', not really choices as they had set choices preselected by the powers that be.

Fast forward to 2007, the Mr is now working in midlevel management. The "uniform" has changed to business casual or a business suit or on Fridays casual attire. Though truth be known he tends to side on the casual side more than not, as I married a man who favors jeans and flannel shirts. He loves to dress down on the weekends. He longs for the "wooby" (lined flannel shirt that has been broken in) of 20 years ago. It has disappeared so the favorite is the 10yr old version. Nice.

On any given workday morning our darkened bedroom is interesting.
me- "what are you wearing"
him- "the greenish pants and the red kind of shirt"
me- "let me turn on the light" click "no, they don't really go."
him"why not"
me "the pants are casual, the shirt is not"
him "oh, well pick something out for me"

And so it went at first. Then I bought hangers and color coded the pants and shirts on matching kind of hangers. That worked ok. I then got out the paint chip charts and created a matching chart. The chart shows possible pant colors and possible shirt colors that co-ordinate. Oh to have adult gerr-animals that we had as kids- all the cats match, all the horses match. My color chip chart is the closest I could come up with easily.

Recently after a few weeks of "that isn't a casual shirt, its a dress shirt" mornings I got smart. I pulled out the label maker and have added a new feature to the closet for the clueless. He now has labeled sections in his part of the closet- casual shirts, pants (cargo pants), dress pants and dress shirts. Ahh, I think we have the solution here.

** For the record my dear husband tries really hard, its just that he has a learning gap here. Just as I have one for computers- I can use them and figure some of it out, but need lots of tutorials, his is a visual thing when it comes to clothes, colors and textures. He lovingly remembers the days of ease- the days of uniforms and few choices beyond clean or worn before pants and shirts as they all looked alike. So, I am thankful for the visual eye that I was born with and the bit of fashion sense I have gleaned over time. It has been fun to find creative ways to make something that was listed among his "hardest things in his life" to be a bit easier for him. Another way to be a "helpmeet" for my bear!

Monday, November 3, 2008

falling like flies

A few weeks ago my husband came home with the news that another couple we know are taking the path of least resistance- Divorce. In the past year it has felt like the couples around us are falling like flies. Different reasons, same reasons, reasons unknown- always something that spurs them to say "I'm done".

First came the couple we've known the longest from our military life. The call came after the D day occured, a tearful tale of infidelty, quick divorce and now a long time friend now leaving town and saying goodbye. She has managed to land on her feet in another state. Thankfully she has been provided well in the midst of it, and has turned to God in the midst of the pain. She is still very much in recovery but seeking God and finding solace there.

This past spring brought work related deaths of marriages. Boredom, too much separation, not enough connection, not really sure. But all of a sudden I found that my husband was surrounded by men who were no longer married to their wives- some happily, others tearfully yet the death occurred. And all so quickly it seemed. I spoke to one of the men, encouraging slowing down and breathing in the midst of the pain, but it all was too much- better quickly done than enduring the pain longer was the response.

We are not ignorant of marital strife, pain and mistakes. We have made our share of mistakes. Yet somehow in the midst of it all we have been stubborn enough to hold on and hang out and ride the wave of pain, the quell of quiet and slowly do the recovery work that comes with our own stupidity. Not easy, not fun, I dont like to admit it or visit it, but worth it all.

A few weeks ago as word came of another impeding split came my heart broke again. I wondered aloud to my husband if he would ask for a divorce if I came down with Alzheimers or was suddenly disabled and he'd have to scrap plans for the future as he desired it to be. That was my analogy of what was happening in the recent death scene- tired of what is, and as he looked at untold years ahead he wanted something different. As I came to grips with such thinking I thought of how life can change plans and we can make choices to change with or change commitments. Not easy to stay with early commitments, but marriage vows didn't ask for easy commitments.

So, as we continue down this path of matrimony, with all its joys and sorrows, all the laying down of our life, our wills and wants and timing. With the joys and high times, the memories and the normal days I think about what it is that I commited to.

" to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. "

Some days are better- we get along well, our words are sweet and kind and we enjoy each other. others are worse- we have few words and we dont like each other very much. silence or talk of the weather dominates our space. we dont agree and we dont want to be together.

We've had seasons of blessings- four children, sweet memories, abundance of things and peace.

We've had the "poor"- $35 paycheck and seasons of lots of beans and rice, debt and foolish spending and the drudgery of paying off our mistakes.

As for sickness and health , I've had seasons of being quite ill- once we looked at my life wondering how long it would last,I've sprawled on the lawn in great pain, he's had a bad back, and all the grumps that come with great enduring pain. We live with a child who has a health condition with an unknown quality about it.

We've had seasons of strength and we now find our bodies ache as we grow old together. Overall we think of health and we know that it is a blessing as we consider our life together

And then there is love- the part of the commitment that fills in the gaps and cracks-its characteristics so wonderful yet so hard at time to display

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

Cherish- to hold or treat as dear. to care for tenderly. to cling fondly to.

from this day forward until death do us part- wow! what a great reminder and time of reflection this has been. No wonder I delight in seeing older couples who have stayed the course, who have weathered the storm, who have allowed love to cover and cherishing to bind them together. what a delight to watch the ones who have soared and worked and struggles and commited. They too have known pain and heartache but somehow in the midst of the quiet days of pain they have chose to stick not hit and drop.

So, in this season as we watch others around us who have parted, and our heart breaks for their pain and choices we too have choices we make daily. will we believe lies about marriage? that it can't go the distance? that another will fill the gap within our heart and life? or will we review the commitment that was made when the love was fresh and the life ahead of us full of promise? will we choose to cherish for today, and today, and today? will we allow ourselves time to renew our heart if it has grown weary or cold toward our spouse? will we remind ourselves that the grass is green on the other side because its new growth but the same trials will come and the same lessons will have to be learned amidst life. Newness can come if we plant new seeds into our marriage today, and today, and today.

PS- I write this not in judgement of any kind, rather in reflection as I have found myself wondering who is next, and if we, after 25 years are likely to fall. I have long ago learned that I am but one step from any choice. I can honestly say that to see so many fall around me has rocked my world a bit, and I have had to remind myself of truth and from where my love comes. Even in writing this I have been reminded of the depth of my vows and how costly yet how dear they are. I continue to pray for the coupleswho have parted and we desire to encourage all who are in the midst of marriage struggles.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Transitions, change and growing up

Verbs are action words. They require action and movement or state of being. Sometimes that is so very hard to move or change the state of being. It feels like life is presently filled with verbs. This is a season of being a "Gumby" as my dear husband would say- being flexible. Not always easy.

I love my family and children, maybe too much, as it is often hard to let go and allow less of them to be enough. To let go of the old ways and begin new ways of doing things. Recently I realized that there is a kind of handoff as parents. You start with no children, then you adapt to having children and the first ones adapt to sharing life with the ones who follow them. the later children have known nothing else so on the tail end of their childhood they will be required to adapt to a quieter house and one with less folks around and then the parents again adapt to the return of the quiet house.

Our oldest, at 20 remains at home, as he is putting himself through school and is "too poor" to move out. My next is soon to graduate and is beginning to test her wings. In the past few months she has begun to makeup for the lack of activity in the past few years. She has joined a few clubs, and now is involved in Venture Crew as well as considering a new body to worship in. I am thrilled by her zest for life and am pleased to see her pursuing her interests.

Our middle son claims that he will never live in the country- he wants action and activity to surround him- so he is the one often seeking rides and wanting to go, go , go. Age and lack of funds often keep him homebound but the desire to fly is there. And then there is the youngest- Sam. He has only ever known having everyone around. He likes his siblings, though he will ask his oldest brother when he is moving out so that he can have his room. He gets sad sometimes when all are away from the house, yet he is not a real pursuer of people, rather he enjoys them when they are around but also enjoys being alone. hmmm, maybe he is more like his parents than I realized??!

It is a seaon of change and adjustment. Slowly we step down the path before us. slowly i release my hold and allow a bit of distance so that the children can become adults. little things like acknowledging that the 20 yr old is a young man and with that come some freedoms. Acknowledging that he now may excuse himself from the table, no longer seeking permission as he did as a boy. Some things are nice like the semi adult conversations about life and seeking information and opinion that we would not have enganged in years ago.

They are all doing well, enjoying some of the growth. I am finding that if I take it one step at a time I too am enjoying the transtion. It just has to go slow so I am not disoriented by too fast of a pace. life- a verb to be lived!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The end is near!

For weeks we have had the joy and pleasure of seeing the transformation of the exterior of the house continue. At times I would wonder if the end would ever come. This week it seems to be drawing near. Siding on the second floor is done. Windows wrapping on the first floor is complete. There is a bit of each as well as a few details here and there to take care of. Word is Friday. Today we had a bit of a scare as bad wood was removed and bugs sprawled- fortunately it was not termites but carpenter ants. Tomorrow the bug guy comes and sprays and the work will continue.

As with the roofing guys I have observed hard working men who give attention to detail. The guys call each other Bubba at times, they joke and carry on. they leave cigarette butts in the yard. They are country boys who know their task and a few other and go about life simply and on their own time schedule. When they do a task it is done well, and with courtesy to ask my preference and desire where there are options available.

Yesterday one of the crew drove up on their tire rim- a blow out just down the street. The team was working alone so they were kind of dead in the water for going anywhere. By the days end I realized anew how often folks dont care well for those around them. Knowing that they didnt have transportation I offered them lunch, which they enjoyed. They indicated that it was rare if ever to be treated as such. Hmmm, seems to me that if I care well for the workers on my house they will care more for working.

Today I was reading a passage from Created for Work by Bob Schultz to my son. In the chapter "Art in Your Heart" he speaks to this -

"A society with empty hearts gives only what is required, and that grudgingly. They even cheat one another by giving less than is required. Then the chated person cheats in return. Mistrust grows. Rather than giving out of the abundance of their hearts, they try to fill their empty souls with what they take from others, hoarding what they have gathered. "

As I read that paragraph I thought, that is what happens- empty hearts don't think of others, they live with mistrust and cheating and it becomes the norm. Mr Shultz spends time talking about how God puts art into the world- He could have made it a grey, dull world, rather He spent the time to add color and detail and craftsmanship - just because. The challenge to the reader is to do the same, within their ability. What an affirmation to choose to treat others well as well as to work with a will to do better.

We rejoice in the work that has gone on around us. We look towards the end of this chapter, the tidying of the yard and the fall foliage collection that will be part of our next chapter of the fall and the joy in doing the job well and training our kinder to work well.

Green tomatoes galore!

I woke this morning thinking of fall and the coming of a frost that will end the gardening season as I know it. As such i soon found myself out in the garden with a pail and trimmers. I began to clean out some of the raised beds. First the marigolds- I love the color of them but really do not like the smell at all. Next came a bed of tomatoes that were kind of spindly. After they were gone I found space to do some late fall strawberry plant transplanting of runners. This is my first go at strawberries. I started the summer with 3 plants and since then many runners have shot out and I have transplanted as I think of it. I am hoping that the spring will bring many healthy plants to burst forth with fruit.

I soon found my bucket heavy and full of green and a bit of red. My eye fell next upon the sweet potato plants. The vines were long and lush. The plants were kind of afterthoughts when I hit the feed and seed mid summer and they were marked 1/2 off. I tucked them into empty spaces and forgot about them. The vines took over one box and even started to root into the ground beyond the box. I trimmed back the vines and began to dig in the dirt. I am thankful for loose soil as it was fairly easy to find most of the tubers. One broke off and as I dug deeper I found that the potato had burrowed its way through the lanscaping fabric and into the clay soil beneath- wedged tightly into the earth. I was able to remove it. I now have 3 cardboard trays of sweet potatos drying on the campertop in the sun. Not bad for a first go at a new plant.

the green tomatoes continued to call so I began on another box of plants- the plant had been overwhelmed by squash early in the summer and didnt do much. once the squash left I kind of ignored it and sprawl city took over. Another bucket was filled with the green tomatos that were pulled from all the sprawling stems.

We then composted lots of stems and leaves- a long composting season for them as they are quite fiberous, but winter is coming so time is on my side.

With a bucket and half of green tomatos sorted for green tomato relish and half a bucket laid out in cardboard trays for ripening my morning ended. The afternoon was spent slicing, chopping and crying my way through the veggies as I prepped the relish - it is now 4 quarts, 1 pint of relish in the cooker for sealing. Our neighbors love the stuff so they will be well stocked!

More tomatoes await me for another day. Many stems still left to cut off the web of trellis that they weave through. As I began to clean up the garden today I marveled at all the produce that I have been able to collect from my small garden. I also thought of the joy of knowing that after I add a bit of manure mix to the loose soil I will be ready for the next planting season. It may take a bit to shake and deroot the plants and dirt as I pull some plants but so worth it to preserve the rich soil and look forward to future crops. It also has me again dreaming of what else to add to the garden next year, how many more beds and what layout will serve us best??

Until then I will collect my peppers and tomatoes and continue to put the garden to rest. The leaves are falling, the acorns are seeking out heads to bean as they drop. There is much to enjoy as I spend time in nature this month.

Monday, September 29, 2008

its been a while

My dear hubby is away on a whirlwind business trip to CA ( 32hr rooundtrip) so I am taking a bit of time to reflect upon the past few weeks. I had not realized that it has been over 3 weeks since I last blogged. The time has flown. Life has been life I guess- when one is in the midst of the whirlwind it can be hard to notice the breeze.

Our new roof is on, and it is beautiful- all the more because of the knowledge of the attention to detail that went into its installation. As the old roof (s- in some places) were removed the reality of the lack of care was fully revealed. Now we know that all was properly and throughly done. The group of seven men who worked on our home were phenominal by todays work ethic standards. They all worked steadily at their tasks. Each knew their task and rarely was any supervisor seen giving guidance. They put in 11 and 12 hour days with a lunch/ seista break around 1 pm each day. They were courteous and considerate and hard working. I longed to have spanish language skills to be able to communicate with them better. Yet we managed. I cheered on Jenny the reluctant air compressor. We helped them with parts and tools when she was stubborn on the second morning. We thanked them often and served up cokes and snickers to help keep their energy going. My youngest and I joined in the cleanup- the rolling magnet was too much fun to pass on. We shared the backstory and our deep gratitude for a new roof and our hopes that their assurance of "no leaks" would be reality.

At times I grieved over the attitude I heard from others - "mexicans eat anything". hmmm, would he/ she say the same about americans? their realitive? cousins? They are human and have preferences and I expect would be blessed to be asked- so we did. When asked they prefered cokes so that is what we provided. They were reluctant to come in the house to use the bathroom and even the sink to wash hands. It makes me wonder at their reluctance- do folks treat them as nobodies??? Do these men who work harder than any I have ever met not see that we esteem them and wish to do what little we can to make them comfortable after their morning of hard work?? I believe they left knowing that we esteemed them. Oh that we, the modern couch potato Americans , would walk a mile in their shoes and learn from their focused work ethic. I applaud the Mexican men who work so very hard, that have not forgotten what it is to work.

Since the reroofing life has been .... life. Parenting continues to have ups and downs. Some days easy, other days we cry out for wisdom. Some kids are struggling with lessonwork, others don't care much about it- and it shows, and then out of nowhere comes a piece of work that reminds us that there is hope within. That beneath the "temporary (we hope) brain altering that seems to have overtaken them that there is a core of character and solid base that might be seen again." Some training lessons need to be resumed, and others begun. I have other plans but life just keeps being life- so we adjust and adapt and breathe deep or laugh or cry or rejoice in the midst of it all.

I am always amazed at what ebay provides. At therapy last week a tool was shown to me that the therapist planned on getting through the system, though I was told that it could be a slow procedure. she gave me a name and I thought, why not look. Ebay came through. For $15 it is now on its way here so we can begin to implement it and begin building strength where it is weak. yeah for ebay and how it connects need to needy easily!

We find ourselves on the sidelines of a soccer field often these days. Each game is different and each team and coach has its own flavor. This past week one team was younger and had many members calling out to one another in a foreign language. Tonight the teams launched the ball higher than I have seen yet this season and then bounced it from head to head for a bit. Our son is reluctant to use his head- something I didnt understand until he revealed his concern for his teeth. About 5 years ago he busted a few front teeth in a superman leapfrog manuver that went awry. I guess the memory is still quite fresh and real so he guards them well. He is learning the sport- enjoying the defense postion more than the sidelines. As a new team member it is often a bit more on the sides than in the field. The lessons of supporting a team are still being learned.

The tomatoes keep coming, lots of japelenos and the compost keeps doing its thing. We are seeing deer wander in yards again- soon will be searching out the acorns that continue to "plop" to the earth around the yard. Fall is creeping in and we're loving it. Soon it will time to tuck in the flowerbeds and drain the hoses for the cool weather to come, but until then we are enjoying the time to commune with nature again with ease.

Friday, September 5, 2008

When it rains...

at my house I had gotten in the habit of looking up.

Our house came with a "new" roof 26 months ago when we bought it. The roof had been installed about 10 days prior to purchase. Since that time we have learned what it is like to have a leaking roof. So accustom to it that we kind of resigned ourselves to it after a while, getting to know the roof repairman on first name basis. Not what we wanted or expected, but life never is.

The drama of it all kind of faded after a while. In the first six months of life in Toney we had lots of drama that was house related. The roof stuff was drips in the corner of the master bedroom, marks and later drips in the upstairs bedroom and discovery of sideways laid shingles. Then the worst morning was discovering water dripping from the wires in the fuse box, lots of water. That was also taken care of and life went on, later more leaks, more repairs. And hearing our repair guy tell of caulking over 100 nailheads that should have been caulked over a year ago. We lived with it all, not happy but resigned and a bit frustrated by it all.

A few weeks ago that changed. We were past the 2 year labor warranty when the men working on the house installing siding pulled off gutters to reveal the shingles were short on the perimeter of the house. We kind of resigned ourselves to repairs, even purchasing several squares of shingles. Then the rain came and with it an indoor shower. Leak location #6. The wonderful siding guys went to work looking for the leak, we were thinking that they had put a nail through the flashing causing the leak, not so lucky. After siding and trim were taken off the house that had just been installed and several trips to the attic to find the leak without sucess they cut a hole in the ceiling of the porch roof and finally located the leak.

With the repair came the realization that not only was it a lousy roofing job but it was so lousy that our warranty on the shingles would be voided if it was ever examined. Nails were through the shingle - not through the tar in the shingle, thus water can seep under the shingle and into the house via the nail. This was found in several places. The siding guys, who are also experienced roofers also pointed out where there were already nails popping out because of incorrect install.

Needless to say we have since had several conversations with the roofing company. We are delighted to report that next week we are anticipating the installation of a new roof. They wanted to "lay over" the old roof, but we declined such a quick fix. My dear husband made an impressive powerpoint presentation of all the faults we have found with their "quality driven with every nail" roof- i guess they were impressed as they have tried to make this whole situation quickly go away and quietly.

for us it is a blessing to think of rain storms ahead, years ahead when we wont have to think of looking to the ceiling and wondering if yet another leak will form.

the original roofing crew has since gone on to other jobs. our faithful repairman who has shook his head repeatedly and done all he could to patch this roof to dryness will be installing the new one. Friends had their roof completed by him, through another contractor and report no problems. His character and throughness has been seen in our conversation and I believe we will be well pleased.

We thank God for this provision and the ease in which it has all transpired. I dreaded the thought of a court visit, but once an objective knowledgeable party expressed the truth of the roof's condition we realized that to not pursue corrective measures would be foolish upon our part.

Monday, August 18, 2008

9131 days

9131 days...that is, to my best calculation, the number of days I have been married to my man. Lots of time it seems as I look at the number of days we've been together. My how they have risen in number without watching!

Today we celebrate our 25th anniversary. I remember our 5th anniversary as I was in the hospital following the birth of our first child. The 10th?? Hmmm no idea, the 15th??? the 20th fell as we were preparing the house for sale in the process of moving to NC from NY. We shared the day painting a foyer and enjoying dinner from Wendy's drive thru- I refused to eat in on my 20th but it was my favorite food to enjoy in my exhausted but contented state that day. Not the "normal" glory given an anniversary, but we are not normal and in that season it was just what we needed to move forward with life. My man honored me, the wife who was beginning to feel overwhelmed with what life was holding. He was about to head south and I was staying behind to sell the house alone. After that day I didnt feel quite so alone and overwhelmed.

Now here we are at the 25th year. How the years have passed, the last 5 years have been full with much adventure, change and life. Perhaps more than past seasons have held. Each "season" has had its theme and we have navigated through them. As I look ahead it is to a season of releasing some of the kinder for their own exploration of life and readjusting to new normals for each of us that such a season brings.

When I think of our marriage lasting so long, and the end not in sight I think of both the easy and the hard times. I wonder what has kept us stuck to this life path as partners instead of shooting off on our own. Amidst the reality of relating to one so very different and yet quite enjoyable enough to choose to spend to share life with it has not always been an easy choice to choose partnership rather than independence. Perhaps we're just too stubborn and proud to call it quits, perhaps it has been our choice from day one to forbid the "D" word to pass our lips or be entertained in our minds. We have had our seasons in the low lands of marriage and love as well as the heights of love and passion. Mostly though marriage is lived daily, and that calls for perseverence and grace.

I think of our many memories shared- military life, Germany tours, children, young adulthood, hobbies, camping together, shared friends and most important to us our faith. What rich heritage we have in the many memories and relationships we've cherished over the past years. How fun it is to realize that somehow this guy you married you have grown old with and yet in some things you are still a young bride. I am still learning things or maybe relearning who he is and how he is best blessed. We find that we continue to grow together as we share our joys and struggles. We have found new interests to pursue, parenthood continues to grow us beyond ourselves- both individually and as a couple.

As day 9131 approached many thoughts and conversations came and went about its celebration. We spoke of cruises and rings, campouts and other things- all the stuff of dreams and romance novels. Yet this simple hearted girl was brought to tears in reading the words of my love this morning when he wrote "Know your still my bestest friend and given the chance to do it for the next 25 years, I am all in. " I have his heart, He is all in. Wow! Who needs the stuff and doing when just being is what truly blesses my heart. So, as this day comes and goes it will be simplicity and inner delight in knowing that we are sharing life together, we are a team, running the race of life, pressing forward toward the goals that God sets before us and looking forward to the day when it wont be just 9131 but in the ten thousand range and beyond.

Update- my silly bear took me out for dinner - seems we're starting a tradition. It was Wendy's again- alfresco- we watched a soccer practice as we dined under the clouds amidst breezes and surrounded by nature. I laughed and enjoyed his consideration. It is kind of fun to be silly and simple - I think we'll dine in at Wendy's for the 30th- but I may bring the tablecloth and candles to make it a proper meal! Funny how traditions start and gain a life of their own!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A brief glimpse of our family life

At times it seems that life here is boring and blahh….. and then other times I wonder if others have the same color in the characters of their family as we do.

Sunday morning I took a photo of the men of the family preparing to worship. To quote me “before worshipping the creator you are going to kill the created”…. It’s the never ending battle of squirrel vs man and in our house the men want to win. Unfortunately it wasn’t a winning day that day- or maybe if you are the creation it was fortunate.

Weekly, of recent I have watched the evolution of the converses. Did you know that you can get converses custom made??? I didn’t, but do now thanks to #3. He, being a poor deprived child has to do them himself, and he does. First was the red on the side, then the 14K gold around the toes and band, then he moved on to chrome. It is a ever changing scene. Today it was almost jeopardized by skid marks on the linoleum until I realized that converses have white rubber not black- he and the spray paint may yet add new color to our life.

#3 is not alone with the spray paint can. Our youngest has followed in his footsteps of customizing. For him this week it was the plastic soldiers. We are studying WW2 so he wanted some tan soldiers, so he set up paintshop on the side lawn and went to work. Unfortunately the paint ran our before the men, so he moved on to blue and then I think black. I think the soldiers will soon go AWOL from paint fumes and confusion of which army they are in. He is having fun and creatively using up excess paint. Better soldiers than walls- recently there has been a rash of grafitti on business walls in town- so sad that kids lack imagination that is productive not destructive.

We are gearing up for an active fall. We have become a soccer family again- our first time as a traveling team soccer family so we don’t know what lies ahead. It was kind of fun to see the guys out in the drizzle playing away- fun as we were safe and warm in the “soccer mom van”. School is up and running and we are adjusting to the new routines and tweeking what each child has need of at this season of their education. And I am prepping for an art class I’ll be leading at co-op. it is exciting and fun but also requires a lot of prior planning as it’s a art room on wheels- all has to be transported and accounted for as we are working out of a Sunday school room. This year its about 40 kids so it will be a bit more of a challenge. What always amazes me is how the same material is available yet the outcome can be so radically different because of the creative tendencies of each child. Some dive in, others are hesitant. Some pile on the paint, others dab and poke without confidence. It was encouraging to be reminded that even the masters did not keep and enjoy every work of art that came from their hands.

Life continues on amidst the killing of creation, or attempts to, painting of footwear and footmen and stepping up the pace of life here in Toney. Blessings to you.

20 is a special number today!

As I logged on I saw that I have published 20 posts so far. 20 seems to be a number that grabs my attention today... with a good reason....

20 years ago today we started our journey of parenthood. It has been a journey that has blessed us six times over, four of those blessings live with us, two are visiting with their grandfather, having greeted him as he entered heaven's pearly gates.

We have made many mistakes and learned many lessons in the past years. Our eldest has been there through it all, often closer and more involved than he'd like. My husband often acknowledges to him that he has gotten the best and worst of us- the first blessings but also the first mistakes as we attempt to parent and sometimes don't do a great job.

To meet the eldest you would be blessed to see the good stuff- he has done a good job of forgiving and forbearing our lack. God has blessed us with a compliant mild natured, patient young man who strives to make good choices. He was fun to watch grow, approach life and imagine adventures as a youth. He traveled the world well with us- while we lived in Germany for 3 years he never spent his birthday in Germany! He survived his years at homeschool, adjusted to and enjoyed private school and endured the final year at a public school- departing with 4 college courses under his belt and prepared for college ahead of him.

We had some ups and downs in the teen years but overall ithas beena fairly steady on path for him. We have been blessed to see him continue to have a heart after God- listening and seeking out good companions. He has seen God's provision in his life with jobs that have paid for his education and he continues to endure long days of studies and work to check the blocks for future gains.

This morning as we celebrated his life it was with a list of the things we love about him. He suffered well as I read it to siblings, things like- your smile, love of tapioca pudding and his math minded brain. He often reminds me of many of our family members- From my dad comes his dry humor and servant heart. His uncle passed on to him his signature and mathmatical talent- actually many bloodlines converged for that as he has electrons running through his blood and brains- just like his dad, and my dad and.... He handles a chainsaw well and shares that talent to bless others like his uncle.

It has been 20 good years, many life memories stored up. He is the one we began the path of parenthood with and some day soon he may be the one who helps us to begin the empty nest adventure. Until then I will enjoy him when we see him, I continue to learn to let go and watch him find his place in the life that awaits him. My the past 20 years have passed quickly, I sure hope the next 20 are as full of memories as these have been.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Its a mess outside!

I have realized that it is hard to consider having folks over to visit these days. The yard is a mess- but its all with purpose. We have holes dug in hopes of sinking posts for a pole barn, the wood is leaning up against the stripped play equipment to dry well and another "pit" is carved out of the clay dirt for an antenna tower base- several batches of concrete it will hold, or at least a boy. There is also the crater left by the unearthed tree of last month.

And then there is the siding situation. Slowly but surely it is being remedied or maybe rather covered. After many months of thinking, talking , praying, denying and then facing reality I came to terms with reality. Masonite siding is not wood, it wants to be wood, it was called wood, but it is not. As such is is much more prone to rot and decay and fungal infection- all which we had. So, we took the tiny settlement from the masonite folks for the decay and mess that was on the house and committed ourselves to having the house resided.

It is in the works and what has been hung so far looks great! I am pleased with the clapboard look of it and thrilled with the thought that water will no longer get in to the wood to rot it away. We contracted a national company so that it is warranted- probably paid more than a local guy but the attention to detail of the guys doing the job is wonderful. The local guys that are doing the job are hard workers, desiring to do the job to our satisfaction. To hear them tell me that they want me pleased, and then they actually correct problem areas to suit us is great to see. They are allowing us to have it done as we would do it - if we had the ability to do it. They make it all look so easy- which I know it is not, but indicates their experience with the materials.

So, if you drive by, you'll see a bit of a mess, but give it a few weeks and the mess will be gone, the yard will be cleared up and the barn boards will be restacked and we'll be ready for folks to share life with again. Until then I am enjoying the sound of hammers pounding and guys talking as they create a masterpiece with vinyl and aluminum around my house. I am enjoying the reality of much lower maintance burden upon the exterior of the house. That is life outside our house this week.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Who is your neighbor?

Yesterday as I was reading 1 Cor 5 I came across a couple of interesting verses. I Cor 5:9-11

" I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy, and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate wit anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat."

I have gone to church all my life. My list of denominations that I have called home is vast- baptist, catholic, nazarene, non-denominational, pentecostal, post chapel. We have seen lots of the christian life in the many years of our raising and faith walk. All too often there has been an unspoken (and sometimes spoken) message of "don't associate with those kind of people" - meaning folks who do not go to church. Yet here Paul is saying that it is not the unchurched who struggle with sin issues that we are to not associate with- rather it is the those who claim belief in Christ but are stuck in bondage to a sin issue.

I have come to realise that we all struggle with sin issues. That we all are struggle with a some kind of idolatry, immorality, greed and/or selfishness. Often we mask it a bit more when we are in the church decieving ourselves but oftne not those who watch our lives. Christ calls us to total surrender and disclosure, no more deception. He doesn't require it of the unbeliever, he accepts that they are blind to their sin and walk in it openly often enough. It is not a relationship breaker, rather it is a reason for relationship. He desires those who need Him- it is why He came - not for the saints but for the sinners.

A few years ago I evaluated my life and relationships and realized that all those I called friend were folks who went to church. I was challenged to consider how I can be salt and light to folks who already place their trust in God. I began to adjust my thinking. I now delight in getting to know folks who dont go to church, who walk a different path. I have learned to relax a bit about differences and outward appearances.

When I ask the question "who is your neighbor?" i am serious. I tend to be a shy, quiet person in large gatherings yet I am a gal who loves to live in a neighborhood- one where we know our neighbors. We live on a residental country road of about 20 houses. I have lived here 2 years and have met folks fromabout 3/4 of those houses. Many I have an ongoing relationship with, others it was a brief encounter, just enough to know a name and establish a bit of contact. I think of my neighbors often, praying for them and considering ways to love them well.

I grow a vegetable garden for a few reasons. I love fresh tomatoes, so do my neighbors. I enjoy squash , so do they. I think I am the only one with a garden on the street this year, so I share and use that as a bridge for relationships. Last year we shared some veggies with a neighbor who we had limited contact with, , within the hour the husband came and extended an invitation to my husband for a visit. We now have more contact and an ongoing relationship. I thank God for the garden and offer its harvest as an offering for His kingdom.

Many of the neighbors are brothers in the faith. Some are not, some it is unknown where their faith walk is. We try to love them all the same. Jesus does. Where sin abounds we understand the root of it, we dont condemn them, we love them. where differences in lifestyle occur we acknowledge that with our children and establish what is truth and what we believe to be proper yet we continue to love and be open to relationship.

I live far from my church, so far that it is often disstractor from attending more than twice a week ( I really am a homebody). My fellowship is not so much with church folks, it is more with my neighbors. I have struggled with that a bit,having thought it should be the other way around, but have settled it in my heart. We live here to be salt and light, blessing and encouragement to those around us.

When I am with the body I encourage and connect but God also has other folks he wants me to shine before and glorify Him. I call them neighbors and friends, they tell us that we cannot leave ... "we dont have permission"... "you better not move". I think it has been worth the risk to reach out, to know who lives next door, down the street and who moved into the new house. It is nice to know who I wave to, and to have them wave back with genuine care as we pass by. It is a blessing to pray for the parents, children and deployed spouses of my neighbors.

Who is your neighbor? Who is waiting to be known on your street? If you are lonely perhaps part of the solution is in reaching out to your neighbor? Perhaps your neighbor is lonely for your fellowship and relationship? One never knows what blessings getting to know the one who lives near you might bring. I'd love to hear of what blessings you have found in your neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We praise Him after the stormy day!

Wow- what a day we've had here in Toney. It started as a simple day at home waiting for the A/c guy to diagnose what is going on with the a/c. It was all that and more.

Amidst doing laundry I went to check on the dryer outlet. Last week I updated the dryer venting by installing a dryerbox in the wall behind the dryer, and then rerouted the venting pipe using dryer-ell's this time instead of conventional elbows. Huge difference and I am thrilled with the air pressure leaving the house after 20' of pipe. Today I wanted to check to assure myself again that all was really fixed. As I checked on the exhaust I noticed lots of "mouse dung" on the bricks underfoot, it wasn't there last week, and I was puzzled. I soon realized that it was bat guano and there was a group taking a snooze in the eaves of an unfinished overhang.

My daughter, the animal adventerer, came out and we checked out the bats that had wedged themselves into the small dark spaces and under the shingles overhead. My mind quickly formulated a plan to eliminate and keep them out until the guys who are about to side and soffit the house get to the job. Yet the beady eyes and icky beings of bats were there and I did not want to look at them, so I felt I would have to wait until dusk. Later as I watered the plants it occurred to me that maybe the bats would not like a shower and choose to leave. I quickly set up the bat roost shower and sure enough they did not want to stay and left for a dryer sleeping location. What we thought was 4-6 bats, it turned out to be 12- 15 or more. I ducked down as they flew passed the stream of water in search of dryer resting places so I didnt get an exact count. Two were reluctant, but departed soon after my daughter's gloved hand and poking stick approached them. I love a brave animal relating daughter because I am not so.

We "guarded" the area from reinhabitation until it was curtained off with screening, ductape and staples to hold it all in place. We hope that they do not return, but should they we will again offer them a drink and shower and let them know that it is daily available until they give us a bad hosting rating. I felt triumphant to have helped them relocate so quickly and inexpensively- a neighbor had an attic infestation and it cost them $$$ to get rid of the bats and bat bugs that roamed their home.

If that wasn't enough excitement the day continued on with two mighty rain, hail, lightening and thunder storms. We were again given an opportunity to camp at home as the power was out. It was kind of fun to stop life and play monopoly with my youngest in the dim light. Amidst the gaming I heard a "whoosh" sound- a 30 ft tree chose that moment to lay down on the lawn. It was a perfect drop- it just laid straight down parallel to driveway and fence. It looked like a professional tree surgeon had supervised the job- and so God did!

This weekend we will again have a family work day as we divide up the downed tree and our neighbor will join us as he begins the first warming of the wood in his life. The next will come with the moving of it, the splitting of it and then the burning of it! He smiles in delight at the thought of the warmth that it will provide for his family and savings at the propane truck visits.

We praise God for His protection from the storm, for the guidance of the tree, for the secure house and home. We praise him for a cool day, so we will sleep comfortably even though the a/c repairman never made it out- hopefully tomorrow. We praise him for rainy days to enjoy, neighbors to share it with and the blessing of rain in abundance.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

God's forsight was seen today

For months I knew this day was to come. At the start I longed to deny its need, but alas the day came when the brick foundation wall had to come down to make room for repairs of rotted wood. Months have passed since then with the wall repaired and the bricks from the destruction cleaned of mortar.

Today was a true work day at our house. The boys worked on moving wood to new location for future pole barn building. My husband worked on closing in a side of the screen porch as it will soon become a 3 season room. My task was to begin to rebuild the brick wall that circles the house. In many homes it covers the cinderblocks. In ours it covers some of the foundation and then rises a bit more over the wood before the siding takes over to cover the exterior walls of the house.

As we mixed the mortar and I prepared for the job ahead I reflected upon how over 28 years ago the God of the universe looked forward in time and knew that I would need this skill. As I quickly set to work, with ease of knowing what the task ahead needed for tools, procedure and completion I marveled at how easy it was to lay a course of brick because it was a familiar skill, even after all these years.

Between my junior and senior year I spent the summer on a mission trip in Rioacha Colombia helping to construct a two room schoolhouse. At that time it was a huge step of faith as I was the girl in the family that longed for the inside jobs and cried as I worked hauling leaves and hating every moment of it. I recall standing by the cement mixing station, having finished mixing mortar and marveling that I was there and was there with joy- knowing it was a working of God in my life. That summer I laid brick, hauled sand and did any work asked, without tears or pity parties that I had at home. God had changed my heart.

Fast forward 28 years and I am again playing in the "mud"- laying bricks and finding joy in it. I thought of how gracious God was to prepare me for today all those years ago. How only He would know the skill needed today and the confidence that I would have to procede. How it would bless my husband to see me exhibit the skill and knowledge of the task, relieving him of it. I heard the pride in his voice as he spoke to a neighbor of the task. I thought of how I was living out Proverbs 31:17
"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks."

What a blessing that God would allow my arms to be strong for the task- recently I have had struggles with pulled muscles and pain in the tendons yet today I was able to lay 3 course of brick without struggle.

Often I think of how I expect to see God in the big things of life, not in the mud. Today I saw Him in the mud, in the joy of the moment prepared for in years passed. I thanked him for the training sessions in Colombia so I was ready in Toney. It made what could have been stressful and uncertain or costly (hiring a mason) a morning of joyful productiveness! Thank you Lord for strong arms. Thank you now for rest!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Life unexpected

This past month has been full of the unexpected- some good, some not so good, but all of it life in full color.

Saturday I noticed the plant upstairs needed watering, but decided to wait. Sunday morning I took it my unconsumed water- a blessing to the plant and possibly the lifespan of our house. What I met in the hall was a strange "electronic" smell that I was unable to find the source of. My husband soon investigated and we eventually found a battery charger, plugged in and in the midst of a meltdown- due to "regular" batteries. Had we gone to church without the trip upstairs I don't know what we would have come home to. I am thankful for the trip upstairs and a nose that works.

We made an unexpected trip to the North east-" home"-we had relatives who were ill and we realized it had been too long since we traveled there. The drive went well, the beauty of the eastern passageway one I had forgotten. Even Penn. roads were not as bumpy as I expected. I anticipated much discussion of politics and weather- the norm. Rather we saw and heard the bitterness of the lives lived as consequences for past choices came home. How sad and grievious it was to watch those you love walk through suffering that stemmed from a life without the Lord. How hard it was for me, how much harder it must be for God who longs to care for them yet they continue to walk in independence. I went with one expectation, I came away with new reality, a much sadder one, and no rose colored glasses to shield my heart from its reality.

My mom lives in a "cabin in the woods". I have always loved to go there, and each time I visit I enjoy it more. This past visit it was like a cool brook to my thirsty soul. I longed for peace and tranquilty, for rest after so much busy going. It delivered it again with cool green places, with the joy of a grandmother enjoying her grandson by sharing a game. Productive work that replaced occupation alone. We traveled and did a "tourist tour" which I was uncertain of but found it very enjoyable. We were able to picnic for lunch until the rain chased us to the cars. It was nice to share time and life with many family members and have some "girl time".

As June passed I found that I was slowly resting up from the busy season passed. As July comes it has an openness that is nice. I am finding time to make visits that have been put off. We start the day with a few hours of chores and tasks then have a slower pace. Our list of "to do's " has shrunk as soon a crew of men will decend and repair the outside of the house and rend it greatly "maintance free" so the fear of more wood rot will no longer be in the back of our mind. At this point we are in prep mode for the change- not a project we expected 2 years ago when we moved here but one we decided was wise to embark upon at this time to save future battles with house issues.

The garden is blossoming, the beans and squash are abundant. The tomatoes slow to ripen but soon will be overwhelming me with work. I have revisited a blackberry patch from last year, this years rains have brought plump berries so I was able to make jam for the first time with blackberries. I find that again I relive my childhood as July comes and I go out early to pick berries. Each morning it is fun to explore what is ready to pick for fresh enjoyment.

I never expected the life I live. I don't know if I had a vision of what my life would be, but it is in so many ways richer than I ever imagined. I am able to spend time with those I love, enjoy digging in the dirt- ha! what a change for the girl who once cried because she had to do outside work, now I often outwork my boys outside. It is a quieter summer with my daughter away, but even in that is good as I look down the road toward the days when she will be a phone call and letter away rather than a seat away at the table.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Learning to Let Go

Today I began my babysteps towards the season of "the empty nest". My little girl (17) went off to camp for her first job away from home. She will be a junior counselor at a girls camp 2.5hrs away for about 7 weeks this summer. Big step for both of us.

I always think of her as confident and capable yet as we arrived she was happy for my company as she found the beginning of the checking process and then worked her way through the lines. I hung around until she passed the health check in and was heading off to lunch. She was gracious to endure a few more hugs than she would have desired before I went off down the mountain.

The camp is beautiful and well established. From the dorm ceilings hang boards of past sessions with names of past campers. New and old buildings are nestled into the well treed grounds. A rope swing and porch swings call to you to stop and visit or take a break. The possibilities of activities await her and all who will arrive this summer.

And so I let go and let God care for my treasure, my daughter, allowing her to spread her wings a bit, to grow and be stretched. To share company with older girls, hoping that she will find ones to connect with, treasure memories with and enjoy creating a memorable summer for many little ones.

I have heard of her zeal for action and adventure- my unicycling wonder, my white water rafter and tree climber. So her summer of trying new things has begun. Her room will be quiet and I will write letters to encourage. It is the beginning of letting go and moving forward for me, as a mother and a woman. Of looking down the road at the transition that awaits as each of the children seek the path that lies before them for their own adventure.

For some it is a few years away, for others many, but for each it will come. One day it will be time to pass on the to another mom, to allow another to carry that title. It is time to look down the road and begin to consider life after marythemom, when I am just Mary- the creative, the gardener, the book reader, the builder, the????? When my day is not filled with caring for younger ones and listening to the heart of the child. I know they will still share but it will be from afar, not from under the roof always.

So, today as I drove away leaving her in a foreign place it was not with fear but renewed faith that my God, her God, our God is caring for her so much more than I can and do. What a grand adventure, to pass the baton and watch her begin to run her own race down the path God has for her.

So, E-beth as you read this know I am standing here cheering you on. You go girl, enjoy the adventure and share that which lies within you with those around you. May God continue to be your wisdom, strength and joy through this summer!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Time in the garden

I have been spending time playing in the dirt today. I awoke to the sound of soft rain and thought of how this would be a good day to move monkey grass. It surrounded our mailbox post in a thick clumped circle. With a shovel and knife I was able to pry it up and out. I then loosened dirt around the area and slowly divided the massive root system and transplanted many small shoots to fill in a corner spot around the mailbox post. It will slowly fill in and I will get to repeat the same adventure in several years.

To spend time sinking my hands in dirt is a way for me to rest and slow my pace of life. Today I spent about two hours planting, weeding and transplanting. Last night at Lowe's I found a bleeding heart plant- a plant from my childhood, to add to my garden. It is a shade lover and I remember looking at neighbors plants with great joy. Now I can visit my garden and cherish the flowers as they come. It is telling that I am now thinking of my childhood as I seek out plants to bring color and interest to the garden.

Last weekend I spent time in a beautiful garden of a new friend. She was gracious to give me a tour and send me home with iris bulbs- her castoffs, my joy and delight. When we arrived here we had a lanscaped perrenial bed in the front and a halfwall brick planter. Since that time I have divided the hostas, lambs ear and other perrenials and began to fill in the empty spaces that lined the fences and walls. It is amazing to me to see things thrive with a bit of compost and manure. Now I am slowly diversifying the beds with a few annuals for color and moving things about to bring interest in texture and heights.

Our neighbor has a beautiful clemantis climbing a trellis in her yard. Last night I found one on the markdown rack so soon there will be beauty climbing up the lamppost in the front yard.

This month I have begun to use herbs and natural remedies. A friend gave me a plaintain tincture to help with our sons acne struggle. slowly but surely we are seeing an improvement. To us this is an amazing wonder as he has had antibiotics that did not seem to help. Now a simple plantain / cider vinegar tincture is slowly but surely drawing out all the impurities and bringing healing to his breakouts. I rejoice to see God's provision to cure.

Our daughter and other son both had bites of various sorts this week. We applied bruised plaintain and comfrey and soon found the rash and swelling diminished. As our daughter heads out to camp she'll be carrying plaintain tincture and a bug repellent from nature's provision.

Our raised bed garden is slowly growing. The cool weather crop continues to squeeze against the cage- today I thought of the cabbages as captive cabbages as they are protected under a chicken wire cover. The seeds planted are shooting up and we are beginning the battle against aphids and other attackers of vegetation. It is restful to daily visit and pick a few peas or nibble on some fresh broccoli. We look forward to the melons, cucumbers and tomato that are in process.

I spent time last month building up the compost bin. We took the truck to a subdivision to collect bagged leaves and grass. Filling the back of the truck we soon had full bins. As the weeks have passed the level of organic matter has shrunk. When I checked the piles I found the heat within toasty. Earlier this week I spent time turning and soaking the pile. Slowly but surely all the grass, leaves and vegatable scraps will turn into rich dirt (compost)and will enrich the garden and flower beds. What fun it is to recycle the weeds and grass into dirt- feeding earthworms along the way!

So, another day in the garden is done, my hands are a bit grubby as I just never remember to don gloves. As I leave it is with joy for the time spent in quietness and time talking with the Lord as I enjoy His creation.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Transitions ahead

It feels like we've been living alot of life here of recent. We've had birthdays to celebrate, doctor visits, therapy appointments, end of co-op and soon end of school- yipeee!!! We've had kids stressed over education, enviroment and change- life is happening here. Some days we finish the day and are so very done! It is good to see endings as well as beginnings.

My eldest survived his second semester in college, coming away with a variety of grades, the best news was that he passed the Chemistry course- a real tough one where there is automatically a steep curve before classes begin! What a collective sigh of relief there was when he found the posted grade not only passing but also transferrable- yeah! Now its a summer of working and wrestling over Calculus for him.

My daughter is counting down the final days of school and considering the upcoming year with uncertainty of what educational path she'll be traveling upon. She gets to spend the first half of summer at Camp Skyline as a junior counselor. She is looking forward to time with girls and horses as well as hopes to uni in the woods. She has taken to her unicycle and its a daily occurance to see her pedaling down the street. She is wanting to soon launch into life with dreams of travel and adventure, so there is no telling where she'll be heading next year.

The boys are finishing up their lessonwork and right now summer looks open- a nice thing as we look to slow down a bit. I think we'll still do a bit of reading and writing as both can use some continuation in that , but not much as this mom wants some down time. They are finding new guys to spend time- with hopes of future visits and romps in the woods.

I was pleased yesterday to find after an evaluation that my youngest had made some gains in some skill areas with the Occupational Therapist. She did an eval and said that there were 2.5 year gains in some areas- not bad for 6 mos work! Slowly but surely we'll address his areas in need of remediation. Sam speed is the speed we work at, which is hard for this hyper mom, but I continue to learn to slow down to catch up with him.

Its been an interesting year- slow at times, busy at others, some months easy relationally, others challenging. Recently stress seems to have sat at my feet. Taking each day at a time has helped me to keep perspective. Remembering that my God is big enough and will walk beside me in all things has brought me comfort.

So we are in the midst of preparation for transitions. One off to camp, another starting full time work for a season. Summer will soon be upon us, visitors coming and a camping trip or two to embark upon. We'll be looking forward to the upcoming school year with the many decisions that will need to be made for each child's education. Again, dependence is where I find that I need to position myself. I think of how yesterday at a thrift shop my youngest brought me an upwards new testament he wanted to buy- he just loves to hear the Word of God. Oh if I can be like this child in willing to sit at the feet and soak in the fathers word and live a life of dependence and obedience. pressing on until next time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

too much time in the throne room

Last week I wrote of dancing around the throne with a plunger- little did I know that it was a prequil to a week of events. I was again invited to dance with dish detergent on Thursday and it was soo fun that I jumped at another chance Thursday evening. At that point I thought I was done and was VERY fine with the thought of time away.

Early Sunday morning I found that my time was not done, this time it was a call to a dance with agony. Stones, pebbles and rocks- all things we don't think much about - least wise I don't. I kick them, throw them, step on them and think little about their composition or make up. Ocassionally I will see a rock broken open to display a hidden beauty of crystals. Still I don't give alot of thought to them.

Yesterday morning as I realized my slight pain was not the start of a UTI but was rearing up to a kidney stone's cruise to Bladderland I thought alot about stones and crystals. Having passed a few before I knew what to expect, and wasn't looking forward to it. This was worse. I have birthed 4 babies, all without the modern drugs and helps, rather lots of breathing and pushing. So I breathed and pushed and moaned, still no baby. No relief from the pain, it seemed to just get worse.

It gave me time to reflect on the difference between birthing a baby and a stone. With a baby the pain comes in waves and if you have a monitor someone can prep you for the oncoming event. You know there is an end in sight and what the end will be. With a stone the pain comes and lingers and lodges and stays and then diminishes only to come again without a wonderful reward at the end.

Having forgone the trip to the hospital in the past, though the doc told me I should have gone I again was hesitant to go to a sterile place to agonize in public for the birth of my stone. Yet after enough craziness and laying out on the lawn in agony I went and oh was I glad! It was a short wait to get to the back and the drugs soon followed. I don't do drugs often but when I do need them bring them on- and they did! When the pain began again the hostess served up more drug cocktails to ease the pain- lala land of ease- hey maybe cruising wasn't so bad- as long as you have the cocktails to go with!

After a few hours and a trip to the CAT scan I was told that stone#1 had landed and I was free to go home. My kidney still ached but they assured me it was just irritation from the event. Home to bed and rest- ahh, its good to be home! Rest was not to last as it seemed stone #2 decided to launch himself down the path. Again, good drugs, thanks for the Rx doc, and I was a more comfortable hostess. It seems relaxing is one of the keys to hosting a stone party, so I settled in with my heating pad and a good book.

When the cruise was over I even had a prize to shake in my culture jar- a stone to analyze and understand why I was selected to host stone cruises!

I am hoping this is the end of the adventures for my week. Dancing and cruizing has worn me out (maybe the drugs have scrambled my brain a bit too). I am taking a slow day to rest and recoup. The drugs are packed away for another day, hopefully far in the future and the dishsoap is restocked lest the dance is called for again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Loving the internet tonight !

It has been an exciting 24 hours at our house.

Last night on a whim our son was sent under the house to check for leaks. Why? Just because we've had enough dripping adventure in our underworld to make us wary. And unfortunately he came back quickly with report of a spraying connection.

The adventure began as dear hubby unpacked his Home Depot/Lowe's plumbing department annex and found the right pieces and manuvered his way between stairs and through the shortcut to the underworld. Less than an hour later the master pipe sweater emerged wet, dirty and triumphant to have stayed the spray once again.

Have I wrote about how great he is- he has replumbed the underside of the house in copper when we found that the low grade pipe was pitted and dripping all over. He replaced the hot water heater and then went on to help a neighbor do the same. He is a handy hubby. He would love to rest yet the house keeps falling apart around him and calling him back for his attention. He is one who likes things done right so he is slowly but surely making the needed repairs and fixing the problems that where in the past the trouble spots were "fixed" but not truly repaired. He is a trooper.

Tonight, with the recent memory of plumbing panic in my mind I set to clear the organic material from an upstairs recepticle. It was not wanting to move, having decided it liked the nice round bowl of its inhabitance. I danced and sang and yet it still wanted to stay for the show. I called around for snakes hoping to scare it away, but alas, it seems no snakes reside in our neighborhood. :(

Finally, not wanting to greet my hubby with news of more plumbing drama I turned to the modern day encyclopedia- a google search engine. Alas, first hit was a mile long thread telling me that if I fed my bowl with 3 squirts of dishsoap and waited the next time I danced the guest would leave. For the really reluctant a chaser of hot water would do the trick. So, being the gracious hostess that I was I quickly served up dishsoap and waited. A jig here, a polka there and soon my troubles went down the drain! No chemicals, no burns, no mad dashes to the late night store.

So, tonight I am singing praises for the modern technology that brings answers to my fingertips when I am in desperate need. For all the organic matter that lines the highway of bits and bites tonight the daisy's and green grass shine forth and allow me to see the beauty amidst it all.

So, should you ever find yourself doing the throne room jig- remember 3 squirt and a hot water chaser will set the matter to rest.